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Betrayal Of Trust
By Tracey Bateman
Steeple HillCopyright © 2005 Tracey Bateman
All right reserved.
Raven Mahoney's jaw dropped as the sickening thud of truth slammed her with the force of a major-league line drive to the gut. While she'd been playing the dutiful maid of honor and helping with wedding preliminaries for her sister, Denni, she'd just missed out on reporting the press conference of the year. As far as Raven was concerned, that smacked of injustice.
From the TV screen in Denni's living room, cameras flashed at dizzying intervals. Raven could almost feel the claustrophobia she experienced every time she stood among the crowd of reporters, fighting for the chance to ask a question.
And she almost always got her chance to ask the tough ones, but not so tough the speaker wouldn't respond. She knew her success was a nice combination of her looks (especially if the speaker was a guy) and her instincts about how to ask the right questions so they sounded less intimidating. At thirty-five, she'd gained a lot of savvy in her field and she was ready to move one more step up the ladder of success.
Only, the teenybopper on the screen in front of her was getting the story, she, Raven should be getting. Something akin to a growl rose in Raven's throat, and her predatory nature kicked in.
Enjoy the cameras while you can, little girl, because as soon as I get home, you are going down.
Raven closed her eyes and imagined herself at that press conference. Where she wanted to be. Despite the jumble of cameras and elbows jabbing into her head, she itched to be in the thick of things. To prove, once again, her value to the station. Ten years on the job had to count for something, didn't it?
Her chest tightened, and pressure began to build. But this time, the claustrophobia struck in the living room of her soon-to-be-wed sister's Victorian home. Being in the bosom of her loving family suddenly felt more like standing in a trash compactor as the walls inched closer and closer together until finally they squished her, a sensation that had grown familiar over the past few years, ever since her mother's death, when she'd learned the truth about who Raven Mahoney really was.
In retrospect, it all made sense, but the revelation only served to make her feel more like an outsider in the midst of this family — and all these years later, Mac still hadn't set the record straight. Nor had Raven. Mac had no idea she knew. And as angry as she was with him for keeping the truth from her, she didn't have the heart to confront him.
"I can't believe Matthew Strong is pulling out of the race." Keri, Raven's younger sister, married barely a year herself to her childhood sweetheart, flopped onto the overstuffed green couch next to Raven. "I was going to vote for that guy."
"Shhh!" Raven glared at her sister and pressed the volume-up button on the remote. "Sheesh, so-o-rry."
"What's going on?" Denni, the middle sister, entered the room, her eyes on the TV.
"Shh, or you'll get your head yanked off." Keri's exaggerated whisper resonated through the room.
"I'll talk if I want. It's my house. Besides, I'm the bride and everyone must cater to my whims. So there." Denni stuck her tongue out at Raven.
Raven rolled her eyes at the childish gesture, but couldn't resist a smile before shifting her focus back to the TV.
Her claws extended at the sight of the so-called reporter staring out from the screen: Kellie Cruise, an upstart and a spoiled-rotten brat — way too under-qualified and inexperienced to be covering a press conference. Especially one of this magnitude. But nepotism at its finest continued to be at work for the daughter of the station manager. And Raven knew if she didn't act fast, the just-out-of-college kid was going to get Bruce King's job when he retired. The job that Raven wanted. Deserved.
"What's going on?" Mac Mahoney's booming hint of an Irish brogue filled the room.
"Shh!" The three girls spoke in unison.
"Hey, now. Is that any way to speak to your father?" He scowled, but quieted, as his attention turned to the blond-haired, blue-eyed reporter who was wrapping up the breaking-news coverage.
"We've been told that Mr. Strong will not be answering any questions on the subject of his withdrawal. Now or ever. His decision is final and is based on personal reasons which he apparently has no intention of revealing."
The camera shifted back to the studio where the whitehaired, almost-retired anchor stared out at the TV audience. "There you have it, folks. In the political upset of the year, a candidate whom analysts and polls favored by a three-to-one margin has withdrawn his name from the race for Senate with only six weeks left until the primary." The older gentleman heaved a sigh. "To reiterate...with no warning to his supporters and no explanation, Matthew Strong has pulled out of the race for the Missouri Senate."
If he'd said, "And may God help us all," Bruce couldn't have been more obviously biased. It was only too apparent that he had had high hopes for Matthew's election to Senate. No matter how much she might agree, Raven couldn't help but be a bit irritated with his transparency. Part of good reporting was remaining detached, keeping your opinion carefully masked behind the facts and nothing else. Perhaps it was simply that after so many years behind that desk, Bruce didn't feel he had anything to hide — namely his opinion.
With a sigh, Raven switched off the set as regular programming resumed. Tense silence reigned in the room and she knew her family was struggling not to ask the question. Finally, she could take the tension no more and she shot to her feet. "Okay, yes. It's Matthew."
"Your Matthew?" Mac looked at her over half glasses.
"Yes." She rubbed her throbbing temple with the balls of her fingers in an attempt to ease the pressure. My Matthew. Regret for what might have been all those years ago shot through her. She hadn't allowed herself second guesses. No regretting her decision. So why was her heart suddenly about to pound out of her chest?
She could still see Matthew's expression of bewilderment as she'd placed the diamond engagement ring into his palm and curled his fingers around the token. She'd walked away. Transferred to a different school. And that was the last time she'd spoken to him.
Keri's voice brought her back to the present. "Wow. I wonder what his folks think of him leaving the race. He was a surefire win for his party. Especially with his father dying last year. I don't think Missouri is ready to live without a Strong representing us in Congress. What was Matthew thinking?"
Excerpted from Betrayal Of Trust by Tracey Bateman Copyright © 2005 by Tracey Bateman. Excerpted by permission.
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