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"I want my father out of his jail cell now," Molly demanded of the public defender assigned to her father's case.
Bill Finkel, Esq. rummaged through the papers in front of him, searching for heaven knew what. Each time she asked the man a question, he responded by first sifting through his disorganized folders and briefcase. He finally glanced up at Molly. "It's a murder case."
She cocked her head to one side. "And?"
He looked down and shuffled some more papers. Molly was getting tired of looking at the top of his bald head. "I may not specialize in criminal law, but even I know that since the general is a decorated soldier and an honorably discharged war hero, there's no reason you can't get him released on his own recognizance or a minimal amount of bail." Her years in real estate law felt like a waste right about now.
Bill cleared his throat. "It may not be that easy. Your father is accused of murdering his friend and business partner. He had a key to the office where the body was found, and motive since he discovered Paul Markham had been embezzling money from their real estate business." The public defender read word for word from the paper in front of him.
Weren't good lawyers supposed to think fast on their feet? "It's all circumstantial. Ask the judge to balance the weight of the evidence against my father's reputation in the community, his ties to his family and business, not to mention his service to this country!" Molly slammed her hand against the old metal table in frustration. "Speaking of my father, where is he? They were supposed to bring him to this meeting twenty minutes ago."
"Ah, I'll go see what's holding him up." Bill scrambled to his feet and practically ran out the door in an effort to get away from Molly and her questions.
She didn't care if she scared him silly or if he wet his pants. He was all her father could afford after discovering his partner's embezzlement, which meant unless Molly had a better idea, that bumbling excuse for a lawyer held her father's life in his hands.
From the moment Molly had shown up on the general's doorstep, he'd accepted her into his heart and made her a part of his close-knit family. She might not feel as if she was completely a part of the family yet but she couldn't deny how badly she wanted to be. She'd also grown to love the man and she intended to see to it that he lived his life outside prison walls.
Another ten minutes passed before Bill walked back into the room. "They said they're shorthanded and can't bring him down right now."
And he'd stood for that? Molly had had it. She needed a lawyer who would break down walls to get her father free. She needed Daniel Hunter. Without pausing to let herself think about what that would entail, she slung her bag over one shoulder and made a beeline for the exit.
"Where are you going?" Bill asked, running after her. "We have strategy to discuss. The guards said he'd be here within the hour."
Molly glanced over her shoulder. "I'm going to do what I should have done the minute I got the call that my father was arrested," she said to the dim-witted attorney. "Tell Dad I'll be back to see him tomorrow, but not to worry. I have a plan."
Bill blanched, his white, pasty skin turning even paler. "Aren't you going to share it with me? I'm his lawyer."
Not for much longer, Molly thought. To Bill, she said, "It's on a need-to-know basis and right now, you don't need to know."
Her plan hinged on getting the best criminal lawyer she knew to represent her father, but the chances of Hunter agreeing to help her were slim. After all, she hadn't ended things between them on a positive note. Hunter had offered to uproot his life and his practice and leave town with her. To go wherever she needed to run to so they could be together. She'd walked away from him instead.
Although she'd had her reasons, she held no illusions that he understood. Then or now. It wouldn't matter to him that she'd never stopped caring, never stopped thinking of him. After the way she'd rejected him, Molly had no choice but to visit him in person if she wanted him to even consider representing her father.
Faced with the sudden prospect of seeing Hunter again, Molly's stomach churned with a combination of excitement, panic and fear. She would have to risk everything by trusting her father's life and the rest of the family's future to Hunter.
A man who probably hated her guts.
Molly knew she could make the drive to Albany in one day. Three hours there, three hours back. She could do it, but first she had gone home to change into comfortable driving clothes, and yes, gather her nerve. In the privacy of the guest room where she was staying until she decided where she wanted to live more permanently, she tossed a few spare things into a duffel bag in case she had to stop overnight.
She didn't miss the irony of her situation now. Over the last year, she hadn't been able to think about anything more than how to fit in here. She'd taken one step at a time, trying to gain the trust of her two half sisters and her grandmother who'd ruled the family since her father's wife died nine years ago. Now she found herself in charge of keeping them together by calling on Daniel Hunter.
Drawing a deep breath, she headed downstairs. She'd almost reached the front door when she heard her half sister Jessie speak. "My father's been arrested for murder. That ought to do wonders for my social life."
Molly rolled her eyes. Jessie was fifteen years old. Teen being the operative syllable. Angst and drama were typical overreactions to even the slightest shift in her half sister's universe.
At fifteen, Molly had been taking care of herself for years. She hadn't had time to indulge in tantrums or histrionics. She'd been a mini adult for as long as she could remember, which put her in the position of not being able to relate to Jessie. And since Jessie didn't want anything to do with Molly, she found herself at a stalemate with the teen.
"You can be such a brat." The well-deserved verbal smack came from Robin, Molly's twenty-year-old half sister, who like Molly had grown up too fast. Her mother had died while Molly's had just been perpetually absent. She liked Robin and not just because the other woman had accepted her without question. Robin was an all-around good soul and there were too few of those, at least in Molly's world.
She had planned to sneak out without conversation but she realized she should tell them she'd be gone for the rest of the day and possibly night. Although she still wasn't used to living in a house with other people, where her goings and comings would be questioned and dissected, she'd been trying to train herself to do just that.
She stepped toward her father's office where the rest of the family was apparently gathered.
"Shut up," Jessie said to her sister. She never gave up without a fight. "You don't get to tell me what to do."
"But I do."
Molly grinned as Edna Addams spoke in a firm, commanding tone that explained why the older woman was more often known as Commander rather than Grandma. She was the general's mother, which made her Molly's grandma, too. Molly stepped into the doorway at the same time the double thud of the commander's cane hitting the floor caused everyone to snap to attention.
Edna stood in the center of the room, her focus on concentrate on what's important and that's helping Dad," she suggested as she entered the room.
Jessie whirled around, the hair she'd spent hours straightening this morning in the bathroom she shared with Molly flipping over her shoulder as she moved. "Dad?" she asked. Her tears were gone, replaced by sarcasm and anger, which was as usual, directed at Molly. "That's rich since you didn't even know him until a little while ago. He's our dad." She gestured between herself and Robin. "Not yours."
"Jessie!" Edna and Robin yelled in unison and shared horror.
Molly's heart clenched tight in her chest and almost immediately a headache threatened, one of the migraines she'd fought since childhood.
Despite being used to Jessie's outbursts, the teenager's verbal abuse still stung. Was it so much to want everyone in this family to accept her? She'd already paid her dues as a child born out of wedlock and lies, and she'd spent a lifetime believing the man she thought was her father didn't have any more time for her than her mother had.
She was damn tired of putting up with Jessie's crap, but out of respect for her father and for the sake of family peace, Molly had bit her tongue. She'd hoped in return, Jessie would eventually come around but, so far, no such luck.
"Apologize to Molly." Robin perched her hands on her slender hips.
Molly hated that her other sister fought her battles. Turning on Jessie now wouldn't help anyone, but soon they would have to come to terms with each other.
"I mean it," Robin said in the face of her sister's silence.
Jessie looked to her grandmother for salvation. But the older woman merely shook her head and tacked on another command for the teen to follow. "Now," Edna instructed and leaned on her cane, waiting for the obligatory I'm sorry to come from Jessie's lips.
Without warning, Jessie let out a loud groan. "You always take her side," she said on a misunderstood wail. Then she stomped her feet dramatically as she flung her body out of the family room.
"Crybaby, crybaby," Edna's macaw crowed from his cage across the room.
Leave it to the mouthy bird to make his presence known now, Molly thought. A quick glance out the family-room door told her Jessie had already fled far from hearing distance.
"Never you mind," Edna said to her pet. She turned to Molly and Robin. "I'll speak with Jessie. She can't talk to you that way."
"Just let her go." Molly dismissed her half sister's behavior with a wave, pretending to be unfazed by the outburst.
"Only if you promise to ignore her. Sometimes Jessie acts like she's fifteen going on thirty and other times she behaves more like she's three," Robin said, her blue eyes flashing with regret. She walked over and placed a comforting hand on Molly's shoulder.
"Amen to that." Molly managed a laugh and tried not to squirm beneath Robin's touch. Unused to any kind of affection, she was still growing accustomed to the gestures that came so easily to the rest of the family. She didn't want to insult them though or discourage their attempts to reach out to her. Besides, Robin's caring was exactly what she'd needed when she'd arrived here. She'd left Hunter behind and it had helped to know she'd found something solid. Not that it replaced him or the place he could have had in her life.
"What's with the duffel bag?" the commander asked, interrupting Molly's thoughts. "You're leaving?" Robin asked, panic in her voice. Molly shook her head. "I have to go see a friend about Dad." Despite Jessie's outburst, the word flowed easily off Molly's tongue, due completely to how Frank had pulled her into his home and his family.
Robin's shoulders relaxed. She leaned forward, her hands folded over each other on the desktop. "I worry about leaving you and Jess alone when I go back to school."