Title Sworn to Remember
Author Maria Imbalzano
Genre Women’s Fiction/Romance
Publisher The Wild Rose Press
Blindsided by her husband's infidelity, Samantha Winslow, an up-and-coming NYC family law attorney, takes a leave of absence, jeopardizing her rise to partnership. Facing divorce, she heads to the shore town of Crescent Beach to pull herself together.
Buoyed by advice and solace from her lifelong girlfriends, known as the Sworn Sisters, Sam gains insight into how her complicated teen years set her on her workaholic path—a path which destroyed her marriage and her spirit.
Although not looking for male distraction, she finds one in local lawyer, Michael McCain. Having spurned his high-powered job in the city, he knows the importance of leading a balanced life. Their time together is magical. But it comes to an abrupt end when Sam goes back to her job in NYC and achieves partnership. Yet, happiness is missing. Will Sam finally recognize that life is about balance, compromise, and love?
“All rise,” boomed the sheriff’s officer as he escorted Judge Litner to the bench.
The familiar words sent a jolt through Sam’s body, and she felt the same anxiety-fueled adrenaline when starting a trial. How ridiculous! This was municipal court. Two frivolous tickets had brought her here, not a hotly contested divorce case. Yet she couldn’t control her pounding heart as she waited to plead her case. The thrill of the contest tantalized far more than the complexity of the matter.
Her olfactory senses were already heightened by the familiar scent of polished, old wood and righteous authority, as her eyes settled on the raised bench where justice would be meted out. The seal of the municipality hung proudly on the wall behind the judge, who peered over his reading glasses at the crowd of the accused, all squashed among dozens of others in pews behind the bar. The noise died down immediately—the quiet power of authority.
The prosecutor stood when the judge addressed him for the first case.
Sam did a double take, then her stomach plummeted.
Michael, dressed in a charcoal gray suit, white shirt, and blue silk tie, entered his appearance. Her jaw tightened, and a throb in her head began. What happened to the bald guy she’d imagined? And why was Michael, a big city lawyer, working here in Crescent Beach?
She had no answer to that question, but she had plenty of time to scold herself. She had gotten completely out of control with a policeman, and now she’d have to explain her actions in front of Michael. As if he didn’t already think she was half crazy walking out on him at the coffee shop in a huff.
She slunk down in her seat and moved her head directly behind the woman’s in front of her, praying he wouldn’t see her. But she didn’t have to worry. He barely looked out at the sea of culprits. He would obviously deal with them one at a time.
By ten o’clock, Sam realized Judge Litner was in a bitter mood, which got exponentially worse as he listened to excuse after excuse as to why this one or that one ran a stop sign or breezed through a red light or didn’t pay the meter.
The two ninety-five-dollar tickets started to seem insubstantial compared to the tongue lashing she’d receive when it was finally her turn. No one was getting a break. Michael, in his role as prosecutor, wasn’t offering anyone a lesser charge, and the judge wasn’t finding anyone not guilty. Even worse, Judge Litner was adding court costs as insult to injury. If only she had just paid her fines and waived her right to this charade. But it was too late.
By noon, the courtroom crowd had thinned. In no hurry to face Michael McCain, Esquire, Sam squirmed restlessly on the wooden bench. Her back hurt, her butt hurt, and her pride was soon to be hurt.
“Samantha Winslow,” called the court clerk in a loud voice.
Her body jerked to life as the judge and prosecutor looked over the gathered assembly, waiting for someone to rise. Sam stood slowly, eyes to the ground, as she stepped her way over feet and legs to get to the end of her pew. She wore one of the two suits she’d brought with her, a navy designer skirt and jacket that had fit in perfectly in New York City but looked oddly out of place in Crescent Beach. Her fellow offenders had hardly bothered to dress for this solemn occasion. Cut-off shorts and jeans populated the court room. Occasionally, a pair of khakis showed up.
Sam willed herself to look Michael in the eye. She refused to appear embarrassed, or worse yet guilty, as she held her head high and approached the bench. She licked her lips in preparation to speak, but Michael spoke first. He gave no sign of camaraderie as he read the charges against her.
“Your Honor, Ms. Winslow is charged with failing to place sufficient money in the meter on Saturday, June sixth at eleven fifty-five p.m. Her car was parked at meter 323 on Ocean Avenue, not far from The Bentley House.”
Sam’s cheeks burned in fury. How dare he insinuate to the judge she was partying at a bar!
He continued. “Officer Barlow then issued a second summons for disorderly conduct when the defendant allegedly ripped her parking ticket in half.”
The judge glared at her, and she swallowed, struggling to find her voice, willing it to be strong and even. “Your Honor, I parked my car at that meter at ten p.m. after having had dinner with a friend at a local restaurant. I personally placed enough money in the meter to cover us until at least one o’clock. We came back to the car a little before twelve. I know what time it was because I looked at my watch.” She glanced at her wrist. “When we arrived at the car, a police officer had just written out a ticket, and I patiently explained to him the meter must be broken because I had paid more than enough.” Sam cautioned herself to stand still and refrain from parading around the courtroom giving her speech, as she would have in family court. She had to keep remembering this was municipal court, and she was the defendant.
She continued. “He ignored my citizen’s complaint—made no attempt to check the meter or write a note to have it repaired. Instead, he insisted I had violated the law, with a smug attitude, I might add. Your Honor, I am a law-abiding citizen; in fact, I’m an attor—”
“Is Officer Barlow in the courtroom to testify?” growled Judge Litner, sounding none too happy that he might have to hear from him.
Sam and Michael turned at the same time toward the masses behind them. Shuffling and whispers permeated the air, but Officer Barlow did not appear. Sam breathed a sigh of relief, holding her grin in check. That will shut Mr. Prosecutor up.
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Maria Imbalzano is a retired matrimonial lawyer who now writes full time. Instead of drafting motions, legal memoranda, and briefs, although fascinating, she now spends her days creating memorable characters and taking them on their emotional journeys through her contemporary romance novels.
In addition to writing fiction, Maria is on the Friends of Thomas Edison State University Foundation Committee and is still involved with Dress for Success Central Jersey, having been a founding Board member. She also serves on the finance committee for The Present Day Club. She has received the distinguished Family of Edison Award for her work with The Thomas Edison State University Foundation, the Iron Mike Professional Achievement Award from Trenton Catholic Academy and was inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame.
Her novel, “Unchained Memories,” won the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers’ Award and the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award. “Sworn to Forget,” the first of the four-book Sworn Sisters Series has garnered many five-star reviews and has been nominated for the illustrious RONE award.
Visit Maria at www.mariaimbalzano.com
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