Have you ever come across something unexpectedly? Something you haven't seen in years? Something that jerked you back without warning to a time you'd done your best to forget? And been overwhelmed with emotions you never wanted to remember?
That's what happens to Matt Steele, in the middle of a hotly contested race for the White House and it's going to change everything he thought he knew about himself.
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Here's an excerpt:
He gaped at the tattered photograph that had just been slipped into his hand. His heart raced, and Senator Matt Steele, Democratic candidate for president, halted so abruptly his Secret Service agent bumped into him.
“Keep moving, sir.” Joe Venuto urged. Matt barely heard the warning.
“Senator Steele!” A lilting, accented voice shouted above the noise of the crowd. “I must speak with you.”
Matt curled his fingers around the photograph as if to protect it. He raised his gaze to search for the voice. A man’s face with high Asian cheekbones and uncharacteristically blue eyes appeared over Joe’s shoulder. The man fought the jostling crowds to stay close to the rope that separated Matt and his entourage from the press of people who had come to the rally.
“Please, sir! It’s important.”
Matt took another look at the dog-eared snapshot, and then turned to Joe. “Bring him to the bus.”
“Sir, that’s not a good idea. We don’t even know who he is.”
“Pat him down. Run a check on him with that phone of yours, or whatever you want, but I need to see him. In my bus. Now.” Matt turned and strode toward the campaign bus, heedless of the crowd still hoping for their brief moment of his time. Joe hustled to keep up. Matt heard him speak to another man in the detail. He tuned Joe out. Tuned out his chief of staff and his press secretary who were probably confused by Matt’s sudden departure from the planned handshaking opportunity. He tuned out everything, except the photograph in his hand.
As Matt approached, the driver of his campaign bus opened the door, and Matt took all three steps in one leap. “Wait outside, please.”
The driver looked at him in surprise, but then rose to his feet and climbed down out of the bus.
Matt sank onto the soft faux-leather recliner of his mobile headquarters and opened his hand. The photograph remained curled so he set it on the coffee table and pressed it flat.
A group of laughing Marines dressed in fatigues stared up at him. His much younger self among them. Matt raked thoughtless fingers through his carefully groomed hair, dislodging the difficult lock of bangs that immediately fell onto his brow. He pushed them aside and studied the photo.
His cousin Sam Davis stood in the center of the group grinning broadly. He had one arm draped across Matt’s shoulders, and the other around a slender young Vietnamese woman. Sam had been his best friend and the closest thing he’d ever had to a brother. Matt remembered the day the photograph was taken. More than thirty years ago. A week before Sam had been killed.
The door swished open, and Joe stepped up into the stairwell. “Sir, this man is not a voter. He’s not even an- - ”
“Let him in.”
The Secret Service agent frowned but stepped aside to let the visitor pass by him in the narrow stairway.
“You can leave, Joe.”
Joe’s expression said he wasn’t happy about any of it, but with a brief salute, he turned and left. When Joe was gone, Matt invited his guest to come up the stairs and join him.
“I will only take a moment of your time, sir.”
The stranger stopped on the other side of the coffee table, and Matt found himself looking up into an eerily familiar pair of sky-blue eyes. He felt as if he’d met the man before, but he couldn’t think where or when. An emotion he couldn’t identify squeezed into his chest. He rose slowly. Fought to ignore the intense feeling of disorienting familiarity, and extended his hand.
“How may I help you?”
His guest smiled and accepted Matt’s hand. “It is good of you to see me, sir.” His precise English held a trace of the singsong accent of Southeast Asia. He was several inches shorter than Matt’s six feet four inches, had straight black hair, and those blue eyes that were so unexpected in an Asian face.
Matt gestured for the man to sit and resumed his own seat.
“I am Thanh Davis”
The surname added to Matt’s confusion and jangled emotions. “Davis?”
“Yes, but please, you may call me Thanh.” He perched gingerly on the edge of the couch that matched Matt’s chair. “We met. Sort of…” Thanh continued.
I have met this guy. No wonder he seems familiar. Matt pointed to the photograph lying, still slightly curled at the edges, on the table between them. “W-Where,” Matt cleared his throat, “did you get this?”