Read an Excerpt
By Jasmine Cresswell
MiraCopyright © 2007 Jasmine Cresswell
All right reserved.
Denver, Colorado, Monday, August 7
Liam Raven looked at the woman sleeping in the bed next to him and tried to remember her name. He vaguely recalled that she enjoyed snowboarding. He knew for certain that she was studying to be a nurse. Her name, however, escaped him.
He stared at the light filtering through the broken slats of the miniblinds and wondered how it came about that at thirty-five years of age—pushing thirty-six—he hadn’t found a better way to spend his nights than sleeping with a woman he never planned to see again and whose name he couldn’t remember.
His cell phone rang—his work number—saving him from delving too deeply into the murky depths of his psyche. He was grateful for the interruption. Self-analysis was guaranteed to give him nightmares but work, thank God, usually proved a reliable anesthetic.
He eased out of bed, flipping open his phone. Out of deference to the still-sleeping No-Name, he waited until he was in the living room before he responded. “This is Liam Raven.”
“Thank God I reached you. This is Chloe Hamilton.” The woman on the other end of the phone drew in an audible gulp of air but her voice still didn’t steady. “Do you remember me? I came to see you a few months ago. I asked for your help in filing for adivorce—”
“I remember you well, Mrs. Hamilton.” Even among Liam’s client roster of rich and famous Coloradans, it would be hard to forget a woman who’d won medals in four Olympic skiing events and was married to the mayor of Denver. Not to mention the fact that Chloe Hamilton had the sort of lithe, athletic body guaranteed to provoke a major case of lust in any straight guy still breathing.
“We discussed ways to keep the proceedings confidential until the decree was granted,” Liam said, letting Chloe know that he genuinely recalled their past dealings. “In the end, though, you decided to stay with your husband for the sake of your daughter. How can I help you, Mrs. Hamilton?”
“Jason’s dead,” she blurted out, her voice catching on a suppressed sob. “He’s been…murdered.”
The mayor of Denver had been murdered? Holy shit! Liam smothered the exclamation. “I’m very sorry to hear of your loss—”
“I was the person who found him. I came downstairs and he was lying on the floor in our basement media room. There was blood everywhere. All over the wall. All over the floor. God, it was terrible.” Chloe’s explanation erupted in short, staccato bursts and it sounded to Liam as if her teeth were chattering. “There was so much blood.” Chloe’s voice faded to a whisper. “My God, there was so much blood.”
Liam spoke swiftly. “Have you notified the police? Called a doctor?” A doctor might be able to help Chloe, even if there was nothing to be done for her husband.
“The police think I killed him.” The words tumbled out, harsh with fear. “I’m sure they’re going to arrest me. I need a lawyer right away. I can’t let them take me to jail, even for a couple of nights. Sophie’s just lost…she’s just lost her father. She can’t lose me, too. She simply can’t.”
Sophie must be the name of Chloe’s daughter. Liam had never seen the child and couldn’t remember how old she was. A preschooler, he thought. Maybe three or four? He spoke quickly. “Are the police with you now?”
“Just a couple of uniformed officers guarding the crime scene and holding the reporters at bay. They’ve already taken away—” She broke off and started again. “They’ve already taken away Jason’s body.”
“Whatever you do, Mrs. Hamilton, don’t say anything to the cops. Nothing, do you hear me? If they ask your name, you’re obligated to identify yourself, but that’s it. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the police questions seem, don’t answer them. In a murder case, the spouse and immediate family of the victim are often considered suspects. Unless you have a rock solid alibi—”
“I was here all night,” Chloe said. “It must have happened…Jason must have been killed while I was sleeping.”
She’d been sleeping—unless she’d killed him, Liam reflected cynically, but he kept any trace of skepticism out of his voice. “In the circumstances, you should assume you’re currently the prime suspect, Mrs. Hamilton. It’s nothing personal on the part of the authorities. Just routine police procedure in the early stages of an investigation.”
“Their suspicions seem a lot more than routine to me.” Yeah, well, most likely because the evidence pointed straight to her, Liam thought. However, that was beside the point. Guilty or innocent, his advice to Chloe Hamilton would remain the same: get a competent criminal lawyer and say nothing.
He spoke briskly. “In view of the fact that we’re talking about the murder of a very prominent citizen, the police department will almost certainly send one or more of their senior detectives to question you some time soon. Whatever these detectives ask—even if it’s something as simple as the date or the time of day—tell them you need to consult with your lawyer before responding. Got that?”
“Yes, I understand. But I guess it’s too late for that piece of advice. I already answered a ton of questions about what happened last night.”
Liam shook his head, groaning inwardly. He was constantly amazed at the way even sophisticated and well educated people failed to take advantage of their right to remain silent in the wake of a crime. He attempted to reassure her anyway. Right now it wouldn’t help to add to Chloe’s stress level by telling her she’d screwed up, big time.
“There’s probably no real harm done.” For her daughter’s sake, he hoped that wasn’t a complete lie. If you really wanted to mess up a kid, he couldn’t think of a much better way than having one parent murder the other. Growing up with your mom in prison wasn’t exactly calculated to make for a picture-perfect childhood, either.
“Make sure you don’t answer any more questions until you have legal counsel right there with you, okay?” “Okay. I understand.”
“Do you have a pencil and paper?”
“I must have, I guess.” Her voice trailed off and he could visualize her staring vaguely around the room, still too much in shock to register her surroundings with any degree of clarity. He was surprised at how sharp his mental images of Chloe were. Apparently she’d made even more of an impression on him four months ago than he’d realized.
“There must be a pencil somewhere,” she muttered.
“You definitely need to find something to write with. I’ll hold while you look.”
It was a full minute before Chloe picked up the phone again. “Thank you for waiting, Mr. Raven. I’m sorry. I’m not usually this disorganized. I have a pen now.”
“Write down this phone number and office address. It’s for a friend of mine, Bill Schuller. Bill is an outstanding criminal defense attorney and you need to call him before the police question you again.”
“But I don’t want Bill Schuller to be my lawyer!” Chloe protested. “I want you to represent me. That’s why I called. Mr. Raven, please, you have to help me.”
“I am helping you. Trust me on this. Bill Schuller is the best criminal trial lawyer in Denver—”
“No, you’re the best. Everyone says so. You won an acquittal for Sherri Norquist when the experts all predicted you were going to lose.”
Liam’s stomach knotted at the mention of Sherri’s name, and he was immediately angry with himself for reacting to a case—and a woman—that were now more than three years in his past. He’d been a complete idiot over Sherri Norquist. He’d allowed himself to be manipulated into falling in love with a murdering bitch. But hey, shit happens. It was time to move on. God knew, Sherri certainly had, and seemingly without the smallest trace of guilt or regret.
He spoke crisply, skilled by now at keeping a barrier between his outward demeanor and what he was really feeling. “I appreciate the compliment, Mrs. Hamilton, but it’s undeserved. The bottom line is that I just happened to make a big splash with a couple of my early cases. I haven’t practiced as a criminal defense attorney in several years. These days, I deal only with divorce cases.” Which not only kept him away from an unsavory assortment of accused murderers, drug dealers and armed robbers, but provided him with the added pleasure of saying a mental fuck you to his bigamist father every time he took on a new case or signed off on a completed one. Liam understood that many worse things could happen to a kid than discovering his father had two wives, and two separate families. And he hadn’t even been a kid, really, when he learned the truth about his father’s second family. Still, his disdain for his father ran deep; even the fact that Ron Raven had recently been murdered hadn’t put an end to his anger.
He brought his attention back to Chloe. “You need to call Bill Schuller, before the police come back to question you again, Mrs. Hamilton. And keep in mind that the cops aren’t joking around when they warn you that anything and everything you say can be used as evidence against you. Here’s Bill’s office phone number. Call him right now, before you do anything else. It’s important.” He reeled off the number, repeated his condolences on Jason Hamilton’s death and hung up before Chloe could protest any further.
Just as he finished the conversation with Chloe, No-Name came out of the bedroom, wrapped in a towel. She looked sleepy-eyed, cute and appallingly young. Jesus, what had he been thinking last night? Or not thinking, more like it, Liam reflected grimly.
“Oh, you’re still here,” she said, smiling in relief. “I was afraid you’d left already.”
“No, I’m still here, but only just. I was answering the phone and didn’t want to disturb you.” He returned her smile with all the warmth he could muster. No-Name couldn’t be much more than twenty-one, which would make her almost fifteen years his junior. There was still an appealing hint of hopeful innocence in her expression and he felt a sharp twinge of remorse for having exploited her naiveté. He had years of experience in developing pickup lines that worked, and she’d fallen for them all. True, he’d met her in a LoDo bar notorious as Casual Sex Central. Still, even for a one-night stand, she deserved somebody a hell of a lot less cynical about relationships than he was. Three months ago he would almost certainly have dismissed her as off-limits, but since his father died at the beginning of May, it seemed as if the small store of human kindness left to him in the wake of the Sherri Norquist fiasco had vanished, rotting deep in the Atlantic Ocean alongside the bodies of his father and his father’s mistress.
“I wish I could stay.” Liam aimed another smile in NoName’s direction, a rueful one that suggested if only his job were not so demanding he’d be thrilled to spend the rest of the day with her. He wanted to let her down lightly. Or perhaps he wanted to convince himself that he hadn’t been a total asshole to have slept with her in the first place.
He tapped his cell phone. “I’m sorry. I just answered an urgent call from my office and I have to leave right away. There’s a family crisis involving one of my clients and they need me to catch the fallout.”
“Now?” she asked, pouting. “So early? It’s not even six-thirty!”
“I know. Wild, isn’t it? I swear, lawyers get more emergency calls than doctors.”
“But you’re a divorce lawyer. I wouldn’t have expected divorce lawyers to get any emergency calls.”
“Oh boy, are you wrong.” He chucked her under the chin, feeling a hundred years old as he coaxed a smile. “I sometimes think divorce lawyers get more emergency calls than anyone else. Especially on a Monday morning. Weekends are tough on couples who are splitting up. That’s when all the custody battles erupt and sometimes they aren’t just battles of words.”
“Tell me about it.” No-Name’s eyes turned sad. “My parents divorced when I was fifteen. As far as I’m concerned, they’d have done us kids a huge favor if they’d split ten years earlier. They weren’t physically violent, but the shouting was horrible.”
“Failing marriages are rough on the kids, whether you stick it out or cut through the pain and file for divorce.” Liam really didn’t want to get into a discussion of the problems associated with couples who weren’t willing to admit their marriage was over. That was a subject that cut too close to far too many bones.
He walked back into the bedroom, wondering if it was a custody battle between Jason and Chloe that had precipitated the mayor’s murder. People killed their spouses over custody issues almost as often as they killed them over money, and a lot more often than they killed them because of unfaithfulness. He’d barely been fifteen minutes into his first consultation with Chloe Hamilton when he realized that her daughter was the focus of her life. She might well be capable of killing in defense of her daughter, Liam reflected, even if such an act would be impossible for her in other circumstances.
When Chloe first came to see him, his professional instincts had shouted that there was more going on than a simple desire to get divorced. Equally, there had seemed to be something more behind her decision to stay with the mayor than a straightforward decision to reconcile. Despite his efforts to persuade Chloe to confide in him, she’d insisted she was the one who’d changed her mind and now wanted to give her marriage a second chance. He wasn’t sure he believed her, then or now. At the time, he’d suspected that Jason Hamilton had applied some sort of blackmail to prevent her walking away from their marriage. If the mayor had threatened to fight her for custody of their daughter, Chloe might have decided to end the emotional blackmail by getting rid of her husband.
Excerpted from Suspect by Jasmine Cresswell Copyright © 2007 by Jasmine Cresswell. Excerpted by permission.
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