Read an Excerpt
By Wendy Etherington
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
Copyright © 2003
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Roxanne Lewis's heart lurched. "It can't be."
Antoinette St. Clair - Toni to all who intended to stay on her good side - lifted her gaze from her plate of salmon.
Her eyes filled with regret. "I'm sorry, Rox, but Gage was in the Quarter last night."
"He's supposed to be in Chicago."
Tucked in the corner booth of her favorite French Quarter restaurant, away from the curious eyes of the other diners,
Roxanne pushed away her nearly untouched crab Louis salad. No one ever accused Toni of being flighty - without
acquiring bruises anyway. If she said she saw Gage in New Orleans, she did.
Roxanne fought against the panic fluttering in her stomach, recalling last Saturday night, when she and Gage had eaten
a late dinner, when he'd slid his hand along her thigh during dessert ...
"Doing what?" she asked quickly, banishing the erotic thoughts.
"Leaning against the wall outside a bar."
Maybe he'd just come back a day early. Maybe he'd had a late business meeting. He'd had a lot of those lately. "Was he
"No, but he studied the crowd a lot and kept glancing at his watch." Toni gestured with her fork.
"Like he was waiting for someone."
Someone. Not her. How many times had she wondered what he saw in her? He'd chosen her. He'd proposed to
her. And, yet, insecurity lingered. There were parts of Gage he didn't share with her. She'd tried to tell
herself it didn't matter. He showered her with affection, devotion ... loyalty. Just because he was sexy as hell, smart
and rich didn't mean every woman in New Orleans was chasing him.
Only the ones between twenty and sixty.
Roxanne sipped her water and tried to pretend a lump wasn't blocking her throat. "Do you think he could have been
meeting a woman?"
"Maybe. God knows I've been tempted."
Roxanne's gaze jumped to Toni's. "To cheat?"
Her friend grinned. "No, to jump Gage Dabon's bones."
The smile wiped from her face, Toni angled heer head. "I am. I'm seriously pissed. Why aren't you?"
"I am." No, you're not, Roxanne. You're scared. Bone-deep scared. You knew you'd never hold him.
"Stop." Toni tugged a strand of Roxanne's long, corkscrew-curly red hair. "You're quite a catch yourself, Foxy Roxy."
Roxanne didn't bother to deny Toni had guessed the direction of her thoughts. They'd been friends too long. "He'd be
better off with someone like you," Roxanne said. "Someone more outgoing."
"Hell, Rox, we haven't had near enough wine for a pity party." She frowned at her water glass. "We haven't had
any wine." Shrugging, Toni polished off the last bite of her salmon, then handed her plate to a passing waiter.
"And, no offense, but Gage's too tame for me. Hunky, yes. But banks, blue suits and dark ties? No, thanks."
You haven't seen that body without the suits. Then the implication of Toni's words sunk in. "I like tame.
There's nothing wrong with tame."
"That's because you grew up with excitement, not Miss Manners lessons twenty-four hours a day."
Roxanne didn't want to go anywhere near the subject of Toni's intimidating, uptight mother. Talk about scary.
Thankfully, Toni tucked a strand of her shaggy blond hair behind her ear and rolled on. "And, speaking of annoying
relatives, you have to remember the way Gage stood up under your family's scrutiny. Any man who'd do that has to want
you pretty badly."
"True." Roxanne's father, brother and sister were all cops. Nobel, brave and strong. They stood for the weak and
defenseless; they worked tirelessly so other families could be spared the kind of tragedy that Roxanne's had
suffered - her mother dying at the hands of a paroled murderer, who'd sought to punish Roxanne's father for sending
him to prison.
Roxanne had felt abandoned without her mother and had no desire to run into the kind of people who had killed her.
Accounting, not law enforcement was her calling. Numbers didn't lie, numbers made sense ... numbers didn't die.
Wimpy, her sister had once accused. Practical, Roxanne had argued back. Of course, practicality was obviously missing
from every Lewis's genetic makeup except hers.
"So, what's the plan?" Toni asked, leaning forward, her blue eyes twinkling with anticipation.
"What plan? I'll ask him what he was doing in the Quarter last night and why he didn't bother to call me. Or come
Toni tapped her long, acrylic nails - currently painted hot pink with green palm trees and bright yellow suns on each
one in anticipation of the busy summer-tourist season - against the table. "Uh-huh. You? Miss Nonconfrontation.
You're going to ask Gage why he lied, who he was meeting."
"Yes." She banged her fist against the table, knowing she needed this pep talk to urge her on. "Do you think I should
act angry and demand an answer, or be sly and attempt to catch him lying?"
"You've already caught him in a lie, and I think you should be angry."
"Then why are your hands shaking?"
Sighing, Roxanne immediately linked her fingers. "I can't help it. I won't know what to say."
"Where the hell were you last night, you lying bastard? works for me."
"Be reasonable, Toni."
Roxanne rubbed her temples, unable to come up with a reasonable argument at the moment. She'd no doubt think of
something hours from now, but the impact would be lost. How did people train themselves to think on their feet? After a
lifetime of friendship with Toni, shouldn't some of her sass have rubbed off?
"Since you don't have a plan, mine is perfect."
Roxanne instinctively shook her head. Oh, no. Toni's past plans had included everything from giving the dog the keys to
her mother's brand-new Mercedes - which he'd promptly buried in the back-yard - to sawing off the legs of Sister
Margaretta's desk in the seventh grade, to disguising the two of them in black wigs and red lipstick to sneak into
fraternity parties at Tulane.
As usual, Toni ignored Roxanne's protest. "I think we should follow him."
"No." If Toni was surprised by her direct, one-word refusal, she didn't show it. And, dang it, she'd been practicing.
"You have a right to know what's going on," Toni continued.
"I will. I'll ask."
"And if he denies it?"
Excerpted from Private Lies
by Wendy Etherington
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.
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