Sunday Sampler: About That Night by Julie James

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Sunday’s Sampler features an excerpt from About That Night, an unforgettable romance from Julie James

As one reviewer said: I loved this entire series. Ms. James is a fantastic writer. I was captivated from the first page. Lots of romance and inner action with all the characters. I eagerly await more books by this great author. Take a chance, you won’t be sorry.

The Story

Though Rylann Pierce tried to fight the sparks she felt for billionaire heir Kyle Rhodes the night they met, their chemistry was undeniable. But after being stood up, she never expected to see him again.

Nine years later, the beautiful assistant U.S. attorney finds herself face to face with Kyle in a courtroom-and still wildly attracted to him. Just released from prison, Kyle isn’t thrilled to be the star witness in a high-profile criminal case.

But he may find gorgeous Rylann Pierce is the one lawyer he can’t refuse.

The Sampler

Julie James
Julie James

May 2003, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

She had survived.

Pressed against the wood-paneled wall of the bar, her chin resting on her hand, Rylann Pierce listened as her friends chatted on around her, quite content for the first time in a month to think about nothing whatsoever.

Along with five of her law school classmates, she sat at a crowded table on the second floor of The Clybourne, one of the few campus bars frequented by highbrow graduate students who demanded that their watered-down, four-dollar drinks be served in actual glasses instead of plastic. Everyone in the group was in the same section as Rylann, which meant they’d all completed their last final exam, Criminal Procedure, late that afternoon. Spirits were high and boisterous—at least boisterous by law student standards—punctuated only by occasional lows when someone realized a point they’d missed during the obligatory post-exam recap.

Someone nudged her elbow, interrupting her reverie. “Hello? Anyone there?”

The question came from Rylann’s roommate, Rae, who was seated at her right.

“I’m here. Just. . . picturing myself at the pool.” Rylann tried to hold onto the mirage for a few moments longer. “It’s sunny and seventy-five degrees. I’ve got some kind of tropical drink with one of those little umbrellas in it, and I’m reading a book—one I don’t have to highlight or outline in the margins.”

“They make those kind of books?”

“If memory serves.” Rylann exchanged a conspiratorial smile with Rae. Like many of their classmates, they’d both spent nearly every waking hour of the last four weeks outlining class notes and textbooks, taking practice exams, staring blurry-eyed at Emanuel’s law outlines into the wee hours of the night, and meeting with study groups—all in preparation for four three-hour tests that would help determine the course of their future legal careers. No pressure there.

The rumor was that second and third years got progressively easier, which would be nice—there was this interesting activity called sleep Rylann had heard of and was thinking about trying it out. Perfect timing, too. She had a week off before her summer job started, during which she planned to do nothing more strenuous than roll herself out of bed every day by noon and mosey over to the university’s outdoor pool that was open to students.

“I hate to burst the bubble on your daydream, but I’m pretty sure they don’t allow alcoholic drinks at IMPE,” Rae said, referring to the university’s Intramural Physical Education building that housed said pool.

Rylann waved off such pesky details. “I’ll throw a mai tai in my College of Law thermos and tell people that it’s iced tea. If campus security gives me any trouble, I’ll scare them off with my quasi-legal credentials and remind them of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against illegal searches and seizures.”

“Wow. Do you know how big of a law school geek you just sounded like?”

Unfortunately, she did. “Do you think any of us will ever be normal again?”

Rae considered this. “I’m told that somewhere around third year, we lose the urge to cite the Constitution in everyday conversation.”

“That’s promising.”

“But seeing how you’re more of law geek than most, it might take you longer.”

“Remember that conversation last night where I said I was going to miss you this summer? I take it back.”

Rae laughed and slung her arm around Rylann’s shoulders. “Aw, you know you’re going to be so bored here without me.”

Rylann was overcome by a sudden pang of sentimentality. Now that finals were over, Rae and nearly all their law school friends were heading back home. Rae would be in Chicago for the next ten weeks, working double shifts at a bartending job that sounded glamorous and fun and that would pay her enough money to cover nearly a year of tuition. Rylann, on the other hand, had scored a Summer Law Internship with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of Illinois. While a prestigious and coveted position among law students—particularly among first-years—she would be paid at the not-so-glamorous GS-5 salary, which would earn her little more than what she needed to cover her rent and living expenses for the summer. Perhaps, if she were particularly frugal, she’d have enough left over for next semester’s textbooks. Or at least one of them. Those darn things were expensive.

But despite the meager GS-5 wages, she was thrilled about the internship. As much as she grumbled about her student loans, she wasn’t going to law school for the money. She had a six-year academic and career plan—she was big on having plans—and her summer internship was the next step in it. After graduation, she hoped to land a clerkship with a federal judge, and then she’d apply to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

While many law students had no clue what type of law they wanted to practice after graduation, this was not the case with Rylann. She’d become addicted to Law & Order in high school and had known she wanted to become a criminal prosecutor ever since. Sure, working for a big firm paid the bills, but civil litigation seemed too dry and impersonal for her tastes. Corporation X suing Company Y for millions of dollars in a lawsuit that could go on for years without anyone giving a damn except for the lawyers who billed three thousand hours a year working on it. No, thank you.

Rylann wanted to be in court every day, in the thick of things, trying cases that meant something. And in her mind, not much could be more meaningful than putting criminals behind bars. Secretly, very secretly, she even harbored hopes of possibly being a judge some day—big dreams, no doubt, but with her first year of law school behind her, she was one step closer to achieving them.

A male voice coming from across the table interrupted her thoughts. “Three months in Champaign-Urbana. Remind me how the girl who is second in our law school class couldn’t work herself a better deal?”

The voice belonged to their friend Shane, who, like everyone else at the table, had a drink in his hand and a good-humored glow about him. Rylann could guess the reason for the glow. In addition to being done with finals, summer break meant that Shane got to return home to Des Moines and see his girlfriend with whom he was adorably smitten—although being a guy, he naturally tried to conceal this fact.

“It’s not the place that matters, Shane. It’s how good you are when you get there.”

“Nicely said,” Rae laughed, high-fiving Rylann.

“Scoff if you want,” Shane replied good-naturedly. “But my car is packed, gassed up, and stocked with snacks for the road. At 7a.m. tomorrow, come rain or shine, I’m blowing this popsicle joint.”

“7a.m.?” Rae looked pointedly at the drink in Shane’s hand, his third. “I’m thinking that’s not going to happen.”

He waved this off, the drink spilling slightly. “Please. Like a little hangover’s going to get in the way of a man in love.”

“Aw. That’s very romantic,” Rylann said.

“Plus I haven’t gotten laid in two months and the reunion sex is awesome.”

“And there’s the Shane we know and love.” Rylann took the last sip of her drink and shook the ice in her glass. “Speaking of hangovers, I think the next round is mine.” She collected orders from the group, then scooted around the crowded table and headed over to the bar.

“Two Amstel Lights, one rum and Diet Coke, two gin and tonics, and a Corona with two limes,” she told the bartender.

A voice, low and masculine, came from her right.

“Sounds like a party.”

Rylann turned in the direction of the voice, and—

Whoa.

Guys like the one leaning against the bar next to her did not exist in Champaign-Urbana. Actually, guys like the one next to her didn’t exist any place she knew of.

His dark blond hair was thick and on the longer side, just brushing against the collar of his navy flannel shirt. He was tall, with piercing blue eyes and an angular jaw—slightly scruffy, as if he hadn’t shaved for a couple days—and had a leanly muscular body. He wore dark jeans and well-worn construction-type boots, and, together with the flannel, looked ruggedly masculine and wholly, undeniably sexy.

Undoubtedly, she was not the first woman to blink twice at the sight of him, nor would she be the last. And he appeared to be fully aware of this fact. His blue eyes sparkled with amusement as he rested one elbow against the bar, all confidence as he waited for her response.

Run.

It was the first thought that popped into Rylann’s head.

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