Excerpt from The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Opposite of Everyone

by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson X
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
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    Feb 2016, 352 pages

    Oct 2016, 352 pages


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Two minutes later, the reply came back: On it.

That was that. Birdwine and I were back in business. Still mostly on his terms, sure, but I was shifting him. We were heading in the right direction.

Even better, in a week— about the same time it would take for Kai's check to clear— I would meet with Bryan Skopes. He thought that he'd get everything he asked for. Well, maybe so. My mother had named me for Kali, after all. He would get what he was asking for, all right. It would be my pleasure to give it to him.

Victory called up a secret face that lived under my copper skin, my pale and tilted eyes, my fat- lipped mouth. Right now, that face wanted all its teeth to show. I felt flat and sharp- eyed, with a tongue that longed to loll out and taste the metal in the air. This face was ready to eat everything. It didn't belong at Cartwright, Doyle & Vauss.

My partners, Nick Cartwright and Catherine Willoughby Doyle, were old Atlanta aristocracy, genteel rainmakers, plugged into the social scene. They were cousins who looked more like siblings: lanky, blond, elegant. Wealthy couples with complex estates came to our firm when it was time for a quiet, civilized divorce. The kind of marriages we dissolved were thick with trust funds, fraught with prenups and questions about who should get which houses. We were expensive, but we earned it, slicing up complicated financial pies, and people who couldn't afford our skill sets didn't need them. When these polite uncouplings soured, as they often did, well, that was why my name was on the letterhead. I was the blunt instrument at the back of the closet.

I met Nick in law school. We found we worked together well, in bed and out of it. I was bold and aggressive, he was meticulous and a born negotiator. In mock trials, he played carrot, I played stick. He brought me into his father's well- established firm, and when his dad retired, Catherine and I became full partners. My skill set complemented theirs, and as a former foster kid of murky racial origin who did criminal pro bono cases twice a year, I singlehandedly made the firm look progressive and all kinds of multicultural. They liked me especially on days like this; I had decimated Skopes.

After the depo, they were in a postwin pleasure haze. Catherine sighed contented sighs and Nick looked at me fondly, as if I were his own zoo tiger. They invited me to celebrate, but I declined. I couldn't keep my savage face screwed down while they decorously popped a bottle of expensive bubbly. Nick had crystal glasses to chime and ting together during wordy toasts, and right now, my flexing hands might shatter them.

I said I was going to cut out early, and Catherine beamed approval, telling me to toddle off and have a lovely evening, I had earned it.

At home, I paused in the entry, trying to kick my heels off with Henry yelling his weird, overloud meow and scraping his side- fang along my ankle to claim me. If I was home, Henry felt certain it was suppertime, no matter what the clock said.

"Damn straight, buddy," I told him. "I'm going to open you a can of tuna. Real deal. Solid albacore."

Henry ran ahead of me, across the wide room toward the kitchen. The maid had come that day, so my whole loft smelled like orange oil and vinegar, and my feet slid smoothly across the glossy hardwoods. I dropped my iPhone into the bay and saw she'd left my mail in a stack on the kitchen counter. I ignored it and hit my victory playlist. The Kongos came on, and I cranked it, grinning. The volume didn't bother Henry. Like many white cats, he was wholly deaf.

Victory made my blood run fast, vibrating in my body as I danced barefoot to the pantry. Ye gods and little fishes, how I loved this high. I'd held it in back at the office, but now I wanted to pick up Henry, leap around with him until he was thoroughly alarmed. The musician I was seeing on and off had an out- of- town gig, but this British guy I used to date had texted me. I would text him back, tell him to swing by and help me make a dent in my best bourbon. We'd put this day to bed, hard and proper. I deserved to climb onto this joy, ride its bucking rhythms until I was wrung out and pleased and creamy through and through.

"Asshole never saw it coming, Henry," I told my cat, pausing my dance just long enough to scoop the tuna onto a plate.

When Skopes first came in today, I'd smiled for him. I'd crossed my legs and swung my foot, calling his attention to a skirt that was cut too high to ever see a courtroom. I had on sleek black stilettos, their blood- red soles promising all kinds of carnage. His gaze bypassed their warning to crawl predictably over the bare skin of my legs.

The conference room table was clotted with bodies: Nick and Daphne, Skopes's lawyer, a court reporter. To me, they had all been gray shapes at the table, irrelevant and insubstantial. The only true color was the opposing red of Skopes's power tie, the only light the faint glow of my laptop. It was booted up and open at the table's foot, facing in to show Skopes and his lawyer my soothing screen saver— tropical fish drifting in and out of a reef.

I spoke first, chanting the case number to begin the ritual that kicked off every depo. The court reporter swore Skopes in, and I asked him to state his name, his address, his birthdate for the record, giving him bored eyes. Letting his lawyer, Jeremy Anderson, give me bored eyes back.

As we completed the formalities, I moved the cordless mouse I'd placed beside my stacked papers. On my laptop, the lazy fish screen saver vanished, revealing an image from Birdwine's slideshow. Skopes stood in the bower of azaleas with his head tipped back and his eyes closed, his mouth yawped open and slack. It was color replacing color, light replacing light. Skopes didn't notice. "Are you much of a gardener, Mr. Skopes?" I asked.

"A gardener?" he said, and made a scoffing noise. "I have a gardener."

"Interesting. Does he tend azaleas?" I asked.

At the head of the table, the court reporter's hands paused for a hairline fracture of a second. He'd noticed the slides. Then he gave a shrug so infinitesimal it was practically internal. His hands resumed their rhythmic bobbing on the steno with the world- weariness common to his breed. Daphne Skopes and Nick stared blandly at him, as if shorthand typing was a fascinating sight, just as I had prepped them to do.

"I don't know the names of flowers," Skopes said. These were not the kinds of questions he expected. He had good instincts, and they were telling him that something was amiss.

"Please get to the point, or move off gardening questions," his lawyer said.

"Sure," I said to Anderson. Then, purely to keep a rhythm, I asked Skopes, "Where did you go to college?"

"Vanderbilt," Skopes said.

"And did you join a fraternity at Vanderbilt?"

The slideshow finally caught Anderson's attention. He made a faint, choked noise.

"Do you not want me to answer that?" Skopes asked, turning to his lawyer. He saw Anderson's face. Followed his line of vision.

The room got very quiet.

The slide changed.

"Did you join a fraternity at Vanderbilt?" I repeated, as if nothing were happening. As if Skopes's ugliest self weren't on display here, in front of the wife he had bought for similar purposes, but with more socially acceptable currency.

"You absolute bitch," said Bryan Skopes in a flat voice.

Excerpted from The Opposite of Everyone by Tom Jackson. Copyright © 2016 by Tom Jackson. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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