Deja Vu by Elaine Overton released on Jul 19, 2005 is available now for purchase.
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By ELAINE OVERTON
BET BOOKSCopyright © 2005 Elaine Overton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneChicago, Illinois Present day
That lousy bastard, Vicki thought, watching as he removed his light wool jacket. The coarse fabric fell smoothly off his broad shoulders, down his muscular biceps, his sinewy forearms, and into his large hands. With one fluid motion he flipped it onto the back of his chair.
His ash-gray silk shirt clung to his well-developed torso. His perfectly creased charcoal-colored slacks fell neatly over his lower portion. He was a vision to behold: everything from the top of his shiny bald head to his wing-tip shoes. His full lips and high cheekbones, accentuating his African ancestry, were in direct contrast to his more European characteristics-his patrician nose and dark brown oval-shaped eyes. Such contradictions in appearance were common in African-Americans, but in this man the divergence was stunning.
The trial hadn't even begun, and already he had every female eye in the courtroom trained completely on his every move. Vicki cast a glance at the jury. She was regretting her decision to accept the six young women, who all now sat slack-jawed watching the handsome defense attorney with a body like an ancient Zulu warrior. Even the sixty-nine-year-old retired schoolteacher had a look of lust in her eyes. Vicki sighed wearily, already feeling defeated. It was going to be a long trial.
Nick knew she was watching him; he could feel her eyes on him. Good, all those late hours at the gym had served their purpose. Of course, physical attention wasn't the only thing he wanted from her, but he knew he had to start somewhere.
He turned abruptly. Caught with her eyes on his derrière, Vicki jumped like a guilty child. "Good morning, Victoria," he said evenly, fighting to hide the overwhelming emotions he felt every time he looked at her.
"Morning, Nicholas," she answered. "I see you've been working on your ..." she let her eyes roam over his long form, "... defense."
He chuckled. Still a smartass, he thought, albeit a beautiful one. Her coffee-brown complexion tinted with a touch of cream, and classically delicate features were as refined as the lady herself. Voluptuous in form, she moved in a way that animated her feminine curves. Nick was certain that on more than one occasion when she'd walked away from him, her supple hips had waved bye-bye.
"My defense is ready, although I won't be needing it, considering my client is innocent and you have nothing more than a few minor pieces of circumstantial evidence."
"Innocent, huh?" Vicki looked past him at the thug slumped in the next chair. Everything about the young man said it had been a long time since he was innocent. "Would that be the Andrew Pallister kinda innocent?"
Arkansas State Representative and pillar of the community, Andy Pallister, was the asteroid that crashed into their perfect world eight years earlier. Vicki was the prosecutor assigned to convict the man of murder, and Nick had defended him and won.
But in the end they both lost, when their strong feelings regarding the case came between them, and ended their lifelong friendship and year-long engagement. Andy Pallister was dead now. A drunk driver forced his car off the road and straight into a tree. He was the drunk driver. Most of the country felt they had lost a great man with a bright future. Only Vicki and a handful of others felt that it was karma.
Nick felt his jaw tightening. "That was a cheap shot."
"So was strutting in here like a GQ stud!" Vicki exploded.
"Don't get self-righteous with me," he shouted back. "If that skirt was hugging your hips any tighter, it would be skin."
"I'm not the one trying to seduce the jury."
"I don't need cheap tricks, lady. I'm a damn good attorney, and like I told you, my client is innocent."
"Who are you kidding, Nicky? You'd represent the devil as long as his checks didn't bounce."
The quibbling pair fell silent, realizing theirs were the only voices being heard. The fifty-odd people that filled the courtroom were all listening intently. Both parties stood paralyzed, clueless as to how to regain some semblance of civilized behavior.
The problem corrected itself. The silence was shattered when the deep baritone voice of the bailiff reverberated across the room.
"All rise." The two simple words turned everyone's attention toward the small man entering the courtroom. "In the case of the State of Illinois versus Tommy Morrison. The Honorable Judge Thomas Scott residing."
Everyone stood patiently while the man climbed the stairs leading to the bench. The sign of his advanced age showed clearly in the hunch of his shoulders and his measured pace. At his age, Judge Scott felt he deserved certain liberties, one of which being the right to not be rushed. After several minutes, he finally straightened his long black robe and settled behind the high ledge.
"Please be seated," the bailiff said.
For a few moments, the only sound heard was the noisy shuffle of people sitting. Judge Scott's shrewd brown eye took inventory of his courtroom. He methodically surveyed everyone from the deputy sheriff guarding the doors to the transcriptionist at his elbow.
"Aww jeeze," he whispered to himself as his eyes flicked over the legal representation for both parties. Not these two again, he thought. Last time they squared off in his courtroom, for the arraignment, they almost came to blows. He silently berated himself for not recognizing the names on the docket. If he had, he would've seriously considered calling himself off.
He thought for a moment, considering whether to go forward with the fire and ice combination. But what cause did he have not to? They hadn't actually done anything-yet. He sat thinking for several moments, but his mind could come up with nothing. He had no choice but to move forward. He nodded to the bailiff to recite the case and file.
"Victoria Proctor for the prosecution, your honor."
"Nicholas Wilcox for the defense, your honor."
So far, so good. After all the preliminaries, including instructions for the jury, Judge Scott was ready to begin. "Ms. Proctor, your opening statements, please." Judge Scott nodded and slipped his bifocals over the edge of his nose.
"Yes, your honor." Vicki adjusted her skirt, now self-conscious of the tight fit. Okay, so it's snug, she thought, but that wasn't why she wore it.
She crossed in front of the defense table, moving toward the jury. Ignore him, she silently scolded herself. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we will present evidence today to clearly prove, Mr. Morrison, on the day in question-"
"I object!" Nick was out of his chair.
Judge Scott frowned in disapproval, the battle had begun. "Mr. Wilcox, this is the opening statement. What is there to object to?"
"I would like Ms. Proctor to be specific about the dates and times. She tends to forget details."
"No problem, your honor," Vicki smiled. "If Mr. Wilcox is having trouble following along, I'll try to simplify it for him."
"Considering I scored fifty percent higher on the bar exam than Ms. Proctor, I don't believe I'm the one with the trouble keeping up. But she has been known to ignore details."
"Your honor, would you please advise Mr. Wilcox that this is a trial and not his personal infomercial. I mean, really, who cares what he scored on an exam taken over ten years ago?"
"I was just stating that-"
"Approach the bench!" Judge Scott roared.
They came toward the high counter with heads bowed. Both realized how badly they were behaving, but neither seemed capable of not behaving in such a way with each other.
Judge Scott let them stand there for a moment, studying them with the eyes of a parent trying to determine punishment for his disobedient children.
They both stood silently, knowing better than to speak out of turn. Vicki was thinking how much Judge Scott looked like a black George Burns.
Nick was taking advantage of the opportunity to look down Vicki's cream-colored blouse, which was slightly open. Standing almost a foot taller than her, he had a clear view of her tawny cleavage. It had been a long time since he'd seen her beloved breasts. The twins, as he affectionately referred to them.
Seeing what he was doing, Judge Scott cleared his throat, loudly. Nick jerked upright. Never had he be been so grateful for the rich mahogany-brown skin that concealed his embarrassment.
Judge Scott covered the microphone with his hand and leaned forward. "What seems to be the problem?"
Vicki shrugged. "Nothing, your honor."
Nick decided to follow her lead and play dumb. "I don't have a problem, your honor."
"If this turns into another War of the Roses, you will." Judge Scott fought to control the level of his voice, but his anger was making it difficult. "This is a court of law, not a battlefield for your personal, petty conflicts. Do we understand each other?"
They both nodded, refusing to make eye contact.
"Now, can we proceed with this case like the professionals we are, or should I rule a mistrial and have other counsel appointed?"
"No, your honor," they said in unison, both voices together registering just above a whisper.
"Good, let's get on with this." He sat back and released the microphone. Judge Scott watched Mr. Wilcox return to his seat, and Ms. Proctor continued her opening remarks without interruption. He watched as they exchanged a quick glance, and places, as Mr. Wilcox gave his opening. He noted how intently Ms. Proctor studied her opponent, the way her eyes lit up when he smiled. He wondered if she was even conscious of it. He watched Mr. Wilcox spill a stack of files all over the floor when his opponent, bending to pick up a pencil, greatly distracted him. The Honorable Judge Thomas Scott silently wondered why the pair didn't just get a hotel room and get it over with.
Nick took another bite of his hot dog and sighed heavily. Sitting one hip on the second level banister, he watched Vicki across the large half-moon shaped mezzanine. She sat with her head buried in an open file, and a cell phone pressed to her ear. Nick knew she was aware of him, although she was pretending not to feel the intensely heated stare coming from the other end of the corridor.
When they were standing in front of the judge that morning, Nick could smell her familiar perfume. She'd worn the same thing for almost fifteen years. Smelling the sweet scent had been like coming home. It was such a warm, well-known feeling.
The sound of a woman's familiar voice startled him. He turned around and smiled. "Veronica! Wow, strange meeting you here."
"I know." Hungry eyes skimmed his long form. "You look great."
"So do you," he said, taking in her cultured appearance.
Tall and thin, Veronica Cole had always been a fashion plate. She made no secret of her love of money, and her even greater love of men with money. Nick had never believed the pleasure of her company would be worth the damage to his wallet. So, although they worked together from time to time, Nick had made a point of steering clear of her romantic advances.
"What are you doing in Chicago?" he asked.
"My law firm is representing a corporate client," she said, with a flip of her long dark hair. "What about you?"
"A family matter." He glanced back over his shoulder to confirm Vicki was still there. Much to his surprise, she was not only there, but watching his conversation with Veronica. Vicki tried to look away when she realized he'd seen her, but it was too late. He stood and embraced Veronica. He kissed her cheek, and toyed with a few strands of the hair falling over her shoulder.
Veronica was enjoying every moment of the attention. She'd tried for months to turn Nick's eye, without success. She smiled widely, now that he appeared to have had a change of heart. Veronica, knowing she would have to remain in Chicago for several weeks because of the complex nature of the negotiations, had envisioned many boring nights. But running into Nick now, things were definitely beginning to look up.
Nick knew Vicki was probably wondering what his relation was to the pretty woman conversing with him. Let her wonder, he thought, laughing loudly at something Veronica said.
The pair talked casually for a few more minutes. When they exchanged phone numbers and addresses, Nick shifted his body so that anyone across the mezzanine could clearly see he was writing something down. He kissed Veronica again, hugged her tightly, and sent her on her way.
He tossed the last bit of hot dog into his mouth and cast a sidelong glance across the balcony. Yes, Vicki was still watching him. Was that anger or frustration on her face? Whatever it was, he decided he liked it. It showed caring and concern. Things she was trying desperately to pretend she didn't feel.
Lunch was almost over, and Nick wanted to prepare for the next three witnesses. He headed back into the courtroom. After six frustrating weeks, it seemed he was finally making progress.
Judge Scott called a recess at 5:15 P.M. After the brief reprimand, both counselors had been careful of their remarks to one another. He was feeling hopeful that they might get through this thing without any bloodshed. This was a high-profile case, and Judge Scott knew the press would have a feeding frenzy if they sensed the intense animosity in the courtroom.
He glanced back over his shoulder at the pair, who obviously had a history. He shrugged and exited through his private entrance, his mind already focused on the thought of reaching home.
The room emptied. The sequestered jury was returned to their hotel and the defendant was removed. The spectators filed out, reporters returning to their home offices to make the late run, and concerned relatives making their way back to their respective homes. Soon, Nick and Vicki were the only two in the courtroom.
Vicki packed her briefcase hastily, trying to avoid just this situation, but unfortunately her assistant had managed to mix up her files, and it took time to sort them out.
"My Aunt Tilde says hi," Nick said, watching her pack up out the corner of his eye.
Vicki couldn't hide the smile that the familiar name brought to her lips, Miss Tilde having been one of the fondest memories of her childhood.
"Tell her hello for me." She snapped her briefcase shut.
"You called me Nicky."
"This morning, you called me Nicky."
"So what?" She wondered where this was leading.
"No one calls me that anymore. I've missed hearing it."
"I've always called you that."
He tilted his head to the side to look directly into her eyes. "I know," he mumbled, hating his sentimental heart.
She paused for a long moment. She knew what he was saying, but was unsure whether she should acknowledge it or let it pass. She decided to pass. "Whatever." She picked up her briefcase and turned to leave.
Nick stood staring into his open case, listening to the clicking of her heels fade away. He wondered again, for the hundredth time, why he insisted on making a fool of himself for a woman who'd made it perfectly clear she didn't want him. Everything he'd done in the past six weeks had been to win her back, and she'd rebuffed him at every turn. Why did he keep putting himself through this?
He slumped down in the chair, realizing he was the only person left in the courtroom. He stretched his long legs out in front of him, reclined, and closed his eyes. It had been a long day and the trial had just begun. Given all the witnesses that were scheduled to testify, he knew it would be a grueling trial. Day after day of being within inches of her, and not being able to touch her. He shook his head in silent defeat.
Suddenly, images of a slightly younger Vicki filled his mind. She was smiling; he could hear the happy echo of her laughter. She was dodging him; a teasing sparkle lit her soft brown eyes. She darted left and right, barely avoiding his long reach. She was happy and in love. Finally he managed to grab hold of her; her hearty laughter was like music to his ears. She pretended to fight him off before finally succumbing to his hold and his hungry mouth. He pinned her against the wall; she was the sweetest tasting thing he'd ever known. He lifted her legs, and she eagerly wrapped them around his waist.
He loved her.
Excerpted from DÉjÀ Vu by ELAINE OVERTON Copyright © 2005 by Elaine Overton. Excerpted by permission.
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