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If Winter Comes
By Diana Palmer
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was an election morning in the newsroom, and Carla Maxwell felt the excitement running through her slender body like a stab of lightning. The city hall beat which she shared with Bill Peck was a dream of a job. Something was always happening - like this special election to fill a vacant seat created by a commissioner's resignation. There were only five men on the city commission, and this was the Public Works seat. Besides that, the two men running for it were, respectively, a good friend and a deadly foe of the present mayor, Bryan Moreland.
"How does it look?" Carla called to Peck, who was impatiently running a hand through his gray-streaked blond hair as he hung onto a telephone receiver waiting for the results from the city's largest precinct.
"Neck and neck, to use a trite expression." He grinned at her. He had a nice face, she thought. Lean and smooth and kind. Not at all the usual expressionless mask worn by most veteran newsmen.
She smiled back, and her dark green eyes caught the light and seemed to glow under the fluorescent lights.
"What precinct are you waiting for?" Beverly Miller, the Society Editor, asked, pausing by Peck's desk.
"Ward four," he told her. "It looks like ... hello? Yes, go ahead." He scribbled feverishly on his pad, thanked his caller and hung up. He shook his head. "Tom Green took the fourth by a small avalanche," he said, leaning back in his chair. "Now there's a surprise for you. A political novice winning a city election in a three-man field with no runoff."
"I'll bet Moreland's tickled to death," Carla said dryly. "Green's been at his throat ever since he took office almost four years ago."
"He may not run again now," Beverly laughed. "He hasn't announced."
"He will," Peck said confidently.
"Moreland's one hell of a fighter."
"That's the truth," Beverly said, perching her ample figure on the edge of Peck's desk. She smiled at Carla.
"You haven't been here long enough to know much of Moreland's background, but he started out as one of the best trial lawyers in the city. He had a national reputation long before he ran for mayor and won. And despite agitators like Green, he commands enough public respect to keep the office if he wants it. He's done more for urban renewal, downtown improvement and city services than any mayor in the past two decades."
"Then why do we keep hearing rumors of graft?" Carla asked Peck when Beverly was called away to her phone.
"What rumors?" Peck asked, even as he began feeding his copy into the electronic typewriter.
"I've had two anonymous phone calls this week," she told him, pushing a strand of dark hair back under the braided coil pinned on top her head.
"Big Jim gave me the green light to do some investigating."
"Where do you plan to start?" he asked indulgently.
"At the city treasury. One particular department was singled out by my anonymous friend," she added. "I was told that if I checked the books, I'd find some very interesting entries."
"Tell me what you're looking for, and I'll check into it for you," he volunteered.
She cocked her head at him. "Thanks -" she smiled "- but no thanks. Just because I'm fresh out of college, don't think I need a shepherd. My father owned a weekly paper in south Georgia."
"No wonder you feel so comfortable here," he chuckled. "But remember that a weekly and a daily are worlds apart."
"Don't be arrogant," she chided. "If you tried to hire on at a weekly, you'd very likely find that your experience wouldn't be enough."
Excerpted from If Winter Comes by Diana Palmer Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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