The Chases are rich, powerful, and used to getting everything they want. But they're about to discover that even billions can't buy happiness--or keep trouble outside their gilded gates. . .
Carter Chase is engaged, but he's still not over his ex-fiancée, Avery. And while Avery can't resist Carter's charm in the bedroom, she's terrified by his threats to take their daughter away from her. After all, Avery knows she can't win a fight against the Chase family. . .
Carter's brother, Michael, is embroiled in his own drama, consumed with guilt over the pain he caused his now ex-wife Kimberly. Six months after granting her a divorce, Michael wants her back. But it may take a tragedy to reunite them. . .
When oldest daughter Leigh Chase starts dating a black Republican senator, she finds herself involved in yet another high-profile affair. Leigh vowed to avoid another scandal for her family--but when you're a Chase, that kind of promise is impossible to keep. . .
"Winters' juicy novel about a wealthy but utterly dysfunctional family is a real page-turner." --Booklist on A Price to Pay
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Gone too Far
By ANGELA WINTERS
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Angela Winters
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhen the elevator opened up on the penthouse floor of the exclusive downtown L.A. high-rise, Avery Harper heard a sigh. She stepped out, expecting to see an elderly woman, because that was what the sound reminded her of. But it wasn't an old woman. No one else was there. It was her thirty-year-old body sighing. She was beyond tired and couldn't remember a day in the last six months when she wasn't. She looked at her reflection in the hall mirror. Her large, doelike eyes were red with dark circles underneath. Her medium-brown skin looked a couple of shades paler.
Six months ago, Avery's husband, thirty-seven-year-old college professor Anthony Harper, was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident. He hadn't been drinking or sleeping, but he had been frantic. Frantic because Avery had just told him that she was leaving him after less than one year of marriage, leaving him for Carter Chase, the man she loved and the father of her fifteen-month-old daughter, Connor. Avery had never felt such guilt in her life, and that was saying a lot considering how guilty she already felt for going against her own values and entering into an extramarital affair with Carter last year.
She had tried so desperately to be a faithful wife. Anthony had been there for her when she ran away from her then-fiancé Carter, after finding out that he had lied about being behind the heartbreaking end of her engagement to another man in order to have her for himself only a year before.
In retrospect, she realized that she shouldn't have run away, but she didn't have much choice. After all, Carter was a Chase, and no one went against America's richest, most powerful black family and won. They always lost-and lost big. Carter had made it clear to her that he wouldn't let her go. Finding out she was pregnant on top of that was all she needed to know that she had to get as far away as possible from a family that believed anyone with Chase blood running through their veins was their property.
Anthony comforted her and loved her. He made her believe that she could be happy without Carter. Even when family emergencies forced them to return to View Park, the black, upper-middle-class suburb of Los Angeles, he supported her. He was devoted to her and treated Connor like she was his own. But she wasn't, and once Carter had found out that Connor was his daughter, Anthony's life began to spiral down the drain, much like the lives of anyone else who became inconvenient to the Chase clan. They had billions from the Chase Beauty empire, which Carter's father, Steven, had built from scratch. Anthony had done all he could, but it wasn't enough; it couldn't have ever been.
Avery had never stopped loving Carter. How could she? The thirty-two-year-old alpha male was perfect in every way. He was handsome, successful, driven, ambitious, frustrating, confident, sexy, arrogant, and rich. He challenged her, made her laugh, and when he touched her, he made her feel more like a woman than she knew she could. They'd had an explosive chemistry from the start. Just being in the same room with him could light Avery up. She had tried to stop loving him, wanting him. She'd thought she could do this-be co-parents without being together, especially when Carter seemed to accept her resolve to stay with Anthony and stopped trying to get her back. But it wasn't enough; it couldn't have ever been.
When Carter was in a plane accident a year ago, Avery had thought he had died. When she realized he was still alive, her suppressed feelings for him surged to the surface, and she couldn't control herself anymore. Despite Anthony, and despite Carter's girlfriend, Julia Hall, the two of them gave in to their desire for each other. Every time they were together, Avery's mind went away and her body caught on fire. They had never stopped loving each other, and the quenched thirst was too much to deny. It was that love and their mutual love for the daughter they made together that made both of them believe nothing could keep them apart any longer.
Anthony took it very hard, and after Avery left him, he lost it. That was when the accident happened and lives were ruined. Anthony begged her to stay, to help him, but he hadn't needed to. Avery knew she couldn't leave him now. This was her fault. She had committed adultery and left a man who had no one else but her. There was always a price to pay for such selfishness, but it was Anthony, the innocent party, who paid the price. She couldn't make it worse by leaving him alone when he couldn't even walk.
Carter refused to accept that they couldn't be together. He had waited too long to get her back, and she had promised this time. He warned her that this was her last chance, and even though it killed her, she knew she had to stay with Anthony.
That was six months ago, and Carter had been busy making her suffer for what he saw as a choice. It began with a very sudden announcement of his engagement to Julia. He knew Avery still loved him and that it would hurt her. It did hurt her, but she couldn't be angry. She had chosen to stay with Anthony and had hoped that all Carter would do was try to find some happiness for himself. But she knew better, and that wasn't all he was doing. The engagement was just the first step in Carter's plan to cause Avery pain at every turn.
Avery expected him to be cold to her, but she wasn't prepared for the cruel and callous nature of his behavior. He immediately began demanding more time with Connor beyond what had been agreed to, and he wanted to change the custody and child-support agreement. He was giving her $10,000 a month for child support while still paying for everything that Connor needed. He knew that Anthony could no longer work, and she had to stop working at her mother's art gallery to take care of him. He knew that Anthony's care was very expensive and made no effort to hide his desire to make their lives financially difficult. As one of the best lawyers in L.A., he knew exactly what to do.
Avery had tried so many times to talk to him, to make him understand and to quell his anger, but he wasn't having it. She still loved Carter, but he hated her and refused to talk to her about anything but Connor; even then, he was short and mean. Every now and then, Avery would let it get to her and they would fight. But mostly she just took it. She took it because she felt guilty for breaking his heart again, but most of all, she took it because she was just too tired to do anything else.
The fact was, Avery knew she had to be delicate. Carter's disdain for her broke her heart every time she interacted with him, but he was a Chase, and he never passed up an opportunity to exert his power and influence. He didn't need a reason to start a war with her, even though he had reasons. In particular, he would remind her of how she and Anthony had initially tried to make him believe that Connor wasn't his. They'd even gone so far as to fudge medical records. He was trying to scare her so she would take his verbal abuse, and Avery knew that a legal battle with a Chase was one she couldn't win.
She was about to ring the doorbell a second time when it slowly opened. Standing in the doorway was Carter's fiancée, Julia. She was a very elegant-looking woman, not flashy. Her brown skin was smooth and glowing, and her features were perfectly sculpted. She had long, shiny, wavy hair and was very tall. Julia was the kind of woman Carter was supposed to marry. While Avery was a middle-class girl, the daughter of a cop and a hippie artist, Julia was from one of the finest black families in all of Texas. Like the Chase family, from Carter's mother's side, Julia's family had been one of the finest for generations, dating back to the late 1800s. She was a bona fide member of the black blue blood, Ivy League, exclusive society. She was born for Carter's world, and from the smug look on Julia's face, Avery knew she was enjoying every second of being in it.
"Avery." Julia looked her up and down and sighed as if she felt sorry for her. "You look ill. Are you ill?"
Avery knew she wasn't a beauty queen like Julia. She was a pretty girl-next-door, not at all glamorous. She cleaned up very well but mostly showed a natural, cute face and casual style that Carter had always told her he loved. Her rosebud nose was always his favorite. Lately, though, Avery was so tired from looking after her husband and her daughter that she neglected herself a bit. She was never more aware of this than in the presence of Julia.
"I'm fine, Julia." Avery spoke tersely, knowing that the worst thing she could do was appease this woman.
Julia hated Avery because she knew that Carter still loved Avery despite Julia trying to do everything to make him fall in love with her. She found out about their affair and wanted desperately to keep him. Julia cared more about being a Chase than she did about having a faithful man. Avery assumed Julia hadn't been prepared when Carter told her that he was leaving her to be with the mother of his child. But the devastation was only temporary, because Carter soon came back with a marriage proposal. Julia had gotten what she wanted-a key to the inner circle of America's black version of the Kennedys.
Of course, Avery was jealous. She hated the idea of Carter being with anyone, and every time she ran into Julia, which she tried to avoid at all costs, Julia found a way to mention her impending wedding to Carter to make it worse.
"I just came to get Connor." Avery looked over Julia's shoulder. "Carter was supposed to drop her off two hours ago, and he's not answering his cell."
"So?" Julia asked, placing a haughty hand on her slim hip.
"He can't keep doing this," Avery said, but regretted it as soon as she did. She had to remember the less she said to Julia, the less she would have to listen to Julia talk back.
"Actually, he can." Julia offered a flat smirk as she tilted her head. "She's his daughter too."
"I know that," Avery answered. "But ... Look, Julia, just let me in so I can get her."
Avery took a step forward, but Julia didn't move. "She isn't here."
"Where is she?" Avery was starting to get worried. Carter often failed to stick to the terms of their custody agreement, but usually she could find him here or ... "Is she at Chase Mansion?"
Chase Mansion was the family home in View Park, and it was famous all over the country because of who lived inside of it. Despite its modest size, considering the family's wealth, the elegantly designed 15,000-square-foot redbrick and white-columned masterpiece had graced the cover of several home, design, society, and celebrity magazines and Web sites. Its seven bedrooms; nine baths; exercise, game and media rooms; library; and more intrigued everyone. Avery had experienced an endless amount of awkward, uncomfortable moments in that home and wasn't looking forward to going over there.
"I don't have to tell you," Julia said.
Avery's hands clenched into fists at her sides. She tried to be civil, but Connor was where she drew the line. "Fine, then I'll go there myself."
"You shouldn't," Julia said just as Avery turned away. She waited for her to turn back. "You're not welcome there. He'll bring her to you when he's done."
"Done with what?" Avery asked.
Julia shrugged. "With whatever. Really, Avery, I have a big wedding in five months. I'm very busy, so I can't keep track of him all the time."
That wasn't subtle and was successful at reminding Avery that she had been only six months from marrying Carter when she left him, and in her heart, she was only seconds from marrying him just six months ago. Now he was marrying Julia, and that was that.
Avery didn't bother to say good-bye. She just turned and walked away. She heard the door slam behind her but never took her eyes off the elevator door in front of her. Julia wasn't her problem; Carter was, and he was getting worse.
Kimberly Chase was lounging her long, model-figure body in the soft chair on the patio near the pool of her house. It was dark out, so the lights from inside the large pool surrounded by expensive Gavea, a rare Brazilian stone, reflected the ripples in the water around the back area of the Tuscan-inspired Hollywood Hills home. She felt at peace, which was a rare thing, a gift that she never thought she could ever get again.
Just as she lifted the raspberry martini to her lips, the cell phone on the table next to her began to vibrate. She contemplated whether or not she wanted to interrupt her peace, but when she saw who it was, she decided to answer it. It was her money man.
"It's kind of late for a business call, Glenn." She placed the drink down.
"Mrs. Chase," he answered with his middle-class British accent. "My clients pay me a lot of money to forget nine-to-five. I thought you might want to hear this."
"It's Ms. Chase," she corrected, "and as long as it isn't bad news, I'll listen."
"I've rearranged the money from your divorce settlement as you asked. I'm glad you decided to get back into the riskier market. I really do believe the stock market is safe again. You stand to make millions."
"I just don't want to lose the millions I have," Kimberly said.
Her millions were precious to her, because Kimberly didn't think she'd actually get them. Being Mrs. Michael Chase wasn't a dream come true for her, because a girl with her past didn't dream of anything but surviving. Leaving an abusive home in Detroit at fifteen, she worked the streets for two years before using one of her johns to hitch a free ride to New York, where she cashed in on her exceptional beauty and became a model. She hadn't known she'd hit the jackpot when she met and had a one-night stand with the youngest son of the Chase dynasty. All she knew was that there was a fire about Michael that drew her to him.
It was love at first sight for both of them, but Kimberly thought she had ruined her chance when she found out she was pregnant. But unlike most men in her life, Michael didn't leave. Not only did he stay, but he also wanted to marry her. He went to the ends of the earth to hide her past before introducing her to his parents. It didn't matter. Even though they never knew about the seedier sides of her past, Kimberly would never be good enough. A prince is supposed to marry a princess.
Her mother-in-law, Janet Chase, made her life hell. While she wanted the marriage to happen to avoid having a child with the Chase name born out of wedlock, afterward Janet wanted Kimberly out so she could be replaced with a suitable woman to bear the Chase name. Their battles reached levels neither had expected. Things got so out of control, it began to harm the marriage that Kimberly had to pinch herself every morning to believe she had. An unbelievably sexy, handsome, smart, successful, and rich guy loved her, adored her, and she had the two most perfect twin boys in the world. She was living the highlife every day, except for the fact that she was never allowed to forget that she didn't belong.
She'd made mistakes and her marriage began to show cracks. She had assumed that Michael loved her more than anything but found out he loved his father's approval more. Steven Chase was a man among men, and he never let his boys forget it. While the eldest son, Carter, had found a way to get out from under Steven's shadow, Michael hadn't, and Kimberly's desire not to be the cause of more strife between Michael and Steven made her make bad decisions. The worst decision was not telling Michael that her pimp, David, had come to Los Angeles to extort money from her, threatening to expose her past and embarrass a family that was always under the microscope. David proved more than she could handle. His demands continued to escalate, and even though she had slept with him to make him leave, he wouldn't. When he threatened to release a tape of them having sex, Kimberly could no longer bear it. There was a struggle and David died.
She was a Chase, so it was all covered up. This family was expert at keeping scandals from the public and overcoming those that seeped through their hands. There was never a moment when they weren't actively trying to keep up their appearance of perfection. A lot had been done that was wrong, but murder, even though it happened in self-defense, was the last straw.
Her dream man had become her nightmare. He hated her because she had slept with her ex-pimp and, mostly, because she had Steven threatening to cut Michael off from his chance at the CEO seat of Chase Beauty-the dream he had above all others. She hated him because he used their children to hurt her. He threw his affairs in her face and practically kept her prisoner in their home. She had tried to leave with her boys, not caring that she wouldn't get a penny, but she learned quickly that she would never be able to.
Excerpted from Gone too Far by ANGELA WINTERS Copyright © 2010 by Angela Winters. Excerpted by permission.
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