Can't wait till release day? Book 10 in my romantic suspense series The O'Connells is coming soon, but you can grab a sneak peek of Chapter 1 today!
Thirty-five years ago, Raymond O’Connell didn’t exist, at least not until the moment Iris walked into his life. His very existence had been a secret, a carefully cultivated lie, except for the fact that he loved Iris and the six children he’d never planned on having. He’d become careless, living a life that belonged to someone else.
Becoming Raymond O’Connell had made him forget who he really was, and when he fell in love with a fantasy he knew he couldn’t have, he put his family in danger. Ultimately, he found himself covering up a murder to protect the woman
he loved, and that act forced him to walk away and return to the shadows of a secret life that he couldn’t find his way out of.
When he returns to Livingston with a son in tow, what he doesn’t expect is to be dragged from the shadows to protect a family that suddenly has a target on their backs. Soon, Raymond finds himself becoming part of a bigger, deadlier plot—one that could leave someone in his family, someone he’s sworn to stay away from, dead.
The choice he’ll have to make to protect the O’Connells could come at a heartbreaking cost. Can Raymond choose between the son he has now and the family he walked away from?
Raymond's story is now available for pre-sale at these eRetailers:
Raymond stared at the old shag carpet, listening to the thump of footsteps and then the water running upstairs. How had his son suddenly found his voice of damned independence for the first time in his life?
Brady was refusing to leave a home that was never supposed to have been permanent. Where had this stubborn streak come from, this sudden determination that he wouldn’t have his life upended anymore? Yes, those had been his exact words, and now Raymond was at a loss for how to get his teenage son out the door and onto a plane. This was a dilemma he’d never thought he’d have.
Raymond had lived and breathed looking over his shoulder, but he couldn’t explain why he found himself staring at the locked front door now, knowing the deadbolt would keep out no one who really wanted to get into the dated old house. Worse yet was the secret that lay behind why they couldn’t stay in Livingston, why they had come and were now leaving. The reason, which he never planned to share with his son, was that he’d had to see in person the family he’d deserted.
Now here he was, waiting in his kitchen, knowing he was going to have to sit his son down for a talk he didn’t want to have. He listened to the footsteps upstairs and glanced at his watch. It was early for Brady to be up on a Saturday morning, even though it was close to noon.
When he heard him on the stairs, his phone dinged with another email message: an inquiry from the Barbados cottage he’d booked and paid for, the one they were supposed to have arrived at the week before.
Brady gave him only a passing glance as he stepped off the last stair, barefoot, his dark hair sticking up. His eyes were his mother’s, but his face and the way he walked… Raymond realized his son looked like Marcus, or maybe Luke.
He was staring at Brady’s back as he reached into the fridge for a jug of milk and then into the cupboard for a bowl, and he could see how deeply ready his son was, by the expression on his face, to go another round with him. Brady set the bowl down, reached for a box of corn flakes, and dumped in the cereal, then milk. Because Raymond was standing in front of the drawer that held the spoons, he wondered whether his son would keep up the silent treatment or ask him to move.
There was the standoff.
Raymond pulled in a breath and tossed a large spoon on the counter. “Saves you having to ask, since I can see you’re still doing your best to give me the silent treatment.”
His son didn’t flinch but snatched the spoon, then walked down over to the old table and pulled out a chair, still barefoot, in a pair of sweats and an old T-shirt.
“So, about Barbados,” Raymond said, “I think we need to have another conversation, because we can’t stay here.”
“I’m not leaving,” Brady said. “I told you that, so don’t think you can strongarm me, because you can’t. I told you already that I like it here. You’re the vagabond who has never been able to stay in one spot long, needing to see the world, but not me. I want roots and friends, and I’m finishing school here.” He shoved another spoonful of cereal in his mouth and didn’t look over to him.
Raymond had to fight the urge to yell, to demand that he get his ass upstairs and pack, because he was his father and he decided when they left and when they stayed. But he’d already done that, and it had backfired. Hence, they were still there.
What had his son said but “You can’t make me”? And so far, he’d been right. Maybe he needed to try the reasoning approach.
“Okay, I see you’re still angry…”
“You’re kidding, right?” Brady tossed down his spoon and looked up to him. “You texted Alison that we were leaving, on my phone, as if it was from me. She’s my friend! I like her, and you had no right. You crossed so many lines, Dad.”
Okay, maybe he had crossed a line, but his son had never pulled something like this before, basically refusing to listen to him. Worse, Brady had no idea the danger he was putting them in.
“Fine, I get it,” Raymond said. “You made your point, but you don’t understand. We have to leave. This was a mistake, coming here—”
“You keep saying that.” Brady cut him off, not something he had done until now. “But when I ask you why, you treat me like I’m just a little kid who’s supposed to listen and fall in line without questioning anything you decide. You say it’s not my concern or that, my all-time favorite, you’re my father and you know best. Well, I hate to tell you this, Dad, but you don’t know what’s best for me. If you did, you wouldn’t be trying to rip me away yet again from a place I like and a girl I’m partial to. You seem to forget I’m eighteen…”
“Not yet, you’re not.”
Brady slapped both his hands to the tabletop, the sound ricocheting through the half-empty house. “In three weeks I will be. I’m not a kid anymore who’s going to be shuffled from one city or country to another, to places where I can’t put pictures up or have a room that’s always mine. Then there’s Alison, who I like a lot.”
All Raymond could do was stand in horror, wondering how this had spun so far out of control—out of his control. “Alison is nothing but trouble, Brady. I told you that, and her family is going through some tough times. She’s not someone you can be involved with.”
Brady inclined his head as if working out a kink. Raymond had never seen this kind of passion and readiness to fight in him. “I hear you, Dad, but I like Alison, and last I looked, this is a democracy, not a dictatorship. You don’t get to pick my friends or who I hang out with or who my girlfriend is. And Alison isn’t trouble. She makes me laugh and smile. So no, I’m not leaving.” Brady picked up his spoon again and dug into his cereal.
Raymond picked up his phone, tapping the screen. “Barbados is a great place. We’d have a cottage on the white sandy beach. We’ve talked about going for a long time. Look, it was supposed to be a surprise, and maybe I didn’t handle this right. I shouldn’t have texted Alison for you. I hear you, and I’m sorry, if that will help. I promise you, this time we’ll stay put for longer. You can make some friends, take up diving like we talked about.”
He walked over to his son, who was working a giant mouthful of milk and cereal, and held out his cell phone to show him the image of the cottage and baby-blue ocean, but Brady only looked up to him after glancing briefly at the image as if it meant nothing.
“Not right now,” he said. “I told you that. It looks nice, Dad, but I’m not going. I’m not leaving Alison right now. I’ve been dragged everywhere for years, but no more. I’m finishing school here. I have friends and Alison. I need to get ready.” He shoved in his last mouthful of cereal before grabbing his bowl and taking it to the sink to rinse it out.
“Get ready for what?” Raymond said. They had to leave Livingston, yet his kid was far too determined, far too independent for his liking. Even though he had known this day was coming, this was a side of his son he’d never expected to see.
“I have a date for a wedding,” Brady said.
“A wedding, what wedding? Who’s getting married?”
Brady left the bowl in the sink and started to leave the kitchen, but he stopped in the archway and looked back at his dad before shrugging. “Alison’s parents are, and I’m her date. I need to hurry, because I promised her I’d be there at one, and I still need to shower and dress.”
Then his son was gone, and all Raymond could do was think of what a problem this was. His son was too stubborn, and another of his sons was getting married.
He knew there was no way this Alison and Brady thing could continue, but he also knew that leaving town without Brady ever learning the truth was now completely off the table. He couldn’t stop his son from walking out the door right now and going to this wedding.
“Shit,” he said. This was just another thing he’d somehow lost control of.
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Chris is used to having whatever he wants—but this time, the irresistible could come at a high price.
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