They called themselves “the lucky ones”
They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.
Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night — was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?
But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.
McQueen sat her in a chair and poured her a tumbler of bourbon, which Allison nearly dropped. She’d almost fainted. Truly fainted. She wasn’t a fainter. She’d never been a fainter. But seeing that name on that envelope had nearly sent her falling to the floor. If McQueen hadn’t been there she might have passed out cold.
“Drink,” he ordered, and she took a sip. It hit the back of her throat and set fire to her brain.
“Whew. That’s strong.” Too strong, but it stopped her hands from shaking.
“That’s panic-attack bourbon,” he said. “Hundred-ten proof. Feel better?”
“I feel like I’m going to faint but now it’s for a totally different reason.”
“We’ll take that as an improvement.” Gently he removed the glass tumbler from her hand and set it on the side table. “Now, tell me what’s going on?”
“Why?” She met his eyes with confusion.
“Why? Because I say, ‘Hey, you have a package from Oregon,’ and then you nearly faint on me?”
“I’m not your responsibility anymore, remember? We had that talk.”
“Soon as I walk out that door,” he said, pointing at the white door with the white knob, “it’s over. Not until then.”
“It’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.”
“Who’s Roland Capello? Don’t say he’s your brother. I know he isn’t.”
Allison didn’t want to tell him the whole sordid story, but she didn’t want to fight with him about it, either. McQueen had a strong personality and an even stronger will. Better to tell him and get it over with.
“He was my brother,” she said. “Once. A long time ago.”
“How was someone once your brother? Stepbrother?”
“Adopted,” she said. “Me, I mean. Sort of. It’s complicated.”
“Here. Drink more. You’ll feel less complicated in no time.”
He pressed the glass into her hand and she took another sip. Rough stuff but the buzzing in her head distracted her from the wild beating of her heart.
“You told me your mom died when you were seven, right?” McQueen said. “Car accident?”
“Drunk driving,” Allison said. “She was the driver. I didn’t know that until I was a lot older. I guess people didn’t want me blaming her for dying. I didn’t have any relatives around. Mom had moved us from Indiana to Oregon for a boyfriend but they split up. When she was gone, they stuck me in foster care. I was in one of those group homes with a bunch of girls. They were older and mean, and I was tiny and scared all the time. Then one day this man showed up in a big black car and took me home with him. Dr. Capello. He’s a very famous philanthropist and neurosurgeon.”
“Never heard of him.”
“Well, he’s famous in Oregon the way you’re famous in Kentucky.”
“So, pretty damn famous, then,” McQueen said. Allison ignored that.
“Dr. Capello inherited a fortune from his parents and I think he had his own money, too.”
“I never met a broke neurosurgeon.”
“He was known for helping needy kids. I think in the beginning he did pro bono surgeries and that sort of thing. But at some point he became a foster parent. He took in a bunch of kids.”
Allison smiled. “Yeah, an old, male Angelina.”
“Very old. Fifty, I think.”
McQueen, age forty-five, gave her a dirty look.
“I was one of the kids he took in,” she said. “Lucky me.”
“Him, too. Except Dr. Capello adopted him,” Allison said. “I haven’t heard from him since I left The Dragon. That’s why I was so surprised.”
Allison smiled behind her glass of bourbon. “The Dragon—that’s what the house was called. You know how beach houses have funny names? Sandy Soles and Blue Heaven or whatever? Dr. Capello said we lived at the edge of the world and on old maps that’s where ‘there be dragons.’ And the house was big and green with shingles like scales. It kind of looked like a dragon when you saw it from a certain angle.”
McQueen nodded his understanding. “So you lived there with a bunch of other foster kids. Was it as bad as I’m imagining?”
“It was paradise,” she said. “Xanadu.”
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