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Until I Met You
  • Текст добавлен: 4 октября 2016, 23:16

Текст книги "Until I Met You"


Автор книги: S. L. Scott






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Текущая страница: 14 (всего у книги 19 страниц)

TAYLOR JUMPED TO his feet when his lawyer, Caleb Monroe, walked into the police precinct. “Are you getting her out?”

“She’s not in jail, Taylor.” He walked with purpose to the counter, but added, “We’ll find out where she is, but right now, you need to calm down or they won’t tell us shit. Now go sit down and let me handle this.”

“Caleb—”

“Go.”

Taylor’s hands fisted and his teeth were grinding together, but he did what Caleb told him to do because he wanted to know where Jude was and everything, other than going to her family’s home—which he was threatened by Caleb not to do—he had tried had failed so far. From his chair he saw his lawyer discussing what seemed like the weather from the way they laughed and were so relaxed. After a few minutes, Caleb came over to Taylor, and said, “Let’s go.”

“Where is she?”

“We’ll discuss it outside.”

They walked out onto the busy sidewalk and down half a block before Caleb stopped and said, “She’s with her parents. We could have assumed that since she wasn’t under arrest. That leaves us to file papers on her behalf if you feel she still wants to pursue her rights at this point.”

“What are you talking about?” Taylor asked, crossing his arms over his chest. “Why wouldn’t she?”

“Because she went willingly. She returned to these apparent monsters on her own.”

“No, she didn’t. They were going to arrest me. I would have fought for her. She knows that. She went to protect me.”

“But right now, we don’t have a statement from her saying that or to back that as her claim. We only have that she returned to their home willingly.”

“We need to go. They’ll send her right back to Bleekman’s.”

“As your lawyer, I’m advising you once again to stay away from the Boehler residence until we have the law on our side. They can have you arrested on a number of charges, Taylor, and those arrests will make it more difficult to change the guardianship.” He sighed. “I know this is har—”

“No, you fucking don’t know. You don’t know what it’s like to live with the knowledge they’re abusing her emotionally and physically. When I saw her strapped to that damn bed at the hospital, she was so drugged she was unconscious, her face was pale, and her lips were dry, which means they hadn’t given her anything to eat or drink in about sixteen hours at that point. Look me in the eyes and tell me you could see someone you love like that and just sit around and wait.”

He looked away, and then down the street, anywhere but at him. When he turned to face Taylor again, his voice was lower. “Work. Within. The. System. We’ll get her freed, but in the meantime, you have to use the law against them. Vigilante actions only hurt our case and ultimately, her.”

“I’ll give you two hours.”

“Three.”

“Fine. Three. You better fucking get the paperwork sorted out by then.”

Two hours later Taylor got the call he didn’t see coming. Caleb said, “They’ve filed for a restraining order against you. It was approved until we can prove otherwise. I’ve already sent in the request for an expedited hearing on the case. I’m waiting to hear back.”

Taylor sat there on the couch, numb. His emotions seeped into his voice, which were disillusioned and stunned. “A fucking restraining order? Against me? Are you kidding?”

“Unfortunately, I’m not.”

He was grappling for anything that would keep him afloat from the despair that waited to devour him. “Is her name on it?”

“You can’t go near her, but no, she didn’t file it. Her stepfather did, and in the court’s eyes, that’s all that matters.”

“They should have the restraining order against them.” Now Taylor was pissed.

“We’re getting hit. It’s been brutal, but we have legal rights, we have plans in place. Let’s just continue on with the plan we’ve agreed to and when I get word on the hearing, I’ll call you back. In the meantime, don’t go over there. Don’t go near Judith.”

The hearing was set for four that afternoon after Caleb pulled strings and once the judge was assigned. He’d played cards with him twice and used that relationship to benefit his client.

Seven hours later, Caleb and Taylor stood there in his chambers across the table from the Boehler’s family lawyer. Jude was not there, neither was any family member. That was probably safer for them considering Taylor’s contempt.

When the judge sat down, he looked tired. Taylor didn’t feel this would bode well for them, but Caleb seemed confident. The judge said, “I’ve read the arguments on both sides and I’m curious how this case even came to be. You have Mr. Barrett on one side that has shown exemplary behavior and is from a prominent family in our fine community. They’ve raised millions through charity work over the years. He’s well educated and a hard worker with a respected architecture track record.” He paused to look at Taylor as if to verify his findings from the file. Then he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, and added, “Then you have the Boehlers, who have filed this order against Mr. Barrett in protection of their daughter who is currently under their care—legally.” He glanced at the Boehler lawyer but didn’t seem impressed. “So what’s this really about?”

Caleb spoke up. “Judge Matthews, the Boehler family is not protecting their daughter, but are putting her in harm’s way. Mr. Barrett can testify to the conditions she is put under as well as recall the gruesome details of what she has told him privately regarding her treatment under the ‘care’ of her family and doctors at Bleekman’s. But beyond that, Mr. Barrett is Judith Boehler’s husband. They were married two weeks ago—”

The other lawyer interrupted, “I’d like to speak to that so-called marriage.”

“It’s not a so-called marriage,” Caleb interjected. “It’s a legal, binding agreement between two people who love each other.”

The judge’s attention was volleying between the two lawyers.

The Boehler lawyer said, “Judge Matthews, the Boehler family feels their daughter Judith was coerced under stress and medication to go along with this marriage plot.”

“Fuck you!” Taylor stood and shouted, slamming his hands on the shiny wooden table between them. “I love her and she loves me. There was no coercion.”

Caleb grabbed Taylor’s arm and Taylor sat. “Please let me handle this, Taylor.”

Caleb questioned the other lawyer. “What is this coercion based on? She wasn’t on drugs at the time because she was with my client. She’s only drugged when she’s with your clients. So she got married on her own accord—”

“Like she left him of her own accord this morning.”

“She left because the police said they would arrest my client if she didn’t go with them.”

The other lawyer smiled. “You’re really reaching. The family, with consent from their daughter, filed this restraining order against your client.” He opened his file. “Besides, he’s abusive and is trying to brainwash her against her own parents.” Scoffing, he glanced to the judge for what appeared to be extra drama. Setting three photos of Jude in front of the judge, he said, “The photos speak for themselves. This is the current state of her body—bruises on her upper spine, collarbone area, and around her ribs. All places distinctly chosen by your client so they couldn’t be seen by her family.”

Taylor gulped, knowing each and every one of those bruises by heart. He knew them by taste and feel. His heart sank seeing the photos, seeing Jude in distress and covering herself, clearly photographed against her will. Taylor cleared his throat and nudged Caleb, who was starting to lose ground on the case. “I need a minute with my client.”

Judge Matthews said, “I’ll give you two and it better be good.”

Caleb and Taylor walked to the far corner of the room and Taylor whispered, “I would never hit her. I would never hurt her.”

“What are the marks?”

Taylor hated exposing their intimacy so publicly but he had no choice. “I gave them to her when we made love the other day. They’re hickeys.”

Caleb looked him square in the eyes, and asked, “Are you sure?”

Annoyed, Taylor responded, “Of course I’m sure. I knew what I was doing and…” Taking a deep breath, he added, “and she liked it.”

Shaking his head, he sighed. “I can’t go back there and debate that she liked it. We’ve got to stick to our side of the story and the facts.”

“I would never intentionally hurt her.”

“Listen to me. Do not say another word in here. I mean it. Not one damn word no matter what he says. He’s trying to get another rise out of you to prove you’re violent. So sit there and don’t give him shit. Got it?”

“Got it.” Taylor felt like he was starting to drown under the accusations coupled with the warrant. That he couldn’t talk to Jude had added another level of stress to their already fucked-up situation. He sat back down and his shoulders hunched forward as he had clear visions of his defeat sitting on his horizon.

Caleb cleared his throat, and stated, “Those are love marks given and happily received during lovemaking. My client would not hurt the woman he loves and is trying to protect.” He pushed the photos back to the other lawyer. “If he is being accused of domestic violence that is something we will not tolerate and will fight wholeheartedly.”

Judge Matthews was losing his patience. “This case is getting off track. Since we don’t have the petitioners here to verify one way or the other, we cannot prove if those bruises at this time were made through abuse or other means. With that said, for the sake of our time and the petitioner’s protection, I’m granting the restraining order to be upheld for a total of three days, reducing it from six months. We can reconvene with the two parties and witnesses at that time to determine how this will extend beyond the three days.” He stood and said, “Good day, gentleman.”

Taylor was left speechless. Caleb was fuming but held his poker face. The Boehler lawyer chuckled under his breath as he gathered the photos and file together. “Better luck next time,” he said, gloating.

There was so much Taylor wanted to say, but listening to Caleb, he remained silent. His hands, both at the same time, started trembling and he looked down at them in his lap as if they were detached from his own body. Stress incited the disease and he was feeling the effects.

Caleb instructed him to leave and not to say anything until they were out of the courthouse. Taylor followed him out and the two men walked in silence side by side down the sidewalk. “That went to shit,” Caleb announced, looking down the street once they stopped. “But it’s not over. We’ve just been given three days to gather our evidence and get our case together. That’s a good thing.”

“How is it good again? Is it the part that I don’t get to see her for three more days or that I was just accused of beating my wife? Or is the good part that I apparently coerced Jude into marrying me against her will? I’m lost, so feel free to help me out here.”

“Other than the coercion, those accusations are not cited on the restraining order. They spared you that, so we can deal with it now. We know what we’re up against. We will be more prepared when we reconvene.” Looking Taylor in the eyes, he said, “Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t go over there. Don’t call them. Don’t contact them in any form. Everything you do or say will be used against you in this case. For us to win, we need to keep you squeaky clean. If we can, I have no doubt she’ll walk out of here with you on Friday.”

“She’ll be here?”

“Yes, he wants them present. She’ll have to look you in the eyes and accuse you of coercion for this order to stay in place. Is there any chance she’ll do that?” He searched Taylor’s eyes for any tick that might let him know if he’s lying.

Staring him unflinchingly in the eyes, he replied. “No. None.”

Caleb nodded, pleased. “Good. Let’s keep it that way.” The two men started walking toward the corner. Caleb put his arm out and hailed a cab. As he was getting in, he said, “Hang tight. We’ll take them down on Friday. In the meantime, I’ll do my due diligence. Keep your phone handy and yourself out of trouble.” The door slammed closed and the taxi drove off.

Taylor stood on that corner for minutes… at least five disorienting minutes before his feet started moving. He didn’t know where he was going but he knew there was nothing at his apartment worth hurrying back for.

When he looked up at the cloudy day, his life seemed to play on a projector before his eyes, for a brief second worrying him that maybe he was dying. As he walked down the street, he recalled so many of the times Taylor had been called a “Golden Boy.” With a nickname like that to live up to, he was always doomed to fail in some way.

Parkinson’s.

Katherine.

His parents.

Rufus.

And now, Jude’s family.

The world seemed determined to right the wrong it made when the boy was born too smart, too handsome, too kindhearted, too talented, too much of everything. Karma wanted her penance and she was taking it threefold.

But what none of them counted on, and what Karma couldn’t predict was that the “Golden Boy” was also too determined to let fate destroy his happiness. Jude was not in a power position. She was at the mercy of the courts, the hospital, and her family. She may not be able to fight, but he could, and he would. He’d fight not just for her, but for him. His whole heart and soul were wrapped up in the woman he was just forced to leave behind.

All the depressing shit that had happened to him, fine. Whatever. But this, he refused to accept it, refused to let anyone else dictate his future.

Taylor would get Jude back. There would be a way to prove them wrong and he was determined to find it.

THERE WAS NO way to properly prepare to have your life shoved under a microscope, dissected, and left to defend the mutilated pieces that were pulled apart out of context under examination. But Taylor tried his best. He wore his wedding suit to court that morning, hoping the threads that bound her to him would hold strong today. It had been three days since he’d seen Jude. He was ready to defend his love and get his wife back.

June twelfth. Caleb was waiting for him outside the courthouse at a coffee stand on the corner, and wasted no time with his client. “Do not talk unless you are on the stand. Got it?”

“Yes.”

“Do not make eye contact with anyone other than the judge. Got it?”

“Not even Jude?”

“She’s different. We need her sympathies on our side.”

“Sympathies? We’re married.”

Caleb didn’t respond to that. He just raised a perplexed brow. “Do not make eye contact, Taylor, with anyone else. Not her parents or any member of her family or her legal team. They’ll read it as aggressive and use it against you. Remember they will try to goad you as proof that the order should be kept intact. Don’t give them that reason. Got it?”

“Got it.”

He stopped and looked at Taylor. Caleb Monroe was very serious in tone for eight in the morning, but Taylor liked that. Caleb warned, “Speak to no one but the judge. No one. Got it?”

“Yes.”

They walked inside the courthouse and went through the metal detectors. Once they were alone again, they continued walking, and Caleb continued talking, “We’re lucky to have this hearing so fast. Damn lucky that Judge Matthews is open to hearing the case after the other day. Let’s not blow it. No matter what they throw at us, we’ve got to keep our cool. Understand?”

“I do, but we can’t lose.”

Caleb was focused ahead. “I fight to win.”

Taylor liked the confidence in his voice and nodded because he related. He fought to win too.

They walked inside the courtroom and took their seats. Taylor hadn’t bothered to tell his parents for many reasons, but foremost, he couldn’t deal with their disappointment that this was even happening to a Barrett. He hadn’t even told them about being married, so bringing up a restraining order wasn’t something he really wanted to do. So he was going at it alone. There were a few unrecognizable faces behind him, a few on the other side, and Jude and her legal entourage had yet to arrive.

The large wooden doors that needed oiling opened and the squeak of the hinges made Taylor glance back. That’s when he saw them: the lawyers, the stepfather, the aunt, Isla, and Jude at the back. Today, she was a mixture of the woman he knew. She was part Judith, with her hair pinned back tightly, and part Jude in the dress she’d been wearing when he’d fallen in love with her. It was the one he had married her in, too. Chartreuse with little pink flowers embroidered around the bottom. A matching pink sweater covered her shoulders. Even with the overwhelming sadness on her face that left only traces of the laughter they had shared, she was stunning, and Taylor’s breath was taken away.

Isla saw Taylor and a small smile appeared, a silent apology of sorts it seemed, but he didn’t care about her. He only wanted Jude to look at him, but she kept her eyes down as low as her head hung. This was not good.

“Let me guess,” Caleb whispered. “The one in green and pink?”

“Yep.”

“Shit,” he muttered under his breath. “They’ve gotten to her.”

At first sight he thought the dress was a sign for him. But she wouldn’t look at him and that sign shouted louder than the sundress. The thought of how they had gotten to her made his blood boil. “I told you they would hurt her.”

“Calm down, Taylor. We have the facts on our side.”

“The facts don’t matter if she argues them, if she is being forced to side with them.”

Caleb turned to Taylor. “Tell me again. Is there any way she’ll turn against you?”

“She won’t speak a word against me. I know it,” he replied, not hesitating. “She would be tortured first, but probably has been. She won’t hurt me if she can help it.”

“The question remains, can she help it?”

Taylor stood as Jude passed by, but she still didn’t look at him. Her lawyer stepped between them and led her to the far side of the table. Taylor had never been a violent man. He was too sensible for that. But once he met Jude, once he felt real love, he suddenly understood the desire to lay down one’s life for someone else, to offer to take a hit to protect someone you love. He turned away from the lawyer’s back, wanting to pummel him for being a wall that kept him from her. He sat, trying to swim to reason and catch his breath again.

Thirty minutes into the proceeding, Taylor looked to the opposition and saw big blue-green eyes stealing a glance at him. She looked away, but it was as if her eyes were drawn to him because she soon looked back again.

Jude saw Hazel. Jude saw Hazel in his “marrying suit” as he had so playfully called it. Her heart was on the other side of the courtroom, tucked firmly in that front pocket of his, but when she looked at him, and their eyes met, she felt the faint ghost of a heartbeat in her chest again. The beat grew stronger the longer she sat there.

She snapped to when her lawyer pounded on the table in front of her, and said, “It’s not love you’re feeling. It’s obsession. The medication. It confuses the mind. You fell for his smooth pickup lines and the flash of wealth. Mr. Barrett made it so attractive to marry him when all along he had ill-intentions for your inheritance and your well-being.”

She wanted to run, to take flight from the hate that consumed the air around her. Her lawyer’s words were acid as they pierced her ears. She couldn’t look at Hazel having finally bartered her life for his. They said they would go easy on him. They said they would drop the charges if she just agreed to another year. One year of her life in exchange for his… which meant letting him go. She gulped and looked down, wanting to escape this room. This courtroom may be covered in shiny wooden walls and plush seats, but it was no better than the “holding cell” at Bleekman’s. Just less obvious of the torture it inflicted.

The photos were introduced to the judge again and she wished she didn’t have to hear the horrors they concocted. As the judge examined them, she stole a peek down the long line of people that kept her heart apart from her body. Hazel’s head was lowered and his eyes closed as he rubbed his temples. But he looked up as a woman sat down behind him. Her mother?

When the officers escorted her home, Jude’s stepfather and aunt were in the formal living room. Jude dropped to the hard, marble tiles of the foyer wishing she would shatter to the point of nonexistence. “You got what you wanted.”

Her aunt smiled and said, “Not quite yet, darling. But soon.”

What more can they take? Jude had nothing left, nothing that mattered to her.

She found out soon enough. The deal had been made. One year. One year and all that remained of the inheritance. One year in exchange for her life. Enough time to get the money transferred into offshore accounts with no suspicious activity attached. And for that, she was promised no more Bleekman’s in the meantime. They would give her everything she wanted back—her freedom, her happiness, her husband—if she just gave them one year and the money.

After Jude sold her soul to the devil himself, she went upstairs, then realized her mother had been missing from the witch-hunt. She had looked back once, for any sign of her, but she remained absent.

Isla stood up and joined Jude’s mother on Hazel’s side of the courtroom. She had no idea what she was up to or if she should even trust her, but when she saw the sympathy that laid heavy in Isla’s face, she wondered if maybe she suddenly had an ally. Nothing in her life made sense anymore and it was wearing her down. Seeing two of what she considered former foes supporting the good side made her smile. And Isla softly smiled in return.

Until her lawyer spoke of Parkinson’s and how it cuts a young life even shorter. Hazel was right. Everything about them had been sold in exchange for money. Could this really only be about money? She couldn’t take it anymore.

“Stop.”

At her demand, the entire courtroom looked her way.

The judge asked, “What was that?”

Jude’s eyes blinked rapidly as the imaginary interrogation lamp was spotlighting her. She slid down in her a chair and in the softest voice repeated herself, “Please stop attacking him.”

She didn’t dare venture a glimpse at Hazel. She would break and right now she was fighting to be strong.

The judge eyed her. “Ms. Boehler, please remain quiet during the proceedings. You’ve hired a lawyer to represent you. Let him do his job.”

“Don’t talk to her like that.”

The gavel came slamming down as everyone’s attention turned to Taylor, who had just spoken. The judge demanded, “Mr. Barrett. Sit down or I’ll have you removed.”

Caleb pulled Taylor by the arm until he was sitting next to him again. “Shut it,” he insisted under his breath.

The Boehler’s lawyer went for the jugular. “This is the type of behavior we have listed in the order. He’s unpredictable and lets his emotions get the better of him. Ms. Boehler is a sick woman who needs care around the clock, supervision that doesn’t involve someone else’s agenda. Their marriage is a sham. He coerced her into marrying him when she was medicated without clear thoughts. She was in no position to make that kind of judgment about her future.”

“I object!” Caleb said, standing up. “What did he have to gain from coercing her? He has his own money.”

Taylor was shell-shocked, bombed in the middle of Manhattan by this turn in focus. He turned to the only one who gave him comfort, but she wouldn’t look his way. His heart thudded on as it soldiered through this field of mines.

“Overruled.”

The lawyer went into deep documentation to point out all attempts that Taylor had forced her to spend time with him. Every gallery brochure, business card from a restaurant, and flower he had given her was being used against him.

Jude felt sick. All of her memorabilia was on display, the truth twisted. Every last thing she had taken to remember their time together was now tainted and manipulated into something bad. Tears started to fill her eyes as the lies replaced her life. Her. Life. For. His. Sold to the tune of seven million dollars. She didn’t let her tears fall, needing to put on her bravest face. It would soon be over and by how things sounded like they were going, she would start serving her one-year sentence soon enough.

As soon as Caleb started into his own argument, the other lawyer pulled his biggest hit. He slammed down a file and said, “Let’s not overlook the details that Mr. Monroe does not want you to see.”

Judge Matthews had a reputation of shutting down antics in his courtroom, but even he seemed intrigued enough to want to know, despite Caleb’s objection.

To the horror and humiliation of Jude, the photos were shown for all to see, along with a medical report showing that she had indeed been prescribed medication two days prior to marrying Taylor. She shook her head in disgust. Prescribed didn’t mean taking. She was so frustrated by the accusations. She had never agreed to this. She would have never agreed to attacking his character or their love. But she had to let it go because she had to let him go.

But as Jude’s lawyer continued, no charges had yet to be filed against Dr. Conroy, so his word sealed their fate. “She is not of sound mind.”

Three hours later, Caleb walked Taylor out of the courtroom and down to the lobby. Taylor caught in a daze.

“What just happened?”

“I’ll file an appeal as soon as I get back to the office.”

Still shocked by the outcome, Taylor pointed in the direction of the courtroom. “Caleb, what the fuck just happened in there?”

Caleb shook his head.

Taylor ran his hands through his hair. “So the restraining order got dropped. But he just annulled my marriage?”

“He did.”

“On what grounds? Make it clear for me. Layman’s terms.”

Caleb knew better than to get into details this close to the courthouse, but by looking at Taylor, he had no choice. “Bottom line—she was coerced while medicated.”

“We were in there for an unjustified restraining order. How did our marriage come into play?”

“It’s all intertwined, Taylor. They filed the paperwork this morning. I don’t know why Matthews accepted it. To save time? The marriage. The conservatorship. And the medical records. A doctor went on record to say she suffers from insanity and needs her parents’ care.”

His world was crumbling around him, and his right hand began to tremble. “What am I supposed to do?”

Caleb sighed. “Go home. Get some rest. We’ll try again another day. We’ll fight this until we win, but right now I need to get to my office and find out how we were fucking blindsided in there.”

“In the meantime, she’ll die. They’ll kill her one way or the other. Didn’t you hear? She has seven million dollars on the line. Wonder how much they’ve made her sign away.”

“That’s a good idea. We can try to find out how much is left of it when we’re waiting on the appeal. That can prove motive.”

Taylor felt numb and physically beaten. He struggled to hold onto hope when he lost his whole reason for being. Unable to find reason in this insanity, he asked, “How long will the appeal take?”

“I don’t know. I’ll file for a new judge to hear the case.”

“Caleb, tell me there’s a possibility. That there’s a chance of winning here.”

“I’m not even sure what we’re fighting anymore.”

Fuck!


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