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About the author:
Jennifer Bramseth is a native Kentuckian and lifelong resident who lives next to a major thoroughbred horse farm and within minutes of several legendary bourbon distilleries.
What inspired you to write your book?
All of the book titles relate to bourbon and reflect an aspect of the couple’s relationship and plot. The series will be a total of nine books; five books and a short story have been released. Book 6 will be released in early 2016.
Here is a short sample from the book:
End of the day. Almost time to go home.
Rachel was excited because she was going to head straight for her pool. The weather was finally warm enough and tonight would be her first post-work relaxation dip.
Rachel’s cell phone rang and she saw it was Hannah.
“Hey, girlfriend,” came the bubbly voice. “How’s it going being the great goddess of justice?”
“Today, it’s too damned hot,” complained Rachel, explaining about the unreliable courthouse air conditioning.
“I know what you need—Happy Hour!” declared Hannah.
Rachel agreed, but what she really wanted was Happy Hour at home—alone and in her pool, her only companion a glass of Old Garnet on the rocks.
“Where’s Josh?” asked Rachel, wondering about the whereabouts of Hannah’s husband, Josh Cassidy, the local school superintendent.
“Off at some conference, at the state capital. Dullsville. So I didn’t go with him,” she explained. “So what about it? Or do you have other plans?” Hannah asked suggestively.
“No, not unless you count going home alone for the evening.”
“Walk over to the bank after work, Judge Richards,” Hannah ordered. “I’ll be your designated driver.”
“I’d rather be yours instead.”
And that’s just how it turned out.
They chose a Mexican restaurant south of town since it was close and Hannah wanted a margarita. After they’d been seated and ordered, Hannah briefly described what she’d done for Derby (a trip up to Churchill Downs to make a charity-related appearance with her family, along with a few other distillery-owning families). But then Hannah started complaining about her job, which was becoming a regular topic of conversation.
“I shouldn’t whine,” Hannah said, “but the work has become so very boring, dull, routine. They pay me well enough—but…”
“Sometimes I feel like I’m just marking time, you know?”
“I get it,” Rachel said. “I felt that way when I worked in state government.”
“But being a judge is pretty nifty, huh?”
“I always dreamed about it,” Rachel said. “I never thought it would happen to me.”
“Sounds like you’re describing what it feels like to fall in love, if you ask me,” Hannah said as she ordered her second margarita.
Rachel ignored the comment and went on to describe the tough parts of being a judge: sentencing people to long terms in prison and deciding divorces, just to name a few.
“Wish I could do something like being a judge,” Hannah moaned and took a sip of her second drink as soon as it arrived, along with the food. “Maybe I should run someday.”
“You’d be a great judge, Hannah,” agreed Rachel. She glanced at her watch. Eight. She could still make it home and get in a quick swim.
“Hey! Maybe I should run now!” Hannah exclaimed. “I could run against that Brady Craft! Is it too late to file?” Hannah unwrapped her fork and knife as she asked the question.
“I—uh—I don’t think so,” Rachel stammered.
“That’d show that jerk, wouldn’t it?” she asked, and jabbed a finger in Rachel’s direction. “Give him a little competition, like he was going to do to you! That’d be karma for sure!” Hannah tittered, and Rachel sensed that they needed to leave soon. “Imagine,” Hannah continued, “you wouldn’t have to share those chambers anymore with that jerk—it could just be us girls!”
“That’s…that’s right,” Rachel said slowly.
“You don’t sound too excited about the idea,” Hannah pouted.
“I—just—are you sure? The salary isn’t as much as you’re making now, I’m sure. And the hours can be really unpredictable,” Rachel said, poking at her enchiladas with a fork. Suddenly, she wasn’t very hungry.
“Well, it’s not like I need the salary,” she admitted, an indirect nod to her bourbon-related wealth. “But it would be more interesting and meaningful than what I’m doing now,” Hannah said, more sober than Rachel had credited her with being. Rachel reminded herself that this was a woman who owned part of a distillery and could more than hold her liquor. Hannah brought the margarita back to her lips. “Running for the bench is definitely something I’ll think about,” she said, taking a very big sip of her drink as Rachel unsuccessfully tried to sneak a look at her watch. “Hey, you need to go?”
“I have an early day tomorrow, that’s all. A trial,” explained Rachel.
“For a minute there, I thought you had a late date,” Hannah teased.
Rachel snorted. “As if! No time for that!”
“Why’d you give Rob the cold shoulder? He was so sweet—and really liked you.”
“The pharmacist? He was so dull.”
Hannah sighed and shook her head disparagingly. “I’ll just have to keep looking for someone for you.”
“Don’t do me any more favors, please.”
“Like you can do any better on your own!”
“It just so happens I’m not looking. Not on the market,” Rachel declared.
“Every single person is on the market, Rachel. Just because you’re not looking doesn’t mean someone isn’t looking at you.”
Being preoccupied on the bench through the long afternoon had gotten Brady nothing but two confused attorneys, but he had managed to make two decisions.
He’d denied the motion to suppress filed by the public defender and had decided to ask Rachel out on a date.
And he was going to ask her that very evening. Time to act.
But when he had returned to chambers, he’d found Rachel talking to Sherry about going out with Hannah Davenport. So that had killed those plans.
Now he was sitting on the back patio of his small townhouse trying to figure out the next step. As the moths emerged from the dimness and began to attack and bounce off his porch light, he still hadn’t a clue.
Tomorrow. He would ask tomorrow.
What the hell was happening to him? Rachel was almost constantly on his mind. Sharing an office with the woman had set all of his senses on fire. Was it just the simple proximity of her presence that was making him crazy? Because while they had seen each other often enough over the past few years, they hadn’t been occupying the same office and seeing each other every workday. Now he got regular whiffs of that perfume and saw that shimmering cascade of silky dark hair every damn day.
He finally had admitted to himself that he had seen Rachel as someone who was not his equal, but her appointment had shattered that illusion. And now that his perception of her had been forcibly and uncomfortably altered, he also had to acknowledge his increasing attraction to her.
This change of heart wasn’t something he could easily explain to her, if it ever came to that. Hell, he couldn’t adequately explain it to himself.
Yet the past was the past. He was living in the present. And at present, the thought of Rachel Richards was slowly driving him crazy. This had to be her maddening, unknowing revenge for all those times he’d acted like an asshole to her over the past several years.
He realized it wasn’t appropriate to ask her out while they were at work, but he couldn’t wait until tomorrow evening to ask her.
He’d call her now.
By the time Rachel got home it was nearly dark, but she had enough time to get in a little swim.
After pulling her car into the garage and closing the door, she dumped her purse in the kitchen and hurried across her living room to her bedroom. Once there, she stripped down to nothing, re-secured her ponytail, and opened the French doors to her patio and the pool beyond.
Living out in the middle of nowhere was nice. No neighbors for about a mile on each side made skinny-dipping a risk-free venture.
As Rachel stepped out onto the patio, she heard her cell phone ringing and stopped in mid-stride. With a loud groan, she walked to her bedside table where she’d left her device and checked the number. Now that she was a judge, she couldn’t simply ignore calls. Some cop or the sheriff could need a warrant signed, and maybe they couldn’t get in touch with…
Why was he calling her? She’d put his number into her phone contacts just as a practical step; she had foreseen times when they would have to call each other, perhaps to cover something for the other or in emergencies.
So it had to be important if he was calling.
“Brady?” she answered.
“Uh, yes, Rachel?”
“Yes, is something wrong?”
“Oh, I just thought there must be some problem if you’re calling me,” she said, relieved but still confused.
“No, nothing’s wrong, Rach,” he said.
Rach. She suddenly became very aware of her nakedness. Looking down at her body,
Rachel saw a flush spread out across her chest.
“So to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?” she asked.
“This isn’t about work,” Brady said. “In fact, I didn’t want to ask you this at work.”
“Ask me what?”
“I’d like to ask you out, you know, on a date,” he said in a rush.
“Oh,” she said softly, thinking he sounded like a teenager asking a girl out for the very first time.
“That wasn’t very smooth, was it?”
“I’ve heard worse,” she laughed.
“Look, if you don’t want to, I understand,” he said, and she heard the disappointment in his voice. “We both work together, so…”
“Oh, no, I’d like to go out,” she said brightly. “What did you have in mind?”
“Well, nothing very formal, of course. Casual. Also, I thought you might not want to be seen out and about together in Bourbon Springs lest people talk. So I’m thinking we should go out of town.”
“That is a good thing to think about,” she admitted. “So when?”
“After work tomorrow?”
“Sounds good. Where? I can meet you.”
“Could I pick you up? I’d like to surprise you.”
“Like you did with the lunch?” she asked.
She heard him laugh. “You got me. The lunch was a test to see if you’d eat with me. Or even talk to me.”
“Ah, so I was right. You did have an ulterior motive,” Rachel teased. “Not that I’m complaining.”
He cleared his throat. “I’ll pick you up at your place tomorrow at seven,” he told her. “I’ll get directions from you tomorrow.”
She agreed, but warned him that she had a trial the next day that could go late. Brady said they could re-schedule if that happened and then ended the call. Rachel looked down at her body. Her chest was fully flushed, her nipples taut.
She hoped the pool was cold.
The following day, Rachel and Brady acted as though it was simply business as usual. She only saw him briefly before going on the bench for the criminal trial she’d mentioned to Hannah.
“Looks like we’ve been replaced,” Rachel said to him as she fastened the front of her robe before going into court. A sheriff’s deputy stood near the door to the courtroom, ready to act as bailiff and open court.
Brady looked up from examining some mail as he stood in front of Sherry’s desk. “How’s that?”
In that moment, Rachel’s breath caught as she gazed at him.
He’d asked her out.
They were going out that very night.
And he suddenly looked very hot.
“Rachel?” Brady asked when she didn’t respond.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, shaking her head to bring herself back into reality. “I meant that we now have a new prosecutor and a new public defender in Bourbon Springs.”
“Go easy on ’em,” Sherry said as Rachel headed into court.
During the trial, Rachel often found her thoughts drifting to Brady and had to fight off her distractedness. But she made it through the proceedings without making an idiot of herself in open court, and sent the jury out at three o’clock. It was a drug possession charge, and those rarely took a jury long to dispose of. The case proved no exception, and the jury was back by four, and the sentencing phase over half an hour later.
“Sure, go on,” Rachel said when Sherry asked to leave early. Sherry’s dog was ill and she wanted to get home. “I’ll lock up here.”
Rachel realized she’d not yet given Brady directions to her house, so she wrote them out and went over to his side of the office to deliver them.
“You live pretty far out in the country,” he remarked after he’d reviewed them.
“It’s nice and quiet,” she said. “Private.”
When she returned to her office, she examined some of the papers she’d had on the bench. To her shock, she realized that she had one of the exhibits from the trial in her possession—a small collection of documents. The bench clerk had not taken them back from her before the adjournment, and Rachel had scooped them up and brought the materials back to chambers. Rachel looked at her watch. Everyone from the clerk’s office was gone by that time, so she couldn’t call one of the clerks to come get the items.
“I have to go down to the evidence vault,” she called over the partition, explaining that she still had an exhibit.
“Hold on and I’ll come with you,” he said.
“You don’t want me to come along?”
“No, just curious as to why.”
“I’ve always thought it was kinda creepy down there, although I’ve only been in there with a clerk. Haven’t been down on my own as a judge. Thought you might want the company.”
She couldn’t argue with his logic. The old vault—where evidence from trials was kept, along with some old record books—was a big, yawning space in the courthouse basement. Clerks and judges were allowed in, but attorneys could only enter accompanied by a clerk. Rachel had never been there alone, so she welcomed Brady’s presence.
Rachel grabbed her purse and briefcase, and Brady took his messenger bag and headed to the basement on the elevator. She clutched the exhibits to her chest as they rode down, and realized she was anxious to get out of the courthouse and get ready for the evening.
Once to the vault doors, Rachel tapped in her code on the computer lock and they both entered, the door falling shut behind them. The large space was intermittently lit with fluorescent lights, leaving some areas in darkness. She found the spot where the other exhibits from that day’s trial were stored and placed the exhibits in her possession with those on a shelf.
“Ready?” Brady said as she walked back to the door where he waited. She nodded and he tried to push the door open.
But he couldn’t.
He pushed and pulled, but nothing happened.
“You are not going to tell me we’re locked in here!” Rachel cried.
“OK, I won’t tell you. But try the door for yourself.”
Rachel went through the same process as Brady, with the same results.
Then they checked their phones.
“Now what?” she asked him, looking at him with alarm.
“We start yelling and screaming,” he said.
After several minutes of banging on the door, they both gave up and retreated to a corner area where they found a battered brown couch in an area of the vault that had no lighting directly over it.
“Wonder why this is down here,” Rachel said as she deposited her purse on the floor and flopped on the couch.
“I’ve heard stories that old Judge Bailey used to come down here and take naps. It was cool and quiet and he’d tell people he was in here so they wouldn’t bother him. This must have been his spot.”
“A nice retreat,” Rachel said, looking around. The walls were made of limestone and the ceiling was low. The space had to be an original part of the courthouse, which was well over one hundred years old.
He slumped on the couch with her and looked around. “I guess we’re stuck here overnight,” Brady said.
“What about the custodians?” Rachel asked. “Might they come down here and hear us?”
Brady shook his head, and some of his dark hair fell onto his forehead. “Not likely. The custodians rarely get down to the basement. No offices down here. I think they only sweep once a week in this area, according to what a clerk mentioned to me.”
Rachel fell back onto the couch, inhaled and closed her eyes. “So we’re stuck until one of the clerks or custodians opens this room in the morning.” Her stomach growled, and she opened her eyes to catch Brady looking at her. He turned away and took off his suit jacket and loosened his tie.
“So much for our date,” he said nervously.
She sighed and nodded. “And so much for eating, I guess—but wait.” Smiling, she sat up, picked up her purse from the floor, and rifled through the contents until she hit paydirt. “Ah ha!” Rachel triumphantly proclaimed and pulled out a package of granola bars. “And guess what—there are two in each pack,” she said as she tore the wrapper.
“Hold that thought,” Brady told her. From his messenger bag, he pulled two bottles of water. “I take them to the gym,” he explained and handed her a bottle. In return, she gave him one of the granola bars. Brady thanked her and raised his bottle to make a toast. “To our first date,” he said. She raised her bottle to meet his and then both took drinks.
“That toast presumes two things,” Rachel said as she kicked off her shoes and slipped her feet under her legs on the couch.
Brady raised an eyebrow. “Tell me how I’m being doubly presumptuous.”
“First, that this is our first date,” she said, taking a small bite of the granola bar. “What about that time we tried to go out when we were clerks?”
“Doesn’t count,” Brady declared. “Too remote and not a good memory for me because of my uncle. But it seems like tonight should count since we’d already made plans to be together.”
“Plans you never told me about,” Rachel said, pointing her water bottle at him.
“You want me to tell you the surprise? Because I still hope I’ll have the chance to surprise you with the same plans.”
“And that’s the other presumption,” Rachel said. She put the cap back on the bottle and leaned over and placed it on the floor. “If this is our first date, you’re thinking there will be a second.”
“I certainly hope there will be,” he said as his piercing blue eyes remained fixed on her face.
The intensity of his stare surprised her and she was the one to look away first.
She decided to lighten things up and described what she had done after her clerkship with Justice Nolan ended. Rachel talked about working a desk job in state government but deciding she wanted more time in the courtroom.
“So when I heard about the public defender job here in Bourbon Springs, it was just what I’d been looking for. It was time to come home.” An uneasy silence descended, and Rachel finally broke it. “Brady,” she began, “there’s something I don’t get.”
“Why did you act like I didn’t exist for the past five years? I certainly didn’t expect you to be my best friend, but when I got back to Bourbon Springs, you seemed…different.”
“How?” he asked, the muscles in his face suddenly tense.
She sighed and gathered her thoughts. “You weren’t the Brady I remembered when we worked for Justice Nolan. And when we were doing the criminal cases together you acted like we’d never known each other at all. But now that we’re both judges—well, you’ve changed again. You’re almost like the old Brady I remember.” She put her arm on the back of the couch as she faced him.
“Almost?” he asked with mock indignation, putting a hand to his chest.
“Well, you still can be damned difficult,” Rachel said, thinking of how he’d handled the whole office-sharing problem.
They both laughed and the tension between them momentarily dissipated.
Brady turned to face Rachel squarely and put his arm along the back of the couch. He reached for her hand and took it, and she did not shy away from his modest but intimate gesture.
“I guess I’m glad to hear you say I’m more like the old Brady you remember.”
“So what happened?” she asked.
Brady dropped his head.
“You’re right. I did change,” he admitted and then lifted his head to meet her gaze. “Almost as soon as I got back to Bourbon Springs after my clerkship, I realized I wanted to be a judge. I’d first thought about getting on the bench when I clerked for Justice Nolan—I think she sparked that interest in me. But when I came home and became a prosecutor, got my chance to be there in court almost every day and be a part of the system, to work and live in that ebb and flow of the law, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to wear the robe. I wanted to be that person, to serve my community and profession in that way. And I worked toward that goal for ten years. But I became too focused on it. I didn’t really think about anything else,” he confessed.
That was readily apparent to Rachel. But it still didn’t explain his change of attitude back to the more likeable version of Brady.
“So why this most recent change?”
“You already figured it out, Rach.”
“You nailed it when you said it killed me that you became a judge before I did.” He dropped his head. “And because you got there first, I started to see you differently.”
“Differently? You resented me, right?” she asked, unable to keep the anger out of her voice.
He finally looked up at her. “I did at first. But then something else happened. Something that should’ve happened years ago, but I was too much of a jerk that I couldn’t acknowledge it.”
“And what was that?”
“I finally started seeing you as an equal.”
“No longer the junior clerk, right?” Rachel asked, still irritated.
He closed his eyes. “Yes.”
“I had a feeling it was something like that.” She loosened her grip on his hand, signaling she wanted him to release her.
He opened his eyes. “But I think there was a big advantage in me being such a—a….” Brady stammered.
“The word you’re looking for is jerk, Brady,” Rachel said, pulling her hand away.
But Brady snatched her hand back and pulled her closer to him. Rachel’s eyes widened in surprise at his move.
“Yes, I was a jerk, Rachel,” he confessed. “And I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been so shallow. But it may have been for the best.”
“For the best? That you were a jerk to me these past years?”
“Yes. Because if I’d had to work with you seeing you like I do now—like I always should have seen you—and feeling about you like I do now…well, I would’ve gone crazy not being able to act on those feelings.”
“Not act on—you mean because you were a prosecutor and I was a public defender?”
“Yes,” he whispered and moved nearer to her on the couch.
Rachel’s breathing quickened.
“And now that we’re—I mean—you’re free to follow up on your feelings,” she said breathlessly, leaning toward him, “what are you going to do?”
He inched closer to her, and she could see the rough tease of a five o’clock shadow along his jaw.
“Only what you want me to do,” he whispered.