Prince Charming Wears a Badge

BOOK: Prince Charming Wears a Badge
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You don't have to believe in magic to find it...

Callie James never expected a handsome prince or a fairy-tale ending. She already knows that life is full of unhappy-ever-afters—like finding her boyfriend with another woman, and being forced to return to her hometown and deal with her troubled past. Fortunately, she's pretty much safe from romantic entanglements. That is, until she discovers the chief of police is also her teenage crush, Tyler Garrett. Now she must find a way to face her wicked stepfamily, win over Prince Charming...and save herself in the process.

“I wanted to thank you for tonight.”

“I didn't do anything,” Callie said.

“Yes, you did.” Tyler swallowed. “I've been so wrapped up in family and work that I haven't taken the time to go out and enjoy myself with other adults. So thank you for going along. I'm not sure I would have gone alone.”

“Really? You seemed anxious to go when Riva asked us.”

“That was for your sake. You needed a break.” He shrugged. “Turns out, so did I.”

The clouds uncovered the moon, illuminating her face. He leaned closer and touched his mouth to hers. He'd been wanting to do that all night. As soon as their mouths met, he knew it was a mistake.

This wasn't the one chaste kiss they'd shared in high school.

This was the real thing.

Dear Reader,

When I originally conceived the plot of
Prince Charming Wears a Badge
, I had no idea it was a twist on
Cinderella
. But then I saw the live-action version of the movie
Cinderella
, where they go into much more detail about Cinderella's life. When I saw how she was treated by her stepmother and stepsisters, I saw the similarity to my story.

The main difference, or the twist, is that my Cinderella, Callie James, doesn't wait around for her prince to find her. She studied hard and got a full scholarship to college and never returned home. At least until she's forced to. And that's where she finds Tyler Garrett, a true prince of a man.

I hope you enjoy this twist on a favorite fairy tale. I'd love to hear from you at
[email protected]
. Check out my website,
www.lisadyson.com
, for upcoming releases.

Wishing you a happy ending,

Lisa Dyson

LISA
DYSON

Prince Charming
Wears a Badge

Lisa Dyson
has been creating stories ever since getting an A on a fifth-grade writing assignment. She lives near Washington, DC, with her husband and their rescue dog with a blue tongue, aptly named Blue. She has three grown sons, a daughter-in-law and four adorable grandchildren. When not writing, reading or spending time with family, Lisa enjoys traveling, volunteering and rooting for her favorite sports teams.

Books by Lisa Dyson

HARLEQUIN SUPERROMANCE

Resorting to the Truth
Catching Her Rival
A Perfect Homecoming

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To my prince of a husband, Michael

Acknowledgments

A special thank-you to my friend attorney Benjamin W. Glass, III for answering my many questions about the legal system. Any mistakes are entirely my own.

CHAPTER ONE

A
FEW
DAYS
ago Callie James was planning a romantic surprise for her boyfriend.

Now she found herself in front of a judge who held Callie's future in her hands.

She swallowed the lump in her throat that held back the bile churning wildly in her digestive tract. Her folded hands on the defense table were damp as she waited for the judge to speak.

Callie never got into trouble. Sure, she'd received a speeding ticket once and had the occasional library book fine, but that's as far as it went. She'd never come close to the possibility of jail time.

The judge turned her attention from the papers in front of her to the scattered observers in the courtroom. She cleared her throat and looked over horn-rimmed reading glasses to focus on the prosecution side of the room. “The charge is malicious destruction of property?”

“Yes, Your Honor.” Her now ex-boyfriend, Andrew, who happened to be a Maryland Assistant State's Attorney, rose from his seat at the prosecution table and straightened his conservative navy-and-white diagonally striped tie, which he wore with his equally conservative navy suit.

“You're prosecuting the case on your own behalf?” The female judge's wizened eyes narrowed in disapproval.

“No, Your Honor,” he said quickly and looked down to his right.

A much younger but similarly dressed man seated next to him stood up. “ASA Ross, Your Honor.”

Was this guy even out of law school yet? He had the haircut of a six-year-old and the lanky build of a fourteen-year-old who was wearing his father's suit.

When the judge smiled at ASA Ross, Callie figured this was it. They were all conspirators in her downfall. They were going to lock her up and throw away the key.

“Harvey Goodman for the defense, Your Honor.” Callie's lawyer was her financial firm's house counsel and the only person she could think of to call. Harvey was nearing retirement age and she just hoped he wasn't out of his league. His expertise was in mergers and acquisitions—he probably hadn't litigated since law school. Which was likely about the same time he'd bought his suit, whose buttons strained over his middle.

“Thank you, Mr. Goodman. I understand your client rejected the state's plea agreement?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Andrew interjected, and Harvey nodded.

“Mr. Slater. If you're not prosecuting the case,” the judge admonished, “then please allow Mr. Ross to speak.”

“Yes, Your Honor. I apologize.” Andrew played the admonished attorney well.

ASA Ross spoke. “The plea was rejected.”

The judge wrinkled her nose as she looked over the papers on her large, wood-paneled desk that placed her a few feet higher than everyone else in the courtroom. “Mr. Slater, you're claiming Ms. James came into your apartment, lost her temper for no apparent reason, and then threw your Dresden vase—value forty-five hundred dollars—on the floor and left?”

“That's correct.” Andrew's tone was sharp but deferential.

“No apparent reason?” The whispered words were out of Callie's mouth before she could stop them, earning her a stern look and a shush from Harvey.

“You'll have your chance, Ms. James,” the judge told her then turned to Andrew. “How would you classify your relationship with Ms. James?”

Andrew glanced quickly at Callie before answering. “A romantic one.”

Callie coughed and immediately lowered her head when the judge glared at her.

“Keep quiet,” her lawyer whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

“How long have the two of you been involved?” the judge asked Andrew.

Too long
, Callie realized, but hindsight was always twenty-twenty.

“A few months” was Andrew's answer.

Except that the incident had taken place on their six-month anniversary. The reason Callie had been taking Andrew a romantic dinner when he'd had to work late. Or so he'd said that's what he was doing.

“Do you have anything else to add?” the judge asked.

“No, Your Honor.” Andrew took his seat.

The judge turned to Harvey and Callie. “Ms. James, you've rejected the state's plea agreement?”

Callie rose, displeased when her voice was shaky. “That's correct, Your Honor.”

Sounding incredulous, the judge stared straight at Callie. “May I ask why? You do know that if you don't accept the plea that consists of paying restitution, then you can be subject to not only reimbursement but also a fine of twenty-five hundred dollars and up to three years in prison if found guilty?”

Callie inhaled, straightening her spine. “I understand, Your Honor.” Her lawyer had explained in depth. “I didn't lose my temper, and I can't admit to causing damage when I'm not sure I did it. If I did break the vase, then it was accidental and happened because Mr. Slater—” She stared at Andrew, narrowed her gaze, and said calmly, “Because Mr. Slater is a lying ba—”

“Objection!” Andrew was on his feet so fast he nearly toppled over the table in front of him.

The judge banged her gavel at the sudden commotion in the gallery. “Order!” Bang, bang, bang. “Order!”

When everyone quieted, the judge first reprimanded Andrew in a no-nonsense manner. “Your objection is moot, Mr. Slater. This is an arraignment, not a trial. And I'll remind you for the last time that you're not the one prosecuting this case.” Her gaze went to ASA Ross.

“Of course, Your Honor.” Andrew had the decency to lower his head in deference before taking his seat.

Then the judge addressed Callie. “Ms. James, please keep your personal opinions to yourself and stick to the facts.”

Callie nodded. “I'm sorry.”

The judge straightened her back and folded her hands on the desk in front of her. “Why don't you tell me your version of what happened and why you won't accept the plea agreement?”

As Callie began to explain how she'd been going to surprise Andrew with dinner because he said he'd be working late, the anger rushed through her as if she were reliving it. She unclenched her fists, relaxed her shoulders and blew out a breath, techniques she'd always used successfully to diffuse the first signs of anger.

“So you brought him dinner. Then what?” The judge's smirk said she didn't want to hear about some lover's spat.

“It was our six-month anniversary.” Callie glanced at Andrew. Her confidence got a boost when he colored with embarrassment. “I had a key to his apartment and I didn't bother knocking since he'd told me he was still at work. I took the food directly to the kitchen and heard a noise in the bedroom.” Callie swallowed. There was that pesky bile again. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Thinking Andrew had gotten home earlier than expected, I went to surprise him.” She drew in a breath. “He was in bed with a...woman.” Callie had other names for Andrew's former colleague but refused to lower herself to their level.

A choking sound from the back of the room had Callie and several others turning.

Heat suffused Callie's face and spread through her body as she relived Andrew's betrayal. There was the woman, standing at the back of the courtroom as if she belonged. So sure of herself that she'd come to observe Callie's further humiliation. How long had their affair been going on? Was it serious or merely a one-night fling?

Callie didn't care. Once a cheater, always a cheater. She'd never take Andrew back.

The judge gave her a little prod. “What happened next?”

Truthfully, Callie wasn't a hundred percent sure. Everything had blurred as she'd run out of the apartment. The blood rushing in her ears had been so loud that if she
had
knocked over Andrew's precious vase, she hadn't heard or felt it.

“I ran out of the apartment and went home.” Callie shrugged her shoulders. “I have no recollection of knocking over his vase, accidentally or on purpose. I do know that I didn't throw it.”

The next thing she remembered was waking to the ringing phone, her pillowcase wet from tears, thinking Andrew had wanted to apologize. Instead he'd wanted her to reimburse him for the stupid vase. The thing was ugly, with some kind of battle scene on it, but he'd bought it in Germany several years ago and claimed it was very expensive.

Callie had refused to pay him and a few choice words to describe her feelings about his betrayal had remained unspoken. In return, he'd offered her a few hours to think about her options. The only
option
she'd been interested in was the one where she'd never see him again.

She'd gone to work as usual the next day. When she hadn't heard back from him, she'd assumed he'd come to his senses and realized it was unfair to make her pay for something she didn't break.

The following morning she'd awoken to banging on her apartment door. Two officers were there to escort her to the Montgomery County Detention Center. She'd spent several hours in an interrogation room until her lawyer made arrangements for her arraignment. At least she hadn't been subjected to a jail cell.

She'd sworn to herself right then and there that she would never, ever, get involved with an assistant state's attorney again. Or a lawyer. Or anyone else who could put her in this kind of position.

For that matter, she was swearing off men altogether.

Period.

The judge drummed her fingers on her desk, appearing to want Callie to say more.

“Your Honor, if I did knock over Mr. Slater's vase, then it was by accident.” Callie couldn't help adding, “An accident caused directly by Mr. Slater's own inexcusable actions.”

The judge's brows rose but she kept her focus on Callie while raising a hand to quiet Andrew, who was halfway out of his chair.

He pinched his lips shut but not before glaring at Callie as he sat.

She guessed he didn't expect his private “affair” would come out in public. He probably thought he'd scared her and she'd gladly pay for his precious vase now.

“Then you admit you broke the vase?” the judge asked.

“No.”

“No?”

“I don't remember bumping into it or breaking it, so I can't say for sure that I broke it. We only have his version of events, and I'm not about to accept the opinion of a known liar.”

The judge nodded. “Thank you.” She turned to Andrew. “Mr. Slater, did you see Ms. James break the vase?”

“Well—”

The judge nodded, pursing her lips. “That's what I thought. Do you perhaps have a witness who will come forward to verify that Ms. James broke the vase?”

Andrew looked to the back of the room where the witch was now seated, shaking her head vigorously.

Andrew turned back to the judge. “No, I don't.”

“So it's a ‘he said, she said' case?”

Andrew looked at Callie, disgust on his face. “Unfortunately yes, Your Honor.”

“And you still think you can be successful at trial?” The judge wanted to know.

Again Andrew glanced to the back of the courtroom before answering. He straightened. “Yes, I do.”

The judge addressed Callie. “I know you don't want to accept the plea agreement from the state, but I have an alternative so as to stop wasting the court's time and the state's money.”

Callie waited for the judge to continue, her knees knocking. Maybe she should have just given Andrew the money for his ridiculous vase.

Then again, why should she give him the satisfaction? He'd already gotten what he wanted. Callie glanced back at the woman she'd last seen straddling him.

Callie straightened her shoulders and raised her head high. She had nothing to be sorry for.

“Ms. James, I don't know whether or not you broke Mr. Slater's vase. And if you did, I don't know if it was on purpose or by accident. So my solution to this is Solomonesque.” From the confused looks the judge was getting from around the courtroom, Callie wasn't the only one who didn't get her meaning. “King Solomon, people. You know, cut the baby in half and all that?”

Callie still didn't understand.

“Okay, Ms. James, you will pay for half of the vase.” She looked at the papers in front of her. “That comes to two thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars.” She looked at Andrew. “That means, Mr. Slater, you will be responsible for the other half.”

Neither party spoke.

“Is that agreeable to both of you?” the judge asked.

“But—” Callie was about to say no. The whole thing was
not
fair.

The judge held up a hand. “Let me remind you, Ms. James. If you don't accept this agreement, then bail will be set and a trial date chosen. Mr. Slater will likely have time to convince a particular witness to testify and back his version of events, leaving you to defend yourself in front of a jury of your peers, and you seem to have no witnesses to make your case.”

Callie couldn't believe it. Andrew was going to win because, no matter what she did, she would have to pay.

She spoke through clenched teeth, fisting her hands so tight that her nails dug into her flesh. “I have no other options?” She was an expert at controlling her temper, had done it out of necessity, but she was a hair's width away from losing it.

The judge watched her carefully. “No, you don't. And I'm going to add something beneficial to your overall well-being. I don't know if you broke Mr. Slater's vase, but, frankly, you appear to be wound way too tight. I'd like you to get some anger management therapy.”

Callie's eyes nearly popped from their sockets.
Was the judge kidding?
Callie held back the hysterical laughter choking her. “Why do I need therapy when he's the one who lied and cheated?” She pointed at Andrew, quite pleased with himself. She snapped her mouth shut.

“You're making my point, Ms. James,” the judge cautioned. “I'm beginning to think you may have broken the vase on purpose.” The judge made a note on her papers. “So I need to know if you accept the plea deal. Pay for half the vase, seek therapy, and I'm going to add one hundred hours of community service to the deal.”

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