Ethan Harrington’s innocence was lost seven years ago when his mother took her own life. Forced to grow up in a hurry, he quickly learned to build a wall around his heart, vowing never to let it be hurt again. Left alone with his controlling and abusive father in a secluded house on the outskirts of Manchester, England, he struggles to live among the shattered remains of a family that was never functional to begin with.
A kindhearted doctor, a beautiful girl, and a caring nanny all love him in different ways, but Ethan, now sixteen and still ravaged by his mother’s suicide, turns to what he has seen his father take comfort in time and time again – thus giving rise to an inner demon that will not turn him loose.
A story of hope – even in the darkest of times, this is a coming of age novel that depicts the sometimes difficult, and oftentimes complex, relationship experienced between father and son when tragedy strikes in this standalone prequel to After All Is Said And Done.
e x c e r p t
Everett sped down the street trying to make up for lost time. He was twenty minutes late for an appointment across town thanks to the ineptitude of his secretary who, as of fifteen minutes ago, was now a former employee. He had no tolerance for silly mistakes.
He forged ahead through the intersection, ignoring the yellow light. By the time he saw the standing water and the girl on the sidewalk, it was too late. His tires sent a spray ten feet up in the air, drenching her from head to toe.
“Shit,” he muttered, pulling his car over. He left the engine running as he got out and hurried towards her. “Are you all right?”
The girl stood unmoving as if the water had frozen her to the sidewalk.
“I’m terribly sorry, miss,” he said in the most apologetic tone he could find. “I didn’t see you walking there.”
She slowly parted her dripping hair with her fingers, revealing a set of piercing brown eyes.
“I’m terribly sorry,” he repeated.
“What kind of moron are you?”
“Apparently the kind that drives too fast,” he said, hoping to defuse her anger.
“Oh, I see,” she said, still glaring at him. “You’re a comedic moron.” She began smoothing her long, raven hair with her hands, but it did little to help her appearance.
Everett bent down and picked her textbook up from off the pavement. “Can I give you a lift somewhere?”
“I think you’ve done quite enough,” she replied, snatching it from his fingers. She pivoted around on her heel and began marching away, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind her.
Everett headed back to his car feeling as if this day couldn’t possibly get any worse. As he pulled back onto the street, he noticed her walking ahead of him. He veered off to the side once more and rolled down his window. “Where are you going?”
She glanced to her left. “Are you following me?”
“Well,” he said, slowing down to match her pace, “you’re kind of hard to miss.” He suddenly felt a stabbing pain in his heart from the set of daggers that flew from her eyes. She obviously failed to see the humor in his remark.
He watched as her short, but beautiful legs carried her over to the bus stop where she angrily planted herself down on a bench. He pressed on the brake and stretched his arm over the back of the seat. “Let me give you a ride. I can get you there quicker than the bus.”
She gave him an absurd look. “Why on earth would I get in a car with you? I don’t even know you. You could be a serial killer or a rapist for all I know.”
He cocked his head sideways. “I can assure you, I’m neither of those things.”
“And I’m just supposed to believe you, is that it?”
“I’m Everett Harrington,” he said, offering her his best smile. “The jerk that ruined your day.”
The corners of her mouth twitched. “Well, you’re damn right about that,” she said, standing up.
He got out of his car and opened the door for her. “Where can I drop you?”
“Woodham Way. It’s south of here. Do you know it?”
“Yes,” he replied, sliding into his seat, but it was in the opposite direction in which he was headed. He checked his watch before pulling away.
“Are you late for something?”
“Not anymore,” he answered, making a right at the light.
“Well, don’t blame me. This is your own bloody fault. If you had been paying more attention, none of this would have happened.”
He turned to look at her. “Did I say anything about it being your fault?”
“You didn’t have to. I know your type,” she said arrogantly.
“What’s my type?”
“You’re a man, aren’t you?”
“You don’t know the first thing about me,” he said, feeling his jaw tighten.
“I know enough.” She wrapped her fingers around the ends of her hair and squeezed, sending a stream of rainwater down on his custom leather interior.
Everett gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. “Can you please not do that in here?”
“Would you prefer that I leave it in my hair?”
“I would prefer,” he said, trying to control his voice, “that you not do it on my seats.”
“Fine,” she muttered, dropping her hands.
“I didn’t catch your name,” he said after a drought of silence.
“That’s because I didn’t give it to you.”
Everett stifled a sigh. This was shaping up to be a banner day. As they drove towards the edge of town, he couldn’t help noticing her wet blouse. It clung to her in the front, accentuating everything underneath it. She glanced sideways at him, making him jerk his eyes back onto the road.
“Were you looking at my naughty bits?”
“Yes, you were.”
“You looked cold,” he said, realizing she wasn’t going to let this drop.
“Well of course I’m cold, you idiot! You and your bloody car just gave me a soaking!”
He pressed on the accelerator and changed lanes, wishing he had just left her standing on the sidewalk. He reached into the backseat and grabbed his blazer. “Here.”
She draped it over the front of her, tucking her arms inside.
“You’re welcome,” he said flatly.
“Oh, I beg your pardon. Thank you for giving me something to cover my shivering body with.”
The light up ahead turned yellow and Everett gunned the engine intending to run it, but the car in front of him decided to stop. He stomped hard on the brake, bringing the car to a screeching halt.
“Christ!” she said, putting her hands against the dash as she fell forward. “Is this your first day driving?”
“Is this your first day interacting with people?” he retorted.
She gave him an icy stare before turning her eyes back to the road.
Everett watched the light intently. The second it changed he floored the accelerator, smiling inwardly as her head snapped against the back of the seat.
“Eblan,” she muttered under her breath.
He didn’t know what that meant, but was fairly certain it wasn’t a compliment. Figuring it was pointless trying to make further conversation with her, he decidedly gave up.
He began to focus instead on how he could make up his meeting. It was a meeting in which six weeks of planning had gone into, and one that he had been more than ready for. It was also a meeting that he would be at right now if his secretary had remembered to tell him that it had been moved up an hour.
“Natalia Nisselovich,” she said, interrupting his thoughts.
“That’s my name.”
“Is that Russian?”
She smiled at him, revealing just how beautiful she was, wet hair and all. “Turn up here,” she said, pointing.
He made a left at the next street.
“Stop at the house with the blue shutters.”
He pulled into the driveway and got out to open the door for her.
“Thanks for the ride,” she said, handing him back his jacket.
“It was the least I could do.”
“Yes, it was.”
He smiled in spite of himself. “Would you like to go out for coffee, sometime?”
She turned and began making her way up the drive. “You know where I live.”
He leaned against the side of his car as he watched her walking away. “So, is that a yes?” he called out.
She looked over her shoulder and flashed him another smile.