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Authors: Sherryl Woods

The Laws of Attraction

BOOK: The Laws of Attraction
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“This isn’t so bad, is it?” Josh asked eventually, his voice low.

“What?” Ashley murmured.

“Being here, with me, just existing in the moment.”

She smiled. “No,” she admitted, filled with wonder at just how right it felt. “It’s not bad at all.”

“Then why would you give it up one second before you have to?” he asked.

Good question, she thought, right before she snuggled more tightly against him. Why give up something that felt this right? She’d eventually have to think about that, worry it to death, in all probability. But not right now. In fact, it could wait till later.

She sighed happily. Much, much later.

Dear Reader,

We’re deep into spring, and the season and romance always seem synonymous to me. So why not let your reading reflect that? Start with Sherryl Woods’s next book in THE ROSE COTTAGE SISTERS miniseries,
The Laws of Attraction
. This time it’s Ashley’s turn to find love at the cottage—which the hotshot attorney promptly does, with a man who appears totally different from the cutthroat lawyers she usually associates with. But you know what they say about appearances….

Karen Rose Smith’s
Cabin Fever
is the next book in our MONTANA MAVERICKS: GOLD RUSH GROOMS continuity, in which a handsome playboy and his beautiful secretary are hired to investigate the mine ownership issue. But they’re snowbound in a cabin…and work can only kill so much time! And in
Lori’s Little Secret
by Christine Rimmer, the next of her BRAVO FAMILY TIES stories, a young woman who was always the shy twin has a big secret (two, actually): seven years ago she pretended to be her more outgoing sister—which resulted in a night of passion and a baby, now child. And said child’s father is back in town…Judy Duarte offers another of her BAYSIDE BACHELORS, in
Worth Fighting For
, in which a single adoptive mother—with the help of her handsome neighbor, who’s dealing with a loss of his own—grapples with the possibility of losing her child. In Elizabeth Harbison’s hilarious new novel, a young woman who wonders how to get her man finds help in a book entitled, well,
How To Get Your Man
. But she’s a bit confused about which man she really wants to get! And in
His Baby to Love
by Karen Sandler, a long-recovered alcoholic needs to deal with her unexpected pregnancy, so she gratefully accepts her friend’s offer of her chalet for the weekend. But she gets an unexpected roommate—the one man who’d pointed her toward recovery…and now has some recovering of his own to do.

So enjoy, and we’ll see you next month, when things once again start to heat up, in Silhouette Special Edition!

Sincerely yours,

Gail Chasan
Senior Editor

SHERRYL WOODS
The Laws of Attraction

Books by Sherryl Woods

Silhouette Special Edition

Vows

Love
#769

Honor
#775

Cherish
#781

Kate’s Vow
#823

A Daring Vow
#855

A Vow To Love
#885

And Baby Makes Three

A Christmas Blessing
#1001

Natural Born Daddy
#1007

The Cowboy and His Baby
#1009

The Rancher and His Unexpected Daughter
#1016

The Bridal Path

A Ranch for Sara
#1083

Ashley’s Rebel
#1087

Danielle’s Daddy Factor
#1094

And Baby Makes Three: The Next Generation

The Littlest Angel
#1142

Natural Born Trouble
#1156

Unexpected Mommy
#1171

The Cowgirl and the Unexpected Wedding
#1208

Natural Born Lawman
#1216

The Cowboy and His Wayward Bride
#1234

Suddenly, Annie’s Father
#1268

The Calamity Janes

Do You Take This Rebel?
#1394

Courting the Enemy
#1411

To Catch a Thief
#1418

Wrangling the Redhead
#1429

And Baby Makes Three: The Delacourts of Texas

The Cowboy and the New Year’s Baby
#1291

Dylan and the Baby Doctor
#1309

The Pint-Sized Secret
#1333

Marrying a Delacourt
#1352

The Delacourt Scandal
#1363

The Devaneys

Ryan’s Place
#1489

Sean’s Reckoning
#1495

Michael’s Discovery
#1513

Patrick’s Destiny
#1549

Daniel’s Desire
#1555

Million Dollar Destinies

Isn’t It Rich?
#1597

Priceless
#1603

Treasured
#1609

The Rose Cottage Sisters

Three Down the Aisle
#1663

What’s Cooking?
#1675

The Laws of Attraction
#1681

Silhouette Books

Silhouette Summer Sizzlers
1990

“A Bridge to Dreams”

Maternity Leave
1998

“The Paternity Test”

So This Is Christmas
2002

“The Perfect Holiday”

The Unclaimed Baby

The Calamity Janes

SHERRYL WOODS

has written more than seventy-five novels. She also operates her own bookstore, Potomac Sunrise, in Colonial Beach, Virginia. If you can’t visit Sherryl at her store, then be sure to drop her a note at P.O. Box 490326, Key Biscayne, FL 33149 or check out her Web site at www.sherrylwoods.com.

Dear Reader,

Just the thought of retreating to the isolation of Rose Cottage is enough to give high-powered attorney Ashley D’Angelo hives, but when her professional life unravels, her sisters insist it’s the only place she belongs.

Despite the family track record, which is two for two in finding love matches at Rose Cottage, the last thing Ashley expects while she’s sitting around nursing her injured pride is to find love.

But if Ashley is skeptical about the whole serenity and love thing, Josh Madison is the exact opposite. He’s craving the peace and quiet and slower lifestyle, and he has a thing or two to teach Ashley about relaxation.

Yes, indeed, Josh has a very deft touch, and Rose Cottage does it again. Wouldn’t you think a brilliant woman like Ashley would have seen it coming? Sometimes there’s just no way around magic.

All best,

Prologue

T
he headline said it all: Guilty Man Freed.

Albert “Tiny” Slocum was a charming two-bit punk who’d hoodwinked his lawyer and an entire jury into believing in his innocence. It hadn’t helped that the case presented against him hadn’t been airtight. He walked out of the courtroom a free man with a clean slate, thanks to Ashley D’Angelo, who’d once been dubbed Boston’s “savior of the innocent.”

Of course, Tiny had spoiled his innocent act a bit when he’d had the audacity to turn to the jury in front of the judge and call them all suckers. That moment of pure cockiness had proved just what a psychopath he was. It had also earned him a promise from the prosecutor that he would find a way to put Tiny right back behind bars, maybe not for the crime of killing Letitia
Baldwin for which he’d just been acquitted, but for some other heinous act he had already committed. There were bound to be some.

That appalling scene had also been the moment that every criminal defense attorney with a conscience dreaded. Ashley D’Angelo was no exception.

Ashley hadn’t much liked three-hundred-pound Tiny, but she
had
believed in him. He’d declared his innocence with such passion. He had a clever mind and a sharp wit that he’d used effectively to charm her into thinking he couldn’t possibly be guilty of such a barbaric crime. In the course of what appeared to have started as a botched purse-snatching, elderly, frail Letitia Baldwin had been beaten nearly to death by someone in an obvious rage at finding only a few dollars in her wallet. Tiny had professed to love and respect women. His own mother had backed him up, saying he was the ideal son. Ashley, who’d built her entire reputation on defending the innocent, had been taken in.

She’d also seen all the holes in the prosecution’s case. She’d spent months building a defense, but before she could spend a single second feeling triumphant over the not-guilty verdict, she’d been hit with the gut-wrenching realization that Tiny was indeed responsible for Letitia Baldwin’s massive injuries. The elderly woman had later died in the emergency room, changing the charge from assault to murder.

There wasn’t enough merlot in all the wine cellars in Boston to help Ashley get over that sickening image. The crime scene photos played over and over in her head, like a looping newsreel that never quit.

Later, in the dark of night, when she was lying sleep
less in her fancy penthouse apartment, Ashley had finally admitted that on some level she’d known all along that she was defending a murderer—and doing it with the kind of aggressive tactics that were almost guaranteed to win an acquittal. She didn’t know how to defend a client any other way, which was one reason she’d always been very, very careful about whom she chose to represent. Her firm had allowed her that latitude because she’d racked up courtroom victories and a lot of press in the process.

But even as she’d planned Tiny’s defense, she’d suffered pangs of guilt. She’d been assailed by doubts. That’s why she’d run to Rose Cottage before the trial had begun. It had been eating at her even then. Not that she’d wanted to say it aloud or even allow the thought to form. She’d wanted to go right on believing in Tiny, because she had to in order to live with herself. In retrospect, she knew she should have quit the case the moment she’d had that first niggling doubt, but somehow winning had become more important than anything else, and she’d known she could win.

Now that the truth was out, she was sick of the law, sick of her own ability to twist it for her client’s benefit. Her self-respect was in tatters. How had her life come to this? This victory tarnished all the others, all the cases she’d been proud to win, all the cases that had earned her a full partnership at her law firm in record time.

Heartsick, she’d been locked away in her apartment for nearly twenty-four hours now, refusing to answer the phone, refusing to go to the door. She’d given a brief press conference, declaring that she was stunned after the debacle in the courtroom, then gone into hiberna
tion to avoid the inevitable media frenzy over that disturbing courtroom spectacle.

Right now she couldn’t imagine ever showing her face again, but realistically she knew that the desire to hide would eventually pass. She was a fighter by nature. She just wasn’t ready for battle quite yet. She needed time to lick her wounds in private.

Unfortunately her sisters all had keys to her place, and not five minutes ago they’d arrived en masse to offer her comfort and support. Ashley appreciated the gesture, but it was wasted. She’d gotten a murderer off scot-free, and she was going to have to live with that for the rest of her life. It pretty much made a shambles out of the pride she’d always taken in her success.

“It’s not your fault,” her sister Jo said quietly, once they were all seated with coffee that Maggie had brewed from the gourmet beans she’d taught them all to appreciate. “You were doing your job.”

“A helluva job, isn’t it?” Ashley said grimly, lifting her coffee cup in a mocking toast.

“Stop it,” Maggie ordered irritably.

Maggie and Melanie had driven up from Virginia the minute they’d heard what happened in the courtroom the day before. They’d picked up Jo on their way into downtown Boston. Ashley had little doubt that they’d planned this gathering down to the last detail on the ride over.

They were seated in Ashley’s penthouse apartment with its expensive modern art on the walls and its sweeping panorama of the Boston skyline outside. At the moment, none of it meant a thing to Ashley, not even the loyal support of her sisters. Loyalty was a D’Angelo
family trait. They would have been here for her, no matter what she’d done.

“Jo’s right. You were doing your job,” Melanie said emphatically. “Not everyone who says they’re innocent is, not everyone who’s accused is guilty, and everyone is guaranteed a right to a complete defense and a fair trial.”

How often had she said exactly that? Ashley wondered. She had believed it, too, but knowing that she’d been responsible for putting a violent, totally amoral man back on the streets made her sick.

Having been validated by numerous acquittals from juries, Ashley had gotten used to believing she was always right. She’d grown comfortable looking at the law and its loopholes more intently than the crime and its victims. Maybe that was sound law and a solid defense tactic, but she was beginning to question whether it had anything at all to do with justice.

“The man made a complete fool of me,” Ashley told her sisters. “How am I ever supposed to trust my own judgment again? How can anyone else? After this, if I said it was sunny, I’d expect people to check for a second opinion. And what client would want me, knowing that every jury is going to regard me with total skepticism from the outset? It’s hard enough to fight the evidence in most cases without the added liability of having a controversial lawyer.”

“This was one case out of how many?” Maggie asked, regarding her sister worriedly. “Stop beating yourself up. You have an excellent track record, Ashley. The papers describe you as brilliant, relentless, passionate about the law.”

“Not today,” Ashley retorted, gesturing toward the stack of newspapers on her coffee table. She’d read them all with a sort of morbid fascination, just as she’d watched every newscast. “Today they’re asking questions about how many other criminals I’ve helped to set free. I have to admit, I’ve been wondering that myself.”

Jo regarded her indignantly. She was the quietest of the D’Angelo sisters, the most sensitive, but when she felt strongly about something, she could make herself heard above their nonstop boisterous chatter.

“Do you really think for one minute that you’ve intentionally set out to free a bunch of criminals?” Jo demanded. “Because if you do, then you’re right. You need to get out of law. You need to find some other field where your mistakes in judgment don’t matter, where you can’t ever be fooled by a clever client.”

“I honestly don’t know what I’m doing anymore,” Ashley replied. Uncertainty was an unfamiliar feeling, and she didn’t like it. She’d always been the D’Angelo with a sense of purpose. She was the confident big sister who protected the rest of them. She didn’t like being the object of their pity. She didn’t like needing them, rather than the other way around.

“A day ago I would have said I was a champion for the truth,” she added. “Now I’m wondering if I’m not just a clever lawyer who’s easily duped by a little charm and just the right note of righteous indignation.” She stared bleakly around the room. “Look at all this fancy stuff I’ve accumulated because I’m good at my job. When I had to look the victim’s son and daughter in the eye today and tell them I was sorry, I felt like a failure and a fraud.”

Her three sisters exchanged a look, then seemed to reach some sort of silent, mutual decision.

“Okay, that’s enough self-pity, Ashley. Sackcloth and ashes don’t suit you. You’re coming back to Virginia with us,” Melanie said decisively. “A month or two at Rose Cottage is what you need. You promised Maggie you’d come back after the trial anyway. Now it’ll just be for a little longer, until you get your feet back under you.”

Ashley stared at her younger sister, horrified by the prospect of an entire week—much less a couple of months—away from work. Work defined her. Of course, today that definition pretty much reeked.

“No way,” she said fiercely. “I know you and Maggie thrived while staying in grandmother’s old cottage, but I’m not cut out for the boonies. A weekend is about as much as I can take.” She scowled at Maggie. “I thought I’d made that clear.”

“Hey, you’re the one who’s been carrying the key around with you as a talisman all these years,” Maggie reminded her. “Now it’s time you made use of it. Melanie’s right—you need to get away. You need to think. You can try to figure out what went wrong this time and stop it from ever happening again. Or you can decide to chuck law and do something else entirely. The one thing we won’t let you do is sit around and wallow in self-pity.”

“As if there are a lot of other career options open to me,” Ashley said bitingly. “I’m a lawyer. That’s all I know how to do.”

Maggie rolled her eyes. “If you were bright enough to graduate from law school with honors, you can probably find another career in which to excel, if it comes to that. You have to take this break, Ashley. You owe it to your
self. For you to overreact like this, it’s obvious you’re burned-out. You’ve been working at a breakneck pace ever since law school in order to jump on that fast track at your law firm. It’s time to slow down and reevaluate.”

“I agree,” Jo said, her jaw set stubbornly. “These two may only be around for a day or two to nudge you, but I’m here for the duration. And I promise I will pester you to death until you agree to take this vacation. In fact, if it were up to me, you’d take a six-month sabbatical.”

When Jo, the youngest of them, made such a firm declaration, Ashley knew she was defeated. “Two weeks,” she bargained, refusing to even consider as long a leave of absence as Jo was suggesting. “That’s all the peace and quiet I can bear.”

“Two months,” the others chorused.

“Three weeks,” she pleaded. “That’s it. That’s my limit. I’ll go nuts if I have to rusticate even one second longer than that.”

“Done. Three weeks it is.” Maggie and Melanie exchanged a grin.

“What?” Ashley demanded, instantly suspicious of their gloating expressions.

“We were sure you’d bargain us down to a week, max,” Maggie said. “You really must be losing your touch.”

Ashley started to chuckle, but it came out more like a sob. Wasn’t that exactly the point? She
had
lost her touch. And right this minute she couldn’t imagine ever getting it back again.

BOOK: The Laws of Attraction
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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