Addicted to Love

Addicted to Love by Lori Wilde

Book: Addicted to Love by Lori Wilde Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lori Wilde
Tags: FIC027020
yesterday morning, but when he’d processed her, he’d found the Wal-Mart receipt for a gallon of black paint in her purse. What he feared was that her desecration of the billboard had spurred a copycat vandal.
    Great. That was all he needed. People going all over town painting anti-romance slogans.
    Maybe this has nothing to do with that. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.
    Except that Brody didn’t believe in coincidences. “I’ve got to go to court this morning,” he told Audie, “but I’ll be over there as soon as I can.”
    “Thanks.” Audie grunted. “See you then.”
    Brody hung up, then rapped on the bathroom door. “Come on, Rachael. Get a move on. Justice waits for no one.”
    J UDGE A BIGAIL P RUITT was not only the first African American to sit on the bench in Jeff Davis County. She was also the first woman. That made her something of a local legend.
    “If you work hard and stay out of trouble you could be the next Abigail Pruitt,” Valentine mothers told their daughters. “If she can be a judge, you can, too.”
    What they often failed to take into account was Abigail’s razor-sharp mind, keen observation skills, and a dogged determination to excel, no matter how tough things got. Most people, whether male or female, simply weren’t made of such stern stuff.
    Judge Pruitt was closing in on sixty. She had a short shock of kinky gray hair, dark intelligent eyes, and a habit of stroking her chin with her thumb and index finger when she was deep in thought. She also possessed an ironclad sense of right and wrong and once she’d made a decision, she was not inclined to change her mind.
    At nine a.m. on the nose, Brody led Rachael into the one-hundred-year-old courtroom, Jillian right at their heels. Delaney and Tish followed at a safe distance before slipping into the gallery seating.
    Brody pushed through the swinging door separating the gallery from the bench. The aged wooden floors creaked beneath his feet. The building smelled musty and punitive. Rachael found herself wondering how many lives had been forever altered here. She knew hers was about to be one of them and she welcomed the change with open arms.
    Judge Pruitt was already behind the bench. She set aside the papers she was reviewing, slid her reading glasses down on her nose, and stared unblinkingly at Rachael over the top of them.
    Rachael tried a smile, but the judge remained stony-faced. No charming this woman. She wasn’t accustomed to people ignoring her smile and it unsettled her.
    “Intimidation tactics,” Jillian whispered in her ear, anticipating Rachael’s anxiety. “Let it roll right off your back.”
    Easy for her to say. Jillian was used to swimming in the shark-infested waters of the state legal system.
    On the complainant’s side of the courtroom, Mayor Wentworth stood with Jeff Davis County’s lone full-time prosecutor, Purdy Maculroy. Brody guided Rachael to the defense stand and then stepped back to let Jillian take his place beside Rachael. The minute Brody’s body heat was gone, she missed him. Something about his unflappable presence calmed her.
    He gave her an encouraging wink that lifted her spirits. Why hadn’t she met him before Trace?
    You did. He rejected you.
    He was twelve. She was seven. It didn’t count.
    Stop it! You’re about to be sentenced in a court of law and you’re going gaga over some guy?
    But quitting just wasn’t that easy. Looking for love in all the wrong places had unwittingly become her modus operandi.
    The judge went through the usual housekeeping of proper courtroom procedure, and then she fixed Rachael with a strict glare. “You’re charged with vandalizing the Valentine billboard.”
    “I’m an eyewitness, Judge,” Kelvin Wentworth said, “to the destruction of our beloved town landmark.”
    Judge Pruitt addressed Purdy Maculroy. “Counselor, please remind your client he cannot speak out of turn in my courtroom.”
    “Yes, Your Honor.” Maculroy nudged Kelvin in the

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