Having escaped from a bad marriage Molly has no plans to venture back into the dating world. But when Reece Flynn drives through her father’s church—literally, that is—he crashes into her life like no other man ever has. It’s crazy to think a man like Reece would be interested in a woman like her, but why would God allow her to meet him if Reece wasn’t meant for her? With his singing career in shambles, Reece Flynn relocates to Piney Mountain, North Carolina where he’s assigned a long hitch of community service. Reece is restless, always searching, but no matter what he gets, it’s not enough. He hopes to find some peace and quiet in Piney Mountain, but instead he finds Molly Harmon. Could what he feels be love?
“Guilty as charged.” The judge’s gavel came down hard on the bench, punctuating the finality of the statement.
Reece Flynn gave a sidelong glare over to his lawyer and tried to ignore the overwhelming aftershave the man was wearing. Which was impossible. What was the last thing Ty had said before they’d entered the courtroom? Reece was certain it had involved something about rural counties and lenient judges.
The judge began to speak again, his eyes narrow slits of doom. “I sentence you, Mr. Flynn, to a fine of sixty thousand dollars and forty hours community service.”
He had been waiting for this sentence for six months now. Six months since the accident. Six months since he was charged with careless and reckless driving. Six months since his career had ended on a low, discordant note. It was unbelievable that no one in that church had been injured. He pondered the miracle a moment, then let out a deeply held breath.
It was finally over. He had some closure. At least he hadn’t gotten any jail time. At least the teacher and the little girls at the church sleep-over hadn’t been in the fellowship hall. Still, the fact that he’d plowed through a church full of sleeping little girls wasn’t good. What could have happened was unthinkable. Reece shook his head and rubbed a tired hand over his eyes.
His lawyer had been sure he’d get off with just a fine, but the judge had seen his record. While he hadn’t been in trouble since he was twenty-one, there were three years when he’d managed to accrue a long list of offenses.
Reece’s brain worked rapidly. He would arrange to pay the fine today—money wasn’t a problem—and the community service would be a breeze. He could work in a Nashville soup kitchen; that would be good publicity, or…
A sharp voice shattered the plans in his mind. “You will perform your community service in Dillard County,” the judge stated.
“But, sir, I don’t have the time,” Reece objected.
“Mr. Flynn, you may think that your celebrity gives you certain rights in this court. It doesn’t. Here, you are just like everyone else. Now, I do not recall giving you permission to speak.”
“But I’m really busy. People are counting on me. I have a schedule. I tour. Can’t I just do the time where I actually live?”
“What about my last statement made you think you had permission to speak?”
The judge’s warning didn’t reach his brain before he spoke again. “I have a career. It was an accident. I went to sleep at the wheel. No one was injured. I wasn’t drinking or…”
“Mr. Flynn.” The judge gave him a look he hadn’t seen in years. It sent him right back to the principal’s office in grade school.
“Can’t you give me a break here?” Reece realized he should have remained silent by the judge’s angry gaze.
“Make that fifty hours, and you’re still serving the time in Dillard County.”
“Can’t I just pay an extra fine?” Reece offered.
“Mr. Rollins, are you going to advise your client he can’t just speak out in my courtroom?” The judge banged the gavel. “Sixty hours.”
“Your Honor, Mr. Flynn is more than willing to pay for punitive damages, but sixty hours of community service may interfere with his upcoming tour schedule.”
Great. Ty Rollins finally found his tongue. Some lawyer he was.
The Honorable Zee Dixon leaned over his bench and pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. That wasn’t a good sign. Reece looked at the floor. That was the same look he’d seen right before he’d been expelled.
“I know quite well Mr. Flynn is a singer. I also know community service is not convenient. If it were, it wouldn’t be much of a punishment.”
The judge had a point there.
Reece looked up at the man’s steely expression.
Judge Dixon leaned on his elbows. “This is a court of law, and you do what I say. While Mr. Flynn here may not wish to serve his time in this county, this is where he committed his crime. And if he doesn’t show up when ordered he will be thrown into jail so fast his head will spin. Is that clear, or do I need to write that down for the two of you?
“You, Mr. Flynn, took the fellowship hall clean off Piney Mountain Community Church. It took you less than five minutes to destroy what it took that community fifteen years to build. So, Mr. Flynn, you, will recompense these good folk for the damage you have done, but that is the easy part. What is sixty thousand dollars to a man like you?” Judge Dixon paused a moment to glare at him.
Reece wanted to squirm as he felt the blistering heat of the old man’s gaze, but he didn’t move a muscle as the judge appraised his intentionally messy-looking hair, leather jacket and pants with obvious disdain.
The judge gave a sniff of a laugh and shook his head. “Paying a fine is hardly punishment, but it will do you a world of good to see how real people live. Therefore, on September twenty-first at eight a.m., you will report to Reverend Paul Harmon, who is the director of the program in Piney Mountain, and you will perform your community service. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand.” Reece rolled his eyes. “You have a problem with me.” He muttered the last part under his breath. And of course the judge had remarkable hearing.
“Make that eighty hours.”
Reece opened his mouth to protest, and the judge’s eyes narrowed. The old man inclined his head and like an auctioneer rang out, “Do I hear one hundred sixty hours?”
“Shut up, Flynn!” The lawyer hissed. “You want to move to Dillard County permanently?”
“Going once, going twice…eighty hours for the man in black.” His gavel came down hard.
Eighty hours in Dillard County. Oh boy, Reece could hardly wait.