Beyond Blood

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Overview

A wealthy benefactor with psychic powers battles to gain control...

Sitting in her plush Manhattan office, Carrie Phillips receives a phone call from her distraught best friend, Roxanne, an artist who lives on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Roxanne is afraid that someone is trying to kill her and she thinks the attempts on her life might be connected to her mysterious trust fund.

As the girls follow the money trail, they discover that ...

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Overview

A wealthy benefactor with psychic powers battles to gain control...

Sitting in her plush Manhattan office, Carrie Phillips receives a phone call from her distraught best friend, Roxanne, an artist who lives on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Roxanne is afraid that someone is trying to kill her and she thinks the attempts on her life might be connected to her mysterious trust fund.

As the girls follow the money trail, they discover that Roxanne's benefactor has a deep and insidious interest in both of their fates. The benefactor offers a tempting deal but the price must be paid in blood. His need for control knows no bounds, and only their courage and deep bond can keep them from succumbing to his sinister plans. When Roxanne goes missing, Carrie must prevail against the benefactor's stupendous wealth and paranormal powers - or pay the ultimate price.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440179952
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/11/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Beyond Blood

A Novel
By CAROL PEPPER

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2009 Carol Pepper
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4401-7995-2


Chapter One

Carrie Phillips slid into her seat in the conference room, avoiding the glares and the rolling eyeballs of the others. The morning meeting had started without her again. Thank God it was Friday. Heritage was one of the oldest money management firms in the country. The office sat on the fortieth floor of Rockefeller Center in New York City. Twenty-five investment professionals pretended to listen to the senior partner. Carrie was the only female and the youngest portfolio manager. The others looked like brothers or perhaps cousins, with matching impeccably rumpled suits from Brooks Brothers.

Carrie became restless as one analyst after another summarized his views of the stocks he followed and his prediction of what the market would do today. Not mentioned was the poor performance of most of these stocks. Carrie was so glad she was not forced to follow their recommendations; her portfolios were doing much better without the help of these guys. She couldn't keep her mind off the dream, the image of the dead woman.

Carrie was the first one out of the conference room and gratefully closed the door to her office. On the wall, an Audubon print pictured a red-tailed hawk seizing its prey: a helpless mouse that always made Carrie think of the firm'shapless clients. Her BlackBerry buzzed. There was a note from Hugh Whitley, an old headhunting pro who knew Carrie hated her job at Heritage.

Dear Carrie, how about a private trust company? Bermuda location, full service operation. Act as trustee to family members. Total discretion, good pay, independence. Interested?

Give me a call

Hugh

A touch of the speed dial brought Hugh's southern twang onto the line.

"Well, darlin', are you ready for something a little off the wall?"

"Do you think I can make it through one more of these meetings?" Carrie retorted.

"I went to the same prep school as Daniel Butterworth and ran into him at a fundraising dinner. His family owns one of the largest private trust companies in Bermuda. He called me last week and took me out for a drink. He is an attorney for offshore wealthy folks like himself. Said he is representing an anonymous client who specifically requested that you be interviewed for the job of trustee for a client of his. What do you think?"

What did she think? Good money, freedom, Bermuda. At least she should meet with Daniel Butterworth. Definitely.

"Your appointment is for drinks tonight at the Rainbow Room," Hugh said.

"Hugh, it sounds great, and I am really interested. But not tonight."

"Why not, Sugar? He's only in town for one night. I think you should jump on this."

"I normally would, but tonight is Bill's birthday. You know I never go anywhere on Bill's birthday," she replied firmly.

There was a slight pause, and Hugh answered softly, "Sweetheart, you know Bill has been gone a long time now. I respect your feelings but don't you think he would have wanted you to move forward? I really think this is a fantastic opportunity for you, Carrie."

Carrie said nothing for a moment and glanced at the photo in the silver frame on her desk. Bill was standing behind her in jeans and a fisherman knit sweater. His arms came around her protectively, and she was smiling and looking into the camera. They were in front of a red maple tree ablaze in its fall glory. To her it was yesterday, not thirteen years ago. She wanted to curl up at home tonight with a photo album, play the videos from their trip to Spain her junior year in college, and call his mother and just talk about him. She didn't want to go out and be polite on a job interview, even a great one. But. Hugh was also right. She could mourn after the interview. "Ok, you win," she replied.

"I know you won't regret it. This is the right next step."

"I'll call you tomorrow and let you know if I agree with you."

"Ok, Sugar, you know your uncle Hugh is always looking out for you."

Carrie hung up the phone and smiled. It was true; Hugh was always looking out for her. He was the only person she was still close to who remembered Bill. They had been high school sweethearts in Weston, a town just outside of Boston, proud of its colonial roots and New England style. She went to Wellesley College, and he attended the Boston Police Academy. He had only ever wanted to be a cop. They had planned a wedding for the day after her graduation.

A week before the wedding, she had a horrible dream that seemed more like watching a movie: she saw Bill gunned down in a gang battle in Chinatown. She was shaken but assumed the dream was caused by wedding jitters, so she said nothing to Bill. The next day she got a call telling her Bill was dead. He had raced out into the street to grab a child and had been shot in the back. He died instantly. For an entire summer she stared at the walls of her childhood bedroom, numb, trying to decide whether or not she could have prevented his death by speaking up.

A surprise job offer from Hugh, who was a friend of her father's, got her into a bank training program in New York City. She buried herself in numbers and found to her surprise that she was good at finance and liked investment analysis. When her adopted parents had passed away five years ago, first Mom from cancer, then Dad from a heart attack brought on by grief, Hugh had been there again to help. Carrie was an only child. Once her parents were gone, she found that Hugh was really the only family she had left. She liked the fact that he insisted on being her uncle.

Carrie studied her reflection in the antique mirror she had hung on the wall next to her desk. She would not have to change before drinks. Her curly brown hair had been high-lighted over the weekend and fell to her shoulders; today it was tied up in a loose chignon. It was October, so she had pulled out her navy knit St. John suit, Hermes scarf, and heavy strand of Mikimoto pearls. Her appearance said, You can trust me. I understand your wealth, but I don't covet it. Being seen with me in public won't embarrass you, and I won't intrude on your life.

Carrie looked slightly older than thirty-four, a plus in her business. She was short at five feet, four inches, but projected taller. Kickboxing with a trainer to relieve stress had helped Carrie develop an athletic build but left her curves intact. Honey brown eyes, dimples and a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose gave her a friendly, approachable look.

Carrie quickly googled Butterworth Trust. The first page of the website showed a typical old-fashioned Burmuda white-washed cottage and the site said "Celebrating 120 Years of Client Service." She had heard of the firm but had never met the principals. She was surprised to see that there was very little information on the website; no officer biographies or corporate photos. The firm was very private and didn't seem to be trying to get new clients.

Next she checked out Daniel Butterworth. She saw he was the youngest son of the wealthiest black family in Bermuda and was featured in online society pages. He was unmarried and seemed to be a playboy, judging from the variety of beautiful escorts that stood next to him in the photographs from benefit galas. He was listed as a member of several charitable and corporate boards and had spoken at various wealth management conferences around the world. He seemed like a fairly typical young executive. Just then, her cell rang.

"Carrie, it's me, Roxanne." The voice cracked and was barely audible.

"Are you on the cell? I can barely hear you!" Carrie replied, picturing her best friend up in the hills of St. Lucia, the Caribbean island where she lived with her husband, a gorgeous Rastafarian named Jahfire.

"We're having a lot of rain today; maybe that's why. You sound fine. Listen, can you get down here this weekend? I'll send you a ticket. I have to see you right away. Something strange is going on," Roxanne said.

"Well I don't know, I have a lot of work to do, and I would have to practically turn around as soon as I get there. Can't we talk about it now, on the phone? I'll call you back and get a better line."

"No. Listen, Carrie, I wouldn't ask-you know I wouldn't-but I have to. Look, I know you are going to think we've been smoking too much or something, but I think ... I think someone is after me. I really can't discuss it on the phone-for all I know it's bugged. I can't tell Daddy because he'll send in the military all the way from London. The local police won't do anything, and you know how Jahfire is. He is already going nuts. I need to discuss what I've been through with you-you'll know what to do. Please. Oh, and another thing: Daddy told me that the old dinosaur who was my trustee died. I told him I want you to be the new trustee. They should be contacting you from Bermuda soon. Hello, did you get all that?"

Carrie exhaled slowly but thought quickly. Yes, Roxanne could be a ditz, but she had never seemed crazy, and she had never asked for anything but their friendship before. Becoming a trustee was a big step. She hoped nothing was really wrong on the island.

"Okay, Rox, put me on the 7:00 a.m. Air Jamaica flight into Hewanorra Airport tomorrow morning. I'll see you and Jahfire around 2:00 p.m. But I have to come back on Sunday afternoon. And I think they have contacted me. I have drinks tonight to discuss a job in Bermuda."

Carrie mentally started packing for St. Lucia. She hadn't been there for three years, and she smiled when she thought about digging out sunscreen, her orange sarong and matching maillot. Even though she was pale, it would do her so much good to stick her toes in the water, kick back and drink spice rum. It would be so great to see Rox and Jahfire again.

It was only 9:30 a.m., and although she was restless, Carrie would have to fill the day before 6:00. She had to put Bill, Rox and Jahfire out of her mind for now. As usual, she lost herself in her work, methodically reviewing portfolios, selling stocks to raise cash for client expenses, and investing the cash held in the trust accounts. She met with one of her older clients to review the investments in his charitable foundation, as well as with one of the youngest to go over the merits of a film-financing investment.

Carrie's clients loved her because she was fiercely protective of their interests, much to the chagrin of the men of Heritage Financial. She refused to put her clients in mediocre investments that made lots of money for the firm but little money for them. Her performance reviews all said the same thing: Carrie is great with clients but needs to work on her relationships with co-workers. In other words, she was a horrible politician and had not learned to kiss ass correctly. They just didn't get it. Hopefully, pretty soon that wouldn't matter anymore.

Chapter Two

At precisely six o'clock, Carrie stood in front of the hostess of the Rainbow Room bar. The restaurant was famous for its beautiful view, sixty-five stories above central Manhattan, and for its perfectly preserved Art Deco furnishings. It had been raining softly all day, and the windows were fogged, leaving the view a pattern of lights through swirls of white mist. Waiters in tuxedos carried martini glasses on silver trays to small round tables spaced to allow intimate conversation without interruption. She saw a tall, caramel colored man in a dove gray suit with a robin's egg blue silk tie and pocket handkerchief watching her from the bar. He looked relaxed and confident, a man clearly at home in the sophisticated room. He raised his glass, and Carrie knew it was Daniel. She crossed to the bar.

"You must be Carrie Phillips. It is a pleasure to meet you at last."

His voice lilted with Bermudan charm. She could now see that he had light gray eyes, salt and pepper hair with an unlined face, and a large frame, over six feet tall. He was a handsome, self-assured man.

"At last?" Carrie smiled with a slight mock in her tone. "Have I kept you waiting long?"

"Oh no, it's just that I have followed your career with interest for some time, and I thought Hugh would be the perfect person to bring us together," he replied with an innocent smile. He offered her a drink. He was sipping Maker's Mark bourbon, so she ordered a Glenlivet scotch.

"How did I come to your attention?" Carrie asked.

"I heard you speak at the Hedge Fund Conference in Bermuda last October, and I was impressed by your presentation. You argued strongly for the investor and seemed quite fierce in defending your position with those wolves. When we needed a new trustee, I did some checking on you to see if you measured up to my first impression," he replied easily.

"And what did you find?" she asked, not surprised that someone had been checking her out without her consent. It happened all the time in the wealth management business.

"Pretty much what I expected to find. On the professional side, you have been working your way up in the high-net-worth-client business for the last twelve years. You joined Salomon Brothers, then worked at JP Morgan, and are now at Heritage. I believe a grateful client put you in your current job. You have an MBA from Columbia and a BA from Wellesley College. You are considered aggressive for a woman but very honest and focused on your clients. On the personal side, you experienced a terrible tragedy when your fiancé was killed just before your graduation from college. You overcame this adversity, it seems, by being very focused on work. You are also considered a loyal friend. So I would say you are as loyal, fierce, and focused as I thought you were when I first saw you."

Carrie sat very still for a moment, willing herself not to respond. It was crucial at that moment not to let him know he had hit a nerve. Roxanne may have thoughtlessly gossiped with Daniel, not realizing how much Carrie hated to have her personal privacy invaded. Or maybe Hugh had let slip the information about Bill. She also cursed Google, as well as the press article that had appeared after Bill was slain, in which she was interviewed. She took a sip of her drink.

"Well, my client pays me to be very thorough," he purred.

"I know Roxanne likes to talk, but my personal life isn't really relevant."

Daniel smiled. "I see you know the reason we are meeting. That's fine. Yes, Roxanne Brasher thinks very highly of you, but my client-Roxanne's Benefactor-has paid me to make sure that her admiration is merited."

He swirled the glass, which was now sweating.

"My client is prepared to pay handsomely for your services. Say, double your current salary?"

He leaned back in the plush chair.

Carrie knew trouble when she heard it. The inner alarm, which had helped her spot problems and avoid overtly criminal clients, was ringing loudly. Large sums of money offered by virtual strangers always equaled trouble. But then again her curiosity was almost as aroused as her alarms. What harm could it do to listen? She could see that Daniel looked satisfied. She knew from experience that he was pleased that she had understood the implications of the offer. She too leaned back in her seat, looking at him impassively. In her line of business, wealth simply erased moral considerations; the nicest families were built on criminal fortunes.

"And then there is the fact that Roxanne likes you and trusts you already. And we both know that she is lovely but not sensible," Daniel said.

Carrie had to admit that in the eyes of a worldly banker, that statement was all too true. Sensible was not a word you would use to describe her friend Roxanne. Loving, quirky, impulsive? Yes. Sensible? No.

She thought of the first time she had seen Roxanne three years ago, on her favorite tropical island, St. Lucia. Carrie thought that St. Lucia was the most beautiful place on earth and had been going there at least once a year in the winter. Usually she chatted superficially with other guests at the resorts and kept everything casual. When she met Roxanne, it was different.

Daniel stared at Carrie intently, and she realized he was waiting for a retort of some kind. "Well, I admit when I first met her sensible was not the word I would have chosen for her."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Beyond Blood by CAROL PEPPER Copyright © 2009 by Carol Pepper. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 9, 2010

    Couldn't put it down

    I sometimes commute to the city by train--a journey that takes more than an hour--and use that time to catch up on my reading. Recently, I started Beyond Blood--my first experience with anything in the "paranormal" genre. The next thing I knew, the train was pulling into the tunnel that comes just before the station. By that time, I was hooked. "Oh, good," I thought. "I have at least ten more minutes of reading." When I next looked up, the train car was empty. I was the last one on the train, and had not been aware of the train stopping. I had not been aware of all the passengers getting off! I quickly grabbed my things and made my exit, just in time. THAT'S how absorbing this book is!

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  • Posted October 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    This book had me all the way. I didn't want to put it down. Lots of good plot twists. I liked the characters and loved the ending, which was a surprise. I recommend anyone who likes a good thriller to give this one a try.

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  • Posted October 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    It has it all

    Anyone who enjoys a good thriller, mystery and easy reading will truly enjoy this book. I personally did not want it to end and found myself imagining what they did after the ending. It was easy ready, the characters ranged from the clueless and unknowing to the most controlling and in between you have the good guys sticking together. I thought early on in the book that I had the bad guy tagged and the ending proved me wrong. I would absolutely recommend to read.

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