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Authors: Traci Hall

Karma by the Sea

BOOK: Karma by the Sea
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



by the Sea






























Copyright © 2015 Kendelle Press

All rights reserved.


Cover Design ©Christopher Hawke -

Kendelle Press Logo © More Than Publicity

Series by Traci Hall:


By the Sea series:

AMBROSIA by the Sea

KARMA by the Sea

PUPPY LOVE by the Sea


Spokan Falls series:




Rhiannon Godfrey series:








Boadicea Series:





Queen’s Guard Series:





For more go to




Chapter One



K snapped awake as the plane from Chicago landed in Ft. Lauderdale. Her cozy seat in business class and her noise-cutting headphones allowed her to catch up on much-needed sleep. Last night had been a late one as she gathered the last of the documents for her client, but she always flew first thing in the morning to avoid delays later in the day.
Time was money
. She slid the headphones into the case. 

“Ms. Aneko.” The male flight attendant called for her attention as she glanced toward the freshly signed divorce papers tucked in her attaché. “I have your suitcase by the door.”

“Your service is why I fly Jet Sky.” Behind closed lips, she discretely ran her tongue over her teeth to ensure no lipstick smudge, and then gave him an appreciative smile. “Thank you, Jimmy.” She stood in the aisle, straightening her pencil skirt and tailored jacket, under which she wore a silk sleeveless shell. Her client warned her that October in Chicago was a lot cooler than October in South Florida, and she was prepared to discard layers as needed. Humid and hot, her itinerary read.
Like Hell. Or Hawaii.

“Are you here on vacation? I can give you some restaurant recommendations if you’d like. Seaside dining. The beach is
this time of year.”

“No,” she answered with a shudder. Her stiletto heels, Louboutin, snagged on the runner in the narrow aisle as she took a step forward. “Work. If all goes well, I’ll be back in Chicago by dinner.”

“And the suitcase?” Jimmy asked with a naughty wink.

“I like to be prepared,” she quipped with a straight face.

He grinned, charming. “And would it be too nosy of me to ask what you do?”

“Yes,” K answered with a sassy smile. “It would. But just so you don’t go imaging anything wild? I’m an attorney.”

Jimmy glanced at her shoes, suit and leather bags. “A good one.”

“Yes.” K nodded. She’d worked damn hard to get to this moment and appearances mattered. She pulled a thick embossed card from the side pocket of her attaché. “Now that you can legally tie the knot, look me up when you decide you want to correct your mistake.”

Jimmy hooted and accepted the card. “Thank
, Ms. Aneko.”

She left the plane, taking her smart phone from her purse and reading the screen as she walked down the terminal to the exit. Ten missed calls? Really?

K hadn’t expected to hear from anyone during the few hours she’d been in the air. Two from a New York number, and eight from her client.

More curious than alarmed, K walked out of the airport to the sidewalk and sucked in a surprised breath. Heat shimmered before her in an iridescent curtain. A wet pull of jasmine-scented air straight to her lungs made her cough and think of Hawaii at the same time. She hadn’t been back since she’d left eleven years ago, right after high school graduation.

K quickly hit the call back button as she waved for a taxi. The sooner she got out of here, the better. Rita Hartley answered on the fourth ring with a slurred hello.

“Rita?” K was now officially alarmed. The older woman’s voice was huskier than normal, and while a high-maintenance client, she didn’t usually call drunk. Before noon.

“Are you here, K? Come on up. I left the—,” Rita broke off in a coughing fit that made K’s chest ache. The woman inhaled audibly. “The front door open.”

“Don’t talk,” K instructed, then asked, “Are you all right?” She imagined a stroke, or a heart attack.

“I’m fine.”

Heavy breaths crossed the static cell phone space and K opened the back door of the taxi as soon as it came to the curb. She pulled her small suitcase behind her and covered the speaker on the phone. “Take me to Lauderdale by the Sea, please. This address.” She passed over the itinerary and went back to listening to Rita’s rough breaths.

K was torn between hanging up and dialing 911, or staying on the phone to make sure Rita breathed properly. “I am on my way now, Rita. Are you okay?”

“I’m just tired, honey. Don’t fret. Come on up when you get here. Door’s open.” With that, Rita ended the call.

Her client sounded exhausted. Who could blame her? Rita had fought so hard to be free of her jerk of a now, thanks to K,
that she just might sleep for a week. K met the taxi driver’s eyes in the rear-view, not quite able to dismiss the slurred tones in Rita’s voice. “Thank you, sir. Don’t break any laws, now, but do you mind stepping on it?”

The man nodded and tugged at the brim of his maroon Florida Panther’s cap. “Fifteen minutes, depending on whether or not the bridge is up.”

“Great.” K sat back against the seat of the cab, catching a whiff of coconut air freshener and mold.
Get to the condo, hand over the papers, collect the check, take a cab back to the airport and fly home
. She allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction as she looked out the window at the passing palm trees. This divorce case had taken a year and a half and she’d pulled out all the stops for her first really big client. Now it was time to get what she’d earned, and find other clients just like Rita. Wealthy women who had been burned by cheating husbands.

It felt good to set some order to the world.

True to his word, the cabby got her there in fifteen minutes. She handed him her last twenty for a tip, secure that all in her bank account would be well within the hour. K stood in front of the gorgeous condo building absently noting in her rush to see Rita the mermaid fountain and hibiscus plants. Her heels clacked against the marble floor. Tasteful paintings adorned the walls and upholstered chairs invited one to sit and take a load off.  Rita lived on the third floor. Center unit.
Very nice.

The settlement she’d gotten for Rita would allow the older woman to buy ten condos if she wanted. All on her rotten ex-husband’s dime.

K checked in at the desk and handed over her driver’s license for identification purposes even though the security guard/receptionist, Marge according to her plastic name tag, already knew she was expected.

“Rita called,” she said in a smoker’s voice, her gray curls tight to her head. “Said for you to go on up. Door’s open.”

The exact wording as Rita’s earlier. The hair rose on the back of K’s neck. She blamed the sensation on the frigid air conditioning. “Thank you.”

She rolled her suitcase behind her, her bag slung over her shoulder, her purse on her arm as she punched the elevator button. Glass mirrors reflected her image. Platinum waves ala Gwen Stefani curled to her shoulders, red lipstick slicked her mouth, which matched the red sole of her stiletto. Her Chanel black suit had been tailored to fit her toned body. K worked out every day, including a three mile run.

K’d made sure when she’d reinvented herself from Miss Dole Pineapple to Ms. K. Aneko, high-priced divorce attorney, that she was the complete package. When a person made their living picking apart other people’s lives, they couldn’t afford to be flawed. She’d learned that as an intern at the prestigious Santos law firm in Chicago.

The younger partner had hit on her relentlessly but she’d no time for alliances that might derail her career. For her integrity, she was
offered the promised position within the firm despite her high success record.

That had been tough, but she’d rolled with it. Investing the last of her money on a shiny placard that read K. Aneko, Esquire. She saved the money she’d spend on renting an office by having meetings at the client’s home, or hotel business room. K networked at the finest hotels, making friends with the concierges and sharing her bits of good fortune as it came.

The past two years had been saltines and peanut butter brutal, but today was the payoff for all of the late nights, the empty cupboards, the designer clothes from high-end consignment shops rather than retail. She’d gone toe to toe with Mr. Hartley’s attorney, and gotten everything her client wanted.

She couldn’t wait to see Rita’s happy face.

The elevator doors opened and she stepped inside. The quick trip to the third floor was over before she finished her mental list of where to allocate the needed funds first. After paying the electric bill for her apartment, of course, and buying a television for the Foster Center. What had started off as K trying to keep Jamal off the street had become K checking in on the rest of the kids, too.

K got out of the elevator, pulling her suitcase behind her. She looked to the left and noticed the door to the center apartment was indeed cracked open.

The hair on her arms lifted and K slowed her steps. She paused outside the door.
Get a grip
. She gently pushed it open. “Hi Rita, it’s me, K. What a nice place you have here. I hope you’re ready to celebrate!”

She entered a mirrored foyer. Her options were to go left, to what were probably bedrooms, or right, toward a gigantic wall of glass overlooking the turquoise ocean. Though she usually avoided the water, K had to admit the view was stunning.

Leaving her suitcase by the door, K kept hold of her purse, her phone and the attaché case with the prized papers. “Rita?” She lowered her voice to just above a whisper, in the event Rita was sleeping.

No answer. She frowned and walked to the end of the hall, where she could go left to what was a living room, or right, to the kitchen. She peeked in both rooms, but didn’t see Rita.

The smell of red wine seemed strong by the rattan couch facing the ocean. Had the older woman fallen asleep on the sofa? It would be peaceful, watching the waves. If a person liked that kind of thing, which K most definitely did

She rubbed her arms and walked around the couch, her phone clutched in one hand. “Rita?”

The woman lying on her back against fluffy aqua cushions had roots grown out a good half an inch, showing a band of white against the dyed chestnut K knew her client to have. Slack-jawed, eyes closed with mascara tear-tracks down her wrinkled cheeks, K felt like there had to be a mistake.

Rita Hartley led the elegance parade in Chicago. Pearls, gloves, subtle designer perfumes. She wore furs because she’d inherited them and she refused to let the gorgeous wraps get eaten by moths in her closet. Besides, she said, they were already dead.

This woman wore a house dress hiked up to pale knees and snored. An empty bottle of wine lay on the aqua and pink throw rug in front of the couch. A brown prescription bottle was turned upside down next to a broken wine glass.

It took just seconds to process what she saw before K went into action. She knelt down by her client and shook her shoulder. “Rita? Rita, it is me, K. Wake up, now.”

Rita’s eyes fluttered open and she gave K a bleary smile. “You made it! The front door was open.” The drawled words were followed by the smell of merlot and narcotics. “Princey is in the bedroom. Wouldya let ‘im out?”

“Yes.” K shoved any personal feelings down somewhere in her belly to be dealt with later. “How many pills did you take?” She perched on the edge of the couch at Rita’s feet. “Is this a deliberate overdose?” Chills cooled her from the inside out as she waited for Rita to answer her question. Why would the woman try to commit suicide?

“No,” Rita said, sounding offended though she struggled to keep her eyes open. “I am fine. Happy as a clam.”

“This doesn’t look like you were celebrating.” K pressed her fingers against Rita’s wrist to get her pulse. “You got everything you wanted in your divorce.”

She helped Rita to a sitting position, her legs stretched out as her body wobbled precariously.

“I love him.”

K, in the process of putting a pillow behind Rita’s head, stilled. “This is the first I’m hearing about
. You told me you wanted his balls chopped off and fed to the sharks.”

“I know, I know,” Rita said. New tears leaked from her eyes and she reached for the wine. “Want some?”

“It’s all gone.” K, sick to her stomach, looked at the other empty bottle. “How many pills did you take?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Rita.” K’s voice was stern, sterner than anything she’d ever used with a client, but this was a matter of life and death. “How many pills were in here?”

“I love ‘im. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him, did I tell ya that? He was the most hanssome man at the party. I knew he was the one for me. Forever.” She patted her chest, but kept her eyes closed.

“You neglected to share those particular feelings.” K read the bottle, realizing that the antidepressant had been refilled two days ago. And it was now empty.
“I’m calling 911. Do you have any family in town?”

“Don’t bother the doctor.” She struggled to open her eyes. “You know I don’t have anybody.” Rita’s chin quivered and she cried silently. “Just you, K. Why do you think I wanted ya to bring me the divorce papers?”

To pick up the check you promised?
K pressed 911, calmly reading the address off of the itinerary in her purse to the dispatcher. Thoughts of disaster and failure collided against doing what had to be done.

Bills, televisions and how the hell she was supposed to get home without that money in her account vied for her attention, but she pushed those thoughts away too. Prioritize the fires and then decide what to put out first.

BOOK: Karma by the Sea
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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