Friday, May 2, 2014

Chain of Mercy by Brenda S. Anderson

They forgave him for the accident that killed their son, but he will never forgive himself.

Manhattan businessman Richard Brooks was at the top of the world, drunk with success, wealth, and women. Until one disastrous evening, when his world came crashing down.

Richard flees to Minneapolis where he repairs ancient boilers instead of solving corporate problems, and he’s determined to live the solitary life he now deserves.

But Executive Sheila Peterson has other plans for the handsome custodian. Richard appears to be the perfect match for the no-strings-attached romance she’s after, but she soon discovers that he’s hiding more than the designer suits in his closet.


“The good news is that the company only lost a million this quarter.” Richard Brooks smirked at his assistant and slapped the quarterly report down on her desk.
“That’s the good news?” Verna stopped typing and turned to him, propping a hand on her hip, her Southern accent always a welcome sound in this sea of nasal New Yorkers. “Young man, in my day people didn’t make a million dollars, much less lose it. Now, tell me, if that’s the good news, what’s the bad?”
He stared at the Picasso print above Verna’s desk. Reminded him of his life. “It looks like we’re going to have no choice but to close the Phoenix plant.” How had he missed the unmistakable signs of its mismanagement? Now, because of his lack of foresight, hundreds of people would lose their jobs. In all his years in New York City, he’d never made such a costly blunder.
“Goodness. And you’re blaming yourself. I can see it in those beautiful blues of yours.”
“I should have seen it coming months ago. All the signs were there.”
“It just so happens you’ve had a few other things on your mind lately.”
The muscles in his cheeks tightened. “I’m not paid to think of other things.”
“You stop putting yourself down. It’s time I see that gorgeous smile again.”
He chuckled. “Happy?” Only Verna could make him smile under these circumstances.
“That’s more like it. Now for my good news.” She handed him several pink message slips. “Your wonderful family is sending you love and birthday greetings. There were two very disappointed little ladies by the names of Katydid and Lillykins who couldn’t wait to talk to you.”
“I missed their call?” He peeked at his watch. Not enough time to call them back now, but definitely later. They always brightened his day, and today he could use some sunshine.
“They called about ten minutes ago and told me to make sure I gave you this.” Verna reached beneath her desk and pulled out a shoe-sized box covered in Little Mermaid wrapping paper and what looked like an entire roll of tape.
His Katydid’s work most likely. He accepted the box and shook it. A slight rattling. They probably used an overabundance of tissue paper too. He tore at the paper, revealing a shoebox. He lifted the cover and grinned. Just what he expected. Nestled among balled tissue paper were several plastic toys from kid’s meals. He pulled out a Spiderman figurine and moved its arms. This one he’d center on his desk.
“Those darling girls love you, you know.”
“Not as much as I love them.” He replaced the toy and covered the box. They’d be perfect additions to his shelves back home. He’d keep his favorites on his desk here at work. His colleagues could scoff all they wanted.
“Then when are you going to take a weekend off and go see them?”
Oh boy. Here it comes. “I saw them at Thanksgiving.”
“Which was seven weeks ago”
He massaged the back of his neck. “It’s not like Minnesota is right next door.”
Verna poised her hands on her hips. “And it’s not like your bank account doesn’t have a few dollars, not to mention frequent flier miles to spare for plane tickets.”
“And when do I have spare time to fly out there?”
“I’m very glad you asked.” She struck a key on her keyboard, and turned the monitor toward him. With a pen, she pointed at the screen.
His schedule. Crafty woman. She aimed her pen toward three open days in the coming week. “And you’re booked on Delta’s six a.m. flight.”
“Fine. I should know better than to argue with you.” He shook his head. What a blessing this woman had been to him. If not for her mothering, his life would be in even worse shape than it was now. “Verna, you’re something else.”
“You just remember that.”
“You won’t let me forget.”
She resumed typing on her keyboard. “Speaking of not forgetting, the board meeting’s about to begin, and you have the privilege of explaining that little million dollar loss.”
Yeah. He scratched his head. Not something he looked forward to. Especially since that loss never should have happened. He carried the shoebox into his office, set it on his desk, then walked to his wall-sized window and stared out at Manhattan’s skyline. If only he could turn back the clock. Make the right choice this time. Then he wouldn’t have been distracted from doing his job. None of this should have happened.
One reckless decision devastated so many lives.
With a sigh, he snatched his Versace suit coat from the back of his leather chair, slipped it on, grabbed his briefcase, and headed for the conference room. He had fifteen short minutes to come up with a viable explanation for the company’s doldrums.
Keeping his head down, avoiding eye contact, he walked down ACM Technologies’ carpeted aisle. He’d heard enough of his co-workers’ sneers these past seven plus months to last until the next century. And now, this company loss heaped on top of all his other problems. Just what his life needed.
He rounded a corner and strode past his CEO’s assistant, praying she wouldn’t notice him. Only a few more steps to the safety of conference room.
“Hey, Richie.”
He stopped and pinched the bridge of his nose before looking back at her. “Patrice.”
She tucked a bra strap back into a skin-tight sweater that dipped way too low to be professional. “You got a minute, darlin’?”
“Sorry.” Not for her. Hard to believe he once dated the woman. His standards once dipped as low as her sweater, but not anymore. Never again.
He nodded toward the conference room. “I’ve got a meeting.”
“Oh, well it’s busy.” She waved fingers with half-inch long red nails. “They’re not ready for—”
“They? Who’s they?” He looked down the hall at the room reserved for board members only. The doors were closed. His heart rate accelerated as he glanced at his watch. Still ten minutes early. “What’s going on, Patrice?”
“A board meeting. Mr. Entenza asked that you wait here.” She pointed to a visitor’s chair. “Can I get you some coffee?”
“Whoa. Back up. A board meeting? I’m a member of the board.”
“I know, Richie, they—”
“It’s Richard.” He stared at the room’s closed door and panic tingled through his body. This couldn’t be happening. He was too valuable to the company. The failings of these past seven months were his first blip in four years as a vice president. No one could match his record for saving the company money.
He wiped perspiration from his forehead and squinted at Patrice. “How long did they say they’d be?”
“Oh, a few more minutes.”
Good. Enough time to gather his wits and steel himself against the accusations he knew were coming. To prove they needed him.
“I haven’t seen Marissa around lately.”
His jaw tightened, and he glanced at his watch again. The board’s accusations would be more pleasant than Patrice’s inquiry.
“Did she quit or something?”
Or something. “She’s at the White Plains office.”
“You break up? I mean, if you did, I just broke it off with—”
He glared at the assistant, praying daggers would shoot from his eyes. “Yeah. We broke up.” Marissa had single-handedly destroyed his personal life. Now, it looked like he was about to lose his career. All because of her.
“You don’t need to get testy about it.”
Testy? Patrice was lucky he didn’t hit women. He glanced toward the conference room and dragged his arm across his forehead. No more waiting. He’d barge in there and show them he wouldn’t be walked on.
He strode down the hallway and tugged open the heavy wood door. Eight other men sat around the mahogany table, relaxing in their plush seats. Each one looked up at him, surprise written on some of their faces, but scorn on the others. Or, was it gloating?
“Gentlemen.” He rolled out his padded leather chair and laid his briefcase on the table. “I apologize for being late. My memo told me two o’clock.”
The CEO, Montegue Entenza, leaned back in his chair and rested hands on his ample stomach. “Actually, Richard, your memo was correct.”
Richard’s stomach twisted, but he tried to hold his poker face. Don’t let these men see his fear. He sat, folded his hands on the table, and looked around trying to connect with each man, but most looked away. Cowards. He glared at Entenza. “Please enlighten me.”
“The facts are right there in your quarterly report. I don’t take kindly to losing money.”
“Come on, every business on Wall Street is losing money right now. Besides, most of that loss comes from the Phoenix plant. Once we close that, our losses will be negligible, and with the new manager in Atlanta, I foresee profits coming from them in—”
“Mr. Brooks.” Mr. Entenza leaned forward. “The fact is, someone has to pay for the loss.”
“So you’re scapegoating me? Over the past four years, I’ve been your top performer.” He pointed to the man seated kitty-corner from him. “What about Edwards? Wasn’t he responsible for a three million—?”
“Quiet.” Entenza raised his voice and sat up straight. “This isn’t about Edwards, or Constapoulas, or anyone else. It’s about the image you present of ACM Technologies.”
Richard laughed. “So this has nothing to do with my performance.”
“Our shareholders don’t take kindly to having a member of our board with a police record.”
“Ahh, I see.” Just as he thought. How could he win a battle against the truth? “Let me save you and the shareholders a little trouble.” He pushed away from the table, grabbed his briefcase, and stood. Neither a demotion nor an outright firing was unacceptable. “I’ll have my office cleared in an hour. Other companies have been begging for my expertise. I guess it’s time I answer them.”
“So be it.” Entenza pushed a button on the conference phone. “Patrice, will you send in Cowell?”
“Cowell?” Could this possibly get any worse? “A security escort?”
“Protocol, son. I’m sure you understand.”
Richard pinched the bridge of his nose. “Perfectly, sir.” He gave Entenza a mock salute and strode from the room, slamming the door behind him.
Happy unbelievable birthday.
Cowell, dressed in a complete security officer’s uniform, glanced warily at him and shook his head. “Sorry about this, Richard. Entenza has no clue you’re one of the good guys.”
“Right. Good guys don’t get themselves thrown in jail, now, do they?”
“You paid your dues.” Cowell slapped his back.
“I’ll be paying for the rest of my life.” He muttered under his breath. As well he should. If he were still a drinking man, tonight would have been a perfect time to drown his sorrows with a few Coronas.
With Cowell at his side, Richard hurried through the hallways, keeping his head down. The snickers he heard from passing co-workers told him they already knew of his dismissal. He flew past Verna’s desk without acknowledging her. She was the one person he was going to miss.
“I’ll wait outside for you.” Cowell reached into Richard’s office—make that his former office—and closed the door.
Richard fisted his hands. How could he have thrown away everything? One lousy night … One moronic choice.
Well, standing here feeling sorry for himself wouldn’t solve anything. It was time to move on. Maybe Chicago. Close enough to drive to Minnesota. Far enough to make those drives rare. And with all his connections, he shouldn’t have a problem linking up with a Fortune 500 company. Out there, his tarnished reputation wouldn’t be slapping him in the face at every turn. Yes, Chicago was a good choice.
After stuffing his laptop in his briefcase, he pulled a copy paper box from his closet and packed the few personal possessions he kept in his office. Some novels, the gift from his girls, pictures of his family, his nephews. What would they all say now? Would his brother laugh that the high and mighty Richard Brooks had been laid low? Again?
No. Not even Marcus would be that small.
He covered the box and took one last look around the office. He wasn’t forty yet, and other corporations had frequently sent headhunters his way. This setback wasn’t going to stop him. He’d prove to Entenza, and all those finger-pointing shareholders, they’d fired the wrong man.
With a grunt, he picked up his briefcase and the box and carried them out the door.
Verna sat at her desk, sniffling. Tissues overflowed her garbage can. “Richard, I am so sorry. It just breaks my heart to see you go.”
“It’s been a good run, Verna, and you’ve been like a mom to me.”
She dabbed a tissue at her eyes. “Before you leave, I do have one little smidgen of good news for you. Something I know will bless your heart.”
“I could sure use some good news.” He propped the box on her desk and managed a smile. “You have another grandchild on the way?”
“That would certainly brighten my day, but I’m afraid all my children are done having babies for now.”
“So, what have you got?”
She handed him a pink message slip. “Some much needed mercy.”
He read it through once, and his heart dipped. He read it through a second time. The message stayed the same. No. No. No! He balled up the paper and hurled it against his former office door.
Forget New York City.
Forget Chicago.
Much needed mercy? Mercy was the last thing he deserved, and God knew it too.

God couldn’t have exacted a more perfect revenge.

About Brenda

Brenda S. Anderson writes gritty, life-affirming fiction that offers hope and reminds the reader they’re not alone. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is currently President of the ACFW Minnesota chapter, MN-NICE. When not reading or writing, she enjoys music, theater, roller coasters, and baseball (Go Twins!), and she loves watching movies with her family. She resides in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with her husband of 26 years, their three children, and one sassy cat.

Her debut novel, Chain of Mercy, comes out on April 22, 2014!

To purchase her book:

Brenda S. Anderson is giving away a copy of Chain of Mercy. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice -- once on each spotlight post. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post.)

Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart


cjajsmommy said...

I am excited about reading this book! What a terrific excerpt, can't wait to see how Richard's story unfolds. cjajsmommy (at) gmail (dot) com

Patricia Bradley said...

Well, if I don't win, I'll have to buy it since I HAVE to know what happens. :-) pat at ptbradley dot com

Taylor Bowen said...

How exciting! !!
My email address is



Cindi A said...

After reading the first chapter I really want to read this book. I hope I win.
Even if I don't, I think I will be picking up a copy.

Thanks for the chance to win and for sharing this book with us.


Unknown said...

I would love to win this

Anonymous said...

WOW Brenda. This was very interesting, but now I want to know more. Hoping to win for if not will be a long time before I find out more. Wish I could buy every book I want, but can't. That is just a fact. Thanks BDBL for having Brenda today. Please enter my name for a chance to win. Maxie

Brenda Anderson said...

So glad the excerpt intrigued everyone! Thank you for taking the time to read it. :)


sm said...

Forgiving myself for the things I sometimes do, like repetitive blunders, is hard to do. Sounds like a good book. Love to win it! sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

Linda Kish said...

That's not fair...what was on the message. I need to know. You have to pick me. I hope so anyway. It sounds terrific.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Donna Reimel Robinson said...

Very interesting first chapter! Congratulations on getting published!

Donna Robinson
Donna (at)

squiresj said...

Would love to win and get to read and know your books. Also I review every book I win.
jrs362 at Hotmail dot com

Brenda Anderson said...

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by! So glad you enjoyed the excerpt. :)

Anonymous said...

Loved the book - I read it in 2 days. It's hard to put down. The theme of forgiveness and love are messages everyone needs to hear! Thanks Brenda!

Brenda Anderson said...

Anonymous - LOVE to hear that! Thank you! You made my day. :)

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