The Harlem Sentry had begun as a conspiracy blog. A crazy bastard named Farrell Whitaker had started it to expose GMOs and lead levels in city water and Hudson River polluters and sleeper cells and anything else that occurred to him. He wasn’t even taken seriously enough for anyone to refute his claims—the occasional alien abduction story that peppered the pages did nothing to help. Then one day about five years ago, he thought he saw a congressman sneaking out of a certain out-of-the-way club. A certain out-of-the-way gay club. A certain outof- the-way S & M leather bar gay club. A certain married, staunchly conservative congressman, in town for a UN event, sneaking out of a certain out-of-the-way gay club with, eh hem, a companion. And just like that, Farrell Whitaker had suddenly become the highly respected journalist who headed up the most reliable online investigative news source in New York.
Emma had been working there a month, which was almost enough time to prove to her colleagues that she was an ardent, intelligent NYU grad and not some ditz Farrell wanted to fuck. Almost. So, when he called her into his office that day and gave her the good news, she knew the other writers would give her a collective WTF, and she didn’t give one shit. Zero shits given.
Farrell’s office looked like one of those basement rooms in a police procedural where a stalker has established his base of operation. Only, rather than one object of fixation, Farrell’s obsessions ranged from political corruption to environmental toxins to animal abuse to secret government programs. A whiteboard in the corner had the ominous headline: “White Hat/Black Ops” scrawled across the top and pictures of kidnapped executives and young girls taped haphazardly beneath. Another had what looked to be a pharmaceutical pricing flowchart.
Farrell could be the poster child for an ADD/OCD combo.
The charming, if neglected, arched, leaded-glass windows overlooked elevated train tracks where the subways emerged from Manhattan tunnels. His office, despite a huge cash infusion from one of the largest news media organizations in the country, had a gritty feel that Emma was sure Farrell loved. His desk was piled high with magazines, newspapers, and political pamphlets. Farrell, in his paranoia, felt that “lofi” was a safer way to research—Big Brother was watching online. A wall in the corner was tacked full of photos of congressmen, movie stars, news anchors, and athletes. There was a burial ground of outdated technology: fax machines, old laptops, and disk drives, some of which he still used. Farrell loved the looks on people’s faces when he showed up to an interview with a handheld analog recorder and asked if he could “tape” the meeting. Amid the chaos and the junk, Farrell sat behind his desk, black Adidas propped up dangerously close to a triple espresso, with a cutting-edge tablet nestled in his lap. His frizzy dark blond hair was pulled into a ponytail. He looked like a retired BMX racer. He glanced up with a warm smile, the eye of his office hurricane, and didn’t waste a second jumping in.
“Emma, take a seat. You may think you’re getting canned, but you’re not getting canned. No canning today. Just good news. Very, very good news.” Emma glanced over at his sideboard and spotted the nearly empty pot of coffee resting on the burner.
She often wondered if Farrell had a more serious undiagnosed mental disorder beyond his fixations. He rambled like a lunatic, but he said he had good news, so she just looked at him with a raised brow.
“Nathan Hamilton Bishop. Not Nathaniel, not Nate—Nathan. Born— Greenwich, Connecticut; age—twenty-eight; height—six-two; weight—185; hair—brown….”
She listened to Farrell rattle off Nathan’s stats and thought how incomplete the description sounded. He failed to mention that Nathan’s eyes were a captivating emerald green or that his eyelashes were so long that as a boy he had trimmed them. Farrell omitted that Nathan’s hair curled at the ends when he wore it long and that his crooked smile revealed a barely perceptible chipped incisor that he had never had repaired.
“Chestnut,” she murmured.
“His hair. Never mind.”
“Andover, Dartmouth, HBS. Current president, soon-to-be CEO of Knightsgrove-Bishop, arms dealer to the stars . . .”
“Tomato, tom-ah-to,” he continued as though she hadn’t chimed in. “Fuck buddy to the rich and famous, charlatan, bon vivant, womanizer . . .”
“I know who he is,” she snapped. Boy, did she know.
“Well then, grab a jacket because hell has frozen over.”
“After routinely requesting an interview every month since he took office . . .”
“He’s the president of a company, not a country,” she corrected.
“My sweet, naive girl.” He smiled kindly and looked at her as though she had asked if Santa Claus were real. Emma mused that he would have patted her head if she hadn’t been sitting across the desk.
“Where was I? Ah, the interview.” Are you sitting down?”
“Sorry. Nathan Bishop has agreed to not one, but a series of interviews, a six-week series on himself and the love of his life.”
She thought she might throw up for a second.
“Who?” she choked meekly, not wanting to know the answer.
“Nathan Bishop. Emma, are you even listening to me?”
“No, I mean the ‘love of his life’ part.”
“Oh, isn’t it obvious? The company. Not sure Bishop is capable of meaningful human interaction.”
She was too relieved to respond.
“He requested you.”
“He requested you. You’re doing the interview. I didn’t even question it. When an ungettable guy agrees to something like this after nearly two years of trying, I don’t care if he wants the Ghost of Christmas Past doing the interview.
No. Fucking. Way.
Her mind was going in a million different directions, so she kept it simple.
“I think it’s obvious.”
The color left her face. Normally, she was the first person to think her looks were the reason for something, but this was Nathan Bishop. The most recent photo on his image search was of him with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover model. This wasn’t about Emma’s looks, but it couldn’t be . . . . She huffed a breath and sat back in the unsteady chair.
“Why?” she repeated, feeling ridiculous.
“Um, because he has eyes in his head. And if this were still just a nickel- and-dime blog, I would add ‘and a dick in his pants.’ But we aren’t, so I can’t.”
“So, no illusions that I’m a talented upstart,” she replied blandly. In a strange irony, sometimes her looks were a blow to her ego, something Caroline deftly referred to as “the problems of the pretty.” She usually added a dramatic boohoo to emphasize her point.
“You are talented, but I doubt Nathan Bishop read your piece on arsenic levels in Sheepshead Bay.”
Emma shrugged her acknowledgment.
“Look, everybody has a way of getting their foot in the door. Me? I’m willing to risk a restraining order. You? Well . . .” he trailed off.
“So, take advantage of the fact that I’m attractive and go get the story of the summer?”
“Attractive isn’t even close to the word I’d use, but yes, take advantage of . . . this.” He gestured to her from head-to-toe and turned to his tablet. “And if you want to sue me, I’ll add your lawsuit to the pile.
He wants you at,” he paused as he scrolled through the email, “noon tomorrow. Lunch in his office. If tomorrow is like every Friday, he will just be back from his weekly squash game—no doubt sweating out a hangover and sabotaging some unwitting political campaign.”
“I’ll be there.” She ignored the rest of Farrell’s comments, not because they bothered her, or even because she thought they were absurd, but because the first thing he said was ringing in her ears so sweetly that she didn’t want to let the sound go: he wants you.
Bishop Security Series Book 1
by Debbie Baldwin
Genre: Romantic Suspense
• a steamy romantic thriller
• a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat suspense novel
• a timeless romance
Emma Porter is not real. She is an accomplished young woman, living a fulfilling life in New York City, working for an online news agency, and striving toward normalcy. The truth, however, is something else. She was once Emily Webster, a child of privilege, and the twenty-first century Lindbergh Baby. Her high-profile, unexplained abduction and subsequent rescue led to a childhood of paranoia and preparedness, as her kidnapper remained at large and still on the hunt. With her father’s guidance and resources, Emily became Emma Porter, living each day in her new identity, vigilant and unattached. Unattached but for the seemingly unbreakable tether that connects her to the man who, as a young boy, lived next door.
Like Emma, Nathan Bishop is not what he seems. Preparing to helm his family’s defense contracting company, Nathan is better known for his womanizing and reckless behavior than his business acumen. His striking image peppers the pages of society tabloids and police blotters, but beneath the facade of a rake, lurks a warrior. When an arms dealer procures a lethal bioweapon and is rumored to be selling it on U.S. soil, Nathan and his team must use every resource at their disposal to stop the threat.
With danger closing in, fate, once again, puts Emma in Nathan’s path, and the two must determine if the weathered bond between them is enough to find the truth behind their false fronts.
Fans of Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, and Jayne Ann Krentz will love False Front.
Be advised: this story contains scenes of violence equivalent to an R-rated movie and explicit sexual situations.
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Debbie Baldwin is a successful print media and television writer. She is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law.
Debbie and her husband live in Saint Louis, Missouri with their puggle, Pebbles. They have three children in college. False Front is her first novel.
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