Bullets and Kisses Can Burn
The last person Anna Albertini expects to see in an orange jumpsuit in District Court—a place she SO doesn’t belong as a new prosecuting attorney—is Aiden Devlin, the man who’d saved her life when they were kids. For years, she has dreamed about him. Now here he is—his eyes blue, his chest wide, and his hands in cuffs.
Sure, Aiden says he doesn’t want her help, and his ties to a deadly motorcycle club should give her warning. Yes, her new boss is a sexy Italian bad boy who might be using the case to climb to the top. Plus, the detective assigned to the case, with his green eyes and broad shoulders, wants her to stay out of his way.
With so much testosterone surrounding her all of a sudden, most women would find it hard to concentrate. This might be why the case leads Anna to yelp during a spa appointment, fall out of a tree, and chase a naked old man around the courtroom. It’s a good thing Anna learned a long time ago to be her own hero, no matter how fast the bullets fly or the kisses consume.
Other Books in the The Anna Albertini Files Series
My latte tasted like it was missing the flavor. It might be because I had less than a week until I received an anniversary card from a sociopath, and the waiting was painful. Sighing, I took another sip. Well, the brew wasn’t so bad, and the prosecuting attorney’s office was fairly quiet this morning, so I could get caught up on paperwork.
The outside doors burst open, slamming loudly against the traditional oak paneling. What in the world? I jumped up and ran around my desk, skidding to a stop at my doorway to see a cluster of men stalk inside. Weapons were strapped to their thighs. Big ones.
It felt like a blitz attack.
The receptionist in the waiting area yelled, and a paralegal walking while reading a stack of papers stopped cold in spiked pumps, dropping the papers. Her name was Juliet, and I’d just met her last month but didn’t know much about her except she liked to use colored paperclips when handing over case files.
She sidled closer to me; her eyes wide. Even though I wore thick wedges, she towered over me by about a head.
Six agents strode inside, all big and broad, all wearing blue jackets with yellow DEA letters across their backs. There should be a woman or three among them. Why just men? More importantly, why was the DEA invading the prosecuting attorney’s offices?
The shortest agent slapped a piece of paper on the reception desk, and the other five stomped around her, prowling down the long hallways and past my office which was the nearest to the reception area. Being the most junior of all the deputy prosecutors, I was lucky to have an office, if it could be called such. I waited until the grim looking agents had passed before walking across the scattered papers to read what predictably turned out to be a warrant.
An arrest warrant.
I tried to digest that reality when the tallest agent, a guy with light blond hair and light-refracting glasses that concealed the color of his eyes, escorted Scot Peterson, the prosecuting attorney, out of the office in handcuffs. My boss was around sixty-something years old with thick salt and pepper hair, bright blue eyes, and a sharp intelligence that had won him cases at the Idaho Supreme Court on more occasions that I could count.
He didn’t look right cuffed. I finally burst out of the fuzz of shock, and heat slammed through me. What was happening? Scot was a decent guy. He helped people and even taught for free at the local community college. The agent led him out the door, and then he was gone without having said a word.
The office went deadly silent for about ten seconds. Then pandemonium exploded. The remaining DEA agents started gathering manila files, case files, and random pieces of paper.
I cleared my throat and read the warrant again. It was for Scot’s arrest and any documents pertaining to…the distribution of narcotics? “Wait a minute.” I interrupted a tug of war between the nearest agent and the receptionist over a picture of her with Stan Lee at a Comic Con. She was in her early twenties, blonde, and very chipper. Right now, she had tears in her usually sparkling brown eyes. “That’s outside the scope of this warrant,” I protested. No doubt any warrant. Come on.
The agent paused. He sighed, his lips turning down, as if he’d just been waiting for an argument.
I nodded. “Yeah. You’ve just raided an area ripe with attorneys.” Yet in looking around, I was it. The only attorney on the floor. A pit dropped into my stomach, and I struggled to keep a calm facade. I’d only been a lawyer for a month. What did I know? The other attorneys were elsewhere, including my boss, who’d just been arrested.
“Do something,” Juliet muttered, her teeth clenched.
I blinked. “What?” There wasn’t much I could do at the moment. While there should be a sense of comfort with that realization, it felt like I should do something.
“Anna.” Clarice Jones, the head paralegal, rushed toward me with two case files in her hands. She shoved them my way.
I took them instinctively and tried to keep from falling backward. “What’s going on?” If anybody knew what was up with Scot, it’d be her. They’d worked together for decades.
“I don’t know.” Clarice’s white hair had escaped its usually too-tight bun to soften her face with tendrils. She’d gnawed away half of the red lipstick customarily blanketing her thin lips. “Worry about it later. You have to take these felony arraignment hearings. Right now.”
I coughed as surprised amusement bubbled through me. “You have got to be kidding.” I’d been an attorney for a month and had only covered misdemeanor plea bargains to date. Plus, my boss had just been arrested. “Get a continuance. On both of them.” I tried to hand the files back.
“No.” She shoved harder than I did. Her strength was impressive. “These cases are before Judge Hallenback, and he’ll just dismiss if we don’t show. He’s not playing with a full deck lately, but he’s still the judge. You have to take the hearings while Scot gets this mess figured out.” She tapped the top folder, which seemed rather light in my hands. “Just follow the notes on the first page. Scot sets out a strategy for each case. The defendant will either plead guilty, in which case you ask for a sentencing hearing sometime in the next couple of weeks. Or they plead not-guilty, and you argue for bond—just read the notes.”
District Court? I was so not ready for district court. I looked frantically around the mayhem surrounding me. How could I possibly go to court right now? “Where is everyone else?”
Clarice grabbed my arm and tugged me toward the door. “Frank and Alice are up in Boundary County prosecuting that timber trespass case. Melanie went into labor last night and is still pushing another one of her devil children out. Matt is with the police investigating that missing kid case. And Scot was just dragged out of here in cuffs.” Reaching the doorway, which was still open, she tried to shove me through it. “That leaves you.”
I dug my heels in.
The agent who’d been so determined to get his hands on the Stan Lee photo rushed my way. “You can’t take documents out of here.”
Relief swept me so quickly I didn’t have time to feel guilty about it.
Clarice turned and glared. “These are just two case files, and the judge is waiting for the arraignment hearings.” Flipping open the top one while it settled precariously in my hands, she tapped the first page with her finger. Hard. “Feel free to take a look.”
Ah, darn it. The agent scrutinized the first page and then the too few other pages before looking at the second file folder. I should’ve protested the entire situation, but my knees froze in place. So did my brain. I really didn’t want to go to district court. Finally, the agent grimaced. “All right. You can take those.” He moved back to the reception area like a bull about to charge.
I leaned in toward the paralegal. “Call everyone back here. Now.” I needed somebody with a lot more legal experience than I had to deal with this.
Clarice nodded. “You got it.” Then she shoved me—pretty hard—out the door. “Go to court.”
The flower-scented air attacked me as I turned and strode down the steps into the nice spring day just as news vans from the adjacent city screeched to a halt in front of my building, which housed the prosecuting attorney’s offices, the public defender’s offices, and the DMV. The brick structure formed a horseshoe around a wide and very green park with the courthouse, police station, and county commissioner offices set perpendicular to my building. Directly across sat Timber City Community College, which stretched a far distance to the north as well. The final side held the beach and Lilac Lake.
Ducking my head, I took a sharp right, hit the end of the street, and turned for the courthouse. The building had been erected when the timber companies and the mines had been prosperous in the area and was made of deep mahogany and real marble brought in from Italy. Instead of walking downstairs like I had the last two weeks, I climbed up a floor to the district court level. It even smelled different than the lower floors. More like lemon polish and something serious. Oh yeah. Life and death and felonies. My knees wobbled, so I straightened my blue pencil skirt and did a quick check of my white blouse to make sure I hadn’t pitted out.
Nope. Good. I shouldn’t be too scared, because the pseudo-metropolis of Timber City had only 49,000 residents, roughly the same as a large state college. But compared to my hometown of Silverville, which was about fifty miles east through a mountain pass, this was the big city.
My wedges squeaked on the gleaming floor, and I pushed open the heavy door and made my way past the pews to the desk to the right, facing the judge’s tall bench. My temples started to thrum. I remained standing at the table and set down the case files before flipping open the first one.
A commotion sounded, and two men strode in from the back, both wearing fancy gray suits. I recognized the first man, and an odd relief took me again, even though he was clearly there as the defendant’s attorney and on the opposite side of the aisle as me. “Mr. O’Malley,” I murmured.
He held out his hand. “Call me Chuck, Anna.” He was a fishing buddy of my dad’s and had been for years. “They’ve thrown you into District Court already?”
I shifted my feet. “It’s a long story.” That would be public shortly. “The DEA took Scot away in handcuffs,” I said.
Chuck straightened, his gray eyebrows shooting up. “Charges?”
“The warrant said something about narcotics.” We were on different sides right now, and Chuck was a phenomenal criminal defense attorney, but the truth was the truth and would be out anyway. “He probably needs a good lawyer.”
“I’ll check it out after this hearing.” Chuck’s eyes gleamed the same way they did when my Nonna Albertini brought her apple pie to a community picnic. He nodded at his client, a guy in his late twenties with a trimmed goatee and thinning hair. “This is Ralph Ceranio. He’s pleading not guilty today.”
Thank goodness. That just meant we would set things for trial.
Chuck smiled. “Unless you agree to dismiss.”
I smiled back. “I’d like to keep my job for another week.” Probably. “So, no.”
Chuck turned as the bailiff entered through a side door by the bench and told everyone to stand, even though we were already standing. Then Judge Hallenback swept in.
Oh my. My mouth dropped open, and I quickly snapped it shut. It was rumored the judge had been going downhill for some time, and I was thinking that for once, rumors were right. While he had to only be in his mid-sixties, maybe he had early dementia? Today he wore a customary black robe with a charming red bow tie visible above the fold. It contrasted oddly with the bright purple hat with tassels hanging down on top of his head. A bunch of colorful drawn dots covered his left hand while a grey and white striped kitten was cradled in his right, and he hummed the anthem to Baby Got Back as he walked.
He set the cat down and banged his gavel, opening a manila file already on his desk. “Elk County vs Ralph Ceranio for felony counts of fraud, theft, and burglary.”
“My client pleads not guilty and requests a jury trial, your honor,” Chuck said, concern glowing in his eyes. He and the judge had probably been friends for years, too.
“Bail?” the judge asked, yanking open his robe to reveal a Hallenback’s Used Car Lot T-shirt. Oh yeah. The judge and his brother owned a couple of car dealerships in the area. If he retired now, he’d be just fine. “Hello? Prosecuting attorney talk now,” he muttered.
I quickly read Scot’s notes. “Two hundred thousand dollars. The defendant is a flight risk, your honor. He has access to a private plane and several vehicles.”
“Everyone has a private plane. Heck. I even have one.” The judge shook his head before Chuck could respond. “Fifty thousand dollars. How many days do you need for trial?”
I had no clue. I didn’t even know the case.
“Probably a week, Judge,” Chuck said, helping me out.
I could only nod.
“All right.” The judge reached for a calendar and announced the date six months away. “See ya then.”
Chuck patted my shoulder. “I’ll be in touch.”
I swallowed again, wanting to beg him to stay with me for the second hearing. But I had to at least act like I had a clue what I was doing. The bailiff, a brawny guy whose nightstick somehow looked thicker than usual, moved for the door he’d emerged from earlier and opened it. He grabbed an arm covered by an orange jumper while I shuffled the files and looked down, trying to read Scot’s mangled notes. Hopefully I could get caught up quickly.
The judge slammed down his gavel again. “Elk County vs. Aiden Devlin for narcotics possession and intent to distribute.”
I stilled. Everything inside me, from thoughts to feelings to dreams and hard reality, just halted. I slowly turned to face a tall man dressed in an orange jumpsuit. Oh my God. “Aiden,” I whispered, the entire world grinding to a harsh stop.
He smiled, his eyes bluer than I remembered, his face much more rugged. “Hi, Angel.”
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