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No Time for Secrets: Secrets, #2

No Time for Secrets: Secrets, #2

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No Time for Secrets: Secrets, #2

Länge:
227 Seiten
3 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Oct 20, 2014
ISBN:
9781516362455
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Three years after his family’s Secrets in the Air rocked Rhett O’Neil’s world, they crash it down. 
With the FBI missions expanding overseas and Kaden leaving his job, Rhett and his grandfather agree – despite reservations – to give Annabelle, Rhett’s rescued sister, the chance to take a more active role in the charter airline business. Unfortunately, a bird strike prevents the successful completion of her test flight. 
 

After Rhett ditches near a deserted island, the family must survive against the elements, and each another. Innocent mistakes jeopardize the life of one of their own, leaving No Time for Secrets

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Oct 20, 2014
ISBN:
9781516362455
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Liz Borino transcribes the world inside her head onto the page, and shares it with the people who are stuck in the "real world" to makes their lives a little more interesting. Because in her world, heroes fall and stand up again with the help of their partners and friends. Liz's world is littered with formidable obstacles, which her heroes overcome with a fire of courage and passion. The beauty of love between two men is celebrated. Who wouldn't want to live there? When not with her heroes, Liz enjoys exploring cities, working toward social justice, and editing for other authors. Visit lizborino.net to learn more!

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No Time for Secrets - Liz Borino

tough.

Chapter One

Rhett O’Neil parked his motorcycle on the circular driveway, dismounted, and strode through the marble encrusted doorway of his grandfather’s main house. Owning half the property made no difference to him. Rhett would think of the opulent estate as belonging to Pop as long as his grandfather lived.

Hi, Martha. He kissed the older woman’s cheek, who offered him a warm embrace.

Hello, dear. I would ask how you were, but your grandfather is in his study waiting for you, and we shouldn’t waste time with small talk.

I know. He texted me, but wouldn’t say why I had to come immediately. Is anything wrong? The scene was oddly familiar to one three years ago when Rhett became co-owner of his grandfather’s company and estate. Familiar, yes, but since then everything had changed.

No, not really. His FBI friend is in there with him and—

Oh, Stuart. At least Pop’s not angry about the mechanics taking longer than expected to fix the Bombardier.

Donald O’Neil’s confident footsteps became louder until he reached the entryway. What are you doing, Everett?

Talking to your wife. She’s more interesting, Rhett answered.

Now you see why I married her.

Tired of talking to yourself after sixty-eight years?

We’ll go with that. His grandfather sneaked in an adoring look for Martha, who blushed. Directing himself to Rhett, he said, You, however, are not finished with me yet.

Rhett rolled his eyes, but kept a smile. Guess I can deal. Pop motioned Rhett through the living room.

Don, is Stuart staying for dinner? Martha called after them.

No.

Did you ask him?

No, Pop replied, turning to face her. Rhett followed suit to find her with her arms crossed over her chest.

Then, you want me to? Because I know you aren’t suggesting we be rude.

The two of them locked eyes in a silent power struggle. Finally, Pop strode over to her and spoke just loudly enough for Rhett to hear. It’s more rude for him to try to change the terms of our business contract after nearly twenty years of working together.

Be careful not to jeopardize your friendship over business, she answered, raising herself up onto her tiptoes for a kiss. Go on. Let me know if anything changes.

Pop nodded and walked to the office with Rhett.

Hi, Rhett. Stuart stood up and shook Rhett’s hand. How are you?

Confused, but otherwise well, thanks, he replied.

Are we finished with customary social niceties? Pop asked while they took their seats.

Stuart chuckled. You never did bother much with them. One of the many qualities Pop and Rhett shared.

Never saw a point. The answer is still no.

Shouldn’t you consult your business partner?

Rhett raised his hand to end the bickering. Can either of you please tell me what’s going on? Pop said you hoped to change the business relationship, but how?

By expanding it. Stuart trained his focus on Rhett. How else do businesses grow?

Cut the crap, Stuart. Pop released a breath. He wants you to fly international missions, which can last more than three months at a time.

Oh. Rhett chewed his bottom lip. He, and his grandfather when he still could, flew child-trafficking missions for the FBI. They found his sister, whom they had spent years believing was dead, on one of these. So, now they had even more investment in helping other women get second chances. But three months was a long time to be away from family, especially his husband, Kaden. Maybe not in the grand scheme of life, but Pop said missions, as in plural. I think we’ll continue to concentrate on domestic missions.

Thank you, Everett, Pop said. Are you happy, Stuart? You heard him say the same thing I did.

The agent inhaled. It’s not as big of an issue here as it is in other countries. The FBI has received a tip from the Netherlands about suspected human trafficking activity involving American citizens, Stuart began.

The people selling the women are Americans? Pop cut in. Because, as a general rule, even the victims sold in this country are foreign born.

Stuart scrutinized him. Not all, as you’re well aware.

Pop leaned back in his chair. Your job would be exhausting if you focused on exceptions. No, there’s enough to do domestically.

These girls are being bought and sold to highest bidder, sometimes on a daily basis. They suffer malnutrition, and are deprived of basic healthcare and education. Children as young as six and seven are coerced into these criminal activities, often by their parents. Stuart paused, then added, Most people aren’t as lucky as Annabelle.

Rhett swallowed hard as his grandfather’s eyes flashed at the implication. Watch yourself, Stuart, Rhett said.

The man shrugged. You can’t deny that selling her to one man for fifteen years is superior to being on the market every single night.

Pop’s shoulders tensed. I would heed Everett’s warning if I were you.

You may be right, but what would your granddaughter say? Stuart asked, unfazed by the repeated refusals and warnings.

Doesn’t matter. It’s not her decision. Rhett’s sister, Annabelle, had no legal or financial stakes in the business, for which Rhett was grateful.

You bastard, Pop said, and Rhett snapped his head up. You know exactly what she’d say, don’t you?

I have a pretty good guess, since she came to me to make the suggestion.

The ticking clock cut the dense silence, which blanketed the room. I beg your pardon? Pop’s words were measured.

Does her desire to help combat the injustice come as a surprise?

Rhett closed his eyes and counted to ten, jumping between anger at Stuart and his sister. Not her decision to make. She’s a nurse. Well, almost a nurse. Annabelle was taking a course to prepare for the standardized test at the end of the RN program because she had failed the first four times when she studied on her own.

Stuart bent down and removed a file from his briefcase. According to the FAA records, Annabelle is fifty hours and a test away from attaining an ATP-r license.

She’s not so great at tests, Rhett replied. Besides, I would still need to fly with her. A pilot holding an ATP-r license can’t captain a flight.

And you’d still be using our plane. So, again, no. Pop remained firm with the agent. Rhett picked up on the tension underlying his grandfather’s words, though he couldn’t be sure if it was directed at Annabelle for going around them or Stuart for making plans before obtaining their agreement. Both.

The agent packed his briefcase once more and shook both men’s hands. I understand your hesitation, though it’s admittedly selfish to not offer other families the same joy you found when we rescued Annabelle. Why not take time to think it over and talk to her? You have a month before needing to leave, he suggested, leaving the room.

Before Rhett finished processing the exchange, his sister appeared at the doorway. What are you talking to me about?

Pop raised his gaze and gestured for her to come in. Shut the door and have a seat.

Uh-oh. Annabelle glanced at Rhett as she followed the instructions. What’d I do?

You tell us. What did you agree to with Stuart? Rhett asked, shifting in his seat.

Annabelle relaxed. Told him he needed to expand the human trafficking operations overseas, and that the Netherlands had an underreported issue.

Then you volunteered us to fly those missions? Rhett worked to keep the rage out of his voice.

Of course.

Why? Pop asked.

To help girls in a similar situation to mine. Do you understand what most of them are up against? I had it easy in comparison. The sex trade industry leads these women into prostitution because they don’t see themselves as having any other options. I can make a difference in their lives. She blinked at them. So, the more relevant question is, why wouldn’t I? If you’re worried about living arrangements, he said the government would provide housing for the three months we’d be gone.

Rhett stared at her. Annabelle, what about Donnie? He figured bringing up her son would make the problems clearer.

I can homeschool him while we’re there. The education system here is failing him, anyway.

Or he’s failing to receive the help he needs.

You aren’t trained to help him any better, Annabelle, Pop told her. And we have more resources at our disposal here than you would overseas.

Setting her mouth in a tight line, Annabelle answered, You just don’t want us to leave.

True, except for the word just. I don’t want you gone for three months because I’m dependent on your brother for a large portion of the business workings. Not to mention, we’d miss you around here, he tried.

And you don’t have enough hours or training, Rhett added.

Her features lit up. I thought of a solution for that! Annabelle took out a piece of paper and showed him an equation. What if we went on a vacation to the Bahamas first? I could pilot the flight and complete my hours.

Rhett shut his eyes again. You still won’t have enough.

Nor are you ready for that responsibility, Pop said, taking a drink of water.

I will be if I practice between now and then. We have time.

Tying his hair into a ponytail, Rhett said, Belly, it doesn’t matter if we have all the time in the world. Pop needs us here. And I doubt you’ll be able to handle the level of responsibility inherent in those missions. Besides, the whole reason for Donnie going to camp is to give you the opportunity to devote yourself to your nursing test.

I can do both. Stuart also said if Rhett refused to fly the missions, he could find another pilot to go. Since you’ll have trained me, he figures I’d only need a spotter.

Rhett balled and relaxed his hands in his lap. FBI agents should stick to investigating crimes, and stay out of families.

He figured wrong. Pop held up a hand to stop her protest. I don’t allow pilots without an unrestricted ATP license to be in the cockpit during those missions. So, you’d need an additional two hundred hours, plus pass a rigorous test.

How many times did you have to take it? she asked Rhett.

Don’t go there, he said. The situations were entirely different.

Same test, more or less, right?

Yes, Pop told her, But your brother had more hours and spent every waking moment not in the air studying. You do not have that kind of time.

I will if I stop trying to pass the nursing one.

But you love nursing, and you’re a lot closer to understanding the ins and outs of that test than this one, Rhett said.

Annabelle stood. Why won’t you give me a chance?

That isn’t... Pop didn’t finish his sentence because she left the room. Damn it, he muttered, twirling his pen.

No, Pop, Rhett said.

I deserve a relaxation method.

Not if it involves smoking.

He tossed the pen down and massaged his temples. If I didn’t need you here, would you go?

Rhett’s response came without hesitation. I’m not leaving Kaden for three months.

What if he went with you? Pop asked.

Moot point. He won’t quit his job. Working is too important to him. I don’t know if he could get around it.

Pop shook his head. But if he did, and you wanted to, there are other pilots to accompany you. We can make the business work over Skype. He rubbed his face. I’d hate to limit you, Everett.

You never have. Rhett pushed down his annoyance at his sister for making Pop doubt himself. He glanced at the paper she left. She’ll never be able to make up the hours in the next month, even if she did forget the other test. But it doesn’t have to be all one thing or the other. She can fly down to the Bahamas with me next to her. Not like we can’t all use a vacation.

He offered Rhett a smile. Your sister isn’t great at middle ground.

Rhett’s stomach clenched. Then it may be time for a life lesson, Pop. We made the rules for a reason.

- SB -

Kaden O’Neil dragged himself into the ranch-style home he shared with his husband and cat. The house was the least extravagant on the vast estate, exactly the way Kaden liked it. Hi, Lassie, he greeted their orange tabby on his way to the bedroom to change out of his work clothes. Lassie, who never missed an opportunity to see either of them undressed, trailed close behind. Kaden crumpled his button-down shirt and tossed it into the hamper, wishing the laundry washed away stress and bad work environments. The door opening brought him out of his ruminations.

Honey, I’m home! Rhett called, and Lassie scurried out.

Oh, thank God, Kaden said, pulling on sweatpants and leaving the bedroom.

Aww, did you miss me? Rhett asked, wrapping his arms around Kaden.

Kaden responded by returning the embrace and kissing him on the lips. He inhaled Rhett’s distinct scent, a mix of leather and pine. The smell of comfort for Kaden. Always, but I’m also starving and had no time for lunch today.

Rhett pulled back a few inches. You didn’t get one break in a twelve hour shift?

After shaking his head, Kaden took a seat at the kitchen table and accepted Lassie onto his lap. Not after another layoff crippling the staffing.

Bending down to place a kiss on Kaden’s lips, Rhett asked, Why did you fire this one?

Kaden had to let several nurses go in the last few weeks, mostly for not meeting quality standards. When he earned his M.S. in nursing to become a Nurse Practitioner, he had done so to have the opportunity to treat his patients without physicians who swore they knew better. Instead, Kaden took a supervisor’s position. Less patient interaction and more staff nurses who now saw him as the enemy, especially since he found outdated performance reviews and poorly trained staff. His first three months were spent organizing the previous supervisor’s files and requesting funding from administration to improve training. Performance reviews led to the firings, which began the staff resentment. Not properly documenting medication for two years, Kaden finally remembered to respond.

Geez, she’s lucky you didn’t report her to the state boards. Rhett turned toward the fridge.

I did.

Oh.

I had no choice, Kaden defended. She couldn’t tell me where any of it went. And there was a lot missing.

Kay, I’m not blaming you. I’d have done the same thing. Do you think the people defending her don’t know? Rhett placed brie cheese in the microwave and arranged crackers on a plate as he spoke.

I’d like to believe they don’t, but it’s not like I can ask them. Kaden smiled as Rhett set the plate in front of him. Thanks. How was your day?

Rhett returned the smile. It was fine, aside from some drama with Stuart, Annabelle, and Pop.

It’s best not to start drama with government agencies, usually. Kaden spread cheese on the crackers with the small knife.

You know as well as I do Pop doesn’t follow rules without a reason, Rhett replied and went on to describe the meeting between Stuart and his grandfather as he grabbed a cracker and faced the stove.

Wait, Rhett, Netherlands? How long would you be over there? Kaden asked.

I don’t even know if I’m going.

Yeah, but if you did, how long would it be? Kaden swallowed hard. He got nervous every time Rhett flew one of the FBI missions. Not for any logical reason, since anyone who could link Rhett to the missions was in prison. Regardless, Kaden’s stomach clenched whenever Rhett got the call.

Three months, but Pop and I told them no. I’m not going without you, Rhett said. How about fish?

"Sounds great. But what if I could get a job over there teaching during the

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