Read an Excerpt
The Masked Man
By BJ Daniels
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe picked her up in his headlights as he came around the curve. She stood beside the narrow lake road, thumb out. He slowed to make sure before he stopped, but his blood was already pounding.
Yes. Long blond hair, sun-kissed bare limbs, sixteen, seventeen tops. She wore a pink T-shirt that hugged her small breasts and navy shorts that exposed slim, coltish legs and, as he stopped the car beside her, he saw that she had The Look.
He was a sucker for The Look. That cool, confi-dent conviction that her life was only just beginning, that she would live forever, that nothing would harm her. It was a look that came only with youth.
"Hey," he said as he rolled down the passenger-side window and leaned over to smile at her.
"Where ya headed?"
She stepped closer, bending at the waist to look in at him. "Bigfork?"
Her sweet scent rushed in with the warm summer night. Raspberry, he thought, one of his favorites. She hooked a hand over the open window frame. Her fingernails were painted a pale pink. He really liked that. On her slim, tanned wrist a tiny silver charm bracelet with a perfect little silver heart tinkled softly.
He could hardly contain himself. "Hop in, I'm going that way. You must be in Bigfork working for the summer." He didn't want to make the mistake of trying to pick up a local girl again.
She nodded, stepped closer.
It always came down to a few crucial seconds.
She glanced at his car, then at him again.
In her blue eyes he saw that instant of uncertainty that could save - or destroy - her.
Seconds. Life or death. He loved this part.
"Thanks," she said and reached for the door handle. Ain't no big, bad wolf here.
He smiled. All teeth.
* * *
Jill Lawson couldn't believe it.
Trevor had stood her up again. Only this time it was for his parents' anniversary masquerade party. This time she was dressed as Scarlett O'Hara and feeling foolish as she waited in a far wing of the house, alone. This time was going to be the last time.
"I can't marry this man. I'm breaking off the engagement." The words echoed in the dark, empty room. "Tonight."
She watched the approaching thunderstorm move across the lake and waited for the aftershock of her decision. She had expected to feel something other than ... relief. Certainly more regret.
This far down the east wing of the Foresters' massive lake house the sounds of the ongoing party were muted. That was one of the reasons she had come down here. To get away from all the merriment and the reminder that she was alone, the engagement ring on her finger feeling suddenly too tight. The ache in her heart too familiar.
She ached for something she wasn't even sure existed except maybe in the movies.
"You act like you expect fireworks, maybe the earth to move? Really, Jill, you are such a fool," Trevor had said when she'd tried to voice her concerns the last time she'd seen him.
Well, she certainly felt like a fool tonight, she thought. She had hardly seen Trevor since he'd asked her to marry him, but when he'd called, he'd promised that tonight would be different. After all, it was his parents' thirty-fifth anniversary, and summer was almost over, another season gone.
Heddy and Alistair threw a costume party to celebrate the event at the end of August every year at their house on the east shore of Flathead Lake. This year the theme was famous lovers, and Trevor had insisted Jill come as Scarlett so he could be Rhett Butler. And he'd stood her up.
"Quite frankly, Rhett, I don't give a damn," she said to the dark room. A lie. She did give a damn. She had wanted Trevor Forester to be The One. And at first, he'd made her believe he was.
She looked down at the silver charm bracelet on her wrist, the tiny heart dangling from the chain, and remembered the night he'd given it to her. On her birthday two months ago. It was right after that when he'd asked her to marry him and had given her the antique engagement ring now on her finger.
Her instincts warned her that everything between her and Trevor had happened too fast. She'd let him bowl her over, not giving her time to think. Or hardly react. And suddenly she was engaged to a man she didn't really know.
He'd been involved in his construction project, an upscale resort he called Inspiration Island south of Bigfork, Montana, in the middle of Flathead Lake, almost since they'd started dating.
Admittedly, he had been working a lot. A week ago he'd stopped by her bakery and she'd barely recognized him. He was tanned, leaner, more muscular.
She felt herself weaken a little at the memory of how good he'd looked and quickly was reminded that he had only made love to her once, soon after the engagement. In the weeks since, he always had an excuse - he was too tired or had to meet one of the investors or had to get back to the island.
"Everything will be different once we're married," he'd promised.
"Right," she said to the dark. She didn't believe that. Didn't believe anything Trevor told her anymore. "We're never going to know if things will be different because I'm not marrying you, Trevor Forester." She spun around in surprise. Someone had come into the dark room without her realizing it. How long had he or she been there, listening?
A small table lamp came on, blinding her for an instant. She thought at first the other person was Trevor and she would get this over with quickly. This quiet wing of the house would serve her purpose well.
Excerpted from The Masked Man by BJ Daniels Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.