HISTORY WILL REPEAT ITSELF... UNLESS SHE CAN STOP IT.
Juicy stories are investigative reporter Winter Archer's bread and butter. So when her beloved mentor asks her to write the biography of Athena Academy's founder, Winter jumps at the chance. But someone out there will stop at nothing--not even murder--to ensure that long-buried secrets remain hidden. And Winter can't finish the job unless she joins forces with the one man who is most definitely off-limits. Only together can they uncover the deadly plot that spans decades and threatens to destroy a legacy....
Athena Force Will the women of Athena unravel Arachne's powerful web of blackmail and death...or succumb to their enemies' deadly secrets?
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November 05, 2007
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Excerpt from Vendetta by Roxanne Rustand
Athena Academy Outside Phoenix, Arizona Now
"You don't trust me, do you?" Winter Archer curbed the indignation she felt as she locked eyes with the tall, handsome man standing at the office window.
"It's not my place to trust you, Miss Archer," he replied coolly. The reply was tactful. Exactly the way Winter would expect a United States Attorney General to say it.
His name was David Gracelyn. Winter remembered him from the time she'd spent at Athena Academy. She'd been a student then, barely into her teens. He was a few years older than her, but that gap wasn't so pronounced these days as it had been back then. Back then, four years had separated them into different worlds.
In those days David Gracelyn had been a senior at Phoenix, attending a public school at his insistence so he could play competitive baseball. His parents hadn't been fully supportive of his decision because being in the public eye had been risky.
Marion and Adam Gracelyn had been deeply enmeshed in politics. Their work hit society pages as well as front pages of papers, and they were regularly mentioned on the nightly news. Marion had also been the driving force behind Athena Academy.
After high school, David had gone on to play baseball at college as well. Winter had read about him in the newspapers and seen occasional snippets of games on the local television news. He'd been a good player. Just not a great one.
He was lean and athletic even now. Winter was willing to bet that he worked to keep himself in shape, though not out of vanity. He'd always had that competitive edge. Although David didn't compete against the girls who had attended Athena, he had competed with his sister, Allison. But only because Allison had unmercifully taunted him. She'd also beaten him on several occasions.
He wore his dark brown hair short and neat, well clear of the shirt collar. His brown eyes held a sadness in them that Winter couldn't remember being there even after his mother's death a few years ago. Winter had returned for Marion Gracelyn's funeral, of course. Most Athena grads had, but it had been easy to get lost in the ocean of mourners that had shown up.
Now, Winter sat in one of the comfortable chairs in front of Christine Evans's desk. The woman was the principal of Athena Academy and had been all those years ago as well. Newspaper stories about past graduates of the academy covered the walls. Christine Evans had been part of a lot of successes. Winter took quiet pleasure in seeing that at least one of those articles concerned her career.
"If you trusted me," Winter said to David, "you wouldn't be here."
A trace of irritation tightened his eyes. He turned to face her more squarely, silhouetted against the window filled with bright March sunshine. He crossed his arms over his chest and forced a smile.
"I'd hardly call my presence a declaration of distrust," David said.
"That," Winter told him, "is because you're not sitting where I am."
The look of irritation tightened into a grimace. David took in a deep breath and let it out through his nose. "It's better if we wait to discuss this matter until Christine arrives."
Meredith Fletcher 9
"The matter that Christine called me out here for?" Winter asked.
"Or the fact that you don't trust me to do whatever it is she's going to ask me to do?"
"All of it." David pushed back his shirtsleeve and compared the time on his watch with the wall clock. "She should have been here by now."
Winter surveyed David, reading him effortlessly. Years of experience with interviewing politicians, murderers, good cops and bad ones had honed her natural skills.
David Gracelyn was nervous, agitated and angry. He kept his jacket on, like a knight refusing to shed his armor in a room where he should have been totally comfortable.
It's not me that he's concerned with, Winter decided. That meant it had to be Christine Evans. She had been one of the best friends David's mother had ever known. She'd practically been a second mother to Allison, and Winter was certain she'd been around David a lot as well.
"Look," Winter said, "if it helps, I don't know why Christine called me out here. I heard about the kidnappings that took place on the campus a few weeks ago, but I'd heard that had all been resolved." She was fishing, of course, and she figured that he probably knew it. But there was also a chance that he would offer some clue.
The kidnapping story had been covered by a number of news services, mostly because of Athena Academy's reputation and partly because kidnappings of teenage girls generally did hit the news.
"No. It's not about the kidnappings." David took a breath.
And what did that mean?