Book 4 of the Housewife Assassin series is FREE Now!

Amazon: https:josiebrown.com/HA4RSGAmz

Apple Books: https:josiebrown.com/HA4RSGApple

Barnes &Noble: https:josiebrown.com/HA4RSGBN

Kobo: https:josiebrown.com/HA4RSGKobo

And in case you're wondering (thanks for asking, Linda!) each book is standalone (a different caper) albeit the lives of the characters move forward in each book, as it would in real life (personal ups and downs).

By the way: Book 1 is also free; and The Housewife Assassin's Killer 2-Book Set (the first two books in the series) is only $3.99, which is a dollar off the price of each other individual book in the series.

In other words, you've got every reason to play catch up now, so go for it!

TGIF,
Josie

😉 💖💖💖💖💖

David Baldacci – Long Road to Mercy

 

Baldacci AP Square

CLICK PHOTO TO LISTEN…

According to internationally bestselling author David Baldacci, when you’ve written as many books as he has—ten series, or a total of thirty books, and counting; and another twelve stand-alone novels—there is one way to keep his writing razor-sharp: “Start from Square One: create a new character, a new series—a new world.”

With his latest novel, LONG ROAD TO MERCY, Baldacci has done just that. His new protagonist, female FBI agent Atlee Pine, must cover a desolate Far West outpost on her own. And although its size is intimidating—it includes Grand Canyon National Park—Atlee is strongly motivated to succeed. She sees it as a way to avenge the tragic death of her twin sister, Mercy, who was abducted by a serial killer when the girls were only six years old.

David and I talked about his process in creating new, complex characters and weaving real-time geopolitical incidents into a heart-pounding plot.

Click here to read the accompanying feature interview with David in TheBigThrill.org

 

Anthony Weiner’s campaign manager quit. Reminds me of this scene in THE CANDIDATE.


The-Candidate-Final4
THE CANDIDATE

Signal Press – eBook

Buy it NOW, on 
Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

I love this scene in THE CANDIDATE because it's a perfect example of yet another politician has been caught behaving badly, and instead of blaming himself, he lashes out at those who do their best to protect him — in this case, the book's hero, Ben Brinker, who is his campaign advisor.

A perfect illustration that scandals, such the Anthony Weiner texting scandal in the New York City mayoral race, aren't so much stranger than fiction.

Enjoy,

— Josie 

 

EXCERPT

 “You sure are one stupid sonofabitch!”
Congressman Calder’s rant, roaring out of Ben’s iPhone, could be heard by each
and every wayward traveler in the Manchester Airport lounge, including the
bartender who was trying hard not to smirk as he slid Ben’s double Glenlivet,
neat, in front of him. “Damn it, Brinker, you told me you had that bitch under
control!”

Despite
a splitting headache, Ben cradled his cell as close as he could to his head,
then grabbed his glass as if it were a lifeline and took a swig. If he thought
the scotch’s numbing burn would muffle Dick Calder’s profanity-laced bellowing,
he was sorely mistaken. Worse yet, while Calder was screaming into one ear,
Chris Matthews was barking his own ruminations about “the politician and his
baby mama” on the lounge’s TV set. His guest pundits—Paul Begala, Bay Buchanan,
and Arianna Huffington, each wedged into a thin slice of the split screen—were
spinning their own theories on the first scandal of the election season.

“Calm
down, Dick! I did take care of her. I always do, don’t I?” Ben ran his fingers
through his hair. Three strands—all white—dropped on the bar beside his napkin.
After today he wouldn’t be shocked to find that they’d all turned white—or that
they’d all fallen out. “I just talked to her yesterday in fact, and—Oh…wait!…Shit!”

“What
now?”

“I—well…Okay,
look: Last night I didn’t have time to swing by there before my flight
with—well, you know, her little stipend. I called instead, and told her I’d
drop over tonight.”

In
all honesty, seeing Jenna never made Ben happy. He’d met her a decade ago, when
she was one of the many fresh-faced bright young things on the Hill. Having
just been hired on as a Staff Ass to her home state senator, she was a
small-town girl with a sunny smile and great legs: something admired by Calder,
among others—including Ben. And with so much going for her, Jenna wasn’t
exactly a saint. Then again, she wasn’t a Washingtonienne,
either. She truly believed Calder’s bullshit when he told her he’d leave his
wife for her.

At
least, those first three or four years they were together.

Needless
to say, when Jenna broke the news to him that she was pregnant, of course he
hit the roof. Still, Jenna did her part. She left the Hill before her pregnancy
could be discerned under her fitted suits.

Her
discretion was part of her charm for Calder, whose wife gave him a wide berth
but had made it ominously clear that the gates of hell would open up under him
should any scandal threaten her hard-earned standing in Washington society.

As
the executor of little Cole’s trust, of course Ben knew otherwise.

Lately,
though, Jenna had been fretting over what Calder’s presidential aspirations
would mean to her and Cole. She was no fool. Under normal circumstances she saw
him, what, twice in a month? If Calder were to get the Democratic nomination,
odds were he’d drop her like the hot political potato she was.

“And
when he does, who’s going to hire me? No one!” she’d fretted to Ben last night
on the phone. “Not that Cole’s illness isn’t a full-time job. But without
employment, I’ve got no health insurance. Ben, these medical bills are eating
me alive, and that cheap son of a bitch Calder begrudges me every dime. I’m not
living high on the hog here. I mean for God’s sake, Cole is his son, too!”

No
wonder Jenna had sounded so anxious on the phone last night. Besides whatever
the Enquirer was paying, apparently
she’d hoped to get her cash before the Couric interview aired.

 Calder turned icy cold. “Let me get this right,
Brinker: In other words, you blew her
off?”

“No,
not exactly. I mean—”

“Save
it, Kiss Ass. For once, you may have done me a favor. At least I saved a few
thousand there.” Calder’s cruel chortle sent chills up Ben’s spine. “It’ll be a
cold day in hell when that cunt sees another buck from me. Her little gravy
train is over. And so is yours, Brinker. It was your incompetence that lost me
the election.”

It
was all Ben could do not to shout back into the phone, You did this to yourself, shithead. If you’d loosened your wallet, she
would have kept quiet forever.

Instead
he took a deep breath. “Can I help it that the Enquirer made her a better offer?”

His
retort was met with silence. Then Calder hissed: “That’s my point, you fucking
moron. You should have come up with a more permanent
solution. Like offing the bitch.”

What the hell?

Yeah,
okay. Lying to the media, to donors, even to his candidates’ wives was one
thing. And these days a payoff (to a dirty cop who could be convinced to “lose”
an arrest warrant, or a blackmailer, let alone a loudmouth mistress) was just
business as usual. But arranging a hit?

No,
even I won’t sink that low, thought
Ben.

Ben
knew the bartender had overheard Calder’s taunt, too, because the stocky
Irishman stopped polishing the counter mid-wipe and scrutinized him through
hooded eyes. Ben pretended not to notice, but a moist trickle of shame inched
its way down his back.

He
turned his head in the hope of deflecting the man’s stare. Then with as much
dignity as he could muster, he muttered, “Seriously, Congressman, what do you
take me for, some sort of thug?”

Calder
cackled so hard that Ben had to hold the iPhone away from his ear. “A ‘thug’?
Frankly, that would be a step up for you, Brinker. Hell, a cockroach would be a
promotion. For Christ sake, you’re just a fucking political consultant. Or have you forgotten that?”

If the
cell hadn’t chirped as the line went dead, Ben would have faked some sort of
face-saving kiss-off for the benefit of the bartender and anyone else who was
still listening, but why bother? Everyone was watching the television, anyway.

Ben’s
eyes gravitated there too when he realized what they were staring at: his
photo, which had suddenly appeared on the television screen as Matthews spit
out his name:

“—Is
it just me, or has there been an epidemic of political scandals lately? Seems
like the only thing they have in common is the same political consultant: Ben
Brinker. Remember the congressman from Utah who was caught last month
soliciting teenage girls over the Internet?”

The
screen cut back to the pundits. “Well, yeah, that was Ben’s candidate, too.”
Begala’s nod was accompanied with a grimace. “But hey, Chris, we political
consultants don’t carry crystal balls. And the ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’
types are few and far between—”

“If I
remember correctly, Brinker also handled that governor who recently got
indicted in a construction kickback scandal.” Bay shook her head in disgust.
“And didn’t he work on the campaign of that senator whose diplomatic
aspirations went up in smoke faster than you could say ‘back taxes’?
Whitewashing the depraved makes you just as culpable, in my book.”

  “Granted, there are some pathetic losers up
on the Hill, but there are also some really great statesmen—and stateswomen.” Chris was just warming
up. “They just don’t hire creeps like Brinker.”

“Bottom
line is that Brinker’s the best at putting lipstick on pigs and running them
for office.” Arianna’s icy chuckle pierced right through Ben. “But seriously,
how many political consultants can survive in D.C. with those kind of
‘see-no-evil, hear-no-evil’ antics? It may work if you’re a candidate’s wife,
but not a campaign strategist who wants to stay on K Street.”

Damn, that’s harsh, hon. Well then hell, don’t
count on me blogging anytime on HuffPo…Yeah, okay, so it’s a long shot that,
after this Calder crap, you’ll ever ask me again
.

“Nah,
something else is going on here!” Matthews was on a roll. “Maybe some lousy
karma. ‘Bad Luck Brinker’ is some sort of political cooler who jinxes his
candidates’ chances—”

This
set off a cacophony of supposition, innuendo and balls-to-the-wall blarney from
his guests. Above it all Matthews roared his patented, “Tell me something I don’t know! Be right back–”

All
eyes in the bar turned to Ben.

Hit
with the realization that his income stream had just dried up—worse yet, that
he wouldn’t be able to replace it because he’d never live down this latest
humiliation—the Tilt’n Diner’s signature whoopee cake pie crawled back up Ben’s
throat, along with his Glenlivet neat.

Swallowing
hard, he tossed a ten on the bar and, with what dignity he could muster, walked
to the men’s room.

Once
inside, he kicked open an empty stall, and promptly threw up.

(c) 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.


Excerpt from THE CANDIDATE: Pilot Error, or Sabotage?

The-Candidate-Final4I thought I'd treat you to another excerpt from the candidate. 

I had a blast researching this scene, in which a saboteur must make an experienced pilot's plane go down — and make it look like pilot error.

Hope you enjoy it!

— Josie

Buy it on
Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

EXCERPT



Smith’s
man, Charlie, had no problem stealing a uniform from one of the two approved
maintenance subcontractors allowed to service planes at that particular
airport. The electronic gate key got him in with no hassles. But just in case
anyone was around to ask questions, he dummied up a fake Airworthiness
Directive and stuck it in his back pocket so he’d have it to wave under the alert
bastard’s nose, if need be.

 The plane was located in one of the newer,
larger hangars at the end of the third row, the one closest to the runway. The
swipe card that opened the hangar’s manual double door had already been coded
to open on command. Once he was inside, he closed the door behind him.

 The job was a piece of cake. First Charlie
loosened a bleed clamp in the pressurization system, but just enough to ensure
that, forty minutes into the flight—by the time the plane reached an altitude
of 26,000 feet or so—the outflow valve would pop off. When that happened, the
cabin would decompress immediately, and all hell would break loose.

 Next he replaced the emergency oxygen tank
with an identical one that was filled with nitrogen instead.

The
pilot’s emergency procedure was predictable. First he’d put on his oxygen mask,
and instruct any passengers to do the same. Then he’d radio the tower for an
emergency descent, and switch the transponder to the MAYDAY signal:
SQUAWK 7700. If he was really quick, he might even have time to put power
all the way back to idle, and pull out spoilers—

PrivatePlaneBefore
the toxic gas flowing into his lungs asphyxiated him.

Of
course, if the pilot’s body were to stay intact—fat chance of that, considering
that the plane’s angle would be steep upon impact—the amount of the gas found
in his lungs would be too negligible to raise suspicions among the NTSB
investigators.

In
other words, the cause of the crash would stay a mystery. 

Personally,
Charlie hoped there wouldn’t be too many passengers onboard. As a former flyboy
himself, nothing annoyed him more than the media’s endless ruminations about
the amount of fatalities caused by “pilot error.”

Then
again, this time around he’d hate for them to suspect the truth.

(c) 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

Read another excerpt for a chance to win a
$100 Gift Card from the bookstore of your choice
!

Free Friday Book Excerpt: The Hitman gets his orders in THE CANDIDATE

TheCandidateFinal5Here's a taste of the dirty dealings in my steamy political thriller,  THE CANDIDATE.

Enjoy, and TGIF,

–Josie

 

EXCERPT

 

“Mansfield
knows about ‘Flamingo.’” Talbot abhorred making eye contact with anyone, but
this time, so that Smith would have no misunderstanding about his anxiety over
the issue, he made sure to meet the other man’s eyes in the rear view mirror
when he broke that bit of news.

Nothing.
Smith’s eyes did not go wide, nor did they narrow. He didn’t even blink, let
alone give the limo’s steering wheel an involuntary smack in frustration. If
there was any reaction at all, perhaps it was the ghost of a smile that, for
just one brief second, shadowed his lips.

 Then again, maybe Talbot imagined that.

Usually
he was impressed with Smith’s nonchalance under stress. This time, though,
there was too much at stake, and he wanted Smith to commiserate with him; to
feel his pain, so to speak. Hell, for once—just once!— he wished the man would
act like a human being, not the cold, calculating sociopathic killer he was.
“So, what are we going to do about it?”

Smith
kept his eyes on Talbot, ostensibly as reassurance that he was all ears, but
actually so that the vice president wouldn’t notice his finger slipping behind
the rear view mirror. Talbot had heaved himself into the car and blurted it out
so fast that for once, Smith hadn’t had time to activate the digital recorder
first. “That depends. How do you know for sure that Mansfield knows anything?”

“That
twerp, Paul Twist. He’s angling for U.S. Attorney General, once I get elected.
Thinks I owe it to him, considering his Judas routine.” Talbot shook his head
in disgust.

“His
stuff has been pretty reliable thus far. Go ahead and string him along until I
can track down his source.” Frankly Smith hoped Talbot would grant the kid his
wish. It gave him a hard-on just thinking he could have one over on the head
honcho in the Justice Department, particularly one who obviously had his own
mole buried somewhere within the bowels of the Pentagon. “It means there’s a
leak in your organization.”

“What
makes you think the leak is on my side? It could be one of your cutthroats.”

“My
‘cutthroats’ are pros who know how to keep their mouths shut. It’s power
players like you who feel the need to let someone know what you’re up to, if
only to stroke your own egos—or to save your own asses.” Smith let that sink
in. “In any event, I guess we have a little problem.”

“What’s
this ‘we’ shit? It’s your problem, not mine.” Talbot poked Smith’s headrest to
make his point. “And it’s fucking humongous. So fix it. And fast. I don’t doubt
for a second that Mansfield plans to use it against me. Against all of us.
Besides losing the nomination, I can be tried for treason! Just remember—if the
old men and I go down, so do you.”

“Are
you ordering me to exterminate Mansfield?”

“What,
do I have to spell it out for you?” Talbot’s shout certainly left no doubt of
his intentions, either live or digitized. “You know, accidents happen to
everyone. Even presidential candidates. Only don’t make it a public
assassination. The goal is to get rid of the problem, not make the man a
martyr.”

© 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

 


TheCandidateFinal5THE CANDIDATE

Signal Press – eBook

Only $3.99! Buy it on

Amazon.com (US)

Amazon.co.uk (UK)

BN.com

 

Read another excerpt here…

Enter THE CANDIDATE'S Contest for a $100 Gift Card!

 


Hump Day Haiku: “Kiss Bliss”

Lovers-kiss-park

The urge to kiss her /
Comes in the oddest places/
He always gives in.


The-Candidate-Final4
THE CANDIDATE

Signal Press – eBook

Buy it NOW, on 
Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

BN.com (US)

Seduction and intrigue are rampant on the campaign trail when a political campaign adviser discovers that Washington's power broker elite have embroiled his presidential candidate in a plot involving an act of terrorism on US soil…

SYNOPSIS

Democratic political campaign consultant Ben Brinker can’t remember the last time he was excited by a candidate’s vision. He feels he’s lost his way, both emotionally and professionally. Worst yet, his show-me-the-money policy seems to have finally caught up with him. Two of his recent clients have been disgraced in one way or another: a senator is caught in lurid sex scandal, and a congressman is indicted in a kickback scandal. In no time at all the political pundits are calling Ben a "candidate cooler." Now Ben is desperate for any campaign gig he can get.

As luck would have it, Andrew Harris Mansfield, the charismatic junior senator from North Carolina  and former Marine pilot, asks Ben if he wants to run his soon-to-be-announced campaign for president.

Little does Ben know what's in store for Andrew, or their country–

Nor does he realize that the key to saving both have been placed in his hands.

Read an excerpt here…

Enter THE CANDIDATE'S Contest for a $100 Gift Card!


I want to whet your appetite for THE CANDIDATE. Here’s the opening scene.


The-Candidate-Final4
THE CANDIDATE

Signal Press – eBook

Buy it NOW, on 
Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

BN.com (US)

 

Seduction and intrigue are rampant on the campaign trail when a political campaign adviser discovers that Washington's power broker elite have embroiled his presidential candidate in a plot involving an act of terrorism on US soil…

SYNOPSIS

Democratic political campaign consultant Ben Brinker can’t remember the last time he was excited by a candidate’s vision. He feels he’s lost his way, both emotionally and professionally. Worst yet, his show-me-the-money policy seems to have finally caught up with him. Two of his recent clients have been disgraced in one way or another: a senator is caught in lurid sex scandal, and a congressman is indicted in a kickback scandal. In no time at all the political pundits are calling Ben a "candidate cooler." Now Ben is desperate for any campaign gig he can get.

As luck would have it, Andrew Harris Mansfield, the charismatic junior senator from North Carolina  and former Marine pilot, asks Ben if he wants to run his soon-to-be-announced campaign for president.

Little does Ben know what's in store for Andrew, or their country–

Nor does he realize that the key to saving both have been placed in his hands.

Read another excerpt here…

Enter THE CANDIDATE'S Contest for a $100 Gift Card!

 

EXCERPT

December 31st

It was an
unseasonably warm New Year’s Eve, and the throbbing mass of partygoers centered
around the fountain at the Bellagio was for the most part feeling no pain.

One
in particular was especially numb. His captors had made sure of it, doping him
up with a cocktail of drugs—a potent mix of zombie cucumber, scopolamine, and
some botulism thrown in for good measure—that left him too paralyzed to move,
to speak, to cry, let alone to shout out to the crowd that he was, quite
literally, a ticking time bomb.

As
the Bellagio’s famous fountain pulsated to the sensual sounds of Sinatra,
Carlos Rodriguez glared hard at those around him in the hope that someone—anyone—might be able to read the fear in
his eyes, if not for his sake, then for the rest of them. Illuminated in the
hotel’s many roving spotlights, their faces melded into a living collage:
flirting, blowing horns, laughing, and screaming. He tried to scream, too, but
nothing came out. Not a whisper. The drugs ensured that.

Then
there it was:  The countdown.

58…57…56…

The last three
months passed before his eyes, starting with the moment when that emotionless
U.S. Customs official pulled him out of the employee line crawling down the
gangplank of the Carnival Cruise ship on his one night of shore leave in Miami.
If he had assumed that his Venezuelan passport wouldn’t raise any flags with
her, he was wrong. She asked him some seemingly innocuous questions about his purpose
for coming into the country.

His answers,
innocent enough, still landed him in some hot, dusty hellhole.

There, Carlos was
stripped naked, shackled in a fetal position, or made to squat in his own
waste. During the scalding heat of the day, he was given little water to quench
his thirst, and no blanket when the night temperatures dropped to freezing. As
bad as the daily beatings were, the threat of being drowned, tortured, or
bitten by his captors’ hounds of Hell was even worse.

He was no longer
a man, only a number. They called him Catorce—the
number, fourteen, in Spanish.

From the scared
whispers and coded taps he heard from the other young Venezuelaños also isolated in the prison’s catacomb of cells,
Carlos learned that, like him, they had all come from poor remote villages.
None were married or had any immediate family, either back home or here in the
United States.

In time, the capitano of their captors, the human
devil named “Smith,” told them that they were to play very important roles in
the freedom and prosperity of both their old and new countries.

And that was how
they were told that they were to be suicide bombers.

When that
day—today—finally came, the men were taped down front and back with the bombs,
then dressed in nice slacks, collared sweaters and beige cashmere jackets,
their hair lightened and spiked. Yes, now they could easily pass as well-to-do
gringos. Then they were drugged.

Two hours later,
seven vans carrying the human bombs pulled up in front of the seven hotels
hosting Las Vegas’ world famous fireworks: the Flamingo, the MGM Grand, Circus
Circus, Treasure Island, the Venetian and the Bellagio, all the way north to
the Stratosphere.

Only Carlos had
been paired with another bomber: some kid, maybe seventeen or so, who had
entered their hellhole only the day before. His captors called him Trece, the Spanish word for the number
thirteen. Although muscle paralysis had set in quickly, Carlos’s mind was still
alert. He could tell that the boy, Trece, was also trying to fight the effects
of the drugs. The look in his eyes wasn’t terror, but determination.

Señor Smith had
ridden shotgun in their van. When the van reached the Bellagio, Smith roughly
yanked Carlos out the back. After positioning him in the heart of the teeming,
screaming mass of humanity in front of the fountain, he slapped Carlos on his
back and whispered in his ear: “Look at it this way—at least you and the others
will die heroes’ deaths for your new country…” before casually strolling away.

Out of the corner
of his eye, Carlos watched as Smith reappeared with Trece the boy. They moved
in the opposite direction though; deep into Bellagio’s thickening crowd.

What had Smith
called him, a hero? No, Carlos was more like a fantasma…

A ghost who would haunt the United States for years to come.

45…44…43…

At
the thought of that, the tears that could not fall glistened in his eyes.

In
front of him a cluster of unattached women unraveled quickly in order to sidle
up to whatever single men were still around. Any moment now they would bestow
the first kiss of the year on some lucky stranger, one of the joys of being
young and single on this special night—

37…36…35…

One
girl, pretty in pink, her blond hair grazing her bare shoulders, glanced over
at him. By her quizzical look he could tell she’d noticed his tears. She waved
at him. Of course he couldn’t wave back. No matter. Undeterred, she swam
against the deep wave of humanity between them, to his side.

A
burly red-haired man, watching the exchange, glared hard at Carlos. The fact
that he didn’t respond irritated the man, like a red flag waved at a moody
bull. He grabbed the women’s arm, she tried to shake him off, but he shoved
passed her, hell bent on reaching Carlos first.

Her
boyfriend perhaps, determined to win her back? Que lastima! Perhaps the lovers could
make amends in heaven, because in a mere twenty-two seconds, the bomb strapped
to Carlos’ chest would blow all of them to pieces…

 

(c) 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 

Read another excerpt here…

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Just launched on Amazon! THE CANDIDATE. Read an excerpt here, enter the contest…

The-Candidate-Final4

THE CANDIDATE

Signal Press – eBook

In Amazon.com Now!
In all online bookstores June 15, 2013 

ENTER MY CONTEST FOR A $100 GIFT CARD 
FROM YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE!

Seduction and intrigue are rampant on the campaign trail when a political campaign adviser discovers that Washington's power broker elite have embroiled his presidential candidate in a plot involving an act of terrorism on US soil…

SYNOPSIS

Democratic political campaign consultant Ben Brinker can’t remember the last time he was excited by a candidate’s vision. He feels he’s lost his way, both emotionally and professionally. Worst yet, his show-me-the-money policy seems to have finally caught up with him. Two of his recent clients have been disgraced in one way or another: a senator caught in lurid sex scandal, and a congressman is indicted in a kickback scandal. In no time at all the political pundits are calling Ben a "candidate cooler." Now Ben is desperate for any campaign gig he can get.

As luck would have it, Andrew Harris Mansfield, the charismatic junior senator from North Carolina  and former Marine pilot, asks Ben if he wants to run his soon-to-be-announced campaign for president.

Little does Ben know what's in store for Andrew, or their country–

Nor does he realize that the key to saving both have been placed in his hands.

EXCERPT

The care and feeding of Andrew Mansfield’s most generous campaign donors was well underway by the time Ben got to the Fairmont on that drizzly New Year’s Eve. Dinner was served promptly, the Tattingers flowed freely, and the up-tempo tunes emanating from the ten-piece orchestra on the Colonnade Room’s center stage lured a constant wave of the senator’s well-heeled guests onto the dance floor, so few if any of them minded the long wait to be endured prior to partaking in their prime objective: a few fleeting but memorable moments with Mansfield, in which he shook their hands and intoned a heartfelt thanks to them for ponying up $2,500-per-person for a plate of the Fairmont’s renowned Shenandoah Valley grilled rib eye of bison, the proceeds of which would go to the Mansfield Presidential Exploratory Committee fund.

As requested, Ben, tuxedoed and manure-free, arrived punctually at eleven o’clock. Waiting for him at the ballroom’s double-door entry was Sukie Carmichael, Mansfield’s aide-de-camp, a slight spinsterish woman with an unruly red mane. He followed her lead as she wove around banquet tables and partying revelers.

ElegantThey ended up in front of a door that was hidden behind a few potted ferns. In the small anteroom on the other side of it were two men. Immediately Ben recognized the eldest as Preston Alcott III– the managing partner at Corcoran Adams Webster and Alcott, the oldest, most revered law firm in Washington. Besides being a celebrated lawyer, Alcott served as gatekeeper to the country’s aristocracy. The sway he held over statesmen, monarchs, even dictators the world over was legendary.

The esteemed attorney was in his mid-seventies but could easily pass for a much younger man–ramrod straight and broad shouldered as he was. Even seated, Ben could tell he was a tall man. His eyes were piercingly bright, and befitting his role of patrician, his hair was full and white.

Ben had done his research. He knew that Alcott was also the executor of Abigail Vandergalen Mansfield’s trust, not to mention the blind trusts of the current POTUS and his wife, Edward and Elinor Barksdale, and the estates of an impressive percentage of the Forbes 400. No doubt Alcott was there to ensure that Abby’s very expensive investment in her husband’s political career would pay off in the largest and most important dividend of all: executive power. 

Alcott’s presence there was proof that Ben wouldn’t be handed the job carte blanche.

Fuck it. I need to score this gig—and a win—to prove I’m back in the game, thought Ben. Even if that means kissing Alcott’s ass.

So it’s show time. . . .

As Sukie made the introductions all around, Ben shook Alcott’s hand and gave a reverential bow. “It’s an honor, Mr. Alcott.”

“Ah, the kingmaker.” As Alcott’s eyes cursorily swept over him, Ben held his gaze.

“No sir. That would be your title, not mine.”

Alcott’s slight nod indicated his grudging approval at the response, but Ben was fully aware that the real grilling hadn’t even started.

The man standing with Alcott chuckled nervously. Still his handshake, two-handed and firm, made up for his obvious apprehension in the presence of Alcott. “Paul Twist. I’m Andy’s finance chair.”

Ben recognized the name. “Also a partner at Cochran Adams. And Andy’s best friend. You guys roomed together in law school, right? It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.”

Andy’s buddy’s nodded genially. “Your track record is a thing of wonder, Mr. Brinker. But you’ve yet to manage a presidential campaign, am I right?” 

“Yes. That is, not until now. In that regard, the senator and I are both underdogs going into this thing.”What, did you think I wasn’t going to point out that your boy doesn’t have his own party’s blessing? Fat chance. “We both know the deciding factors differ every four years. But one thing doesn’t change: The candidate who wins is the one who has the ability to embody the message the public wants to hear, to get that message out to the media, and to respond immediately to any bullshit that the other side might toss our way.  As my track record shows, it’s what I bring to the table.”

 “That’s all well and good. It’s too bad it didn’t work for Calder.” Alcott’s smile said it all: You lose

Upon hearing the congressman’s name, Ben gave an involuntary wince. “As long as you can assure me that Senator Mansfield’s, er, skeletons aren’t anywhere near as fertile, I’ll take your candidate all the way to the White House—”

Andy Mansfield’s hearty laugh roared through the anteroom. Ben looked up to find the senator standing in the doorway. He had his arm around a woman of slight build and medium height, with long pale hair, pulled back severely from her anxious face and twisted into a chignon. Ben recognized her immediately: Abigail Vandergalen. She was, perhaps, eight years younger than her husband. Her black gown, a sequined sheath that she wore under a cropped lace jacket, was obviously expensive, but its elegance was undermined by the slump of her shoulders and her pensive grimace. Her squared-off pumps didn’t help, either.

In fact, if Ben had to choose one thing that stood out about Abigail Vandergalen Mansfield, he’d say not a thing–except for her eyes, which were deep set, and as blue and sparkling as rough-cut sapphires. At least, from what he could tell in the few seconds in which they actually met his before her innate shyness forced her to turn away again.

Unfortunately her small thick-framed glasses did nothing to enhance them. Damn shame she has so little charisma. We’ll have to get her into media training yesterday to keep that from hurting Mansfield on the campaign trail—

Andy nodded at all three men, but it was Ben whom he slapped on the back. “These two will swear up one side and down the other that I’m holier than a saint.”

“And they should know, I presume.”

 “There is only one person who knows me better. I’d like to introduce you to Abby.”

Ben gave her his patented thousand-watt smile. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Mansfield.”

“Call me Abby, please. And I hope you’ll allow me to call you Ben.” This time when she looked up at him, her eyes didn’t waiver. In fact they seemed to look right through him. “You’ll have to excuse us for being tardy, Mr. Brinker. I was still on the dance floor when you arrived.”

“And giving an earful to some very earnest young man from the Auto Alliance. He was naive enough to insist that Detroit is doing all it can to cut emissions.” Andy gave his wife’s arm a squeeze. “You see, reducing our country’s petroleum consumption is a pet peeve of my wife’s.”

“To the point where she insisted that I divest her portfolio of any and all oil company stocks, and buy into clean energy start-ups instead.” Alcott’s disapproval was evidenced by the disdain in his voice. “One’s personal ideology shouldn’t impinge on one’s investment strategy.”

“I’ve always appreciated your concern over my financial matters, Preston. You know that.” Abby’s tone was soft, but firm. “But I refuse to support industries that are the problem, not the solution. Don’t you agree, Mr. Brinker?”

“Personally, my philosophy is ‘whatever floats your boat.’ Heck, I know people who choose their stocks the way others pick horses at the racetrack: because they like the name. It’s all a game of chance, right?” He shrugged. “Now if you’re asking my professional opinion, I’d say your instincts—be those personal or political—are ingenious. In fact, if a list of your green investments were to be ‘accidentally’ leaked to a few of the right reporters, they’d be duly impressed that you put your money where your mouth is. And what they’d write would sway a lot of independents and undecideds, not to mention any Dems looking to come our way.”

“But we don’t just ‘dabble in stocks.’ For the past six years in a row, my husband has been voted the greenest Republican in the Senate. We’re making inroads in convincing our party that being green isn’t just environmentally smart–it’s also fiscally responsible. Some of the country’s greenest business visionaries have stepped up and offered their support. They’re excited that Andy is making the greening of America a national mandate. If we’re going to—well, to put it somewhat indelicately, quit sucking on the ‘tit’ of foreign oil–we have stop cold turkey.”

Ben nodded, impressed. “You’re right, Abby. That message coming from a Republican candidate is big news.”

 Andy smiled. “You now see, Brinker, why I’ve come to realize that Abby’s instincts are always right on the mark. In fact, it’s why you’re here tonight.”

“How so?”

“It was Abby who suggested that I approach you to run my campaign in the first place.”

Noting the quizzical look on Ben’s face, Abby turned away shyly. Andy, on the other hand, smiled at Ben’s obvious disbelief. “Even before we ran into each other, she said—and she’s correct—that crossing Talbot would be political suicide for any of our party’s favored campaign advisors, so we should find the best Democratic consultant; someone who knows how that party thinks—and how to strategize against our frontrunner. And someone who wouldn’t be afraid to take the gloves off, when the time came. As always, she called it. So I guess Calder’s implosion was my good fortune. And yours.” He gave Ben a knowing grin. “Which is why I’m hoping you’ve passed Preston’s inquisition.”

 “Times will be a lot tougher, Andrew, if this boondoggle of yours doesn’t pay off.” Alcott took a sip of his drink. “Six hundred million is a lot of money to bet on a longshot. And if you lose, so does Abby, since it’s her money that will be the initial seed capital for your campaign. As you can imagine, the thought of that makes me very uncomfortable.”

“But he won’t lose.” By the way Abby said it Ben could tell that she wasn’t being naive, but just stating the facts as she saw them. “Certainly Vice President Talbot has his supporters. In the past, they’ve funded him fully—and have prospered, along with him, based on a failing energy policy. However the rest of us are ready for new leadership, both in the party and in the White House. With your help, Ben, that will be Andy.”

 So the mouse isn’t afraid to roar. Interesting.

 “As you can see, Preston, Abby is one hundred percent behind backing my campaign—and behind Ben, too. And as always, she has the last word.” Andy’s point was made: Game over.

At that, Alcott gave a resigned shrug. Paul, on the other hand, tried to hide his smirk.

Knowing he’d trumped any argument to the contrary, Andy turned to Ben. “So what do you say? Are you in?”

Hmmm, thought Ben, Now let me get this straight: I get to redeem myself with a candidate who is a seasoned politician from a large swing state, and whose wife has a trust fund that rivals Iceland’s gross domestic product. To top it off, he’s as pure as driven snow . . .

Hell yeah, where else would I be?

Not that he had to say that out loud. His smile said it all.

Andy shook his hand. “Great! You’ll make a great wingman. We have a few minutes before I jump onstage to ring in the New Year. Let’s compare notes on New Hampshire —”

*** 

She was nicely naughty, a raven-haired sylph with a sleek chin-length bob and a come-hither beauty mark on the left side of her luscious lips. One dainty foot, encased in a high-heeled diamond studded ruby slipper, was propped high on the rung of the bar stool next to her, unleashing her leg—long, strong, lean, and slim at the ankle—from the skin-tight red velvet gown sliced high on her thigh.

There was nothing Ben wanted more than to play her Prince Charming.

Hell, why not? It was just a few minutes before midnight. His timing was perfect.

He had zoned out somewhere in the middle of Andy’s speech. There were only so many ways a politician can inspire his constituency, and Ben had heard them all before. In a long career he would hear them all again.

 So instead he searched out the nearest bar. Time to celebrate his resurrection.

There was one in the back of the ballroom, but the line was too long. The second one, in the hotel lobby, right outside the ballroom’s open door, was empty—

Except for Little Red Ride Me Hard.

Of course at that point he just presumed she’d live up to that fantasy. Still, he’d be willing to bet on it. The giveaway was what he saw on the spot where her backless gown came to a vee at the base of her spine:

A tattoo of a broken heart.

 Perfect. He liked his women heartbroken. That keeps it simple. She wouldn’t expect it to go  beyond tonight. 

Particularly on New Year’s Eve, when no one wants to go home alone.

He wondered if he’d still be able to make out his candidate’s punch lines from the barstool beside Red Velvet. The senator’s jokes seemed to be going over big with the crowd, if the waves of laughter emanating from the room were any indication.

Yeah, no problem, he thought. Mansfield was coming in loud and clear . . .

If Ben cared to listen at all.

A sleek blade of her hair sliced her milky shoulders as she threw back her head and nudged a last lethargic drop from her martini glass.

 “The lady will have another. And a scotch, neat, for me.” He skirted a twenty toward the bartender.

“Do I look that easy?” Red Velvet pretended to pout but couldn’t hold it together. Her full-throated laugh was an outright dare.

Easy? Heck, yeah.

And for some reason, she looked familiar, too. But he couldn’t quite place it. Something about the slant of her cheek. Or maybe he had once lost himself in the deep mossy depths of those luminous eyes peeking out under those brow-grazing bangs . . .

No, if he had met Red Velvet before, he would have certainly remembered. He shook his head. “If you want my opinion, I’d say you look thirsty.” He slid onto the bar chair next to her. “Besides, who wants to drink alone on New Year’s Eve?”

“Who says I’m alone?”

Ben made the grand gesture of craning his neck around her then shrugged. “Unless you’re dating the Invisible Man, I’m your best bet.”
Couple-kissing-w352

This time her smile was a bit forced. “Yeah, that’s my guy. Invisible. But you’ll still have to convince me that you’re the better man.”

“Don’t doubt that I can.”

“I won’t. Not in a million years——” she murmured, drinking him in. As she casually took the object of his affection—that beautiful leg—and crossed it over its perfect match, he felt his cock harden—“but you’ll have to try hard, just the same.”

That was when he kissed her.

It stunned her. He could tell by the tiny gasp she gave. He barely heard it though, because just then the crowd began the countdown to midnight—

58 . . .57 . . .56 . . .

He could hear Mansfield’s voice booming above it all: “Ah, here we go! And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve lost my wife! Abigail? Abby? Come on up here, honey, don’t be shy—”

That was when Ben’s red velvet dream bit his lip then licked the wound so lovingly, so passionately.

That for a moment there, he almost forgot to breathe. . . .

 

© 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

 

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