One Word

Hidden Places – Book 3.

To be published by Dreamspinner Press 6th November 2017.

A side novel to Cat’s Quill which takes place during the six weeks that Cathal and Tomas are in Naearu.

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.” – Sophocles

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When Ethan Leavitt comes to the village of Oakwood to search for a missing friend, he isn’t sure what he’ll find. He’s always prided himself on his ability to find rational explanations in situations where often there doesn’t appear to be one. Evidence, after all, is something that is usually backed up by logic. Right?

Donovan Campbell has worked hard to put his past behind him. His happy, sometimes flippant, persona hides memories he’d rather forget. The last thing he needs is for some guy he’s only just met to start getting under his skin.

A dangerous situation escalates, and Donovan must embrace a part of himself he can no longer ignore in order to save a future that might never have the chance to exist. Often the person you think you’re looking for is not the one you find—but have he and Ethan both realized that too late?

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Several people stepped off the train once it stopped. One of the women waved to him and he waved back, but she didn’t come over to speak to him, instead turning her attention to the man with her. Donovan glanced at him then dismissed him as he didn’t fit the description of the man he was looking for.

Tall, with dark hair.

Tall, dark and handsome, his mind helpfully supplied, despite the sparse description Donovan had of the guy.

Sure, because hitting on someone who’d come to look for his missing best friend would make a real good first impression. Why hadn’t he thought to ask Ethan to send a photo? It would have made this so much easier. They’d talked a few times, and exchanged emails but Donovan hadn’t thought of swapping photos until it was too late. He’d tried to phone Ethan that morning to ask for one but his cell phone had gone to voice mail.

Where was he? Donovan turned back to face the station in case he’d missed him when he’d waved at the woman he knew from the village.

“Donovan Campbell?” A deep voice asked behind him.

“Yes.” Donovan turned quickly to face whoever had spoken. “Ethan?”

Ethan nodded, and held out his hand. “Ethan Leavitt,” he confirmed. His grip was firm but he withdrew his hand quickly after they’d shaken. “I figured as you were the only one on the platform who wasn’t on the train there was a good probability it was you.”

Tall dark and handsome hadn’t been too far wrong. The guy had at least an inch on Donovan in height and had intense dark brown eyes. They reminded Donovan of freshly brewed strong coffee—not that he was addicted to the stuff or anything.

“Darn it,” Ethan said. “I thought I’d got all of that chocolate sauce off.” He scrubbed at his face. “Sorry.”

“What?” Surely he hadn’t been staring that much? “Oh right. Yeah. Don’t worry, you’ve got it now.” Donovan felt himself blush at the lie. If there had been sauce at the side of Ethan’s mouth, he sure as hell hadn’t noticed it.

“I hope you haven’t been trying to phone me.” Ethan picked up his backpack and swung it over his shoulder. “I pulled out my mobile to warn you that the train was running late only to find I’d forgotten to charge it. Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Donovan said. So that explained why his calls had gone to voice mail. “I haven’t been waiting long.” He bent to pick up Ethan’s second bag but Ethan beat him to it.

“I can manage,” Ethan said. “Are you parked close by? I hope it’s not too far to this inn of yours.”

“Not too far,” Donovan said. He hadn’t brought up the subject of Tomas, and noticed Ethan hadn’t either. Despite the fact they’d already discussed it on the phone, it was going to be an awkward conversation in person. He didn’t know Ethan very well, and the man hadn’t been very forthcoming about anything personal. Tomas hadn’t said much about his friend. It would be an interesting story as to how they’d gotten to know each other.

“This is yours?” Ethan raised one eyebrow when he saw Donovan’s green Morris Minor. He ran his hand over it appreciatively. “It’s well restored. I learnt to drive in one of these. Fifties model, isn’t it?”

“Thanks. I did the work on her myself.” Donovan opened the trunk and Ethan stowed his case inside. “You know much about cars?”

“One of my colleagues at school is a car buff. I’ve picked up a bit listening to him.” Ethan grimaced. “Unfortunately he loves the sound of his own voice, and I’ve had the misfortune of being cornered by him a few times.” He glanced at Donovan. “I’m sure it’s not as boring as he makes it sound. It’s a reflection of the man rather than anything else. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“You didn’t.” Donovan shrugged, and waited until Ethan had climbed into the passenger seat and fastened his seat belt before starting the car. “I’ve met people like that too. Everything in moderation and all that, and don’t lapse into technobabble in front of the uninitiated.”

The side of Ethan’s mouth twitched. “Uh huh. That sounds suspiciously like something you’ve been told by one of those uninitiated types. Please correct me if I’m wrong.”

“Got it in one.” Donovan pulled out of the station car park and onto the road. “Heidi doesn’t understand my ‘fixation’ as she calls it.” Considering her own camouflage pink Land Rover it wasn’t surprising. “She nods politely and doesn’t interfere though, so all is good.”

“Heidi’s your… partner?”

“Yeah.” Donovan had already mentioned Heidi when he and Ethan had spoken on the phone. “We bought the inn together about five years ago.” Surely he’d told Ethan that too?

“That’s right,” Ethan said. He leaned back in his seat.

After five minutes, Donovan turned up the volume on the car radio, not enough to drown any potential conversation, but enough to mask the awkward silence. Usually he wouldn’t have resorted to background noise, but it made it easier to focus on the road ahead.

Ethan sounded different than he had on the phone, not quite as formal. Donovan risked a glance at his passenger. Frown lines creased his brow that hadn’t been there a moment before. He looked tired, as though he hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in some time.

Although they’d spoken on the phone at length, Donovan had been careful not to tell Ethan the full story. For one thing he had no proof apart from a pile of letters, the wild ramblings of an old man, and Tomas’s conviction that the man he’d fallen for—Cathal—had told the truth. Not that there was much of that truth, as Cathal had mostly spoken in riddles. Donovan had only met Cathal the once but he’d always prided himself of being a good judge of character. The guy was in some kind of trouble, that was for sure. He just hoped that whatever mess he’d gotten himself into, he hadn’t dragged Tomas along for the ride.

It didn’t take much for civilians to get in over their head, and there was some nasty shit out there. Shit that Donovan had spend years trying to forget, and didn’t want to become involved in again.

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