Print Length: 368 pages
Publisher: MIRA (February 13, 2018)
They called themselves “the lucky ones”
They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.
Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night — was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?
But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.
EXCERPT (from Chapter 3)
Tiffany Reisz lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband, author Andrew Shaffer..
Last times were no time for anything fancy. McQueen stripped her naked, put her on her back in the bed and kissed every inch of her like he was kissing every inch goodbye. Allison sighed with pleasure when he entered her. It was either sigh or cry and she refused to give in to her tears again. McQueen kissed her neck and said into her ear, “And to think I always thought I was the first rich son of a bitch to take you in from the cold.”
“Oh, you were,” she said, almost smiling. “Dr. Capello wasn’t a son of a bitch.”
Dr. Capello was, in fact, an angel. At least, that’s how she’d once thought of him. Until age seven, Allison had lived in a little town called Red, where even the trees in spring were a dull shade of brown. High desert, they called it, past the Cascades, which might as well have been a sky-high wall for how well they trapped the rain on the other side of the mountains. Although Allison’s teachers had said they lived an hour’s drive away from mossy green forests and three hours from the ocean, she had never believed them. The whole world was high desert to her until that day the man with the brown beard came to the house where they’d taken her because she had nowhere else to go.
Allison lived in the single-story house with siding the color of desert sand, and shared a room with three other girls, all of them older. Older and terrifying. All three of them resented the intrusion of a “little girl” into their tween kingdom. It was 1997 and she had no idea who those boys were in the posters on the wall and not knowing who the Backstreet Boys were was apparently enough of a crime to render Allison unworthy of friendship or even basic kindnesses from anyone but Miss Whitney.
She’d gone to find Miss Whitney that day, because one of the girls—Melissa, the biggest one who called all the shots—had slapped Allison for daring to sit in the wrong chair. Allison had taken her tearstained red face to Miss Whitney’s tiny office in the hopes of being allowed to hide there and read all day. Miss Whitney had let her do that a time or two. Apparently Allison was “adjusting poorly” and suffering from “profound stress,” and she needed a “more nurturing environment.” Allison wasn’t sure what all that meant, but she’d heard Miss Whitney saying that on the phone to someone the day before. What Allison really wanted was her mother back, but Miss Whitney had reminded her—kindly and more than once—that her mother was never coming back. They’d been trying to find her long-gone father instead, or another relative for her to live with. No luck yet, except an aunt deemed too old to handle a seven-year-old girl.
The first time she’d seen the man with the beard he’d been hugging Miss Whitney in her office. Allison stood in the doorway and stared at the man who was tall and dressed in what looked to her like blue pajamas. He patted Miss Whitney’s back very hard as he hugged her, which made Miss Whitney laugh and wince, wince and laugh.
“My God,” the bearded man said as he pulled back from the hug. He’d seen her lurking in the doorway. “Is this her?” He turned to Miss Whitney, his brown eyes wide.
“That’s her. That’s our Allison.”
Immediately, he squatted on the floor to meet Allison eye to eye.
Allison took a step back, afraid she’d broken a rule.
“It’s all right,” the man said, and his beard split apart in a big smile that showed a row of bright white teeth. “Don’t be scared.”
“I’m not scared,” Allison said. “Are you?”
He grinned at that. “Surprised. You look a little like another girl I used to know.”
“I thought the same thing when I saw her,” Miss Whitney said. “Cousins at least. Should I not have called?”
“No, no…” the bearded man said. “It’s fine.”
“Why are you wearing pajamas?” Allison asked the bearded man. She knew they were pajamas because the pants had a drawstring on them like her pajamas. Zipper meant outdoor pants. No zipper meant indoor pants. That’s how her mother had explained it.
The bearded man laughed and it was a nice laugh and he had nice eyes. Nice, not like pretty, but nice like kind.
“These are called scrubs,” he said. “They’re not pajamas. Doctors wear them.”
“Are you a doctor?” Allison asked.
“Is somebody sick?”
“You tell me,” the bearded man said. “You don’t look too good.”
“I got hit.”
“Hit?” the bearded man said, and looked up at Miss Whitney.
“Melissa?” Miss Whitney asked.
Tears welled up in Allison’s eyes again and she nodded.
“I’ll be back,” Miss Whitney said with a put-upon groan.
“You go jerk a knot in Melissa’s tail,” the bearded man said. “I’ll get Allison here back in working order.”
He stood up straight and Miss Whitney patted him on the arm as she left the office. They were alone together now, Allison and the bearded man.
“Does it hurt?” he asked, his hand on his chin.
“It’s okay if you cry,” he said. “I can tell you want to.”
“Katie said I shouldn’t cry.”
“They don’t want you if you cry too much.”
“People who take kids home with them,” she said.
The bearded man cupped his hand by his mouth and whispered, “I don’t mind if you cry. No skin off my rosy nose.”
That made her feel better, so much better she didn’t want to cry anymore.
“Let’s go find a bathroom,” he said.
Allison showed him where it was. He put her on the counter, wetted a washcloth and pressed it to her cheek.
“How’s that now?” he asked. “Better?”
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Follow the full tour here. Check out my review post on February 14th!I LOVED this book!!!