9780373430376_p0_v2_s260x420

Harlequin
May 27, 2014
ISBN Harlequin

Avenge Me

#1

I don't want to hurt you. But once we're in the hotel room? I'm in charge. I will have what I want. Katy Michaels has only one purpose when she crashes New York's most notorious New Year's party. But within seconds of laying eyes on a mysterious stranger, she knows three things: 1) He's dangerous. 2) He wants her. 3) He knows exactly what she needs. Austin Treffen is the kind of man who doesn't even pretend to be civilised beneath his exquisite handmade suits. For the first time in her life, Katy is going to throw caution-and her virginity-to the wind and seize everything that he has to offer. But one incredible night lifts the lid on a shocking sensuality that Katy had only ever dreamed of. Now they must decide if what they have is worth fighting for!

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Excerpt

It was supposed to be an evening of bland conversation. That was what Alex, Hunter and he did every year. Drinks and bland conversation. The kind of conversation that skirted around anything of interest or meaning. That laid thick like graveyard dirt over the skeletons of the past.

Buried beneath talk of 401Ks, football statistics and current events. So deep that it was easy to forget they were all dining over a coffin.

Unfortunately the letter he had in his hand was the damned shovel.

It was going to unearth everything. He didn’t think there would be a bland enough topic in existence to ever put the ghosts to rest again.

Austin looked at the two men sitting across from him. The men he’d once called his best friends. Men who had become little more than distant strangers over the past ten years.

Hunter was throwing out some sort of BS line about how much more action he’d get now that he’d been ousted from the NFL, and Alex was nodding along. All a bunch of shallow nothing, but then, what else would they talk about?

They were barely acquaintances now. Acquaintances who met every year on the grimmest of anniversaries and never once spoke of why they’d gathered. Acquaintances who could barely look each other in the eye.

But then, that’s what bland conversation did, he supposed. It kept bad memories at bay and old friends at a distance. A distance that wasn’t an accident. Not in the least.

But they didn’t have time for distance now. Didn’t have time for circular talk that meant less than nothing.  Not now. Not when he had the letter burning a hole straight through to his skin.

Austin reached into the interior pocket of his jacket and ran his fingers over the folded document. He pulled it out and put it on the table, white paper blending into the pristine white cloth.

Strange. He’d half expected it to leave a crimson stain.

“I’m afraid the usual dinner of denial and quiet regret will not be served tonight,” he said.

“What the hell?” Hunter said, deadpan, not making a move for the letter, waiting for an explanation. Austin found that he didn’t have the words.

It was Alex who picked it up and opened it. He skimmed it then handed it to Hunter. “What the hell is this?” he asked, reframing Hunter’s question with more intensity.

“The truth. At least, I believe it is.” Austin sat down, wrapping his fingers around the fork to his left and resting his thumb on the tines, gradually increasing the pressure until he nearly broke the skin. “My father, Jason Treffen, sainted advocate for women in the workplace, tireless defender of the downtrodden and harassed, did in fact cause a woman to commit suicide because of his unwanted advances. Because of his actions.” He released his hold on the fork and let it drop onto the table. “I’m afraid of what he might have done to her. I mean…I knew it was bad. I knew…because of what she did. What she felt she had to do. But I didn’t really believe that he’d touched her. Now…”

“This is why she did it.” The statement came from Hunter. His voice was rough, his eyes unfocused. Alex’s dark eyes were glued to Hunter, as if waiting to see what the other man might do.

Austin knew they were all thinking the same thing. Of the same night.

And the same woman.

Sarah.

“I think so,” he said.

“Where did you get the info?” Alex asked.

“Anonymously provided. Naturally.”

“Naturally,” said Hunter.

“It didn’t come to me,” he said, his voice rough. “It came to the pro-bono office. Publicly it’s not very well-connected with me, and I doubt whoever sent it knew that I would end up with it. Since I’m rarely in the office I might not have seen it…But it was passed on to me by Travis Beringer, an old classmate of ours who volunteers at the place on occasion. It’s from a woman asking for help. Because my damned father has been getting so much media attention. Since he and all his good works are about to be profiled on the largest talk show in the country. Given the nature of the contents, and knowing something about Sarah, Travis thought I should see it.”

“And someone has evidence that he…that he drove Sarah to his death by harassing her? Assaulting her?” Hunter asked.

“It’s not evidence. Not real evidence. It’s wild accusation. Assumption that what he did to her caused her to kill herself.”

“You believe it, Austin?” Alex asked.

“Hell yeah.” Not that he was happy about it. He’d been sick to his stomach since he’d gotten the damn thing two days ago. But he believed it.

The suspicion had always been there, along with the guilt. Along with a call that had gone unanswered and a voicemail he hadn’t listened to until it was too late.

But there had been no proof. Still, it had been enough for him to cut ties with his father. For him to relegate his family to holiday visits. Lunches with his mother and sister at hotels rather than at the Treffen estate.

Now the suspicion was turning into certainty. Truth gnawing through his last remaining shreds of doubt. For two days now, he’d been replaying his last conversation with Sarah. Over and over again. The last time he ever saw her alive.

She’d looked so brittle. So sad and tired.

“This job is much more demanding than I ever could have imagined, Austin. I’m just so…tired. And I don’t like the kinds of things I have to do.” 

“That’s being a lawyer, honey,” he said, laughing. “Sometimes you have to defend things that seem indefensible. But in the end, you trust the court system.” 

“I’m not sure I trust anything anymore.”

  “You’ll get more jaded. You’ll get used to it.”

  “I don’t think I will. I need your help, Austin. It’s about…it’s about your father.” 

He hadn’t bothered to listen. Not really. He’d been buzzing over his admittance into an incredible law program. Over his father’s promise to secure him a position at his firm, to make him a partner. He’d been too intoxicated by all the power to care. To truly hear her. The weight behind her words. The sadness. No, he was too focused on himself. And why not? Life had always been there to serve him. He had it all, he had it easy.

His family name was everything, and he traded on it.

Like father like son and all.

Then Sarah had thrown herself off a building. And the rumors had begun. The first hint that Jason Treffen might not be the saint that others imagined him to be, but Austin hadn’t listened. He had ignored it all for too long.

Until that final confrontation. When he’d walked away from his father’s firm for good.

The family got more money than they deserved. She was taken care of. A misunderstanding. 

All these excuses. So like the men his father had pretended to disdain for all those years. He was one of them. One of those men who assumed he could take whatever he wanted from women simply because he was a man. Because he held power over them.

And now this. So much more than he’d ever imagined. That he had harassed her so badly he killed herself.

But history gave him no reason to doubt it.

“And he’s still getting his This is Your Life BS all over the news?” Hunter asked.

“Yes. Yes he is.”

“Well. Screw that.”

“I agree,” said Alex.

“I do too, but what the hell do we do about it?”

“You’re the lawyer, Austin, it seems like you should be able to think of something. Something legal and shit,” Hunter said.

“That’s the problem. I have nothing legal. Nothing that will stand up in court.”

Alex leaned in. “Then we’ll have to find something.”

“For what purpose?”

Hunter looked down at his knuckles and Austin’s eyes followed his line of sight, and noticed the faint purple bruises that colored the skin there. Hunter tightened his hand into a fist. “If he had anything to do with Sarah’s death, and I think we’ve all suspected it, always, then I’ll do whatever I have to do in order to bring him down.” He looked back up, his eyes meeting Austin’s. “I mean it. I’ll end him. Run him off the top of a building. Just like he did to her.”

The violence in Hunter’s tone left little doubt in Austin’s mind that his friend wasn’t speaking figuratively.

Part of him rejected the thought. Because no matter how evil, Jason was his father. Because his blood was in Austin’s veins. The same blood that kept his heart pumping. It was hard to hate it entirely, even when he should.

“To the bloody end then?” Austin asked. “Even if it means destroying my family?”

Alex put his palms flat on the table. Spread the paper out flat. “She killed herself, Austin. Because of him. How many more women has he touched like he did her? How many more? If we don’t stop it, it keeps going.” He looked up at Austin. “And then we’re just as guilty. Then we’re no different.”

No different.

Austin had privately feared that very thing for a long time.

But it wouldn’t be true. He’d make sure it ended up not being true.

“Well then,” Austin said, standing. “Let’s end it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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