The black sheep of her adoptive family, Lee Cooper has finally buckled down to a responsible job as a social worker in Southwest Florida. Defending her client against charges of child abuse awakens buried memories of her own abandonment in a Korean orphanage. Can she remain objective for the sake of a child?
Bricker Kilbourn, the court-appointed guardian, doubts Lee’s judgments--and his opinion might determine the little boy’s fate. He’s got his own family issues and haunting secrets to keep. Falling for a woman is not part of his plan.
He’s running from his past. She’s searching for answers. Will their resolution to protect a child bind them together or wrench them apart?
Lee dreaded the prospect of testifying on Amber’s behalf. “She used to put Kaleb in the corner every time he wet himself,” she admitted. “But she’s stopped punishing him for accidents. We’ve talked about appropriate expectations.”
“So what are the new charges?” Janna’s mouth, set in a grim line, brightened into a welcome as the bartender approached with their drinks.
“One sweet tea, and one cranberry juice.” He slid a glass in front of Janna and placed the other at the side of Lee’s tablet.
Condemning him with a shake of her head, she thrust away the glass from her device.
“Sorry.” But he seemed amused, folding his arms and sitting on the table behind him. “Don’t you ladies get a break from work to eat?”
“This is a working lunch.” His patronizing use of the word “ladies” irritated Lee. Who did he think he was, interrupting their lunch to flirt? God’s gift to women, no doubt.
“So you can write it off on your taxes, am I right?”
The dimple in his chin twinkled right along with his blue eyes. To think she’d found this guy attractive. She glared at his cocky smile. God, he was nothing more than a walking stereotype.
He backed across the floor into the kitchen, holding up his hands with his palms out.
“Lee!” Janna giggled as she took a sip of her iced tea. “Give the poor guy a break! He’s just being nice!”
“Come on, did you see his name tag? ‘Bricker?’ He should go back to starring in adult films.” Now she was just being malicious. Lee blew out a breath, forcing herself to refocus on her client’s problems. “Amber’s been charged with something else. The ER nurses found welts over Kaleb’s diaper area.” She winced. “Like he’d been whipped.”
Before Janna could respond, the kitchen doors flung outward and the bartender reappeared, holding a tray over his head with one hand. “Ladies, I’m approaching,” he called from eight tables away. “Warning, please secure your electronic devices. The establishment will not be held responsible for damages to personal belongings as I unload this tray.”
Lee swept the tablet back into her bag and rested it against the leg of her chair. As she raised her head, her attention was drawn to an exposed strip of skin above his waistband. Racing upward like a lit fuse, her gaze found the bulge of his bicep as it balanced the tray. She lowered her eyelids, taking a deep breath. Her brain knew this guy was bad news, but her body was operating on a different vibe. She’d be damned if she let it show, though.
Janna giggled as he glided to their table with exaggerated care and placed each plate with a flourish.
“May I refill your drinks, ladies? Sweet tea for you.” He flashed Janna a brilliant smile before turning to Lee. “Nothing sweet for you. You’re more…sour.” He snapped his fingers. “Cranberry juice, wasn’t it? Could I get you some more?”
His face was a mask of politeness. Lee lifted her chin, feeling her face flush. “Just bring the check.” Here she was, figuring out how to help a mother accused of child abuse. But this guy kept thrusting himself into the spotlight. Now he was angry she’d put him in his place?
Author Bio: Nell Castle pursued her love of stories with an English literature degree from Temple University. A certified instructor for children with dyslexia, she is currently pursuing a graduate degree as an intervention specialist. Happily married and a mother of three, she’s lived in Philadelphia, Key West, Anchorage, Sarasota, Virginia Beach, and currently resides in Ohio. Turning the Tides is her second release with The Wild Rose Press.
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