Grace Wade left Storybook Lake hoping to escape her crazy family and the demands of her job as a defense attorney. But not twenty-four hours after landing in a small Texas town where she hopes to find new beginnings, Grace instead finds herself in the middle of an investigation that’s turning the town inside out. Once she agrees to be the defense attorney on the case, Grace suddenly finds herself torn between twin brothers Blane Sheperd, the bad boy prosecutor on the case, and Jamie Sheperd, the sweetheart town Sheriff...
Grace thought life in a small town would be simple, but simple has a way of eluding her. To find her way to a happy ending, she’ll have to master the art of following her heart...
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A Storybook Lake Romance
By Melissa Shirley
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Melissa Shirley
All rights reserved.
"My wife killed our daughter."
Nathan Gabriel strolled into the office and threw out the line as though he said things like that every day. For such a serious statement, he'd said it with no stuttering sense of urgency, no affect whatsoever. The sheen of sweat on his face and his pinhead sized pupils spoke to something underlying his serenity as he spoke.
"Your wife killed your daughter?" As a criminal attorney, I dealt with some big baddies, but never with someone who confessed so readily for his wife.
"They think she did." He twitched and scratched the side of his face. "She wants Rory Allden to defend her."
"But you said ..." I shook it off. "Rory isn't here. I'm her partner, Grace Wade. I might be able to help you." I never offered services without knowing the actual client's name and never without a few more details than a statement condemning the person meant to be my client, but something about him ...
He looked around, glanced back as though waiting for the door to open. His wife was suspected of murder, and he needed a lawyer. I fit that description. What was the hold up?
After a few long minutes, a couple of frustrated huffs and puffs of his chest, and more waiting, he nodded. "Fine. Let's go."
I jogged with him across the street to the police station armed with only his name and what I could remember of his words. His first damning statement spun around my mind.
It wasn't my usual mode of attack on a case, but I brushed my confusion aside and peppered questions at his back. He hurried faster than I could keep up in my pencil skirt and four inch heels.
Conveniently located in viewing distance from the new offices of Allden and Wade, Attorneys at Law, the police station looked more like a refurbished coffee house, with a picture window in front under a black awning with its edges flapping in the wind and a park bench on its wide sidewalk. The whole town had been designed right out of a Rockwell and the sheriff's department was no different.
I stepped inside a heavy glass door and breathed in the pungent smell of sweat and chilidogs. Pinching the bridge of my nose, I approached a counter marked Information in crooked gold lettering.
An officer behind the waist-high counter that doubled as a desk barely looked up from his Bikes and Babes magazine. "Can I help you?"
I curled my fingers in my palm to resist the urge to smack his feet off the cluttered Formica. "I'm Grace Wade, and I want to speak to my client."
"What client would that be?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize your town was so rife with crime that you could possibly be confused." Well, more confused. "Mrs. Quinn." I didn't even know her first name, for goodness sake.
He rolled his eyes and flipped a page. "Have a seat over there." He nodded to a semi-stained seating arrangement that I wouldn't risk my clothes to sit on. "I'll let the detective know you're here."
The magazine crinkled as he brought it closer to his face, investigating something on the inside. He'd missed a button when he dressed and more of his lunch dotted his shirt than could possibly have landed in his mouth.
He ignored the long, huffy breath that billowed between my lips. I counted down the ten more seconds I waited by drilling my fingers against the counter for each one that ticked off. Enough. I snatched the magazine from his fingers and shoved it behind my back as he reached for it.
"I can charge you with assaulting a police officer."
"Not until I smack you with it." I slammed the flimsy paperback down in front of me. "Listen, Einstein. If your detective is in there questioning her and she's asked for counsel, anything she says is going to get thrown right out of court, and who do you think is gonna get the blame? Hot shot detective or desk jockey?" I gave my most endearing and practiced grin as I mimicked his twang. "So, if I were you, I would get my big, lazy, too-many-biscuits-dipped-in-gravy ass out of that chair and let your detective know I'm here."
His white cowboy hat tilted as he shoved a phone receiver to his ear and punched a single digit into the phone. "I know that, Detective. Her attorney is here." He looked up at me. "Name?"
"Miss Grace Wade." He took a pointed look at my ring finger, and I slid my hand off the counter to my side.
The sassy miss he added to my name was in an accent that drew out the syllables.
"I'll let her know." He took his time, polishing the receiver with his soiled shirt, then replaced it in its cradle. "She's in the interview room." After extricating all seven feet of his body from the chair, he made his way around a wall to stand beside me.
At five-foot-seven with another four inches of heel, I barely made it to his shoulder. "Right this way, Miss Wade." I didn't have to ask how he felt about single women.
His white T-shirt hung beneath the tail of his button down as I followed him down the hall. He stopped in front of an unmarked door and turned to me. "She's right in here."
I hid my mental eye roll with a wink and walked past him, noting his name for future avoidance. "Thank you for your hospitality, Deputy Wesley."
He grunted a reply and shut the door behind me, keeping her husband, Nathan Quinn, locked outside.
A plain clothes detective leaned across the table on his fists in front of a woman so shriveled I disguised my muttered "Whoa" with a cough.
He straightened, then looked me up and down, his eyebrows creeping up his forehead as his eyes made their way lower. A slow smile spread across his lips and he extended a hand. "I'm Detective Paul Roan, Texas State Police."
After the initial handshake, he continued to hold on. His slimy palm sweat slithered onto my skin. I yanked my arm back to my side and wiped my fingers down the outer seam of my skirt. "Grace Wade."
"You must be new in town. I'd remember such a pretty face."
You'll remember it now. "Detective, I know you weren't in here questioning my client after she asked for her lawyer."
He cocked his head to one side and crossed his arms over his chest. "No, ma'am. We were having a little chat is all."
"Of course, you were." I nodded to the woman. "Looks like she was enjoying it."
"She never asked me to stop."
His eyebrows issued a dare and I smiled in return. The quiet recesses of my mind came to life, and I started mentally counting the piles of money I would earn suing this police department.
"Well, Miss Wade, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go get my paperwork in order and call the prosecutor in charge of this case to let him know that we're booking your client on first degree murder." Honey didn't drip with such sweetness as his tone. He smacked his big, black hat on his head and grinned as though he'd won a war with his words.
I flipped a glance at the clock ticking loudly on the wall. Four o'clock, Friday afternoon. "Impeccable timing. I would expect nothing less."
He twisted the knob and tossed a wink over his shoulder. "See you soon, Miss Wade."
As soon as the latch clicked into place, I looked at the woman in the chair. "I'm Grace. Your husband hired me to be your attorney." She frowned. "Rory wasn't there, so I came instead. Right now, I want you to tell me everything that happened with your daughter, and I need you to do it as quickly as you can." She didn't move, didn't seem to breathe. I wanted to shake her, show her the urgency of her situation. Instead, I pulled a chair around the table and sat close enough to smell her coffee breath. "Listen, detective tall-hat is gonna be back in a minute to book you into the jail. They're going to fingerprint you, change your clothes, and put you in a cell. Because it's Friday, and this is Backwater U.S.A., you won't see a judge until at least Monday."
She didn't look up from the table.
When she continued to ignore me, my guilt-o-meter got confused. In my experience, guilty clients either gave me the stare or shouted too many details of their innocence like chirping fools. Catatonia was new, though. I had no expertise to call on to deal with that kind of response.
"Mrs. Quinn, I know this is awful, but I need you to focus on what I'm saying." I snapped my fingers in front of her. "What happened to your daughter?"
"My husband can tell you." Her voice wavered on the words.
"No." The sharpness of my tone caused her to look up while simultaneously becoming smaller. I softened my voice. "I need you to tell me."
"We went out to a movie and for a couple drinks with some friends. When we came back from Dallas, I checked on the kids while he drove the sitter home. Emily was already asleep, all tucked in, so I went to bed. When Nathan got home, he came up, and we went to sleep. Emily was fine." She broke into a sob.
"Okay. She was sleeping. Did you touch her or cover her or anything that told you she was okay at that moment?" I checked the clock as minutes sped past during her silence. She needed to move this along. "We don't have much time."
"No. I looked in and she was covered up. She liked to sleep with the blankets over her head. I could see her hair and I didn't want to take the chance of waking her up."
"What happened in the morning?"
"When I woke up on Sunday, I got our boy dressed and went in to take a bath." She twisted the fingers of one hand in the fisted grasp of the other. "I liked having some time before Emily woke up. She was difficult in the mornings and I thought if I could just get myself ready without her wanting me to hold her and ... And I heard Nathan screaming. I ran down the hall, and he was holding Emily. She was dead." She shook her head and a wave of tears brimmed over her lashes. "So much blood."
"Okay. What happened to her?"
"Someone killed my baby." Her voice cracked, then shattered on a sob.
I ran a hand over hers, gave it a squeeze. I needed five more minutes of coherency. "Who could have stabbed your daughter?"
The withering continued. Mrs. Quinn slunk farther into her chair and fat, sloppy tears streamed down her cheeks. "I don't know." She mumbled the phrase three more times.
I covered her hand with mine. I didn't usually coddle my clients, but she needed contact, a sympathetic touch. "Okay. We're going to figure this out, but you have to listen to me. They're going to put you in a cell. Whatever you do, don't speak to them, at all. If anyone asks you anything, or tries to start a conversation, you ask for me. Do not say anything to them." I couldn't stress that enough. "To anyone. Especially if they put you in a cell with someone else." She continued to sob. "Do you understand?" Her body shook as she ignored my question. "Do you understand?"
"What's your first name?"
"Gabrielle. My husband calls me Gabby."
"Okay, Gabby, listen. Because of what they're charging you with, I probably can't get you out on bail, but I will do everything I can to make your stay here as short as possible."
A bubble of something I hoped was only gas formed in my stomach. In law school, it was drilled into us that asking the wrong questions limited our ability to defend our clients, but in this case, I had to know. Even if the answer meant I could never put her on the stand, a fire burned in me to get the answer. "Did you kill your daughter?"
She looked around the room, at the floor, the paint peeling from a far wall, the doorknob, a mirror that doubled as a window. Everywhere but at me.
"Gabby, did you kill your daughter?"
"No. Nathan didn't do it either. He's a wonderful father."
Oh, for him she was willing to spearhead a defense? In the words of William Shakespeare, the lady doth protest too much. I made a mental note to launch a little investigation into wonder daddy. I had a tingling feeling her case would live or die by whatever I discovered about him. Her shoulders slumped forward as she lifted her gaze to slide over me and finally land on a spot in the center of the table. She wouldn't meet my eyes, wouldn't look up again. That bubble in the pit of my stomach expanded.
"Okay." For the moment, I couldn't care about her husband or whether the world believed he did it. He wasn't the one holding down a chair in the interrogation room. I cared about this broken woman, thin and aged beyond her years. "Then let's figure out how to make sure a jury knows you didn't do it."CHAPTER 2
Two hours later, she'd been charged and booked, then shoved into a cell to await an arraignment that wouldn't happen until the weekend passed. I hurried back across the street, my steps far more energized since I'd jogged behind her husband. In the far corner of my mind, I wondered where Mr. Quinn disappeared to. I'd walked out of the interrogation room to find him gone. A moment later, I stepped through the office door to find Rory Allden in high heels and a short skirt atop a metal receptionist desk. She strained, twisting and stretching, to change a light bulb in a fluorescent fixture. Her husband, Jack, ogled her from the ground, arms out as though prepared to catch a parachuter whose string wouldn't pull.
"Hey, Grace." She looked down at me, then went back to maneuvering the stubborn bulb into the fixture.
"What are you doing?" Seriously, no maintenance person in any building I'd ever worked in dressed quite like that. Even in college, she paraded around like a fashion model while the rest of us looked like we shopped in dollar stores.
Jack never took his eyes off her ass as he answered, "She's proving it only takes one lawyer to change a light bulb."
I tilted my head and shot Jack a squinty-eyed glare. "Lawyer joke. Original."
He chuckled and resumed gawking at his wife's exposed legs.
"He is totally looking up your skirt."
Rory gazed down at him and winked. "What a waste of perfectly good underwear." Her wide grin showed a set of straight, chemically whitened teeth. She pushed the plastic panel back into place with the flourish of a woman who'd implemented a plan for world peace, then reached a hand down and laid it on her husband's shoulder. He circled her waist with long, gentle fingers and lifted her down to the floor. "Where did you go? I thought you were going to unpack."
Miss OCD turned and motioned to the ten or so boxes stacked in the corner of the room. That morning, I'd promised to haul them into my office. In my world, cases came before good housekeeping. "A client came in."
One eyebrow shot up her forehead almost to her scalp. "A client? We aren't open yet."
At her curious stare, I realized Rory might not be nearly as eager about the case as I'd been. My excitement died, and my lips twisted toward my left ear. "Yeah, just a guy, um, he, uh"--oh crap--"came over while I was unpacking." I walked to the box on the highest pile and flipped open the lid.
In one smooth move, she stepped into her husband's arms. "I'll see you at home, hon." After an almost pornographic display of making out, he gave me a little wave and walked out the door.
I lifted my head out of the box I'd all but crawled into and quickly looked back down.
"What guy came in here looking for a lawyer?" The deadly calm of her voice said she had a guess, and her slightly opened mouth and flared nostrils said she didn't like it.
"He actually came looking for you, but you'd gone to the store ... for whatever it is you went to the store for."
After what Rory had been through--ex-husband killing her son, former law firm selling her out on another case, almost being disbarred--maybe I should have known she would be angry if I took this case. But in our massive number of calls over the last weeks, she'd assured me she'd taken steps to deal with her residual depression, paranoia, and overall feelings of guilt.
She cocked her hip and leaned against the desk.
I twisted my hands in front of me, smoothed my skirt, then picked an imaginary piece of lint from the front. The words squeaked out as though something gripped the bass in my vocal chords. "Nathan Quinn."
Her eyes flashed and her cheeks turned a fiery shade of red. "Nathan Quinn?" Oh, hell. The ice in her tone chilled every bone in my body and I shivered.
"Yes." My voice lacked any sort of conviction, more squeaked from between my lips. "Nathan Quinn." I closed the box and walked around it, arms outstretched in surrender. "Rory, listen." I could do this without her, defend this client, and she could take her own cases.
Her blue eyes flashed fire. "No, you listen." She actually stamped her foot against the floor. "Do you have any idea what I went through? What these kinds of cases do to me?" All five-feet-two-inches of her blazed with rage bubbling below her surface, turning her skin a fiery shade of red. "You took the case of a baby killer?"
"What if she didn't do it?"
Excerpted from Falling Grace by Melissa Shirley. Copyright © 2015 Melissa Shirley. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ever finish a book, and wonder what did I just read?! That's the feeling I am having right now, as I am trying to find the words what I thought about the story. It started strong, Grace is a string, capable, sassy, smart, and successful with her career. There's an interesting murder case she's handling, and an intriguing, if a little odd pair of twins interested in her. Even though the story was told in first person, and only from Grace's point of view (something I don't normally like), I thought this might be something. But then, the twins, grown men, a lawyer and a sheriff, turn out to be just really weird, acting like teenagers, deceiving, lying, cheating. And Grace is handling her murder case in an odd and off matter, and soon the whole story just falls off. Grace isn't anything like she was at the beginning of the story, but now a sure mess, an alcoholic, and out of control, even though there was no evidence of that at the beginning, in her rambling thoughts. The murder case wasn't such a mystery any more, at least to me, I guessed the murder case rather early on, and the rest of the story, something just went wrong, or took a wrong turn. If it would have continued as strong as it started, I think I would have enjoyed the story, but with the turns the tale took, how the characters changed suddenly, unfortunately, for me, it was a nose dive from there. ~ Two Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
I really hate writing bad reviews but I can't avoid it with this book. It's really too bad because the story had such promise. There's the suspense of who killed a young child. There's the spark of attraction between the defense attorney and the DA prosecuting the case. So many ways this story could go. Unfortunately, there are so many twists, turns, and surprises that none of it really makes sense. It seems like the author had all these ideas and threw all of them in. I really think better editing could have kept this on track but as it is now I do not recommend it.