Kathleen O'Brien The Cost of Silence

ISBN 13: 9780373717460

The Cost of Silence

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9780373717460: The Cost of Silence
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Redmond "Red" Malone instantly agrees when his dying mentor asks him to deal with a situation discreetly. Yet convincing "the mistress" Allison York to sign a document keeping silent about the relationship leaves Red feeling?off. Allison is smart, honest and beautiful?not at all like the gold digger he'd assumed she'd be. Even more unsettling is that the single mom wants nothing to do with Red or any offer he has.

Still, Red is persistent, and the more he's with Allison, the more he realizes he's found where he wants to be. He's found his home. But the silent secret between them threatens their happiness. And Red is faced with a dilemma: to keep his promise, or let the truth set them free.

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About the Author:

Kathleen O’Brien is a former feature writer and TV critic who’s written more than 35 novels. She’s a five-time finalist for the RWA Rita award and a multiple nominee for the Romantic Times awards. Though her books range from warmly witty to suspenseful, they all focus on strong characters and thrilling romantic relationships. They reflect her deep love of family, home and community, and her empathy for the challenges faced by women as they juggle today's complex lives.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Redmond Malone had been parked in front of the Windsor Beach Peacock Cafe for a full five minutes. He kept going back and forth, one minute gazing at the ocean—which glittered invitingly between the buildings—and the next minute glaring at the restaurant, with the blue-and-green-striped awnings and kitschy matching outdoor umbrellas.

So what was it going to be? Hit the gas, find a beach shop that sold surfboards and trunks, and wash his cares away in the Pacific? Or open that shadowy cafe door and scope out the mysterious, adulterous Allison York?

Yeah, right. As if he had any choice.

With a heartfelt, under-the-breath curse, he met his own eyes in the rearview mirror. Note for next time: don't make deathbed promises. First, obviously everyone 's too emotional to think straight when a good friend is dying. And second, promises like that are set in stone. Impossible to renegotiate them when you wake up and realize you've stepped in a big pile of—

The thought broke off as, without warning, his parked car lurched forward sharply. Simultaneously, he heard a grating, metallic sound. Harsh, piercing, up close and personal...

Aw, hell. He swiveled to look out the back window.

Some jackass in a fat black Rolls Royce just rearended him.

God, could this damned errand get any worse? He yanked the keys from the ignition, shoved open the door and climbed out. Luckily for the blind fool in the Rolls, Red wasn't the yelling, punching kind, or the "ouch, my neck" kind. But the fool had better have insurance.

The other driver was slower to emerge, so Red was almost at the door of the Rolls when it opened. Great. The guy must have been eighty, easy. Suit, tie, pocket kerchief...definitely overdressed for early-morning pancakes, so maybe he hadn't been headed to the Peacock Cafe. Maybe the bank down the street.

"You all right, son?" The man's long, seamed face looked worried. He reminded Red of a wood carving of an ancient Chinese philosopher.

"I'm fine. How about you?"

"Nothing broken." The old guy slowly eased out his legs, as if he balanced raw eggs on his knees. Where his hand gripped the door, his fingers trembled on the shiny black paint like long, pale flower petals.

He tilted his chin to see over the huge hood of his own car, all the way down to Red's low-slung Mercedes.

"Oh, dear. That is a shame. I am sorry, young man. I didn't see your little automobile until it was far, far too late."

On a normal day, Red might have been amused by the old-world style. Unfortunately, he, too, had gotten a good look at the rear panel of his SLK 300, which he'd bought only three months ago and still liked better than any woman he'd ever dated. So, yeah. Not amused.

The old man tottered over to the sidewalk and gingerly mounted the curb, balancing himself on the parking meter. Apparently drawn by the sound of the collision, people had started to gather in front of the cafe. A couple of men grimaced when they saw Red's car, but most of the onlookers clustered around the old guy, clucking sympathetically, as if he were the victim.

"Are you okay, Bill? Did you hit your head? Does anything hurt?"

Red might as well have been invisible. Which suited him fine. He dialed the operator on his cell phone. "Windsor Beach Police Department," he said, propping his phone between his shoulder and his ear so that he could search for his insurance card and registration. "Nonemergency."

"No, wait!" A female voice raised itself above the general hubbub of curious gawkers. "Wait. Don't call the police."

He glanced up from his wallet. A young woman had emerged from the crowd and was heading toward him. She wore a blue-and-green-striped uniform, so he assumed she worked at the cafe. She waved her hand vigorously, as if to demonstrate that he absolutely must hang up.

Yeah? He didn't think so.

When he didn't lower the phone, she frowned and moved faster. She reached him two seconds later, while the unanswered call was still ringing against his ear. And ringing. And ringing. For the Windsor Beach police, apparently nonemergency meant no response.

"Please," she said, slightly breathless. She was cute. Mid-twenties, with a chin-length brown bob, freckles and an imploring smile. "Please, hang up. There's no need to involve the police, really." She glanced back toward the sidewalk. "The man who hit you...that's Bill Longmire."

"Okay." Red smiled, too. He nodded toward his car. "And that's an eight-thousand-dollar repair."

She gave the Mercedes a cursory look, but Red could tell she didn't think his car was the important point here. Maybe it wasn't, to her. Maybe the old guy was her grandfather, or the grand pooh-bah of Windsor Beach. Red didn't care. The man shouldn't be behind a wheel.

He glanced at her name tag.

Without really thinking, he lowered the phone from his ear. Oh, great.

He'd been so riled by the accident he'd almost lost track of why he was here in the first place. He'd almost forgotten he was on a ridiculous spy mission, trying to find out everything he could about a waitress named Allison York.

Well, James Bond. Meet Allison York.

In his defense, he'd been expecting a home-wrecking sexpot. He had only a few facts about her. She was twenty-seven. She was divorced. And last year she'd given birth to his best friend's baby.

His married best friend.

The one who had died of cancer two months ago. The one who had, even on his deathbed, been terrified that his big mistake—that would be Allison York—would somehow find a way to destroy the loved ones he was leaving behind.

This woman was pretty, but no sexpot. She looked more like the one who would get cast as the sexpot's worried best friend. Skinny, with no-fuss, healthy hair.

A little pale for a California gal. The kind of long neck he always associated with ballet lessons and overpro-tective mothers.

Something was buzzing. He glanced down at his phone, strangely off balance. It was still ringing.

"Please," she said again. "I can explain."

He clicked the end button.

"Thank you." She took a deep breath. "You see, Bill... Well, Bill is a good friend of mine. He knows he isn't supposed to drive. He has someone who does that for him. But something must have happened—"

"Steve didn't show up, that's what happened." While Red had been gathering his wits, Bill Longmire had apparently decided to join them in the street, his entourage of well-wishers behind him.

Allison slipped her hand under the old man's elbow. "But when Steve is late, you're supposed to wait." She shook his arm gently. "You know that, Bill. Someone could have been hurt."

"Well, no one was." Bill winked one rheumy eye, then reached out his long finger to tap Allison's nose. "Besides, sweetheart, I couldn't wait. You only work until ten today, and no one else ever gets my omelet right."

Red frowned. Was that bony antique actually flirting with this woman who was only a third of his age? His jaw tightened, but Allison didn't seem to find it disgusting. She grinned and, sighing, let her head briefly rest on the old man's shoulder.

"Darn it, Bill," she said with affectionate exasperation. "If you're not careful, you'll be eating your eggs off a hospital tray."

"Allie's right, Bill," someone from the crowd said. A murmur of agreement rumbled through the rest of them.

Red felt his fingers close hard around his cell phone, and he realized he was seriously annoyed. Hooray that Bill Longmire, whoever he was, hadn't killed himself today. But what about Red's car? What about the whiplash he hadn't gotten, but might have?

"Still," he broke in flatly. "We need to call the police. We'll need to report this to our insurance companies."

Allison frowned. Though she lifted her head, she didn't let go of Bill's elbow, as if she were afraid he would topple over without her support. "Surely you two can work out—"

"Of course we can," Bill broke in. He extricated his arm, then dug around in his pants pocket. "I don't know how much money I'm carrying." He found a battered old leather wallet. "Let's see—"

Great. The guy probably still calculated in 1930s prices, and was going to try to placate him with a pair of limp twenty-dollar bills.

"I'm sorry," Red said, "but I'm afraid I'm going to have to get an estimate—"

As if Red hadn't said a word, Bill extended a fat wad of cash. "I've only got about five thousand on me, but if you'll take a check—"

"Bill!" Allison batted his hand down. "What are you doing, walking around with that kind of cash?"

"I'm paying the man for the damage." Bill turned his elegant smile Red's way. "I suspect the final costs will be at least twice this," he said. "Mercedes parts don't come cheap. But if you'll accept this as a down payment, Mr...."

The sentence trailed off as he waited for Red to supply his name.

Red thought a minute, then decided it didn't matter. Allison wouldn't connect his name with Victor Wigham. "Malone. Redmond Malone."

The old man nodded. "Mr. Malone. Delighted to meet you. You're not from Windsor Beach, I take it?"

Red shook his head. "San Francisco."

"Oh, yes. Lovely city." Bill extended the money again. "So, as I was saying. You can take this as a down payment, and I will write you a check for another five thousand to cover the rest."

"That's very generous, Mr. Longmire, but I'm afraid—"

"Hey, give the guy a break, why don't you?" Two burly men separated from the crowd and flanked Allison, o...

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