Dangerous Secrets:Callaghan Brothers, Book 1

By: Abbie Zanders

Callaghan Brothers, Volume 1




Acknowledgements


Special thanks to Aubrey Rose Cover Designs for this amazing cover and eye-catching blurb!

Special thanks also go to Carol, Cindy, and Aubrey (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) for reading the first draft and making invaluable suggestions. I could not have done this without your unending patience, support, and encouragement.





Prologue




Northwest Oregon

Kiara Fitzpatrick came to with a start, her eyes open but seeing nothing in the inky blackness, the pressure on her chest heavy as if someone had laid a wet blanket filled with sand on top of it, making it hard to draw a full breath.

For the briefest of moments, she thought she’d been having a nightmare, and a horrific one at that. It was the same one she’d been having over and over, the one that involved betrayal and treachery and unfathomable pain.

She blew out a breath, letting her body sink into the mattress, feeling the familiar hand-stitched comforter her grandmother had made all those years ago, now lying over her. Everything was quiet, peaceful. A slight breeze blew across her sweat-soaked forehead, eliciting a shiver. As she brought her hand up to her face to rub at her eyes, she felt the weight of the leather bands around her wrists, and her heart filled with dread. A quick tug assured her that the chains were still in place.

It wasn’t a nightmare after all.

She couldn’t completely stop the racking sobs that began in her congested chest and rumbled upward, but she did try to keep them silent, turning her face into the pillow as much as her bonds would allow. If he heard her, he would come to her, and she didn’t want that.

The jag didn’t last long. She was too tired, too beaten. At least one of her ribs was cracked, but probably more, and even the effort of holding back the sobs was painful. Once she let a little cry escape her lips, squeezing her eyes in self-recrimination. Within minutes, she felt the familiar prickling on the back of her neck.

He was coming.

Kiara froze as she heard the key turning in the old-fashioned lock, the heavy swing of the solid oak door, and the soft footfalls of her tormentor. She quickly closed her eyes – even in the dark – and feigned sleep. Maybe, just maybe, he would leave her be, just this once.

The footsteps grew closer, his light breathing loud in the dead silence. To her right, she heard the soft click, followed by the low-level amber glow shining through her eyelids. The tiny lamp, placed well out of her reach, offered just enough light for him to see her, to ensure that she was still there.

Typically he checked on her several times a night. Exactly where else he thought she would be, she didn’t know. With restraints around her wrists and her ankles, secured to the iron-framed bed at four corners by chains, she didn’t have a lot of freedom to go anywhere, even if she wasn’t suffering from pneumonia and her ribs hadn’t been cracked.

“Kiara...” He breathed her name like a prayer. She concentrated on keeping her necessarily shallow breaths even, like she was asleep, but she did offer a slight sigh at the sound of his voice, knowing he liked that. At least tonight he seemed calm, in control, and she wanted to keep it that way. So far he hadn’t stripped the covers from her body or taken that which he deemed to be his right to take.

Instead, she felt the side of the bed dip beneath his weight as he sat down next to her. His finger brushed lightly over the raised welt on her cheekbone, the result of an earlier encounter, when he had been less calm, less in control.

“Why do you make me do this?” he whispered into the near-darkness, and Kiara heard genuine regret in his voice. He was always sorry after he hurt her, but that didn’t ease the pain any.

“We always hurt the ones we love most, don’t we?” Kiara shifted slightly, not enough to pull the chains too taut, but enough to satisfy him. As long as she responded in some way, he might remain calm. Ignoring him was a sure-fire way to get him to fly into a wild rage.

It killed her a little more every time she did these things, feeling like she was selling her soul a tiny piece at a time. She should be fighting, every second of every hour of every day, not sighing and shifting to make it easier on herself. She was a Fitzpatrick, for God’s sake. Made of strong stock with ancient blood running through her veins. Her ancestors, her parents, her siblings – they were all probably turning over in their graves right about now. The shame and guilt weighed heavily on her heart.

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