For one stolen night, they'd shared a scorching passion and intimate tenderness, giving Rhea Williams hope for the future — and a family. But Joey Masado belonged to another family — and was promised to another woman. Rather than be Joey's mistress, Rhea fled, never telling him she carried their child. But when her son disappeared, she knew he'd found out….
OR HIS WIFE
The moment he saw her, Joey knew he had to claim Rhea for his own. But the depth of his desire for her put them all in grave danger. Now Joey had stolen their son to bring Rhea to his side — and somehow had to give her the protection of his name without revealing the feelings in his heart….
About the Author
A typical day for me starts at 4:00 a.m. I work outside my home so I must write in the early morning. I consume a pot of coffee before seven, and hopefully write 10 pages before I switch hats and prepare to open the family bookstore.
With teenagers in the house, breakfast is a buffet affair. The store opens by 10, so I pack my laptop, toss a little makeup on my face, and head to work. By late afternoon I switch hats again, stopping off to do a few household errands, then it's another buffet for dinner. The dishwasher on, a few loads of laundry in and out, and I'm ready for a glass of wine and a soak in a hot tub to brainstorm tomorrow's 10 pages.
Ideally, if I can get to bed by nine, my 4:00 a.m. writing schedule will be met the next day.
Ah, the life of a writer who wears too many hats.
Read an Excerpt
One Way Out
By Wendy Rosnau
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAt midnight Grace Palazzo suffered her second stroke of the year. Her struggle had been traumatic, but not fatal. It had sent the household into a panic and Rhea, along with Grace's daughter, into tears. But it wasn't the most significant drama to unfold on that stormy night on the third of November.
No, the real drama, at least for Rhea Williams, had come hours later when she had returned to her bedroom to find the silver cross glistening on her pillow.
She had scarcely been able to breathe as she backed out the door, then raced down the hall to Nicci's room. Only, she knew before she swung the door wide that her son was gone - that like a thief in the night, his father had breached the house and taken him.
She had prayed she was wrong, had prayed for mercy - a shred of compassion. But there was no mercy, no compassion, only an open window and an empty bed where her son had slept for the past two years.
A gust of wind lifted the curtain at her bedroom window, and in spite of the heat, Rhea shivered. Key West was warm, but after the sun went down, the wind could become as dangerous and unpredictable as a vengeful witch. Especially during hurricane season.
The smell of rain was heavy in the air, the pounding surf a constant roaring in her ears. The tropical storm the islanders had been preparing for was less than ten hours away. Rhea hated storms, but she would rather meet a hurricane head-on than return to Chicago and face Nicci's father.
In the beginning, all she had wanted was to go back, and for Joey to know about his son. But then the days had turned into months, the months into years, and slowly Santa Palazzo had become her home.
Oh God ... he knew they had created a child - a beautiful black-haired, brown-eyed baby boy.
"What will you do, Rhea?"
The voice was soft behind her, as soft as the touch on her shoulder. Rhea turned from her bedroom window to face Grace's twenty-four-year-old daughter. Elena stood hugging herself, her eyes red from crying. Tonight had been a nightmare for both of them.
"Rhea, did you hear me? How will you get Nicci back?" When Rhea didn't answer right away, Elena squeezed her shoulder. "You're scaring me, Rhea. There's a way to get him back, isn't there? You'll fight, right?"
Fight Joey ...
Elena had no idea how ridiculous that statement was. She had no idea what lay hidden behind all the closed doors to the past. She had no idea the complexity of the situation, or the danger. But then, why would she? She'd been carefully sheltered from the secrets by layers of lies - twenty-four years of lies.
"When I called to tell my father about Mom's stroke, we had no idea that Nicci had been kidnapped. But he's coming, Rhea. On his way right now. He'll be here in a few hours. We'll tell him what happened, and he'll know what to do. He loves Nicci. You know that."
Yes, she knew that. Frank thought the world of Nicci. That wasn't up for debate. What was, however, was how to defuse the time bomb that had started ticking the minute Joey had learned he had a son. And that's what would be foremost on Frank's mind when he learned Nicci had been taken by Joey.
But how could she tell Elena any of that, without explaining the rest? Without telling her that her father, Frank Palazzo, resident of Key West, Florida, was also Frank Masado, a member of the famiglia in the Chicago-Italian mafia. And if she went that far to disclose his double identity, she would have to tell Elena all of it. She would have to confess that Frank was Nicci's grandfather.
Elena believed she was an only child. She had no idea that she was the half sister to Joey and Tomas Masado. She had no idea that her father had been previously married, or that he'd been juggling two separate lives with well-crafted scenarios and tightly woven lies to keep them all safe.
When Frank had brought Rhea to Key West three years ago, he had told Elena that he'd hired a live-in nurse for Grace. And that's how Rhea had been disguised - how the household at Santa Palazzo had come to accept her.
Grace's health over the years had gradually gotten worse, and she needed constant care. Rhea had been a nurse in Chicago for seven years. The situation had worked on all levels.
"Talk to me, Rhea. What can I do to help?"
"I don't want your mother to know what's happened. She's too fragile. She needs bed rest and no excitement for at least forty-eight hours. And your father ... when he learns what happened tonight he'll know why I had to ..."
"Leave. You are, aren't you."
"I can't wait, Elena. I'll go crazy waiting for your father to get here."
Elena reached out and tugged Rhea to the bed. Pulling her down to sit next to her, she said, "Mother would have died tonight if you hadn't been here to help her. If you leave, she'll have no one."
Rhea pushed her long blond bangs out of her eyes. "You're wonderful with your mother, Elena. You are why your mother has survived all these years. You and your father. She'll be fine until Frank comes. He'll order a replacement nurse within twenty-four hours."
"Why can't we just call the police and tell them that Nicci's been kidnapped? Tell them that you know who did it, and -"
"I can't do that," Rhea said quickly. "Nicci's father is a powerful man in Chicago. When I left I didn't tell him I was pregnant. I didn't say where I was going, either. I just left. I had my reasons. Good reasons. But ..."
"I was always curious about Nicci's father," Elena admitted. "Is that where he gets his black hair and dark eyes? Does his father have black hair? You're so fair, and Nicci's so dark."
"Joey's Sicilian. His family ..." Rhea glanced at Elena's dark hair, then her earthy brown eyes, "they all have black hair and dark eyes."
"Did you run away because he hurt you, Rhea? Was it Nicci's father who gave you the scars?"
Rhea saw Elena focus on the thin white line on her lower lip, then on the one that slipped into the corner of her left eye - the scar that had made her wear an eye patch for months. The scar that had nearly blinded her.
"It wasn't like that. Joey never hurt me."
Elena frowned. "Then, I don't understand."
Excerpted from One Way Out by Wendy Rosnau Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I¿ve read all the other books in this series. This is a good continuation and held my interest. It had a great plot and the characters from the other books were woven in quite nicely. However, I found the behavior of the male & female lead rather unsettling. Rhea had been married to a man who had treated her as a possession, completely ignoring the fact that she might have a stray thought or two of her own. Yet, Rhea allowed Joey to treat her the same way. Most of Joey¿s statements had the words ¿I want¿ or ¿mine¿ in them but ¿please¿ or ¿Thank You¿ seemed to be foreign words. He TOLD Rhea what she would do, never asked, never considered her dreams or feelings. He expected her to follow his orders, and they were ORDERS, which she did. She couldn¿t go outside, wasn¿t allowed to pick out her clothes or anything else for herself or for her son. Joey just bought what he ¿wanted¿ her to have. He seemed to think she wasn¿t smart enough to be let in on anything that was going on. ¿My house, my rules¿ applied everywhere. I understand that he wanted to protect her but that didn't have anything to do with treating her like a trained monkey and her acting like one. This is not the Joey from previous books. That Joey was tough but smart, responsible, unselfish and ultimately if at all possible, compassionate. He would never have kidnapped a two year old, in the middle of the night, flown the child a thousand miles from his mother, brought him into a completely unfamiliar home and surrounded him with strangers. Instead, loving his child deeply and wanting what was best for Nicci his first thought would have been the potential disastrous effect on his son. I hope that in the final book of the series, Lucky stays more true to form.