"Lily, I need you in here. Now."
Not now. Lily Champion looked at her watch—five-twenty.
    Veronica Steadman appeared in the doorway and glared at her. "Lily? Now, as in
right now?" She turned and stalked back into her office.
    Lily grabbed a steno pad and followed. Veronica sat on the edge of the polished
oak desk, the phone to her ear. She waved a finger, indicating Lily should wait.
Perspiration dampened Lily's palms. She couldn't be late again to pick up Chelsea,
and she couldn't just walk out on Veronica.
    "You're pacing like a caged cat. Sit down," Veronica ordered, hanging up the
    "Can this wait until tomorrow? It's after five o'clock, and I have to be
    "Where you have to be is right here. I'm scheduled for court first thing in the
morning, and I need you to go through these depositions, make sure there aren't
any typos."
    "I'll take them with me and meet you at the courthouse at seven-thirty in the
    "No." Veronica sat behind her desk, leaning back in the leather chair. She
locked Lily in a piercing stare. "You must get your priorities straight. I need an
assistant who wants to work. A lot of people would be grateful for this job."
    "I do want to work, but I also have other responsibilities. I can't leave my
daughter at the daycare center past six o'clock."
    Veronica waved a hand through the air. "Then I suggest you hire a nanny or
something. If you want to keep this job, you'll get it worked out. And if you're going
to continue as my assistant, you have to be available to work my hours." She leaned
back in the plush leather executive chair and swiveled from side to side, oozing self-
    Lily imagined the chair tipping and Veronica crashing through the glass window,
falling to the pavement twelve stories below. She shuddered.
    Veronica leaned forward and snapped her fingers. "Hello? You haven't heard a
word I've said. I hope you're more of a help to Arthur than you are to me.
Otherwise, I don't know why we keep you."
    With mechanical movements, as if she'd stepped outside of her body, Lily stood.
Her hands balled into fists at her side. "Veronica, I think I have my priorities
straight. And, you're right, I'm not the kind of assistant you need. I have a life
apart from this office, an important one." She paused to swallow and to still the
quiver in her voice. "I-I think you need to find someone else. I'll clear my desk on
my way out."
    The screech followed her from the room. "You can't just walk out. You have a
job to do. You have to give reasonable notice." A pause. "Don't even think about
asking for a reference."
   In her mind, Lily flipped a middle finger at Veronica.
Here's reasonable notice.
She dumped her few personal items into a plastic bag and carefully placed her
daughter's photograph in her purse. The elevator made a slow crawl to the twelfth
floor. Once inside, Lily pounded on the button for the garage level. She raced
through the parking garage and, with a shaking hand, shoved the key into the
ignition of her old Toyota. She fumbled in her purse for her cell phone and dialed
the daycare.
   "Mrs. Colucci, this is Lily Champion. I'm running late, but I should be there in
ten minutes, fifteen max. I know. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
   It sure wouldn't happen again. With no job, she couldn't afford daycare. But with
no job, she wouldn't need care for her four-year-old daughter. Lily's stomach
burned as she realized what she'd done. She lived paycheck to paycheck, and she'd
be lucky to get one for this past week, having failed to give reasonable notice.