Sunlight streaked through the window blinds. Drake’s warm breath tickled my neck and I cuddled closer as I reluctantly lifted my lids to frown at the clock. I blinked, not believing my eyes when I saw it was after seven.
There had been no noise on the baby monitor beside my alarm clock to alert me to the baby’s crying—although I was sure I wouldn’t have needed it if she had started crying. My baby daughter had a set of lungs on her that made me wonder how good of a singer she would be one day. From the way she could go nonstop at times I was sure she would make a great little rock princess.
But the monitor had remained quiet for the most part and was still quiet as a tomb. Fear had me jumping up and running from the bedroom, not caring that my body was still tender and aching from giving birth just a few weeks before.
“Angel?” Drake called behind me and then I could hear his feet hitting the floor as he ran after me. “Is she okay?”
I didn’t have time to answer him as I rushed across the hall and into the nursery where Arella should be sleeping. In the weeks since her birth she had given us one sleepless night after another. She never slept through the night, and more often than not cried day and night.
Entering the nursery, tears of relief filled my eyes when I saw her sound asleep in her crib, her chest lifting and falling evenly, and a pacifier I hadn’t given her in her mouth as she sucked away in her sleep. On the floor with a pillow and a little blanket covering her small body was Neveah, cuddled up to the stuffed Build-A-Bear angel bear Drake had helped her make before we’d left for the summer tour.
Behind me Drake dropped his hands onto my shoulders and let out a relieved breath when his eyes took in what I was seeing. “What’s she doing in here?” he whispered at my ear so as not to wake either of our beautiful daughters.
I shook my head. “I’ve no idea,” I whispered back.
He pressed a kiss to the back of my head and carefully moved around me so that he could crouch down beside our firstborn. Reaching out his hand, he softly stroked a finger over Neveah’s soft cheek. Her eyes, identical to her father’s, fluttered open innocently and she smiled happily up at the big bad rocker. “Daddy.”
“Morning, my angel.” His voice was quiet but full of all the love and joy our daughters brought him. “Why aren’t you in bed?”
“Ellie needed me,” she said simply and glanced up at the crib.
The way she had grasped talking so easily never failed to surprise me. Neveah was already showing signs of above-average intelligence. Her doctor had even suggested putting her in a gifted preschool in L.A. I was on the fence about it. I didn’t want her to have to start going to school until she was ready, didn’t want to steal away the years she could be having fun rather than having to be put on a schedule that most kids three times older than Neveah couldn’t handle. Yet, at the same time, I knew she was too smart to not want to give her the chance to challenge herself as much as I could already see she needed.
Drake straightened, lifting Neveah into his arms as he did. He kissed her forehead and then moved closer to the crib to gaze down at our second little angel. When we’d found out we were having another daughter—something Drake had been over the moon about—he’d already had her name picked out. Arella Faith. Arella was Hebrew for angel, fitting for our baby girl.
Arella really was an angel, looking a little more like me than her father, but already showing signs of having the Stevenson eyes. I doubted there would ever be a Stevenson born who didn’t inherit those blue-gray eyes that could see through a person to their soul. Still, I wondered if my baby was a dark angel at times, but maybe that was because I was so exhausted all the time.
My anemia this time was worse than it had been after my first delivery, but at least I wasn’t having to fight post-partum as well.
“How did Ellie need you, Nev?” Drake asked the toddler in his arms quietly.
“She was whiny. So I gives her my binky.” She stared down lovingly at her baby sister.
We’d worried that Neveah would be jealous of the new baby, but all she’d done was want to help and shower kisses all over her baby, as she liked to call Arella.
Drake raised a brow at the girl. “Where was it?” He looked over at me. “She hasn’t had that thing in months. Do you know where she got it at, Angel?”
I shrugged. “I think it was in her room on her bookshelf. I’ve kept it clean though, just in case she ever wanted it back.” I moved closer to them, smiling from the still-sleeping baby back to my sexy rocker demon and the toddler in his arms. “Arella hasn’t liked the ones I’ve been trying to tempt her with lately. I guess she needed one that was already broken in.” I reached up and pushed a few dark strands back from Neveah’s beautiful little face. “Good job, Nevi.”
“Should we let her sleep?” Drake looked worriedly down at the baby. “Maybe we should wake her up and try to get her on a schedule.”
I shook my head. “No, babe. Let’s let her sleep a little more. I’m sure she needs it. She’s gotten as much sleep as we have lately. She needs it.” I took Neveah from his arms. “How about pancakes for breakfast, my angel?”
“Mickey?” she asked hopefully.
“I think I can do that.” I pressed a kiss to her forehead before unlocking the gate at the top of the stairs and walking down.
The house had been baby-proofed before we’d moved in. Now that we were spending more and more time on the West Coast, we’d needed more room. I hadn’t wanted to give up the house in New York, so we kept it and let family stay in it when they had to be in New York for any reason. Drake had given up his spot as judge on America’s Rocker the year before when Axton had left as well. The show had three new judges this year, and while it was still a popular show, it wasn’t getting nearly as high ratings as it had when Drake, Ax, and my father had been on there.
Drake followed us down the stairs and into the kitchen after going back to our room to grab the baby monitor so we could listen for Arella. I set Neveah in her booster seat at the kitchen table and started gathering things I needed for pancakes.
“Want some help, Angel?” Drake offered as he opened the fridge and extracted the carton of orange juice.
He hadn’t been letting me do much of anything lately. I hadn’t cooked much in the last few weeks and Drake had been doing the dishes as well as keeping up with the laundry. We had a housekeeper who came in twice a week, but my husband had been doing a great job of keeping toys neat and tidy as well as taking the trash out nightly.
Looking at Drake now, it was so hard to believe that until I’d come along—and for a little while after I’d come along—he’d been a shell of a man who was lost in his tortured past and hid from everything. Now he was full of so much life, so much energy. The day I’d married him, he’d seemed so happy, some of the demons shadowing his eyes had faded. The moment the doctor had placed Neveah in his arms, I’d seen a few more of those dark shadows fade. Just as many more had faded when Arella was pushed into the world and handed over to her sobbing father. I loved that we were pushing the past out of him. The barest of those dark shadows remained in his blue-gray eyes, but I figured a few more daughters—a few more of Drake’s angels—and his past would be well and truly in the past where it belonged.
“No, babe. I got this,” I assured him as he wrapped his arms around my waist, making me ache for something I was still weeks away from getting. That didn’t stop me from rubbing my hips against his bulging erection though, and I grinned when I heard the breath hiss out of him. “You can go get the morning paper, though. I’d like to see if news of what happened at Harper’s office yesterday hit the legit news.” I turned in his arms long enough to kiss him before firmly pushing him away, afraid I would attack him right there on the kitchen floor for a taste of the pleasure I’d been without for way too long.
Drake winked down at me and I turned back to the task at hand. Neveah loved her pancakes and she w
as probably hungry. The events of the day before started to flood back into my head since Drake was no longer in the room to fog it up and I started cracking eggs a little rougher than I normally would have as I thought about the circus that was becoming my brother-in-law’s and best friend’s lives.
When Emmie had shown up at our house with three of Charles Seller’s men, I’d been scared out of my mind until they had searched the house and deemed it free of any spy gear. Once the fear for my children had been calmed, my fear for the rest of our family had only escalated, and my rage had started to simmer when I’d learned that someone had planted cameras in Mia’s room.
Drake was gone for less than two minutes and was already unfolding the newspaper as he took his seat beside Neveah at the table. He didn’t speak as he looked over the front page and then opened it to skim through the rest. I glanced up from mixing the pancake batter every few seconds as I felt his tension seem to fill the room. He closed the paper with a curse that he only partially got out before he remembered our child was sitting there watching him so intently.
“Daddy, kiss?” Neveah offered as she saw that vein in his forehead pulse.
He leaned forward and accepted her kiss, but it did nothing for the tension in him, making me question what he’d read.
“Is it that bad?” I murmured, trying to keep my voice calm so as not to scare or worry Neveah. She picked up on emotions so easily and I didn’t want her to feel the fear and tension that was currently turning our entire family into basket cases.
“Nothing about Harper or Shane,” Drake assured me, but his jaw was still clenched tight.
I lifted a brow. “What, then?” He wouldn’t be acting like that for no reason, so I knew there was something in there about at least one member of our family.
“It’s hard to explain, Angel.” His gaze went to Neveah and I got the message loud and clear. He didn’t want to talk about it in front of her. That only escalated my trepidation. “Let’s have breakfast and then… then you should call Cole.”
My hand paused in the middle of stirring the pancake batter. “Dad?” Why the hell did I need to call my father? I’d just spoken to him the week before. He was out of the country doing some work in London. Apparently he was helping with some music talent show that had shelled out some big cash for him to make a few appearances as a guest judge. “Is he okay? Has something happened?” My heart twisted painfully. Had something…
No, I quickly assured myself. If something had happened to my father, his PA would have called me, or Emmie would have. Not to mention news about Cole Steel—lead vocals for the legendary band Steel Entrapment—would have been front-page news.
I hadn’t met, let alone had a relationship of any kind with, the rocker who was my father until just before I’d married Drake. Hadn’t wanted to know the man who had given up all his rights and basically blamed me for all his problems at the time of my birth. It wasn’t until I’d miscarried that he’d found out I was his daughter and slowly we’d built up a father/daughter relationship. I wouldn’t say that what Cole and I had was exactly perfect, but it grew a little stronger with each passing year and with the birth of each new granddaughter I produced for him. He’d sucked as a father, but I had to admit that Cole Steel was the best grandfather in the world.
There was just a tiny thing about Cole being my father: no one knew. No one but those I trusted with my life. I didn’t want the chaos that would come with the world finding out I was the illegitimate daughter who had ruined Cole’s marriage and turned his son—my half-brother—against him.
It was weird thinking about having a brother. It didn’t feel real, because I didn’t think of Garon Steel as a brother. Jesse was my brother. Shane was my brother. Nik and even Axton were my brothers. Garon was a stranger. The funny thing was I’d even met Garon a few times over the years at award shows and film premieres. He was some big-shot movie producer and had even directed a few big-name films in the past.
The good thing was that we didn’t look alike except for sharing the same eye color. Cole’s eyes. I’d taken after my mother, whereas Garon was a mixture of both his parents. I guess you could say he was attractive, but his attitude made him appear ugly to me. He wasn’t someone I wanted to be a part of my family and if he knew I was his sister, I was sure he would feel the same way.
I finished fixing breakfast, trying to push my anxiety about what could be happening with Cole from my mind. By the time we had all finished eating, the baby monitor started making noise. Knowing Arella was hungry and needed a fresh diaper, I left Drake and Neveah to clean up and headed up the stairs, taking the paper with me.
After changing the baby’s diaper, I settled us both in the rocking chair and positioned her at my breast so she could have some breakfast of her own. Once my daughter was comfortable and greedily sucking away, I carefully opened the newspaper with one hand. It took me a little while to find the article that Drake had read that had made him think I needed to call my father.
My eyes narrowed as I read over the article and then I forced myself to read it again just to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake.
“That fucking asshole,” I muttered to myself as I dropped the paper on the floor beside the rocking chair, disgusted with it.
Arella let out a soft whimper and I tried to focus on her as I turned her so she could suck from my other breast. The greedy little angel was obviously starving.
Half an hour later, with Arella’s tummy full and her in the swing that had once been Neveah’s—and Neveah’s binky once again in her mouth to keep her from fussing—I finally reached for my phone and called Cole Steel.
It was later in the day in London so I wasn’t worried I would wake him up, even though I took the chance of him still being in bed. It wouldn’t have mattered to me either way. I was pissed enough that I could have reached through the phone and smacked him awake if he didn’t answer.
Luckily he answered on the second ring. “Hey there, sweetheart. How’s my favorite girl?”
I clenched my jaw. I might not ever think of Cole as a father figure, but he had tried hard over the years to make my childhood up to me. It had taken me a good bit of time to finally forgive him, so hearing him call me his favorite girl kind of melted my heart a little despite the anger that continued to build.
“Garon has found out about me,” I told him, my tone not nearly as cold as it might have been just thirty seconds before.
There was a short pause on his end. “How?”
“I don’t fucking know,” I snapped and quickly sucked in a deep breath because my voice had been louder than I’d wanted it to be. I didn’t want Neveah to overhear me and I sure as hell didn’t want Arella to start crying if my tone was too harsh.
“Are you having media trouble, honey? Do I need to get you some security?”
It was touching that he was worried and would offer me protection, but that wasn’t the issue at hand. “No. Even if I did, I could have a dozen of Charles Seller’s men at my front door within twenty minutes. Garon hasn’t exactly announced who I am, but from the article I just read in the LA Morning Edition, I’m sure he knows who I am.”
Cole blew out a harsh breath. “Maybe you should read me the article, Lana. I’m half hung over and just about to go on some evening talk show that was a term of my contract for this fucking talent show.”
I rolled my eyes and went back into the nursery to snatch up the paper. “It’s in the gossip section of the paper, Dad. It says that Garon is going to sue his sister—who remains anonymous at this point—in a civil action. It says that I was the reason his mother tried to commit suicide the day I was born and I caused him and his mother unreasonable grief. Since I—his anonymous sister—have the means to pay him and his mother restitution, I have a responsibility to pay them back for their suffering.”
I’d summarized the little article and I was back to being full-on pissed-off by the time I was done.
What the hell was Garon pulling? Why would he want to pull
this kind of shit now? And how the fuck was it my fault and responsibility? I hadn’t asked to be born. I hadn’t wanted to have a mother who liked playing around with rockers to cushion her bank accounts by seducing them, only going away when given the right amount of incentive. I hadn’t wanted to have a father who was married and already had a family. It wasn’t my fault that lives had been destroyed by my birth. That was on my mother. On Cole. Even on Cole’s bitch of an ex-wife.
“So he didn’t spill the beans on who you are?” Cole growled.
“No, not yet. But that could happen at any time.” The doorbell rang and I smothered a groan, hoping that it wouldn’t upset Arella. Blowing out a frustrated sigh, I hurried downstairs to find Drake already at the door.
“Is this the home of Lana Daniels?”
Even as I descended the stairs, I could see the fury on Drake’s face. “Her name is Lana Stevenson.”
The man at the door, dressed in an expensive suit and wire-rimmed glasses, inclined his head. “But she was at one time Lana Daniels. Yes?”
“Yeah,” he muttered.
“Dray? What’s going on?” I moved to stand beside him, my gaze going straight to the thick envelope in the stranger’s hands.
“You’re Lana Daniels?” Drake took a menacing step toward him and I put a hand on his arm, soothing him. “Excuse me. Lana Daniels Stevenson?”
I let out an exasperated breath, knowing exactly what this man was there for. “Yes,” I bit out.
“Lana?” Cole was still on the phone that I had pressed to my ear, his deep, scratchy voice full of anxiety. “What’s going on?”
I grimaced as the newcomer lifted the envelope toward me. “I’m being served,” I informed my father. “For once the gossip columns got it right.”