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Secret Vows (Harlequin Kimani Arabesque Series)by Rochelle Alers
A Hideaway Wedding Wager
Twins Ana and Jason and their cousin Nicholas are successful thirtysomethings who are singleand loving it. They have no idea that their relatives are betting on which one of them will get married first. But by the family's New Year's Eve reunion, will all three have learned what it means to be really lucky/em>
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A Hideaway Wedding Wager
Twins Ana and Jason and their cousin Nicholas are successful thirtysomethings who are singleand loving it. They have no idea that their relatives are betting on which one of them will get married first. But by the family's New Year's Eve reunion, will all three have learned what it means to be really luckyin love?
In too deep
Music is Jason Cole's first love, and so far, no woman has ever come close. He's happiest writing and recording at his Oregon mountain retreat. Plus, the gorgeous new waitress at the local restaurant is another reason to enjoy spending time in the small, remote townespecially once he hears her sing.
Though she's flattered when Jason offers her a recording contract, Greer Evans says no. She can't reveal the truththat she's there on a dangerous secret assignment. But as their flirty friendship turns intimate, everything is on the line Greer's career, their safety and the yearning passion that could put both their lives at risk.
RT Book Reviews on SWEET DREAMS
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The intercom on Greer Evans's desk buzzed softly. Unconsciously she reached for the receiver, while at the same time her gaze was fixed on the internal report she'd spent the past hour perusing. "Evans," she said in her usual greeting.
"The director would like you to come to his office."
Her eyes shifted to the telephone display. She and the others assigned to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Phoenix, Arizona, field office attended biweekly meetings in the director's office where they were brought up-to-date on regional operations. It wasn't often she was singularly summoned.
"When, Miss Kelly?" she asked the woman who monitored everyone and everything going on at the site.
"He wants to see you now."
"I'm on my way."
Greer hung up, coming to her feet and exiting the cubicle where she had spent countless hours since being reassigned to the southwest region. The adjustment hadn't been an easy one for her. The first thing she'd had to get used to was living in the desert. The dry heat, smog and occasional monsoon were a far cry from the change of seasons she'd experienced in Chicago and Washington, D.C. During the summer months she went directly from the air-conditioned office to the air-conditioned car and then drove to her artificially cooled one-bedroom furnished apartment with picturesque mountain views.
Plus she had to adjust to sitting at a desk. At first it had been difficult but, as the months passed, Greer had come to look forward to not going undercover; she was content to spend the rest of her professional career office-bound until it came time for her to collect her government pension. Why, she mused, was she thinking about retiring when that wouldn't become a reality for at least another thirty years? At thirty-two, it should be the last thing on her mind.
Greer didn't want to become cynical about her chosen career path because, after all, her mother had warned her of the pitfalls of undercover work. Her parents had met when both were recruits at the Quantico training facility. Her mother had joined the FBI, and her father had chosen the DEA. Then there was her twin brother. He'd followed in the family tradition of law enforcement when he also had joined the FBI.
She knew her mother, a retired FBI forensic technician, was uneasy each time Greer was selected for an undercover assignment, but she'd sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and those dealing in the sale and transportation of illegal explosives and firearms were enemies. She barely glanced at Sheila Kelly sitting in an alcove outside the field director's office as she pushed open the door and walked in, realizing Roland wasn't alone.
"You wanted to see me, Roland?"
Roland Pena's head popped up. "Yes." Rays of sunlight coming through windows bathed him in a halo of gold. Smiling, he rose to his feet, indicating the chair facing a sofa. "Please sit down."
Pushing off a worn leather sofa was a tall pale man in an ill-fitting black suit. Her gaze shifted from the stranger to the man whom she'd grown to respectunlike her former supervisor who wasn't above using his power to intimidate his subordinates. Roland was soft-spoken, approachable and well liked by everyone in the regional office.
Her supervisor walked over to the sofa and sat down. "I'd like you to meet special agent Bradley Plimpton. He's the assistant director of the Seattle Field Division."
Greer nodded. "Special Agent Plimpton," she said in acknowledgment. Once she was seated, he sat back down on the couch, one ankle propped on the opposing knee.
Bradley's coal-black eyes narrowed. Greer didn't know why, but there was something about the man's emaciated appearance, black suit and straight raven hair brushed off his forehead that reminded her of caricatures of undertakers.
"I'm sorry to spring this on you without warning, Evans. Your supervisor just approved your transfer to my division."
She hadn't realized she'd been holding her breath as she mentally repeated his last statement. What was Bradley talking about? She hadn't spoken to Roland about a transfer. Not once since she'd come to Arizona had Greer mentioned to anyone that she didn't want to live in the desert, that she preferred to see an actual change of seasons. Yet, if she was going to be transferred to the Seattle Field Division, then that meant she would become part of the ATF's largest geographic division in the country. This transfer could have her living and working anywhere in Washington, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam or Oregon.
"We need you to go undercover in Mission Grove."
Greer leaned forward, the motion seemingly robotic. "Mission Grove?" she repeated.
"Yes, Agent Evans. Mission Grove," Bradley said, placing both feet on the floor. Clasping his hands together, he sandwiched them between his knees. "We know you spent your childhood summers there with your aunt and uncle. We also know that you still keep in contact with your uncle even though your mother's sister passed away three years ago."
"What does that have to do with me going undercover in Mission Grove, Agent Plimpton?" she asked when he paused and stared at the floor.
A beat passed before Plimpton raised his head. "One of our agents was shot near the Mexico-Arizona border during a confrontation with drug smugglers. He managed to kill one of them, and when we recovered their weapons, we were able to trace them back to a man living in the Hood River Valley."
"Did you interrogate him?" Greer asked, her voice barely a whisper.
"And why not?" She'd asked yet another question.
"We couldn't because he died four years ago. What we did find out was that he'd had a break-in at his home the year before he passed away, yet reported nothing missing. We figured whoever broke into his house wasn't looking to steal money or valuables but his identity. When I ran his name through the federal firearms database, I discovered hundreds of semiautomatic pistols and assault rifles purchased from gun shops in Vancouver, L.A., and as far east as Texas and Tennessee. We also traced at least a half dozen pistols used by several Seattle gangs back to a gun shop burglary in the Hood River Valley. There have also been a string of similar break-ins ranging from Portland to Mission Grove. Whoever is spearheading this operation has probably amassed an enormous arsenal, selling these illegal firearms to drug dealers. The DEA is dealing with the drug problem, but the sale of illegal firearms falls under our jurisdiction. We've selected you to identify the person or persons behind this because you're familiar with the region."
"What I don't understand," Greer said, "is why break into someone's home to steal their personal information? Why not do it electronically? Cybercriminals do it every day."
Plimpton shifted slightly when his right hand twitched noticeably. "The man wasn't online. Whoever stole his identity must have known the victim personally."
She knew the states that didn't require a permit to purchase firearms, although many required licenses needed to carry a concealed firearm. Oregon was one of those states. But if someone was buying guns legally, afterward reselling them to those who couldn't pass background checks, then that had raised a red flag with the ATF.
Greer listened intently when briefed about her new assignment. She would become a waitress at Stella's. Her uncle, former Special Forces Robert "Bobby" Henry knew she and her brother were federal officers. "Have you told my uncle that I'll be working at his restaurant?"
Bradley gave her a subtle nod. "Yes. We had to give him clearance because we're going to use his place for your base of operation."
Greer exhaled an audible breath. It made her feel better knowing that she didn't have to lie to her uncle as to why she'd come back to Mission Grove for an extended stay. "When do I leave?"
Roland crossed his arms over his chest. "You'll have tonight to pack and clean out your apartment. A team of agents from the bureau are flying up to Portland tomorrow morning to join in the search for the three missing kids from a nearby campground. They'll pick you up at four in the morning for a six o'clock liftoff. Don't worry about your vehicle. I'll have one of the agents retrieve it from your apartment building's parking lot."
Pushing to her feet, she nodded like a bobble head doll. "I guess I'd better start packing."
Roland stood and extended his hand, smiling. "You take care of yourself out there."
She took his hand. "I will." Walking out of the director's office, Greer returned to her cubicle. It took fewer than two minutes to fill a cardboard box with her meager accumulation of personal items: a coffee cup, several paperback novels, a crystal heart-shaped paperweight and a miniature cactus plant.
"Going somewhere, Evans?"
Greer nodded. The auditor peering over her partition had a problem processing the word no when she'd told him she didn't believing in dating her coworkers. But that hadn't stopped him from seeking her out whenever she ate in the employee lunchroom. "I'm being transferred."
Harold Browning approached her, his hazel eyes widening in surprise. "When did you find out?"
"Just a few minutes ago."
Harold's sandy-brown eyebrows lifted. "You're kidding, aren't you?"
She shifted the box to a more comfortable position as she picked up her handbag. "No, I'm not."
"Where are you going?"
Greer wanted to tell Harold that she was going far enough away so she wouldn't have to be annoyed by his persistence. "Portland," she said instead of Mission Grove. "I have to go."
Harold looked as if he was going to burst into tears. He ran both hands over his thinning blond hair. "I'm going to miss you, Evans."
"I'm going to miss you, too, Browning." She would miss seeing him leaning over the partition to her cubicle to greet her every morning and his puppy-dog expression whenever she chided Harold for asking her out. The CPA was as brilliant as he was annoying. He'd pursued her when he should've focused his attention on some of the other single women who'd made it known they were interested in him. Why, she thought, did people always want what they couldn't have?
Turning on the heels of her rubber-soled shoes, Greer headed for the exit, ignoring curious glances from special agents, investigators, technicians and support staff as they watched her departing figure.
When she stepped outside, the summer heat hit her like opening the door to a blast furnace, making it difficult for her to draw a normal breath. It was mid-August, and the afternoon temperature was over one hundred degrees. She was going to Oregon, a place where she didn't have to contend with triple-digit summer heat and hardly a drop of precipitation. Oregona spot where all she had to deal with were moderating temperatures and the invigorating feel of rain on her face.
Even without asking, her prayer had been answered. Greer didn't want to think about her next assignment once she identified who'd stolen identities to buy and sell firearms to criminals. It was always easier to think about the present, while concentrating on not blowing her cover. Working at her uncle's restaurant would be like attending a kiddie birthday party. No pressure, no having to look over her shoulder or worry about her backup. All she had to do was keep her eyes and ears open.
Getting into her compact car, Greer started up the engine. She waited for the vents to blow cooling air over her face before she shifted into gear and maneuvered out of the parking lot. She wasn't given much time to pack; however, living in a furnished apartment definitely had its advantages. All she had to do was clean out her closets, dresser drawers, put up several loads of laundry and then pack everything in two large rolling duffel bags, one containing her service revolver, bulletproof vest, government-issue laptop, a case with an assault rifle and clips of ammunition. She'd learned to travel light with what she deemed the essentials. If it didn't fit into the duffel bags, then she could do without it.
Early the next morning Greer turned off the air-conditioner. She took one last look around the apartment where she'd spent the past five months of her life, then walked into the bathroom. When her former supervisor had initiated her transfer with a recommendation to desk duty, he'd claimed she was close to burnout, and the department couldn't afford to lose one of their best undercover special agents.
She'd agreed and was grateful for the respite; there were occasions when she had a problem remembering who she actually was because she'd been so deep undercover. Looking at her reflection in the mirror over the vanity, Greer brushed her hair and secured it in a ponytail. The purplish tint had faded completely. She'd been tempted to dye it back to its natural shade, but her hair had undergone so many colors and styles during the years she'd been undercover as a special agent for the ATF, she was surprised it would grow to any appreciable length. There was a time when she'd shaved one side of her head. Then she'd affected twists, braids and extensions.
The sound of the doorbell echoed in the apartment, and Greer left the bathroom to answer the intercom. She punched a button. "Yes?"
"I have a four o'clock pickup for Ms. Evans."
"Come on up." They'd sent a woman to meet her.
She punched the button to disengage the lock on the downstairs door. Opening the door to her apartment, Greer stood off to the side. When she saw the man coming up the staircase, she launched herself at him. He wore khakis, a black golf shirt with the FBI logo over the breast pocket and black hiking boots. It was apparent her twin brother had been selected as a member of the team of agents going up to Portland to search for the three boys who'd vanished without a trace.
Cooper Evans caught his sister in midair, holding her against his chest. There was no mistaking they were related. They shared the same golden-brown complexion and slanting light brown eyes; however, Cooper was taller, a more masculine version of his twin sister. He kissed her cheek. Her bare face made her appear much younger than a woman in her early thirties. The desert sun had darkened her complexion to a rich cinnamon-brown.
"You seem to have fared well for a desk jockey."
Looping her arms around Cooper's neck, Greer pressed her forehead to her brother's. "Jealous, bro?"
"Heck, no. I love being in the field." He tugged playfully on her ponytail. "Let's go. The others are waiting for us. During the flight, you can catch me up on what's been going on since we last spoke to each other."
Although she and Cooper exchanged texts a couple times each week, it was a rare occasion when they were able to talk on the phone, but never about their jobs. Greer again glanced around the living/dining area, then grasped the handle to one of her bags, but Cooper usurped her when he lifted both effortlessly. She left the keys to the apartment on the table in the dining area and walked out, closing the self-locking door behind her. A black Suburban with heavily tinted windows sat idling in the parking lot. Cooper opened the hatch, placing her bags in the cargo area.
She opened the rear door, slipping onto the third row of seats beside a young attractive brunette who wore a wind-breaker stamped with the letters identifying her as a special agent with the FBI. Other than the driver and their lone female agent, two other agents were fast asleep, soft snores echoing in the vehicle's interior.
The woman flashed a friendly smile. "Allison Singer."
Greer returned her smile. "Jane Evans," she whispered, introducing herself, while not wishing to wake the other sleeping passengers. Legally she was Jane Greer Evans, but her father insisted on calling her Greer.
Cooper got in beside Allison and settled back against the leather seat. The driver maneuvered out of the parking lot, accelerating and following the signs to the Sky Harbor International Airport.
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RT Book Reviews on SWEET DREAMS
Meet the Author
Hailed by readers and booksellers alike as one of today's most popular African-American authors of women's fiction, Ms. Alers is a regular on bestsellers list, and has been a recipient of numerous awards, including the Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing and a Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award. Visit her Web site www.rochellealers.com
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THIS BOOK IS GREAT. I REALLY LOVE ROCHELLE ALERS AND HER SERIES OF BOOKS. CAN'T WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE.
I have always loved this family series. This is one of the best family series! Just wished all of the books were on nook, i have them in book form, but would love the ebook.
This is a great book! I love Brenda Jackson's style of writing. It gives us a little of both the fantasy and real life love. She makes you realize that love is worth a fight because in the end when you find that special someone, love is the best feeling ever!