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She'd checked around. His name kept coming up, but finding him was proving to be more difficult than she'd anticipated. The desk sergeant at the Scottsdale police precinct he worked out of had told her very little, except that the elusive detective was on leave. She'd learned that he had a ranch in Cave Creek just north of Phoenix, but she didn't know exactly where, and his phone number was unlisted.
Information on the almost legendary lawman was scarce and spotty. Nearly everyone she questioned seemed very protective of his privacy, almost reverential in discussing him, as if he were some sort of folk hero who belonged to them. Not one to give up easily, Sara had persisted until she'd learned some of his habits and the names of his favorite watering holes. It wasn't that he was a drinker, she'd been told, but rather that he loved to play pool. And Shotgun Sam's was the in place for pool addicts.
The ample parking lot was nearly full, and the thrumming music drifting outside was loud enough to jar her teeth. Sara pulled her white BMW into the last place, next to a lamp post. Hopefully, under that small splash of light, no one would steal her hubcaps.
Then she spotted them - no less than six motorcycles with more chrome than an Art Deco showroom. Just her luck, a biker bar.
As she got out, Sara noticed there were no other buildings nearby, only open desert for miles in all directions. Terrific, she thought as she hit the button on her keychain to lock her doors. The middle of nowhere.
Residual heat from the hot June day shimmered up from the paved parking lot. Deciding there was safety in numbers, she made her way to the double doors.
A framed newspaper ad off to the left caught her attention. "Five-star rating for Shotgun Sam's where the burgers are thick and juicy, the beer cold and icy and the pool tables always humming." If this was Graham Kincaid's kind of place, she had to wonder what sort of man he was.
"Kincaid's the best," she'd been told more than once. "He could find a needle in a haystack, and he always gets his man, dead or alive," the desk sergeant had added. Sara shuddered at that thought and went inside.
The polished mahogany bar stretched along the left wall where a couple of old-timers slouched on stools, nursing their beers. The lighting was dim except for neon roped around the mirror behind the bar. Busy waitresses in cowboy hats, short denim skirts and white boots carried loaded trays between the dozen or so tables, all occupied. In the far right corner, a three-piece band frantically played a fast one for the half-dozen couples gyrating on the tiny dance floor. On the far side of that was an archway leading to the pool tables where several men were clustered.
For a Monday night, Shotgun Sam was doing all right.
Sara was both anxious and weary as she stepped up to the bar and waited. After a few impatient moments, the very tall, very bald bartender with a handlebar mustache and a white apron wound around his generous torso, noticed her and ambled over.
"What can I get you, little lady?" he asked, his voice soft when she'd been expecting booming. His nametag read Oscar.
"I'm looking for Graham Kincaid," Sara told him.
"Is he here tonight?"
Oscar's eyes slid to the pool area, then narrowed as he looked back at her. "Who wants to know?"
There was that almost automatic shielding again. The man sure had a lot of friends. "My name is Sara Morgan, and I need Mr. Kincaid's help." She held a photo out to him.
"Detective Kincaid," he corrected, peering at the picture she held, then at her face. "He's on leave. He likes to be left alone."
She swallowed a sigh, not wanting to aggravate the man. "So I've been told. I only need a few minutes of his time, honest." She'd rehearsed her story repeatedly and prayed that she could pitch her case quickly if she ever found the man.
The bartender ran a hand over his bald pate as he studied her for another few seconds, then apparently decided to take a chance on her. "He's over at the last pool table, the tall guy dressed in black."
Relieved that she'd found him, Sara gave Oscar a smile. "Thank you."
Carefully, she followed a waitress zigzagging through the tables, then had to maneuver around the dancers until she reached the arch. This room also was dim except for large shaded lamps hanging over each of the three pool tables. A bearded man wearing a leather vest hanging open over his naked chest studied the balls at the first table. Another with a long ponytail and low-riding jeans took his turn at the second table. Half a dozen other men stood around, some with cue sticks, others just watching. Sara moved a bit closer to get a better look at the man in question before he noticed her.
Graham Kincaid didn't look like the real-life legend she'd expected. Granted he was tall, a couple of inches over six feet, with a rangy build and well-defined shoulders straining the seams of a black T-shirt. Much like a lot of guys. As he bent over the table to line up his shot, the woman in Sara couldn't help noticing that he had a pair of spectacular buns snuggled into faded black jeans.
Watching closely, she saw him cock his head to one side, considering his best move, a lock of black hair falling onto his forehead. Now she saw it, the inscrutable face, a strong jaw covered with several days' growth of dark beard. Though she couldn't tell the color of his eyes, she'd bet they were cold and assessing.
Growing impatient, she shifted her feet, waiting for him to take his shot. At this rate, it must take him hours to play a game. The men watching were quiet, unmoving. Was that pool etiquette or was it respect for the man? she wondered. Did he have a Minnesota Fats reputation in pool halls? Or was it his line of work that lent him that respectful, enigmatic edge?
Sara knew Graham Kincaid had been an FBI profiler for several years, then a Phoenix homicide detective and now he headed the Arizona Special Unit on Missing Persons. She'd also found out that he'd been placed on leave of absence by his captain because of something that had happened a while ago. But no one would say what or when or who'd been involved. She figured that after some idle time, he might be ready for action.
She prayed she was right.
Finally he narrowed his gaze, lining up his cue stick just right and ... and stayed there, crouched low, not moving. Enough already, Sara thought, and approached him from the side.
"Are you Graham Kincaid?" she asked loud enough to be heard over the music, just as his cue stick slammed forward. The balls went scooting all over the table, but none went into a pocket.
Slowly he straightened and turned to Sara. "You made me miss my shot," he said in a deep, annoyed voice.
"Did I? I'm sorry, but I really need to talk with you."
She'd been right, his eyes were steely gray and cool as he looked her up and down.
Excerpted from A Mother's Secret by Pat Warren Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.