Litigator Cicely Vella’s ex-husband is arrested for a double murder, and asks her to be his defense lawyer. Cicely rarely loses a case, but her extraordinary record is in jeopardy when she chooses to defend Sam Vella, the only suspect in what appear to be two indefensible crimes.
Cicely is living the dream life of a young professional. She’s bright, beautiful, Black, and successful, but she harbors one weakness—lingering feelings for Sam, the husband who got away.
Samuel Vella is a physician with high intellect, striking good looks, and a proclivity for making poor decisions. In the aftermath of his split from Cicely, Sam initiates an affair with Scarlett Lang, a free-spirited married woman, and their liaison lands Sam behind bars.
After receiving Sam’s call from the jailhouse, Cicely feels the triple lures of her emotional attachment to her ex-husband, the opportunity to redeem the Vella name in the courtroom, and her zest for fame in this sensational high-profile trial. Nothing in the world but this court date could make Cicely and Sam sit elbow to elbow, day after day.
The odds of a divorced couple remarrying the same person are 6 in 100, a statistic Cicely is both aware of and wary of, as she’s drawn back into Sam’s life.
CALL FROM THE JAILHOUSE excerpt:
Chapter One: The Call
Cicely Vella’s receptionist announced, “Ms. Vella, your ex-husband is on line one. He says he’s in jail. He wants to talk to you.”
There are mileposts in life—moments that alter the future in earthshattering ways. The sudden change can be terrific or tragic. Cicely used to think her defining moment was the end of her marriage, but instead her defining moment occurred when she picked up line one and said, “Sam, what’s going on?”
His voice came through pressured and loud, so robust she had to hold the phone six inches away from her ear. “There’s been some kind of mistake,” _he said. “The police arrested me. I’m in trouble.”
Cicely was shocked. Sam had never called her since their divorce, and she’d never heard this tone in his voice. He’d al-ways been cool, calm, and controlled, even in the most stressful times. Cicely couldn’t hide her alarm. “Arrested you for what?”
Cicely almost dropped the phone. “Murder? You’ve got to be kidding. Where are you right now?”
“The San Mateo County Jail. I need a defense attorney. I need you. Please help me.”
Cicely pictured Sam Vella sitting alone in a jail cell, and her response surprised her. She leapt out of her chair, ready to go to him. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” she said. “And don’t answer any questions from anyone until I arrive. Got that?”
“I won’t. And thank you so much for doing this for me.”
“I haven’t done anything yet.” Cicely hung up the phone, feeling the room spinning around her. This wasn’t possible. Sam was a smart guy—an altruistic medical doctor who simply couldn’t kill anyone. He’d been a flawed husband, a man who never quite got used to his overachieving wife’s career eclipsing his, but he wasn’t wired to commit violent crime. Cicely grabbed her purse and car keys and headed for the door. A petite Black woman, Cicely wore a gray wool pantsuit and a Brooks Brothers white cotton shirt. Her androgynous attire was her statement that, in the male-dominated world of litigating attorneys, she had the power to match up with her masculine opponents. Her business—the world of defendants and their alleged misdeeds—was a grim reality of treachery, deceit, ruses, and lies. Cicely didn’t see her vocation as a quest for truth, but rather a competition in search of victory. It was her job to conjure deception. Her joy came from constructing any reasonable alternative to the allegations of the prosecution. Every new case was a puzzle with a yet undiscovered solution. Finding that solution was the most enjoyable pastime Cicely had ever discovered. The money was good, but she knew in her heart she might even have done it for free.
It was that fun.
As Cicely exited through the waiting room, her receptionist said, “I overheard your conversation with Sam. Are you going to defend him?”
“Hell, yes. What kind of defense attorney would I be if my ex-husband spent the rest of his life rotting in prison as a convicted murderer?”
“You’ll be center stage if you defend him.”
“I’ll be center stage whether I’m his lawyer or not. We share a last name. We share a past. I’m going to the jail. I don’t know when I’ll be back.” Cicely’s thoughts were in turmoil.
Her divorce was fresh—only one year old. After five workaholic years as man and wife, she and Sam painted themselves into two distant corners—a sad California career-trumps-love divorce. She’d pulled the plug on their marriage and concentrated on climbing to the pinnacle of the legal world. Cicely had only seen Sam twice since the divorce, and each time she felt the same two opposing emotions―a strong attraction to his physical presence, and sadness that the man who had once been her best friend was a stranger to her now.
Cicely knew the drive from her office to the jail very well. She met most of her clients for the first time within those very walls. Minutes later she sat face-to-face with Sam in a windowless white-walled room. He wore an orange jumpsuit with the number 71427 scrolled across his chest. His hair was parted in the middle, lanky and wet, as if he’d just stepped out of a storm, and his gaze never left Cicely. Her heart raced to be sitting so close to him again. He looked as vulnerable as a lost puppy and as breathtaking as any man she had ever set eyes on. Cicely skipped any pleasantries and started with the obvious question, “Who are you accused of killing, Sam?”
He shook his head and dropped his stare toward the table separating them. Then his eyes flicked upward for a second, partially hidden below thick hooded brows, and he said, “It was this woman I was dating. They claim I killed her. And they claim I killed her husband, too.”
“Two murders? Good God.” Cicely exhaled mightily. “Tell me what happened, starting when you first met this-this woman.” Cicely balanced her pen over an 8.5 X 14-inch yellow legal pad and prepared to chronicle Sam’s story.
“Her name was Scarlett,” Sam said. “It all started one rainy January night last winter…”