With Judge Malcolm’s eyes boring into me, my necktie’s starting to feel like a noose. I glance toward the courtroom doors, willing my client to appear.
What I wouldn’t give to be at the beach right now, knee-deep in the water with a fishing pole in my hands and Hazel by my side.The beautiful blonde doesn’t meet me at the beach every day, but I always bring a chair for her, just in case.
If unrequited love had a face, it’d be mine. Hazel has occupied nearly every waking thought—not to mention my dreams—for over two decades.
The judge clears his throat. “Your client is late, Mr. Bishop.”
I reach up to loosen my tie a fraction of an inch.“I apologize for the delay, Your Honor. Mr. Carey should be here any moment.”
The prosecutor sighs dramatically. “Can we get on with it? I have a noon tee time at the country club.”
A flash of anger pulses through my veins. Arnie Melcher is the worst kind of prosecutor: lazy and self-serving. He doesn’t care about justice or honor or duty, and the red, white, and blue power ties he wears to court are all for show.
“I’m sorry my client’s Constitutional rights are soinconvenientto the State of Georgia,” I say through gritted teeth.
Before Arnie can respond, the doors to the courtroom fly open. My eighteen-year-old client saunters in wearing a smirk and a neon green T-shirt. My eyes widen as I take in the shirt. A giant marijuana leaf stretches from shoulder to shoulder. Emblazoned in big, bold letters are the wordsA friend with weed is a friend indeed.
A groan escapes my throat, and I attempt to cover it with a cough. Arnie makes no effort to suppress his laughter. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the judge reaching for his gavel. His face is the shade of an overripe tomato, and his mouth opens and closes like a fish.
Judge Malcolm won’t remain speechless for long. Seizing the opportunity, I jump up from my chair. “I need a minute to confer with Mr. Carey, Your Honor.”
My client grins as I grab his elbow and steer him toward an attorney-client room at the rear of the courtroom. I quickly usher him inside and close the door.
“Seriously, Sean?” I hiss. “Of all the judges to mess with, you chosethisone?” Judge Malcolm is the longest-sitting—and oldest-sitting—judge in Georgia. He’s not one to suffer fools gladly.
Sean juts out his chin. “I can wear what I want. It’s my right.”
“Not in the courtroom! You know the rules of the court prohibit graphic tees.Allgraphic tees, let alone this one.” My eyes move down to his shirt again, and I shake my head in disgust.
He stares at me defiantly. “What’s wrong with it?”
I glare back at him with my eyebrows raised. After a brief staring contest, he averts his gaze. All the bravado seems to rush from him in an instant. Without it, he looks like a little kid.
“Is my dad here?” he asks quietly.
A fist clenches around my heart. I’ve been representing Sean since he was thirteen years old. He’s been in and out of court a dozen times in a desperate attempt to get his father’s attention. But Jake Carey is a wealthy businessman who only has time for two things: work and women.
Sighing, I sit in a chair and gesture for Sean to do the same. “Your dad isn’t here.”
His face hardens as he takes a seat across the table. “Is Sara Jean?”
My lip curls when I hear his stepmother’s name. Sara Jean’s always been a bully. In school, Hazel was her favorite target. If I didn’t already hate her for that, her mistreatment of Sean would have done the trick. Despite doting on her twin daughters, she’s never spared a kind word for him.
I shake my head. “No one’s here, Sean. You’re an adult now, so your parents are no longer required to come to court for you.”
He kicks the table leg. Hard. “Sara Jean is not my mother.”
I never met Sean’s mother, but from what I’ve gathered over the years, she was a French model who never got used to the Georgia humidity, small-town living, or her husband’s philandering. By the time Sean was eight, she’d purchased a one-way ticket back to Paris and hadn’t been in touch since.
And then came Sara Jean. For Sean’s twelfth birthday, she kicked him out of the house. She disguised it as a gift, commissioning the installation of a tiny home in the backyard just for him. A private haven where he could watch as much TV as he wanted and play his video games without being pestered by his half-sisters.A place where she wouldn’t have to see him or think about him.
Sean chews on his bottom lip. “Maybe my dad didn’t know court was today.” There’s the faintest hint of hope in his voice, and it makes me want to throttle Jake Carey even more. I know for a fact that he knew the court date, because I wrote it on a card for him when he came to my office to pay my fee.
I’ll give Jake credit for that much: he always pays Sean’s legal fees in advance.