Betrayed by Trust

Betrayed by Trust (Carina Press)

Betrayed by Trust final cover

Betrayed by Trust also takes place in Washington, D.C.—the characters include the vice president and his wife, the white house counsel and some congressmen.

Catherine Morrissey is devastated when her sister’s body is found on a tiny wooded island on the Potomac. For months, Catherine had hoped that Blair’s disappearance would end with the bright, young Capitol Hill aide found safe and alive. Determined to put pressure on the police to catch the killer, Catherine flies to Washington, DC.

Joseph Rossi, an investigative reporter for The Washington Herald broke the story of Blair’s murder—and ruined his chances with Catherine in the process. They’d developed a warm, long-distance connection after Catherine’s sister went missing, but the temptation of the scoop—which revealed some Morrissey family secrets—was too great to resist. Now together in DC, Catherine and Joe are thrown into a world of lies, scandal, and deadly political intrigue. They must work as a team and learn to trust one another—and their rekindled feelings—if they have any hope of living to see the truth uncovered.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

Prologue

Mid-May

Catherine Morrissey punched the numbers into her cell phone for the fifth time since she’d opened her eyes on the worst day of her life. A tiny Care Bears nightlight glowed above the dresser but cast no light in the room she had shared with Blair when they were kids. She could almost hear them giggling together in the dark, picture Blair’s blond pigtails lifting like wings beside her face each time she bounded up on the mattress, calling out, “Jump over the river, Cathy!” Feel herself leaping between the twin beds, grabbing onto Blair’s flannel nightie, both of them tumbling, limbs tangled, laughing and laughing…

She closed her eyes again. Tears leaked out the corners and ran down the sides of her face onto the pillow.

Blair is dead.

Still the images came.

Blair running beside her, holding onto the handlebars and seat of Catherine’s first two-wheeler, hollering and clapping when she let go and her little sister rode all the way to the end of the block without tipping.

She and Blair lying on their bellies in front of the fire playing Monopoly and drinking orange soda after their parents went to bed.

At twelve, helping Blair roll Daddy’s car down the driveway so the fourteen-year-old could teach her to drive.

Spotting Alan’s VW parked outside Blair’s flat at two in the morning after hours of worry.

Creeping up the steps, hearing the unmistakable sounds of sex…

“Why, Blair?” she whispered through the lump in her throat.

But she would never get an answer. Blair had tried to explain, but she had cut her off—cut her out of her life completely. For five years she had held onto the anger with a death grip, as though hating her ex-husband and her sister could somehow make her stronger and less vulnerable. As though pretending her sister didn’t exist could fill the gaping hole left by her loss.

How wrong she had been.

Pick up, Joe. Please.

Joe’s cell phone rang two more times before voice mail kicked in.

“You’ve reached the voice mail of Joseph Rossi at the Washington Herald. I’m unavailable to take your call. If this is an emergency, please call my work number at—”

She clicked off and held the phone over her heart. Of all the people she knew, the one person whose voice she needed to hear right now belonged to a man she had never met.

When did you become so important to me, Joe?

The digital clock across the room said 4:43 a.m. Less than twenty-four hours had passed since the police in Washington, D.C., had called to confirm what they all had feared—that Blair’s dental records matched the skeletal remains found on Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Catherine’s father had been in tears when he called in the middle of her biology class and asked her to come home. She’d called Joe on the way to her parents’ house, and she was crying so hard he’d insisted she pull over so she didn’t have an accident. That was Joe—sweet, sympathetic and caring. Just as he’d been over the long months since Blair had disappeared without a trace.

Wake up, Joe. Call me.

She punched in his number one more time but stopped before hitting Send. He always told her to call him, day or night, if she needed him, but it wasn’t her nature to reach out. On those rare occasions when the darkness threatened to overwhelm her, when the pain of not knowing whether Blair was alive or dead was too great, she had called him during the night, and Joe had listened in that intense way of his, and understood. And when she hung up—usually with a smile on her face—somehow the world felt less ugly, less brutal and dangerous, as though he’d reached across the miles and wrapped her in a cocoon of safety.

As long as Joe was there for her, she would be all right.

Of course, he would have been on deadline until late last night to get the story out. That had to be why she hadn’t heard from him. He was probably so out of it he didn’t even hear his phone. Or maybe he’d left it sitting in his jacket, set to vibrate instead of ring. If he knew how desperately she wanted to hear his voice, she had no doubt he would call her in a heartbeat. He was just that kind of guy.

The last two Facebook holdouts in the civilized world. They’d laughed about that, and when she’d demurred from sending him a photo of herself—not wanting to invite comparison to her beautiful sister—Joe had accepted it without question. He didn’t send one of himself, either, leaving them both free to imagine what the other looked like. She spent a lot of time imagining not only how he looked but how it would feel to be held in his arms.

Light footsteps crossed the kitchen. Her mother was up. Catherine was exhausted from little sleep, her eyes achy from crying. During the night she’d heard her mother weeping and her father trying to comfort her. How would they make it through the day? She slid out from under the comforter, grabbed a robe off the door and walked quietly down the hall to the kitchen.

Her mother sat at the table, her gaze in the dim light unfocused. Her lovely hair, which Blair had inherited, had been blond in November and was now completely gray. Even her vibrant blue eyes had paled. Now those eyes were puffy and red. Her shoulders slumped, weighed down by the worst kind of grief—the death of a child. Catherine sat beside her and leaned her head on her mother’s shoulder, then stroked her rounded back, gently, in wordless sympathy. After a time her mother lifted a cold hand to Catherine’s cheek.

“You okay, baby?” she rasped.

Catherine raised her face and looked into her mother’s sad, sad eyes. She’d lost her firstborn child and still she had room in her heart to worry about Catherine. That would never change. She kissed her mother’s cheek and wrapped her arms around her neck. “I will be. How about I make us some coffee?”

“Your father will like that too.”

It was dark at this time of the morning in the New Hampshire mountains, but there were cars driving down Route 16, which meant the newspaper was probably sitting outside by now. Catherine filled the carafe with water and began pouring it into the coffeemaker when a thought struck—her parents didn’t need to see the headlines today. Blair’s disappearance had been a big local story seven months ago, and now that her body had been discovered.

She struggled to take the next breath.

How odd and unnatural to think of her sister as a body.

The temperature outside wouldn’t be much above forty—even though it was the middle of May—but she didn’t have the energy to slip on shoes just to walk around to the front of the house and grab the paper off the lawn. What did a little cold matter, anyway?

Blair is dead.

She tied the belt on her robe, opened the kitchen door and stepped out into a cold drizzle. The wooden banister was wet, but she held onto it to steady herself as she descended the steps to the side yard. In the somber, predawn light she could barely make out the newspaper lying in a clear plastic wrapper about twenty feet away, beyond the edge of the house.

She clutched the sides of her robe together as she crossed the wet lawn. Hot tears mixed with the rain on her cheeks. Her back was stiff when she bent down and grabbed the paper, as though she’d aged since yesterday. Sorrow did that to a person.

“Someone’s in the yard!” She straightened at the shout.

“Miss Morrissey? What can you tell us about your sister’s affair with your husband?”

Catherine gasped. She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. A crowd of reporters and photographers with cameras and microphones materialized out of the mist and swarmed toward her. Lights flashed in her eyes, and people hurled questions at her like stones.

“Did you know about your sister’s liaisons with members of Congress?”

“Do you think one of them killed her?”

“How did you feel when you heard it was your sister’s body in that swamp?”

“How long did her affair with your husband last?”

“Did you forgive Blair before she died?”

“Did you find them in bed together?”

Catherine pivoted on the wet grass and ran toward the side door into her father’s workshop. Halfway there she slipped and went down on one knee. Pain shot up her leg, but she got to her feet and limped the rest of the way. A young woman followed her, still shouting questions. Catherine swung at her, connecting with a fleshy shoulder.

“Get off my property!” she screamed.

Once inside the workshop, she slammed and locked the door behind her, then leaned against it, shivering and struggling to catch her breath. Her legs were shaking so badly she lowered herself to the tile floor. Cold dread squeezed her gut.

No. Joe wouldn’t do this.

She fumbled the White Mountain Observer out of the dripping plastic sleeve. The giant front-page headline knocked the wind out of her: “Dead Capitol Hill Aide Had Dirty Secrets.” Plastered across the entire upper fold of the paper was a glamour shot of Blair in a revealing dress.

As though sex was all that defined this woman. Her sister.

“Oh, Blair,” she whispered. The lump in her throat prevented her from swallowing..There was only one way the reporters outside could have found out about Blair and Alan, only one other person outside Alan’s family who knew. She’d hidden it from her parents to spare them, from her friends because she didn’t want their pity. But she had told Joe in confidence, months after they had begun their long-distance friendship, long after he’d convinced her he was more interested in talking to her than in getting background information about Blair. He had just confided that his mother walked out on him when he was seven, and Catherine had wanted him to know she understood how it felt to be betrayed by your own flesh and blood.

She’d told him because she trusted him, because she believed he cared for her as deeply as she had come to care for him.

“Oh God, Joe. How could you do this to me?”

Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe Alan had told someone and that person had told a reporter. Sure, that could be it. She scanned the article below the photo, praying this nightmare was not of Joe’s making. Then she spotted his name, and her pulse began pounding in her ears.

According to a story by Washington Herald reporter Joseph Rossi, Miss Morrissey had a long history of sexual liaisons with married men, including the husband of her sister, Catherine Morrissey, of Ossipee, New Hampshire.

Catherine slapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a sob, but she couldn’t stifle the truth.

Joe Rossi had used her.

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