Book Excerpt From Crude Ambition

Patricia Hunt Holmes
Categories: Mystery / Thriller / Women’s Fiction
Publisher: River Grove Books (Greenleaf Book Group)
Date of Publication: June 8, 2021
Number of Pages: 326
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A Texas Reckoning

In the early morning hours after a law firm recruiting party at a beachside house on Galveston Island, a female summer intern is found lying on the floor, bruised, bleeding and unconscious. Four men and one young woman attorney who were staying at the house know something terrible happened.

The woman attorney takes her to a hospital but the next day the intern disappears. All of them decide to keep silent, doing nothing about the incident in order to further their own career ambitions while the events of that night haunt the two women. Time passes and then ten years later, crime and hubris bring the former intern back into their lives. Only this time she has the power and the truth is finally brought to light, uprooting everyone’s plans.

From the power centers of Houston law and oil to the fracking fields of South Texas to the Jersey Shore and Washington D.C., this story chronicles the struggles of two ambitious young women in their quest for legal success and justice.


“Crude Ambition is a great read. It is an authentic look at big law in Houston and the Texas oil business. Patricia Hunt Holmes weaves a story of ambition, greed, romance and revenge that kept me turning the pages until all the just desserts were served.”

Marc Grossberg, J.D., Author of The Best People: A Tale of Trials and Errors

“In Crude Ambition, Patricia Hunt Holmes shows she knows Texas in the way Grisham knows Mississippi—politics, environment, strong men and strong women, egos, oil, arrogance, influence and hunger for power. I don’t think anyone could have nailed it better.”

— Bill Sarpalius, Former U.S. Congressman, Author of The Grand Duke of Boys’ Ranch


“Where is Laura?” Carolyn asked again, this time shouting. Despite the tremble in her voice, instincts told her she needed to be firm to get through to the men standing in front of her. It was two a.m., and Paul and Trey were barefoot and had fresh sand on their legs and feet. They were also her bosses. Under normal circumstances, she would never use such a peremptory tone with men in their position. They had the power to cut her career short right then and there. But it was clear that they were drunk and seemed confused and upset. And Laura was missing.

Like the beach house itself, the living area was enormous. The house belonged to Paul Robinson’s father, who was a successful, independent oil man. He used it primarily to entertain clients and friends while Paul’s mother, who disliked the salt and sand, stayed in their River Oaks home or spent summer months in Aspen. The architecture of the house was contemporary, with lots of windows and decks, but the interior décor was over-the-top “Go Texas,” complete with cowhide rugs and a stuffed deer trophy over the mantle. The east wall of the living room had a giant window looking out on the Gulf of Mexico. During the day it provided a spectacular view of the beach and water. Now, clouds covered the moon and only the small white lights on the oil tankers patiently waiting out at sea to enter the Houston Ship Channel pierced the darkness. Carolyn couldn’t see Laura anywhere.

She recognized Peter Kaufman, who she knew to be a managing partner at one of the good midsize public accounting firms. She didn’t think he had been at the party the day before. She was surprised to see him now, sunk in a big leather club chair, looking down at his glasses, which he was wiping with a white handkerchief. He didn’t look at her. Beyond Peter, another man was standing with his back to Carolyn, looking out the window. He was very tall, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved, white cotton shirt. He had a lit cigar in his hand, and the smoke from it gave off a distasteful smell. She didn’t recognize him, so she ignored him for now.

“Laura couldn’t have come downstairs without going through this room,” Carolyn said. “Where is she?” She was looking directly at Paul this time. It was clear that he and Trey had recently been outside. “Did she go out on the beach with you?”

“No!” Paul and Trey both protested.

Carolyn gritted her teeth. Until ten minutes ago, she had been sleeping upstairs in the guest bedroom nearest the stairs. The sound of loud agitated male voices woke her. She looked at the bed next to her own to see if the noise had awakened Laura, the summer intern she had brought to the party at the beach house the previous day. But Laura’s bed was empty, so Carolyn went downstairs to look for her.

She was wide-awake now, alarmed at the vehement tone of Paul and Trey’s responses. With reluctance, Paul pointed to the dining room, which was around the corner. Carolyn walked over to it. In the middle was the big oak table, which had been filled with food and drinks during the day. It was almost bare now, the white tablecloth half on and half off. Two Corona bottles were turned on their side, the beer and lime slices spilling out into a sticky mess. More beer bottles were broken on the terracotta tile floor, and a tray of tortilla chips lay upside down among them, chips scattered everywhere. The room smelled like beer.

Carolyn slowly walked around the table to the opposite side, where the tablecloth was draped toward the floor. Laura lay there facedown, blood matted in her blonde hair, her left arm in a twisted position. She was wearing just her blouse. Her panties and capris were crumpled in a ball a few feet away. She was not moving.

“Oh my God!” Carolyn gasped, sinking to her knees beside Laura.

“What happened?” she yelled back to the men in the other room. Something very wrong has happened here, she thought. And these guys are useless. Keep your wits about you, Carolyn.

Still no answer. “Have you called 911 yet?” Carolyn asked, turning to where Paul now stood. His posture slumped.

“No!” he replied. “We can’t do that!”

“Why not?”

“They would call the police.” Paul stumbled and grabbed onto the table. As he did, the rest of the tablecloth fell to the floor, causing the remaining bottles to crash to the Saltillo tile.

That’s what you’re worried about?” Carolyn choked out. “How about this girl? She’s bleeding. Maybe she’s dead.”

Trey groaned. Carolyn stooped down to get a closer look. She put her fingers on a vein in Laura’s neck to see if she could find a pulse. Thank God, she thought. She’s alive.

“My father will kill me if he finds out about this. Not to mention the firm. All of us could get in trouble, maybe fired. You too, Carolyn. Think of that,” Paul said in a rush. He had a reputation for being cool and in control. But clearly he was panicking.

“All I know is that Laura needs medical attention right now. If you aren’t going to get it for her, I’ll take her to a hospital myself,” Carolyn said, regaining her confidence. “Assuming she is still breathing when we get there.”

Paul went back into the living room and sank down on a couch, unable to steady himself on his feet any longer.

“And what if the police stop you and give you a blood alcohol test, Carolyn? You might get arrested,” Paul argued.

“I don’t believe you all,” Carolyn said. “What were you going to do? Drop her body in the bay?”

“Well, that’s one idea,” Paul murmured.

Carolyn looked at him in disgust.

“I was just joking,” he said quickly, looking away. “I know. It’s not a joking matter. This is terrible, terrible . . .”

Patricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with a large international law firm, specializing in nonprofit healthcare finance and rural electric cooperative finance. Consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, and Top Lawyers in Houston, she was a frequent speaker at national public finance and health care conferences. Patricia has also served on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She has written and published in the fields of intellectual history and law.

In addition to her legal career, Patricia has been a member and board member of several social
service organizations throughout Houston, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, the University of Houston Women’s Studies Program, University of Houston Law Review Board of Directors, is a Trustee of the Houston Grand Opera, and Houston Justice for Our Neighbors.

Patricia grew up in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey but has lived in Houston for over 40 years. She has two daughters, Hillary and Ashley, who have successful careers as an attorney and a geologist, and three adorable grandsons. She is an avid golfer and traveler.

Patricia holds a BA in English and History, an MA in History, and a PhD in Russian and South Asian History with honors, all from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center and was an editor on the Houston Law Review.


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