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Shattered (Bitter Creek Novels) Mass Market Paperback – December 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Joan Johnston is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than forty award-winning historical and contemporary romantic novels, including her Bitter Creek series featuring The Rivals, The Price, The Loner, The Texan, and The Cowboy.

Johnston received a master of arts degree in theater from the University of Illinois and graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin. She lives in south Florida and Colorado. Visit her website: www.joanjohnston.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

"Why are you here?"

Private Investigator Harry Dickenson felt a shiver roll down his spine at the sound of Wyatt Shaw's quiet, raspy voice. Shaw stared at him from ruthless gray eyes, his lean, powerful body coiled behind a stone-and-glass desk, like a silent predator stalking unsuspecting prey.

Harry wondered if the rumors he'd heard were true. Was he alone with a brutal killer? Someone who'd, literally, gotten away with murder?

Harry's blood felt like ice in his veins, despite the heat of the April sun streaming through a wall of windows. He was standing on the top floor of the newest, and by far grandest, Shaw Tower, a combination hotel, condominium and office building in downtown Houston, Texas. From his vertigo-inducing perch, Harry could see the far-reaching geographic boundaries of the city, nearly forty miles away.

It was hard to believe how much of that real estate was controlled by the indecently wealthy man sitting before him. Was it so wrong to want a little piece of that pie for himself? This was Harry's first venture into extortion, and he was a little nervous. But he was certain Shaw would pay—and pay well—to learn the tantalizing secret he'd come here to sell.

Harry tried to meet Shaw's piercing gaze as he made his demand for cash, but he couldn't quite raise his eyes that last six inches. He focused instead on the crisp collar of Shaw's white shirt, the smooth knot of his patterned blue silk tie and the lapels of his dark blue blended wool suit, as he said, "I have information of vital interest to you."

"I'm listening," Shaw said.

Harry saw a flicker of movement over his shoulder and realized they were no longer alone in Shaw's office on the Tower's 80th floor. He started as a man two or three inches taller than Wyatt's reputed 6'4", and maybe fifty pounds heavier, stepped into his line of sight.

"You wanted me, Boss?" the man said, speaking to Shaw as though Harry wasn't there.

Harry wondered how the gargantuan man in a cheap brown suit—who reminded him of the enforcers he'd seen in Mafia movies—had been summoned and realized Shaw must have hit some button on his desk. He thought back to the female secretary in the outer office. The older, benign-looking lady in a skirt that fell two inches below her knees and sensible pumps had made him feel perfectly safe coming into what he could now see was a cage of steel and glass from which there was no escape.

Harry licked at the sweat above his lip, recognized it for the anxious gesture it was and stiffened his spine. He was the best at what he did precisely because he didn't allow himself to be intimidated.

Nevertheless, he felt his bowels shift in an instinctive animal response to mortal danger.

"I'll be with you in a minute," Shaw said to the big man he'd summoned. Then he fixed his steely gaze on Harry. "You were saying?"

Harry watched as the big man guarding the door, who had an ugly scar on his cheek and a crooked, many-times-broken nose, took a pose that reminded him of a military man "at ease," his meaty hands behind his back, his tree-trunk legs spread wide. The enforcer's dark eyes, under heavy black brows, stayed focused on Harry as though he were some lower form of life, a bug this big man would like to squash.

Harry mentally shook his head. He was anticipating trouble where there might be none. Shaw had done nothing overtly threatening. It was the information Harry had dug up on the man sitting across from him that was scaring him shitless.

Harry fought the urge to turn tail and run. He chided himself again for letting his imagination run wild. Surely Shaw would be grateful to hear what Harry had discovered, even if he was also shocked by the revelation.

"I want your agreement to pay before I tell you what I know."

Harry waited for Shaw to ask what it was or how much he wanted or refuse to pay or say something that would give him an idea where to go from there. He'd never suspected, when Governor Pendleton had hired him to hunt down the biological father of her daughter-in-law's twin sons, that his search would lead him to this enigmatic man.

He'd brought a picture of Lucky and Chance, in case Shaw asked to see them. The boys had blue eyes and black hair like their mother, Kate Pendleton. And were long and lanky, with square chins, strong noses and high cheekbones like their father, Wyatt Shaw.

Harry hadn't believed his luck when he'd finally stumbled on the truth. The governor had mentioned a reunion her son and Kate had attended in Austin at the Four Seasons. The trip would have been around the time of the twins' conception, nine years ago. Shaw hadn't been as well-known then, but the brand-new receptionist at the hotel, who'd taken his American Express card at the Austin, Texas, Four Seasons that fateful night, had become the current manager of the hotel.

The incident had remained fixed in her mind because it was the first of the new Centurion Cards—a black AMEX card with supposedly unlimited credit— she'd ever seen, and it had been handed to her by an extraordinarily good-looking young man with silver wings in his black hair.

The manager told him that when she'd recognized Wyatt Shaw with his infamous father on TV less than a year later, she'd marveled at how close she'd come to flirting with a dangerous criminal. She'd admitted to being jealous, that long-ago evening, of the strikingly beautiful woman holding the handsome man's hand.

And yes, she'd confirmed, the lady in the photo Harry had shown her was the same woman Wyatt Shaw had taken with him on the elevator to the penthouse suite he'd booked.

Harry had quickly realized he'd stumbled onto a gold mine. He could get paid again and again to keep his mouth shut about the information he'd discovered: Mob Boss Dante D'Amato's bastard son, Wyatt Shaw, was the father of Texas Governor Ann Wade Pendleton's grandsons.

Governor Pendleton, who'd hired him, would pay, of course. He could also sell his willing silence to the twins' very wealthy great-grandfathers, who'd probably fork over a hunk of money to keep the world from knowing who their granddaughter had screwed while she'd been married to another man.

Jackson Blackthorne, Kate Pendleton's paternal grandfather, owned a ranch the size of Vermont in South Texas called Bitter Creek. Kate's maternal grandfather, King Grayhawk, owned an equally impressive ranch called Kingdom Come in Wyoming, where he served as that state's governor. The two men were lifelong enemies, a fact Harry was sure he could use to his advantage.

The mind boggled at what the tabloids might pay for such juicy gossip.

In the end, Harry had decided that the man who stood to gain the most—the knowledge that he had eight-year-old twin sons—was the man who'd be willing to pay the most. So even before he told Governor Pendleton what he knew, or approached either of Kate's influential grandfathers, or phoned the first tabloid magazine, he'd come here to confront Shaw.

Considering the menacing man standing just inside the door, and the even more dangerous one sitting behind the desk, Harry knew he was walking a tightrope over an abyss.

Greed gave him the courage to take the next step.

Harry glanced at the hulking figure by the door, and said, "I want half a million."

The demand was met by silence.

Harry struggled not to fidget while he waited for Shaw to speak. He'd thought long and hard about how much he could ask Shaw to pay. He'd dreamed of a million, but realized if he got half of that, with what he'd already saved, he could buy a small fishing boat and a condo on the gulf near Corpus Christi and be set for the rest of his life. With a net worth over half a billion, half a million was a drop in the bucket for Shaw.

"I'm sure whatever it is you think you know isn't worth that kind of money," Shaw replied at last.

"This information has nothing to do with your… uh… business activities." Harry had nearly said illegal business activities. The U.S. Justice Department had been unable to prove Shaw had ill-gotten gains under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, although they'd taken him to court at least once to try. And the Houston cops hadn't yet found enough evidence—despite the woman found strangled in Shaw's bed six weeks ago—to charge him with murder.

Wyatt Shaw seemed to walk between raindrops.

But Harry knew the rich man's life hadn't always been so blessed.

His mother had been Dante D'Amato's mistress until her death, under suspicious circumstances, when Shaw was twelve. The child born on the wrong side of the blanket, so to speak, had succeeded so spectacularly that the government—read FBI—refused to believe he'd done it without help from the mob.

Harry was pretty sure the Feds monitored every dollar in and out of Shaw's many business activities, looking for enough evidence to bring down his empire. Which only convinced Harry that Shaw would know how to pay him the half mil without raising any red flags for the IRS.

"Has to be a woman," Shaw said in disgust. "What is she claiming?"

Harry had expected the dismissive look on Shaw's face. The man had never been married and didn't have a steady girlfriend, though there was no shortage of women in his life. Harry had discovered from a lady lawyer Shaw briefly dated that he always took precautions to ensure there was no unwanted child.

Which made Harry wonder if the dead woman found in Shaw's penthouse suite might have been pregnant. And trying to extort money from Shaw. As he was.

Harry shuddered. The medical examiner's report on the murder victim hadn't been released to the public yet, and Harry's usual connection in the M.E.'s office had been too spooked to leak it to him. Which meant anything was possible.

Harry's investigation also revealed that Shaw usually bedded his dates in his—now infamous—penthouse at the Shaw Tower, or an equivalent locale. Not one of them had been to his personal retreat, a ranch compound north of...

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Product Details

  • Series: Bitter Creek Novels
  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mira; 1 edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0778328295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0778328292
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joan Johnston, the top ten New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the Bitter Creek (THE COWBOY, THE TEXAN and THE LONER plus 18 more including the Mail-Order Bride, Captive Hearts and Sisters of the Lone Star series) and Hawk's Way (nine in all) novels, has written more than fifty-five award-winning historical and contemporary romance novels, thirty-eight of which are connected. She received an M.A. in theater from the University of Illinois and graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin. Joan Johnston lives in Colorado and South Florida.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Elena on January 5, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I loved Joan Johnston's Hawk's Way series. I even loved the Women of the Lone Star series (prequels to the Bitter Creek series). I happened across a free copy of "The Cowboy" which is first in this series. There were some inconsistencies and details that didn't add up, but I really liked it yet at the same time was sorry to see that it was part of a new series which I felt compelled to finish. That's just the kind of person I am. The first three or four books that focused on the Creeds and Blackthornes were really good (despite further details that didn't gibe) but eventually, they became less realistic and enjoyable. By the time "A Stranger's Game" came out, I didn't buy it but rather checked it out from the library. I'm glad I did too; it wasn't very good. But despite the flaws, the overall storylines were basically good and the heat between the lovers was almost palpable. Kate and Jack were no exception. In fact, I bought this book to read what I thought was their story.

For those who begin the series with this book, they're missing what it was like between these two. The way they were written, you could tell the author meant for them to be together but somewhere along the line, she decided to change directions. The attraction was immediate between Jack and Kate but he avoided her because she was too young and he was too jaded. In the last book, Jack admitted that he first realized he loved her when she married J.D., that he had loved her for a long time, that he always would, that she was a part of him and always would be and that one of the reasons he married his wife was to resist the temptation of Kate. For her part, Kate fell hard and fast and the two loved each other during marriages to other people.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 30, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I will warn that this contains only one spoiler but it's a doozy. How could Joan Johnston do this to her readers??? Kate and Jack were MEANT to be together!!! Ms. Johnston has been building up this couple since The Next Mrs. Blackthorn, which I believed was released in 2005, and she has blogged many times that her readers were constantly asking her about Kate and Jack's story. Then, she teased us with it in A Stranger's Game, ending that book with them almost together. So I rushed yesterday to pick up my copy of Shattered, and let me tell you, that's how I felt after reading it! How could she pair Jack, with the woman he was divorcing, and Kate with her ONE-NIGHT STAND, and think that would be okay with her readers?? I may be the only one to feel this way, but I don't think I have ever been as let down by an author as I am of Joan Johnston. Shattered will be the last book of Ms. Johnston's I ever purchase.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Daisy2010 on January 9, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book will go down in history as one of the worst books I've ever read. I cannot agree more with all of the other 1-star reviews of this book -- especially the review that details all the inconsistencies and ridiculous plot holes in this novel. Spot on.

This book was just horrendously written, end of story. Some authors are able to draw out a story line over several books, keeping the readers interested in the characters, but never recounting those characters' histories in pages of paragraph-long info dumps that have no emotional value whatsoever. Ms. Johnston proved with this book that she is NOT one of those authors.

Most of this book felt like a verbal timeline of events, dissolving into chapters of "and then this happened, and then this happened, and then -- get this -- this happened..." without ever showing HOW the characters went through any of those events. It was a classic case of telling instead of showing and I found myself skipping entire chapters just to get to a live-action section. I can't see how anyone who picked up this book without reading the previous ones in this series could have cared anything for the two supposed lead characters, either individually or collectively.

I was a diehard Kate and Jack fan before I read this book, and I was so excited to hear that this book had finally come out, but despite all that enthusiasm for those characters, within a few chapters of reading this book, I didn't care about Kate or Jack. At all. It seemed like they had turned into horrible people who only cared about themselves, to the detriment of everyone else around them.

Plus, they were just plain stupid -- as were the majority of the other characters in the book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By PatyAnn on January 26, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is by far the biggest disappointment of any book that I was looking forward to reading. Faithful fans have been waiting and waiting for Kate and Jacks story for a very long time. But this seemed like a big slap in the face to her loyal readers.
Kate and Jack were nothing like they had been in the previous books in the series. After having waited years to be together, it seemed like they couldn't care less about each other. With Jack getting his supposedly soon-to-be-ex wife pregnant while Kate was in a coma (and he at Kate's bedside saying that the two of them are destined to be together), and Kate moving in and sleeping with Wyatt less than 24 hours after telling Jack that she loves him. There are many odd and totally uncharacteristic behaviors going on. Wyatt, who is a very rich man, was unable to find Kate for years, even though she is the daughter-in-law of the governor of Texas, who is running for president. I mean, come on, how dumb does Joan think we are? This very wealthy man has never watched the news? read a newspaper? The book was starting to turn my stomach.
Joan has stated that she changed her writing style and if this is how its going to be from now on, then I will never waste my money on her books again. If there was any way to rate it 0 stars I would have. One star is too good for this book.
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