Sometimes love can take you by surprise.
Kara Newell has a big-city life that needs a major shake-up. Her dedication as a social worker is unwavering, yet her heart tells her that there is more to life than just work. Kara gets the push she needs when she shockingly inherits a large estate on an island off the South Carolina coast. Now the charming town of Angels Landing awaits her . . . along with a secret family she never knew she had.
After surviving war, loss, and heartbreak, ex-marine Jeffrey Hamilton takes his position as sheriff of idyllic Cavanaugh Island very seriously. So he is the perfect person to watch over the beautiful, confident woman who has turned her new family's expectations upside down-and stepped into the crosshairs of angry local residents.
But soon Kara becomes more than just a job to him, and he begins to need her in ways he never expected. As Kara and Jeffrey confront the town gossips together, they'll learn to face their fears and forgive their pasts in order to find a future filled with happiness in Angels Landing.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Rochelle Alers
ForeverCopyright © 2012 Rochelle Alers
All right reserved.
Good morning, ma’am. May I help you?”
Kara returned the receptionist’s friendly smile with a bright one of her own. She’d recently celebrated her thirty-third birthday, and it was the first time she’d ever been called “ma’am”; but then she had to remind herself that she wasn’t in New York but in the South. Here it was customary to greet people with “yes, ma’am” and “sir,” rather than “missy” or “yo, my man.”
“I’m Kara Newell, and I have a ten o’clock appointment with Mr. Sullivan,” she said, introducing herself.
The receptionist’s smile was still in place when she replied, “Please have a seat, Miss Newell. Mr. Sullivan will be with you shortly.”
Kara sat down in a plush armchair in the law firm’s waiting area. The walls were covered with a wheatlike fabric and artwork depicting fox hunting scenes. She’d planned to take a break from her social worker position at a New York City agency by visiting her family in Little Rock, Arkansas. She never anticipated having to travel to Charleston, South Carolina, instead.
The certified letter from Sullivan, Webster, Matthews and Sullivan requesting her attendance at the reading of a will had come as a complete shock. When she’d spoken to Mr. David Sullivan Jr. to inform him that she didn’t know a Taylor Patton, the attorney reassured her that his client had been more than familiar with her.
Kara had called her parents to let them know she wouldn’t be coming to Little Rock as scheduled because she had to take care of some business. She didn’t tell her mother what that business was because it was still a mystery to her as to why she’d been summoned to the reading of a stranger’s will. It was only when the attorney mentioned it had something to do with a relative she wasn’t familiar with that she’d decided to make the trip.
She unbuttoned the jacket to her wool pantsuit. Although the temperatures had been below freezing when she’d boarded the flight in New York City, it was at least fifty degrees warmer in Charleston. One of the things she’d missed most about living in the South was the mild winters. By the time the jet touched down, Kara barely had time to hail a taxi, check into her downtown Charleston hotel room, shower, and grab a quick bite to eat before it was time to leave. She sat up straight when a tall, slender black man approached her.
Pushing off the chair, Kara smiled. “Yes.”
“Good morning, Miss Newell. David Sullivan,” he said in introduction, extending his hand.
His hand was soft, his grip firm, which took her by surprise. As she took in the sight of him, she realized he didn’t quite fit the description she’d had. The one time she’d spoken to Mr. Sullivan, there was something in his tone that made her think he was much older than he looked. Now she realized they were about the same age. Conservatively dressed in a navy-blue pin-striped suit, white shirt, blue-and-white dotted tie, and black wing tips, he released her hand.
“It’s nice meeting you, Mr. Sullivan.”
David inclined his head. “Same here, Miss Newell. It’s nice having a face to go along with the voice.” Taking her elbow, he led her out of the waiting room and down a carpeted hallway to a set of double ornately carved oak doors at the end of the hallway. “I’d like to caution you before we go in. I don’t want you to reply or react to anything directed toward you. Taylor Patton was my client, and that means indirectly you are also my client.”
A shiver of uneasiness swept over Kara like a blast of frigid air. What, she mused, was she about to walk into? For the first time since she’d read the letter, she chided herself for not revealing its contents to her mother.
“What do you mean?” Kara asked.
“I can’t explain it now, Miss Newell. But I want you to trust me enough to know that I’m going to make certain to protect your interests.”
When the doors opened, Kara suddenly felt as if she were about to go on trial. The room was filled with people sitting around a massive rosewood conference table. She heard a slight gasp from the man sitting nearest the door, but he recovered quickly when she stared at him. The hazel eyes glaring at her—so much like her own—were cold, angry. The resemblance between her and the man was remarkable. So much so that they could have been brother and sister. But Kara didn’t have a brother—at least not one she was aware of. She was an only child.
David directed her to a chair at the opposite end of the room, seating her on his left while he took his place at the head of the table. He still hadn’t revealed to Kara why he’d wanted her to attend the reading of the will of Taylor Patton, but his cautioning was enough to let her know she was involved in something that was about to change her life. The fact that she resembled several of those in the conference room led Kara to believe there was a possibility she just might be related to the deceased.
Resting her hands in her lap, Kara listened as David informed everyone that a stenographer would record the proceedings, asking those present to introduce themselves for the record. Kara glanced at the stenographer sitting in a corner, fingers poised on the keys of the stenotype machine resting on a tripod.
David touched her hand, nodding. “Kara Elise Newell,” she said, beginning the introductions. One by one the eleven others gave their names.
The men were Pattons, while the women were hyphenated Pattons, with one exception. Kara glanced at Analeigh Patton’s hands. Unlike the others, her fingers were bare. A hint of a smile inched up the corners of Analeigh’s mouth, and a slow smile found its way to Kara’s eyes.
Everyone’s attention was directed toward David when he cleared his voice, slipped on a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses, and opened the folder in front of him. “ ‘I, Taylor Scott Patton of Palmetto Lane, Cavanaugh Island, South Carolina, do hereby make, publish, and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby expressly revoking all wills and codicils, heretofore made by me.’ ”
Kara felt her mind wandering when David mentioned that as the executor he would judicially pay the deceased’s enforceable debts and administrative expenses of Taylor’s estate as soon as possible. Taylor hadn’t married; therefore, there was no spouse to whom he would have bequeathed his belongings. All of the Pattons leaned forward as if the motion had been choreographed in advance when David paused briefly. Then he continued to read.
“ ‘I do give and bequeath to my daughter, Kara Elise Newell, all my personal effects and all my tangible personal property, including automobiles owned by me and held for my personal use at the time of my death, cash on hand in bank accounts in my own name, securities, or other intangibles.’ ”
Kara went completely still, unable to utter a sound as pandemonium followed. The room was full of screams, tears, shouts of fraud, and threats to her person. Another two minutes passed before David was able to restore a modicum of civility. “Ladies, gentlemen, please restrain yourselves. Remember, this proceeding is being recorded, so please refrain from threatening my client. By the way, there is more.”
The man who’d glared at Kara stood up. “What’s left? My uncle has given this impostor everything.”
“Please sit down, Harlan. I can assure you that Miss Newell is not an impostor,” David said.
Kara wanted to agree with the Pattons. Austin Newell, not Taylor Patton, was her father. She closed her eyes, her heart pounding a runaway rhythm, as David outlined the conditions of what she’d inherited: She must restore Angels Landing to its original condition; make Angels Landing her legal residence for the next five years; and allow the groundskeeper and his wife, who would receive a lump sum of fifty thousand dollars, to continue to live out their natural lives in one of the two guesthouses. In addition, she could not sell any parcel of land to a nonfamily member without unanimous approval of all Cavanaugh Island Pattons, and the house and its contents could only be deeded to a Patton.
She opened her eyes and let out an inaudible sigh when David enumerated names and monies set aside in trust for three grandnephews and two grandnieces for their college education. This pronouncement satisfied some, but not all. There were yet more threats and promises to contest the will.
Forty-five minutes after she’d entered the conference room, Kara found herself alone with Taylor Patton’s attorney. Holding her head in her hands, she tried to grasp what had just happened. She hadn’t risen with the others because she wasn’t certain whether her legs would’ve supported her body. David had warned her not to say anything, and she hadn’t, but only because she couldn’t. Reaching for the glass of water that had been placed before each chair, she took a sip.
David removed his glasses and laced his fingers together. “So, Miss Newell, you are now the owner of a house listed on the National Register of Historic Places and two thousand acres of prime land on Cavanaugh Island.”
Kara’s eyelids fluttered as if she’d just surfaced from a trance. “I’m sorry to inform you, but Taylor Patton is not my father.”
David’s eyes narrowed. “Did your mother ever mention Taylor Patton’s name?”
She shook her head. “No. The only father I know is Austin Newell.”
“Well, I can assure you that you are Taylor’s biological daughter. In fact, you are his only child.”
Kara closed her eyes. When she opened them, they were filled with fear and confusion. “How is that possible?” The query was a whisper.
“That is something you’ll have to discuss with your mother.”
She would talk to her mother, but not over the phone. What she and Jeannette Newell needed to discuss had to be done face-to-face. Combing her fingers through her hair, Kara held it off her forehead. “Please tell me this is a dream.”
David sat on the edge of the table, staring at Kara’s bowed head, a look of compassion across his features. “Even if I did, it still wouldn’t change anything.” Reaching into the breast pocket of his suit jacket, he took out a small kraft envelope, spilling its contents on the table in front of her. “These are keys to the house in Angels Landing, Taylor’s car, and his safe-deposit box in a bank in Sanctuary Cove.”
Kara released her hair, the chin-length, chemically straightened strands falling into place. “Where’s Sanctuary Cove?”
“It’s on Cavanaugh Island, southeast of Angels Landing. You only have ten days to transfer the accounts from Taylor’s to your name. By the way, do you have a rental?”
“No. I took a taxi from the airport to the hotel.”
“Good?” Kara repeated.
David smiled. “Yes. It means I don’t have to get someone to drop it off for you. I’m going to have our driver take you back to the hotel so you can pick up your luggage, and then he’ll take you to Angels Landing.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m planning to leave for Little Rock tomorrow.”
“Can you hold off leaving for a few days?”
“David. May I call you David?” He nodded. “When you wrote and asked me to come here, I never could’ve imagined that the man I’ve believed was my father all these years is not my father. Not to mention that I now have a bunch of cousins who can’t wait to put out a hit on me so they can inherit my unforeseen assets, assets I don’t need or want.”
“Are you saying you’re going to walk away from your birthright?”
“A birthright I knew nothing about.”
David leaned in closer. “A birthright you need to protect, Kara. If you walk away from this, then you’ll be playing right into the hands of the developers who’ve preyed on the folks who’ve lived on the Sea Island and who’ll turn their inhabitants’ birthright into a playground for millionaires.”
Kara felt as if her emotions were under attack. “But… but the will states I can only sell the land to a Patton.”
“Pattons who want to sell more than half of Angels Landing.”
“Why would they want to do that?” A pregnant silence filled the room as she and David stared at each other.
“Greed, Kara. If they can get you to go along with their way of thinking and you sell your two thousand acres, the monies they’ll receive for the sale will be divided among them evenly.”
An expression of confusion crossed her face. “How many acres do they hold collectively?”
“Probably about four hundred,” David said.
“Hypothetically, if I decide to hand over my shares and we sell twenty-four hundred acres at let’s say a thousand dollars per acre. Are you telling me two-point-four million will be divided among twelve of us?”
He didn’t respond. Instead, she did the calculations in her head. Instead of $2 million she would get $200,000. “The split seems a little inequitable, especially if I hold the majority shares.”
David’s dark eyebrows lifted a fraction. “They see you as an outsider, someone who will take the money and run. Please don’t prove them right.”
“What do you expect me to do?”
“I’d like you to give yourself a week to think about it. Stay at the house, tour the island. If you decide you prefer the Big Apple to the Lowcountry, then you walk away and…”
“I walk away and what?” Kara asked when David didn’t finish his statement.
“The surviving heirs will contest the will, it will go into probate, and after the state of South Carolina gets its share, the family will get what’s left.”
She gave the dapper attorney a long, penetrating stare. He was asking for a week while her supposed biological father had asked her for five years. Right now Kara had three weeks of vacation time: one she could spend in Angels Landing and the other two in Arkansas before returning to New York. She hadn’t told her parents when to expect her, so Kara decided to change her travel plans yet again.
“Okay. I’ll try it for a week.”
David blew out an audible breath. “Thank you.” He stood, walked over to the wall phone, and pushed the speaker feature. “Please tell Linc I need him to drive a client to her hotel. He’s to wait for her to check out, and then I want him to take her to Taylor Patton’s house.” He ended the call and came over to cup Kara’s elbow when she stood up. “I’m going to call my cousin, Jeffrey Hamilton, who’s the island’s sheriff and have him stop in to check on you. I’ll be in court for the next two days, but as soon as there is a recess, I’ll come out to see you. Meanwhile, Jeff or one of his deputies will help you if you need anything.”
Kara nodded her head in agreement, trying to keep her emotions in check. Taylor Patton was her biological father?
Jeffrey Hamilton leaned back in his chair, booted feet propped up on the corner of the scarred desk. He’d submitted his department’s budget to the mayor and town council at the January meeting, yet it was mid-March and he was still awaiting delivery of new office furniture. Ever since he’d been appointed sheriff of Cavanaugh Island, Jeff had attempted to refurbish his office and expand the force from three deputies to four. Sadly, things seemed to be taking a lot longer than he’d first thought.
The cell phone on his desk rang. Glancing at the display, Jeff answered it on the second ring. “What’s up, David?”
“Is there anyone in your jail that needs legal counsel?”
He laughed softly. “Sorry, Cuz, but I haven’t locked up anyone in more than three weeks. Are you calling to let me know that you’re ready to pop the question to that gorgeous oral surgeon you’ve been seeing?”
“We’re not even close to that. I’d like you to go out to Angels Landing and check on the new owner. Her name is Kara Newell.”
“Is there anything I should know about her?” Jeff asked.
“I may as well tell you now because gossip about her is going to spread across the island faster than a cat can lick its whiskers. She’s Taylor Patton’s daughter.”
“I was under the impression that Taylor didn’t have any children.”
“Most of us thought the same thing.”
Jeff shifted, and his chair groaned like someone in pain. “How are the others taking the news?”
“Let’s just say they’re not too happy that she exists. That’s why I’m calling you.”
“Don’t worry, David. I’ll keep an eye on her.” He knew his cousin couldn’t divulge how he’d come by the proof because he was still bound by attorney-client privilege, even in death.
“Thanks, Jeff. By the way, how is Aunt Corrine?”
“Grandmomma’s good. Have you made plans for Easter?”
“Yep. Petra and I are going down to St. Thomas for a few days. You’re welcome to join us.”
Jeff stared at his spit-shined boots. After spending twenty years in the Marine Corps, he still enjoyed the age-old tradition of shining his shoes and boots. “I’d love to, but I gave my deputies time off to spend with their families.”
“Speaking of families, Jeff, when are you going to settle down and have a couple of kids?”
He sat up and lowered his feet. “After you get married and have one.”
David’s chuckle came through the earpiece. “You’ve got a few years on me, Cuz, so you’re first. I have to hang up because I have a meeting with a new client. Call me if Kara is having trouble with her new family.”
“No problem,” Jeff promised.
He ended the call, then slipped the cell phone into the case attached to his gun belt. He was walking out of his office when his clerk, Winnie Powell, entered the police station through the back door.
Winnie smiled, her bright blue eyes sparkling like blue topaz. She fluffed up her short, curly hair. “It looks like rain.”
He returned her smile. “We could use a little of that.” The winter had been unusually dry. “I’m going over to Angels Landing.”
Winnie nodded as Jeff headed out of the station. Once in the parking lot that served the town hall, courthouse, and police station, the humidity wrapped around him like a wet blanket. He got into the Jeep and started the engine. The vehicle had been emblazoned with a sheriff logo on the passenger-side doors and refitted with a partition separating the front seats from the rear ones. Within minutes of driving, the rain had begun as Winnie predicted, the sound of the wipers breaking the silence.
Slowing to ten miles an hour, Jeff drove through downtown Sanctuary Cove, passing Jack’s Fish House, the town square with its fountain and marble statue of patriot militia General Francis Marion atop a stallion, and the Cove Inn, the town’s boardinghouse. Once he’d taken over as sheriff, he’d convinced the town council to lower the town’s speed limit to fifteen miles an hour because there were no traffic lights in the Cove and to discourage teenagers from drag racing. Amazingly, there hadn’t been posted speed limits for years.
Maneuvering onto an unpaved road, he shifted into four-wheel drive. A marker pointing the way to Angels Landing came into view, and Jeff turned onto Palmetto Lane and headed to the house that had given this section of Cavanaugh Island its name. The few times he’d come to Angels Landing, Jeff felt as if he’d stepped back in time. The antebellum mansion at the end of a live oak allée was breathtaking with its columned, wraparound porch. The rose-colored limestone Greek Revival home, with its pale pink marble columns and black-shuttered tall windows, had been one of the finest homes on the island.
Jeff parked next to the vintage Mercedes-Benz sedan that had belonged to Taylor Patton. Reaching for his cap on the passenger seat, he pulled it on. The rain was now a steady drizzle as he sprinted to the front door, which opened as he wiped his boots on the thick rush mat.
“Why, if it isn’t Corrine Hamilton’s grandbaby boy. What brings you out this way?”
Jeff took off his cap and curbed the urge to roll his eyes upward. The petite woman and her groundskeeper husband had worked for the Pattons for longer than he could remember. He also wanted to remind Mrs. Todd that at forty he had left boyhood behind many years before.
“Good afternoon, Miss Iris. I’m here to see Ms. Kara Newell. Is she in?”
Mrs. Todd’s dark eyes narrowed suspiciously behind her rimless glasses. “Did she do something, son?”
Jeff tightened his grip on his cap. It was apparent that the housekeeper had transferred her loyalty from Taylor to his daughter within weeks of his death. Those who lived on Cavanaugh Island joked that it was easier to gain access to the Oval Office than to cross the threshold to this historic house.
“No, she didn’t, Miss Iris. David Sullivan asked me to look in on her.”
Mrs. Todd opened the door wider. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?” She smiled. “Follow me. She’s in the garden room.”
Jeff shook his head in amazement as he followed the elderly woman, who was dressed in a crisp gray uniform that matched the coronet of braids atop her head. It had been years since he’d stepped foot into the house, but like the exterior, nothing had changed. It had the same vases, lamps, tables, and chairs. Mrs. Todd directed him down a narrow carpeted hallway to a doorway on the south side of the property.
He stopped at the entrance to a room filled with potted plants, trees, and flowers. The sound of soft music flowed from somewhere in the indoor oasis. His gaze shifted to the housekeeper when she approached the woman reclining in a cushioned chaise and spoke quietly to her.
Jeff felt his heart stop when Kara Newell swung her long, slender, bare legs over the chaise and stood up to face him.
She was absolutely stunning. Anyone familiar with the Pattons would recognize the startling resemblance between Kara and her paternal grandmother Theodora—or Teddy as she had been affectionately called by her husband. His gaze went from her tousled hair, pulled up in a short ponytail, to the tawny face with large hazel eyes, cute button nose, and lushly curved full lips, then lower to a white tank top and olive-green shorts. Each time she took a breath, the swell of her breasts were visible above the top’s neckline. Scolding himself, he focused his attention on her face rather than staring at her chest. She was slim but had curves in all the right places.
He inclined his head. “Ms. Newell.”
Kara smiled and offered her hand. “Please call me Kara.”
Taking three long strides, Jeff grasped her hand, holding it gently within his much larger one. “Jeff Hamilton.”
“David told me you would stop by. Would you like to sit down?”
“Thank you.” He waited until Kara sat on a pull-up chair at a small round table covered with a floral tablecloth before sitting on the matching one.
A pair of eyes with glints of gold and green met his. “May I offer you something to eat or drink?” Kara asked Jeff.
“No, thank you.” He crossed one jean-covered knee over the other. “Have you settled in?”
Kara assumed a similar pose, staring at the polish on her bare toes. “There’s not going to be much settling in. I’ll only be here a week.”
Leaning forward, Jeff lowered his leg, planting both feet on the worn rug. “Are you telling me that you don’t plan to live here?”
“No, I’m not telling you that.”
“Then what is it you’re not saying?”
“Why do I get the impression that you’re interrogating me, Sheriff Hamilton?”
Jeff’s impassive expression did not change with her accusation. “If I were interrogating you, Kara, you wouldn’t have to ask. All I want is a yes or no as to whether you plan to live on Cavanaugh Island.”
“I can’t give you a yes or no, Sheriff Hamilton.”
“Okay, Jeff. As I said, I can’t answer that question right now. I promised David I would spend a week on the island before making a decision. Only two hours ago I was told the man I believed to be my father isn’t.” She looked away from him, trying to hold back the tears forming in her eyes. “When I walked into that conference room earlier this morning and saw people staring at me who look like me… to say it was a shock is putting it mildly. Then I was told that I’ve inherited a house, two thousand acres of land that my so-called relatives want me to sell to a group of greedy developers, and I must live here for five years. If I do so, it means I have to resign from my job, give up my Manhattan apartment, which has an incredible view of the East River, and lose contact with a group of friends I’ve become extremely close to.”
“Yes, I can understand how difficult that may be. Not only will you have to uproot your entire life, but you’ll also have to deal with the family issue.” Jeff lifted his broad shoulders under a long-sleeved chambray shirt. “The upside is you can always get another job and make new friends. And instead of views of the river, you’ll have views of the ocean.”
Kara folded her arms across her chest. “You make it sound so easy.”
A hint of a smile tilted the corners of Jeff’s mouth. “Because it is. I gave up a military career to come back here to take care of my grandmother.”
“You think so, Kara?”
“Of course it is. There is no discussion when it comes to family. You do what you have to do,” Kara said.
“Like you have to accept your birthright and honor your father’s last wishes.”
“What’s with this birthright thing?” she asked.
Jeff stood up. “I’ll tell you sometime soon. Right now, I have to get back.”
Kara also rose to her feet. “When will I see you again?”
“Tomorrow. I’m off, and if you don’t have anything planned, I’ll come by and take you to Jack’s for lunch and give you a crash course in Lowcountry culture.”
“I’d like you to answer one question for me, Jeff.”
“Do you have something against the Pattons?”
“Nothing personal. I just don’t like it when people threaten others.”
Her eyes grew wider. “Did David tell you what happened?”
“He didn’t have to. You can say I read between the lines. As sheriff of Cavanaugh, I have zero tolerance for those who break the law. And to me threats are a serious offense. I’ll pick you up at twelve.”
Jeff didn’t give Kara a chance to accept or reject his offer when he turned on his heels and walked out of the room. He’d been back for almost a year, and it was the first time that a woman had captured his attention for more than a few minutes.
There was something about Kara, other than her natural beauty, that had him enthralled. He didn’t know whether it was her big-city attitude, but whatever it was, he intended to discover it before the week ended and Kara was out of his life for good.
Kara sat motionless, her gaze fixed on a potted palm. It had been more than two hours since David had informed her that Austin Newell was not her biological father; instead, her father was a dead man who knew about her when she hadn’t known he existed. The news had stunned her, the hostility exhibited by the Pattons frightened her, and Sheriff Hamilton coming to see her made their threats even more terrifying.
Any normal person would’ve been overjoyed to inherit a house listed on the National Register of Historic Places and two thousand acres of land and four automobiles—three of which were classics—cash on hand, securities, and other tangibles in Taylor Patton’s name. And if the house, its contents, the cars, and the land was an indication, then there was no doubt she’d become a very wealthy woman.
Kara knew she had to call her mother because only Jeannette Newell could give her the answers she needed as to her true paternity. What she didn’t want to think about was her mother’s duplicity. How could she hide the true identity of the man who’d fathered her for more than three decades, while Austin, the only father she’d ever known, had become a coconspirator?
She also knew she couldn’t avoid the inevitable but decided to wait—wait until her mother was at home before calling her. Normally Kara would’ve called Jeannette at the senior residence where she headed the nursing unit, but she couldn’t find the nerve to talk to her mother just yet. She also wanted to tell her mother that her travel plans had changed and not to expect her the following day.
David has asked if she would stay on the island for a week, and she’d said she would. A week was more than enough time to uncover what David and Jeff Hamilton had warned her about giving up: her birthright.
Kara bit her lower lip. Whenever she heard the word birthright, she thought of her Sunday school lesson about twin brothers Esau and Jacob. Firstborn Esau cared little for his birthright, so he sold it under oath to Jacob for bread and lentil soup because he was hungry. She also recalled that Jacob had not only taken Esau’s birthright, but also his dying father’s blessing.
Was that what she was going to do? Walk away and give her birthright to relatives who in turn would sell it to developers? Or would they sell her two thousand acres and keep the money—a sale that would drastically affect the lives of the residents of Angels Landing and Cavanaugh Island forever?
She could take the proceeds and buy a co-op or condo in an upscale Manhattan neighborhood, maybe a house in the suburbs where she could park her own car in her driveway instead of hailing taxis or renting cars to take her whenever she wanted to go. She could also plant a rose garden and even get a little dog that would have a backyard to run in.
Kara could do a lot with her newfound wealth, but in reality it really wasn’t her money, even though Taylor had believed she was entitled to all his worldly possessions. She didn’t want to think that he had included her in his will out of a perverted sense of guilt. Had Jeannette come to him with the news that she was carrying his child, and he’d turned his back on her?
The questions assaulted Kara like barbs, and she was unable to parry them. Combing her fingers through her hair, Kara dug her nails into her scalp, welcoming the pain. She knew she had to pull herself together or lose it completely.
Her hands came down, and she turned to find Mrs. Todd standing only a few feet away. Kara hadn’t heard her come into the room. She stood up. “Please call me Kara, Mrs. Todd.”
The older woman inclined her head. “Miss… I mean, Kara. I made lunch. Would you like to have it in the breakfast room or on the back porch?”
Kara smiled. “In the breakfast room.”
She hadn’t believed how quickly her life had changed. She now had someone to cook and clean up after her—something that made her uncomfortable. Iris Todd had introduced herself and then informed Kara that Angels Landing had been her only home for the past fifty-five years; she’d worked for Taylor Patton’s mother, Theodora, then stayed on after her death to assume total responsibility of running the household for Mr. Taylor.
She followed the tiny, doll-like woman with a sable-brown complexion and snow-white hair. “Mrs. Todd, I’d like you to tell me about my… Taylor Patton.” Kara had caught herself before calling him “father.”
Mrs. Todd shook her head. “Cain’t do that. Not up to me to talk his business. God bless the dead.”
“I’m not asking you to divulge his secrets.”
Mrs. Todd stopped midstep, turned, and faced Kara. “There are no secrets because around here, there is no such thing as a secret. This town is so small, everybody knows everyone’s business.”
“What did he do?”
A network of faint lines fanned out around the housekeeper’s eyes when she smiled. “David didn’t tell you?”
A look of confusion crossed Kara’s face. “Tell me what?”
“Mr. Taylor was an investment banker. He handled rich folks’ money jest like it was his own. Made tons of money for them even though they didn’t need no more.”
Kara sucked in her breath, held it, and then let it out slowly. If Taylor Patton had made his rich clients even richer, then there was no doubt he had done the same for himself. “Is there a safe in this house?”
“No. Why you asking?”
“I thought perhaps Mr. Patton kept his important papers there.”
Mrs. Todd squinted behind her glasses. “Why do you keep calling him Mr. Patton instead of your daddy?”
“Because I’m not certain if he is my daddy.”
“Oh, he your father all right. You look jest like Miss Theodora. Or Teddy as the fancy folks around here used to call her. Yes, Kara. You the spitting image of your grandmomma.”
So that’s why the Pattons had looked at her as if she were an apparition, Kara recalled. It was obvious they’d known something she hadn’t when she’d walked into the law firm’s conference room, even before the reading of the will. They knew just by looking at her that she was a Patton. So why had they tried to deny her?
Kara still couldn’t bring herself to think of Taylor Patton as her father and certainly not daddy.
Mrs. Todd angled her head, appearing deep in thought. “I don’t know if Mr. Taylor had a safe. He took his papers to the bank in Sanctuary Cove.”
Again she was reminded of the envelope David had given her with keys to the house, cars, and safe-deposit box. The first thing on her agenda the following day was to go to the bank and go through the contents of the box.
Mrs. Todd took a step, resting a hand on Kara’s arm. “Don’t you worry yourself none, honey. Everything will work out in its own time. All you need is a little faith.”
That’s what I’m hoping for, Kara thought. She wanted to tell Mrs. Todd she needed an abundance of faith. She also wanted everything to work out so she could visit with her family in Little Rock; return to New York; and pick up her life as if she’d never heard of David Sullivan, Taylor Patton, or the Angels Landing Pattons.
“How did he die?” Kara asked.
“Mr. Taylor had problems with his heart. He went to bed one night and never woke up. My husband tried reviving him, but when the doctor from the Cove came and covered him with a sheet, we knew it was too late. It’s a shame because he was only fifty-six.”
Taylor Patton was fifty-six, the same age as her mother. Kara followed Mrs. Todd down a narrow hallway, into the kitchen, and to an alcove that overlooked the rear of the house. Upon close inspection she saw the shabbiness of the worn carpets and fading wallpaper. The antebellum mansion was antiquated; whoever did the interior decorating must have been arrested in a past time period. Yet despite all that needed to be done, Kara knew it could be elegant and beautiful again if restored to its original condition. Unfortunately, she knew she wouldn’t have the time needed to make the repairs. She’d promised David and Jeff she would stay on Cavanaugh Island a week, and she would. But there was no way she could supervise restoring the property in that short amount of time.
After a lunch of lobster bisque, shrimp salad, and sweet tea, Kara returned to the bedroom Mrs. Todd had chosen for her. She picked up her cell phone that she’d left on a side table. She’d missed one call. Tapping the voice mail icon, she listened to her roommate’s message, then tapped the key for Dawn Ramsey’s number.
“Hey, Miss Dee,” Kara said in her usual greeting. Walking over to an armchair, she sat down.
“Hey yourself, Miss Kay. I’d called to find out if you’d made it home safely.”
Kara exhaled an audible sigh. “Yes, I did. But…”
“But what, Kara?” Dawn asked when she didn’t finish the sentence.
“I’m not in Arkansas.”
“If you’re not in Little Rock, then where the hell are you?”
“I’m in Angels Landing. It’s on Cavanaugh Island.”
There was silence on the other end of the line. “I know I didn’t do well in geography, but could you please tell me where Cavanaugh Island is? Is that even in the United States?”
“Yes. It’s a Sea Island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.”
“South Carolina! Why are you in South Carolina? Have you been holding out on me, girl? Do you have a man there you don’t want me to know about?”
If the situation into which she’d found herself wasn’t so serious, Kara would’ve laughed. But it wasn’t funny. Far from it. “No, I don’t have a man here. You, better than anyone, should know that I don’t want to deal with any man after that last loser. Too bad I didn’t have the good sense to walk away before it even started.”
Dawn sucked her teeth. “You dated him for all of four months, and that was more than two years ago, Kara.”
Kara stared at the threadbare rug and the fading drapes of the floor-to-ceiling windows. “I wish it’d been four seconds and two hundred years ago.”
The sound of Dawn sucking her teeth again came through the earpiece. “You weren’t alive two hundred years ago.”
Shaking her head, Kara held her forehead. There were times when she didn’t know if Dawn actually worked at being obtuse or if she was that gullible. When she’d mentioned this to her roommate, the dance teacher claimed men liked her best whenever she pretended to be an airhead. There had to be an awful lot of men who liked Dawn because Kara had lost count of the number of them who’d crossed the threshold of their East Harlem apartment.
There were times when she’d come home to a living room filled with people. She’d go directly into her bedroom, close and lock the door, and wait for the revelry to end. It did end, but not until the early-morning hours when she had to get up and go to work, while Dawn slept well into the afternoon when it was time for her to get up and go into the dance studio where she taught ballet, jazz, and tap.
“I’m here because I need to work out a few things that have to do with someone’s estate.”
“What are you talking about, Kara?”
She told Dawn everything, beginning with the letter from David up to and including her meeting with the sheriff. What she left out was her relationship to Taylor Patton. She wasn’t ready to approach that can of worms when she could barely wrap her own head around things. “Right now, I’ve committed to staying here a week to sort out a few details.”
“Have you lost your mind?” Dawn asked. “You just found some long-lost relatives are ready to take you out, and you talk about hanging around and giving them the opportunity for a drive-by?”
The laughter began, shaking Kara until she found it almost impossible to talk. She could always count on Dawn to make her laugh. And lately there hadn’t been that much for her to laugh about. Her position as a social worker for at-risk children had her close to being burned out, and the steady stream of people coming and going at the apartment she shared with Dawn had also begun to take its toll, leaving her sleep deprived. If she could afford to move, she would have, but with exorbitant and prohibitive Manhattan rents, Kara felt trapped.
She loved Dawn like a sister, but her roommate allowing unemployed actors and dancers to occasionally crash at their apartment went beyond being a good friend. And as much as she tried to explain to Dawn that they were her friends, not their friends, nothing changed until Dawn asked a few of them to leave and not return because several valuables had disappeared from the apartment.
“It’s not that easy to execute a drive-by down here. First of all it’s an island, and there are only two ways on and off it, the ferry and the causeway, so how would they get away? And then there’s the sheriff. He’s definitely no-nonsense.”
“Is he a good old boy?”
Kara scrunched up her nose when she recalled Jeff Hamilton. If she hadn’t been so agitated, she knew she would’ve noticed that he probably wasn’t much older than she was and that he was tall and well-spoken. He’d denied interrogating her when that was exactly what he’d done. Also like his cousin David, he had tried to convince her to remain in Angels Landing and claim her birthright.
“Not quite,” Kara responded.
“What does the house look like?”
“It’s a twenty-room antebellum mansion. It’s rather run-down but not falling apart.”
“Damn, Kara,” Dawn drawled. “We could party for days in a place that big.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. I’m not going to be here long enough to throw anything.”
“Good for you. You come on back home where you belong. It’s taken me awhile to turn you into a Big Apple diva, so I can’t imagine you turning into a Scarlett O’Hara Southern belle, rocking on the front porch with a tall glass of sweet tea, while servants fan your moist face.”
“Stop it, Dawn!” Kara said, laughing.
“Is there someone who takes care of the house?”
“Then you have a servant.”
“She’s a housekeeper.”
“We won’t argue about terminology, but on a more serious note, I’m worried about you, Kara. You can’t dismiss the threats because you don’t know how far these folks will go to get what they feel is legally theirs.”
“It’s not legally theirs,” Kara argued softly.
There came a beat; then Dawn asked, “Are you certain?”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“It’s something I can’t talk about right now.”
“Hold up, Kara. You know you can tell me anything. We’re more than friends, we’re sisters. Let me be there for you… help you with this.”
“No lie, Dawn, because if I didn’t think of you as my sister, I would’ve moved out a long time ago.” Kara chuckled uneasily.
“I know you’re not talking about my friends hanging out at our place.”
“They don’t hang out, Dawn. They move in.”
There came another pregnant pause from Dawn. “Why didn’t you tell me you felt like this?”
Kara rolled her eyes upward even though Dawn couldn’t see her. “I’ve told you I didn’t mind them staying over for a night or two, but they’d come and never leave.” Having lived with Dawn for so long, Kara knew how hard it was for an actor, singer, or dancer to wait for his or her big break. Kara was the social worker, but Dawn had become their Mother Teresa.
“I can understand. Honestly… I used to think you were jealous of them, particularly my guy friends.”
This time Kara was at a loss for words. “Jealous, Dawn? No way! I don’t have a boyfriend because I’m too stressed out from dealing with women who let their husbands or boyfriends abuse their children, then lie because they don’t want to lose the man. I put myself at risk every time I report a case of abuse or neglect. And I never know when the parents are going to turn on me.
“Then there are the times when I’m on call. Do you think any man is going to understand me getting up in the middle of the night to remove a child from his or her home? And every time I have to go to the hospital to see a battered child with tubes attached to their little bruised body, I lose a little bit of myself.” Tears filled Kara’s eyes, and she clasped a hand over her mouth to stifle the sobs. “I have to go. I’ll call you in a few days.”
She broke the connection. Wiping the tears with the back of her hand, Kara attempted to bring herself under control. She knew feeling emotionally exhausted had something to do with her current situation. Although she’d been a social worker for ten years, she was still shocked and amazed by the amount of adults abusing helpless and vulnerable children and prayed she would never get so jaded that she’d accept it as commonplace rather than the exception.
She lost track of time as she sat in the chair, staring into nothingness. Kara had always prided herself on being strong, yet this was one of those times when she didn’t know what to do.
Her situation wasn’t unique. There were thousands who’d uncovered they were adopted or that one parent wasn’t their biological parent. The use of DNA had become quite popular to determine paternity. Maury Povich’s “You are or you’re not the father!” had become the show’s catchphrase. Despite her startling resemblance to the Pattons, Kara knew some of them would demand she submit to a DNA test to validate Taylor’s claim that she was his child and sole heir.
Pushing off the chair, Kara plugged the cell into the charger. She stood in the middle of the bedroom, her eyes shifting from one object to another. The room reminded her of those she’d seen in museums, and she was uncertain whether the massive mahogany four-poster bed was an antique or a reproduction. The posts were elaborately carved with pineapples, leaves, and vines. The design was repeated on the legs of the highboy, writing table, the drawers on the bedside tables, and on the front of an armoire. Age and countless footsteps had worn away the color and woven threads of area rugs, and the design on the wallpaper had faded.
Mrs. Todd had offered her a choice of the six bedrooms, and she’d chosen this one because the casement windows opened out onto a veranda that overlooked the rear of the property while offering panoramic views of the water. What had kept the mansion from appearing decrepit was its cleanliness. There wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere.
Kara didn’t know why, but suddenly she felt as if she were smothering and had to get out of the house if only for a few minutes. She exchanged her tank top and shorts for a blouse and black cropped pants. Slipping her feet into a pair of sandals, she picked up her cross-body bag and walked out of the bedroom, nearly colliding with Mrs. Todd; she’d just come out of a room carrying a plastic bucket with cleaning supplies.
“Now that it’s stopped raining, I’m going out for a while.”
“Are you going to walk or drive?”
Kara paused. “I think I’ll drive. Where do you suggest I go?”
Mrs. Todd switched the handle of the pail from one hand to the other. “I think you should start with Haven Creek.”
“Where’s Haven Creek?”
“It’s west of here. It’s the first town off the causeway.” The older woman squinted. “You do know east and west don’t you?”
Kara smiled, nodding. “Yes, I do.” She’d noticed Mrs. Todd squinting and wondered if she needed to have her eyes examined, then reminded herself Mrs. Todd wasn’t her client and she wasn’t in Angels Landing to evaluate her.
Mrs. Todd nodded. “Will you be back in time for dinner?”
She glanced at her watch. It was after 3:20. “Yes. I’m only going to be gone for about an hour.”
“Until you learn the island you shouldn’t be out after dark.”
“Now you’re scaring me, Mrs. Todd.”
“I don’t mean to scare you, but some of the roads don’t have lights. Don’t drive too fast or you’ll get a ticket. The second time you’re caught speeding the sheriff will impound your car for thirty days.”
“Isn’t that a little harsh?” Kara asked. “What if you need your car to go to work?”
“That’s the law. The sheriff doesn’t make exceptions.”
“I’m not going to be out too late. And I’m definitely not going to speed.”
The older woman nodded before Kara headed out of the door.
Minutes later, Kara drove slowly, staring out the window of the car that made her feel as if she were riding on air. The sedan was at least twenty-five years old, and kept in mint condition. There wasn’t a hint of rust on the black, shiny exterior and the saddle-tan leather interior was as supple as soft butter.
As she lowered the driver’s side window, the scent of salt water wafted into the car. Decelerating to ten miles an hour, Kara became a tourist and sightseer. One-and two-story homes, palmetto and Spanish moss–draped trees dotted the landscape. She spied a marker indicating the number of miles to Haven Creek.
A cyclist coming in the opposite direction waved to her as he passed, and she returned the wave. How different, she mused, Cavanaugh Island was from Manhattan where cyclists and bike messengers whizzed in and out of traffic while coming dangerously close to the many taxis playing chicken with pedestrians. Here the street and road names were flora: Magnolia, Palmetto, Honeysuckle, Oak, Gardenia, Peach, Carnation, and Cherry. In Manhattan there were street numbers running east and west and avenues running north and south.
The most profound difference was the absence of noise—no sirens or honking horns. The apartment she shared with Dawn was on the eighteenth floor, and once she closed the door all street noises ceased to exist. Kara had spent hours sitting on the balcony outside her bedroom, reading or taking in the sight of pleasure boats and barges gliding along the East River. Winter was her favorite time of the year with the falling snow making it almost impossible for her to see the lights on the many bridges connecting Manhattan with the other boroughs.
And if she hadn’t had to come home and step over people in sleeping bags in the living and dining rooms, her home life would have been close to perfect. She also resented not being able to watch television in the living room because of strangers sprawled over the sofa and chairs drinking beer and eating chips. Kara loved Dawn but hated that her dogged need to take care of a bunch of freeloaders allowed her to constantly be used as a doormat.
She’d also found it hard to accept twenty-and thirtysomething educated people traveling around with all of their worldly goods in a bedroll or backpack. Perhaps if she hadn’t had such a stressful job, then she probably would’ve been more tolerant. The deliberation whether or not to leave or remove a child from his or her home was never an easy decision for Kara. Even after she’d made the decision, there were doubts. Those were the occasions when she wanted to come home to peace and familiarity.
Kara knew she could find the peace she craved at Angels Landing. She would be the only one living in a six-bedroom, eight-bathroom house with a small and grand ballroom, two kitchens, a formal dining room, a solarium, and front and back porches. Mrs. Todd told her Taylor had lived alone, rarely had visitors, and conducted business using the telephone or Internet. She could understand his need for solidarity.
A wry smile twisted her mouth. She couldn’t believe Taylor had known so much about her, yet she knew very little about him. However, in the week that she remained on the island, she would find out as much as she could about the man who supposedly had fathered her.
The landscape changed again, becoming more wooded with trees lining both sides of the two-lane road. The houses in this section of Angels Landing were smaller replicas of the house she’d inherited.
“Pattons.” The name had slipped unbidden from her lips. They couldn’t live in the big house, so they’d built their own Angels Landing mini-mansions.
Kara slowed and turned off the road at the marker pointing the way to Haven Creek’s business district. Waning afternoon shadows slanted over a street that could’ve been in any small town in America. There was a sign prohibiting vehicles on the street, and she maneuvered into an area set aside for parking. She walked the short distance from the parking lot to Oak Street. Cobblestone streets, bricked sidewalks in a herringbone design, and black-and-white striped awnings shading storefronts gave the main thoroughfare a picture postcard appearance.
Peering through a window, Kara stared at a group of women sitting in a circle quilting. She’d always wanted to learn how to hand quilt. The shelves in the next shop were filled with sweet-grass baskets.
Moving along the street, Kara soon realized the area was an artists’ colony. Haven Creek was a Lowcountry Taos with businesses offering photographs and paintings depicting the scenes of the Sea Islands; another shop displayed an ironworker’s creations reminiscent of the late Philip Simmons’s, the most celebrated of Charleston ironworkers; she passed a jewelry store featuring gold and silver pieces, another of a furniture maker, and an architectural firm. She stopped abruptly when she came face-to-face with Jeff.
He touched the worn brim of his Atlanta Braves baseball cap. “Good afternoon, Kara. I thought I wouldn’t see you again until tomorrow.”
Kara felt her breath catch in her throat when she met the dark, deep-set eyes of the man who’d promised to protect her. Why, she thought, hadn’t she noticed the perfection of his masculine face? He wasn’t just a good old boy, but tall, dark, and very handsome.
She inclined her head. “Good afternoon. I thought I’d get out and do a little sightseeing.”
“I told you I’d take you around.”
Kara focused on his face rather than the automatic handgun holstered at his waist. “I suppose I felt a little restless. I’m not used to sitting around doing nothing.”
Jeff nodded to a shopkeeper and stepped to his left to allow him to pass. “What is it you do, Kara?” he asked.
Her gaze moved to the badge and name tag pinned on the chambray shirt over his heart. “I’m a social worker for a child protective agency.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Jeff whistled softly. “That can’t be easy, especially in a big city.”
“Overworked and underpaid?”
“How did you know?”
Jeff smiled, drawing her eyes to the slight cleft in his strong chin. “I’ve met a few social workers in my travels, and they all complained about carrying too many clients on their caseloads and are paid a pittance for performing miracles.”
Kara laughed for the second time that afternoon. “I’ve never heard it put quite that way.”
“It’s not much different for law enforcement when the bad guys outnumber the good guys.”
She sobered quickly. “Are you saying there’s a lot of crime on Cavanaugh Island?”
“Quite the contrary. There’s little or no crime, especially with an islandwide policy of zero tolerance. You break the law, you pay the price.”
“Like speeding?” Kara asked.
“Especially speeding because there’re no stop signs or traffic lights on the island.”
“I noticed there are no posted speed limits.”
Jeff’s right eyebrow lifted a fraction. “Do you see that as a problem?”
“It smacks of entrapment, Jeff.”
He leaned closer. “How’s that?”
“Just say I’m stopped for going thirty miles an hour, and you tell me the speed limit is twenty when nowhere on the island is it posted that the limit is twenty. You hit me up for a hundred dollar—”
“Two hundred,” he said, interrupting her.
Kara’s jaw dropped. “Two hundred dollars? That’s excessive.”
“So is speeding,” Jeff countered. “We don’t have drag racing or hit-and-runs.”
“What about DWI and DUI?”
“Those fall under Charleston PD’s jurisdiction.” The small walkie-talkie clipped to his shirt collar crackled. “Please excuse me,” he said, then took a backward step, his gaze meeting and fusing with Kara’s before he turned his back.
Kara stared at the width of Jeff’s broad shoulders, his trim waist and hips. He’d admitted to having been military, and his ramrod posture validated his claim. She didn’t know whether he was married or involved with someone, but there was something about Jeffrey Hamilton that reminded her of what she’d been missing: male companionship.
She’d told Dawn that she was too busy, tired, or stressed out to deal with a man, when in reality she hadn’t met one who could hold her interest. She’d accused her roommate of being Mother Teresa, wanting to house and feed the homeless, when she could’ve become a spokesperson for Save the Children. Her supervisor had cautioned that she was too involved with some of her clients, but Kara’s mantra was “No child will fall between the cracks on my watch.”
Glancing at the time on her cell phone, Kara knew if she didn’t cross the street to see the other shops, it would be dark before she returned to Angels Landing. She’d just stepped off the sidewalk when a large hand around her upper arm stopped her.
“Where are you going?”
She glanced over her shoulder to find Jeff’s gaze riveted on her face. “I’m going to check out the shops across the street. I plan to head back to Angels Landing before it gets dark.”
His fingers tightened, then fell away. “You probably won’t have much time to look around. You can follow me back to Angels Landing, and I’ll bring you back tomorrow and introduce you around.”
Kara wanted to tell Jeff she didn’t want to meet anyone; she wanted answers about Taylor Patton. And if anyone knew everything about anyone on the island, then it would be the sheriff.
For a long moment, she returned his stare. There was something in his entrancement that ignited a tingling in the pit of her stomach. “Okay.”
Reaching for her hand, Jeff led her to the parking lot, waiting until she was seated and belted in. “I’ll head out first.”
Kara wagged her finger at him. “No speeding.”
He flashed a white-toothed smile. “Just try and keep up.”
Her eyes grew wider when she registered his veiled challenge. “Please close my door.”
He bowed from the waist. “Yes, ma’am.”
Starting up her car, Kara waited for the Jeep to maneuver out of the parking lot, she following close behind. When he’d said for her to try and keep up, she knew he would exceed the unofficial island speed limit. The Mercedes’s speedometer hovered close to forty miles an hour as she stared at the taillights on the vehicle in front of hers.
Palmetto Lane came up so quickly Kara hit the brakes to keep from passing it. Jeff tapped his horn, she tapping hers in response. He sped off while she drove on the sandy road under a canopy of live oaks, draped with Spanish moss. Angels Landing came into view at the end of the allée, her breath catching in her throat. Waning sunlight reflected off the columns in shimmering shades of rose-gold.
In that instant Kara wondered how different her life would have been if she’d grown up in this house? Would she have viewed things differently if Taylor Patton had raised her instead of Austin Newell?
She parked the car, got out, and walked around to the door that led directly into the kitchen. She made it to her bedroom without encountering Mrs. Todd or her husband Willie. Picking up her cell phone, Kara stood at the window as she tapped speed dial. Her mother’s sultry drawl came through the earpiece.
“Hi, baby. What time should your daddy pick you up at the airport tomorrow?”
Kara closed her eyes for several seconds. “I’m not coming in tomorrow.”
“What’s going on, Kara?”
She knew she had to choose her words carefully. “Mama, I need you to answer one question for me.” Kara had decided not to wait for a face-to-face encounter with her mother to ask her about Taylor because she knew it would nag at her for the week.
A beat passed. “What is it?”
“Why didn’t you tell me Taylor Patton was my father?”
Jeannette gasped. “Who told you?”
“Mama, please. Was he my father?”
“I can’t talk now.”
“When can you talk?” Kara asked.
“Not over the phone, Kara.”
Kara knew by her mother’s evasiveness that she’d validated David’s claim that she was Taylor’s daughter. “Is Daddy there with you?”
It was obvious her mother didn’t want to talk about Taylor in front of Austin. “I’m not coming to Little Rock.” She told Jeannette that she’d committed to staying on Cavanaugh Island for at least a week. “Can you get off and come here?”
“Right now I’m short staffed. Two nurses called in today with the flu. They’re going to be out at least a week.”
“Can you come here next week?”
“I’ll try, baby.”
Kara pulled her lower lip between her teeth. “You don’t have to explain anything until you get here. But I need to know now. Yes or no?”
The seconds made a full revolution before her mother said, “Yes.”
Walking on shaky legs, Kara sat on the padded bench at the foot of the bed. “Thank you, Mama.”
“It’s not what you think, Kara.”
“I’m not judging you, Mama. I just needed to know the truth.”
“I love you, baby.”
“And I love you, too. Let me know when you’re coming, and I’ll meet you at the airport.”
“You take care of yourself.”
“You, too, Mama.”
Kara ended the call filled with a powerful relief that she knew the truth. She would now be able to face whatever challenges came her way with new objectivity. And knowing she was Taylor’s daughter gave her the ammunition she needed to handle her newfound relatives’ threats and intimidation.
Excerpted from Angels Landing by Rochelle Alers Copyright © 2012 by Rochelle Alers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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