The kid wasn’t supposed to be real.
Back home, after her ordeal in New Zealand with Andrew, Neely McIntire has convinced herself the awful memories she cannot seem to shake are nothing more than bad dreams. But, when the picture of a child that could be her clone lands in her mailbox, everything she has fought to regain starts to crumble.
Even with the extra support from Hayden’s brother, Nathan, Neely is ready to break under the pressure that seems to be coming from all sides. Hayden wants to move their relationship to the next level. The Tribal Guard is stalking her. Worst of all, Andrew’s mother, Margarette, has given Neely an ultimatum: deliver her monster as promised or put everyone Neely loves at risk…starting with Hayden.
Drowning in secrets, Neely must convince Andrew to help her save the people she loves. But when Andrew introduces her to the child, Neely’s resolve wavers. Will she be able to sacrifice a child wearing her face? Or will she make the choice to save someone she never expected to love?
**This is the second of 3 books, it’s recommended that they be read in order to fully enjoy the experience of the story**
July, one year later
ANDREW HAD PURPOSELY CHOSEN THE HEAVYWEIGHT, padded envelope for this letter. A familiar ominous sensation squeezed his ribs tighter as he glanced in the rearview mirror at the child asleep in the car seat. This time, the band of tension around his ribs tightened with something new. Panic.
“I’m doing this for him. Lucas needs her,” he whispered to the face in the mirror, but that guy didn’t seem to believe the words. “Okay, so I need her too,” he admitted.
The phone screen went dark and hid the email from Masa. His warning that The Guard would be coming for them turned Andrew’s stomach sour.
As he opened the door the night air, heavy with brine, swirled into the car. He’d waited until midnight so no one would see. Now the building wasn’t just deserted, but full of a darkness that held secrets and fear. For his son, he’d walk through hell before giving up any chance to keep him safe. The car door clicked softly closed, and the lights flashed when he pressed the LOCK button on the key fob. Thankfully, Lucas didn’t stir.
The paper and Windex smell of the post office curdled his dinner. His stomach rolled with nausea, which caused sweat to bead on his forehead. His shoes squeaked louder with each step across the lobby’s slick tiles. As he opened the mail slot, it produced a startling squeal sounding enough like a scream that his heart thumped harder against his ribs. Half the envelope hung in the dark void but he couldn’t let go. Releasing the letter held wonderful and horrible possibilities. He swiped at the fresh goosebumps that crawled up the back of his neck, now slick with cold sweat.
Will this hurt her more?
He’d already taken so much from Neely, all while professing love. Will this be one more on my very long list of sins?
The clouds covering the moon’s face swirled into wisps of mist, and moonlight brightened the room. He glanced over his shoulder as light splashed onto the car’s black paint and reflected silver. Beams spilled through the back glass and leached the brilliant red and gold away to transform the child’s hair into a white cloud of curls. Lucas slept on soundly, safe, close, perfectly adorable, and so much like her.
“My son needs his mother,” Andrew whispered, as the envelope hit with a thud against the bottom of the chute. “And I need Neely’s help.”
The shore road’s lights became a blurred stream of neon pinks and yellows on the drive home. Carrying Lucas into the house and tucking him into bed left Andrew with too much time to think about what he’d done.
He walked out onto the deck, closed his eyes, and inhaled. The salty air instantly energized his muscles and caressed that other side of his nature.
“I hope this is the right decision,” he whispered to the stars. The creation story his grandmother had told him came flooding back and his heart grew heavier with the memory of her warm smile.
“Somewhere in all that dark sky and water The Mother and The Father are parted,” Gran had whispered to him in the dark. “They are destined to forever mourn the loss of each other, giving the world light now at the cost of their separation.”
“Sacrifice,” he said softly as the echo of waves slapping the sand bounced off the house.
Will that be my fate?
He missed Gran terribly on nights like this. She’d been the only person in the world with the power to talk sense into his mother during his childhood. Gran had rescued him so many times from Margarette’s wild schemes.
How different would my life be now if she’d lived? But my Gran is dead, and now it’s my responsibility to keep Lucas safe from the real monster, his grandmother, Margarette.
A cold shiver ran down his spine at the thought of Margarette getting her hands on his son. He glanced toward the play of lights reflected by the nightlight onto the bedroom window and smiled. His phone buzzed against his thigh with another email. The bubble of peace he’d worked so hard to create for Lucas cracked a little more. His smile turned into a hard pinch of muscles in his face. There’s absolutely nothing I won’t do for Lucas.
He’d never anticipated what his desires might cost him when it had only been Neely’s love he wanted. Now the price he might have to pay for having fallen in love with her suddenly seemed very high. Especially every time Masa sent a new warning. His emails always came as kind of a shock. He’d known Masa his whole life as a family friend and never guessed he’d been so much more to Margarette. And now to him. Masa had shown more unconditional love as his biological father over the last year than Margarette ever had as his mother.
Andrew shoved his hands into his pockets and stepped off the deck onto the cooling sand. He stripped down to skin and sighed as the water covered his ankles. The moon hung heavy and full over the water. A trail of silver light glittered on the surface and called to that hidden part of his every cell. Energy from the crashing waves thrummed under his skin the deeper he walked into the water. Refueling, renewing, and soothing his soul with each lap against his body. Blessed Mother knows I need all the help I can get now. He thanked The Earth Mother and Tangaroa with a silent prayer for the sea’s gift as his head disappeared under the waves and he hoped that somewhere in all those stars and midnight, Gran might be proud of the man he’d been trying so hard to become.
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K.D. Wood lives in north Mississippi with her family and a very spoiled White Waug. She creates love stories and smokin’ southern erotica, but not your mama’s happy ever after. She’s a consumer of chocolate but not spiders and is completely composed of liquid awesome. When not in her office pounding the keys she can be found under a snuggly blanket, cup of Donut Shop close by, with her nose in a book.