Anna Premoli shares an extract from her new book, Until Love Do Us Part.
“So you already know Amalia Berger?” asked the new Assistant District Attorney’s young trainee while they were making their way in the direction of their office.
“More or less,” he confirmed vaguely, not particularly keen to discuss it.
“She knows you, though. She knew you’d come from Chicago,” said Alex.
Ryan smiled at the tenacity of the young man, who showed promising observational skills, and tried to overcome at least some of his natural reserve. “We attended the same law school,” he revealed.
“Wow, so you must know her pretty well then.”
Well? Who could say that they knew Amalia Berger well?
“We crossed paths at lectures and parties for a few years,” he admitted, without going into further detail. That would only serve to create gossip and, as the newcomer in the office, the last thing he needed was gossip going around about the two of them.
“She certainly seemed a little angry with you…” remarked Alex, clearly skeptical of his boss’s story.
A tight smile formed on Ryan’s face.
“Just a little? Amalia hates me. I took the editor’s job at the Yale Law Journal off her. She’s never forgiven me for it,” he said. That anything but minor detail would have come out sooner or later anyway. In their world, everyone always knew everything. It was better to tell Alex himself before some amiable former university friends – spoiled rich kids who would be biased, and certainly not towards him – started circulating rumors which weren’t true.
“I hear you. She’s a very competitive lawyer, from what they say. I guess she must have been a pretty determined student too,” Alex commented.
Ryan had only ever known Amalia Berger in a rather superficial way. She was the kind of girl who was used to having everyone falling at her feet and getting what she wanted without too much effort. At university, everyone knew of the family she came from and tried to outdo each other to make her like them. But a girl like that would have been noticed even without the trust fund associated with her: she’d always been absolutely resolute in her way of doing things – a way that at times seemed almost to border on anger and which was united with an enviable physical presence. It seemed that in her case, fate had decided to make an exception and had just given her everything. Not that it made her happy, of course. Oh no, Amalia Berger never seemed to be happy with anything.
He had realized right from the start that she was one of those girls it was better to stay away from, and over the years he had almost always succeeded in this. They had never been friends, only acquaintances who bumped into each other from time to time because they knew the same people. He had, however, known that Amalia had chosen to practice law in New York. And that sooner or later, if he went there, he would be bound to meet her. No city was ever big enough to completely avoid a person, especially one who worked in your own profession.
Of course, he had hoped he would have had a bit more time before it actually happened: he hadn’t counted on finding her standing in front of him on his very first case. And when he had seen her name on the file that had been delivered to him the night before, he hadn’t been able to resist the infantile, stupid impulse to reject the plea bargain. It was not something he was proud of, but that name had driven him to it. It was painful to admit it, but he probably would have had no objection to the agreement if the other party’s lawyer had been a complete stranger. Yes, there were a couple of things that needed tweaking, but he could have let them pass. At the end of the day, it was a fair settlement that didn’t give either of the parties an unfair advantage and allowed the prosecutor to come out with his head held high. Precisely the goal at which his new boss was aiming, given how close they were to the upcoming elections. Except that he had found himself looking at Amalia’s name and just hadn’t been able to pretend that he didn’t care. Ryan tried to ignore the bitter knowledge that he shouldn’t have given in to the impulse because he had no rational reason for wanting to step on Amalia Berger’s toes – by doing so he had only attracted her attention and in terms of stupidity on a scale from zero to ten, his move was up there at around a hundred. Needless to say, Ryan was not very proud of his moment of weakness.
“You can say that again. She was like a rottweiler. Blonde, but a rottweiler,” he replied to Alex, remembering the wild honey colored hair that she used to leave loose around her shoulders years ago. That day, however, her hair had been tied up in a bun so tight that it almost made you wonder how it didn’t hurt. It was obvious that she was trying to come across as serious and professional, but Ryan suspected that there was something more behind the tough exterior that she worked so hard to project. When he saw her rush red-faced into the courtroom, for a moment he had almost been tempted to go over and free her poor hair from its painful imprisonment.
The direction of his thoughts was proving somewhat alarming, so he tried to remove the image of Amalia and her curls. But it wasn’t easy.
Alex burst out laughing. “Come on – she’s a little more eye-catching than a rottweiler…” he ventured, unaware of the assistant prosecutor’s state of mind.
Ryan was slightly uncomfortable commenting on Amalia’s physical appearance: that she was a beautiful woman was so perfectly obvious that there wasn’t really much else to add.
“I guess it’s impossible for her not to attract the attention of others,” he observed diplomatically, in the hope of not giving too much away.
“So we’re starting the plea agreement from scratch, right?” the young man asked. Fortunately, he seemed more amused than anything else at the idea of having to take up the case again.
Liz Stubbs was the daughter of a Wall Street big shot, and in no time at all the news of her arrest for driving under the influence and damage to public property had been plastered over all the country’s major newspapers. And not just the tabloids.
So, why not accept the work they’d already done and keep going? Ryan tried with all his might to come up with any credible legal justification that was consistent with what he had done.
“Given the causes that led to the resignation of my predecessor, best to make a clean break and start again,” he had said to himself, trying to appear confident of his decision.
Damn Amalia Berger and the fact that he hadn’t been able to forget about her despite all those years! It was as if a part of him had always been waiting to get back to New York. Which was grotesque, because one of the great advantages of Chicago was precisely that Amalia Berger wasn’t there. Of course, New York was the city where most of his large, rowdy family lived, and being back there would give him the chance to reinforce his family ties. But there was that terrible worm in his mind.
How ridiculous, he thought, that instead of devoting himself to the most urgent cases, the new assistant district attorney was now sitting at his desk gazing into the distance, recalling distant times and imagining far-fetched scenarios. After all, he had successfully managed to stay away from her for ten years and he would continue to do so. New York was a big city, like everyone was always saying. There would be enough room for both of them. There had to be.
What happens when two people who hate each other are forced to cooperate by law?
Amalia and Ryan met at Yale Law School, from which their mutual dislike for one another was born.
Amalia Berger is a successful, high society New York lawyer. Chicago-based lawyer Ryan O’Moore is the eldest of four sons whose chaotic family run a pub in the heart of the Big Apple.
New York beckons after Ryan is offered a promotion. But when the defence lawyer of his first case is the one and only Amalia Berger, things become complicated.
The courtroom clash escalates between them to the point that the judge sentences them both to a punishment of community service, forcing them to spend time together…
Anna Premoli is a bestselling author in Italy. She began writing to relieve stress while working as a financial consultant for a private bank. Her previous novel, Love to Hate You, won the Bancarella prize in 2013.