Read an Excerpt
Get a Clue
By JILL SHALVIS
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2005 Jill Shalvis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNever agree to marry a man because he has potential. Men are not like houses; they do not make good fixer-uppers. -Breanne Mooreland's journal entry
It took her a while, but eventually Breanne Mooreland realized she had a naked man in her shower. Normally that would be the icing on a double-fudge chocolate cake, but in today's case, where she'd already had more failures than she could face, it felt like the last straw.
Consider her the camel, back broken.
In the interest of sanity-hers-she pretended to be fine as she dropped her small carry-on bag to the chair by the bed and stepped to the closed bathroom door. "Um ... hello?"
Nothing but the sound of water hitting tiles. She glanced around the bedroom, exquisitely decorated in rustic wooden-log furniture and soft, fluffy, equally exquisite bedding with pillows piled higher than Mt. Everest. Just what she and Dean had ordered for their honeymoon.
That she was on said honeymoon alone caused her throat to tighten, but she'd cried bucketfuls on the plane and had promised herself no more pity parties.
But, of course, that had been when she'd merely been stood up at the altar in front of two hundred of her closest friends and family members. Before she'd gotten on the plane from hell all by her lonesome, where the turbulence had been so bad she'd had to stay seated between a three-hundred-pound Louisiana woman crying, "Oh, Lordy, Lordy, have mercy-save us, Jesus!" and an Alaskan fisherman who smelled as if he'd kept some of his daily catch in his pockets.
Thinking she'd hit rock bottom-oh, how wrong she'd been-she'd gotten off the plane to discover that the rest of her luggage had never made it from San Francisco. That landing in the rugged, unpredictable Sierras in the middle of a snowstorm was equal to being shaken and stirred. The storm had only increased in severity since, so that the Jeep that had driven her to her "secluded, exclusive, fully staffed manse on the lake" honeymoon house could barely even get down the narrow, windy roads.
Breanne had distracted herself on the terrifying drive by pulling out her Palm Pilot and opening her journal. There she had her life-her hopes, her dreams, her failures, everything. Her last entry, made on the plane: No more failures.
Ha! That was going to be tricky, as she tended to make bad decisions. Maybe she wasn't enough of a giver. Maybe she just took, took, took. Maybe concentrating on others more would somehow turn the tide for her. Yeah, that's what she'd do, she'd give back. Do favors. Perform public service. Try harder at work, where, granted, she slaved over the books for a large accounting firm, but with an attitude.
She knew being the baby of a large family allowed her to fly beneath the radar. Even with her older brothers looking over her shoulder, she'd sought out trouble like a moth to the proverbial flame, beginning back in elementary school, where her sharp tongue and naughty pranks had regularly gotten her into hot water. By middle school she'd switched from pranks to boys, having developed an early fascination.
Of course, her mother always put it more simply: Breanne was drawn to the wrong type-jobs, friends, it didn't matter. Even men. Especially men. Hence, being stood up at the altar-for the third time.
On second thought, chances were she needed more direction than "no failures," so she added: And especially, no more men.
That's when her driver had begun four-wheeling up a narrow private road lined by tall pines covered in so much snow they looked like two-hundred-foot ghosts, swaying in the wind. On either side of them was a dramatic drop as they rose in altitude with every mile. Hues of peach, pink, blue, and purple colored the sheer granite escarpment of the Sierras through the falling snow in the deepening dusk.
Finally they'd maneuvered down a long, steep driveway, stopping in front of a beautiful log-cabin mansion. The backdrop should have been a private alpine lake, but the ascending dark and thick precipitation kept it from view.
"Here you go." The driver had reached over and opened her door instead of getting out and coming around for her.
She supposed she couldn't blame him; night was nearly upon them, and there was at least three feet of white, fluffy snow all around. She ruined her new suede boots just by hoofing it to the front door, clutching her only possession, her carry-on bag. She felt a little awed at how fast it was getting dark, and at the utter lack of city lights-or any lights, for that matter.
As she'd raised her hand to knock, a blast of wind pummeled her, plastering the snow from face to toe, going in her mouth, stinging her eyes, snaking like chilled fingers down her cashmere, open-necked sweater. Gasping for breath at the shocking cold, she staggered around to face her driver, intending to ask him for help.
He was gone.
As she contemplated the aloneness of that, a small streak rushed out from the corner of the house and practically across her feet, ripping a startled scream from her.
Then the streak howled. A coyote.
The sound had the hair on the back of her neck rising as she stumbled back against the door. Don't panic, coyotes don't eat humans. Probably. Hugging herself, she felt very alone.
Alone, alone, alone ... the word echoed in her head in the voice of her mother, who was certain her troubled youngest child would never marry, would never bring forth grandchildren into the world to spoil, and therefore would never amount to anything.
Shrugging that off-no more pity parties!-Breanne eyed the house. It certainly looked impressive with mounds and mounds of white snow pressed against the base, more white stuff falling, and the sky ominously dark and foreboding. Inside, there was supposedly a huge stone fireplace, a Jacuzzi tub, a sauna, a mini movie theater with an entire library of DVDs to pick from, and much, much more, including her own discreet staff for the week.
A honeymooner's delight, right? Dean had claimed to be excited. A shame he'd not been as excited about showing up for the wedding.
No one answered her second, desperately desperate knock, which for an instant perpetuated the hope that maybe she'd been cast in some sort of new reality show called Torture the Bride. Any second now, the director would yell Cut! and then, in a This Is Your Life moment, Dean would pop out and laugh at her for falling for it.
Only there was no camera, no Dean, laughing or otherwise, nothing but snow in her face, making her eyes water, her lips cold, raising goose bumps over every inch of her flesh.
Oh, and let's not forget the coyote, still howling in the distance with his friends, discussing eating her for dinner.
Forget polite. She opened the unlocked front door and gaped in awe at the interior of a most impressive house. She stepped inside the foyer that stretched up to the second story-and came face-to-face with a moose.
Just a head, she told herself, mounted on the wall. Slowly, purposely, she let out the air that she'd nearly used to scream. "Definitely not in Kansas anymore," she whispered. There was also a wood mirror with shelves, each holding glass lamps that sent soft light across shiny, hardwood floors. In complete opposition to the "warm" feel of the room, the air itself danced over her, icy cold.
"Hello?" she called out, trying to stomp the snow off her clothes. Not much of it budged, happier to stick to her every inch, making her wet and miserable.
There was a reception area with a small pine desk, and a sticky note there that read:
Newlyweds get the honeymoon suite, complete with accessory package. Room is open and cleaned.
Well, damn it, she might not be a newlywed, but she was still getting that honeymoon suite, charged as it was to the rat bastard Dean's credit card. She just hoped the suite was warmer than the foyer, because she could make ice cubes in here.
Clutching her small carry-on, which held only her makeup and two extremely naughty negligees that had been meant for her wedding night, she walked to the base of the huge, wooden staircase that slowly curved and vanished up into the second floor, with several big potted plants lining the way. More glass sconces along the wall lit the area so that she could see into the fading daylight. It was an Old West, cabin-style interior, beautifully and tastefully done.
But no one appeared, and she hadn't heard a sound. Along with the daylight, much of her bravado deserted her. She didn't relish the idea of being here alone tonight. "Hello?"
She didn't know what the check-in procedure was, but she wondered if the huge storm had sent the staff members running for their homes in town, a one-horse place called Sunshine, of all things, a good ten miles back down the curvy, surely now snowed-in road.
They'd probably left the door unlocked for their guests, never even considering she'd be alone.
But alone she was. Thanks, Dean.
Knowing from the brochure that the honeymoon suite was on the second floor, she reached for the banister and began to climb the stairs.
"Anyone here?" she called out again at the top, stopping to pant for air. Damn altitude. The landing looked down to an open, large room below, rustic and cozy, with two forest green and maroon sofas shaped in an L, a large leather recliner, and throw rugs dotting the floor. It looked far more inviting than the cold, silent hallway where she stood, shivering like crazy from her wet clothes, and maybe nerves.
Then she realized she did hear something-running water. Proof of life! Hugging herself, she followed the noise, past three doors on the right and left, all of which appeared to be bedrooms.
The hallway walls had old photographs of the Wild West on them: cowboys, wagons, old mining towns. At the end of the hallway, she stopped in front of a set of double wooden doors.
The honeymoon suite?
Hoping so, she stepped inside. That's where she found the log bed, so high she'd need a stool to climb up on it. The bedding was white down, with bear-and-moose pillows, and looked so scrumptuously warm she nearly sank into it. There was a matching armoire and dresser as well, also done in pine logs. The ceiling was open-beamed, and a work of art all by itself. The stone fireplace-not lit, darn it-and floor-to-ceiling windows finished off the room, the windows revealing that the day had fled completely now.
There was a goodie basket on a chair for the honeymooners: body paints in every flavor, a package of edible underwear, and several books on the pleasures of massage and touch therapy, including How to Make a Woman Come Every Single Time.
Too bad Dean wasn't here. He could use that one.
There were other fillers, too: body lotion, bath oils, a brand new vibrator in neon-pink and shaped just like a penis she'd once seen that had a terrible curve to the right. She picked it up and took a good look at it, trying to picture the designers of such an item sitting around a table and deciding on the angle of the curve. She considered herself adventurous and fun in bed, but she couldn't imagine Dean figuring out a way to make good use of this. Gee, guess it was a good thing he wasn't here ...
It penetrated her addled brain that the shower was still running.
Odd. Surely the housekeeper wouldn't be in there ... Curious, a little unnerved-and if she let herself think about all that had happened to her since she got out of bed that morning, she could add crazed to the list-she stepped over a pile of wet clothes on the floor.
Turning back, she crouched down to look at them, trying to get a clue as to who was in her shower. Levi's, original fit, size 34x36. Hmm. Tall and lean. There was also a white Hanes Beefy T-shirt, size large, and a soft blue chambray overshirt, both smelling good enough that if she hadn't given up men, she might have pressed her face against the material and inhaled.
But she had given up men. She'd written it in her journal and therefore it had become law.
He didn't wear underwear.
Why the hell that intrigued her, she had no idea. Rising, shivering because her clothes had become iced to her skin, she knocked on the bathroom door.
Whoever he was, he had the radio on; she could hear the broadcaster talking about the storm of the century-
Storm of the century. That couldn't be good. Pressing her ear to the door, she heard other disturbing words, such as "No one is going anywhere, folks" and "I hope you're all stocked up on whatever you need, because this one's a doozy." At that, she twisted the handle on the door and pushed it open.
The bathroom was as amazingly detailed as the rest of the house. Even through all the thick steam, she could see the stunning granite countertops, the raw wood-framed mirrors, the small overstuffed day couch, the old-fashioned brass fixtures-
And yet another gift basket, filled with more goodies. She looked at the vibrator she still had in her hand. What else could she possibly need? Well, besides a new groom, that is. A shame they didn't come a dime a dozen in a gift basket such as this, selection ready.
The shower took up one full corner, all in clear glass, etched with the outline of the Sierras, which in fact did nothing at all to hide the tall, leanly muscled man standing in it.
Gloriously so, she might add. The water sprayed out of four different rain heads, massaging over him. He had his back to her, and what a fine back it was: broad, ropey shoulders, sleek, strong spine, smooth and tanned until, low on his narrow hips, his tan line abruptly ended.
He had a fabulous, mouthwatering butt, and Breanne took a moment to wonder at the man who wore a bathing suit in the sun but not underwear beneath his jeans.
Water sluiced off him, and soap, too, and then, as if God had decided to bestow one tiny little favor on her shitty, rotten day, the guy dropped the soap.
Breanne held her breath. Would he-
Yes. Yes, he would.
Bending for it, blissfully unaware that there were a pair of very curious female eyes on him, he clearly didn't even consider his modesty. Every muscle in his body flexed as he doubled over, legs slightly spread, offering her an eye-popping view of his-
Lifting her hand, she furiously fanned air to her face, because the front of him lived up to the back, and how. She wondered how old he was, thinking that body couldn't be more than thirty, which was only two years older than herself. In any case, she stood there, rooted to the ground, her own wet misery forgotten, mouth hanging open, drool pooling, eyes locked on the backs of his well-defined thighs.
And what was between them.
But then suddenly he whipped around, staring at her through the glass for one beat before shoving open the shower door, allowing steam and water to pour into the room as he glared at her with an ominous, thunderstruck expression on his face.
More than thirty, she thought inanely. Probably, given those laugh lines bracketing his unsmiling mouth, and startling sky-blue eyes, at least thirty-five.
Not that age mattered, with a majorly heart-stopping body like his.
"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, looking tough and clearly ready to prove it.
And that's when her brain kicked back into gear and reminded her of her situation. She was in a strange house. In a strange bathroom, out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and more snow than she'd ever seen.
And she was staring at a furious, naked guy. "Um-"
"Who the hell are you?"
"I-" She glanced at the neon-pink vibrator in her hand and felt every single brain cell desert her.
Yeah. On that, they were perfectly in sync, thank you very much. She might have a secret weak spot for an edgy, difficult bad boy, but she absolutely did not have a weak spot for being stupid.
Whirling, she dropped the vibrator and ran. She ran like hell through the open bathroom door, slamming it behind her to give her an extra second on him.
He'd told her to get out, so chances were that he wasn't planning on chasing her, but she'd rather be safe than sorry. She hightailed it through the bedroom, leaping over his clothes, moving more quickly in her ruined boots than she'd moved in ... well, a very long time.
Excerpted from Get a Clue by JILL SHALVIS Copyright © 2005 by Jill Shalvis. Excerpted by permission.
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