Calculated Risk (Triumph Over Adversity #1) - Lynn Shannon


Her cell phone rang.

Addison Foster glanced at the clock on her computer, concern rippling through her. It was close to midnight. Too late for a run-of-the-mill call. She scooped the cell from the desk in her home office. Chloe McCormick’s name flashed on the screen. As a family law attorney for domestic abuse survivors, it wasn’t uncommon for Addison to receive frightened phone calls from clients late at night. But they never got easier.

Addison answered. “Are you okay, Chloe?”

“I’m okay.” Chloe’s voice thickened with tears. “But I’m worried about going back to court on Tuesday, and you told me to call if I needed to.”

The tremble of fear coursing through her client’s voice was painful for Addison to hear. Chloe’s husband, Michael McCormick, was a violent man protected by a fat bank account and influential friends. He’d beaten Chloe within an inch of her life over a dirty dish in the sink. Broken jaw, fractured ribs, and a concussion. The rules, so he thought, didn’t apply to him. Everything about Michael put Addison on edge. Probably because he reminded her so much of her own ex-husband.

“You won’t be alone for a moment with Michael during the divorce trial.” Addison rubbed her eyes. She’d spent several hours staring at the computer, preparing for court by reviewing the McCormicks financial documents. “I’ll be with you the entire time, just like today during the pre-trial motions.”

“I know that. I’m just…I’m scared he’ll try to do something before then. Michael always said he would kill me if I left.” Her words tumbled out in a rush, layered with barely controlled panic. “I remembered what you told me. If he shows up, I need to call 911 immediately. But the police may not arrive in time. And Michael won’t obey the restraining order. I know it. Did you see the way he looked at me in court today?”

Addison had. The rage had been tangible, and it hadn’t only been directed toward his wife. Michael’s glare had centered on Addison more than once. He blamed her for convincing Chloe to file for divorce.

He was mistaken. Addison would never force a client to do anything. But that fact wouldn’t matter much to Michael. He needed someone to blame, and Addison was an easy target.

“I’ve done everything in my power to keep your new apartment a secret from Michael.” Chloe and her six-month-old daughter should be safe. But Addison knew better than anyone that guarantees weren’t possible. “Would you be more comfortable staying at a shelter tonight? I can make some calls.”

Chloe was quiet for a long moment. Addison pictured the leggy brunette pacing her small apartment. Then Chloe inhaled before letting out the breath slowly. “No. We’ll be okay.”

“There’s no shame in going to a shelter, Chloe. If you’re worried—”

“I am worried, but I’m also behind locked doors with a security alarm and the police on speed dial.” She let out another long breath. “Seeing him in court today rattled me, and now that the baby is in bed, I have more time to think. It’s…”

“Hard to separate the rational fear from the irrational.”

“Yes. How long, Addison? How long before I feel safe?”

“A long time.”

Years. Maybe more. Addison still carried the scars on her own heart from her failed marriage. “But it gets better. You’re a courageous woman, Chloe. And you’re building a better life for you and your daughter.”

It sounded like the other woman choked back tears. “I don’t feel courageous. I feel like a hot mess.”

“That’s not how I see you. You’re a wonderful mom and an amazing person.”

The compliments were all true, and Addison made a conscious effort to boost her clients’ confidence. It was one of the first things the abuser usually stole.

“Thank you, Addison. I’m sorry to have called so late.”

“You can call anytime.”

They each said goodbye, and Addison set her phone down on her desk. She rolled her shoulders to rid them of tension. Her home office was decorated in soothing colors of ocean blue and white. A candle flickered on the bookshelf, the scent of vanilla floating in the air.

She’d moved to Knoxville four months ago. The tiny Texas town was an hour outside of Austin. It was close enough she could maintain her law practice in the city but still take advantage of the sense of community she’d been missing in recent years. Her house was a two-bedroom ranch style with pretty shutters and a covered patio.

A bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed by a boom of thunder.