“Sierra Daniels. Please stand.”
She stood. So did Gavin.
“Would you like to say anything before we discuss your case?”
Gavin glanced at the members of teen court and then at the magistrate. “Permission to speak on Sierra’s behalf, Your Honor?”
The magistrate’s hard gaze zoomed to him. “And you are?”
“Gavin Daniels, Your Honor. Sierra’s father.”
“Permission granted. What’s on your mind, Mr. Daniels?”
“I understand that a community service sentence is often handed down in a case like this. I agree that it would be a good lesson for my daughter. But I respectfully request you consider an alternative.”
“And why is that, Mr. Daniels?”
“Because we will be moving out of state next week.” Gavin shot Sierra a harsh look when she opened her mouth.
“Next week?” the magistrate asked skeptically.
“Yes, Your Honor. The day of my daughter’s arrest last month I was meeting with Judge O’Connor and he granted me sole custody of Sierra at her mother’s request. Since I’m no longer legally bound to live in Arizona, we’ll be moving closer to family.”
A pause. “Where will that be?”
From the corner of his eye he saw Sierra gaping at him, but Gavin kept his attention on the magistrate.
“In light of this being your first offense, your guilty plea and the security guard recovering the stolen item, I will dismiss the charge—provided you have no contact with the store and you have no subsequent incidents in the next six months. Then this infraction will be expunged from your juvenile record.”
The magistrate looked at Sierra. “And to be honest…your father forcing you to move to Wyoming is punishment enough.”
“I hate you and I’m never ever ever going to forgive you for this! Why are you ruining my life?”
Choking silence filled the air.
“You done?” he asked coolly.
“Will you change your mind about making me move to Bumfuck, Wyoming?”
“Not on your life, sweetheart.”
“Don’t call me that!” She stomped off.
He listened to her footsteps fading on the tiled floor, counting out the seconds.
Wait for it… Wait for it…
Yep. There it was. God knows her tantrum wouldn’t be complete without a house-shaking door slam.
Gavin loaded his lowball glass with ice, then filled it with Crown XR. He knocked back half the whiskey in one swallow.
Damn kid was driving him to drink—something even her psychotic mother hadn’t been able to do. Wasn’t the first time Sierra had professed her hatred for him—nor would it be the last.
His announcement in teen court today had come as quite a shock to her. But her arrest had been the last straw, especially after his ex-wife had called shoplifting “a teenage rite of passage” and excused Sierra’s bad behavior.
Problem was, bad behavior had been the norm for Sierra since the beginning of her freshman year. She broke curfew without explanation or apology. She lied about her plans. Her grades had slipped. She’d become surly and defiant with an air of entitlement—much like her mother.
Sharing joint custody with his ex-wife meant his attempts at keeping their daughter on the right path were largely ignored whenever Sierra stayed at Mommy Dearest’s house. So Gavin considered it a sign, an omen, hell, a blessing, when Ellen suddenly announced she was moving to Paris with her boyfriend du jour.
After years of custody battles, she signed over full custody of her only child for one year. Evidently Ellen didn’t want parental responsibilities spoiling a good time in gay Paree.
His self-centered ex hadn’t considered how her actions would affect Sierra. Once again he’d been left holding the bag, standing helplessly outside her bedroom door, listening to his daughter cry.
That’s when he’d known they both needed a drastic change.
He’d called Rielle, he’d called Charlie and Vi, and he’d called a moving van.
By this time next week they’d be living in Sundance.
If they didn’t kill each other on the eighteen-hour drive to Wyoming first.
“I can’t believe the man is kicking you out of your own bedroom. What an asshole.”
Rielle ignored Rory’s comment and lugged the box of yarn downstairs into the last bedroom on the main level.
Rory followed her. “Mom. Seriously, you don’t have to stay here. My cabin will be empty next week when I’m back at college in Laramie.”
“I appreciate the offer, but this is fine. And it’s not like Gavin is throwing me out—” her eyes narrowed on her daughter, “—which he has every right to do because he owns this house.”