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Authors: Irene Hannon

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BOOK: The Way Home
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“I guess we'll see when the verdict comes in.”

“But you think he's guilty.”

“I'm prosecuting him.”

“You're avoiding the question, Counselor.”

“That's right.”

She sighed. He'd easily deflected her few subtle probes about the trial during the evening. So far, she had nothing usable, no lead that would give her the edge she so badly wanted. Then again, she hadn't pressed all that hard. For some reason, her heart just hadn't been in it. Besides, it had quickly become apparent to her that while she was a good reporter who knew how to ask the right questions, he was an even
better attorney who knew how to avoid answering them.

“I'm still going to try and find an angle to make my coverage stand out,” she warned.

“I wish you luck.” He took a final sip of his coffee, then glanced at his watch. “Well, for an evening that almost ended before it began, we've managed to make a night of it.”

She checked the time and her eyes grew wide. It was after eleven. “I had no idea!”

He smiled, then rose and began clearing the table. “I promised Joe I'd have all this stuff back safe and sound tomorrow.”

She stood also. “Let me help.”

When everything was carefully packed, Cal lifted the box and Amy followed him to the door. He turned to her, but the simple good-night he'd planned to say stuck in his throat. Suddenly he didn't want to leave the softly lit room, where the candles cast flickering shadows on the wall in the dining alcove and sensuous jazz played quietly in the background. He drew in a slow, unsteady breath, inhaling the faint, pleasing fragrance that emanated from Amy's hair. Suddenly Cal felt warm. Too warm. He cleared his throat and shifted the box.

“Well…”

“The evening didn't turn out exactly as we planned, did it?” Amy said softly, her green eyes luminous in the golden light.

“Not quite.”

“Take care of that eye.”

“I will. Listen…thanks for being a good sport about the dinner.”

“You were the one who was a good sport. And I had a great dinner.”

“You can't go wrong with Joe's food.”

Amy
had
enjoyed the food. But the dinner had been great for a lot of other reasons, she realized as she stared up at Cal. The assistant prosecuting attorney had turned out to be an incredible date, even if she hadn't gotten the hoped-for lead. In fact, this evening had been well worth the five-hundred-dollar price tag. It had been a very long time since she'd enjoyed a date this much. And the truth was, she was sorry it was over. Mostly because she knew there wouldn't be a next time.

“Well…” Cal repeated. “I guess I'd better go. It's late.”

“Right.”

Still he hesitated. Cal wasn't sure why. For some reason the unexpected events of the evening had thrown him off balance. And he wasn't thinking only of the mugging, he realized, as he looked into Amy's appealing green eyes. Their gazes locked for several eternal seconds, and he wished he knew what she was thinking. Was she suddenly as confused as he was? Had her pulse lurched into overdrive, too? His gaze dropped to her lips. Was she fighting the same surprising and powerful urge he was?

Cal had no idea. All he knew was that he was glad he was holding the box of dishes. Because as he said a very rapid good-night and escaped into the hall, he knew that if his arms weren't otherwise occupied, he would be very tempted to put them to another use. And he didn't think that would be wise at all.

Chapter Four

“A
my? Have I caught you at a bad time?”

Amy smiled and grabbed her tea as she headed for the couch. “Not at all. It's great to hear your voice, Kate.” She sat on the couch and tucked her feet under her. “How's St. Louis?”

“It's too soon to tell, after only a week. But it doesn't matter where we live, as long as I'm with Jack.”

“Still crazy in love with that handsome hunk you married, I see,” Amy teased.

“Absolutely. You should try it sometime.”

“Well, when I meet the right handsome hunk, I just might do that.” For some reason, an image of Cal flitted through her mind, and she frowned. How odd. If ever two people had different philosophies of life, it was them. Though they did agree on some things, their basic priorities and motivations were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Not a good omen for
a long-term relationship—even if they were interested in pursuing one. Which, of course, they weren't.

“I'm sure you meet all kinds of handsome men in your business,” Kate scoffed.

“With egos to match, too,” Amy countered dryly.

“Oh, come on. You must meet
some
guys who aren't self-centered.”

Again Amy thought of Cal. “Actually, I did meet one recently.”

“Well, that's more like it! Tell me all.”

“I bought a date with him.”

There was a beat of silence on the other end of the line before Kate spoke. “Do you want to explain that?”

Amy grinned. “I bought a date with him at a charity auction.”

“You've resorted to buying dates? Things must be worse than I thought!”

This time Amy laughed. “I had an ulterior motive. He's the prosecuting attorney in a high-profile case I'm covering, and I was hoping he'd let something slip that would give me an angle.”

“Oh.” The disappointment in Kate's voice was obvious. “So it was just a business thing.”

“Yeah. But I actually had a good time.”

“Did you get your angle?”

“Unfortunately, no. But he was surprisingly pleasant, considering that we'd clashed in every previous encounter. And he was a really good sport.” Amy recounted the story of the mugging.

“He sounds nice,” Kate commented. “Are you sure you don't want to pursue this?”

“Trust me, Kate. I am the last person Cal Richards wants to see again. He admitted himself that he was dreading our date, so the odds of—” The ringing of the doorbell interrupted her. “Can you hold a minute? There's someone at the door.”

“Sure.”

Amy set her mug down and strode toward the door, pausing to peer through the peephole. All she could see was a large, green blob, so she cautiously cracked the door, leaving the chain lock in place.

A face appeared around the blob, which Amy now realized was a flower arrangement wrapped in green paper. “Amy Winter?”

“Yes.”

“These are for you.”

Amy gave the young man a puzzled frown. “Are you sure?”

He recited the address, and her frown deepened. “Well, you've got the right place,” she conceded. She closed the door and slid the chain across, then opened it. The young man grinned and placed the vase in Amy's hands. “Enjoy.”

As he disappeared down the steps, she stared at the cloud of green tissue. Who in the world would be sending her flowers?

Suddenly she remembered that Kate was waiting. Shoving the door shut with her foot, she moved quickly back to the couch, placing the vase carefully on the coffee table.

“Kate? Sorry.”

“Do you need to hang up?”

“No. It was just a delivery. Flowers believe it or not.”

“Flowers? Okay, sister dear, you've been holding out on me. Who are they from?”

“I haven't a clue,” Amy confessed.

“There must be a card.”

Amy poked at the tissue, discovered a small white envelope and rapidly scanned the note inside.

“Please accept my apologies again for the change in plans last night. And thanks for being such a good sport. Cal.”

Amy stared at it, stunned. “I don't believe it!”

“What?”

“They're from Cal Richards!”

“No kidding! And this is the man who was never going to contact you again, huh?”

Amy ignored Kate's jibe and tore the paper away from the vase, letting out a soft exclamation of pleasure. “Oh, Amy, you should see this arrangement! It's gorgeous! A dozen peach-colored roses with baby's breath and fern. It's stunning!”

“Sounds like there could be potential here after all,” Kate mused.

Amy looked at the card again. “It's just an apology, Kate. For the change in plans. That's what the card says. After all, I did pay five hundred dollars for that date.”

“Five hundred dollars!” Now it was Kate's turn to sound incredulous. “Wow! Still, he could have sent carnations and daisies. Or just a note. Or nothing at all.”

Amy fingered the card thoughtfully. “He told me
last night that he always pays his debts. I guess he felt he owed me more than an eat-in dinner.”

“He sounds like a
very
nice man, Amy.”

“He is. He's just not for me,” Amy declared, refusing to read more into the gesture than she was sure Cal intended. “Now tell me more about you. Are you adjusting okay since the move?”

“That was a pretty abrupt—what do you call it again in your business? A segue? But I can take a hint. Pretty well, actually, though the move is only the first in a series of adjustments.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have some other news.”

Amy heard the undertone of excitement in Kate's voice and held her breath. “You have my full attention.”

“We're going to have a baby!”

Amy's heart soared. Kate and Jack had been trying unsuccessfully for five years to start the family they both wanted, but it had been a frustrating and disheartening process. Amy knew that over the last year Kate had begun to lose hope, had struggled to come to grips with the fact that perhaps it simply wasn't meant to be. And now this!

“Oh, Kate, I'm thrilled! When are you due?”

“October 26. I've known for a couple of weeks, but we wanted to make sure everything was okay before we told anyone.”

“I bet Mom is excited.”

“Ecstatic. A grandmother at last!”

They chatted excitedly for a few more minutes, but when Amy at last replaced the receiver, her euphoric
mood suddenly evaporated. She was happy for Kate, of course. That went without saying. She knew how much her sister wanted a family. But she also had an odd and unexpected feeling of melancholy, which puzzled her. It wasn't as if she would want to change places with Kate. She liked her life, had worked hard to make her ambitious goals a reality and was now beginning to reap the rewards of all her hard work. But the price had been high. Too high, according to her mother, who made it a point to occasionally remind her younger daughter that her success had come at the expense of other things. Like a personal life. And a husband. And a family.

As if she didn't know, Amy thought with a sigh. She took a sip of her now-tepid tea and leaned back against the couch. It wasn't that she didn't want those things. It was just that now was not the time for them. Which didn't mean that she was immune to loneliness, she admitted. There were times when she yearned for a caring touch, or a simple, loving look, or the comfort of knowing that someone was waiting for her at the end of the day. But throughout the years she'd learned a lot about self-discipline and delayed gratification. Someday she'd go after those things, applying the same single-minded determination with which she was now pursuing her career goals. But she couldn't do both at once, and right now her career took priority.

Her gaze drifted to the roses, and she reached out to gently touch a velvety petal. She had to admit that she'd enjoyed her rare social evening last night. She'd been pleasantly surprised by Cal Richards, had begun
to see him in a new and appealing light. He seemed like a decent, caring, considerate man. Under other circumstances, maybe something could have developed between them, despite their differences. But Amy didn't have the time. And she was pretty sure Cal didn't have the inclination.

 

“So how did the big date go on Fri—good grief! What happened to you?”

Cal glanced up at Cynthia, who was staring at him wide-eyed. “I have a black eye,” he replied dryly.

“I can see that. Was there a brawl at the restaurant or something?”

“We didn't go to a restaurant. We stayed at her place and ordered in.”

Cynthia's mouth dropped open. “For five hundred bucks you give her takeout? Well, that explains it. I'd have socked you, too, after paying that kind of money for a date.”

Cal smiled. “That's not quite what happened.”

Cynthia dropped into the chair across from his desk. “I didn't think so. Tell me everything.”

“I got mugged in the parking lot of her apartment.”

Once more Cynthia's eyes grew wide. “Mugged! You're kidding!”

“Those were
her
exact words when she opened the door. And, as I said then, do I
look
like I'm kidding?”

Cynthia eyed him speculatively. “I guess not. What happened?”

“Two thugs jumped me. They got my money, I got
a bloody nose and a black eye. Considering the circumstances, she very graciously consented to eat in.”

“So what did you get? Pizza?”

“You're two for two, now. Her words, again. And no, we didn't get pizza. I have a friend in the restaurant business who sent something over.”

“What restaurant?”

When he told her, she gave a low whistle. “Now
that's
a carryout! I bet the lady was impressed.”

“She seemed to enjoy it.”

“So…are you going to see her again?”

He looked at her in surprise. “Why would I?”

“Didn't you like her?”

Cal frowned. As a matter of fact he had—despite himself. She had many qualities that he found appealing—and intriguing. She was a woman of paradoxes—gung-ho about her career, as well as smart, savvy, ambitious and willing to push hard to get the job done, but also a woman who seemed to find aggressiveness and the in-your-face demands of her profession distasteful and who clearly had solid moral and ethical values.

However, it was equally clear that the two of them had very different priorities. Even under ideal conditions—and the fact that she was a newswoman pursuing him as a source was definitely
not
ideal—he doubted whether anything serious could ever develop between them.

“Well, if you have to think that long about it, I guess I have my answer,” Cynthia said dryly. “But not to worry. We'll find you somebody yet, Cal.”

Cal shook his head. “Give it up, Cyn. I don't have the time.”

“You should
make
the time.”

“Now you sound like my grandmother.”

“I'm sure she's a very wise woman.”

“She is. And you're both right. And I'll get around to it one of these days.”

“Hmph. By the time you get around to it, there won't be anything left to get,” she said pertly as she turned to go.

Cal watched her exit. At thirty-four, he didn't exactly consider himself over-the-hill. But he
was
well past the age when most of his friends and acquaintances had married. In fact, many of them had a couple of kids by now. Though he'd admitted it to no one, the notion of “settling down,” as his grandmother would say, held more and more appeal for him these days. It would be nice to have a wife and children to come home to at the end of the day. Trouble was, his
day
often didn't end until well into the
night,
which wasn't conducive to family life. At least, not the kind of family life he wanted.

Which brought him back once again to the tough choice he was facing. Stay in the city to fight for justice and continue building his promising career, or make a radical lifestyle change and return to the mountains where his soul was most at peace. Considering his unsettled state, it wouldn't be fair to pursue a romance. Besides, only a very special woman would understand why he was discontent with his life in the city, why he was drawn so strongly to the mountains, when in the eyes of the world he seemed to have it
all—success, prestige, the potential for power. And he seriously doubted whether Amy Winter was that woman.

Cal frowned. Why in the world had Amy popped into his mind again, and in such an odd context? It didn't matter in the least if she understood his motivations. Their contact in the future would be limited, and purely of a professional nature.

A week ago that scenario would have made him happy. But for some inexplicable reason, it now left him feeling vaguely depressed.

 

“That should do it, Steve,” Amy said as she closed her notebook.

The cameraman extinguished the light and took the Minicam off his shoulder as Amy turned back to Michael Sloan, the director of the youth center.

“All we need now is some B-roll footage as background,” she said. “Can we do a walk-through, see some of the activities in progress?”

“Sure.” He rose and led them down the hall to a small but well-equipped computer lab. Boys ranging in age from seven or eight to mid-teens were using every available piece of equipment under the supervision of an older man, who smiled at them when they entered.

“That's John Williams, one of the volunteers,” the director told Amy. “As I mentioned earlier, our volunteers are the backbone of this place. They not only provide much-needed manpower, but act as great role models for the boys, many of whom are from broken homes without a father figure.”

He introduced Amy to the volunteer, and with the man's consent, she spoke with him for a few minutes on camera.

BOOK: The Way Home
9.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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