In the Arms of a Donovan
Book 13 in the Donovans Series
When the safest place she knows…
The last year of Amber McNair’s life has been a whirlwind of jet-setting back and forth across the country, smiling for the cameras and speaking on behalf of full-figured women worldwide. While grateful for the opportunity to become a national foundation’s spokesperson on the growing obsession with body image, Amber is exhausted and hasn’t had a moment to enjoy herself in far too long. The final leg of the promotional tour being held on a seven night cruise was a godsend. The sexy guy on the boat that takes her breath away from the first second she sees him, is a delicious perk; but Amber’s been heartbroken before, so this time, she’s not so sure she should indulge.
…is in his arms.
Brandon Donovan is at his company’s annual morale-boosting and celebratory event. After years of attending the boring weekend-long stays at some secluded resort, this time, Brandon finds himself on a Caribbean cruise. Timing could not be worse for him to be somewhat off the grid, considering what he and his cousins have just learned about the Senior Donovans, but meeting the charming and beautiful spokesperson for a national company is refreshing. Spending a sultry and sensual night with her was more rewarding than he could have ever imagined. Until he learns that she may not be who she says she is and that her true identity may lead him to the man who claims to be a Donovan.
**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This book is #13 in a series. While it may not be necessary to read each book that has come before this one, it is highly recommended that HEART OF A DONOVAN, EMBRACED BY A DONOVAN and WRAPPED IN A DONOVAN be read before reading this book, as there is a continuing plot in each of these stories.
The print version of this book is included in the Donovans Volume IV
In the Arms of a Donovan
38 Years Ago
The doorbell rang.
Albert Donovan sat behind his desk in his home office staring at a spreadsheet which reflected the last quarter’s earnings for Donovan Oilwell. Thirty-three years after his grandfather, Rowan, and his brother Charleston Donovan started the oil company in Beaumont, Texas, and only one year after graduating from college and starting as a junior executive in the marketing division, Al was now a senior executive supervising the company’s fiscal growth.
Just two months ago, Al and his new bride Darla had moved into this beautiful ranch-style home in Katy, Texas. With money from his trust fund that had come into his full possession when he’d turned twenty-one, Al married Darla Kenner, the daughter of Barton Kenner who owned the Kenner Barbeque sauce chain. They’d fallen fast in love after meeting at some country club event Al’s father, Isaiah, had insisted his son attend. Isaiah Donovan was a stickler for keeping up with the community and running in the circles that at one time African Americans weren’t included in. Once Donovan Oilwell had grown to be a substantial competitor in the oil business and Rowan and Charleston Donovan had finally turned the reigns over to their sons, Isaiah, Aaron, Abraham and Cephus, there had been clear guidelines for what the Donovan men would do and how they would act. They would always display integrity and command respect. Their ancestors would expect nothing less. They would mingle with the upper class, but never forget where they came from by reaching out to help those less fortunate in any way that they could. Thus, the Donovan philanthropic endeavors began with Isaiah’s sister Bridgette, who they called Birdie.
Al hated attending parties and rubbing elbows with the political brass in Houston, but if he ever planned to run the company, he had to be familiar with the games that were sometimes played in the arena of the rich and powerful in Texas. His father had introduced him to so many people, sometimes it was a struggle for Al to remember them all. However, he had no problem remembering the very pretty Darla, whose maternal grandfather had been a part of the Shawnee Native American tribe. She was beautiful with her amber colored eyes and sun-kissed complexion. As the oldest of Isaiah and Dorethea Donovan’s children, Al had never been considered smooth and debonair like his brothers. He was the intellectual one. Handsome in his own right, carrying on his father’s medium brown skin complexion and his mother’s calm eyes, he preferred being out of the spotlight. Whereas, Henry, Bernard and Everette were much more personable and tended to command most of the attention when they entered a room. The younger brothers, Reginald and Bruce, were smart and handsome and had always stuck together as if the two of them had some special bond like their twin uncles—Aaron and Abraham.
It was Darla who Al called for when the doorbell rang for a second time. When she still did not answer, he remembered that she’d told him she was going to the book store. Not wanting to be just a housewife, Darla had opened a book store in the city, not far from the Donovan Oilwell headquarters. The store would officially open in four weeks, so there was lots of work to do and Al was proud of Darla for having the courage to start her own business, when it would have been simple to sit back and spend the money her father had given her and/or Al’s money.
He walked with his slipper-clad feet moving quickly over the polished wood floors until he could answer the door, just as the bell was chiming once more.
“Well, Albert Donovan. I thought you weren’t going to let me in,” she said before walking right past him into the foyer of his home, uninvited.
Al closed the door before turning to face her. “What the hell are you doing here?” he asked the woman whom he immediately recognized from college.
Her name was Roslyn Ausby and she’d been madly in love with Henry.
“Aren’t you going to offer me a drink before you start in on me?” she asked with the lift of a very elegantly arched brow. “Isn’t that the polite thing to do?”
“I want to know why you’re here. Henry’s in Vegas and he’s getting ready to get married,” Al told her.
She was walking towards him, with that same smile he’d always seen her give Henry across her face.
“You always did the right thing, Al. I remember Henry telling me that you told him he should break up with me if he didn’t want a commitment,” she said.
“That was none of my business,” he told her.
“Fine. Then offer me a drink and I’ll tell you what is your business,” she quipped. “And just because you’re probably my favorite of the Donovan brothers that I’ve met so far—besides Henry, of course—I’ll give you a hint as to why I’m here. You have a very pretty wife, Albert. Wouldn’t it be a shame if she returned home to find me standing this close to you?”
She was standing very close now, Al thought as he hurriedly took a step back and then to the side. “One drink,” he told her and walked until they were in the study.
If Darla came back while Roslyn was still here, Al would hear the front door open and close and he’d have time to leave Roslyn in the study while Darla went into another room of the house. He was already planning how he could prevent the two from seeing each other, because there was no way he wanted a woman like Roslyn Ausby near his wife.
“I’d like a vodka on the rocks,” she told him. “Join me.”
He didn’t want to join her. Roslyn was a slippery one. He’d told Henry as much the first time he’d met her at a frat party. She was still just as tall, slim and sexy, as she’d been a couple of years ago. Henry had continued to date her and Al suspected that his brother had fallen a little bit in love with the woman with the wide, exotic eyes and brilliant smile. She’d been as popular on campus as Henry and Bernard had and while the Donovan brothers had their choice of any number of women while they’d been in school, Roslyn only had eyes for Henry, and for a time it seemed his brother only had eyes for her.
Al poured them both a drink, because right about now he needed one. Roslyn wore a tight emerald green dress that stopped at her knees and dipped low between her breasts. Her heels were very high, her legs bare. She smelled like sin which made sense because she looked like it too. Al took a swallow of his vodka before walking Roslyn’s glass over to her.
“Have a seat, Al, let’s reminisce.”
She’d sat in one of the leather chairs in the center of the room. Al took a seat in the one across from her. He put his drink on the table because for some odd reason his hands had begun to sweat.
“I saw Henry and he told me about the wedding,” she said quickly.
“I know,” Al replied. “He told me, too.” Which was the very basis for Al’s nervousness. If Henry and Roslyn had the tension-filled parting a couple of days ago that his brother had relayed to him, then there was no reason that Roslyn should be here in Houston to see him. Unless she wanted something. Bernard always thought Roslyn was an opportunist looking to get her hands on the Donovan money. Al hadn’t wanted to believe that, but her mere presence now had him wondering.
“Oh he did, huh. Your brother is full of surprises,” she said. Then she leaned forward, letting her legs part slightly as she looked over to Albert. “What else did he tell you?”
Al shook his head. “Nothing. Just that he ended it once and for all between you two.”
“Oh, is that right?” Roslyn laughed.
Al wasn’t sure but he thought her legs parted even farther. They had to because now he could see just a wisp of black silk between her thighs. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Well, Al, you know I’m not about to chase your brother. If he wants to marry Ms. High Society, then let him. Who cares?” she was saying when Al opened his eyes again.
This time Roslyn was sitting back in the chair with her legs crossed. He almost sighed with relief, but then he noticed how high up her dress had traveled. A very good portion of her thigh was visible, so much so that Al’s mouth went dry. He reached for his glass then, bringing it to his lips and this time drinking until it was gone.
“So since I’m a free agent now,” Roslyn began speaking again. “I was wondering if you could give me a job. Nothing spectacular, just a receptionist to start with and then I can work my way up in the company. I hear you’re the only brother that was smart enough to go into the family business.”
Al nodded and blinked. “Yes. I work for Donovan Oilwell,” he said and then licked his lips.
Roslyn stood. He could see her moving, even if the sight was a little fuzzy. Al closed his eyes and tried to refocus. Roslyn was moving, coming closer he thought. He tried to stand then. Al wanted to tell her to leave because he wasn’t feeling well, but she was right there, straddling him and touching a finger to his lips before he could move.
“You more than work there, Al, darling. You’re gonna be Donovan Oilwell one day. And guess what?” she said leaning in closer.
Al thought he felt moistness on his lips. Was she licking his lips?
“What?” he heard himself say, but it was like a distant echo in his now foggy mind.
“I’m gonna own a big chunk of that company too,” she whispered into his ear.
Al thought he felt her tongue there too. Then he imagined her hand was between his legs. His body was reacting, he was becoming aroused by this woman that wasn’t his wife. His head hurt. Needle-pricks agitated his eyes and he thought he might be going blind. But no, he could see Roslyn lifting her dress up and over her head. He saw her bare breasts and knew the moment he was definitely in trouble was when she leaned forward, offering them to him.
Bruce and Janean Donovan’s dining room was full of people. Of family, as they’d all gathered to hear what they thought would be answers to all of their questions. Bruce wasn’t so sure they’d feel any better when they left. He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes as he sighed heavily. It was the moment he and none of his brothers had wanted to come to fruition. The time when they’d have to tell the secret they’d all agreed years ago to hide.
His wife, his best friend, and the woman he’d cherished above all else, sat in the cream colored dining room chair, in front of him. The Seniors had decided that last night was the best time to share the secret with their wives. None of them wanted the women they loved to be shocked and upset in front of their children. Janean’s hands were folded on the marble table top, the diamonds from her wedding rings glittering in the streaks of sunshine that filtered through the bay window. Beside her, because they’d had to bring in extra chairs to accommodate everyone, Carolyn sat with a similarly solemn posture. Reginald, as it seemed they’d always been as the youngest of the Senior Donovans, stood right beside Bruce, his hands in his pockets as he stared out at the rest of the family.
Across the long table the other Seniors stood behind their wives: Henry, Bernard and Everette, with Beverly, Jocelyn and Alma. The chairs along the two sides of the table were also filled with wives and fiancés, their husbands standing dutifully behind them: Savian and Jenise, Parker and Adriana, Regan and Gavin, Dion and Lyra, Sean and Tate. Across the other side of the table were: Linc and Jade, Adam and Camille, Trent and Tia, Ben and Victoria, Keysa and Ian.
More chairs lined the wall as the women sat beneath abstract art portraits in colors matching the soft beige, peach and cream décor. Brynne, Max and Deena, Noelle and Brock, Brandon and Bailey were situated there. Standing beside his daughter was Albert, looking weary and distressed about what was about to happen. Bruce felt more compassion for his oldest brother, knowing that he’d already lost so much because of this secret.
“Why don’t we start with what happened last night,” Trent began when no one else was jumping at the opportunity to speak.
Bruce wasn’t surprised. Henry’s middle son had always been an extrovert, with a good head on his shoulders and a penchant for taking care of business. He hated that this time, the business was about this family and something that the Seniors could have probably prevented.
“Did you find out more?” Dion asked Trent.
“Yeah,” Trent replied. “Dev and I were up half the night going over every inch of that room and talking to the staff there.”
Bruce took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he recalled what had happened last night at Savian and Jenise’s wedding reception. The festivities had begun in grand style as the Donovans arrived at Briza on the Bay, one of Miami’s premiere wedding venues. Then, unfortunately, their celebratory moods had been undeniably darkened.
“It didn’t take long for the event manager to crumble under Dev’s unique interrogating skills. He was paid twenty five hundred dollars to set up the screen and the video and to play it at the time he’d been told,” Trent stated evenly.
“Who the hell paid him to do that?” Savian asked, his hands gripping the back of the chair where Jenise sat.
Trent looked down the table to his father, then back to his cousins. “The guy received all of his instructions via email. The money was wired to his bank account, half two days before the wedding and the other half about ten minutes after the video played. I sent an email from the manager’s account as soon as he told us about it, calling whoever was responsible out.”
“As only my brother could,” Adam said with a nod of his head.
Trent replied with an agreeable nod to his younger brother. “You got that right. I told that sonofabitch to show his face.”
“And did he?” Jenise asked.
She was a lawyer, Bruce thought. So she would have questions and she would be looking at this through eyes of what was prosecutable and what was not. Or rather, in their case, what would be defendable and what would not.
“He replied almost immediately. The clock that came to your house last night, Aunt Carolyn, it was his gift to us. To remind us, he said. Again, he’d only had to pay one of the florists to take it in with the flowers and other stuff they were delivering for the wedding. Money is definitely a motivator.” Trent was the epitome of restraint as he spoke, his broad shoulders squared, eyes level on whomever he decided to look at. His arms were folded over his chest in a stance that also spoke of his military training.
“Remind us of what? Who the hell is this coward and why is he taunting us with vague warnings and cheap gifts? If he has something to say why doesn’t he just confront us and get it over with?” Regan slammed her palms down on the table when she spoke.
Gavin, Regan’s boyfriend, covered her hand with his, pulling it away from the table and holding it securely. “Why don’t we just let him tell us everything he knows,” he said to her calmly.
Regan was pregnant, as was Lyra. They were both in their second trimester. Lyra, because of a previous miscarriage, was at a higher risk of premature labor and ultimately bed rest. While Regan, because of her quick temper and her tendency to do too much in all circumstances, was also at risk of developing high blood pressure and other complications. The family was terribly excited about the pregnancies and even more prayerful that they would make it to a healthy and happy ending for all.
“He wanted me to know who he was right up front, telling me his name was Dane Donovan in the very first line of his responding email. He says his father is one of you.”
Trent’s gaze moved around the room. He turned to look at Albert, who was situated behind him, then he looked to the other end of the table where Bernard and then, his father, were standing.
There were gasps and curses, looks of shock, and heads shaking. Bruce tried to take it all in, then he simply closed his eyes. In two sentences his nephew had taken a load off his shoulders that had rested there for far too long. There was a child, born to a woman who was not married to one of the Senior Donovans. And now that child was here to tell them that he should not be forgotten.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Regan spoke up next. “This is all about this guy thinking he’s a Donovan.”
“Is it true?” Savian asked, his voice laced with that icy edge that only he possessed.
He’d asked the question of his father and Reginald had at first nodded his head.
“Yes, this young man believes he is a Donovan,” Reggie replied.
“If he believes it there must be a reason,” Dion said.
“So which one of you has another child?” Linc asked as he looked directly at his father. “On the screen last night the baby’s name was Donovan Henry. Is he your son, dad?”
The room was eerily quiet now as the Senior Donovans looked from one to the other. Henry did not speak. Beverly, lifted a hand to her shoulder and waited until her husband clasped it. There it was, the Donovan loyalty. Bruce wondered if it would survive.
“There was a woman that I was involved with while in college,” Henry finally spoke up. “Her name is Roslyn Ausby.”
Parker shook his head. “Roslyn Ausby is Dane Donovan’s mother. So you got her pregnant and then what, you walked away Uncle Henry?”
“That’s not exactly what happened,” Henry started to say.
“Then for the love of all that’s holy, will one of you please enlighten us?” Savian said before cursing.
“You will remain respectful, Savian,” Carolyn said to her son. “We’re all adults here and I expect everyone in this room to act accordingly. You want to know the story, then be quiet and let them tell it.”
Savian fumed. His wife didn’t reach for his hand the way that Beverly had with Henry, she only stared down to the end of the table, waiting to hear what would come next. They all did.
“Roslyn and I broke up before graduation,” Henry continued. “Then we were together again just before my wedding.”
“You bastard,” Linc said. “You got another woman pregnant, what days, weeks, before marrying my mother?”
Henry met his son’s gaze and held it. He was sorry, but he wasn’t weak. “I made a mistake. We all make mistakes.”
“Some mistakes we shouldn’t make, dad,” Adam said. “‘If you love your woman, you cherish her. You respect and uplift her.’ That’s what you told me when I was sixteen years old. It’s what you told all of us.”
Henry nodded as his youngest child spoke. “It’s the truth.”
“Is it really?” Trent asked. “How much more of this truth do you need to tell us?”
Henry cleared his throat. “I was wrong for being with Roslyn before my wedding. That is for my wife and I to work through. As for the other…for this child…I don’t know if I’m the father.”
“How could you not know?” Trent asked.
Tia turned in her seat now, rubbing a hand over her husband’s arm. He looked down at her but did not speak. When Trent’s gaze returned to his father it was full of heat and accusation.
“He doesn’t know because he’s not the only one that slept with her,” Bernard said.
“What? Wait a minute,” Parker said, shaking his head. The smile on his face was normal, but there was steel in his gray/green eyes. He was definitely not happy. “You’re about to tell us that more than one of you slept with the same woman? What kind of bullshit is that?”
“Parker!” Carolyn admonished.
“Let them be,” Reginald told his wife. “They have a right to be angry.”
“But they do not have a right to be disrespectful. We’re still the elders in this room,” Beverly added.
“Did you sleep with this woman too, dad?” Keysa asked quietly. She was holding her husband Ian’s hand, but looked directly at her father.
Bernard, like his brother Henry, did not falter. “I’m not proud of that fact. I was drunk and she was wearing a disguise and it just happened.”
“It just happened,” Brynne said and then chuckled. “How does something like that just happen? You get drunk and fall between your brother’s ex-girlfriend’s legs.”
“Brynne, there’s no need to be crude,” Jocelyn, Brynne’s mother admonished.
“This entire situation is crude and unbelievable. Do you know how long I’ve had the words ‘Donovan legacy’, ‘Donovan integrity’, and ‘Donovan loyalty’ drilled into my head? Now I get to sit here and find out that it all means nothing. Just a bunch of words repeated by a bunch of lying old men!” Brynne yelled before storming out of the room.
“That’s not all,” Al spoke up then.
“Sonofabitch!” Brandon cursed.
The Senior wives looked to each other, realizing now that there was no way they could hope for a normal discussion in this instance. Their children were adults now and they were angry adults. There was nothing any of them could do about that at this point.
Al stood, wiping a hand down his face. “Darla rushed me to the hospital that night and almost fainted when they told her they’d found traces of some Rohypnol in my blood and urine.”
“Are you about to tell us that this woman raped you?” Bailey asked from where she sat beside him.
“Unbelievable!” Brandon shouted again. “You all are a bunch of hypocritical bastards not only for what you did back then, but for keeping all of this from us.”
“So was it just the three of you?” Dion asked. “Or did all of you get a piece of her?”
Janean leaned over and smacked her son’s face. “You will not! I don’t care how angry you are, you just will not speak that way!”
Everette spoke up at that point. “It was just the three older brothers, but we all knew. We all decided to keep it a secret when that Ausby woman made the claim about one of them fathering her baby.”
“You all decided?” Max asked. “How could you all decide to turn your back on an innocent child? At the very least you could have taken a blood test.”
“She was a tramp!” Bernard insisted. “Why should we be knuckled under by a slut who didn’t know who she was sleeping with from one day to the next?”
“Because she wasn’t a stupid tramp,” Trent said. “She knew she was sleeping with a Donovan man. Three of them to be exact.”
“So it was a set-up,” Jenise said.
Tia was already nodding. “It had to be.”
“What did you give her to keep quiet all this time?” Bailey asked. “Why is he coming after us now? What do they want if he’s a grown man, it can’t be child support.”
“We paid her,” Bruce spoke up. “One time, we gave her five hundred thousand dollars.”
The tension could be cut with a razor in the room.
“You paid her half a million dollars when you didn’t even know if this kid belonged to either of you?” Sean asked. “Why? If she’s as promiscuous as you all say, anyone could have been the father.”
“We couldn’t risk her going to the press,” Everette replied. “Regardless of who turned out to be the father, the Donovan name would have been dragged through the mud before paternity was established. We couldn’t risk that.”
Ben was shaking his head. He’d been quiet all this time, but Bruce knew his nephew was reacting to everything he’d heard. Ben was a defense attorney, so this probably was not the strangest thing he’d ever heard. It was the first time he’d heard something of this magnitude from his family.
“She set you up, then she blackmailed you. And let me guess, you thought it was only going to be once. But it wasn’t, was it? She tried to shake you down again, didn’t she?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Henry said. “None of these details matter now. What’s most important is how we plan to deal with this from this point on.”
“I plan to find Dane Donovan and beat some sense into him,” Trent stated coolly.
“No!” Henry yelled. “You will not go anywhere near him.”
All eyes fell on Henry once more. They were thinking Dane was his son. Bruce knew this because he’d thought it on more than one occasion.
“With all due respect, dad,” Trent said the last word with as much sarcasm as Bruce suspected the rest of the children could have at this moment. “You don’t get to call the shots on this one. We know that Jaydon drove off in a truck with this guy, so he’s probably the one behind those pictures of Parker and Adriana going out. If Jaydon killed Giovanni, then she’s the cause of Savian being arrested for murder. That little video last night, it ruined not only Savian’s wedding, but Christmas for all of us. Yeah, I’m beating his ass for all of the above.”
“And then what?” Bernard asked. “What happens after you beat him to a pulp? He’s done his homework, Trent. He knows this family. Each and every one of us. And if he knows anything about you he’s going to be expecting you to do exactly what you’re planning.”
“Good,” Trent said. “I like a head on fight instead of this sneaking around bullshit!”
“She wants something,” Al said. “Money again. She sent us a letter just before the family reunion. Roslyn wants us to pay her again.”
“Absolutely not,” Jocelyn said. She looked to the other Senior wives for their agreement and received it as each of them nodded slowly. “She got one check out us, she won’t get another one.”
“She’s right,” Beverly said. “Trent, you find Dane and get him to agree to a DNA test. Each of you will get tested as well.”
Beverly looked at Al, then to Bernard and then turned to face her husband.
“What if she goes to the press?” Brock asked. “Isn’t that what all this secrecy was about in the first place? What if when you order this guy to give up his DNA he tells his mother and she decides its time to spill the beans? Are you still afraid of that happening?”
“We’re not afraid of anything, son,” Everette told him. “We were trying to protect our family, our legacy.”
Regan stood. “Well, you’ve done a bang up job of that, don’t you think?”
She moved quickly out of the room, Gavin right behind her.
Reginald’s gaze followed Gavin out and Bruce knew that he was thinking of Gavin’s father, Tony Lucas, and the way he’d died. They hadn’t told the children that part of the secret, nor had they told about what Al suspected had really happened to Darla.
“You make your own plan,” Trent said with a shake of his head. “Since you seem to think you’re good at it. As for me, I’ll handle this my way.”
Linc reached for Jade’s hand as Tia moved to stand beside Trent. Adam followed his brothers and helped Camille out of her seat.
“We’re going to protect our families now,” Linc told his father directly.
They left and Bruce watched as his sons gave him and his brothers disappointed glares before leaving with their wives as well. Couple by couple the other younger Donovans left, until only the Seniors and their wives remained.
“That didn’t go well,” Reginald said.
“It’s not finished,” Al added.
“No,” Beverly said before standing and looking at her husband. “It’s not.”