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Holly Lamb considers herself the proverbial plain Jane. She's always hidden behind her intelligence and business instincts?definitely a plus for her career. Her boss, Blake Fallon, absolutely loves her...for her mind. But working with Blake makes Holly want more than his "professional interest," so she takes the plunge and has a makeover. And for the first time she sees what Blake has known all along. She's beautiful. But it's only when Holly is drawn into an ongoing criminal investigation that she realizes the ...
Holly Lamb considers herself the proverbial plain Jane. She's always hidden behind her intelligence and business instincts—definitely a plus for her career. Her boss, Blake Fallon, absolutely loves her...for her mind. But working with Blake makes Holly want more than his "professional interest," so she takes the plunge and has a makeover. And for the first time she sees what Blake has known all along. She's beautiful. But it's only when Holly is drawn into an ongoing criminal investigation that she realizes the depth of Blake's feelings...and how far he will go to protect her.
Her afternoon had slipped from mundane to perilous in a single tick of the second hand on the old grandfather clock that sat in the corner of her office, and Holly Lamb waited for her life to flash before her eyes.
When it did not, she was amazed when her mind told her, with wry good humor that was totally inappropriate given the knife and the wild eyes of the young man who wielded it, that her life had really not been interesting enough first time around to take a repeat on it.
Ordinary if not particularly happy childhood, college, secretarial career. No wild passions or great loves, no untamed moments of youthful hijinks, no great accomplishments in the arts or sciences.
But even in light of that rather unexciting twenty-seven years, Holly could not persuade any regrets to come to mind. She did not suddenly wish she had accepted the invitation to bungee jump - naked - off the Prosperino Bridge. She had no regrets about not seeing the Sistine Chapel or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Of course, she might have liked to know about sex.
Not "know" in a technical sense, as if movies and television hadn't educated everyone quite enough in that area. Maybe know wasn't quite the right word. Experience would be a better choice of words. While one part of her brain tried desperately to tell her that this was really not the time to be following this particular flow of thoughts, the other part continued blithely down the path, speculating what it would be like to feel so close to another human being, to have a man's lips claim your lips, and his hands touch your body with tenderness and mastery ...
It came to her then, where this path was leading.
What came to her in that moment with the blade pressed sharply, in uncomfortably close proximity to her jugular, was a startling clarity of thought.
What came to her was a stunning secret that she had kept from herself for eight months. A secret that filled her with a stunning sense of warmth, again, totally inappropriate to the situation she was in.
But she held the thought, and in it she found a great well of courage and calm inside of herself. She dipped into it.
"Why don't you put the knife down?" she suggested, amazed at what was in her voice. Not just calm. But a compassion born of her new self-knowledge.
"You tell me where my sister is." Her attacker's voice was harsh, and his face was so close to hers she could feel the heat of his breath, smell his desperation.
"I don't even know who your sister is," she said evenly. She looked into his eyes. He was just a child, despite a faint stubble that darkened his cheeks. He might have been sixteen. His eyes were dark and wild. With fear.
Under different circumstances she might have thought he was a good-looking boy. She made herself look at him analytically. If she lived, she would have to tell the police.
His hair was dark and curly, his eyes a dark, velvety brown that reminded her of a deer caught in headlights. He was taller than her, but lithe, and wiry. His jeans and jacket were torn and dirty.
"You people," he said furiously, "think because I've made a few mistakes, I don't care about my sister? Don't you understand nothin'?"
Her clarity was holding, because she felt from her moment of studying him, she understood everything, and realized it did not have a thing to do with filling out a police report. Her voice came out gentle, filled with the most amazing tenderness.
"I understand love."
The statement amazed her, because she spoke it with such conviction.
And really, if there was a topic she had no understanding of, it was probably that one. The Lamb family were not the ones who had put the "fun" in the word dysfunctional. Her mother and father had divorced when she was a child, and she had harbored the secret belief it was probably her fault.
While others had tested the waters of passion and romance in college, Holly had studied.
And yet the words "I understand love" had come from some place so deep within her, she recognized it as her own soul, and she felt some subtle change in the boy, as the words, powerful in their authenticity, touched him.
The pressure of the blade on her neck faltered, eased, and then was gone. She had not even realized she had been holding her breath until she began to breathe again. She touched her neck and looked at her hand. No blood.
A deep awareness permeated her. Those words - "I understand love" - had saved her life.
The fight was gone from the boy. His thin shoulders sagged under the worn fabric of his denim jacket, and the fury of his expression melted into sad bewilderment.
"I'm so tired," he whispered. "I'm so damned tired."
"I know," she said. It was true. She could see the gray lines of fatigue around his eyes and his mouth, in the sag of his young body.
"I've been trying to find her for three weeks. Me and her, we're all we got, you know?"
She nodded, reached out tentatively and touched his arm. He stiffened, but didn't pull away.
"I went to the foster home she was in before I got put in juvvie. She wasn't there anymore. Nobody will tell me where she is. She's just little and I promised her, I promised her I'd find her as soon as I could."
Holly listened to his voice and watched his face. Suddenly, she recognized something in the wide, lovely set of his eyes. And his words sounded so familiar. She cast back in her mind, trying to get to a place before the children had been evacuated from the Hopechest Ranch.
Excerpted from A Hasty Wedding by Cara Colter Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted February 28, 2011
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