Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt
A mother told her baby's death was a lie.
A daughter rocked by her true identity.
A detective risking his life to protect them both.
When Irene Turner learns the incomprehensible—that the
stillborn she delivered 28-years earlier is alive, she takes the evidence to
Major Crimes Detective Nate Paxton in Denver Colorado. Nate can't believe
that the daughter stolen at birth is Kinsey Masters, a world-class athlete,
raised by a prominent Denver family, and the unattainable woman he’s loved for
Irene, Nate, and Kinsey
discover a sordid conspiracy, one that may get them all killed as they face
past betrayals and destructive revenge.
"Betrayed is a tightly-plotted, edge-of-your-seat
ride with fresh, vivid characters. I could not put this book down."
~ Susan M. Boyer, Agatha winning author of the Liz Talbot Mystery Series
Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning author of suspense
novels, all of which have been e-book bestsellers. Currently she is working on
a new suspense series for Bell Bridge Books. Donnell and her husband live in
Colorado. You can visit her website at donnellannbell.com.
IF WEBB JENKINS winked and said, "Good luck,
little lady,” one more time, Irene Turner would be hard pressed not to look
over her shoulder—the one with the 12-gauge shotgun nestled beneath it—and
quip, "Thank you, little fella.” That, or maybe she’d just tell Webb’s wife
about all that winking the next time she and Stephen got together with the
To call Irene "little” made
about as much sense as her calling Webb, a lumberjack-in-disguise, "tiny.”
Irene stood five-foot-eight inches tall.
Besides, there was no luck
involved in this charity exhibition to aid tornado disaster relief. At one time
or another, both she and Webb had been trap shooting champions.
Thankfully, her ear protection
muffled any other comments he made to the range safety operators. She resisted
an eye roll behind her amber shooting glasses and ignored the overgrown oaf who
sported a fine-looking over/under trap gun. Better shooters than Webb had tried
to mess with her head. Well, this event proved she was back, so let him try.
The operators stood by. The
smell of spent gun powder filled the air. Irene took her place at the
designated station. Inside the trap house several feet in front of her, an
oscillating machine sat loaded and ready to do its job.
She snapped the gun to her
shoulder and hollered, "Pull.” A clay bird flew from the trap house. She led
the target, tracked it, and squeezed the trigger. The bird exploded into a puff
of black dust.
But darned if old Webb didn’t
hit his targets, too. The match continued; neither missed. People on the
sidelines cheered; onlookers in the stands came to their feet.
It was seventy degrees on this
clear blue day. At one-hundred-forty pounds, Irene dripped with sweat, and her
gun grew heavy from so many fires. She could just imagine at two-hundred-forty
something what Webb must have been going through. But at least he’d tired of
all that winking. Nor, come to think of it, was he wishing her luck anymore. As
a matter of fact, with every clay pigeon she brought down, he gave her a look
that said this is war.
While Irene tried for an
expression that said, oh, don’t be a bad sport.
Finally, after decimating one
hundred clay birds, the two tied. Their vests lighter from spent ammo, Irene
and Webb headed to the 27-yard line for a sudden-death shoot off.
The crowd joined in a
collective groan when she missed the last target. While in truth, it left her
ready to jump up and down. Her imperfect score had saved Webb’s manhood and
raised money for a worthy cause. Most importantly, this tourney had restored
her confidence. As Webb sauntered off with his back-slapping cronies, he was
either so generous or so relieved not to have been bested by a woman he doubled
his contribution to the charity.
Afterward, her shotgun
unloaded and secured in her trunk, she sat in the clubhouse with friends. The
waiter delivered their entrées, but with Irene’s, he included a note. Assuming
it was from her husband who said he’d be in meetings all day, she tore through
But Stephen hadn’t left her a
message. As unobtrusively as possible, she made her excuses and left the table.
Alone in the parking lot, Irene reread the letter, trembling.
Mrs. Turner, urgent I speak
with you. It concerns the death of your child.~ Mrs. Norma Mitchell
"YOU’VE GONE PALE, Mrs.
Turner. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”
Irene stared back at the
elderly woman seated across from her. The students and faculty in the crowded Oklahoma University café all but disappeared.
Dizzy from the sudden roaring in her ears, the smell of pastry and coffee made
Torn between outrage and being
sick, Irene said, "No, Mrs. Mitchell, I don’t understand. I’m not sure you know
what you’re saying. How can my little girl be alive, particularly, when I was
told I delivered a stillborn?”
Tears welled in the old
Irene had never treated a
senior citizen so rudely in her life, yet this was too much. The only reason
she’d agreed to meet Norma Mitchell was because Irene thought the author of the
note had information on Danny’s bus accident. But the meeting had nothing to do
with her teenaged son’s death. The woman wanted to meet Irene concerning a
costly mistake she’d made twenty-eight years ago.
"Forget falling off the turnip
truck yesterday, lady, I’ve never been on one.” Irene clenched her jaw so hard
she thought it might snap. "You were once Dr. Mitchell’s nurse. All right, I
get it. You later married him. I get that, too. What I don’t get is why I’m
here and what you hope to accomplish by bringing this up.”
Mrs. Mitchell lowered her
head. "Was, Mrs. Turner. Was married. Cliff died six weeks ago after a
long struggle with Parkinson’s. I finally had the strength to clean out his
office. And what I’m saying to you is that you’ve been horribly duped.”
Reaching into an oversized handbag, the woman’s arthritic fingers shook. She
withdrew a file and slid it across the table. "I found a false drawer in his
desk. I want you to know, I’ve instructed my attorney to do whatever it takes
to make this right.”
Make what right?
Studying the white-haired
lady, Irene tried to rationalize the situation. Norma Mitchell had to be
in her eighties. Was she senile? While going through the long-retired doctor’s
effects, had she stumbled upon information that confused Irene with one of his
Look at the file and be as
kind as you can when you set her straight.
The file’s contents, however,
did nothing to settle Irene’s stomach. The first pages contained patient
history sheets. Hers. They listed her maiden name, age, weight, and pregnancy
charts. After the history sheets, the file included a non-negotiable copy of a
cashier’s check. Her gaze honed in on a bank signature and an illegible scrawl
made payable to the Mitchell Medical Clinic and the Victoria Mitchell
Memorial Home for Girls. Nothing alarming there. Irene knew both places
Years ago, the Victoria
Mitchell residence had been her home for the last three months of her pregnancy
when she’d defied her parents and refused to give up her baby for adoption. It
was the ungodly amount of eight hundred thousand dollars that stole her breath
The whirring in her ears
growing louder, Irene moved on to an envelope marked simply "Kinsey.” Inside
were photographs, along with invoices bearing the letterhead of the Trevelle
Detective Agency, labeled, "Yearly Observations.” Photo number one, dated 1983,
was of a smiling toddler pulling a sled on a snowy day. Her rosy cheeks matched
the color of her snowsuit, and wisps of dark brown hair the color of Irene’s
peaked out from beneath her fur-lined hood.
In the second image, Kinsey
looked to be about four or five. She and two playmates hung from the monkey
bars. Whoever had taken the shot had used a black marker to draw a circle
around Kinsey. Irene’s heart twisted. With or without the marker, Irene would
have known her. The child bore an uncanny resemblance to Danny at that age.
As surreal became real, she
located a snapshot dated 1989. Decked out in an athletic uniform, Kinsey stood
with her hands on her hips, one foot resting proudly on a soccer ball.
The timeline advanced, every
picture depicting the girl’s passion for the game of soccer.
In the last image dated 2001,
there was nothing awkward or gangly about Kinsey. During what appeared to be
the end of a championship match, she sat triumphant, hoisted on the shoulders
of her teammates, while a banner in the background read, "We love you, Special
Irene pressed a shaking hand
to her pounding heart and choked on her warring emotions. Special K was the
nickname of a world-class athlete whose fame had crossed the line to celebrity,
who up until this second had been no more than an interesting tidbit to Irene.
"You’re too calm, Mrs.
Turner,” Mrs. Mitchell spoke at last. "You may be in shock. May I get you
Shock? No. She’d simply
regressed to the icy numbness that had claimed her when she’d learned about
Danny’s death. Damn it. Where were her tears? Today, after the shooting match,
she’d thought she was back.
"I know it’s no consolation,
but whoever adopted your daughter seems to love her and has cared for her
Slowly, Irene lifted her head.
The restaurant once more came into focus, and the events of the past
twenty-eight years skidded into place. "You’re right,” she said. "That’s no
consolation.” She rose from the table and commandeered the file. "Were you
serious about making things right?”
Mrs. Mitchell stammered, "I—I
have no choice. Cliff’s daughter will fight me, of course. Would a monetary
settlement help in any way?”
There was only one checking
account Irene wanted to drain at the moment.
So much made sense now.
Stephen’s reappearance during her third trimester after his adamant rejection.
Then, his performance in the delivery room. She’d awoken in a drugged stupor to
find him holding her hand and sobbing, telling her she’d lost the baby.
Irene snapped back from the
past. "I don’t want money just yet. What I want is the use of a computer. Also,
I won’t be using my credit cards, so I could use a place to stay.”
"Will my house do?” Mrs.
Mitchell’s voice quivered. "Now that Cliff’s gone, I live alone. I have a
computer. You can have complete run of the place. Won’t you at least tell me
what you’re thinking?”
Irene knew better than to
voice it out loud to a perfect stranger, no matter how sympathetic Norma
Mitchell appeared. But for the first time in her forty-six years, she thought
herself capable of using her sharpshooter skills on something other than a clay
pigeon or a paper target. If she went home, she’d put a bullet through her
husband’s lying skull.
"I’m thinking my daughter’s
been raised by her biological father, and my husband of twenty-seven years
helped him do it.”
Norma Mitchell gasped.
"You claim I’ve been duped,”
Irene said. "That’s too kind of a word. I’ve been betrayed.”
AT FIRST WHEN Irene vanished for several hours,
Stephen Turner worried. His call to her mother netted him nothing—Vanessa
hadn’t heard from Irene. He was seconds from calling the police when the First
National Bank president phoned and said she’d been in, emptied their joint
checking account and most of their savings. Concerned, Wendell wanted to know
if there was a problem with the bank’s customer service.
Stephen glanced at Danny’s picture over the
fireplace and shook his head. He’d thought she’d been improving. He should have
insisted Irene seek counseling. From here on out, no matter how much she fought
him, she was going on meds.
"How much did she take, Wendell?”
"Twenty-six-thousand dollars,” the bank official
replied. "Of course, she didn’t touch the other accounts. They’re in your name
only. But I got to thinking, maybe you were upset with us, too.”
He’d been careless letting Irene keep so much
money in their joint account. Stephen gripped the phone hard. "Nah, not upset.
You know Irene. She’s been through a lot since we lost Danny. Probably took
something I said the wrong way. I’ll clear this up when she gets home.”
"Uh, that’s the thing.” Wendell cleared his
throat. "When I said to give you my regards, she told me to tell you myself.
Said the next time she saw you, it’d be in court. Then she walked out, pretty
as you please, got into that slick black Mercedes you bought her—”
"Wendell,” Stephen growled. "You repeat this to
anyone, and I will take my money out of your bank. My wife’s unstable.
I’d ask you to show her a little kindness and not be a party to spreading
"You’re the only person I’ve said a word to,”
Wendell backtracked. "Just thought you should know. We go back a long way.”
Stephen sighed and raised his gaze to the
ceiling. Third grade to be exact. The only reason this clown got to be a
president of any bank was his granddaddy came from money.
Well, Stephen Turner was richer than most these
days, thanks to a smart move that had set him up years ago. Not the proudest
moment in his life. But damn Irene, she belonged to him. For years he’d taken
precautions in case his accounts were frozen and the Feds showed up. When that
didn’t happen, and the years passed, it was as though the incident never
No. She couldn’t possibly know. If she did, Irene
wouldn’t be saying, "See you in court,” he’d be in handcuffs right now.
He said good-bye to Wendell and tossed the phone
on his desk. Ungrateful bitch. She’d stepped out on him, and, still, he’d given
her another chance. He paced over the antique carpet she was so proud of.
All right. She’d gotten a bee in her bonnet about
something. He’d leave her a message. That way, when she cooled off and came to
her senses, she’d know where he stood. He picked up the phone and punched in
the number to her cell.
But in the next moment when Stephen listened to
an automated recording stating, "The number you have reached is no longer in
service,” he stopped stomping all over Irene’s rug. Suddenly, he had the
damnedest notion he knew where she stood.
WEARING YESTERDAY’S clothes, Irene entered Norma
Mitchell’s elegant south side home and stood in the foyer. Irene should
probably confront Stephen. Still, learning after all these years that Evan
Masters had conspired with her husband to take her daughter did not put her in
a conversational mood. She wanted to shoot first and talk later. Besides, if
the man had any brains—he obviously didn’t have a conscience—he’d figure out
pretty quick that she was leaving him.
His constant calls had annoyed her. To put an end
to that nonsense, she’d closed her cell phone account and bought a prepaid plan
at the local Walmart.
Mrs. Mitchell, now Norma to Irene, had proven to
be a godsend. She might have been married to a non-ethical, greedy louse, but
she appeared to be a beacon of honesty.
How ironic that Irene was using Mitchell’s office
to research the crime the doctor had perpetrated. As for Kinsey’s father, if
anyone would have told Irene that Evan Masters was capable of such deceit, she
would have called him a liar. But the fact that Kinsey had been ripped from
Irene in such a cruel fashion showed she hadn’t known him at all.
It had never entered her mind that Kinsey Masters
was Evan’s daughter when she scanned a newspaper article or watched TV footage.
Masters was a common enough name, and the girl was the star, not her father.
Still, Irene berated herself for not paying attention. If she had, perhaps she
would have discovered the resemblance between Kinsey and Danny years ago. Her
daughter would be with Irene now, and these bastards behind bars, or at the
very least, penniless and disgraced.
Norma came downstairs as Irene hung up the older
woman’s blue jacket in the entryway closet. "Thanks for letting me borrow it.
When I left my place on Wednesday, it never occurred to me I wouldn’t be going
"Looks better on you, anyway,” Norma said in a
way Irene best described as genteel. "I’ve been thinking about what you said
"Oh, what part?” Irene replied wryly. "I said
quite a lot. I hope you’ll forgive all my ranting and name calling.”
Norma smiled. "After the shock I gave you, you’re
entitled. I’ve called Clifford a few names myself over the past few days. I
can’t for the life of me understand why he was a party to this. I know I sound
like I’m defending him, but in twenty-four years of marriage, I never knew him
to be less than ethical. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, your son’s portrait. You
said it’s the one thing you hate to leave behind.”
Could a heart actually rip in two? Irene spread
her hands. "If I go home...” No, that wasn’t right. The home
she’d shared with her husband and son didn’t exist anymore. "...
back to the house, I’m likely to do something I’d enjoy in the heat of the
moment, but pay for later. By the way, did you call your attorney? Is he
willing to file divorce papers on my behalf?”
"He is.” Norma straightened her shoulders and
motioned Irene into the living room. "What if I go to the house? What if
I get Danny’s picture for you?”
In that moment, Irene wanted to hug the old
woman. She and Norma were fast becoming friends. Dropping onto the couch, both
from physical and mental exhaustion, Irene leaned against the headrest. "As
much as I want to say yes, I can’t let you do that.”
"Doesn’t Stephen work?”
"Does a porcupine have quills? All the time.
Although thanks to my vanishing act, he may have changed his schedule. Plus, on
more than one occasion, he’s worked from home.”
Norma joined Irene on the sofa. "Nevertheless,
I’d like to try. I may be old, but I’m still spry. What does the wretch drive?”
Wretch? Irene resisted a sigh. During last night’s tirade, she’d used much
stronger language, but so far Norma hadn’t been swayed by her bad examples. Wretch.
Good word. Irene might use it the next time she wanted to impress somebody. "A
Cadillac SUV, but my answer is still—”
"You have a garage door opener, right?”
She folded her arms. "I do.”
Norma sat forward and clasped her hands. "It’s
simple then. If his car’s there, I close the garage and drive off. Do you have
Her unlikely friend’s excitement was contagious.
The rest of the house could burn down as far as Irene was concerned, but when
she left to meet Kinsey, she wanted the portrait she’d commissioned of her son.
"Stephen never arms it.”
"It’s settled then. Think I’ll take a drive,”
Irene rose from the couch. "Think I’ll go with
A few hours later, seated in Norma’s Lincoln, the two covert
watchers sat at an adjacent park observing the comings and goings of the Turner
residence. Her neighbors wouldn’t question a Lincoln parked near her house; still Irene
wasn’t willing to risk it.
Near dusk, Stephen finally drove away. Pressing
the button to the garage door opener, Irene instructed a protesting Norma to
circle the area and wait for her call. Though Norma wanted to come with her,
Irene didn’t want her in jeopardy. Stephen had never been violent, but then
she’d never left him before. Further, Irene was armed, Norma wasn’t, and the
old woman would just slow her down. Along with Danny’s portrait, Irene would
take this one-and-only opportunity to pack a few clothes.
After a harrowing thirty minutes, Irene called
Norma and opened the garage door for her to drive in. Arms loaded, Irene
barreled from the laundry room into the garage where Norma sat waiting. Tossing
her suitcase into the backseat, Irene slid into the passenger side and laughed
when her accomplice gave her a high-five.
As they sped toward I-40, away from her soon to
be ex-property, Irene clutched Danny’s likeness to her breast. She was still
bitter, but smiling.