Sneek Peek: The Past Defines Chapter One – #BeNotorious Blog Tour Day Six
Welcome to Day Six of the #BeNotorious Blog Tour! We are revving up to the release of the highly anticipated sequel of Katie Jennings’ family drama When Empires Fall, aptly named Rise of the Notorious!
Follow along on this notorious blog tour from April 2nd till release day on April 23rd, and be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win some AMAZING prizes!
Today’s stop is a sneak peek at Chapter One of Rise of the Notorious. A true blast from the past, learn just one of the many dark and dirty secrets of the Vasser family in this tempting excerpt! Enjoy!
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United States Army
Criminal Investigation Division
October 2, 1944
While the world destroyed itself with war thousands of miles away, Paul Morgan sat back comfortably in his desk chair and smiled. He had, thanks to his well-connected father, avoided the overseas conflict. It wasn’t that he couldn’t handle the violence of war or that he was anything less than a true patriot, he just felt his unique skill set was better suited on the home front. And with war crimes on the rise, how could anyone say that he was anything less than necessary?
His job was a simple one. He was a military man who brought other military men to justice.
One thing he knew without a shadow of a doubt was that war was hell. But regardless of this fact, America still expected her men of arms to maintain civility. It was his job to take the cases that were forwarded on from the commanders overseas and see to it that the soldiers who committed war crimes be dealt with accordingly.
It was a job his training as a New York City police officer had primed him for before he had enlisted in the Army to help fight the war. Only, after boot camp, his father had insisted on his removal from the general ranks and his placement in the CID as a warrant officer. It wasn’t the position he had been looking for, but now that he was here he couldn’t be happier.
While the friends he had made in basic training died bloody deaths upon foreign soil, he rested comfortably in Quantico, ready to investigate them if they made a mistake. Sure, it gave him some sleepless nights, but it would be foolish of him to regret his good fortune.
Not that he didn’t have other regrets, of course. In fact, it was becoming much too difficult to not regret one, nagging little thing in particular.
It was the inconvenient string that had come attached to the woman he had decided to marry three years earlier. Not that he had known at the time that this string would be a burden; he had married her in part for this important string.
His wife was affluent…very affluent. Her great uncle had created an American empire, one that had grown into a flourishing, world-renowned business. One that shined like a beacon on the hill for all to admire and envy, eager to feel even some small part of its glory.
It was an empire that was not only monumental, but magnificent and respected.
It was an empire of hotels. The Vasser Hotels.
When he had married her, she had carried the prestigious name Vasser. Now, it appeared that name was going to haunt him until the day he died.
The phone call had come unexpectedly days earlier, an unwarranted intrusion of the quiet peace of his work environment. It had shattered his resolve, weakened his confidence, and shaken him to the core. How could they ask this of him? How dare they even assume he would play a willing role in the cover up of something so undeniably heinous?
Yet they had demanded it. Who was he to deny the whims of a force he had no hope of defeating?
His earlier smile faded as sweat began to bead on his forehead. He wiped it away nervously with the handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit jacket, his nearly colorless blue eyes darting to the door of his office. Any minute now that wench would walk in, primed for their scheduled appointment. What he wouldn’t give to throttle her for what she was making him do.
What she was giving him no choice but to do.
Lazy afternoon sunlight poured in from the window at his back and highlighted the auburn of his neatly combed hair. It pierced through the half open blinds so that slats of light shone golden on the white wall across from him. Decorating the wall were his awards, achievements, and family photographs. He turned his eyes away from the photograph of his Major General father, feeling sick to his stomach.
If he got caught then it was all over. Everything. He was a doomed man if this ever, ever came back to him. He just had to pray with everything he had that the Vassers had the situation on their end under control. If that man ever killed again…Paul shuddered to even think of it.
Blood was going to be on his hands now. Blood of men he had never met, distant relatives of the wife he should have never married. Damn the Vasser name for carrying its prestige and allure. Damn them all for forcing his hand on this godforsaken cover up!
A sharp, brisk knock on his office door had his heart stalling in his chest. Struggling for words, he attempted to clear the sudden lump in his throat and remove the fear from his expression. He’d be damned if the Vasser woman knew he feared her…
“Come in.” Paul watched as the door slid open and the woman entered, all long, slender legs and vivid red silk. Her golden hair was perfectly styled to curl around her softly angular face, her expression coldly detached and ruthless. It was like the devil himself had just ascended from Hell disguised as an angel, ready to collect his due.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Morgan. So nice to finally meet you,” Stella Vasser purred, her lips curving into a cat-like grin as she shut the door at her back and faced him, her dark coat draped over her arm. “I appreciate you agreeing to see me to discuss the matter at hand. My family will be eager to learn what the status is on the investigation.”
“Don’t play coy with me,” Paul growled, slamming his fist down upon his metal desk in a wave of sudden fury. “I know why you’re really here.”
Stella’s grin remained, but her expression notably hardened. Her eyes of rich cobalt examined him as a spider would a fly trapped in its web. Oh, and what a web she had weaved. Until she had this particular little fly snared and secure, her husband and her family faced terrible consequences for what had been done. For what Cyrus had done…
“I know you do. However all pretenses must be carefully maintained.” She sauntered forward on sharp heels and took a seat gracefully in one of the armchairs facing his desk. Folding her hands primly in her lap over her coat and purse, she eyed him once more. “My husband anxiously awaits his flight back from France.”
“He should have died there,” Paul spat viciously, his earlier fear subsiding as his anger over the whole situation boiled over and claimed him.
Stella’s stunning red lips curled into an angry snarl. “How dare you say such a vile thing?”
“How dare he commit such vile acts?” Paul cried out, the urge to jump to his feet and leave her and the whole mess behind exploding through him.
“His reasons are none of your concern,” she replied through gritted teeth, eyes flashing dangerously. “I don’t expect you to understand.”
Paul forced himself to be calm, sucking in deep breaths through his nose in an attempt to quell the uneasiness and anger coursing through his veins. The nerve of these people…
“So what exactly would you like me to do?” he asked finally, avoiding her eyes. Such cold eyes…he had never met the husband, but he must be a crazy bastard to marry a woman like this. It irked him that despite everything else about her, he couldn’t deny that she was one of the most beautiful creatures he had ever laid eyes upon.
And when she smiled at him with all that ruthless power in her eyes, it made him feel a foot tall.
“I want you to bury it.”
He laughed, a dark, forced cackle that was borderline hysterical. “You think it’s just that easy?”
“Of course it is. You’re in charge, are you not?”
“Damnit, woman, this is the Army!” He threw his hands up into the air, exasperated as he glared at her again. “Incidents of this magnitude do not just get brushed aside!”
“Sure they do.” Stella stared him down with all of the conviction she could muster. She had to hold strong, had to protect her husband. She was his only shot. “This is war, Mr. Morgan. Men die. Record the deaths as casualties of war and we will be done with this.”
“And what of the evidence, Mrs. Vasser? It is already a matter of record, as are the witness statements and the commander’s report.” Paul reached for a manila folder at his side, thrusting it across the desk. It landed before her and she eyed it with amusement.
“It is your word that determines the fate of my husband, not the evidence nor the witness statements. If you choose not to pursue this investigation, then it will be filed away, never to be looked upon again. That is all I ask of you.”
“And what happens when it is discovered that I covered up one of the most heinous war crimes committed against fellow American soldiers in the history of the Army?” he asked, the heat in his voice mixing with a bitterness he couldn’t shake. “Will my wife’s family somehow protect me when it’s my head on the chopping block?”
“We take care of our own,” Stella replied easily, her head tilting to the side as she smirked at him. “At least those who serve our purpose.”
A cold chill settled in his gut at her words, sending a shiver down his spine. He didn’t need to ask what was done with those, even inside the family, who did not serve their purpose. There were three dead bodies being shipped back from France who would be a testament to that violent truth.
“Then consider it done.” He settled back against his chair, numb now to the fear, to the anger. There was nothing he could do; he couldn’t refuse her request. If the Vasser family fell under the weight of this horror, his wife and consequently he would fall with them. It was a connection he despised, and yet could not ignore.
He, by all association, was a part of the Vasser family. As a limb of the empire, roped by a foolish little string attached by marriage, he had now become an unwitting player in the elaborate cover up staged by Cyrus Vasser and his cunning wife, Stella. It was one that she had assured him the rest of the family was completely unaware of, which only made the truth that much easier to keep hidden. He wondered briefly how Cyrus Vasser’s parents would react if they ever learned that he had murdered his own brothers in cold blood, all so that he could assume control over the family empire. He had to pray that day would never come, for all their sakes.
Stella rose to her feet, extending her hand to his. “Thank you, Mr. Morgan. I will inform my in-laws that the deaths have been ruled an accidental consequence of war. You have mine and my husband’s sincerest appreciation. We will not forget this.”
He stared at her hand blankly for a moment before accepting it and rising from his seat.
“Have a safe trip back to New York, Mrs. Vasser,” he said dully, watching as she turned and swept from the room, the scent of her sultry perfume lingering in the air. He shuddered once as he sank back into his chair.
He was right when he realized this moment would haunt him for the rest of his life. Only what he didn’t know at the time was that it would even further haunt, and even attempt to destroy, the life of his unborn son.
If he had known that then, perhaps he would have crashed and burned with the truth instead of covering for it. It would have been the noble thing to do.
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Rise of the Notorious
By International Bestselling Author
Coming April 23, 2013
Click HERE to Enter the Giveaway!
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Meet Katie Jennings…
International bestselling Author Katie Jennings is the author of six full length novels, including the popular fantasy series The Dryad Quartet as well as the bestselling family drama series The Vasser Legacy.
She lives in sunny Southern California with her husband and cat, who both think she’s the biggest nerd ever. She’s a firm believer in happy endings and loves nothing more than a great romance novel.
You can find out more about Katie on her official website, www.katieajennings.com.