Identity Crisis by Eliza Watson

When Olivia Doyle's father dies under suspicious circumstances, rather than inheriting a family fortune, she inherits a new identity. She learns they were placed in the Federal Witness Security Program when she was five years old. Her father was involved in an art forgery ring and testified against the mob. Brought up not to trust anyone, Olivia has a difficult time relying on U.S. Marshal Ethan Ryder to protect her, and to keep her secret. She fears her father may have continued his life of crime through her art gallery. She has little choice but to depend on Ethan when she realizes someone is now after her. Olivia's search for the truth leads her and Ethan across the country to a family and a past she doesn't remember.

At the age of ten, Ethan witnessed a brutal murder. He vowed that when he grew up, he'd protect people in danger. Protecting Olivia is difficult when she won't trust him. He soon realizes his desire to protect her goes beyond doing his job, but if his judgment becomes clouded by emotions, her safety could be jeopardized.

Can Ethan and Olivia learn to trust each other when they uncover secrets that will change their lives forever?

*This book was originally published by a Simon & Schuster imprint under the name Eliza Daly.

READ AN EXCERPT:

She couldn’t believe he was dead.

Olivia Doyle gazed discreetly at her six fellow mourners, dotting the wooden pews of St. Mary’s church in San Francisco. An aching, hollow feeling consumed her.

The pipe organ rising majestically from the rear balcony sang out, its solemn tone embracing a whisper of underlying hope, as if reassuring her she’d be fine. A wave of music swept through the church, ricocheting off the stained glass windows and massive stone walls, filling the vacant pews and the emptiness inside her. It wrapped around her dad’s urn resting within the sanctuary at the front, then seemed to float up to the gold leaf dome and beyond to the heavens, carrying her dad’s spirit with it.

A sob erupted from a plump, elderly woman sheathed in black, seated in the pew behind Olivia. Olivia vaguely recognized her from Mass. Had she known Olivia’s dad? Olivia and her dad had attended Mass here regularly while she was growing up, even though they’d always lived outside the city. However, she hadn’t personally known even one of the thousand or so parishioners.

Olivia slid a fleeting glance over her shoulder as the woman buried her face in a white embroidered handkerchief. Olivia massaged a dry tissue between her fingers, honoring her dad’s memory. He wouldn’t have wanted her to cry. Not once in twenty-nine years could she recall having seen him shed a tear. He’d have expected her to be strong.

The five men seated across the aisle stood, and Olivia followed their lead, realizing the service had ended. Her dad’s broker and business associates filed over to her and offered their condolences, shaking her hand, giving her an encouraging pat on the shoulder. They walked off.

The woman behind her braced a black gloved hand on the back of Olivia’s pew and pulled herself up with labored effort, causing the wood to creak. She stepped from the pew, raising her gaze from the rosary clutched in her hand, her puffy brown eyes meeting Olivia’s. Without a hint of warning, she threw her arms around Olivia, enfolding her in a warm embrace, sobbing. Olivia merely stood there, unsure how to respond to the woman’s outpouring of emotions or to the first hug she’d received since learning of her dad’s death two days earlier.

Olivia swallowed hard, a tear slipping down her cheek.

The woman’s arms slowly relaxed, and she drew back. A reverent expression on her doughy face, she made the sign of the cross, speaking in what sounded like Italian or possibly Latin, the words incomprehensible, yet as soothing and comforting as the woman’s embrace. Her gaze once again fixed on her rosary, she turned and shuffled down the red carpeted aisle toward the back of the church. Olivia wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing her hands over her bare arms beneath the black shawl.

Everything would be all right.

Father Clifford approached. A tall, thin man in his early seventies, his hair was as white as his crisply pressed vestment. He enveloped her hand in his, sympathy softening his angular features. “How are you, my dear?”

She forced a faint smile. “I’m okay.”

“We miss you around here.”

She nodded, slipping her hand from his grasp, unable to meet his gaze. She hadn’t attended church in six months, since last Christmas. She’d spent Easter in London on business. She should have celebrated it here with her dad.

“Come around anytime you need to talk.”

“I’ll be all right, thanks. And thanks for putting together such a lovely service. It was exactly what my dad would have wanted.” She glanced at the pew behind her. “Do you know who that woman was?”

He wore an amused smile, nodding. “Rosalina Powell. Funerals seem to be a hobby of hers. Hasn’t missed one since her husband passed away several years ago.”

A funeral crasher. Figured. Olivia couldn’t imagine her dad befriending such an openly compassionate woman.

Father Clifford slipped a yellowed envelope from the side pocket of his vestment. “Your father gave this to me many years ago. Asked that I give it to you upon his death.”

She took the envelope from his hand. The organ music faded, and a desolate, eerie stillness fell over the church, raising the hairs on the back of her neck. She tightened the shawl around her shoulders. She opened the envelope to find a letter and a newspaper clipping. She started with the letter.

 

Dear Livvy,

 

First, know that I loved you more than anything in this world. That’s why I hope someday you’ll forgive me for what I’ve done. Telling you the truth while I was alive could have put your life in danger. Now that I’m gone, I no longer fear for your safety. They would only have hurt you to get to me.

The only way to keep us safe was to enter the Witness Protection Program when you were five. Leaving our friends and family was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I can’t stand the thought of you now being alone. I hope you’ll go back to our family, in the town where I grew up, Five Lakes, Wisconsin. I’d like to be laid to rest there, next to your mother. Please forgive me enough to grant me this one last wish. If you should ever encounter any problems, contact Roy Howard, the U.S. Marshal who relocated us, at 415-334-9076. I’m so sorry. Please believe you were the most important thing to me. You were my life. My Livvy.

 

Love, Dad

 

Olivia stood paralyzed, her mind racing, trying to comprehend the letter. Was this some kind of sick joke? For the past twenty-four years her dad had lived in fear that somebody would hurt them? What had forced him to leave behind everyone he’d loved? Everyone she’d probably loved, but obviously couldn’t remember. And if her mom wasn’t buried in San Francisco, whose grave had Olivia been visiting here all these years? She tried to hold the letter steady in her trembling hands. Of course, it was vague. Her dad had been a man of few words. However, these few words expressed a lot of emotion, something he’d never been good at doing.

“Is everything all right?” Father Clifford’s voice penetrated her thoughts.

Concern creased the older man’s brow, and from the curiosity filling his gray eyes, he had no clue what the envelope contained. Her dad hadn’t even trusted a priest with his secret. Her dad had been the only person she’d ever really trusted, and it turned out she hadn’t truly known him.

She merely nodded, unable to find her voice. She inhaled a deep breath. The scent of beeswax candles and incense did little to calm the panic racing through her veins. She unfolded a clipping from a Chicago newspaper, dated twenty-four years ago. The headline read “Art Dealer in Bed with Mob Blows Whistle on Forgery Ring and Vinnie Carlucci.” The article included a photo of police officers escorting her dad. She started reading the article. Prominent Chicago art dealer Andrew Donovan confesses to having sold more than a hundred forgeries . . .

Her stomach dropped. She slapped a hand over her mouth, certain she was about to vomit right there on the pew.

Her dad had been a criminal.

The nature of his crime made it all the more surreal.

She stared in disbelief at the papers in her hand. His name had been Andrew Donovan, not Alex Doyle. Her last name was Donovan. Was her first name actually Olivia? Instead of inheriting a family fortune, she’d inherited a new identity.

Or rather, an old one.