Deadly Assets (Allison Campbell Series #2)

Deadly Assets (Allison Campbell Series #2)

by Wendy Tyson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781940976211
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 07/22/2014
Series: Allison Campbell Series , #2
Pages: 306
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.64(d)

About the Author

Wendy Tyson's background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Her short fiction has appeared in literary journals, including KARAMU; Eclipse, A Literary Journal; and Concho River Review.

Tanya Eby has been a voice-over artist for over a decade. She is an Audie-nominated and AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator. Besides narrating, Tanya spends her time teaching creative writing classes at the collegiate level, blogging, and working on her own novels.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The hawk fell from the sky like a bomb, its body graceless in death. It plummeted through a canopy of oaks, their foliage laced with the vestiges of afternoon sun, and landed just feet from Allison's bumper in a limp, twisted heap. Heart racing, Allison slammed on the brakes. She bolted out of the car in time to see a young woman emerge from the forest. The woman wore a rifle slung over one shoulder, a rucksack across the other. A wild mane of black hair flew behind her like a cape.

"That one's mine," the woman shouted. "Don't touch it!"

Allison glanced down at the dead hawk with equal parts sympathy and disgust. She certainly had no intention of touching it.

"Bastard's murdered a dozen chickens in two weeks. Damn thing had it coming." The woman leaned down, grabbed the bird by the throat and shoved it into the canvas satchel. Finished, she looked up at Allison as though registering for the first time the presence of a stranger on her property. "Who are you?"

"Allison Campbell. The image consultant." Allison started to hold out her hand, but with a second look at the rifle, opted instead for a friendly nod.

The woman harrumphed a hello, wiped her hands on her jeans, and gestured toward the house behind them. "I suppose you're here for Francesca."

"Is she ready for me?"

The woman shrugged.

She was in her late twenties, lean and muscular, and now that she was closer, Allison could see the face beneath the hair. Beautiful features — dark almond-shaped eyes, a regal nose, full lips, and high, defined cheekbones — clashed with an almost savage indifference.

Allison tore her gaze from the woman with the gun and looked around at her surroundings, too startled by the bird to have taken in the Benini estate — the home of her potential client, Francesca Benini — before now. The house lay sprawled across a hilltop, fronted by woodland that sloped down to the angry edge of Cayuga Lake. A winding driveway meandered its way up the hill, ending in a semicircle in front of the house. The town of Ithaca was visible in the distance, an urban island in a sea of forest and farmland.

The house itself stood as testament to Benini Enterprises' dwindling finances. A dilapidated three-winged monstrosity with a triple gabled front, a look-out tower and multiple entries, its wood trim was in desperate need of paint. Small patches of stucco had disappeared off the fascia, leaving scars like pockmarks across the broad façade. The building's height blocked out the sun and shadows slashed across a yard that was unkempt around the edges.

It was a warm August day. Storm clouds bruised the distant skies, and a sticky breeze offered no relief from the heat. Allison wiped the sweat beading along her brow. Her attention now back on the young woman, she asked, "And you are?"

But before the woman could respond, the front door flung open and a tall, athletic-looking man in his early forties came down the steps toward them. He was slim, with broad shoulders and narrow hips, and his movements were quick and elegant, especially for a man of his height. A day or two's worth of stubble gave a rakish air to a strong nose, sharp cheekbones and smooth olive skin. And, most noticeable of all, were his cerulean-colored eyes, which pierced Allison's own with a knife-like gaze.

He flashed Allison an apologetic smile. "Please ignore my sister, Maria. I'm Alessandro Benini. Most people call me Alex." He held out his hand. "You must be here for my aunt. Let's get you inside where it's cool." To Maria, he said, "Don't just stand there gawking. Do something with that bird."

By now, blood had soaked through the canvas bag and a small circle of crimson was pooling near Maria's sneakered feet.

Undeterred, she hoisted the bird over her free shoulder and threw Allison one last glacial glance before disappearing back in the direction of the hill and the barn beyond.

Allison said, "I hope I'm not disrupting things. Your sister seemed a bit surprised to see me."

"Not at all." Alex started toward the house. "It's me who should apologize. Maria can be insufferable. Don't take it personally. She hates everyone. Horses constitute her social circle. And people," he smiled, "including her family, are just an annoying fact of life."

Allison followed him through the double entry and into a large reception area. The inside of the home was as well-seasoned as the outside. Although the rooms were grand, the ceilings high, and the floors marble, the gold-toned wallpaper had faded to dull yellow and the Oriental rugs scattered in each room were muted and matted with use. Heavy brocade drapes covered the windows, blocking out any remnants of afternoon sun, and lending a dark and musty gloom to the already bleak interior.

They walked through a hallway, past a dining room and a formal parlor and into a screen-enclosed sun porch that ran the entire length of the back of the house. Two white wicker chairs, a wicker rocker, and a small white-painted table constituted the only furniture. Six large potted ferns stood sentinel along the back wall.

Alex said, "Sit, please."

Allison chose a wicker chair and sank into a floral seat cushion that had probably once been a bright and cheerful scarlet but had since weathered to the color of dried blood. The view from her seat made up for any lack in the decor.

Below the porch, laid out in a sweeping vista, were the family's vineyards. Row upon row of grapes, their vines trained and twisted over wire trellises, lined the side of the mountain like troops on the march. To the right and left of the vineyards, two swaths of dense forest stretched their way down a steep hill toward the town of Ithaca. A battered barn was next to the woods. Four horses grazed in a pasture corralled by a split rail fence.

Allison watched a young colt prance along the barrier, surprised it chose not to jump over something it could have so easily cleared. Sitting back in her seat, she said, "The view is beautiful. Do you ride?"

Alex had been standing by the window. At the sound of Allison's voice, he turned and took the seat across from her, folding his lanky body into the chair with exceptional grace for a man.

"We all ride, except Aunt Francesca. She's not terribly adventurous. In fact, she hasn't left this house for as long as I can remember." He smiled warmly, as though to minimize the seriousness of his remarks about his aunt. "She'll be down in a few moments. Until then, I'm afraid you're stuck with me."

Allison nodded. There was something about this arresting stranger that she found unsettling.

His eyes shone with an amused intelligence, at once world-weary and good-natured, as though he had seen it all, but life still entertained him. Only, she couldn't tell if they were sharing a joke — or if the laugh was on her.

"You're Paolo's son, then? Francesca's nephew."

Alex nodded.

"I'm so sorry about your father. Francesca told us what happened when she called. How is he?"

"Doing poorly, unfortunately. The stroke was severe. Maria and Francesca were the only ones here when it happened. They didn't find him until ... until it was too late to do much about it. He was awake for a few days. Now ... now, he's in a coma."

"Again, I'm so sorry."

"Thank you, Allison." Alex glanced at his watch and sighed. "I imagine Francesca is under the assumption that if she works with you, she'll be fit to run Benini Enterprises?"

Startled by the sudden shift in topic, Allison said, "She must believe it's possible, or she wouldn't have invited me here."

"The notion is ridiculous."

Allison sat up straighter, feeling protective of a woman she hadn't even met yet. "Tell me, why do you say it's ridiculous? That's a strong word."

"Because she's a sixty-three year old woman with no business background. Benini Enterprises, while considerably smaller than it once was, is a four hundred million dollar company with locations in Italy, the Balkans, and the United States. How can she go from house-bound to corporate leader practically overnight?"

"Are you sure that's what she has in mind?"

He frowned. "As you said yourself, why else would she have contacted you?"

"If not Francesca, then who will take over if your father has to step down?"

"My brother Dominic is the natural successor, I suppose. Although Maria will disagree. But then, that's nothing new." He sat back in the chair. Allison saw a man at ease with people, a man who was comfortable being the center of attention. A man with his own agenda?

"And you, Alex? Are you in the family business as well?"

This time, Alex's smile had a wistful quality to it. "Me? It depends whether you consider-"

But before he could finish, a woman entered the room. She was short — very short — with a thick-set body and deep-set brown eyes that shone with energy of purpose. Her gaze darted between Allison and Alex. "Thank you, Alessandro. You can leave us now."

"Allison, my aunt, Francesca Benini." Alex stood, and shifting his gaze to his aunt, said, "I was entertaining your guest in your absence."

"I can see that." Francesca's tone was flat. She walked to where Allison was now standing and offered her hand. The older woman's fingers were tiny, but her grip was startlingly firm.

Francesca surveyed the room, settled her eyes back on Alex. "Tell me, where is Simone?"

"Not feeling well."

"Again? She should be at the hospital. With Paolo."

Aunt and nephew stared at each other for a full minute, some unspoken communication going on between them. Silent tension blanketed the room. Eventually, Alex was the one to break it. "I'll leave you with my aunt," he said. "It was a pleasure talking with you, Allison. I trust we'll see each other again."

The last statement was said with a charmed smile and laughing eyes that made Allison wonder whether Alessandro Benini always got his own way. "Perhaps," she said, lifting her chin. She kept her tone neutral, aware of Francesca's judging stare. "It was nice to meet you, too."

After Alex left the room, Francesca sat on the seat he'd vacated. The older woman took a moment to appraise Allison, making no attempt to hide her approval of Allison's pale pink linen suit, her cream slingbacks and matching Gucci purse. She glanced at Allison's hands. "Do we make you nervous, Ms. Campbell?"

Allison looked down at her fingers and was relieved to see that they gripped the sides of her chair with steady strength. "Not at all. Alex was a pleasant companion."

Francesca smiled wryly. "Of that, I have no doubt." She turned her head to look out the window. Allison followed suit, and together they watched Maria down by the barn, leaning over an over-sized, silver pail. Maria appeared to be scrubbing something, her long, slender arms submerged in murky water. She looked up toward the house, as though she'd felt the weight of their stare, but after a moment she gave her attention to the thing in the pail again and resumed her chore.

Allison glanced back at Francesca, evaluating her with an image consultant's eye. Not only was Francesca small, but she had a stocky, muscular build that would be tricky to clothe. Right now she wore black polyester pants and a loose short-sleeve sage sweater. Allison pictured her in a tailored pantsuit, something that would lend credibility and an air of power. Francesca's head was covered in short, thick, wiry curls, peppered with gray — nothing a shapely cut couldn't handle. She had pug-like features and pale skin, with moles dotting her cheeks and neck. Like her niece and nephew, her best features were almond-shaped eyes fringed by long, lush lashes. Her irises were deep brown like Maria's, although they lacked both Alex's perpetual amusement and Maria's disdain. Instead, Francesca Benini projected the resolve of a woman on a mission.

Allison said, "How can I help you, Ms. Benini?"

"Let's do away with the formalities, shall we? Call me Francesca. "

Beneath the crisp words lurked the faint, melodic remnants of an Italian accent. Allison knew that Francesca was from a village in Calabria, in Italy. Her older brother, Paolo Benini, the CEO and President of the family business, Benini Enterprises, had a stroke less than two weeks prior. That's all Francesca shared with Vaughn when she'd called the week before, upset and demanding to be seen right away.

"Do you like wine, Allison?"

"I do."

"Do you have a favorite?"

"I'm no connoisseur, but I suppose it would be Pinot Noir."

"A fine choice. We grow Riesling here in the States, both dry and sweet. But that's primarily for house use. These grapes can't compare to those grown in Europe. Other than California, the U.S. climate's just not right." She turned toward the window again and rubbed her palms up and down along the length of her thighs. "In Italy, we grow six different types of grapes. That's just on our property. We own half the land in our town, but we also own acreage in other parts of Italy and Europe, and we pay growers in Greece, Macedonia and other Balkan countries to raise grapes. In addition to wine, we're importers — specialty foods from Italy, olive oil from Greece, home goods. But it all began with a small vineyard, sixty-five years ago."

"Your father started the business?"

"Yes. With help from my grandmother. She was a shrew, but she had a keen sense of business and knew how to turn nothing into something."

"And now your brother runs the business?"

"He ran the business. Make no mistake, Allison. Paolo won't recover from this. Despite the fact that they" — she gestured back toward the main part of the house, and Allison could only assume she meant Simone and Paolo's kids — "don't seem the least bit concerned, he is not going to make it. Even if his body survives, he'll be a vegetable. This company is mine, too. It was my father's intent for me to run it if something happened to Paolo. I have to do my part."

"And that's where First Impressions comes in?"

Francesca nodded, but her eyes held a resigned, wary expression. Allison wondered about the sudden shift. What wasn't she sharing?

"So what's your main goal, Francesca? We should start there."

"I need to take command. Although we are a privately-held company, we still have shareholders, some of whom are very powerful in their own right. I have to instill confidence in these people, especially those in Italy. Our families go way back. Seeing a woman at the helm will be tough enough. But if it's me? I'm afraid it will take a miracle." She stared at Allison. "You must be that miracle."

Allison considered this. Alex had made it sound as though Francesca's world had been very small — limited to the walls of this massive, intimidating home.

Perhaps she was agoraphobic or suffered from social anxiety. Perhaps she simply disliked people. Whatever the reason, she'd have to leave this house if she wanted to change. And change could be painful and laborious.

"Can I ask you a candid question, Francesca?" "If we're to work together, I would expect nothing less."

Allison paused. She appreciated Francesca's pointedness — was it sincere? "How much time do you feel you have to ... well, to make these changes? A month? A year?"

Francesca's eyebrows shot up. "Oh, heavens, not that long. The business is failing and the vultures are already circling. A lot is at stake. Weeks, maybe."

"You'll need to come to Philadelphia."

Francesca's hands danced wildly in her lap.

Allison continued. "My office is outside the city. We'll arrange for a suite nearby. You'll be comfortable and well-attended. We can meet regularly over the course of several weeks, until you feel you're ready."

"And what, specifically, will we do?"

"That depends on you, Francesca. You'll decide, with guidance from me and my team."

"Team?"

"I oversee everything, of course. And I can help you with public speaking, dressing for success, navigating corporate culture, things of that ilk. But we also have a whole cadre of specialists who can help. We can even get you a business tutor, if that's what you decide you need, someone from a local MBA program."

Francesca frowned. "Oh."

"Not what you expected?"

"To the contrary. Simone, my sister-in-law, bought me your book for Christmas. From the Outside In. Simone's very thoughtful that way." Francesca's sour expression said that Simone was anything but thoughtful. "I know exactly what to expect."

"But?"

"No 'but.' It's just a lot to take in, that's all."

Allison chose her next words carefully. "Are you afraid to leave this house? Because if so, that's okay. Sometimes people have anxiety issues that require treatment and even medication. We can help you, but it will take time. Treatment doesn't happen overnight."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Deadly Assets"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Wendy Tyson.
Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
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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DEADLY ASSETS 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would read again very enjoyable
AMarin More than 1 year ago
I read the first Campbell novel, KILLER IMAGE, and loved it. This one is even better. Lots of twists and turns. I couldn't wait to read to see what happened next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RandeeBaty More than 1 year ago
Allison Campbell, image consultant, and all her friends are back and they have an intriguing mystery on their hands. Two clients of First Impressions image consulting have disappeared on the same trip with Vaughn, Allison's business manager. While there doesn't seem to be any way it could be related to Allison and her business, it did happen on their watch and it will cause trouble for Vaughn if they aren't found. One is a 60 year old Italian wine heiress and the other, an 18 year old rising pop star with seemingly nothing in common. Allison, Vaughn and Mia, Allison's ex mother-in-law get begin trying to find these two women and the path just gets more murky and dangerous as they go. There are dark family secrets, mob connections, mysterious private detectives and connections back to Italy. I was sure I knew what was going on several different times but then was proven wrong. It's not an over-difficult mystery but it does have twists and turns along the way. I enjoyed the plot and the characters very much. The relationships between the main group of characters is one of the biggest strengths of this series so far. I really can feel the bonds between them. This is one of those books I looked forward to getting back to every time I had to set it down. My only reason for not giving it the full five stars is that you do have to suspend disbelief a number of times. As with most stories about amateur sleuths, I never can figure out why people answer their questions. I wouldn't. If a random person shows up at my door telling me they are investigating a disappearance, I'm not letting them in my house. I'm shutting the door and calling the police. It's also hard to image a professional at the level Allison is shown to be could just take off from her business from days at a time to investigate these disappearances, much less be willing to spend all the money she spent on rental cars, hotels and new clothes. All that said, I still loved the story. Interesting mystery, strong women, good inter-personal dynamics, just suspend your disbelief and enjoy the story. I've already started on the third one. This book was provided by Netgalley for review but my reviews always reflect my true feelings.
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: Deadly Assets - Allison Campbell Mystery 2 Author: Wendy Tyson Published: 7-22-14 Publisher: Henery Press Pages: 306 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Cozy Mystery, Women Sleuths ISBN: 9781940976211 ASIN: B00LWFWYGU Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley . Allison Campbell's two newest clients have one thing in common, both disappeared following spending time with Vaughn, Allison's Partner in First Impressions. Allison has just spent time with 60 year old Binimi heiress, Francesca Binimi and her family over dinner. It was not hard to see no one wanted Francesca to take over leadership of Binimi Enterprises. Trying to bring 18 year old rising pop-star Tammy Edwards out of her shell was hard work. Did they walk away on their own or did someone take them? Were they taken by the same person? If so what was the common thread? When police look to Vaughn as their prime suspect Allison, Vaughn and Mia (Allison's former mother-in-law) investigate to prove her innocence and to find out the truth of what happened to the two women. The closer they get to answers it seems the more danger surrounds them and those they care for. If Allison is not careful she could be the next one to disappear. Wendy Tyson writes a lively, fast paced story with interesting and likable characters that pulls you in and keeps you glued to your seat as you try to follow the clues to figure out what happened and why. Clues and revealed information is provided to point you to the answers as well as a few false leads to keep it from being too easy. Pick up Deadly Assets for a promise of an afternoon of reading pleasure.
MarnieMai More than 1 year ago
DEADLY ASSETS by Wendy Tyson, book 2 of the Allison Campbell series, is a must read for all mystery and book lovers.  This thriller was a real page turner and kept me wondering how everything would tie together.  Again, Ms. Tyson was terrific in successfully building on the characters she originated in Killer Image as well as introduce new characters with strong character development. For those who enjoy a sophisticated mystery with developed characters, you will love DEADLY ASSETS.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So often I find the second book in a series fails to deliver on the promise of the first. This is most definitely not the case with Wendy Tyson's DEADLY ASSETS. The story is tightly woven and the characters even more developed than in the first. As a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to delve more into Vaughn, Mia, Jamie, and, of course, Allison. The mystery (or mysteries but I don't want to give anything away!) truly kept me guessing and I was almost sorry when it was resolved because I just kept wanting to read more. Pick this up and you won't be sorry.
mysterybook_nerd98 More than 1 year ago
This is the first Allison Campbell story I have read. The mystery kept me guessing, the characters are well developed and likable. I really liked Vaughn's brother Jamie. It kept my interest so I've decided to read more of Allison's adventures. So don't chicken out- get the book.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
An eccentric Italian heiress from the Finger Lakes. An eighteen-year-old pop star from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Allison Campbell’s latest clients seem worlds apart in every respect, except one: Both women disappear on the same day. And Allison’s colleague Vaughn is the last to have seen each. Allison’s search for a connection uncovers an intricate web of family secrets, corporate transgressions and an age-old rivalry that crosses continents. The closer Allison gets to the truth, the deadlier her quest becomes. All paths lead back to a sinister Finger Lakes estate and the suicide of a woman thirty years earlier. Allison soon realizes the lives of her clients and the safety of those closest to her aren’t the only things at stake. Dollycas’s Thoughts Oh this one is so good!!! Allison’s clients couldn’t be more different. When they both disappear on the same day and their only connection seems to be her company Allison jumps in with both feet to get to the truth. Francesca hasn’t left her home in years but when her brother falls ill she has to take over the family business. She needs Allison’s help so that she can show the family and their shareholders she is up to the task. Tammy has been chosen to be on a television singing show. She has a beautiful voice but Allison is hired by her “manager” to help with her social skills and in the fashion/hair makeover departments. Allison knew she had her work cut out for her with both women but never thought they would just disappear without a trace. Both of these women have families that go way beyond the normal eclectic/quirky levels. Wendy Tyson has created some of the best characters I have read lately. She has allowed Allison, Vaughn, Jason and Mia to grow since Killer Image, the first story in this series. Tyson puts her characters in some very unexpected situations with some masterful twists. Allison does not let her fear of her own physical safety hold her back and at times I was so scared for her! You will not believe who she is taking on in her quest to find the truth! This is one of those books where you sit down to read and hold on tight because you will stay up late reading until you reach the very end. DYING BRAND, the 3rd book in this series comes out May 2015 and I can’t wait!
Melysse More than 1 year ago
First of all, it’s important to know that Deadly Assets is the second Allison Campbell mystery. When a representative of the publisher contacted me, because I’d reviewed another of author Wendy Tyson’s novels late last year, I was actually sent a copy of book one, Killer Image, as well. I read both books back-to-back over the last few days, and loved them both. Tyson excels at writing mysteries that are grounded in real life, plausible situations. You never feel that her stories are complete fantasy, and some of the chill you get while reading them is because so many of the characters could be people you know. As well, she populates her novels with diverse characters – Allison herself, Allison’s ex-mother-in-law Mia, who is dating Christopher Vaughn (known by his last name) who is also Allison’s colleague in her image consulting firm, and happens to be African-American, and his computer genius brother who happens to be quadriplegic – these are just a few. This makes you really believe that the novels take place in a real version of Pennsylvania. Both novels, and Deadly Assets especially, are also incredibly well plotted. While it’s true that I was able to solve each cast slightly before Allison herself did, that’s only because we, as readers, see a bit more of the big picture than she does as a character. Still, I was never disappointed by any of the twists or turns that took place, and when Allison was in jeopardy, while I knew she was unlikely to die (this is a series, after all) I also knew that Tyson had no qualms about giving her serious injuries. Where Killer Image included the requisite first-novel-in-a-series exposition of character backstory, Deadly Assets focused mainly on the current story. This in no way made the second book hard to follow, as there was enough backstory to understand the flavor of each recurring character. In fact, it could very easily be read as a standalone novel without the reader feeling like anything was missing, though reading them in order will increase your enjoyment, as it did mine. If you’re looking for a mystery series that has believable characters, plausible storylines, and a great mix of character and action – especially if you’re looking for such a series in which women are the crime solvers and not only the victims, you must – must – read Wendy Tyson’s Allison Campbell series. Deadly Assets was just published this week, and I’m already itching for book three.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
4 STARS Deadly Assets has twists and turns some I saw and others I did not. Did not want to put the book down till I was through. Allison Campbell and those close to her are back in this second mystery. I like Allison and friends. Allison Campbell owns her own business. She is a image consultant. She is divorced to Jason who is her boyfriend. She bought her business from her Mia her mother-in-law. Vaughn works with Allison. He takes care of his twin brother. He changed his life after his brother got shot when they were teenagers. They have two new clients. One a Italian heiress from Finger Lakes. The second is a shy eighteen year old from Scranton, Pennsylvania. They both go missing on the same day and the last one to see them last was Vaughn. Neither family really wants to involve the police. Vaughn is interviewed though. Allison, Vaughn, Mia and Jamie are not going to just let go. They are determined to find out where the women are. Are they even connected? There are lots of secrets, mob, someone is following Allison. There is danger around them. There is a love scene. Not sure what I think of the ending. It works though. I look forward to seeing what happens next with Allison and her friends. I was given this ebook by Net Galley & Henery Press. In return I agreed to give Deadly Assets a honest review and be part of Deadly Assets blog tour.