Read Tyler O’Neill’s Redemption Online

Authors: Molly O’Keefe

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Tyler O’Neill’s Redemption

BOOK: Tyler O’Neill’s Redemption
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The car filled with tension
And it was all Juliette could do not to unroll her window, just so she could breathe.

“You’ve changed,” Tyler said.

“You haven’t.”

“You haven’t spent ten minutes with me, Jules. How could you possibly know that?”

“It’s Juliette.”

He laughed and she glared at him hard.

“Okay,” he said, “it’s Juliette. How’d you know I was back?”

“This is Bonne Terre, Tyler. The second you set foot inside the parish about twenty people called me.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth she wished them back. No way did she want Tyler O’Neill to think she’d wasted a single thought on him after he’d walked out on her. No way did he need to think he meant more to her than he did. “I’m the chief here, Tyler. It’s my job to know what potentially corrupting influences are hanging around.”

Dear Reader,

I was working on
Tyler O’Neill’s Redemption
when Paul Newman passed away. I spent days watching movies, reading articles and looking at pictures of this rare and talented man. I was amazed at his charity, his strength of purpose, his commitment to his wife and family. And that’s not even talking about his acting or legendary blue eyes. Clearly there will never be another Paul Newman.

But I must admit, all those photos and movies seeped into my brain and onto the page and Tyler O’Neill started taking on some of Newman’s real and fictionalized characteristics. Tyler has the eyes and the grin from
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The scorching sideways glances from
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
And the devil-may-care attitude and propensity for trouble inspired by
Cool Hand Luke.
How irresistible is that combination?

It’s been fun getting Tyler O’Neill out of trouble with the help of Juliette Tremblant—a dangerous woman Tyler loved and left behind. For me, the sparks flew off the page. Please drop me a line at [email protected] and let me know if they did for you, too. I love to hear from readers.

Happy reading!

Molly O’Keefe

Tyler O’Neill’s Redemption
Molly O’Keefe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Molly O’Keefe is living out her dream of being a writer, mother and wife. Oddly enough, her dream never seemed to include this much laundry. Or dirty diapers. And, not that she’s complaining, but she thought there would be bonbons. Instead there’s lots of cold coffee. Nonetheless, life in Toronto, Canada, married to her college sweetheart is wonderful.
Books by Molly O’Keefe
HARLEQUIN SUPERROMANCE
1365—FAMILY AT STAKE

1385—HIS BEST FRIEND’S BABY

1392—WHO NEEDS CUPID?
“A Valentine for Rebecca”

1432—UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR

1460—BABY MAKES THREE
*

1486—A MAN WORTH KEEPING
*

1510—WORTH FIGHTING FOR
*

1534—THE SON BETWEEN THEM

1542—THE STORY BETWEEN THEM

1651—THE TEMPTATION OF SAVANNAH O’NEILL
**

For Adam, who understands and helps and listens and takes the kids away for hours at a time.
I love you more every year we’re together.
CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE
T
YLER
O’N
EILL WAS WELCOMED
back to Bonne Terre the same way he’d been kicked out of it.
With a mouthful of dirt from outside St. Pat’s Church.

“I never did like you,” Lou Brandt whispered in Tyler’s ear while Tyler spit out gravel. “Or your family.”

Tyler rolled over and grinned, wincing slightly when his lip split and hot copper blood flooded his mouth. “I’ve always liked you, Lou,” he wheezed. “And your wife.”

Lou reared back, his steel-toed work boot poised for another introduction to Tyler’s rib cage, but Gaetan Bourdage got a thick arm around Lou’s barrel chest. “Come on, now, Lou,” he said. Lou strained against Gaetan’s arm, his big fat head turning red and purple.

“You’re trash,” Lou snarled. “You think winning all that money changes things?”

“No, actually,” Tyler said, checking to make sure he still had his back teeth. “It just makes me rich trash.”

“You’re a cheat!” Lou cried.

“Oh, shut up,” Tyler moaned. “You’re a crappy card player, Lou. You always were and the ten years I’ve been gone, you’ve just gotten worse.”

Lou strained against Gaetan’s arm with renewed fury. “Someone should have shut your mouth for you years ago.”

“They tried,” Tyler muttered.

“Go on inside,” Gaetan said, his Cajun accent thick as the swamp air. “This boy just ain’t worth it.” If Tyler didn’t know Gaetan, he might just be hurt.

Instead he searched for his cap, finding it trampled in the dust behind him.

“You’re right,” Lou said, finally easing off. He spit and the thick glob landed in the dirt near Tyler’s hand, causing his own temper to flare.

He reared up off the ground, but Gaetan’s gaze nailed him to the dirt.

Stay put,
his eyes said.
I can only save your sorry ass so many times.

Lou wandered back to the church and the Sunday night poker game that had been going on in the basement ever since the church had been built, and Tyler hung his pounding head between his knees.

“Welcome home,” he muttered.

“Whatchu doing back here, Ty?” Gaetan asked. The old man crouched, his thick silver mustache trembling with anger.

“A guy can’t—”

“No,” Gaetan said, “if that guy is you, then no. Boy!” Gaetan pulled Tyler up, and even though Tyler towered over the old swamp rat, he was cowed slightly. Coming home had been a bad idea, but coming to the St. Pat’s poker game was just stupid.

But then Tyler had a thing for stupid.

“Whatever made you come back, I hope it was worth getting your face beat in.” Gaetan pulled a red handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it over. Tyler pressed it to his lip.

Beat in
was a stretch, but Tyler wasn’t about to get into it with the Cajun.

“I don’t know, Gates,” Tyler said, instead. “The look on everyone’s face when I walked in there was pretty priceless.”

“Priceless?” Gaetan snorted. “Every man in there thinks you cheated.”

Tyler bit his tongue and jammed his cap back on his head, trying hard to swallow down the urge that he’d spent the past ten years destroying. Of course, one night back in Bonne Terre and the need to defend himself came crawling back, like a kicked dog.

“I didn’t cheat,” Tyler said, ready to go back into that church and fight anyone who said otherwise. “Not tonight, not when I was a kid. I never cheated.”

“I know that,” Gaetan said, scowling, his bushy eyebrows colliding to create a mutant caterpillar. “But you took a lot of their money when you were a boy and they haven’t forgotten that.”

The satisfaction of taking the money off those men who looked down their noses at his family, called his grandmother names behind her back and watched him out of the corner of their eyes, was still so sweet.

He couldn’t help but smile.

Gaetan cuffed him upside the head.

“Hey!”

“You took their money ten years ago and now you come back a rich man to take more?” Gaetan shook his head.

“It’s a poker game,” Tyler said. “The point is to take each other’s money.”

“You—” Gaetan curled a hand in Tyler’s shirt, pulled him down close to the old man’s height until Tyler could smell the whiskey and peppermint on his breath. “You have always taken too much. Always. Even as a boy you could never be happy with what you had. You needed what everyone else had, too. And everyone in this town remembers that about you. You shouldn’t have come back here.”

It was no big secret. No news flash. He’d been telling himself the same damn thing the whole drive from Vegas to Bonne Terre, but hearing it from Gaetan, a man he’d always considered a friend, stung.

“I know,” he said.

“Then why come back?” Gaetan asked. “You’re a rich man. A celebrity. You’ve got that girlfriend—”

Tyler snorted.

“Fine,” Gaetan said. “No girlfriend. But why are you back?”

Tyler shrugged. “I have to have a reason?”

“This isn’t about your mother snooping around these parts, is it?”

Tyler wished he could tell the old man, but he didn’t want to implicate his friend, should it come to that. Instead, he said nothing and Gates sighed.

“You best not drive,” Gaetan said, pointing at Tyler’s head and Tyler gingerly touched the swelling around his eye.

Lou was a crap card player, but the guy could throw a punch.

Tyler glanced back at his beloved 1972 Porsche, its black paint melting into the shadows. “She’ll be okay here?” he asked, and Gaetan snorted.

“Last car stolen in Bonne Terre was the one you stole when you left.”

“I doubt that,” he said, reluctant to leave Suzy alone and vulnerable outside a place as unwelcoming as St. Pat’s.

“Merde, Ty, it’s just a car.”

“Don’t tell that to Suzy.”

“Suzy?”

“Suzette, really.”

“Lord, Ty, you don’t change. I’ll watch her myself.”

“Thank you. In that case, I might as well take in some night air,” he said, remembering the path through town past the police station and Rousseau Square down to The Manor as if it had been yesterday.

He glanced back in the shadows at his dusty Suzy. He’d get her back in the morning.

“Okay then,” Gaetan said. “You come by for dinner or Maude will have your head.”

“Will do,” Tyler agreed with a grin that split his lip. “Hey, Gates?” The old man stopped, his bowed legs turning him around. “You really mayor?” Tyler asked.

Gaetan nodded. “Sure am, boy, so you best watch yourself.”

He winked and walked back into the church, through the lit doorway that led down to the basement. With one last damning look over his shoulder, Gaetan jerked the door shut.

There was a slam and lights out.

Two janitors. The high school wrestling coach. Gaetan and Father Michaels. Suddenly, all too good to play with him.

The reigning World Series of Poker champion.

Which only continued to prove what he’d known down in his gut all along—the world changed but Bonne Terre stayed the same.

Tyler sighed, pushed his A’s cap down farther on his head and made his way back home.

The September night was thick and dark, the suffocating blanket he remembered and hated. Two steps and he had that dirty, clammy sweat that made him ache for the white tile shower in his suite, the cool hum of forced air.

Christ, his eye was beginning to pound.

Coming back here had been a dumb idea. He’d been fine, years had gone by without him caring, the memories fading bit by bit, but one word that his mother might be back in town and here he was, choking on the dirt outside St. Pat’s.

No doubt the kitchen in The Manor would be empty. None of Margot’s sugar pies to welcome him home.

He crossed Jackson and headed for the square, thinking he’d cut through the magnolias in the park and save himself some time, when a dark car slid around the corner, crawling along the curb.

His alley-cat instincts, honed on this very street, woke up and he stepped into the shadows of the trees.

Stupid of him to cross Jackson under the streetlights—anyone looking knew his path home.

The wrought-iron fence was cold against his back. It would be just like Lou to follow him, or call one of his softball buddies to come out here for a little middle-of-the-night batting practice.

The car eased past him, got to the corner and stopped under the streetlamp.

It stopped and waited, exhaust filling the golden pool of light with gray smoke.

Well, crap, Tyler did not like that. At all.

He circled around the other side of the fence, hugging the shadows, between the leaves and the light. If it was Lou’s buddies, they wouldn’t be expecting him to approach from the side. His foot caught on a branch and he grabbed it from the ground and tested its heft.

Pretty weak, but with some surprise on his side he might do some damage before they took care of what was left of his face.

As he cleared the side of the blue car, blood pumping, smile easing nice and slowly across his face, he saw that there weren’t a bunch of men in it. In fact, sitting in the driver’s side, staring him right in the eye with ten hard years of hate, was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known.

“Juliette,” he breathed. For a second his life stopped and all he saw were those hazel eyes and lips so pink and perfect. And sweet. The sweetest.

“What the hell are you doing here, Tyler?”

BOOK: Tyler O’Neill’s Redemption
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