Aftershock (Harlequin Bestselling Author Series)

( 45 )

Overview

DESPERATE TIMES?

If it hadn't been for the earthquake, Amber Riggs would never have made love to a perfect stranger. And no doubt about it, fire inspector Dax McCall was perfect. Who else could have taught her the meaning of passion at a time like that?

Still, when Amber ran into him a year later she wasn't sure how he'd react. To her?or their three-month-old baby. She hadn't meant to keep the news from Dax, but he'd been out of town, and she'd...

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Overview

DESPERATE TIMES…

If it hadn't been for the earthquake, Amber Riggs would never have made love to a perfect stranger. And no doubt about it, fire inspector Dax McCall was perfect. Who else could have taught her the meaning of passion at a time like that?

Still, when Amber ran into him a year later she wasn't sure how he'd react. To her…or their three-month-old baby. She hadn't meant to keep the news from Dax, but he'd been out of town, and she'd been sort of relieved. After all, how do you tell the perfect man he has a perfect baby girl with a woman he doesn't know from Eve?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373180875
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 6/24/2014
  • Series: Harlequin Bestselling Author Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 63,164
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis is the award winning author of over three dozen romance novels. Visit www.jillshalvis.com for a complete book list and a daily blog chronicling her I-Love-Lucy attempts at having it all; the writing, the kids, a life ...

Kelly Hunter has always had a weakness for fairytales, fantasy worlds, and losing herself in a good book. She is married with two children, avoids cooking and cleaning, and despite the best efforts of her family, is no sports fan! Kelly is however, a keen gardener and has a fondness for roses. Kelly was born in Australia and has travelled extensively. Although she enjoys living and working in different parts of the world, she still calls Australia home.

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Read an Excerpt

The place wasn't what she expected. Though she was alone, Amber Riggs kept her features carefully schooled so that nothing in her cool, serene expression reflected dismay. Control was everything. A deal couldn't be made to the best advantage without it, and she did love a good deal.

She got out of her car without checking her makeup or hair. She didn't need to. It wasn't vanity that told her she looked crisp and businesslike. It was just fact. Her careful facade was purposely created with clothes and makeup so that people took her seriously.

If she were vain, she'd still be basking in the glow from the write-up she'd received in this morning's paper: "A go-get-'em real estate manager."

"Best in San Diego county."

"No one gets the better of Amber Riggs."

Great for business, but the praise meant little. Amber loved her work, and because she did, she didn't need anyone's approval.

That's what she told herself.

She looked at the deserted warehouse in front of her and frowned. As good at her job as she was, making money from this building would be like bleeding a turnip. It was too far out of town.

Still, stranger things had been known to happen. At least the owner hadn't cared whether she found a buyer or a renter, and that would give her some options.

Her heels clicked noisily on the rough asphalt as she moved closer. The place was two stories and mostly brick, which gave it definite character. That was good. So was the basement that held the offices. She had to sigh as she noted the deterioration of the roof and the decay of the old brick walls. That wasn't good. And no windows, which meant that the client she'd contacted this morning, the one who wanted to convert an older building into an antique mall, wouldn't be happy.

She could fix that, Amber decided, by going inside and finding something interesting. Something that would appeal. This was her forte, turning the negative into the positive. Her fat bank account could attest to that. For a girl who'd left home exceptionally early with nothing but the shirt on her back, she'd done okay.

She took the key out of her purse and let herself in. Darkness prevailed, but always prepared, she again reached into her purse for the small flashlight she kept there. As she flipped it on and moved past the reception area into the even darker open warehouse, the silence settled on her shoulders eerily. She swallowed hard, losing a fraction of her iron-clad control.

The dark was not her friend. It was an old fear, from childhood, where she'd spent far too much time alone, afraid. Unwanted.

Dammit, not the self-pity again. She was twenty-seven years old. Maudlin thoughts about her past were unacceptable, and she promptly pushed them aside. Her flashlight shimmered, cutting a path across the huge empty place. The beam hardly made a dent in the absolute blackness, and more of her control slipped. Her palms became damp.

Determinedly, she lifted her chin, letting her logic and famed concentration take over. She was a grownup. Yes, she was alone, but she wasn't leaving until she'd scoped out the place carefully. She needed something to lure her potential client.

She wanted the deal.

She made it three quarters of the way across the place when she came to a door. Stairs, leading down. Good, the offices there would be a good selling point. Swallowing her discomfort around the intense, inky blackness, she bravely wielded her flashlight and went down the stairs, entering another large and even darker room.

A damp, musty smell greeted her.

An unnatural silence beat down, so did a terrible, heavy foreboding. In the strange stillness, Amber's every nerve ending froze, rendering her incapable of movement.

In the distance, she thought she heard a male voice call out, but that couldn't be, she was alone.

Always alone.

Suddenly a sound like savage thunder ripped through the room, and Amber decided to hell with control. To hell with the deal. She wanted out.

That's when the earthquake hit.

The unexpected violent pitch and roll of the ground beneath her threw her to the floor, hard. The earth came alive like some monster clawing its way out of hibernation.

Time ceased to exist.

The earth moaned and rocked. As she slid across the cold, concrete floor, her ears rang with the deafening sound. Her skin crawled with horror.

Then she slammed into an unforgiving wall.

Stars exploded into the darkness.

And the last thing Amber heard was her own terrified, piercing scream.

Dax McCall loved driving. Loved the freedom of the wind ripping through his hair, the scent of autumn as the trees turned. Loved the eye-squinting azure sky.

Hell, he was feeling generous, he simply loved life.

The tune-up he'd done on his truck the night before had it running smoothly, and he took the time to enjoy the way it handled the unpredictable mountain roads of Point Glen.

He couldn't have asked for a better day. Mother Nature loved Southern California, specifically San Diego county, and though it was nearly November, the breeze blew warm. Not a cloud marred the brilliant sky. And thanks to the Santa Ana winds, smog was nonexistent, leaving the air unusually clean and pure.

Sunday. His first day off in weeks. Not that he was complaining, he thought, cranking up the rock 'n' roll blaring from the stereo. He loved his job, and knew he was the best damn fire inspector this county had ever seen. But the hours were ruthless, and ambitious as he was, even he needed brain-rest once in awhile.

The last few fires had really taken their toll. He'd just closed an arson case that had spanned two years and caused five deaths. Sometimes at night Dax would close his eyes and see the charred bodies. Worse, he could still see the expression on the family's faces when he'd questioned them. Horror. Pain. Accusation. Sorrow.

Yeah, he needed a day off. Maybe even a vacation. He thought about the wildfires raging out of control in Montana. He could take some time and go help fight them. Not what most would consider a vacation, but in his heart, Dax was first and foremost a firefighter. When he'd turned investigator, he'd never given up his love of fighting fires. Every chance he got, he went back to it.

A shrill ring shattered the peace. Damn. Dax turned down the music and answered his cell phone with all the enthusiasm of a child facing bedtime.

"Better be good," he warned, slowing his truck on the narrow two-lane highway as he came into a hairpin turn.

"Some greeting."

Shelley, the oldest of his five nosy, overbearing, sentimental, affectionate sisters, had only one reason for calling.

"The answer is no," Dax said.

Undeterred, she laughed. "Dax, honey, you don't even know what I want."

"Oh, yes, I do." But he had to smile because he loved her. He loved all his sisters, even if they drove him crazy. "It just involves a teensy, weensy favor, right? Just a teensy, weensy desperate favor—for a friend?"

"She's not desperate.''''

Yeah, right. "We've discussed this, remember? No more setting me up." He'd told each of his well-meaning, meddling, older sisters that he refused to go out on any more blind dates.

So he was thirty-two and not married, it didn't bother him any. It wasn't as if he hurt for female companionship. But still, his sisters hounded him with friends. And friends of friends. And sisters of friends of friends.

He'd put his foot down long ago, but in their eyes he was still the baby of the family. A six-foot-two-inch, one-hundred-and-eighty pounder with the physique of a man who'd been a firefighter for nearly ten years before he'd become inspector.

Some baby.

"I've got to go, Shel," he said, cradling the phone between his ear and shoulder as he maneuvered the winding road.

"No, you don't. You just don't want me to bug you. Come on, Dax, your last date looked like a twenty-something Dolly Parton and spoke in that stupid whisper no one could understand."

He felt only mildly defensive. Why dispute the truth? So he was partial to blondes. Buxom blondes. Buxom, bubbly blondes, and last he'd checked, there wasn't a law against that. "Hey, I don't bug you about your dates."

"That's because I'm married!"

"You know what? I've got to go." He simulated the sound of static through his teeth. "Bad connection."

"Where are you?" she shouted, which made him grin and feel guilty at the same time.

"On Route 2, by the old mill." Dax frowned as he slowed. Up ahead was the milling plant and warehouse. Isolated from town by at least ten miles and surrounded by woods, the place served little purpose.

It hadn't been used in years. The land was on his list of dangerous properties, a potential disaster just waiting to happen. It was his job to keep properties such as these vacant of homeless people, mischievous teens and desperate lovers.

A small, sleek sports car was parked in front of it, empty. "Dammit."

"Dax McCall!"

"Sorry." He pulled into the lot. "Gotta go, Shel."

"No, don't you dare hang up on me—"

He disconnected and chuckled. She'd stew over that for at least half an hour before calling him back.

Long enough, he decided as he tossed the phone on the passenger seat and got out of the truck, for him to hassle whoever was snooping where they shouldn't.

The door to the building was locked, with no sign of damage or break in, which meant the trespasser had a key.

A real-estate agent.

He knew this with sudden certainty and shook his head in disgust. The bricks were crumbling. Some were missing. The place could collapse with one good gust of wind.

Who could possibly want to buy it?

And why would anyone go wandering around in it? Muttering to himself, he pounded on the door, waiting to face whatever idiot had decided to go into an unsafe building.

No one answered.

Curious now, Dax walked all the way around the building, calling out as he went, but only silence greeted him. Even the woods seemed empty on this unseasonably warm autumn day.

With a resigned sigh, he moved back around to the front, and examined the weak lock. "Juvenile," he decided with disgust for whoever the owners were.

With a pathetic barrier like this, they were asking for trouble. It took him less than thirty seconds to break in. The large door creaked noisily as he thrust it open and peered inside. "Hello?"

Complete darkness and a heavy mustiness told him there was little to no cross ventilation, which probably meant no alternative exit.

It was every bit as bad as he'd thought—a hazardous nightmare.

He propped open the front door with a rock and entered. If no one answered in the next minute, he'd go back to his truck for a flashlight, but he figured by now, whoever had been inside would be more than happy to get out.

"County Fire Inspector," he called loud and clear. "Come out, this place is dangerous."

A door opened on the far side of the warehouse, and he frowned. "Hey—"

The door slammed. Swearing, he ran toward it, yanked it open.

Stairs.

Far below, he saw the flicker of a light and swore again. "Wait!" He stepped into the stairwell, angry at himself now for not stopping to get his own flashlight, because he couldn't see a thing. "Stop!"

Those were the last words he uttered before the quake hit, knocking him to his butt on the top steel stair.

Born and raised in Southern California, Dax had experienced many quakes before. He considered himself seasoned. Still, it was unsettling to be leveled flat without warning, his ears echoing with the roar of the earth as it rocked and rolled beneath him.

The shaking went on and on and on, and he lost his bearings completely. He could see nothing, which disoriented him, and he hated that. Beneath him, the stairs rattled and shook violently. He held onto the rail for all he was worth, not even attempting to stand.

"Don't give," he begged as he clenched onto the steel for dear life. "Just don't give, baby."

At least a six-point-zero, he decided with some detachment, as he waited for the world to right itself again.

But it didn't. He upgraded mentally to a six-point-five.

He heard a roar, then the crash of tumbling bricks, which was a bad thing. Very bad.

As he ducked his head to his knees, protecting the back of his neck with his hands, heavy debris tumbled down around him.

A new fear gripped him then—the building couldn't withstand the movement. The whole thing was going to go and, in the process, so was he.

Dax prayed fervently for the place, mostly the staircase that he sat clinging to, hoping, hoping, hoping, but with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He knew the ancient building couldn't hold up to this kind of jarring.

It was going to collapse and there were two floors above him.

Dead meat sitting, that's what he was.

A metallic taste filled his mouth and he realized he'd bitten his tongue, hard. Half expecting his life to flash before his eyes, Dax was surprised that all he could think of was his family. His cell phone was back in his truck. They wouldn't know where to find his body, and that would destroy his mother.

His sisters would never be able to set him up again.

Then the bottom dropped out from beneath his world, and he fell.

And fell.

As he did, he heard a scream.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 45 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    Aftershock Shakes The Soul!!!

    Jill proves yet again that she is the queen of romance! Dax & Amber's story is a roller coaster of emotions that you'll be thankful you road. I have read many, many stories that made me laugh out loud but this is the first that brought me to tears as well. Jill has a knack for drawing the reader in to feel what the characters are feeling. This is a must have for every fan of romance & specifically for fans of Jill Shalvis.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    Highly Recommended - Easy and Interesting Read

    I thought this book was written well, and hardly any misspellings in it. The story line was good, and I had no confusion, in following it along. I started reading, when I went to bed, one evening, and the book got so interesting, that I finished it, before I went to sleep. I do hope others will read this book and give a review. I like knowing that others like reading books, that I like to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2013

    Good weekend reading

    Wasnt sure if it would keep my interest, as some in this series can be mundane. This one surprise.d me because it was a feel good át the end read. Just right for time before bed When kiss are asleep and you want to relax with a cup of cocoa and a book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2011

    Highly, Highly Recommended - If You LOVE a Good Hero - Read This book!

    Oh my Goodness, All the Must have elements are here...
    Damsel in Distress? Check! Life & Death Situation? Check,Check! Hot Guy (White Knight) to Rescue her? Check, Check, and Check! Steamy, oh my Gawd we are going to Die Sex? Oh My gawd YES, Check, Check and Double Check!
    "Uh Oh they Lived! Now they Have a little Unexpected Surprise to REMEMBER and Remind them of that "EARTH SHATTERING SEX" & unexpected Emotional and Personal Connection between 2 strangers who Can't even see what the other looks like while they are trapped under a desk in the midst of total chaos & destruction, oh and aftershocks...
    They get rescued and life goes on... Weeks Pass and Now she doesn't know what to do... Her stranger/rescuer is her babies Father, but No Commitments were made (hello they thought they were dying in the Rubble of an Earthquake) and He is a Single guy that she doesn't really know and has no idea how he would REACT to the News. She does make an attempt to tell him but Miscommunication & his Heroic Duties make it a little difficult to notify him early on!
    This is Classic Jill Shalvis at her Best! If you LOVE Stories about Real Live Heroes... I mean the Fire Fighters, Police Men, Paramedics and Of Course Our Military Men & Women in Uniform, Then this is a MUST HAVE Addition to your Library!
    I Personally Do Love a Story about Men in Uniform who are Heroes and I LOVED THIS BOOK!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2014

    Sky

    Here?

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  • Posted June 27, 2014

    The story was good but the page count was misleading. The second

    The story was good but the page count was misleading. The second half of the book is a different story from a different author. An accurate disclosure of the length of the book would be nice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2013

    Quickly becomes predictable...

    Starts out interesting, but quickly becomes predictable and boring. The male character is too unbelievably perfect. Not worth the money in my opinion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013

    Sweet love story

    Worth the read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    Great

    Such a sweet book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    Wow##

    What a great read. I absolutely adored this book. Holy cow, the hero was scrumptious. Definitely worth your time and money!

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  • Posted January 18, 2011

    Must read

    Jill has done it Again! One of my favorite authors. Real, likeable characters. This story is very cute. A must read. Short story so the plot moves quickly.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted September 2, 2013

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    Posted September 12, 2012

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