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By Janet Evanovich
HarperCollinsCopyright © 2006 Janet Evanovich
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMegan Murphy scuffed through a thick layer of autumn leaves in her round-toed, black leather, gold-buckled shoes. Regulation colonial clodhoppers, she thought happily, bending over to pick leaves out of her buckles. Especially stylish with her blue-flowered thermal underwear and thick gray woolen socks. Yup, she was a real eighteenth-century sex goddess. But hey, it was cold out. Besides, what did the average slovenly trollop wear back then? Silk teddies and designer panty hose?
She did a little tap dance in her big black shoes and kicked at the leaves. When she was a child the leaves in her yard had been immediately whisked away. They were packed in leaf bags, sucked into leaf suckers, or pulverized by the mulch maker, but they were never scuffed through or jumped into or simply enjoyed. That was one of the things that had drawn Megan to Colonial Williamsburg. In its effort to recreate the eighteenth century, Williamsburg had slowed to a walking pace. There was time to enjoy leaves. Even Megan Murphy, who had a strong tendency to hurtle through life at warp speed, found tranquility in the back alleys of Williamsburg.
She scuffed past Raleigh Tavern and along Duke of Gloucester Street to the public garden behind the Prentis House. She settled down on her favorite bench and opened the waxed paper bag containing a cup of hot cider and two sugar cookies from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop.
It was November, past the season of peak color for the foliage, and only a few hardy leaves remained on the trees. The new wintery image of lacy bare branches pressing against a brilliant azure sky caught Megan's attention as she tilted her head back, hoping for a few rays of warming sun on her face. A beautiful day, she decided, adjusting her mob cap. In fact, it was better than beautiful. It was perfect. A perfectly beautiful day.
A horse-drawn carriage rumbled down Botetourt Street, and the clop, clop, clop of horses' hooves stirred her imagination. Who had sat on this bench two hundred years ago? she wondered. Maybe it was someone just like herself, basking in the sun, gobbling goodies. Some brazen strumpet, she thought. If she were transported in time she would definitely be a brazen strumpet.
She finished her second cookie and drained the last drop of cider from her cup. She brushed the crumbs off her white linen apron and gaped in horror at her ankle-length, royal-blue woolen skirt. A huge, floppy-eared brown rabbit was eating a hole in it.
"Holy Toledo!" she shouted, jumping to her feet and wrenching the skirt away from the rabbit. She held the skirt up for closer examination and made a disgusted sound at the ragged hem. The rabbit looked at her with wide chocolate-brown eyes and twitched its nose.
"You miserable beast," she said. "Just look at this. How am I ever going to explain this? A rabbit ate my dress? Good grief."
She glared at the rabbit and decided it was the fattest one she'd ever seen. Extraordinarily cute, too. Big and fluffy, with soft brown fur and droopy ears. And it was smiling. Yes, she was sure of it. The blasted thing was smiling at her.
She knelt down and stroked its glossy back and soft ears. Two large shoes appeared beside the rabbit, white tennis shoes that had seen better days. The laces were broken and tied in knots, and the left shoe was stitched together with what appeared to be surgical sutures.
"Trying to steal my rabbit, huh?" a voice said from far above her.
Megan looked up. She could have picked him out of a crowd as the rabbit's owner, she thought. He reminded her of the rabbit. He didn't have big, floppy ears, of course. He had nice little ears that lay flat against his head and were begging to be nibbled. And he wasn't fat. He was just right, in faded jeans and a leather jacket with a red wool scarf wrapped around the neck. But he did have the same incredible chocolate eyes, and his hair was brown, just like the rabbit's, and just as strokable. He wasn't handsome. He was ... cute. Slightly upturned nose and wide, smiling mouth. A few laugh lines fanning from his eyes. Definitely very cute. And very huggable-just like the rabbit.
"Is this really your rabbit?" she asked.
He scooped the animal up and held it in the crook of his arm. "You bet. We're roomies."
Megan pressed her lips together and swept her skirt out for his inspection. "Well, your roomie ate my skirt."
"Are you kidding me? I hope he doesn't get sick." He narrowed his eyes at Megan. "Bad enough you tried to steal him, but feeding him your skirt! You should be ashamed of yourself."
Megan's mouth dropped open. He was joking, right?
He held out his hand. "Patrick Hunter. Nice to meet you, but don't do this again."
Without thinking Megan shook his hand and mumbled, "Megan Murphy. Okay."
She watched in astonishment while he gave her a funny sort of look, a quick appraisal that lingered for an extra moment at her mouth and ended with a boyish, almost embarrassed grin. He turned on his heel and sauntered away, disappearing behind the scuppernong-grape arbor.
Megan shook her head abruptly. Don't do this again? she repeated silently. Had he actually said that to her? Of all the nerve. She didn't care how cute he was-if she ever saw him and his rude rodent again, she'd tell him what for. She smashed the paper bag into the empty cider cup and stomped off to the gunsmith's shop. "Don't do this again," she muttered. Had he been kidding? She wasn't sure.
Patrick Hunter smiled as he opened the gate to his small, fenced-in back yard. Megan Murphy, he mused. He'd never met anyone so perfectly named. She'd looked like an apparition ...
Excerpted from Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich Copyright © 2006 by Janet Evanovich. Excerpted by permission.
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