DuplicityClean Read Edition
Military Romantic Thriller
Clean Read Version
“[A] page-turner that fuses thriller and romance. Hinze has a knack for combining compelling realistic characterizations with suspense and a romantic plot line.”
From the USA Today Bestselling Author Vicki Hinze comes The Reunited Hearts, a romantic suspense series of standalone novels with couples in dangerous situations who reunite in atypical ways.
In Duplicity (originally written for the general market in 1999 and rewritten as a clean read romantic suspense in 2015), Captain Tracy Keener, a widow, is on the cusp of realizing her dream as a military attorney. But then she’s ordered to defend Captain Adam Burke, a special operations officer accused of abandoning his team and leaving them to die. Should she ruin her career to defend a man she is certain is guilty? Everyone knows he is guilty and defending him will cost Tracy her career, but the honchos give her no choice.
Only Adam swears he was framed, he’d acted under direct orders. He swears things that can’t possibly be true—or can they? Working together reveals an attraction that won’t quit and corruption at the highest levels—the sacrifice of an entire team. Impossible things!
Until Tracy defies a cease-and-desist order and proves the impossible fact. Her admiration for Adam grows as does her faith in him. Their relationship shifts and bonds between them grow stronger. Yet risking her life is easier for Tracy than risking her heart. She knows loss, and fears it most. Yet the discovery that her heart already has chosen comes too late—after they’re targeted for assassination. At least one of them, it seems, must pay the ultimate price to untangle this intricate web of Duplicity. But which one?
Books in the Hearts Reunited Series:
Her Perfect Life, #1
Mind Reader, #2
PRAISE for Vicki Hinze Novels:
Top Pick Award, Romantic Times
Golden Quill Award
Reviewer’s Choice Award Nominee, Best Suspense Novel of the Year, Romantic Times
Daphne Du Maurier Award Finalist, Best Mainstream Suspense Novel of the Year
“Written in the tradition of A Few Good Men, this highly suspenseful story of a solitary woman’s fight against an evil military conspiracy is one readers won’t want to put down.” – Library Journal
“Hinze’s suspense-filled novel is one that will keep the reader turning pages and trying to guess the next moves in a complex and intriguing plot.” -Raleigh News and Observer
“An exciting read. Guaranteed to keep you entertained.” — Rocky Mountain News
“[A] page-turner that fuses thriller and romance. Hinze has a knack for combining compelling realistic characterizations with suspense and a romantic plot line.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Keeps the suspense going until the last page. Hinze’s books demand justice.”–The Bay Beacon
“Vintage Hinze. If you like well-plotted suspense with your romance, if you like clues and curves at a roller coaster pace, Duplicity is for you. It’s a page-turner, and don’t skip a page.”– The Courier Herald
“Hinze exploded on the scene with Shades of Gray and continues her meteoric rise with Duplicity. Finding a new niche in the romance genre takes rare courage and fortitude, but like Ms. Hinze’s heroines, she displays these admirable traits with the discovery of a category one can only call military romance. Clear an entire shelf for this author’s work, she doesn’t disappoint, making her a sure candidate for the bestseller’s list. Very Highly Recommended.” — BookBrowser
“A fast-paced novel with plenty of twists and turns and a lot of great insight into the world of the military…you will not be disappointed in this action-packed thriller.” – Interludes
“The theme is so strong that as each piece of the puzzle is uncovered, another gap or connection is revealed, and the characters quite frequently find themselves uncertain as to which is the right path. Duplicity weaves throughout. The result is a story of suspense, cleverly drawn.”— Booksquare.com
“Wow! A spellbinding book. A true page turner. The way [Hinze] pulls you into the action with the characters is so incredible. There are so many hurdles to overcome, so many emotions, feelings, and situations that leave you reeling, you won’t want to put it down until you see the story through to the very end. Bravo!”– Old Book Barn Gazette
Duplicity, Clean Read Edition Sample, ASIN B00KBCEVAW, Copyright @2014 by Vicki Hinze
This couldn’t be happening to her. Not now.
Again, Colonel Jackson’s edict reverberated in her ears. Keener, I’ve assigned you to defend Captain Adam Burke.
Captain Tracy Keener, a Staff Judge Advocate relatively new to Laurel Air Force Base, Mississippi, swallowed a knot of dread from her throat. “Is that a direct order, sir?”
“If necessary, yes, it is, Captain.”
She tensed her muscles to keep her boss from seeing how appalling she found the notion. Only a sadist would be elated at hearing they’d been assigned to defend Adam Burke. What attorney in her right mind could be anything but appalled at being ordered to defend him? If the rumors proved true, he’d deserted his men. Abandoned them to die.
Refusal burned in her throat, turned her tongue bitter. This had to be a bad dream—a nightmare. It couldn’t be real.
But from the look on Jackson’s face, it was real, and there was no escaping it.
“This won’t be an easy case to defend.” He passed a file across the desk to her. “On paper, Burke’s assigned to Personnel, but he actually works for Colonel Hackett.”
“Burke is in Intel?” Could the news get any worse?
Jackson nodded. “And because he is, the prosecutor is going all the way on this one. So far, the charges are conduct unbecoming, disobeying direct orders, cowardice, and treason.”
Choking back a groan, she fixed her gaze on an eagle paperweight atop a neat stack of files at the corner of his desk. Sunlight slanted in through the blinds at his coveted office window. Washed in its stripes of light and shadows, the bird looked arrogant. Sinister.
“It gets worse.” Jackson grimaced. “Four counts of murder are coming down the pike.”
“Murder?” She really should have seen this assignment coming. Burke’s was the last case any Staff JAG officer would want to take on. It was a guaranteed career-breaker—which is why, as low man on Laurel’s Judge Advocate General’s office totem pole, she’d gotten stuck with the unholy honor. “Wasn’t this an accident during a local war-readiness exercise?”
“The incident occurred during a local readiness exercise, but it was no accident—at least, not in the way you mean.” Jackson rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “The troops were split into two teams, Alpha and Omega. Omega played the enemy. Burke headed Alpha team with orders to infiltrate Area Thirteen—Omega’s enemy territory—to jam communications and gather Intel.”
“Sounds typical, so far.”
“It was,” Jackson said. “But the woods are dense in Area Thirteen. Burke got lost and led his men onto an active firing range.”
“He got lost?”An Intel officer who can’t tell directions? That didn’t fit.
“According to Hackett, it happens all the time out there. The terrain disorients.” Jackson leaned forward. “The worst is that Burke realized he’d messed up and bugged out.”
A shiver crept up Tracy’s back.“ He admitted that he deliberately abandoned his men?”
“He’s admitted nothing. In fact, he’s not talking. But he was the only Alpha team survivor. Four skilled operatives died.”
“So why murder charges?”
“Burke threatened two members of his team less than a week before the exercise. Investigators are about to conclude that he carried through on the threat and the other two men were sacrificed.”
Could anyone be that cold? “Why did Burke threaten the men?”
How could she defend him against murder charges when the basis for the murders was classified? Killing and sacrificing men—during an exercise, for pity’s sake—and she had to defend him? Now?
She had to get out of this assignment. That, or kiss off her career.
Desperately seeking a chink in Colonel Jackson’s armor, she studied him. He was a big, imposing man with an intelligent face, pushing fifty and graying gracefully at the temples. In the months she’d been at Laurel, he had earned her respect. More than once during case discussions at the morning staff meetings, compassion had burned in his eyes, and that compassion had come through in his recommendations. According to Tracy’s overqualified assistant, Janet Cray, the only thing that sent Jackson through the proverbial ceiling was clutter, and that melded into an odd combination of human characteristics, to Tracy’s way of thinking. How could he show a murderer compassion but lack so much as the scent of it for any staff member who tolerated a staple on the carpet near his or her desk?
Yet Tracy had worked for worse. Gutless wonders who’d rather fold than fight were a dime a dozen in the military. Fortunately, so were the dedicated, the proud, and the sincere. Soldiers who took their oaths to serve and protect into their hearts and did their best to live by them.
Jackson fell into the ranks of the latter. Yet no compassion shone in his eyes now, nor did any latitude. There was no chink; his armor unfortunately appeared intact, but he did look…guilty.
Smoothing her uniform’s dark blue skirt, Tracy set out to find out why. “You do realize that in taking on this case now I’d be begging for career disaster, right?”
The veiled empathy flickering in Jackson’s eyes snuffed out. He darted his gaze to his office door, as if assuring himself of privacy, and then nodded. “Frankly, yes, I realize the risks.”
His tone removed any doubt about his damage-assessment expectations. Enormous risks. Enormous.
Should she feel relieved that he had acknowledged the risks, or despondent that he had realized them and had put her in the direct line of fire anyway?
Before she could decide, he rocked back in his chair. The springs groaned and his stern expression turned grave, dragging down the creases running alongside his mouth, nose to chin. “I’m not going to sugar-coat this situation, Captain,” he said. “The Burke case has tempers running hot and hard up the chain of command and the local media is nearly out of control. Between the two of them, they’re nailing our backsides to the proverbial wall.”
Hope flared in Tracy. If he could see that, then surely he would see reason and assign someone else to the case. “I’m up for major, sir,” Tracy interjected. “My promotion board meets in about a month.”
“I know.” A frown creasing his lined forehead, Jackson doodled with a black pen on the edge of his blotter; a frequent habit, judging by the density of his previous scrawls. “And I know that you’re up for Career Status selection.”
Oh, man. Tracy hadn’t yet even considered Career Status selection. This was her fifth year in the Air Force. Her first and—by new policy adopted three weeks ago—her last shot at selection. If not selected, she’d promptly be issued an invitation to practice law elsewhere, outside of the military.
This was not a pleasing prospect to an officer bent on making the military a career.
Decidedly uneasy, the colonel fidgeted with his gold watch. It winked at her from under his shirtsleeve’s cuff. “I understand the personal risks and the potential sacrifices you may have to make, but there’s a lot more at stake here than your career. The Air Force Corrections System is on trial, Captain, and all eyes are watching to see if it’s up to the test.”
He let the weight of that comment settle in and then went on. “Burke is a coward and a disgrace to the uniform. He deserves to die for his crimes—and I have no doubt that he will die. Yet he is entitled to a defense and—”
“I agree, Colonel,” she interceded, doing her best to keep her voice calm. “Burke does deserve a defense. But can’t an attorney who already has Career Status defend him? If I lose this case—and we both know I will lose this case—then that’s a huge strike against me with the boards. Competition is stiff and losses bury you. I’ll be passed over for promotion and for Career Status selection. If that happens, my military career abruptly ends.”
“I’m aware of these, er, undesirable conditions. Captain.” Jackson lowered his gaze to his desk blotter. “But I’m afraid a reassignment is impossible.”
The regret in his tone set her teeth on edge. This was another slick political maneuver; she sensed it down to her toenails. Some jerk with more clout, rank, or backing from his superior officers didn’t want his rear stuck in a sling, so they were planting her backside in it first. The unfairness of it set a muscle in her cheek to ticking. “May I ask why not?”
“I’d prefer that you didn’t.”
She just bet he did prefer it. A stern edge crept into her voice. “I mean no disrespect sir, but if I’m going to risk sacrificing my career then I think I’m entitled to know why it can’t be avoided.”
Unaccustomed to being challenged, even respectfully, Jackson clearly took exception. Red slashes swept across his rawboned cheeks and his tone chilled, nearly frosting the air between them. “Officially, you’ve developed a reputation as a strong litigator.”
Tension crackled in the air and an uneasy feeling that she had indeed been slated for sacrifice crept up Tracy’s backbone and filled her mouth with a bitter taste. “And unofficially?”
Jackson pursed his lips and held his silence for a long beat. “General Nestler specifically requested that you be assigned to defend Burke, and Higher Headquarters agreed.”
A by-name request? From Nestler? Oh, great. Just great. No one refused Nestler anything. Within two days at Laurel, while assisting Ted, a fellow attorney, on a contract case, Tracy had learned that. Now she’d learned Nestler’s clout ran straight up the chain of command.
She was history. History. Pure and simple. “I wasn’t aware General Nestler even knew my name.”
Jackson’s resigned look faded and the corner of his wide mouth twitched. “Don’t be fooled by the actions of some generals, Captain. General Nestler knows everything that goes on with his staff, on the base, and in the community—within and outside of the military.”
No conflict there with what Tracy had heard and observed. At last month’s First Friday gathering at the Officers’ Club, Janet privately had referred to Nestler as Laurel’s god. Sees all, knows all. Since then, others had used that same analogy, and Tracy innately knew she wasn’t going to like his rationale for choosing her to defend Burke. “So why me?”
“Why not you?” Jackson issued a challenge of his own.
She could think of a dozen personal reasons, but not a single professional one.
Jackson stood up and turned his back to her, then stared out the window at the red brick building next door. Two airmen were washing its windows.
A long minute passed in taut silence, then he stiffened his shoulders, braced a hand in his pants pocket, and faced her. “Frankly, Captain, the general feels your professional acumen, poise, and appearance will be an asset in dealing with the media.”
“What?” That response she hadn’t expected. She forced her gaping jaw shut.
“I’m sorry, Tracy,” Jackson said, for the first time calling her by her given name. “But it’s vital we keep this incident as low-key as possible. That’s why we’re trying the case locally.”
He plopped down in his chair. Air hissed out from the leather cushion, and he leaned forward, lacing his thin hands atop the blotter. “The truth is, the local media’s chewing us up and spitting us out on this case. We don’t want national-level media jumping in, crawling on our backsides and blowing this out of proportion. The last thing the military needs is another fiasco of the magnitude of Tailhook.”
How could she disagree? That scandal, and others since it, had caused a lot of people sleepless nights, agony, embarrassment. Careers and lives had been ruined. And innocents had suffered the shame and fallout as much as the guilty.
“We need every possible advantage. We’re fighting deep budget cuts at every turn, base closures that could include Laurel—we escaped the latest short list by the skin of our teeth—and the end of the fiscal year is breathing down our throats. This case has every military member’s reputation on the line.” Frustration knitted Jackson’s heavy brow, making him appear every day of his fifty years. “You’re bright and attractive—that surely comes as no surprise to you. You’re a media asset, and as unfair as you might deem it, we’ve chosen to exploit all our assets.”
He let his gaze veer to a bronze statue of Lady Justice on the credenza below the window, and then to the flag beside it. His voice softened. “As rotten as it is, we have to exploit every possible asset. We’re a war-weary, all-volunteer force with a nation of people depending on us to protect them—not to mention other nations’ reliance.”
“I’m aware of that, sir.” Who in the military could be unaware of that?
“Then you understand the challenge. Burke has complicated our mission. He’s tarnished the image of the entire military in a despicable, unforgivable way, and it’s up to us to salvage all we can, any way we can.”
She was a means to an end. He could destroy your career and your life, but, hey, it’s nothing personal, Tracy. Suck it up and take one for the team.
Her stomach churned acid. She stared at the eagle paperweight, at the dark shadows between the glints of light reflecting off it. As much as she hated admitting it, Jackson and Nestler’s rationale made sense. As a senior officer in the same situation, she’d use whatever assets she found available to defuse the situation. Could she fault them for doing what in their position she would do herself?
Not honestly. Still, she couldn’t stop visualizing her shot at promotion and selection sprouting wings, or imagining her forced exit from the Air Force. Burke was guilty. Everyone knew it. And while she might be media-attractive, she wouldn’t get him off. She didn’t want to get him off. But even an F. Lee Bailey or OJ’s dream team couldn’t get Burke off, or come out of this case unscathed.
Yet the man was entitled to the best possible defense. Would any other JAG officer make a genuine attempt to give it to him, knowing personal disaster was all but inevitable?
Probably not—and Tracy couldn’t condemn them for it. Given the sliver of a chance, she too would have avoided this case as if it carried plague. But she couldn’t avoid it, and that made only one attitude tenable. She had give Burke her best. Not so much for him, but because it was the right thing to do. When this was over, she had to be able to look in the mirror and feel comfortable with what she’d done and the way she’d handled the case and herself. Considering what this would to do her resume, her self-respect is likely all she’d have left.
“We should have word on the murder charges later today,” Jackson said.
Tracy nodded. Since she’d lost her husband and daughter five years ago, she often had imagined herself as an eighty-year-old woman, wearing the same gold locket she wore under her uniform now, looking in the mirror and asking herself where she’d messed up, what she’d done or left undone that she wished she hadn’t. In grief counseling, she’d learned that the death of a loved one changes a survivor’s perspective, sharpens it, forcing the survivor to focus on what matters most. The one thing she would not face the eighty-year-old she’d become with was more regret. She couldn’t handle another drop. And that meant she had to do the right thing.
Resigned, she lifted her gaze to Colonel Jackson and accepted responsibility. “I understand, sir. I’ll get started on it.”
Jackson blinked, then blinked again, clearly expecting her to body-slam him with a sharp-tongued comment. When it occurred to him none would be coming, he gave her a curt nod. “Fine, Captain.” He lifted a pen and turned his attention to an open file on his desk. “Dismissed.”
Tracy unfolded her legs, hoping her knees had enough substance left in them to get her out of his office before she crumpled. Dismissed. And how. From his office and, she feared, from her chosen way of life.
- Golden Quill Award
- Reviewer’s Choice Award, Best Suspense Novel of the Year Nominee, Romantic Times
- Best Mainstream Suspense Novel of the Year Finalist, Daphne Du Maurier Award
- Top Pick Award – Romantic Times
QUESTIONS FOR YOUR READING GROUP
(Written by Sandie Scarpa et al)
- Captain Tracy Keener is dismayed to be assigned the case of Adam Burke, a man everyone has adjudged as guilty of grossly neglectful conduct, resulting in death of his squad. There are many “obviously guilty” individuals that are currently coming into our court system. Yet we, as a just nation, are obligated by our own principles to provide them with legal counsel and a defense. How do you think lawyers feel about such assignments? Would it be difficult for you as such a lawyer to accept such a case? Could you do it? Why? Because everyone has the right to a defense, or because he deserves benefit of doubt until guilt is proven?
- Janet states to Tracy that “you must learn to lie.” Do you think this is so? Are all children truthful, and experiences of life shape them to distort truth? Is there a distinction between an untruth born of the urge to deceive for gain, rather than a lie made for defense? Can someone tell themselves such lies as to make it appear the truth in their mind? If someone you are emotionally involved with tells you a lie, are you more likely to believe it without examination as to truth?
- Adam comments that training can make you function despite fear. Do you agree? What kind of job would include such training?
- The locket that Tracy wears is a talisman against her fears, and a reminder to stay on her course of honor. It also serves as a reminder of her guilt at losing her child and husband. Many of us have such items. Sometimes it is a toy or object from a safer time of childhood. Do you or someone you know have something like this? Does the meaning or potency of these talismans change over time?
- Escaping from locked rooms, jumping from building roofs, lurking in the shadows — it all sounds quite exciting, but in reality, most of this is dangerous and dirty work. What would motivate you to take on such obstacles?
- It can be easy to be idealistic, but would you think it difficult to see the larger picture of a mission when you personally are at physical risk? What would be the most difficult obstacle for you – heights, water, blood, darkness?
- Referring to question 3 above, could you set aside, overcome, or conquer such a fear with enough training?
- Tracy discovers that Adam Burke might not be guilty, but the case is closed by her superiors. She didn’t drop it, but pursued the truth. Why was that so important to her–especially considering it could cost her her own career?
- Adam took abuse, ridicule, was lied to and about, and yet he stuck to what he believed was right–forfeiting his freedom and, if necessary, his life. What character traits do you think one possesses to make them hold those values?
- Tracy and Adam work together to discover the truth–and discover that few things they believed true were true and many they didn’t believe proved true. Have you been in that situation? How did you resolve it? What did you risk to resolve it? Did it work out for you?
- Chemical weapons going missing is a terrifying prospect, and yet many think this is an issue not of interest to women. Is it of interest to you or the women in your life?
- What is the one thing you most remember about Duplicity that will stay with you for a long time?
Clean Read Edition Released in Digital in 2014 by Magnolia Leaf Press. General Market Edition and Audio released in print and digital in 2012, Magnolia Leaf Press. General Market Edition released by St. Martin’s Press in print in 1996. Links to the General Market 2012 and Audio version follow: History DUPLICITY Published by Magnolia Leaf Press ISBN: 978-1-939016-10-2 Copyright © 2014 by Vicki Hinze Cover Design by V. K. Hinze Duplicity, ©1999, Vicki K. Hinze Duplicity by Vicki Hinze was first published by St. Martin’s Press in April 1999 for the general market. In 2014, the story was rewritten and this new Clean Read Edition was published. Book Title: DUPLICITY
Publisher: Magnolia Leaf Press
Release Date: Aug 1, 2012
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1478335511
E-Book ISBN: 978-1-939016-00-3
Audio [Unabridged]: ISBN: B00A30A728