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By Kylie Brant
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneVoices from the grave swirled around him, haunting whispers of murder.
James Tremaine stared sightlessly at the scraps of paper laid across the desk before him and reflected that it was an appropriate enough night for ghosts. The wind shrieked through the sky, shaking the windows of the centuries-old estate with demented fists. The dark clouds shot needlelike shards of rain to stab the parched Louisiana ground, to machine-gun against the house. The single lit lamp in the room had flickered more than a few times in the last hour, but its uncertain illumination wasn't necessary. He didn't need the dim spill of light to read the words typed on the bits of paper on the desk. They'd been emblazoned on his mind.
You've got a target on your back.
This project will be your last.
The threats were easily dismissed. It wasn't unusual for competition to rise to a dangerous level in his line of work. But it was the third one, the most recent, that commanded attention. Your parents' deaths weren't accidents. Yours won't be either.
The electricity finally gave up its struggle with the ferocious wind, and the room fell into darkness. James didn't notice. He was too busy fighting an internal battle of his own. He hadn't successfully grown afamily business into a global security corporation by being easily manipulated. Not even his siblings, especially not his siblings, could realize the degree of treachery that lurked beneath every apparently civil contact in his world. As technology exploded daily with new advances, the race to stay ahead of his rivals was a careening, hair-raising ride.
He'd had far more creative schemes than this thrown his way by a competitor intent on beating him to a potential contract: he'd thwarted sabotage at his headquarters; he'd survived two attempts on his life to remove him from competition permanently; but nothing else had felt quite as personal as the words printed on the last note before him.
With cool logic he considered the possibilities, pushing aside for the moment the emotion churning and boiling inside him. The most likely explanation was business, of course. Dredging up his family's tragedy from two decades earlier would distract him from the deadlines imposed by the government contract currently occupying the majority of their manpower. Failure to deliver the newest encryption/decryption package for the Pentagon would remove his company from consideration for the next job, which promised to be even more challenging. Even more lucrative.
With his index finger he traced the edge of the message in the center. Money was another possible motive, he supposed. His family was no stranger to the lengths others would go in order to reap profit by inflicting pain. What was the sender hoping for? To whet his interest for a payoff? But for what? To call off a potential assassin, or by promising decades old information in return?
The messages could just as easily come from a crackpot operating for reasons known only to himself. God knew, there were enough of them around these parts. He didn't need the police to tell him the futility of trying to trace the notes, and with the Pentagon contracts hanging in the balance, just now he could ill afford the resulting publicity.
Lightning lit up the sky outside his den, throwing the interior of the room into momentary relief. A moment later thunder boomed, close enough to shake the graceful antebellum home. But the storm outside paled in comparison to the storm within.
Because there was a still a part of him, a part he was struggling to suppress, that wondered if it could be true.
Your parents' deaths weren't accidents.
He'd read the police reports. Made the identification. He could remember far too well what the battered, mangled bodies had looked like once extracted from the twisted wreckage of the automobile. A vicious memory of the wild, unchecked grief whipped through him, stunning in its power to inflict fresh pain. The twenty-year-old wound throbbed anew, stirring all the old questions that accompany the bitterness of loss. In the end, it was emotion that made the decision for him. Specters from the past tugged at strings of guilt, love and regret.
But it was stirrings of a far different feeling that had him opening the center desk drawer, smoothing the tip of his finger down the smooth barrel of the snub-nosed .38 inside.
A thirst for vengeance.
Excerpted from Dangerous Deception by Kylie Brant Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Billionaire securities expert James Tremaine knew the term 'corporate warfare' meant just that. So when he began receiving threatening letters, he ignored them. James had not gotten to where he was today without making enemies, especially in business rivals. Tremaine Technologies was on the verge of gaining a Pentagon contract. The letters were just someone trying to make him lose focus so he would not complete the encryption/decryption software in time. However, the letters captured his full attention when they began mentioning his parents. .................................... 'Your parents' deaths weren't accidents and yours won't be either.' .................................... That car accident had happened twenty years ago when James had been eighteen. He had hired a P.I. named Rob Landry to check it all out. Landry's report said that it had been an accident, just as the police reports stated. But what if he had missed something? Time to visit Rob Landry. .................................... Victoria 'Tori' Corbett had grown up learning everything about the P.I. business from her father's knee. 'Integrity Above All Else' had been his motto. He had lived by it and instilled it in his daughter. When James Tremaine came looking for old files of her father, she could not help him. All those old files had perished in a warehouse fire long, long ago. However, Tori convinced James to hire her. Who else could do the in-depth work on the old case like Rob Landry, besides his daughter? That meant Tori and James would have to work day and night, side-by-side. But that should not be a problem. James had too much going on to be romantically interested in the enticing P.I. And Tori had once been married to James's type before. She wasn't going to willingly dance the upper crust two-step ever again! .............................. ***** No one writes series suspense better than Kylie Brant! As in the three Tremaine thrillers before this one ('Alias Smith & Jones', 'Entrapment', and 'Truth Or Lies'), the story overflows in non-stop action and suspense. This is not a book you will be able to put down easily, consider yourself warned. So be sure you have several uninterrupted hours ahead of you before you open the cover. The very first page will suck readers in and hold onto them tighter than duct tape. Very highly recommended! *****