Read an Excerpt
By ANGELA WINTERS
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Chapter One That Chase mansion was something else. Nestled in View Park, the affluent mostly African-American suburb of Los Angeles, it is by far the largest house in the entire community. Glorious, elegant and intimidating begin to touch on it. Most people just call it big, not only because of its size, but because of its residents. A family couldn't be any bigger than Steven Chase and his clan, and no one was willing to admit how much they ached to know what went on behind the red brick and white columns.
The house, being only fifteen-thousand square feet was not as big as it could be considering the money the family had. All of the homes they owned around the world focused more on elegance and class than size. Still, it was impressive with seven bedrooms and nine baths, not to mention the exercise room, game room, media room, and library plus more, the home had taken eighteen months to build. Steven had purchased it when it was 8,000 square feet, but as his millions grew, the house next door was purchased, torn down and his wife, Janet, had taken it from there. The stature that blended a sturdy East Coast feel with a flirt of southern gentility rejected any hint of West Coast flash. It resembled something more likely to be in Bel Air or Hollywood Hills with its tall gate, wide driveway filled with Mercedes, Jaguars and Lexus SUVs, large pool with cabanas, basketball court and a Caribbean colonial designed 2,000 square foot guest house. Contemporary frames, marble flooring, cathedral ceilings, granite countertops, five fireplaces and a double staircase that caused mouths to drop while making Town & Country, California Homes, and L.A. Magazine salivate delivered a lasting statement to those far beyond View Park.
The statement was class, sophistication and most importantly, power. It had to be. After all, the Chase family was one of the richest and most powerful African-American families in the country, the richest on the West Coast. No one could put a label to them, white or black; no matter how hard they tried, using every other rich family existing now and before them. The Chases never accepted any of those labels, seeing themselves as originals in every way. They were born leaders, attractive, well educated, philanthropic and seemingly unfazed by anything. They stayed away from the undesirable black wealth acquired by athletes, actors or entertainers. Only lawyers, doctors, businessmen, educators and politicians made up the world the Chase family ruled.
When it came to the various scandals, like any good rich family worth their salt, they had plenty. The general consensus among those who talk, and they all talked, was that the Chase family was special. Special in a way that any mistakes they made weren't as bad as their charitable acts were good. None of their misdeeds seem to trump their place as black royalty. It was a payoff that others were willing to accept. More like ... willing to embrace.
No matter how intense the scandal was, there was never a feeling that the Chase family was out of control. Steven Chase, the conqueror, raised his children similar to the way he had built his business. The foundations were strong and well supported, not only meant to last long after he was gone, but to prosper and dominate far after that. He was the ultimate symbol of that power and his confidence left everyone in awe; especially his own children.
Only today, that confidence wasn't as visible as usual. In his home office, elaborately decorated in cherrywood and rich, dark leather, Steven, looking much younger than his fifty-three years, sat uncomfortably behind his desk. He was a distinguished man heavy on control and light on affection for anyone except his wife. Running his hands over his salt and pepper hair, he shook his head in disappointment, his chocolate skin darkened from spending the day before on the golf course; a rare retreat for him.
His eldest son, Carter, the reluctant gentleman, was thirty and better-looking than any man had a right to be. His conservative style and calm quiet demeanor drove his intense father crazy. Everything about Carter drove him crazy. The boy seemed determined to defy him since the day he was born. He seemed to take delight in doing anything other than what Steven wanted him to and making a success of his defiance.
Steven didn't expect today to be any different as he looked at Carter sitting in the chair across the desk from him. Those incredible light eyes he'd inherited from his mother stared back saying he refused to let his father's anguish affect him.
"So," Steven said as he sighed, trying to focus on something other than why his firstborn son wanted to be his enemy. "When exactly am I ready to say we should panic?"
"You don't panic, Dad." Carter was unwilling to accept the blame this time. Whenever things didn't work out at Chase Beauty like they should, he somehow shared the responsibility even though he didn't work there.
"There's a first time for everything," Steven scoffed. "And I think this might be that time."
He looked back at Michael, the favorite son, who was standing behind him, leaning casually against the bookshelf. It wasn't Steven's choice to make Michael his favorite and he would never admit to anyone, not even his own wife, that he was. He'd wanted Carter, but it became clear early on that that wasn't ever going to happen. It was better this way. Michael was more like Steven: aggressive, hungry and willing to do whatever it took.
Twenty-nine-year-old Michael was tall and dark, looking like a young Sidney Poitier. Unlike the carefully concealed fire inside Carter, Michael's flame could be seen miles away. It drove him. It gave him immediate respect from men twice his age. It made him dangerous. It made him the mirror of his father.
Michael leaned forward with a confident smirk on his face. He was used to this game. His father made it seem like the world was falling apart to light a candle underneath him when he thought Michael was slacking, which he never was.
"We have seventeen of the twenty," Michael offered. "It's just taking a little longer than we expected."
Steven stared him down. "I'm disappointed in you, Michael. I thought I raised my sons to never make excuses."
Michael blinked, but never lost his composure. There was something about this man that ripped at him. His approval could make him feel like he was king of the world, and his disappointment made him feel like a five-year-old boy. This business deal was the chance he'd been waiting for. He would be the one to take the leading cosmetics company for women of color to the next level ... a chain of high-end hair salons and that board of directors seat was his.
"You're still on the timeline," Carter said. "You wanted to take over twenty of the top black salons in L.A. by the first of the year. It's only September."
Steven turned to him, a sarcastic grin on his face. "I love how you use these phrases 'you' and 'your'."
Carter rolled his eyes, knowing what was coming next. The almost daily reaming of accusations that Carter didn't love his father, his family and the family business because he'd decided to be his own man. It was a broken record and he didn't have the patience for it.
Steven leaned across his desk, staring pointedly at his son. "You may not work for me, a rejection I have learned to deal with, but you are still a Chase."
Carter felt his teeth grinding. Keep your cool, he told himself. He loves it when you let him get to you. "I know, Dad. I just meant ..."
"So," Steven continued as if Carter hadn't spoken, "when referring to the success of Chase Beauty, 'we' is more appropriate."
Carter pressed his lips together noticing the sly grin on Michael's face. His little brother got a lot of entertainment out of these scenes, and even though Carter loved him more than anyone on the planet, he wanted to sock him right now.
"Hate to say it," Michael admitted, "but Carter's right. And I wasn't making an excuse."
Steven wasn't getting through to them. They were young, but they were Chases and that meant they had to act more than their ages. "Do you boys understand the point here? My vision was clear. We would buy these carefully selected salons and launch our own chain. The end of the year was the deadline to launch. Not buy the salons."
"Dad, we've offered them the world," Michael said. "Performance Salon and Essentials won't sell. It's time to get dirty."
"Like you haven't already?" Carter asked. "I've heard what you've been doing."
Michael smiled innocently. He kept very few secrets from Carter. Only sometimes, Carter's sensitivity to obeying the law made it necessary. "You haven't heard anything."
"How about Matt Leonard and those pictures you threatened to send to his wife?"
Michael laughed. "You thought that was dirty? I'm surprised at you, man. You ought to know dirty better than anyone. You're a lawyer."
"Michael is right," Steven said. "We have to-"
Carter raised his hand to stop his father. "Dad, I don't want to hear this."
"You're my lawyer," Steven stressed. "So it doesn't matter what you want to hear. Besides, I need your help with Essentials."
"I don't do your legwork." Carter watched as his father's eyes turned to slits.
"I'm your father," he answered back. "You'll do whatever I tell you to." Steven's gaze lingered a little longer on Carter to make his point before turning to Michael. "Michael, your hunger can go too far sometimes. Simple blackmail will ..."
"I'm out of here." Carter stood up.
"Sit down, boy." Steven spoke in that tone that always got the desired result. No matter how big they got, he was bigger. He would never let them forget that, and as Carter sat back down in his chair, Steven knew they wouldn't.
"Blackmail won't do it Dad," Michael advised. "We're gonna have to take it to a new level with them."
Steven didn't like it when things got this way, but this was business. He'd learned that the hard way when he started Chase Beauty twenty years ago. He looked at Michael, his expression nothing less than deadly serious. "This needs to happen. So, do what you have to do. Carter will handle Essentials."
Michael's competitive spirit bit at him. He couldn't figure out why his father seemed to go out of his way to pull Carter in when he could handle this on his own.
Carter smiled, nodding. "Sure, why not? I've been looking for ways to lose my law license."
"I'm asking you," Steven said, "because we have to take the legal route with Essentials."
Michael smirked. "You get the easy stuff, Carter, since you're so soft."
Carter got up, starting for Michael, who quickly stepped around the desk, ready for him. With no patience for this, Steven stood up, the mere gesture having incredible power over his sons and they both immediately stopped, turning to look at him.
"Carter," Steven said. "Essentials has a shop in View Park and one in Baldwin Hills. They're both owned by Avery Jackson."
Carter shrugged. "Should that name mean something to me?"
Michael rolled his eyes. "She's the daughter of our chief of police, idiot."
"And she's not selling," Steven said.
"She's a bitch," Michael spat. "I've offered her twice what her piece of shit shops are worth."
"If they were a piece of shit, we wouldn't be going after them, idiot." Carter grinned while Michael gave him the finger.
Steven sat back down, focusing on the thick manila folder on his desk. "Revenue-wise, she's probably the weakest of the whole bunch. Location-wise, I've got to have those stores. I need a way to make her sell, but because of who she is, we can't use-"
"Me," Michael proudly offered.
Steven placed his hand on the folder and slid it toward Carter. Carter looked at it, but didn't pick it up, which he knew his father wanted him to do. "What exactly do you expect me to do?"
"You're the Harvard lawyer. You figure it out." Steven shared a stern look with both of his sons. "You need to understand the pressure we're under. Chase Beauty is our family's legacy."
Carter and Michael both sighed, having heard this speech too many times to count. Steven had built the business from scratch, ignoring the naysayers warning that an entire corporation focused only on black women could never rival the big players. Steven had showed them all, and he never let his sons forget it. He also never let them forget that a lot of people didn't like their success and were waiting in bushes like hungry lions for any chance to bring them down, and it was essential that they not get that chance.
"Nothing comes back to Chase Beauty," Steven ordered. "Do you both understand?"
"We understand," Carter and Michael answered in unison, as they had always to anything their father told them.
Janet Chase, the socialite, opened the office door without knocking, which was a sure sign she was angry. She didn't need to wonder if she had everyone's attention, because Janet always got everyone's attention. She was an exceptionally beautiful, elegant and classy woman who looked at least a decade younger than she was. That she was born into money was obvious to anyone with eyes and it took only a second's worth of time in her presence to see the best etiquette classes New York had to offer advertised in her every move and word. Including every look, like the dangerous one currently on her face as she eyed her husband and two sons.
"I knew you were in here." She placed delicately adorned hands on her trim, but curvy hips. She would not lose her temper. It wasn't her style, but she would be obeyed. "What are you doing?"
"Business, Janet." It amazed Steven that after over thirty years of marriage he still thought she was too good for him.
"Business is over." She had been Steven's mistress to his wife, Chase Beauty, for so long, but she wanted all the things its success gave her so she accepted it; only not today. "This is Leigh's day. She'll be here soon, and your guests are noticing your absence." She pointed her finger at her men, all of whom she loved with every inch of her. "I want you all out there in five minutes, and don't mess with me."
You just didn't mess with Janet Chase.
As Janet made her way down the long hallway toward her guests, she stopped at the edge of the expansive foyer, watching the crowd of the elite and other acceptables converse over fine wine and catered hors d'oeuvres. The finest black Los Angeles had to offer were all here for her daughter. No one declined an invitation from Janet Chase because she was the head of L.A. society; and everyone loved Leigh.
Now Haley was another story. Haley was a cross to bear that Janet gladly accepted, but she took it too far too often. Janet scanned the room as she had been for the last hour. She had already scoured upstairs and the girl wasn't there. She made her way to Maya, the woman who had helped her run this home and all of its inhabitants for the last ten years. Janet respected the woman's strive for perfection-not accepting any less in anyone who worked for her.
"Maya." Janet took her by the arm, pulling her aside. "Where is Haley?"
Maya looked at her as if she were demented to even ask. "I've checked everywhere, Mrs. Chase. She's not in this house. With your daughter, there's no telling where she is. Her cell phone is turned off."
Maya pulled her arm away. "You try. I've got a party to manage."
Janet's baby girl was her biggest challenge. She spoiled the young beauty too much, but there would be no spoiling tonight. If Haley messed up Leigh's homecoming, there would be hell to pay.
Congressman Jack Flay's boat was smaller than Steven Chase's boat, but Haley Chase, the taker, expected that. Everything her father had was bigger than most. Besides, the size of Jack's boat wasn't what she was interested in. The night they had met, at a fund-raiser for what Haley didn't care enough to remember, she was amused by his attention. With his wicked Irish charm, Yale education and perfect blonde wife at his side, his flirtations with her told Haley he was a man who liked to live dangerously. Not a good thing for a congressman, but a good thing for her. Haley loved danger.
The twenty-two-year-old debutante knew she was breathtaking and irresistible, and as she laid on top of him in the master bedroom of his boat, the desire in his eyes only confirmed that fact. Her large brown eyes, glowing caramel skin and that curvaceous body made a fool of any man who tried to tame her.
Excerpted from VIEW PARK by ANGELA WINTERS Copyright © 2006 by Angela Winters. 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.