Read an Excerpt
Outlaw: Part 2
By Katana Collins
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Katana Collins
All rights reserved.
Michelle sat at her parents' mahogany dining table feeling like she was twelve years old again and about to get sent to her room for not finishing her vegetables. Remy sat diagonally across from her while her oldest brother, Vince, was to her left, and Mark, only one year older than her, was across from her. Her dad was at the head of the table and her mom at the other end — or the "asshole of the table," as her dad so affectionately referred to it. If that's not romance on your thirty-sixth anniversary, well, Michelle didn't know what was.
Michelle pushed a meatball around on her plate, absentmindedly twirling her fork against the angel hair pasta.
"I sure wish I'd had that pasta attachment yesterday, Michelle. Would have given me more time in my garden." Her mother gave her a tight smile from her end of the table. "Remy and Mark came over yesterday and helped me plant some new bulbs. You should join us next week. It's very relaxing out there. Therapeutic."
Mark gave her a goofy look. "Did you know that Mom imports her garden soil from Italy? Apparently pretty flowers don't come cheap."
Her mother sharply inhaled before taking another sip of her wine. "The volcanic ash around Mount Vesuvius is prime soil. That's why their wine is so incredible in Naples."
"Ah," Mark said, nodding. "Now the truth comes out. Mom's trying to start her own vineyard."
Vince snorted and even Remy chuckled at that. But Michelle didn't feel like laughing. Her mom's alcohol problem wasn't funny these days. Maybe it was back when they were in college. Back when they were all young and stupid and seeing Mom get giggly and lose her balance was funny. But not anymore.
"Shell, I think gardening would really help you unwind after a long day."
"Um, maybe. I'll think about it."
"Look." Her mom gestured to a bouquet of fragrant flowers in the center of the table. "See how beautiful?" She tucked a piece of her perfectly straightened dark hair behind her ear. It was cut into a sleek bob with one slice of gray down the front, highlighting her cheekbones and deep-set dark brown eyes. Her mom had always been gorgeous. All of Remy's, Vince's, and Mark's friends would always joke that they came over to stare at her. Hell, they probably made dirtier jokes than that, but never in front of Michelle.
"Maybe for your birthday I'll get you a new vase for those beautiful hydrangeas," Michelle said.
"They're oleanders, honey." Her mom rolled her eyes. Four years of undergrad. A four-point-zero grade-point average and valedictorian. Three years of law school. Passing the LSATs with a score higher than anyone in her family — her father included — but her mother could reduce her to a moron because she couldn't tell an oleander from a hydrangea.
"Speaking of presents," her dad interrupted, "your mother got a gift. Where's mine?" His voice was light and playful despite the tension permeating the room, heavy and thick like a storm cloud.
"Don't pretend like you're not stoked about that gift. You get to eat the pasta she makes with it," Michelle answered. In actuality, she knew her dad wouldn't care what gift she got them. He never cared much for material items. Her mother, on the other hand, had locked herself in the bathroom crying over the wrong present several times. And even though alcohol had been involved those days, that shit stuck with you the rest of your life.
Her dad leaned in clasping her hand. "My real gift is you having dinner with us." He meant that, too. There wasn't a doubt in Michelle's mind that he was truly happy just to have everyone home and surrounding them on their anniversary.
"Yes," her mom said, taking another sip of her wine. "I didn't realize it would be so difficult to get my family together for the occasional dinner."
How many glasses of wine did that make for her mother already? She'd always been pretty good at hiding it. When Michelle was a kid, other than the occasional case of the giggles or a moment of overemotional outbursts, she hadn't even realized how often her mother drank. Not until high school, when Michelle herself started drinking with friends, did she really pick up on the signs. The nasty, biting comments that her mom would make after having one too many. The way she'd pass out on the couch and still be asleep there when Michelle got ready for school the next morning.
"Our kids are successful, busy adults, Fran. That's what happens when you enter the work force."
A sharp clank from her mother's end of the table made Michelle jump. Her mom slammed her fork onto the plate, brown eyes wide with fury. "Which I wouldn't know anything about, right? What would I know about entering the work force?"
"Francine, that's not what I meant and you know it," her dad coaxed and flicked a glance to Vince. Her oldest brother gave a nod to Remy.
"Mom, when should I schedule you for that spa day?" Remy asked. "That gift certificate expires, you know."
She glared at Remy, the tension knotting her features relaxing. "Whenever," she said, resigned. As her attention focused on Remy, Vince slid her wine glass away from her plate, pouring most of it into his own glass and moving the bottle to the other end of the table.
They'd all grown accustomed to that well-choreographed dance. Usually, her drinking wasn't this much of an issue. Usually, they all enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine together without a problem — and, yeah, her mom always had more than her fair share, but it was harmless. She'd get tipsy and then she'd fall asleep sometime after the tiramisu was served. It was only in the last year or two that the drunken moments were more angry and sad than happy and giggly. And it was even more exacerbated since Michelle attempted to tell the family about Remy and Charlie. Her mother couldn't possibly believe her sweet little boy could do something so terrible.
Her mother turned back to her wine, lifting the near empty glass and finishing the last sip as Michelle's dad poured himself more. "Pass it down here when you're done, Enzo," Mom said.
Michelle's father handed her the almost empty bottle and Michelle glared at him as she took it, passing it down the line. Francine Chiccarini was like a science experiment where the ratios and measurements had to be just right or else the whole damn thing could blow up in all their faces.
"Here you go, Mom." Michelle said, handing the wine over Vince to her mother.
An exaggerated frown curved on her mother's face as she poured what was left in the bottle, barely one-third of the glass. "This one went quickly," she said. "Why don't I go to the cellar and pick another bottle."
"I'll do it," Mark said, hopping up.
"Sit, sit," her dad chided. "Finish your glass and then Mark will pick a smooth dessert wine to go with that cake your mother's been hiding for days."
The grumpy frown Mom had been sporting through dinner finally lifted and she tossed her linen napkin across the table at him, smiling. "That was supposed to be a surprise!"
He caught the napkin in one hand. As he looked at her mother, Michelle could see so much love in his gaze. Love that was composed of more than just infatuation. Love infused with history and passion and, if she wasn't mistaken, a bit of sadness. His head tilted and a sigh drifted past his parted lips. "It better not be that sugar-free crap."
"As your doctor, it better be sugar-free —" Vince said, giving their dad a look.
"Oh, come on. One piece of cake won't hurt," Mom said, flipping her hand in the air.
Vince gave Michelle a look. She shrugged. He was the one doctor in a family of lawyers. What the hell did he expect?
Michelle's phone rang from her purse, and she bent down to retrieve it from under her chair.
"Michelle," her mom groaned. "Don't answer it tonight. Whatever it is, it can wait until after cake."
"It might be work," Michelle said automatically. Remy snorted from across the table. She jerked her gaze to his and at least he had the grace to look embarrassed.
"Shell Belle, come on," he said quietly.
"Remy, shut up," she spat through gritted teeth.
Her dad rubbed circles over her back. "It's okay, Bella, Remy told us about the suspension. You'll land on your feet again. You could come work at my firm in the meantime —"
"I wasn't fired. I'm off of one case. That's it. I'll be back in two weeks."
"A suspension isn't being taken off of one case," Remy muttered from behind his wine glass.
"Paid suspension. For two weeks. And I didn't do anything to warrant it."
Her mother dropped her chin to her chest, finishing what little was left of her wine. "Honey," she scolded, looking at Michelle through a thick web of painted lashes. "Come on, now. Remy told us about the photographs. We're family. If you can't even admit to your family that you made a mistake, how can you own up to it at the office —"
"Oh, we want to talk about owning up to our faults, do we? You sure you want to open that can of worms, Mom? Remy?"
Her mother swallowed visibly hard. Michelle could see the tension knotting in her throat as the final remnants of wine went down. Remy on the other hand sat stationary, not looking ruffled by that at all. But at least she got through to her mother.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Michelle said.
"I didn't know you were doing much thinking these days," Remy challenged. "HSC, the Sauceda Crew — those car gangs are bad for Boston. They are pulling the city into crime. They're the reason there are drugs and guns on the street; they manage prostitution and strip clubs. And you're out there falling for every one of their ploys. Their plans."
"I'm not for HSC or any of the gangs. I am for putting the proper person behind bars for this murder. And that's all I can say about the Martinez case."
She stared hard at her brother. He knew way too much about a state prosecution case that he wasn't an attorney for. Someone in her office was providing him with this information. Someone had been talking to him. Someone who wasn't supposed to.
"I don't know who's been leaking information to you at the DA's office, but it's not going to be me," she said. "Not even to family and fellow lawyers."
"Sometimes it's the end goal that matters more than the immediate arrest," Remy said, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms.
"So taking down the gangs is more important than proper justice for the person who committed the murder?" Her dad leaned forward, holding a hand up. "Easy, you two. We're all on the same side here."
"The hell we are," Michelle muttered.
"Your brother's not entirely wrong. Sometimes you have to prosecute on technicalities and hope the judge offers a punishment suitable for crimes the defendant isn't on trial for. It's the reason we were historically able to put away notorious criminals for years over things such as tax evasion."
Remy arched an eyebrow at her and Michelle shook her head. This was not why she went to law school. She wanted to make a difference in Boston. Give a voice to the victims that could no longer tell their story. Remy was using cases for his political and personal gain. And hell if she was going to be a part of that.
"I'm not ruining a man's life, sending him away for life for a murder he may not have committed."
Mark stood from the table. "Maybe I should go get that dessert wine now —"
Vince stood as well, nodding. "That's a good idea. Dad, where's Mom been hiding that cake —"
"Patrick Cieran Flanagan's prints are all over the murder weapon," said Remy. "He was seen by you fleeing the scene of the murder. He was the last known person to have spoken with Temloc Martinez ..."
Michelle smiled. He didn't know yet. Whoever his leak was hadn't revealed the latest information of the security footage showing someone other than Patrick talking with Temloc. Her heart pumped in her chest as an itchy feeling spread in her belly. Like being on a roller coaster, her stomach flipped over itself and her head spun. Based on that video, Patrick was the last person to have spoken with her victim, other than the murderer. What else had Patrick seen? What else did he know?
Whoever was feeding Remy the Martinez and Operation Green Light case information was in way more trouble than she was. That person deserved the suspension; deserved to be fired. Or worse, disbarred. Just the thought of that had her skin tightening, growing two sizes too small for her body. Maybe that's who set me up? Followed me, taking photographs? Because revealing information about a state prosecution case was way worse than a short kiss between an ADA and suspect. It was grounds for firing, and Michelle wasn't going to sit there as Remy squeezed more drops of information out of her for this case.
Instead, she smiled coldly at her family. "Thank you for dinner, Mom. I'm so glad I came for this."
With that, she stood, pushing her chair back, and pulled out her phone. There was a missed call. Charlie. It was Charlie. She almost wanted to laugh. Or maybe cry — it was hard to tell which emotion was bubbling up at the moment. Could her best friend have any worse timing?
Michelle moved around the table, saying goodbye quickly to each family member, skipping over Remy. Reaching her father, she bent down, kissing him on the cheek. "Happy anniversary, Daddy."
Stepping out into their front yard, she inhaled the night air deeply and looked up at the inky sky. She just needed to get through the next two weeks. Patrick had one of the best defense attorneys in Boston. He may have kicked the shit out of that mechanic, but she still didn't believe he murdered Temloc Martinez. No matter how she looked at the night of his death, the details still didn't add up. And as much as she hated Patrick, he didn't deserve to go to prison for a murder he didn't commit.
Stars were scattered across the navy sky like dust particles on a blanket. A bright buttery moon glowed down on her. Her family was like a partially knitted sweater with some loose strands and threads knotted into a big ole mess. In order to fix the problem, you had to pull those strands. But pull too much and you could unravel the whole damn thing. That was her family. Knotted. Messy. Unraveling.
She held her phone, staring at the missed call message from Charlie and swallowing hard against the dryness in her throat. Staying away from HSC also meant staying away from Charlie. Her best friend. She glanced through the window where her family were on their feet, clearing the table. Really, Charlie was the closest thing to family she had right now. Though not related by blood, that girl transcended genetics. They were family, predestined to be together for life.
Her thumb hovered over the call back button. As she was about to return Charlie's call, the quiet click of the front door opening made her jump. She shoved her phone back down in her purse.
"Bella," her dad said and sat next to her on the stoop. He handed her a paper plate with a piece of cake wrapped in cellophane. "Don't be angry with your mother."
"I'm not," Michelle answered, scraping her toe across the gravel. The same way she used to when she was just a kid.
"You are," her dad said and sighed. "And I understand. She's hard on you. Always has been. You're her only daughter."
"I'm mad at Remy," Michelle clarified. "I can't even believe I still have to explain this. He hurt my best friend, Dad. And you're all placating him. Acting like Charlie's the villain and like he isn't some sort of —"
"That's enough," her dad boomed in his no-nonsense voice. The same voice that would ground her and send her to her room when she'd broken the rules. Only, she wasn't a child anymore. And that voice couldn't scare her. "We are family. And even when a family member makes a mistake, you stand by them. We all stood by you your senior year —"
"That was different."
"Was it? You broke the law. You were drinking underage and you got Ecstasy and alcohol for all your friends with that fake ID of yours."
Tears stung the back of her eyes and she shook her head. "I was young and stupid ..."
"Yes." Her dad nodded. "You were. And when you were in the hospital getting your stomach pumped, where were your brothers? Where was Remy?"
"It's not the same," Michelle repeated, wiping her nose with the back of her hand.
But her dad ignored her. "Remy was by your side, holding your hand. Just like Vince and Mark and me and your mother. Family stands by each other, Michelle."
Excerpted from Outlaw: Part 2 by Katana Collins. Copyright © 2017 Katana Collins. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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