The Offering

The Offering

by Desiree Bombenon


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Jake and Amanda Bannon had planned to unplug in Oahu for a much-needed vacation, but the mai tais will have to wait. They have a kidnapping to solve.

Jake's got a winning smile and a head for business strategy. His wife, Amanda, has a quick wit and a knack for sensing things before they happen. The Bannons may look like the perfect picture of a power couple, but when Jake and Amanda hang up their smart phones for a week of R & R in Hawaii, they never expect to get caught in the adventure of their lives.

As the couple clinks glasses on a breezy lanai overlooking the Pacific, terror is brewing on the Big Island. High in the steep jungle mountains, the Bannons' friends from back home have crossed paths with a fate worse than they could ever have imagined.

Depressed since her parents' divorce, teen Taylor Wright connects online with a fellow brooding soul, Carlos, and agrees to arrange a meeting with him during her family's Hawaiian vacation. Now Taylor, along with her mother and stepfather, has vanished. When Jake and Amanda receive an alarming call from Taylor's father, they're on the case. From shootouts to death-defying vertical climbs, the Bannons embark on a rescue mission to find Taylor and reveal the dark motives of Carlos and his voodoo cult.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936909544
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
Publication date: 08/28/2012
Pages: 202
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.46(d)

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a novel


Copyright © 2012 Desirée Bombenon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-936909-54-4

Chapter One

IT WAS A GOOD DAY TO BE ALIVE. Sitting out on the lanai, Amanda watched the waves roll in with graceful arcs, reaching their peaks and then crashing down into a swirl of white froth over the rocks like giant beer foam. She sat and watched wave after wave for hours. Amanda and Jake celebrated the New Year in quiet retrospection.

They had a wonderful relationship. It was built on trust and respect, with a little intrigue intertwined. They met while Amanda was doing a practicum for her degree in business administration. She was bent on working for a company that was on the cutting edge of technology. Back then cellular mobile phones were the rage and still are today, for that matter. Amanda was so keen on the technology she was invited to join the team full-time once she completed her degree. Working for the wireless company, Amanda quickly found herself immersed in a rapidly growing business and was promoted on a regular basis. Jake and Amanda ran into each other quite often around the office, and it wasn't long before he asked her out for a business lunch, which quickly became a regular occurrence. Initially the lunch chatter was mostly about work, the people, the products, and the future of the company. Soon they were discussing other, more personal subjects, such as the geopolitical situation around the world and their thoughts on the environment and religion. They found that they really had quite a bit in common, at least with their opinions on such matters. Jake found out that Amanda had had a very difficult childhood, that she felt people could only count on themselves to create the spirituality that is so needed to help us through difficult situations. Jake had conceded his dislike for any religious order, simply due to the corruption and harm that has come about throughout history from institutionalizing religion and using it for selfish reasons and not necessarily to help people. He too felt that spirituality was best kept in your own mind and soul. Although Jake and Amanda felt it was important to have a belief, it was just as easy to create that from within, although they hesitated to give it a name or call it a religion. The two of them became best friends first and then eventually were married. Their children were scattered on different continents: one in Germany while he finished a program in graphic design and photography at the University of Cologne, and the other working up in Canada at one of Jake and Amanda's many companies. So it was easy to take a break at their second home, a quaint little condo at the Beach Villas Resort in Ko Olina on Oahu, Hawaii; they toasted in the new decade and said good bye to 2011.

It was not like back in 2000, when there was pressure to bring in the next thousand years with hoopla and grandeur; the human race had survived to see Y2K. There was far less excitement or anxiety now, more than ten years after the twin towers fell. Regimes all over the world were crumbling. While the Occupy Wall Street movement was targeting America's elite, Libya was celebrating the death of Gaddafi; the world was in flux.

There was something heavy in the air. Amanda felt it was akin to a storm brewing in the distance. All the crazies were coming out of the woodwork, hanging their hat on a word or phrase from some biblical or ancient transcript that was misinterpreted or translated incorrectly. They were claiming 2012 to be the year of the apocalypse, the end of the world, the final meeting of good and evil in an ultimate fight to triumph over what would be left of civilization. Amanda was a believer in one world and the idea that everyone was an equal citizen. It's really like Star Trek, she thought. Here we are all one race—the human race—with that one overarching prime directive: don't interfere with another species' culture or way of life. But what if we are all the same species and by not interfering withhold intelligence that could help people in other communities? Then are we truly being citizens of the world? Yes, Amanda thought, and now you sound like those Americans who think the world can only be safe if we impose our thoughts and beliefs on everyone else. The world police, big brother, is watching over you, and if we are all the same, then we can all be right. This is a crazy world, Amanda mused.

Watching the joggers going by on the path below, she smiled and observed: some were toned, looking comfortable on their run, and others were overweight and determined to make a change in their appearance and form life-changing habits for the New Year.

This was the normal scene for the first day of the New Year—everything was "kosher," as Jake would say. Amanda's analytical mind worked at the picture, and she still felt an ominous chill, even with the weather at a comfortable 72 degrees so early in the morning. Her female instincts were kicking in for no apparent reason.

Amanda turned to Jake, who was busy browsing away on his computer next to her, and asked, "Something feel odd to you about this New Year's Day?"

His eyebrow went up. "Yeah, we're in Hawaii?" he said with a smirk. "What do you mean, 'something feel odd'?"

"Oh, I don't know, like heaviness?" Jake didn't take his eyes off the screen, just uttered a no in her direction. She left it at that, which was unusual for Amanda because most days she would prattle on about her gift. Jake had never quite bought into her clairvoyance. He called it luck or educated guessing in most instances; it was his way of dealing with it. But sometimes Amanda would say something that, sure enough, would foretell what would happen at some point in the day. Those instances were disconcerting to Jake.

This was Amanda's gift, or curse. Amanda had been very young, too young to remember exactly, when she first started getting the strange feelings that felt like a tummy ache to her at the time. She noticed that she would see a scene in her mind or in a dream during a nap, and before she knew it, it was happening in reality. When she first learned of her special instincts, she would try to stop people from boarding an airplane or crossing the street if she felt anxious. She would wake up in the middle of the night and call the police. More times than not, it ended up with her in trouble and then all kinds of questions and detainment when something did go wrong. She learned to keep her mouth shut. Nobody believed it anyway.

Several times that gut feeling that we all have, and most of us ignore, had saved her butt. There was the time she was about to board a train in Moscow to go to Saint Petersburg to meet Jake while attending a Young Presidents' event. She could still picture it clearly. It was November 27, 2009. Amanda reached the platform for the Nevsky Express but at the last minute felt her stomach churning with anxiety. By this time she had learned to trust her gut instinct and decided not to board and instead to rent a car and drive the 440 miles. That night, a bomb exploded, the train derailed, and twenty-six people were killed, with many more injured. It was a tragic occurrence that involved the misguided reasoning of unreasonable terrorists. Her feelings of guilt over not having said anything to anyone prior to the disaster were something that she would have to live with for the rest of her life.

Jake thought the Nevsky train incident was pretty good instinct on her part. For some reason Amanda found herself in stranger situations than most people. Although Jake trusted Amanda's gift, he bought a large insurance policy on Amanda the next day. She took it as a compliment. She knew she was a valuable strategic advisor to him and their group of companies, but he had just upped her worth in case something were to happen. Jake also had a hefty insurance policy to ensure that the companies were looked after, not only for their children, but also for all their employees and the foundation that Jake and Amanda had formed a few years earlier. They followed the mantra "Without sacrifice there is no success." They started with nothing and grew it into a very comfortable empire, which included giving to numerous charities. Many worthy causes around the world depended on them.

Jake had started his business during the new age of cell phones and mobile units. Its head office was located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. However,theyconsideredthemselvesaglobalentitywithaffiliatessuchasJakanda Enterprises, a well-known, privately held company based in Bermuda that had a variety of portfolios, including land development, wholesale distribution, and a major interest in the oil sands exploration happening in Northern Alberta. Jake also had an interest in flying. Soon after the success of his wireless enterprise, he got his pilot's license. Achieving this quickly, he expanded his qualifications to flying jet planes and helicopters. The Bell JetRangers were his favorite. He was the closest thing to a bird without wings. Amanda worked on building their business process–outsourcing company, which quickly grew to providing services globally. The rapid growth of the businesses came with lots of headaches, including finding the right talent, keeping good workers, and balancing the needs of customers with the goals of the companies. This made for challenging and uncertain times. It was not without true grit and determination that they survived, especially with the recent economic crisis. Add to that some smart investments in real estate, oil, and gas at the right time and, voilà, lots of work and lots of success. As they developed their businesses, they became noted for their philanthropic endeavors and community work.

Of course, the hard work took its toll. Amanda was very involved in helping Jake build their empire until a health scare caused them to reevaluate their lives. They were potentially at their peak in business growth when, during a regular checkup, Amanda's doctor found a lump in her left armpit. After several tests determined that it was cancer, Amanda began treatment. It was caught in the early stages and, with a combination of surgery and treatment, she was now clean. Though successful, the treatments left a permanent emotional scar on both Jake and Amanda. They both agreed that their time together would be better spent enjoying life and not engulfed in work. Jake read The 4-Hour Workweek, which gave him the push he needed to wean himself off his BlackBerry, which had become an appendage sometime during the previous five years. Finding the right people to run the companies, including their daughter, they were able to take an early retirement, acting only in leadership and advisory roles.

"Amanda, are you having a premonition?" Jake's voice bellowed clearly from the bedroom of the condo.

Amanda stirred. When did he ever get up and leave the precious computer? she thought. "No," she echoed back, "no prems right now. Why?"

"Oh, I thought you would get a feeling that my coffee was now cold and needed a top up."

Very funny, Amanda thought, and got up to make him a fresh cup. Just then Michael Jackson's "Bad" started playing loudly. It was Amanda's ringtone. She loved it! It was a shame Michael had had to go the way he did. He was one of her idols growing up. She remembered dressing up in the skinny pants and the red leather jacket. She desperately begged her mom to buy her the white glove when she was twelve. Amanda and her friends would spend hours break-dancing, trying to reproduce the dance moves by Michael in his Thriller video. Michael Jackson, she felt, was probably deep down a very disturbed but good person. The fact that his doctor was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter didn't make her feel any less pissed off that the pop idol was dead. She looked at the caller ID. Hmmm, wonder what Bernie Wright wants, Amanda thought.

Bernie was a local Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer whom Amanda and Jake got to know back home. He had a place next to theirs in the Shuswap Lake Estates in British Columbia. They became close right after his wife ran off with his partner. He never saw it coming, and he frequently came over to drown his sorrows in a good mojito made with fresh mint grown right there on the mountainside. Shuswap Lake stretches out in four large arms with over nine hundred miles of shoreline. It is one of the most pristine and beautiful areas of the Okanogan. From the long May weekend to Labor Day, it is a summer-long reckless party place, houseboats dotting the lakes and shoreline, with music blaring and fireworks shooting off all night long. But in the early spring and late fall, the lake is calm and the air is still warm. You can lie out on the dock at night and enjoy the brilliant starlight and moonlight reflecting off the dark lake. It is heaven on earth, a spot Jake and Amanda refused to give up. Bernie too refused to give up the cottage on the lake when he and Gail broke up; Amanda didn't blame him.

Bernie and Gail had one daughter together and shared their time with her just about fifty-fifty, which wasn't typical. Most often, the father either doesn't want the time or the mother refuses to share equally when it comes to custody. It was unusual for Bernie to call except during the summer months.

"Hey Bernie, happy New Year!"

"Hi Amanda, happy New Year to you as well. Sorry to disturb you guys. I know you're in Hawaii, but ... well," he stumbled, "I have a favor to ask you."

"You're not calling so we can pick up some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, are you? By the way, the drink of the day is the Mai Tai out here."

"No, nothing like that, Amanda. Listen, this is important."

She heard the concern and tension in his voice and immediately felt a ping in her gut. It was just a small one, and it was mostly due to the slight tremor in his words. "I'm listening."

"Amanda, last week I had my daughter for Christmas. It was my turn. Gail had her for New Year's. You know how we alternate every year. They left on the twenty-ninth to go to the Big Island in Hawaii, but they never checked in to the hotel. Gail promised she would allow Taylor to call me at midnight your time in Hawaii, which is 3:00 a.m. here. When she didn't call, I tried Gail's cell phone, and it's either turned off or the battery is dead. It went straight to voice mail, so I left a message but haven't heard back. I called the hotel this morning, and that's when I found out they never checked in. Amanda, you know Gail and I have a really great understanding of how important our relationship with Taylor is. We never screw up on stuff like this. I am really worried."

"Did Keith go with them?" Amanda hated bringing up Bernie's expartner. She never did like Keith. She remembered the night when Bernie invited Keith to a charity event for teenagers who were addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, and Keith decided to tie one on. He blurted out to a group of friends that the kids couldn't hold a candle to the amount of booze he drank when he was a kid, and now he's a cop. "Kids these days are too pampered. Let me have 'em for a week. I'll straighten 'em out." Amanda was sufficiently embarrassed. Later that evening Keith also pinched Amanda's butt as she was heading to the ladies' room. What a jerk! When he moved in on Gail she disliked him even more.

"Yeah, he did. I tried his cell and same thing. I already called Air Canada and confirmed that they did land and get off the plane. They also got their luggage, or someone did, but the hotel claims they never checked in. I also tried texting Taylor direct on her cell phone. Taylor's phone is restricted from long distance, but it allows texts, so I sent her a couple but haven't heard anything. She is a text addict, so I am not sure what could be going on."

"Did you call the authorities?"

"I did, and they are opening up an investigation. They asked me if maybe they changed their mind about which island they wanted to stay at. I told them that was unlikely, but they are checking it out anyway. They are working with local teams on each of the islands to see if they can track or trace any transportation to the other islands. I don't know, Amanda, Taylor would have insisted on calling me. She was very excited about getting to stay up. She thinks fifteen is pretty much adult enough to have champagne and toast in the New Year. When she was younger, Gail and I always had a pre–New Year's toast 'cause we felt she was too young to wait up until midnight, and 90 percent of the time she was fast asleep way before anyway. I am really worried that something is not right here."

Is this why I had the feeling of heaviness earlier? Amanda wondered. She couldn't quite distinguish it yet, so she didn't let on to Bernie. It would only make him worry more. "Listen, Bern, Jake and I will take a quick hop over there. Who's in charge?"

"Detective Tao," he answered.

"OK, got it. Detective Tao on the Big Island. We'll go from there, and I will keep you informed. Keep your cell phone charged."


Excerpted from The OFFERING by DESIRÉE BOMBENON Copyright © 2012 by Desirée Bombenon. Excerpted by permission of LIVE OAK BOOK COMPANY. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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