Happy Monday, all! To kick off a brand new week, I thought I'd give my newsletter subscribers an exclusive look at a brand new romantic suspense series that I'm working on--learn more about the O'Connells below!
The O’Connells of Livingston, Montana, are not your typical family. Follow them on their journey to the dark and dangerous side of love in a series of romantic thrillers you won’t want to miss. Raised by a single mother after their father’s mysterious death twenty years ago, the six grown siblings live in a small town with all kinds of hidden secrets, including unsettling disappearances at a rate much higher than the state average. The residents of Livingston know something strange is going on in their remote wooded area, which seems to breed deception, and for the O’Connells, their father’s death is just one of many similar unsolved murders. Much like the contemporary family romance series focusing on the Friessens, this romantic suspense series follows the lives of the O’Connell family as each of the siblings searches for love.
Book 1, THE NEIGHBOR, features park ranger Ryan.
After the devastating loss of her husband, Jenny Sweetgrass packs up her teenage daughter, Alison, and moves to Livingston, Montana, hoping for a fresh start—that is, until Ryan O’Connell knocks on her door.
Park ranger Ryan is one of the six O’Connell siblings in Livingston, raised by an independent mom who has been a rock to him. He has a career he loves, and up until six weeks ago, he lived a comfortable life. When a new neighbor moves in and disturbs the quiet peace of the area, bringing with her a daughter who’s walking trouble, Ryan is shocked to discover that the woman is a one-night stand he picked up at a bar years ago.
Right now, the gorgeous Jenny isn’t too interested in making friends, but despite her cool façade, as Ryan gets to know her, he can’t fight an idiotic need to try to ease the pain he sees her trying to hide. At the same time, he knows deep down that both mother and daughter have a secret, and if he were smart, he would listen to his brother’s warning and walk away.
When Alison goes missing, everyone in town believes she simply ran off or found her way into trouble, but nothing about her disappearance adds up. She simply set out on an afternoon hike into the park and never came back.
Jenny soon learns she’s not alone when Ryan takes matters into his own hands and sets off with her into the park to find her daughter. What he doesn’t know is that Alison is actually his daughter, too, and when he learns the truth and the real reason she left, the secret could end up dividing the O’Connell family and the community.
Are you ready for a new series? Rest assured that it's in the works, but in the meantime...get your exclusive peek at Chapter 1 of THE NEIGHBOR here!
More or less, Livingston was a quiet town—except for the person next door, the supreme a-hole he had yet to meet.
Ryan O’Connell’s scale of assholes went from your average pain in the ass, to the lying, cheating dirty dog, to the class A supreme asshole who didn’t give a fuck about anyone and conceivably embraced being said asshole, considering the intolerable noise from next door.
Ryan wasn’t in the mood to deal with yet another asshole today as he dragged on a pair of gray sweats after towelling off from a cool shower in the August Montana heat.
The stereo thumped from the Kunkels’ house next door. Actually, scratch that. Althea Kunkel had been a sweet old busybody, always trying to fix Ryan up. She had been the ideal neighbor, though she had always invaded his privacy and his peace of mind, waking him at seven a.m. on Sundays with freshly baked cinnamon rolls. At times, he’d been forced to sneak into his own house after parking up the street so she wouldn’t know he was home.
She was now six feet under, and Ryan missed her.
Good neighbors were hard to find.
He would’ve given anything to have that meddling busybody back instead of the unnamed scumbag who’d recently moved in. Every night for the past three weeks, his new neighbor had incessantly cranked the music so loud that the thump of the bass bounced the only piece of artwork, a painting of dogs smoking and playing poker, that he had on his vibrant white walls. It had been a joke from his sister Suzanne, one of Livingston’s three fulltime firefighters, and he swore she hadn’t expected him to hang it in such a prominent spot in the house.
That was just one of those things they did on their birthdays, really digging in and competing to find the perfect gift the other would hate. But Ryan was determined always to have the last laugh, and he’d hung the painting in the living room for everyone to see. He liked dogs and found humor in it, and he could see how much it annoyed his sister every time she stopped by.
“Goddamn asshole,” he said under his breath as he jogged down his stairs, barefoot and pissed, ready to lay out the dos and don’ts of being a good neighbor as the annoying thump continued.
He pulled open his front door, wanting only peace and quiet, a beer, and an hour or two in front of his idiot box to watch the episode of Survivor saved on his PVR. He stepped out onto the covered porch, the sky dark except for the streetlights, and strode across his overgrown grass, taking in the rusty Hyundai parked in his neighbor’s driveway.
Across the street, Ham Johnson, bald and fortyish, with three kids and a wife who visited her sister in Idaho every other week, which was when his girlfriend would stay over, was standing on his front porch and watching. Yeah, Ham was just another asshole, but he lifted his hand in a wave and walked back into his house.
Ryan’s neighbor’s two-story craftsman was identical to his, with now wilting daisies in the flower boxes. He took in the lit house, the closed door, and the noise, which was nearly deafening as he stepped onto the front porch and fisted his hand. He lifted it to the screen and yanked it open with a barely audible squeak, then pounded on the door. “Hey, shut it down!” he yelled. He could be loud when he wanted to, but he was having trouble hearing himself, considering the music was still thumping.
It was a tune he knew well, “Bad to the Bone.”
“Fucking asshole,” he said under his breath, then pounded the door again with his fist, louder. He kept pounding until the music suddenly stopped, and he could finally hear his heart thumping, the pull of his breath, and a noticeable ring in the air as the quiet of night was no longer disrupted.
One, two, three… He heard the footsteps and then nothing, forcing himself to listen, as he thought for sure the asshole had stopped on the other side of the door. He waited for it to open when the light suddenly flicked off, not just the inside light but the porch light too, leaving him standing in the dark. Like, what the fuck?
“Hey, open the damn door!” he said and pounded on the door again. The neighbors’ dogs were now barking and doors were opening, as if he was now the problem. “You think I don’t know you’re in there? Like, what are you, two years old? Open the damn door.”
He was positive his neighbor was standing just on the other side, the fucking little coward. Now he had no intention of walking away. “Look, I’m not leaving until we talk and set some ground rules…”
The light flicked on, and he heard the deadbolt click and watched as the doorknob turned and the door opened. He was staring into the deep brown eyes of a girl who was maybe sixteen, seventeen. She had shoulder-length black hair and wore black eye shadow, a low-cut green army tank, and cut-off shorts that left nothing to the imagination. She also had a nose ring.
For a second, he was speechless. She said nothing.
“I live next door,” he finally said. “I’m your neighbor. Do you have any idea how loud your music was? It was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think.” He gestured next door with his thumb and took in the way she stared at him, her eyes lingering on his naked chest. Shit, he’d just stepped out of the shower and pulled on a pair of sweats. He hadn’t bothered with anything else.
“Sorry,” was all she said as she moved to close the door.
He slapped his hand on it. “Whoa, hang on a second. You know, it’s not as if this is a first offence. This had been going on every night. Who all lives here? Is this, like, some frat house or something?” He took her in and could see the teenage attitude emerging. She was likely going to tell him to go fuck himself.
“What’s it to you?” she said. Her eyes went right to his hand pressed to the door, holding it so she couldn’t slam it in his face. In that moment, he realized how she could’ve taken it.
“Look, is your mom or dad here?” he said. She hadn’t told him anything about who lived there, not that he could remember seeing anyone.
“Nope, just me,” she said and didn’t pull her gaze from him.
He had to fight the urge to laugh. “So you live here by yourself? A little young, aren’t you?”
She slid her hand up the door frame and cocked her hip in a teasing motion that had him pulling his hand away and stepping back. “Depends on what you like,” she said.
He wondered if his eyes bugged out, and he glanced over his shoulder. “Cut the crap, kid. Don’t…” he started, but just as he did so, he heard a car and saw the flashing lights of a cruiser as it parked out front. “You called the cops?”
She just shrugged, and he thought he saw the hint of a smile. In that second, he knew what the teen, whose name he still didn’t know, had done. This was a girl who could cause him some serious trouble. He should’ve called the cops first!
“Oh, I’m so glad you got here when you did, officer,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. My mom’s not here, and this man won’t leave. He threatened me and scared me, pounding on the door…”
Ryan couldn’t pull his eyes from what seemed like an actress pulling off the perfect scene, and even her expression seemed to be that of a truly scared girl. He heard the creak of the step and took only a second to glance to the deputy now standing beside him, his hands on his belt. The man had the same O’Connell blue eyes he did, his dark wavy hair in the same cop cut he always wore. It was none other than his younger brother, who placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Are you for real, kid?” Ryan snapped.
“Well, aren’t you going to arrest him?” the kid said accusingly, and he wondered for a second if this was a joke. The look on her face was all the reality check he needed.
“Care to explain, Ryan?” said Marcus O’Connell.
Just then, Ryan spotted the headlights of a small Jeep Patriot that was pulling in behind the rusty Hyundai.
“Wish I could,” he said. “Came over because of the damn noise, a stereo, and now you’re here. She called the cops?” He couldn’t figure out when, maybe while she was avoiding answering the door.
“What’s going on here?” said a woman emerging from the Jeep. She had dark hair and wore a baggy sweatshirt and a jean skirt that stopped at her knees, and she was carrying what looked like a grocery bag. Damn, she looked familiar. “Alison, what’s going on? What did you do now?”
She was pretty—no, cute, slender. She had one of those faces that wouldn’t get lost in a crowd, and he saw the spark of recognition when she saw him. Nothing friendly. He had to rack his brain to figure out where he knew her from.
“I’m Ryan O’Connell. I live next door,” he said, and he actually held out his hand to the woman, who was now on the first step. For a second, he didn’t think she’d shake it, but she did. Small hand, firm grip—and untrusting eyes. She said nothing, and he didn’t miss the glance to his brother.
“Your music was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think,” he explained. “I came over here because it’s been a nightly thing. I take it you’re one of her parents?”
The woman pulled her hand from his and flicked her gaze to the teen in the doorway. Yup, definitely the angry mom look. “I’m so sorry,” she said, then looked to the teen. “I told you no loud music! I apologize and can assure you it won’t happen again.”
“Well, I’m not here about the noise,” Marcus said. “This young lady called 911 and said there was an intruder trying to break in, that she was home alone… We were just trying to get to the bottom of it when you showed up. I take it you live here?”
Ryan moved back and leaned against the post to watch.
“Yes, sorry. I’m Jennifer—Jenny, and this is my daughter, Alison.” She handed off the paper bag to her daughter. “You called the cops? What were you thinking?” Her voice squeaked, and he wondered whether this was something her daughter did often.
He glanced to his brother, who only shook his head. He wondered how many times Marcus had to deal with this kind of thing.
“He was being a dick, pounding on the door,” Alison said. She didn’t even try to pretend that she hadn’t just made up a big lie. Ryan had heard of neighbors from hell, but he’d never expected to have one. He stood with his arms crossed over his naked chest, still trying to think of how he knew Jenny.
“You don’t call the cops!” she said. “Seriously, Alison… Go unpack the groceries.”
“Just hang on a second, here,” Marcus said. “Calling 911 for kicks is a serious offense. At the same time, if I’m called out here because of noise, for example, your music cranked too loud, I’m going to fine you, because that’s a problem.”
Alison was holding the grocery bag and dragged her gaze to her mom, who appeared barely old enough to have a teenage daughter.
“I can assure you it won’t happen again,” Jenny said. “I will have a talk with my daughter and see to it that she behaves herself.”
He noted the edge in her voice. That was the same tone his own mom had used on each of them when they misbehaved, pulling them aside alone at home for a talk they didn’t want to have. There was fun mom, and then there was angry grounded-for-life mom. He could see this teen was getting the latter.
“So, then, the music…” he started.
Jenny lifted her hands, shaking her head. “It will stop, like right now, and I’m sorry for the trouble my daughter caused.”
Alison had already walked away, seeming completely unaffected at having a cop call her out. She was trouble with a capital T. He wondered if he should also give Jenny a heads-up on how her daughter had been toying with him and offering herself up to him.
“Is that all?” she asked. So much for any friendly neighborly talk. He was still trying to figure out how they knew each other and when they’d met.
“Guess so,” he said. “Music’s off, so the neighborhood should be happy. Oh, and you may want to keep your daughter on a short leash,” he added as he stepped away from the post and down the steps. He stopped at the bottom, taking in the withering look his brother dragged over to him. Finally, Ryan said, “I’m trying to place it. Seems we’ve met. You look familiar.”
She actually made a rude noise and crossed her arms. “So you don’t remember?” she said.
He could feel his brother taking him in. “I’m great with faces, but I meet a lot of people in my line of work as a ranger. We meet on the trail or someplace in town or something?”
She seemed unimpressed. “Or something,” she replied, and the way she said it oozed with sarcasm. She gestured to him. “Is this how you always dress, half naked, flaunting that perfect chest?”
Damn, her eyes were the same dark brown as the girl’s, and he didn’t miss the anger simmering below the surface.
“Just got out of the shower, and this is all I managed to pull on,” he said. “Word of advice, Jenny: We’re neighbors. It would be better to get along, and so far, you’re not off to a great start.”
He just couldn’t help himself, and he wasn’t sure what the amused grin on his brother’s face was about as Jenny narrowed her eyes, lifted her middle finger to him, and then stepped into the house and shut the door.
“Wow, you really have a way with women,” Marcus said with a laugh.
Ryan just stepped down and took in the house a nice old woman had once lived in. God damn it, did he miss her. “It’s a gift,” he said, then lifted his hand to his brother as he cut across the grass, still barefoot. “See you at Mom’s tomorrow.”
“Hey, Ryan, word of advice?” Marcus called out.
He turned, resting his hands on his hips, not saying anything, knowing his brother had something on his mind.
“Next time, call me first,” Marcus said. “Seen this before, and it ain’t pretty. Remember, your territory’s the woods, the park. Mine is this town. If a young girl calls the cops and makes up a story, a stupid schmuck could walk right into it and land in jail. It never ends well for the stupid schmuck, so don’t let that be you.” Marcus let out a sigh and shook his head. “She’s trouble,” he added. “Steer clear—and it’s your turn to bring the beer tomorrow.”
Ryan watched as his brother climbed into his cruiser, flicked off the still flashing lights, and drove away. He wasn’t sure what made him look back to the house next door, but when he did, he was positive the girl was watching him from the upstairs window.
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He stopped a robbery. Now he has to do the right thing.
"These are men that you wish could be cloned over and over again because not only are they HOT, they are also very GOOD men. Men you trust, men you lust after, men you think you must have!" ★★★★★ Kec200, Amazon Reviewer
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