That Perfect Momentby Carmen Green
The law is her life. Until now
Kimberly Thurman is used to life throwing her curves. The beautiful, fiery judge has struggled hard to get where she is and nothing's going to make her back down. That includes the high-profile murder case that has suddenly plunged her life into danger. And into irresistibly handsome Zachary Hood's arms.… See more details below
The law is her life. Until now
Kimberly Thurman is used to life throwing her curves. The beautiful, fiery judge has struggled hard to get where she is and nothing's going to make her back down. That includes the high-profile murder case that has suddenly plunged her life into danger. And into irresistibly handsome Zachary Hood's arms. Kimberly hired the virile P.I. to guard her body. But who's going to shield her heart?
Taking risks may be the Hood Team's stock-in-trade, but Zach will die before he lets anything happen to Kimberly. For beneath those judicial robes is a fiercely feminine seductress who's tempting him to open up to the passion she's offering. As desire mountsand the threats against Kimberly escalateis Zach ready to take the biggest risk of all? For a love that may never come again?
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Everyone in the courtroom waited in tense anticipation of the sentence Judge Kimberly Thurman was about to hand down to the serial carjacking teenager who'd had no regard for his victims. She referred to the paperwork in front of her, then asked the impudent defendant to stand.
Security specialist and part owner of Hood Investigations Incorporated, Zachary Hood sat in the last row of the gallery of the nearly empty courtroom and watched the judge's reaction to the young man. With her hands folded, she leaned forward, her shoulders making her robe look stately, as she ignored his insolence. Her hair, which he knew was long and straight, had been pulled into a tight bun, accenting a regal face, allowing long platinum earrings to highlight her beauty. Her eyelashes were long and black, and fanned defined cheekbones that had been subtly dusted with bronzer.
Zach noticed every detail. His job was to miss nothing, and he took pride in it. His attention was brought back to the young defendant as the judge waited for him to finish adopting his wideleggedhead cocked to the sidestance of defiance. She didn't even bother to comment when he intentionally smacked his hands together in front of himself as a general sign of disrespect to her, and the court.
The male deputies showed more annoyance than she. "Thaddeus Drake Baxter," the judge began with a firm tone. "The sentencing recommendation of eighteen months in jail with six months for time served has been rejected by the court. You are hereby sentenced to seventeen years in prison to be served at a state facility to be determined by the State of Georgia Department of Corrections. This sentence is to be served concurrently." The judge then read several case numbers to the clerk of the court, and the year breakdown for each violation.
She then looked Thaddeus Drake Baxter in the eye, and that's when Zachary saw a flicker of regret. It was there and gone so fast, but he knew he hadn't missed it.
"This is the judgment of the court, so say we one and all."
The defendant's family reacted with screams of protest. "For carjacking? That's insane," his mother wailed. The rest of the family sobbed. Four Baxter men glared at her, one shouting profanely.The gavel's sharp rap against the pad caught everyone's
attention. "Quiet in the courtroom!" The judge's calm demeanor vanished. The gripped gavel was pointed directly at the family. "The evidence was presented and a verdict delivered. You knew this day was coming, Mrs. Baxter. The citizens of this state and the court system did what you weren't able to docontrol your son. He won't hurt another woman for a very long time, if ever again."
The stunningly beautiful judge peered over the bench at the large male members of the Baxter clan and didn't flinch.
Every male in a position of authority was poised to protect the judge, although she seemed able to handle herself. Still, Zach, himself, would have vaulted seven rows to subdue the Baxter men.
"This is wrong, dead wrong," the largest of the uncles said. His face in profile, he looked more feral than the rest of them. The elder Baxter looked like he'd raised hell in his day, and had matched it blow for agonizing blow. A healed wound was etched into his face like Interstate 75 was in Georgia's highway infrastructure. His nose had been broken several times, and his dark eyes were flat. His face showed the knocks and bruises of a man who hadn't ever been able to control himself; he still lacked that ability.
He stood in the second row, but leaned over the back of the first row as if that would get him closer to the judge. "You gon' get" he threatened.
The judge banged the gavel, cutting him offjust as a deputy wrenched the man's arm behind his back, slap
ping the cuffs onto his wrist in a quick move. Out of instinct, Zach had risen and advanced.
Baxter's roar of pain was that of a lion, and it cut through the silence in the courtroom.
The judge was the only one who spoke. "If you finish that sentence, you will be arrested and charged with threatening an officer of the court, and making terroristic threats." Her eyebrow inched up and Baxter blew air through his nose.
"Your bail will be set at twohundred and fifty thousand dollars. When you are convicted, you will serve day for day of your sentence in a federal prison. Now that you fully understand the implications of your words, Mr. Baxter, do you have anything else you'd like to say to me?"
Zach had moved against the wall, and while he didn't have his gun, he didn't feel he needed it in a room full of sheriff deputies and Baxter men. It would be a brawl if they started anything. The family looked that unpredictable. Baxter's teeth were bared as he glared at her, his family stunned and quiet. The hell seeped out of him like sweat off moist skin. His brother reached back and pulled him by the middle of his shirt, and gave a stilted nod of apology to the judge.
The deputy who had detained Baxter looked at the judge and she gave a barely noticeable signal to release him. The family quietly left the courtroom.
Amazed that the man had even tried to disrespect the judge in that manner, Zach turned his attention back to the defendant. His posture of bravado was gone, and he was now a lost nineteenyearold, leaning on his attorney, sobbing. The young man was led away, the tension, however, taking longer to dissipate.
Despite being thirtyfour, two years his senior, the judge looked younger than her years. Zach didn't think Judge Thurman remembered meeting him at the fourday course he'd taught on safety for members of the High Court. That conference had been two years ago. At that time she'd been vehemently opposed to judges carrying weapons, but that had been before the Courthouse Shooter had struck Atlanta, Georgia. Today, Judge Thurman looked like she could handle anything thrown her way. He slid open the paper he'd received and read it again. Someone is trying to kill me. I need your help.Obviously, she was in trouble.
The judge dismissed court, and everyone stood until she left the bench. An aide led Zach to her outer office and he sat, taking everything in. The double glass doors leading to her inner sanctum could be accessed by an electronic key card. The simplicity of the outer office appealed to him. There were only two assistant's desks, with visitor's chairs that were placed ten feet away from the desks, for privacy's sake.
Zach waited, his thoughts returning to the judge. He could see why someone would want to kill her, but he couldn't imagine anyone being bad enough to try. Excitement coursed through his body like an energy drink, and he welcomed the adrenaline. This feeling didn't happen often and when it did, he took notice. He was going to win this account, but first he had to hear what the judge had to say.
Zach stood just as the door opened. "The judge will see you now."
Judge Kimberly Thurman made being a Superior Court judge look sexy as she sat in her office on Courtland Street in Atlanta, Georgia. There was no boxy brown desk, with the obligatory picture frames of cats or kids covering the wooden space. Her desk was made of clear beveled green glass, accented with a computer that was built into the flat surface. The judge sat cozily on a sofa of Italian leather in an alcove in front of a window so she could catch the soft afternoon sunlight.
Zach was escorted in by her assistant Clark. "Your Honor? Do you mind moving over here?" Zach asked. If there was a threat against her, he wanted her to live long enough to tell him about it. Sitting by the window as she was, she was in a direct firing path should a sniper choose to access the roof of the building across the street. It didn't matter that the building was police headquarters. Anything was possible.
"I'm glad you're taking my concerns so seriously. Do you think someone is out there now?" The judge stood and moved.
"Having you move is just a precaution. Finding out would be my business. I don't know if you remember me. We met at the fourday Symposium on Judges' Safety two years ago. Hood's position was that judges needed selfdefense training and to improve safety in your travels from work and home. Your families needed to be more aware of safety issues, also."
Loneliness lifted her lips in a soft tilt as she brushed her fingers against her cheek. "I remember you. I was opposed to judges carrying guns on the bench. My views have changed, given the events that have taken place in our city. The selfdefense course you taught got all the female judges talking."
Zach chuckled. "Did it?"
"Yes, sir, it most certainly did." She smiled back. "That's when I checked out Hood Investigations. Your outfit was hired because it was an impartial third party. A couple years ago, there was a big murder case, and members of our elite police units were going before several of us judges. Officers were put in jail, and Atlanta was thrust into the national spotlight.
"When the symposium came about, they decided against using our own officers for training because they didn't want to mix our police with the judges. They didn't want there to be even the hint of impropriety. For the record, I've taken concerns about my safety to the chief twice, and he's all but patted me on the head and told me to go away. I'm not begging him to help me. Once I knew Hood was a legitimate security company and that your success rate was one hundred percent, I wanted to hire you.""I remember you from selfdefense class. You beat the hell out of my dummy."
Kim burst out laughing. "That's what he was there for."
Zach nodded, relaxing a bit, thinking back. "We met again six months ago, Judge."
Kim thought for a moment. "I don't recall."
"I appeared in your courtroom."Her eyes clouded and disappointment crashed in like
the surf. "Oh, no."
"It's not what you think. I wasn't in trouble. We worked marathon court. The great Fulton County backlog."
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