Jim Cavanaugh learns that his family's deaths were neither natural nor accidental. They'd been murdered and, as the sole survivor and CEO, he's on the hit list. Who is trying to take over the vast JJ Cavanaugh Enterprises and obtain the family wealth?
Chapter 1 [Day 1]
Jim flies his small jet toward the private landing strip for one of the Cavanaugh family homes in the lush hills of northeastern Vermont, the one where he grew up. His gut tells him to be cautious. Why?
It must be left over from all that time with the black widow, Candice Corbin. Now that's a woman he'd like to forget.
He shakes his head to clear his mind. Refocus. Let go of the past. Enjoy the here and now.
Looking around from a distance as the estate comes into view surrounded by the thick forest in rich autumn colors, he admires the way his father had laid out the buildings on the land to the best advantages, being so aesthetically pleasing with practical yet beautiful landscaping. The stunning gardens behind the house were his mother's hobby, as was photography, her work with both being featured in extensive photographic spreads in several magazines.
He's home. But not. His family is all dead. What is home without one's family? Jim is the only one left, his parents and twin brother, along with his brother's wife and sons are gone, so Jim and his wife must rebuild the Cavanaugh family so the Cavanaugh legacy lives on through him.
After taking out the wretched black widow, there is finally a feeling of freedom, truly earned with their blood, sweat, and tears. How appropriate the phrase. The time has come to put it all behind them, to start anew. It is truly a great feeling, freedom. Yet the hairs on the back of his neck tingle. Odd. He rubs his neck to stifle the nonsense.
Grabbing hold of Debra's hand, Jim sighs, content that their nascent family can finally enjoy life without looking over their shoulders, having secured the black widow behind bars for the rest of her life. Candy's desperate plight to regain her freedom has met with failure again. The judge denied her appeal. She was confident the lenient recycled governor would grant her clemency, but he rejected her plea without hesitation. She sits on Death Row, where she belongs. He chuckles at the thought of the self-centered fashion-conscious Candy wearing an ugly orange jumpsuit every day.
"What?" his wife asks.
He shakes his head and shrugs. Debra quietly accepts his response; he doesn't know. She isn't one to pry. Obviously he's pondering something within his mental man-cave.
By default as the last adult survivor of the magnate, James Joseph Cavanaugh ("The First" as Granddad called himself), Jim holds all the responsibility and ownership of the family's business and personal multitrillion-dollar domain. "The Second" by name, Jim is really the fourth in succession as the last of the line at the time. Jim hadn't been groomed for it as was his identical twin, older by eight minutes, yet Joe hardly served more than a handful of years after their parents died. Granddad stepped down when Jim's father took the helm, but Granddad was there to advise Joe as needed. Jim was thrown into it cold; never prepped to take over, it was sink or swim. Later in life than normal, he now has heirs to pass the keys to at some future point in time. The remnant of the Cavanaugh family prospers.
By adopting Debra's children, the family surname lives on. As for his infant twins, these boys will be joint heirs sustaining the paternal bloodline rights of the firstborn. They will share that, unlike the previous generation where his brother held that right and Jim got it only by default. But, honestly, he'd rather his brother and his sons were alive to carry that torch. He never expected it, never desired it, and struggles to carry on as his progenitors had. Debra reassures him that he can do it, is doing it. Without her, he's sure he would have crumbled under the pressure, the stress to be as good at it as they were.
Moving forward, his little family of four is taking a couple of weeks for enjoying some new-family time here at one or both of the oldest family estates in Vermont before the seven-months-long snow season begins in October.
Debra looks around the open pasture land behind the rambling estate and the north side's barn and stables. "There were a slew of horses out here when we flew over last year. Where are they?"
"They should be pastured here, grazing in the sunshine. It's too soon to have them stabled for harsh winter weather." Jim looks around, noticing irregularities at the house itself. "Something's not right. I can feel it."
Her eyebrows scrunch above her blue eyes in concern. "Me, too. Should we leave?"
Without touching down, he lifts the nose and proceeds to his grandfather's home a few miles to the south.
She asks, "What do you think is wrong?"
Before replying, Jim carefully eyes his wife to interpret her emotions, apparently unruffled. "I don't know. Probably nothing."
His gut is in a knot, defying his reassuring calmness.
"You don't believe that any more than I do. Something is wrong. I know it. It didn't look right, doesn't feel right." Just as he thought, she isn't allowing her anxiety to show. She's calm and self-assured, as usual.
Landing at the other house. The hangar's remote doesn't work, so he has to idle and open the doors by hand. Knowing the batteries are new, he mutters to himself, "Odd."