The past always comes back to bite Zoe McInnes. So of course everybody believes she's to blame when her former father-in-law strokes out in the middle of a fight...with her. Thank God the man's going to be okay. But--of course--Zoe ends up behind bars. And of course the very sexy man she thought her lawyer had sent to bail her out turns out to be none other than Gideon Tate, the estranged brother of her late husband. Impossible as it should be, he seems to really get Zoe, despite her past involvement with his family. He seems to admire the job she does defending the abused women in her shelter. He even seems to love her just a little bit.... Must appearances always be deceiving?
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August 11, 2008
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Excerpt from A Place Called Home by Margaret Watson
The door of Joe's Coffee House crashed open, startling Zoe as she took a sip from the paper cup. Her hand jerked and coffee spilled on her messenger bag.
"Darn it," she muttered, grabbing a handful of napkins from the stack on the counter.
"Zoe. I've been looking for you."
The voice was low and threatening, and Zoe spotted Wallace Tate in the doorway, his face a mottled red.
"Wallace." She shifted, bracing herself against the counter behind her. "What can I do for you?"
"You know just fine what you can do for me." He walked toward her, his hands clenched into fists. "You tell Sally you were wrong. You hear me?"
The three customers waiting for their coffee froze, and the people sitting at the tables glanced up from their laptops and their newspapers. The only sound was the hiss of the espresso machine. Zoe ignored everyone except Wallace. "Why would I do that? I wasn't wrong, and we both know it."
Wallace leaned closer, his thin lips compressed and his faded blue eyes filled with rage. He smelled musty and old. "So help me God, you're going to be sorry you crossed me."
"What are you going to do to me, Wallace? Send me to jail?" Zoe smiled. "Been there, done that."
She heard a quick intake of breath from another customer.
"You never were smart enough to back off, were you?" He raised his fist. "You're interfering in my personal life. I don't allow anyone to do that."
She glanced at his fist. "You want to hit me? Go ahead." Her gaze bored into his. "You'll have lots of witnesses. Or don't you hit women in front of other people?"
Wallace shoved his finger in her face. "I'm going to say this one more time, Zoe. You tell Sally you were mistaken. Or you'll regret it."
Zoe grabbed his finger. "Don't point at me." She'd been trying to keep her composure, telling herself that Wallace Tate was a pathetic old man. But now her anger sparked. "Get out of here, Wallace." She shoved his hand away from her face.
The older man stumbled backward, his face scarlet with fury. He took a step toward her, then stopped. He seemed puzzled as he swayed, then staggered to the side. As he started to crumple to the floor, Zoe dropped her coffee and grabbed him. She managed to shield his head from the table, but she couldn't stop him from hitting the floor.
"Wallace?" She unbuttoned his wool coat and put her hand on his chest, felt his heart beating way too fast. He tried to speak, but no sound came out of his mouth. His eyes were moving, but he didn't seem to see her. The coffee she'd dropped stained his coat and slacks, and the smell of it was sharp and bitter.
Looking up at the shocked faces surrounding her, she said, "Someone call 9-1-1."
* * *
The light from the ambulance pulsed steadily outside the window of the coffee shop, a red heartbeat of anxiety. She closed her eyes to shut out the flashing. But it wouldn't go away. It bounced off the walls and into her brain, a steady, continual reminder of the last time she'd called for an ambulance.
She had to be dreaming. This couldn't be happening again.
Another Tate removed on a gurney.
Another police car stationed behind the ambulance.
What had happened to Wallace? She headed outside, intending to ask the paramedics. Why had he collapsed so suddenly? Was it a heart attack?
A blast of fresh spring air met her as she opened the door, and she stopped abruptly. Wallace Tate was on the gurney, parked at the back of the ambulance. Two paramedics labored over him. When they moved, she realized they'd been strapping him in.
She felt unexpected pity for the man who lay helpless in front of her. Wallace Tate, her nemesis for the past six years, reduced to a pathetic old man. Wallace would hate that. Her compassion would be unbearable to him. With one last look at the ambulance, she turned back into the shop.