Excerpt: One Wrong Word by Hank Phillippi Ryan - Tor/Forge Blog
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Excerpt: One Wrong Word by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Excerpt: One Wrong Word by Hank Phillippi Ryan

One Wrong WordA heart-racing new psychological thriller from USA Today bestselling and multiple award-winning author, Hank Phillippi Ryan. Coming February 6th, 2024!

One Wrong Word stars crisis management expert Arden Ward. And here, in her beloved office, she is about to get a surprise from her boss, Warren Carmichael. This scene picks up in the middle of the chapter.

Warren actually gulped. She’d never seen his face so ashen.

“Listen, Arden. I don’t like this any more than you will. But understand.

The Swansons are major clients. Lucrative clients. Company-supporting clients.”

“Well, I know. I brought them to you. When we met at my Saving Calico childhood leukemia fundraiser. Remember?”

“Oh. Right.” Warren picked up his glass, rattled the ice. “I didn’t think anything could make this more difficult.”

“Make what?”

“So Patience Swanson thinks you and her husband have a . . . thing. That he gave you the Joy.”

“The perfume?” Arden clapped a palm to her chest. “She’s insane.”

“Possibly. Probably. But that doesn’t change anything. She demands that we let you go.”

“She? Demands? You let me go?” Every nerve cell in Arden’s brain burst into flames.

“I have no choice.”

“Choice? Of course you do.” Arden took a step toward him, arms spread in exasperation and disbelief. “Who does she think put her husband where he is today?”

“I’m sorry, Arden. It’s a situation. I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t? Well, I do.” She jabbed toward him with a forefinger. “You can say ‘she’s lost her freaking mind.’ You can tell that woman I’m a valuable employee who brings in big bucks, and new clients, and will continue to do so. And who, it goes without saying, is not having some sort of sordid affair with her vile entitled husband who clearly she has problems with. But the ‘problems’ are not me. A situation? It’s my life!”

“I’m sorry, Arden. Unless you can prove he didn’t give you perfume. Unless you can prove he didn’t—”

She rolled her eyes to the heavens, then harnessed her outrage. “I’m not going to prove one thing on this planet. Ask him, right? First of all, I can’t prove something that didn’t happen, that’s through the looking glass, and I cannot believe you’re even asking me that. Is that what you think of me? Let me ask you that. That this is true?”

“No, of course not, no.” Warren lurched to his feet, turned away, not looking at her, looking at every place else but her. “He’ll deny it. So I can’t force him to—”

“Ah. I see. Warren. Look at me. So you believe her, not me? Is that what you’re saying? Because if that is what you’re saying, Warren, I could file so many lawsuits it’d make your head spin. Hey. You’re a pro.Imagine the headlines. Blame the victim? Or wait, would you paint me the vixen, the temptress? Oh, yeah, do it. Please do that. I’d love that. Bring it.”

Warren had to know this was bull. “Are you hearing me?” she persisted.

“Are you ignoring me? Look at me. I know the rules. I know the deal. You cannot do this. I’ll go to HR so fast it’ll—”

“Be careful, Arden.” Warren interrupted her. “Take a beat. If you sue me, well, that’s not gonna help you, is it? Suddenly you’re . . . a problem employee. A liability. On the defensive. It’s not a good look. You know that.”

“What I know—and what you know—is that it’s not true.”

“What I know is that if the Swansons leave us, if they take their billings, I’d have to fire three other people to make up for it. Do you want to be responsible for that?”

“Oh, no. No. That’s not fair.” Arden wiped away the space in front of her, erasing Warren’s words. “Do not make me feel guilty about people losing their jobs over a lie.”

“We won’t let this get out,” Warren said. “It’ll stay between us.”

“Right. Between us.” She choked down a bitter laugh, focusing her anger. “And Patience Swanson. And Arthur Swanson. And whatever gossip mongers and sycophant confidantes and social media jackals—I cannot believe I’m saying this. A secret. As if anyone could keep a secret.”

She drew in a breath, her judgment obliterated by expanding rage. Narrowed her eyes. “Unless they’re dead.”

Click below to pre-order your copy of One Wrong Word, available February 6th, 2024!

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