The Sisterhood: a group of women bound by friendship and a quest for justice. Now their male allies, the Men of the Sisterhood, have formed a top-secret organization of their own, with the same goal of helping the helpless and righting the wrongs of the world...
Investigative reporter Dennis West joined forces with the men of the Sisterhood to help fight corruption and greed on behalf of underdogs everywhere. Now he and his band of brothers are on a mission to help an old friend in danger: Toby Mason was a whip-smart college nerd—nothing like the buff dancer at the Supper Club who’s reached out to Dennis. The owners of the Supper Club adult-entertainment franchise have expanded their empire through tours, contests, and calendars. But Toby suspects the Supper Clubs offer a convenient front for a major drug trafficking operation—and those suspicions have become known to his employers. At the top-secret headquarters of BOLO Consultants, Dennis, Jack, Abner, Ted, Harry, and the rest of the crew gather to formulate a plan. It’ll mean going deep undercover, but the men of the Sisterhood are breaking out their most impressive moves to stop a criminal network that’s stayed two steps ahead of justice for too long...
“Michaels listens to fans and delivers one hell of a punch.”—RT Book Reviews on Double Down
About the Author
FERN MICHAELS is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Sisterhood, Men of the Sisterhood, and Godmothers series, as well as dozens of other novels and novellas. There are over one-hundred ten million copies of her books in print. Fern Michaels has built and funded several large day-care centers in her hometown, and is a passionate animal lover who has outfitted police dogs across the country with special bulletproof vests. She shares her home in South Carolina with her four dogs and a resident ghost named Mary Margaret. Visit her website at www.fernmichaels.com.
Hometown:Summerville, South Carolina
Place of Birth:Hastings, Pennsylvania
Read an Excerpt
Twenty months later ...
The elevator on the newsroom floor of the Post pinged; then the door slid open for the Fearless Four reporters, as they had been dubbed, to exit. They were greeted with banners, streamers, and shouts of "Welcome home!" Leading the boisterous crowd was the owner of the Post, Countess Anna de Silva, who hugged the weary reporters one after the other and whispered her own personal greeting in their ears.
A mini-buffet and a table full of assorted beverages beckoned. Ted, Espinosa, and Dennis headed in that direction; Maggie stayed behind, which could mean only one thing to Annie. When Maggie Spritzer, with her incredibly whacked-out metabolism, ignored food, it had to mean that she was truly tired to the bone. Or sick. Or even homicidal.
"I just want to go home, shower, cuddle with Hero, who probably thinks I abandoned him, and sleep for a week. Can I have a car service take me home, Annie? Otherwise, I am going to fall asleep standing up right here. I need to sleep for a week. A whole week."
"Anything you want, dear. Anything," Annie said, putting her arms around the red-eyed, frazzled reporter. "You all deserve the best the Post has to offer. You will all find a very nice bonus in your next paycheck by way of thanks."
"Just doing our jobs, Annie. Guess that means you're okay with the series on the shabby treatment of our veterans. I think we shamed the current administration to the point where they don't know what to do."
"When I read the last segment, I about went up in smoke. I had our lawyers go over it with a fine-tooth comb. They said we're spot on.
"Maggie, you know everything there is to know about me and know that I am no snob. But that man and I inhabit social and financial circles that, except for the Las Vegas casinos, are worlds apart. I did see that he was in the Babylon, once, and instructed Bert to comp him, a friendly gesture to a visiting fireman. But I also instructed Bert that under no circumstances was I going to meet with the Donald.
"The man has too much bluster for my tastes. I do, to be sure, admire the extent to which he has demonstrated an ability to accomplish his goals, though I am not sure I approve of some of the things he has done to get where he is today. Now, he does have a most beautiful wife. Third time is the charm, I suppose. That's about all I know of Mr. Donald Trump."
Maggie waved the comment aside. "Not a problem. All I said was that you were going to be calling on him and Warren Buffett to right this wrong that's being done to the men and women who give their lives for this country only to find themselves on the sidelines when they need help. I said you, you, Annie, would lead the charge and put your money where your mouth is. That's what people want to hear and see. They want to see action. What they don't want is meetings of committees that have to report to other committees that require more meetings. They want something now, not two years from now. Donald Trump says the same thing, and so does Buffett. And with Trump's presidential candidacy looming, there is no way he can back away from this once he gets started. It would look way too bad to his supporters. You will take their calls when they call, right?"
"My dear, I will run to meet them. I haven't exactly been sitting here idle while we waited for you all to get back. I've had my people calling all over the country for vacant buildings and recruiting doctors and nurses to help us out. We're going for a banner every single day in the paper. I won't rest until the White House is front and center on this. I don't give a fiddler's fart whose toes I step on. This political correctness has run its course, as far as I'm concerned. I even called Lizzie to ask her to check around for the biggest and best-known lawyers to join our cause. This country's warriors deserve the best of us all. Now, run along, dear. A car is waiting outside to take you home."
Annie offered up a bone-crushing hug, then walked Maggie to the elevator. "Don't come back till you're ready! That means next week!" she called as the elevator doors closed.
Annie turned to see Ted, Espinosa, and Dennis walking toward her, plates of food in their hands.
"You did good, boys. Real good. I'm proud of you. A month on the road, crisscrossing the country, and those wonderful interviews entitle you to as much time off as you need. You all made a difference. In case you don't know it, the paper and the media are calling you the Fearless Four. They tell me it's all Pulitzer material. Go home, children, and don't come back until you're ready. As I just told Maggie, that means next week. That's an order."
The boys nodded and Ted handed over his plate.
"I'm too tired to eat, Annie," Ted said. "You'll see me when you see me."
"Ditto," Espinosa said, also handing over his plate.
Annie looked at Dennis West, the youngest of the group, who was chewing on what looked like a shrimp egg roll. He held on to his plate.
"Before you leave, Dennis, I need to tell you that some young man has been trying to get in touch with you for the past two weeks. He's called the paper at least a few dozen times and even stopped by twice. He would never leave his name. If you check your extension, I think he left you some messages. Are you working on something? Is he a source or a snitch?" Annie asked curiously.
Dennis shook his head as he handed over his plate. "Nope. No clue. If he calls again, tell him I'm back and give him my cell-phone number. When he came by, did you see him?"
"No, but Adam in the mail room said he was a tall, really muscular guy. He also said the guy said it was urgent that he talk to you. Urgent, Dennis. Ian, our cub reporter, had a few meetings with him. Meaning he actually spoke to him."
"In this business, Annie, there is urgent, and then there is urgent. I'm going to sleep around the clock, and then I'll be back at my desk. This was a very nice homecoming. I wish I wasn't as tired as I am, so I could enjoy it more."
"Not a problem, dear. When we get notice of your Pulitzer, we'll really celebrate. Run along." Annie hugged the young reporter, wishing she had a son like Dennis West.
Dennis rolled out of bed three days after he'd returned to the small condo that he kept in town so he wouldn't face the long drive out to his mini-farm in McLean, Virginia, at the end of the long day. It was a one-bedroom, sparsely furnished and close to the Post.
It wasn't that he'd slept for seventy-two hours. He hadn't. He'd periodically woken, eaten, and gone back to bed. Now, though, he was wide awake, his sleep quota fulfilled. He yawned as he looked at the digital clock on the little table next to his bed. Eleven o'clock. Other than now, the last time he'd slept till eleven o'clock was five years ago, when he had a bad case of the flu.
"Up and at 'em, dude," Dennis muttered to himself as he headed to the bathroom and a steaming-hot shower. He looked in the mirror and gasped. He looked ugly enough to scare small children. Three days of facial stubble, his hair standing on end, his eyes caked with something he'd never experienced before glared back at him. His mouth tasted like the inside of his winter snow boots. For sure, he needed to get back to the land of the living and get on with whatever this new day held for him. He grinned when he wondered what people would think if they saw him as he looked at that moment.
Forty minutes later, showered, shaved, his unruly hair slicked back, Dennis dressed in pressed khakis and a long-sleeved sky-blue Izod shirt. He sat down on the ministool and tied the laces on his new Nike sneakers. "Good to go, dude," he mumbled as he made his way out to the tiny area that pretended to be his kitchen, where he made a cup of coffee. He made a mental note to stop at the supermarket to buy some groceries. Being gone a whole month meant the larder was bare. As it was, he was going to have to drink his coffee black, when he preferred to douse it with heavy whipping cream and three sugars. Sometimes, he was worse than Maggie, with her whacked-out metabolism.
While he waited for his coffee to drip, Dennis checked his phone for missed calls and e-mails. Nothing worth getting excited over. He eyed the coffeepot and turned his head to make sure he could hear the last of the plopping sounds while he stared out the tiny window over the sink to see what kind of day it was going to be. It looked blustery. Well, that was normal for October and meant he would need his windbreaker. The problem was he had no idea where or in which duffel bag the windbreaker would be in. He hadn't bothered to unpack, and he wasn't going to do it now, either, which meant he'd have to wear one of his blazers. Not a problem.
Ten minutes later, Dennis closed the door behind him, vowing to stop at the nearest Starbucks for a real cup of coffee and possibly a Danish.
Forty minutes after consuming not one but two delectable pastries and two coffees, Dennis literally raced to the Post. He could hardly wait to get inside his home away from home. God, it was good to be back. So good, he felt like dancing a jig. He managed to control himself as he high-fived his colleagues and humbly accepted all their congratulations and praise on the veterans series he, Maggie, Ted, and Espinosa had worked on.
"Has anyone seen the rest of the Fearless Four?" Dennis called out.
A young cub reporter named Ian Smith shouted that they hadn't even called in. Dennis felt his eyebrows shoot up. For sure he thought Ted would be at his desk. Oh, well. The other three were getting older, so that probably accounted for their absence. For some weird reason, it pleased him that of the four of them, he was the only one who had shown up to work.
Dennis turned on his computer and waited for it to boot up. Once he was up and running, he stared at the screen, wondering what he was going to do. Maybe he should have checked with the EIC to see what, if any, assignments were available this late in the day. He was saved from making any decisions when Ian Smith ran over to him with a sheaf of phone messages.
"And, Dennis, some guy has been here three times looking for you, but he wouldn't leave his name."
Dennis rifled through the pink slips. Nothing that needed his attention. "What guy? Did he say what he wanted? Did he leave a number to call?" He surmised it was the same guy Annie said the mail-room clerk had told her about.
"No to everything. I asked, Dennis. Heck, I even followed him the last time he was here. I figured you would want to know, being an investigative reporter. All I can tell you is he was a tall, buff, good-looking guy. He probably weighed around one-eighty. Great suntan, bright blue eyes, and he was sporting a two-hundred-dollar haircut. Drives a Beemer. I was on foot, so I lost him. He looked jittery and nervous. I will say that. I figured he was one of your sources and was looking to get paid or something. Or that he had the skinny on something for you to work on."
Dennis squinted at the cub reporter as he tried to remember if he knew anyone who fit Ian's description. He couldn't come up with anyone. "When was the last time he was here? I know all my sources and snitches, and the way you described the guy doesn't come near to anyone I know. Well, if he shows up again, tell him I'm back. You have my permission to give him my personal cell-phone number."
Ian scampered off, leaving Dennis staring at the home page on his computer. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to conjure up someone in his life — friend, foe, acquaintance — who fit Ian's description. Absolutely nothing came to him. Therefore, it must be a stranger who had some kind of news for him or needed help of some kind. A mystery, to be sure. One that was going to drive him nuts if he didn't figure it out.
Dennis knew sitting here at his desk with nothing to do was also going to make him nuts. He shut off the computer and headed to the EIC's office. He stuck his head in the door and asked if there was anything for him to do.
"Annie said to tell you to go home and not come back till Monday," the editor in chief replied. "I told Maggie, Ted, and Espinosa the same thing when they called in earlier this morning. So hike your tail on home, Mr. West, and don't let me see you till seven o'clock Monday morning. You guys did a super job, so rest on your laurels. If anything earth-shattering happens, I'll send you a text. Go on now. Git!"
Now what was he supposed to do? Monday was days away. Dennis dragged his feet as he headed back to his workstation, grabbed his backpack, then made his way to the elevator. He felt lost, homeless, for some reason. He couldn't even visit the rest of the fearless group, since they were under the same orders as he was. Well, crap!
He supposed he could use up some time by going to lunch. Or he could hang out in the lobby and hope a big news story walked through the doors. Like that was going to happen. Not. Maybe he should head out to his farmhouse in McLean to check on things. But if he did that, he'd rattle around like a bean in a seven-thousand-square-foot warehouse. He nixed that idea immediately. He needed to do something. Something meant going to the supermarket to fill his larder. He could also stop to pick up his dry cleaning and his shirts at the dry cleaners. Usually, he did things like that on the fly, but it was a way to take up some time.
Dennis moved through the revolving door, stepped aside, and looked around, across the street, up and down the street. Nothing caught his eye. Just another ordinary day. He wondered what, if anything, would happen if he went to the BOLO Building and pestered the guys. If they were even there. He could have lunch outside at the Bagel Emporium. The weather had cleared since he set out earlier. The wind had died down, and the sun was out. He should take advantage of the day since it was coming up to the end of October and the weather would turn too cold to eat outside.
His decision made, Dennis started walking. Georgetown wasn't all that far. The exercise would be good for him, and his reward would be a hot pastrami on one of Ding's perfect bagels.
As he made his way to Georgetown, Dennis let his thoughts turn to the mysterious stranger who had been trying to get in touch with him. What, who, where, and why? As hard as he tried, he could not get his brain around who it could possibly be. Letting his imagination run wild, he went from one scenario to another, trying to fit each one to the mysterious stranger. He came up dry each time.
Forty minutes later, Dennis checked out the BOLO Building, only to find it uninhabited. He shrugged and made his way down the alley, pressed in the security code, and left the area. Out front, he waited for a break in traffic before he sprinted across the busy road to enter the Bagel Emporium, where he waited in line to place his order. The delectable, tantalizing aromas made him realize he was truly hungry. He explained to the waitress that he would be eating outside. She handed over a numbered card, which meant his bagel, coffee, and brownie would be brought to him.
Dennis sat down at a table and prepared to do some serious people watching until his food came. His cell rang. He looked at the caller ID. Ian from the paper. His heart clicked up a beat as he pressed the TALK button. "What's up, Ian?"
"That guy just called again. The one who has been calling. I told him you were back. He asked how he could get in touch with you. I gave him your cell number, Dennis. I hope that was okay. Is it okay?" the cub reporter asked anxiously.
"Absolutely. Thanks, Ian. He hasn't called yet. I guess we should hang up and give him a chance."
After ending his call with Ian, Dennis held his cell phone in front of him, willing it to ring. All thoughts of food or people watching had disappeared. "Ring, damn it," he muttered.
The waitress appeared with his food. She set it down and picked up the numbered card and left. Like he could really eat now. His eyes never leaving the cell phone, Dennis reached for the bagel, which was cut in half, and bit down. Tasty. He slurped at the hot coffee. Ding made really exceptional coffee. Delicious. "Ring, damn it."
An elderly couple with a golden retriever sat down two tables away. Dennis was just about to attack his brownie when two Georgetown college girls loaded down with books took up another table. He took a moment to realize they were cute but too young for him to get any ideas.
Excerpted from "High Stakes"
Copyright © 2017 Fern Michaels.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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