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Slow Burn

By´╝ÜAutumn Jones Lake


CHAPTER ONE



It wasn’t love at first sight when I met her. Lust? Definitely. I don’t think I believed in love at the time, but one look at her beautiful face, and all the bad stuff around me melted away. Not an easy feat for a guy in handcuffs.

Someone as innocent as her should never have gotten involved with a man like me. By innocent, I don't mean she was some breathy, eighteen-year-old virgin ingénue. No—when we met, she was a thirty-one-year-old married lady. When I use the word innocent, it is in terms of never having killed someone. Never seeing someone die in front of her. Never breaking the law.

True violence had never touched her life.

Violence and I had been close personal friends for a large part of my life. Along with crime. And death. I used violence as a tool to keep order in my often chaotic world, just as she used the law to keep things orderly in her black-and-white one.

She was a lawyer. I was a criminal. She was married to a decent, hard-working, honest guy. I fucked any willing girl who hung out in my club, and made my living in less than honest ways.

She was kind. I didn't know any nice women. Hadn’t known one since my mother died shortly after my eighth birthday. I don’t have many memories of her, but the ones I do have are warm and pleasant.

None of the tramps my father brought home after her death had an ounce of compassion for a motherless brat. The strippers that danced in my club seemed younger every day. A lot of them were bitchy drama queens, and the older I got, the less patience I had for emotional scenes. The girls who attended to the members of my motorcycle club were down to fuck, but not much else. That’s how I liked them.

We met in a courtroom. I sat in the area designated for prisoners. Shackles laced my hands and feet together. I shuffled into the room wearing a spiffy orange jumpsuit, the county correctional logo stenciled across my back in big white letters—just in case anyone thought I suffered from bad fashion sense.

She sat in the front row. I didn't hang my head when I entered. I stood proud and tall looking over the entire room. Some of my brothers stood along the back wall, waiting to see if I'd get bail.

I couldn’t find my attorney in the sea of people. His big, shiny, bald dome should have been easy to spot. My gaze wandered back to the girl in the front row. Long, straight, reddish-brown hair flowed down past her shoulders. Straight bangs across her forehead framed brilliant green eyes. Even from where I sat, I spotted freckles splattered across her nose. The deep green suit she wore emphasized the creaminess of her skin. The banister separating the criminals from the common folk blocked my view of anything below her shoulders, but that angelic face hooked me right away.

The sheriff leaned over and whispered to me, "Your attorney called to say he's running late." I nodded and mumbled a "thanks" without taking my eyes off the girl. Was her old man locked up? Was she a witness to a crime? Would my asshole lawyer get here so I could get free and talk to the girl?

"Any other message?" I asked Deputy Brown. He was a decent guy as far as pigs went. He'd treated me with respect, hadn't tried to bash my head into anything, and even brought me a donut before leading me upstairs to court. He didn’t get a chance to answer, because the bailiff made a big show of telling me to shut up. Arrogant prick wasn’t good enough to even be a cop, but he sure acted like one. I'd dealt with him before.

My eyes returned to the girl. She sat patient and attentive, waiting her turn. Once or twice, she looked at the clock. Only a slight twitch of her lips indicated her annoyance.

After what seemed like an eternity, the bailiff called the next case, and the girl stood up. She hauled a battered briefcase over her shoulder and stepped through the swinging gate up to the table across from where I sat.

Holy shit.

If I'd been anywhere else in the world, I would have whistled long and low to express my appreciation for the soft curves of her body. The skirt she wore fell to her knees, but it clung to all the right spots and showcased a fantastic set of calves. Her modest heels clicked over the wooden floor, calling my attention to her slender ankles. I was so busy drooling over her I missed it when she stated her name.

The dickhead bailiff brought over a chair and actually smiled at her. She thanked him politely. The judge made some chit-chat with her, and she let out a girlish giggle. People seemed to know her. Like her.

"Attorney Kendall?"

"Yes, your honor." She stood up. Ah, she was a lawyer. That explained the chit-chat. She argued some civil matter I didn't understand or care about. I listened to her make her case, then watched her sit down. Her opponent didn’t have a lawyer. He bumbled around and generally made a fool of himself. She listened with a passive expression, then argued her position again. The judge ruled in her favor.

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