Series: Lawyers In Love
A print collection including In His Own Defense and Bittersweet Homecoming...
In His Own Defense: The minute Tony Landry sees his legal opponent across the courtroom, he knows he has to have her. Kristine feels the instant heat as well, but she's determined to do what's right, and Tony's on the wrong side of this case. Tony wants her desperately, but to win his heart's desire he'll have to make the most compelling argument of his career -- to Kristine. in his own defense.
Bittersweet Homecoming: One hot weekend eight years ago was all they had before Gray was captured on assignment and presumed dead. Andi moved on, made a good life for herself and their son…until Gray returned, a battered warrior but still the powerful dominant who'd spoiled her for other lovers. Gray wants Andi desperately, but he dares not love her until she teaches him it's his mind and heart—not a perfect body—that makes him her perfect mate.
Excerpt from IN HIS OWN DEFENSE:
“Harper wants this case to go to trial. Can you handle it on your own?”
“Yes.” Kristine Granger met the questioning gaze of her boss, Andi Young, one of three chief assistants to State Attorney Harper Wells.
Adrenaline pumped through her body. Finally. The opportunity she’d waited for. Eight years of grueling preparation. Nearly a hundred months of positioning herself to be able to rid the community of one of the drug lords whose poison had robbed her of her family. Kristine pictured this bastard rotting in a cell somewhere, his filthy coke and heroin off the Tampa streets because of her. The prospect made her want to jump up and yell out loud.
“You’ve got a week to prepare your case.”
Andi smiled. Kristine found it somehow right that her boss had a name uncommon for women. After all, Andi had made it in a man’s world—on her own terms.
“It’s hardly murder one. Just a simple case of possession with intent to distribute. Garcia’s lawyers will probably try to get us to let him to cop a plea and take probation.”
“Probation? Garcia’s been bringing drugs into Tampa longer than I’ve been alive.”
“Allegedly. Kristine, I understand you have personal reasons for wanting to bring dealers down, but you’ve got to maintain your—”
“Andi, I can handle this.” No way would Kristine let Andi snatch back this opportunity.
“Just keep things in perspective. Remember, you’ll be prosecuting Garcia on the charge before the court—not for every crime he ever allegedly committed.”
What had Andi said? Perspective? That was it. She’d keep her perspective, and she’d win. “I’ll get the job done.”
“Garcia’s lawyers won’t cut you any slack. And Manny spares no expense, hiring the best of the best.”
Kristine flipped through the case file, saw no evidence that any other attorney than Hank Ehlers was involved. “Hank? He’s just a junior associate at Winston Roe.”
Andi nodded. “Yes, he is. Frankly, I’m surprised Manny accepted an associate representing him at arraignment. When he goes to trial, though, I’ll lay odds Tony Landry himself will be sitting at the defense table.”
“But he’s in Miami.” Bile rose in Kristine’s throat. Just a few months ago Landry had come to Tampa for a high-profile drug trafficking trial and hung their former boss, Sandra Giancone, out to dry. And she recalled reading about several big criminal trials in Miami during which Landry had won acquittal for his clients.
What a waste of talent, she thought. Talent a man like him should be using to put criminals in jail, not keep them out.
“He’s not in Miami anymore. Winston Roe promoted Landry to partner and transferred him here to head their criminal defense division after Tom Ellis retired last month. Word has it, he moved into his corner office last Monday.”
Andi grinned. “He’s a hunk—and from what I understand he’s single, which makes him fair game,” she mentioned as she turned and walked away.
Kristine couldn’t care less if the man looked like Mel Gibson and Brad Pitt rolled into one. Tony Landry had built his reputation by getting accused criminals acquitted with nearly no-miss precision. There was no way he’d ever look good enough to mask the black hole that passed for his heart.
Besides, she wouldn’t let anything or anybody distract her from her goal, she told herself as she hunkered down at her battered metal desk in its wobbly, temporary cubicle.
Kristine flipped open the file and began to study the police report on Manny Garcia’s most recent arrest. It didn’t take long for her to figure out why Andi had passed along the case. As cases went, this was two on a scale of ten. Maybe.
The only concrete evidence they had was a couple of pounds of cocaine, found stuffed into a case of lettuce during a raid on Garcia’s produce warehouse. A raid made because apparently someone had phoned in an anonymous tip.
Kristine saw nothing in the report to tie Garcia himself to that cocaine—other than that he’d been seen in the warehouse shortly before the cocaine was found, and he had prior arrests for dealing.
No wonder Andi had dumped the case. Ambitious and savvy, Andi liked to try cases she was certain she could win, and she avoided bad press like the plague. Kristine imagined local reporters would crucify the prosecutor who let Manny Garcia walk or plead to lesser charges.
She was to become a sacrificial lamb.
Too bad there had to be political implications from the cases the state attorney’s office took to trial. Kristine shook her head. State attorney, indeed. A strange name for the lawyers elected to prosecute criminals in state courts in Florida, the official most people knew as “district attorney” from the cop-and-lawyer shows on TV. Beads of sweat collected on Kristine’s upper lip.
She glanced at her watch. Six o’clock. Nerves hadn’t caused the sweat—at least not entirely. The air conditioning in the building shut down promptly at five, a response to some county commissioner’s clichéd suggestion for “trimming the fat.”
Time to pack it in, before the office turned into an oven.
Kristine stuffed the file into her briefcase. She’d dig deeper into it when she got home. If she looked hard enough, surely she’d find some shred of evidence she could use to send Garcia away, something she had missed at first glance.
Shedding her suit jacket as she stood in the elevator, she tried to figure angles she could work to turn what looked like a sure acquittal into a conviction.
When she stepped outside the building, the heat stole her breath. Too hot today, even for dope peddlers. The breeze didn’t begin to evaporate the sweat from her body before more formed and dripped between her breasts and down the crack of her butt, making her itch in places she couldn’t scratch in public. The heat also made her wish she’d chosen anywhere else on earth to be this August day.
She got into her car and jammed the key into the ignition. The steering wheel burned her palms, and the vinyl seat toasted her backside. More sweat trickled between her breasts and down onto her belly, making her crank down the windows to release the worst of the hot air.
The car’s air conditioner labored, and a steamy breeze blew in through windows she’d opened to let out the trapped heat. Nothing made a dent in the misery.
Tampa, Florida—kissed on three sides by the waters of the bay and bisected by the meandering Hillsborough River—had to be the hottest place this side of hell, but Kristine was used to it. Except for the seven years she’d spent in college and law school at Gainesville, less than a two-hour drive away, she’d lived here her whole life.
Storm clouds gathered to the south, foreshadowing rain that would cool things off only marginally and add to the humidity.
Kristine hated summer. Hated the dying flowers and crops that wilted in the fierce heat. She hated remembering the losses she would always associate with the sweltering season eight summers ago when she’d found herself suddenly and terribly alone.
As she drove by a clump of stores west of downtown, she glanced at the shady spot under a sagging awning. Deserted now, the place usually served as headquarters for a half-dozen wild-eyed teenagers who dealt death to support their own killer habits.
Today, Kristine imagined they’d crawl out of their holes after the temperature dropped. After dark, like the cockroaches they were.
Her resolve deepened. Andi might have assigned her to the Garcia case because she didn’t think there was a chance in hell anyone could get a conviction, but Kristine would prove her wrong. She had to.
For years she’d waited for a chance to strike back at the bastards who’d as good as killed her sister Helen with their poison, and caused her dad’s death as certainly as if they had actually aimed a gun at his head and shot him. She might be short on admissible evidence, but she figured she could appeal to the jurors’ emotions as well as anybody.
Better than most. She was glad the state attorney, Mr. Wells, had decided he wouldn’t let this defendant cop a plea.
Not even the prospect of sparring with the defender who’d amassed an almost unbelievable win-loss record in Miami’s courts dimmed Kristine’s enthusiasm.
* * * * *
“The state attorney’s office won’t bargain?” Tony Landry found that hard to believe.
He got up from behind his massive mahogany desk and stared out the window at what looked like toy boats bobbing on a trench no wider than his hand. The Hillsborough River and the University of Tampa buildings with their sparkling minarets beyond made for a great view from his fortieth-floor corner office—far more peaceful than the busy street he’d looked out on from his office window in Miami.
“What do you know about the prosecutor?” Tony asked.
Hank Ehlers, the young associate he’d inherited from Tom Ellis when he’d retired, shrugged. “Her name is Kristine Granger. She assisted the attorney of record on a couple of cases Tom tried. This may be her first solo case. She’s young, not more than a year or so out of law school. Local Tampa girl.”
Tony got the picture of a kid a lot like Hank, raring to go and looking forward to trying that first case on her own. “This isn’t the kind of case I like to take to court. I wanted to talk our client into pleading on reduced charges and settling for probation. Think she’ll change her mind?”
“I doubt it. And I don’t think it’s Ms. Granger that’s refusing to deal. Word is, Harper Wells himself wants Garcia to go to trial.”
Politics. There couldn’t be any other reason for the state attorney to refuse to plea bargain a lousy case like this one. “Son-of-a-bitch.”
Maybe he could let Hank handle Garcia’s defense. No. Garcia demanded the best, and he had no problem paying for it. If this case went to trial, it would be his, even if it stuck in his craw that his first case in Tampa, and as a partner in Winston Roe, would involve his getting a reputed midlevel drug kingpin off on the ignominious charge of possession with intent to deliver.
“This Granger woman has to know her case has holes I could drive my car through.” Maybe she’d mount a cursory prosecution, Tony thought, his spirits brightening.
Hank shifted from one foot to the other and fixed his gaze on the carpeted floor. “Word has it she’s obsessed with throwing the book at every defendant who’s ever been within a mile of controlled substances. Something about her sister dying of an overdose.”
Damn! A crusader. Just what Tony needed to herald his arrival on the local scene. He pictured the press making Kristine Granger Little Red Riding Hood and casting him in the role of the big bad wolf…
Excerpt From Bittersweet Homecoming:
Andi looked straight at him, then shot him a nervous looking smile. “Gray, I’ve got to tell you something.”
Her smile wavered. “That’s what I imagine you’ll want to do to me after I tell you Brett thinks we were all but married before you…”
“Yeah. Some kids at school teased him because he didn’t have a dad. I lied because I thought you were dead and that it wouldn’t hurt anybody for Brett to believe his parents had been in love.” Andi straightened her legs and leaned toward him, as if seeking his understanding.
He couldn’t fault her for trying to make their son feel good about himself. “Andi, don’t sweat it.” Gray saw fear in her sea-blue gaze.
“You don’t understand. I didn’t just lie. I lied like the proverbial rug. Spun a fairy tale right out of Grimm’s. I won’t deny that at least part of the reason I did it was to make myself look better.
“Now Brett thinks we were madly in love, that we’d already planned the wedding before you left for that assignment in hell. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was the surprise result of the best and only extended one-night stand of my life. Hell, I didn’t even have the decency to leave my white lie unembellished.” Outside, lightning crackled and thunder boomed, as if to punctuate Andi’s confession.
“Yes, except that I did such a good job lying, Brett’s already suggested we should do it now that you’re back. Marry, that is. I’ve tried to explain how things change. But he may say something to you…”
“If he does, I’ll keep your secret.”
Gray watched Andi stretch her long, sexy legs across the couch cushions, observed the shallow rise and fall of her breasts as she breathed in and out. Her lower lip quivered the tiniest bit, tempting him to taste it, use his mouth and tongue to show her he understood what she’d done and why. He could slide his hands down her lithe body, find that sensitive spot at the base of her throat, tweak her incredibly responsive nipples until he had her squirming and begging for his cock…
For a moment he considered suggesting they turn her lie into the truth. Then his own reality intruded. He wasn’t the man Andi had spun a fantasy about to their son. He wasn’t even the man she’d met and fallen into bed with in another lifetime. Wasn’t and would never be.
Damn it, he shouldn’t have to keep reminding himself every few minutes that he had no business lusting after what he could no longer have. As if in warning, the thunder clapped again, louder this time.
Andi shuddered, a strangely sensual motion that contrasted with the fierceness of the storm. “You know, I’m afraid of lightning. Always have been. I wish…”
“What do you wish, Andi?”
Gray recalled another night and another storm, and how she’d trembled in his arms. They’d been caught out on the beach in a thunderstorm, just before running back up here and creating a tempest of their own.
Was she remembering, too? Did she want him to come over there, comfort her? Did she wish he’d go down on his knees and lick her pussy the way he had that night so long ago? Not likely. “Want me to come sit with you, scare the boogie man away?”
“Not if you’re going to tease me for being a big baby. I can’t help being scared of storms.” She gestured toward windows cloaked in pale, sheer curtains, but he had the feeling her misgivings were rooted in something much deeper than crackling lightning and raindrops pelting the windowpane.
Her T-shirt thing came almost to her ankles. It wasn’t sexy in the least, or at least he hadn’t thought so until she’d given him a glimpse of what lay beneath it. So why did his palms feel damp against the rims of his wheels when he rolled himself over by the sectional? Why did the baggy sweat pants he’d put on after his shower suddenly feel constricting when he transferred himself onto the couch?
He knew damn well why. He hadn’t had sex for eight years. And the woman sitting on his couch was the same one who’d starred in all his erotic dreams for eight long years of lonely, solitary nights. There was no way around it. Andi had been the last woman to share his bed and he wasn’t likely to forget it.
When thunder crashed again, she trembled. Blood rushed to his groin.
He was losing his freaking mind.
Andi might have saved her pride by telling Brett he’d been conceived in love. She might even cherish memories of the mind-blowing sex that had resulted in their son’s conception. No way, though, could he imagine her wanting to take up with him where they’d left off. Not now. Not as wild as she liked her sex partners and as unable as he was to meet her sexual challenges.
That knowledge didn’t keep him from sliding closer, draping an arm over her shoulders, and stroking the satiny skin beneath his fingers. It didn’t stop him from inhaling her powdery floral scent that he’d never managed to forget. And it did absolutely nothing toward making his erection subside.
Bolts of red-gold electricity lit the sky.
Andi shuddered, burrowed her head against his chest. “Gray?”
Her warm breath tickled the skin around his nipple, made him fantasize about tangled sheets and heated bodies. Of long-ago pleasures and futile dreams. “I’m here, Andi.”
“You’re not afraid, are you?”
“Of the lightning? No.” The storm outside didn’t bother him. It would play itself out and blow across the Florida peninsula into the Atlantic before morning, leaving marginally cooler air in its wake. It was the turmoil in Gray’s brain that was killing him. He had no idea how he could dispel it, or where it would take them if he allowed it to sweep him into uncharted waters.
Waters that could suck him under in a whirling vortex, finish off the destruction his captors had left undone. He told himself to move away, put some distance between himself and this impossible temptation, but his body paid him no mind. It craved what he knew rationally couldn’t be.
But when Andi lifted her head and looked at him, there was no way in hell he could resist her silent lure.
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