About the Author
Hopefully you laughed. Maybe you cried. Perhaps you simply pondered. Perchance you experienced a flood of all these and many more of your own personal emotions. Most importantly, I hope you that once you have finished the series, you realize that, no matter what battle they faced or their ultimate fate, the Bridges family's Christian faith and family bonds endured above all else. I know this to be true because I am very proud to say this real-life Southern family of survivors is in fact my own amazing family. Each and every one of whom I love with my entire heart and soul.
If you have already begun to wonder which of my characters I am, the answer is many and none. My own personal life experiences have been woven among many characters so there is no "Olivia Bridges" in the novels. I have done this simply to provide a veil of anonymity for myself, my husband, and our children.
In conclusion, I feel it important for you, my readers, to know something of my mother because as I wrote Rhoades to Bridges, I personally felt her presence with me more than I ever have in the sixteen long years since her death. I feel it is critical for you to understand something about the true soul who, I have no doubt, wrote this series. I merely recorded a legacy my mother somehow left hidden deep within my heart when she left this earth.
A great man once said "Your imagination is nothing more than a preview of life's coming attractions." My family prays that my mother's magnificent imagination, the basis for the first paragraph of Rhoades to Bridges, was indeed a preview of life's coming attractions.
I sincerely hope I have done Rhoades to Bridges justice but more importantly that I have once again made my mama proud of me.
Yours Truly, Olivia Bridges
Read an Excerpt
Rhoades to Bridges
By Olivia Bridges
Y&R Enterprises, LLCCopyright © 2016 Olivia Bridges
All rights reserved.
January, 2003 Dallas, Texas
"We, the jury, find in favor of the plaintiff, the estate of Joshua Herbert Stanford, and order the defendant the Jack Devilland Corporation to pay compensatory damages of two hundred-fifty thousand dollars and punitive damages of thirty-two million dollars to the estate of Mr. Stanford. In addition, the Jack Devilland Corporation will pay the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving one hundred-fifty million dollars per year for the next twenty-five years, for a total of three point seven five billion dollars, to subsidize MADD's awareness campaign against the dangers of drinking and driving."
The courtroom erupted into absolute pandemonium with reporters frantically pushing past one another, racing out to be the first television network to broadcast the history-making verdict. Some spectators cheered while others cried, and many simply sat in a state of shock. No one could have dreamed the jury would come back with such a tremendous award.
"Order in this court, order in the court!" Judge Harold Brigham's voice boomed over the room as he rapped his gavel loudly.
The courtroom fell silent.
Brigham then addressed the jury. "I thank each and every one of you for your time and commitment to the case. The bailiff will escort you through the back hallway. I have no doubt it's a circus out there. There will be a mob of cameras and reporters swarming the steps. Thank you again. Court dismissed."
Judge Brigham rose from the bench. His black robe swirled in a flurry around his large frame as he disappeared through the door to his chambers.
Melanie Bridges' heart beat double-time from the shock of the verdict. Adrenaline coursed through her veins. Enthusiastic shouts of congratulations and other bedlam surrounded her. A surreal sense of floating toward the ceiling enveloped her. The sounds all around her evaporated as her body numbed from the top of her head to the tip of her toes.
Every waking moment, day and night, week after week, month after month, she had poured her entire life, her heart, her soul, and everything she had into this case. Struggling to breathe from the jarring surprise, Melanie could not believe this epic day had finally come. Desperately, Melanie grasped to understand the impact of what had just happened. All she knew for sure was it was big.
Melanie suddenly felt his presence behind her even before he spoke. Alan Winters, the lead attorney who represented the Tennessee liquor giant Jack Devilland, breeched her personal space and towered over her.
As always, Alan was impeccably dressed in a custom-tailored suit and alligator boots which probably cost more than what Melanie made in three months. To be fair, he was certainly a striking man with a physique to rival that of an Olympic athlete. Nonetheless, he'd been a pompous jerk from the first day she had met him almost five years ago. Most women found him tall, dark, and handsome, with his slicked back hair as black as West Virginia coal. Melanie was not one of those women.
"Congratulations, Melanie." Alan pierced her with his sharp blue eyes. "I must say, for a rookie, you presented a pretty good case." A smug grin stretched across his face. "Our appeal will be on your desk by eight a.m. tomorrow morning." He outstretched his hand, his absurdly expensive watch just showing under the cuff of his sleeve.
Melanie begrudgingly accepted his firm but clammy handshake.
Holding her hand a few seconds longer than appropriate, his eyes danced as if the victory today belonged to him. Yes, he was truly a first-class bastard.
Saying nothing, Melanie turned her attention from Alan and stood perfectly still amid the continued jubilation of her own team. Neither Alan nor his media-dubbed Dream Team mattered. Only one thing mattered. She, Melanie Bridges, small town girl from Carlton, North Carolina, had just made history. Her shoulders sagged as the months of tension eased and the hint of tears stung the corner of her eyes. History. She had made history.
How she wished her daddy was here to see his little girl take down the huge Goliath that was Jack Devilland. Shaking her head, she knew he was indeed there in spirit, as was her mama. They were two of the three people who had given her the strength each and every day to walk into this courtroom and fight like hell.
Melanie turned around at the gentle touch upon her elbow. Elderly, wheelchair-bound widow Eliza Stanford wept openly and reached for her. Bending down, Melanie folded herself into the older woman's frail arms. The familiar sweet scent of Eliza's lavender perfume tickled her nose as she savored the moment.
Releasing Mrs. Stanford, Melanie stood and searched the crowd for the other woman. Her gaze met that of the ever stoic Sally, the only child of Eliza and Joshua. A striking woman with the classic good looks of Grace Kelly, she struggled to get through the crowd to reach Melanie.
Normally all business and rarely showing emotion, even she couldn't contain herself under these circumstances. The moment her hands clasped Melanie's, together they cried.
Sally hugged her with such force that Melanie felt she might be crushed by her overjoyed client.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you. You'll never know what this means, not only to Mom and me, but also to Dad who suffered for so long. No one would be more grateful than Josh who loved his granddaddy so deeply. Melanie you are truly an angel sent from Heaven. My family will be forever indebted to you."
"You're welcome, Sally. I'm glad we won today, for you," Melanie paused and smiled resolutely before continuing, "and for all the others too."
Wiping her own tears, Melanie bent down and once again hugged the tiny widow Stanford for a long time. Over two years earlier, this wonderful woman and her daughter had entered Melanie's office on that fateful Wednesday afternoon.
Since that day, Melanie considered both mother and daughter to be like family. Countless hours had been spent at their home, going over facts and asking questions about events going back more than four decades. In those long hours, happy memories and many tears came back to both Eliza and Sally.
The thrill of the legal victory was suddenly replaced with something Melanie would cherish forever — the personal victory she had won for these two phenomenally courageous women.
Surrounded by her jubilant legal team hugging one another and all speaking at once, Melanie stopped and took a long deep breath. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to simply be in the moment. God's grace rained down on her as peace enveloped her. Yes. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment that would change Melanie's life forever.
"You did it, kiddo!" Chad Brewster, Melanie's fellow attorney and close friend, wore a broad grin, his long arm embracing her. "You did it!" He lifted her a foot off the ground.
Wrapping her arms around her dear friend, Melanie broke into laughter. "We did it! All of us, together. I can't believe it!"
"Believe it! Believe it!" Chad twirled her around in a circle.
"Wow! This is happening!" She hugged him tightly as he set her down.
"You had a fire in your belly from the day you met the Stanfords. A fire that turned into a blazing inferno. Those ol' boys didn't stand a chance."
Their moment was interrupted as others clamored and shared in the joyous celebration.
Josephine, Melanie's right-hand assistant, had returned to work, packing files and ready to rush Melanie out of the madness. Josephine was not only an extremely efficient administrative assistant but another close personal friend to Melanie. Over the past two years, a bond had blossomed that went far beyond their professional relationship.
From the first day Josephine had come to work for Melanie, she had been right by her side. The meticulous woman with the stylishly coiffed platinum hair took care of her every need — from scheduling her multitude of daily appointments, to filing briefs, or spending hours upon hours helping Melanie with the seemingly endless research for the Devilland case. Most evenings, she pushed Melanie out the door long after all the other lawyers and staff had gone home to their families. Melanie couldn't imagine not having Josephine by her side.
Watching Josephine busy at work, Melanie made a mental note to reward her extraordinary assistant with a handsome bonus for her dedication to this case, out of her own pocket if necessary. Unlike the vast majority in the legal profession, Melanie had almost no ego. She realized that, although this victory would be technically in her name, she couldn't have begun to try this case without the incredible support of Josephine, Melanie's fellow attorneys, the firm's paralegals, clerks, interns, and all the support staff at Hunt, Spencer & McCoy.
With the counsel table cleared, Josephine beamed brightly at her boss.
"Let's get you out of here."
"Yes, let's," Melanie said as the rush of adrenaline had begun to wear off and exhaustion filled her veins.
Moving as one, Melanie's team made their way through the small crowd of spectators who still mingled in the courtroom.
The moment the heavy doors were pushed open, bright flashing cameras dazed Melanie. An endless sea of reporters shoved microphones at her from every direction and shouted questions that crowded her ears.
A surge of excitement charged through Melanie but quickly faded as claustrophobia consumed her. Bodies closed in around her as Melanie's entourage pushed hard against the crowd, making their way to the courthouse doors looming ahead.
Over the deafening noise, Melanie could hear a few questions over all the rest. How does your victory feel, Ms. Bridges? Are you worried about Devilland filing an appeal? Did you expect such a large award for your client?
The voices merged into one cacophony of noise accompanied by the continuing blinding flashes of the cameras.
"Good Lord!" Melanie thought as she was squeezed tightly between Josephine and Chad. "They must have taken more than five hundred shots of me and I'm not even out of the courthouse!"
Finally, someone successfully pushed through the courthouse doors. A bright sun shined down on the beautiful cloud-free day.
A gasp escaped her lips as she stared at the sea of reporters and onlookers. There had to be hundreds of people. No. Not hundreds. Thousands. All were chanting her name. Many were waving handmade signs. VICTORY! DEVILLAND GOES DOWN! BREAK 'EM BRIDGES!
Moments ago, the thrill of victory had been a rush but nothing compared to this. Suddenly dizzy and taking a long, deep breath, she willed herself to smile, holding back sobs of disbelief.
"Stop, stop!" Melanie said loudly to her colleagues as she motioned for everyone to give her some space.
She needed to at least give these hungry reporters something for the evening news. After all, they were only doing their jobs, just as she had done hers. Maybe if she gave them what they were starving for in this moment, they would retreat to their respective TV vans and give her enough room to make her escape to the bottom of the courthouse steps. Chad called for the impassioned reporters to settle down and give Melanie a chance to speak.
Feeling like a giant, standing all of five feet, five inches, in her two inch designer pumps, Melanie's gaze swept over the crowd of reporters and spectators who stood on the steps below her and spilled out onto the packed street. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Melanie fought to find her words, knowing they would soon be broadcast across the nation.
"On behalf of the Stanford family and my legal team, I would like to thank the jury who listened to the facts, carefully considered all the events surrounding the issue at hand, and delivered a fair and just verdict. Hopefully, this jury has laid the groundwork for others to stand up and hold these liquor companies accountable for all the lives that have been ruined and lost due to their products. At this time, I respectfully, ask on behalf of the Stanford family, that each and every reporter value the family's privacy and give them their time to reach closure on the long road they have traveled to this bittersweet victory. We must not forget what the Stanford family has lost can never be replaced by any jury award, no matter how large the sum. Thank you all for your time and hard work covering this case. I have no further comment."
Chaos erupted immediately after her statement. Melanie's entire team frantically propelled her at breakneck speed down the courthouse steps. Throngs of reporters continued to lob questions at her and the photographer's cameras whirred and clicked as they pushed past to a sleek black limousine owned by the law firm. Sammy, Charles Hunt's driver, opened the door and she slid inside where Charles and William Spencer were waiting.
Ordinarily, Melanie's preference would have been to leave in her own red Mustang convertible that was parked around the corner, but she was grateful to be whisked away from the bedlam.
Awestruck, she stared through the tinted windows at tangled mass of people, TV vans, and satellite dishes. The streets surrounding the courthouse were virtual parking lots with reporters who had set up camp there for the last week gobbling up the courtroom drama, awaiting the verdict. How could Sammy possibly get through the chaos? A few Dallas policemen were doing their best to direct traffic and move illegally parked vehicles but they were far outnumbered and not making much progress.
"A job exceptionally well done, Melanie," Charles said with a brilliant smile. A large barrel-chested man with thick salt-and-pepper hair, Charles was admired by everyone in his firm. Dedicated to seeking justice above all else and expecting the same high standard from everyone who worked for Hunt, Spencer & McCoy, he was honest and treated his entire staff, from attorney to janitor, with respect at all times. "I don't believe I've ever seen a finer case presented in all of my thirty-nine years of practice."
"Thank you, Mr. Hunt.". The admiration in his buoyant tone gave her a shot of pride.
"I must admit," Charles continued, "I had my doubts about the jury seeing our side, much less awarding such a staggering dollar amount. You proved a great many people wrong today, including me. You mesmerized the jury from the moment you stood before them to deliver a flawless opening statement. You stayed on track, established the facts, used emotion at precisely the right moments, but not without purpose. You were simply brilliant. You've made the firm very proud today."
Melanie placed her hand on her swelling heart. "That means a great deal to me. Thank you."
Finishing his phone conversation, William Spencer turned to face Melanie.
A man of few words, William said simply, "Damn fine job, Melanie. Damn fine job."
"Thank you, Mr. Spencer. Thank you very much."
Sammy winked in the rearview mirror. "Congratulations, Mel."
Gratitude flooded through Melanie as she was happy to have the rail-thin young black man with her in her moment of joy and celebration. Melanie and he had struck up a friendship over the coffee pot one cold, rainy day when she first came to the firm. Beaming with an infectious smile and a joke to tell, Sammy lifted Melanie's spirits no matter how stressful her day had been.
"Where's Chad? Did we leave him in the chaos?" Melanie asked suddenly as she realized he wasn't in the car with them. Next to Josephine, Chad was her closest friend at the firm. He had been right beside her only moments ago and he had disappeared.
"He's in the car behind us," Josephine said.
"That's a relief. I was afraid he had been eaten by the hungry mob." Melanie eyes widened in mock horror as the others laughed.
A silence then fell among them as each savored the sweet taste of victory.
A nervous tingling spread throughout her body as she smiled at the two senior partners. Both men had been tremendously supportive of her during the preparation of the case in terms of allowing her to use all the staff and resources of the firm she needed, but neither had become involved personally in the case.
In her heart of hearts, Melanie had known the senior partners, like everyone else, considered it a case which could never be won. The liquor companies were simply too big and too powerful. The legal team Jack Devilland had at its disposal was made up of some of the best and most expensive attorneys in the entire country. Neither Hunt nor Spencer wanted to have egg on his face should the case turn out to be a flop as everyone had predicted.
Melanie had known Charles Hunt had only agreed to take the case because Eliza Stanford was the aunt of one of the firm's biggest corporate clients. Hunt had put her in first chair because he knew her research and presentation would be perfect. Melanie was certain that Charles, or anyone else, had not expected that she, the firm's petite lady with the Southern drawl, as he often referred to her, would actually take down Jack Devilland's powerhouse attorneys wholly and completely.
"Every major law firm in the country will be courting you by this afternoon, my dear," Charles said. "Rest assured, we won't be letting you get away." He winked.
Excerpted from Rhoades to Bridges by Olivia Bridges. Copyright © 2016 Olivia Bridges. Excerpted by permission of Y&R Enterprises, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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