Coming September 29

Pre-Order Here

Chapter One



They took my earrings, my watch, my phone, my purse. They took my engagement ring. They took my photograph and my fingerprints.  Then they took me to my cell.

  The Hanover County detention facility had been recently upgraded and it wasn’t that bad, as jail cells go. Certainly I’d stayed in worse way-stations along the Appalachian Trail. At least this place looked clean—kind of—and didn’t smell too bad.  There was a cot bolted to the wall and a metal toilet and sink. There was even a small television high on the wall and a laminated sign instructing you to call the guard station to turn it on. Next to the sign was a much-worn red intercom button that connected you to the guard station.  The deputy who had escorted me here, a pleasant young woman whose name tag read “Ledbetter”, had explained all this to me, along with something about meal times and when I would be allowed to shower and exercise.   There was a small square window in the middle of the metal door, and when she closed it, I was alone in a concrete walled room that wasn’t much bigger than one of my dog kennels. 

  Up until then, I hadn’t really been scared. Now I was.

  I sat on the edge of the cot with my hands twisted tightly between my knees to keep them from shaking, and I waited.  I didn’t call the guard station.  I didn’t ask for the television. And I tried, as best as I could, not to think.   I just waited.

  After what might have been hours but probably wasn’t, a sharp buzz made me bolt to my feet. A voice from the intercom said, “Stockton, your lawyer is here.”

  “O-okay,” I stammered, but I had barely finished speaking before the lock clicked open and Deputy Ledbetter stood there again, ready to escort me to the conference room.

  She tried to make conversation and I tried to respond, but I didn’t have much to say to her and my answers were mostly monosyllabic.  There was a time when I knew everyone in the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, but not anymore.  And, really, what could I possibly have said to her that she would want to hear? Or, for that matter, what could she say to me?

  Except one thing.

  “Well, look at that,” she declared in an amused tone as she opened the conference room door. “Looks like you have a special visitor.”

  At the sound of her voice my beautiful golden retriever spun around and raced toward me, his toenails scrabbling on the linoleum floor, his leash trailing behind him.  I dropped to my knees and opened my arms and he flung himself into them. “Cisco!” I whispered, burying my face in his sweet-smelling fur.  “Oh, Cisco!”

  I hugged him and hugged him, and he wriggled his delight, warm excited breath panting onto my face, drying tears I didn’t even realized I had cried.  I wrapped my hand around his leash and stood up.  The deputy smiled at my lawyer.  “I’ll be right outside, Miss Brightwell.”  She closed the door.

  Sonny, who was really more of my friend than my lawyer, had pulled her wheelchair up to the table and was watching us with a beneficent expression.  She had a degenerative joint disease that was remitting and relapsing, and she’d admitted to me that, while her mobility devices could be a necessity on bad days, she wasn’t above using them to garner sympathy from people she wanted to underestimate her.  I suspected today might be one of the latter cases.

  I said a little breathlessly, “How did you get him in here?”  I bent to drop a kiss atop Cisco’s head and to hug him one more time before sitting down.  “And thank you! Thank you so much!”

  She waved a hand, smiling.  “Please.  He’s a therapy dog, isn’t he?  And, as you’ve told me a dozen times, the average person doesn’t know the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog. I didn’t think any of these jokers would try to stop a lawyer in a wheelchair from bringing her assistance dog into the building, and I was right. It was Miles’s idea,” she added. “They wouldn’t let him in to see you, so he sent the next best thing.”

  Another quick hot flash of tears, which I blinked back determinedly. Cisco put his paws on my knees and I dropped my face to his neck once again, hugging him, inhaling the warm, reassuring fragrance of him.  “Or maybe the best thing,” I said, and even managed a thin smile as I straightened up again.  “Tell him thank you.”

  “It’s the least I could do,” she replied.  She took a legal pad and a pen from the soft leather satchel she wore on a cross strap over her torso, and placed them both on the table.  “Now, Raine, you know I’m not a criminal lawyer, so there’s not a lot I can do for you tonight.  I’m just here to make sure you’re okay and to get the process started, but by agreeing to meet with me, you’ve assigned me to your legal team.  I assume that’s okay.”

  She glanced at me and I nodded numbly. I don’t think I’d ever been in the kind of trouble that Sonny couldn’t handle before.  

  “Miles has one of the best defense attorneys in the country coming up from Atlanta in the morning, and he’ll assemble your team and decide on our strategy.  I’ll bring him up to speed as soon as we finish our conversation, so he’ll be ready for your bond hearing in the morning.”

  “Wait.” I stared at her.  “In the morning?  But—aren’t you here to get me out?  What do you mean, morning?”

  She looked at me patiently.  “Raine, you know the judge has to set bond.  As soon as he does, and it’s paid, you’ll be released under the terms the court sets until your court date.”

  I stared at her. “But—I didn’t do anything!” I protested stupidly. How many times had she, as a lawyer, heard that?  How many times had I heard it, sitting in my father’s courtroom?  I’m innocent! they’d cry as they were being cuffed and dragged off to jail.

  But I really was.

  She went on calmly, “Generally in a case like this I’d expect bond to be set at $20,000 to $50,000, but it could be as high as $250,000.  Not that it matters,” she assured me quickly, “Miles is prepared to pay it immediately and you’ll be home by lunch. The only problem could be that new prosecutor wanting to make a name for himself,  trying to argue you’re a flight risk…”

  “Me?” I blinked, feeling overwhelmed. “I’ve lived here all my life. I own a business. Where would I go?”

  “You’re engaged to a man with access to a private jet,” she answered simply.  “Anywhere you want.”

  I wound my fingers into Cisco’s silky fur, trying to ground myself.  “This is crazy,” I managed in a moment.  “This can’t be happening.”

  “Raine,” she replied solemnly, “the charge is murder.  And I assure you, it is happening. Now.” She picked up her pen and turned over a page on the legal pad.  “Why don’t you tell me what happened?  Start at the beginning.”

  A long time ago a bad man by the name of Reese Pickens had said to me, Some day your uncle is not going to be sheriff anymore, you won’t be married to a deputy anymore, and nobody will care that your daddy was a judge. Then let’s see how smart you are.

  I had poked my nose into a lot of places it didn’t belong since then and had had more than a few brushes with the law. Jolene had threatened to arrest me more than once and had actually even taken me into custody one time—for a traffic violation, which was quickly dismissed.  I had always thought of that as part of the job, part of being who I am.  I had never considered the fact that I had gotten away with so much because of who I am, who I knew. And the truth is, a lot of those times I had been wrong.

  This time I was right.  This time I was innocent. And this time, that long ago prediction had come true.  Nobody cared.

  My fingers tightened in Cisco’s fur.  He looked up at me with an expression very much like alarm.

  “Raine,” prompted Sonny gently. 

  I cleared my throat.  I tried to think.

  “I guess,” I said eventually, “it all started back in January.  When Jolene told me about the process server.”

Available for Pre-Order at

  © 2008 Shiny template by

Back to TOP