ORDER A COPY: After the Storm (A KGI Novel)
Publishing Date: January 7, 2014
Paperback: 400 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Over the years, Donovan Kelly has fought relentlessly for justice, women and children always holding a special place in his heart. Working side by side with his brothers, Donovan has witnessed firsthand the toll it’s taken—physically, mentally, and emotionally—on his loved ones, and the innocent lives caught in the crossfire. What he never expects is for his next mission to happen right on his home turf—or for it to take a very personal turn.
Picturesque Kentucky Lake is the perfect place for a soul in search of safe harbor. A beautiful stranger has arrived—desperate, breathless, and on the run from a dark past closing in on her and the younger siblings she has vowed to protect. Donovan must now draw on every resource at his disposal—if he wants to save a woman and the children who may prove to be his destiny.
Before Rusty Kelly was adopted by the Kelly family, she was a kid alone on the streets. She would do anything to avoid being sent back to her drunk father. When 15-year-old Travis Breckenridge walked into the family’s Hardware Store looking for work, it only took a minute for her to recognize herself in this teen. He was nervous and hungry and after he mentioned his sisters, Rusty knew she had to do something. But she knew from experience that a kid on the street is not going to trust an offer of help. She knew if she probed too deep, he would run for it and he needed the little money she could give him.
Rusty enlists the help her big brother, Van. Donovan Kelly is known for his soft spot for abused women and children, especially children. She knew he would figure out of way to help this family.
Rusty and Donovan follow Travis home to a broken down, uninhabitable trailer. From the moment Donovan meets Eve, Travis and little Cammie, he knows that they are meant to be his family. But years of working with victims at KGI has taught him to recognize the terror in this family. They are running scared from someone and he will do anything to keep them safe but first he needs to earn their trust.
When a freak tornado destroys their trailer and leaves Eve and Travis injured, Donovan has run out of patience. He will do what he does best at KGI, he takes over the situation and can only pray he hasn’t destroyed any hope for earning Eve’s trust. He brings them all to his house on the Kelly compound. He is not sure if they will feel safer or imprisoned but he can no longer sit back and wait while they suffer.
Growing up in a family as strong as the Kelly family, Donovan has no real knowledge of the fear that rides Eve. Donovan’s brothers would stand by him and die to save him. Eve is running from her family. She has taken Travis and Cammie away from their abusive Dad and is willing to risk prison or worse to keep them from falling into his hands. Eve would love to believe that Donovan will keep them safe, but the price for trusting the wrong person would be paid by Travis and Cammie.
If their father ever found them again, he would make them pay for defying him.
I really enjoy the KGI series, and although I flew through the story, I did feel a little rushed through it. Donovan’s immediate bond with this family is wonderful, and with that strong family bond that he has with his own family, you can understand his thinking in the story.
To a degree, I was left feeling that Eve was rushed into the situation. They have been on the run and hiding from Eve’s stepfather/Cammie and Travis’s father. After moving them into his house, Donovan lays out his cards and tells her of his feelings that they should be a family and even after Eve and Donovan have their own kids, that he feels Cammie and Travis would be their first children. Here is someone who is full of fear and a man you just met is declaring that he will take care of you and your siblings and you’ll live happily ever after playing house together and popping out more kids for him.
We know that the Kelly family is not a cult, but this situation could easily have been a storyline for a kidnapping/hostage situation or forced sexual slavery. Eve is only in her early 20’s (Donovan is in his late 30s) and she has been under the control of the manipulative stepfather for years. She walks into this situation a virgin and is not forced to but convinced into the role of lover to Donovan. He tells her he wants her in his bed and as his wife, but he only met her about two days ago. She goes to bed with him not 100 percent sure what her feelings are for Donovan outside of gratitude that he would take them all in and protect them.
And it does not take much to destroy her already shaky trust and believe she has been manipulated by Donovan so he can have the children.
All in all, the rushed feeling of the romance part of the story leaves Donovan looking like a controlling bully, and although there is no question of his intense feelings for this family, their backstory called for a slower romancing of Eve. He should have cemented her trust, taken care of the problem and then taken her to bed. In this case, I would have waited for the sex after Eve had developed strong feelings for Donovan. Rushing it was awkward and just this side of questionable.
This will not be on the list of my more favorite stories of this series.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion.
“Eve,” Donovan prompted.
Eve closed her eyes and then leaned down to brush a kiss across Cammie’s brow. “I’m just going to the kitchen. Donovan brought food. Wouldn’t you like a special treat?”
Slowly Cammie nodded, but she kept casting her gaze sideways at Donovan, shadows haunting her young eyes.
Eve turned and made sure Donovan went ahead of her so that she was between him and Cammie at all times. He’d made quick work of putting away the groceries, though he’d left several items out on the small countertop. Sprite. Soups. A loaf of bread. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen as well as several bottled of Pedialyte, a fluid designed to correct electrolyte imbalance.
It would appear he’d thought of everything.
“I can’t afford a doctor,” she whispered fiercely. “She’ll be okay. I’m staying with her and monitoring her fever at all times.”
Donovan put his hand over hers where she’d rested it on the countertop. A warm shock raced up her arm. Soothing. It baffled her, because she had everything to fear from this man, and yet something so simple as his touch calmed some of the rising panic and hysteria rampaging through her mind.
“I have a friend–a very close friend–who is a doctor. You’d like her. Her name is Maren. She’d married to another very good friend of mine. She’s been on maternity leave and is just now starting to get back into the swing of her practice. She routinely makes house calls, and she also sees disadvantaged patients free of charge. And Eve, you are in need. Cammie is in need. I’d like to bring her over tomorrow to check on Cammie. I’m concerned. She appears to be a very sick little girl, and while I’m sure you’re doing the absolute best you can, sometimes it’s not enough.”
She sagged, her head lowering because he was right. It wasn’t something she could very well hide. One only had to look at her–at where she lived–to know that she was in desperate need. And Cammie did need a doctor. Eve had been up with her all night, worried, sick with indecision over whether she should risk taking her into the emergency room. But how would she have gotten there? She was basically trapped here. No access to anything that wan’t in walking distance.
Donovan lifted her hand, curling his fingers gently around hers. She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. His grasp wasn’t painful. Not at all. He wasn’t trying to hurt her, but neither did he let her go.
“We aren’t going to harm you, Eve. Nobody is. I’ll bring Maren out first thing in the morning so she can do an assessment on Cammie. She likely needs more than the over-the-counter medications you’ve been giving her.
She closed her eyes, bringing her free hand to her throbbing temple. More medications. Prescription medications. No insurance. No way to pay for them. And antibiotics weren’t cheap!
“Eve,” Donovan said in a void barely above a whisper. “Look at me.”
Eve listed her gaze and in his eyes she saw–felt–warmth. Kindness. And something else entirely that she couldn’t quite figure out. He looked at her oddly. Like she was someone who mattered. To him.
“I’m going to get you the help you need. Help that Cammie and Travis need.”
Eve’s knees went weak and nearly gave out. She stumbled and braced her free hand on the countertop while Donovan’s grasp tightened on her other hand as if to steady her.
What if he reported her to child protective services? In his place, Eve certainly would. This was no place for a child, and it was equally obvious that Eve wasn’t providing for Cammie. He would be well within his rights to report his finding to the authorities, and then they’d sweep in and take Cammie–and Travis–away from her. And eventually return them to their father when it was discovered who they were. And Eve? She’d be punished for what she’d done. For taking desperate measure to protect her family. She simply couldn’t be separated from them and leave them at Walt’s mercy. It didn’t bear thinking about.
“Whatever the hell you’re thinking, stop,” Donovan said. “I don’t know what’s going through your head right now, but Eve, you can trust me. I realize that you don’t trust anyone. That much is evident. It’s also equally evident that you’re in some kind of trouble. You have nothing to fear from me. Or from Maren. We only want to help.”