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New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky understands the power of the human heart as few others and she shares that gift in this touching novel of acceptance and fulfillment, first published in 1983.
Sitting in a Vermont jury room, Abby Barnes is happy to be empaneled. The trial is a sensational headline-grabber, and the thought of being sequestered for a few weeks is appealing. The time away from a relationship that fails to excite her will give her a chance to think ... and to make a long overdue decision.
Then she meets fellow juror Ben Wyeth, a witty and charming college professor who shows Abby just what she's been missing. But although they share grueling days of grisly testimony and long nights of passion, there is a part of Ben that he can never share with Abby, or any woman. Just as the fate of an accused man lies in the balance, so too does Abby's, as she decides whether what Ben can give is enough ... enough to last her a lifetime.
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Shortly after noon on a bright fall Wednesday, Abigail Barnes was taken into custody. She was escorted down the center aisle of the crowded courtroom by a somber-faced sheriff's guard. Whether it was apprehension or excitement that threatened her steadiness she wasn't sure. But she was oddly grateful for the firmness of the hand at her elbow, guiding her through the large black leather-sheathed doors to the stairway that wound to the ground floor of the Windsor County Courthouse.
"The van is waiting out front," the burly guard clipped as they started down the creaking steps.
Abby simply nodded, too concerned with matching his pace on the narrow stairs to say a word. Reaching the door, she was whisked through, then momentarily exposed to the noontime sun as the guard hurried her down the short granite path before inserting her into the dark blue van standing at the curb. She was barely seated when the door slid shut with a jarring bang. Her gaze flew questioningly to the uniformed driver as the guard returned to the courthouse.
"Where ... ?" she began, looking wide-eyed and helpless enough to evoke sympathy.
"He's gone to get the others. Then we'll be on our way."
"The others?" she asked softly. "So there were others?" It had been impossible to tell the fate of those taken from the holding room before she herself had been called.
"Two others," the guard informed her smugly. "We're getting there." Satisfied, he turned his attention to the gaggle of curious bystanders scattered on the lawn, the sidewalk, the street. Following his gaze, Abby seemed to notice the crowd for the first time.
"What are they staring at?" she whispered self-consciously, the question simply an expression of dismay to which she didn't expect an answer. She received one nonetheless.
"You." The guard tossed the single word back over his shoulder, then said no more.
Abby shivered in anticipation of what was to come. Lowering her head and settling more deeply into her seat in a futile effort to escape the eyes beyond, she yielded to amazement as she reviewed the events of the morning.
It had seemed that she'd been sitting for hours when in fact it had only been ninety minutes. Closing the medical journal in her lap, she shifted on the splint-back chair in an effort to get comfortable, then raised her eyes to study quietly her companions in the small jury room.
Propped straight in identically unyielding chairs, these men and women represented a cross section of the Vermont she'd come to know well.
No one could deny the subtle tension in the air. Each person in the room had heard the judge at the start of the morning's session and knew that, should he be chosen as a juror for this trial, his freedom would be sharply curtailed for the next three weeks.
Three weeks. To Abby, the thought was not as odious as it might have been a year earlier. Then there had been no Sean Hennessy in her life, pressuring her for a commitment she simply couldn't make. The chase hadn't even begun then. Now it tired her. Three weeks of captivity might offer an odd but welcome freedom.
Her lips toyed with a mischievous smile as she took a breath and sat back. She recalled the moment earlier that morning when the judge had addressed the gathered group, explaining the mechanics of a locked-up jury, asking to see those who, for one reason or another, couldn't possibly serve. A good half of those present had stepped forward, each taking a private turn before the judge, offering his best excuse and a plea for sympathy. In the majority of cases it was forthcoming. Judge Theodore Hammond knew the importance of weighing civic responsibility against emotional hardship.
An Irresistible ImpulseBy: Barbara Delinsky