printed copy

The Jury: Sisterhood #4

Fern Michaels

ISBN 9781420125740
Publish Date 3/6/2012
Format Paperback
Categories Women's Fiction, Sisterhood, Zebra, Fern Michaels

Tea. Sympathy. Revenge. The Sisterhood Has Their Own Style Of Justice.

The women of the Sisterhood know life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean they have to like it—or let it pass. Instead, these best friends share their joys, troubles, triumphs, heartaches and one collective mission: to right wrongs and bring justice where it is desperately needed. Even reeling from loss of one of their own, the Sisterhood is always prepared to rally behind a new friend.

For years, Paula Woodley has suffered the broken bones and shattered self-esteem caused by an abusive marriage. But what can she do? Her high-profile, Washington powerbroker husband is not a man to be crossed. Or so he thinks. The Sisterhood may not be an organization found in any of his memos, but he’s about to take a meeting with them—and they’ll be setting the agenda…

Praise for Fern Michaels’s Sisterhood Novels

Payback

“Revenge is a dish best served with cloth napkins and floral centerpieces…fast-paced…puts poetic justice first.”—Publishers Weekly

Weekend Warriors

“Readers who grow weary of seeing the bad guys get away with their crimes will enjoy seeing what happens when well-funded, very angry women take the law into their own hands.” —Booklist

“An unforgettable story.”—Rendezvous

Prologue

Nikki Quinn opened her eyes and groaned at the bright sunlight shining through her bedroom window. Normally she closed the blinds before getting into bed, but last night she’d consumed way too much wine. Couple that with her frenzied state of mind and she was down for the count. If you added Jack Emery to the mix, she was nothing short of a basket case.

She rolled over and squeezed her eyes shut. Her cheek touched the damp pillow. Damn, she’d cried in her sleep again. What was wrong with her? She was tougher than this. She shouldn’t be falling apart emotionally like she was.

Temples throbbing, Nikki swung her legs over the side of the bed. She gripped the edge of the mattress before she got up to make her way to the shower. A nice hot shower, then a laser-like cold one and she should be up and running. Coffee and juice would add the final touch so she could get on with the day.

Get on with the day? Just what the hell did that mean lately? She’d lost her teaching job at Georgetown University. Her twelve-member all- female law firm, which she’d started up years ago with Myra Rutledge’s help, was thriving but these days, with things going as they were, she didn’t spend much time at the firm. Madeline Barrows did a wonderful job of managing everything in her absence. Still she missed the routine, missed court, missed her colleagues.

As the hot, steamy spray pelted her body, Nikki’s thoughts took her back in time to when Myra Rutledge, her adoptive mother and heiress to a Fortune 500 candy company, had come up with the brilliant idea of forming the Sisterhood so that she could avenge her other daughter’s death . . .

Water cascaded over Nikki’s head like a waterfall. Once, a long time ago, she and Jack had picnicked at a wonderful spot in Pennsylvania where there was a waterfall. They’d frolicked like little kids and then made love behind the sheer curtain of water...

All she had now were those memories, because Jack Emery was determined to put her and the other members of the Sisterhood in prison. So far, though, she and the sisters had remained one step ahead of the former assistant district attorney. Lost love was so very painful.

Nikki stepped out of the shower, toweled herself dry and then brushed her teeth.

It was June. A month for weddings. She and Jack were supposed to get married a year ago in June. But that had never happened and probably never would happen now. She thought about the wedding gown hanging in her closet and how beautiful it was. Tears gathered in her eyes.

Memory Lane was not a good road for her to travel these days. She needed to move on. In fact, she thought she had until recently, when the Sisterhood had convened and her name had been chosen for their next revenge mission. She’d been so startled that she hadn’t said a word. When they formed the Sisterhood it had been her understanding that she was there for legal counsel. While she belonged, she wasn’t a true sister—she hadn’t been wronged by the judicial system. And now she had to come up with a wrong that needed to be made right. The only problem was, the only wrong thing in her life was Jack Emery. There was no way she could turn Jack over to the Sisterhood. Because... because... she still loved him.

Nikki felt lower than a snake’s belly as she dressed in a lime-green sundress with appliquéd sunflowers on the oversized patch pockets. Matching sandals completed her outfit. Her mind raced as she struggled to come up with a solution to her immediate problem.

Was she a member of the Sisterhood or not? Yes and no. She’d taken part in Kathryn’s, Julia’s and Myra’s missions. She’d been an active participant each time. That alone proved she was a true sister. And now it was her turn to exact a revenge on her own behalf. If she didn’t go along with Jack being her mission, she would betray the others.

She knew they would show her no mercy if she balked.

Nikki locked the door of her town house and walked to the parking lot and her BMW. She needed to talk to Myra and Charles and she needed to do it now before she drove herself insane. She had her cell phone in her hand even before she drove out of the parking lot.

“Madeline, it’s Nikki. I’m on my way to Pinewood. Is everything OK? How’s our new lawyer working out?”

“It’s only been ten days, Nikki. She’s had a few walk-ins but no cases that need to be litigated.”

“I hear a ‘but’ coming. Spit it out, Maddie. Do you think I made a mistake hiring her?”

“No. But she’s very aggressive, Nikki. Exceptionally so. She’s stepped on a few toes, but has apologized. I explained the pecking order to her. She didn’t take it well. I think she’ll do fine but she needs to be watched. When are you coming in?”

“I don’t know, Maddie. I have some things to take care of. I turned two of my cases over to Janice. I’ve got a clean plate for the time being. I’m thinking about taking a vacation. I need to get away.”

“Nikki, why don’t you just patch it up with Jack?” Maddie asked in a motherly tone.

“Easier said than done. Keep your eye on Allison. If it starts to look sticky, call me and I’ll fire her. I don’t want anything to upset the harmony we have in the office.”

“Will do, kiddo. Have a nice day.”

Nikki clicked off her cell phone. Had she made a mistake hiring Allison Banks? With so much on her mind it was entirely possible. She gave a mental shrug as she steered the BMW by rote.

Fifty minutes later, after filling her gas tank and getting a cup of coffee, Nikki barreled through the gates of Pinewood. By the time she parked the car and got out, she could see Myra leaning over the terrace railing.

“Darling, how wonderful to see you! Charles and I are having a late breakfast here on the terrace. Join us.”

Nikki entered the house, walked down two hallways to a set of French doors and then out to the terrace. It felt good to be hugged, to be kissed by someone who cared about her. She bit down on her lip as she fought to keep her tears in check.

“Sit down, dear. Orange juice?”

Nikki nodded as Charles poured coffee from an elaborate silver coffeepot. A plate of croissants and melon sat in the middle of the table. If she had to eat either one, Nikki knew she’d choke.

Charles sat down, his eyes full of concern. “Tell us what’s bothering you, Nikki. You look like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

Nikki looked from one to the other. How dear they were to her. She blinked. “I feel like . . . like I’m in the Sisterhood under false pretenses. When we started the organization I thought I was just to be legal counsel and help in whatever way I could. I didn’t have a wrong that needed to be made right, other than losing Barbara, and we already avenged her death. Now it’s my turn and I really don’t have a mission. I know the others are expecting me to choose Jack and I simply can’t do that. I can’t, Myra. That doesn’t mean I want to leave the Sisterhood. I don’t. I just want a pass.”

Myra frowned. How she loved this young woman who was sitting across from her. She was so tortured, so driven. “That’s doable, dear. Why don’t you go away for a while? Take a nice, really long vacation. Go to the islands, soak in the sun, splash in the water, eat and sleep when you feel like it. The main reason I’m suggesting this is that we will not be reconvening at the end of June, when we were expecting Julia to return. Her doctor called last night and said her last blood test wasn’t as good as they would have liked. It seems he wants to keep her a little longer. It’s all still very positive, though. Her departure has been moved back till the end of August. Julia is disappointed but her health is the main concern. We called the others early this morning and all the girls are OK with moving our next mission back to September or even October. I called you, too, dear, but you had already left. So, you see, you’re free to take a nice long vacation. Charles can arrange everything.”

Nikki digested the information. She felt a sense of relief, but it was short-lived. Taking a vacation was fine but she would have to return eventually and deal with the problem of Jack Emery. You couldn’t put a Band-Aid on a severed artery. But as a short-term reprieve, the idea appealed to her.

“Jack?” Nikki said flatly.

Myra looked out across the newly mowed lawn and all the colorful flower beds. “Your revenge is yours, dear. If you want to, as you say, take a pass, then that has to be your decision. I think you need some private time to get things clear in your head. What do you think?”

“There’s the firm. I don’t know, Myra. Maybe a few days, but there’s so much going on I’m not sure I can take an extended vacation.”

“Darling girl, you told me yourself Maddie runs the firm with a strong hand. You also told me you turned your pending cases over to Janice. There’s nothing standing in your way to prevent you from taking an extended vacation—unless it’s Jack.”

Charles fiddled with the collar of his shirt. “Might I take this moment to tell you how tired and drawn you look, Nikki? You’ve been burning the candle at both ends and dealing with Mr. Emery at the same time. That alone would take a toll on anyone. I agree with Myra; a vacation is a good idea, my dear.”

Nikki clenched her teeth. “Is that an order?”

Myra leaned across the table to take Nikki’s hands in hers. “Actually, dear, it is.”

A blue jay swooped down on the terrace before he settled on the iron railing to squawk his displeasure over something. Charles shredded a croissant and dropped it over the railing. The blue jay flew off, still squawking.

They were right and Nikki knew it. “All right, make the arrangements.”

Myra and Charles smiled. In spite of herself, Nikki laughed.

“What shall it be, the islands or the mountains?”

“The islands. I’ll leave the day after tomorrow. I need to go shopping. I think I’ll leave now and get a head start.”

“What about Mr. Emery, dear?” Myra asked.

“I doubt he’ll be joining me, Myra. He’s allergic to sun and sand. Will you call and keep me updated on the others, especially Julia?”

About Fern Michaels:

Fern Michaels is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Sisterhood, Men of the Sisterhood and Godmothers series, and dozens of other novels and novellas. There are over ninety-five million copies of her books in print. Fern Michaels has built and funded several large day-care centers in her hometown, and is a passionate animal lover who has outfitted police dogs across the country with special bulletproof vests. She shares her home in South Carolina with her four dogs and a resident ghost named Mary Margaret. Visit her website at fernmichaels.com.

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