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by Christina Rhys
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance
Description: "Heat Level: Simmering; Four Stars!" raves Just Erotic Romance Reviews about the work of Christina Rhys. On a cold, rainy January night four lives would be changed forever. Driving home from work one young man would fall asleep at the wheel of his car careening into the car driven by another young man killing him as a result. But as is so often the case in life this accident was just the beginning of a long winding road for the three people left behind. Ian Murphy, the driver who caused the accident, is put on trial for manslaughter. His father, Aiden Murphy, from whom Ian has been estranged for over ten years, feels compelled to attend the trial and support his son in whatever way that he can. What Aiden does not count on is the instant attraction that he feels for Canna Eastland. But Aiden sees no way that the mother of the young man that was killed in the accident could ever return his feelings. How could she be strong enough to be able to love the father of the man who killed her son? Canna Eastland's world was turned upside down when Ian Murphy's car slammed into her son's car killing him instantly. When Ian's trial starts Canna is determined to go and try and find something that will give her peace for the remainder of her life. What she finds is a man that manages to make her feel happy and very, very sexy. Things that she has not felt since her son died. But what will she feel when she discovers that this magical stranger is actually the father of Ian Murphy? Will Canna be able to forgive Ian and let Aiden Murphy into her heart and her bed permanently? Three people bound together by one senseless accident all praying that EVEN NOW they can walk away from this tragedy with love, peace, and happiness.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Sizzler Editions,
eBookwise Release Date: April 2008
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [184 KB]
Reading time: 132-185 min.
The court room was not what Canna had expected. She did not know why, but the room made cold chills run down her back. It was a very dreary place. The walls were not like any walls that she had ever seen before. They were made from some sort of unusual gray stucco. The windows were long, narrow slits holding safety glass that a person could not see through. A weak shaft of light managed to force its way through the thick glass, but it could have been sunlight or the light that comes with a hard summer rain. There was no way to really tell. It did nothing to illuminate the room. Glancing up at the ceiling Canna imagined that was the reason for the harsh fluorescent lighting fixtures that marched across the ceiling in precise rows much like soldiers marching in a parade. But the bright glare from those lights hurt her eyes and she quickly looked back down.
The furniture was not the warm wood that one saw in court rooms in movies or on television. Jack McCoy would not be caught dead in this court room. This furniture was made from metal. Some of it was gray and some was a dark navy blue. The juror's box and the judge's bench were the only pieces of furniture in the room that were made of wood. Both of them were made of some sort of dark wood that only enhanced the ominous atmosphere. Canna had never seen a public hanging, but in her mind's eye she thought that the gallows must surely be made of that type of wood. When she reached out to touch the back of one of the seats that were arranged in precise rows Canna was struck by how hard and cold it felt beneath her hand. Much the same as her heart had felt for the past year.
The floor was marred by scratch marks where a myriad of other people who had been here before her had scraped these same chairs as they had sat down. Some of them had been here to try and absolve themselves of guilt and some to prove their innocence. Some were observers who were either cheering or jeering the success of the accused. But she wondered in her heart how many of them had been like her. She was here to try and maintain her sanity. She was here to try and make understandable something that up until this time had been totally incomprehensible to her. She was not here to absolve any guilt or to cheer or to jeer. She was here in a last ditch effort to understand why her world had been turned upside down. She had a need to just understand that ached deep within her soul. Canna was wise enough to know that the outcome of this trial would not bring her son back to life. And she did not know if Ian Murphy deserved to go to prison or not. She knew that he had been charged with second degree manslaughter. But there was a vast difference between knowing a thing and understanding it. It was the understanding that her mind had to have.
Glancing around the cold almost hostile room once more she did not see how a room such as this one could help anyone maintain sanity. Quite the opposite might be the fact, she thought. The room seemed almost malevolent to her. A place where justice is supposed to be determined and often far misses the mark for both the victim and the accused. If anything a room like this could push people into insanity. As she slowly pulled out her blue metal chair and sat down she wondered which way it would be for her.
For the past two months she had vacillated upon whether or not to attend the trial of Ian Murphy. She did not want to make things any worse than they already were either for herself or for him. But finally she knew that she had to attend. Maybe if she listened to all of the testimony of all of the witnesses and the experts involved then she could finally have some closure to the nightmare that had begun for her on a cold, rainy night last January. She could not keep going on as she had been. Very little sleep and not much more food. Trying to work and failing miserably at a job that she had to keep in order to have enough money to exist. Crying herself to sleep every night only to awaken a few hours later in the throes of a horrible nightmare. Except that it was really not a nightmare. It was the reality of her loss intruding upon her restless sleep. She had to do something to try and understand Ian Murphy and what he had done or she feared that she would ultimately be the next casualty of that automobile accident. Eight months later but still a casualty just the same. Just as her son had been.
Glancing at the gold watch that now dangled from her wrist due to the amount of weight that she had lost, Canna wondered if she were really this much too early. No one else had entered the courtroom yet. She had left home with time to spare on purpose because she was not familiar with the route to the courthouse. She had not wanted to be late. But leave it up to her. She had accomplished just the opposite. She was sitting in this awful room all by herself because she was here a half hour too early. If her son had left a half hour early would he still be alive?
Suddenly Canna had to get out of there. She felt as if she were smothering. Winding her way through many corridors earlier in an attempt to find the right court room out of the many that were in this building she remembered passing some sort of waiting area that had vending machines. And clear windows that let the bright sunshine flood inside. That was where she should be. Waiting by one of those windows letting the bright sun chase the cold from her bones. Hastily pushing her worn chair backward Canna turned and headed for the massive double doors that locked this room that had seen and heard too much of life's sorrows from the hallway.
She almost did not have enough strength to push the heavy doors open. But finally her need to be out of this place and in the sunshine overcame her fatigue. With one final shove with her shoulder she managed to get one of the huge doors open enough to squeeze herself through. Taking a deep breath she turned left and headed for the waiting room that she was certain she had seen on this floor.
As the sound of her low heels clicked on the highly polished tile floor Canna wondered once more if she were doing the right thing by being here. If listening to the testimony made things more comprehensible for her, then she had no choice but to be here. It was not going to be easy sitting there seeing the man who had killed her son, but she had learned a long time ago that nothing in life was easy. Oh, it may seem to be easy at first, but it always came with a price. Happiness for a time and then great heartache. Everything came with a price. A person just did not know what that price would be or when it would have to be paid. For long seconds the only sounds that she heard were the swish of her skirt against her silk-stockinged legs and the sound of her own breathing. Turning a corner in the hallway she saw the bright sunlight from the windows that she had seen earlier. It beckoned to her to come and sit in those warm, yellow shafts. Almost in the same manner that a mother would beckon her hurting child with open arms those beams of sunlight beckoned Canna.
Aiden Murphy heard the click, click of a woman's shoes echoing into the waiting room long before the woman entered the room. Listening to them he idly thought how lonely they sounded. There were no men's shoes making similar sounds in rhythym with hers. That was not the natural order of things. There should be two sets of footprint echoes. Two sets of feet walking together. A man and a woman together. Loving one another. Supporting one another. In this building of all places. But like the woman he was here alone. He had been alone for many years. But right now as his son was waiting in the holding area to begin his trial for manslaughter Aiden had never felt more alone in his life. He hoped that the woman who was coming down the hall was not here for anything of a similar nature. A woman should never have to endure anything like that alone. It was difficult on a man. But for a woman? He could not imagine what sort of woman could handle that.
He could not resist turning around from the warmth of the window when the woman finally entered the waiting room. At the sight of her Aiden's blood turned cold. It was her. He would recognize that face anywhere. He had only seen photos of her in the newspaper, but that was Canna Eastland. Dear God, it was the mother of the man that his son had accidentally killed. And she was alone.
Turning quickly back to stare out the window Aiden was aware of her moving to the vending machine closest to the doorway. He listened as she dropped coins into the machine. He could hear the paper cup drop and the rattle of the stream of hot coffee as it filled the cup. He could hear her soft breathing. He could smell her spicy perfume. He wondered if they both remained motionless and let time stand still if he could hear her heart beating. For some strange reason, he thought that he could.
Canna noticed the man standing ram rod straight in front of the large window at the end off the waiting room. He seemed to be a million miles away. She supposed that he was deep in thought about some person or some heartache that had brought him to this building on this day. She hoped that her coming in here would not disturb his thoughts. For a second she almost decided to turn around and leave. But where else could she go? Finally deciding that since this was a waiting room that anyone in here might be waiting for a trial to begin. He, no doubt, was waiting for one just as she was. In some odd way that comforted her. At least in here she was not alone. Even if she never saw the man's face or talked to him they were connected by whatever crime or tragedy or misfortune down with her cup of bitter coffee. Maybe the caffeine would help her.
Sliding her eyes sideways she stole a quick peek at the man that was still standing motionless at the window. The sunshine was streaming in through the window so she was unable to see anything of him except an impression of his size and build. He was average height and had a head full of hair. Due to the sunlight she could not really tell what color it was, but it looked thick. He was well dressed in a tailored suit. But she was still struck by how motionless he was. She wished that she could feel as frozen in time as he looked. She seemed to be just the opposite. She had a difficult time not fidgeting. She knew the reason. When she was at home she kept herself busy doing something all the time. Anything. Just something to keep her from thinking. Here in this courthouse she could not do that though and all of her pain and anger were crowding back into her mind.
Looking down at her lap she ran her hand slowly over the wool skirt that her son had given her for her last birthday. If she had been at home she would have had on her old jeans. She could touch them without memories of a birthday dinner and a surprise gift rising up to fill her mind with pain. The pain generated by those memories of a happy time with her son brought anger. How could it be possible that Ian Murphy was alive and well and her son was dead? The car accident had been Ian's fault. He had fallen asleep while driving home from work and had slammed into her son's car and killed him instantly. Ian had fallen asleep while driving. Not her son. So why was Ian alive? It was not fair. It was cruel and it hurt. God, she was so tired of hurting.
Aiden was afraid to breathe. He knew that Canna Eastland could not possibly know who he was. There had been no pictures of him in the newspaper when the terrible accident had occurred. But for some irrational reason that he did not understand, he was afraid that if he turned around she would know who he was. He did not want to bring this woman anymore pain than she had already endured. And instinctively he knew that it was too soon for her to be meeting any of Ian's family.
Family. That was a joke. Ian had blamed him for his parents' divorce fifteen years ago and had not seen or spoken to him since. Ian's mother had died three years ago after a prolonged battle with breast cancer so she would not be here. Aiden did not want Ian to have to go through this nightmare alone so he had forced himself to come to the trial. After all Ian was still his son. Even if he had refused to see him when he had tried to visit him in jail.
Behind him Aiden could hear Canna eating something and drinking the coffee that she had purchased. He wondered what kind of relationship she had had with her son. He hoped that it had been a very good one. If it had then at least she would have good memories to help her through the long, empty nights. His son was still alive, but just as dead to him as hers was to her. With one big difference. He had very few good memories to help him when the nights became unbearably long and dark. They were not so unalike. He and this quiet fidgety woman sitting behind him. Both of them were trying to find some elusive state of peace regarding their sons. Aiden hoped that somehow, some way he would be able to get to know her before this trial was over. But not today.
Canna looked at her watch once more. Surely there would be others in that cold courtroom by now. Rising from her chair she tossed the wrapper from the cheese crackers and the empty coffee cup into the trash and walked rapidly out of the waiting room. Hearing her leave the room Aiden turned around quickly enough to catch a glimpse of her back as she went through the door. He admired the woman. She had courage. But would she have compassion as well? Only time would tell. Taking a deep breath to steel himself for what was ahead, he waited several minutes to give Canna ample time to get there ahead of him and then he walked across the waiting room and headed for the same courtroom.