The Cost of Her Innocence

PROLOGUE

‘I REPEAT, MISS MASON, do you understand the charge brought against you by this court?’

Jane, in a voice choked with fear, finally answered, ‘Yes.’

She still could not quite believe she was standing in the dock, accused of being in possession of a Class A drug with intent to sell. She was in her second year of a Business Studies course and worked five evenings a week in a fast food café to help pay her way through college. This whole thing was like a nightmare and she hoped she would wake up at any second....

But it was no nightmare. This was reality, she finally accepted as the curt tone of the judge’s voice demanded, ‘How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?’

She gripped the handrail of the dock to steady her trembling body and, lifting her head, cried, ‘Not guilty!’

Why would no one believe her? She glanced desperately across at Miss Sims, the lawyer the court had appointed to defend her, but her attention was on the notes in her hand, not Jane.

* * *

Dante Cannavaro lounged in his chair while the preliminaries were adhered to. The case was not one he would normally consider, but Henry Bewick, the head of the law firm where Dante had worked as an intern at the beginning of his career, had asked him to assist as a personal favour to him.

At twenty-nine, Dante was now an international lawyer, specialising in commercial litigation. He had not acted in a criminal trial in years, but he had read the case, and as far as he could see it was cut and dried.

A car had sideswiped Miss Mason’s. When the police officer attending the accident had asked to see her driving licence the girl had fumbled around in her tote bag and a suspicious-looking package had fallen out, which had proved to be full of drugs. The only passenger in her car had been a rather drunk Timothy Bewick—son of Henry. The girl had denied all knowledge of the drugs. Her defence was that someone else—she’d implied Henry Bewick’s son—must have put the drugs in her bag.

Dante had met Timothy Bewick, and it was obvious the boy was besotted by the girl and reluctant to give evidence against her. Dante, having seen a photograph of Miss Mason, could understood why. A tall, black-haired beauty, in a skimpy top and shorts that displayed her generously curved body and long legs to perfection, Miss Mason was enough to tempt any man. A testosterone raging teenager stood no chance. Dante had agreed to take the case.

He raised his head as she adamantly declared herself not guilty. Liar, he thought, studying her with his dark assessing eyes. Today she had played down her looks, wearing her hair scraped back into a tight knot at the back of her head, no make-up and a black suit—probably at her lawyer’s suggestion.

But in fact Miss Sims had done her client no favours. From Dante’s point of view Miss Mason had played right into his hands. The severe tailoring of her suit fitted her firm breasts, narrow waist and round hips perfectly, and made her appear older than her nineteen years—which would help his case when he called Timothy Bewick to the stand. When the jury compared the two it would be obvious who was telling the truth—the young, lovestruck boy.

He stood up and smiled cynically, deliberately holding her gaze. He saw her big eyes widen pleadingly and thought he witnessed a gleam of sensual awareness in their depths. He noted the flick of her tongue across her lush lips and wasn’t fooled for a