New from Debbie Macomber, one of today’s most popular writers, comes Any Dream Will Do (Arrow PB, £6.99) a thrilling yet tender tale of a woman who pays the ultimate price for family loyalty and a man who is torn by grief.
Church minister Drew Douglas is grieving for his wife but devoted to his children. Ex-con Shay Benson has been released from prison after serving three years for the crime she committed to save her brother’s life.
Both are looking for a fresh start. When they meet by chance, it seems they can help each other – until a devastating secret is uncovered and their lives are threatened with destruction once more.
Will they ever get the bright futures they dream of?
Read on for the opening pages of Any Dream Will Do …
“I need the money.”
My brother’s eyes showed a desperation I had never seen in him before.
“Shay,” he pleaded, “you don’t understand. If I don’t have it by tomorrow night they will kill me.”
“They?” I repeated. “Who are they ?” But I knew.
Caden had been waiting for me outside my tiny apartment that I shared with three roommates, pacing in front of my door, when I got off work at the bank. I hadn’t seen him in weeks, which was never a good sign. In some ways, I was grateful he’d stayed out of my life. This was my chance, the first real one I’d had, and my brother was trouble.
“Tell me what happened,” I said as I unlocked my apartment. He followed me inside and rammed his fingers through his hair with enough strength to uproot several strands.
“It’s complicated . . .”
I’d made mistakes. Big ones.
It always was with Caden. I’d been looking out for him nearly his entire life, but for once I had to think about myself. My gut was churning as I set the teakettle on the stove, afraid of what he was going to tell me. Caden had met a lot of his bad connections through me and one boyfriend in particular.
I’d fallen in deeper with Shooter than I’d ever intended, but through a community program I’d managed to break away from that lifestyle. With the help of one of the counselors I’d landed a job, a good one at a bank. For the first time in my life I had a chance at making something of myself. I had a shot at getting away from the gangs and the drugs and the lifestyle that would eventually lead to either prison or death.
I had a small taste of what the future could be if I stayed away from people determined to hold me down. I’d made mistakes. Big ones, but I was working hard to put that behind me.
I should have known it wouldn’t work. Not for someone like me. Caden was here to remind me I’d been living a pipe dream.
How much do you need?
“Who’s threatening to kill you?” I asked again, already anticipating the answer. It was Shooter or one of his gang members.
My brother closed his eyes and gripped hold of my forearm hard enough to cause a bruise. “You know.”
“You’re hanging with the Angels again?” I’d repeatedly warned Caden to stay away from the gang, which was anything but angelic.
He didn’t respond, which was answer enough.
My hands trembled as I brought down two mugs and reached for the tea bags. My back was to Caden.
“How much do you need?” I asked as I gritted my teeth. I’d managed to save a few hundred dollars. All I could do was hope that would be enough.
He hesitated before blurting out, “Five thousand.”
“Dollars?” I gasped. The figure stunned me to the point my knees felt weak, as if they were no longer capable of holding me upright. Caden had to know that amount was impossible for me. No way could I come up with that much.
“I don’t have that kind of money.”
“Can you borrow it?” he pleaded. His dark brown eyes, so like my own, were wild, his voice frantic. “I’m not joking, Shay. If I don’t hand over the money by tomorrow I’m a dead man.”
My spine tingled. I knew what Caden was thinking.
Doing my best to remain calm, I looped a long strand of my auburn hair around my ear, racking my brain. No one was going to loan me that kind of cash. Working as a bank teller, I barely made enough to get by myself. Between rent and my accounting classes, I was already stretched financially. The few dollars I’d managed to save came from doing without lunch and eating ramen noodles for dinner.
Before I could explain that the possibility of a loan was hopeless, Caden tried again. “What about the bank?” he suggested, his gaze holding mine.
A tingling feeling started at the base of my neck and worked its way down my spine. Even before I answered, I knew what Caden was thinking.
My brother lowered his voice as if he expected someone was listening in through the thin apartment walls. “Can you get the money from the bank?” he asked.
“You mean a loan? No, they aren’t going to loan me that kind of cash on what I make. I don’t have anything for collateral.” While I had a driver’s license, I used public transportation. No way could I afford a car. Not even a scooter. Caden knew that.
“Not a loan, sis. The bank isn’t going to miss it . . . at least not for a couple of days. You take the money, and before anyone notices I’ll have it for you to replace, no one will even know.”
I wasn’t going to throw away my future
The knot in my stomach tightened to the point of pain. Surely Caden knew what he was asking me. I had hope for the first time since our mother died and now he was asking me to give it all up for him. The bank would miss that money and it wouldn’t take them five minutes to figure out I was the one who took it.
Stiffening my spine, I decided then and there I wasn’t going to throw away my future because my idiot brother had gotten himself into this kind of trouble.
“I can’t. The bank doesn’t work like that. The missing money will be discovered the same day.”
“Shay, please. You know I wouldn’t ask this of you if I wasn’t desperate.”
“I’m sorry . . .”
Caden slammed his fist against the tabletop. “Do you wantme dead?” he shouted.
I flinched and shrunk back, half expecting him to hit me. It was what our father would have done. “I . . .”
“If you don’t help me, you’re signing my death warrant.”
I felt responsible for Caden
The kettle whistled as the water started to boil. I removed it from the burner and noticed how badly my hands were trembling. Caden was my brother, my only living relative. I’d looked after him when our mother died and later after our father passed, although his death had been a blessing, as far as I was concerned.
Despite everything I had sacrificed for Caden, I tried my best to help him. But it seemed he was determined to continue to make poor choices. I wanted to rant at him for being weak, but then I had been weak, too. I felt responsible for introducing him to the Angels.
“Where will you get the money to repay me?” I asked.
Caden paced the tiny kitchen and ignored the mug I offered him.
“People owe me.”
“Five thousand dollars?” I asked, unable to hide my doubt.
“I swear on our mother’s life. I’ll have the money by the end of the week.”
Our mother had been everything to us. Everything. Caden had never sworn on her life before. I wanted to believe him but remained uncertain. He’d let me down countless times and I wasn’t sure I should trust him. Not that it would matter.
Even if I did replace the money, I’d lose my job.
You could save my life and you need to think about it?
Burying my face in my hands, I sank into the chair and closed my eyes. “Let me think.”
“While you’re thinking, the minutes are ticking away.” He sounded more angry than worried now, furious with me for not immediately agreeing to his plan. “I can’t believe you. I’m your brother. You could save my life and you need to think about it?”
I exhaled a staggered breath. “You’re the one who got into this mess, not me.”
Caden’s face fell as if I’d wounded him. He fell to his knees and pressed his forehead against my legs as he’d done as a child after our mother died. “I don’t know what else to do,” he cried. “They’re going to kill me, Shay, and when they do, it won’t be quick and easy. They’ll want to make an example of me. They’ll start by breaking all my bones, and then . . .” He started to cry, his shoulders shaking with fear.
I placed a comforting hand on his back. “Can’t the Angels wait a couple of days until you have the money?” I whispered, hoping the gang would be reasonable if they knew it was coming. I wove my fingers into his hair the way Mom would have done. “Don’t you have some collateral to offer?”
My brother was involved with loan sharks!
Caden exhaled slowly. “I owe more people than the Angels . . . these people aren’t willing to listen to any more excuses. The collateral they’d want is either one of my arms or a leg.”
I gasped, wanting to weep that my baby brother had gotten involved with loan sharks. Men who were thugs and criminals.
All Caden and I had in this world was each other. If I was desperate, the one person I could reach out to for help would be my brother.
“You said you can replace the money within a couple of days?”
He raised his head from my knee, his gaze wide and hopeful. “I swear,” he said, gripping hold of my hand and pressing his lips to it.
“I hope you realize what will happen to me if I do this.”
He had to understand the consequences for me. Best- case scenario, I’d get fired from a job I considered my only shot at a real future. Worst case, I’d be incarcerated, even if I did return the money. No way would that amount of missing cash go unnoticed.
“I promise you, Shay, you won’t go to prison,” he said. “No way would I let my sister end up behind bars.”
The prison door locked behind me, the sound reverbating in my head
Two months later, I accepted the guilty plea for embezzling as recommended by my court- appointed attorney. From the Seattle cell, I was placed on a transport bus from King County jail and driven across the Tacoma Narrows bridge to the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Purdy, Washington.
When the prison door locked behind me, the sound reverberated in my head like a thunderbolt, shaking the entire room. I was locked away from any hope for a decent future. Any hope of making something out of my crummy life. From any hope whatsoever.
My sentence was three years. I’d risked everything for my brother. I had no one to blame but myself.
After giving the money to Caden, I hadn’t heard from or seen him since. His promise was empty. I’d known it at the time and had still given in. Deep down I accepted that my brother couldn’t be trusted. He’d never intended to fulfill his promise, and now I was paying the price.
Helping my Caden had stolen my future and sentenced me to a life I had worked so hard to escape.
All was lost.
Any chance for a decent future.
I don’t know what made me believe there would ever be anything else but struggles and pain for me. Even when I tried to do the right thing, I got kicked in the head.
Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber is published by Arrow
on Thursday 10th August, priced £6.99
For a chance to win a copy of Any Dream Will Do, pick up a copy of My Weekly, August 19 (on sale August 15)