CODE OF HONOR is now available on Amazon for Kindle and print, Barnes and Noble in paperback and on Create Space for print.
Graeme McAlister has returned home to Texas to discover why his foster brother overdosed on morphine and crashed the company jet. The idea makes no sense, but the NTSB and coroner's reports both confirm suicide. Graeme's determined to unearth the truth and return to Washington, D.C. but, when he sees his brother's widow, will he be able to handle the biggest revelation of all?
A widow at the age of twenty-eight, Maggie Benning, resolves to establish a successful and independent life for herself and her five-year-old son, Andy. Her initial goal is getting back her RN job at the hospital ER where she was accused of stealing the drugs that killed her husband ten months ago. She's reconstructing her shattered life when Graeme McAlister comes back to McTiernan, Texas and stirs up old memories and feelings she thought long buried. Can she overcome past hurt and loss of trust to accept the possibility of a new love in her life?
Maggie took her place behind the scarred, antique oak bar. She tied a worn bleached-white apron over her jeans, gathered the empty glasses and bottles and swiped a bar towel over the sticky remnants of beer and mixed drinks spilled earlier in the afternoon.
She looked across the bar, through layers of swirled smoke, to the handful of customers sitting at tables surrounding the dance floor. Businessmen and good old boys exchanged stories from their day while enjoying the frigid indoor temperature, band members set up their equipment, and a few cowboys played pool off to the far right.
Two men sat at a table in a shadowed back corner, their heads angled close in deep conversation. It was too dark to see their faces, but they appeared almost angry at times, each taking his turn stabbing the tabletop with an index finger to make his point. Maggie wondered what their story was. Were they discussing a major transaction, ranchers making a deal or enemies settling a score?
Before her imagination could run any other direction, Harry walked up with a stack of clean towels. He placed them on a shelf behind the bar then stood between her and her curiosity, effectively blocking her view.
* * *
Jaw clenched and tense as a bull rider waiting for the gate to spring open, Graeme stared at the drink in his hand as his older brother took verbal swings at his character.
"Now that you're back, do you have the balls to stay, or are you going to turn tail and disappear again?" With that final sarcastic shot, he finally shut-up.
Graeme pushed upright in his chair to loosen the kinks from his back and shoulders. Every muscle screamed a protest at being bunched in a knot.
Elliott's words stung like the slap of Andrew's hand the first time Graeme had openly defied an order. He supposed, in all fairness, his brother had a right to ask the question. Whether one was born a Benning or raised as one, family meant everything. And, while he hadn't had a choice on whether to go or stay, he hadn't been available when the family had needed him.
While Graeme didn't have an answer yet, he damn sure had a few questions of his own for Dallas County's Assistant District Attorney.
Graeme took a swig from his longneck as Elliott mirrored his actions. They were, he thought, like two grade school opponents sizing each other up on the playground at recess. Graeme swiped at the condensation on the beer bottle while deciding where to begin.
"So Wyatt never contacted you, at any time, before the crash? You had no idea he was in trouble?"
"No. Not a clue." Elliott shifted in his chair, repositioned his beer. His foster brother made it apparent that he was unaccustomed to being questioned. Either that or there was something else he wasn't saying.
"Nothing . . ." Elliott swiped at a water puddle under the bottle. "It's nothing."
"Look, if we're going to get to the bottom of this, we have to level with one another. What were you going to say?"
"You know Wyatt. He was never like the rest of us. He didn't act out, never bucked the system. He always kept things bottled up."
"Yeah, that goody two-shoes act used to piss me off. We could never wheedle anything out of him." Graeme shook his head and grinned.
"Well, it was the same thing this time, except…"
"Elliott," Graeme ground out his brother's name, huffed out a sigh in exasperation. "Stop dragging this out. What?"
"Maggie came to the office about a month prior to the accident. She asked me for the name of a good divorce attorney."
That news ripped through Graeme like a shot. After digesting it for a minute, he asked, "Did you give her one?"
"Yeah, I did."
Graeme leaned toward the table, rested his forearms against the edge. "Did she go? Did she file?"
"No." Elliott picked up his bottle, drained its contents then answered sadly, "Whether or not she intended to, I don't know, because the next time I saw her, Wyatt was dead. Soon after the funeral, she moved in with that ditzy friend of hers like she didn't want anything to do with the family."
"Is that when you decided to charge her with theft of the morphine Wyatt likely overdosed with? When she was alone and vulnerable?"
Elliott scowled. "D.A. Harrison was relatively new in his job and still trying to impress the good people of Dallas County."
Snorting in disgust, Graeme ground out, "And he did it at Maggie's expense."
"Yeah, but not without cause. The drugs disappeared from the hospital's inventory and the investigators narrowed the time down to Maggie's shift."
"What did she have to say about that?"
"She denied stealing the drugs, of course."
"You don't really think she did, do you?"
"I don't want to, but . . . hell, I don't know," Elliott said with a sigh. "You knew her better when we were growing up. Do you think she's capable?"
Graeme pushed his chair away from the table. "I think I should talk to Maggie to get her side of the story."
Elliott leaned back in his own chair, sported a grin, and glanced past him. "Somehow I don't think you'll have to go far."
Graeme swiveled around to see Maggie standing behind the bar. While he tried to decide whether to go up to her now or wait until tomorrow, Maggie looked out across the room and made eye contact.
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photos of Maggie and Graeme purchased from iStock