The Past Never Stays Buried
Anna Albertini is settling into a routine while ignoring the fact that the blue-eyed Irishman she’d allowed into her bed has up and disappeared on her. Two weeks without a phone call is no big deal, but still. With her hottie Italian boss goofing up the prosecuting attorney’s office, she at least has something to fix. Until she appears in court, across from her sister Tessa’s dirtbag ex. Then she has a mission.
Unfortunately, Anna isn’t the only person who wants the ex put behind bars…or in the ground. Which is not a problem until she and a local cop find the ex-boyfriend deader than dead…with both her sister and Aiden standing over the body.
As a prosecuting attorney, it’s Anna’s job to build a case against Tessa and Aiden. As a sister, it’s SO her job to get Tess out of this mess. As Aiden’s…what? Lover—girlfriend—friend from the past—it’s Anna’s job to figure out who the heck he really is. She has to dig out the truth, regardless of her ambitious boss or the cranky cop trying to thwart her every move. Sometimes a woman has to take matters into her own hands, regardless of the consequences.
Release date: December 15, 2020
Publisher: RAZ INK
Print pages: 350
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (2) entertaining story (2) funny (2) plot twists (1) suspenseful (1) unputdownable (1) witty (1) escapist/easy read (1) female sleuth (2) heartwarming (1) clever protagonist (1) realistic characters (1) strong heroine (1)
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“You’re an idiot,” I muttered, not too quietly, to my boss.
Nicolo Basanelli shrugged, his shoulders powerful beneath his killer black suit. “Look at the situation as great job security, Anna.” He turned and strode up the marble stairway in the courthouse building toward the district courtrooms.
“Ha,” I muttered, taking the stairs down to the world of misdemeanors and traffic tickets. I meant the insult. Nick was being a moron. It had been two weeks since he’d fired the entire cache of lawyers in the district attorney’s office in our medium sized town, and it was time he rehired them. Cleaning house on his first week as the prosecuting attorney had been his strategy, and right now, it was killing me. “I need a vacation,” I said to nobody in particular as I pushed open the double wooden doors to the smaller courtroom, furnished in 1980’s salmon colored accents.
“I’m with you.” Clark Bunne stood from the back bench and straightened his Monte Carlo style gun-metal glasses. “Is Nick any closer to rehiring people?”
I switched my file folders to my other arm and took a quick glance around the courtroom without making eye contact with anybody. “He seems to be holding strong for some reason.”
Clark gestured me toward the two tables in front, and I turned on my red kitten heel and strode down the aisle to push open the gate and wait for Clark to come through before closing it. Oh, the gate was attached to railings on either side that only rose to my thighs, but at least they would slow down an attacker for almost a second before he or she could get to us.
I flopped the files on the defense table and drew out a chair.
Clark already had his file folders neatly stacked, and he took the chair he’d keep for the preliminary hearings. “What’s up with the red shoes?”
I settled my light-weight blue skirt with a red border of poppies around my legs. The skirt reached just above my knees and was both casual and smart. “The shoes match my outfit.”
Clark leaned back, his dark brown gaze taking in my legs and the shoes. “You only wear red when you’re in a mood to kick ass.”
Huh. I hadn’t realized that fact, and since I’d only worked with and against Clark for a month, his attention to detail should be a warning. “I haven’t had a chance to look at our cases today, and to be honest, these were the first pair I came across in my closet. I’m running on fumes here.”
He shrugged, and I decided to study him. The guy was good looking, but I’d already noticed that. He was maybe an inch over six feet tall, thin, well dressed, and had a smile that no doubt mothers loved. His skin was dark, his eyes an intriguing blend of different browns, and his hair black and short. A month ago he’d shaved it, and either way looked good on him. “What do you wear when you want to kick ass?” I asked.
“These glasses.” He reached for the first file folder and flashed me a grin. “Unlike you, I have looked at these cases.”
I sighed. “All right.” Quickly, I read through the first one. It was a misdemeanor vandalism charge against a junior in high school who’d painted his girlfriend’s name on a local water tower. “Mitch Styles. First offense. How about we scare him for ten minutes and then let him off with a fine?”
Clark nodded. “Sounds good. You be mean, and I’ll look worried on his behalf until cajoling you into accepting the plea?”
I set the file aside. “I do like being cajoled.”
Clark laughed, and I started, looking up at his handsome face. He had a great laugh.
He caught my gaze. “No.”
I blinked. “I didn’t ask anything.” Then I frowned. I had enough on my plate without dating anybody else right now. “I’m not interested.”
“Thank God,” he said, and truth to heck, it sounded like he meant it.
“Hey.” I tugged on my navy blue jacket. “I’m a catch.”
He grinned. “Keep running. You’re pretty and interesting and smart, but you’re a whole boatload of trouble, and I don’t need that right now. Or ever.”
How had this conversation gotten so out of hand? I really wasn’t interested in Clark. “This is a weird conversation.”
“Agreed.” He flipped over the next manila file folder.
I did the same. Should I be a little bit insulted? We were around the same age, had both just started as lawyers, and seemed to get along. He was much nicer than the other three men I seemed to be juggling, and at that thought, I shut down the entire idea. I might not really be juggling three men, considering only one was front and center in my brain right now, and I couldn’t find him. Aiden Devlin had a reckoning coming for him…if I ever saw him again. He’d disappeared two weeks ago after saving my life and quite possibly ruining me in bed for other men, and my concern had now turned to irritation.
“Well?” Clark asked.
I blinked. “Sorry. Got lost in my head.”
The door by the judge’s bench opened, and the bailiff strode out. His name was Jay, he was around thirty, and he had a beard most men could only hope to grow. “All rise,” he said, his voice quiet with authority.
I stood and took my files over to the prosecuting attorney’s table. It was common for the prosecuting and defense attorneys to try and reach some sort of agreement on cases before the preliminary hearings started, so long as the criminal defendant ultimately agreed. We didn’t get very far today before Judge Williams strode confidently to her bench and sat, reaching for the gavel. “Looks like a light day.”
She peered down at us, her brown eyes twinkling. “Ms. Albertini. Has the prosecuting attorney’s office hired anybody else yet?”
I huffed out a breath. “I believe it should happen soon, Judge.”
“Good.” Her skin was a deep brown, her lips red today, and her hair salt and pepper with awesome curl. Her shirt peeked above the judge’s black robe and matched her lipstick. What shade of red was it? I made a mental note to ask her later because it was the perfect color. “At this point, it appears as if charging documents are being submitted too slowly,” she said, a slight bite in her voice.
My eyebrows rose, and I nodded subtly. Oh, I’d definitely hit Nick with that information and soon. Then I smiled, silently thanking her for the opportunity to kick Nick in the preverbal butt that she’d just given me.
“All right. Let’s start with Elk County vs. June Applebee for public nuisance,” the judge said, perching her glasses on her forehead and reading from a file.
I dug out the correct file and read quickly. After a couple of hours, Clark and I had pled out thirteen cases, set for trial ten more, and had worked in tandem well, even though we’d end up against each other in the trials. But we were efficient, and the judge was quick to find trial dates, so when I picked up the last file and began to read, I was already planning my lunch.
The judge cleared her throat. “Elk County vs. Danny Pucci.”
I stifled a gasp and swiveled to watch Danny lope to Clark’s table.
“Hi there, little sister,” Danny gave me a slow wink as he took his seat. I gaped in shock as I stared at my sister Tessa’s ex-fiancé.
Danny was long and lean with a crapload of mean. He was the guy who had mothers rushing to shut their daughters behind locked doors before running out to say hello themselves, and his tan brought out the deep green of his eyes. I had the biggest crush on him while he was engaged to Tessa. Until he beat the heck out of her and stole her car. Now I wanted to return the favor.
I liked to believe that my even mix of Italian and Irish genes lent loyalty, spirituality and spunk to my make-up. But in truth they also created fire and a need for revenge. To hurt those who wounded mine. Danny had nearly destroyed my sister. The wild sister.
I checked the hackles rising on the back of my neck and turned toward the judge.
The judge looked our way. “The charge appears to be domestic violence against a live-in girlfriend, but this charging file is terribly light. Ms. Albertini?”
I cleared my throat and leaned down to read the charging documents. Oh, I wasn’t going to be nice. “Your records are light, judge.” Way too light. It wasn’t a surprise, considering the former prosecuting attorney had gotten involved in the drug trade and then was murdered before all of the lawyers were fired. “From the records, this looks like a third offense.” Yeah, the asshat should’ve been charged with a felony. This had fallen through the cracks. I stood taller to take the lumps. “It appears that additional charges are required here, your honor. The state requests a postponement and a week to prepare for a preliminary hearing.”
Clark glanced my way, surprise in his eyes. “We could plea this out.”
Glass sharp eyes narrowed on mine as Danny stood in faded jeans and a tan shirt decorated with a dragon spitting fire. “I plead not guilty, your honor. Regardless.”
The judge gave me a look that clearly said this was my last favor. “It appears we’re not ready for a plea. This time. Very well, Ms. Albertini. One week to amend charges.” She stood, we all jumped to our feet, and the judge strode gracefully out of the courtroom.
Clark turned toward me. “You okay?”
“Yes.” I grabbed the files off my table and ignored his client. My afternoon was swamped, and I had to get through it and fast. I had to find Tessa.
Once I got back to the office, I tried to call but went to her voicemail. Then my first witness arrived to prepare for an upcoming trial, and I had to get down to trying to fix the mess the office had become.
I worked diligently until quitting time and all but ran out the door at five o’clock. Nick hadn’t returned from court, and right now, I didn’t care.
After an afternoon where my red shoes made me feel like anything but a badass, I swung through Margo’s Tai Palace for buckets of calories to take to my sister Tessa’s place. I had tried her phone a couple more times through the afternoon, but she must’ve been working. This was better news given in person…with wine. I’d already picked up several bottles before hitting Margo’s.
It was finally summer, and I drove my Fiat with the top down, trying to suck in fresh air and lose the worry. Timber City had about forty-nine thousand citizens, which was the big city to a girl from Silverville. Most of my family still lived in my hometown, fifty miles east through a mountain pass. Tessa lived here, right off the main drag in town in an apartment above Smiley’s Diner, where she worked as a waitress.
A lot of people, locals and tourists, strolled along the brick sidewalks in the warm weather now that the workday was finished.
I parked at the curb, grabbed the food and wine, and then walked past the diner entrance to a doorway just around the corner. Using my hip, I nudged it open and walked up the cement steps and through another doorway that led to an alcove with two apartment doors.
Tess’s door was the one to the right, and it was ajar.
I stilled. Tessa never left her door open. Panic tried to grab me, but I had to stay smart. Had Danny already found her? No. Maybe she was just putting groceries away or something. As quietly as I could, I set dinner against the wall. Then I walked on my toes across the hard cement to the blue steel door, careful not to let my heels make any noise. My heart pounded, and my lungs tightened painfully.
The massive lump in my throat didn’t allow me to swallow. Okay. Tess had to be okay. I reached her door and gingerly pushed it open, listening for any sound.
“Freeze!” A male voice bellowed from behind me.
I yelped and fell against the door, going down to the soft rug inside and coming up fast. Wincing at the pain in my hip, I threw my head back and put my shoulders against the wall.
Then I just stopped thinking as my brain tried to interpret too much information at once.
Tessa stood near the head of a bloody and beaten body, a silver gun in her hand and her eyes wild. At the feet of the unmoving guy stood my pseudo-boyfriend, Aiden Devlin, a man I hadn’t seen in two weeks. His beard rivaled that of the bailiff’s earlier, but his piercing blue eyes were in a category of their own.
A hard shoulder shoved me, and then Detective Grant Pierce was between me and everybody else, his gun out and pointed at my sister. “Drop the gun.”
Tessa, her face whiter than any ghost, gently set the gun down.
I gulped and peered around Pierce to see the body. “Please tell me that isn’t Danny Pucci,” I whispered, my voice shaking. But I didn’t need an answer.
The bloody guy on the floor was definitely Danny Pucci. I looked closer, trying not to vomit. Danny stared back at me, his green eyes unblinking, a hole through the center of his forehead. It took me a second to realize why. It really did.
Danny was dead.
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