A Man of Privilege

a-man-of-privilege

A MAN ON A MISSION

James Carlson is building the biggest case of his career. He’s spent years systematically rooting out corruption in the legal system, and the conviction of a federal judge is the final step before he resigns and runs for office. But to get his conviction, he needs the testimony of a former hooker. Given her rap sheet, he’s surprised that this potential witness is still alive.

A WOMAN WITH A PAST

Maggie Eagle Heart wants nothing to do with anything in her past. She’s spent a decade living in anonymity, making Native American jewelry. When she’s hauled into the office of a Special Prosecutor of the Department of Justice, she refused to cooperate. She knows how lawyers and judges operate. She’ll have nothing to do with any of them. Except that James Carlson isn’t like any lawyer she’s ever met. Kind and funny, he doesn’t treat her like a criminal. In fact, he seems to like her. As her attraction to this outsider grows, Maggie finds herself wondering if she’s finally met the last honest lawyer.

 

Amazon | B & N | iBooks | Kobo | Powell’s |Google | Harlequin

Lawyers in Love Trilogy, Book Two
July 2012 from Harlequin Desire
ISBN-10: 0373731841
ISBN-13: 978-0373731848




 

Want to be notified when my next book is released? Sign up here.


Praise

A Man of Privilege was named RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Awards: Outstanding Series: Desire for 2012!

A Man of Privilege was named to the Harlequin Junkie’s Top 10 Harlequins of 2012!

RT Magazine: 4.5 Stars, Top Pick!Anderson’s latest is a refreshing twist on the typical Desire, featuring a raw and powerful love story that is at times dark and savage, and then sweetly sexy.

RT Magazine’s July Seal of Excellence Nominee: Sarah M. Anderson‘s A Man of Privilege is a series romance like no other. The author takes the tropes of the genre and turns them upside down and backwards.

Harlequin Junkie: 5 Stars: Two words! Read it!

‘A Man of Privilege’ is an excellent contemporary romance, with multidimensional characters, sexual tension and a bit of mystery to wrap things up nicely.

A Romance Author’s Journey: 5 stars ***** I found this a throughly refreshing read. It was a nice change from the usual reformed bad boy meets good girl. Instead it was the exact opposite- a reformed bad girl meets a good boy! I highly recommend this book for fans of not only the Desire line but the other Harlequin lines as well! 5 stars *****

A Night Owl Reviews TOP PICK: A Man of Privilege has a unique twist I found delightfully entertaining. Ms. Anderson has captured the perfect conflict and a story that will assert itself into its own identity and teach how true love can conquer all… A Man of Privilege is a great book and one I can easily recommend.

Scorching Reviews 4 1/2 Stars! I loved the first book which is why I so readily agreed to review the next one. These are rather sweet romances and I enjoyed the whole premise… The twists, turns and barriers in this relationship kept the story flowing  at a lovely pace….it was a easy page turner.

Romance Reviews Today: In A MAN OF PRIVILEGE, Sarah M. Anderson has given readers a heroine who is not like most romance novel characters who star in their own books…For a compelling, fast paced tale that will keep you spellbound, pick up A MAN OF PRIVILEGE before it’s off the shelves and see why for yourself.


Chapter One

Mr. Carlson?” Agnes’ voice sounded tinny over the office intercom.

“Yes?” The intercom wasn’t James’ favorite way to communicate. Reminded him too much of how his father would bark out orders to the hired help from behind the closed doors of his home office.

“Agent Yellow Bird is here with Ms. Touchette.” Her tone was clipped and professional. He couldn’t gauge exactly what sort of woman was waiting on him.

“Thank you.” His hand hovered over the old-fashioned intercom switch. The whole place was old-fashioned. The offices in the Judicial Building in Pierre left a lot to be desired. He was crammed into an office a quarter of the size of the one he’d left behind in Washington, D.C. eight months ago. But he wasn’t about to pass up the chance to prosecute the biggest corruption case of his career. So he was stuck in this tiny office.

Agnes’ territory had been reduced to a narrow waiting room that struggled to contain the two folding chairs Yellow Bird and Ms. Touchette were no doubt crammed into right now. At least his parents had never stooped to visit him in South Dakota. Lord knew they wouldn’t want to see what he did for a living. The sight of this shabby office would no doubt send his mother into affected hysterics about what he was doing to his future political career. He should probably consider the intercom a luxury. He didn’t. But he also didn’t switch it off.

Neither did Agnes. Instead, he listened as he pulled out the file for Margaret Touchette. The mug shot showed a bruised, beaten woman trying to look mean and mostly looking like a dog someone had kicked too many times. Her pocked skin and browned teeth were consistent with those of a meth abuser. She had a hell of a rap sheet—arrests for transporting and delivering drugs, prostitution, breaking and entering. The later arrests, which had occurred almost ten years ago, had taken place at the same time James had been finished at the top of his class at Georgetown.

The different paths people take, he thought as he reviewed the file. Her first arrest had been when she was fifteen, but she’d been charged as an adult. She’d never been brought before court as a juvenile, even though her last arrest had been when she was 20. James shook his head in disgust. He detested prosecutors that treated kids as easy targets to pump up their conviction rates. Selfish lawyers should go practice divorce law in L.A. and leave the life-and-death stuff to the people who gave a damn.

The paper trail went cold nine years ago. Either she’d dropped off the face of the earth or gotten better at evading the cops. Both would explain why it had taken Yellow Bird months to track her down. James hoped she’d gotten clean, but he had to remind himself that it didn’t really matter what had happened to her. What mattered was that James needed her. She was an insurance policy in his quest to clean up the courtroom.

The only sounds that filtered through the intercom were of papers being shuffled and keys being depressed. The quiet irritated him. True, Yellow Bird was a man of few words, but usually the criminal in question could be counted on to say something—nervous self-defenses, anguished plea-bargaining—that gave James a hint of what he was dealing with.

Silence.

If Yellow Bird hadn’t been out there, he would have let Ms. Touchette sit. Nervous people were easier to manipulate than calm people. FBI Agent Thomas Yellow Bird was no criminal. Half the time, James got the feeling Yellow Bird would drop him with one shot, given the opportunity. The other half, James was sure the man would take a bullet for him. He preferred to stay on the latter side as much as possible. James stood to put on his Boss suit jacket and straighten his tie before he flicked the intercom on and off quickly to conceal the fact that it had been on this whole time. “Send Ms. Touchette in, please.”

When the narrow door opened, it wasn’t Ms. Touchette, but Yellow Bird who entered the room first. He gave James one of those unreadable looks. Despite the fact that he and Yellow Bird had been working together on this corruption case for years, and that James had plenty of experience with American Indians, he still couldn’t read this one particular Indian. Didn’t look like Yellow Bird was in a firing mood today, though.

Yellow Bird pivoted, motioning for the woman to follow him. James remained standing—even criminals deserved common courtesy—but when she walked into his office, he did a double take.

The woman standing before him had long black hair that hung to her shoulders in loose waves, with bangs that swept down low over her left eye. Her skin was a clear, tawny brown and appeared to be scar-free. She wore a brown, ankle-length tiered skirt and a pink tank top, and she clutched a brown leather bag to her side. She was clean, her eyes bright and wary. She’d look good on a witness stand. She’d look better in a bed.

James shook that thought out of his head as he looked down at the mug shot, then back at the woman. He couldn’t see the slightest similarity. Yellow Bird had never been wrong before—but there was a first for everything. “I’m Special Prosecutor James Carlson. Thank you for coming, Ms. Touchette.”

“I’m not Touchette.” Her voice was strong—no hint of nerves. Her eyes focused on a point behind James’ shoulder. “My name is Eagle Heart.”

Confused, James looked to Yellow Bird, who slouched against a filing cabinet as far off to the side as one could in this small office. “Show him,” Yellow Bird said in a low voice.

The woman didn’t move.
“Maggie.” The tone of Yellow Bird’s voice changed, making his accent more pronounced. It was enough to be menacing. “Show him.”

The woman took a deep breath as her gaze cut down to the mug shot on James’ desk. “My name is Maggie Eagle Heart now,” she said as she lifted the heavy bangs away from the side of her head.

She revealed a twisted knot of faded scar tissue that encroached on her hairline and sliced the edge off her eyebrow. James looked down at the mug shot and saw the matching wound. It had healed well, but the scar was still visible.

“And . . .” Yellow Bird said.

Ms. Eagle Heart turned, dropping one shoulder of her tank top. She draped her hair over her front, revealing a tattoo that covered her right shoulder blade. In and amongst the flames, James could make out the letters that spelled “LLD”. Margaret Touchette and Maggie Eagle Heart were the same woman—but different. Very different.

She stood, her back to him and her head held high. Under no circumstances should James find any of her actions erotic, but the way she’d dropped the strap of her top—and the bra strap underneath it . . . he cleared his throat and sat down to hide his waist as he flipped through the file until he found the matching photo of the tattoo.

“Thank you, that will do.” As much as he didn’t want her to put that strap back up, he needed her to. Right now.

She turned back around, her eyes focused over his shoulder again. He motioned for her to sit as he said, “Thank you, Agent Yellow Bird. I can take it from here.”
“I want Yellow Bird to stay.” Again, no wobble to her voice. James was impressed.

“I can assure you, Ms. Eagle Heart, this is a strictly professional interview. The nature of what we discuss is confidential.”

Her right eyebrow notched up, but otherwise, her expression stayed blank. “Easy to say. Hard to prove. Can he stay or not?”

The challenge was subtle—but it was still a challenge. This was not what James had been expecting. People who came to see him usually had something to hide. They either tried to cut a deal, be invisible, or bluster their way out. In any case, they acted rashly. This woman? She was something else entirely. All Yellow Bird had said when James had asked him to find Margaret Touchette was that he’d need a little time. He hadn’t said anything about knowing her.

He looked to Yellow Bird, who tilted his head in agreement. “Fine. Let’s begin, shall we?” He motioned to the single chair in front of his desk as he turned on the digital recorder. “For the record, state your full name, all aliases, and occupation.”

She hesitated, then sat, pulling her bag onto her lap like a shield. She wrapped the strap around her fingers, then unwrapped and rewrapped them. It was the only outward sign of her nerves. “My name is Maggie Eagle Heart. I used to be Margaret Marie Touchette, but I’m not anymore. I make dance costumes and jewelry and sell them online.”

James wrote it all down. “When did you get married?”

“I’m not married.”

He looked up, keeping the surprise off his face. Ms. Eagle Heart’s gaze had shifted from behind him to the file on the desk. Still not looking at him, though.

“I see.” He swallowed, not because he was suddenly nervous. James Carlson, Special Prosecutor, personally appointed by the Attorney General, did not get nervous. He could trace his mother’s side of the family back to the Mayflower, for God’s sake. Nerves were not allowed. Not during interviews, not in the courtroom. “How do you know Agent Yellow Bird?”

She didn’t say anything for a long moment. “Once upon a time, a boy named Tommy tried to save a girl named Maggie. But he couldn’t. No one could.”

“Are you seeing anyone now?”

Yellow Bird’s head popped up, and Ms. Eagle Heart’s eyes focused on his face for the first time. James’ wildly inappropriate question hung in the room. He swallowed again. He shouldn’t have asked it—but he did.

Her eyes were a warm, intelligent brown, and more than a little wary. Her chin tilted to one side as she weighed his inquiry. Suddenly, he felt like she had all the power in the room. The back of his neck began to sweat. “I’m not seeing anyone. What’s this about?”

Not married. Not even taken. Why did that matter? “When did you adopt your current alias?” Yes. He needed to get this train back on track. He was the one asking the questions around here. He was in charge.

Her eyes took on a distance, and she stopped looking at him. “Nine years ago.”

Right after her last arrest. He looked her over again—not because she was a lovely woman. That had nothing to do with it. He was merely trying to gauge her willingness to cooperate. “How long was that after your last trial date?”

Her eyes fluttered shut, but her head didn’t drop. He glanced down at the defeated woman in the mug shot again. The woman before him? Anything but defeated. “Do I need a lawyer?”

“No, although I can recommend one of the best attorneys in the state, if you’d like.” He dug around in the top drawer until he found one of Rosebud Armstrong’s cards and scooted it across the desk. “Agent Yellow Bird can personally vouch for her.”

Of course, James knew Rosebud personally, too. But few people knew that the son Alex and Julia Carlson had been grooming for public office since he was born had had an affair with a Lakota Indian woman throughout law school. That was the sort of information that, if the media bloodhounds got a hold of it, could be twisted around until it destroyed a nascent political career before it got off the ground.

Someone as intelligent and outspoken as Rosebud would have never succeeded as a politician’s wife. A woman like Rosebud had too much history to be the silent, smiling blank slate that stood by his side as he conquered the world, one political office at a time, and they’d both known it.

Without raising her eyes, Ms. Eagle Heart closed one hand around the card. James thought she’d put it in her bag, but she held onto it, running the pad of her thumb over the edge. Interesting, James thought. She couldn’t keep her hands still. Her fingertips were long, with clean, short nails that showed no sign of polish. Her hands had a few calluses. Those were not the hands of a pampered, coddled woman—a woman like Pauline Walker, the woman his mother had hand-picked to be James’ own blank slate of a wife. No, Ms. Eagle Heart had the hands of a woman who knew how to use them.

James shifted in his chair. Back on track. Now.

“Ms. Eagle Heart, the reason I’ve called you in for this interview today is because I think you have personal knowledge of a crime that was committed, and I would like to confirm your version of events.”

The color drained out of her face. “I don’t know anything about any criminal activity. I’m innocent. I was never convicted.”

“Despite being arrested seventeen times, yes. I noted that. I also noted that you had the same judge for all of your court appearances. One Royce T. Maynard.”

James’ pulse began to race up as his train not only got back on track, but picked up a head of steam. Maynard was, hands down, the most crooked judge ever to sit on the bench outside of New York City. Putting him away would be the final notch in James’ belt before he resigned his position with the Department of Justice and launched upon his political career with ironclad credentials as the man who would clean up government. He’d start by running for Attorney General, then governor, and then—if things went according to plan—higher offices. Ones that came with nice, roomy Oval Offices.

James just had to prove Maynard’s guilt in a court of law. And to do that, he needed the testimony of unreliable witnesses like Maggie Eagle Heart. Except that the woman sitting on the other side of his desk wasn’t exactly unreliable.

Ms. Eagle Heart swallowed. “Who?” She said it in a way that was supposed to make it sound like she’d never hear the name before, but for the first time, her voice wobbled.

“I’m curious as to why a woman who was mixed up with the wrong crowd would walk away scot-free seventeen times. Once or twice, sure. But seventeen?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The wobble was stronger this time.

He had her dead to rights. “I think you do, Ms. Eagle Heart. I think you know why you’re here today, and I think you know what I want.” He shouldn’t have said that last bit, because her gaze zeroed in on him as she looked at him through thick lashes, the challenge writ large on her face. James knew in that instant she knew what he wanted—both in and out of the courtroom.

She didn’t offer up another weak protest, though. She kept right on looking at him with that combination of knowledge and distance. She was challenging him again. She wasn’t going to make this easy—but she might make it fun.

Yellow Bird shifted against the wall against which he was leaning, breaking the tension of the moment.

“The Department of Justice believes that Royce T. Maynard regularly abused the power of his office. He solicited and received bribes, took payments to sway judgments in courtrooms other than his own, and . . .” He didn’t want to say this out loud, but as Ms. Eagle Heart wasn’t exactly jumping in, he forged ahead. “And pressured defendants to exchange services in return for judgments in their favor.”

She got a little paler. “Are you accusing me of a crime?”

“Not directly. We believe that Maynard demanded certain services in return for letting you off the hook.” He tossed the deposition of one of Maynard’s former bailiffs across the desk—the one that outlined how Maynard regularly recessed court so he could meet with female defendants in his chambers without their counsel.

She didn’t move, not even her hands. James wasn’t sure if she was breathing. He felt like the world’s biggest jerk. He couldn’t say what this woman had been doing for most of the last decade, but it seemed clear that she’d made a different sort of life for herself than the one the woman in the mug shot had chosen. However, that moment was short-lived. He hadn’t gotten to be the youngest Special Prosecutor in the history of the DOJ by worrying about witnesses’ feelings.

“This is from a former public defender,” he added, handing over another deposition that detailed how the man who gave lawyers a bad name encouraged his clients accused of prostitution—including one Margaret Touchette—to go into chambers alone, where he believed they performed sex acts for Maynard in return for a not-guilty judgment. “I believe you’ll recognize the name.”

Her hand shaking, Ms. Eagle Heart picked up the deposition and read the name. Slowly, she set it back down on the desk and took a deep breath. Her hair hung over the side of her face with the scar. With that identifying mark hidden, James couldn’t see anything about her that said drug addict or prostitute. Maggie Eagle Heart was a composed, beautiful woman who didn’t spook easily. And he’d spooked her anyway.

“Why am I here?” The wobble was gone from her voice. Instead, she was just flat-out pissed. Her eyes flashed with defiance. “You have the official testimony of two people. You don’t need me, or someone you think is me.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. What I have is the second-hand testimony of two people who were never present when the alleged crimes occurred. Because that’s what they were, Ms. Eagle Heart. Crimes. It is illegal for officers of the court to demand favors from defendants, especially sexual ones. I’m working to eliminate criminals from our justice system so that people like Margaret Touchette can get a fair trial and the real help they need. And to do that, I need the testimony of a first-hand witness. I need you to describe how Maynard approached you and what he demanded from you in return for those seventeen not-guilty verdicts.”

“No.”

James smiled at her, making sure all of his teeth were showing. His feral smile, Agnes called it. It straddled the line between polite and menacing and was quite effective in the courtroom. “Ms. Eagle Heart, at this point, you’re not being charged with a crime. But that could change.”

She met his gaze with one of steely determination. “So, if I understand you correctly, you’ve approached me and are demanding a favor in return for a not-guilty verdict. How delightfully hypocritical of you. I’ve learned to expect nothing less from the law.”

She stood. James knew he should cut off whatever else she was going to say and keep control of the conversation, but he wanted to hear what she was going to throw at him. A curse? A string of curse words? Would she slap him?

“The statue of limitations on anything Margaret Touchette did or did not do has expired. You can’t charge me; you can’t hold me. The next time you want to talk me, don’t send your dog after me.” She turned to Yellow Bird. “I want to go home now.” And with that, she opened the door and made a quiet, dignified exit.

She’d called his bluff. She’d known it was a bluff from the beginning.

James let out a low whistle of appreciation, causing Yellow Bird to glance at him before he walked out. Seconds later, the outer door of the office shut.

Well, hell. That hadn’t gone according to plan. He weighed his options. He couldn’t let her off the hook—he needed her testimony in his back pocket, just in case. If he sent Yellow Bird back after her, she’d probably clam up and refuse to talk, much less testify. That only left one option.

Agnes stepped into his office, appointment book in hand. “Shall I put the young lady back on the interview schedule?”

His feral smile didn’t work on Agnes any better than it had on Maggie Eagle Heart, but he tried it out anyway. “Get me her address.”

Buy the Book

Amazon | B & N | iBooks | Kobo | Powell’s |Google | Harlequin