Read an Excerpt
By Sheri WhiteFeather
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAs the mellow tune echoed through the jukebox's hollow speakers, the tall, dark stranger made another selection.
Emily Chapman scooted to the edge of her seat. Everything about the stranger fascinated her, even his taste in music. So far, he'd chosen love songs, tragic ballads steeped in emotion, lyrics that defied his hardedged stance.
He turned away from the jukebox, and she watched him through curious eyes.
Was he a ball-busting country boy or a street-smart city dweller? She couldn't quite tell. Either way, he carried himself with a wary, don't-mess-with-me gait.
He wore jeans, a white T-shirt and a denim jacket. His medium-length hair fell across his forehead in a rebellious black line, nearly shielding his eyes. His face, shadowed by the dim light, proved strong and angular.
Ignoring the other patrons, the small scatter of people in the bar, he proceeded to his table, where he'd left a bottle of domestic beer. Next he slouched in his seat, kicked his booted feet onto the rail of an empty chair and lifted his drink, taking a long, hard swallow.
"Here you go." The waitress brought Emily's wine, blocking her view, shutting out the intriguing stranger.
Caught off guard, she shifted her attention to the other woman, a middle-aged, kiss-my-grits redhead whose nametag identified her as Meg. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, hon." Meg motioned to the door that led to the kitchen. "But your appetizer isn't ready yet. It'll be a few more minutes."
"That's fine." Emily wasn't particularly hungry, but she'd ordered stuffed mushrooms, hoping to give herself something to do. She'd never been to a bar by herself, let alone a dusky little lounge connected to a midpriced motel.
Of course, it certainly beat holing up in her room, worrying herself into the ground.
As the waitress departed, Emily glanced at the stranger again. But when he turned in her direction, time stopped, the earth freezing on its axis.
Their gazes met and held, like magnets to metal.
Spellbound, neither blinked. Neither broke the bond. They simply stared at each other from across the room.
Emily's mouth went dry. Within an instant, within one heart-palpitating moment, he'd left her breathless.
He wasn't flirting, she thought. It was more than that. Much more. He watched her with masculine recognition, as if he knew what it was like to touch her, to hold her, to run his hands over every inch of her body.
Determined to regain her composure, to sever the nerve-jangling tie, she lifted her wine and took a small sip, but her fingers quaked around the glass.
What would he think if he knew she had cancer? Would he still be looking at her with longing in his eyes?
Don't dwell on that, her subconscious warned. No self-pity. No fear. She wasn't dying. Sooner or later, the cancer would be gone.
And so would a portion of her skin.
The song on the jukebox ended and another began. This time, an early Elvis tune played havoc with her emotions. Another favored melody, she thought. Another connection to the mysterious stranger.
Did he live in this area? Or had he come to Lewiston to see family members? To meet up with an old friend?
Emily had come here for an appointment at a medical center located ninety minutes from home. She could have made the trip in one day, but she'd decided to stay the night, to reflect, to spend some time alone.
In exactly two weeks, she was scheduled for a wide excision, a surgery that would cut away the cancer. At this point, two weeks seemed like an eternity, but her condition, the melanoma, wouldn't progress in fourteen days. It wasn't an unreasonable amount of time, not between insurance authorizations and the surgeon's availability.
Emily took a deep breath. She'd promised herself that she wouldn't panic about going under the knife, that she wouldn't worry if the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
When the appetizer arrived, Meg hovered for a moment, her teased-and-sprayed hairdo bobbing as she moved her head.
"Gorgeous, isn't he?" she said.
"Yes." Emily knew the man continued to watch her. She could feel the heat of his gaze.
"Why don't you buy him a drink?"
"What?" She stared at the brazen redhead.
The waitress cocked her hip. "A beer, darlin'. He's about due for another."
"This probably isn't the best time for me to -" She paused, realizing what she was about to admit. How inadequate she felt, how disjointed.
"That's okay. It was just a suggestion." Meg gave her a friendly smile and retreated, leaving Emily alone with her thoughts.
Should she buy him a drink? Her? The small-town girl diagnosed with skin cancer?
As he finished the last of his beer, Emily lifted her fork, skewered a mushroom and sucked it into her mouth. He pushed his hair away from his forehead, exposing a widow's peak and slashing black brows.
Her entire body went woozy and warm.
To hell with the cancer. She was going to meet this man. Say something to him.
With as much courage as she could muster, she rose, determined to approach his table. As she crossed the room, she spotted Meg leaning against a barstool. She gazed at the other woman, hoping for a boost of encouragement.
The waitress flashed a sly wink.
By the time Emily reached him, her pulse thudded in her ears. He came to his feet, and she realized how tall he actually was. He towered over her by nearly a foot.
She extended a clammy palm. "My name is Emily."
Excerpted from Cherokee Stranger by Sheri WhiteFeather Copyright © 2004 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.