Jake Travis is a young man intent on leaving his humble, small-town roots completely behind and attaining his version of the American dream in Dallas, Texas. On the corporate fast track, with a beautiful girlfriend seemingly at his side, he has the appearance of a man with a golden touch. But all is not as it seems. Images of his father and an unreconciled past haunt his days and his nights.
Noelle Parker, seductive and manipulative, is on a quest to return to the "old money" lifestyle of her youth. Jake is supposed to be just a passing fancy for her, but their attraction for one another turns out to be an addiction not easily broken. Ben Davidson is Jake's new, cold-hearted boss. He has made millions as a "corporate fixer," a CEO with a reputation for cutting the heart out of companies and moving on before the dust can settle. Ben pays little attention to his beautiful wife, Lana, and although she longs for a resumption of the passion she once shared with him, thoughts of infidelity are slowly taking hold of her psyche. Alcohol becomes her sanctuary.
Deception and betrayal rear their ugly heads at all levels, personal and professional, until Jake doesn't know whom to trust. With his future in the balance, he must decide where his loyalties lie: with the woman he loves, with his friends, with his company, with his boss, or with the father he's spent his adult life running away from.
The Protege is a gripping novel that explores the tangled feelings which inhibit men and women from connecting and fathers and sons from healing. It also touches on the role society's values play in promoting and continuing these struggles. Candid and real, this story will challenge your soul and tug at your heart.
|Publisher:||Odin Press AZ|
|Product dimensions:||6.26(w) x 9.37(h) x 1.16(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The dream again, the same . . . yet different. Cold. Snow this time, swirling in the air and carpeting the ground in never-ending whiteness. And his father on a coal-black horse, sitting high and proud in the saddle, wanting to talk to him, tell him something important. His father slides off the horse and walks toward him, holding the reins in front of him. An offering. He reaches for the reins, but old words stop him short, words so hurtful as to seem unfathomable now. His father throws the reins to the ground and rushes to him, enfolding him in his arms in a familiar bear hug. Suddenly safe, with the terrific ache in his chest finally subsiding, he opens his mouth, searching for words to heal, words to replace. And then, horrified, he watches as his father's form suddenly dissolves into the blowing snowflakes . . .
Eyes opening now. Darkness everywhere. Overhead, black tree branches loom, resembling the fingers of aged and disfigured hands. He is naked except for boxers, lying in a bed of fallen leaves, searching for the reasons his walks of sleep bring him here. The dream still with him, the protege picks himself up and ambles back home.
This was Dallas, Texas at its very best. The sun was high and warm in the bluest of skies and the city had a crisp and clean look to it, as if the cold and rain of the day before had been a necessity, a final purging of winter's tiresome offerings. It was the kind of day that fueled hopes and dreams and in Jake Travis' thirty years of living, he'd always had more than his share of both.
With the convertible top down on the Mercedes 500SL and the wind in his face, Jake felt strangely liberated, as if an enormous weight had suddenly been lifted from his broad shoulders. He allowed this feeling to settle in his bones, ignoring the faint yet familiar voice warning him to keep his guard up even during this time of great expectation.
He glanced to the right to see if this test-drive was getting the expected response from Noelle. In her warm smile and the soft glow of her large blue eyes, he saw that it was. She was impressed and he'd discovered long ago that impressing Noelle was not an easy feat to accomplish. Beautiful in a way uniquely Texan, she'd also been blessed with something more, an almost Barbie-like quality which spoke at times of innocence and at times of an untamed and unpredictable sensuality.
Today her aura had taken on the form of subtle seductiveness, as had the smell of the interior's virgin leather and the sun's reflection off the deep polish of the vehicle's front hood. Combined with the brilliance of the spring day and Jake's uncharacteristic inclination toward self-satisfaction, it was just too much.
They were stopped at a red light and Jake was scanning the Bose radio, trying to find his favorite "oldies" rock station, when a horn honked to his right. Turning, he saw a yester-year muscle car being lifted off its chassis by the fierce revving of its engine. The man inside the vehicle wore aviator sunglasses and a cocky grin and was motioning from the Mercedes back to his car in an obvious challenge to race.
Noelle's perfectly manicured fingernails found their way to Jake's jean-clad thigh and dug in. "Let's do it, Jake," she said, the excitement in her voice unmistakable.
Jake felt his heart rate pick up. They were on the outskirts of the city and both lanes ahead were clear of traffic. What could it hurt? He wouldn't allow himself to push the car too hard, just enough to show Noelle its velocity potential.
The light turned green and the muscle car surged forward. Its tires screamed violently, leaving the smell of scorched rubber in their wake. Fingernails dug into Jake's thigh again as he pressed the gas pedal nearly to the floor. The response of the powerful engine was immediate, driving his upper torso backward into the firm leather seat and shooting pulses of adrenaline throughout his body.
Jake smiled and gripped the steering wheel tightly as the car accelerated through the automatic shifting of its gears. They caught up and passed the muscle car and Jake assumed the spontaneous and somewhat dangerous competition was concluded. He slowed to offer a sportsmanlike wave to his challenger. But the other driver was not amused, nor was he ready to concede. He mouthed something that looked like "spoiled rich bastard," to Jake, then jerked his steering wheel to the left, veering into Jake's lane as if he were going to ram the Mercedes.
Jake immediately swerved onto the road's shoulder, then felt foolish as the other driver teasingly jerked back to the right and laughed at him, mouthing something else Jake could not make out. Jake felt his face grow hot. This guy was not looking for sport, he was out for blood. And it was clear that there would be no easy way to bow out of the race. The only way to get away from the crazy man would be to beat him.
Jake stole a glance at Noelle and saw anger in her expression, but not the slightest trace of fear. In fact, in between the blond locks of hair that were being tossed about in the wind, her eyes appeared wide and wild, as if ready for anything.
So Jake kicked it down and the muscle car did the same. They sliced through an intersection just as the light was turning from yellow to red and Jake's hesitation cost him a car-length. With the Mercedes' newness in mind, Jake gave the gas pedal a little more pressure in an attempt to regain the lead. But it didn't take long to determine that his earlier win had just been a tease to get to him and that the other car's engine had undergone radical change since coming off the production floor. He decided to give up trying to protect the new engine. He floored it and hoped for the best.
Coming over the crest of a hill, Jake felt his whole body stiffen. Ahead, a bridge was under construction, its right lane blocked off by a thick concrete barrier. Jake and Noelle's lane was clear, but without some skillful maneuvering, the other driver was about to become one with a tangled mass of metal and concrete. If Jake were driving the other car he knew what he would do, but something told him that the other man's personality was more kamikaze oriented and that if Jake didn't do something fast, all three of them were going to die.
For a fraction of a second he froze, unable to think, unable to move. Then, from out of nowhere, he heard a familiar voice commanding him to act. He locked eyes with the other man for an instant, communicating in psychic code, then slammed on the brakes just as other driver stamped on his last bit of gas pedal. The front-end of the Mercedes was compelled to the left and the other car surged into the vacant space, taking the lead. Orange plastic cones bounced from its tires. Jerking the steering wheel to the right and then the left, Jake was able to regain control of the Mercedes just in time. The front end missed the thick concrete by inches.
On the other side of the site, Jake pulled to a stop and watched as the muscle car drove off at top speed. He laid his head in his hands on the steering wheel and cursed himself for a weakness he'd thought long ago conquered. Then, remembering he hadn't checked on Noelle, he looked up. She still had that wild-eyed expression, only now she was staring at him hungrily. There was a trace of blood where she had bitten her bottom lip. She licked at it, then reached over and kissed him passionately.
Not many of Hoffman Mercedes' customers were allowed to test drive one of their high-priced autos without the presence of a salesman in the passenger seat. But Jake had been test driving the vehicles regularly for years and he and the salesman, Tom Stephens, had developed a bond of trust. Tom liked Jake and met him at the closed car lot on a beautiful Sunday afternoon because that's the kind of guy he was, not because of expectations of future commissions.
So it was with great pride that Jake told Tom to fax the sales paperwork to his office and that he would return with it when the promotion was made official later in the week. At first, Tom looked a little shocked, then his face broke into a smile as wide as Texas. He slapped Jake on the back several times and called him an "ol' son of a gun." Then, with a chuckle, he began telling Noelle the story of Jake's first visit to the lot, how Jake had just moved to Dallas from small town Indiana . . .
While the story went on, Jake found himself reliving the last seconds of the race, eventually focusing on the voice he thought he'd heard. It had seemed as if his father's voice had directed him through that mess. There was no doubt that his mind had played a trick on him, and he was glad that it had, but the voice had seemed so real - almost eerie how real. Jake allowed the memory to linger momentarily, then pushed it from his mind. Too many good things were happening in his life to dwell on the past.
When Tom finished the story, Jake shook his hand and said good-bye. Then he led Noelle to the passenger side of his twelve year old BMW. He opened the door and watched her slide her small bottom into the aged and cracked leather seat. Her legs parted, causing the short, black skirt to tighten. Then the legs closed demurely and expensive white silk winked at him.
Lana Davidson watched the man get out of the red Cadillac and walk toward her. He was short, thin and balding and sported a lascivious grin as he shook her hand vigorously. He wore an old, red striped tie around the neck of a short-sleeve white shirt. There were semi-circles of wetness at the armpits of the shirt which seemed to expand as Lana watched. She was sorry now that she had not requested a female realtor. But when the deep and sexy male voice had answered the phone earlier in the day, she had surprised herself by abandoning her normal caution. What a cruel joke for the voice to be attached to such a loathsome little man, she thought.
She was here without her husband, looking again for a place for them to live for the next one to three years. They always rented because they never knew how long the assignment - that's what Ben called it - would take. And these days, it didn't seem to take as long to gut the soul out of corporations as it used to.
The constant moving had taken its toll on many of Lana's friendships, but this was their third assignment in Dallas so she had been able to maintain them here. She had not been as well connected in Houston, home of their last assignment, and had spent many nights alone waiting for her husband of over twenty years to return from late night meetings at the office or out of town business trips. With her daughter in Dallas attending Southern Methodist University, and good friends close by, she hoped to finally overcome her depressed state of recent by staying busy with university and social functions.
The little man was speaking. "Mrs. Davidson. Howard Brunston. Sorry I'm late. Ran into some traffic on the tollway." As he talked, his eyes seemed to unclothe her, roaming freely over her well toned swimmer's body. She felt her skin crawling as she remembered that their conversation had hinted of flirtation on several occasions, a flirtation that until recently would have been totally out of character for her. In as professional and staid a tone as she could muster, she responded, "It's quite all right Mr. Brunston. But I'm afraid we'll have to hurry, I have an appointment for dinner."
His smile dropped in disappointment. "Of course." He took on the role of master realtor, sensing that the opportunity for seduction of a beautiful woman had again slipped from his fingers. He led her toward the front door. "I think you'll find this exquisite home will more than meet your expectations. Over eleven thousand square feet, seven bedrooms, five and half baths, four-car garage and less than three years old."
They walked through the bottom floor of the house while Howard continued to point out every detail which made the home distinct and exceptional. Lana barely paid attention to the banter. At forty-three she had lived in several homes very similar to this one and had seen everything before. This one would meet with Ben's approval. It was in the area he wanted and was expansive enough to portray the image he needed for entertaining and business. If they were buying she might be more interested, but who knew when Ben would finally be ready to settle down in one place. When he did, this would not be enough house for him, that was for certain.
Howard led her up the spiral oak staircase to the master bedroom. Two large windows overlooked the glistening pool. There were his and her bathrooms with adjoining walk-in closets on opposite sides of the spacious room. Hers had a fireplace and the Jacuzzi bathtub which she required; hot herbal baths were almost a nightly occurrence for her. She blushed, remembering how she had discussed this necessity with Howard earlier, knowing what was running through his mind then, and now. She hurried back into the bedroom.
Howard followed her. He stopped talking for a moment and she turned to look at him. His brow was furrowed as if weighing something in his mind. Finally, with an almost mischievous smirk, he spoke again. "This room has something unique which you may or may not find interesting. Notice that there are two air vents." He looked up and pointed at the vents. Then he walked toward the wall that separated the bedroom from her closet. He pointed again. "This one doesn't have anything to do with heating or air conditioning. Instead, someone put a camera behind it." He gazed at her to gauge her reaction.
"But why would they . . ." The blood rushed to her face as she realized what the only possible purpose for a hidden camera in a bedroom could be. She looked up and squinted and barely spied the outline of the lens through the opening.
Howard leered at her as he went on. He was obviously enjoying this immensely. "Evidently, the prior owners liked to videotape their activities." He stepped into the closet and motioned for her to follow him. Reluctantly, Lana did and looked up when he pointed to a white rectangular box. The box appeared to have been built at the same time as the house and looked totally inconspicuous except for the key-hole lock on the small door. "The camera is in there," he said. "The lock is to keep curiosity seekers out. And when you want the camera on, you just flip this switch." His finger moved toward a light switch in the middle of the back wall. The switch would obviously be hidden by hanging clothing when the house was inhabited.
"Pretty damned ingenious don't you think?" He was still grinning as his eyes took their liberties with her body again.
"Uh, yes, I guess it is." Lana was feeling dizzy and flustered. She had to get away from those disgustingly penetrating eyes as soon as possible. She headed out of the closet and toward the stairs. "Thank you for the tour, Mr. Brunston, but I really must be going."
He followed her out, hurrying to catch up. "There's a lot of speculation goin' on at the office, you know. Since it's in the wife's closet, did the husband know? Was she taping their, uh, activities or that of her and her lover? Or maybe they were swingers."
At the bottom of the stairs, Lana turned and interrupted him. "Mr. Brunston, I really don't care to speculate on the activities of perverts. I have to leave. However, the house appears to be everything we need so I should be able to confirm by the end of the week. Will you require a deposit to hold the property until then?"
The look of the master realtor finally returned. After all, a commission was a commission. "Afraid I can't hold it for you, but I can give you first option. If anyone looks like they're gettin' interested, I'll give you a call."
"Thank you. That'll be fine. Good-bye Mr. Brunston." She shook his sweaty little hand, then walked toward the front door.
"Oh Mrs. Davidson."
She turned. "Yes?"
"We can dismantle the camera if it offends you in any way." The smirk had returned to the corners of his mouth.
"I'll keep that in mind, Mr. Brunston." Once outside she breathed in the clean fresh air of the darkening evening and made a mental note to stick with female realtors in the future.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is outstanding reading ! The story was awesome. I couldn't put the book down!! Wonderfully written. This talented Author is one of the greatest Authors I have had the pleasure of reading his books.. and I read a lot of books. Fabulous!! A must read !
I read this book several years ago, and I loved it. It's everything you could ask for in one novel. Whatever George Clidienst writes, I will buy, I look forward to reading his newest book. It's exciting to read a novel written by someone from my own hometown area.
A great book that grabs your attention from the first page and holds it until the final page. I think Mr. Clidienst is a very talented author and look forward to his next novel.
This is a book that you won't be able to put down. Loved it ! entertaining and enjoyable reading. Mr. Clidienst is a great author and I look forward to his next book. This one would make a great movie! Very talented man. Excellent book.
I don't get time to read books much anymore but my son told me about this one and I decided I might like it. He was right! It was a very good book. I especially liked the way the character's personalities were developed. I usually don't agree with my son but he did alright this time! I look forward to other books by this fine new writer. Marjorie Benjamin
Would the next John Grisham please come forward...Introducing George Clidienst! The Protege marvels with twists and turns that rival no other. The reader is gripped as they follow our fellow Protege through an intense path of corporate corruption, a racey relationship, and the struggle for more, more, more. The Protege is a must read for those who love suspense in the combination of greed, wealth, and power.
This is one that I could not put down. Just when I thought I knew what direction it was going in, I was taken by surprise. Remarkable ending and very unpredictable.... I can't wait to read Mr.Clidienst's next novel. GREAT WORK!!!!!!