A moving and evocative exploration of grief and guilt in the wake of one family's devastating loss from the internationally bestselling author of The Marriage Lie.
When former DC journalist Abigail Wolff attempts to rehabilitate her career, she finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistanwith unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.
The more evidence she stumbles upon in the case, the fewer people it seems she can trust, including her own father, a retired army general. And she certainly never expected to fall in love with the slain soldier's brother, Gabe, a bitter man struggling to hold his family together. The investigation eventually leads her to an impossible choice, one of unrelenting sacrifice to protect those she loves.
Beyond the buried truths and betrayals, questions of family loyalty and redemption, Abigail's search is, most of all, a desperate grasp at carrying on and copingand seeking hope in the impossible.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.73(d)|
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There's a thin, fragile line that separates us all from misfortune. A place where life teeters on a razor's edge, and everything boils down to one single, solitary second. Where either you will whiz past the Mack truck blissfully unaware, or you will slam into it head-on. Where there's a before, and then, without warning or apology, there's an after.
For the past three years, I've rewound to those last before moments, moments I was still blissfully unaware I was about to be blindsided. I've tried to pinpoint the very spot when tragedy struck. It wasn't when Chelsea took her last breath, though that was certainly a tragedy. No, the tipping point was somewhere in the days leading up to her death, when her story was barreling like a deadly virus across the internet, snowballing and mutating and infecting everyone it touched. Infecting her with words I wrote and sent out into the world. I guess you could say I poisoned her with them.
To the rest of the world, Chelsea Vogel looked like any other white, American, middle-class mother in her early thirties.
On the dowdy side of forgettable, one of those women you acknowledge with a bland smile as she pushes her cart by yours in the grocery store, or idles patiently in her car while you hang up the gas pump and climb back behind the wheel of yours. You see her but, for the life of you, couldn't pick her out of a lineup five minutes later.
But underneath all that dull suburban facade burned a big, bright secret.
I had no idea of any of this, of course, that rainy Tuesday afternoon I walked into her slightly shabby offices south of Baltimore to interview her for iWoman com, the online news magazine I was reporting for at the time. I only knew that as the founder and CEO of American Society for Truth, Chelsea was an outspoken opponent of gay rights, one who preached about Godordained sexuality and the natural family to anyone who would listen. And people seemed to be listening, especially once she became a regular contributor on conservative news senders.
"I'm Abigail Wolff," I told the receptionist, a slight woman by the name of Maria Duncan. "I have an interview with Mrs. Vogel."
Maria offered me coffee and showed me to the conference room. I noticed her because she was prettyshort pixie hair, a fresh face, clothes that were fashionable but not flashy. But I remember her because two weeks later, she slid me the story that ended my career.
"Here," she said to me that day, shoving a file across the table before I'd settled into the seat across from her. "This is for you."
I'd known when she asked me to meet her at a Cracker Barrel in Linthicum Heights just south of Baltimore, it wasn't to become friends over sweet teas and biscuits. But never in a million years would I have guessed what greeted me when I opened that file. Dozens and dozens of photographs, each one dated and timed, of a naked Maria and Chelsea. In bed, on the backseat of a minivan, atop both of their desks.
"Who took these?" I said, flipping through them. Judging by the low resolution and awkward angles, I was placing my money on a hidden camera, and an inexpensive one.
Maria shook her head. "Doesn't matter. They're real. There's a DVD in there, too, with about twenty different videos."
I pushed everything back into the file and closed the cover. Maria was well above legal age, probably somewhere in her mid to late twenties. That didn't mean, however, that Chelsea Vogel wasn't a predator, or that the affair wouldn't be one hell of a story and a byline.
But still. If this story hit, Maria needed to know what she was in for.
"What do you think your family will say when they open up their morning newspaper and see these?"
Her chin went up. "There's no one to see it. The only family I had left died last year."
"Your friends, then. Do any of them know you're sleeping with your female boss?"
"I don't." She glanced down at the table, then lifted her gaze to mine, clinging to it like maple syrup, thick and sticky. "I just moved here from Detroit. The people here aren't exactly friendly."
I took this to mean she hadn't made very many friends yet.
I gestured to the envelope between us. "So, what's this about, then? Is it to get attention? To prove to people that you're loved? Because I can guarantee you people are going to think a lot of things when they see these pictures, but not much of it's going to be nice."
"I don't give a shit what people think. This isn't about getting noticed. This is about Chelsea Vogel taking advantage of me. She was my boss, and she used her position of authority to make me think she loved me."
"So this story is about revenge."
"No." Maria's answer was immediate and emphatic. "This story is about justice. What she did to me may not be a crime, officially, but it was still wrong. She should still be punished."
"Take it to the HR department. They'll make sure Chelsea Vogel is fired, and they'll be inclined to keep things quiet."
"Chelsea is the HR department, don't you get it? American Society for Truth is her project. And I don't want to be quiet. I'm done being quiet. I'm the victim here, and I want Chelsea to pay."
I told myself it was the righteousness in her tone, the resolve creasing her brow and fisting her hands that convinced me, and not the idea of my name attached to a story that I knew, I knew would go viral.
"I'll do what I can to protect your identity, but you need to be aware that there's a very real probability it'll get out, and when it does, every single second of your life will be altered. Not just now, but tomorrow and the next day and the next. This scandaland make no mistake about it, this is a scandal for you just as much as it is for herwill follow you for the rest of your life. You'll never be anonymous ever again."
She swallowed, thought for a long moment. "I think I still want you to write the story."
"You think? Or you know?" I leaned forward and watched her closely. Not just her answer but also her body language would determine my course of action.
"I know." She straightened her back, squared her shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. "I want you to write the story."
So that's what I did. I wrote the story.
I did everything right, too. I checked facts and questioned witnesses, volunteers and employees at neighboring businesses and the building janitor. I made sure the evidence had not been digitally altered, compared the dates and times on the photographs to both women's work and home schedules. I held back Maria's name, blurred out faces, released only the least damning of the pictures, the ones where there was no way, no possible way Maria would be recognized. I did every goddamn thing right, but within twenty-four hours of my story breaking, Maria's identity, along with every single one of the photographs and videos in clear, full-color focus, exploded across the internet anyway. Just as, if I'm being completely honest with myself, I knew they would.
Two weeks later, on a beautiful January morning, Chelsea Vogel hung herself in the shower. I wasn't there when it happened, of course, but that doesn't mean I wasn't responsible for her death. After all, those were my words that made her drive those five miles in her minivan to the Home Depot for a length of braided rope, then haul it home and knot it around her neck. I knew when I put them out there that both women's lives would be changed. I just never dreamed one of them would also end.
Secrets are a sneaky little seed. You can hide them, you can bury them, you can disguise them and cover them up. But then, just when you think your secret has rotted away and decayed into nothing, it stirs back to life. It sprouts roots and stems, crawls its way through the mud and muck, growing and climbing and bursting through the surface, blooming for everyone to see. That's the lesson here. The truth always comes out eventually.
But I can no longer be the one to write about it.
It's the strangest thing, running into someone famous.
First, you get that initial rush of recognition, a fast flare of adrenaline that quickens your pulse and prickles your skin with awareness. Oh, my God. Is that ? Holy shit, it is him. Your body gears up for a greetinga friendly smile, a slightly giddy wave, a high-pitched and breathy hellowhen you suddenly realize that though this person may be one of the most recognizable faces in greater DC and the nation, to him you are an unfamiliar face, a stranger. You are just any other woman pushing her cart through the aisles of Handyman Market.
And then you notice the red apron, the name tag that proclaims him Handyman, the light coating of sawdust on his jeans, and realize that to Gabe Armstrong, you're not just any other woman.
You're any other customer.
"Need some help finding anything?" he asks.
I am not a person easily flustered by fame. I've interviewed heads of state and royalty, movie stars and music moguls, crime bosses and terrorists. Only one timeone timein all those years did I lose my shit, and that was when I interviewed Gabe's older brother Zach. People's Sexiest Man Alive, the Hollywood golden boy who chucked his big-screen career to die in a war that, on the day he enlisted, fifty-seven percent of Americans considered a mistake. But when Zach aimed his famous smile on me that afternoon, a mere eleven days before he shipped off to basic training, I forgot every single one of the questions I thought I had memorized, and I had to fire up my laptop on the hood of my car to retrieve them.
But not so with Gabe here, who is not so much famous as infamous. There's not an American alive who doesn't remember his drunken performance at his brother's funeral, when he slurred his way through a nationally televised speech, then saluted the Honor Guards with a bottle ofJack Daniel's clutched in a fist as furious as his expression.
And his image has only gone downhill since. Cantankerous, obstinate and hostile are some of the more colorful words the media uses to describe him in print, and their adjectives lean toward the obscene when they're off the record. Part of their censure has to do with Gabe's role as family gatekeeper, with his thus-far successful moves to thwart their attempts at an interview with his mother or brother Nick, crouched a few feet away when three bullets tore through Zach's skull.
But the other part, and a not-so-small part, is that he answers their every single question, even "How are you today?" with a "No fucking comment."
I clear my throat, consult my list. "Where do you keep your tile cutters?"
Gabe doesn't miss a beat. "Snap and score or angle grinders?"
"Wet saw, actually. I hear they're the best for minimizing dust."
"True, as long as you don't mind the hike in price." When I shake my head, he continues. "How big's your tile?"
"Twelve by twelve," I say as if I'm reciting my social security number.
And that's when the absurdity hits me. I'm discussing tile saws with Zach Armstrong's younger brother. One who so closely resembles his big-screen brother that it's almost eerie. If I didn't know for a fact that Zach died on an Afghani battlefield last year, I might think I'd stumbled onto a movie set. one for The Twilight Zone.
Gabe motions for me to follow him. "I've got a table model with a diamond blade that's good for both stone and ceramic. It's sturdy, its cuts are clean and precise, and it's fairly affordable. What are you tiling?"
He stops walking and asks to see my list, and I know what he's doing. He's checking it. Inspecting for mistakes. Looking for holes. If he had a red pen, he'd mark it up and tell me to revise and resubmit.
Gabe glances up through a lifted brow. "What's the sledgehammer for?"
"To take out the built-in closet. It'll give me another three feet of vanity space."
My answer earns me an impressed nod. "Are you planning on moving any fixtures?"
They could almost be twins, really. Same towering height and swimmer's build, same dark features and angular bone structure, same neat sideburns that trail down his cheeks like perfectly clipped tassels. I take all of it in and try not to let on that I know exactly who he is.
"Nope. Same floor plan, just a thorough update of pretty much every inch. I'm fairly certain I can do everything but the plumbing and electricity myself."
"I can get you a few referrals, if you'd like." He looks up for my nod, then returns to the list. I give him all the time he needs, leaning with my forearms onto the cart handle and waiting for his assessment.
Gabe may be Harvard educated, but I happen to know I've made no mistakes on that list. I approached this project as I do every other these days: by scouring the internet for relevant articles, handpicking the most important facts and condensing them into one organized document. My bathroom has been content curated to within an inch of its life, and that list is perfect down to the very last nut and bolt.
He passes me back the paper with an impressed grin. "You've really done your homework."
"I'm excellent at research."
"Almost excellent." He taps the list with a long finger. "You forgot the silicone caulk."
I straighten, shaking my head. "No, I didn't. I already have three tubes at home from when you guys had your buy two, get two free special."
"What happened to the fourth?"
"I used it last week to re-caulk the kitchen sink."
Amusement half cocks his grin. He nudges me aside to take charge of my cart. "Come on. We'll start on aisle twelve and work our way forward."
And that's just what we do. Gabe loops us through the aisles, loading up my cart as well as another he fetches from the front as we check off every item on my list, even the items Gabe assures me there's no way, no possible way I will ever need. I tell him if it's on the list, to throw it in anyway. The entire expedition takes us the better part of an hour, and by the time we make it to the register, both carts are bulging.
He waits patiently while I fork over half a month's salary to the gray-haired cashier, then helps me cram all my goods into the back of my Prius.
"Are you sure you don't need anything else?" He has to lean three times on the hatchback door to click it closed. "Because I think we might have a couple of rusty screws left in the back somewhere."
"Old overachiever habits are hard to break, I guess." I grin.
He grins back, the skin of his right cheek leaning into the hint of a dimple. "It was a pretty fierce list. Very thorough. One might even say overly so."
"I told you I was"
"Excellent at research," he interrupts, still grinning. "I remember. But preparation is only half the battle."
His tone and expression are teasing, and I imitate both. "Are you doubting my competence?"
"Hell, no. Anyone who can make a list like yours is fully capable of looking up instructions on the internet. All I'm saying is, if you happen to run into any problems with the execution and need an experienced handyman " He cocks a brow and gestures with a thumb to his apron, Handyman embroidered in big white letters across the front.
I laugh. "I'll remember that."
This is when he smiles again, big and wide, and it completely transforms his face. It's a smile that's just as fierce, just as sexy and magnetic as his lookalike brother's, yet somehow, Gabe makes it his own. Maybe it's the way his left cheek takes a second or two longer to catch up with his right, or the way his eyeteeth are swiveled just a tad inward. Maybe it's the way his eyes crinkle into slits, and that dimple grows into a deep split. Whatever it is, Gabe's smile is extraordinary in that it's so ordinary, lopsided and uneven and unpracticed for red carpets and film cameras, and in that moment, I forget all about his famous brother. In that moment, I see only Gabe.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good book but not nearly as good as her other books. Basic storyline was good with lots of suprise twists and turns.
check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Abigail Wolff was a great character. Although many of the characters that surrounded here were unreliable, it was ok because the reader knew they could count on her. Abigail leaves her job as a journalist when one of her stories takes a turn and hurts a number of people. She has been staying out of the spotlight, but two stories will pull her back in. I loved how there was more than one story that she was investigating, but I didn't get them mixed up at all. One story is an extension of the story that took her out of commission while the other story has personal impact with her family members involved - it was good! This was an interesting take on a family drama with a daughter having to question everything she has known about her parents and how she was raised.
★★★½ The Ones We Trust is a contemporary mystery/mild thriller novel written by author Kimberly Belle. This is the first book I have read by this author and I liked it overall. The pacing was slower than I would have liked, which unfortunately did affect how consistently engaged I felt, but the content was good and kept me guessing...I changed my mind several times about who was trustworthy and who wasn't. I felt a connection with the female lead: Abigail, and found myself strongly empathizing with her emotions related to numerous events. Ms. Belle's many nods to the subject of military-related PTSD were admirable. This concern is close to my heart and I always respect an author who spreads realistic awareness.♥ If you follow Kimberly Belle's work, or if you just enjoy a variety of mystery/mild thrillers, then check out The Ones We Trust! My favorite quote: "Words are as deadly as warfare."
Even though this tale is told in first person, from only Abigail's point of view, it has the depth and clarity, to give a well rounded picture of the events that take place in this blood chilling story. And it's not the suspense that makes the story so thrilling, it is the idea, of how close to reality some of this could be, in any given day.. The web of lies, cover up, conspiracy, and evasion seems to never end when Abigail and Gabe starts to investigate the murder of Zack, Gabe's brother. The appearing and disappearing evidence, the spying, and veiled threats, phone calls, all are proving that something isn't right, and Abigail is determined to find the truth, no matter what the cost. Until the cost of revealing the truth, seems just too much for anyone to pay. This was such a powerful story, story about trust, truth, deceit, and love. The relationships between the characters are realistic, and often raw. The family drama, loyalty, and protectiveness, the support of the friends, the connection Abigail has with her best friend, and colleagues. And with Gabe and his family. Abigail and Gabe, there's a lot of ups and downs in their relationship, but within the situation they live in, the close connections they both have to the case, it would be expected. Still, they learned to be honest with each other, even when it hurt, and finding a way to forgiveness, and a path they could walk together, supporting each other. My heart went out to the families involved in the story, the consequences they all paid, for mistakes, cover up, and careless words. There's so much pain, agony, and sorrow with the death of Zack, and the events that lead to it, not to mention in the events after it. The healing process is not easy, at some instances not even possible. They all paid a price, and they all have to learn to live with it, learn to let go, and move on. Try to build some kind of future with the facts they know. So many life lessons within the story, so much to take in, evaluate and study. I think it will take some time, until this story settles in with me, it is a one, that will not be easily forgotten and left behind. ~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
The Ones We Trust by Kimberly Belle was a great book. Once I started reading I didn’t want to put the book down. I reminded me of books by one of my favorite authors so I know that was a big part of it for me. I love mystery books and this book didn’t let me down. I liked this one because I didn’t figure out the story after I was a few chapters in. With a lot of mystery books I tend to figure out who did it and I didn’t do that with this book so that made it interesting and kept me reading until the end of the book. If you love mystery books than I would recommend this book to you because it is so well written and I felt like I could relate to the characters. FTC:I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!
Abigail used to be a reporter, but a story she wrote three years prior burned her badly. She now hides in a safe job. But a chance encounter leads her to Gabe, the brother of a soldier that had given his life in Afghanistan. Gabe has his own problems with PTSD and lives as a recluse. But when Abigail finds a note on her porch with the events that really happened behind Zach’s death she finds herself falling back into a reporter’s life and wanting to give out the real details. Unfortunately it seems that the powers that be want to keep that information secret and will go about any length to do so. But with Gabe and his mother encouraging Abigail, she will keep fighting to get the information out there. Along the way Gabe and Abigail may also find a way to heal from their pasts. I really enjoyed this story. I felt bad for Abigail. Here she is trying to get over the loss of her reporting career. But she just can’t completely stand back and let the truth get buried. And Gabe, poor sweet damaged Gabe. How can you not hope and pray for the best with him and Abigail. This is a great story that you will like. It has a lot on a very touchy subject. The war in Afghanistan is such a hard topic with so many people both agreeing with it and hating it at the same time. And it’s so easy to forget about the soldiers and their families and everything that they face. I recommend this to anyone that is looking for a great mystery and a wonderful romance with both people being damaged and untrusting. I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.