Massey (Don't Ever Tell) starts this thriller with a bang, but it quickly trails off into a whimper. Corey Webb, a successful Atlanta entrepreneur, seems to have a perfect life until Leon Sharpe, a childhood friend from Webb's days in Detroit, comes to town. Sharpe, now on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, wants a hefty sum from Webb to keep quiet about a dark secret from Webb's "quite unsavory past." It's not long before Webb's gorgeous wife, Simone, and young daughter, Jada, get pulled into the tangle of lies and blackmail. At first, Webb's ordeal is compelling, but Massey keeps the reader waiting far too long for a disappointing revelation, and an implausible plot and stilted dialogue ("You've forgotten your roots, kiddo, it's time to pay the devil his due") do little to make the slog worthwhile. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Corneredby Brandon Massey
Corey Webb is living the American dream--successful business, beautiful wife, gifted daughter--but the dream he worked so hard to achieve is about to become a nightmare. When a chance encounter brings him face to face with the dark past he'd long since left behind, Corey knows the threat to his life and family could be deadly. /b>
With Nowhere To Run. . .
Corey Webb is living the American dream--successful business, beautiful wife, gifted daughter--but the dream he worked so hard to achieve is about to become a nightmare. When a chance encounter brings him face to face with the dark past he'd long since left behind, Corey knows the threat to his life and family could be deadly.
. . .It's Do Or Die
Unpredictable, intelligent, and terrifyingly ruthless, Corey's stalker will settle for nothing less than complete submission. He'll stop at nothing, and sacrifice anyone, to get what he wants. There's no point in running, no chance of hiding, and no hope for Corey and his family to escape unscathed. . .
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By BRANDON MASSEY
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Brandon Massey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe morning that Corey Webb's past finally caught up with him, he was taking his daughter to a doctor's appointment.
Tuesday, June 10, began hot, windless, and bright. The clear sky was cobalt blue, the blistering sun giving it the gloss of a glazed porcelain bowl. Although it was two weeks before the first day of summer, the temperature was forecast to peak in the mid-nineties, the heat worsened by a strength-sapping humidity that would guarantee thousands of air conditioners cranked to the max throughout metro Atlanta.
Cool air humming from the vents of his black BMW sedan, Corey navigated the crawling rush-hour traffic on Haynes Bridge Road in Alpharetta. His wife, Simone, and their nine-year-old daughter, Jada, were debating an R&B song that had been playing on the radio, a track apparently titled "Get Me Some." Corey had changed stations within five seconds of hearing the song's lewd hook-and had been treated to Jada singing the rest of it word for word in a pitch-perfect voice, drawing a gasp from Simone and a blush from Corey.
"I can't believe you knew the words to that awful song, Jada," Simone was saying. "And you tell me you can't recall where you've heard it, which I simply do not accept."
Corey had to admit that even after all these years, hegot a kick out of watching Simone play mom. With her penny-brown eyes, jet-black hair styled in a cute bob, milk-chocolate complexion, and prominent dimples, she might have been a fresh-faced coed, not a thirty-four-year-old woman with a PhD in clinical psychology.
She was a great mother, though. He liked watching her at work.
Twisted around in the passenger seat, Simone subjected Jada to her penetrating gaze and awaited a satisfactory answer.
"Mom, I said somebody at school played it on their phone," Jada pleaded from the backseat.
Keeping quiet, letting Simone handle this her way, Corey glanced in the rearview mirror. Jada had pecan-brown skin, gray eyes, thick dark eyebrows, black hair woven into tight cornrows. He'd once worn his hair like that when he was a kid. It struck him that the Corey from back then and his daughter looked so much alike they could have been twins.
"Who's this somebody?" Simone asked. Her voice carried a gentle breeze of her Alabama accent. "Give me a name. I want to talk to their parents."
Last month, Jada had completed fourth grade at Alpharetta Elementary. She currently attended a three-week summer program in Roswell for gifted students. Nevertheless, high-performing youngsters, like all other kids, obviously found the time to enjoy lascivious songs that would have shamed their parents, and they did it on their cutting-edge cell phones that performed every conceivable task short of whisking you to the moon.
Sometimes, when listening to his daughter talk about what she and her classmates did these days, Corey felt as if he had grown up in the Middle Ages.
"Somebody," Jada said. "I don't remember who it was. Everyone in class has a phone except me. When can I get a phone?"
Corey held back a smile. His girl was a clever one. When you couldn't win the debate, change the debate.
"Don't try to change the subject," Simone said.
Jada frowned, caught red-handed. A chuckle slipped out of Corey.
Simone turned to him. "Why are you laughing? This is serious. Your daughter was singing about having sex."
"No, I wasn't, Mom," Jada said. "I was singing about getting some till the morning comes."
It took every ounce of willpower in Corey to hold back a laugh. Simone flashed him a deadly, don't-you-dare-laugh glower.
Corey cleared his throat. "Umm, that's not the kind of song you should be singing, Pumpkin. Seriously."
"Why not?" Jada asked.
"It's a song for adults, that's why," Simone said. "It's not appropriate for you to sing. Understood?"
"Okay," Jada said with a sigh. "Then I won't sing it any more."
"Good," Simone said. "And if you hear one of your friends play it again on their phone or iPod or whatever else, you'll tell me who did it, because none of the children in your class should be listening to that song, either."
"Yes, Mom," Jada said in a defeated voice. Then she piped up, "But when can I get a phone? Daddy said I could have one."
Corey cut a glance in the rearview mirror again. Jada was grinning at him. Nine years old going on nineteen.
"You told her that?" Simone asked him. "I thought we had an agreement. No cell phone, at least for a few more years."
Corey shrugged. "All of her classmates have them."
"Yeah, Mom, everybody does," Jada said. "Everybody except me."
Simone shot him a rebuking look. "Baby, you know I don't agree with keeping up with the Joneses."
"Who are the Joneses?" Jada asked. "Do they live near us?"
"It's just a form of expression, Pumpkin," Corey said.
"It means getting something you don't need, only because everyone around you has it," Simone said. "It's giving in to peer pressure, which we've discussed before."
"But what if I need a phone?" Jada asked.
"You don't need a phone, honey," Simone said. "You want a phone. There's a world of difference."
"It could be a good security measure," Corey said. "We could get one of those phones for kids that would call only the numbers we program into it-like ours and your mother's."
"But if we're doing our jobs as parents and keeping track of our child, she would never have a use for a cell phone."
"Things don't always go as planned," he said. "I like to take extra precautions. At the end of the day, better safe than sorry, don't you think?"
Simone got quiet. They both knew she could never beat him in a debate about security. He was co-owner of a firm that installed alarms and surveillance systems in residences and businesses throughout the region, and their own house was a marvel of high-tech surveillance and monitoring. Debating the merits of security with him was like debating criminal justice law with a judge.
"You still shouldn't have promised her a phone before discussing it with me," Simone said.
"I didn't exactly promise her a phone." He looked in the mirror and caught Jada's eye. "Pumpkin, did I promise you a phone? Didn't I just say maybe?"
"Yes." Jada nodded vigorously. "Daddy said maybe, Mom."
"Didn't I say that I'd have to discuss it with your mother, first?" he said.
Another eager nod. "Daddy said he'd have to talk to you about it, Mom."
"See?" Corey grinned at Simone.
"You two co-conspirators are full of it," Simone said.
She shook her head in what was meant to be an aggravated expression, yet a smile broke through the mask, accentuating those killer dimples. The disciplinarian role she played so well was only an act, Corey knew; her heart was as sweet and soft as melted caramel.
"So can I get my phone?" Jada said.
"Your father and I will discuss the subject later," Simone said.
"Can you talk about it now?" Jada asked. "Please?"
"Later," Simone said firmly.
Jada made a whiny sound, but Simone gave her a warning glare, and she fell silent. Simone settled back into her seat, mothering duties concluded for the moment.
Corey took Simone's hand, squeezed. Glancing at him, she returned the squeeze, lips curved in a soft smile. On mornings like that one, Corey felt like the luckiest man alive.
Growing up, he'd never imagined that he would one day have a life like this. A beautiful wife. An adorable daughter. A successful business. Most people thought they never got what life owed them, but he considered his own story as proof that sometimes you actually got more than you deserved, that God smiled on sinners and saints alike.
He'd been raised by his grandmother in one of Detroit's toughest neighborhoods. He'd never met his father, didn't so much as know the man's name. As for his mother, she had abandoned him when he was three to follow some long-forgotten Motown crooner to California. She'd died twenty-five years ago with a needle in her arm in a seedy Los Angeles motel.
Grandma Louise, a big-hearted woman from Arkansas with a penchant for quoting Bible scriptures and packing snuff inside her cheek, had done her best to keep him on the straight and narrow, but her old-fashioned teachings couldn't compete with the siren song of the streets. Considering the things he'd gotten into and the dangerous crowd he'd run with, he should have wound up either in prison, or dead.
But he'd been spared, had escaped the chasm that claimed so many black men just like him. Rarely did a day pass when he did not count his blessings.
Idly scanning the dashboard, he noticed that he had only twenty miles' worth of gas left in the tank. A QuikTrip convenience store was coming up ahead, the fuel service islands busy as people gassed up on their way to work.
He turned off the road and parked beside the only available pump.
"That time again?" Simone checked the price of the gasoline, clucked her tongue. "My goodness, remember when it was less than a buck a gallon?"
"Those bygone days," he said.
"Can I help you put the gas in, Daddy?" Jada asked.
"Don't be too long, guys," Simone said. "It's twenty to nine. We can't be late for our appointment."
Outside the car, Corey let Jada slide his debit card into the card reader slot, enter his PIN, and select the grade of gasoline. He inserted the spout into the tank, and told Jada the total price he wanted to pay. Her gaze riveted on the digits climbing on the price display, she ran her fingers through her cornrows, absently adjusting the tiny black speech processor hooked behind her left ear.
Jada had been born with profound hearing loss. When she was two years old, Corey and Simone had arranged a cochlear implant, a modern medical miracle that served as a prosthetic replacement for the inner ear, electronically stimulating auditory nerve fibers to produce a sense of hearing. Years of intensive speech therapy had enabled Jada to attend mainstream school from kindergarten onward, and she enjoyed as active a social life as any girl her age-Girl Scouts, ballet, play dates, the works.
In spite of her social and academic success, she enjoyed hearing in only one ear, a condition that posed unique challenges when she was in environments where sounds came at her from all directions. That morning, they were taking her to a specialist in Marietta who would evaluate whether she was a good candidate for a bilateral implant: a cochlear implant in her other ear.
"Almost there, Daddy," Jada said.
Corey squeezed in a few more cents and returned the nozzle to the pump. Jada handed the receipt to him.
"Can I go inside and get something to drink?" she asked.
"Actually, I could use some coffee myself." He tapped on Simone's window. "Want some coffee or juice, babe?"
Simone checked her watch; the doctor's appointment was at nine fifteen, and she was a stickler about being on time. "If you can be quick about it, sure, orange juice would be great."
"You heard your mother," Corey said to Jada. "Let's be quick about it."
"Yeah!" Jada performed a happy dance.
Together, they went inside the minimart, Jada skipping beside him, her hand in his, swinging his arm around between them as if he were a piece of playground equipment. He directed Jada to the glass-fronted coolers at the back of the store, while he went to the hot beverage station adjacent to the cash register.
He filled a large Styrofoam cup with coffee and flavored it with cream and sugar. Checking his watch, he went to collect Jada.
Hands on her hips, she was examining the brands of orange juice inside the refrigerated display case.
"We've gotta go, Pumpkin," he said.
"I don't know what kind of orange juice Mom likes," she said.
Corey started to reply that Simone liked Tropicana, when he noticed someone standing in an aisle a few feet away, observing them.
It was a colossus of a man. Corey stood about five-ten and weighed a hundred and seventy-five, and this guy had at least six or seven inches and a hundred pounds on him. Fairskinned-what Grandma Louise liked to call "high yella"-he wore faded denim overalls over a white T-shirt, muddy work boots, and a tattered Atlanta Braves cap cocked on an unkempt, bushy Afro. A stubbly beard made his pudgy face look soiled.
The guy's brown eyes were oddly flat, as if they were painted on his face. But Corey realized the guy wasn't looking at him at all.
He was looking at Jada. Gawking at her.
Jada was a beautiful child, but this man's intense attention was far from that of an innocently admiring adult. His was the naked leer of a pervert, a parent's ultimate nightmare.
Oblivious to Corey standing there, concentrating solely on Jada, the man licked his lips, his tongue leaving a glistening trail of saliva.
Disgust and anger wrenched Corey's gut. He sat his cup on a shelf, grabbed Jada's hand and pulled her to his side, shielding her from the giant stranger.
The pervert blinked as if awakening from a reverie, and only then did he look at Corey.
His stare was as empty as a scarecrow's. A chill trickled down Corey's spine.
Something's wrong with this guy, he thought. Dude's elevator doesn't go all the way to the top.
"Daddy, what is it?" Jada asked. She hadn't noticed the man.
"We need to go, sweetheart." He nudged his daughter along with a firm hand on her back.
"But I wanted apple juice." She looked over her shoulder.
"Don't look back there. We have to go. We'll get your apple juice later."
He ushered Jada outside. The hot air was thick as cotton, but refreshing compared to the bone-deep chill he'd felt inside the minimart.
A man called out: "Corey? Corey Webb? That you, man?"
In midstride, Corey stopped. He knew that voice, that piercing falsetto. He had not heard it in probably fifteen years or so, but he would never forget it.
Could that be who I think it is?
As other customers brushed past him, he stepped away from the entrance and turned. Sunlight lanced his eyes. He lifted his hand to his brow to block the glare.
When his vision adjusted, he saw a man leaning against a late-model, blue Ford F-150 parked in front of the store. Brown as a paper bag, he was about six feet tall, leanly muscular, with long arms webbed with tattoos. He had shoulder-length dreadlocks as thick as cables, a bushy salt-and-pepper beard, and deep-set, fiercely intelligent brown eyes. He wore paint-splattered denim overalls and faded leather work boots.
A cigarette dangled in his spindly fingers. He took a puff and exhaled a halo of smoke, and just the acrid scent of the tobacco stirred long-buried memories in Corey's mind.
"Leon?" Corey asked. He was out of breath, as if he'd been slugged in the stomach.
The guy flashed a gap-toothed grin, an expression that made his elongated face appear wolflike.
"It's moi, the one and only, the great man himself, live and in the flesh."
Corey was speechless.
Leon Sharpe, his childhood friend from Detroit, was the last person he'd ever expected to see again.
And for so many reasons, the last person he'd ever wanted to see again, too.
Chapter Two"My homeboy, C-Note, well, I'll be damned." Grinning, Leon pushed off the side of the truck and spread his arms to their full tremendous wingspan. "Gimme some love, man."
Corey broke his paralysis and gave Leon an awkward brother man hug-one arm looped around the back, a solid pound on the shoulder blades with his fist. Leon smelled of nicotine, hair oil, and stale sweat.
I've gotta be dreaming, Corey thought. If so, someone please wake me up right this minute.
Stepping back, Leon looked down at Jada. She gazed up at him, squinting, partly from the sun's glare, but mostly, Corey figured, from confusion. None of Corey and Simone's friends looked or sounded remotely like Leon. He could only imagine the questions tumbling through her mind.
"Who's this little munchkin here?" Leon asked.
"She's my daughter," Corey said.
"Hey, cutie." Leon extended his hand toward Jada.
Jada regarded his large hand doubtfully, gaze traveling across his dirty fingernails and up the colorful tattoos that adorned his forearm.
Corey touched her shoulder. "Go wait in the car with your mother, Pumpkin. Tell her I'll be there in a minute."
Nodding, Jada ambled across the parking lot, repeatedly glancing over her shoulder at them with a puzzled frown.
"Good-looking kid you got there," Leon said.
"Thanks," Corey said numbly. He cleared his throat, fighting to overcome a fuzzy sense of unreality. The last time he'd felt this disoriented, it was when he'd learned Grandma Louise had died of a heart attack.
Excerpted from CORNERED by BRANDON MASSEY Copyright © 2009 by Brandon Massey. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In Atlanta Corey Webb is the poster boy for living the American dream as he runs a successful business has a beautiful caring wife Simone and an adoring precocious nine years old daughter Jada. His perfect world collapses when he runs into his childhood friend from Detroit Leon Sharpe who is maliciously staring at Jada. On the run from the FBI, Sharpe demands Webb pays for his silence or he will reveal their past associations in Motown. Already on the Ten Most Wanted List, he also threatens Webb's family. Willing to pay the blackmail fee, but not at the cost of his beloved wife and daughter, Webb knows he must find a way to extract his family from Sharpe's deadly entanglement. That initial encounter on the Atlanta streets is a terrific opening to a fast-paced thriller as Webb's roots come back to entangle him in a deadly scenario. Character driven mostly by the lead pair but nicely supported by Webb's family and others, fans will be excited by the hero's compelling ordeal as the code of the street was DON'T EVER TELL. Exciting and fun in spite of the unlikely circumstances and happenstance making plausibility slight, fans will enjoy this fine family crime caper. Harriet Klausner
I'm so confused.
This book was definitely one that I could not put down! B. Massey did an awesome job keeping you on the edge of your seat with this one!
lots of typos but a very good book. Was able to get into it immediately.
Brandon Massey has shed his mythical winged shoes of Mercury for everyday wing tips. His original style of the super-natural, has gone by the way side. I am a big fan of his early tenor. But now, he's no longer a great writer, he's just another good writer. Most books in "Barnes and Noble" are written by good writers. There is no longer a reason to rush to purchase his books as soon as they hit the shelf. I did enjoy the story, but was disappointed that it was not the "Brandon Massey" that I became a fan of.