A deadly serious affair…
The story breaks as Metro PD lieutenant Sam Holland attends a dinner party with her husband, Vice President Nick Cappuano: President Nelson is accused of having an affair. More shocking still, campaign staffer Tara Weber claims the president fathered her newborn son—while the First Lady was undergoing secret cancer treatment.
When a high-profile murder case hits Sam’s desk, she’s shocked to uncover a connection to the presidential scandal. With the department caught up in its own internal scandals, and the chief’s job hanging by a thread, Sam questions who she can trust as her team uncovers information that clouds an already-murky case. And with calls for the president to resign getting louder by the minute, Sam needs to close this case before she finds herself living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue…
About the Author
With more than 3.5 million books sold, Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of the Fatal Series from Harlequin's Carina Press, as well as the Gansett Island Series, Treading Water Series, Green Mountain Series and new erotic Quantum Trilogy. Contact Marie at email@example.com
Read an Excerpt
Nick had looked forward to this evening all week. Their friends Harry and Lilia had rescheduled the dinner party so Nick and his wife, Sam, could attend. He had no doubt their family had been heavily on the minds of the people who loved them since the sudden death of Sam's beloved father. Everyone was concerned about her and how she was holding up after losing one of the most important people in her life. Nick had found himself watching over her even more closely than usual, looking for signs of trouble.
She'd been remarkably composed since she helped solve the four-year-old mystery of who had shot her father and left him a quadriplegic. Too composed, if you asked him. Other than one breakdown in the immediate aftermath of closing the case, she'd held it together as the media went wild over the story of the Metro Police Department deputy chief who'd kept vital information about the shooting of Skip Holland to himself while pretending to be a friend to Skip and his family.
There'd been round-the-clock coverage of the gambling ring and the involvement of the longtime city councilman, Roy Gallagher, and his associates, Mick Santoro and Dermott Ryan, as well as the lengths they'd gone to in order to protect their illegal enterprise. Other prominent city residents and political players had been caught up in the dragnet of arrests related to the gambling operation. The arrests were ongoing a week later. People were shocked by the news that Skip's shooting was connected to the murder of his first partner, Steven Coyne, whose case had gone cold in the ensuing decades.
And through it all, Sam had kept her chin up and her eyes on the ultimate prize of seeing the men who'd shortened her father's life — and Steven's — brought to justice. Nick had never been prouder of the woman he'd married than he'd been in the last two weeks. Sitting beside his wife at Lilia's beautifully appointed dining room table, with Sam's hand tucked into his as they chatted with their closest friends, Nick was filled with a sense of foreboding, a fear that her composure couldn't possibly last. Eventually she would break, and he could only hope he'd be close by when she did.
"It's really not funny," Lilia was saying when Nick tuned back into the spirited conversation. "And we do not need to tell that story."
"It is funny," his friend Dr. Harry Flynn replied, "and we absolutely do need to tell it."
Lilia Van Nostrand, Sam's chief of staff at the White House, had met Nick's longtime friend Harry through them, and they were madly in love. That was obvious to anyone who knew them. On the recent trip Harry had taken with Nick to Europe, Harry had confided that he planned to marry Lilia as soon as he possibly could.
Harry's beloved dropped her head into her hands, resigned to telling the story despite her objections.
"We were in Chincoteague," Harry said, grinning gleefully, "at a bed-and-breakfast. Lilia woke up early and went down to get coffee wearing only her robe."
"I figured it was safe at six in the morning." Her face had gone bright red with embarrassment. "Who else is going to be up at that ungodly hour?"
"Did you or did you not have your pearls on too?" Sam asked.
Lilia shot her an offended look. "Of course I did. I'm not a savage."
Everyone at the table lost it laughing.
While the others focused on Lilia, Nick found himself watching Harry. The way his friend looked at Lilia had to be the way Nick gazed at Sam, as if he'd found the other half of his soul. There was, Nick thought, nothing like knowing for certain you were exactly and finally where you belonged, with the person you were meant to find since the day you took your first breath. Nick couldn't be happier that Harry had found his own Sam.
"Anyway," Harry continued. "There she is in the breakfast room of the B and B in nothing more than a sexy robe — and the pearls, of course — when the senate majority leader walks in wearing only his boxers."
Derek Kavanaugh, deputy chief of staff to President Nelson, choked on his wine. "No way."
"Yes, way." Lilia's blush overtook her entire face. "And he started talking to me as if he wasn't standing there in nothing more than his underwear."
"Did he know who you were?" Nick's lawyer friend Andy Simone asked.
"Yes! He asked me how Mrs. Cappuano is doing since she lost her dad and if I think the vice president is going to run in the next election."
Andy's wife, Elsa, covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes gone wide with laughter. "Oh my God."
"See?" Harry said gleefully. "Funny, right?"
"This may be the funniest thing that's ever happened to anyone," Sam said, earning a glare from Lilia.
"No, babe, your Brazilian wax story is better," Nick said.
"Uh," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lindsey McNamara said. "I think we need to hear that."
Her fiancé, Terry O'Connor, who was also Nick's chief of staff, groaned. "Is there no decorum at this dinner party?"
"We most definitely do not need to hear that," Detective Freddie Cruz said. "In fact, if that story is getting told, I'm out."
"Relax," Sam said to her partner. "Nick would never tell that story because he lives in fear of my rusty steak knife."
Nick nodded, keeping his expression grave. "Mortal fear."
"Back to the majority leader and his underwear," Sam said, rolling her hand. "What happened next?"
"He told me I was a very pretty girl and asked if I was seeing anyone."
"Come on," Freddie's wife, Elin, said. "Isn't he like ninety?"
"He's eighty-two," Lilia said. "And thinks he's still got game."
Harry sat back, grinning widely. "You haven't heard the best part yet."
"It gets better?" Sam asked.
"Oh yeah," Harry said. "Tell them, babe."
Lilia dropped her face into her hands again. "I can't." "Allow me, then," Harry said. "The leader leaned in and said, 'I'm here by myself too, and if you want to join me in my room, I could show you a good time.' And then he added, 'I got some of them little blue pills.'"
A collective groan came from the group.
"And he winked," Lilia said, "in case I didn't get the message."
"He did not!" Lindsey said.
"Oh yes, he did," Harry confirmed.
"What did you say?" Sam asked, wiping away laughter tears.
Lilia raised her head from her hands, her face blazing with color. "I told him I was with my boyfriend, and he probably wouldn't appreciate me joining the leader in his room. And then I leaned in and said, 'My boyfriend doesn't need any pills, if you know what I mean.'"
"Stop it!" Sam said. "I can't picture you saying that!"
"She did," Harry proudly confirmed. "My little hellcat."
Lilia sat up straighter and squared her shoulders. "I am not a hellcat."
"Oh yes, you are," Harry said.
"I'm not one to take sides." Derek blotted tears from his eyes. "But I gotta agree with my boy Harry. That story needed to be told."
"The first mistake I made was telling him about it," Lilia said.
"Baby, there is no way you could've kept that from me. I took one look at you when you came back with the coffee, and I knew something big had happened. Your color was high, like it is now."
Lilia placed her hands over her flaming cheeks. "I hate how that happens."
Harry waggled his brows at her. "But it's so damned cute."
"Is that our cue to get out?" Nick hoped the evening wasn't going to end yet. It had taken an act of God to get everyone there, not to mention the prep work the Secret Service had done ahead of time to get him there.
"Absolutely not." Lilia shot a stern look at Harry that only made his smile bigger. "We haven't even had dessert yet."
"About the Brazilian story," Lindsey said over tiramisu.
"No, no and no," Sam said.
"What she said," Freddie added. "Hell no."
Nick was about to say something that would get him in big trouble with his beloved when his phone and the phones of several others started ringing. "What the hell?" He pulled his phone from his pants pocket and noted the number of his communications director Trevor Donnolly.
Nick released Sam's hand, excused himself and stood to take the call away from the table. "What's up, Trev?"
"Sorry to interrupt your evening, Mr. Vice President, but a story just broke online that I thought you should be made aware of."
"What fresh hell has befallen us now?"
"A story has gone live online claiming a staffer had an affair with President Nelson during the most recent campaign and that it lasted into the new administration. Apparently, the woman has recently given birth to a child that may or may not be the president's."
The news rendered Nick momentarily speechless. Across the room, he caught the gaze of Derek Kavanaugh, who'd apparently just received the same news.
"Are you there, sir?" Trevor asked.
"I'll send you a link to the story."
"And we're sure this is legit?"
"I've had several sources confirm that the story is legit in that the woman did work on the campaign. Whether the affair happened or the kid is his remains to be proven."
"He barely survived the last scandal."
"That was my first thought too. I think you ought to be prepared, sir, you know, for anything ..."
"Don't go there."
"Okay, I won't, but everyone else will."
"Right, well, thanks for letting me know."
"Of course. I'll keep you posted."
As Trevor ended the call, Nick wanted to tell him not to bother, but Trevor was nothing if not thorough when it came to his job.
Sam joined him away from the group. "What's up?" "Oh nothing much, just a possible presidential affair and love child." He noted that Derek was updating the others, and everyone was looking at Nick. The entire world would be looking to him for reaction, and he needed to start right now in schooling his features to give nothing away.
Sam's eyes bugged. "What?" "Here we go again."
"Nick ... When was Gloria treated for ovarian cancer?"
"Would the affair coincide?"
"God, I hope not." Few people knew the first lady had undergone cancer surgery and treatment during the campaign, as the Nelsons had chosen to keep her condition private. The president had told Nick about it after the first lady was in remission.
With Sam looking on, Nick took a quick look at the story Trevor had sent, scrolling through the details of the alleged affair with Tara Weber, who had been a senior policy adviser to the president during the campaign. "I remember her. People wondered why he'd brought in someone new to that role when he certainly had plenty of other advisers he could've brought into the campaign."
"Did I meet her?"
"If you did, you'd remember her. She's the full package — smart, beautiful and savvy as all hell. She's tall with curly dark hair."
"I did meet her at the inaugural ball."
"Oh right, I remember that. Wasn't she with Nelson when you met her?"
"She was. I recall being very impressed by her."
They exchanged glances.
"This is going to be a big deal, isn't it?" Sam rested a hand over her stomach, which bothered her during times of stress.
She'd had enough stress lately.
"Not for us. Nelson's team will handle it."
Derek approached them. "I have to go." He pulled on his coat and zipped it. "Thankfully my parents are in town and can stay with Maeve," he said, referring to his two-year-old daughter. "It's gonna be a long night."
"What're you hearing?"
"That the story is credible and their 'friendship' raised brows during the campaign, the transition and into the new administration. I knew they were close, but it never occurred to me that there was more to it. She was abruptly let go in the spring, but Nelson handled that himself, and we never heard why. He just said her services were no longer needed."
Terry joined them. "What can I do?"
"There's nothing to do," Nick said. "Not yet anyway."
"We're the ones with the big problem," Derek said, "and I'm off to help solve it."
"Better you than me," Nick said.
"Ah yes," Derek said, grinning, "and people think it's so cool to work in the White House. We know better, don't we?"
"We certainly do." At times like this — hell, most of the time, actually — Nick deeply regretted accepting Nelson's invitation to replace Vice President Gooding after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to resign. "Check in with me in the morning. Let me know what level of concern I need to have about my own future."
After Derek left, Nick was determined to get this evening back on track. He refused to think about what might happen until he had to.
"Are you okay?" Sam gazed up at him with concern etched into her gorgeous face.
He couldn't have that, so he wrapped an arm around her waist and kissed her. "I'm out on a hot date with my best girl. I'm great." Lowering his voice, he added, "And even though I can't wait to get my best girl home so I can be alone with her, I'm really enjoying the time with our friends."
"I am too. Tonight is all about you. Whatever you want."
Hearing that, he wanted to say to hell with the friends he rarely got to see. "Is it my birthday and no one told me?"
Sam laughed and kissed his neck, taking a little bite that made him instantly hard. "No, but we can celebrate like it is when we get home."
"Let's go now." The Nelson news might've happened a year ago for all he cared when his wife was handing out birthday-level favors.
"Easy, big guy. It'll still be your not-birthday when we get home. It took an act of God to get you here, now let's go enjoy our friends for a little while longer."
Sam took his hand and led him back to the table, and he let her, because he'd follow her anywhere she chose to take him.CHAPTER 2
The Nelson news had spiked Sam's anxiety, but she went out of her way not to let Nick see that as they rode home from Lilia's in the Secret Service motorcade. He didn't need to know that the idea of him becoming president freaked her out to the point of panic, not when he had enough of his own worries. The insomnia that plagued him during the best of times was exacerbated by stress, and she was determined to make sure he was relaxed so he would get some badly needed rest.
Whatever was going to happen with the latest presidential scandal didn't have to touch them. At least not tonight.
Sam's niece Brooke had stayed with the kids while they were out. At almost nineteen, she had grown into a gorgeous young woman with long dark hair, blue eyes and flawless skin that Sam would kill for. Brooke was now in college, but home for the weekend and had jumped at the chance to make some extra money.
Nick handed her a hundred-dollar bill.
Brooke tried to give it back. "That's too much."
"You have no idea how much date night with my wife meant to me. You made it possible. That's not enough."
"Thank you." Brooke went up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "I had fun hanging with Scotty and the twins. They're so adorable, and he's great with them."
"He really is," Sam said. "He loves being a big brother."
"It's terrible what happened to them." Alden and Aubrey had lost their parents in a home invasion. "But I'm so happy they landed with you guys."
"They've changed our lives for the better," Nick said.
Sam put an arm around her niece. "We didn't get to talk earlier. How're you holding up since Gramps passed away?"
"I find myself in tears at the weirdest times," Brooke confessed. "I still can't believe he's gone."
"It must be so hard for you. Everyone knew you were his favorite."
"We were all his favorites."
"You were his BFF, Sam."
Sam shrugged. "And he was mine." She tugged playfully on a strand of Brooke's hair. "Your mom tells me there's a boy ..."
Brooke rolled her eyes, which reminded Sam of the girl's tumultuous teenage years. "My mom has a big mouth."
"And this is news to you? Spill it, sister."
"His name is Ryan, and it's new, so don't freak out."
Sam had to force herself not to laugh. "Wouldn't dream of it. I'll just say that I'm happy you're happy.
That's all that matters to me — and your mom."
"Thanks." Brooke hugged and kissed her. "I'll see you soon."
"Thanks for the C-note, Nick."
"You're more than welcome. Thanks for babysitting."
Sam walked her to the door that Nate, the Secret Service agent on duty, opened for them. "Text me when you get home."
"You're just like my mom."
"Gee, wonder how that happened? Love you, kid."
"Love you too, you pain in the butt."
Sam laughed and watched Brooke take the ramp they no longer needed down to the sidewalk. At some point, they would take down the ramps that'd been erected here and at her father's house down the street to accommodate his wheelchair. That didn't need to happen yet. Sam waited until Brooke was in her car and waved as she drove off, flashing her lights as she went by the house, heading for the Secret Service checkpoint.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fatal Accusation"
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