Syndicate Rising by Amy Craig
General Release Date: 27th September 2022
Word Count: 88,158
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
CRIME AND MYSTERY
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE
Nina’s neighbor sets her up on a blind date with a handsome insurance salesman. After a candlelit dinner, Nina hooks up with him in a posh New York hotel room, but she writes off the date as a one-night stand. Returning home, she discovers her neighbor’s death, her dog’s abduction and the salesman’s possible involvement.
Traipsing across the city with her date in tow, she realizes he’s a quarrelsome billionaire and that her dog may never return. Grieving her losses, she accompanies her date to a ‘billionaire summer camp’ in Sun Valley, Idaho, but the idyllic setting revolves around his whims—and the person who took her dog follows them.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder.
Nina backed into the high-rise’s smudged glass door and sacrificed her favorite red suit to the city’s germs. The skirt displayed her ass to an advantage, so her immune system had better appreciate the tradeoff. Half of New York had left their handprints on the panel, and the other half would visit tomorrow. After the year she’d had, the limited contact approach made sense. Since Nan’s death, she had wondered what she wanted out of life, but influenza wasn’t the answer.
Free of the law office where she worked as a legal mediator, she adjusted her leather tote and inhaled a mix of freesia, exhaust and hot-dog fumes. Summer humidity hovered over the sunbaked sidewalks.
In a few hours, the concrete would cool, and the city’s professional class would congregate in packed restaurants, dim bars and quiet subway stations. She would be home with the dog she’d recently adopted, Victor, a few journal articles and a chilled salad.
The red suit would go to the dry cleaners.
Most Fridays, she treated herself to a car, but her favorite driver had left town for a funeral. She headed for the subway station, but she missed the light. Standing on the street corner, she watched the cars jostle for position. The city felt impossibly big, but she carved out a place for herself and the achievement satisfied her.
An unkempt man rattled a cup full of change. “Heya.”
Keeping her expression neutral, she focused on the opposite street corner. Her career trained her to avoid conflict, but she snuck a glance. Arms wrapped around his knees, he held the cup. A large, purple birthmark covered one cheek and his nearly black bare feet tapped to a private beat.
“Can you spare a dollar?” he asked.
She often gave money to people on the street, but she tried not to let their plights ruin her day. An unfolded newspaper lay next to this man, and the lead story detailed overcrowding at area homeless shelters. If she had a few million dollars to spare, she would do more than give him a dollar. Fishing in her tote, she pulled out a bill and offered it. Too late, she realized she held a twenty.
His face lit up, and he snatched the bill. “What’s your name?”
“I don’t think so.” Shifting her stance, she eyed his bare feet. She’d spent more than twenty dollars on Victor’s collar. If she couldn’t afford the same generosity for another human, she might need to reevaluate her priorities. “If I give you another twenty, will you buy shoes?”
She frowned. “Why not?”
“Never needed them.” He stretched out his legs. “I do need a hamburger.”
The light changed.
Striding across the intersection, she glanced over her shoulder. The unkempt man chatted with another suit-clad commuter, and she released the tension in her shoulders. Checking the time, she wondered if she would make her train, quickened her pace and descended the subway stairs.
On the last step, her red heel quivered.
Grabbing for the railing, she held fast.
The crowd rushed past.
If she had fallen, would someone have stopped to help her? Shaking her head, she continued into the station and lingered near the platform’s back wall.
The train roared to a stop.
Gauging the flow of passengers, she squeezed into the cramped train and stood elbow to elbow with her fellow New Yorkers. More than anything else, the subway normalized the city’s population. In a rocking and rolling subway car, everyone widened their stance, gripped the handlebars and hung on for dear life. She did the same, but she did it better than most.
After a few stops, the train’s shaking rhythm lulled her, and she closed her eyes. She didn’t really need a day off work. She needed a way to unwind. As a legal mediator, she helped opposing parties feel in control, but she could halt the discussions at any time. Some people were selfish morons and some were lovesick fools, but she stayed calm.
The first year in law school, she’d worn black. By graduation, she’d secured her place on the honors list and had turned red into her signature color. When people asked about the color, she told them she liked to put out fires, and they paid her good money to do it. The sense of achievement brought a smile to her lips, but in a city this big, her compensation bought her little luxuries, and she remembered her grandmother’s admonishment to savor them.
“You look happy,” a woman said.
She opened her eyes. An older woman held a cane between her knees. She nodded with the train’s rhythm, but her pale blue eyes looked clear. “I am.”
“But tired.” The woman pointed a crooked, arthritic finger. “You should take better care of yourself.”
“Great advice. You, too.” Clearing her throat, she checked the train’s progress toward Murray Hill. The borough’s tree-lined streets were quintessential old New York City. Apple orchards, windswept daisies and benevolent livestock were an ideal childhood setting, but she craved museums, restaurants and the city’s vibrant, diverse flavors. If Nan had decided to haunt her, she could go straight back to the countryside.
The rider dug in her purse. “I have a tea you could try.”
“Oh. Um…” She tamped down her horror. If she wanted to land on Page Six, she could have a lot more fun before accepting drugs from a stranger. Rows of white subway tiles came into view and the train lumbered into the stop at 33rd Street. She pushed her way toward the train door. “Maybe next time!”
The woman snapped her purse closed.
Emerging from the station into fading late-afternoon light, Nina adjusted her skirt and turned toward the pre-war Park Avenue condo building she loved.
José, her building’s doorman, spotted her and waved.
She waved back. His stomach stretched his black doorman’s jacket, but he wore his hair like Elvis. When she smuggled Victor out of the back of the building for walks, she often heard him singing in the service hallways. More than once, she wondered if the songs served as an audible warning. She doted on her new dog, but she hadn’t finished her pet application. Stopping at José’s side where she could chat without interrupting his work, she adjusted her tote. “Anything good today?”
“Couple of packages,” he said. “A new guy moved onto the twelfth floor.”
Pulling open the door, he winked. “The man’s eighty.”
“Good for him.” She needed a way to unwind, but she could do better than eighty. Maybe she could make friends with the man and set him up with the lady on the train. Smiling, she slipped past José and made her way to the elevator. “Thanks for the heads-up.”
She rode the elevator to her floor.
After typing her access code into her door’s security panel, she dropped her tote on the hardwood floor and circled the leather couch. Victor pawed at the crate door, but the clever animal made no sounds. Lifting the crate’s door release, she stepped back.
He bounded out, play-bowed and wagged his tail.
She held out her arms for the silly white animal.
Acting coy, he cocked his head.
“Come here, you little stinker.”
Crouching, she scooped him into her arms and buried her nose in his soft fur. “I missed you.”
He licked her cheek.
After she’d checked her houseplants and emptied her tote, she lowered him into the leather purse and eased closed her condo’s door. Looking both ways down the hallway, she found it empty and exhaled. “Quiet or some snooty neighbor will bust us, and we’ll have to find you a new home.”
“Don’t worry. They’re all good people at heart.” Stroking his head, she ferried him to the small park behind the building. She would present him to the condo board, but she needed time to complete the board’s lengthy pet application. Who wouldn’t love this dog?
About the Author
Amy Craig lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA with her family and a small menagerie of pets. She writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with intelligent and empathetic heroines. She can’t always vouch for the men. She has worked as an engineer, project manager, and incompetent waitress. In her spare time, she plays tennis and expands her husband’s honey-do list.
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