Abandoned by her mother at birth, social worker Katie Delynski believes love and relationships are learned—and she hasn’t learned anything good about either. She avoids both love and relationships by focusing on her career and by getting prostitutes off the street. But when a man she’s never met commits suicide and names her as his daughter, leaving her millions of dollars and a family full of new relatives, things change. Her new family invites her into their lives, stirring a sense of belonging she is afraid to believe in.
Determined to put her windfall to good use, Katie buys an old building for a women’s shelter. Her newfound family puts her in touch with Conner Patterson, a family friend, to help rehab the building. As work progresses, Katie finds herself falling in love with Conner, but fear keeps her from acting on her feelings. It soon becomes apparent, though, that Conner may be her only hope for survival, when someone hurt by her father’s past indiscretions is determined to make Katie pay for her father’s sins.
With his right hand, Keith O’Neil lifted the crystal rocks glass above his head and watched as the light sparkled like amber diamonds through the southern bourbon. In his left palm, the cold weight of the semi-automatic .22 pistol taunted, asking if he had the balls to pull the trigger.
He downed the liquor, the hot bite coursing along his throat, a bitter reminder that life still pumped through his veins. Yet, it was the liquid courage he needed to complete the task at hand.
A cowards task for sure.
He set the glass aside and shifted the gun to his right hand. It was lightweight and compact, the metal smooth and almost seductive as though luring him into the siren’s song of death. He smiled, feeling the lull of the words… Come, come and play with me. There are no worries here….
Yes. That’s what he wanted. No more decisions. No more pain.
For a Catholic raised within the confines of a strict but loving family, suicide was the unthinkable sin. His parents taught him to believe it would give him eternal life in hell. The final act, he figured, of condemning his soul to the devil.
He glanced around his office, loving the shapes and contrasts he’d created for his personal space, a home away from home. The black leather square furniture favored his masculine side and the dark wood of the wet bar stocked with the finest liquors catered to his love for the expensive. A private bathroom adjoined the room from the right and a massive picture window stood at his back overlooking the city of Philadelphia. He had designed the building with his own hands, one of which now wrapped around the small gun, ready to destroy rather than create.
His status as a millionaire led the public to believe he held the world in his hands. He thought so himself at one time, believing his money gave him power. When he finished with people, he pushed them aside, ruining marriages, businesses’ and friendships, thinking he had earned the right with each dollar he’d made.
He had pissed off some important people along the way, ones who had wanted to take him for everything he was worth and be done with him. He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Once he was six feet under, they couldn’t touch him. He might be guilty of wrongdoing, but they weren’t pillars of the community either.
He spent money as he saw fit and invested using insider information. His tastes ran toward expensive homes, cars, quality booze and imported cigars. Oh, he gave to charity when giving served his purpose, but believed ‘doing good’ made one vulnerable and weak.
But things, time, his own body turned against him. How had he gotten to this place, when ending the pain seemed easier than facing life? It was surreal, a terrible dream.
Despite the money, he had been vulnerable and weak after all.
Cancer didn’t care about wealth or status.
Knowing death lurked made a person take stock of his life. Regret rumbled at Keith like a freight train with no breaks, forcing him to face the bright light rather then jumping from the tracks before it slammed into him.
One for the road. He reached across the mahogany desk to grab a cigar. His eyes caught on the photograph sitting to the left. The frame matched the office décor—his secretaries doing. She had set the family portrait there, too, thinking he would appear more human to his clients.
The picture of him, his parents and brothers dated back five years, capturing a time when he thought he had forever to make things right. They, his family, chose the day after his fiftieth birthday to schedule the sitting. He’d shuffled his calendar around so he could be available and was sure to make his family aware of what an inconvenience they had been. And for what? Plans he now couldn’t even remember.
There had probably been other pictures since, and if that were true, they had not invited him. And he hadn’t had forever to make things right. His parents passed away three years later, eight months apart and he missed them. His eyes welled with tears and he swiped the sleeve of his crisp blue shirt across his face in embarrassment.
God, what a pussy. Shame followed him everywhere these days.
If he had the balls to go through with this, Debbie, his secretary of seventeen years, would find him in the morning. Would she be sorry he was gone? Would she miss him? It wasn’t likely. He had done nothing to earn her respect. She had stayed on with the firm after ending their affair because he paid well, not because she cared about him.
She would be surprised to realize, though, how much he cared about her. No, he didn’t love her, not the way he had Rachel Molloy, but he did want her to be happy. He was glad she chose to stay with her husband and not tell him about the affair. One marriage he hadn’t ruined.
Everything was set. He had spoken to his lawyer last week and made a few changes to his Trust. With his death, a plan would be put in motion to right his wrongs. Those affected by the truth might not understand at first, but in time, they would appreciate the wisdom of his actions. He only wished he had done this years ago.
He should have paid closer attention. Simply by being absent from their lives, he had hurt the people he loved most. He had done very little for his family, but hoped what he left behind would make up for what he had been unable to give while alive.
No question, he would leave his mark on the world. Large, beautiful buildings scraped the skies of every major city in the United States and in foreign countries. They would live on long after he was gone. He had hobnobbed with presidents, kings and dignitaries, all for his own glory and satisfaction. But his death would mean nothing to them. No one would miss him, not his brothers, who he hadn’t seen in two years, or the daughter he knew only from a distance.
His biggest regret was letting his little girl go through life without a dad, having never known his family. He had letters and pictures from the girl’s maternal grandparents, the ones who had raised her, but he could have had more, done more. Lord knows he couldn’t have taken care of her himself, not then, and neither could her mother. But the child, now a twenty-nine year old woman, never knew….
She would soon enough. She would at least know his name.
He poured another shot of bourbon, left it sit on his desk while he toyed with the gun and listened for the seductive temptress to call to him. And when she did, he picked up the shot and downed the warm comfort. His right hand stopped shaking as he put the cold barrel of the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.
Illegitimate Daughter of Millionaire Keith O’Neil Inherits Fortune.
Katie Delynski snatched the newspaper out of the receptionist’s hand and glanced around the social service department lobby to see if anybody else was reading the mornings news. To her relief, Vicky was the only one.
“Not a word of this to anyone,” Katie instructed, folding the paper under her arm and making a beeline for her office.
“But that’s my paper,” Vicky called after her.
“You’ll get it back.”
Katie shut her door and dropped her lunch and the article on top her desk. She sat before her legs gave out, took a deep, steadying breath and then dared to look at the headline again. The grainy picture accompanying the brief piece was several years old.
The lawyer, Derek Pratt, had warned her, but she hadn’t expected the information to leak so soon. Just two weeks ago, she had learned the truth herself. Truths she could have gone her whole life never knowing.
When she’d received the phone call requesting her presence at the reading of Keith O’Neil’s Trust, she had laughed, telling the man he had the wrong number. But then she’d told her grandparents about the call and her world had shifted beneath her feet when they confirmed Keith was her father.
Now, everyone would know.
Breathe, she instructed. You cannot have a panic attack at work. She closed her eyes against the sting of angry tears.
The shrill ring of the phone startled her. She checked caller ID before answering, thankful when her best friend’s number appeared. “Oh God, Lana, did you see the paper?”
“Yes. Are you okay?”
“I’m shocked, as stupid as that seems considering I knew this might happen.”
“What can I do?”
“You’re doing it.” Katie couldn’t imagine life without Lana, who was more like family than she was a friend. “I keep thinking this can’t be happening to me.”
“You’re going to be fine.” A heavy sigh eased across the line. “I know you don’t want to hear this but you should meet with the O’Neils’ tonight.”
“I won’t go through that again.” Katie’s breath shuddered out at the very thought.
“Come on, it was a shock for them, too. Bad first impression. It happens.”
“They’re only worried about the money.”
“What if they really are interested in you? Is that so hard to believe?”
“I don’t know. I’ll think about it. Listen, my eight o’clock appointment is here. I gotta go.”
Throughout the day, Katie caught people staring at her and conversation stopped when she entered the ladies room. Were they speculating about the money or her being illegitimate?
God, how she despised that word.
The tabloids and respected newspapers alike, had plastered Keith’s suicide across their pages. A Millionaire at the Top of His Game, or so the headlines had said. Yeah, right. People don’t take their lives when they’ve reached their highest point. They end it when they find themselves at the bottom, at their lowest and most desperate.
As a social worker in the heart of Philadelphia, Katie had seen it all—death and suicide—often enough to recognize despair when she saw it, reeking like the rotting of ones soul.
When five o’clock struck, Katie wasted no time gathering her belongings and heading for the parking lot. She rounded the corner of the building and hit a wall of media. The flash of cameras blinded her; her arm flew up to shield her face. She turned, searching for a way out, but they surrounded her, yelling questions.
“Is it true Ms. Delynski, you were not aware Keith O’Neil was your father?”
“How does it feel to be a millionaire?”
“How are you dealing with the suicide of your father?”
Sweat popped out over her entire body as the crowd shifted, knocking her off balance. She grabbed the nearest arm to keep from falling, attempting to step forward, but her escape route closed off.
“Will you continue to work?”
“Of course,” Katie responded. “Excuse me, please.” Tears of frustration and panic surfaced as the air wheezed from her lungs.
“Hey, buddy, watch it,” someone yelled.
Then the reporters parted like the Red Sea as a big man pushed his way through and grabbed Katie by the elbow.
“Back off and give the lady some room,” his voice boomed with authority. Taking advantage of the media’s momentary bewilderment, he pulled her away from them. She had to jog to keep up with his long strides.
“Who are you?” she asked, but received no answer.
At her car, the man turned his back, placing himself between her and the angry mob of reporters bearing down on them. With shaky hands, Katie rushed to unlock the door to her old yellow Volkswagen and hesitated to…what…thank the stranger? His towering height forced her to look up.
He glanced over his shoulder, his eyes a pale blue reminding her of the sky on a clear cloudless day and then his full lips curved into a devastating smile that left her transfixed for one…two…three seconds.
“Conner Patterson,” he said, answering her question and breaking the spell. “Go on now. Drive safe.”
Inside her car, she gripped the steering wheel to keep her hands from shaking as she drove away. The tremble running through her body did not stop. The lawyer was right. She wasn’t prepared to handle this. She kept the tears in check as she headed for home. The fragile hold broke when she pulled down her street to find reporters camped out in front of her house. She turned around in the first driveway and sped away.
To purchase click here.