Home > The Best Is Yet to Come(2)

The Best Is Yet to Come(2)
Author: Debbie Macomber

   Cade was willing to admit that. Truth be told, he was downright furious with the world. The memories of that last battle engagement clawed at him like an eagle’s talons, his sleep peppered with nightmares that his mind insisted on tossing at him like a hundred-mile-an-hour hardball pitch. He drank to forget. To sleep. To escape.

   Alcohol had become his only friend.

   “I am hereby sentencing you to three hundred and sixty-five days in jail with three hundred and sixty days suspended, giving you credit for the five days already served.”

   Cade heard the soft weeping sounds of his mother in the background. He refused to turn around and look at her. It was bad enough knowing she was here to see how low he’d sunk. He doubted his father knew she’d come. He would have forbidden her to ever speak to him again.

   His attorney grasped hold of his arm. “Do you understand what that means?” she whispered.

   No jail time. This wasn’t what he deserved or had expected with a sense of dread and inevitability.

   “That said, in light of your service to our country, I’m ordering two years’ probation with mandatory participation in both physical therapy and counseling. You will make full restitution for damages and serve five hundred hours of community service.”

   Silence fell over the courtroom at the leniency of the sentence. The prosecutor stood as if to protest, but one look from the judge and he took his seat.

   “Soldier, do you agree to these terms?” the judge asked.

   “He does, Your Honor,” the young woman standing at his side said quickly.

   “I didn’t ask you, Ms. Newman. Mr. Lincoln?”

   Ms. Newman leaned close and urgently whispered, “This is better than we could have hoped for. Agree with her before she changes her mind.”

   “Soldier?” the judge said, staring him down.

   “Yes, Your Honor.”

   She pounded the gavel, and everyone stood as she left the courtroom.

   “What happens if I don’t comply?” Cade asked his lawyer, hoping there was a way to avoid mandatory counseling and physical therapy.

   “Then you serve out the three hundred and sixty days in jail. It’s your choice. It seems to me Judge Walters has taken a personal interest in your case. My advice is not to disappoint her.”

   Cade muffled his distress. He should be grateful. If the prosecutor had his way, he’d be wearing an orange suit and led away in handcuffs.

   “You’ll need to collect the Judgment and Sentence paperwork,” his attorney said.

   The courtroom had cleared. Before he could reply, he heard movement behind him.

   “Cade.” His mother reached out and touched his arm.

   He pretended he didn’t hear her soft voice and, without another word, followed his attorney to the clerk, who was preparing the paperwork.

   When he looked back, he saw that his mother had left. He was sorry she’d come, and even sorrier that they had nothing to say to each other.

 

 

Chapter 1

 


   A teacher really shouldn’t have a favorite student.

   Yet Hope Goodwin did. She was consistently blown away by Spencer Brown, the awkward young man in her Introduction to Computer Science class. He was miles ahead of everyone else. Hope feared his ability would quickly shoot past anything she could teach him. When he first showed up for class, she was surprised. He was by far the smartest kid in school and destined to be class valedictorian. He didn’t need the credits. Every other class in his schedule was at AP level. The gossip she’d overheard in the teachers’ lounge was that both Stanford and Yale were looking at him. The kid was going places. Sure as anything, Spencer didn’t need a basic computer class.

   It didn’t take Hope long to discover the reason Spencer was in her classroom.

   Callie Rhodes, another senior, a member of the dance team and senior class royalty. She was far and away out of Spencer’s league.

   Hope hated that Spencer was setting himself up for a major disappointment. Every class, the kid gave himself away. Hope was convinced she wasn’t the only one who noticed, either. Spencer seemed unable to take his eyes off Callie.

   Hope wondered if he’d heard a single word of anything she’d said the entire class period. His entire focus remained on Callie, and the pretty teenage girl seemed completely oblivious to him.

   Callie was popular, pretty, and smart. From what Hope had been able to determine, she was dating Scott Pender, the school’s star athlete and quarterback. She’d heard Scott played key positions on the basketball and baseball teams as well. Compared to Scott, Spencer didn’t stand a chance.

   Hope’s last period of the day was AP U.S. History, and both Spencer and Callie were in that class. Oceanside High was a small school with fewer than three hundred students. The size suited Hope. She’d been looking to make a significant change in her life. Living in California, being alone in the world, she’d badly needed to get away, to forget and move forward.

   No state income tax was only one of the reasons Washington State appealed to her. It was beautiful and she felt sure she could find a good job there in a charming and friendly community. So she applied for teaching positions in several small towns that dotted the western half of the state. With her two degrees—a master’s in education and another in counseling—she wasn’t surprised to be hired by Oceanside High School. She knew she was a good candidate. In addition to teaching computer science and U.S. history, she also worked as a counselor in the afternoons, which wasn’t an opportunity afforded her at other schools. It made Oceanside an even better fit. Students came to her with a variety of issues. Mostly they needed someone willing to listen.

   Moving to Oceanside had been the right move. Living close to the ocean had always been important to her. Any home or rental within ten miles of the Pacific in California was way out of her limited budget. It astonished her that the small rental cottage she found in Oceanside was well within walking distance of the ocean and, best of all, affordable.

   Her landlords, Preston and Mellie Young, were great. Preston operated the local animal shelter, and Mellie was a full-time mother to their two toddlers. For the most part they kept to themselves. Hope exchanged pleasantries whenever they met. Mellie stayed indoors a lot, so Hope didn’t see her often, but that was fine.

   The cottage was older, probably built sometime in the 1960s or ’70s. Mellie had mentioned that it had once been a summer rental. Only in the last few years had it been rented out full-time. Given how old the house was, it was only natural that it needed a few minor repairs. The kitchen could use a new paint job. One of the faucet handles was loose in the bathroom; the railing on the step was held together by a single nail. All minor details that would be easy fixes. Hope wasn’t complaining, though, seeing how reasonable her rent was. Determined to be a good tenant, Hope would gladly fix whatever needed to be done herself. No need to give her landlords a reason to raise the rent.

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