BY: YVIE F

Cyan Stevens is happily engaged to Dominic Steele. They are planning to marry and move to Germany for Dominic’s business when Cyan is summoned for the reading of her late aunt’s will. The will makes certain demands that Cyan feels obligated to fulfill, and Dominic breaks off the engagement. Unbeknownst to him, Cyan was pregnant with his child. She has a son, but has been unable to tell him. Five years later, Cyan bumps into him and is terrified that, if he finds out about their son, he will take the boy away from her. Dominic also carries a heavy burden—a family secret that threatens to destroy any chance of ever being with the woman he continues to love. As each struggles with their own dark secret, outside forces plot to tear them apart. Can their relationship survive another betrayal, or is their love forever doomed?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Healing Hearts by Yvie F, Cyan Stevens is engaged to Dominic Steele when Cyan’s aunt dies,  and the will makes demands on her that cause him to break off their engagement. Neither one knows at the time that she is pregnant with his child. Though she tries to tell him, he won’t take her calls, and she has the baby without him. Five years later, he is back in her life, and she is terrified that if he finds out her child is his son, he will fight her for custody, taking the boy away from her. But Dominic also has a secret he hasn’t told Cyan, one that could cost him the woman he still loves.

This is a heart-breaking, heart-warming steamy romance, with great characters and hot, steamy love scenes—my kind of book.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Healing Hearts by Yvie F is a steamy romantic suspense set in South Africa. Cyan Stevens is engaged to Dominic Steele, a wealthy businessman, when the story opens. However, when Cyan’s rich Aunt Evelyn dies, her will requires Cyan to move into her mansion for a year while she attempts to find the son Evelyn gave up for adoption many years before. But Cyan and Dominic are planning to get married and move to Germany, so those plans would have to be put on hold. Furious that Cyan would put her dead aunt’s request before their own plans and his needs, he breaks of the engagement. But neither of them is aware at the time that Cyan is pregnant with Dominic’s son. Five years later, when they accidentally bump into each other, each has a secret they’re afraid to tell. She is afraid if Dominic finds out that her son is his child, he will take him away. And he is afraid if she finds out the secret he holds, she will hate him forever.

With marvelous characters, vivid scene descriptions, and plenty of fast-paced action, not to mention steamy sex scenes, Healing Hearts is a romantic suspense of the first order. If you like steamy romances, with edge-of-your-seat suspense, this one is for you.

CHAPTER 1

Five years ago:

“Good morning, I’m Eli Berkowitz, Evelyn Whitmore’s attorney. Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice,” he said, addressing Cyan, and her father Lionel, before taking a seat at the head of the oval-shaped mahogany boardroom table.

Cyan followed his cue and sat down, a deep sorrow filling her heart. Her father, dressed smartly in a black suit with a crisp white shirt and black tie, sat beside her, his expression grim. She glanced in his direction, longing for an affectionate embrace, a father’s loving touch, but he was disconnected, cold.

Eli pulled out his silver Apple MacBook and arranged the folders in front of him. “I’d like to extend my deepest condolences to you both. Evelyn wasn’t only a valued client, but also a dear friend to me and my wife. We will miss her.” His voice broke, and he lowered his head.

Cyan swallowed hard, choking back her own tears, feeling his distress. She eyed him from beneath her long dark lashes. Eli was a short man with thick dark hair and kind blue eyes that glistened with unshed tears. His glasses sat low on the bridge of his nose, and he lifted them, dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief. She looked away, her heart twisting in her chest. While he composed himself, she gazed around the lavish boardroom that boasted the latest technological devices. Twenty smart black-leather chairs surrounded the boardroom table with a matching sideboard against the wall. Arranged around a Miele coffee machine were several mugs displaying the well-known company logo of Berkowitz and Simpson. The esteemed offices were in the middle of Morningside, one of the oldest suburbs of Durban.

“Your presence today is for the reading of Evelyn Whitmore’s last Will and Testament,” Eli began. “Please note that as her attorney, I have authenticated the will and hereby confirm the legitimacy thereof. Before we commence, would you like some coffee or tea?” Both Lionel and Cyan shook their heads. “Very well, let’s begin.” He fiddled with the remote controls and a moment later, her aunt’s face stared back at them from the large flat screen TV.

Cyan gasped. “I can’t believe she’s gone,” she murmured to herself.

She hadn’t seen her aunt in a while and, although the dire result of her cancer was inevitable, the anguish she felt at Evelyn’s passing was all-consuming. She squeezed her eyes shut, overcome with remorse and guilt for not visiting her one last time. Aunt Evelyn was her mom’s sister who took Cyan in after her mom died.

“You’ve been too wrapped up in your life with Steele to give a shit! Don’t pretend to care now!” her father spat bitterly.

Cyan winced, smelling the alcohol on his breath. He was a tall man with chocolate brown eyes, a strong jawline, and dark hair peppered with gray. Sadly, the years of alcoholism had marred his handsome features, and she had given up trying to rehabilitate him a long time ago. She closed her eyes, shutting out the painful past, and ignored his barb. She focused on the TV instead. A quiet reverence filled the room as her aunt spoke.

“If you are watching this, it means I’ve passed, crossed over. I’m gone–dead–deceased–I have kicked the bucket–bitten the dust, fallen off my perch, my number is up, and I’m taking a bow.”

Cyan smiled, tears filling her eyes. Aunt Evelyn always did have a warped sense of humor.

“Eli, thank you for all you have done for me, my old friend. Yours and Ruth’s friendship was precious to me.” Evelyn cleared her throat and sipped her water. “Let’s get to the nitty gritty. Clearly, I have lost the battle to this heinous disease called cancer, and now I’m at peace–at least that’s what I’ve heard.” Evelyn rolled her eyes and snorted.

Cyan wiped the tears from her eyes, a watery smile on her lips, and cast a glance at Eli, noticing the emotions playing on his face. Cyan turned back to the screen. Evelyn was in her library, sitting in her treasured cream-and-black printed chair. She wore one of her elegant haute couture outfits with her prized string of black pearls around her neck. She smiled to herself. She had always admired those pearls and remembered how, as a little girl, she’d wear her mom’s identical set. She brushed the memories away. Her aunt’s dark hair was perfectly styled, and the softly applied make-up brightened her sallow face.

Evelyn was an attractive woman in her mid-fifties with intense blue eyes that held her audience captive. “The chemotherapy didn’t work, and I’m about to leave this world the way I came in: bald, blubbering and wearing diapers.” Cyan gasped, clapping her hands over her mouth as Evelyn removed the mop of hair to reveal a pink balding, blotchy head. “Yes, that was my reaction too,” she continued. “Now, stop gawping and pay attention,” she ordered sternly, tossing the wig aside. “Lionel Stevens, we go back some years. I was a little envious of my sister Victoria, God rest her soul. She had everything I always wanted–a family.” Evelyn sniffed and wiped her brow with a white lacy handkerchief. “You and I both have secrets. I can’t do much about mine, but you have a chance to make amends. Don’t make the same mistake I made and leave it.”

Cyan stared in bewilderment at the screen. Lionel sat beside her, wearing a look of boredom.

“As I’m sure you are aware, I have accumulated an immense fortune over the years which is why you are here today.”

Suddenly, Lionel sat forward and licked his lips, greed flashing hungrily in his eyes. “There are however certain stipulations in place.” Evelyn paused to sip her water and Cyan felt the anticipation mount in the room. “Lionel, you will voluntarily check yourself into a rehabilitation center for one year after I die. The Twelve Step Program has proved successful, and the lengthier plans have a higher success rate. Stay sober, stop gambling, and you will receive your part of the inheritance, paid monthly into your account. You may not check out until the year is up. Eli will monitor your progress accordingly.”

The room went quiet. Cyan gaped, and Lionel’s face turned scarlet with rage.

“Bitch!” Lionel swore, slamming his fist down on the table. Cyan jumped. “How do you expect me to stay in some goddamned rehab for a fucking year?” he screamed at the TV.

Cyan cast a nervous glance at Eli who remained aloof, staring at the screen. Evelyn continued to speak.

“Years ago, I took you in because you were in financial ruin. You lost your job, your home, your wife, and you almost abandoned your daughter. I am confident that one year in rehab will prove beneficial.”

Lionel snorted and shook his head.

“When Victoria died, something inside you died. You became bitter and angry, taking your frustrations out on your loved ones and blaming everyone for your downfall. You need healing, Lionel. You will not squander your inheritance. This is your second chance. Use it wisely.”

Cyan flinched as her aunt’s words churned memories buried deep inside her. She put her fingers to her temples where a dull ache thumped.

“This is an outrage!” Lionel bellowed. He stared at the screen, his eyes glinting venomously.

Evelyn continued. “Eli will give you the information of the establishment I have chosen. It’s one of the best in the country.”

The screen froze, and, on cue, Eli stood up and walked around to Lionel, handing him a manila envelope. “The details are inside,” he told him. “Tell me when you are ready, and I will make the necessary arrangements.” Eli’s words were detached and cool.

“Cyan, I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here,” Evelyn said from the screen.

Cyan blinked, nodding unconsciously. When Eli invited her, she assumed it was to be a witness. Her aunt didn’t have children, and it was expected that her immense fortune would revert to a trust, of sorts, based on the many charitable foundations she belonged to.

“I bequeath a substantial part of my inheritance to you.” Cyan gasped. “Don’t be so surprised, my dear. I could never forget you. You were always too modest for your own good. Now pay attention,” her aunt gently admonished from the screen.

Cyan’s eyes filled with tears.

“You are an intelligent, passionate woman, and I know you will use your inheritance wisely. I wanted you to study, but you were undecided, and I didn’t push you. I ask now that you find your gift and use this opportunity to further yourself.” Evelyn inhaled a deep shuddering breath, sipping more water before setting it down on the table beside her. “You grew up quickly and are wise beyond your years. I know your mother would have been proud of you. I’m proud of you.” Evelyn closed her eyes briefly before continuing. “Cyan, I have two requests, both of which are rather complex. I know I’m interfering with yours and Dominic’s plans, but I’m afraid these matters are quite pressing.” She took a deep breath. “Firstly, I would like you to establish contact with my son.”

The words exploded in the air, and both Lionel and Cyan balked. Her son? Evelyn’s voice reverberated in Cyan’s brain and, unsure whether she’d heard correctly, she struggled to focus on what her aunt was saying.

“I realize this must come as a shock. Just because I never married, doesn’t mean I was chaste. I am guilty of having several dalliances in my day.” She smiled secretly, her eyes twinkling wickedly. “Eli has the information and will assist wherever possible. My son’s name is Ethan, and I would like you to give him a letter from me. Everything he needs to know is explained in that letter.”

The screen froze, and, again, Eli stood up and walked around to hand Cyan a chunky envelope. Blindly, she took it, frowning, and stared at the envelope.

“I have my reasons for asking you to do this, and, in time, they will become clear.”

Cyan stared at the screen, her mouth open. She turned to her father. “Did you know about this, Dad?”

Lionel glared at her. “Of course not. She’s insane and, if she wasn’t already dead, I’d throttle her myself!” he barked scathingly.

Cyan turned to the attorney. “Mr. Berkowitz, I don’t understand. My aunt has a son?” she asked in disbelief. “That makes him my cousin, doesn’t it?” Eli smiled, as if sensing her confusion.

“Yes, Cyan,” he answered. “I’m not at liberty to divulge the details, hence, the reason you must personally deliver the letter. The reasons will become apparent in time,” he said furtively.

She frowned and inhaled deeply. She looked at her father. He scowled, his body stiff.

Evelyn continued to talk. “It’s only fair that I indulge you with an explanation. I was young, irrational, and hopelessly in love with a man I could never have. I fell pregnant and fled to Johannesburg where I had the child. A loving affluent couple adopted Ethan, and I have stayed in touch with them over the years. Eli has their details. Foolishly, we agreed not to tell Ethan about the adoption. Graham and Sarah Jameson kept me abreast of Ethan’s life and sent me photos every year on his birthday. It was the only connection I had, and I’ll always be grateful to them for entertaining my selfish needs.” Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she dabbed them with her handkerchief. “Giving up my son was the single worst decision I ever made. I’ve lived with the anguish, and not a day went by that I didn’t regret it. It’s too late for me to do anything, which is why I’m asking for your help.”

Cyan bit her lip, her eyes fixed on the screen. “When I told the family about my diagnosis, they agreed to tell Ethan he was adopted. He didn’t take the news well and has been traveling out of the country ever since, hardly talking to them. They are devastated. I need your help to fix this for me, Cyan.”

Lionel shot out of his seat, his eyes bloodshot and wild. “I refuse to listen to this bullshit!” He stabbed a finger at Eli then threw the envelope at him. “You and that bitch can fuck off. I am not going to rehab, and I don’t give a damn what you say.”

She stared at him. His love of the bottle over the years had poisoned him, tainting his mind and ruining any chance at a normal relationship. A more disturbing development was his constant memory lapses about her deceased mother. Cyan would listen without interrupting as he ranted about her mother. He had also been involved in a couple of motor accidents, nothing too serious, but she knew she’d have to take his car keys away from him eventually. Maybe a year at rehab would help him.

“Dad, please, don’t do this,” she pleaded, gently laying a hand on his arm to calm him down, but he eyed her distastefully, wrenching away from her.”

“Don’t you dare patronize me, Cyan. You’re part of this conspiracy to interfere in my life. The lot of you can go to hell!” he shouted, marching toward the door.

Eli stood up, his chin raised defiantly. “Mr. Stevens, please take a seat. The presentation is almost over.”

Lionel frowned at the shorter man. The tension in the room heightened, and Lionel snorted in disgust before reluctantly moving to his seat and dropping into it unceremoniously. Eli slid the envelope across the table toward Lionel who grabbed it viciously. He muttered expletives under his breath as the screen came to life.

“Now for my second request.” Her aunt paused a moment. “Cyan, I’m not quite sure how to say this, so I’m just going to say it. Please, will you and Dominic move into my home for the year your father is in rehab?” Cyan gaped. “My reasons are selfish, I know. Your plans to move to Germany with Dominic may have to be canceled. I need you here, to oversee your father. If he fails in rehab, I shudder to think where he’d end up. He’s been obstreperous for too long, ruining lives around him. It ends now,” she stated, jutting out her chin. “Besides, I really don’t want strangers in my house.”

Cyan inhaled deeply. “Oh God,” she murmured.

“My staff is loyal and will look after your needs. All paperwork has been attended to. When the year is up, the mansion will revert to Ethan. He must decide its future. A clause exists that protects Lionel until that decision is made. Lionel must comply or risk losing everything.” Evelyn sipped more water, her face strained with the effort of talking. “You have my word that everything will make sense in the end.” She wiped the beads of sweat from her brow. “Lionel, this will be the biggest gamble of your life. Get your affairs in order or your portion will be shared between Cyan’s first born child and Ethan.”

Cyan felt the blood drain from her face. She leaned forward, her head reeling, as she fought to digest all this information.

“That’s all. Eli will answer any questions you may have. I bid you all a fond farewell.”

Cyan stared dazedly at the screen.

Lionel stood up, tucked in his chair, and adjusted his tie. He turned to Cyan, loathing burning in his eyes as he struggled to control his temper. “This is everything you wanted, isn’t it? There’s no chance any child of yours and Steele’s will claim my money. As for all this nonsense about a so-called son, it’s bullshit, another smokescreen to control my life.” Cyan lowered her gaze. “The mansion, the money, it’s all mine. Nobody will take that away from me.” He headed for the door and then stopped. He looked at Cyan and began to cackle. “Oh, how I’d love to see the look on Dominic’s face when you tell him you aren’t going to Germany.” Cyan flinched. Lionel turned his gaze to Eli, venom burning in his eyes. “Check me in immediately. I want this over with, and Cyan, I never want to see you again. Make sure you’re out of my house when I return.” Without a backward glance, he stalked out the office, slamming the door behind him.

She was shaken, his words, hurtful as always. She reminded herself it was the alcohol talking. Right now, there were more pressing issues to deal with: telling Dominic about her cousin. The discovery was surreal, and her head still reeled. She took a deep breath. Their well-constructed plans to move to Germany for a year would need to be canceled. Dominic wouldn’t be happy, and she hoped he’d understand her reasons.

If her father didn’t complete his year in rehab, it would be up to her to look after him. That was something she simply would not entertain. She was twenty-seven years old, and again her life was out of her control.

***

Dominic stared at her, disappointment and shock flickering across his handsome face. “You can’t be serious,” he exclaimed.

Cyan inhaled deeply as he slowly moved toward her. This was going to be a tough discussion, she thought miserably.

“Cyan, please tell me you’re joking,” he pleaded in dismay.

Tears welled in her eyes as she gazed up into his grief-stricken face. She was nauseous, her heart aching in her chest. After the reading of the will, Cyan drove straight to Dominic’s office.

“I wish I was, Dominic. Aunt Evelyn wants us to stay in the mansion for a year so that I can keep an eye on my Father, make sure he completes his program, or he will lose everything,” she explained in a quivering voice.

He ran his hand through his thick dark hair and shook his head, eyes closed. “I can’t believe it. After everything he’s done, the way he treats you, you’re still willing to sacrifice your own happiness for him?” His voice was raspy.

He turned away from her and gazed out of his office window. He knew things about Lionel, atrocious things, but he promised years ago never to repeat what happened that fateful night. He’d never disclosed it to Cyan–something he bitterly regretted. Right now, he wanted desperately to tell her everything, make her see Lionel for the treacherous creature that he was. He inhaled deeply and bit his tongue. Over the years, he’d grown to despise Lionel, and the feeling was mutual.

“I’ll never understand why you and my father don’t get along, but please understand, he’s the only parent I have. This is his last chance,” she beseeched him, tears running down her cheeks. Dominic Steele was her fiancé, and she was hopelessly in love with him, had been since the day she met him two years previously.

He turned to her, his gray eyes darkening. “What about us, Cyan?”

“Dominic, it’s only for a year.” She paused, wringing her hands nervously. “There’s more. Aunt Evelyn had a son that she gave up for adoption. His name is Ethan, and she wants me to contact him.”

His jaw tightened as an uncomfortable memory stabbed his consciousness. “Your aunt had a son?” he asked.

“Yes. I’m to give him a letter.”

Dominic stared at her as his mind ticked with a distant memory. It can’t be true, he thought. He shuddered and shoved his thoughts aside. With a heavy heart, he turned to her. He could almost feel Lionel smirking at him. “I know how much this means to you, and I will happily help you with Ethan, but I have to go to Germany. We’re opening our new offices, and they’re expecting me. You know my father is counting on me.”

“Can’t we delay the opening?”

“I can’t believe you’re even asking me that. Do you know what gets me? What happens after Lionel completes a year in rehab? You and I both know nothing will change. He’ll pick up where he left off. The only difference is, he’ll have unlimited resources. But you and me, what happens to us, Cyan? We were doing this together. What happens now?” he asked incredulously, his voice edgy.

She dropped into a nearby chair and buried her face in her hands. After a few moments, she looked up. “We can still get married next month, but I cannot go with you to Germany.” She stood up and moved toward him, taking his hands in hers. “All I’ve ever wanted is to be with you,” she said, her voice croaky. “Please, Dominic,” she begged, staring up into his cold eyes.

He looked at her, his expression clouded, and his jaw clenched. He knew she would always protect her father. It was a futile battle.

“No, if you wanted to be with me, you’d be with me. What’s the point in getting married if we’re apart for a year?” He shrugged. “Lionel will always come first, and I can’t stand by and watch you ruin your life–our lives for him,” he said stiffly, moving away from her.

She shivered at the contempt in his eyes. He was hurting, but he wasn’t the only one suffering. His stoicism was distressing.

“I love you, Dominic, there is nobody else I’d rather be with,” she cried.

“Then why are you going through with this fucked up shit?” he shouted back and she glared at him.

“Because I have to. I want him to get better. If I leave for a year, and he fails, he’ll lose everything. I don’t want to look after him for the rest of my life, and I’m sure you don’t want that either,” she replied firmly, lowering her gaze and fiddling with her engagement ring.

“Your father is a drunk and a gambler!” Dominic seethed. “No amount of rehab will ever change that. He has done unspeakable things, and we both know he’s unstable, has been for a long time.”

Dominic was right, but how could she walk away? Her mom died in a car accident when she was sixteen years old. The agony and heartache of that traumatic experience had burned her to the core. “Maybe you’re right, Dominic, but I have to make sure he completes his stay in rehab.” Her voice sounded alien to her own ears.

“Then fucking do it, Cyan. I can’t stop you. I won’t interfere with your plans, but I cannot be part of them,” he replied callously. She was shaking as the tears rolled down her cheeks. “You should leave,” he continued, turning his back on her. “There’s nothing left to say. It’s over. We’re done.”

He shoved his hands into his pockets and stared out the window. The sea in the distance had turned a dark shade of gray, and the clouds overhead were thick with rain. The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms overnight. Trembling, She slowly removed the ring from her finger and placed it on his desk.

“Dominic–” she said softly.

“Please, Cyan, I don’t want to hear it. I can’t believe you’re doing this. I will never forget it.”

She shivered and staggered toward the door, her heart shattering with each step. Before she left, she turned to him, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I will love you for a lifetime, Dominic. I’m so very sorry,” and then she left, walking away from the only man she would ever love.

***

Later, Dominic stood alone and forlorn on his immense patio at his apartment in Umhlanga Rocks. With whiskey in hand, he stared out across the ocean, tears misting his vision. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers and sighed heavily. He still couldn’t believe that Cyan expected him to be okay with any of this. Ordinarily, he’d do anything for her, but not when it came to her father. In the two years they’d been together, he’d avoided being in the same room as Lionel. She knew that he didn’t trust her father and she accepted that there was nothing she could do about it. Calling off their engagement to save that lush of a man was more than he could condone, and he would never forgive her. It was over. He stared at the platinum and diamond ring in his hand, his vision clouding over as he remembered a happier time in his life, two years previously.

© 2017 Yvie F