Saturday Excerpt: Fatal Scandal by Marie Force
Haven’t discovered Marie Force’s bestselling Fatal series yet? This pulse-pounding romantic suspense series starring Lieutenant Sam Holland and politician Nick Cappuano has captured thousands of readers’ hearts already. Catch up with brand-new print editions of Fatal Scandal and Fatal Frenzy on sale now, and look for Fatal Identity next month. Get a head start with an excerpt from Fatal Scandal below!
About Fatal Scandal:
As a new year dawns in the capital city, dual scandals rock the Metropolitan Police Department—and Lieutenant Sam Holland is right in the middle of them. Chief Farnsworth is catching heat for the way he handled a recent homicide investigation, and Detective Gonzales is accused of failing to disclose an earlier connection to the judge who decided his custody hearing.
When Gonzo’s fight for his child turns deadly and he has a shaky alibi, Sam must defend two of her closest colleagues. All while her husband, vice president Nick Cappuano, settles into his new office at the White House.
Nick begins to wonder if the president is using him for a political boost, and his worries mount over a complication in the plans to adopt Scotty at a time when Sam is being put through the wringer by the always-rabid DC press corps. As the evidence against Gonzo piles up, Sam suspects someone is gunning for her—and her team.
The dual scandal ripped through the city with the power of a tsunami, flooding the airwaves with headlines that struck fear in Sam’s heart. “Springer Alleges Farnsworth’s Incompetence Caused Son’s Death” and “Detective ‘In Bed’ with Judge on Custody Matter.”
Sitting in front of the TV in the master bedroom, Sam hung on every word that was being said about her beloved chief of police, the man she’d known first as Uncle Joe. And her close friend, Detective Tommy “Gonzo” Gonzales, who’d been shot during the Springer investigation shortly after he’d been granted full and permanent custody of his young son Alex.
“Springer alleges that Farnsworth personally ordered the homicide investigation into the stabbing deaths of his younger son Hugo and eight of Hugo’s friends be put on hold to allow for the conclusion of a six-month undercover narcotics investigation that had focused on Billy Springer and his associates.” The talking head on CBC seemed to be taking great pleasure in reporting on the events that had led to Billy Springer’s death at the hands of a Metro PD SWAT team.
“Are they going to mention how he shot at us?” Sam asked the TV. “Of course not. That won’t be brought up.”
“The department faces the secondary scandal surrounding Detective Sergeant Thomas Gonzales, who was shot in the neck by Springer during the confrontation at Springer’s grandmother’s house in Friendship Heights.”
“Thank you!” Sam said. “Finally! Thanks for remembering Springer actually shot one of our people!”
“Gonzales’s custody case was heard in the courtroom of Family Court Judge Leon Morton, the brother of Eva Morton, whose homicide case was investigated by none other than newly promoted Detective Thomas Gonzales. Neither the judge nor the detective disclosed their earlier connection, which is a conflict of interest, according to the attorney for the baby’s mother, Lori Phillips.”
“Oh my God, Gonzo,” Sam whispered. She couldn’t even think about what it would mean to Gonzo if he lost custody of the son he adored. “What a fucked-up mess.”
“What’s a fucked-up mess?” Sam’s husband and the country’s new vice president asked as he came into the bedroom where she sat at the end of the bed watching the news. It was one of two rooms in the house that wasn’t being monitored by the Secret Service around the clock. The other was their loft on the top floor of the double-sized townhouse, the place they escaped to whenever they needed some time alone.
“What about him?” Nick asked.
“He failed to disclose an earlier connection to Judge Morton, who presided over Alex’s custody hearing. He investigated the murder of Morton’s sister years ago.”
“And now Lori and her lawyer are making a big stink out of the fact that they failed to disclose. She’s taken her case to the media, and they’re eating it up like the rabid dogs they are.”
“Tommy must be freaking out.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he is. And he’s got enough on his mind with the wound taking forever to heal.”
Sam blew out a deep breath to calm nerves that went nuts every time she relived the way the Springer investigation had blown up in their faces and how they would’ve lost Gonzo without his partner’s quick action.
Sensing her disquiet, Nick came to her and wrapped his arms around her, which calmed her like always. “He’s fine, Sam. A little battered but fine. And this thing with the judge will blow over when something bigger happens. You know how the news cycle in this city works.”
Sam looped her arms around his waist and breathed in the rich, masculine scent of home. He was so beautiful with his brown hair that curled at the ends, the dark olive complexion that made him look tan, even in the dead of winter, and the hazel eyes that saw her like no one else before him ever had. “And this thing with the chief. I’m worried about it.”
“How come? Everyone knows Springer is just spouting off because he doesn’t want to accept that one of his sons killed another of his sons—and a bunch of other kids too.”
“I know, but what Springer is saying about Farnsworth. It’s true. He did put the murder investigation on hold when it was zeroing in on Billy Springer because the narcs were completing a long-term undercover investigation and needed more time to sew it up.”
“And that’s unusual?”
“Nothing trumps murder. The whole thing was totally bizarre. We all thought so.”
“Did he tell you why he made that call?”
“It was about money and the huge investment that’d already been made into the narcotics investigation. If nothing came of that outlay of cash, it would hurt us at budget time. Or something like that. And now it’s coming back to bite him in the ass anyway.”
“He’s withstood worse. He’ll get through this too.”
Sam wanted to believe Nick was right, but she was worried nonetheless. “Ever since the chief put the murder investigation on ice, I’ve had a bad feeling about how it could come back to haunt us.”
“So you’re saying Springer has good reason to be pissed?”
“Well, not necessarily. His son was, in fact, a murderer, and what father ever wants to admit that? But Billy might still be alive—and Gonzo never would’ve been shot—if we’d arrested Billy the night before the standoff with SWAT. And we’d all like to know how he found out we were focusing on him. The entire thing was a fucking disaster.”
“Are you still up for going out tonight?” Nick asked.
Sam forced herself to rally for his sake. He needed this night out more than she did, and she needed it pretty damn badly. “Of course I am. I’ve been living for date night with my sexy husband.”
He rolled his eyes at her as he always did when she commented on his supreme hotness.
“Besides, I know it’s taken a tremendous amount of coordination to make it happen, so I wouldn’t dream of backing out.”
At the reminder of the restrictions that came with his new job, his smile faded. “Yeah, it did. It takes a freaking act of Congress for me to be able to walk out the goddamn door.”
He’d known, of course, that round-the-clock Secret Service protection would be confining. But knowing it and living it were two very different things. He’d had protection at the end of his recent campaign for the Senate after Sam’s family had been threatened. However, Nick was finding a huge difference between having a detail as a candidate and having one as vice president.
“Let me grab a quick shower and get changed,” Sam said. “Where’s Scotty?”
“He and Shelby are making pizza. Rumor has it her boyfriend will be joining them.” FBI Special Agent Avery Hill was hardly her husband’s favorite person, probably because of the not-so-secret crush he’d once had on her. “I’ll be down in fifteen minutes.”
“I’ll be waiting.” He left her with a kiss and headed downstairs to spend some time with Scotty before they left.
Sam rushed through a shower and changed into the sexy black cocktail dress she’d bought weeks ago with this evening in mind. It was their second New Year’s Eve as a couple, and they were returning to the place where they’d gone last year to celebrate their new jobs—hers as the lieutenant in charge of the Metro Police Department’s Homicide Division and his as a newly sworn-in senator, taking the place of his slain best friend, John O’Connor.
She smoothed Nick’s favorite lavender- and vanilla-scented lotion onto her arms and legs as she thought about him and the changes they’d all endured since he accepted President Nelson’s offer to become his new vice president. While her life had remained more or less the same, Nick’s had changed dramatically, and she could see him chafing against some of the restrictions.
For one thing, the insomnia that had plagued him for most of his adult life had been relentless in the last couple of weeks. For another, the constant, intrusive presence of his Secret Service detail was driving them both to drink. The director of the Secret Service had given them special permission to remain in their own Capitol Hill home, but the officers assigned to protect Nick were clearly put out by the directive. Not that any of them had said as much to Nick, but it was obvious to both of them that the detail didn’t approve.
They’d much rather have the family living at the Naval Observatory in the traditional home of the vice president. But with Sam’s dad three doors down from them and still recovering from his recent surgery to remove a bullet from his spinal cord, there was no way she could move. Nick had known that and had made remaining in their own home a condition of accepting the president’s offer.
Thank God he’d also negotiated for no Secret Service protection for her, which allowed her to continue in her role as the lieutenant in charge of the MPD’s Homicide Division. The thought of being trailed by a detail gave Sam the heebie-jeebies. So while she retained the freedom to come and go as she pleased, Nick and Scotty were under lock and key, which had been an adjustment for all of them.
As the cold winter weather had set in, they’d been content to spend many an evening at home during the holiday season, watching movies and playing round after round of Monopoly with Scotty, who was shaping up to be a real estate shark in the making. He won every game. Sam couldn’t help but wonder, however, what would happen when her guys began to chafe at being stuck at home so much of the time.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” she decided. For now, she was thrilled to have a romantic evening ahead of her with the love of her life. She secured the diamond key necklace he’d given her as a wedding gift and slid on the gorgeous engagement ring she only wore when she wasn’t working. He’d told her he liked seeing it on her hand, so she wore it for him as often as possible.
In the room that served as her closet, she found a black wool coat that she tossed over her arm before she headed downstairs wearing the four-inch black Louboutin stunners with the red bottoms that Nick had bought her for Christmas. Her husband knew the way to her heart was through her shoes, and she’d found one hell of a way to thank him. She smiled when she remembered dropping to her knees before him—while wearing only the shoes—and the way his eyes had widened with surprise and then pure desire when he’d realized her intention.
* * *
Fatal Scandal is available now in print and ebook: