Isla Shayne knows she's in over her head. As former all-star linebacker Trey Adams's personal lawyer, she's used to handling his business dealings and private financial matters, not murder charges. She needs to find an experienced criminal attorney who speaks her client's language. David Cormack of Garrison, Cormack and Lawless is exactly what she needs in the courtroom--and the only man she wants in the bedroom.
For David, taking on the Adams case means diving back into a world he thought he'd left behind and colliding head on with tragic possibilities he's in no mood to face. There's a reason professional football is in his past and no matter how close Isla gets to the truth he intends to leave it there.
But long days working on the case together lead to hot nights in each other's arms. As their feelings grow, the case takes a deadly twist that could change the game between the two lovers forever.
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It was always the roar of the crowd he heard first. It came out of nowhere. Like the world was quiet and still, and then a joyous chaos slapped him in the face. How many times had he stood outside the locker room, waiting for that moment when he moved from the darkness and into the brilliant light? When he went from being something small to being the center of the world?
It was odd though because now he wasn't surrounded by laughing teammates, their camaraderie usually buoying him in the face of those questioning, demanding lights. He wasn't bouncing in his cleats, pumping himself up by messing around with the running back or joking with his line. Sometimes they would bump hard against one another as though prepping for the hits to come, to remind each other-I am invincible.
Now there was only him standing in the shadows, waiting for that moment when he would be called to glory.
Why the hell was he in a suit? He looked down and there wasn't a football in his hand. Instead he carried an elegant briefcase. He felt leaner, his body not as ripped as it was supposed to be. He needed the muscle, needed the strength. Here only the strongest survived. Only the most willing to sacrifice made it to the field.
The announcer's voice shook the stadium, calling out number thirty-four.
This was wrong. He knew it deep in his gut. This was wrong and he wasn't going out there. He would stay in the shadows. Being small didn't mean being wrong. Except his feet were moving and there it was, the roar that seemed to shake his soul. Had he once thought that was the sweetest sound in the world? Now he could hear the hunger behind the cheers, the craving for something to take each fan away from their ordinary lives. Blood would do. Bones cracking and miracles performed, every player would feed the need of the crowd that jubilantly screamed now, but oh how it could turn when things went wrong. One misstep. One fumble. One missed chance and that jubilation would turn ugly and he would feel it in his soul.
He found himself in the middle of the field, all lights on him. Blinding lights. He'd wanted this? He'd once needed this like he needed his next breath. These lights, that crowd, those voices proved he'd climbed out of the cesspool of poverty he'd been born into, lifted up through gift and discipline, through blood and pain.
He held his fists up, dropping the stupid briefcase. He didn't need that. He didn't need pads or helmets. He needed discipline and the ability to ignore pain. That was the sacrifice. What were a few broken bones compared to the glory he could find here?
And then everything stopped. No more cheers. No more lights. He was alone and yet not because the crowd had gone, but something was coming for him. Silence and darkness, and he realized it was close. It was coming for him in that sullen night, a quiet locomotive that bashed past all precautions.
He waited, bracing himself for the final tackle.
David sat straight up in bed when the phone rang, the sound splitting the deep gloom of his dream. His hands were shaking, and it took him a moment to remember that he was here in his nice Chelsea apartment that cost more than a thousand of the trailers heÕd grown up in. He was safe and functional, and he was a lawyer not a Sunday soldier.
Fuck. He hated that dream. Why couldn't he dream about serial killers stalking him? He was a damn criminal defense attorney. He'd met with some of the creepiest human beings on earth. Surely he could come up with a few nightmares about them. It would be less disturbing.
He glanced at the clock. Barely five a.m. on a Saturday. Damn it. He had exactly two days to sleep in. Not to not work. He worked seven days a week, but at least on weekends he got a couple of extra hours of sleep. Everyone knew that.
His cell trilled again, the sound not as close in proximity as it should have been. Had he turned the ringer down?
His heart seized a little because everyone did know that he slept in, and that meant this was likely an emergency. He scrambled to get to his phone.
Where was his phone? He could hear the fucker, but where was it? Why wasn't it sitting on the nightstand where he always put it?
What the hell had he done last night?
He turned on the lights and walked into the living room, where the sound was louder. Yeah, now he remembered. He'd gotten together with friends and ordered takeout to celebrate the end of a case. Margarita and Noah had come to his place. They'd started out by going over the jury polling and ended up drinking way, way too much tequila.
He was too old for that shit. How had he gotten talked into it? And Margarita could seriously drink some tequila. They'd laughed about it the night before, the amount of tequila going into their Margarita. Naturally she'd been the completely steady one. She was the one who directed him to go to bed when it got late, and promised to see Noah home. God, he hoped Noah hadn't hit on her. That was the last thing they needed. Margarita Reyes was one of the single smartest legal minds he'd ever met. She split her time between his New York firm, Garrison, Cormack, and Lawless, and the software company 4L, owned by the incredibly wealthy Drew Lawless. David was almost certain Margarita had been initially sent by Drew to watch over the youngest of his siblings, Noah, as he embarked on his career, but two years in she was a part of the team and not someone's watchdog. Either that or she was a terrible watchdog because she instigated most of the parties.
Where the hell was his phone?
It had stopped ringing. He was going to feel so damn bad if that was his mother and something had happened to his dad. With the way things had been going, it could be anything. Since the Alzheimer's had progressed, his father had been known to wander off, thinking it was still the eighties and looking for his toddler son.
He hoped things had changed since he'd started paying for a full-time nurse. He would do almost anything to help his mother out. She was aging herself and he wanted her to enjoy her golden years instead of worrying about a husband who was rapidly forgetting who he was.
There was a tapping on his door, lightly, as though the person knocking knew how pissed off New Yorkers could get when something interrupted their weekend sleep.
It was Grand Central here this morning. Everyone wanted a piece of him. Without bothering to find a robe, he strode to the door and looked out the peephole. He sighed and started the long process of unlocking the door.
Noah stood in the doorway, and David thought seriously about punching him in his perfect, nobody-can-tell-I-spent-the-night-finding-the-bottom-of-a-bottle-of-tequila face. He was dressed in a designer suit, his GQ-ready face all fresh and youthful.
David was fairly certain he'd never looked that young in his life. "What? Do you have any idea what time it is? Did Margarita lose you on the way home? Did you find some model's bed and now you need a place to hide?"
The way Noah went through women, it was a plausible scenario.
Noah's eyes widened. "Is that any way to greet the man who is about to make your entire year? You said you wanted a big case, I've caught us a whopper. But seriously, you're going to have to wear more than those boxers. Let's get you dressed and moving, my man. I've got a car waiting for us."
He strode in and David closed the door behind him. "What case are you talking about, and can it wait? I need to find my phone. I think my mother might be calling."
"It was me. I thought I'd warn you I was coming up." Noah set his briefcase down and moved to the kitchen. "Go and shower and change while I make you some coffee. I would have gotten some at Starbucks, but I know that's too froufrou for you."
"I'm not trying to be a jerk. I just like plain coffee, and there's nothing plain about theirs." Why couldn't coffee be coffee flavored? When he asked for coffee-flavored coffee, the baristas stared at him like he'd grown two heads. Which he kind of felt like he had today, and both of them were throbbing. Damn tequila. "Why am I getting into a suit on a Saturday morning?"
"Because we're going to have to wade through an army of reporters at some point, and you know you like to look your best," Noah said from the kitchen, where he proved he'd spent far too much time here. He went straight for the coffeepot and started it brewing. "Seriously, we have to hurry. I want us there when they arrest him. According to his personal attorney, they've still got him at his place. They haven't transported him yet, but that's what you get when you're a star. Kid-glove treatment."
"Arrest who?" David knew he sounded irritable. He was irritable. "And if this is such a big case, why isn't it Henry you're bugging at this god-awful hour of the morning?"
"Because Isla requested you personally," Noah replied.
"Isla?" He knew the name vaguely. A vision of a petite woman with brown-and-gold hair floated through his brain. She was a few years younger than him. He remembered her as smart and a bit on the somber side. "Are you talking about Isla Shayne? She used to work with the New York Guardians in the front office, right?"
The Guardians were one of the state's many professional sports franchises, this one a football team with a storied history of winning championships.
Noah nodded. "Yes, that's Isla. I know her from school. She was a couple grades ahead of me at the girls' school when I was a freshman at Creighton. I knew her fiancé. He was a senior at Creighton."
Austin Kendrick, son of Guardians owner, Carey Kendrick. Austin had been an up-and-coming quarterback until he found out he had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of twenty-three. Austin Kendrick was proof that money and privilege couldn't always avert tragedy. Now he was curious. Isla was known for being a workhorse. She'd worked for her would-have-been father-in-law for years before she started her own practice. David had heard she was the go-to girl for wealthy athletes and celebrities who needed someone to look at every single item they signed. She was highly sought after.
And apparently she had a client in trouble. If that client could afford to hire Isla Shayne, this might be a seriously high-profile case. Was his Armani clean?
"Who are we talking about?" David asked, the smell of coffee lifting some of the fog from his brain. Be a basketball guy or a Hollywood actor. Be a baseball player or some dumbass reality star. Anyone but an athlete from that world he dreamed about.
"It's Trey Adams." Noah held a mug in his hand, and his eyes were lit with ambition. Sometimes he was certain this was the real reason Henry had brought in Noah. They needed someone young and hungry, someone who hadn't already been ground down by the system, who still thought that being king of the world would bring him some happiness. That kind of drive fueled a great firm.
"Adams?" David's stomach did a deep dive, and he once again wished he hadn't partied with the youngsters the night before. Damn. He wasn't even forty and he still felt old around those two.
"Trey Adams, the quarterback saint of the football world, allegedly killed his wife in a fit of rage in the early hours of this morning, and we're going to defend him. This is it, my man. This is the O.J. trial of our time and we've got the case. We're about to catapult into the stratosphere. It's everything we've been waiting on."
Trey Adams was a legend. Trey Adams had led the Guardians to three Super Bowl titles during his twelve years as a professional quarterback. He'd married model and activist Portia Adams, and they'd been the world's power couple for more than a decade. After his retirement fifteen years ago, they'd settled here in Manhattan, where he'd done color commentary for five years and then suddenly quit, saying he wanted more time with his wife and kids.
But there were rumors. Rumors that he couldn't remember where he was at times. Rumors that he could get violent. Rumors that he was addicted to pain meds.
David knew what it all added up to.
"Portia Adams is dead?" He felt a little numb even as Noah handed him the mug.
Noah's eyes softened. "I'm sorry. You knew him? I should have thought of that, but you've been out of the game for a long time. You rarely talk about it."
"I've met him a few times. We were never on the same team. His wife was a lovely woman. She ran a lot of the charity works for the league. Smart lady." He took the coffee. It looked like he was going to need it. "I'll get changed. How bad is the press coverage at this point?"
"David, maybe I should call Henry," Noah said, sounding hesitant for the first time. "He's out on the island with Win, but I can hold down the case until he gets here."
"I thought they wanted me." He knew what Noah was doing, giving him an out. He wasn't going to be cowardly enough to take it. Because Noah was right. If this wasn't an open-and-shut case, it would be the case. Hell, he could make something of it no matter what the evidence showed. Even if there was clear proof that Adams killed his wife, there was likely a defense. A defense no one had ever used in a case this big.
CTE. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Every athlete's nightmare.
Who better to bring it than a man who might suffer from it one day?
"She does want you," Noah replied. "She asked specifically for you. You're perfect for this case. It's not easy finding a Harvard-educated lawyer who also played in the NFL. And I don't think the press coverage is bad yet, but the minute the sun comes up, you know the vultures will start to circle. I wanted to try to be there if they take him into custody."
"Don't you mean when they take him into custody?"
Noah shrugged. "I'm trying to be optimistic."
“Stop,” he shot back as he started for the bedroom. No time to shower. That would have to wait, and he needed to get into battle mode. He would be stepping into those lights today and there would be nowhere to hide. “I don’t need Suzy Sunshine as my second. I need Dour Dan.”
Noah frowned in a way that looked silly on that matinee-idol face of his. “I can be that. And they’re definitely hauling his ass down to the station. The question is how they do it. We should hurry if we intend to mitigate the damage.”
“All right, then. This is my case.” He said the words, allowing them to sink in. “I’ll get dressed. You figure out what kind of shit storm we’re walking into, and have Margarita start writing some statements about the victim. I want her to get the clerks working on everything we know about Trey Adams and his state of health, both physically and mentally. If he’s popping pills, I want to know where they came from. If he’s seeing a shrink, I want the phone number. And everything on their marriage. If there’s a single rumor of someone cheating or even thinking about leaving, I want to know. Go through every gossip rag for the last two years. They suck, but there’s sometimes a kernel of truth to those stories and they’ll give us a place to start. But the medical records are the key to this case. You understand?”
He would need all the medical records, and there would be tons of them. Over the course of his career, Trey Adams would have been injured many times. But it was the head injuries that David was particularly interested in. Could decades of small traumas to the brain have turned a hero into a killer?
Noah was already on his phone. “Margarita, I need you to get up. What do you mean? You’ve already made breakfast and been to the gym? What’d you make?”
He opened the closet and started pulling on his new uniform. It was still a form of armor. He was going to need a very thick skin to come out of this one whole.