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A Love Beyond
By Kate Welsh
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJim Lovell felt as if he'd returned to the scene of the crime. His crime. Which was all wrong since he was a cop and he was supposed to serve and protect.
But he hadn't served or protected the owners of Laurel Glen. Instead he'd accused the wrong man, and nearly cost a nice guy his reputation and career, and a lovely woman her life. Cole Taggert, the man he'd falsely accused, had just asked for Jim's help and Jim hadn't been able to turn him down. So it looked as if Jim was on his way to Torrence, Colorado, the hometown of Laurel Glen's new foreman.
Now as Jim left Laurel Glen, he could only pray that helping the Taggerts would lighten his load of guilt. Flipping on his turn signal, Jim glided to a stop after passing under the iron entrance arch of the horse farm. Though deep in thought, he checked for oncoming traffic, then turned toward town and the state police barracks where he had to finish the week before starting his leave of absence.
He'd arranged for the leave to give himself time to examine his life and where it was going. He'd been a cop since he'd graduated from college and had been on the fast track to captain of a precinct in his hometown of Riverside, Pennsylvania. Then it had all gone south. He'd lost his fianc�e in a drug shoot-out because she'd blown her undercover identity with a phone call to him. His guilt over that call had not lessened in all these years. Jim had hung on, though, telling himself that, like his father, he was born to be a cop.
Now he wasn't so sure.
Especially after last week when he'd almost been killed. Another detective had saved him by firing at a teenager bent on killing Jim. Once before, he'd been in the same kind of situation and had killed a gunman who was not much more than a boy. After that, he'd left inner-city law enforcement to take a job with the state police, but apparently hadn't left the incident behind.
Now he doubted he'd left any of his past behind.
So he was on his way west with nothing but the long road ahead and lots of time alone with the Lord. Maybe by the time he arrived in Colorado, Jim would know where to go from there.
"Sorry," Crystal Alton said a little breathlessly as she joined her friend Julia Winter at their usual table in Rusty's Place. "I've been running late all day. You won't believe this. I overslept."
"You never oversleep. Dawn breaks and you're awake."
Crystal shrugged, trying to look carefree. "I didn't sleep too well. It happened again last night."
Julia frowned. "What happened?"
"He kept me awake," Crystal replied, unable to bottle up the sigh in her lungs.
"Not more phone calls?" Julia blinked, worry shadowing her pale, blue eyes behind her wire-framed glasses.
"Calls is the operative word. Not one as usual. I lost count around six or seven. He called every half hour from ten until three. If I catch the little monster, he's going to be spending the rest of the summer mucking stalls till he drops."
"How would you catch him? Crystal, this is Torrence, not Denver. Sheriff King isn't ... well ... he isn't the best law enforcement has to offer."
Crystal chuckled at Julia's ability to make what should have been a scathing condemnation into only a minor criticism.
Rusty's latest waitress, Ralph Harris's girl, sauntered up to their table and dropped off silverware and water. She asked if they were ready to order. Regulars, they knew the menu and, since it was Wednesday, Julia ordered the chicken platter special. Crystal thought of ordering salad, but she hated salad. Not the taste but what it represented. Recently she'd decided trying to peel pounds off a body without an extra ounce of fat was not only useless, but stupid and dangerous. She gave an internal sigh. She was what she was, but the life of an Amazon was not always easy!
After ordering her favorite roast beef on rye with ketchup, Crystal grinned at her friend and waited. Seconds later, Rusty, who was cooking in the back, stuck his head out of the kitchen. He didn't disappoint her, shooting her a pithy comment. "You tell Crystal Alton if she wants ketchup polluting my prime beef, she can put it on herself."
Rusty Schreiber was a transplanted New Yorker who'd inherited Torrence's landmark diner from his great-aunt. He claimed to have come west to sell it, but once here, he'd found the town so deprived of good East Coast food he felt compelled to stay and save them all. It was Crystal's opinion that he'd taken one look at the town and had fallen in love with the simple life.
"You tell Rusty Schreiber," Crystal said, playing along, "that when I want his opinion on my eating habits, I'll hire him as a personal trainer. Not!"
"Crystal, what are you going to do about him?" Julia demanded. "You can't let this go on."
"Rusty's harmless. I think you should be nicer to him. He's kind of cute. Maybe he'd ask you out."
"I'm not talking about Rusty Schreiber and his acidic Eastern comments. Besides, I told you, I'm not interested in him. He ... makes me nervous. You never know what he's going to do or say. But as I said, he's not what I'm talking about." Julia turned and glanced toward the kitchen. "Or maybe he is. Maybe he's the caller."
Crystal sputtered a laugh. "Rusty?"
Excerpted from A Love Beyond by Kate Welsh Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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