Spurred Ambition

( 2 )

Overview

After her first attempt at breaking and entering, business attorney Hannah Dain heads for the cliffs of Pinnacle Peak, Arizona to rock climband winds up in the middle of an anti-Indian protest turned violent. She escapes, but makes an enemy. To make things worse, a shocking family revelation sends her on a hunt for someone who has been gone for almost thirty years. Then Hannah meets Tony Soto. Hannah is beguiled by the Native American/Latino who is passionately committed to the betterment of his tribe. Is Tony an...

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Overview

After her first attempt at breaking and entering, business attorney Hannah Dain heads for the cliffs of Pinnacle Peak, Arizona to rock climband winds up in the middle of an anti-Indian protest turned violent. She escapes, but makes an enemy. To make things worse, a shocking family revelation sends her on a hunt for someone who has been gone for almost thirty years. Then Hannah meets Tony Soto. Hannah is beguiled by the Native American/Latino who is passionately committed to the betterment of his tribe. Is Tony an innocent victim, or is he part of an elaborate financial hoax where more than money is at stake? Can Hannah unravel the scheme and find the key to the mystery of her past? This is the action-packed sequel to Family Claims.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Fans of extreme sports will admire Phelan's protagonist, lawyer and athlete Hannah Dain, but even those more at home on the couch will still enjoy the brainy heroine. Set in fictional Pinnacle Peak, Arizona, Phelan's series highlights a different sport each time—this third entry features rock climbing. While on a solo climb, Hannah is bailed out of a tight spot by an incredibly handsome man named Tony. To her delight and horror, the two share a sizzling kiss less than an hour after meeting—something Hannah's boyfriend, Cooper, definitely would not appreciate. With personal issues forcing her from the family law firm, Hannah interviews for a job doing legal work for the Tohono O'odham Office of Tribal affairs. Her boss? None other than sexy Tony. As Hannah tries to remain faithful to her too-nice boyfriend, Tony is suddenly kidnapped, prompting her to don her sleuth's hat. The sports angle makes an intriguing frame, but it's not really necessary to the success of this series, which boasts a nice mix of desert atmosphere and appealing characters. —Booklist
Publishers Weekly
In Phelan's third legal mystery to feature winningly brassy Hannah Dain (after 2004's Family Claims), the Arizona attorney has left her job at a boutique law firm to work for a local Indian reservation. Part of the attraction is her new boss, Tony Soto, a passionate activist whose happens to be pretty easy on the eyes. Hannah and Tony's second kiss is interrupted by kidnappers-Hannah escapes, but three men clad in blue vanish with Tony. Was Tony kidnapped because he was involved in a money laundering scheme? In addition to getting to the bottom of the abduction, Hannah has to steer through a thicket of family drama. She's recently learned that, nine months before her own birth, her mother had an affair, and the distant but doting man whom she's always called dad is not, in fact, her biological father. With enough plot for two or three novels, the finished product is dizzying rather than engrossing. But if Phelan can learn to focus, she'll have a hit. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Twist Phelan received her undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford University. A retired trial lawyer, she enjoys world travel and endurance athletics. Her research for False Fortune included outrigger racing in Australia and surf-ski paddling in Hawaii.

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Read an Excerpt

Spurred Ambition

A Pinnacle Peak Mystery
By Twist Phelan

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2006 Twist Phelan, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-59058-147-4


Chapter One

Sunday, September 13

Hannah Dain parked her Subaru behind a stand of sun-faded palo verde. She didn't know much about breaking and entering, but figured that hiding the getaway car was probably a good idea.

Dressed in black athletic tights and long-sleeved top, she reached into the rear seat for her rock-climbing shoes. The rubber soles would be quiet and provide good traction if she had to make a run for it. Slipping on her backpack and largest pair of sunglasses, Hannah checked out her reflection in the car's side mirror.

All I need is a balaclava to complete the burglar look. But a woolen hood would attract too much attention, especially in the middle of a hot Arizona afternoon.

Head down, she zigzagged through the chaparral toward the lone building. Two single-story wings stretched out from a high central section, stucco walls bright white against the sharp blue sky. The windows were covered with iron grilles that Hannah suspected were more functional than decorative. A pergola draped with vines led past well-groomed lawns to tennis courts and a lap pool.

Once in the parking lot, Hannah continued to work her way forward, using the cars as cover. Thirtyfeet from the building's main entrance, she crouched in the shade of an oversized SUV to survey the scene.

She had timed her visit for the afternoon, when the "guests"-Hannah thought the term ridiculous-were confined to their rooms and the staff spent more time in their offices. So far, the only person in sight was the security guard standing next to the front door.

White and in his mid-thirties, the guard wore mirrored sunglasses and a duty belt heavy with billy club, mace, and gun. He remained nearly as stationary as the building itself for the twenty minutes Hannah watched him.

Maybe he'll go to the bathroom soon. She toyed with the idea of plying him with a Coke from the gas station down the road.

Walking past the guard was Hannah's only option. There were alternative means of entry-climbing in through an air-conditioning vent, prying open a window, picking a lock on a side door. But they all required equipment and skills that Hannah didn't have. She wondered if the penalty was less severe for entering sans breaking.

On the street side of the parking lot, Hannah heard an engine rumble, then downshift. She squatted lower behind the SUV as a truck displaying a nursery company's logo rolled up to the building's main entrance. The driver's side window was down, and Hannah heard the blare of mariachi music.

Two Hispanic men wearing dark green shirts and matching baseball hats got out of the cab, slid open the door in the back, and started unloading plants. Hannah didn't know what kind they were, but it didn't matter. They were tall and leafy and just the thing to get her into the lobby past the security guard.

Keeping out of sight, Hannah crept up to the truck and, standing on the running board, looked through the open driver's window. A cap emblazoned with the nursery company's name, like the ones the two delivery men wore, lay on the front seat. Hannah reached in, snatched the cap, and pulled it low on her head. Walking to the rear of the truck, she picked up the closest plant-a four-foot-tall specimen with thick fronds in a black plastic tub-and carried it toward the building entrance.

The two delivery men were already hauling tubs of their own. Hannah fell in line behind them, grateful for her dark hair and olive skin. If her fellow plant bearers noticed that their number had increased, they gave no sign.

As the two men passed the security guard, one turned to the other and spoke in rapid Spanish. The other laughed and answered. Hannah decided she better join the conversation.

"Dé mis recuerdos a sus tíos," she said as she went by the guard, hoping he was as monolingual as he looked. Otherwise he might wonder why Hannah had just given her regards to his aunt and uncle. It was one of the few Spanish phrases she could recall from a summer course a few years ago-her East Coast prep school had emphasized French. Luckily, the guard ignored her.

The building's lobby was tastefully appointed with wood and leather furniture. Beautiful photographs of the Grand Canyon covered several walls. But despite the resort-hotel façade, Hannah wasn't fooled. Fully equipped gym, gourmet cuisine, and decorator- chosen color scheme aside, the place still had the air of a prison.

Holding the plant high in front of her, Hannah frog-marched across the tile floor. The plastic tub was starting to feel heavy-all told, her camouflage probably weighed forty pounds. At least it wasn't a cactus.

Eyes averted, she passed the reception desk, on course for the door that led to guest housing. Only when she got closer did she see the five-button keypad.

Now what? Hannah needed a free hand to work the lock, but didn't want to risk discovery by setting down the plant. In any event, it was a hypothetical dilemma. She didn't know the lock combination.

"Looks like you have your hands full. Let me help you."

A woman in a nurse's uniform reached around Hannah and tapped in a sequence on the keypad. There was a loud click. The woman grasped the handle and opened the door.

"Muchas gracias," Hannah mumbled into the fronds.

As soon as the door shut behind her, Hannah put down the plant and rubbed her aching biceps. Her arms felt so stretched out, she almost expected her sleeves to be too short.

She was in a narrow corridor lined with closed doors. Each one had a nameplate mounted beside it, and Hannah blew out a small sigh of relief. Finding the right room was going to be easier than she had thought.

Hannah read the first name.

Nope.

She crossed the hall and looked at the nameplate there.

Not this one.

She reached down, grabbed the rim of the plant, dragged it ten feet, then stopped and read the next name.

Uh-uh.

She checked the door across the way.

Not here either.

Hannah dragged the plant another ten feet, then paused, hands propped on her knees. Sweat dampened the bill of her cap.

Thirty seconds to check four doors. Thirty seconds wasn't very long. Unless you were hauling a heavy plant down a hallway where you didn't belong with another dozen doors to check-on each side. And when at any moment one of the doors might open, with the person behind it wanting to know just what in the heck you were up to.

On a hunch, Hannah jogged the length of the corridor. From what she could tell, the rooms at the end were slightly larger, and so might be considered premium accommodations. She was pleased, and not altogether surprised, to find the name she was looking for on the last door on the right.

Hannah ran back to the plant and dragged it next to the main door again. In case she had to dash, she didn't want any obstacles in her way. And if someone else showed up, Hannah hoped that the plant would divert attention long enough for her to escape.

She returned to the room at the end of the corridor. Scarcely breathing, Hannah stood close to the door and pressed her ear against the metal, but couldn't hear anything-to be expected in a place where the insulation was thick enough to muffle the occasional scream.

Hannah reached for the knob. It turned under her hand, and she felt a surge of excitement. Heart pounding, she eased the door open about half an inch, unsure what she was going to find on the other side.

Just then, voices sounded at the other end of the corridor.

"What's this plant-"

Hannah pushed the door open wider and stepped into the room.

Chapter Two

She stood still, waiting for her pulse to slow, then cautiously looked around.

There wasn't much to see. It was a small room outfitted in dormitory-style furnishings-twin bed, four-drawer bureau, student desk. With bare floors and white walls, the space was decidedly spartan.

And occupied. A woman sat in a chair by the window, headphones over her ears. She wore blue cashmere sweats and her feet were bare. Gazing at the landscaped grounds on the other side of the glass, she absently stroked the stuffed animal on her lap.

"Hi," Hannah said.

There was no response. Hannah shut the door to the corridor.

"Hi," she repeated, louder this time.

The woman glanced over her shoulder, then did a double take. She yanked off the headphones.

"What are you doing here?" Shelby demanded.

Her blonde hair had lost some of its luster and her face looked thinner, but Hannah's older sister could still turn heads. Shelby's beauty was of the sort that made Hannah-and most other women-think that no matter how well they dressed, did their hair, or put on makeup, they still weren't playing in the same league.

"Visiting you," Hannah replied, trying to sound cheery.

"You know I don't want to see anyone. Go away!"

For the past three years Hannah had practiced law at Dain & Dain. Shelby, also an attorney with the family firm, was currently on leave of absence, having checked into rehab four weeks ago. Despite a lifetime of effort by Hannah, the sisters had never been close. But after the events of last month, Hannah was determined to keep trying.

So every week since Shelby's admission, she had come by to visit. And every week her sister had refused to see her. Leaving behind a five-pound bag of black jelly beans-the doctor said licorice could alleviate the craving for alcohol-Hannah would depart without pressing the issue.

The same traumatic events that had sent Shelby back into rehab had also led to Hannah's uncovering of certain family secrets-a discovery that exposed as false the foundation upon which Hannah had built her life. A discovery that, for the moment, made it impossible for her to continue working at the firm.

Hannah wasn't about to reveal to Shelby the reason she was leaving-at this point, it would only worsen relations between them. But she didn't want to take a new job without first telling her sister. Already there had been too many unnecessary acts of unkindness within the Dain family.

Although Shelby was refusing all visitors and phone calls, Hannah thought leaving her a note would be too impersonal, cold even. But with a job interview tomorrow, Hannah was running out of time to break the news. Thus her plan to sneak into the rehab center. Unfortunately, her sister didn't seem all that impressed. Or pleased.

"Let me explain-" Hannah began as Shelby, her mouth set in a stubborn line, got up from her chair. She headed for the nightstand, where a thick ivory wire lay coiled next to a lamp and a clock/CD player. On the end of the wire was a plastic cylinder topped with a red knob.

A panic button. Hannah couldn't believe it-her sister was calling Security. Launching herself across the bed, she grabbed Shelby around the waist in a low tackle. Both women crashed onto the floor.

"I just want to tell you something!" Hannah panted, pinning Shelby with her body weight. For someone thirty years old, her sister could be as bratty as a teenager.

"Let go!" Shelby squirmed and flailed her arms, trying to extricate herself.

"Just listen to me for a minute. After that, I'll leave."

Shelby struggled some more, then abruptly quit.

"Fine-you win. Now get off me!"

Hannah rolled onto her side and Shelby scrambled to her feet.

"I remembered your jelly beans," Hannah said in a conciliatory tone. Retrieving her backpack, she set it on the bed and unzipped it.

"You're just trying to get me fat," Shelby muttered.

Hannah found the bag of candy and undid the twist tie that held it closed. This place must be doing some good. In the past, her sister would never have given in so eas-

Shelby pounced on the panic button.

"Don't!" Hannah cried, lunging toward her.

But she was too late. Five pounds of jelly beans spilled across the bedspread as Shelby pressed the red knob with a triumphant smile. An alarm sounded outside in the corridor.

Leopards and their unchangeable spots, Hannah thought unhappily. She clambered off the bed, sending jelly beans cascading to the wooden floor. The pinging noise they made sounded like hail on pavement.

The door to the room flew open and a nurse rushed in.

"Ms. Dain, is everything all right?" the nurse asked, looking from Shelby to Hannah to the scattered black candies.

Shelby pointed at Hannah. "I want you to make her-"

Hannah spread her hands in a gesture of mute appeal and Shelby paused, chest heaving. The sisters stared at each other. Five seconds ticked by.

"Ms. Dain?" the nurse prompted.

Shelby lowered her arm to her side.

"Forget it," she said.

The nurse looked dubious. "But the panic button-"

"-was an accident. Can we have some privacy?"

"Of course." With the barest of head shakes, the nurse left.

The stuffed animal that Shelby had been holding lay on the floor. She picked it up and reclaimed the chair by the window. After sweeping jelly beans out of the way, Hannah sat on a corner of the bed. Neither sister spoke.

"So ... how's it going?" Hannah finally asked, unable to bear the silence any longer.

"How do you think?" Shelby snapped. "I've been here twenty-seven days, and every morning I still wake up craving a drink. So much for eight years sober."

Hannah twisted her mouth in sympathy. She wasn't the only one traumatized by last month's ordeal. Forced in the course of events to drink a fifth of hard liquor, Shelby-a recovering alcoholic-had barely escaped alcohol poisoning.

"It's not your fault. You didn't fall off the wagon-you were pushed."

"Doesn't make me want it any less." Shelby dug her fingers into the fake fur of what Hannah now recognized was a toy dog.

Must be a rehab thing. Her sister wasn't the stuffed-animal type.

"I know you're not here to find out how the family drunk is enjoying her"-Shelby pantomimed quotation marks with her fingers-"vacation." Her voice tightened. "Did something happen at the firm ... or to Daddy?"

Hannah shook her head. "Richard's fine. The office has been pretty quiet since Olivia left."

Dain & Dain had been founded by Richard Dain and his wife, Elizabeth, after the latter's graduation from law school. They were joined a year later by Elizabeth's best friend, Olivia Parrish. Olivia became Shelby and Hannah's surrogate mother after Elizabeth died when the sisters were very young. Two weeks ago, she had departed on a six-month sabbatical to Africa.

"I don't understand Olivia and this Africa trip. And I still don't get why Daddy didn't take the judgeship." Shelby frowned. "What's going on that you're not telling me?"

Shelby didn't know? Hannah felt her muscles relax in relief. If Richard hadn't told her sister about Elizabeth, Hannah certainly wasn't going to say anything.

Hey, sis-or should I say half-sis? That's right-Mom had an affair, and you're looking at the result. But that's not all of it. When she was a lawyer ...

Hannah curtailed her thoughts, reminding herself why she was there.

"I'm taking some time off from the firm, too. I wanted you to know before"-Hannah bit back you got out of rehab-"you came back to work," she added lamely.

Shelby stared at Hannah.

"You have got to be kidding. Olivia is off in Africa, I'm stuck in here, and you think it's a good time to leave Daddy? Who's going to handle the deals?" Hannah and Olivia were responsible for the transactions side of the practice, while Richard and Shelby concentrated on litigation.

"Once Olivia announced her plans, Richard cut back on accepting new business. And he farmed out some of the trial work to other firms." Hannah picked up a jelly bean and rolled it between her fingers, the candy leaving black streaks on her skin. Her sister's reaction wasn't at all what she had expected. Even though Richard's favorite-for reasons now obvious to Hannah-Shelby had always made it clear that she resented her sister's presence at the firm.

"I thought you'd like the idea of having the place to yourself," Hannah said.

Her sister made a sour face. "Even if you're not around, I'll still be the Dain who can't be trusted on her own. And this whole rehab thing will just make it worse."

Hannah was astonished. She never imagined Richard's nepotism had been hurtful to her sister, too.

Left largely to her own devices, Hannah had been forced to develop her legal skills quickly and mostly on her own. She had risen to the challenge, and was soon handling major transactions with little supervision. In contrast, while second-chairing many trials with Richard, her sister had yet to litigate a case by herself. What Hannah regarded as mentoring, Shelby had seen as lack of confidence in her abilities.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Spurred Ambition by Twist Phelan Copyright © 2006 by Twist Phelan, Inc.. 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    Exciting Mystery with a Terrific Heroine

    Business attorney Hannah Dain finds herself in the middle of an anti-Indian protest, a kidnapping and complex securities fraud. All the while trying to deal with a shocking family revelation and her relationship with her boyfriend If you are looking for a little adventure this mystery has it in spades. Twist Phelan has written a complex mystery filled with lots of twists and turns. Her heroine, Hannah Dain, is a likeable, adventurous woman who has her fill of problems both family and business related. From the very beginning when Hannah finds herself in the middle of an anti-Indian protest until the end you will find yourself unable to put down the book until you finally make it to the dramatic ending. And now I¿m off to find the first book in this wonderful series so I can catch up on the adventures of Hannah Dain.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is a very entertaining and action filled amateur sleuth tale

    After learning that her mother committed malpractice to win a case and had an affair that resulted in Hannah Dain being born the attorney leaves Richard Dain¿s law practice to look for her biological father. This proves hard to do since all the records were sealed by court order on behest of Richard, the man she thought was her father who preferred her younger sister................. She accepts a short term job with the Tohono O¿odham Indian tribe to put together a real estate private placement. The day before she starts work, she goes rock climbing on the reservations and runs into difficulties. She is rescued by Tony Soto, a Native American/Latino who turns out to be her boss. While on a tour of the reservation, three men wearing blue bandanas so Hannah doesn¿t see their faces kidnap Tony. The police search for him while she finds his book with two sets of numbers for the real estate deal. When Tony escapes more violence occur starting with the death of the tribal chief. Hannah begins to wonder just how innocent Tony is and if his zeal for the betterment of the tribe is real or a clever fraud.................. Fans of Tony Hillerman will rejoice now that Twist Phelan joins the sub-genre scene. Readers don¿t have to be financial analysts to get the gist of the security scam and in fact learn more about fiscal misconduct then can be found in a SEC case. There are three murders, one kidnapping, evidences of money manipulations that Hannah thinks are linked together and she sets out to prove it. This is a very entertaining and action filled amateur sleuth tale that brings to life the Indian reservation on the Arizona desert............... Harriet Klausner

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