“We won the contract for the Daytona-Montgomery County courts Building, and we want you to be the lead workplace designer on the project.”
The words had been on a constant loop in Gracie’s head. The first half of the sentence tugged her feelings one way and the second half pulled them in the opposite direction. One tiny comma separated a nightmare and a dream. One small word united them.
She’d been working hard to land lead on a project of this magnitude. She hoped to own her own small workplace design business someday, and this would be an important learning experience. It was a challenge that, when all else was pushed aside, had both her left and right brain in a constant buzz of excitement and anticipation. Using both her creativity and technical expertise to optimize and harmonize workspace for eleven judges, the county prosecutor, and all court employees across multiple divisions, each with its own purpose and challenges. Functional, yet attractive and sustainable ideas that would enhance the life, productivity, and culture of the workers came to her day and night.
But whenever her thoughts necessarily turned to the actual building in front of her, her stomach became heavy with dread. The coincidence involved defied logic. The building was home to records of her case against one of the area’s most prominent families—and to the man who’d been her champion.
The man whose life she’d unwittingly changed forever. All for taking up her case and her cause.
He didn’t resent her for it. That much she was sure of. Josh Goodwin had a fair and just core, the depth of which she hadn’t fully appreciated and understood at the time. There had been no room for anything but gratitude that someone outside her family was fighting with and for her. But there was no way he could remember the experience with anything but the same dread she felt. Not after the way he’d been portrayed and everything he’d lost . . .
Tomorrow she had no choice but to take on both the project and the memories. Tonight, she’d take the first step on her own, with no one watching her.
Josh Goodwin sat at his desk, reading through incident reports and files the sheriff’s office had sent over, and making notes to re- quest additional information before making decisions as to whether they’d file, dismiss, or bargain.
A fourteen-year-old had brought a gun to school and hidden it in his locker. The file was short. Many questions arose and he made notes.
The next file was thicker. A sixteen-year-old star athlete had been caught with drugs in his car. He had a big-shot lawyer at Josh’s father’s firm. The lawyer had filed a motion to have the case dismissed . . . which meant that dinner with his parents’ later that week would be un- comfortable. It took discipline not to close his eyes and shake his head when he read the particulars of the case, but reserving judgment until he’d listened to all parties involved was the fair route.
The last file, an ongoing investigation, darkened his day. A well- known, local businessman’s son was being investigated for murdering his stepmom. There was evidence to suggest the boy’s father had put him up to it when he’d discovered his wife was having an affair. Time and time again, jealousy and feelings of betrayal enraged and darkened the human mind and heart, turning people into monsters. The evidence against the father, Max Parker, was strong, but it was circumstantial. Josh had taken it on because he had a special passion for cases involving injustice to minors—those were the cases he’d cut his teeth on.
He leaned back, shut down his feelings, and thought about every- thing in each file before making a few more notes. When he was done, he threw his sports coat over his arm, locked up his office, and made his way down to the first-floor lobby. He needed to decide where exactly he’d be holding his press conference tomorrow.
When he walked off the elevator, a motion to his right caught his attention. He glanced over and caught sight of a figure taking off at a run. Security in the building was tight enough, but the fact that someone was running down a hallway at such a late hour was odd. Josh sighed and decided to follow.
When he got to the short hallway, there was no one there. He walked slowly, taking everything in. There were three doors and they were all shut, as they should be. He peered into each window and tried the handles one by one. They were all dark and they were all locked.
Only one door remained: a supply closet at the end of the hall- way. Aware that his dress shoes were clicking, Josh walked back to the elevator, slipped his shoes off, and made his way quietly back down the hallway and to the closet again.
“I know you’re there.” A muffled, female voice came from inside the closet a few seconds later. “And I know you think I’m up to no good and that you have some sort of moral responsibility to figure out what I’m up to, but I assure you I’m here to work. Please just leave.”