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Authors: Leigh Morgan

Sparring Partners

SPARRING PARTNERS

Book 1 of The Dojo Chronicles

 

 

by

 

Leigh Morgan

 

 

SMASHWORDS EDITION

 

 

PUBLISHED BY:

Leigh Morgan on Smashwords

 

Sparring Partners

Copyright © 2010 by Leigh Morgan

Cover art by Vince Milewski

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the
rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the
prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above
publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author
acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various
products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used
without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not
authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark
owners.

 

Smashwords Edition License Notes

 

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...

Dedication

 

For Vince - My love, my best friend, the
reason I continue to laugh at myself and feel great about it.

To my Sensei, Daniel Schroeder, and all of my
dojomates who are my family - whether they want me or not - I love
you all. Nuff said.

To my family of birth - I am blessed -
Vikings, Pirates, Highlanders - WOW we rock.

And ultimately for Irma,

I miss you grandma.

 

...

 

 

SPARRING PARTNERS

 

 

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They are
in each other all along.

 

Rumi ~13th Century

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

"
You need a husband
."

Those four words, if ever appropriate,
belonged in a different century: one where traitors were still
drawn and quartered. They didn't belong echoing off the marble
floors of a twenty-first century courthouse where doing the right
thing should be synonymous with helping those who have no legal
voice of their own, namely children.

Unfortunately for child advocate and all
around idealist, Reed Mohr, those four words, a mere five
syllables, meant the difference between getting fourteen-year-old
Jesse Bane out of his tenth foster home in four weeks, or
consigning him to hell until the system spat him out at
eighteen.

Unacceptable every way Reed looked at it. If
the most expedient way to adopt Jesse was to get married first, so
be it. She could remedy that after Jesse was safe.

Losing her single status was one thing.
Losing her livelihood in the process was quite another. Reed Mohr
hadn't considered that the judges she ultimately answered to, would
strip her of the one thing she poured her heart and soul into doing
well, representing the least powerful among us, the young and the
elderly. But she should have, Reed thought, mentally kicking
herself.

Reed knew the drill in Judge Meen's juvenile
court. Single parents didn't adopt. Child advocates don't take
their clients home.

Children aren't puppies, Reed
.

Three words this time, bouncing in her
hyper-charged brain.

Really, Reed thought? Fourteen-year-old boys
who witness their heroin addict fathers inject their mothers with
enough dope to kill an elephant aren't puppies?
Who knew
?
Apparently not Reed who, if she wanted to keep her job, would do as
instructed, which amounted to shutting up and letting this one go.
Only she couldn't do that. This one wasn't a cause or a whim or
another of the rag-tag animal misfits she dragged home. This one
happened to have a name: Jesse. And she wasn't about to let him get
swallowed by the system and flushed away like waste.

"You know you cannot adopt in this county
without being married." Judge Meen said from his perch behind the
formidable oak bench in juvenile court, looking down at Reed over
reading glasses he didn't actually need.

"The juvenile code does not prohibit a
single person from adopting, your honor."

"How long have you practiced law in Radkin
County, Reed?"

"You know the answer to that, judge."

"Remind me." Judge Meen said.

"Twelve years."

"Are you willing to piss all that away for a
kid you don't know? A kid with two junkies for parents? A kid who
at fourteen is already damaged goods?" Judge Meen's voice continued
to escalate bouncing off the marble floors and oak walls as it
gained momentum and smacked into Reed with the tangible force of a
slap to the face.

"Jesse Bane isn't a puppy, Reed. You can't
just take him home and train him to love you. He'll just piss all
over your house".

Reed couldn't control the shiver that ran
down her spine at the judge's words. She was afraid that she might
be making a huge mistake. What was it about Jesse that made her
think she could be a mother to a damaged fourteen year old boy?

Sweat began to run under her arms, behind
her knees and at the small of her back, causing another involuntary
shiver. Her heart beat painfully as it slammed against her
ribs.

Was she really ready to lose her job?

Could she stomach being married to anyone
long enough to adopt Jesse?

Could she afford to start her life over
again at thirty-six?

Could she turn and walk away from Judge Meen
and everything that was wrong with the juvenile justice system and
pretend she couldn't have made it better for at least one child, if
she'd only found her backbone behind the twisted snake-like mass
her insides had become?

No. Not today. Not tomorrow. Never
again.

Reed pushed all five foot three and one
quarter inches of her frame upward, standing as tall as she could,
and forced herself to take a deep, calming breath, until time
slowed to its natural pace again.

This was her moment. With a clarity Reed
Mohr didn't question, she knew what she did next would define the
rest of her life. She took another breath and stepped forward
realizing that she was too damn old to pretend she couldn't make a
difference if she chose to.

She took another step closer to the bench
and then another, thanking the spirits above that she had the
foresight to put on the one pair of heels she owned instead of her
usual flats. The extra two inches helped feed her inner giant.

"You're right, judge. Jesse Bane is not a
puppy." Reed's chin shot up and she forced her voice not to quaver
as she looked up at the judge without blinking. "I'll have a
husband tomorrow. You'll have my petition for adoption on your desk
as soon as an adoption study can be completed. Since Jesse has no
family, and I know you hate burdening the foster care system, I'll
expect you to sign the order." Knowing she was dangerously close to
contempt of court Reed added, "Your honor."

"I'll sign it, Ms. Mohr. But the second I do
you'll never work as a child advocate in this county again. You
won't be sending the kid back either. I'll throw your tail in jail
if you try."

Reed gave a quick nod and swallowed past the
dry knot at the back of her throat. "I understand. No refunds. No
returns. No job. Thanks for clearing that up for me, your honor."
Reed smiled. It was a small smile at first, but as it gained
distance, the clenching in her stomach began to ease and swallowing
became easier. Her heartbeat returned to normal and the clammy
feeling she'd felt earlier disappeared.

"Get out of here, Mohr, before I have you
incarcerated for pissing me off, and good luck. You're going to
need it".

It wasn't contempt that had Reed humming her
way out of the courtroom, it was a feeling of lightness that came
with knowing she'd made the right call, the only call, she could
have made. Now all she had to do was propose to the only single
adult male she could stomach living with for more than a week and
hope he didn't laugh in her face.

Charlie wouldn't laugh at her, he never
laughed at any of the crazy notions she got in her head. Charlie
wasn't a laugher, Charlie was an instigator. Charlie would
understand her need to give Jesse a real home where he was loved.
Jesse would be well loved at Potters Woods. Reed would just have to
learn about parenting as she went. Charlie would help her as he had
from the moment she'd walked into his class as an undergraduate
student with fear in her eyes and trepidation in her heart.

Reed graduated with a degree in history at
the top of her undergraduate class with the support of Charlie and
her aunt, Finn. Charlie pushed her to stop talking about injustice
and start doing something to change it when she could; like today.
Charlie was the reason Reed went to law school. Charlie and Finn
were the only family Reed acknowledged since the death of her
mother, at least until now. Now, she would have Jesse too. All
doubts that Reed had walking into the courtroom fled. She'd done
the right thing. Now, all she needed was a husband.

Charlie was her man. Ardent Democrat, Jimmy
Buffett fan, sixty-two year old college professor. And, he had one
other thing going for him that no other man Reed respected and
cared for had. Charles Renee MacIntyre the third was
Flaming-rainbow-flag-flying-gay.

Reed wouldn't want even a short term husband
any other way.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

I reach for a piece of wood. It turns into a
lute

I do some meanness. It turns out helpful.

I say one must not travel during the holy
month.

Then I start out, and wonderful things
happen.

 

Rumi~13th Century

 

 

Two years later.

 

 

"
You need a wife.
"

Those four words crashed through billionaire
Jordon Bennett's skull with the same force he'd seen Tiger Woods
use on his opening drive. Four syllables that in the space of
seconds burned what Jordon thought of as his impenetrable world of
safety and security to the ground.

No wife, no job. William Bennett, Jordon's
uncle and CEO of B.H. Holdings, Jordon's employer, made his status
that clear. There were laws against that kind of discrimination,
but they didn't apply to William Bennett. As CEO of the world's
largest investment corporation and the third largest private
employer in the United States, William Bennett was a law unto
himself. No one questioned William, they obeyed him.

"By Friday."

Today was Tuesday: the second Tuesday in
June to be precise. The day Jordon was supposed to be officially
nominated as William Bennett's successor. Jordon's stomach rolled
and he went from hot to cold in the space of a second. He hit the
button for the express elevator. He needed to get out of B.H.'s
Milwaukee high-rise before he threw up.

The elevator was too slow. Jordon turned and
hit the door for the concrete and steel stairs with enough force
for a smaller man to shatter bone, and took the seventeen flights
of stairs two at a time, sorry now that he wore leather soled
shoes. The pain he knew he should be feeling in his hand didn't
even register.

By the time Jordon hit Michigan Street he
was breathing hard. Sweat had begun to run freely, melting the gel
he used to keep his long hair severely tamed and clubbed in a tight
tail that he wore under his suit coat for meetings.

Today's meeting with William wasn't worth
the effort. Tearing out the leather tie holding his hair in place,
Jordon headed toward the art museum. Calatrava's architecture,
surrounded by Milwaukee's lakefront, was one of the few things
Jordon liked about Wisconsin. It calmed him and helped him gain
perspective, two things he needed badly right now.

"
No prenuptial agreement. No models
looking for a quick score. No actress you can pay off to play the
role of wife. Find a real woman. A real wife
."

William should have just shot him, Jordon
thought. It would have been less painful than threatening to take
away the only thing that gave his life meaning. That couldn't
happen. Jordon wouldn't allow it.

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