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Book Title: In the Best Interest of the Child
Author: Felicia Denise
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Psychological
Release Date: September 30, 2016
Amazon US http://bit.ly/BestInt
Amazon UK http://bit.ly/BestIntUK
Amazon CA http://bit.ly/BestIntCA
Amazon AU http://bit.ly/BestIntAU
Severely injured in an accident that forever changed her life, 10-year-old Olivia becomes another faceless, underserved child in foster care. With no time to mourn or grieve, the young girl is easy prey for uncaring social workers and ambivalent foster families.
Olivia quickly learns to hold her tongue and mask her emotions. Even when exposed to neglect, bullying, and assault, no one seems to care. Holding fast to the teachings of her late father, Olivia ages out of the system broken, but no longer a victim.
Now a successful child advocate attorney, Olivia is a passionate voice for children. However, a routine case assignment by the court plunges Olivia back into the trauma of her childhood. If she doesn’t face her demons, a child will be sent into foster care, and Olivia will lose the only chance at love she’s ever had…or wanted.
Foster care for her young client is not an option. But Olivia’s emotional scars run even deeper than she realized. Reconciling with her past means Olivia must confront the one woman she blames for her battered soul.
A woman who has no idea who Olivia is.
Making sure Rena was still sleeping, she exited her vehicle, following the sidewalk to the driveway where a flatbed tow truck came fully into view. A large, burly, dark haired man was winching a late model Mercedes up onto the flatbed. Nearby, a far shorter man stood with his arms folded across his broad chest, obviously not happy.
As she got closer, Olivia believed the shorter man to be near her age, even though a head full of curly black hair gave him a more youthful appearance.
Olivia smiled as she passed the tow truck driver, noticing how his eyes lingered on her hips.
The shorter man didn’t notice Olivia until she was right in front of him, and he started as though coming out of a trance.
“Hello. Can I help you?”
Olivia widened her smile.
“Hello. I’m looking for the Bellamy residence.”
He regarded her with a wary look.
“I’m Courtney Bellamy. What can I do for you?”
She stuck out her right hand.
“Mr. Bellamy, I’m Olivia Chandler, Rena’s court-appointed attorney. It’s nice to meet you.”
Courtney Bellamy visibly relaxed.
“Nice to meet you, Ms. Chandler. My wife, Marissa, mentioned you were meeting with Rena today. We can go inside and chat shortly, I just have to see when this guy will have my car up and running.”
He spoke the last part of the sentence in a raised voice, making sure the tow truck driver heard him. The driver pulled a face in his direction.
“C’mon, Court! I don’t even know what’s wrong with it. How can I tell you when it will be fixed?”
“There is way too much going on in this family for us to depend on one car, Bruce. There will be whining, tears and harsh words… and my wife will be upset too!”
Olivia and Bruce both laughed aloud at Courtney’s snarky comment.
“Let me get it back to the shop and find the problem. If it’s not a quick fix, I have a loaner vehicle you can use until yours is ready. Deal?”
Courtney pumped his fist in the air.
“This is why you’re my favorite mechanic! I love you, man!”
“No. I’m your favorite mechanic because I’m your cousin and give you family discounts!”
“Well, there’s that too,” Courtney quipped. Reaching for the side door entrance, Courtney Bellamy addressed Olivia.
“Forgive me, Ms. Chandler. Would you like to have a seat inside while I wrap this up?”
“Please, it’s Olivia. And actually, I have a sleeping Rena in my car out front.”
“Oh! I thought the medical shuttle was bringing her home. And call me Courtney.”
“That was the initial plan, but she was getting tired, and I didn’t want her to have to sit and wait not knowing how long the shuttle would take to get to her. Bringing her myself was easier.”
“How kind of you. Let me grab her chair, and I’ll meet you out front.”
Olivia turned and started back down the driveway.”
Courtney threw one last taunt at his cousin.
“Bruce, if you put one scratch on my baby, I’m calling your mother!”
“And if you call my mother, I will call YOUR mother and tell her who really broke the garage window when we were kids.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” he countered.
“Stay away from my mother, and I’ll stay away from yours.”
He caught Olivia’s eye as she passed and winked.
She laughed at the easy banter of the cousins, and just for a second wondered what it was like to have someone in your life who had known you all your life.
Hearing her name being called just as she reached the sidewalk, Olivia turned to see Bruce jogging towards her. He stopped, only after he had more than invaded her personal space.
He was taller than she first thought. Her three-inch heels put her at an even five feet, ten inches, and she still had to take a step back and raise her head to fully see his face.
Bruce’s light brown eyes had an amused glint to match the devilish smirk on his clean-shaven face. His collar length dark brown hair was curly, though not as much as Courtney’s, and had the beginnings of gray at the temples much like her own.
“Forgive me if I’m being forward, Ms. Chandler, but I wanted to give you my business card. I own Bellamy’s over on Mason. If you ever need anything… um, for your car… give me a call.”
She reached for the card.
The man was positively shameless. Olivia couldn’t help but grin.
“Call me Olivia, and thank you. That’s nice of you.”
Glancing at the card in her hand, realization dawned on her.
“Wait. You’re that Bellamy? Bellamy Motorsports of “We have twelve locations to serve you in Hennepin and Olmstead counties?”
His face took on a bright shade of red as he blushed uncontrollably.
“Guess you’ve seen our commercials, huh?”
She laughed as she backed towards her car. “Yes. A time or two… or twelve. The commercials never mentioned you were so… hands on.”
His eyes widened, but she pointed at the tow truck and continued before he could respond.
“The boss answering service calls?”
He slid his hands into his back pockets and cocked his head to the side.
“Okay, you got me. But Court won’t let anyone else touch his Precious. I was with him the day he bought her, but I’m not sure who owns whom? Marissa always teases him by telling him she’s leaving and he can have the house, but she’s taking the kid and the car. He nearly has a heart attack.”
She reached her car and saw Rena was still sleeping. There was no sign of Courtney at the front door yet. She heard movement behind her and noticed Bruce had taken a couple of steps in her direction.
“I didn’t see a ring. Are you married?”
“Do you wanna be?”
Olivia tried without success not to laugh.
“You’re definitely not the shy type, are you Bruce?”
“Nope. But I’m usually not this forward either.” Suddenly serious, he continued. “It’s just not every day I meet a woman I’m so drawn to. Actually, this is the first time it’s ever happened.”
The sincerity in his voice caused her pulse to race.
“I’m flattered, Bruce.”
He started to say something else, but both their attention was drawn to the front door as Courtney backed the wheelchair down the one step entrance, then turned and headed towards Olivia’s car.
She glanced in Bruce’s direction, but looked away quickly, unable to hold his intense gaze.
Taking a deep breath, she met his gaze.
She smiled and gave him a single nod. His attention made her feel light-headed, but she knew she’d never call him. She couldn’t. He definitely seemed like the type of man who wanted all or nothing … and nothing was all she had.
Courtney brought the wheelchair to a stop in front of her.
“Cinderella’s carriage has arrived. Shall we wake her?”
Olivia moved to the car door as she unlocked it with the remote. She reached in to unfasten Rena’s seatbelt but caught the banter between the cousins.
“Bruce, go fix my car.”
“Shut it, Court!”
“I’m nominating your house for Thanksgiving dinner this year!”
“And I’ll nominate yours for Christmas dinner! And I’ll insist great-aunt Mae bring her dogs … all four of them!”
“You’re an evil man, Bellamy.”
“We share DNA, Bellamy.”
If Olivia didn’t know they were grown men, she would have sworn they were seventh graders.
Rena began to stir and looked around, confused.
“Hey, angel. You’re home.”
Still disoriented, Rena tried to sit upright. She cried out in obvious pain and gripped Olivia’s arm.
“It’s okay, angel! It’s okay, I got you! Just breathe through it. C’mon, now. Breathe.”
Olivia took her own advice and took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself. She couldn’t comfort the child if she needed comfort herself.
She looked back at Courtney.
“She’s as light as a feather, but that cast adds weight. Step back and I’ll transfer her to the chair.”
Rena still held Olivia’s arm, but her grip was loosening.
“You okay, angel? Mr. Bellamy wants to transfer you to the chair. You’ll probably feel better once you can stretch out in your bed, okay?”
Rena nodded, and Olivia stepped back out of the way to give Courtney room to transfer her to the chair.
She could feel Bruce’s eyes on her but refused to look at him. Olivia’s face grew hot and she felt awkward and out of place. Her resolve was weakening and she was about to look in his direction when a green minivan pulled up behind her car.
Bruce clapped his hands together excitedly.
“Oh yeah! The fun is really about to start.”
Olivia could tell he was enjoying the moment and glanced back to the minivan not knowing what to expect.
A plump woman hurriedly exited the van and rushed towards them. She was short—maybe an even five feet in height—and African American, with a mass of hair worn in a long, natural, wavy style.
Though plump, her hourglass shape was more than obvious. She wore very little makeup, and she didn’t need too. Her full lips and smooth brown skin were enhanced by large, expressive eyes that right now were filled with worry.
“What happened? Is everything all right?”
Just as she reached Olivia’s car, Courtney raised Rena into his arms, pivoted, and placed her into the wheelchair.
The woman glanced from face to face waiting for an answer. She threw a quick wave in Bruce’s direction, and he returned it.
Olivia smiled at her while Courtney leaned over Rena’s chair and kissed the woman on the cheek.
“Hi, Honey. This is Rena’s attorney, Olivia Chandler, and she just brought the munchkin home. Olivia, this is my wife, Marissa.”
She took Olivia’s outstretched hand in both of hers and squeezed.
“Oh yes. We spoke on the phone. So nice to meet you. And thank you for seeing her home.”
She lightly patted Rena’s shoulder and kissed the top of her head.
“Hey Munchkin. Did you hit all your markers in therapy today?”
Rena nodded slightly.
“All except the steps. I could only do two.”
Marissa stepped behind her chair, gave Olivia one nod towards the house, and started towards the front door.
“That’s still good. Remember last week you could only do one? Progress, munchkin, progress.”
Marissa stopped suddenly and turned around.
“Courtney, what are you doing here?”
He folded his arms across his chest defiantly.
“I live here.”
Bruce, Rena, and Olivia all snickered.
Marissa pursed her lips.
“It’s the middle of the day, Courtney.”
“Oh! Geeze, yes. So much happening at once. The high school called me. Brian has a low-grade fever and an upset stomach. He’s up in his room. The school nurse said she called you first, but didn’t get an answer. I figured you were still with your mom at the dialysis center.”
“They were short staffed today for some reason, so Mom got a late start on her treatment.”
She glanced up at the house. I told that boy to go easy on the chili con carne last night. He never listens and this always happens.”
She nodded her head in Bruce’s direction.
“And why is Bigfoot here?”
The laugh escaped Olivia’s mouth before she could suppress it. These people were nuts… and she loved it.
Bruce shot a glance at her and mouthed the word “traitor.”
“After I got Bri settled inside, I was going to return to the office, and my car wouldn’t start. I called Bruce to come over and diagnose the problem, but… she’s really sick. He has to take her in.”
Courtney Bellamy looked as though tears might be a real possibility.
Marissa turned her head and covered her mouth to hide the grin. She looked back and addressed Olivia.
“Please excuse our family, Olivia. We’re not usually this scatterbrained and dysfunctional. And we usually care more about our sick children than our sick cars.”
Before Olivia could tell her they were all just fine, Bruce chimed in.
“Look up ‘dysfunctional’ in Webster’s and you’ll find our family portrait.”
Marissa popped a clenched fist on one hip and shot back.
“Don’t you have little children to scare or people to annoy?”
“Yes, and here I am!”
Olivia heard someone join her in the laughter, but when she glanced at Courtney, his eyes were full of love and fixed on his wife.
Olivia stepped around Marissa and looked down at Rena, who had dissolved into a fit of laughter. She clutched her bag of snacks with one hand and her stomach with the other.
Olivia’s heart melted at the sight. She then noticed Courtney had stepped behind his wife, sliding his hand around her waist.
Rena was still laughing when he softly said, “Once they get started, they won’t stop until Rena laughs.”
He kissed his wife behind the ear while giving a thumbs up to his cousin.
Olivia was taken aback. Most of what she’d just witnessed was a performance purely for Rena’s benefit. She was so glad she had not prejudged these people and admonished herself for any negative thoughts she may have had about them.
These were good, loving people who were just living life. Parents and kids get sick and cars break down, but it didn’t distract them enough they didn’t have time for a little girl who was… at least temporarily… an orphan.
Although Olivia was sure the Bellamys and Averests must have had a pretty strong friendship for Courtney and Marissa to take Rena in, she felt this family would probably help any child in need.
Olivia followed as Marissa pushed Rena into the house, but something made her stop and look over in Bruce’s direction.
He was still standing there, hands in pockets, focused on her.
Shaking her head, she smiled at him, which caused him to throw a big toothy grin back at her.
Marissa had cleared the doorway and Courtney held the door for Olivia.
When she walked past him, he touched her arm. “He’s a good guy.”
Her face heated up again, but she was rescued when she heard Marissa call out for her to follow her voice to get to Rena’s room.
Writing has been a hobby of Felicia’s since grade school, but other than serving as editor and writing for her high school newspaper, she never publicly shared anything until the early 2000s when she began writing fan fiction. At the urging of a good friend, Felicia took on the challenge of NaNoWriMo in 2015, writing what would become her first published book, In the Best Interest of the Child. It was released in the fall of 2016.
Currently working on several projects, Felicia plans to release book 2 of In the Best Interest of the Child – Family Matters, in summer 2017.
Author Website – https://feliciadenise.com
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