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Gentle Surf Book 3
Trip's best friend and band leader is dead. Now Trip is on trial for criminal negligence. Although the court does find him innocent, his fans and conscience scream otherwise. Guilt and social media are tearing him apart, until a new songbook speaks to him as though the songs were written specifically for him and his internal struggles. And they were.
Aya Rose also knows what it's like to carry the burden of guilt. Powerless to change an outcome or sway a public opinion. Her empathy and heart cries out to Trip. When he responds to her, she wonders if she can afford to get involved. To take a chance that her secrets will not only be exposed, but also threaten her freedom.
Will guilt by association destroy Trip and Aya, or will it lead to something they never dreamed possible?
Page Count: 194
Word Count: 47540
Trip Vincent scrubbed his palms across his eyes. They itched and burned from the dry, recycled air. Under the pads of his fingers, the thick, worm-like scar that ran from the edge of his eyebrow along the contour of his eye to end at his cheekbone reminded him why he was there. The heat and odor of the mass of accumulated bodies crowding the courtroom caused acid to roll in his stomach.
He glanced behind him. Straight-backed, his sister, Evangeline, sat stoically in the front row. Shoulders squared, face pale but determined. The straight-edged nose and dimpled chin a mirror of his own. Despite her almost oppressive shyness, she had never wavered in her support, however much he had tried to shoo her away from the debacle.
When she caught his gaze, her eyes glistened in the fluorescent light. Still, she smiled. He tried and failed to return the gesture. Instead, he nodded and swiveled to face front.
“All stand, for the Right Honorable…”
Trip’s bowels clenched, and his hands fell to the table top. All attention narrowed to focus on the rear of the dais. The remains of the bailiff’s announcement were lost in the shuffle of people rising from the packed benches, their eagerness for the kill like a pheromone scent. An almost mystical hush descended, then a heavy cough echoed off the domed ceiling. Trip didn’t need to hear the rest. He knew the routine well by this point of the trial.
A moment later, a stern-faced judge swept into the room from the alcove at the back of the raised stand. Cloaked in traditional legislative black robes and white cravat, he looked every inch the part. Wavy gray hair complemented the neat beard as he sped across the landing with a regal air. In the half second he took to regard the courtroom, the man’s small, deep-set, penetrating gaze controlled without an utterance. Unquestioned authority permeated every pore. No nonsense would be tolerated.
Then he sat. His robes billowed like a cloud before settling around him while he shuffled some papers on his desk. Justice Moore’s presence seemed to suck the oxygen from the room. A shifting of his gaze to the bailiff, followed by a nod, and everyone obediently resumed their seats.
Everyone except Trip Vincent and his lawyer.
Tremors rippled the length of Trip’s legs, and he swore if he looked down, his knees would be knocking. Clenching his jaw, he suppressed the chatter of his teeth. Never had he been so frightened. His long fingers splayed across the surface of the polished wooden table while he forced his joints to lock. Be a man. A flutter twitched under his right eye, and he squeezed both shut. None of this mattered. His hands balled into fists. All over soon.
Whatever the verdict, the punishment would never bring his best friend back. To the marrow of his bones, he knew this to be the truth. No one cared that he hadn’t been driving. They assumed, and in his grief, he hadn’t corrected them. Trip opened his eyes to face the magistrate, willing himself to wake from the nightmare.
Trip stared at Moore, whose prominent feature, a pronounced lower jaw, seemed to amplify every word. The trim goatee did little to soften the effect. Yet Trip remained grateful that today would mark the end of the debacle. Months of media frenzy, prosecution via the social mob, where no one seemed to care for the real story.
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