Cocky Corporal - April Canavan



“Why does New York have to suck so bad?” I walked down the crowded street, wondering if anyone had heard of personal space. My iced coffee wasn’t even iced anymore, and I had already started to sweat through the clothes I’d put on to face down one of my greatest fears. Public speaking.

“Because New York isn’t Maine, and you’re not home.” My mom’s voice echoed in the earbuds that I never left home without. “Are you sure you’re up for this, Casper?”

“Yes, Mother.” I only called her that because she hated it. “Just kidding, I love you Momma.” I added on before she could verbally slap me through the phone. “I don’t have a choice.”

“Be safe out there. And remember, we’re here if you need us.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured her. “I’ll be home in a month, and we can get dinner when all this is settled.” Even saying the words hurt beyond belief. But my parents needed me to be strong. I was the only one who could be.

“Love you, Casper. Forever.” She hung up before I could say it back, and I could practically feel her heartbreak on the other end. What else could be expected from a woman who just lost one of the people she loved most in the world?

I managed to hold it together, too. Until I walked into the crowded and slightly overheated courthouse. First, they made me throw away my non-iced coffee. Then things took a turn for the worse when the security guard’s wand got way too close for comfort.

"Looking for gold?" I raised an eyebrow and waited for some sort of reaction from the brusque man in front of me. "I swear I'm not hiding anything in my pants and you guys already made me throw away the only thing keeping me cool today." My pants were actually leggings and wouldn't have room to hide a pencil, let alone a weapon.

Although, it wasn't his fault that he had to get up close and personal with every person coming into the building. I just took offense that his wand kept creeping closer to my girly bits than it should.

Actually, I was so busy watching the wand and making sure that I didn't get prodded somewhere I shouldn't, that I completely missed when he was done.

"You can go through there." His gruff voice made me jump. When I looked up to see the gentle expression on his face, all my anger at the situation vanished.

"I'm so sorry," I explained needlessly, grabbing my bag from the table I'd had to set it on to be searched. "This has been the worst week of my life. I didn't mean to take it out on you."

He nodded, motioning for me to go on. Blushing, I went quickly in the direction he had said. I mean, he was working in a courthouse. So of course he'd see people during the worst times of their lives.

Come on Casper. Pull it together.

Trying to breathe, I repeated the same mental pep talk I'd been giving myself quite a lot lately. Sadly, it was pretty much the only thing keeping me together. Ever since we'd gotten the call about Cassie. I had driven three hours from a conference in Boston to New York City on zero sleep.

"Is this seat taken?"

I jumped, heart suddenly racing at the voice coming from right behind me. The dark-haired woman who was smiling at me while pointing to the bench I was sitting on looked apologetic when she saw the way she had scared me.

I wasn't a complete dunce, though. Somehow I managed to keep from screaming or slapping a hand to my chest like my grandmother used to do. Recovering quickly, or as quickly as I could possibly manage, I shook my head and moved to the side.


She sat down without waiting for anything else, her large purse plopping into her lap loudly.

"I hope they hurry," she said. "My husband doesn't know that I'm here. And I don't want him to find out, otherwise he's going to make me start using a driver again." She blew a frustrated breath. "That man is wearing on my last nerve."

My hands were clenched in my lap while I tried not to have a panic attack from just being in the courtroom. Although here this woman was acting like it was nothing. All the people around us, crowded into the humid room like sardines. Just thinking about it had my palms sweating. My stupid heart decided it was the right time