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From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Douglas comes a new standalone…
Tiernan de Haas doesn’t care about anything anymore. The only child of a film producer and his starlet wife, she’s grown up with wealth and privilege but not love or guidance. Shipped off to boarding schools from an early age, it was still impossible to escape the loneliness and carve out a life of her own. The shadow of her parents’ fame followed her everywhere.
And when they suddenly pass away, she knows she should be devastated. But has anything really changed? She’s always been alone, hasn’t she?
Jake Van der Berg, her father’s stepbrother and her only living relative, assumes guardianship of Tiernan who is still two months shy of eighteen. Sent to live with him and his two sons, Noah and Kaleb, in the mountains of Colorado, Tiernan soon learns that these men now have a say in what she chooses to care and not care about anymore. As the three of them take her under their wing, teach her to work and survive in the remote woods far away from the rest of the world, she slowly finds her place among them.
And as a part of them.
She also realizes that lines blur and rules become easy to break when no one else is watching.
One of them has her.
The other one wants her.
He’s going to keep her.
*Credence is a new adult standalone novel suitable for readers 18+.
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“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”
It’s strange. The tire swing in the yard is the only thing that makes it look like a kid lives here. There were never any drawings in the house. None on the fridge or walls. No children’s books on the shelves. No shoes by the front door or floaties in the pool.
It’s a couple’s home. Not a family’s.
I stare out the window, watching the tire sway back and forth in the breeze as it hangs from the oak, and absently rub the red ribbon in my hair between my fingers, feeling the comfort of the smooth surface.
He always had time to push her on the swing, didn’t he? He had time for her.
And she for him.
Walkie talkies shoot off beeps and white noise somewhere behind me while footfalls hit the stairs and doors slam above me. The police and paramedics are busy upstairs, but they’ll want to talk to me soon, I’m sure.
I swallow, but I don’t blink.
I’d thought the tire swing was for me when he installed it ten years ago. I was allowed to play on it, but my mother was the one who really loved it. I used to watch them out my bedroom window late at night, my father pushing her and the magic of their play and laughter making me want to be in the middle of it. But I knew as soon as they saw me the magic would change. It would disappear.
So, I stayed at my window and only ever watched.
Like I still do.
I bite the corner of my mouth, watching a green leaf flutter past the swing and land inside the tire where my mother sat countless times. The image of her white nightgown and light hair flowing through the night as she swung on it is still so vivid, because the last time was only yesterday.
A throat clears behind me, and I finally blink, dropping my eyes.
“Did they say anything to you?” Mirai asks me with tears in her voice.
I don’t turn around, but after a moment, I give a slow shake of my head.
“When did you last speak to them?”
I can’t answer that. I’m not sure.
Behind me, I feel her approach, but she stops several feet back as the clank of the first ambulance gurney jostles and creaks down the stairs and is carried from the house.
I tip my chin up, steeling myself at the distant commotion outside as the paramedics open the front door. The calls and questions, the horns honking as more people arrive, beyond the gates, where the media can no doubt see the body being wheeled out.
When did I last speak to my parents?
“The police found some medications in your parents’ bathroom,” Mirai broaches in her soft voice. “They have your father’s name on them, so they called the doctor and learned that he had cancer, Tiernan.”
I don’t move.
“They never said anything to me,” she tells me. “Did you know your father was sick?”
I shake my head again, still watching the tire sway.
I hear her swallow. “Apparently, he tried treatments, but the disease was aggressive,” she says. “The doctor said he… he wasn’t going to last the year, honey.”
A gust of wind picks up outside, churning the swing, and I watch the rope spin the tire as it twists.
“It looks like… It looks like they…” Mirai trails off, unable to finish her thought.
I know what it looks like. I knew when I found them this morning. Toulouse, my mother’s Scottish terrier, was clawing at the door and begging to get into their bedroom, so I cracked it open. The thought occurred to me that it was weird they weren’t up yet, but I let the dog in anyway. Just before I closed it again though, my eyes shot up, and I saw them.
On the bed. In each other’s arms. Fully dressed.
He wore his favorite Givenchy suit and she was in the Oscar de la Renta gown she wore to the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
He had cancer.
He was dying.
They knew, and my mother had decided not to let him leave without her. She decided that there was nothing else without him.
A sting hits the backs of my eyes, but it’s gone almost immediately.
“The police haven’t found a note,” Mirai says. “Did you find—”
But I turn my head, meeting her eyes, and she instantly falls silent. What a stupid question.
I lock my jaw, swallowing the needles in my throat. Over all the years of nannies and boarding schools and summer camps where I was kept busy and raised by anyone but them, I’d found little pain in anything my parents did anymore. But it seems there are still parts of me to hurt.