Author: Kathleen Mix
Expected Date of Publication: September 16,2015
Faith Rochambeau is horrified to learn she was conceived during a rape. She’s determined to make her biological father, Victor Telemann, pay for his crimes. Using her computer skills to dig into his life, she searches for the powerful man’s Achilles Heel and a way to extract retribution. She’ll do whatever it takes to get a conviction, even it if means infiltrating his Fortune 500 company.
She fails to plan on falling in love with her father’s smooth-talking stepson, Kent Telemann, who suspects she is a corporate spy. Faith is drawn to Kent, even though she’s not sure she can trust him. If her heart is wrong, he can put her life in danger.
Meanwhile, her father is playing a lethal game he’s determined to win. -Goodreads
Sins of Her Father
by Kathleen Mix Copyright © 2015 by Kathleen Mix. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Chapter OneStep one: Lay her body in a casket.
Step two: Bury the casket in the ground.
Step three: Pack her belongings in boxes.
Faith chewed her bottom lip. What about step four? What happened after the boxes were dropped at Goodwill and the last physical remnants of a life disappeared? What more could be taken away?
Early April rain pelted the bedroom window, and she envisioned cold drops turning the fresh dirt of her mother’s grave into mud. Her heart squeezed painfully. She shivered inside her gray hoodie and wrapped her arms around her chest.
Finish packing her things. Keep going. Deal with one step at a time.
She dragged a cardboard box to the closet, removed an olive-colored uniform from its hanger, and folded it lovingly. The fabric was threadbare from countless nights of manual labor, but it was a symbol of a single-mother’s struggle to support her baby daughter after her firefighter fiancé died a hero.
They’re probably together now. Her difficult days are over. Maybe she can finally be happy, standing for eternity beside the love of her life.
Faith removed and folded another uniform. When the box was full, taped shut, and labeled, she filled another box with Mom’s huge stockpile of light bulbs. Four cartons on the closet shelf remained to be sorted.
She pulled in a deep breath and tossed her tight braid back over her shoulder. Soon she’d be able to shut the bedroom door, walk away from the drafty tenement where she’d grown up, and go back to the security of her orderly apartment and her exacting job helping to design the next generation of space probes. But would she ever get used to the idea that Mom would never hug her again?
On tiptoes, she stretched up and slipped the first box from the closet shelf. She brushed off a layer of dust and removed the lid. A faded photograph of Grandma cuddling a blonde baby, probably her. Another showing Grandpa when he’d had a full head of hair. A smile tugged at her lips. The box held dozens more to linger over later.
The second box was heavier, the air that escaped musty. A first-place ribbon from a spelling bee. A bracelet of multicolored beads. A young girl’s diary.
A diary. Faith blinked, paused, and wiped her soiled palms down the sides of her baggy gray sweats. Fingers shaking, she picked up the fat book and opened the cover.
This diary belongs to: Suzanne Marie Rochambeau
My life from: September 1989 Through: August 1990
Her pulse jumped. This worn volume Mom had cared to keep all these years could supply the answers she’d given up ever knowing. The time span was right. The pages could hold the story of how her parents met. Or a description of her father. Or her mother’s thoughts when she was born.
Faith swallowed and moistened her lips. Maybe the pages held the words of pride and love she’d always hungered to hear. Nerves singing with curiosity and anticipation, but stretched taut by a jumble of guilt and fear, she flipped to the first page.
September 15, 1989
Dear Diary, I’m a cheerleader!!! Coach posted the list of who made the squad at lunchtime. Mom says I can stay after school for practices as long as I keep up my grades and get home before dark. Hip Hip Hooray!
Faith turned more pages, picturing her Mom at a lamp-lit desk recording her innermost thoughts. The innocent teenager’s happy words warmed her aching heart.
September 19, 1989
Dear Diary, I haven’t written much lately because I had to study for an algebra test (98!). Cheer practice is long and lots of hard work but really great! We got measured for uniforms today. They have these really, really cool pleated skirts.
Faith hastened from page to page. The rain-dimmed afternoon decayed into a leaden dusk and the inked words grew indistinct. She switched on the overhead light and stood alone in the silent room, the diary open in her hands.
She turned a page and frowned at the messy script, the ink blurred as if by tears.
I want to die! I don’t know what to do…
Faith’s fingers turned to ice. Her hands trembled as her eyes sped from line to line. The words slashed through her heart. Sour bile rose in her throat, and she slumped onto the ancient, creaky bed, knees too weak to support her body. She slammed the diary closed, crushed it to her chest, and squeezed her eyelids shut to block out the horrid images.
Oh. My. God.
Maybe losing her identity was the key to finding him, confronting him, and banishing the images and questions from her head.
With a spark of hope, Faith dragged her luggage to apartment ten and knocked.
“I need your help!” she blurted as her cousin Josie swung open the door.
Josie blinked, then eyes wide, opened her arms in invitation. “For heaven’s sake, what’s wrong? Come in, tell me what I can do.”
Bending over the baby bulge at Josie’s middle, Faith dove into the embrace. She soaked in the free-flowing love and clung to the person who’d always been there for her, the one person who might understand her pain when she revealed her terrible truth.
Josie stepped back and searched her face. “I’ve been meaning to stop by your place ever since the funeral. You look pale. Are you okay? What’s with the luggage?”
“It’s a long, unpleasant story.”
Josie patted her midsection. “I have seven weeks to listen. What help do you need?”
Faith rolled the bulky black suitcases into the foyer, closed the door, then pulled in a fortifying breath. “I want to borrow your identity until after the twins are born.”
Saying the words made the plan real. A jolt of fear accelerated her heartbeat.
A frown wrinkled Josie’s forehead. “Why?”
“I went through my mother’s things. There was this old diary.” Faith squeezed her eyes shut, fighting back the wave of shame gushing through her bloodstream. She stared at the floor and struggled to still her quivering chin. “That story I finally badgered out of my mother, the one about my father, how he died a hero. It was a lie. My mother and father were never engaged. My father didn’t die saving six people from a house fire.” Acid rose in her throat, and a tight knot formed in her stomach. Could she spit out the ugly truth and let it poison the air? Was she wrong to come here? Wrong to burden Josie so late in her pregnancy? Wrong to share her dirty secret? Wrong to think she could right a wrong?
She gulped a lungful of air. Josie would understand, and she desperately needed someone, because she couldn’t face this alone. “My father is a rapist. He brutally raped my mother, stole her virginity, left her by the roadside bleeding, traumatized, and pregnant.”
Josie gasped, her fingers flying to cover her mouth. She blinked, stared, blinked again. “Oh my God. Do you know his name?”
Faith wet her lips and forced herself to measure out the syllables. “Victor Telemann. It was in the diary. She recognized him from school.”
“Was there a trial? Did he go to jail?”
“No. He threatened her, told her if she ever said a word to anyone he’d find her and do something worse. She was terrified and never told a soul.”
“But how did she explain her pregnancy to Grandma and Grandpa?”
Faith pictured the tear stained pages in the diary, and her heart knocked once, hard. “She hid it for as long as she could. When she started to show and had to admit I existed, she let them think she had a boyfriend but refused to tell them his name.”
“Oh, Faith.” Josie pulled her into another tight hug and rubbed circles on her back. “The strict curfews, the super-conservative clothes, her panic when we wanted to live off campus, the way she messed up your mind with the strange ideas about men and sex so badly that you’re still a virgin, it all makes sense now. No wonder she was so paranoid.”
“I want to forget what she wrote about that night, but I can’t. Her words keep haunting me. They’ll probably give me nightmares for the rest of my life.” She blew out a long slow breath and summoned up a sliver of courage. “What he did disgusts me. I have to do something about it.”
Josie leaned backward and cocked her head to the side. Her eyes clouded with concern. “What exactly are you planning?”
Faith stepped away, wrapped her arms over her chest, and resisted the impulse to pace. “I’m going to find him and see he’s brought to justice.”
“Whoa. Finding all this out while the pain of your mom’s death is still raw must be hell. But come on. It’s not like you to be rash. Slow down, think this through.”
“I have. I need to see his face.” I need to know I’m not like him.
For the hundredth time in the last fifteen hours, her mind’s eye saw a textbook illustration of how both the mother and father contribute genes and chromosomes to a fetus. She shuddered. Could she ever stop wondering which of her genes came from the animal who’d raped her mother? In what and how many ways she was his daughter? If she’d inherited evil in her bloodline?
She looked up, waiting for Josie to reassure her she was a good person, needing to hear logical arguments from someone else. But Josie’s lips were pressed tightly together, contemplating her plan to find him, seeing only the surface of her anguish.
Faith stared into near space and fought her inner demons.
“Do you know where to look or anything about him?” Josie finally asked.
“He wasn’t in the local phone book, but I looked through an online directory and found he has an older brother who still lives in town. I called the brother and told him I was helping my mother plan a high school reunion. He gave me a current address in Palm Beach, Florida.” She motioned toward her luggage. “I’m on my way to the airport.”
Josie’s frown deepened. Maneuvering her big belly with care, she sank onto one end of the lilac leather couch. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. What are you going to do? What can you do?”
“For a start, I can apply for a job at his company, watch and listen, dig into his past, and examine his life under a microscope. If I find out everything there is to know about him, I can identify his Achilles’ heel. I’ve already Googled him and dug through some of the results. The Victor Telemann who lives in Palm Beach is married to a rich widow, runs a chain of exclusive stores named Emmeline’s, and has a penthouse office at the corporate headquarters.” She perched on the other end of the couch and fisted her hands in her lap. “It’s not fair. Mom had to drop out of high school and spend her life as a penniless cleaning lady. Yet her rapist is living in luxury.”
“Does he know about you?”
“I don’t think so. Nothing in her diary indicates she ever saw him or talked to him again.”
Josie’s warm hand squeezed Faith’s forearm. “I don’t like this. You don’t know what you’ll be getting into. If you accuse him of being a rapist, he could become dangerous.”
Faith stiffened her spine and gathered her confidence. “If I borrow your identity, he won’t recognize my last name and suspect I know about his past. I’ll be able to stay under his radar while I size up the situation, explore my options, and hopefully, collect evidence. People have always thought we were sisters. I can pass for you.”
“If I let you do this, you’ll be miles out of your element,” Josie said. She gathered steam. “Have you ever even seen a real criminal? Why not leave it to the police?”
“All I have is Mom’s diary, and she never even reported a crime. He’d just claim the sex was consensual. I called a lawyer friend who works for the Commonwealth’s Attorney and asked her opinion. She said the only way to put this creep behind bars without a victim’s testimony is a confession.”
“Even if he did confess, it’s been twenty-six years. Wasn’t the crime too long ago?”
“Virginia doesn’t have a statute of limitations on felony rape.” She clenched her jaw. “I have to do this. I’ll never have peace of mind until he’s punished. I considered doing nothing, taking the safe and easy path, but then I’d be giving in to fear, admitting I’m weak, acting as badly as people who walk away when they see a crime in progress. I don’t want to be that kind of person. How could I live the rest of my life knowing I’m a quitter and a coward?”
“Revenge can be an ugly goal.”
“I know, and I know some people won’t approve of what I’m doing. But if I crawl away from this, it will haunt me forever.”
“Look at this objectively and give it up,” Josie said. “He probably won’t confess.”
Disappointment pressed on Faith’s shoulders. Josie was blind to the crevasse the shameful truth of her parentage had carved in her soul. No one else could understand her hunger for inner peace.
“If he won’t confess, I’ll see justice done some other way. I’m terrified, but I’m not going to let my fear stop me. I’m going down there. With or without help.”
Josie met her gaze, hesitated, then cleared her throat. “I don’t like you putting yourself in danger. So much could go wrong.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Okay. If it’s that important to you, you can use my identity, but only under two conditions.”
Faith’s heart did a somersault. Relief or fear? “Thank you. What conditions?”
Josie’s chest rose as she sucked in a long breath. “First, you have to agree to think carefully about everything you do. You can’t let this get out of hand.” Her hands slid lower and caressed her baby bulge. “And I mean that from a selfish angle, too. I don’t want any trouble with the babies coming. Protecting them has to be my first priority.”
“I could never endanger you or them. I promise not to do anything stupid, and I’ll accept full responsibility for every move I make. What’s the other condition?”
“You have to totally be me. You have to take my clothes, my makeup, my shoes, and even act like me.” Josie fingered Faith’s gray slacks then her tailored, white blouse. “Knowing you, those suitcases contain six outfits in shades of gray and another six in navy. To convince people you’re me, you’ll need bold colors, prints, and stripes.”
“Hopefully, no one there has ever met you.”
“Hope isn’t a good enough strategy. The slightest glitch could give you away. What if someone checks an employment reference? One of my former employers could make an offhand comment or relate an anecdote that reveals you’re an imposter. Plus there’s always the chance someone where you’re working could be within my six degrees of separation. Or yours. Some of our Tech classmates were from that part of the country.” She smiled like an understanding sister, and her gaze softened. “Who knows, wearing my things could even be good for you, get you out of your shell.”
“You tried dressing me in bright, sexy clothes in college, remember?”
“That didn’t work because you were still Faith in every other way. Now you’ll be me. Anything you do will reflect on me, not you. That’ll be liberating.”
“What if I embarrass you?”
“Have you ever known me to be embarrassed?”
A slide show of memories tugged Faith’s lips upward at the edges. All her life, she’d sat on the sidelines and secretly envied Josie’s ability to mix with people and have fun. “Now that you mention it…”
“Good, then it’s settled. You take my pre-preg wardrobe, and just to be sure you don’t back out and wear something conservative or mousy, you leave all your stuff here.”
Faith shook her head. “I doubt the masquerade is necessary.”
“Maybe not, but you can’t be sure. You don’t know anything about the situation there or what this man might do if he figures out who you are. You’ll be safer if you become me 100 percent. Of course, if you’d rather not use my identity…”
“You have to promise you’ll give an Oscar winning performance.” Josie held up her right hand.
The man who’d ruined her mother’s life had strolled away, become rich, and was leading the good life. Somehow, she had to bring him to justice, and somehow she had to untangle the mystery of her DNA. Until she knew whether her genes were stained by black, remorseless evil or just one gray, guilt-laden mistake, how could she not worry about who she was deep inside?
Faith raised her hand. “Okay, I swear. Acting like you should be a slam dunk compared to getting a criminal who is walking around free to admit to rape.”
Faith breathed deeply of the aromatic steam and sipped chamomile tea from her mug. The penetrating heat soothed her taut nerves. She glanced at the clock on Josie’s nightstand. “Yikes, my flight leaves in less than three hours.” Feeling a jolt of panic, she went back to emptying her suitcase. “We’d better hustle if I’m going to make it.”
Josie folded a crimson mini-dress and said, “I hate to see you chop off your beautiful, long hair. But you definitely have to dye it. As a blonde, you resemble your Mom more than me. That similarity could spark a memory and give you away.”
“I know. I’ll get it cut and dyed when I get to Florida. I bought tinted contact lenses so my eye color will match yours. But the plane tickets are in my name, so I need to use my own ID to go through airport security.”
“I’ll have to keep my driver’s license, but you can take my passport and birth certificate for later,” Josie said, pinching her chin. “You should take my social security card and a copy of my résumé for when you apply for a job.”
“Using your résumé probably wouldn’t work if we hadn’t both majored in Computer Science, but hopefully I can pass for a database specialist.”
“Speaking of jobs, what about your job in Norfolk?”
“I called my boss and told him I’m taking my three weeks vacation plus another three weeks leave without pay. If this takes me longer than that, I’ll have to quit.”
Outrage flashed in Josie’s eyes. She planted her hands firmly on her hips. “Don’t you dare even think that. You worked too hard to get where you are. You’ve dreamed of having a part in space exploration for as long as I can remember.”
Faith forced nonchalance into her voice. “I’ll have to do whatever’s necessary.” Her mind ran through the list of everything else at risk: the self-esteem she’d scraped together since college, her reputation and the respect of coworkers if it became known her father was a felon, and if there was the slightest legal repercussion, the future that depended on her secret-level security clearance.
She pushed away her worries. She would approach this problem systematically and deal with it quickly, smoothly, and discreetly. In six weeks, she’d be back home, in her familiar office, going on with her career and her life.
First steps: Finish packing, call a cab, twenty-five minutes to the airport, fifteen minutes in line to check her bags, security screening, a rental car reserved…
“I almost forgot,” she said. “I may be forced to get a driver’s license in your name once I change my appearance. Is that okay with you?”
“Go ahead and sign my name if it’s necessary.” Josie huffed out a breath and gave her a smile laden with love. “You and Cal are the only two people in the world I trust enough to say that to.” She reached over, grabbed her purse from the closet, and pulled out a wallet. “Here, you’ll need a credit card.”
Tears of affection and gratitude blurred the plastic card as she pushed Josie’s hand away. “I can’t take that.”
“You have to. If you use your own card, you could blow your cover.” She smiled. “Wow, I’ve never said blow your cover before. This is a little exciting.”
A chill rippled down Faith’s spine. “Terrifying is more apropos.”
Josie banged the heel of her hand against her forehead. “Sorry. For a minute there, I forgot this isn’t about my little cousin setting off on an adventure. It’s a search for a scumbag and some justice.”
“I hope so.” Faith flipped open her purse. “I’ll leave you some cash to pay the credit card bills until I get an address where you can forward them.”
“Wow, where did you get that wad?”
“My mother was paranoid about men, and men run most banks, so she never trusted banks. I found cash hidden under rugs and her mattress and taped to the backs of drawers. She had five thousand in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Altogether, she stashed almost thirteen thousand. It seems fitting that I use part of it to finance my trip to find her rapist.”
Josie sighed. “Poor Auntie. That man really messed up her life and her mind.”
Faith nodded and sank onto the bed next to the suitcase. “Reading about what she went through broke my heart. Her diary entries from before the rape were written by a normal teenager. She was excited your mom was pregnant with you and anxious to become an aunt. But afterwards….”
The lump forming in her throat made breathing difficult. “Grandma and Grandpa put her through hell, dragging her to mass every day and making her sit through counseling sessions with a priest. They shamed her for having premarital sex and browbeat her with the idea she’d been brought up respectably. The quote in the diary was ‘You should have followed your sister’s example of proper behavior.’”
She stole a glance at Josie’s swollen middle. Their grandparents had cut Josie out of their lives when she’d moved in with Cal without being married. Now that Cal had been deployed to Afghanistan and the twins would be born before next June’s wedding, they no longer spoke Josie’s name.
Maybe she, of all people, can understand what Mom went through.
Faith pulled her focus back to her mother and the events described in the diary.
Josie moistened her lips. “The more I hear about the terrible things that happened back then, the more worried I get about what you’re planning. This man is evil, Faith. You need to be careful. He could hurt you and ruin your life too.”
Her heart went stone cold. “He did that years ago. Every second of my life, he’s been like a black cloud hanging over my head. Every time my mother looked at me, she had to be reminded of the horror of that night. Every time I misbehaved, she had to wonder if I had his evil tainting my blood. I was a weapon he tortured her with right up until the day she died.” Hot tears flooded and stung her eyes.
Josie rushed over, sat beside her, and squeezed her hand. “Your Mom loved you.”
“She tried. Really tried. And I loved her more than she’ll ever know. But her love was poisoned by uncertainty. It was probably not conscious, but she always made me feel like I was fundamentally flawed. Do you remember when I was nine she accused me of taking money from her change jar? I lost my bike for a month. And after the shortage turned out to be a mistake, the jar was hidden away to remove a source of temptation. I felt the distrust and believed it must be deserved, but never knew why.”
Faith strained, but couldn’t get her voice to rise above a whisper. “Mom always had doubt and worry in her eyes. I understand it now. She wrote that she couldn’t be sure how I’d turn out, whether I’d be a product of nature or nurture.”
Josie rested a hand on the bulge at her middle. “No parent can be sure of their child’s future. Worrying you’d inherit your father’s dubious character must have been hell.”
Faith hesitated, wanting to divulge how tortured she was by those concerns. Wanting to reveal that, just last year, she’d shown dubious character by cooperating with the CIA when they’d asked her team to adapt a long-range radio signal detection system so agents could eavesdrop on Americans overseas who were suspected of consorting with terrorists. At the time, she’d rationalized invading someone’s privacy as justified for national security. Too late, she’d realized the project randomly spied on innocent tourists and exchange students.
Since reading the diary, that moral lapse had acquired a disturbing new dimension.
Guilt and her oath of secrecy caged the confessions inside. “He caused those doubts, did that to her. To our relationship. I’m not going to rest until he’s held accountable for all his crimes.”
She dropped her gaze. She’d been telling herself to approach this problem the same way she’d build a complex software program, one simple step at a time. But logic and her old coping mechanisms were failing. Everything kept coming back to raw, bleeding emotion.
She had to know: Who was this man who’d fathered her? Were her mom’s worries justified?
Faith Rochambeau's story of retribution, revenge, and release is very well done and a quite enjoyable read. For the most part.
There are however, a few buts...
Faith is a child of rape.
Because this secret is revealed after the death of her mother. Faith feels that she has no other choice in her quest for answers and justice for the crime that lead to her conception, than to confront the man who started it all. Victor Telemann.
But as she soon learns, bringing down a wolf as big and bad as her long lost father, my be more of a group effort than she can fathom.
It is here, that the highly compelling start that this novel makes, begins to falter amid a slue of coincidental problem solving.
Cases In Point
Need an identify? Borrow your pregnant cousin's.
I mean a sweater...yes!
My life...hell no!
The twist of fate that gives her just the job that she needs to be both a techie spy and inconspicuous in her father's company.
The fact that her love interest/emotional touchstone for the read, just happens to be sent to her by Victor.
This book just reads as though the author is trying to hard to make a good story better. There are too many plot twists that take away from the raw excellence of he original tale.
The romance between Faith and Kent is very convoluted because they are both lying to each other about EVERYTHING! While having the gall to demand honesty.
The end is rushed, provides too clean of a get away for Faith's showdown with her father, and...
Can you say whirlwind happily...?