A New Leaf

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A New Leaf by Elaine Cantrell

A New Leaf

Publisher: Oak Tree Press
ISBN 1892343363
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“Your dad would have a fit if he knew that you were here with me. I’ve done time, and our families run in different circles.”

Most people who’ve met her envy her, for Betsy McLaughlin was born to a life of luxury and privilege. Her father is the richest man in Covington, and she’s engaged to the son of a wealthy, socially prominent family. Her future seems bright, but the foundations of Betsy’s world are shaken by the arrival of Kyle Alexander.

Five years ago Kyle was convicted of armed robbery and incarcerated at Tanglewood Prison. He’s free now, and he can’t keep his eyes off his boss’s beautiful daughter.

Can prison really change a man for the better? Betsy’s about to find out.

Excerpt

Prologue

“I can’t say that I’m sorry you lost this one, Tommy,” Maria Mendoza called from the prosecution’s side of the courtroom.

Tommy Price, the defense attorney, shook his head with a grimace. “I know what you mean, Maria. I did my best, but I really didn’t expect to win. What can I say? He was obviously guilty.”

“How’d you get mixed up with him? You usually represent a better class of criminal.”

Tommy laughed outright. “Most of my clients are innocent, thank you very much. I defended Kyle Alexander because my wife asked me to. They went to school together, and she felt sorry for him.”

“Oh.” Maria understood perfectly. Most people who knew the Prices thought that Tommy would commit any act short of murder for Nikki, and some said he wouldn’t draw the line at murder either.

“You probably got him a lighter sentence,” Maria consoled.

“Yeah, probably. I just hope he turns over a new leaf while he’s in prison.”

Privately Maria doubted it. Kyle Alexander had been in trouble since he was a kid, and she didn’t think that anything was going to change with him. As an adult his crimes had been progressively serious, culminating in this conviction for armed robbery. No, people like Kyle never changed. She had no doubt that she’d be prosecuting him again as soon as his sentence was served and he was free.

Chapter 1

Kyle Alexander took a deep, deep, breath and exhaled loudly. For the first time in five long years he was free. Even the air was better outside Tanglewood Prison.

Beside him in the Lexus, his lawyer, Tommy Price, smiled in sympathy. “Much better out here, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ve rented you an apartment at the Botany Woods complex. That’s the cheapest respectable place to live in Covington.”

“I don’t have the money to pay the rent.”

“That’s okay. I paid the deposit and covered the first month’s rent for you, and since you already have a job you should be able to pay it next month.”

It felt odd to have somebody do him a favor, and he had almost forgotten how to respond. In prison he’d been wary of accepting favors, for any favor always came with strings attached. “Thanks,” he finally managed to say, and he hoped Tommy knew that his thanks were heartfelt. Many of the men who’d been incarcerated with him at Tanglewood had been released to go home to loved ones, but he himself had no one to await his return or help him get a fresh start. Tommy’s help meant a lot.

“You’re welcome,” Tommy assured him. “I was glad that I was able to help. You start work the day after tomorrow. Ward McLaughlin needs a fork lift operator, and since he’s offering decent pay I took the job on your behalf.”

“What kind of place is it?”

“He owns an office supply business called The Office Manager. He sells both wholesale and retail.”

“Seems like I remember seeing that place. I’m surprised that he’d be willing to give a job to an ex-con like me.”

“It wasn’t easy to persuade him,” Tommy frankly admitted. “You’ll have to keep your nose clean or you’ll be out of a job.”

In the distance Kyle saw the apartment complex which was identified by a small, simple sign. Tommy turned into the front gate and parked in front of number fifteen. “Here’s your key,” he said, handing Kyle the keys to the apartment, “and here’s the paperwork Mr. McLaughlin wants you to complete and bring with you.”

“I appreciate what you did,” Kyle said awkwardly.

“I was glad to do it. Don’t forget to check in with your parole officer.”

“No, I won’t.”

Kyle got out of the car and shouldered his bag. “Tell Nikki hello.”

“I will. See you later.”

“So long.”

The door of number fifteen opened easily. In a glance Kyle saw that it wasn’t fancy, but it was clean, furnished, and it was all his. He wasn’t going to be sharing the space with anyone.

There was one small bedroom, but to a man who’d spent five years in a prison cell, it looked spacious. He dropped his bag beside the bed and went to find his kitchen. To his surprise, the refrigerator and cabinets were already stocked. “Thank you, Nikki,” he said aloud, for this had to be her doing.

The living room wasn’t large either, but the TV worked just fine. He kicked off his shoes and lay down on the sofa. Imagine having an entire sofa and TV just for one person. He could watch any channel that he wanted without worrying about offending anyone else, and when he got hungry he could eat whatever he wanted. He could even stay up late if he wanted to. Eventually, he supposed that he might get lonely, but for the present it was wonderful to have some space and privacy for himself. He drew another deep breath, and for the first time in five years he felt totally relaxed and safe. Freedom. Nothing like it.

Elizabeth McLaughlin, Betsy to family and friends, finished the last bite of her steak and listened admiringly to her father’s tirade. Ward had been going strong for the last ten minutes, and he was winding down now.

She chanced a glance at her sister, Marnie, and the two of them had to hide their smiles. Their father’s face was red and his eyes were bulging alarmingly. From long experience the girls knew that as long as Ward was raging and ranting everything was okay. It was only when he appeared to be calm and reasonable that they had to worry. “Only ten minutes,” Betsy mouthed to Marnie. This was nowhere near Ward’s record.

Penny, their mother, who’d placidly eaten her dinner while Ward let off steam, interrupted her husband’s concluding remarks. “Ward, if you didn’t want to give this man a job you shouldn’t have done it.”

“I had to,” Ward said heavily, mopping his face with his napkin as he spoke. “Tommy Price is my best friend’s son, and they’ve never asked a favor of me before. I couldn’t turn Tommy down.”

“I suppose that’s true, but I wish you wouldn’t worry so. Everything will be fine I’m sure,” Penny comforted her husband. “He’s a fork lift driver. What trouble could he possibly be?”

“A lot,” Ward returned grimly. “Kyle Alexander is a bad act, and that’s no joke. I’m afraid that the other employees may be scared of him.”

“You keep an eye on him, and if he does anything wrong you’ll have a legitimate excuse to fire him. But who knows? Maybe he learned his lesson.”

“Ha! Fat chance of that. People like him never learn.” Ward suddenly swung around and fixed a stern look on Betsy. “You stay away from him, Betsy.”

“Why would I have anything to do with a convicted criminal?” demanded Betsy indignantly.

“You work at the store, so you may come in contact with him, but if you do I expect you to stick strictly to business. Besides the fact that he’s a dangerous man, you’re engaged to Todd Warner, and I don’t want you to mess that up. He’s a nice guy.”

“You don’t have to worry about me,” Betsy assured her father. “I’ve never been real attracted to criminal low-lifes.”

“What’s for dessert?” demanded Marnie, and they dropped the subject of Kyle Alexander.

Copyright Elaine Cantrell




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