AVAILABLE FEBRUARY 13TH 2018/MIRA
They called themselves “the lucky ones”
They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.
Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night — was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?
But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.
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McQueen sighed heavily, too wise to retort. He was a handsome man—tan, tall and lean with a twentysomething’s libido. But there was no denying he had crow’s-feet around his eyes, hair more salt than pepper and, on those rare occasions when they were together in public, people always gave them that “daughter or girlfriend?” look. She wouldn’t miss that. She needed to think of other things she wouldn’t miss, but she kept coming up empty-handed.
“Your rent’s paid through the end of the year,” McQueen said. He removed an envelope from the box and showed her the receipt inside. “I would have given you the place, but I don’t own the building. And if you want all the furniture, it’s yours. Anything you don’t want to keep, you can sell.” A surge of relief flooded through her body. She wasn’t married to the place, but she liked having a roof over her head. And it was a very nice apartment—a corner unit on the second floor of a Colonial Revival mansion in historic Old Louisville. McQueen had it furnished with an antique sofa and chairs, plush rugs on the polished wood floors and a luxurious king-size bed. Furnished for him, of course, not her. But she was relieved he wasn’t kicking her out. She had nowhere else to go.
“I appreciate the grace period,” she said.
“If you need more time, please ask for it.” He smiled and took out a smaller envelope. “And I’ve written you a letter of recommendation.”
Now that did make her laugh, loud and hard.
“Recommending me for what?” Allison asked. “Is there an employment agency for rich men looking for mistresses?”
He wrinkled his nose in disgust. “You weren’t my mistress. It’s so…”
“Melodramatic. This was always a friendly business arrangement.”
“I see. So you’re not dumping me, then. You’re firing me.”
Allison turned away from him, back to the window and the peeling paint. Outside a knot of college students, a couple of them in red University of Louisville T-shirts, walked past the house, sweating in the sun. One girl linked arms with her boyfriend. Two other guys lightly punched each other’s arms over a joke. They must have been at most four years younger than her, if that. And yet they looked like children. Happy children. Beautiful, happy children. All children should be that happy.
“I’ll send someone to repaint,” McQueen said. “I want to make sure you get the security deposit back.”
“I can paint it myself.”
“I’ll send someone.”
“It’s my responsibility now, right?”
“And I’m not,” she said.
“Not what?” he asked.
“Your responsibility. Not anymore.”
“That’s going to take some getting used to,” he said.
She turned back around and dug her hands deep into her jeans pockets. He never liked her to wear jeans. Or slacks or sweatpants. Skirts and dresses were his preference—or the lingerie that he bought her. One tiny rebellion, wearing jeans today. And yet she’d topped her outfit with his favorite blouse of hers—the sweet white eyelet lace top that made her look like a pretty hippie lost in time—and worn her hair down and loosely curled the way he loved.
“Get used to it,” she said. “I already am.”
McQueen ignored that and reached into the box again. He pulled out a canvas bag with something inside it the size and density of a brick.
“What’s that?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at the bag.
“Fifty thousand dollars. Cash.”
Allison’s eyes widened.
“It’ll tide you over until you can get a job,” he said. “Or help you through grad school. I know you so I’m giving you an order—do not blow it all on books or give it all away to total strangers with sob stories.”
She ignored that last part. If he was giving her money, she’d do whatever she damned well pleased with it. She’d buy a whole damn bookstore to spite him if she wanted.
“Fifty thousand dollars,” she said. “You must feel really guilty, McQueen.”
“I do feel guilty,” he said with pride. “I paid you not to work after you graduated so I could have you when I wanted you. Three years is a big gap on your résumé.”
“I’ll tell them I was working for you as a professional kept woman. The name of Cooper McQueen goes far in this state.”
“I would prefer you give them the letter of recommendation instead. It says you’re a very good personal assistant.”
“Emphasis on the ‘personal’?” She picked up the bag, weighing it in her hand. “I thought it would be bigger.”
McQueen raised his eyebrow. “Not a sentence I hear often.”