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Brandi Alexander is having a tough day. First, her fiancé's mother throws $50,000 in cash at her, demanding that she break off her engagement. Then she adds a dangerous threat to the bribe. What’s a girl to do? Her day gets worse when a teenager arrives at her door, drops a baby in her arms, and asks her to raise it. And she disappears! Brandi’s ‘what’s next?’ turns to ‘what if…?’ She knows firsthand about the frustrations of being abandoned and the circus of foster homes and our legal system.
She calls Zack Morgan, her former foster brother. As an undercover cop from St. Louis, Missouri, he’d know what to do. Boy, does Zack know what he wants to do! If only he could get Brandi to see that they were made for each other…. Love is a complicated affair when it’s mixed with more secrets than Watergate, a vengeful ex-fiancé, the emotional conflicts of becoming a mother overnight, and facing the fact that Zack is much, much more than a friend.
Zack," Brandi said. Her fingers inched toward the phone. Lord, she wanted to call him. He’d know what to do. Instinctively she pulled away. How could she involve him in this? It was one thing to commit a felony, another to involve a vice cop in it. Then again, she needed his expertise. She needed him and his voice of reason.
Melissa slept peacefully in the bassinet Brandi had purchased. After packing her tiny collection of valuables into the car, Brandi had gone shopping and spent much more than her budget allowed for baby supplies. Then she’d driven beyond the Raleigh city limits and secured an obscure hotel room. It would do until she knew what to do next. At least there would be no questions about the infant’s sudden appearance by neighbors and Richard could be dealt with when he returned home. Tuesday.
By Tuesday, she could be... Where? Did it matter?
"Zack," she repeated. This time, she dialed the number she knew by heart.
He answered on the first ring. "Morgan."
"Zack, it’s Brandi. How are you?"
"What’s wrong?" he asked.
She heard suspicion in his voice. Damn, had she given something away? She tried for a lighter approach. "It’s been six months since we’ve talked and your first words are what’s wrong?"
"Well, ever since I’ve been placed in the ‘off limits’ category by Richard, I only hear from you when there’s a problem." He sighed heavily. "What’s he done now? Are you okay? You don’t sound okay."
"I’m fine, Zack. Really."
"Brandi, honey, you’ve never been able to lie worth a damn. What do you need? Say the word and I’m there."
"My knight in shining armor?" she asked. "I must really sound like a damsel in distress." Zack chuckled. She glanced over at the sleeping infant. She was a damsel in distress. "I need my big brother--"
"Don’t call me that!"
There was a lengthy pause before he spoke again. She heard the tension in his voice, and she could tell he was choosing his words carefully. "It’s been a long time since we were foster kids. Call me friend, anything else, but don’t call me your brother."
"Fine!" Brandi lifted the phone from her ear and stared at it. What was his problem? Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
"I’m sorry, honey. It’s been a rough day. I had no right to snap at you like that."
The silence that followed disturbed her. She wound the cord around her finger as she paced in a mini-circle. What had happened to their easy camaraderie? Had her relationship with Richard ruined her friendship with Zack? They’d argued more in the last year than they had in their entire relationship.
"Forgive me?" he asked.
Of course he was forgiven. She’d never been able to hold a grudge against Zack. She didn’t even know why he’d asked. "Buy me a hot fudge sundae?"
He laughed. The deep, husky chuckle always gave her a moment of hesitation, stopping her breath in her throat. Today was no exception. It was a line from the past, a line they both knew well. They’d resolved more than one argument over a hot fudge sundae.
"Name the time and the place. I’ll buy you the biggest sundae ever made."
Brandi heard the false bravado in his voice. He was acting cool and confident, but there was an undercurrent of nervousness she didn’t understand. She glanced over at Melissa, wishing there was a way to accomplish what she needed without involving Zack. Nope. Perhaps it was best to get to the point.
"I need some advice." She paused, seeking the best way to explain her situation. There wasn’t a good way. "Get out the blue suit."
A Personal Note from the Author: “House of Cards” is book one in my two-part series, Innocent Is The Child. As with most writers, the first thing I heard when I decided to pursue this career was, “write what you know.” So I did.
Many years ago, my husband and I were presented with an unusual and complicated situation. A friend of a friend had just given birth to a baby and needed a place to stay with her child while she recuperated. During this time, under darkness of night, she disappeared – leaving her infant in our home. No notes, no explanations, no phone calls. We waited two days. Because of our own situation at the time, we felt compelled to turn the child over to the Division of Social Services when the mother failed to return. Ever since that time, I’ve wondered…what if?
We’ve never known what drove this mother to make the choice she did. We have never learned the whereabouts or the end circumstances for that beautiful innocent baby boy.
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 286
Paper Weight (lb): 11.2
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|Diana Lee Johnson||