Suspicion of Betrayal

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In the fourth title in the Suspicion series, Suspicion of Betrayal, Gail Connor thinks she has achieved all her life goals with a successful career, a perfect home, and an ideal man, until an anonymous and menacing phone call, obscene letters, and threats to her eleven-year-old daughter endanger the very foundations of her life and begin to reveal the secrets of her past.

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In the fourth title in the Suspicion series, Suspicion of Betrayal, Gail Connor thinks she has achieved all her life goals with a successful career, a perfect home, and an ideal man, until an anonymous and menacing phone call, obscene letters, and threats to her eleven-year-old daughter endanger the very foundations of her life and begin to reveal the secrets of her past.

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Editorial Reviews

Jeri Wright
Suspicion of Betrayal is fast-paced, smooth, and suspenseful. The stalker's motives and identity remain a secret even as Gail does her best to find out who hates her so intensely. Barbara Parker does tell a gripping story....Readers who have followed Gail through the first three books in the series may be disheartened, as I was, by the events in Gail's personal life, and by the somewhat open-ended conclusion.
The Mystery
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Miami lawyer Gail Connor (Suspicion of Deceit), 34, is tough and aggressive ("the only recourse," she says, "is to be a bigger s.o.b. than the next guy"), and as this gripping, dark story unfolds, it's easy to see why somebody is out to get her. Divorced and in a custody battle with her combative ex-husband for their 10-year-old daughter, Karen, Gail is about to be married to Anthony Quintana, a top criminal lawyer from a powerful Cuban-American family that may have ties to organized crime. Gail is also handling a nasty divorce case for Jamie Sweet, whose husband, Wendell, has shady business dealings that might link Quintana to some illegal businesses in Colombia. Gail begins to get menacing phone calls and her car is vandalized. Then Karen is threatened with a grisly death. Who is responsible? As the threats mount and her law practice threatens to spin out of control, Gail begins to have serious doubts about both her ex-husband and Quintana. With a fine combination of romance, cultural clashes and police procedure, plus some razor-sharp portraits, this story develops into a riveting thriller whose only flaw is that the author may tip her hand a bit too early. Author tour.
Library Journal
A prominent lawyer who has just left one of the biggest Miami firms to open her own office, Gail Connor is used to stressful situations. She's in the middle of a nasty divorce and bitter custody battle, has moved into a new house that needs major renovations, and is engaged to another well-known Miami lawyer. As if this isn't enough, a stranger is calling Gail and threatening her 11-year-old daughter's life. Parker (Suspicion of Deceit, LJ 1/98) has written another suspenseful story that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. Despite some slow patches, it's intriguing enough to be recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/98.]--Stacey Reasor, ITT Technical Inst. Lib., Tampa, FL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Jeri Wright
Suspicion of Betrayal is fast-paced, smooth, and suspenseful. The stalker's motives and identity remain a secret even as Gail does her best to find out who hates her so intensely. Barbara Parker does tell a gripping story....Readers who have followed Gail through the first three books in the series may be disheartened, as I was, by the events in Gail's personal life, and by the somewhat open-ended conclusion.
The Mystery
Kirkus Reviews
How can you tell that Miami lawyer Gail Connor is being lied to again? Because her ears are open, as they are to no avail throughout this fourth round of her legal-cum-domestic travails. At first Gail thinks the metallic-sounding voice threatening her over the phone must belong to Payton Cunningham, the neighborhood kid she chased out of her yard after he kissed her daughter Karen, 11. But would a teenager really identify himself as Death, send her doctored photographs threatening Karen and herself, as well as roses offering condolences for Karen's (nonexistent) death accompanied by a card signed by Gail's murdered sister Renee, or decapitate Karen's pet kitten? No kid could have such an animus, Gail decides. But if the perp isn't Payton, who is? The field of apparently innocuous men surrounding Gail—men who suddenly reveal potentially murderous depths beneath their smiling surfaces—is worthy of Mary Higgins Clark. There's Wendell Sweet, the oilman husband who's doing his best to divorce Gail's earthy client without leaving her a cent. There's Simon Yancey, the disgruntled victim of a mortgage foreclosure Gail handled years back. There's Charlie Jenkins, the contractor who magically turned up one day to work on restoring the house Gail's purchased with her fiancé, well-connected Cuban attorney Anthony Quintana (Suspicion of Deceit, 1998). There's Hector Mesa, the sinister friend and courier to the Pedrosas, Anthony's wealthy family. And for good measure, there's Anthony himself, looking awfully hot-headed now that there's pressure on his bride-to-be, and Dave Metzger, Gail's ex, who's bobbed up from his Caribbean sojourn to sue Gail for custody of Karen. All right, thereal culprit isn't worth a second shudder. Until the disappointing denouement, though, Parker piles on the menace with all the smooth efficiency of the storied Pedrosas. (Author tour) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781497639140
  • Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
  • Publication date: 7/22/2014
  • Series: Suspicion Series, #4
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,380,264
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Parker was trained as a lawyer and worked as a prosecutor with the state attorney’s office in Dade County, Florida, before moving into a private practice that specialized in real estate and family law. Parker earned a master’s degree in creative writing in 1993. Her first legal thriller was Suspicion of Innocence, published in 1994, which was followed by another seven titles in the series featuring her two lawyer protagonists, and sometime lovers Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana. While writing the series, she also produced Criminal Justice, Blood Relations, The Perfect Fake, and The Dark of Day. Suspicion of Innocence was a finalist for the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Two of her titles, Suspicion of Deceit and Suspicion of Betrayal were New York Times bestsellers. Barbara Parker died in March 2009, at age sixty-two.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Like anyone else with a telephone, Gail Connor had received her share of crank calls, but none where the person on the other end had disguised his voice, called her a bitch, and said she was going to die. The night she received such a call, it was more annoying than frightening. At thirty-four, trained as a litigating attorney, she was not the sort of woman to be easily rattled. And she thought she knew who had done it—the kid across the street. He was fourteen, and earlier she had yelled at him to stay out of her backyard. He'd been smoking in the gazebo. Even worse, Karen and two of her friends had been out there with him, and Karen was still under eleven years old.

    Later on that night, Gail wondered if her temper might have been the result of so many changes in so short a time. Divorcing one man, falling in love with another. Giving up a partnership to open her own practice. And moving into an old house that was making her crazy. She and Karen had lived in it less than a month. They were not used to high-beamed ceilings and heavy plaster walls, to narrow stairs that twisted to a second floor, or to an immense gas stove that hissed, then popped into flame. The toilets gurgled; the air conditioner wheezed. Warped windows stuck halfway open. Gail would have to go outside and shove while Karen jiggled the crank. During heavy rains they put towels on the sills. Gail told Karen they were having an adventure. Karen crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. Gail's mother had warned against uprooting the child so abruptly from her old neighborhood. Gail could see the point—in hindsight—butdidn't know what could be done about it now. To make Karen feel better, she had allowed her to bring home a kitten from the animal shelter, a little black-and-white female named Missy. So far the creature had thrown up twice on Gail's bedroom rug and peed on one of Anthony's best jackets.

    They had planned to move in after the wedding to a home freshly painted and patched, with a new kitchen and refinished oak floors. Karen would get to design her own bedroom. But the week after Gail put their old house on the market, expecting to have months till the closing, a Brazilian couple offered full price—if they could close right away. Not wanting to lose the deal, Gail called a moving company and had all her and Karen's belongings hauled from their modern three-two in South Miami to the 1927 coral rock and stucco relic in Coconut Grove, where air plants sprouted from the leaky tile roof and the bushes had not been pruned in decades.

    She had assumed it would take only two or three weeks, with little disruption to her schedule. She had been wrong. The workers, few of whom spoke English, showed up when they showed up, and charged extortionate rates for off hours. The painting couldn't be done until the carpenter was finished and the carpenter had to wait for the plumber. The wedding was only two months away, and Gail imagined the worst: home from their honeymoon, Anthony sweeping her into his arms, stepping over the threshold. They plunge between the open floor joists.

    The night Gail received the telephone call wishing her dead was a Thursday, the middle of June. Officially Anthony was still living in his town house on Key Biscayne, fifteen miles away, but he would often come by after work. On this particular night he had stopped by a gourmet grocery. He opened the aluminum takeout pan and showed it to Karen, who was sitting backward in a kitchen chair with her chin on crossed arms.

    "Look. Lasagna."


    "¿Qué pasa, mamita?"

    "I hate mushrooms."

    "Karen!" Gail turned around with a hand on her hip. "If you can't be polite, then go upstairs until you can."

    "Fine. I'll starve to death."

    Gail called out to her retreating back. "And take a bath. I'll come check on you in a while."

    "Don't bother. I'll be dead." Karen scooped up her kitten, which was playing with a toy lizard under the table. Heavy-soled sneakers thudded up the stairs, and a few seconds later a door slammed.

    "Sorry about that," Gail said. She jerked on a drawer to free it, then scooped silverware out of the tray. The cabinets were fake walnut, and the appliances were avocado green. It would all go during remodeling—if they could ever decide what to put in its place. She gave the silverware to Anthony—three sets in case Karen repented.

    He was still frowning at the empty archway that led to the hall, which seconds before had contained a skinny girl with long brown hair and jeans so baggy they dragged on the floor. "What's the matter with Karen? Is she mad at me for a reason that I fail to grasp?"

    "No, it's me. I told her she couldn't go outside and play—excuse me, go hang out—with Jennifer and Lindsay."

    "Que va. It's almost dark." He glanced at the ceiling. A stereo had come on, playing just below the volume at which someone might go upstairs and ask that it be turned down.

    "Just ignore her," Gail said. "She's almost eleven, and I've heard that girls go through this when they hit puberty. It's a natural phase of development. Supposedly."

    Half to himself, Anthony muttered, "Ah, yes. The obnoxious phase."

    Gail made a little face at him, then put the lasagna in the oven to warm and went about making the salad. Rip open a plastic bag of mixed baby greens, throw in a few walnuts, some cherry tomatoes, and crumbled Gorgonzola. Toss with bottled vinaigrette—not the cheap kind, the five-dollar brand from Chef Alan. She and every woman lawyer she knew had a repertoire of recipes that could produce a meal in ten minutes flat. It helped if somebody else brought the main course.

    Anthony had taken two glasses from the cabinet. "What would you like to drink?"

    "Just wine. Anything stronger will put me to sleep, and I have a case to work on." Her wineglasses were lost in the boxes stacked in the living room. He poured white wine into one short glass and dark rum over ice into another.

    "I would have gone over the file at my office, but the handyman called. It cost me a hundred dollars, but at least he fixed the sink. There was a cat toy stuck in the drain, don't ask me how."

    Anthony touched the rim of his glass to hers. "Salud."

    She gratefully took a swallow and leaned over to give him a quick kiss. "Thanks. And hello, mi cielo, whom I haven't seen in two days. I wonder. Is your secretary telling the truth when she says she can't reach you? Why am I always the one to let the repairmen in?"

    "Well, you live here." Anthony leaned against the counter next to her, sipping his drink. He had gracefully masculine hands. There was a ring on his last finger—garnet set in gold.

    "That is not the right answer." Gail pulled on his loosened tie. Patterned red silk, which matched the ring, which went with the monogrammed initials on the pocket of his custom-made shirt. "I bet you don't even know what a P-trap is, do you?"

    "Of course. I keep them in my nightstand."

    She narrowed her eyes. "Hopeless."

    He set down his drink and kissed her. His soft, full mouth was cool from the ice, tangy-sweet from alcohol. Both hands went under her shirt to caress bare skin. She had not worn a bra. He quickly discovered that fact and pinned her against the counter.

    Stopping to catch her breath, she said, "Stay tonight. Say yes." She left a trail of light kisses across his cheek. "Yes. Yes. I promise you many exotic delights ..."

    "Should we? If you have work to do, and with Karen in her phase—I'll stay if you want, but is it wise?"

    "Probably not. You make me very unwise. I'm crazy about you. Absolutely wacko."

    He curled her fingers over his hand and kissed them. The movement made her engagement ring sparkle, even in the kitchen's buzzing fluorescent light. The stone was perfect, a man's diamond he had worn on his own hand, reset for her. His eyes lifted to focus on hers. "Gail, are you going to tell me what happened in court today or not?"

    Since morning that topic had been in and out of her consciousness like an intermittent toothache. She reached for her wine. "The judge is going to appoint a psychologist to interview Karen. I haven't told her about it yet."

    "What do you mean, a psychologist? The motion was about visitation."

    "Yes, well, they raised the issue anyway, after the judge said that Dave getting Karen five afternoons a week was a bit much. They said I've made Karen afraid to admit she wants to live with her father. Afraid? What in God's name do they think I do, beat her? What really galls me is that Dave doesn't consider how this is affecting Karen. Never mind what she's going through, he wants to get back at me. Our marriage failed, and it's all my fault, but I got the house and the kid. Well, excuse me. It was Dave who wanted out. Then he took off on his damned sailboat for six months. Lived with some girl in San Juan. He hardly ever wrote Karen. I can't tell you the times she cried over him and I had to make up some story. `Yes, sweetie, of course your daddy loves you, but there's no post office on the islands.' And now he's back and I'm such a bad mother they need a psychologist to determine the extent of the damage." Gail let her arms fall to her sides. "Sorry for ranting."

    She could feel the heat building from Anthony's direction. "Come on. This isn't about you. Dave is angry with me. You're just bonus points."

    A lift of Anthony's brows said he doubted that. "Karen is old enough to decide where she wants to live, don't you think? Why doesn't the judge leave it up to her?"

    "Karen won't make a decision. She doesn't want to hurt either of us, so she won't say anything."

    "You haven't asked?"

    "I'd rather not put pressure on her."

    "Gail, she's not a baby. You should take another look. A girl is better off with a mother, who can tell her about—" Anthony looked for the word—"feminine things. She can visit her father when she likes, but her home is with you. Be as subtle as you need to, but make your point. You have more power with Karen than he does."

    "Maybe you're right, but I really don't want to talk about it anymore."

    Gail grabbed a towel to take the lasagna out of the oven. Maneuvering it past the door, she grazed her knuckle on the hot metal. "Ouch. Dammit!" The door slammed shut with a clatter of oven racks. She dropped the aluminum pan on the table and waved her hand to shake off the burn.

    "Are you okay?"

    "It's nothing." She looked down at the pan. "I should have put the lasagna in a nicer dish. As if I could find one in that chaos in the garage." Gail let out a long breath, then noticed the folder Anthony had laid on the end of the table when he'd come in. "What's in there? The architect's drawings?"

    "I thought we could look at them over dinner," he said.

Away from the tourist-clogged section, streets in Coconut Grove curved around overhanging trees and dense tropical foliage—small streets with odd names like Ye Little Wood, Battersea, and Kiaora. The land could rise and fall, as this part of Miami had some altitude—fifteen feet above sea level. One might see a starkly modern house of angled glass and concrete beside a run-down clapboard cottage. The next would be hidden behind a wood fence laden with hot pink bougainvillea. A rainbow flag might fly from one roof, Old Glory from another. At this time of year plants thrust upward and out, blocking the light, climbing over each other, bursting with buds, tendrils, fronds, and leaves the size of dinner plates.

    Clematis Street was a cul-de-sac running along a canal that led to Biscayne Bay. The dozen or so homes were generally of a Mediterranean design, with a few tropical moderns and one white-columned colonial out of its latitude. Gail and Anthony's house was constructed of block and stucco, with a circular drive and covered terraces front and back, tiled to feel cool in the summer. There were two coral rock fireplaces, downstairs and in the master bedroom, for those days in winter when one might want the glow of a fire. The real estate saleslady had used the words charming and cozy.

    As Anthony laid the drawings out on the table—pen and ink with washes of color—Gail wondered if the architect had looked at the right house. It was evident he had gone far beyond plans for a kitchen. The long, narrow living room had doubled in size. The side wall had been pushed out twenty feet, and a massive brass chandelier hung from the ceiling. The stairs, which had been torn out and moved across the room, curved to form a balcony that looked down from the second floor. Gail laid her fork carefully on her plate.

    Anthony showed her a drawing of the new master bedroom. "Here's a view of the upper-floor terrace from our room. It's completely private. Karen's room and the other two bedrooms would have balconies. The guest house would be next to the pool, separate or connected to the main house, whatever we prefer."

    "The pool?"

    As if finally aware of what he was showing her, Anthony shuffled through the sketches. "Well, the architect thought it would add value to the house. You don't want a pool?"

    "But we were only going to redo the kitchen and make some minor repairs, not redesign the entire house. We don't have time for major renovation right now."

    "That's what contractors are for."

    "But somebody has to be here to deal with these people. Not you. I get to do it because I live here."

    "I do not want to live in this house the way it is, and it is better—in my opinion—to do it now, to get it over with—"

    "Anthony, let's just get the kitchen done."

    "Why are you being so negative?"

    "I'm not negative, this is insane!" Gail sat back in her chair. "How much would it cost? Ballpark figure."

    He shrugged. "I don't know. Two-fifty. Three hundred."

    "At least." She propped her chin in her palm. "I hate to tell you, but I've got that old Hawaiian disease—lackamoola." When Anthony went blank, she repeated, "Lackamoola. Lack of —"

    "Okay, I get it."

    "Miriam's been asking for a raise, the computers are costing a fortune, and I'm afraid to spend money right now."

    He scooted his chair out and reached for her hand. "Sweetheart, listen to me. It was my decision to hire the architect, and the changes—those over our budget—I'll take care of them. You don't have to match every dollar I put into the house. I don't expect you to."

    "But I want to."


    "Because ... I just do."

    His laugh was an exhalation of disbelief. "What are you trying to prove?"

    "I am not trying to prove anything. But when you blithely start talking about three hundred thousand dollars ..."

    He spun a drawing to the table. "Maybe we shouldn't have bought this house. Maybe we should find something else."

    "Well, you know, I can't say it hasn't crossed my mind a few times as I waited around for someone to come fix the roof."

    "Is that what you want? All right. Okay, vamos a venderla. I'll call a realtor tomorrow."

    "Another of your typically extreme responses—"

    Above the whir and hum of the air conditioner—always on this time of year—Gail heard a high-pitched noise. It took her a few seconds to realize it was a scream, and that it wasn't a sound effect on one of Karen's CDs. She leaped up.

    "What was that?" Anthony asked.


    He automatically glanced upward, then raced for the stairs. Gail heard it again—closer, and coming from the backyard. She ran through the kitchen and onto the terrace, seeing nothing but tangled trees and through them a glimmer of light on the water.

    Karen came hurtling out of the darkness, another girl closely behind, legs pounding. Gail ran across the terrace, nearly tripping on a broken tile.

    A third girl followed more slowly. "Come on, guys. He was just kidding."

    Fists clenched, Karen whirled around. The friend with her giggled, breathless with excitement. Gail reached for Karen to make sure she was all right, then moved to stand in front of her, guarding her from whatever might be out there. The gazebo was a crisscross of pale lines, and a small orange dot—a cigarette—flew into the shadows. "Who's there?"

    The third girl slowed. "It's my brother. He didn't mean anything."

    A boy sauntered down the steps. Gail could see only a slender frame and blond curls. His voice carried easily on the heavy, humid air. "My mom sent me to find Lindsay."

    Gail glared at him, the same kid who had skidded over her freshly laid sod on his older brother's motorcycle. "Go home, Payton. Now. And stay off this property."

    He shouted back at her, "I wasn't doing anything. Don't get so hyper."

    "I said go home! Do you want me to call your parents?"

    "Go ahead."

    Karen screamed, "Payton, you asshole!"

    Gail grabbed her upper arm. "Don't talk like that!"


    "I'm not hurting you." She came closer and sniffed Karen's hair. "What were you doing out there? Smoking?" She shook her. "Answer me."

    The boy vanished into the bushes, and his sister fled after him.

    "I wasn't!" Karen tried to twist out of Gail's grip, but slipped and fell on her backside. The girl beside her quickly moved away. This was a chubby little brunette whose tight shirt showed it was time for a bra. Karen started to wail.

    "Oh, stop being so dramatic!"

    The back door banged open, slamming against the wall. Anthony appeared. "¿Qué en el demonio—?"


    A woman stood at the edge of the house. Gail recognized her—Mrs. Cabrera, Jennifer's mother. They lived a few doors down. With some urgency she called out, "Jennifer, ven aca. Time to come home. Right now."

Gripping Karen's arm, Gail pulled her to her feet. With Mrs. Cabrera's accusatory eyes on her, she hurried to explain. "They were in the gazebo with friends. I don't know what was going on."

    "Nothing!" yelled Karen. "Mom, let me go!"

    Jennifer made a guilty little wave at Karen. "See ya." Mrs. Cabrera shot another look at the three of them, then bustled her daughter away with a terse "Good night."

    Gail took Karen into the kitchen. "You. Go to your room and get ready for bed. I'll be there in a minute. We're going to talk." She turned Karen toward the stairs and gave her a little shove to send her off.

    Anthony closed the back door and locked it. "What was that about?"

    "You tell me. They were out there with Payton Cunningham, who was smoking. I'd like to know how many cigarette butts I find down there tomorrow, and God help them if I find anything else. Payton is fourteen, a budding juvenile delinquent who dug tire tracks in the yard last week." With a little moan Gail brushed her hair off her forehead. "Welcome to family life."

    "I know. I have kids."

    "Yes, but yours are comfortably away in New Jersey." Gail noticed the drawings on the table. "I need to see about Karen. Could we talk about the house later? Not tonight. I really have to get to work. You can stay if you want."

    "No." As if trying to decide what to say, Anthony glanced toward the terrace, then back at Gail. "You let her get away with too much."

    "Let her? I didn't let her go outside—"

    "But she did, and why did she assume she could get away with it? When I'm living here, that behavior is going to change."

    "Really. Well, good luck."

He was gone in less than five minutes. She watched his car pull out of the driveway. Red taillights flared, then grew smaller up the street. His kiss had been more polite than affectionate. Gail locked the door, then leaned on it. The lamp on her glass-topped table did little to illuminate the living room. Her furniture looked ridiculous, all modern white sofas and chairs and light wood.

    In her head the words she had bit her tongue not to say were whirling around: Yes, let's sell the damn thing. I'm sorry we bought it.

    Twenty-five-watt bulbs in pitted, brass-colored sconces lit her way up the stairs. She glared at them, vowing to rip them off with a crowbar at the earliest opportunity. No sound came from Karen's room. Gail tried the door. "Karen? Let me in." When there was no response, Gail smacked her palm on the varnished wood panel. "Karen! Open this door."

    The lock clicked. Karen was in her pajamas and the light was off. She yawned widely. "I was asleep."

    "You were not." Gail flipped the switch, and the desk lamp went on. "Don't ever lock your door like that."

    "You lock yours." Retreating to her bed, Karen drew up her legs and hugged them with thin arms. "When Anthony is here, you lock your door, so why can't I lock mine?"

    Gail took a breath, then another. "What were you doing outside?"

    "Nothing." The kitten mewed to get on the bed, and Karen picked it up, a handful of black-and-white fur.

    "I have eyes, Karen. I saw Payton's cigarette."

    "Mom!" She dropped her forehead onto her knees. "I wasn't smoking. Cigarettes stink." The cat batted a strand of her hair.

    "I told you not to go outside, and you did it anyway. You're grounded for a week."


    "You go to day camp, you come home, and you stay inside. I intend to inform your father of this too."

    "That is so unfair! I called Lindsay and said I couldn't go out, and she said she had to get her Beanie Baby back. I went to give it to her, that's all."

    "You were in the gazebo with your friends and Payton Cunningham."

    "He's' the one that should be grounded. He's a spoiled brat idiot. I hate him! I hate everybody in this neighborhood. I hate this house. I hate you and I hate Anthony!"

    "That's enough!"

    Karen stared up at her with red-rimmed eyes, and her mouth trembled. There was more than rebellion in that reaction, Gail thought. Quietly she said, "Karen, what happened out there? Why did you scream?"

    Karen wavered.

    "Don't be afraid. Did Payton do something to you?" Gail sat beside her on the edge of the bed.

    "He kissed me. I didn't want him to, Mom." Her eyes filled. "I didn't. Jennifer let him, but I didn't want to. He grabbed me. He was laughing."

    Gail folded her in an embrace. "Oh, sweetie. It's okay. Good for you, saying no. Don't do anything with a boy—ever—that you don't want to." Gail kissed the top of her head. "You're a good, good girl. I'm proud of you."

    "Mom, I'm sorry." Karen lifted her tear-blotched face. "I didn't mean to say all that. I don't hate you or Anthony, I swear." .

    "Well. You're still grounded."

    "I know."

    The summer sun had browned Karen's skin and streaked her hair. Her adventure in the backyard had tangled it. Gail combed it with her fingers. "Is it so bad here? You're making friends. You know, Anthony and I were talking about the house tonight. He wants to put a pool in the backyard. What do you think? You could have your friends over. Invite the girls from the old neighborhood."

    "That would be fun."

    "You loved this house when we first saw it. Remember? You and Anthony. I think I said yes because you both loved it so much." Gail sat quietly for a few moments, rocking Karen. "Are you hungry? You missed dinner."

    "Very hungry."

    "Okay. I'll bring you something."

    Karen clung. "Can I sleep with you tonight? I'm scared. Please, Mommy?"

    "Sweetie ..." Gail extricated herself. "Nobody's going to get you."

    "Yes! Me scared!"

    "Oh, Karen!" Gail had noticed how she could take these turns, veering from mature to childish. Nothing used to frighten her, but now anything could. Gail was at a loss, not knowing what to do. If Anthony was here, he would not want a visitor in their bed. To start a precedent meant breaking it later. But now Karen needed her.

    Finally she said, "Okay. Just for tonight."

    Karen flung herself at Gail and wrapped her long legs around her waist. Her body was taut as a wire. "Carry me. Carry me, Mommy." Leaning back against the weight, Gail went across the hall, opened the door to her room, and dropped Karen on her side of the king-size bed, where she bounced, then burrowed under the sheet and light summer blanket. "Missy! I want Missy."

    Gail went to Karen's room, found the kitten under a chair, and brought her back across the hall. "Don't you let her pee in my bed." She tucked Missy under the covers. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

    "Where are you going?"

    "To get something for you to eat. I won't be long."

    "Tell me a story."

    "Karen, I really can't tonight. I have some work to finish."

    "Daddy always tells me a story."

    "I doubt that." Gail turned on the ceiling fan. "I'll bring you a book, okay?"

    She chose one quickly from Karen's collection and assured her again she'd be right back. Once around the corner, Gail almost broke into a run. There would be a hearing early in the morning, and earlier still she had to meet her client and go over the testimony. Gail berated herself for not having prepared her case earlier in the week, but so much had intervened to pick away at what little time she had. A divorce case, Wendell and Jamie Sweet.

    The Sweets. A funny name for two people who detested each other so thoroughly. The judge would set an amount for temporary support and an award for attorney's fees. Gail was hopeful she could collect at least twenty thousand dollars. She had put in the hours to justify it. If the judge signed the order, she could take care of some past due bills at her office and pay overhead for the next month.

    She made Karen a sandwich and some chocolate milk, then turned on the gas stove to boil water for coffee. While it was heating, she put away the leftovers and rinsed the dishes. Lightning flickered to the east, an ocean storm too far away for thunder. The palm trees were spiky silhouettes. Her own reflection looked back at her, a tall woman with tousled blond hair.

    The phone rang just as she had started back up the stairs with a tray. Her watch said 9:52. At this hour it would be one of three people: her mother, a frantic client, or Anthony. She wanted it to be Anthony. They would talk for a little while, and everything would be all right again.

    There was an extension on a table just around the corner in the living room. A streetlight shone weakly through the blinds, making jagged stripes across the floor.

    She set the tray down. "Hello?"

    The only reply was a faint buzz that said the line was open. She heard some background noises and thought it might be traffic. "Hello? Anthony?"

    For a second she thought that something was wrong with the connection. There were low-pitched clicks and echoes. Then her mind registered a pattern resembling human speech.

    It was speech. A robot. A computer. Something speaking in a metallic monotone. Then she recognized her name.


    Then she fixed on another word. Die.

    Her breath stopped.

    — goingtodie, bitch. You'regoingtodie.

    As if the handset were a snake, she thrust it back into its cradle. Then she laughed. Laughed at her own fear. "You little shit." She marched across the living room to pull down a slat in the blinds. Lights from the Cunningham house shone in small patches through the high hedge that ran down the side of their property. She thought of calling his parents but without proof, what could she say?

    She took the tray upstairs. Karen was already asleep, her book open on her stomach. "Thank God." Gail tiptoed to the phone by her bed to check the caller-ID box. A red light blinked, indicating a new call. She pressed a button. The display said PAY PHONE. She whispered, "Well, aren't you clever?" Gail hit the button to delete the entry, striking it out of her mind. She turned off the ringer. Bending low, she kissed Karen's cheek. "A story tomorrow. I promise."

    Gail quietly unpacked the banker's box that held the files from her office. Sweet, Jamie. Dissolution of Marriage. She spread out the pleadings and exhibits on Anthony's side of the bed, careful not to disturb the little mound softly snoring on hers.

    It was almost two o'clock in the morning when she turned off the light.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2011

    Not worth your time.

    This is the first book I've ever read where I had little to no sympathy for the main character. She brought her woes on herself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2003


    the novel focused extensively on the romance angle which is quite confusing since this is supposed to be a legal thriller. i am looking forward for the latter parts of this novel to get better but still, the plot failed further

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2000

    Anthony and Gail

    Please do not let Anthony be gulity of some terrible plot. Keep the romance alive. They are wonderful together. I cannot wait for the next installment. Keep the tension up though because that is what keeps me coming back. He's so masculine and mysterious.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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