Courting Danger. Carol Stephenson

Courting Danger - Carol Stephenson

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      “I never expected to see a Rochelle dare appear in my chambers again,”

      Winewski’s legendary sonorous voice boomed.

      No doubt the family scandal was about to be rerun.

      I straightened my shoulders and managed a cool smile. “Nice to meet you, Judge.”

      “We’ll see about that, Ms. Rochelle. Unlike your grandfather, I run a tight courtroom and tolerate no improprieties.”

      His implication was clear. My grandfather had become a crooked judge. I had paid enough for my family’s sins. No one was going to make me turn tail.

      “I don’t intend to make any.” Keeping my gaze locked on the judge’s I experienced a small victory. He looked away first.

      Courting Danger

      Carol Stephenson


      MILLS & BOON

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      credits her mother for her love of books and her father for her love of travel, but when she gripped a camera and pen for the first time, she found her two greatest loves—photography and writing.

      An attorney in South Florida, she constantly juggles the demands of law with those of writing. I-95 traffic jams are the perfect time oases for dictating tales of hard-fought love. You can drop Carol a note at P.O. Box 1176, Boynton Beach, FL 33425-1176.

      To my agent, Roberta Brown, for your unwavering belief and support; you are a writer’s dream guiding light.

      My deepest gratitude goes to Judith Arco for patiently answering my questions about the criminal law process. Any errors are mine or artistic license.


      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

      Chapter 8

      Chapter 9

      Chapter 10

      Chapter 11

      Chapter 12

      Chapter 13

      Chapter 14

      Chapter 15

      Chapter 16

      Chapter 17

      Chapter 18

      Chapter 19

      Chapter 1

      I’m a hired gun.

      Not the blazing bullets kind…the legal kind.

      After all, attorneys are the only publicly sanctioned form of revenge and payback our society allows. If someone damages your car or hikes your rent, instead of stringing him or her from the nearest tree, you go to court and duke it out.

      However, if you do decide to take matters into your own hands or otherwise flaunt the laws of our country, you’ll still need someone like me: Katherine Rochelle, criminal defense attorney, the ultimate in legal weapons.

      We can be found in the yellow pages; you can’t miss the ads with the pictures and bold assurances of our qualifications to defend you. If we appear to be larger than life, we have to be, for you are placing your life in our hands.

      What you don’t realize is that behind our serious demeanors, diplomas and certifications are individuals as flawed as you are. My brethren drink, gamble, lie, cheat and steal. They fight with their spouses and raise kids who land in trouble.

      For some that’s a dollar sign above their heads, not a halo, having sold out their ethics for the almighty buck or other glory.

      For others, like me, the struggle to keep our principles and honor intact as we fight for justice leaves our armor dented and tarnished. Sometimes we needed crutches, like the kind I had now.

      I paused before the double wood doors and fumbled in the pocket of my ivory silk jacket for the ever-present roll of antacid tablets. A little stomach insurance wouldn’t hurt before I entered the chambers. Even this early in the morning, a cacophony of sound filled the Palm Beach courthouse hallway: heels clicking on the marble floor, briefcase locks snapping, voices echoing—questioning voices, irritated voices, hurried voices. I tuned it all out to focus on the challenge before me.

      A familiar burn began in the pit of my stomach so I took a few deep breaths. Here in the alcove, ammonia and orange furniture polish from last night’s cleaning warred with attorneys’ colognes. Inside a new scent would be added: fear. Fear of the accused, fear of the judge, fear of failure.

      Anticipation stirred to life, kick-starting my pulse. It had been six long months since I’d had been in a courtroom. What did it matter that this was only a county court misdemeanor hearing where the main thing heard was criminal traffic offenses?

      It was action. Soon enough I would work my way into circuit court where weightier crimes, such as battery, armed robbery and murder, were tried.

      Granted, the hiatus I’d taken to work with my two girlfriends, Carling Dent and Nicole Sterling, in setting up our own criminal defense firm certainly had been fulfilling. Our law school dream—the Law Offices of Dent, Rochelle and Sterling—was now a reality.

      However, it still bit that I had been a casualty in a scandal at the U.S. Attorney’s office. Losing my job hadn’t sat well. Neither had waiting for our offices to be finished.

      Practicing law was like falling off the horse; if you waited too long to get back on, you wouldn’t.

      I was more than ready to get back in the legal saddle. I reached for the door handle, but the overweight bailiff standing to the side shook his head. “You can’t go in yet, miss. The judge don’t let anyone inside until ten minutes to court time.”

      The docket was scheduled to start at 9:30. I glanced at the slender Chopard watch on my wrist: nine-sixteen. I cocked an eyebrow at the bailiff, but he merely folded his arms across his stomach in an “I won’t be budged on this” manner. The way he kept looking around indicated tension.

      In a low tone I asked, “Is there a problem?” X-ray machines and guards at every entrance were a way of life at the courthouse, but you never knew.

      “No, but we had an incident last week.”

      A male attorney, checking the docket sheet, glanced up. “The judge pissed someone else off?”

      The bailiff’s lips quirked but he managed to keep a straight face. “The judge was just doing his job.”

      The attorney grimaced. “Great. Can’t wait for today’s performance.” He moved away and I crossed the hallway to wait.

      “Well, look who’s here.” A man’s

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