Skip to main content

Excerpt - A Deadly Game by Virginia Smith

A Deadly Game
by
Virginia Smith


After discovering her boss's dead body, Susanna Trent receives an unusual package from him filled with strange metal tokens and odd clues. Then Susanna, who is the guardian of her three-year-old niece, starts getting anonymous phone calls taunting her with thinly veiled threats. Worried for her life and that of her sister's child, Susanna struggles to trust the one man who can help: wealthy executive Jack Townsend. As they work together to solve the mysterious puzzle, Jack and Susanna are led into a dangerous game neither knows how to play. But they do know the stakes—life or death.

Excerpt of chapter one:

The moment she rounded the corner of the building, Susanna Trent knew something was wrong. To her right, darkness shrouded the wooded area that ran the length of the building housing Ingram Industries. Tiny frozen daggers of sleet sliced through the nighttime sky to fall onto the crowded evergreen branches, the contact goading the trees into an eerie dance. To her left, slivers of light peeked through the cracks of closed blinds in the floor-to-ceiling office windows. Sleet stung her cheeks and slapped at the nylon hood of her jacket as she skidded to a halt on the sidewalk.

Behind her, Jack Townsend didn't stop quite as quickly. He bumped into her, and almost knocked her off her feet.

Jack slipped a strong hand under her arm to steady her. "Sorry about that."

Susanna acknowledged the apology with an absent nod, her stare fixed on the windows. A finger of disquiet tapped at the edges of her mind. She'd expected to see her boss standing there, waiting for her to arrive with his new Corvette. Mr. Ingram had been ecstatic when she called him after the auction ended to tell him that she'd succeeded in buying the car he wanted. Why wasn't he watching for the moment she arrived, ready to dash outside to see it? Something definitely wasn't right here.

Jack's head turned as he followed her gaze. "Is something wrong?"

Susanna shook her head, as much to dislodge the uneasy feelings as to answer. "It's just that the blinds are closed. They're never closed."

"Maybe he wanted some privacy."

"From what?" She pointed toward the desolate woods. "Nobody ever comes back here except him and me."

Jack peered into the ice-covered evergreens, then shrugged. "Why don't we ask him?"

His smile tilted sideways, and Susanna couldn't help but admire the guy's strong jaw, chiseled nose and short-cropped dark hair. They'd just met a few hours ago, at the car auction, and she'd noted his wholesome good looks right off. Normally she would have found him attractive, but Jack Townsend was exactly the kind of man she made a point of avoiding. He shared too much in common with someone she hoped she'd never have to see again.

Still, he was doing Mr. Ingram a favor by delivering the new Corvette. She had to admit that was a nice gesture, especially when he had been bidding against her for the same car. Unusual, too. In Susanna's experience, the sons of billionaires were far too self-centered to do something nice for someone else.

She glanced again at the closed blinds and couldn't completely dismiss the feeling of foreboding that bloomed. Hurrying to the heavy metal door, she shrugged the strap of her voluminous handbag from her shoulder. The cavernous interior of the purse held a wealth of useful personal items, with plenty of room for the envelope containing the papers for Mr. Ingram's new car. But it also ate keys. She rummaged inside, shaking to listen for the telltale jingle. Finally, she found them. Her gloved fingers fumbled to locate the right one, and she shoved it into the lock.

The hallway inside was empty, but it would be at this time of night. Susanna led Jack down the short corridor and around the corner. A quick glance toward the front of the building showed that the main lights were off in the accounting department. Stillness filled the office, normally bustling in the daytime. A few safety lights cast a dim glow over the empty desks.

She didn't pause when she entered her own work space, but hurried across the carpeted floor, past her tidy desk. The door to Mr. Ingram's private office had been pulled almost closed. Was he on a phone call, maybe? She halted for a moment, but didn't hear any noise from inside.

"Mr. Ingram?" She tapped on the wood, the sound muted by her gloves. "I'm here with your car."

No answer. Alarm crept like spider legs up the back of Susanna's neck. Something was wrong; she could feel it. She exchanged a glance with Jack, whose brows had drawn together over eyes dark with concern.

"Mr. Ingram? Is everything okay?"

Susanna laid a gloved hand on the solid door and gave a gentle push. It swung inward, and she slipped through the enlarged opening. The desk chair was empty, but her gaze was drawn to the floor.

A body lay halfway hidden behind the big wooden desk. But the head was visible. The image seared into Susanna's brain like a hot brand, and she knew she would remember it as long as she lived. Mr. Ingram's face was purple, his eyes bulging from their sockets to stare at something no living person could see.

A scream tore from her throat.

While the police officer took his statement, Jack tried not to look toward Ingram's open office door. From the corner of his eye he saw a flash from the investigator's camera as it photographed the body. He suppressed a shudder and glanced in the opposite direction, where Susanna sat huddled in a chair, her face hidden behind a curtain of blond hair. The horrified sound of her scream still echoed in his ears. She spoke quietly into a cell phone, which she held cupped to the side of her head with one hand while she massaged her temples with the thumb and forefinger of the other. Something about the way her drooping shoulders gave an occasional heave, as if she was holding back sobs, made Jack want to cross the room and place a comforting arm around her.

The thought brought a sour taste to his mouth. An offer of compassion might be viewed as an invitation, and he wasn't about to get himself any more involved with Susanna Trent than he already was. They'd known each other only a few hours, and already the gruesome specter of a dead body had polluted any budding relationship they might have enjoyed. That, and the fact that she knew who he was. The name Townsend cast a long shadow in Lexington, Kentucky.

"Thank you for answering our questions, Mr. Townsend." Jack pulled his attention away from Susanna and focused on the police detective. The man, who had identified himself as Detective Rollins, gave a quick smile. "If you don't mind, we'd like to get an address and phone number where we can reach you in case something comes up that we need to clarify."

"Of course." Jack slid his wallet out of his jeans pocket and extracted a card.

Rollins took it out of his hand and studied it. "Vice President of Supply for Townsend Steakhouses, Inc." The detective didn't bother to hide the fact that he was impressed. "That sounds like an important job."

"Yes, it certainly does." Jack worded his answer carefully, and hoped his smile was sincere.

The detective's expression turned quizzical, but he didn't pursue the matter. "Well, we may be in touch. In the meantime, if you think of anything that could be helpful, give us a call."

Rollins handed the card to the uniformed officer standing next to him, who began copying information from it. With another quick smile, this time in dismissal, the detective headed for Ingram's office.

Apparently Jack was free to leave. He glanced toward Susanna, who had not moved from her chair and was still speaking quietly into her phone. Hopefully she was talking to someone who would offer her the support she needed. A boyfriend, maybe. Though he felt a twinge of guilt at leaving her to face the detective's questions alone, he had his own call to make. He'd put it off long enough.

Jack extracted his cell phone from his pocket and pressed the power button as he stepped from the building into the cold evening air. He hurried down the sidewalk toward his truck, which still had the big covered car trailer hitched to the back. The sleet had stopped for the moment, but his breath froze in visible puffs as he scrolled down the listings in his cell phone address book to the entry for his father, R. H. Townsend. When Jack came to work in the office of Townsend Steakhouses, his father had insisted that he stop being childish and address him as R.H., like all the other management employees. In Jack's mind, he'd been R.H. for years anyway. Giving that cold man the title Father had felt wrong for a long time.

The time read just past nine, which meant that R.H. would be in his home office, working for several more hours before he went to bed. Jack pictured him behind his desk, reading from a neat stack of papers, jotting notes on the yellow legal pad he kept nearby at all times to record the not-infrequent ideas that kept the research and development department at Townsend Steakhouses in a perpetual state of flustered activity.

The phone didn't finish the first ring.

"I've been trying to call you for hours. Did you get the car?" No greeting. R. H. Townsend rarely wasted time on pleasantries.

"I'm afraid not. The b—"

"What?"

A string of foul language polluted the airspace between Jack's phone and his father's. Jack set his teeth together and endured the tirade. If the frigid air had turned blue around him, he wouldn't have been surprised. His father's language was rarely appropriate for Sunday school, but this outburst went on longer than usual.

When he paused for a breath, Jack jumped in to defend himself. "Wait a minute. If you'll just listen—"

"Listen? That's what I expected you to do—listen to me, and do as you were told. But I guess it was asking too much to expect you to follow one simple request."

The scorn in his father's words was all too familiar. It was a tone Jack had heard many times since his boyhood.

"Who bought it?"

Jack squeezed his eyes shut before he said the name. "Tom Ingram's secretary."

"You let a secretary buy my car out from under your nose?"

Another tirade followed, and Jack let it run dry before he offered his explanation. "The car sold for thirty thousand dollars. I checked a whole list of comparables before I left for the auction, so I know that's more than it was worth.

But I located another red Corvette up near Indianapolis, and it's in even b—"

"Just forget it. I don't want to hear your excuses."

With iron control, Jack bit back the words that threatened to shoot out of his mouth. His chest expanded slowly as he drew icy air into his lungs. He'd long ago given up trying to defend his actions to his father.

Besides, he had another blow to deliver, and there was no way to soften it. His father and Thomas Ingram had been friends.

Jack kept his tone even as he spoke. "R.H., I have something to tell you that may come as a shock." He drew another breath, then broke the news. "Tom Ingram is dead."

"Dead? Don't tell me he wrecked the car as soon as he got it."

Jack arrived at the pickup, and unlocked the door with a click of the remote. "No, it wasn't an accident. He was killed. Murdered, right in his office."

Silence on the line. Jack opened the door and climbed into the driver's seat. A trace of warmth still lingered in the cab from his ninety-minute drive after the auction. He pictured his father, seated in his high-backed chair, digesting the news. He and Ingram were among a small group of wealthy businessmen who'd been in the habit of getting together for a monthly poker game for the past several years. Ingram's death would be a blow to them all.

"That's…terrible. Just terrible. Where did you hear about it? Is it on the radio?"

"No, I don't think the press has gotten wind of the news yet. After his secretary bought the car, she couldn't find a transport company to deliver it tonight. They were all booked solid for several days. Since I had taken an empty trailer with me anyway, I offered to bring the Corvette back to Lexington for her. We found the body when we got here."

"Wait a minute. First you let someone else buy my car, and then you delivered it for her?"

Jack stiffened at the outrage in his father's voice. "Maybe you didn't hear me. I just told you that your friend has been killed—murdered—and I found the body. And all you can think about is a car?"

"I said it was terrible. What more do you want me to say?" Jack heard a quick intake of breath. "What's going to happen to the car now? Ingram certainly doesn't need it anymore."

He shook his head, unable to answer for a moment. Obviously he'd been wrong to describe Ingram as his father's friend. R.H. had no friends. He had social acquaintances, business associates and employees, but certainly no one in whom he would confide as a friend. Jack had heard the lecture many times growing up—confidences were an act of weakness. Why would you tell someone your thoughts and give them a weapon that might be used against you later? Being too open with people was one of the many things for which R. H. Townsend faulted his son.

Still, a man had been murdered. Jack had known his father rarely wasted time on sentimentality, but to express an interest in the Corvette this soon? It was downright callous.

If that's what being a successful businessman leads to, Lord, then save me from success.

There was no use trying to convince his father that the question was inappropriate. The man was a brusque, uncaring businessman through and through, and he wasn't likely to change his attitude anytime soon.

Jack finally managed an even response. "I overheard his secretary tell the police that Ingram has two daughters.

The car probably belongs to them now. Maybe they'd be willing to sell it to you."

"How long do you think that would take?"

Jack closed his eyes. "I really don't know."

"Check on it then."

A click, and the call disconnected. For a long time, Jack sat staring at the phone. He'd seen his father make some harsh business decisions with little regard for the people whose lives he had affected. He'd watched him sign away the jobs and livelihood of hundreds of employees with the flourish of a pen, without even a passing thought to their welfare. Heard him more than once berate midlevel managers with language that should have resulted in lawsuits. And he'd been on the receiving end of that famous Townsend temper more times than he could count. He thought nothing the man could do would surprise him anymore. But this reaction to Tom Ingram's death plunged to a new depth. R.H. had proven himself to be completely heartless.

The cab lost the last of its warmth, and a circle of breath frosted on the inside of the windshield. Jack shook himself free of his thoughts and jumped out of the truck. He'd better go back inside and find out how to contact Ingram's daughters about the Corvette. If he didn't, R.H. would do it himself. At least Jack could try to handle the situation tactfully.

Print book:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Christianbook.com
Books a Million

Ebook:
Nookbook
Kindle

Comments

Popular Posts

Year of the Dog serial novel

About Year of the Dog : A month or two ago, I remembered an old manuscript I had completed but which hadn’t sold. It was a contemporary romance meant for Zondervan, titled Year of the Dog . The book had gone into the pipeline and I even got another title ( Bad Dog ) and a cover for it, but eventually my editor at the time decided she didn’t want to publish it, for various reasons. She instead requested a romantic suspense, and so I cannibalized some of the characters from Year of the Dog and thrust them into the next book I wrote, which was Protection for Hire . Honestly, I didn’t take a lot from Year of the Dog to put in Protection for Hire , aside from character names and a few relationship ties. I was originally thinking I’d post Year of the Dog as-is on my blog as a free read, but then it occurred to me that I could revamp it into a romantic suspense and change the setting to Hawaii. It would work out perfectly as (yet another) prequel to the Warubozu series and introduce

No Cold Bums toilet seat cover

Captain's Log, Stardate 08.22.2008 I actually wrote out my pattern! I was getting a lot of hits on my infamous toilet seat cover , and I wanted to make a new one with “improvements,” so I paid attention and wrote things down as I made the new one. This was originally based off the Potty Mouth toilet cover , but I altered it to fit over the seat instead of the lid. Yarn: any worsted weight yarn, about 120 yards (this is a really tight number, I used exactly 118 yards. My suggestion is to make sure you have about 130 yards.) I suggest using acrylic yarn because you’re going to be washing this often. Needle: I used US 8, but you can use whatever needle size is recommended by the yarn you’re using. Gauge: Not that important. Mine was 4 sts/1 inch in garter stitch. 6 buttons (I used some leftover shell buttons I had in my stash) tapestry needle Crochet hook (optional) Cover: Using a provisional cast on, cast on 12 stitches. Work in garter st until liner measures

A new tier in my Patreon

I started my Patreon for my fans and for people who didn’t want to buy my books on Kindle. My patrons get each new ebook 2-3 weeks early for only $3 (which is usually the newsletter-only price), and they only get charged when I release a book, not every month. At the moment, I’m releasing my Christian historical romantic suspense series, Lady Wynwood’s Spies. But after I finish that series, I’ll be releasing my Christian contemporary romantic suspense series, the Warubozu Spa Chronicles, and those in my Patreon will be able to get those books early, too. I just added a new $1.00 tier for fans who would prefer to read my books in Kindle Unlimited or buy the Kindle ebook, but just want to support me. Click here to read more about my Patreon. Thank you so much for reading my books!

Follow Camy on BookBub

Follow my author profile on BookBub! You’ll get an email from BookBub whenever I have a new ebook release and when my books are ever featured there. Click here to go to my Camille Elliot page on BookBub.

ひとり寿司第28章パート2

「ひとり寿司」をブログに連載します! ひとり寿司 寿司シリーズの第一作 キャミー・タング 西島美幸 訳 スポーツ狂のレックス・坂井 —— いとこのマリコが数ヶ月後に結婚することにより、「いとこの中で一番年上の独身女性」という内輪の肩書を「勝ち取る」ことについては、あまり気にしていない。コントロールフリークの祖母を無視するのは容易だ —— しかし、祖母は最終通告を出した —— マリコの結婚式までにデート相手を見つけなければ、無慈悲な祖母は、レックスがコーチをしている女子バレーボールチームへの資金供給を切ると言う。 ダグアウトにいる選手全員とデートに出かけるほど絶望的なわけではない。レックスは、バイブルスタディで読んだ「エペソの手紙」をもとに「最高の男性」の条件の厳しいリストを作った。バレーボールではいつも勝つ —— ゲームを有利に進めれば、必ず成功するはずだ。 そのとき兄は、クリスチャンではなく、アスリートでもなく、一見何の魅力もないエイデンを彼女に引き合わせる。 エイデンは、クリスチャンではないという理由で離れていったトリッシュという女の子から受けた痛手から立ち直ろうとしている。そして、レックスが(1)彼に全く興味がないこと、(2)クリスチャンであること、(3)トリッシュのいとこであることを知る。あの狂った家族とまた付き合うのはごめんだ。まして、偽善的なクリスチャンの女の子など、お断り。彼はマゾヒストじゃない。 レックスは時間がなくなってきた。いくら頑張っても、いい人は現れない。それに、どこへ行ってもエイデンに遭遇する。あのリストはどんどん長くなっていくばかり —— 過去に掲載済みのストーリーのリンクはこちらです。 *** キッチンテーブルの上にごちゃごちゃと置かれている食べ物を見つけた。フルーツが入ったお皿は、すでに子供たちがめちゃくちゃにしていたが、新鮮なマグロの刺身は、巻き寿司の隣にきれいに並んでいた。天ぷら鍋から取り出したばかりのもち粉チキンは、まだ湯気が立っていて、祖母の自家製たくあんが、その隣の小皿に置かれている。 「わあ、叔母さんか誰かが、エビの天ぷら作ったんだわ」トリッシュはエビの天ぷらを紙皿に取った。 レックスはお皿をつかんだ。ここに来た唯一の理由。祖母ですら、美味しい日本食を食べていると

Grace Livingston Hill romances free to read online

I wanted to update my old post on Grace Livingston Hill romances because now there are tons more options for you to be able to read her books for free online! I’m a huge Grace Livingston Hill fan. Granted, not all her books resonate with me, but there are a few that I absolutely love, like The Enchanted Barn and Crimson Roses . And the best part is that she wrote over 100 books and I haven’t yet read them all! When I have time, I like to dive into a new GLH novel. I like the fact that most of them are romances, and I especially appreciate that they all have strong Christian themes. Occasionally the Christian content is a little heavy-handed for my taste, but it’s so interesting to see what the Christian faith was like in the early part of the 20th century. These books are often Cinderella-type stories or A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) type stories, which I love. And the best part is that they’re all set in the early 1900s, so the time period is absolutely fasci

A List of my Free Blog Reads

Curious about what my writing is like? Here’s a list of all my free books and the free short stories, novellas, and novels that you can read here on my blog. I’ll update this post as I add more free reads. Christian Humorous Romantic Suspense: Year of the Dog (Warubozu Spa Chronicles series, Prequel novel) (Currently being posted monthly on my blog as a serial novel) Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, finally has a chance to buy a facility for her business, but her world is upended when she must move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate. When she stumbles upon a three-year-old missing persons case, security expert Ashwin Keitou, whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier, is tasked with protecting her. However, danger begins to circle around them from people who want the past to remain there. Can they shed light on the secrets moving in the shadows? Christian Romantic Suspense: Necessary Proof (Sonoma series #4.1, n

Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 9

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series. Year of the Dog serial novel by Camy Tang Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year. While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier. Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Aunt Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Chri

Lady Wynwood's Spies 4 vignette - Lady Stoude

This is a really random scene I wrote that occurs in Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 4: Betrayer right after chapter 23, after Keriah returns home and before Phoebe comes to pick her up later that night. The team has finished making all preparations for the trade for Michael at Vauxhall Gardens. *** “Oh! I have no wish to go to the ball tonight!” Lady Stoude stood in the open doorway to the drawing room of her husband’s townhouse, hands on hips, with a disgruntled expression that looked faintly like a drowned cat. Her husband, Jeremy, Lord Stoude, glanced up at her from where he was leaning against the mantle of the fireplace, drinking something amber-colored and peaty-smelling. He merely gave her a mild, inquiring look. “Why not, my dear?” “I have just heard from my maid, who heard from Mrs. Butterworth’s maid, who heard from Miss Farrimond’s maid, that Miss Farrimond will not attend the ball tonight, because an unfortunate accident with hair dye caused her to now sport a gia

Tabi socks, part deux

Captain's Log, Stardate 07.25.2008 (If you're on Ravelry, friend me! I'm camytang.) I made tabi socks again! (At the bottom of the pattern is the calculation for the toe split if you're not using the same weight yarn that I did for this pattern (fingering). I also give an example from when I used worsted weight yarn with this pattern.) I used Opal yarn, Petticoat colorway. It’s a finer yarn than my last pair of tabi socks, so I altered the pattern a bit. Okay, so here’s my first foray into giving a knitting pattern. Camy’s top-down Tabi Socks I’m assuming you already know the basics of knitting socks. If you’re a beginner, here are some great tutorials: Socks 101 How to Knit Socks The Sock Knitter’s Companion A video of turning the heel Sock Knitting Tips Yarn: I have used both fingering weight and worsted weight yarn with this pattern. You just change the number of cast on stitches according to your gauge and the circumference of your ankle. Th