BUY: Amazon | B&N | Apple
IT AIN’T ME, BABE
We are responsible for the repair of the world.
Public defender Kate Steele may have been raised in privilege but she was also taught to give back to her community and make the world a better place. She’s trying to keep her sixteen-year-old client out of juvenile detention when he disappears from her home. Kate tracks the boy to a downtown Dallas bar called Dante’s Inferno. The sexy bar owner is rude and uncooperative but Kate suspects the dark and dangerous man has secrets he’s not telling.
Don't rely on anyone but yourself.
That's Dante Lazaro's motto. He knows what it's like to be orphaned at a young age. That's why he's been helping a troubled teen since his Ex abandoned the kid. And he doesn't need some do-gooder attorney butting into his business. He’s lived his whole life keeping others at arm's length, and old habits are hard to break. But Kate Steele is like no woman he's ever met. Compassionate and determined, she stirs his soul and challenges everything he thought he wanted. But he doesn’t trust her to stick around when the going gets tough. And he knows he can’t give this classy woman the life she deserves.
To keep the teenage boy out of trouble, Dante offers him a job, and Kate welcomes him into her home. From different worlds and worldviews, but united in their goal, the two ‘co-parents’ develop an awkward relationship. An emotionally unavailable loner, the sinfully attractive Dante is the last man Kate would expect to touch her heart. But watching him advocate for a troubled teen, and learning how he's turned his life of adversity into a success she realizes they have more in common than she thought. She’s ready to let down her guard and commit to love but he's saying, “It ain't me, Babe.”
It Ain’t Me Babe is the second book in the Rainy Day Women series, about women empowering women, and the men who love them. In a converted warehouse near downtown Dallas a group of strong, professional women come together to volunteer their services to the women of an under-served community. They name their facility The Rainy Day Women’s Center. Each book is a stand-alone romance about competent, independent women and the equally competent, independent men they can’t ignore—or live without.
“I’m from the Public Defender’s office.” Kate Steele flashed her credentials. “And I want to know why you’re holding my sixteen-year-old client in adult lockup.”
Unruffled, the arresting officer handed her the crime report. “He was brought in with his mother and he asked to stay with her until his lawyer got here.”
Kate scanned the report. Five people had been apprehended at the drug bust, but Arturo Alvarez was the only minor.
The Dallas P.D. Narcotics officer, a long, lean African-American, motioned toward a gray-walled corridor. “This way.”
Still leafing through the police report, Kate followed, her tennis shoes squeaking against the uncarpeted floors. She could only imagine how scared Turo must be. “Has he been read his rights?”
“Of course.” The officer, Cassius Johnson according to his name tag, glared as if she were accusing him of incompetence. At the end of the hallway he unlocked the door of a small room furnished with only a metal table and two chairs. “Juvie already sent a public defender up here but the kid said he’d only talk to you.”
Kate nodded. She’d given Arturo her business card months ago, and apparently he’d held on to it. Wisely.
“I’ll get him,” the officer said. “Wait here.”
Standing against the cold wall instead of taking a seat, Kate flicked a sliver of sawdust off her sweatshirt. She’d been putting the final touches on the old warehouse she and her friends had been renovating when her colleague in the P.D.’s office had called, and she’d headed straight here.
Officer Johnson returned minutes later, leading a gangly teenager wearing a tee shirt adorned with a questionable Spanish slogan and a surly scowl.
“Miss Kate!” Arturo’s face momentarily lapsed into a relieved smile, then resumed its glare. “It’s about damned time.”
Motioning to the teenager’s cuffed wrists, Kate asked Officer Johnson, “Can we get these off?”
The officer looked from her to her client. “You sure?”
“I’m sure.” Did he think this misguided young man was going to attack her?
The officer removed the handcuffs, told Kate to call when she was ready, and then left them alone.
Eyeing Kate’s dusty jeans and sweatshirt, Arturo smirked. “Is this casual Friday?”
“It’s my day off.” Kate sat in the chair facing the door. “I came because you asked for me.”
The teenager took the other chair. “I know my rights,” he said proudly.
Clearly, he didn’t. Arturo was entitled to a Public Defender but he didn’t get to choose which one.
Kate leaned back as far as the foldable chair would allow and sighed with an edge of tsk-tsk in her voice. “Turo, I’m extremely disappointed in you. You told me you didn’t do drugs.”
“I don’t.” The teenager’s dark eyes flashed. “I was just driving the car. And I didn’t know we were going to a drug buy. Teresa just said she needed to run an errand.”
Kate gritted her teeth. What excuse-for-a mother did drugs? And involved her innocent child in a drug buy? Unless he wasn’t innocent. “This report said you were arrested inside the building.”
“I ran in to warn her when I heard the cop sirens.”
Kate rolled her eyes, but there was a slight chance he was telling the truth. In the six months she’d known Arturo Alvarez, she’d always given him the benefit of the doubt. Her friends called her naïve. But she’d believed a kid with his background needed a break.
She still did.
“You’re not going to tell Antonio about this, are you?” The boy’s hardened eyes turned fearful. “He said if I dropped out of school or got arrested, he’d fire me.”
“You should have thought about that before you got involved in a drug deal.” At least he still held the part-time job her friend had found for him. The last time she’d checked, Turo’s boss at the auto repair shop had said the boy was a good employee and a talented mechanic. “Did the police find any drugs on you?”
Turo stood and turned his empty pockets inside out. A senseless gesture. But the boy’s story was plausible and at the very least, he should be released until his hearing.
“So you’re going to be my lawyer?” Turo sat back in the chair and drummed his fingers on the metal table.
“Actually, I don’t do Juvenile cases. I’ll find you someone appropriate, if it comes to that. But I’ll work with you until your hearing.”
“Juvenile?” The boy’s face screwed up. “I ain’t no child.”
“You are in the eyes of the law. Unless the court chooses to prosecute you as an adult.”
“Let’s do that then. You can represent me and my mom.” He smiled, pleased with himself. “That’s a good idea, no?”
“It’s a terrible idea.” If found guilty as an adult, the boy could do hard jail time. As a minor, his case would probably get thrown out. Or at least draw probation. “If your mother isn’t released, is there anyone else you can stay with meanwhile? Grandparents, other family members?”
He shook his head.
“You have an older brother, don’t you?”
“Jaime’s in the Army.”
“What about your stepfather?”
“Tomas Gomez.” Last year, Arturo’s mother had been living with a man. “Is he no longer in the picture?”
“Nah, he kicked us out when Teresa stole money out of his wallet for a fix.”
Kate bit her lip. The boy’s history of temporary stepfathers and ‘uncles’ was as long as some kids’ rap sheets. “Are you and your mother staying with anyone now?”
“No. We pretty much live in our car.”
Kate’s heart wrenched, but she focused on the immediate problem. If no friend or relative could serve as Turo’s temporary guardian, Child Protective Services would undoubtedly put him in foster care until the hearing. Kate could imagine how much a sixteen-year-old ‘adult’ would love that.
She coached him for his interrogation by the narcotics officer, warning him to answer the questions simply and truthfully but to add nothing that wasn’t asked. “And if I tell you not to answer something, just zip it.”
Turo followed her instructions, maintaining his innocence without running his mouth or pissing off his interrogator.
“This is the first time Arturo’s been in trouble,” Kate said at the end of the interview, hoping the incident from six months ago had been sealed or thrown out. “He comes from a broken home.” As did half the teenagers in this part of Dallas.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re breaking my heart.” Officer Johnson stood and retrieved the arrest report from the table. Beckoning for Arturo to come with him, he told Kate, “Wait here.”
“I’ll have you out of here by the end of the day,” she called after her client, hoping she wasn’t making a promise she couldn’t keep.
It seemed like an hour, but was only ten minutes by her watch, when Officer Johnson returned. Not with Turo, but with a man in his late twenties or early thirties wearing a suit that probably cost three times a public defender’s salary.
“John Curtis from the D.A.’s office,” the preppie said, extending his hand. “I’m willing to offer probation for your client, with a few stipulations.”
Kate gave his hand a quick shake and dropped it. “I’m listening.”
The assistant district attorney ticked off the requirements on his fingers. “One: he stays in school. Two: he gets an after-school job. Three: he offers testimony against the adults in the raid.”
“He already has a job,” she informed Curtis. “But getting him to testify against his mother may be a deal breaker.”
“Don’t sell it that way. Tell him we just need him to confirm where he was and what he witnessed. Strictly for corroboration of other witnesses’ testimony.”
Kate frowned. If they had other witnesses, why would they need a sixteen-year-old boy to inform on his own mother? But at the moment, her responsibility was to get her client out of that cell. Maybe by the time of the hearing, Teresa Alvarez would have cut her own deal with the D.A.
“Make sure you have your client in court by nine a.m. Monday.” The A.D.A. slapped his folder under his arm and left.
Kate stood, assuming Turo would now be released. But without making a move to get him, Officer Johnson asked, “Are you posting bail for the mother?”
“No. She has her own lawyer.” Kate’s colleague Paula Quaid had been assigned to that case. “Has she not made bail?”
The officer shrugged. “Not yet. And I can’t release a sixteen-year-old on his own recognizance. Is there some other family member who can take him?”
“I’m working on that.” She offered a bright, positive smile.
Her optimism turned out to be premature and overstated. Despite help from Kate’s private investigator friend Selena, no relatives could be located.
She checked in with Paula Quaid on the status of Teresa Alvarez’s case.
“Glad you got the kid probation,” her colleague said,” but no such luck for the mother. “This is her third offense and the judge set a high, unreasonable bail. Unless she’s holding a winning lottery ticket, Ms. Alvarez will remain in custody until her trial.”
Damn. Weary from a morning of manual labor and an afternoon tilting at bureaucratic windmills, Kate wound a scrunchie through her medium length brown hair and stared out her office window at the afternoon sunset. If she were going to keep her promise to get Turo released today, CPS was her last option.
But not a good option. The social worker assigned to the case offered to house the teenager with a bunch of other juvenile offenders, many of them charged with serious crimes. It seemed like a worse situation than leaving him in jail.
“It’s the best I can do right now.” Monica Green, a twenty-something woman with cropped hairstyle that looked like it belonged on the head of a woman thirty years older, sighed apologetically.
“You can’t place him with a family?” Kate asked.
The social worker narrowed her eyes as if Kate had asked her to conjure a rabbit from a hat. “For two days? Would you want to risk taking on a rebellious, possibly dangerous teenager who might steal your stuff and destroy your home and maybe come back later to steal anything he might have missed?”
Would she? Kate swallowed. “Yes,” she said from her heart, not even consulting her head. If she left Turo in jail, not only would he lose his job, but his already slim chances of going to college would vanish like that magical rabbit. “I’ll take him home with me, if that’s all right.”
The woman ruffled a hand through her dishwater-blonde hair, examining Kate’s painting clothes. “Are you a relative?”
“No.” Kate stared back. “But I am an officer of the court.”
She produced her ID and Monica Green pretended to study it before excusing herself to talk to her supervisor.
When the social worker came back with the official paperwork, Kate felt a smile start on her lips and spread all the way to her ears. Being a public defender was all about helping people who couldn’t help themselves, and keeping Turo out of jail was a solid check in the win column. All she had to do was keep him fed, sheltered and out of trouble until Monday’s hearing. How hard could that be?