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A high-profile murder has Sam and her team chasing an elusive killer…

Just back from their anniversary trip to Dewey Beach, there’s no slow roll back to work for the first couple as Sam is immediately thrust into the baffling murder of her friend and colleague, U.S. Attorney Tom Forrester, which has everyone on edge. The FBI wants in on this one, and she’s determined to figure out what happened to Tom before they can take over her investigation as new and unsettling details arise about the crimes involving disgraced former Lieutenant Stahl. A new development sends the investigation in an entirely new direction as Sam goes toe-to-toe with her husband’s uncooperative Attorney General.

In the midst of the hot new case, Sam’s got to put on her first lady hat for the Canadian Prime Minister and his wife, who are in town for the Cappuano administration’s first State Dinner. Once they get through that event, Sam and Nick will finally meet with Nick’s mother, who’s asked for a chance to make things right with her son. 

With all of that going on, who has time to breathe let alone plan an operation that’ll either snag a killer or end her career?

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State of Suspense

(First Family Series, Book 7)

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Chapter 1

The ride home to Washington from Dewey Beach bore no resemblance whatsoever to the first couple’s sexy trip to the beach in the presidential limo known as The Beast. Sam had been called back to work a day earlier than planned after the murder of U.S. Attorney Tom Forrester. She and Nick were being transported to the White House on Marine One with their kids, Scotty, Alden, Aubrey and Eli as well as Eli’s wife, Candace, and Skippy, the first dog, on board as they lifted off from Delaware.

Nick reached over to take Sam’s hand, knowing how much she hated to fly, even short distances on the chopper. “What’s the latest?”

Sam checked her phone. “Freddie said Forrester was shot in the head in his car on Constitution Avenue. They’re on the scene, and that’s all they know so far.”

“How’re you feeling?”

“I’m in shock. I’ve worked closely with Tom and his team for years. Like all jobs in law enforcement, there’re inherent risks to being a prosecutor, but the murder of a U.S. Attorney is rare. Tom was one of the good guys. He always did the right thing. Until recently, that is.”

During a recent investigation, Forrester had asked Metro Police Chief Joe Farnsworth to release Randy Bryant, a man tied to a murder-for-hire plot. Later, it was learned that Randy’s father, U.S. Congressman Damien Bryant, had taken Forrester’s family hostage and instructed Forrester to get his son released from custody. MPD Homicide detectives had been stunned by the order, which was way out of character for the by-the-book prosecutor.

“Are you thinking Bryant had something to do with Tom’s murder?” Nick asked.

“That’s the obvious conclusion, but we’ve learned not to assume anything. We’ll have to dig in to figure out what really happened.” She looked over at him. “I’m sorry our vacation is ending this way.”

“Don’t be. We had a wonderful time, despite reality interrupting far too often.” He leaned in to whisper in her ear. “As long as I get to sleep with you every night, it’s like I’m always on vacation.”

Sam laughed. “Sure it is.”

“If I have that to look forward to at the end of the day, I can get through anything that comes my way.”

“Now you’re speaking in rhymes?”

His face lifted into a big grin. “I didn’t mean to.”

“Okay, Dr. Seuss. I hear what you’re saying, and I agree that the end of the day is often the best part. But there’s a lot of crap to deal with in the middle that’d make a sane person crazy.”

“Are we still sane?”

“For the most part.” She gave him a side-eyed glance. “We’ll see if that lasts for seven more years.”

“Less than three.”

“I’m seeing seven.”

Three.

Scotty looked up from a book he was “suffering through” for school. “What are you guys fighting about?”

“How many more years Dad will be president.”

“Seven,” Scotty said emphatically.

Nick scowled at him. “I thought you were on my side.”

“I am, and I believe you’ll cruise to reelection. Won’t even be close.”

Sam pointed at their handsome, dark-haired fourteen-year-old son. “What he said.”

“I hate everyone right now.”

Sam and Scotty laughed at the face he made.

Aubrey released her seat belt and went to sit with Nick. “You don’t hate us.”

He brought her onto his lap. “I was just kidding, sweetie. I love you guys the bestest.”

“That’s not a word.”

“How do you know?” Nick asked. “You’re in first grade. You haven’t learned all the words yet.”

“Lijah said it’s not a word, so it isn’t.”

“Because my word is law around here,” Eli said with a laugh.

“Well, is it a word?” Aubrey asked.

“No, it isn’t,” Nick said, “but it’s fun to pretend like it is.”

“I told you.”

“You were right.” He kissed the top of her blonde head. “You’re a very smart first grader.”

“Wait till they have to read stuff like this.” Scotty held up his copy of Beowulf. “Who decided eighth graders need to read something from like a thousand years ago? It’s Old English. I can barely handle new English.”

Sam bit her lip so she wouldn’t laugh out loud. “Aren’t there CliffsNotes for that?”

“Sam!”

She looked at her husband. “What?”

“Don’t tell him about that. He needs to read the book.”

“What are these CliffsNotes of which you speak?” Scotty asked, intrigued.

“I can’t remember,” Sam said.

Scotty held up his phone. “Shall I go to the Google?”

Recognizing defeat when she saw it, Sam said, “When I was in school, they were study guides to help students understand things like Beowulf.”

“And you’re just now telling me such a thing exists? I thought you loved me.”

“I do love you! That’s why you need to read the book.”

“Honestly, Samantha.”

It was all she could do not to giggle helplessly at the disapproval in Nick’s tone. “If you read the whole book, I’ll get you the study guide to help you understand it. Deal?”

“Fine,” Scotty said. “It’s a deal.”

“Nice save,” Nick muttered.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m very good at this parenting thing.”

That made Scotty laugh, which earned him a glare from his mother. “That’s not funny.”

“It’s all funny. As always, you guys are a disaster. Keep an eye on them, Eli, so they don’t ruin the twins the way they’ve ruined me.”

“I’ll be watching. Don’t worry.”

“I feel judged,” Sam said.

“As well you should,” Nick said. “If it were up to you, we’d be raising a feral bunch of uneducated savages.”

“Is that an option?” Scotty asked.

No,” his parents said together.

“For once, they agree,” Scotty said to laughter from the others.

As the chopper set down on the South Lawn of the White House, Sam soaked up the final moments of family togetherness before work intruded once again. “I’m sorry I have to go right to work, guys. I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

“It’s okay,” Alden said. “Eli’s gonna take us to the pool.”

“That sounds like fun.” She wished she could join them. Nick had been teaching the twins how to swim recently, and they were making great progress.

“We’ll take video for you, Mom,” Scotty said.

“I’d love that.”

“Before you leave,” Nick said, “don’t forget the Canadian visit on Tuesday. You’re needed here at three o’clock for tea with the prime minister’s wife, and then the state dinner is that night. With Shelby suddenly on maternity leave, Lilia has all the info you’ll need.”

The thought of those obligations, on top of a high-pressure new murder investigation, was enough to make her head explode. But for his sake, she smiled and nodded. “I’ll be there. Don’t worry.”

“What? Me worry?”

She’d given him plenty of reason to worry about whether she’d be there when he needed her, but their first state visit was a huge deal, and she’d be there to support him no matter what she had to walk away from at work. Thankfully, she had an amazing team backing her up there, especially lately, as both Freddie and Gonzo had taken the lead on cases and handled them masterfully.

The first family walked across the lawn in a now-familiar ritual of kids running, dog barking and parents waving to the gaggle of reporters recording their arrival at the White House. They were slowly getting used to everything they did being news around the world.

“I never imagined something like that would start to feel routine,” Sam said to Nick.

“I know, right? Whose life are we living?”

“Let me know when you figure that out.”

He glanced over at her, looking as relaxed as he ever was these days. “Thanks for a great week. I needed it so badly.”

“Me, too. Let’s do it again soon, huh?”

“Yes, please.”

As she hugged the kids at the stairs to the residence, Scotty whispered in her ear, “Get me those CliffsNotes thingies.”

“Will do.”

“You’re the best.”

“I know.”

His snort of laughter rang out as he chased the twins and Skippy up the stairs.

Sam hugged Eli and Candace. “Thanks for coming to the beach.” She was still wrapping her head around the fact that he’d gotten married, but anyone could see they were ridiculously happy to be back together after spending years apart.

“It was a blast,” he said. “Thanks for having us.”

“Are you guys heading back to Princeton tonight?”

“Probably in the morning. I don’t have class until one.”

“Hopefully, I’ll see you before you go.”

Nick gave her one last hug and kiss. “Be safe out there.”

“Always am.”

“Right.” He rolled his eyes. “Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

As he followed the kids upstairs, Sam crossed the main foyer to where her lead Secret Service agent, Vernon, stood waiting for her. She’d kept the messenger bag containing her service weapon, cuffs, notebook and other work items with her while the staff would manage the rest of their luggage.

Vernon greeted her with a smile. “No rest for the wicked, huh?”

“Never.”

Vernon held the door and gestured for her to go out ahead of him.

Her other primary agent, Jimmy, opened the door to the SUV for her.

“Thank you, Jimmy.”

“No problem, Sam.” She’d insisted they call her by her first name when they were alone.

“Where to?” Vernon asked.

“Let me check.” She called Freddie. “Where am I meeting you?”

“Come to HQ. We’re heading back from the scene now to figure out a plan.”

“I’ll be there in a few.”

“Welcome back.”

“I’d say thanks, but…”

“Yeah, it’s a tough one.”

“How’s his team holding up?”

“Not great from what I’ve heard. People are shocked and devastated. And as you might expect, the Feds want in on this. We’ve got them at arm’s length for now, but we’re not sure how long we’ll be able to hold them off.”

“That’s just great.” Jurisdictional battles were the last thing she needed with a U.S. Attorney headed to her morgue.

“To be expected with something like this, I suppose.”

“I guess so. What’s the latest from Stahl’s house?” Sam had succeeded in mostly punching out of that nightmare for the weekend.

“Eleven bodies found so far. They’re only about halfway done with processing the scene.”

She wondered how it was possible to still be shocked by the disgraced former lieutenant who’d twice tried to kill her. “What about the storage unit?”

“There’s been a hang-up there. The company has changed owners, and the new guy isn’t returning calls to give us access. We’ve got O’Brien and Charles working on finding him.”

“Part of me hopes that takes a while.”

“Right? We’re all terrified of what’s in that unit.”

“Makes me shudder. I’m almost at HQ. See you in a few.”

They followed the medical examiner’s van into the lot and parked outside the morgue entrance.

Vernon held the car door for her.

“We’ll be here for a while before we head out,” Sam told him.

“Got it. Let us know if you’re going outside to brief the press.”

“Yes, dear.”

He chuckled at her solicitous tone.

Sam waited for Dr. Lindsey McNamara. “Nice to see you, Doc.”

“You as well. Hope you had a nice vacation.”

“It was… eventful.”

“So I heard.”

Sam shifted her gaze toward the body bag on the gurney that Lindsey’s team unloaded from the back of the van. “I can’t believe this.”

“You and me both.”

“I’ll let you get to it.”

“Are the Feds wanting in on this?” Lindsey asked.

“Yep, but it’s ours for now.”

“I’ll have my report to you ASAP.”

“Thanks, Doc. By the way, Terry said something to Nick about you not feeling well last week. How’re you doing?”

“Still a little off, but better than I was. Thanks for asking.”

Sam thought she looked paler than usual, but hopefully, she was on the upswing. They parted company at the door to the morgue. As she traveled the winding hallway to the pit where her detectives worked, Sam was relieved there was no chance she might run into suspended Detective Ramsey. He was awaiting trial on assault charges for ramming his car into Sam’s Secret Service SUV.

Thankfully, no one had been hurt in the incident. Since assaulting federal agents and officials with a deadly weapon had resulted in felony charges, she hoped they’d seen the last of Ramsey at HQ. She was still amused to be considered a “federal official” as first lady.

Sam followed voices to the conference room, where Gonzo was updating a fresh murder board with photos from the Forrester scene. Though she’d already heard how Forrester was killed, she recoiled from the sight of her murdered colleague. She owed him for many things, most particularly for taking her case to a grand jury after she pushed Ramsey down the stairs, leaving him with a broken wrist and a concussion.

Forrester could’ve taken the matter straight to trial, as it was a clear-cut case of assault, but he’d gone the grand jury route to hopefully cut her a break, which she’d gotten when the grand jury declined to indict. He’d saved her career, even if her problems with Ramsey got much worse after that.

“Sam?” Freddie approached her. “Are you okay?”

She’d been staring at the image of Forrester, bloody and dead. “I was thinking about how he saved my ass once upon a time.”

“Yes, he did.”

“Tom was one of the good guys.” She glanced at her partner, the fire in her belly for justice flaming the way it did any time murder struck too close to home. “We’re going to find whoever did this to him, and we’ll make them pay.”

“We sure as hell will.”

The First Family Series

Boxed Set

Marie Force/HTJB, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 

~ Calvin Coolidge

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