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Don't Let it Show

Don't Let It Show -- Available Now
Undercover Intrigue Series -- Book One
Romantic Suspense

Attorney Gail Martin's life can't get any worse. Her client has been convicted, her law license suspended, and her inbox inundated with a strange riddle. But things start looking up when a handsome cop saves her from the press.

Undercover FBI agent Sam Newton is in Houston to catch drug dealing cops while pretending to be one. His identity must be kept top secret, but his attraction to Gail can't be concealed or ignored. He's tried, repeatedly.

As their love deepens, Gail confides she doesn’t believe the man in jail for her mother's murder is guilty. She and Sam investigate her mother's case, hitting nothing but dead ends. When tragedy strikes, Gail is left with only the email riddle, which leads her on a deadly quest for the truth about her mother’s life and death—if she can stay alive long enough to solve it.

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excerpt

Chapter One

 

“We find the defendant guilty.”

Attorney Abigail Martin summoned all her self-restraint to keep her breathing steady and her head high while the judge thanked the jury. The final strike of the gavel started a pounding in her head.

The bailiff handcuffed her client, Damien West, and led him away. But not before Gail met his tortured gaze and saw the anguish, the torment, the unmistakable innocence in his eyes.

Verdict rendered, the courtroom emptied quickly. Lives were altered daily in these Houston courtrooms, yet the venue never changed—same wooden benches, same massive judges’ desks, and the same scent of lemon polish.

She turned to Conrad Sanders. “You have to file for an appeal.”

“Let it go, Gail.”

“Whoever set up West did an incredible job incriminating him. He didn’t murder Austin Armstrong.”

“Then who did?” Since he’d been forced to take over Gail’s position as lead counsel on this case, Conrad never indicated whether he believed in West’s innocence. The expression in his hazel eyes and the tone of his voice never changed. He remained detached.

If only she could do the same. “I don’t know. We must have missed something.”

“What could we have missed? Two eyewitnesses gave West’s description.” He threw three legal pads into his briefcase. “I’ll talk to West tomorrow about an appeal.”

“Can’t you talk to him now?”

Conrad grabbed his day planner. “I’m due at the office.”

“Then I’ll talk to West.”

“No, you won’t.” He pointed the planner at her, his voice perturbed. “You lost the right to stick your nose in this when you jeopardized your law license.”

His words beat through her—pum pum pum. Although she’d enjoyed listening to The Little Drummer Boy on the way to work this morning, now it was as if he was in her head and madder than hell. How could she have been so reckless in the courtroom two months ago?

Tears battled for position to drop first, but she blinked them back.

“Sorry.” Conrad blew out a loud breath. “We both need a little distance from this case. I’ll visit West tomorrow and suggest a couple of lawyers who handle appeals.” She opened her mouth to object, but he said, “Please.”

She raised her hands. “Fine.”   

“Take the rest of the day off.”

“I can’t.”

“Gail, learn to keep your feelings and personal beliefs separate from this job. I’ve been telling you that since the firm hired you and it hasn’t sunk in yet.”

“I’m hardheaded.”

“You’re stubborn. Be careful you don’t piss off the partners. Of course, you’ve already proven you’re a pain-in-the-ass, and they love you anyway.” Conrad grinned at her scowl and took off down the center aisle.

Before closing her computer, Gail clicked on the e-mail icon. The same message title popped up on the screen numerous times.

What’s in a name?

Not again. Once a week for the last three months, the annoying e-mail showed up dozens of times. She’d tried replying to the sender, but her e-mails always bounced back, Undeliverable.

She read the insistent message.

First “a friend”

Next the Royal “beloved”

Somewhere between is a rightful heir

Again revealed at Ketuvim’s end

Life is the key

The words never changed—total gibberish.

Gail slid the laptop into her briefcase and headed out the side entrance where harsh, bright lights lit the pallid hallway. Paul Watterson, Houston’s police chief, hurried toward her. His gray hair windblown and his blue eyes concerned. “I just heard the verdict.”

She plopped onto one of the many marble benches positioned throughout the courthouse. “I failed him.”

“You didn’t fail anyone.” He sat next to her. A great friend to her mother and like an uncle to her, Paul kept close tabs on Gail. “You can’t even practice law right now.”

He wasn’t purposely trying to hurt her, but his words felt like a punch in the stomach. “West’s conviction will never leave my conscience if he doesn’t appeal.”

“Lose the conscience, honey. Life will be easier.”

“Strange words coming from a man who upholds the law.”

“It’s true.” His glib words didn’t fool her. Paul had too much integrity to feel that way.

“Don’t you have a big murder case in need of your attention?”

“Yes, a police chief’s work never ends. But I wanted to check on you. And to make sure you know the policeman’s ball is in March this year.”

“I’m fine. And I didn’t know about the ball. I’ll start shopping for a gown.”

Paul knew how much she enjoyed the fancy affair and had taken her as his guest since she turned eighteen. She hugged him before he rushed off and disappeared around the corner.

Drawing her phone from her suit coat pocket, she saw a message from her firm’s managing partner and hit the voicemail button.

“Gail.” His voice sounded urgent. “They’re ruling on your case today.”

Her heart beat in time with her head—pum pum pum.

“One o’clock in Judge Jacoby’s courtroom. Call if you need me there for support.”

She wouldn’t call him or anyone, she’d gotten into this mess by herself and that’s how she’d face the hearing. Her phone read eleven-fifty—over an hour to wait.

If the judges suspended her, how long would it last? A year? Two? Would she lose her job? What if they disbarred her?

She’d go nuts if she sat here worrying.

On her way down the corridor, she wondered what they’d missed in Damien West’s case. She remembered his innocent, tortured eyes.

Suddenly, another set of innocent eyes flashed in her mind. Helplessness pulsed through her, as it had eleven years ago. Her legs wobbled with each step. She stopped and leaned against the wall.

A familiar ache shrieked in her soul.

The innocent, tormented eyes belonged to the man convicted of her mother’s murder.

~

From a shadowed corner of the Houston courthouse hallway, Sam Newton studied the statue of Lady Justice. He understood the sword she held—the speedy strike of justice. And the blindfold over her eyes—an impartial judge. What mystified him was how she let the scale in her hand so often tilt in the wrong direction. Shouldn’t truth be her guide?

Truth. Did anyone care about the truth? He’d been fighting crime since graduating college. Now, at the age of thirty-two, he didn’t believe in the truth or goodness of mankind. He’d witnessed too many crimes, murders, and the downright degradation of humanity.

How would Lady Justice treat him after this assignment, especially if truth was a factor? Was his job a good enough reason to shed his scruples and not have any repercussions?

No, there would be repercussions.

His cell vibrated.

“Newton.”

“Now maybe the hoopla surrounding West’s case will settle.” Yvonne Delacroix was in no-nonsense agent mode. “Did you make it in time to be in the courtroom for the verdict?”

Three men in suits hurried past. “No, but I’ve been standing in the hallway since it adjourned.”

“Any familiar faces?”

“Alex Franklin, the captain from my precinct. The murder happened in his jurisdiction.” Sam looked out the window at the crowd still gathered on the courthouse steps. “Conrad Sanders just held a press conference.”

“What about the assistant?”

“Sanders left the courtroom alone, no visual on Abigail Martin yet.”

“Well, she…”

A commotion broke out across the lobby. “Hold on a second.” He spied two women in a heated conversation. The one dressed in a conservative black suit drew his gaze. She made the slightest move to her right, bringing her into a ray of sun shooting down from the skylight. Her auburn hair the darkest shade of red he’d ever seen.

The photos and news footage he’d seen of her didn’t begin to do her, or her hair, justice.

Sam spoke quietly into his phone. “I found Abigail Martin.”

“You know what to do.” Yvonne disconnected.

He kept the phone to his ear. Even with the hustle and bustle of dozens of people scurrying in the foyer, which helped camouflage him, he heard the women.

“You let him get convicted.”

Miss Martin set down her briefcase. “I only assisted in your husband’s case, Mrs. West.”

“But you don’t believe he’s guilty, you told us so.”

“No, I don’t believe he murdered Austin Armstrong.”

“How could you let this happen?” West’s wife wiped a tear from her mascara-streaked cheek.

While the women talked, he scrutinized Abigail Martin. Her frame was small and slender without being skinny. Her black heels jacked her height from five four to five seven. If he didn’t know she was twenty-seven, he’d have guessed a couple of years younger.

Mrs. West turned and shuffled down the corridor.

Abigail Martin checked her phone and started for the huge glass doors leading to the outside steps.

He pocketed his cell and followed, but not closely.

She pushed the door wide and was waylaid by reporters. “Miss Martin, what’s your response to the verdict?” “Will there be a petition for appeal?” “Do you still—” The voices grew so loud Sam couldn’t make out what was being said.

Miss Martin yanked on the door handle to escape back inside, but the crowd surrounded her, trapping her. “You’ll have to direct your questions to Conrad Sanders,” she shouted.

“But you proclaimed West’s innocence,” a reporter yelled. “Do you still believe he’s not guilty?”

“My view hasn’t changed.”

“But he admitted to dealing drugs.”

“Just because—”

Sam pushed the door, bumping a couple of reporters out of the way, and grasped Miss Martin’s arm. She seemed stunned as he drew her inside and down the hallway.

Yards from the door, she jerked from his grasp. “Why did you do that?”

He couldn’t tell her, to shut you up, so he waved toward the door he’d pulled her through. “You’re welcome.”

“Look, Officer…” she squinted at his nametag.

“Newton.”

“Officer Newton, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.” Her brown eyes flashed with anger.

“You call that taking care of yourself? You were cornered like a rat.”

She hesitated, her anger transforming into a frown creasing her brow.

He felt like a heel. It wasn’t her fault West’s conviction was important to his assignment. She just happened to be caught in the crossfire.

“I was doing fine with the press.” Her entire body wilted. “But to be honest, they’re not my responsibility.”

“Then now is a good time to thank me for rescuing you.”

“I didn’t ask you to rescue me.”

“Think of me as your guardian angel.”

Her lips twitched before she slid a scowl back into place. “Guardian angels come with wings and halos, Officer Newton.”

He leaned forward, his voice soft, as if telling her a secret, “Not all of us.”