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Lethal Legacy

Lethal Legacy
(Book 3 —Guardians of Justice)
Revell, ©2012, ISBN 978-0-8007-3458-9
HOLT Medallion
Christy Award finalist
National Readers’ Choice Award finalist

The police say her father’s death was suicide. Kelly Warren says it was murder—and she has new evidence to prove it. Detective Cole Taylor doesn't put much credence in her claim, and nothing in his case review suggests foul play. But when Kelly ends up in the ER with a life-threatening medical condition, Cole digs deeper—and discovers a startling secret that links her to a long-ago crime. Is history repeating itself? And does someone want Kelly silenced?

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reviews

Compelling characters and edge-of-your-seat action make this a winning finale to two-time RITA Award winner Hannon’s “Guardians of Justice” series.
                                                                        Library Journal  *Starred Review*

A gripping thriller combined with a heartfelt love story that will keep you up late to read “just one more chapter.”
                                                                        The Christian Manifesto

Plenty of suspenseful chills, sans graphic language or gory violence, along with an abundance of sweetly romantic thrills
                                                                        Booklist       

With a solid blend of suspense, mystery and romance, Irene provides readers with another satisfying story that engages and entertains.
                                                                        Relz Reviewz

Hannon has a wonderful gift for engaging readers in the emotions and plight of the characters…a great summer read.
                                                                        RT Book Reviews

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excerpt

Prologue

Vincentio Rossi lifted his glass of ten-year-old Lombardi Brunello di Montalcino, closed his eyes, and sniffed the complex bouquet of the ruby red wine.

Perfect.

Then again, at a hundred bucks a bottle, it should be.

But the cost was of no consequence. After twenty-eight years of forced abstinence, he didn’t scrimp on his pleasures. At seventy-four, plagued by high blood pressure and off-the-scale cholesterol, he intended to make every minute count. Who knew how many years—or months—he had left?

Taking a small sip, Vincentio let the peppery flavor linger on his tongue, savoring the hint of wild mushrooms and truffles as he gazed out the window of Romano’s onto the familiar Buffalo street scene. The private table he’d occupied every weekday for the past three years suited him, allowing him to observe without being observed.

But he didn’t like dining alone. Isabella should be sitting in the empty chair across from him. Romano’s had been their place, and during all the years they’d spent apart, he’d looked forward to sharing it with her again. But none of his connections, none of his money, had been able to stop the insidious cancer that had taken her life five years ago.

Worst of all, he hadn’t been there at the end, to hold her hand and say good-bye.

Vincentio tipped the glass against his lips and took a long swallow of the earthy wine. Wishing he could rewind the clock. Wishing he could return with her to the hills of Sicily where they’d spent their honeymoon.

Wishing he hadn’t made the fatal mistake that had cost him everything.

At the sudden vibration of his cell phone, his hand jerked. The ruby liquid sloshed close to the edge of the glass, and he set the slender-stemmed goblet carefully on the table as he pulled the phone off his belt.

In the old days, he’d had nerves of steel.

One more thing that had changed.

He squinted at the digital display. His vision wasn’t great anymore, either. But it didn’t matter; caller ID was blocked.

The voice that greeted him, however, was familiar. A spurt of adrenaline set off a tingle in his nerve endings, and he angled away from the other patrons in the restaurant.

“You have news?” Vincentio wasted no time returning the man’s greeting.

“Your hunch was correct. He’s in town.”

Vincentio’s fingers tightened on the stem of the wineglass. “You’re certain?”

“I’ve seen him myself. He is older, yes—but there is no question.”

A buzz of excitement swept over him, leaving him light-headed for a moment. He’d waited a long, long time for this.

“You know what I need.”

“Yes. I’ll relay the information as soon as I have it.”

“Excellent. You’ll be well rewarded, as always.”

Hand trembling, Vincentio slid the phone back into its holder and fumbled for a small, folded piece of paper in the inside pocket of his suit jacket. Through the years, the creases had worn thin, and he opened the yellowed sheet carefully. All but one of the names he’d written more than three decades ago had a check mark in front and were crossed out.

He smoothed it out on the tablecloth, retrieved a pen from his jacket, and checked off the final name.

Step one.

He folded up the paper, tucked it and the pen away, and grasped the stem of his wineglass again.

Outside, passersby continued to hurry along in the mid-April chill. Spring wouldn’t come to the Lake Erie shore for a while yet, but it suddenly felt like spring to him. He’d almost given up hope of ever finding the traitor who had repaid his kindness with disloyalty. Who had turned his son against him. Who had done his best to undermine all . . .

The delicate stem of the wineglass snapped in his fingers, and Vincentio watched the crimson liquid gush out and seep into the snowy white linen, staining it red.

Like blood.

A smile lifted his lips. He’d always believed in omens.
And this was a good one.

 

Chapter 1

Six Months Later

“So what was up with your solo act at Jake and Liz’s wedding on Saturday?”

At the question, Detective Cole Taylor stifled a groan. He did not want to start his week by rehashing his brother’s wedding. Especially with his colleague Mitch Morgan, who had gotten engaged to his sister at said wedding.

“What do you mean?” He didn’t look up from his desk. Maybe if he acted busy, Mitch would move on.

“I mean, where was the hot date you usually bring to social events?”

Coming alone had been a tactical mistake. One Cole had recognized five minutes into the reception. He should have brought someone. Anyone. With a woman on his arm, he would have avoided all the kidding from his relatives and the questions about when it was going to be his turn. The grilling had gotten so bad, he’d taken to hiding behind some potted plants—and drinking champagne.
Lots of champagne.

“I wasn’t in the mood to bring a date.”

“Yeah? How come?” Mitch settled onto the edge of his desk.

So much for getting rid of his future brother-in-law.

Resigned, Cole forced his lips into a cocky grin, swiveled his chair, and folded his hands across his stomach. “The pickings were slim for that night, and I’m particular. I want looks and intelligence.”

“Since when? That wasn’t exactly a rocket scientist you brought to the party at Doug’s house two weeks ago.”

“That sounds like something Alison would say.” Cole’s grin morphed into a frown. “Did my sister put you up to this?”

“Nope. But she was surprised you came alone too.”

“You know, I appreciate how everyone is taking such an interest in my social life all of a sudden.” He laid on a healthy dose of sarcasm. “But trust me, I have it under control.”

“I’m glad to hear that. I wouldn’t want you to lose out on the chance for wedded bliss.”

Cole snorted. “How do you know it’s going to be blissful? You only got engaged two days ago.”

“Because I know your sister.” He grinned at Cole. “And if you need more proof, ask Jake when he and Liz get back from their Bermuda honeymoon.” Standing, he stood and stretched. “So you want to go get some lunch?”

“No. Too busy.”

“Want me to bring you back a burger?”

“No. I’m not hungry.”

Mitch shot him a surprised look. “You’re always hungry.”

“Big breakfast.” He waved his colleague away and swung back to the desk. “I’ll hit the vending machines later.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mitch hesitate. Cock his head. Then, with a shrug, his fellow detective walked away.

Finally.

Once Mitch exited, Cole leaned back in his chair and stared at the photo on his desk, a family shot taken at his mom’s birthday party not long after Jake had returned to St. Louis from a stint in Iraq with the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group. It had been just the four of them since his dad died six years ago. But now there was a sister-in-law to add. Soon, there’d be a brother-in-law. And not long after that, Cole suspected nieces and nephews would come along. His sister and brother would be busy with their families. His mom lived in Chicago with her sister now; not that far from St. Louis, but far enough. He’d be the odd man out.

And playing the field was starting to lose its allure.

Annoyed by a sudden empty feeling in the pit of his stomach, Cole straightened up. Must be a case of weddingitis. It was hard not to think about the lack of romance in his life when he was surrounded by cross-eyed lovers and the air was filled with matrimonial vibes. But if it was supposed to happen, it would. No sense fretting about it.

No sense missing meals, either.

Debating what to get for lunch, he stood, snagged his jacket off the back of his chair, and slid his arms into the sleeves. Maybe he’d take Mitch up on the burger offer after all. If he hurried, he should be able to catch him at the elevator or in the lobby.

But he only made it two steps away from his desk before his phone rang.
As he paused, it rang again.

“You gonna get that or what?” Luke Adams looked up from a computer screen at an adjacent desk in the shared office, his expression frazzled. The man was a stellar detective, but he hated computers. And Cole didn’t relish being the outlet for his irritation.

“I’m getting it, okay?”

Luke grunted and went back to hunting and pecking while Cole returned to his desk and picked up the phone.

“Taylor.”

“Are you in the middle of anything?”

At his unit supervisor’s clipped query, Cole sank back into his chair.
He was now.

“Nothing that can’t wait.”

“Good. I need you to talk with a woman whose father died five months ago. We ruled it a suicide. However, the daughter claims she has new information that could change our minds.”

“Who handled the case?”

“Alan. But she doesn’t want to wait until he gets back from vacation. And FYI—she wasn’t happy with our resolution. Even though she couldn’t point us to any suspects or motives, she claims somebody was out to get her father and believes his death was a homicide.”

Cole stifled a sigh. Great. A conspiracy theorist. He’d run into them before. And since Alan had just left on a two-week trip to the Caribbean, this woman could be bugging him for fourteen days.

“Okay. I’ll meet her out front. What’s her name?”

“Kelly Warren. Her father’s name was John.”

“Got it.” Cole replaced the receiver, picked up a notepad, and stood.

So much for lunch.

 

questions

Discussion Questions
(Warning: Contains Spoilers!)

  1. Vincentio has carried his vendetta against Kelly’s father for more than three decades. How has that impacted his life? What are some possible negative effects on the grudge holder of carrying a grudge?
  1. The Taylor siblings are very close-knit. Cite some specific examples from the book that demonstrate their bond. Why do you think some families are closer than others? Are there some actions you could take to help strengthen your bond with your own siblings, or among your children?
  1. Vincentio has some very contradictory traits and values. Name some of these. How do you think he reconciled these in his own mind? Do you know anyone who has contradictory or inconsistent values? Does this present a problem for him or her—or those who love that person? If so, how?
  1. Kelly refuses to believe her father committed suicide, despite strong evidence supporting that conclusion. In her place, what you would have done?
  1. Cole’s experience with Sara led to an estrangement from God. Cite the reasons he turned away from the Lord. Were they valid? Have you ever had an experience that tempted you to distance yourself from God? Was there a person in your life who was instrumental in helping you reconnect?
  1. When Cole tells Kelly he failed Sara, she counters by saying that because of him, Sara was saved in an eternal sense—and that perhaps that was the role he was meant to play in her life. How did you feel about her response?
  1. Kelly also suggests that Cole has been in a self-made prison, isolated by anger and guilt. Is that an apt analogy? How can those negative emotions distance us from others?
  1. What qualities did you most admire in Kelly? In Cole? Cite some specific instances where they demonstrated these qualities.
  1. When Kelly finds out about her father’s history, she is shocked. What emotions would you feel in her circumstances?
  1. Were you surprised to discover who carried out the attack on Kelly and her father? Why or why not?
  1. Alan Carlson’s life was spiraling out of control, and he found himself getting mired deeper and deeper in muck. Was there a point at which he could have stepped back and gotten out of the mess he’d created?
  1. Kelly and Lauren have a solid friendship that goes back to their teenage years. Do you have a friend who has been part of your life for many years? How has that enriched your life? What are the characteristics of a good friendship?
  1. Alan had a gambling addiction. But addiction can take many forms. Have you ever seen firsthand the destructive effects of addiction? Talk about how it affected the addict’s life, as well as the lives of those who loved him or her.
  1. What did you think about Vincentio’s efforts to connect with his grandson? Was this consistent with his character? Was his son’s response appropriate?
  1. Kelly’s traditional values, along with her solitary profession, presented challenges in terms of finding romance. In today’s world, the media often glorifies behavior that is at odds with Christian values. What advice might you offer a young person looking for romance in our society?
  1. Vincentio’s son, Mark, has a small but key role in the book. What did you think about him? Was he justified in cutting off his father? Should forgiveness have played a role in that relationship?
  1. By contrast, the relationship between Kelly and her father was solid. Why do you think they were so close? What qualities are essential for a strong parent/child relationship?
  1. Identify the motives of the key characters in this book—Cole, Kelly, Vincentio, Alan and Mark. Did you find that some of the motivations, though positive, led to negative or misguided actions? Have you seen examples of this in your experience?
  1. Did you think Vincentio had any regrets? If he had his life to live over, would he change anything? If so, what? And if he had changed that element, do you think his life would have ended any differently?
  1. Who was the most interesting character for you? Why?
  1. Did you find Deadly Legacy suspenseful? Did you think the plot was well constructed and credible, and the characters believable? Why or why not? Talk about your impressions of the book from a literary standpoint—its strengths and weaknesses. If you were the author, would you have done anything differently?

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