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Authors: Barbara Delinsky

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BOOK: More Than Friends
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"He's in New York for board meetings. But he'll be impressed." As he should be, Sam thought. Twelve years before, John Stewart hadn't wanted a litigation department in the firm. If money was the bottom line, as J.S. seemed to think, this justified it. No one could sneeze at a contingency fee of a cool six million.

Striding back down the hall, he knew he looked smug, but he didn't care. He stopped at the office two short doors from his own and rapped a hand on the jamb.

Vicki Cornell was the associate who, over four years' time, had worked most closely with him taking Dunn v. Hanover from the Superior Court to the Appellate Court to the Supreme Judicial Court. One look at Sam's face and she grew wide-eyed. "Yes?"

He grinned and nodded.

She let out a whoop. It had barely left her mouth when she was on her feet and at the door, extending a hand in congratulations. Sam threw political correctness to the winds and gave her a hug.

She didn't seem to mind. Stepping back, she looked as excited about the victory as he was. "We did it. Wow! Have you seen a copy of the decision?"

He nodded. "It's on my desk."

"Does Marilyn Dunn know?"

"And the others. They're coming in at three for a press conference. Do me a favor and call Sybil Howard? Channel Five has given us good coverage along the way. I want Sybil to have first dibs on questions. And call Locke-Ober's. Let's book a private room." He turned to leave. "Have your husband join us. And Tom and Alex, and the significant others we kept them from while they were working on this case." On his way out the door he said, "We've earned a celebration. It isn't every day that precedent-setting cases are won." To Joy, in passing, he said, "See you in a couple of hours."

"Where will you be?"

"At home. Or at the college. Wherever I find my wife." He had no intention of telling Annie the news on the phone. Not the way he was feeling. Winning Dunn v. Hanover was a coup. He had to see her face to face, had to hold her. No celebration would be complete without that.

Constance-on-the-Rise lay eighteen miles northwest of Boston. It was an intimate, affluent community whose luxury imports normally made the commute to the city in forty minutes. Sam did it in ten better than that. Granted, it was eleven in the morning, rather than the rush hour. But he breezed past road repair crews without braking once. He was on a roll.

All his life he had dreamed of doing something important, scoring points for the little guy, making a difference. As an assistant district attorney he had prosecuted some heavy murder and drug cases, but none could hold a candle to Dunn v. Hanover.

Annie knew that. Annie understood.

He was really on a roll, because it just so happened that Tuesday was her work-at-home day. She would be all alone--no offspring, no friends. She would be reading journals, or correcting papers, or dictating reports--until she heard his news. Then she would be beside herself with excitement. She always was when there was good news to share.

He recalled other good news times. When his law school acceptance had come in the mail, he had scoured the library, finally finding her in a remote carrel, squirreling her into a nearby storage room, and making love to her with his back to the door. On the evening he'd won his law school moot court competition, they had done it in his car. When he'd learned he had passed the bar, they had run to the inn adjacent to the college where Annie was taking graduate courses. Their room had been charming, all two hours' worth. Nine months later Jonathan had been born.

He drove with a smile on his face and an ache in his groin, both of which burgeoned when he pulled up the circular drive to the front door of the brick Tudor. Flushed with anticipation, he swung out of the car, strode up the short path, and threw open the door.

"Annie? Good news, sunshine!"

He took the steps two at a time to the second floor, then her third-floor office. This time of day the sun would be spilling through the skylights and across her desk. He had visions of making love there.

"Annie?"

She wasn't in her office, though her briefcase was open and the desk covered with papers. He searched the second floor, then the first, calling her name repeatedly. When he checked the garage, he saw that her car was gone.

Undaunted, he picked up the kitchen phone and dialed her office at school. He could be there in ten minutes.

But she wasn't there.

He checked the kitchen calendar. It was blank for the day. She might have gone shopping for food or clothes for the kids, in which case, given her limited patience in stores, she would be back soon. Then again, she might be meeting a friend for lunch. That would take longer.

Frustrated, even vaguely annoyed, certainly feeling he might explode from excitement if he didn't share it soon, he went out the back door and set off through the woods. The trees were newly gold and rust and smelling of autumn. He crossed the brook in a single long stride, passed beneath the tree house that he and J.D. had built for the kids so long ago--that Annie and he had used not so long ago for very adult purposes--and snaked his way along the path and between shrubs into the Maxwells' backyard.

After crossing the flagstone patio, he went through the back door into the kitchen. "Teke?"

The coffeemaker was on, a good sign. The thought that Annie might be with her raised his arousal another notch. Teke would understand if he dragged Annie back through the woods. Teke understood him nearly as well as Annie did. She was as close to a sister as he'd ever had. Knowing the Maxwells' house nearly as well as he knew his own, he checked the den off the kitchen. Teke wasn't there. Nor could he see Annie's car in the driveway, though she might easily be parked in front.

"Teke?" he called again, then louder, "Teke?" Teke stirred at the sound of Sam's voice. She was in the living room, tucked in a corner of the sofa, nursing a cup of coffee that had long since gone cold. She was wearing the silk wrap J.D. had given her the Christmas before. It was too conservative for her taste, not her usual upbeat style, but she needed all the help she could get to remind herself who she was. She was feeling unhinged. Grady Piper's letter had done that to her.

Grady had been her childhood sweetheart, the light of her young life, the source of her fire. She had grown up in his arms, both literally and figuratively. Twenty two years had passed since she had seen or heard from him, but not for lack of trying on her part. She had begged him. She had sent letters. She had tried to call. But he had turned a deaf ear to her pleas, had returned her letters unopened and refused to take her calls. He had rebuffed her at every turn. In the end he had actually said he didn't want her.

Heartbroken and defeated, finally believing he was out of her life, she had gone off to college, met Annie and Sam, met and married J. D. Maxwell, given birth to three children, found a whole new life. Now Grady was back--or his letter was, at least-at a time when her marriage was floundering. It was a subtle floundering, a quiet frustration, an impatience that hadn't been there before, and it wasn't only on Teke's part. J.D. felt it. She could tell by the way he talked to her, the way he looked at her. Whatever excitement had been in their relationship was gone. They had fallen into a rut. Grady's letter couldn't have come at a worse time.

She had been shocked when it had first arrived, had held it in her hand and stared at it while a shaking had taken root inside. Since then she had read it enough times to know the words by heart.

He had been thinking of her, he said. He had been

wondering how she was. He thought he might drive down and say hello. For old times' sake.

The casualness of it had cut her to the quick. Nothing between Grady and her had ever been casual. Twenty-two years might have passed, but she didn't think she could look him in the eye and feel anything remotely casual. As it always had then, so now the thought of him sparked things intimate and intense.

It also sparked anger. He had discarded her once, had said he didn't want her, and, though it had nearly killed her, she had succeeded in pushing him from mind. She had her own life now. He had no right barging in. His reappearance could come to no good, no good at all. She was infinitely grateful Sam had come. She needed him to take her mind off Grady.

"In the living room!" she called.

He was there in an instant, looking ready to burst with excitement. "We won the Dunn case!"

She tried to place it. "The Dunn case?"

"It's a precedent-setting ruling in cases of sexual abuse," he explained, no less excited for her lack of recall. "Up until now the statute of limitations was just three years, but women who've been abused often don't know they were abused until long after that. It took Marilyn Dunn seventeen years to realize why she had been living in hell. Seventeen years later she was able to sue her abuser and win. Do you know what this means to the scores of violated women in this state?"

Teke did remember his having mentioned the case before. She felt a glimmer of his excitement. "You won it?"

He grinned. "Twenty million dollars' worth."

She came off the sofa to give him a hug. "That's great, Sam." Ebullient, he swung her around. "It's precedent1 setting. A victory, finally, for people who need it."

"That's so good" she said, basking in the closeness. Sam was her best male friend. He was solid and sound, not J.D." not Grady, but a force in and of himself.

"Ahhhh, it feels good, Teke. We've worked so hard for this." She made a satisfied sound and slid her arms under his suit jacket and around his waist. Sam was a toucher, just as she was. He wouldn't mind this. And she needed it. The fullness of him filled the emptiness that had been swallowing her up.

"I've always wanted a case like this," he said against the tumble of her hair. His voice was thick with satisfaction. "They come along once in a lifetime."

She closed her eyes in the echo of that thick voice. It was a strong sound, a masculine sound. "You sweated it," she hummed. "You earned the win."

"My clients earned the win."

"You earned it for them." She sucked in a breath. His body suddenly felt too good against hers, but she couldn't step back. He reminded her in odd ways of Grady. In the wake of the hollowness she had felt, his holding her was a relief and a pleasure. She didn't see that it would do any harm. "Have you told Annie?"

"She wasn't home," he said with a moan, and, when he might have let her go, held her tighter. "I thought she might be here."

"No," Teke managed to whisper, but a slow burn was taking root in her belly. It was Grady, damn him, Grady merging past and present.

"Jesus, Teke."

She whispered his name, at least she thought it was his name, though it was little more than a sigh. Her body was fitting itself to his in an attempt to

quench the burn, and he was growing to accommodate it.

"Jesus," he breathed.

She knew just what he meant. She could feel the pumping of his blood--or hers--and the resistance that seemed to fizzle in the rising heat. She told herself to pull away, but her body wouldn't obey. She was a teenager back in Gullen, driven by a need long suppressed and overpowering.

He was touching her. She smoked and smoldered and burst into flame. She felt a dire need for more.

Somehow his trousers opened. She was helpless to keep her hands from slipping into his shorts, and once she touched him she couldn't think of stopping. He was fully erect, needing release, and she was was so desperate for the fulfillment of a dream that she opened her robe. They were both lost then. He tumbled her to the sofa, and while she tore at his shirt buttons and opened her mouth on his bare chest, he thrust into her again and again, with rising fervor, until, with a long, guttural cry, he came. She was on the verge of following him when a clap of noise broke into her pleasure. It was several seconds before an identification worked its way into her consciousness.

"Oh, God," she cried, scrambling out from under him. She tugged on her robe and ran toward the door. "It was Michael! It was Michael! He saw!" She had barely reached the front steps when the harrowing squeal of brakes and skidding tires came from the street.

"Michael!" she screamed as she ran, her heart thudding not in passion now, but alarm. She raced down the front walk, afraid to think. A mini forest of pines and rhododendron blocked her view of the street. It was only when she reached the sidewalk that she saw the dirty blue pickup that had skidded

to a sideways stop. She darted around it and fell to her knees. Michael was on his stomach, a leg and an arm bent at odd angles. His eyes were closed. Blood seeped from beneath his head.

Her heart hammered against her ribs. She put a terrified hand to his face but didn't quite touch, moved her hand to the back of his head, then his neck, afraid to land at those spots, too. "Michael?" Her voice shook. "Can you hear me, Michael?"

He didn't respond. Fearfully she touched his head.

Sam hunkered down on the boy's other side. "Don't move him. We have to get help."

"I didn't see him," came a deep male voice from somewhere beside and behind. "He ran out of the trees. I tried to stop." Teke's pulse lurched. It was the voice, the voice she remembered. But it couldn't be. She had to be imagining it. No God in His right mind would do that to her. She was feeling horror, fear, and guilt enough without it.

"We need an ambulance," Sam yelled toward the voice. "Go to the Clingers--"

"I've already phoned the ambulance," called Virginia Clinger, who was jogging across her front lawn in a crinkly pink running suit and a cloud of Obsession. "It's on its way. What happened?" She bent her blond head over Michael's. "Is he alive?"

"Yes!" Teke cried, desperate to believe it. She had a hand on Michael's back to monitor the shallow rise and fall of his breathing.

"What can I do?" she whimpered, frantic with helplessness. "What can I do?"

"Hold his hand," Sam urged softly. "Let him know you're here." Lightly he stroked the boy's shiny brown hair.

"Michael?" Teke tried again, leaning even closer.

BOOK: More Than Friends
3.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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