At the end of book 2, Steel declares his love to Tess and pulls a family heirloom ring from his hand and gives it to her. The questions is: Is this a sincere gift?
Here’s the moment:
“Tess Campbell, will you marry me sometime in the future when we get all this nonsense behind us?”
Her face lit up in pure joy. “Yes!” She then tested it on all her fingers. The ring was too large for even her thumb.
“I’ll buy you a proper ring later,” he promised. “Just wear it as a necklace right now. We don’t want anyone else seeing it. Not even Dan.” Nor her father, nor his parents, nor the men who worked for him. “But you need to know I’m truly in love with you. That’s a family heirloom that has been passed down for countless generations. It’s important to me, but you are even more so. I love you, Tess, with all my heart.”
Sounds sweet doesn’t it? But does he actually mean it? Or is he creating a situation to use to his advantage in the future? At the end of Book 2, he truly seems to love Tess. But does Steel even know how to love? Yes, he’s very happy to have Tess working for him, but then she is doing the work he was hired to do, plus she is creating the work plans that are required by the state. That’s his responsibility as well, only Steel has no clue how to create the documents required. Nor does he have any wish to. He’s been greatly relieved that Tess took on the task.
Only matters have changed in book 3 and Steel, from his hospital bed, lobs an accusation that would land Tess in prison for twenty years if it were believed. Did he always plan to do this? Or has his recent misfortunes put him on this path? Read the excerpt below and you decide.
By Liza O’Connor
Tess Campbell, mafia princess, has fallen in love with a British prince, who is protected by a Secret Service agent during his stay in America. Two weeks into their budding romance, Tess’s father, a psycho mafia don, kidnaps and nearly kills the prince and his Secret Service agent, believing she has taken both as her lovers. The brutal assault reveals the true character of each man and Tess must face some hard truths, even as she takes control of her destiny to build the finest state park in the country.
Excerpt for Dance or Die
“Steel is much the same as he was yesterday,” Sheriff Cobbs snapped. “He’s insisting you stole a valuable ring from his hand while he was being beaten by Benito.”
“Why would he say that?” Tess asked.
“Then you don’t possess a ring of his?”
“I do, but he gave it to me.” She reached in her shirt and pulled the chain holding his ring out so the sheriff could see it.” She focused on Sheriff Cobbs as he studied the ring. “When exactly did he give this to you?”
“Four or five days ago. I had begged him to make love to me, but when he discovered I was a virgin, he refused, saying we’d be safer if I remained untouched. I thought he was backing off, but to prove he wasn’t, he pulled this ring from his finger and gave it to me as he asked me to marry him sometime in the future. I threw my arms around him and said I would. He asked me not to show it to anyone. So I wore it on a chain beneath my clothes.”
“Unfortunately, he now claims you stole it. Any chance anyone else overheard any of this?”
“No. It was just the two of us.”
The old sheriff sighed heavily.
“I would never steal from him. I love him! Why would he accuse me of stealing from him?”
“He’s claiming it’s an heirloom worth half a million.”
Tess pulled the chain over her head and handed it to Sheriff Cobb. “I had no idea it was so valuable. Why would he give me something like that?”
“It might be because he loved you at the time, or he might have been setting you up from the first. I’ve no idea.” He removed the ring from the chain and handed it back to her. “The chain is yours, right?”
“I believe matters went down just as you claimed. However, that’s going to get you thrown into prison for grand larceny.”
Tess opened her mouth to protest, but the gravity of the situation left her mute.
He held up the ring. “So I’m going to return to the barn and find this ring near the post Steel was tied to. Then nobody can be falsely accused of anything. It’s just a lost and found priceless ring.”
“But Steel knows he gave it to me.”
The sheriff grinned. “I’m sure he does. But the only way he could prove you stole it was if I found you wearing it. Which I haven’t. I will find his ring at the barn, so to my perspective, it must have fallen off his finger while he was being battered.” He then eyed Tess. “But you can never talk about this to anyone. You understand?”
Tess nodded. “He really hates me…”
“He’s full of rage and you should stay far away from him. Had he succeeded with this trick, you’d be in prison for twenty years. And God only knows what would become of your forest by the time you got out.”
God! Steel truly hated her.
“Just put this all in your past and move on.”
“Can I hug you?”
“No, you can’t, but only because I was never here.”
He tipped his hat and hurried outside, rather like a reverse Santa who carries away gifts that would ruin her life.
She sat down in her Grams’ chair, shaking at how close she had come to losing everything dear to her over a ring that had been given to her in a moment of love.
Had Steel ever loved her or was this just a clever way of securing control of her forest? She had no doubt that the governor could and would remove her permanently if she had a criminal record.
About the Author
Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.
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