Can’t wait till release day? Book 11 in my newest romantic suspense series is coming soon, but you can grab a sneak peek of THE RETURN OF THE O’CONNELLS today!
Will life ever return to normal?
That’s the question everyone in the O’Connell family has asked since their lives were turned upside down by a murder charge. With their father now back from the dead, the O’Connells are coming to grips with the idea that justice isn’t equal. But despite the pending arrival of a new grandchild, and the fact that the family is settling into a new identity, trouble seems to always be one step away. This time, it could come from within, as a shadowy new enemy has found its way into the close-knit family and could ultimately destroy the bond the siblings share, forcing them to finally cut their losses and walk away from one another.
There was something about secrets: They had a way of making themselves felt long before anyone even learned of them. The O’Connells kept secrets, and they were good at that. It seemed they always had—from others, from each other. But secrets had a way of slipping out explosively, scandalously, and never without repercussions. That left the kinds of battle scars the average person couldn’t see.
The O’Connells had two kinds of secrets. There was the kind they wanted to keep, but there was also the kind they wouldn’t dare tell a soul, the kind that had to stay secret forever.
Now Karen had another secret of her own as she sat quietly in the passenger side of Jack’s Mercedes, anything but the dutiful and obedient wife.
“You’ve said not two words since we left the office,” Jack said. There was something about the way he spoke to her, the edge, like an alpha. The way he watched her at times, she knew he wondered what she was keeping from him.
She took in the barren trees of another season settling upon them, the frigid dirty white packed at the sides of the freshly plowed roads, the exhaust from the vehicles ahead of them. She’d seen it all thousands of times before, except now it was as if she were seeing everything for the first time.
What was different?
Everything. The phone call.
She pulled in a breath and glanced over to Jack, reminding herself that she needed to tell him, but again the words wouldn’t come. “Have a lot on my mind,” she replied.
He only nodded, but she could feel the weight of something being held back. Was it her, or was it him? She forced herself to glance back to Brady, who was staring out the side window. His dark hair needed a cut. He glanced back down to his phone, thumbing over the screen. There was something on his mind, too.
“Brady, you to haven’t said much, either,” Jack said, lifting his gaze to the rear-view mirror as he pulled up to the lights. “How was school today?”
“School’s school,” he replied. “What do you want me to say? I was given the option to take some elective courses to finish the school year with the other kids, because the only class I wanted is full, but I said hell no. I’m finishing the required math, and then I have enough credits and I’m out of there.” He swiped his hands together. Could she blame him? “Is Luke coming back?”
Right. That was the other call she’d had.
Karen turned back to looking straight ahead, out the windshield, seeing the street she knew like the back of her hand, feeling the comfort of her husband’s vehicle despite how different everything seemed. “Yes, he called this morning.”
“And what did he say, again? That he’s bringing someone?” Jack said.
She needed to pull in another breath, feeling the tightness in her chest and the heaviness that settled inside her again. “He said it was an accidental kiss with consequences, and he wants us to meet her, which is apparently his way of saying he met someone he really likes and is bringing her home with him to meet the family. This should be interesting.”
“And he’s going to be at Ryan’s?” Brady said, a hopeful note in his voice.
She made herself look back at him, seeing something else in his expression. Right, Luke was his buddy, the brother he leaned on to keep his head straight, even though he was the one who was often gone at a moment’s notice.
“No, Marcus’s,” she said, then realized maybe she’d forgotten to relay that text.
Jack shook his head. “You forgot to mention that,” he said, the edge in his voice slipping into that pissed-off tone he seemed to have been taking with her more and more as of late.
She made herself drag her gaze over to him, taking in the beard that had been growing in for three days now. He was settling into a look that was more messy bad boy than his usual classy style. She wondered if he had any idea. Likely not.
“Marcus lives just across the street from Ryan, so I’m at a loss to understand how that’s a big deal,” she said. “Besides, it was just a text. Do I need to report every single thing to you?” Even she didn’t miss the sharpness in her voice, and for a moment she was positive Jack gripped the steering wheel that much harder.
“You two aren’t going to start fighting again, are you?” Brady jumped in.
She had to remind herself he was the newest member of their family, her brother. Brady was perceptive, quiet, polite, and kept everything to himself, still finding his place among the O’Connells.
“We don’t fight, Brady. Do we, Jack?” she said, and she didn’t miss the rude sound Jack made in response as he pulled into Marcus’s driveway and parked behind Charlotte’s Subaru. The sheriff’s car was parked out front, so she didn’t need to wonder whether Marcus was still at work.
Jack took his time putting the car in park and turning off the engine, then gave everything to her with that one look. His icy blue eyes could hide things from her that she would’ve had no idea about. “We fight,” he said. “You fight. Brady’s right.”
A smile tugged at Brady’s lips as he climbed out of the car without saying a word and closed the back door, and she and Jack followed.
“Brady, it’s called having a difference of opinion and standing your ground,” she called out to Brady’s back, as he was halfway to the house.
He didn’t turn around as he kept walking, only lifted his hand and tossed out over his shoulder, “If that’s what you want to call it, but I know fighting when I hear it—and I know not to ever take you on.”
Then he was up the steps, and she found herself taking in Jack as she walked around the vehicle, pulling at her red coat, feeling the cold on her face, feeling the ice under her impractically high black boots.
“Careful,” Jack said. “It seems Marcus needs to clear this snow better.”
She didn’t look over as she pressed her hand on the hood of the car, taking careful steps, but Jack walked around and offered his arm. He was almost the perfect gentleman, always there for her, though he never saw her point of view on anything.
“Marcus has a lot on his plate,” she said. “And Brady really thinks we’re fighting?”
Jack was walking carefully, holding on to her, until they reached the sidewalk, which had been cleared of snow. The cold bit her bare thighs over her impractical knee-high boots, and the early winter wind whipped under her dress.
“We do fight, Karen, or rather, you do.”
There it was, her need to set him straight. “Really?” she said. “Because how I see it is that you try to tell me what to do, and you never ask my opinion on anything before deciding, thinking you can just go and do whatever you want, whenever you want. Just know that I will never let you tell me what to do, and I’ll never go along with something just because you can’t be bothered to ask and check in with me. I honestly believe you expect me to just fall in line with your way of thinking…”
“So you disagree and argue just because, Karen? I often wonder if you’d ever just go along with something because I decided it was best or because you understand that I’m looking out for you. No! You make nothing easy.” It came out quite sharply, and she could feel the passion in him.
The way he said it, Karen could feel something more coming. “You mean I don’t make it easy for you to steamroll me.”
“No, I mean we’re married,” he said. “You’re my wife, Karen, even with everything this family has been through, all the secrets and lies. Maybe I just want a little peace for us, a little of you meeting me halfway, instead of feeling as if everything is a fight.” He stopped at the bottom of the steps and faced her, pulling in a breath. When he let it out, she could see his frustration.
The inside door was still open, and they should’ve headed in, but Jack had something else on his mind. His expression had an edge, a hardness. He was distracted. She wondered what secret he was keeping. As she stared at the man she loved, she wondered whether this discontent would always exist between them.
“You know something, don’t you?” she said, hearing the accusation in her voice. “You did something.”
“My name’s been tossed out to run for governor. I’m on the ticket.”
There it was, the surprise she didn’t want.
Jack glanced away a second and then back to her. “You knew it was coming, and so did I. I just didn’t expect it now.”
“I think you know what it means, Karen. We have to leave Livingston, and we’ll have to close up shop on the law practice.”
She just stared, feeling a heaviness settle right in her stomach, leaving her with that sick feeling that wouldn’t go away. “I see,” she said, and then she said nothing else, because this was just something she didn’t want on her plate right now. She found herself turning to the steps to walk away, but his hand was on her, and he was right in her space, holding her so she couldn’t leave.
“Don’t do that,” he said. “Don’t just walk away. You think I don’t get that you’re pissed off and you don’t want this? Neither do I, but you know about the favors I called in to fix things, to clean up after all those damn secrets your family had, to keep Marcus as sheriff and keep the vultures from our door. So is this how you’re going to handle it? Because I’m not in the mood for you to dig your heels in and not give an inch.”
She shook her head. “You’re way off base, Jack. I don’t care right now about the governor ticket, and I don’t want to think about it or start asking you all the things I’m wondering, like why you couldn’t bother telling me until now. Will there always be something that falls into that category where you think you don’t need to tell me everything? Anyway, no, I’m not there yet, because I have stuff going on, too.”
He was confused and unimpressed. “What the hell are you talking about, Karen? What stuff—work or something personal, more secrets, something with your family?”
Oh, great, he was really going down that road again. He stepped back and was no longer touching her, but the early Montana winter cold was starting to sting a bit, and she supposed now was as good a time as any.
“No, no, and no,” she said. “The doctor’s office called me.”
When a smile touched his lips, she forced herself to pull it together and continue.
“Don’t get excited. They confirmed I was pregnant, but I lost the baby.”
There it was. His expression filled with the same thing she hadn’t been able to feel.
“Right,” she said, then gestured with her thumb behind her. “I’m going in.”
She started up the steps, and when she pulled open the door and glanced back to Jack, who was still standing there, staring out at nothing, she didn’t have a clue what the hell he was thinking.
Get your FREE eBook or Audible copy of THE AWAKENING (The Outsider Series, Book 3) in exchange for an honest online review! E-mail me at LorhainneEckhart.LE@gmail.com to request your preferred format. All reviews must be posted by 10/10/20. Thank you for your support!
A young woman who’s lost everything, and the wealthy rancher who must choose between his family’s power and his conscience to help her.
“We need more Friessen men in the world. Beautiful story…Great read and really enjoyed.” ★★★★★ lizzy001, Amazon Customer
Click here to see my titles currently available in audiobook!
And did you know… if you already own one of my eBooks on Kindle, you can pick up the audiobook at a reduced price with Whispersync? Whispersync allows you to both read and listen, and you can even switch back and forth between reading the book on Kindle and listening to the book on Audible without losing your place.