Winner Take All (Marcus Glenwood Series #3)

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9780385503709: Winner Take All (Marcus Glenwood Series #3)

Marcus Glenwood’s stunning legal victory over the New Horizons corporation (in the best-selling thriller, The Great Divide) came with a severe personal price. Now, barely a year later, Glenwood is slowly getting back on his feet, back into his legal practice, and back into a deeper relationship with Kirsten Stansted.

But when the new CEO of New Horizons–the company that once attempted to have Marcus killed–comes to him seeking representation in a personal matter, Marcus is stunned. Dale Steadman’s story is heart wrenching, but Marcus’s instincts for self-preservation urge him to turn down the case. Steadman’s one-year-old daughter has been kidnapped–by his ex-wife, the baby’s mother, world-renowned opera diva Erin Brandt. Kirsten finally convinces Marcus to help Steadman, and soon the case becomes a media sensation. And before long, someone is after Marcus–and Kirsten–using deadly scare tactics.

T. Davis Bunn carefully crafts his novels to include a strong spiritual dimension, plumbing the depths of his characters’ faith under crisis. Intercut with edge-of-your-seat courtroom scenes, his riveting new thriller takes readers from the American South to London and Germany...and from the depths of the soul to the heights of the spirit.

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About the Author:

T. Davis Bunn was raised in North Carolina, taught international finance in Switzerland, worked in Africa and the Middle East, and was named managing director of an international business advisory group based in Dusseldorf. Now he is the author of fifteen novels, including The Great Divide and Drummer in the Dark. He has won numerous awards for his writing, and his books regularly on the best-seller list. Davis and his wife, Isabella, live in Oxford, England, and Melbourne Beach, Florida.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1
Tourists meandered down the brick walk, laughing in the way of people who had spent too much money not to have a good time. Dale Steadman licked his lips and searched the close Carolina night. Across the street beckoned the last remaining bar from Wilmington's bad old days, a Barbary Coast dive whose music thumped in time to his own lurching heart. Gas lamps flickered and mocked him with shadows that threatened to reveal Erin coming from both directions at the same time. When she finally appeared, dancing across the bricks and waving excitedly, Dale could not even raise his arm in response. He watched heads turn up and down the street, some because of her poise and beauty, others because they recognized the newly arrived celebrity. Dale accepted her kiss of greeting, followed her into the restaurant, and knew a strong man's terror at watching the world slip utterly out of control.

The Wilmington harbor area had known its share of hard times. Two decades earlier, the streets fronting the Cape Fear River had been home to some of the raunchiest dives this side of Trinidad. Back then, even sailors off the rusting bulk carriers had walked in pairs. Eight Front Street was a product of recent renovation, with French cuisine served in a pre-Revolutionary War warehouse. The waiters liked to thrill the tourists with tales of former nude bar dancers and the three Hudson Bay outlaws who had carved each other up with bone-handled scimitars. But tonight the candles and the gas wall lamps glowed like ghosts of the here and now, and Dale found scant room for bygone days. Across from him, Erin showed a vulnerable enchantment that was all her own, a waif in Hermes silks. As the waiter took their orders, Dale wondered anew why this world-renowned opera diva had ever come to marry him. Or how he had ever let her go.

They talked of her recent roles at La Scala and Vienna's famed opera house. Candles brushed her features with featherstrokes of youth, as though she were forever seventeen. Erin had been born in Germany and raised in Belgium. That night her accent was an erotic purr. They talked of his recent appointment as chairman of the New Horizons board. They cast those special looks across the table. They pretended she had never abandoned him, leaving for a role in Paris and never coming back. At least, she pretended it had not happened, and he pretended to let it go.

Erin was an odd mixture of softness and edges. Her nose was far too strong, a single line drawn from forehead to tip. At a certain angle she hearkened back to a distant age of hunter-gatherers, which was perhaps the source of her ruthless intent. Whatever she needed to dispatch, she did so without a solitary hint of remorse. She ate what she killed. And she murdered with grace and song.

Erin carried a childlike zest about her. She ate with a gusto that was her trademark in everything and brought the burning to his gut once more. She responded with the rounding of her dark eyes, still open to his signals and reading them before they were ever fully formed. After ten and a half months of hellish pain, an hour back in her company was enough to chain him once more.

She drank sparingly, but encouraged Dale to go the distance. She had always professed to love his drinking and his cigars and his hunting, calling them manly traits in an emasculated world. He was a winner and a giant among pygmies, she had often said, compliments he had always loved to hear from her lips, for the words had usually triggered nights of astonishing passion. Erin had been the first ever to release him from the prison of restraint. The one and only.

The first difficult moment came as they were finishing the main course. She tossed out the question with a casual glance at other tables, little more than an aside. "Who is keeping you company these days?"

He was saved by what in earlier times had been a constant barb, but now was a windfall. An older couple approached with pen and smiles outstretched. They had seen her recent PBS opera special and read about her in the New York Times. They were thrilled to meet her. Just so delighted. Erin resumed the role of star and signed their pages, then dismissed them as pleasantly and swiftly as only a diva could.

She turned back to him. "Am I meant to be jealous already?"

"I don't want to spend our time talking about this, Erin."

"No. Of course not. My prim and proper husband dislikes any hint--"

"Erin. Please."

She lifted her wine and drained it. She had scarcely tasted it before then. She did not ever drink very much. The dreams came after that, and the terrors. He knew the dreams, but he could only guess at the reasons. Which made her adolescent beauty even more remarkable. Not even having a child had diminished her lissome radiance. It was only in moments like this, when her features tightened in anger or distress, that she aged from a perpetual seventeen to her actual thirty.

Erin's dark eyes did not so much focus upon him as take aim. "My glass is empty."

"Sorry." He refilled hers, then his own. "Congratulations on your recent success, by the way."

"A smooth change of subject. Very smooth."

"Not to mention the front page of the Sunday Times Arts and Leisure section. Quite a coup."

Three years ago, Erin had come to New York hoping for a chance to make it at the Met, the crown of America's operatic world. They had met her first week in New York and his second, two outcasts to the Apple's high society. The magnetism was mutual and instantaneous. Or so he liked to think.

Entry into the New York Metropolitan Opera had never come for Erin. She had hammered upon the backstage entrance with all her might. She had paid her dues by singing every American venue that would have her, from San Francisco to Miami to Chicago. She had gained accolades from virtually every place. But still the Met did not grant the invitation she so desperately craved.

Dale had followed whenever and wherever he could. Theirs had been an international romance, a fairy tale that fit well into the European magazines. Pictorial spreads appeared in France and Switzerland and Belgium, where opera stars were granted the same status as the Hollywood imports. Beauty and the Beast, was how the German magazine Bild put it, a backwoods hick from a town redolent of slave labor and brown lung. Dale disliked admitting it even to himself, but he had occasionally asked himself the same question. Why had this woman, who could have had almost any man in the entire world, ever married the likes of him?

Now she was back in Europe. His love had not been enough to keep her content. This was only the second time she had returned to America since their divorce. The other occasion had been to record a PBS special as the precious innocent in Carmen. The telecast had received to-die-for publicity when the New York Times had blasted the Met's new lead conductor for refusing Erin a debut. As a result of the Times' coverage, PBS had gained the largest audience for a televised opera in history.

Dale had not even known she was in the country until he read of the upcoming broadcast. He had gotten so spectacularly drunk the third act remained a scotch-scented blur.
After a two-bottle dinner they had a couple of brandies, or at least he did. Erin sipped twice from her glass, then poured the remainder into his own and said, "Tell me about the break-in at the house."

"You can't still be reading the Wilmington rag."

"My press agent has instructions to pass over anything she can find about you. Local man foils armed robbers by knocking them both cold, wasn't that how they put it? Front page above the fold." Erin toyed with the lay of her pearls and the spaghetti strap of her dress. She sounded almost shy. "Perhaps I shouldn't keep such close tabs on you, but I couldn't help myself."

"I was terrified. But only after it was over. Before there wasn't time for thought."

Her smile flickered in the candlelight, ephemeral as myth. "Did you really knock them both out?"

Dale related the bare bones because she seemed so interested, even though the episode still gave him severe night sweats. Apparently he had caught the pair just after they had broken into the house, for nothing had been touched. Erin leaned across the table and pressed him for more. Her intensity caused the afternoon to become vivid once more. He had come home early to discover the nanny bound and gagged on the kitchen floor. Dale had then spotted the two men upon the landing by the baby's room, which was why he went utterly berserk. He had grabbed a nearby lamp, catapulted up the stairs, and taken them both down. Only afterward had he seen their guns. But it would not have mattered anyway. The bigger of the two men had been gripping Celeste's doorknob with his gloved hand. The memory still drenched his vision with blood and fear.

Erin reached across and snagged his hand and scratched the surface with one fingernail. Back and forth, the proprietary gesture of a woman in comfortable possession of her man. "Let's go back for a nightcap."

He wanted to say it probably wasn't a good idea. But the light in her eyes kindled a volcano of hurt and craving in his gut. Dale could not deny her. It was his greatest failing. That and the knowledge she could control him only because he still wanted so badly to believe.

Erin drove, as was their habit when he had been drinking. She rested one hand upon his seatback, where she could play with a wayward curl of his hair. Their careful silence saved him from confessing how time had become a blunt weapon that crashed against the walls of his life, shattering and homicidal.

When they turned off the state road and entered the tree-draped darkness, she came as close as she ever had to probing his wounds. "I'm so sorry for the way I spoke to the press."

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