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Two classic tales of dangerous secrets and the love that overcomes them from #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Lisa Jackson.
One Man's Love
Stacey Monroe made it a rule not to get personally involved with any of her patients—and certainly not with their fathers! But when Nathan Sloan brought his daughter in to see her, Stacey fell in love with both of them ...
Two classic tales of dangerous secrets and the love that overcomes them from #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Lisa Jackson.
One Man's Love
Stacey Monroe made it a rule not to get personally involved with any of her patients—and certainly not with their fathers! But when Nathan Sloan brought his daughter in to see her, Stacey fell in love with both of them almost immediately. But Nathan was a man with many secrets—secrets that might put Stacey in danger .
With No Regrets
As far as cynical attorney Jake McGowan was concerned, he couldn't have much sympathy for a woman who'd chosen to marry his filthy-rich sworn enemy. He would represent Kimberly Bennett in her desperate child-custody battle, but he'd steer clear of both her and her little girl's beseeching blue eyes. Degree by slow degree, Kim felt Jake warm toward her little family's plight, but she still couldn't shake the feeling that he was keeping something from her.
Nathan Sloan raced back into the house and reached the phone by the third ring. He called to his daughter through the screen door, which he hadn't bothered to close. "Cindy, wait for me in the yard! I'll be right there." With an impatient curse, he turned his attention to the phone. "Hello?" he called into the mouthpiece, but there was no answer. "Is someone there?" Irritation gave way to dread. His heart began to pound irregularly, and he tried to listen for any sound that would give away the caller. "Hello? Who is this?" he demanded. Nothing.
"Hello! Can you hear me?" He waited, his palms beginning to sweat. "Dammit!" Slamming the receiver back into the cradle, he hurried out of the cottage to find that his daughter hadn't bothered to wait for him. "Cindy?"
Maybe the phone call was a trap.
Someone could have been watching the house, called from a remote phone and snatched Cindy. His jaw tightened; a quea-siness gripped his gut. "Cindy!" He glanced quickly around the yard, but she wasn't anywhere to be seen.
"Get a hold of yourself. No one knows you're here—only Barbara," he muttered as he ran to the steps leading down to the beach and spotted his child on the white sand.
"Thank God," he whispered, leaning against the sun-bleached rail. His shoulders slumped in relief, and he squinted into the late afternoon sun.
Not far from Cindy was the woman he had hoped to meet for several days, a woman who might be able to help him, a woman by the name of Anastasia Monroe.
Nathan had studied her from a distance, noting the wild disarray of the honey-colored hair that tumbled down her back in soft curls, the smooth slope of her shoulders and the gentle curves of her body, undisguised by her casual clothes.
For the past three days he'd been watching her, wondering how to approach her and, unfortunately, he'd fantasized about her as well, sometimes lying awake at night until all hours of the morning just thinking about her and wondering why she affected him so strongly and deeply. He'd imagined the way her skin would taste, the widening of her eyes as he kissed her, the feel of her lips and the warmth of her body heated with passion. Why? The forbidden fruit, he'd rationalized.
Now as he watched her, the wind lifted her wild hair away from her face and wrapped her sundress around her slim legs.
He experienced the same seed of desire that had made his nights unbearable. "Dammit, Sloan, you're letting all this get to you and acting like some horny teenager to boot," he grumbled, but the dull ache of desire raced through his blood, firing a response in his loins just the same.
The woman walking on the beach, Anastasia Monroe, or Stacey as she preferred to be called, was the last woman in the world he could trust with his secret. To become involved with her would be the biggest mistake of his life. He kept reminding himself of those annoying facts as he descended the worn staircase.
The sand felt cool beneath her bare feet as Stacey walked near the ocean's edge, her eyes scanning the tide pools for various treasures that would inspire her young students. She spied a scurrying fiddler crab and carefully captured him with her fingers before dropping him into the bucket of water swinging from her left hand. "I'll make you a star," she promised with a slightly off center smile as the crab lifted his pincers threateningly.
Stacey laughed to herself. "Don't worry," she said. "I'll set you free in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, fella, you're going to earn your keep."
She continued to walk along the rocky coast of the island as she studied the shimmering pools and squinted at the reflection of the sun on the water. Her feet were callused from two months of beachcombing, and she was so intent in her search of the tide pools that she barely noticed that the hem of her sundress was wet.
"Here we go," she murmured to herself, as she bent down again and this time retrieved a delicate salmon-colored starfish, examined it and dropped it into the oversized bucket.
The sun was warm against her back, and the breeze lifting the sun-bleached strands of hair from her face and shoulders felt good against the bare skin of her arms and legs. As most of the afternoon had already slipped away, Stacey decided it was time to hike back to her cottage near the school where she taught. Thinking of her students, she smiled. So many of them had come so far, overcome so many problems .
She stopped suddenly, and the water sloshed in the bucket as she saw the little girl, all alone on the deserted beach. The blond-headed child hadn't noticed her, so intent was she on digging in the sand. Stacey quickly glanced up and down the beach for the mother, aunt, older brother, babysitter or any other kind of guardian who was responsible for the tousle-headed little girl.
Concerned, Stacey walked up to the child. "Hi," she said with a cheery smile meant to disguise her confusion.
No response. The girl kept right on digging.
"What's your name?" Stacey persisted while bending on one knee a few feet from the industrious little excavator.
The child ignored her and continued to scoop up wet sand with a bright red shovel.
Stacey tried again. "Where's your mommy?"
The shovel stopped, and the child lifted her head to regard Stacey with large blue eyes that darkened a little. "Don't got a mommy," she said.
Stacey's heart twisted for the beguiling little girl, though she was slightly suspicious of the story. The child was dressed in bright pink shorts and a white ruffled midriff blouse. Identical pink clips kept the gold ringlets out of her eyes. The little girl was no waif. Someone obviously cared about her. So where was the mother?
Again, almost angrily this time, she scanned the beach. Then she noticed the man, a solitary figure running toward her and the child. He was tall and ran with the easy gait of an athlete. His shoulders were wide, but the rest of his body was lean, and he was dressed in faded jeans and a lightweight sweater with the sleeves bunched over his forearms. His worried eyes were deep set, guarded by thick, black brows as they focused upon the child. His square jaw was set rigidly with concern, but the expression on his angular features was a trained calm—the kind that hinted at an inner wariness— and belied any outward sign of emotion.
"Hello," Stacey said, trying to hide her anger as she straightened and offered a forced smile. "Is this your little girl?"
With obvious relief softening his worried expression, the man stopped near the child and reached down to pick her up. "Yes," he admitted. "This is Cindy." He glanced fondly at the girl and kissed her wild blond curls. "Can you say hello to Miss—"
"Monroe. Stacey Monroe." Dear Lord, didn't he realize how dangerous it was for a child to play unattended near the surf? She wiped her sandy palm on the folds of her skirt before extending her hand toward the stranger.
His fingers wrapped around her hand in a gesture of genuine warmth. "Nathan Sloan." A trace of a smile flashed across his tanned face giving his angular features just a hint of boyish charm that was in direct conflict with the cynical creases near the corners of his intense blue eyes.
"It's good to know that someone was looking after Cindy," Stacey said, unable to hide the edge of her voice until she looked again at the child. "And it was nice to meet you."
There was still no response from the little girl. She stared out to sea as if mesmerized, and Stacey began to understand why Cindy's father had let her wander onto the sand where Stacey had been beachcombing. It hadn't been an accident or an oversight on his part. In fact, he'd probably planned it! Stacey's jaw tightened and her eyes grew cold.
"She's shy," Nathan said as if searching for a better word and Stacey lifted her gaze to meet a secret sadness in his gaze. He looked away and cleared his throat. "And she's also headstrong. We were just leaving the house when the phone rang and she ran off without me." He looked at his daughter in mock anger. "You know you're not supposed to come down here alone."
Cindy ignored her father's disapproval and slid out of his arms. She began digging once again and acted as if the adults weren't present. Stacey knew there was more to Cindy's behavior than timidity. Having worked with disturbed children for eight years, Stacey was able to see the evidence of stress in the small round face.
This Mr. Sloan had probably expected to meet Stacey on the beach. His child hadn't just happened to wander down to the beach alone. Nathan Sloan had arranged it. Stacey couldn't help her anger; the man had used his child, put Cindy in danger, to meet Stacey.
As if reading Stacey's mind, Nathan sighed. "She's difficult to handle sometimes," he said, rubbing his chin and staring at his little girl. Cindy had begun to wander down the beach and was out of earshot.
"Probably inherited, I'd guess."
Nathan frowned and his blue eyes, when he looked up, had taken on a seductive hue.
"Look, Mr. Sloan. I know what's going on here," she said angrily, ignoring his smoldering gaze. "You're trying to enroll Cindy in the private school—that's why you're here—on Sanctity Island. Right?"
Nathan's jaw became rigid, but he didn't deny what was so patently obvious. He nodded tightly as he looked at his child.
"And you hoped that I'd run into Cindy this afternoon." "I'd hoped," he admitted.
"And it didn't matter that it was dangerous to Cindy. She could have wandered out in the ocean before I saw her!"
Nathan's head snapped up. "No way. I was watching her— from over there." He cocked his head in the direction of the stairs. "I'll admit that she did get ahead of me when the phone rang. But I didn't plan to have her come down to the beach alone." His expression tightened. "I would never do anything that might put Cindy in any kind of danger." The wariness in his tone and the guarded look he gave her convinced Stacey.
She crossed her arms over her chest and tried to control her temper. "So why didn't you come into the school?"
"I did. Last week. You weren't in. I didn't want to leave a message because I wanted to meet with you in person."
"So you followed me to the beach." she accused.
More times than you'll ever know, he thought. Chuckling at her irritation, he smiled and once again his face took on a certain boyish charm that touched a forbidden part of her heart. "Nothing that sinister. Really. I just knew that you walked on this stretch in the afternoons and well, I took a chance that you'd be here."
He seemed honest; the concern he felt for his child appeared genuine. But something about his story just didn't ring true. Telling herself she was entirely too suspicious, she asked, "Why did you want me to meet Cindy?"
"Because of her behavior," he admitted. The lines near his mouth deepened. "Cindy became a different person sometime after her mother's death, just over a year ago. At first I thought her reaction was normal. At least I wanted to believe it. To convince myself, I rationalized that even small children grieve. But " He frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. "But I'm afraid it's more than simple grief. She seems to be getting worse instead of better. She's regressed to the point that sometimes I need help reaching her." Looking past the cresting waves he sighed wearily. "As I said, I visited the school, but the receptionist told me that Oceancrest wasn't accepting any more children and I'd have to put her on a waiting list."
"That's what I understand," Stacey admitted, frowning a little as she studied the child. "You have to realize that I don't make those decisions—I'm just a teacher."
"Not just a teacher," Nathan interrupted. "The best specialist in this part of the country. You've worked with the Edwards Clinic in Boston and did research for Florida State University before you moved here two years ago. From everything I've read, you're the best child psychologist in the Pacific Northwest."
"I don't know about that," Stacey said, blushing as she laughed quietly and shook her head. "I'd like to know where you got your information. It sounds like you've been talking to my aunt."
"It's the truth," he said bluntly.
Stacey held up her hand in protest. "Look, I'm flattered, but I don't think I deserve all the accolades. In fact, I'm sure I don't!"
"Don't sell yourself short."
"Never," she said, laughing.
"I didn't talk to your aunt. You've earned your reputation."
She blushed a little under his compliment and the intensity of his erotic eyes. "Look, I'm just a teacher." "And a damned good one."
Stacey avoided his gaze and studied Cindy as the cherubic-looking child returned to play near her father. Staying within Nathan's reach, Cindy examined a broken shell.
"Some people would disagree with your opinion," Stacey thought aloud, her heart wrenching painfully when she remembered Daniel Brown. How dearly she had loved that little boy . Clearing her throat and ignoring Nathan's scrutinizing gaze, Stacey pushed aside the anguish and scandal of the past. "We only have one class for preschoolers." Stacey tilted her head upward to meet Nathan's bold stare.
"And you're the teacher."
Nathan gestured in frustration before making a sound of disgust. His muscles flexed with the strain of trusting a woman he barely knew, a woman with beautiful sun-streaked hair and intelligent hazel eyes that seemed to flicker between green and gold. "Look, I don't like asking for anyone's help," he admitted. "And I'm not crazy about having to plead my case to a woman I don't even know, but, in all honesty, I'm at the end of my rope."
"And you don't like it."
His eyes glinted with a savagery born of desperation. "I like to be in control, Miss Monroe. I don't like the feeling that I have to depend upon anyone but myself."
Stacey glanced at Cindy before returning her gaze to Nathan's rugged face. Behind the thick dark brows, deep-set blue eyes and angular features was a very proud man. Her spine prickled when she looked into his eyes, and she imagined for a moment that he was lying to her, guarding a secret.
"I'm only asking that you work with Cindy for her sake," he pressed. "She needs you." He shifted his gaze to his daughter. "Cindy, would you like to go to Miss Monroe's school?"
The child ignored him.
Again, no response. If anything, Cindy was more remote than ever, to the point that she blocked out her father. "Cindy, did you hear me—"
Posted April 23, 2011
No text was provided for this review.