Whiskey Island

Whiskey Island

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by Emilie Richards
     
 

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Once a struggling community of Irish immigrants, Lake Erie's Whiskey Island has a past as colorful as the patrons who frequent the Whiskey Island Saloon. A local gathering place for generations, the saloon is now run by the Donaghue sisters, whose lives and hearts have been shaped by family tragedy and a haunting mystery.

When an act of violence sets the

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Overview

Once a struggling community of Irish immigrants, Lake Erie's Whiskey Island has a past as colorful as the patrons who frequent the Whiskey Island Saloon. A local gathering place for generations, the saloon is now run by the Donaghue sisters, whose lives and hearts have been shaped by family tragedy and a haunting mystery.

When an act of violence sets the wheels of fate in motion, Megan Donaghue, a woman unwilling to trust in love, and Niccolo Andreani, a man unwilling to trust in himself, are determined to learn the truth about one fateful night in the family's long-forgotten past.

As an old man struggles to protect a secret as old as Whiskey Island itself, a murder that still shadows too many lives is about to be solved—with repercussions no one can predict.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A multifaceted charmer, Richards's latest family saga (after Beautiful Lies)intertwines two dramas, separated by a century and linked together by the 1880s journal of Father Patrick McSweeney. The book opens in the year 2000 when the Donaghue sisters reunite at the family-owned Whiskey Island Saloon near Lake Erie. Each sister has problems: Megan is single-handedly running the saloon while waiting for their alcoholic father to find his way home after a mysterious disappearance; Casey has returned after a 10-year absence with somebody's frightened toddler in tow; and Peggy has dropped her plans to enter medical school for reasons she cannot share with her sisters. Spiraling back 120 years in time, the reader is then dropped into the world of Irish immigrants Lena and Terence Tierney. After an accident leaves Terence deformed and jobless, Lena secures a position in a wealthy man's kitchen--but soon learns her employer wants more from her than cooking. Lena turns to Father McSweeney for help, a move that sets into motion a series of events that seamlessly knits together the two stories and reveals a long-buried secret. Though the dialogue can be overly dense, Richards's characters evince impressive depth, and her blend of old and modern makes for a pleasant deviation from the standard historical novel. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781460303023
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
09/17/2012
Sold by:
HARLEQUIN
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
91,498
File size:
1 MB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Emilie Richards’s many novels feature complex characterizations and in-depth explorations of social issues, a result of her training and experience as a family counselor, which contribute to her fascination with relationships of all kinds. Emilie, a mother of four, lives with her husband in northern Virginia, where she is currently working on her next novel for MIRA Books.

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


Cleveland, Ohio January, 2000


Niccolo Andreani did not frequent bars. When he drank, he preferred a classic Chianti over dinner with friends, a dry marsala on a solitary evening, his Tuscan grandfather's own vino santo lifted in a toast at family gatherings. He did not frequent bars, but he frequently walked past this one on his restless nightly prowls. Whiskey Island Saloon bedecked Lookout Avenue the way a faux ruby bedecked a rhinestone choker. It was the centerpiece of the street, a ramshackle, cheerfully rowdy establishment with a steady stream of patrons and a generous sidewalk that made it easy to avoid them.

    Unfortunately, on this particular night, the whim to turn down Lookout and walk past the saloon had changed his life forever.

    Niccolo registered this thought as he came to an abrupt halt, the leather soles of his hiking boots squealing against the asphalt leading into the saloon's narrow parking lot. A question followed. If he silently retraced his steps, could he find help before the situation confronting him exploded?

    A shout from the back of the lot and a woman's terrified scream were his answers. The street was empty, and the saloon was sealed tightly against winter. A carjacking was in progress, and the only help available was one Niccolo Andreani.

    With a grim sense of finality, he entered the lot, raising his hands shoulder high to show he was unarmed. One of two men flanking a car at the back of the lot whirled and pointed a handgun directly at Niccolo's chest. "Where the fuck'd you comefrom?"

    Niccolo raised his hands a little higher and stood perfectly still. "I was just cutting through," he lied.

    "Bad choice." The man with the gun trained at Niccolo's sternum was dark-skinned, with a face like a jigsaw puzzle that had been inexpertly assembled. As if they had carefully discussed racial quotas and partnered accordingly, the other gunman was an anemic blond.

    "Look," Niccolo said, feeling for words. "Why don't you two just get out of here? I'll count slowly to five hundred, and I'll keep them here, too," he said, nodding toward the people trapped helplessly inside the wine-colored Mazda. "But somebody inside that bar's going to hear the shouting and call the cops."

    "You'd better hope they're deaf." The man leered at Niccolo, then motioned him closer to the Mazda. "That's my car now, and I'm gonna drive it out of here."

    As if to punctuate his partner's words, the blonde banged his gun barrel against the driver's window. Niccolo heard a second muffled scream from inside.

    Closer now, under the glow of a streetlamp, he could see that there were two young women in the front seats of the car and a child in the back. Both women looked to be more or less in their twenties. The driver had a waving mass of copper-colored hair, while the passenger's was dark and straight to her shoulders. He would have had to move closer to get a good look at the child, but he didn't have to move anywhere to know that all three of them must be terrified.

    "I'll shoot right through it," the blond carjacker shouted at the driver.

    Niccolo could feel himself sweating under protective layers of wool and Thermolite. His voice seemed to echo in the frostbitten air. "The driver's probably scared to move. Why don't you step back and give her some room? And give the other woman a moment to get the child out."

    "You giving orders?" The blonde leaned his elbows on the top of the car and sighted over it, taking aim at Niccolo. "Like you're somebody?"

    "Just a stranger." Niccolo raised his hands higher. "Who doesn't want to see anybody get hurt. Why don't you let me talk them out of there?"

    "Go on. Step back," the black man shouted to his partner. "He's right. Let'm out."

    The blond carjacker had worn an inappropriate grin since Niccolo's first glimpse of him. It broadened farther as he waved the gun from side to side, weighing alternatives.

    At last he stepped back a few inches. Niccolo could feel his heart making up for beats suppressed. He raised his voice so the women would hear him. "I think you'd better come out right now. He's going to give you the room you need. But he doesn't have a lot of time."

    "Shit, man!" The blonde took one more step backward, colliding with an old Chevy wedged tightly beside the Mazda. "Get out!" he shouted at the driver. "Now. Right now!"

    The parking lot was small and narrow, with two rows of cars and a middle aisle. A streetlamp at each end, crumbling asphalt, a Dumpster hiding what was probably a kitchen entrance into the Whiskey Island Saloon. It was a Tuesday night, just weeks into a new millennium, bitter cold and growing icy, too late for dinner, too early for a quick round before closing. The lot was only half-full, and the street was still quiet.

    Niccolo prayed silently. Let the women do what they're told. Let no one come by to upset the balance. Let the gunmen drive away with no one harmed. For a moment he was afraid his prayers had gone unheard. Then the car door opened, and the driver, a tall woman whose pale coppery hair glowed in the lamplight, stepped out.

    "You can't have her." She lifted her chin. "You'll have to kill me first."

    "You're threatening me?" The blonde was incredulous. "You think you got some special pull? I got a gun!"

    "You can't have her."

    The dark-skinned man turned his head. "Lady, it's just a car. You gonna trade your life for a hunk of metal? He'll shoot you, you don't give him those keys."

    She hesitated. "Just the car? You just want the car?"

    "Lady—"

    "Please," she said, just loudly enough that Niccolo could hear. "Don't hurt anybody."

    "Gimme the keys."

    The driver stubbornly folded her arms over her chest to protect the key ring. "Not until everybody's out. Peggy, get Ashley."

    The blond gunman leaped forward and pinned her against the side of the car, the gun nestled against the hollow of her throat.

    The passenger door opened and the dark-haired woman—obviously Peggy—jumped to the ground. She was younger than Niccolo has guessed at first sight, slight, with dark chestnut hair and an oval, almost surreally beautiful face, which was understandably contorted with fear. "Just let me get Ashley out of her seat," she pleaded.

    The carjacker holding the gun on Niccolo answered. "Get her and shut up!"

    Peggy, who was a full head shorter than the driver, scurried sideways and flipped up the front seat, reaching for the little girl in the back. "Ashley, quick."

    Niccolo could see the little girl shrinking back against a booster seat. "No!"

    "Do as I say, Ashley."

    The child wailed. "Don't let them take me!"

    Peggy leaned in farther, untangling the child from her restraints and pulling her resisting body forward. "Stop it, Ashley!" she pleaded.

    "No!" the little girl cried as the young woman lifted her from the car. "I want my mommy!"

    "Please. Just let the three of them come over here now," Niccolo beseeched the gunman. "I'll be sure they don't do anything stupid."

    The dark-skinned carjacker, who seemed to be the more reasonable of the two, motioned the woman and child toward Niccolo. "Get over there."

    Clutching her burden, Peggy stumbled to Niccolo's side. But he wasn't watching. His eyes were on the blond carjacker, who still had his gun pressed against the driver's throat. As Niccolo watched, the driver unfolded her arms and held out a key ring.

    "Let her go, please. She'll be out of your way over here," Niccolo said, as calmly as he could. "We're not going anywhere until you've driven away. Like your friend said, it's just a car. Don't hurt anybody."

    "Yeah, let her go," the other carjacker echoed, "Let's get going."

    "I don't know," the blond man said, running the barrel of his gun up and down the driver's throat. "She's kinda cute, don't you think? Maybe we oughtta bring her along for company."

    The little girl struggled in Peggy's arms. "I don't want to go back—"

    "Hush, Ashley," Peggy murmured. "Hush."

    Niccolo glanced sideways and caught the terror on the young woman's face as she pressed the child's against her shoulder. The little girl, who was too young to understand that she was in no immediate danger, began to moan.

    "Ah, let the bitch go," the black man said, louder this time. "Let's get going."

    The blond gunman hesitated, then he stepped back to let the driver escape. For a moment Niccolo thought the worst might be over, that this random act of violence would end with nothing more than a stolen car. But before the driver could take two steps away, the blonde slammed his palms against her shoulders and knocked her against the door again. Her head snapped back. "I tell you to do something, you do it," he shouted in her face. "Got it?"

    "Yes ..." Her voice wavered.

    "Next time I tell you to get outta the car, you get outta the car."

    "Sure."

    "Next time I tell you gimme the keys, you gimme the keys!"

    "Whatever you say."

    "I say maybe you ought to come with us. Maybe we ought to see just how willing you are!"

    "Shit, man," the other gunman said. "You trying to get us caught? There ain't gonna be a next time. Let's get outta here!" He backed up slowly toward the Mazda, aiming alternately at Niccolo and the females beside him in warning.

    Niccolo gritted his teeth, but he knew better than to utter another word. The blond carjacker was on a power trip, and the next logical step was to kill somebody to prove what a big man he was. Even the child seemed to sense the import of the moment and ceased her moaning.

    "Oh, go on!" The blonde grabbed the driver's arm and flung her roughly in the direction of the hood. "Get over there."

    Niccolo saw relief flit across the other carjacker's features. The Mazda's driver stumbled across the lot to join Niccolo and the others. Niccolo's own relief was short-lived. The quiet of the street was split by the banshee wail of a siren, and the night was tinged with swirling ruby light.

    "Deliver us from evil ..." Niccolo whispered.

    "Fuck it all! We gotta get out of here. Grab the kid," the blonde shouted, waving his gun at his partner.

    "Are you crazy?" The second carjacker looked terrified now.

    "Get the kid! They won't let us out of here if you don't!"

    Niccolo stepped sideways to shield Peggy and the child in her arms. "No! Just get going. I'll tell the police you didn't hurt anybody. I'll keep them here while you—"

    For the second time that night the black man whirled and pointed his gun at Niccolo's chest; then he started toward him, covering the ground in long steps. "Get outta my way!"

    Fired at close range, a bullet would pass right through his own body and probably hit the little girl or one of the two women behind him, Niccolo knew. He had no doubt that if he stood his ground, a bullet would be fired. As the gunman drew closer, Niccolo could see the frantic twist of his asymmetrical features. The man was desperate. He would shoot anybody who got in his way.

    Niccolo stepped aside, his decision made. The blonde had already planted himself behind the Mazda's steering wheel. In a moment the other gunman would wrench the child from Peggy's arms. By then the Mazda would be pulling toward them. Niccolo knew he could not let the men take the child.

    "I'll come with you instead...." Peggy was sobbing now. "Take me...."

    At the same moment that the car should have roared to life, the black gunman stretched out one arm to grab the child, but the only audible sound was another blast of the siren, followed by the blare of a police radio.

    Niccolo waited for the second when the gunman would be off balance and his aim askew. "Down!" he shouted to the women as the gunman leaned forward. At the same moment, with all his considerable strength, Niccolo slammed his fist against the gunman's wrist.

    The gunman spun with the force but didn't lose his balance. As the copper-haired driver threw herself against Peggy and the child to knock them to the ground, the gunman swung his gun at Niccolo and fired.

    Niccolo didn't have time for a better plan. He lowered his head and charged, using his head like a battering ram. The gunman fell backward under the impact of Niccolo's blow just as the police cruiser pulled into the lot.

    Doors slammed. Someone grabbed Niccolo's elbow, and he staggered upright. "There's another one in the car." He was surprised to hear himself. His voice seemed to have lost power. "Another carjacker. He's got a gun...."

    He pointed at the Mazda, which, surprisingly, hadn't moved from its parking space. As he tried to focus on the car, he saw a shadowy figure disappear behind the Dumpster, glimpsing only enough detail to see that the figure seemed to be wrapped in layers of clothing.

    The night's events had clouded his thinking. For a moment Niccolo wondered where the blond carjacker had found clothes to disguise himself and why he was escaping unnoticed.

    One cop handcuffed the man at Niccolo's feet. The second, gun drawn, started toward the Mazda.

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