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Hard Time

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Jake Lampel had everything. Thriving business. Nice home, Beautiful daughter. Loving wife. Well no, she had not been loving in a few years now. He knew he had been neglecting her. But he was going to finally make it up to her. Finally able to take time away from his every growing business, he took her to the spot in Yosemite National Park he had proposed to her. His romantic idea turned into a nightmare. Hope James Whittaker Gladwell had come to California to become a prosecuting attorney. Her best friend since second grade and adopted sister Stephany Gladwell followed as a medical examiner. When Jake Lampel's case comes across her desk as a rookie she does everything by the book. Now he is up for parole and a two new cases that could be linked sit side by side. So was he innocent the whole time or had he done his time? By the time he is released having served his full six years she wants to help him clear his name and bring his ex to justice. But will he accept her help? Can she convince him that she is sorry for how things played out for him. Will they find that working together could become something more. That her spirit and understanding might be just what can save his soul before it is too late.

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Chapter 1

Jake waited outside his daughter's private preschool for her to exit. This is what he had been working towards. This freedom. It had been rough. But now he was able to just relax and enjoy time with his wife and daughter. A group of divorced moms stood off to the side of the covered walkway that lead to the front doors of the school. He was trying to ignore their snickers and whispers.

Jake had the tall dark Italian look. Because his family was in fact tall, dark and Italian. Lampel was a huge family of five different branches. Some good, some bad. He was from the middle of that. Started out a hooligan, he straightened himself out in his late teens went to business school and with the help of a fourth cousin was able to get a lucrative business going.

Taxi only better. Professional drivers with clean records and cleaner cars. A more personalized form of Lyft or Uber. His vehicles were luxury vehicles and his drivers were a range in age and personality. Want to talk the whole way, Abigail was excellent. Want absolute silence. Old Larry was just the ride wanted. Starting in San Francisco, his cousin Oliver, who was in advertising helped him get his name and business out to the public eye. Even hooked him up with an IT guy to help with a website and even an app for the business.

He was now expanded into cities across California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. He had taken his first three years of earnings and set up a trust fund for his daughter, Lyssa, and into an investment portfolio with the help of his great aunt and uncle who were living off dividends from AT&T and a few other major corporations. He was set to just sit back now. Enjoy his life and his family.

"Daddy," Lyssa high voice squealed as she ran out of the doors and into his arms as he squatted to catch the light of his life.

She had his dark hair but her mother's ice blue eyes. His olive skin and her mother's delicate bone structure. She was his beautiful little girl and he was the luckiest father in the world. He lifted her up into his arms and gave her a big kiss on the cheek.

"Hello, my princess." He laughed warmly. She rested her head on his shoulder. "How was school?" He inhaled the strawberry shampoo used in her long dark hair. It was still so soft.

"Good." She said and then started into the whole four hours she was gone. He listened intently as he carried her to his BMW X3 that he had just traded his old sedan for last week. This drove better and had more comfortable seating. Plus it had nice cargo space. He was planning a camping trip with Angela next week. Yosemite to their old camping site that they have not been to in ten years. It was where he had proposed.

Angela. The thought of her made his heart squeeze and lift at the same time. She was a beautiful woman and the love of his life. She worked as a real estate agent. Should leave time for Lyssa and him right? Wrong. Lately he had noticed that she was gone later and later each day.

Last week he had seen the first of his profits after his latest expansion into Arizona and had made his decision. He had announced it at breakfast that morning after looking over his statements. He was no longer pulling long hours and making trips. The business was going to do well even in the current economy.

"Daddy," Lyssa chastised as he stood there musing. He smiled indulgently down at her and buckled her into the booster seat.

"Sorry, Princess." Jake apologized with a kiss on her pert little nose. "I got wrapped in my thoughts. How about some ice cream? And then Daddy will show you where he works?"

The child's annoyed little pout turned to a happy smile lighting up her face. His heart warmed at the sight. Remembering the long nights of feeding and walking her. Running on two hours of sleep. But that smile made it all worth it.

He closed her door and went around to his side. Going over his plans for tonight. It would be the first night that he had been home for dinner in so long he could not even remember when. He had given the housekeeper and nanny the day off so he was able to do everything.

Angela loved his homemade cheese ravioli and tomato, basil, and onion marinara sauce. A little light salad, some wine and candle light. Perfect evening for the three of them. But first ice cream and then his work, perhaps the carousel down in the park close to the house then home to start dinner and get the princess settled with her favorite book.

The ice cream was a hit as he figured. Her favorite was chocolate mint in a waffle cone. He had gotten a small cookie dough in a sugar cone for himself. They ate their ice cream in the parlor surrounded by the bubblegum pink and black tile all over the walls and floor. Once done they headed to his main office to check in with Larry his second in command. Old and grizzled the man knew business and kept the place running. The fact that he did not mind working for a younger man helped too.

"Hey, Jake. I thought you were not coming in today?" Larry's voice gravelly with age still held the same bass as when he was young. He was barrel chested and tall like Jake. The man's very size intimated until he opened his mouth. Much like with Jake.

"Princess Lyssa wanted to see where I work." Jake said. "Lyssa, this is Larry, Daddy's second in command around here. He helps when Daddy is busy."

"Hello there, Princess Lyssa." Larry's eyes lit up at the sight of the little girl. He had a soft spot for children despite the fact that his own children and grandchildren had moved to the east coast some years back.

The child said hello shyly and took the old hand held out to her after a questioning look to Jake and his approval. "There are so many cars." Lyssa whispered in Jake's ear.

"Yes that is because they are used if people need a ride somewhere. Work to home or home to work. Or just out to have fun so they don't have to use their own car and gas." Jake replied.

"They are pretty." Lyssa said with childlike awe and he grinned.

"Yes they are." Jake said with pride. Her little fingers played with his hair at the nape of his neck. He kept his hair longish because of this. She used to play with his hair as he rocked her to sleep against his shoulder in the late nights. And it has been her favorite thing to do now. He thought is may be a way of comforting herself. He walked up and down the three rows of cars in the garage. Sports and exotic cars, limos, SUVs, and four door classic sedans. He had worked his ass off, bargaining and toiling to accumulate the number of vehicles he had. At just this one location. Every location had this same number and variety.

"Has Mommy seen this?" Lyssa asked looking around. Like she was expecting her mother to come out of an office or step out of a car and yell surprise.

"No." Jake replied. "Mommy has never been here." The child rested her head on his shoulder again

"She should," Lyssa whispered. "She might like it."

"Perhaps she would," Jake whispered back. Loving how her breath tickled his ear. He looked down at his watch and sighed. "We gotta go, Princess. I am making dinner tonight and it will take a while."

He had to stop and buy the items for his meal and she got a box of fruit snacks and a small bottle of juice. He got home and checked his phone after unloading his daughter and the groceries. He had messaged Angela at around ten when he had gotten up that he would had dinner plans for them but she never even read the message yet. It was now going on three. His heart squeezed a little more.

"Can I sit in here with my book?" Lyssa asked at the base of one of the tall bar stools.

"I would love to have the company." He said grinning as he pushed his hurt aside. Angela had not reacted at all when he had told her that he was cutting time at the garage. Had not said a word to him all week in fact.

As he started to make the special dinner, Lyssa became fascinated by what he was doing. Watching him closely as he made ravioli dough, rolled it and cut it perfectly. He started the meat and seasoned it just right. Letting her have a small taste to see what she thought. Lyssa helped him create the ravioli pockets and stuff them with the meat. She giggled and spoke as they did. They stuck them in the oven to bake while he made his sauce and threw together the salad.

Dinner was done by five thirty and he texted Angela who had read his first message at ten but had no responded. At six he still had no word so he lit the candles and had juice with Lyssa as they ate their share of the dinner. "Where is Mommy?" Lyssa asked as he led her up to bathe and get ready for bed.

"I don't know, Princess. I will wait up for her. Don't worry." He helped her bathe and change into her favorite unicorn nightgown. Then they sat in his bed and watched a little of her favorite Barbie Princess movie. Her little head on his shoulder. Her small body curled close to his side. He often caught himself sniffing her hair or touching that soft baby skin. He had missed so much and yet had not missed a damn thing.

Lyssa fell asleep in about thirty minutes, he cradled her close as he had when she was an infant and tucked her into her little four poster Princess Bed as she called it with the canopy and turned on her rotating unicorn nightlight.

Then the pain crashed in. Angela. Where the hell was his wife? He let the anger roll up his spine. She needed to talk to him. To tell him what was going on. Were they still a family? Was she still his wife? He had thought about it all week. If she did not love him. And did not want him. Then fine. But he was keeping their daughter. He would burn the prenup and she would get a set amount each month from him. Until she remarried. He still loved her that much.

He cleaned the kitchen thinking that perhaps the trip to Yosemite might not be a good idea. If they fought the whole time then what would be the purpose? He was not a cruel man. He was actually understanding and forgiving in most instances but he would not be cuckolded.

It was eleven before Angela finally decided to come home. She smelled of wine and horrible cologne. Yeah really bad cheap stuff. Who the hell had she been with? "Glad you finally decided to come home. Lyssa only asked for you a half a dozen times."

He had been sitting in the dark living room of their suburban cookie cutter house in a nice part of San Francisco. He had bought with the stock dividends for her two years ago. Along with her car. She sold perhaps one house a month. Which she would hoard and then spend on expensive clothes and junk for her office at work. He had been nursing the same glass of wine since eight-thirty when he had finished the kitchen. He set it down as she approached him in the living room.

"Jesus, Jake," Angela said her voice a touch too loud since she was drunk. "You scared the shit out of me."

"I don't see how. I told you that I was now in a position to sit back and relax. To spend much needed time with you and Lyssa now that the profits have finally marginalized." Jake said keeping his cool. It would not due to wake Lyssa because Angela came home drunk and smelling like she had been out doing some sleaze.

"I guess I forgot," she said her blue eyes darkening as she approached him. He swallowed. Resolve man. Hold your resolve.

"You also did not respond to my messages earlier. You read them but thought that I would what? Forgive you like always?" Jake shook his head and stood. "No. I am not doing that anymore. My business is flourishing now. I have the revenue needed to sustain us nicely. But if you are done with me then say so."

Her eyes went wide. His heart squeezed tightly and pain spread across his chest. So that was it. "I am not sure what you mean."

Keep calm. Do not overreact. Keep calm. "I am prepared to burn the prenup and set you free in a short and sweet little divorce. But I get Lyssa. You get alimony until you remarry. But I get to raise our daughter." Jake said keeping his cool. "I do not want an answer now. You are drunk. Go shower and for the love of christ throw those clothes in the washing machine. I catch that scent in my bed and I will not be so forgiving in the morning." He sat back down and picked up the wine to roll it then took a sip.

"Why would you keep Lyssa?" Angela asked. "You would let me go but keep Lyssa."

"Because you and I both know that the only reason you got pregnant in the first place was to try and get me home more. Even though I had explained to you multiple times while we were dating in college what I wanted and how long it would take to get it. Here we are ten years in and just as I said. My dream is in fruition." Jake said studying the glass.

"And what about mine, Jake. What about my dreams?" Angela asked. "You never once took into consideration what I wanted."

"I did, Angela. I tried to set you free before we got married but you would hear none of it. I tried to tell you that the pretty white picket fence was going to be some years off, but you did not believe me?" He asked. "Now you have it and are fucking it away with a boyfriend." He shook his head. "I won't fight you on anything but Lyssa. I adore her and will take better care of her than her neglectful mother. Or do you forget why I hired Rose in the first place?"

"You. It is always about you Jake. You and Lyssa. Never us." Angela cried, tears escaped lashes to fall down her cheeks. Great crocodile tears. "You never speak of us."

"Go to bed, Angela." Jake just sighed. He was tired and did not want to deal with this anymore. He had said what he wanted. Now the ball was in her court. He stood and took the glass and bottle and started up the stairs. He would sleep in the spare bedroom tonight. Perhaps that will put things into perspective for her.

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