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Titles by Paula V. Hardin

Forever Lost

The Unforeseen Rescue

A Daughter’s Justice

Paula V. Hardin

Copyrighted © 2017 by Paula V. Hardin

All rights reserved. Published by Dark Protector Productions

This is a work of Fiction, Names, characters, organizations, places,

Events, and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination, or are

Used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual

Events is purely coincidental.

No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or

Transmitted in any for form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying

Recording or otherwise without written permission of the publisher

Cover design by: Michael Hardin Sr.

First Edition.



First I want to always thank my husband for all his support and love. Thank you so much to my editor Becky Highnote who keeps me going, and pushes me for more pages. She’s amazing and I’m forever grateful. If you’re in need of a great editor who also loves to read here is her email: bextruk@gmail.com

A special thank you goes out to Kimberly Fry for helping me come up with my title. She’s also my beta reader and I love her endlessly.

Chapter 1 “All charges have been dropped due to lack of evidence from the District Attorney’s office. Mr. Joseph Gambino is remanded back to the custody of the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Department to be released.” The judge pounded his gavel against the sounding block to quiet the spectators’ angry reaction to the verdict.

New Orleans defense attorney Merrick Hardin gladly gathered her papers and shoved them into her briefcase. Goosebumps rose at the back of her neck making her shiver when she felt someone staring. Deep down she knew who it was, and it made her knees go weak. Merrick forced herself not to turn toward sexy Command Sergeant Major Stone, knowing she would see disappointment in his eyes. He made her feel things she wasn’t prepared to examine too closely. Why did it matter so much what he thought of her? It was really too late anyway because after this he probably thought like the others which made her feel exceptionally alone.

She felt numb. She had won, but there was no honor in the victory. It left a bitter taste in her mouth. In her mind she knew it wasn’t over, not for Gambino. All that mattered now was making sure that the witness, Major Stone, was protected at all cost.

“You killed my boy, Gambino. You shouldn’t be allowed to go free.” Merrick heard the anguish in the father’s voice. It made her sick inside and her heart heavy. She fought against the anguish.

“You!” she heard the father say. Merrick knew it was directed at her. Her stomach knotted up because she knew she wasn’t going to like what was coming.

“You’re Satan’s spawn. You’re here doing his dirty work. Killing off the innocents and helping the guilty.”

His angered voice made her physically sick inside. Merrick felt her stomach roll. She couldn’t turn and look at the family or she’d lose it.

The briefcase of cash sitting in her safe didn’t seem worth it. If the people understood her method of justice, it would be perfect. They couldn’t understand because they had no clue. She pushed her fingers through her hair, feeling a migraine coming on.

The case against Gambino had been stressful. She had worked long hours to ensure his release. She wondered why the mayor himself hounded her every move. His motives were skeptical to say the least. Rumor had it the mayor was dirty, that he put his hands in many dealings going down in the metropolitan area. The trial was finally over, and relief flooded every cell of her body. She was exhausted, but sleep had to wait. She needed to make sure the eyewitness was safe. He was military, but Gambino was dirty, a leader of the New Orleans mafia.

Merrick pushed her way through the crowd of angry people who stood outside the courthouse. News reporters crowded her, shoving microphones in her face. Different voices threw questions at her, waiting for answers. They hated her with a vengeance, and none of them understood why she defended these criminals.`

Being the center of attention was not something she looked forward to, but she tried to satisfy the reporters with an evasive yes or no. Merrick walked faster, keeping her back straight. The faces were angry, yelling, and someone from behind felt brave enough to shove her. She paid them no attention because any reaction could start a scene with her being the main attraction.

When someone behind her pulled her hair, she secretly thanked her lucky stars it was only a wig. She grinned, thinking what a surprise they would get if they saw the real her.

From a distance, she spotted her 2014 red Aston Martin roadster. As she reached the curb and the safety of her car with her keys in her hand, prepared to unlock the door, she froze in horror.

She gasped and took a step back, appalled that someone had spray-painted the word “BITCH” on the side of her baby. Merrick looked around, wondering if whoever had done this was still watching. A crowd surrounded her and her car, preventing her from leaving. A huge man beat his fist against the hood of her car. Merrick was livid. She wanted to scream, “Fuck you,” but she didn’t because she realized it would only give them satisfaction in knowing they got to her, not to mention the media was out in full force.

She yanked the door open and thought, How dare someone try to intimidate me! As she slammed the door closed, Merrick held back the angry tears and threw her purse across to the passenger seat.

The car roared to life with its V-12 engine, giving the crowd their only warning to move. The car jumped into traffic, causing nearby cars to get out the way. How could someone spray paint an Aston Martin? she wondered in disgust. Why did she put herself though all the headaches? Deep down she knew why. Merrick had lost her father when she was young. Her mother had struggled to provide and protect their small family. Merrick did this to protect her family and to give the people of the city a fighting chance at a normal life.

With the economy deteriorating daily, more people found themselves without jobs and homeless. Lost in the loopholes for aid or without enough to survive, families were now living under bridges and alleyways, fighting to survive.

Merrick was determined that no child living on the streets, homeless, or orphaned was forgotten. Behind the scenes, she bought old warehouses and turned then into safe havens and new beginnings.

When she found a quiet place to park, she pulled over and killed the engine. Her fingers flicked a lever on the console. When it opened, she pulled out her goggles. She had designed these bad boys and made them herself. No one knew who she really was, not the people of New Orleans, not the judges, and least of all, not the bad guys. Feeling rebellious, she realized she was glad at the moment they didn't.

Merrick positioned the goggles against her face without slipping the leather strap over her head. She adjusted the aperture displaying the past hour through the lenses.

While constructing the goggles into her steam punk fashion a few years ago, she had added a piece of rare mineral she had found while metal detecting. She personally believed it was a chunk from a meteor. When she tried them for the first time, she was stunned to find she could see into the future and into the past. It only allowed a timeframe of around eight hours on a good day, depending on the weather.

The vertigo-like dizziness made her upset stomach curl a little more. She held fast to the goggles, knowing this feeling would pass. Much like someone walking from out of a fog, she watched the scene unfold.

An unmarked black van pulled up, and the side door slid open. Two masked assailants jumped out and painted her door within seconds, jumped back in the waiting vehicle, and drove off. Merrick turned her head trying to see behind the van, but of course, it had no license plate.

She set the goggles back into their hiding place and drove to her home near City Park. It had been a long day, and she was tired as she pulled into the driveway on the side of her house and turned the car off. It was already dark due to daylight savings time. Her motion sensor was on before its time, sending goosebumps down her spine. It spooked her a little after today’s events.

She opened her car door and stepped out. A huge possum jumped from the garbage can, knocking the lid to the ground with a loud explosion. Merrick pulled her gun from under her long skirt. Her heart was beating loudly in her ears. She aimed the gun, following the sudden movement to see a mother possum scurry behind the bushes, carrying a load of babies on its back. Merrick holstered her gun, more than a little relieved. She leaned inside and quickly grabbed her purse and briefcase, slinging them out of the way as she shut the car door.

With the sound of the door shutting behind her, Merrick started walking toward the house. Before she could call it a night, she had to do one thing. Deep inside she felt an urgent need to hurry, even though her body screamed for a hot shower and bed.

Something drew her attention toward the entrance of the house. Merrick stared straight into the eyes of Joseph Gambino. He was lurking in the shadows where she almost didn't see him, and he was holding flowers as if he was about to take her out on a date. The nerve of the man made her grit her teeth. She stopped; her heart jumped to her throat. Prickles of uneasiness ran down her spine, accompanied by now sweaty palms. The gun against her leg suddenly felt heavy. She wished it were in her hand.

Merrick fumbled with her purse, bending her head slightly away to take a quick breath and put her game face on. At the same time she tried to get a quick look around to see who else might be lurking in the shadows. Gambino was never without his henchmen, and she didn’t want someone sneaking up behind her. She needed to be smart about how to handle the situation.

Before she could utter a word, she watched him approach. The way he looked at her gave Merrick the creeps. If he thought he could come here and push roses under her nose and think he was going to make her one of his dumb bimbos, then he was on crack. His confidence was about to get a dose of reality. She could almost see the wheels turning in his head. His game might work on some airhead looking for a good time, but not this time, not from this girl, that’s for damn sure. She cringed in disgust and fear. Her body trembled slightly from being caught off-guard, but what she really wanted to do was shove the roses down his throat. The audacity of the man was absolutely horrifying. Instead she forced herself to accept the flowers when he pushed them at her.

“I wanted to come thank you in person for today,” Gambino offered.

“You came to me because I’m the best, and you paid me to do a job. There is no need for thanks, Mr. Gambino.” She made sure she addressed him properly, professionally. “But I thank you for the roses.” Merrick moved slightly, making herself stand tall, confident, and determined.

“I’m afraid you caught me at a bad time. I’m actually only here for a quick moment. If you need to confer with me, call my secretary in the morning and make the necessary arrangements. Good evening, Mr. Gambino.” Merrick gave him that look, the attorney glare indicating she meant business.

At that precise moment, two police units pulled into her driveway, blocking her in, and four officers exited the vehicles. “Oh, great. Now what?” Merrick grumbled aloud, but thought silently, Thank you, Newton and Fusion.

“We received a call of a break in. I need to see some identification,” one of the officers stated.

“My name is Merrick Hardin, and this is my house,” she offered while digging in her purse for her license.

“I know you.” One of the officers pointed. “You’re Gambino, Joseph Gambino. Your face is all over the news. The people in this city are up in arms over your release.” The officer shook his head.

Once the officer gave her license back, she wanted to escape inside, make her getaway so to speak. Merrick whispered to the officer to walk Gambino to his car nice and easy, friendly like as if he didn’t realize what was happening.

The officer nodded his head, and Merrick slipped inside quietly, locking the door behind her. She leaned against the door, her legs a little shaky. Her lifestyle was going to be the death of her yet.

Merrick automatically disabled the alarm. Still, she listened intently for any sound or movement. Once the verdict made the news, Merrick mentally prepared herself for the backlash effect from the media. Her face would be plastered on the front page of the local newspaper. The ripple effect would generate gossip on all levels of hatred, mistrust, and rebellion. With her line of work and being a woman, she always put a lot of effort into her safety so after such cases she took time off to regroup and allow the media to lose interest.

Her purse and briefcase dropped to the floor as she kicked off her designer pumps with a heavy sigh of relief. She pulled off the wig and the cap that kept her hair from escaping and leaned over at the waist, shaking out her black dreads.

The closest entrance to the house was by the portable aluminum car shelter stationed in the alley between neighbors. Immediately inside was the kitchen. The laundry room was through the door on the far wall.

She walked into the laundry room, feeling the weight of the day pull her down. Her muscles screamed with tension. She pulled off the expensive Chanel blazer and let it fall to the floor. Next, she peeled off her matching long skirt, revealing colorful tattoos down her legs. Her blouse followed, showing more tattoos up her back. The professional attire expected from a highly paid defense attorney was not really her style.

Against the far wall hidden within the shelves, she punched in the code for the separate security system. Merrick entered the basement, wearing nothing but her underwear. She was confident she was safe inside with special security setup to alert her if anyone trespassed.

The flanking wall to the basement held a closet full of clothes embellished with pieces of leather, metal with nuts and bolts, or some other kind of hardware. This was her lifestyle, not the straight-laced well-dressed attorney she portrayed to the public. Merrick joined a group of wonderful, talented people who loved and supported the art of steam punk with gatherings and events. This was where she could be herself. It was where she was the happiest. The largest of them all, which she waited for all year long, was the Steam punk World Fair.

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