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For Love's Sake
By Cynthia Rutledge
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Don't even think about it." Jay Nordstrom's hard unyielding voice shot across the room, breaking the silence that had permeated the old farmhouse all morning.
Rachel Tanner's hand paused in midair and her lips tipped upward in satisfaction. Finally she'd got-ten a reaction. Until now Jay had ignored her, pretending to be reading even though the light in the living room was so dim it was a wonder he could see, much less read.
Taking a deep breath, Rachel reached forward and jerked open the heavy brocade draperies, letting the June sunlight bathe the room in light. She ignored Jay's cry of outrage and for a moment reveled in the feel of the warm sun against her face.
"It's much too beautiful a day to be holed up here in darkness," she said firmly.
"Shut them," he ordered. "Shut them now."
Rachel took a deep breath and counted to ten. Jay reminded her of her father when he used that tone of voice, and it wasn't a pleasant comparison. But she told herself that Jay had been through a lot in the past month. It was to be expected that he'd be a bit testy.
For now, she'd cut him some slack and hope that the sunlight would improve his mood. She turned from the window and met his glare with a bright smile.
Rachel couldn't say she really knew him.Though they'd grown up in the same small town, he'd been a couple years older and they'd run in different social circles. She'd been a bookworm, shy and studious, while he'd been an outgoing guy who never cracked a book. Despite that fact, he'd been a good student and everyone knew he'd make it big some day.
And he had made it big. After graduating with a degree in broadcasting from Drake University in Des Moines, Jay had headed west. He'd started his career at a small television station just outside San Francisco. But he hadn't stayed long. His rise up the newscasting ladder had been meteoric. It hadn't hurt that he was remarkably photogenic. Or that he'd garnered some great press of his own because of the modeling he'd done on the side to supplement his salary.
He returned to Millville only sporadically, usually on holidays. The last time Rachel had seen him was when he'd attended church with his family on Christmas Eve. Of course, he hadn't even looked her way when he'd walked past. But when he'd taken his seat at the end of the pew one row up and over, Rachel had definitely looked him over.
His mother volunteered at the school where Rachel taught and Twyla had regaled Rachel with stories of her successful, good-looking son for years. Rachel had seen him on TV, of course, but she'd been curious to see if the real man lived up to the image.
His hair was what she'd noticed first. It had glistened like spun gold in the light streaming through the clapboard church's stained-glass windows. Though she assessed him with a critical eye, after several minutes of careful scrutiny, Rachel was forced to admit that television hadn't done him jus-tice. His boyishly handsome features had only improved with age. Without a doubt, the best-looking boy at Millville High had grown up to be a real hunk.
"Is that why you took this job?" Jay snapped, his tone harsh. "So that you could stare at the freak and then run home and tell all your friends the gory details?"
His words jerked Rachel from her reverie and she realized with horror that while her mind had wandered she'd been staring.
She stifled a groan. What a way to start off a new job. His mother had warned her that Jay was super-sensitive about his altered appearance.
"I'm sorry." Rachel unconsciously reverted to the soft dulcet tones she used with her first graders during the school year. "I really wasn't staring. I was just thinking about the last time you were in Mill-ville."
He shifted his gaze out the window. "I wasn't a freak then."
"And you're not a freak now." Though she wanted to be sympathetic, irritation rippled through Rachel. From what she knew of the car accident last month, Jay was lucky to be alive. He should be praising God his life had been spared, rather than wallowing in self-pity.
She thought of little Timmy who'd been in her classroom last year. The boy suffered from a rare genetic disorder that caused pain and disfigurement. Still, Timmy came to school every day with a smile on his face. But then, Timmy hadn't once been handsome, either, she reminded herself. And he'd had years to adjust to his situation, not just a few weeks.
For the first time since she'd entered the room, Rachel really looked at Jay. A long red scar cut a swath across one cheek. The eye on that side was bloodshot and the skin surrounding it puffy and bruised. He might not be ready to be on the cover of GQ, but he didn't look as bad as his mother had indicated when Rachel had interviewed for the job as his temporary caretaker.
Excerpted from For Love's Sake by Cynthia Rutledge Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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