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Broken Trust: Silicon Valley Secrets, #1
Broken Trust: Silicon Valley Secrets, #1
Broken Trust: Silicon Valley Secrets, #1
Ebook291 pages4 hours

Broken Trust: Silicon Valley Secrets, #1

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Confronted by an armed bank robber, Holly Randoll may secretly wish for a rescuer but thanks to her weird sense of humor, she saves herself. By the time the gunman strolls out of the bank, he looks like any other satisfied customer and Holly is giddy with relief.

But that relief evaporates when she meets Special Agent Patrick Michaelson, the FBI agent investigating the robbery. Startled by a jolt of what-a-hunk awareness, Holly dismisses the ill-timed response and blames stress. As the aloof agent questions her, she can’t understand why she's drawn to a warmth where none exists.

All Special Agent Michaelson needs to investigate the bank suspected of money laundering, is a sticky-fingered embezzler. But one look at the bank’s vault teller and he knows it won’t be her. She’s innocent and he can’t explain why his usually suspicious nature remains silent.

  His resolve to ignore the mystery ends with one simple kiss and he’s forced to chose between his dedication to duty and the emotions he’s unleashed. 

Trusting his heart to a woman isn't easy for a man who’s learned to trust no one.

PublisherLinda Hill
Release dateJul 8, 2016
Broken Trust: Silicon Valley Secrets, #1
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    Broken Trust - Linda Hill


    To: Larry Hill...husband and bestest friend.

    My biggest supporter. Who has more confidence

    in me than I have in myself. A forever

    thanks for always being there.

    To: Louise Vernon...writing teacher/mentor

    To: The Vernon Girls Critique Group...

    Jenny Anderson, Shirley Marks, Kathy Boyd,

    Evelyn Sherry, Rachel Unger and Victoria Johnson

    And a special thank you to

    Linda Davis – for all your hard work

    To: my Beta Readers...

    Lauri Reitz, Christina Hill and Linda Baxter

    many thanks for all your help.

    To: my wonderful kids and g-kids...

    Who’ve always encouraged me to pursue

    my writing and publishing dreams.

    To: my friends...and RWA writing sisters

    who cheer me on when my writer’s

    heart hits a snag.

    Thank you...you are all the very best!

    I cherish your friendship

    Bunches of hugs....the purple one!

    A special note:

    To the ladies @ # 1047....

    thanks for the memories...!


    The gun's loaded, lady.

    Holly Randoll stared at the deadly weapon. A steel-fisted lump of fear, painfully familiar, settled deep within her. She’d faced death before, but never her own.

    Are you deaf, lady?

    Shaking her head, she forced her gaze from the unwavering hand and saw a reflection of herself in his mirrored sunglasses.

    Her breath hitched on an edge of panic.

    Oh, my God! I’m being robbed.

    He wasn’t one of her usual bank customers. Only commercial depositors were allowed in here. She glanced at the lobby. Maybe someone had noticed her uninvited visitor? But no one looked in her direction. Apparently, it was business-as-usual for everyone but her.

    Panic threatened to overwhelm her. Stay calm, advised the voice in her head. Think it through.

    I’m the vault teller. I supply the line tellers with cash. I manage large currency transactions. Robbing me makes sense.

    Not helpful, she decided, what came next. In six years with Silicon Security Bank, this was her first robbery.

    Where’s Dirty Harry when I really need him?

    Pay attention, Mrs. Randoll. Get me the money.

    Shivers crawled up her spine.

    Oh my God! He knows my name.

    Of course he does. It’s on a plaque outside the door.

    Stupid thing’s coming down. The next robber will not know my name.

    Good plan, Holly. Hang in there.

    Stay cool. Don’t panic.

    That was a familiar phrase, she remembered it. It had been used repeatedly in the ‘What-to-do-in-case-of-a-robbery’ video. It was shown twice a year to all the bank’s employees. ‘Don’t panic,’ was the big coaching point. ‘Give the robber what he wants,’ was next. ‘Get a description,’ was also stressed. According to the video moderator, an FBI Agent, the robber wanted to create panic, confusion, and fear.

    Well...damn. So far, he had his part down perfect.

    A filthy sack plopped on the counter. Fill it up.

    She pulled opened her cash drawer.

    No. He gestured to the lower section of her cash can. I want what’s down there.

    How did he know the extra cash was kept in the lower slide out drawer? That was confidential info. Guess it wasn’t anymore.

    She reached for the latch and spotted the canvas bag. It held the outgoing cash shipment she’d bagged earlier for the vault. Carefully, she pushed it aside with her foot.

    Stop moving, Mrs. Randoll.

    I’m nervous. She tried sounding calm. You may be an old hand at this bank robbery thing, but this is my first. I’ll give you the money, but my shoes are coming off before I fall on my butt. Stepping out of her sandals, she shoved them and the bag aside, and swung open the double doors on her cash cans.

    Under here, she pointed to the drawer, is a special latch under here. Okay if I release it?

    Hurry up. He gave the lobby an anxious glance.

    She slid the drawer open, grabbed the bundles of money, and placed ones on her left, then fives, tens and twenties. With a quick mental count, she knew she’d put exactly fifteen-thousand-five hundred dollars on the counter.

    Put it in the bag, Mrs. Randoll. He waved the gun at her.

    She stared at the long black barrel. Her daughters had already lost one parent, and she didn’t want them to lose another. Stay safe for them, she cautioned, do what he says. If he started shooting she wasn’t the only one in danger. The other employees and the bank customers were at risk too.

    Give him what he wants.

    Placing the cash in the bag, she worked on memorizing his description. Six-feet tall, olive skin and a scraggly brown beard. A red ‘Go Niner’s ball-cap hid his hair and sunglasses covered his eyes. Something dangled from his left ear, but she couldn’t make it out with her glasses off. He had short dirty fingernails and big hands, especially the one holding the gun.

    She shoved the sack toward him and a yellow-toothed grin spread across his face. Oh goody, another description. Her stomach gave a sickening twist. Thank God she’d missed lunch.

    Is that all?

    W... what? She stammered as her head started to ache. I have about three hundred in mutilated, but you don’t want...

    Get it, he interrupted. Spends just like the rest.

    She doubted it. The local park ranger had brought in the tattered money. It had been the winter home to a family of skunks and was marked for incineration. She had sealed the stinky smelling cash in several layers of thick plastic. And now, she watched him shove the packet into the dirty bag.

    Was he ever in for a big surprise.

    Where’s the big bills?

    Big bills? The pounding in her head increased. Her mouth went dry. Gone, she barely got the word out. A customer came in an hour ago and got the last of them. Her voice shook.

    He raised the gun. Disbelief and anger slammed into her. She had remained calm. Hadn’t panicked. Had followed every piece of advice she’d learned from the video. And now, he was going to shoot her. All she could think of were her girls and what this would do to them. Just thinking about them and their pain and upset made her mad.

    Glaring at him, she leaned closer.

    That’s right, wave your gun around. Anger spilled into her words. Call attention to yourself. She yanked the bottom drawer open all the way. Look! The big bills are gone. See. She glared into the reflective lenses. No hundreds. No fifties. They’re all gone. The drawers empty. You’ve got all my cash.

    She counted the beats of her heart and wondered which one would be her last. The robber stared back. Apparently, as shocked by her outburst as she was. Then he leaned over the counter and peered into the drawer.

    Fifties and hundreds are in big demand, she explained. When he didn’t get the connection, she went on, It’s June. Weddings. High school and college graduations. If you were after big bills, you should’ve robbed me in May. The words tumbled out of her mouth. Had she really said that? Unbelievable. Her knees went weak and goosebumps skittered up her arm as she realized it would probably be the last thing she’d feel.

    He leaned close and chuckled. You got balls, lady. Lucky too ‘cuz I believe you. He smelled of cigarettes, stale beer, and sweat. Her stomach promised revenge.

    He gave a quick glance around the bank. Now be a good girl. Hands on the counter and I’ll leave.

    Saying a silent prayer, she followed his directions.

    When he pocketed the gun and picked up the bag, she slid her thumb over the counter edge and pushed the alarm button. As he turned, opened the door, she caught a glimpse of something jagged and black on the side of his neck.

    She watched him stroll out of the bank looking like every other satisfied Silicon Security customer.

    Taking a shaky breath, she held it and counted to ten. Then she let it out slowly, two heartbeats at a time. As she stood there, she realized her thumb was still jammed against the alarm. She envisioned News headline to read: ‘Firefighters use jaws-of-life to pry bank teller’s frozen fingers off the panic button.’

    A silly thought, but the overwhelming relief that came with it made her smile. Releasing the button, she stepped back, wriggled her fingers, and shook the tension out of he8r hand. She rolled her shoulders, eased out the tightness from her neck, and bent over stretching her back. Standing tall, she closed her eyes, drew in another deep, cleansing breath and held it. She repeated the exercise, opened her eyes and marveled at how good it felt to be alive.

    Locking up her cash can, she left her work area and went to tell her boss, the branch operations officer, she’d been robbed.

    For the next two hours, alone in a bank conference room, hunched over a stack of forms, Holly replayed the robbery in her head. She wrote what she remembered and answered what felt like a hundred questions. When she was done, she felt like she’d been run over by a truck. A very big one, if the pounding in her head was any indication.

    An ordinary headache she could handle. But the very idea of it turning into a migraine made her queasy. She hadn't had one in over five years. She had hoped they were gone for good.

    Removing her glasses, she stood, rubbed her neck and stretched from side to side to loosen the tight muscles. No wacky imagined rescues from Dirty Harry or equipment wielding firemen would lessen the dread of a migraine. This time she was on her own.

    Handle what you can; forget the rest.

    The words weren’t religious or even philosophical. But they put things in perspective and had always given her a calm focus when the heartbreaks of life spun out of control.

    She wanted to go home. Sleep. No thinking. No bank. No robbery. And, no guns! She’d relax all weekend, work in the yard, read, and watch TV. By Monday, maybe life would be back on track.

    The door opened and her boss walked in. Poor Marilyn was pale and looked absolutely terrified. She clutched a twisted bundle of papers in her hand. Since the branch manager, James A. Kenmore the Third, was a class-A jerk, Holly understood why the poor woman appeared so distraught. But she’d never seen Marilyn quite this frazzled.

    In the doorway behind her boss stood a man in a dark suit. He was tall, dark haired, and broad shouldered. To get a better look at him, she grabbed her glasses, focused on his face and froze.

    A ‘what-a-hunk’ awareness slammed into her.

    Have you completely lost your mind? What is wrong with you?

    Gobs of stress, she excused, and lousy timing. Her total reaction was a bizarre glitch. One she blamed entirely on the bank robbery, her first. She might be a widow but she had never been blind to head-turning, good-looking, handsome men. But since her glasses hadn’t fogged over, she was probably immune to whatever he was dishing out.

    His black hair, glinted with streaks of silver, and seemed inclined to curl. But that was the only softening feature in his stark, undecipherable expression. His cold, blue-eyed assessment left her on edgy. She got the distinct impression she’d just been bagged, tagged, and analyzed right along with the rest of the room’s contents.

    At a glance, she knew instantly this guy was no banker. Friendly smiles and welcoming handshakes were not his thing. Could be an auditor, she supposed. There was a calculated sharpness to his demeanor she found irritating.

    Maybe, it was the way he stood in the doorway, blocking the exit. Was it deliberate? Did he think she’d try an end-run and escape? Why?

    Dialogue from last night’s classic gangster movie starring Edward G. Robinson filtered into her mind. ‘All right, you’se guys, tonight we're gonna' make a break for it.’

    Anyone dumb enough to go up against the guy in the doorway deserved a headache. She already had one, thank you very much, and it was getting worse by the minute.

    H-Holly, Marilyn stammered. This is Special Agent Patrick Michaelson. He’s with the FBI and is investigating the robbery.

    Ma’am. The greeting was filled with an icy disdain.

    Holly smiled. Dirty Harry had finally arrived.

    That explained the steady, inscrutable stare. It was his cop look. G-Man look, she amended, stealing another phrase from the previous evening’s vintage entertainment.

    Bits of white fluttered to the floor as her boss shredded the paper or tissue she’d been holding. Poor Marilyn, she thought. Between the federal intimidator in the doorway and the branch manager, no wonder she was a total wreck. Holly hated to see the woman harassed by people who used fear to control others. She sent Marilyn a reassuring look.

    Is there a problem? Holly asked.

    More bits of white flitted to the floor. You told me the robber got less than sixteen thousand, Marilyn’s voice quivered.

    That’s right, Holly said. I gave him exactly fifteen-thousand, eight-hundred and thirty-two dollars.

    More’s missing, her boss said."

    More? Disbelief swept through her. The throbbing in her head went double time. How much more?

    A hundred-thousand.

    W-what...? Holly stammered. She visualized the currency she’d placed on the counter and mentally recounted it. No, that’s wrong, she muttered, the largest bill I gave him was a twenty. There were only four bundled denominations.

    Think, Holly.

    Before she had left for lunch, she had bagged the outgoing cash shipment. But...?

    Think harder, Holly.

    But, she’d never left for...

    She leaned against the conference table and stared down at her bare feet. Stay focused. She rubbed the back of her neck. Remain calm and pray.

    Who’s in the vault?

    Marilyn stared at her in disbelief. Vivian and Alice, she replied. The three of us have been trying to balance your cash for the last twenty minutes.

    Great. Holly ignored the insidious thought sneaking into her mind. Double custody. Everyone watching each other. No reason to doubt the honesty of her friends and co-workers.

    Don’t get paranoid, she cautioned. But a hundred thousand dollars is a lot of temptation.

    Are my sandals in the work area?

    Marilyn’s goggling stare clearly stated she believed Holly had gone crazy. Heck, more days like today and she would be.

    Yes. Do you want them?

    No. But behind them and my cash can is a sealed canvas bag. It’s the outgoing cash shipment. I kicked it back there during the robbery. You and I were going to take it to the vault before I left for lunch. But that never happened. Have Vivian or Alice look for it.

    Holly held her breath while Marilyn called her work area. What if someone had taken it? Tension knotted her shoulders, pain pulsed in her head, but she couldn’t take her gaze off her boss.

    Don’t borrow trouble. Handle what you can. Remember, one step at a time. You've done it before.

    Marilyn spoke with someone. A moment later she smiled and gave Holly a thumbs-up.

    Thank God. Giddy with relief, Holly slid into the chair before her knees gave out. A draining weakness swept over her and the room suddenly seemed overly bright. She closed her eyes, but instead of blocking the glare, her vision was filled with jagged, flashing, prisms of light.


    The memory was not a pleasant one. The dreaded bouts had started after her husband, Rich had died. And, they always began the same way. Thanks to Nancy, her best friend, a family therapist, Holly had learned a few stress reducing techniques. Once a migraine had started, nothing stopped it, but the intensity and the duration was sometimes reduced.

    Decision made, she opened her eyes and stood. I’ll be back in a minute, she said and walked to the door. The restroom was down the hall. Some water and a cold compress on her neck might hold off the inevitable.

    The dark figure in the doorway came toward her. Oops! She'd forgotten about him. He probably had a bunch of cop-like questions. But the pain in her head came first then, he could have his turn. All she needed was five or ten minutes.

    Mrs. Randoll, are you all right?

    A rich, masculine tone enveloped her in a soothing warmth. She looked around. The only person in the room, other her boss, was Dirty Harry.

    Either she was hearing things or her mind had finally winged its way off to La-La Land. Next thing she’d be seeing were white rabbits with pocket watches, hurrying off to a tea party.

    Can I get you something, Mrs. Randoll?

    She watched his lips move, heard the resonating sound of concern, and a flurry of goosebumps flitted up and down her arms. Stunned, she rubbed at the sensations and scrambled for an intelligent reply.

    I have a headache, she said staring into his gaze. The icy aloofness she’d seen earlier was gone. He didn’t appear quite so threatening. And she knew in that instant, if she ever saw him smile, her glasses would fog over...big time.

    Attempting to whip her demented Mad-Hatter like thoughts into shape, she counted to five. I’ll answer your questions in a few minutes. She brushed passed him. I need some water.

    As he spoke to Marilyn, the low-pitched timbre of his words seemed to follow her like the guiding warmth of a comforting hand. No doubt about it, she’d lost it.

    She pushed open the door, went to the sink, and grabbed paper towels. Dampening them, she held them against her forehead. For a second, the coolness numbed the pulsing pain.

    Imagine running water she coached using the techniques she’d applied in the past. Bubbly, clear mountain streams. A forest of tall green trees. Filtered sunlight. The smell of pine needles and rich loamy earth. A peace-filled haven. No worries. No tension. No bank.

    Putting her glasses on the counter along with the clip from her hair, she looked into the mirror. Her reflection was a blur of whirling, blinking geometric lights zig-zagging across her vision.

    Her lightheadedness continued. Once again, she pressed the cold towels against her neck. With her back against the wall, she slid to the floor and immediately felt steadier. All she needed was five minutes. Five blessed minutes of uninterrupted peace and quiet.

    She closed her eyes, pictured tall trees and shady forests as the sound of a man’s echoing reassurances seemed to ease the tension from her mind and body.


    What in the hell was taking so long?

    Pat Michaelson glanced from the robbery reports, to the restroom door and checked his watch, again. She’d been in the lady’s room ten minutes.

    He did not want to go in there.

    But he needed to interview her before turning the case over to the SJPD...San Jose Police Department. As the bank’s head cashier and only witness to the robbery, she’d have details about the robber no one else would have.

    If Holly Randoll had been a sticky-fingered employee dipping into the cash, it would’ve guaranteed opening a federal inquiry into Silicon Security’s banking practices. Thanks to a sharp minded bank examiner, they knew a high volume of cash was being funneled through the small neighborhood bank. But without more evidence or a dirty employee to sweeten the pot, a boat load of suspicion wouldn’t get them a subpoena. And that’s exactly what they needed to start an investigation. Unfortunately, at this point, the case was dead.

    And, Holly Randoll, the bank’s head cashier was completely innocent. But then, from the instant he’d set eyes on her there hadn’t been a single doubt about her innocence. Which had damn well shocked the hell out of him. How had she short-circuited his reliable and usually suspicious mind?

    Yo! Kemo Sabe.

    Pat winced as the greeting boomed down the long corridor. Eighteen years with The Bureau and his friend, and occasional partner, Special Agent Royce O’Banyon, still sounded like a laid-back cowboy riding in from the range. Royce’s only concession to his dark-suited professional attire were the black-tooled leather boots he wore.

    I’m told scarin’ women folk into the john shows poor interviewin’ skills. His drawl-thickened words ended on a chuckle.

    You planning to rescue her, Sheriff?

    Nope! Royce replied. "Leavin’ that to you, compadre."

    Pat grinned at the reply. You’re shoveling the shit pretty thick, Sheriff. Does that mean you’ve been interviewing the ladies?

    Humor flickered over Royce’s face. Good guess, amigo. Ever thought about becoming a detective?

    Pat laughed. His friend’s mellow ‘Andy of Mayberry’ charm put people at ease. On the other hand, his own presence made people nervous. Since the goal was to get the bad guys, it didn’t matter to him how they got the job done, as long as they got results. What did you learn?

    Getting down to business, Royce pulled a notebook from his pocket and flipped it open. First robbery this branch has ever had, which might explain why the operations officer is a total basket case.

    Holly Randoll hadn’t been, Pat reflected. No shaky hands or flustered nerves from her. She’d gone pale a time or two, and except for a flash of amusement, her gaze had been steady and direct. I assume the ladies are no longer upset.

    Royce’s grin of satisfaction said it all.

    You talk to Kenmore, the bank manager? Pat remembered the name from the examiner’s report.

    Royce glanced at his notes. James A. Kenmore, the third, to be exact. He looked up. Guess they couldn’t get it right the first two times. Third times lookin’ like a bust too, he added with a smirk. Been here about a year. Got the impression he’s an asshole. Had an appointment at noon, has yet to return.

    Pat checked his watch. That was three hours ago. Anyone know where he is?

    His secretary would, but she called in sick. I’ll get the contact info from Marilyn, ah...I mean Miz Williams. A sheepish grin flashed across his face, and he gave Pat a `what-can-I-say’ shrug.

    Apparently, something about the high-strung, red-head had snagged Royce’s infamous protective streak. The challenge was shaking it off and getting back on track before the shit hit the fan. A complication Pat definitely took steps to avoid.

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