Home > Lured into Lies (Blossom in Winter #3)

Lured into Lies (Blossom in Winter #3)
Author: Melanie Martins

 


Prologue

 

 

Manhattan, October 23, 2020

Tess Hagen

 

 

“Are you sure about that?” I ask Carice over the phone as I pick at my nails, trying to recover from the shocking and awful news I had just heard. I shouldn’t be surprised that Julia wouldn’t uphold Jan’s jail sentence. After all, he’s always been a close friend to the Van Dierens’. It was obvious she’d absolve him from the start.

“Yes, it came out a few hours ago. It’s all over the news.” Carice’s tone is hurried but is just as furious as mine. “Everyone wants to interview you about the case. What do you want me to say?”

I give a quick glance around the conference room in the State Attorney General’s office where Roy, our two security agents, and I are still waiting for Eric to come in.

“How is Leonor doing?” That’s the first question that comes to mind. And it’s the question that I wish my lawyer would’ve asked me eighteen years ago when I started my divorce process with Roy. I know how tough getting a divorce of this kind can be on one’s self-esteem and mental health. I just hope Leonor is stronger than I was.

Carice doesn’t answer immediately, but after a few moments, she finally blurts out, “She’s not really okay, to be honest.”

My heart tightens, knowing all too well the pain and suffering Leonor is going through. Divorces that draw the attention of the media and the entire country are even worse than the ones done in private.

“Can we appeal to the Supreme Court?” I ask Carice, my fingers already rubbing my eyelids tiredly as I think of a way out of this nightmare.

Carice lets out a long, fatigued breath that I recognize well. “Um, I mean, we can, but…” she lets her words trail off, undecided whether to open up or not. “Have you read Julia’s answer to his appeal?”

I instantly roll my eyes upon hearing her question and let out a mere, “No, I haven’t.”

“She just made him pay a fine.”

My jaw falls, aggravation setting in. “What?”

Carice proceeds, “I read Julia’s response to the appeal. She quoted our criminal code a few times, and based on some precedents, Jan could either go to jail or pay a fine. So instead of jail, she wants him to pay a fine of ten thousand euros.”

“That’s ridiculous!” I shout just as quickly. Seeing how everyone is raising their brows at my comment, I lower my voice but remain just as troubled. “Ten thousand euros?” I shake my head at how disgusting that judge is. Does she have no shame?

“Yeah…” Carice mumbles, keeping her temper in check. “We knew Julia wouldn’t uphold his sentence. It was obvious from the start.” We both keep quiet for a moment as we gather our thoughts. “Do you still want to escalate this to the Supreme Court?” she finally asks.

“We have to,” I tell her. “What Julia did…” I press my lips tight, trying to contain the rage and anger I have for her and her entire family. What a freaking bunch they are! “She’s basically saying anyone can rape if they can afford to pay the ten thousand bucks to cover it up!” I don’t contain my loud tone, though, and at this point, everyone in the room is looking at me, wondering what’s happening. “We need him in jail. Two years is a joke! Maybe the Supreme Court will be on our side,” I add. “Contact Kevin and tell him our nonprofit will take this case to the Supreme because this is bigger than Leonor, this is about every woman in this country.”

At this point, I glance at my watch and wonder why Eric is not yet here—he’s ten minutes late, which is unusual for him.

“The thing is,” Carice begins. “Rapists can either go to jail or pay a fine. And while the first judge wanted Jan in jail for two years, Julia only gave him a small fine… Both are technically okay under our criminal code. And if we lose again, I don’t…”

“We have to try,” I say, my tone evening out. “Carice, we can only challenge the mindset of the courts if we go all the way through.”

Carice gives me nothing but a loud breath; I can almost feel the heat huff through the phone. I know she’d rather accept the fine. For her, as a lawyer, either of those outcomes would be a win, but not for me. Money for Jan means nothing. But freedom? Oh, freedom means everything…

“I’m only doing it for you, I swear… No lawyer will go as far, especially when the only change was in his penalty.”

Her answer makes my lips twist into a smile. “And that’s why you are my best friend,” I tell her as I see Eric opening the door wide and coming in alongside his son, Matthew. “Carice, we’ll talk tomorrow. I’ve got to go now.”

“Alright, tomorrow it is. Bye.”

After hanging up, I rise from my seat and shake Eric’s hand, followed by Matthew’s. As I observe the young man with dark circles under his hazel eyes, something tells me he is just as sleep-deprived as I am. Despite his tired face, Matt carries a friendly smile as he does his best to appear at ease in his new suit.

“You look great in a suit, Matt. You should wear one more often,” I tell him as we finish shaking hands.

He gives me a grin of appreciation, but it’s also filled with sincerity and amusement. He then leans toward me and says in a low voice, “Really? I feel so awkward in it, but Dad insisted.”

“Tess is right. You look great in it,” Eric assures him as he takes a seat at the head of the table. There’s some annoyance in his tone, which makes me assume they’d already discussed it earlier— and not in a friendly way.

Discreetly enough, I give Matt a quick pat on his arm, along with a smile which is filled with empathy, showing him some support as he did to me the day that Van Dieren kidnapped my daughter. As I sit, my mind replays the day I listened to Van Dieren’s voice message—that horrible voice message.

If he truly believes that I will never see my daughter again, then he’s got no idea how stubborn and persistent I can be.

“Many thanks for coming as soon as possible,” Eric says to start the meeting, pulling me back from my thoughts. Roy and I thank him in return and then wait for him to proceed. “One of our sources has found your daughter.”

“Really?” Roy and I nearly shout at the same time.

While Roy appears confused, with his brows furrowed tightly, I can’t help but ask, “Where is she?”

“She’s in Bermuda,” Eric tells us, before adding, “at his father’s residence.”

“Hendrik is in Bermuda?” Roy seems to be genuinely surprised by all that is being revealed, which is strange given that he used to work for the guy.

“The bad news is that they have to come back on their own. I can’t send anyone there without notifying their home affairs department, and the minister happens to be a close friend of Hendrik, so they’ll know we know and probably flee.”

“How are we gonna persuade them to come back though?” Roy is the first to read my mind. “The board and myself have already tried.”

I see Eric’s lips begin to curl upwards as he says, “There is another way…”

 

 

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