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They’re beloved members of the Gansett Island family…

But they’ve never had their own book until now! Dan Torrington and Kara Ballard take center stage for the first time ever in this prequel novel. Revisit their story from when they first appeared in FALLING FOR LOVE through HURRICANE AFTER DARK, with many new scenes, characters and backstories as we prepare to follow Dan and Kara to Bar Harbor, Maine, to deal with the most intense Ballard family drama yet.

This is an 87,000-word preview ahead of the upcoming DOWNEAST story, which will pick up right where Dan and Kara’s story left off in HURRICANE AFTER DARK.

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to read on March 29!

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Dan & Kara: A Downeast Prequel

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Chapter 1

That first late summer/autumn…

Dan Torrington had made the ninety-minute drive from Malibu to Riverside every Sunday morning for years, since the week after his only brother was interred in the military cemetery there after being killed in Afghanistan. Dan drove the Porsche Dylan had loved so much, which now belonged to him. He’d trade the sweet car and everything he had, every accomplishment and accolade, for one more day with his beloved brother.

They’d never fought the way brothers often did. Rather, they’d been the best of friends every minute of the twenty-seven years they’d had together. Losing Dylan, almost ten years ago now, had been the worst thing to ever happen to Dan, who’d led a relatively charmed life. Well, except for that time he’d caught his fiancée sleeping with his best man the day before his wedding.

As much as that had hurt at the time, it was nothing compared to losing Dylan. The ex-friend he’d chosen to be his best man had just been a stand-in anyway for the man he’d really wanted by his side that day. If he couldn’t have Dylan, he didn’t want anyone. His now ex-fiancée had pushed him to ask someone and had advocated for the guy she eventually cheated with. He’d been enraged, hurt and embarrassed to have to cancel the wedding the day before, but that hurt couldn’t compare to losing Dylan.

He’d known real loss, and after the initial shock of catching them together had worn off, losing those two had barely registered in the grand scheme of things. These days, he rarely gave either of them a thought. He hoped they were perfectly miserable together and that it was worth what they’d done to him—and his parents, who’d been shocked by the turn of events.

He walked up to the granite monument that bore his brother’s name. After all this time, you’d think it wouldn’t be surreal anymore to see Captain Dylan Torrington, USA, summarized on a hunk of stone with the years of his too-short life prominently featured along with the words BELOVED SON and BROTHER. You’d be wrong. It was still the most surreal thing that Dylan was gone, that he didn’t live long enough to become a beloved uncle and that Dan was left to carry on without the most important person in his life. The intense ache of the loss had dulled somewhat over the years, but it never truly went away.

Dan took a seat at the base of the stone and leaned back against it to drink the coffee he bought at the same local shop every week. They knew him there, even if they didn’t know why he came in every Sunday morning. His parents and sisters didn’t know about his weekly visits. This time belonged to him and Dylan and no one else.

“Another week of nonstop madness in the life of Dan Torrington, Esquire.”

Dylan had loved to call him Esquire. His brother had bestowed the nickname the day Dan entered law school at Yale and had called him that for the rest of his life. After Dylan died, Dan only referred to himself with that title when talking to Dylan. He would answer to Counselor. But Esquire? No. Never. He went so far as to correct anyone who called him that.

“We’re getting close to freeing another prisoner,” Dan told his brother. “It’s impossible to believe the insanity that puts an innocent person on death row for twenty-two years. I hope you’re somehow able to what we’re doing. It feels good to do important work.”

He’d made a fortune in corporate law before he left the firm where he’d made a name for himself to found his innocence project. Losing Dylan had Dan wanting to find meaning in his life. His brother’s death had made him realize that life was short, and time needed to be used wisely.

Dan loved the work, but he was ready for a break. He’d been thinking about writing a memoir about some of the more remarkable cases he’d worked on since he’d started the project seven years ago now and had begun to shop the idea to a couple of publishers. It was nice to know there was interest, but they were looking for details he didn’t have yet.

His phone buzzed with a text from his best friend, Grant McCarthy.

Dan had texted him earlier to see how Grant and his family were making out as Tropical Storm Hailey pounded their tiny Gansett Island, off the southern coast of Rhode Island.

We’re holding up, but this storm is relentless. No ferries for days means we’re getting low on food, water, cash, beer. That last one is the most worrisome, of course. My brother’s wife had a baby named Hailey during the storm when the island’s only doctor was on the mainland. Fortunately, another doctor we know was home visiting, and he delivered baby Hailey. Did I mention that doc was once engaged to my sister Janey and cheated on her? Yep, only on Gansett. In other news, I might’ve met someone who isn’t Abby…

Dan sat up straighter when he read that last part. Grant had been stuck on Abby Callahan for much of a decade. When she’d left him in LA to go home to Gansett, Dan had wondered if Grant would survive losing her. He’d gone home, determined to win back Abby, so it was intriguing to hear there was someone else in the mix.

Do tell! Someone who isn’t Abby?!? Did I read that right? Congrats on the new niece, and I’m glad to hear you’re all safe. Keep me posted.

Dan had heard so much about Grant’s family that he felt like he knew them all personally. He’d like to meet them someday, if he could break free from the relentless demands of his work. New cases were sent to them every day from family members desperate for help in getting their loved ones out of jail.

Sometimes their loved ones were guilty.

Too often, however, a case could be made that they were innocent. The plights of those prisoners kept Dan awake at night, especially because they couldn’t possibly take on every case that came their way. That was why he felt guilty about wanting a break from the relentless pace of his work.

Early days, Grant responded. But I’m definitely intrigued.

Best news I’ve heard in ages. It’s long past time to move on. Don’t fuck it up by mooning after Abby. That ship has sailed.

I’ll try not to. You’d like this one. She doesn’t put up with my bullshit.

MARRY HER!

Shut your face. I ain’t marrying anyone.

What’s her name?

I’m not telling you that.

Oh, come on. Don’t be a dick. You know you want to tell me.

I don’t want to tell you.

Be that way.

Dan laughed at the ridiculous exchange. They’d met when Grant was researching the death penalty for Song of Solomon, the Oscar-winning screenplay Grant had written. Dan had also handled the contracts for that film as one of his last duties before he left the firm to start his innocence project. He’d gotten a new best friend out of the deal.

He was glad to hear something new was brewing for his buddy. The relationship with Abby had been over for a while. Everyone but Grant seemed to have realized that some time ago.

Dan had tried to talk him out of going home for one last try at salvaging things with her, but Grant had been undeterred. Maybe that choice would lead to a whole new direction for him. That’d be a very good thing after he’d watched Grant mope around for months after Abby had pulled the plug on her time in LA—and her decade-long relationship with Grant.

“Sorry to not give you my full attention today, Dyl. Grant needed me for a minute there. I’ve told you about him. You would’ve liked him. He’s a good dude. I’m jealous that he has three brothers. You had to go and leave me with just the sisters, who drive me crazy asking if I’m eating and dating and taking care of myself. They mean well, and I know they worry, but I’m doing okay. I miss you every day, and I wish more than anything you were still here. I’d even give you back the Porsche if you suddenly showed up to tell us the last ten years have been a bad dream. I still hope for that, and I always will.”

Dan turned his face up into the warm sunshine, as relaxed as he ever was these days. The relentless demands of his work kept him from dwelling on his grief during the week. On Sundays, he allowed himself to wallow in the loss, to feel the ache, to wish things were different.

He even dozed for a while, which almost never happened during the day. When he opened his eyes, he realized quite a bit of time had gone by while he rested. “I guess I should head home and get a jump on Monday.” He often spent most of the weekend catching up on the things he hadn’t gotten done the week before. “I’ll see you next week, bro. I miss you and love you.”

Dan rested his hand on the top of the granite marker for a long moment before he walked away, leaving a big piece of his heart with his brother, where it would always be.

A few days later, Dan returned to the office after a court appearance to receive a message that Grant had called.

“He used the word urgent,” Dan’s assistant, Christa, told him.

“I’ll call him now. Thanks.” He went into his office, dropped his briefcase on the desk and used his personal cell to return Grant’s call.

“Counselor. Thanks for calling me back.”

“No problem. Don’t tell me you finally got yourself arrested.”

Grant laughed. “Not yet. Listen, I have this friend…”

“Would this be the friend you mentioned the other day?”

“Possibly.”

“Curiouser and curiouser. What about her?”

“She’s been trying to get her stepfather out of prison for fourteen years.”

Dan sat in his leather desk chair and leaned his head back. “What’d he do?”

“Nothing. He saved her from an abusive mother and got charged with kidnapping and assault of a minor.”

“She didn’t testify?”

“She did, but according to her, no one would listen to her side of the story when she tried to tell them her mother hurt her, and Charlie saved her. She’s all but bankrupted herself fighting to get him free, with numerous attorneys taking her money and doing nothing to help.”

Dan hated to hear that. “Wow, man, looks like you’ve stumbled upon your next screenplay.”

“Maybe, but that’s not my primary concern. She needs help, Dan. This whole situation is obscene.”

“It certainly sounds that way. You say she testified, but it didn’t do any good?”

“She said it was like she was screaming at the top of her lungs, and no one was listening.”

“You believe her?”

“I do. She loves him. I think he’s the only person in her life who was ever kind to her or took an interest in her. She’s eaten up with guilt over the fact that his kindness toward her resulted in fourteen years in prison.”

Dan sighed. “I hate cases like this. They make me see red.”

“Can you help her?”

“You bet I can. Let me check the schedule and see how soon I can get there.”

“You’re going to come here? You yourself?”

Dan laughed. “I do actually work, you know. And miscarriage-of-justice cases like this one are my favorite kind.”

“She doesn’t have a lot of money, so let me know what you need to get started.”

“Don’t worry about that for now. We’ll see what’s what after I’ve had a chance to dig a little deeper.”

“I owe you big for this.”

“Yes, you do. At the very least, I want a consultant’s credit on the screenplay.”

“You got it,” Grant said with a chuckle.

“Send me the details, and I’ll be in touch.”

It took a few phone calls, an internet search and a review of the court documents Grant sent for Dan to conclude that Charlie Grandchamp had been railroaded. Grant texted to say he’d spoken to his uncle Frank McCarthy, a retired Rhode Island Superior Court judge, about the Grandchamp case. Grant had learned from his uncle that the presiding judge had been showing signs of the Alzheimer’s that would later force his retirement for some time when he heard Charlie’s case. The judge had died five years ago.

Dan used the information about the judge’s illness and the statement Stephanie Logan, Grandchamp’s stepdaughter, had sent to file a request for an emergency hearing. He also instructed his staff to get him licensed to work in Rhode Island. Then he booked a plane ticket to Providence.

His first stop after landing in Rhode Island was the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston, which was just south of the capital city of Providence. He gave his name at the check-in counter and asked to see Charlie Grandchamp.

“You’re not on Mr. Grandchamp’s visitor list.”

“His daughter recently retained me to represent him. I’m not sure he’s aware of that yet. I flew in from LA to see him ahead of an emergency hearing in his case this coming Wednesday.”

“Could I see some ID?”

“Of course.”

Dan respected that the guy asked, even though he’d clearly recognized him. He handed over his California driver’s license.

The guard gave the license back to him. “I’ll have to get authorization. Would you mind waiting?”

“Sure, no problem.”

After giving him another inquisitive look, the guard closed the window between the desk and reception area and picked up the phone.

Dan took a seat, expecting it to take a while since he’d shown up unannounced. He used the time to check his phone, to weigh in on inquiries from colleagues on several pending cases and to let Grant know where he was. Don’t say anything to Stephanie yet. Let me talk to Charlie and see where we are after.

I can’t thank you enough or believe you’ve already got them to agree to a hearing. You have no idea what this will mean to her.

I’m happy to help. No promises, though.

Got it. Keep me posted.

Going to hang in Providence until the hearing on Wed, and then I want to check out your island.

Steph and I will be there. Can’t wait to see you.

Same, friend.

The guard opened the window fifteen minutes after he’d closed it. “Come on through.”

Dan stood and went to the door, waiting for it to open after a buzzer sounded.

Another guard appeared to escort Dan to a room where he was told to wait.

Ten more minutes passed before the door opened to admit a muscular man with a buzz cut and piercing blue eyes.

Dan stood and waited for the guard to remove Grandchamp’s cuffs before he extended a hand to the other man. “Dan Torrington.”

The guard left the room, closing the door behind him.

Charlie ignored his outstretched hand and took a seat, all without seeming to blink. “What do you want?”

“Stephanie asked me to come.”

“Well, you wasted a trip.”

“I’m not so sure.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’ve reviewed your case and requested an emergency hearing. Did you hear that Judge Dugan died of Alzheimer’s complications five years ago?”

“Yeah, I knew that. So what?”

“Did you also know he was showing signs of dementia as far back as ten years before he died?”

For the first time since he walked into the room, the other man blinked.

“I’ve read every word about your case, particularly the statement your daughter made about how you were never anything but kind to her.”

Grandchamp’s steely gaze shifted to a spot behind Dan.

“It’s a travesty that you’re in here, and I’m going to do everything I can to get you out, starting with an emergency hearing in Superior Court.”

His stare shifted back to Dan. “They agreed to that?”

“They did.”

“Why?”

“I don’t say this to be arrogant, but my name tends to get people’s attention. I have a reputation for only taking cases I feel I can win, because it can be tremendously expensive to fight these things. I have to focus the limited resources of my innocence project on cases I can win.”

“And you feel you can win mine?”

“I know I can.”

Charlie shook his head, his expression skeptical. “So many lawyers just as smooth as you have promised us the same thing. I can’t have my daughter disappointed again.”

“She won’t be. I give you my word as a man and an officer of the court. What was done to you is outrageous. I’d like the chance to fix it.”

Charlie crossed his arms as he trained that unblinking glare on Dan. “You really think you can?”

“I’m almost sure of it.”

He exhaled as his posture lost a bit of rigidity. “My daughter has devoted her entire adult life to this cause for fourteen long years.”

“I understand.”

“Do you? Do you understand that means she’s had no life of her own? She hasn’t dated or gone to college or done anything other than work her ass off to pay for lawyers who promise her the world and leave us back at square one when they move on to the next thing.”

“My services are free to you and Stephanie.”

He certainly hadn’t expected that. “Free. How is that possible?”

“Stephanie has become friends with my close friend Grant McCarthy.”

“The people who own the place where Stephanie works?”

“Their son. He asked me to help. Any friend of his is a friend of mine. And I don’t need the money. I made plenty in corporate law. I’m much more interested in justice than money these days. My innocence project in LA has freed dozens of wrongly convicted people.”

“So you’re kind of good at this sort of thing, then?”

“That’s what I’ve been told,” Dan said with a smile. “I know you have no reason to trust me or to think I’ll be any different than the other lawyers who’ve promised you the world, but I hope you’ll allow me to do whatever I can to help you.”

After a long moment of silence, Dan was certain Charlie was going to tell him to get lost. He wouldn’t have blamed him after what the less ethical members of his profession had done to Charlie and his daughter.

Instead, Charlie put his arms on the table and leaned in. “All right, Mr. Torrington. I’ll accept your help and put my faith in you, but only because my daughter sent you. She’s the only person in the whole world who matters to me, and if she wants me to do this, I’ll do it. But so help me God, if you disappoint her, you’ll regret it.”

“I won’t disappoint her.”

“Fine.”

“By the way, I got your hearing moved up to this Wednesday.”

“As in this week?”

“As in two days from now.”

“Son of a bitch. Are you for real?”

“As real as it gets.”

“Will you let my daughter know?”

“Since you’ve agreed to let me represent you, she’ll be my next call.”

“This… I… I don’t know what to say.”

“I’m very glad Grant called me. This is the stuff I live for. I’ll see you in court.” Dan got up to go to the door but turned back to address the other man. “Oh, and, Charlie? You might want to pack your stuff.”

Marie Force/HTJB, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 

~ Calvin Coolidge

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