Home > The Voices are Back (Gator Bait MC #5)

The Voices are Back (Gator Bait MC #5)
Author: Lani Lynn Vale


If you have a beard, and no valentine, remember. You still have a beard.

-Text from Morrigan to Aodhan





The first time I met her, I didn’t remember.

My parents remembered, though.

That day, the worst thing that could ever happen happened to two different families. My mom and dad, Stella and Abram, were visiting friends and family the week before my mom was due to give birth. Then, while on the way, a car hit them and she went into labor.

Something happened, and during the birth, my twin brother perished before he’d even taken his first breath.

Fast-forward to me in the NICU. I hadn’t calmed down one single second since I was born.

I’d gone from a happy little world with my brother right beside me, to a totally different one with no one at my side. My parents were both in rough shape, banged up from the accident.

Meanwhile, I was all alone with no one close to hold me or comfort me but some overworked nurses.

In the cradle right beside mine, there was another baby that had lost her twin sister that very day. Though her mother hadn’t been in an accident like mine. Her mother had tried to kill herself and had only accomplished killing her twin sister.

Two overworked nurses had seen the two babies crying their little hearts out and noticed that no one was able to come and comfort either baby.

So one nurse chose to see if putting them together would calm them both down.

Well, it worked.

And from that moment on, I had a soul connection to a girl that would stay with me for the rest of my life.

Her name was Morrigan St. Pete.




What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Except for country girls. They’ll definitely kill you.

-Text from Aodhan to Morrigan





The first time I met her was in a hospital bed. The second time was eight years later in elementary school.

She’d stolen my lunch box because she thought it was hers, and had eaten half the sandwich before I’d corrected her and taken it back.

She’d shared her actual sandwich with me, since she’d eaten half of mine, and from that moment forward, we were inseparable.

For the next ten years, she was a constant for me.

She was my best friend, confidant, and ultimately the one and only person that I could count on forever.

The only problem was, she had a dream.

One that would lead her out of this small town, and into something big.

So the day we graduated college, we agreed that we would go our separate ways. And, if by the age of thirty, if we were still alone, we would make our way back to each other.

But life was funny. It never, ever worked out like we had planned.




Without a beard, he’s your boyfriend. With a beard, he’s your man.

-Text from Morrigan to Folsom





The first time I tried to come back to find Aodhan, I found him married with a kid on the way.

The second time I saw him, he was heading to jail.

The third time I saw him, he was divorced, had a kid, and was again with his ex-wife.

Though, this time, I wasn’t sure if he was with her because he was trying to get back together with her, or because he was just meeting up to talk about their son.

Whatever the reason, they were doing it in my coffee shop, so it was okay that I was spying.

At least, that was what I’d told myself.

At first, I’d tried to sit in my office chair—where I found myself a lot on bad days—and not pay attention to the live feed on the screen of my computer.

A couple of years ago, when I’d moved home and used my inheritance money from my grandmother to open my own business, I’d been told that having cameras was a necessity for business owners.

That person was right, and from that point on, I’d always found myself monitoring the comings and goings of the front room when I had nowhere to go and nothing else to do.

That’d been what I was doing today, when he’d walked in.

He’d never been in my shop before.

In fact, I was fairly sure he didn’t even know I was back in town.

Mostly because, whenever I saw him, I went the other way. I did my damnedest to keep him in the past, where he belonged.

At least, that was what I told myself.

I watched him walk in, take a look around, then go up to the counter and order his drink.

I knew without being told that the drink he’d ordered was a hot chocolate, because Aodhan McBanks didn’t drink caffeine. Aodhan had an irregular heartbeat, and anything that exacerbated that for him wasn’t a good thing. Such as coffee.

Then, his ex-wife walked in the door, and she walked straight up to the counter and ordered.

My heart hitched at just how beautiful his ex-wife was. She had the most gorgeous hair, tanned skin, and longest legs a woman could ever have. If you could fit a supermodel into a normal person, that would be Danyetta Westfield McBanks.

Aodhan paid for both, and then they went to sit down at a table that was across the room from my early-morning employee, Theresa.

Theresa wasn’t my favorite person in the world, but she did her job, showed up on time, and ultimately didn’t complain when I left her to deal with everything on her own. Which I had to do a lot because I was infinitely broken.

But, sensing the episode had passed that had brought me to my chair in the first place, I got up.

After making sure that my body did what it was supposed to do—as in it stayed upright—I tiptoed toward the door that separated my office from the main room. My office door was about ten inches from the table that Aodhan had chosen to sit in.

Subconsciously, I hoped that he’d chosen that particular table because it was closer to me. Logically, though, it was likely because it was far away from where Theresa liked to eavesdrop so she had every bit of juicy gossip that she could.

The other problem was, she looked a lot like me.

I was on the shorter side, had long, curly, auburn hair, and was on the too-curvy side of curvy. Well, minus the boobs. I’d had those hacked off last year to a more manageable handful rather than a “there’s no way you’re gonna button that shirt” lot.

I had a feeling that was also why Aodhan hadn’t recognized me yet.

I’d gained weight, learned how to wear my hair curly and lost my boobs. Hell, not even my own father had noticed that I’d moved back. Why would I expect Aodhan to notice?

Hell, I’d come three times and stayed the third time. One would think that if I’d meant as much to Aodhan as I’d thought, maybe he would have noticed.

But nope.

He hadn’t.

Aodhan, in all his Irish glory, was the literal best thing that ever happened to me. And the worst.

“Listen, Yeti,” Aodhan’s deep, lush voice said. “If we keep doing this, we’re going to have to tell your brother. Our son. And that’s a whole ’nother can of worms that I don’t want to open.”

“There’s no way that my brother doesn’t already suspect,” Danyetta admitted quietly. “I know that you don’t want to keep this under wraps, but…it’s just for a short amount of time longer. Until…”

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