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In Blackhawk's Bed
By Barbara McCauley
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Chapter OneWelcome to Ridgewater, Texas. Population 3,546. Home of the world's largest fruitcake!
Seth Granger stared at the twenty-foot billboard depicting a smiling family of four standing beside a Godzilla-sized fruitcake with bright red cherries on top.
Fruitcake? After eight years as an Albuquerque undercover cop, Seth thought he'd seen it all. He stared up at the towering depiction of fruits and nuts.
Apparently, he hadn't. Shaking his head, he downshifted, then slowed his Harley to the respectable speed of twenty-five. The last thing he needed was a ticket in this one-fruitcake town. After six hours on the West Texas highway in the blistering late-summer sun, what Seth needed was a full tank of gas, the biggest, juiciest cheeseburger he could find and a great big glass of ice water. By tonight, he'd be in Sweetwater where he could find a motel, then the closest bar. He'd been itching for an icy mug of Corona all day, and he could already taste the crisp, amber brew sliding down his dust-dry throat.
Throw in a pepperoni pizza, a pretty waitress, and that was about as perfect as life got.
A middle-aged woman walking a little black terrier on the side of the highway stared at him as he approached. The dog yapped and tugged on its leash, then circled the woman's legs, nearly tripping her. Seth glanced at her as he passed. The woman glared back. So much for small-town hospitality, he thought.But even he had to admit he was looking a little scruffy. He hadn't shaved in a couple of days and his thick black hair was almost to his shoulders. He'd had to let it grow for his last assignment - infiltrating a meth-lab operation - and he hadn't cut it yet. Top that off with a motorcycle and a pair of aviator glasses, and he looked like the front cover of Bad Ass Bikers.
The late-afternoon heat rippled in waves off the asphalt as he turned into the gas station and drew stares from the people gassing their cars. He rumbled to a stop in front of a pump and pulled his helmet off. While he filled his tank, Seth scanned the station. Everyone quickly looked away.
He wondered what the good people of Ridgewater would do if he yelled "Boo!" and started waving his arms around. Jump in their cars, most likely, and peel out of the station as if Satan himself was on their tail. The thought made him smile.
But he resisted the temptation to follow through. He had more pressing, important things to give brain space to than what the people of Ridgewater thought of him.
Like the letter in his backpack from Beddingham, Barnes, and Stephens's law office.
There'd been a mound of mail when Seth had finally come home after the fiasco of his last assignment. He hadn't intended to read any of the tower of bills or advertising brochures that night. All he'd wanted was an ice pack for his aching hand and a bottle of Jose Cuervo.
But the letter had been on top of the pile, all those lawyers' names staring at him like a neon sign, and Seth had picked it up. No doubt someone intended to sue him. Maybe a disgruntled drug dealer who hadn't appreciated being arrested, Seth figured, or maybe that bastard in apartment 12-C who liked to beat up his wife had resented Seth's interference a few weeks earlier. Jeez, the list could have gone on forever, he supposed and he'd dropped the letter back on the pile.
But as he'd filled a bag with ice, then poured himself a shot of tequila, he'd come back to the letter. That's when he'd noticed the return address was Wolf River County, Texas.
He froze. Wolf River? He'd tossed back the drink in his hand, then reached for the envelope and ripped it open.
And now, standing here in this Ridgewater, Texas, gas station, Seth remembered every word of that letter. But no words more clearly than the second paragraph, third line ...
... Rand Zacharias Blackhawk and Elizabeth Marie Blackhawk, son and daughter of Jonathan and Norah Blackhawk of Wolf River County, Texas, were not killed in the car accident that claimed the lives of their parents ...
There'd been more, of course. The name of the lawyer to call at the office, a phone number, something about an estate, though from what little Seth remembered of his childhood, the small ranch his parents had owned certainly couldn't have been worth much.
But Seth didn't give a damn about that, anyway. All he could think about was the fact that Rand and Lizzie hadn't died.
That they were alive. Alive.
His first thought was that it was a mistake, a huge mistake. Or even worse, some kind of sick joke. But no one knew anything about his past. No one knew that for the first seven years of his life, until he'd been adopted by Ben and Susan Granger, Seth's last name had been Blackhawk. Seth himself barely remembered.
Seth stared at the numbers flashing by on the gas pump. He'd only been seven then. Rand, his older brother, had been nine. Elizabeth - Lizzie, they'd all called her - she'd just turned two.
The letter had felt like a two-by-four slamming against his chest. The air had literally been sucked from his lungs. To find out, after twenty-three years, that the brother and sister he'd thought had died were still alive, was absolutely and completely staggering.
He couldn't remember how long he'd sat there in the dark, on the edge of the sofa in his apartment, and stared at that letter. But when the light had begun to seep through the dusty blinds in his living room, Seth had finally dialed the lawyer's office and left a message.
Then he'd sat back down, with the phone in his lap, and waited.
It was true. The lawyer confirmed it when he'd finally called back. Rand and Lizzie hadn't died. Rand had been found, but they were still looking for Lizzie, somewhere back east, or in the south.
Can he come to Wolf River? the lawyer had asked. Could he come?
Hell, yes, he'd come, Seth had told the lawyer. His heart racing, his hand shaking, Seth had hung up the phone, still sat there staring at the receiver for a full fifteen minutes. After that, he'd slept for the next sixteen hours straight.
The fact that he'd been suspended from the force for six weeks had made it easy to throw a few clothes and necessities into a bag and head out. It wasn't as if he had anything to keep him in Albuquerque. No wife. No kids. No commitments.
Which was exactly the way he'd wanted it. He'd tried living with Julie, his last girlfriend, but the life of an undercover cop was hardly what anyone would consider a stable relationship. He never knew when he'd be home, or even if he'd be home.
Excerpted from In Blackhawk's Bed by Barbara McCauley
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.