The Sisterhood: a group of women from all walks of life bound by friendship and a quest for justice. Armed with vast resources, top-notch expertise, and a loyal network of allies around the globe, the Sisterhood will not rest until every wrong is made right.
Through all their missions and adventures, the tightknit group of friends who make up the Sisterhood have learned one vital lesson: everybody has a weak spot. In the case of Yoko Wong’s dear friend Garland Lee, the multimillion-selling performer known as America’s beloved songbird, that weak spot was trusting her lawyer, Arthur Forrester. For years, he’s taken advantage of her faith in him to amass a secret fortune. And now, in the deepest betrayal yet, he’s dragged her into a lawsuit that could cost her everything.
The Sisterhood know they can’t let that happen. Forrester has some of the country’s top judges in his pocket, and a list of influential and ruthless friends—not to mention knowledge of all the ways the law can be corrupted to work in his favor. But he doesn’t have the Vigilantes’ deep-seated loyalty and determination. And all his years of underhanded dealings won’t prepare him for the type of creative payback that the Sisters have made their specialty . . .
Praise for Fern Michaels
“Fern Michaels is a fabulous writer and thinks outside the box.”
—RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars, on Fast and Loose
“A tale of strong emotions and courage.”—Publishers Weekly on No Safe Secret
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
Yoko Wong put her hands up to shield her eyes from the bright sun as she watched Kathryn Lucas expertly back up the huge eighteen-wheeler full of spring flowers and seedlings for the Wong Nursery. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a luxurious silver Mercedes inching its way into the customer parking lot. The only person she knew who drove a car like that was Garland Lee. Her heart kicked up a beat, knowing that Garland would buy every single flower and seedling the moment Kathryn unloaded the truck. Garland loved flowers.
With one eye on Kathryn and the other one on Garland, Yoko realized it had been months since she'd seen her friend. Garland was Beyoncé, Rihanna, Tina Turner, and Madonna all rolled into what the public knew as Garland Lee.
Yoko grinned when she saw her friend step out of her fancy car and wave both arms. Garland looked like a bag lady, dressed in baggy coveralls, black lace-up–to–the–ankle Converse sneakers, and a tattered T-shirt that at one time had said MUSIC IS MY LIFE. Most of the letters were worn off, and the shirt was three sizes too big for the songbird. Her long, luxurious, strawberry-blond hair, one of Garland's trademarks, was held in place by a bright red bandanna.
"I'll take it all!" Garland shouted. "How are you, sweetie?" she said, gathering Yoko in a tight bear hug. Up close, Yoko admired the other woman's ageless beauty. Garland's explanation for her looks was that she came from hearty peasant stock. She pooh-poohed those who said she had plastic surgery, telling them that if they could find the surgeon, she would pay them a cool one million dollars. She did, however, admit to dyeing her hair, wearing contact lenses, and having had her teeth capped. She always ended her explanation by saying, "I'm no different than half the women in America." And that was the end of that.
Yoko threw her hands in the air. "Hanging in there, Garland. How about you? I've missed you. Were you on tour? It's been months. I've missed our occasional lunches. Uh-oh, something's wrong. I know that look. What? Wait, wait. I have to sign off on this load and pay for it. You sure you want all of it? Because if you do, I have to place my order to replace this delivery."
"I'm sure. Go along, take care of business. I have all day. We can talk when you're finished."
Garland Lee was a very beautiful woman, with a warm smile and sparkling green eyes. Her smile was welcoming and sincere. If Garland welcomed you into her very small inner circle, you had a friend for life. She walked along now, up and down the different aisles where flats and pots of colorful spring flowers filled the nursery. She wondered if what she was seeing would be enough to replace all the damage done from the fire at her estate. She winced when she remembered how the firefighters had trampled her flower beds, how the construction workers had uprooted her beautiful shrubs and flowering trees. It had been necessary, she knew that, but still, she wished it hadn't happened. She loved her mini estate, the beautiful gardens she had designed herself because she so loved flowers. What she missed the most were her treasured lilac bushes. When they were in full bloom, she filled the house with lilacs. She looked around but did not see any. Well, Yoko was a magician when it came to plants and flowers. If anyone could find lilac bushes, it was Yoko Wong. The thought left her feeling better.
Garland's ears picked up the sound of the eighteen-wheeler's powerful engine. She turned around to walk back to the entrance. She smiled at the sound of the air horn and an arm waving out the driver's-side window. Yoko waved back.
Garland laughed. "If I had known this delivery was scheduled for this morning, I could have had you divert the driver to my house. Oh, well, everything happens for a reason. When do you think your people can deliver all of this?" she said, waving her arms about.
"When my afternoon help arrives."
"I didn't see any lilac bushes," Garland said fretfully.
"That's because there aren't any. The lilacs, the red tips, and the magnolias are scheduled for delivery next Wednesday. I guess you want all the lilacs, right?"
"Yes, all of them. I don't care how many you have. But I don't want little bitty shrubs. I want them full grown. At my age, I don't have time to watch them grow like the original batch. Yoko, I cried, do you believe that? All my beautiful plants, the hemlocks in the back, my gorgeous lilacs trampled like roadside scrub. The house ... I was able to deal with that. It was the garden, my sanctuary, that I hated to lose. But life goes on, so now I'm in a place where I am fortunate enough to be able to replace everything."
Yoko nodded. "Let's go in the office and have a cup of tea so you can bring me up to date on what's been going on in your life."
"Fine, fine. I can use a cup of tea, but I want to be sure your crew will do the entire yard. It has to be graded, fertilized, then planted. I'm not trying to tell you how to run your business, but I just want to be sure we're on the same page. By my best guess, this is a hundred-thousand-dollar job. Possibly more. I can pay you a deposit now. The insurance company settled with me last week."
"Don't worry, Garland. My people know what to do. When they're finished, you'll never know you had a fire. Are you satisfied with the house?"
"I am. It's amazing how one faulty wire could cause all that damage. But that's behind me now. This is a new page in my book of life. How are things with you? Oh, you have those sticky rice cakes that I love so much. Talk to me, Yoko."
"My life is routine. Harry does his thing, and Lily is happy as a lark and loves her new school. I work here every day. I saved you the biggest, the prettiest Christmas tree, and you never came for it. I think I knew something was wrong at that point. I had heard about your fire. One of the tabloids said you were living in your guesthouse, and another one said you were in Europe. I didn't know what to think."
Garland untied the colorful bandanna on her head, bundled up her hair, and tied the bandanna back in place. "It's complicated, Yoko. I've been in California. That's where my backup sound studio is. I did a lot of crying, but I'm over that now. I think I'm going to retire."
"No! You aren't serious, or are you?" Yoko was so shocked, she was virtually speechless.
"I'm thinking about it. Like I said, it's complicated. Part of it is that crazy lawsuit."
Once again, Yoko was speechless. "That's still going on! Good Lord, that's ... that's three years!"
"Two years and ten months, to be precise. That low-life, bottom-feeding scumbag is not giving up. I'm gearing up to go to trial because I won't settle with him. By the time it gets to court, it will be well over three years. I've had to spend millions to defend myself. The scumbag does most of his own legal work, and he has his creepy lawyer sign off on it, so his legal bills are nowhere near what mine are. The case is starting to heat up again after months of nothing. Every day, I pray that the bastard will drop off the face of the earth or just disappear into thin air. I keep rooting for a UFO to appear and whisk him away to some deep-space asteroid, preferably in another galaxy, to live out the rest of his life in abject misery. I know that's an impossible dream, but I still pray for it. There are no words to tell you how much I loathe that man."
Yoko poured the tea into pretty little cups and set the rice cakes on a matching plate. She smiled. "I think I have a pretty good idea."
"The thing is, Yoko, if my son hadn't taken over my affairs, I still wouldn't know what he had been doing. Twenty years! For twenty years, I believed him. I thought he was my friend. I trusted him, and he betrayed me. He helped himself to twenty-five million dollars of my money! Not just my money, but the money meant for my charity!" To Yoko's dismay, Garland was screeching now.
"What are your lawyers telling you?"
"They tell me what they think I want to hear as they run to the bank with all that billable-hours money. Let's not even go there. Things were fine when he was simply my lawyer from way back, when I got my first contract. David Duffy, who became my business manager, had a handle on things and was as honest as the day is long. When he died eight years ago, I was lost, and when Arthur Forrester stepped in and said he could take it all over, I was grateful! Can you believe that? I was actually grateful to the man who proceeded to rob me blind. I must have been out of my mind. But I did ask my son if he'd take over, and he said he didn't think he was capable and really didn't have the time since he was going for his doctorate. I asked my daughter, but Misty was just starting out in her career and was on the road constantly. There was no way the twins could have done it. I had no other choice, or that's how I saw it at the time, other than to go with Arthur."
Yoko's head buzzed. "How did he do it? Rip you off for so much money and you not know it?"
"He did it in small amounts so I wouldn't notice. A little bit off every contract, every record, every dollar in endorsement money. That's how. But worst of all, he took most of it from my charity."
Yoko knew that Garland had created early in her career a charitable foundation that provided scholarships, school supplies, and other opportunities for underprivileged kids. Many times over the years, she had said that she believed in sharing her success with others, and devoted a lot of her precious free time to fund-raising and appearing at events for her foundation. Yoko could tell that most of Garland's outrage sprang from the fact that the money specifically set aside to help others had been misused for individual gain.
"Andy was in a car accident several years ago and had to have extensive rehab," Garland continued, "so he had time on his hands and tried to help me out. He's the one who found out what Forrester was doing."
"I don't really understand, Garland. How could you not have noticed that amount of money going missing? Were you asleep at the switch?"
"No. But I might as well have been. Duffy was so honest, I never thought. ... It just never occurred to me that Arthur would ... would cheat me like that. As you know, I'm bipolar. I'm sure, to a certain extent, that plays into it. In my own defense, I had every right to expect that he would act like an honest lawyer. Lawyers are supposed to be like doctors. You're supposed to be able to trust them. The bottom line is, he betrayed me for his own personal gain. When I fired him, he said that I ruined his life and the lives of his family. Then the bastard sued me, and I had no recourse but to sue him back. And here we are."
Yoko sighed as she sipped at her tea. "That is such an outrageous sum of money. I don't deal in those kinds of numbers. What is he suing you for specifically? What does, or did, he do with all his money? Do you know?"
"I don't know this for sure, but one time he told me he plays the stock market and is not a very savvy investor. Twice, he claimed, he lost really big. But he's such a liar, I have no idea if that was true or not. Or why he would admit such a thing to me. I almost tend to think it was true because at one point I had to cosign a loan for him to buy some kind of horse ranch in Montana. Stupid as I was, I didn't even question the why of it. I just did it because I trusted him.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore, Yoko. It's too depressing, and it's too nice a day to be depressed. I'm going to take a walk around the Tidal Basin because the cherry trees are blooming."
Yoko nodded. "Do you want to take the rest of these rice cakes with you?"
"Such a silly question," Garland said, hugging Yoko.
"Ah ... Garland, I don't want to seem like I'm inserting myself into your personal business, but I know some ... um ... people who could possibly help you. If I could arrange a meeting, would you be interested?"
Garland took a step back and stared at Yoko. "Are we talking about what you do in your other life?"
Yoko laughed out loud. "I can neither confirm nor deny. And you know I have this other life ... how?"
"Because I'm a good listener, and I've heard things over the years. I know how to add two and two. But, to answer your question, yes, I am up to anything to speed things up. You have my number and know where I live. Just let me know."
Yoko smiled as she watched Garland fish around in her bag for her checkbook. She pulled it out, scribbled on a check, and handed it over with a flourish. "I don't need a receipt. Just these rice cakes. Nice seeing you again, Yoko, and I'm sorry about that Christmas tree. What did you do with it?"
"I put it in the middle of the nursery, decorated it, and lit it up with two thousand LED lights. I kept it up till the end of January."
Garland laughed out loud all the way to her car.
Yoko waited till Garland's car was out of sight. Then she went back inside to her office and sent off texts to all the sisters. With Kathryn in the area, they'd have a full house. Things just worked out perfectly sometimes.
We need to meet ASAP for possible new mission. My friend is in serious trouble.
It was nine o'clock when the last car, driven by Isabelle, whizzed through the gates at Pinewood.
It was a dark night, and the air was damp. It would rain before long. Isabelle stepped out of the car, looked around at the other cars, and soon realized that she was the last person to arrive. She shrugged. She could not be held accountable for the traffic, even at this hour of the night.
She was greeted inside by comments and laughter. Everyone knew that Isabelle was always punctual to a fault. "Damn traffic" was her response.
"Well, we're just glad that you arrived safe and sound, dear," Myra said as she led the parade out of the room to the secret staircase that led to the underground tunnels, where Charles and Fergus waited in the war room. She could feel the charged electricity running through the sisters and herself as well. It was always this way when they were about to embark on a new mission.
At the top of the steps, Myra stepped aside and looked over at Lady and her pups. "You know what to do. Guard."
Lady looked up at her mistress and let loose with a soft woof before she herded her brood to the kitchen to guard the door that had three special locks on it. None of the locks were more efficient than Lady and her pups.
Down in the war room, Charles was calling the meeting to order, saying, "The hour is late, but no one is complaining. I suggest we give Yoko the floor and hear what she has to say." His suggestion was met with nods of approval.
Yoko leaned forward. She looked at Kathryn and smiled. "This all happened after you made your delivery." To the others, she said, "Kathryn had just delivered a load of spring flowers when Garland Lee pulled into the parking lot. We all know who Garland Lee is, known as 'America's beloved songbird.' She bought the entire delivery, by the way. A while back, she had a fire at her mini estate, and the work crews ruined her property. You know, construction, all that earthmoving equipment. We're friendly, she and I. I don't exactly know how that happened, but we go back almost to the time I opened the nursery. She's my best customer and a wonderful person. She wasn't afraid to ask for advice, and she always followed the advice. I know you all have seen pictures of her estate. It's literally covered in flowers and flowering shrubs and trees.
"We would talk from time to time. She never, not once, used her celebrity with me. She was just a customer. Over time, she talked about her kids, like everyone does. She also talked about her other kids, the ones she helps via her charitable foundation. She would talk about how she hated the tours and being away from home. For years now, she has talked about retiring. She's older than she looks."
"Why hasn't she retired?" Nikki asked, a frown building on her beautiful face.
"Ah, you see, that's where the problem is. She told me about most of this earlier today, and then I did some research online. She has this lawyer who has handled her legal affairs for over twenty years. Let me stress the words legal affairs. Eight years ago, her agent and business manager, whose name was David Duffy, died. She was so devastated at his passing, she took off a whole year, canceled tours, etc. During that year is when I got to really know her. She came out to the nursery almost every day to walk through the greenhouses, and she attended every class I held for new gardeners. I even got her hooked on my apple tea.
Excerpted from "Need To Know"
Copyright © 2017 Fern Michaels.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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