Home > What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)(4)

What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)(4)
Author: Melinda Leigh

“You’ll have to.”

“I appreciate your game face, but we both know your client will do time,” Esposito said. “Let’s save the taxpayers some money. Here’s the best I can do. He pleads guilty to first-degree assault, and we’ll give him seven years. He’ll be out in three if he behaves himself. If he insists on going to trial, I’ll get him on attempted murder. He’ll serve at least ten to fifteen years. Judge Marlow is a hard-ass.”

He was, and once the judge found out about the perjury, not only would he be more inclined to give McFarland the maximum sentence for the attempted murder, but her client would be facing additional charges—and more prison time.

“That’s not much of a deal,” Morgan deadpanned. On the inside, she wanted to throw confetti and do a cartwheel. It was a far better deal than she could have hoped for. If she could convince McFarland to take it, they would avoid a trial. The perjury issue would go away because, while she couldn’t lie in court if the judge asked about prior convictions, she was also ethically prohibited from volunteering information to the ADA that might hurt her client. In this case, a quick plea would be a win.

“Take it or leave it.” Esposito’s lips pressed into a flat line. “You know the drill. If I have to present the case in front of the grand jury, I’ll rescind the offer, and it’s the only one you’re going to get.”

Esposito’s deals were always now or never. Always so much drama with this man.

“I’ll talk to my client.” Morgan turned away. Above the crowd, she could see Lance walking away, his phone pressed to his ear.

McFarland leaned on the wall, but the tension in his expression as she approached him belied his casual pose. “Well?”

Morgan outlined the deal.

McFarland’s neck and face flushed deep red. “What the fuck? What part of I’m not going to jail did you not understand?”

Frustrated, Morgan gritted her teeth. “Mr. McFarland, this is your decision, but I am advising you to take this deal or risk spending much more time in prison.” She lowered her voice. “I know about the Florida conviction. You lied at your arraignment hearing.”

He rolled his eyes. “So? You’re my lawyer. I have attorney-client privilege. You can’t tell anyone.”

“At the end of this hearing, bail will be revisited. If the judge asks about prior convictions, I cannot lie. Your bail will likely be revoked, and you will also likely be charged with perjury. But even if it doesn’t come out today, the prosecutor will discover the prior conviction before trial. If you take the deal he is offering today, I doubt anyone will find out about the perjury. You will avoid potential additional charges and prison time.”

“You let me worry about that. I am not going to prison.” He leaned closer, his gaze sharpening to a knifepoint. “We are going into that courtroom. If the judge asks about prior convictions, you’re going to lie your pretty head off.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t do that.” Morgan would not violate her professional ethics.

Rage sparked like a solar flare in his eyes. “You’re no different from every other female. No loyalty.” His nostrils flared, and a vein that snaked down his temple throbbed as his blood pressure spiked. “You’re a nasty, backstabbing bitch.”

His weight shifted, his arm arced, and his fist connected with her temple with a blinding impact. Morgan never saw the hook punch coming. Pain exploded through her head and eye. Her legs folded, and she dropped her tote bag and coat. Before she could register that he’d hit her, her tailbone was ringing on the tile, and a big brown shoe was heading toward her face. With no time to scramble away, she threw her hands in front of her face to block the kick and braced herself for impact.

Chapter Four

Lance ended his call. Someone shouted. He turned toward the commotion and the sound of running feet. The hairs on the back of his neck signaled trouble.

With apprehension building like a soundtrack crescendo, he threaded his way through the crowded hall and sped around the corner. At least six deputies gathered where Morgan had last been standing with her client. More deputies rushed down the hall toward the melee. Lance pressed forward, pushing his way past a group of onlookers. Worry for Morgan wrapped around his heart like barbed wire.

McFarland lay facedown on the tile, his hands cuffed behind his back. He yelled obscenities and thrashed under the weight of the two deputies pinning him to the floor.

Lance’s pulse surged. What had McFarland done, and where was Morgan?

He didn’t take a full breath until he spotted her sitting on the floor, her tote and wool coat on the floor beside her. Esposito crouched over her, supporting her shoulders with one hand behind her back, the other hand cupping her chin. Lance abandoned politeness and shoved people out of his way to get to her.

He dropped to one knee beside Morgan and took her hand, scanning her for possible injuries. A red blotch stained her temple and the outer rim of her eye socket. “What happened?”

“McFarland popped her.” Esposito tilted Morgan’s chin.

“What?” Anger burned a short fuse in Lance’s chest. He looked back toward McFarland, still struggling with the deputies. “That son of a . . .”

“She’s going to have a black eye tomorrow.” Esposito looked around and pointed at a young clerk carrying a box of files. “Go find an ice pack.”

The clerk nodded and scurried away. With an uncomfortable cough, Esposito dropped the hand holding Morgan’s chin.

Lance turned his attention back to Morgan. How badly was she hurt? “How hard did he hit you?”

“I’m OK,” Morgan said. But her pretty blue eyes were wide-open with shock. The blotch blooming beside her eye seemed to be darkening.

The mark made Lance wish McFarland would break free of the deputies. He wanted to teach him a lesson about the collision of fists and faces. His love for Morgan was absolute. The desire to protect her blotted out the refinements of civilization and left Lance stripped down to his primal instincts.

The deputies hauled McFarland to his feet and dragged him off, still cursing and resisting.

“Can you sit up by yourself?” Esposito asked.

When Morgan nodded, he removed his hand from her back and stood. “Don’t rush to get up.”

Lance scanned her face, reassessing. Beyond the red mark, he didn’t like the vacant, doe in the headlights look in her eyes. “You should get checked out by a doctor.”

“It was only one punch.” Morgan blinked hard and stared up at the ADA. “Thank you. If you hadn’t stepped in . . .”

Esposito flushed, tugged on his lapels, and smoothed his hair with one swipe of a thick hand.

His chin dipped in a curt nod. “As I said before, your client is a dirtball.”

“Former client. He’ll have to find another attorney.” Morgan folded her long legs under her body. Lance held her hand and elbow and helped her stand. She wobbled, and he wrapped a steadying arm around her. And because he couldn’t help himself, he pulled her closer and pressed a kiss to her hair.

Lance’s relationship with Morgan wasn’t a secret, but they kept their interactions professional in professional settings, mostly because Morgan insisted. Lance didn’t give a rat’s ass about other people’s opinions. But then, as a PI, his reputation wasn’t as critical as hers was as an attorney. But today, the only thing that mattered was that she was all right.

The clerk returned with a cold pack and handed it to Morgan. She thanked him and pressed it to the side of her face. Her flinch sent a fresh wave of hot anger through Lance’s veins.

Esposito bent to pick up Morgan’s tote bag and coat. He handed both to Lance. “Feel better, Ms. Dane.” With a quick nod to Lance, Esposito walked away.

Morgan gave a statement to a deputy and agreed to make herself available for further questioning at a later date. Lance took her arm and led her toward the exit.

She repositioned the cold pack. Her hand trembled. “I’m not sure which was more shocking—the fact that my client punched me, or that Esposito came to my rescue. McFarland was getting ready to kick me in the head. Esposito body-slammed him.”

Lance glanced over his shoulder at the retreating back of the ADA. “I wouldn’t have expected it.”

“Me either. He considers all defense attorneys bottom-feeders. Usually he treats me with complete disdain.”

They stepped outside. The cold air wrapped around them, and Morgan shivered. Lance tucked her huge bag under his arm and held her coat open for her. Lowering the ice pack, she slid her arms into her coat and wrapped it tightly around her body. Lance tucked her against him, and they walked to his Jeep. He opened and closed her door before rounding the vehicle and sliding behind the wheel.

She fastened her seat belt, then dug through her bag. “Can you stop at the Minimart? I’m out of Tylenol.”

“Sure.” He drove to the convenience store, and they went inside.

Morgan took a box of pain relievers from the shelf, then ducked down the next aisle for a bag of Peanut M&M’s. She paid at the register, and they left the store. Walking toward the Jeep, she shoved the medicine into her tote. She wobbled, one hand reaching out as if to balance herself. Lance reached for her as her knees buckled. She pitched forward, her face rushing toward the blacktop.

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