We are officially ONE WEEK away from the release of my new family saga novel, When Empires Fall!! Woohoo!!
In celebration, today I bring you the final teasers for the book! Are you excited?? I sure am!
First off, before I get to the awesome teasers that are to come, I’d like to express my gratitude to those who have helped me throughout the whole process of this book, not only in promoting it but while writing it as well. I am very fortunate to have an amazing support system, and I don’t know what I’d do without all of you.
I also have to mention just how much this book means to me and how it has helped me grow as a writer. Not only were the characters numerous and complex, but the subject matter in the book is much more adult than the Dryad books and I veered off into a genre that I hope to continue to write in. The Vassers have become characters that will stay with me forever and I’m thrilled to visit with them again as I begin the sequel to When Empires Fall.
So without further ado…last week, I introduced you guys to the Vasser brothers, Grant and Linc. I mentioned at the end of last week’s post that this week I would be revealing snippets from the book. I do indeed have two excerpts from the book to share with you, but I also have something else…
This is a trailer I made showcasing the women of When Empires Fall, because what would the Vasser brothers be without the smart, sassy, bright and beautiful women who flutter into their lives and save them from themselves? Hehe.
And here are the excerpts I promised…one introduces you to Grant’s new secretary Quinn and showcases the Vasser Hotel and family through her eyes. The other introduces you to Cyrus Vasser, the patriarch of the Vasser family, and will give you a look into what makes him tic and which of the Vasser heirs he treasures the most.
Enjoy! And, this time next week, it’ll be release day!! Yay! See you then!
Excerpt #1 – Quinn Taylor
The minute Quinn Taylor stepped out of the cab and set foot before the grand Vasser Hotel of New York City, she knew she had, quite simply, arrived.
Here she was, standing in front of one of the greatest landmarks of glorious Manhattan, taking in the towering forty-floor building complete with glittering windows and Art Deco inspired stone work. All of her life she had heard of the wonders of the luxurious and palatial Vasser Hotel, but never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she, a small town girl from upstate New York, would be standing here, ready to set foot inside.
Not as a guest, unfortunately. But as an employee, as secretary to one of the Vasser heirs. Her lips quirked into a mile wide grin as she did a self-congratulatory happy dance in her mind, clutching her hands together in delight. Yes, she was here, and she was ready to make her mark. Sure, her ultimate goal of becoming a chef was kind of on the back burner at the moment, but her two years of business school at the community college back home had managed to land her this job, so it was certainly better than nothing. Besides, the hotel did have three full restaurants, which hopefully she could squeeze her way into once a position opened up.
Things were going to work out for her, she was certain of it. The Vasser Hotel was going to be her ticket to everything she had ever wanted in her entire life.
She was a girl with blood that ran almost exclusively Sicilian, with just a dash of Greek that was thrown in somewhere down the line. Because of it, she had a face with high, prominent cheekbones and a strong, squared jaw line that held a wide mouth that was almost constantly moving. Whether she was talking, smiling, laughing, chewing nervously on her bottom lip, or just pouting for lack of something better to do, her mouth was rarely if ever not in motion. Some people considered it a shortcoming, but she preferred to think of it as a gift. After all, what was wrong with a kind word and a cheerful smile now and again?
She had been gifted with her grandmother’s gypsy eyes of rich hazel, wide and tilted slightly up at the corners, with generous lashes she found no need to use mascara on. Not that she wore much makeup anyway; she preferred a more natural look without any illusions.
Her hair was rich black and full, and fell in spiral curls to just below her chin. Since she, years earlier, had discovered it was more trouble than it was worth to straighten her curls, she had given up and just wore them natural too.
She was shorter than most, barely rising above five foot three, and the love of food that came with the Sicilian blood had given her a body that would never be super model thin. But her Pilates obsession kept her in shape and healthy, so she felt it would be an insult to God to ask for anything more than that.
And as a born and bred Catholic, insulting God was, as it should be, a sin her mother would flay her alive over.
With an anxious glance at the practical black watch on her left wrist, Quinn noted that she was fifteen minutes early for her first shift. She had always been notoriously punctual, but she had also always been notoriously impatient. Which meant, of course, that there was no possible way she could stand around outside gawking at the building any longer. She had to go inside.
Clutching her purse tight enough to make her knuckles white, she made her way to the oversized sparkling glass doors framed in gold, delighted when the onsite doorman greeted her cordially. She paused before him, eyeing his nametag so she would remember his name for next time.
“Good morning, Barry. I’m Quinn.” She held out her hand cheerfully, pleased when he smiled warmly at her.
“Delighted to meet you, Miss Quinn,” Barry replied, accepting the handshake. He was a small statured, aged man with dark, weathered skin, warm chocolate eyes and a million watt smile.
“I’m the new secretary,” she informed him as he released her hand. “Hopefully, if things go well, we’ll be seeing each other every day.”
“I look forward to it. Who’re you workin’ for?”
“Mr. Vasser,” Quinn answered with a proud grin.
“Ah, but which one?” Barry winked. “There are three Mr. Vassers in our New York hotel.”
“Oh.” Quinn faltered, biting her lip as she tried to think back. “Well, Marshall Vasser was the one who interviewed me, but I’m not working for him…shoot, I can’t remember the guy’s name, but he’s Marshall’s nephew.”
Barry laughed. “There are two nephews, Miss Quinn.”
“Well, damn.” She laughed at herself, then checked her watch again. “I guess I should go find out which nephew it is I work for. It was a pleasure to meet you, Barry.”
“The same, Miss Quinn.” Barry opened the door for her, and as she walked into the hotel her eyes shot immediately to the tall and expansive ceiling, which was an explosion of intricate coffering and glittering lights, painted in muted golds and pale blues. It was like looking up into Heaven itself, complete with a colossal chandelier that must have cost more than her parents’ quaint suburban home, all sparkling crystal and glorious white light.
She had only been in the lobby the one time before when she had had her interview, but despite having seen it then she was still in awe.
She figured that if she ever got rich, she would have to find out who the interior designer was for the hotel and hire them to decorate her house, because it was nothing short of fabulous and resembled something pretty much reserved for modern royalty. And, hey, wasn’t that exactly what the Vassers were?
The center of the lobby was adorned with plush armchairs and sofas, made of gleaming mahogany and rich, buttery leather with royal blue throw pillows. The style was sophisticated and a bit modern, without losing the comfort of traditional and the warmth of antique. Enormous oriental rugs in similar blues and golds layered over the polished travertine floor, giving a homely feel to the area without being impractical.
Against the far wall were mahogany paneled elevators, beyond them what looked like gift shops and another waiting area. To her immediate right and left were the hotel’s premier restaurants and bars: on the left , the French inspired five star Cherir, and on the right the bluesy New Orleans themed The Mystic, a classic Japanese infused sushi joint Kazoku, and lastly the hotel’s exclusive high end, Paris themed bar, Amoureux. She was positive she wouldn’t fit in with the famously chic and sophisticated crowd that frequented that place, but maybe one day.
Probably far off, she mused, but one day she would be good enough to sit in that damn bar. God help her.
Also off to the left was the front desk, complete with a gleaming mahogany base, travertine counter, and heavenly smelling blue hydrangeas paired with white and green ivy pouring out of slender copper vases. Hanging on the wall behind the front desk was an oversized mural of the New York City skyline at night, with the Vasser Hotel logo in scripted letters that hung an inch or so out from the wall, backlit with a wash of golden light.
Feeling more than a little overwhelmed, Quinn made her way towards the front desk, her eyes on the young man with russet hair and skinny features standing there looking busy, the black polo shirt he wore bearing a gold Vasser Hotel emblem.
“Hi,” Quinn greeted, startling him as she leaned against the counter, all smiles.
“Hello,” Walter answered, snapping out of his reverie and managing a small smile in return. “How can I help you?”
“Today’s my first day. I’m Quinn Taylor.” She held out her hand to shake his, and he seemed a bit flustered as he accepted the handshake.
“Oh, okay. Um, what is it you do?”
“I’m Mr. Vasser’s new secretary.”
“Honestly, I don’t remember.” She laughed at herself again, and managed to get a laugh out of him as well.
“Oh man, okay. Wait here.” He disappeared into the offices behind him, leaving her alone. She tried not to be embarrassed, and hoped she wasn’t going to end up being technically late to her desk, wherever it was, because she didn’t know which Mr. Vasser she worked for. In fact, had Marshall even mentioned the name of the guy she was working for now? Surely she would have remembered, as her mind was usually a steel trap for things like names.
Just then, Walter reappeared from the offices with another man, who looked at her with a quick grin and cheerful blue eyes set in a roguishly handsome face. He eyed her thoughtfully for a moment, then ran a hand through his waves of chestnut hair and turned to Walter.
“You’ve been replaced, Walter. She’s much prettier than you,” Linc joked, causing Walter to look horribly offended.
“No way you’re replacing me. I’m awesome and you know it.”
“Yeah, but I think you can agree with me when I say I’d rather look at her every day than your greasy mug.”
Walter frowned as he looked over at Quinn, whose dark eyebrows had raised in amusement.
“But I work for free. I assume she wants to get paid.”
“That’s because she is what we call an employee. You, on the other hand, are my bitch. Besides, you get something much more valuable than money from me, Walter. You get my knowledge and guidance, which, let me tell you, is priceless.”
“Boys?” Quinn interjected, waving so they would both look at her. “While I find this all very flattering, I am in fact already employed to work for Mr. Vasser, so if neither of you are him, then please tell me where to find him so I can get started. It’s nearly nine o’clock and I really don’t want to be late for my first day.”
Linc flashed her another quick grin, then leaned over the counter towards her with his hand outstretched. “As a matter of fact, I am Mr. Vasser. But you can call me Linc.”
“Oh.” Quinn stared at his hand for a moment, then reached out to shake it, a bit unsure. “You’re Marshall’s nephew?”
“So I am replacing him?” She pointed to Walter, who just shrugged.
“Nope.” Linc grinned again and winked at her playfully. “Unfortunately, I am not the Mr. Vasser you seek. You’re gonna be working for my brother, Grant. He’s upstairs.”
“So you’re nephew number one, got it.” She smiled as her eyes shot to the elevators. “Which floor is nephew number two on?”
“I’ll take you,” Linc offered, already skirting around the front desk to meet up with her. “Despite what everyone says, chivalry is in fact not dead.”
Quinn snorted out a laugh, rolling her eyes at him as he came up beside her. He was less than a foot taller than her, athletically built and quite handsome. But she knew his type; men like him could be slick as eels and just as dangerous. He was the kind of guy a girl could fall head over heels for in an instant, and then find herself left in his dust as he galloped off to greener pastures.
Or maybe he was just a really nice guy and she was reading him all wrong.
“Alright, but only because I like company, even on short elevator rides.” She let him lead the way towards the elevators, noting he wore jeans instead of slacks. She wondered briefly if she had overdressed in her silk plum colored blouse and black dress pants as he punched a button beside one of the elevators and it slid quietly open.
“So does your whole family work here at the hotel?” Quinn asked him as he held the doors for her.
He laughed as he followed her in, pushing the button for the second floor. “That would be insane if they did. There’s over sixty people in my family.”
Quinn gaped at him in shock. “And here I thought I was the one with the obnoxiously large family. How do you remember who’s who? I have a photo album I made up with names scribbled on it that I review before reunions and holidays. The only problem is when the young ones get bigger and no longer look like children, then you have me mistaking my cousin Tony for the pizza delivery guy.”
Linc eyed her dubiously as the elevator began to rise, shaking his head. “I bet you a million bucks Grant has a photo album with names written in it too, it sounds just like him. Me, I just prefer to wing it at reunions and let my sister fill me in on who’s who if I forget. What else are sisters good for?”
“Brothers are so helpless. I have four of them myself,” Quinn sighed, feeling a dull tinge of homesickness at the thought. Pushing it aside, she fixed a smile back on her face. “So, your brother is an organization freak?”
“Let’s just say he’s very…serious,” Linc mused, content to leave it at that. The girl was about to find out for herself, anyway. He would let her be the full judge of Grant’s character, without his influence.
“But to answer your earlier question, there’s only four of us working at this hotel, and a large chunk of the others work at the other Vasser hotels across the US and in Europe.”
“So it’s you, your brother, your uncle…and who else?”
“My sister, Madison. You’ll meet her eventually. Oh, and my mom drops by a lot, so you’ll probably meet her too.” The elevator chimed as it came to a stop, the doors sweeping open at the second floor. “Right this way.”
Quinn followed him out into a generously sized waiting area, complete with large windows with partial views of Central Park and similar furniture to what was in the lobby. Off to the right was a hallway that led to what looked like offices or conference rooms, and to the left was another hallway, with two open looking front office rooms with glass partitions facing the waiting area. Linc led her to the one that was ahead on the right, which boasted a mahogany desk with matching file cabinets behind it, along with a plush royal blue bench to the side and some kind of leafy green potted plant in the corner.
“This is your desk, and Grant’s office is right through that door.” Linc pointed at the closed door to the left of her desk, which had an embossed gold plaque naming it as the office of Grant W. Vasser, General Manager.
“Is he here yet?” She asked, chewing her bottom lip nervously.
“He’s been here since six this morning.”
Her eyebrows raised incredulously. “Is that normal?”
“When you’re Grant Vasser, it is.” Linc shrugged, his face brightening with a grin as he shifted to face her directly. “You should join me for a drink later. If you’ve never been, Amoureux serves a mean martini. I could give you the lowdown on all of your new coworkers, who to avoid and who to suck up to, let you in on some juicy Vasser family secrets over dessert, then amuse you over another drink with childhood tales of me escaping my driver and wreaking havoc on the poor, unsuspecting citizens of New York. Did I mention that you look stunning in that blouse?”
Quinn blinked, realizing he had just, as smooth as butter, asked her out after having known her only five minutes. It took all the control she had not to laugh hysterically at him.
“You are a shameless flirt, Linc Vasser.”
He chuckled, keeping the mood light and casual. “I am when I want to be.”
Despite the obvious come-on, she still found his charm appealing. Maybe it was because she tended to be a pretty straightforward, shoot-from-the-hip kind of person herself, and seeing the same in him made her feel more comfortable than annoyed. She could handle men like him, and had done so many times.
“I think the two of us will work better as friends.”
“Suit yourself.” He smiled to show there were no hard feelings, and she felt she liked him a lot more for it. “Anyway, I’ll let him know you’re here.”
He left her standing just inside the little office alcove as he swung open his brother’s office door without even knocking, poking his head in. “Hey buddy, your new secretary’s here.”
Then he swung back out of the room and patted Quinn companionably on the shoulder, his eyes meeting hers pointedly.
“Don’t let his sourness dampen that smile of yours, Quinn. It’s too pretty to waste.”
That same smile faltered as he swept past her and jogged towards an open elevator that a maid had just entered. He waved to her with a grin as the doors began to close, and she attempted one back in return. Then he was gone. Unsettled by his comment, she turned back around and with a jolt spotted a much different man standing before her, just outside his office door.
He was taller than Linc, and a bit leaner in his trim, professional looking black suit and crisp, no nonsense gray diamond tie.
His features resembled Linc’s in that they were sharp and European, with dark brows and defined cheekbones, but the similarity ended there. His hair was a darker brown, and a bit shorter, in a cut that was both trim and professional. Where Linc’s eyes had been a warm, cheery blue, this man’s were a rich, dark amber, and were sharply honed in on her in quiet assessment. His face was slightly longer than his brother’s, with a faintly dimpled chin and firm mouth that, from the faint frown lines on his face, rarely if ever smiled.
Serious. Yes, she could see now why Linc had chosen that particular adjective to describe his brother. In fact, she bet if she looked up the dictionary definition of the word, there would be a small picture of him right beside it. Go figure.
“Hi, I’m Quinn.” She smiled warmly, reaching out to shake hands with him, praying to God her palm wasn’t sweaty from nerves. For some reason, she had a feeling he wouldn’t like that.
He accepted her hand briefly, firmly, then released it. “Right. What is your last name?”
“Taylor. Quinn Taylor.” She nodded, though she had no idea why. He was already making her incredibly nervous, which was saying something since she was normally such a people person and could handle just about anybody. But there was something much different about him, though she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. All she knew for certain was that simply being in his presence was incredibly disarming.
“Alright. Miss Taylor, this is where you will report to every morning at nine o’clock sharp. I am in the office every day at six, so if you’re late I will notice.” He turned to face the desk, reaching over to grab a stack of papers that were sitting there. “I need you to…please tell me you know how to use a computer and a phone? If you don’t then there is no point in continuing this conversation.”
Surprise hit her first before her temper did, her cheeks flushing with it. “What century do you think this is? Of course I do.”
The vaguely irritated look on his face at her words had her cursing herself silently and promptly shoving her foot in her mouth. “I’m sorry, that was rude. Yes, I know how to use a computer and a phone.”
He stared at her critically as he handed her the paperwork. “Good. I need you to mark these invoices as paid in the computer. Then, if you open the Word document marked ‘daily’ on the desktop, you’ll find a list of daily duties for you to accomplish on top of answering and transferring calls to me. If you have any important questions, I’ll be in my office.”
He started towards his office door, but before he could disappear inside she called out to him.
“You didn’t tell me your name, but your brother said it was Grant. I need to know what I should call you.”
He looked back at her, mildly annoyed. “Call me Mr. Vasser.”
With that, he shut himself inside of his office, leaving her standing in limbo in the little room, wondering what in the hell just happened.
Excerpt #2 – Cyrus Vasser
He preferred that people remember him as a downright mean son of a bitch. It was easier to garner respect when people were so terrified of the very thought of you that to utter even a single word of contempt would be blasphemous.
At least, that was how Cyrus Vasser preferred to see things. He’d lived just over ninety years practicing it and it had yet to backfire on him in a permanent or destructive way. His ruthlessness and at times callous nature had served him well, and he’d be damned if he was going to have some sort of epiphany about “good will towards men” and all that nonsense. He had an empire to run and there was very little room for anything but a clear and level head not tainted by fluffy compassion and open arms.
Call him cold, he enjoyed the term. Say his heart was a shriveled black hunk of coal and he’d thank you. Better that people knew ahead of time not to have any foolish expectations of him. After all, a reputation was the single most important thing a man possessed and one slip up could tarnish years of accomplishment in a manner of seconds.
It was unfortunate now that he was chained to a goddamn hospital bed, he thought bitterly, scowling at the machines that pumped oxygen into his lungs and blood into his veins. He’d long ago accepted his fate, but that didn’t mean he was happy about it. The nurses were insolent, the doctors even more so, and the orderlies just pissed him off with their stupidity. But they were all scared of him and they kept their distance unless they had to come close. Fortunately for him, he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
He was a Vasser, damnit, and the name meant something to people. It carried with it a prestige, an intriguing kind of wonder and infamy. And the reason it did so was because he had made it his life’s mission to make it as such. Sure, there had been hiccups along the way that had tainted the family reputation, but they were necessary ones that had to occur to restore order. He wasn’t about to start regretting his actions now, not when he’d lived long enough to see the success bred from his choices. He had a legacy, his legacy, in his children and grandchildren, and it was him they looked up to, him they admired and revered. Cyrus was the Vasser family, and he had single-handedly seen to it that the empire flourished even better than under his father and grandfather before him.
If only he was as confident in his own son as he was in himself, Cyrus grimaced, thinking of Marshall. The man was trustworthy and honest, but he was weak with compassion. He gave in too quickly when pushed and was too frivolous with money. And what was worse was that the man had not taken the road expected of him and gotten married and bred heirs to inherit the empire. No, he’d left that task up to his six younger brothers, who had all produced satisfactory enough children, he supposed.
But none had thus far pleased him as well as his youngest son Win’s children. Perhaps he was biased because he had placed them under Marshall’s care at the hotel in New York, therefore keeping the closest eye on them and coming to know them the best. But he saw in them what he had not found in even his own children.
Grant was ambitious and strong-willed, with a serious nature that focused heavily on being prudent and to the point. Cyrus valued Grant’s abilities so much so that he had given him the position as general manager years before Marshall would have been set to retire. Marshall preferred to ignore the real reasons behind his forced early retirement, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there, staring him in the face point blank.
Linc was, in his opinion, a bit too much like Marshall, though definitively more driven. Where Marshall had been lazy and ineffective, Linc exuded energy and a passion for the hotel that largely went unmatched by others in the family.
The youngest, Kennedy, was unfortunately a carbon copy of her idiot father, a fact which disappointed Cyrus enough that he preferred not to even speak with the girl. Thankfully, she was muchtoo self-involved to notice he despised her.
And then there was Madison. She was the second greatest love of his life, in a paternal sense anyway, and he was certainly not a man who cherished anyone. But being as vain and narcissistic as he was, how could he not love the girl who was so very much like him. It was uncanny the way her mind worked just as his did and how seemingly without words they could communicate. She was his link to the outside, his link to the empire now that he was bedridden. And though he would never admit the truth aloud, he had never needed anyone more than he needed her.
Thinking of her still, he lifted his worn and tattered copy of Atlas Shrugged, his reading glasses perched on his narrow nose and his sharp tawny eyes scanning the words at expert speed. It was the only way to pass the time now, but he wasn’t foolish enough to discount the advantages of being well read, especially when one chose his books wisely. There were a whole host of lessons out there waiting to be learned, both in life and through the experiences of others. He was the last man who would spit in the face of history and knowledge, since neither had ever let him down.
He heard the gunfire click of her heels beyond the door of his room long before she swept in, looking pristine and stunning as always, her body dipped in a dress of blood red. She paused before his bed and stared him down, one dark eyebrow lifted skillfully in both challenge and greeting. Her slender arms crossed over her chest as her eyes met his, identical in shape and color, and just as disarming.
“Hello, pépère,” Madison smirked.
Thanks for reading this sneak peek of When Empires Fall! Experience the whole book on August 10th, available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and print format!
For even more information, check out my website: http://www.katieajennings.com/news.htm