Andrea Boyle moved to Seattle to give her seventeen-year-old nephew, Spencer, a fresh start after the death of his parents. Andrea has found her own new beginning with Luke, a successful playwright and father of a teenage son, Damon. The boys appear to have little in common, but in truth they share a private torment…
When a tragedy befalls Damon, it's just the beginning of a nightmare that unfolds. But the worst is yet to come once a dark secret from Spencer's past is exposed. And when Luke is brutally attacked, both of their futures are at stake.
No Second Chance
Now it's up to Andrea to prove Spencer's innocence to the policeand to herself. Because for reasons she has revealed to no one, even Andrea can't help questioning the truthand fearing that she may be next to pay the ultimate price…
Praise for Kevin O'Brien's Tell Me You're Sorry
"If you want darkness, if you crave chills, this is the tale for you!" Suspense Magazine
"Terrifying." Mystery Scene
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
A veteran voice artist, Tom Zingarelli has produced and narrated many audiobooks in the last several years. He has also recorded books for the Connecticut State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. His voice was featured on the popular PBS children's television program Between the Lions.
Read an Excerpt
You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone
By Kevin O'Brien
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Kevin O'Brien
All rights reserved.
Thursday, October 8 — 12:21 p.m.
There was no backing out of it now.
She'd already mentioned to Luke that she had something important to discuss with him over lunch. Of course, that had been this morning before he'd had his coffee, before he'd gone off to the theater to work on rehearsals and rewrites for his new play. Luke might have forgotten by now. Hell, he probably didn't even remember they had a lunch date. So she'd texted him a quick reminder before leaving his place. She hadn't heard back from him yet.
Andrea Boyle had her phone in the cup holder of her car — in case he called. Sitting at the wheel, she focused on the road ahead. It was a short drive from his town house apartment to the theater in the Seattle Center. As her eight-year-old, red VW Beetle took the steep descent on Queen Anne Avenue, a few drops of rain hit the windshield. It wasn't quite enough to switch on the wipers yet. Andrea had been in Seattle only a few months, but she'd already figured out that true Seat-tleites didn't use their wipers or umbrellas until the rain started coming down heavy and hard.
She'd moved here from Washington, DC, with her seventeen-year-old nephew, Spencer. Andrea was a copyeditor. She polished manuscripts for authors before they sent their work off to publishers. She copyedited everything from textbooks to thrillers to bodice-ripper romances. It was a job she could do anywhere, which made moving to Seattle a bit easier. In fact, she'd first met Luke at a party in the home of her one and only Seattle client, a true-crime writer.
Andrea had relocated with the hope that she and Spencer could start fresh, where no one knew them. She'd made a dozen calls and filled out a pile of documents to have Spencer's last name legally changed. Too many people had heard of Spencer Rowe. He was Spencer Murray now. Murray was his choice, because he worshiped Bill Murray. Spencer claimed that while in the hospital, the only thing that could cheer him up was a Bill Murray comedy. He must have seen Stripes, Caddy-shack, and Rushmore at least a dozen times each.
She and Spencer had a distinct family resemblance, both of them lean, tall, dark-haired, and blue-eyed. Traveling together and renting an apartment together, they must have looked like a slightly odd pair. Andrea was thirty-six, but thanks to good genes, her Fitbit, and Clairol's "Chestnut Shimmer" hiding the gray in her shoulder-length hair, she passed for someone in her late twenties. Most people in Seattle assumed Spencer was her younger brother — until she told them he was her nephew. The story people got was that his parents had died in an automobile accident back when he was eleven, and she'd been taking care of him ever since.
At least the part about Spencer being her nephew was true.
No one asked any probing questions after hearing about her family tragedy. As far as Andrea could discern, no one in Seattle knew the real story — including her dear, handsome Luke.
But she needed to tell him the truth today — before someone else did. Thinking about that discussion made a knot form in her stomach.
The rain came down faster now, and Andrea switched on the wipers. She tried to think of where they could go for lunch: Tup Tim Thai, or maybe the 5 Spot. Whichever restaurant they ended up in, she'd be too nervous to eat. And from today on, it would always be the place where they had "the talk." If, by some miracle they survived this and didn't break up, they probably wouldn't want to set foot in that restaurant again.
Would he ever forgive her?
She'd been dating Luke for over four months — and deceiving him the whole time. He'd gotten close to her nephew, and she didn't want anything to foul up that friendship. Sometimes Spencer seemed more like Luke's son than Luke's real offspring, Damon. Spencer and Damon were both juniors at Queen Anne High. They hadn't exactly hit it off, which wasn't Spencer's fault. Early on, he'd tried to reach out to Damon.
"I figured the guy could use a friend," Spencer had told her near the beginning of the school year. "I could see he was getting picked on and all. So in the hallway, between classes, I introduced myself, and said, 'I know this is awkward, because my aunt is dating your dad, but we might as well at least acknowledge each other or whatever.' And all I got from him was this snooty, blank stare. Then he rolled his eyes at me and wandered away. I mean, God, no wonder people hate him. I'm sorry, Aunt Dee. Please don't tell Luke I said that ..."
Aunt Dee was what he'd been calling her ever since he'd learned to talk. He'd had a hard time saying Andrea.
Spencer had a point about Damon Shuler.
She and Spencer had moved in with Luke about three weeks ago. Under ordinary circumstances, cohabitating with a guy after knowing him only three months would have been way too soon for her.
But the circumstances were far from ordinary.
She hadn't had much time to get used to their living arrangement. And she hadn't had much time to get used to Damon, who — so far — had spent two of his "alternate weekends" with them.
He'd declared he wasn't comfortable sharing his room with anyone. So even though Damon's room had twin beds, Spencer had to sleep on the couch in Luke's study for those weekends. Technically, it wasn't even Damon's room. It was a guest room — with only a few of Damon's possessions in there. During those designated weekends, Damon acted as if staying with them was a huge ordeal. He was icily polite and in total said about a hundred words to her. She was the recipient of much eye-rolling as well. He wasn't a bad-looking kid — with his skinny build, pale complexion, and wavy brown hair. But his demeanor was so off-putting, he seemed unattractive.
Damon had a bit of OCD, which wasn't noticeable at first. But then Andrea realized he had to touch everything he came in contact with — as if testing how hot it was. Damon touched a pencil before picking it up, touched a chair before sitting down in it, touched a door before pushing it open, and sometimes he just test-touched something and then after that, didn't handle it at all. He also washed his hands about forty times a day.
Apparently, the kids at school had picked up on it, and they teased him mercilessly. In fact, Luke and his estranged wife, Evelyn, had had a few meetings with the school principal about it. Those were the only times Luke ever saw Evelyn — at these conferences to discuss the bullying inflicted on their son.
As the newbie in their class, Spencer had been harassed by a few bullies, too, but he said it was nothing compared to the treatment Damon endured.
It broke Andrea's heart to know that her sweet, vulnerable nephew was being harassed at school. He'd already suffered enough. But Damon was so arrogant, she couldn't help feeling he'd sort of set himself up for the abuse he got.
Still, Andrea did her damnedest to be nice to him. After all, he was Luke's son — even though he could get bratty toward Luke at times. Andrea was pretty certain it was Damon's mother's influence that made him so strange and standoffish.
To his credit, Luke Shuler never complained about his soon-to-be-ex. He admitted he'd only stayed with his wife for Damon's sake, and things had been pretty awful for a long time. "Let's just say I'm in a much better place now," he'd told Andrea. Of course, Andrea was curious about her predecessor. Obviously, the woman was still very connected to Luke — after nearly nineteen years of marriage and having a son together. They'd been separated for only seven months. Andrea couldn't help wondering if Luke might end up going back to her.
She'd found herself admitting as much to a new friend, Barbara James-Church, manager of the Seattle Group Theater, over lunch at Café Lola. The petite, attractive, fortyish brunette had already set up Andrea with two new Seattle author-clients.
"I love Luke and hated seeing how miserable he was with Evelyn — for years," Barbara had said. "Evelyn was very clingy and possessive. She's always been a cold fish to me. But then I compared notes with people, and realized she was that way with everybody — at least, everybody who had anything to do with Luke. Evelyn wanted him all to herself. I've known her for six years, and the first time Evelyn was ever nice to me was two weeks ago. She donated five thousand dollars to the Seattle Group Theater. She comes from money, you know. Five thou is a drop in the bucket for her. We've never gotten a dime out of her before. But suddenly, once they split, she was so bighearted. Anyway, the very day the check arrived in the mail, she phoned me — all chummy-chummy, wanting to know if I'd gotten the donation. Then she asked about Luke and started grilling me about you. I mean, could she be any more transparent? Anyway, I said you seemed 'nice.' Of course, Evelyn wasn't too happy with that reply. But to her credit, at least she didn't stop payment on the check. Anyway, in answer to your question, I don't think Evelyn is ready to give him up — not without a fight. But it's a losing battle, because Luke is so much better off now — with you. He knows it, too. And I'm not just saying that because I like you and you're buying me lunch ..."
Andrea wondered what Luke had ever seen in Evelyn. He didn't seem to need her money. But then Andrea had seen photos of Evelyn among the family snapshots that Luke had saved. Evelyn Shuler was a knockout — blond, elegant, and chic. The only possible physical flaw Andrea could find was a slight overbite — which some men found attractive.
As curious as she was about Luke's almost-ex, Andrea had no desire to meet her.
Then just a few days after the informative chat with Barbara at Café Lola, Andrea had received an email from Evelyn with the subject line: Free for Lunch? How Luke's wife had gotten her email address was a mystery:
I'm sure by now you've heard a lot about me! Before you form an opinion, I think it would be a good idea if we met. I was married to Luke for 19 years & know him better than anyone else. You're just starting to know him. For example, can we talk about how every morning he needs to have his coffee in that cup with Bruce Lee's picture on it? And how about the way he's always humming to himself? Anyway, I think you could learn a thing or two from my knowledge & experience. Plus if you continue seeing Luke, I'd like to meet the woman who might end up spending some time with my son, Damon. Do you think we could meet for lunch or coffee next week?
I look forward to hearing back from you!
At the time, Andrea had been living with Spencer in an apartment in Ballard. She'd been dating Luke for only six weeks and hadn't yet spent the night at his place. She hadn't witnessed Luke's morning routine with the Bruce Lee coffee cup. However, they'd shared many extended lunch hours at his apartment or at the Westin. It was no secret they'd been seeing each other. She'd merely been reluctant about leaving Spencer alone in the apartment for a night — or having Luke in her bed while Spencer slept across the hall from them.
Maybe she had read too much into a friendly email, but it seemed a bit manipulative and meddling. Andrea might have had a little more respect for Evelyn if she'd focused more on Damon in that note. Instead, she didn't mention him until the very end. Her son seemed like an afterthought.
Andrea didn't tell Luke about his wife's email, not until after she'd sent Evelyn a reply. She spent forty-five minutes carefully wording the short response:
Thank you for your nice note and for the invitation to lunch. I appreciate the offer, but I'm afraid I'll have to decline. I just don't think it's a good idea at this point. However, I'm looking forward to meeting Damon. If you have any special instructions or concerns about that, please let me know through Luke. Thanks again.
She'd shown both emails to Luke that evening. "Well done," he'd said, kissing her on the forehead. "Let me know if she tries to get in touch with you again."
She never heard back from Evelyn.
That wasn't to say Evelyn had backed off. The email had been harmless. What came later was far more disturbing. In fact, things got so bad that she and Spencer had to leave their apartment in Ballard and move in with Luke.
Though it was "Modern Cookie-Cutter" in its construction, Andrea had liked their first Seattle home. It was part of the Briarwood Court, a complex of six tall, thin, identical buildings, each with two apartment units. She and Spencer had an upper unit. Once through the outside front door, they had to climb up a stairway to the living room, kitchen, and powder room. Another flight of stairs led to the two bedrooms and another bathroom.
The manager had pointed out that the beige Berber carpeting throughout the apartment was brand new. He asked that they and their guests remove their shoes before going upstairs to the unit. After two weeks, there was a different pair of shoes — belonging to either her or Spencer — along the edge of each step nearly halfway up the stairs. In fact, Spencer had more shoes on the stairs than in his bedroom closet. Though it was a bit messy, Andrea found the display of footwear on the steps a comforting, homey image when she came through the front door — a sign that they were settled in.
She got the manager's okay to plant some iris, chrysanthemums, and pansies near the bushes beside their front door. She loved to garden — to the point that Spencer jokingly called her "Fanny View" because she was always bent over, tilling the soil. But to her knowledge, she'd never actually mooned anyone.
Briarwood Court was walking distance from shopping, restaurants, and the bus to downtown Seattle. Another plus about the location: it was a mere ten-minute drive to Luke's town house on Queen Anne Hill. She'd had her first date with him just a week after she and Spencer had moved into the apartment. She remembered thinking at the time that everything was finally going their way. She'd met a great guy, and she and Spencer had found a terrific place to live.
But with its own separate, outside entrance, the big windows and a designated uncovered parking spot, the apartment in Briarwood Court also made her and Spencer vulnerable to anyone who had it out for them.
They were still relatively new to the complex when somebody broke a headlight on her VW during the night. The car had been in its parking spot. As if a broken headlight weren't enough, the culprit had also scratched the driver's side with a key or a box cutter or something. Andrea reported it to the police and her insurance company. The police asked her if she had any idea who might have inflicted this damage on her car. She thought of Luke's wife, but quickly dismissed the notion as silly. She told the police she didn't have a clue who the perpetrator was.
Around this same time, Andrea experienced a surge in hang-ups on her cell phone — always from a CALLER UNKNOWN, according to the caller ID. Even when she answered, they hung up after a moment. It was as if they just wanted to hear her voice — or make certain she was home. She got one of those anonymous hang-ups at two in the morning; after that, Andrea switched off her phone before going to bed at night.
But she couldn't flick a switch and turn off the eerie feeling that someone was watching her whenever she set foot outside the apartment. Or maybe they were out there in the dark, studying her through the living room's big picture window. There weren't many streetlights on their block, so at night all she could see outside were some trees and the lights from the apartment building across the way. But she knew her every move was visible to anyone out there. In the darkened glass of the living room windows, she'd notice her own reflection in the room.
She imagined it was exactly how a stranger lurking outside saw her.
Andrea started closing the drapes once dusk settled. It made her feel closed in, and not all that much safer. But at least she knew no one could see her.
Excerpted from You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone by Kevin O'Brien. Copyright © 2016 Kevin O'Brien. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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