Evidence of Desire

By: Lexi Blake

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


I want to thank everyone who made Evidence of Desire possible. Thanks to Kate Seaver and her whole team at Berkley for believing in this project and helping to make every book as good as it possibly can be. Thanks to Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House for championing this project and Kevan Lyon at Marshal Lyon Literary for helping to shepherd it through. Thanks to my personal team—Kim Guidroz, Danielle Sanchez, Jillian Stein, Stormy Pate, Riane Holt, Kori Smith, and my super supportive husband. And thanks to the best lawyer a writer could have—Margarita Coale.




ONE





It was always the roar of the crowd he heard first. It came out of nowhere. Like the world was quiet and still, and then a joyous chaos slapped him in the face. How many times had he stood outside the locker room, waiting for that moment when he moved from the darkness and into the brilliant light? When he went from being something small to being the center of the world?

It was odd though because now he wasn’t surrounded by laughing teammates, their camaraderie usually buoying him in the face of those questioning, demanding lights. He wasn’t bouncing in his cleats, pumping himself up by messing around with the running back or joking with his line. Sometimes they would bump hard against each other as though prepping for the hits to come, to remind each other—I am invincible.

Now there was only him standing in the shadows, waiting for that moment when he would be called to glory.

Why the hell was he in a suit? He looked down and there wasn’t a football in his hand. Instead he carried an elegant briefcase. He felt leaner, his body not as ripped as it was supposed to be. He needed the muscle, needed the strength. Here only the strongest survived. Only the most willing to sacrifice made it to the field.

The announcer’s voice shook the stadium, calling out number thirty-four.

This was wrong. He knew it deep in his gut. This was wrong and he wasn’t going out there. He would stay in the shadows. Being small didn’t mean being wrong. Except his feet were moving and there it was, the roar that seemed to shake his soul. Had he once thought that was the sweetest sound in the world? Now he could hear the hunger behind the cheers, the craving for something to take each fan away from their ordinary lives. Blood would do. Bones cracking and miracles performed, every player would feed the need of the crowd that jubilantly screamed now, but oh how it could turn when things went wrong. One misstep. One fumble. One missed chance and that jubilation would turn ugly and he would feel it in his soul.

He found himself in the middle of the field, all lights on him. Blinding lights. He’d wanted this? He’d once needed this like he needed his next breath. These lights, that crowd, those voices proved he’d climbed out of the cesspool of poverty he’d been born into, lifted up through gift and discipline, through blood and pain.

He held his fists up, dropping the stupid briefcase. He didn’t need that. He didn’t need pads or helmets. He needed discipline and the ability to ignore pain. That was the sacrifice. What were a few broken bones compared to the glory he could find here?

And then everything stopped. No more cheers. No more lights. He was alone and yet not because the crowd had gone, but something was coming for him. Silence and darkness, and he realized it was close. It was coming for him in that sullen night, a quiet locomotive that bashed past all precautions.

He waited, bracing himself for the final tackle.

    • • •

David sat straight up in bed when the phone rang, the sound splitting the deep gloom of his dream. His hands were shaking, and it took him a moment to remember that he was here in his nice Chelsea apartment that cost more than a thousand of the trailers he’d grown up in. He was safe and functional, and he was a lawyer not a Sunday soldier.

Fuck. He hated that dream. Why couldn’t he dream about serial killers stalking him? He was a damn criminal defense attorney. He’d met with some of the creepiest human beings on earth. Surely he could come up with a few nightmares about them. It would be less disturbing.

He glanced at the clock. Barely five a.m. on a Saturday. Damn it. He had exactly two days to sleep in. Not to not work. He worked seven days a week, but at least on weekends he got a couple of extra hours of sleep. Everyone knew that.

His cell trilled again, the sound not as close in proximity as it should have been. Had he turned the ringer down?

His heart seized a little because everyone did know that he slept in, and that meant this was likely an emergency. He scrambled to get to his phone.

Where was his phone? He could hear the fucker, but where was it? Why wasn’t it sitting on the nightstand where he always put it?

What the hell had he done last night?

He turned on the lights and walked into the living room, where the sound was louder. Yeah, now he remembered. He’d gotten together with friends and ordered takeout to celebrate the end of a case. Margarita and Noah had come to his place. They’d started out by going over the jury polling and ended up drinking way, way too much tequila.

He was too old for that shit. How had he gotten talked into it? And Margarita could seriously drink some tequila. They’d laughed about it the night before, the amount of tequila going into their Margarita. Naturally she’d been the completely steady one. She was the one who directed him to go to bed when it got late, and promised to see Noah home. God, he hoped Noah hadn’t hit on her. That was the last thing they needed. Margarita Reyes was one of the single smartest legal minds he’d ever met. She split her time between his New York firm, Garrison, Cormack, and Lawless, and the software company 4L, owned by the incredibly wealthy Drew Lawless. David was almost certain Margarita had been initially sent by Drew to watch over the youngest of his siblings, Noah, as he embarked on his career, but two years in she was a part of the team and not someone’s watchdog. Either that or she was a terrible watchdog because she instigated most of the parties.

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