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By N.J. Walters
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 N.J. Walters
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Don't just stand there, man, push!"
Dani O'Rourke flinched inwardly even as she stepped up to the beige Mercedes and placed her mitten-covered hands next to a large pair of leather-gloved hands on the cold, hard bumper. She shoved as hard as she could, while the car's wheels spun crazily in the slush.
"Harder!" the male voice growled.
Bracing her booted feet as best she could on the snow-covered ice, Dani pushed with all her might.
"Again!" the voice demanded. Once more, she threw her weight against the back of the car as it started to rock back and forth.
"Put some muscle into it," the male voice ordered.
One more shove sent the car spinning from the icy patch and a shower of cold snow spraying into her face. Dani sputtered and swiped at her face with her black wool mitten as she straightened up and watched the man who had issued the terse commands walk slowly toward the front of the car without a backward glance.
"Thank you ever so much," a girlish voice gushed from the driver's seat. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't stopped to help."
Sighing, Dani turned away and trudged down the road, unnoticed by either. She knew the car's owner, or more specifically, she knew about the car's owner. Everyone in Jamesville was familiar with Cynthia James and the James family. Her family's ancestors had settled the town a hundred years before and were still heavily involved in real estate and banking. Cynthia was beautiful and she knew it. She had the long blonde hair, blue-eyed, California girl appearance that men seemed to find irresistible. All she had to do was bat her eyelashes and smile, and men fell all over themselves to please her.
Dani pictured the stranger in her mind's eye, wondering who he was. Born and raised in Jamesville, she knew everyone, if not personally, then by sight. She suspected he was probably visiting friends or just passing through.
What does it matter to you? She scolded herself impatiently. A man like that would never notice a woman like her. Her hair was a plain medium brown that was usually worn in a no-nonsense braid that fell to her waist, and she'd never had the money or the inclination to wear makeup. Her few attempts at mascara and eyeliner had left her feeling more like a raccoon than a model. Somehow, she never felt quite right if she was wearing anything more than lip-gloss.
She could still picture his coal black hair, damp and shining from the falling snow. Eyes almost as black as his hair, snapping with impatience, as he'd issued his commands. An aura of power and arrogance had surrounded him as he'd barked his orders with no doubt that they would be followed.
Of course, she reasoned, he had the size to back it up. He was built like a mountain, tall and broad, with a face that looked as if it were carved from stone. A long jagged scar had bisected his left cheek. Dani thought it gave him the dangerous air of a pirate or a highwayman. Just like the unsuspecting hero in a romance novel, she mused.
"Stop it, Dani O'Rourke," she muttered as she reached her truck and dug into her pocket for her keys. "He thought you were a man, for heaven's sake." But she could understand why. At five-foot-eight, she was a tall woman and solidly built. Not overweight, but sturdy. Wearing her brother's hand-me-down parka that zipped around her face and covered her to her knees, well, it was no wonder he had mistaken her for a male. She consoled herself even as she wondered why the thought made her head hurt.
She had wasted enough time, lusting for things she could not have. There was work to do. It was the same lecture she had been scolding herself with for the past seven years, ever since her mother died and she became sole guardian of her brothers. If it sounded a little flat, well, that was just too bad, she told herself as she unlocked the door to her truck and prepared herself to face the rest of the day.
Excerpted from Discovering Dani by N.J. Walters Copyright © 2006 by N.J. Walters. Excerpted by permission.
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