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A Touch Of The Beast
By Linda Jones
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHawk studied the boxes and bottles of remedies that were neatly arranged on the shelf. Greenlaurel's sole pharmacy, Chapman Drugs, usually had everything a man might possibly need. But since the doctors were stumped about the cause of Cassie's sudden onset of seizures, Hawk had no idea what to buy to make his sister feel better.
What he really wanted to do was hunt down one Dr. Shane Farhold and break the man's scrawny neck. Farhold had always seemed like a decent enough guy, not the kind of man who would knock up a woman and then disappear. Hawk knew he'd be angry even if Cassie hadn't been having strange spells.
He grabbed a couple of medications off the shelf. Something for nausea, something else for headaches. At the last minute he snagged a bottle of pink stuff. His mother had always given them that for every little illness. He didn't really think it would do any good, but he had to try something. On the way out of town he'd stop at the grocery store for ginger ale and soda crackers. They were as likely as anything else to work.
Deep down he knew the medicines that might help Cassie with her normal pregnancy ailments would do nothing at all for the mild but disturbing seizures no one could explain. And he didn't dare ask anyone about a treatment for the odd flashes of precognition that followed the episodes.
"You won't find what you're looking for here," a smoky voice whispered.
Hawk turned sharply to find an older woman, one he did not recognize, standing just a few feet away. He hadn't even known she was present until she'd spoken. In ordinary circumstances he knew very well what was going on around him; his worry for Cassie had clouded his senses.
The woman who looked up at him with fearless green eyes was not a resident of Greenlaurel, Texas, or the surrounding county. Hawk had grown up on a ranch outside this small town, and with the exception of his four years in the military, he'd spent his entire life here. Besides, except for Harmony Eastwood, a middle-aged, self-professed, die-hard hippie who had been emulating Stevie Nicks for more than twenty years, the ladies of Greenlaurel didn't dress this way. The woman's silver-streaked dark hair fell well past her shoulders, and the long, loose-fitting black dress she wore could have come straight out of the seventies.
"How do you know what I'm looking for?" Hawk asked sharply.
The woman leaned in slightly closer. "Your sister is ill, and you want only to take care of her. What she needs, for herself and for the baby, you won't find in any pharmacy."
Great. Apparently word was already out that Cassie was pregnant and sick. Not that Hawk cared, or ever had, what people thought about him or his family. But Cassie deserved better.
"Whatever you're selling, I'm not buying." He headed for the cash register at the front of the store.
"I'm not selling anything, Hawk."
He wasn't surprised that she knew his name, either. In a small town, information was easy enough to come by. Hawk glanced through the glass front door of the pharmacy and smiled at Baby. The big yellow dog - a mixed breed with a healthy dose of golden retriever - sat right where Hawk had told her to stay, watching for him through the glass and waiting patiently.
Hawk placed his purchases on the counter, and Ike Chapman began to ring them up. Slowly. "I heard that Cassie wasn't feeling well," Ike said with a nod of his balding head. "I hope she gets to feeling better real soon."
"Thanks," Hawk said succinctly.
The strange old woman circled around him, as if she were headed for the front door. Ike watched her as closely as Hawk did. After all, she was a stranger, and strangers in Greenlaurel were always suspect. The woman moved gracefully, but before she passed by, she swept in with a swish of her skirts to grab Hawk's hand. She pressed a piece of paper into his palm and folded his fingers over the note. "What you need can be found here. Look to the past for your answers, Hawk."
Hawk gently but firmly took his hand from the woman and reached into his back pocket to grab his wallet so he could pay Ike for the medicine. The bell on the front door rang gently as the woman in black opened the door.
He was about to toss her note into a trash can behind the counter when she said in a very soft voice, "By the stars above, you look so very much like your mother."
Hawk's head snapped around just in time to see the door slowly close. He bolted, leaving his purchases sitting on the counter as he ran after the woman. A newly arriving customer, agonizingly slow and nearly ancientAddie Peterson, opened the door before he reached it. Standing front and center and planted there like a tree, she said hello, smiled and began to tell Hawk about her newest ailment. He nodded curtly, obviously impatient, and waited for her to move out of the doorway. When she took a step forward, he slipped around her and burst through the pharmacy doors.
Hawk searched up and down the street for any sign of the woman who'd given him the message, but she was already gone. Where could she have disappeared to so quickly?
Baby stood. Her ears perked up and her tail wagged furiously. Hawk dropped to his haunches and looked the dog squarely in the eye. He reached out to stroke firmly but gently behind Baby's left ear. "Where did she go, girl? Show me."
Baby ran down the sidewalk, turning sharply into the alley between the pharmacy and the coffee shop next door. Hawk followed. Through the narrow alley they ran, then down a grassy hill and into the parking lot of the restaurant that had closed down last year. In the middle of the small parking lot Baby came to a dead stop. Confused, she walked in a tight circle and then turned her gaze toward the street.
Hawk cursed under his breath, and Baby looked up sharply.
"Not your fault, Baby." Hawk reached down and rubbed her head. "You did good." But the strange woman was nowhere in sight. She'd obviously left a car waiting in the parking lot, and she must've run from the drugstore in order to escape. Even with Mrs. Peterson slowing him down he should have been able to catch the woman who'd pressed the note into his hand.
When she'd said that Hawk looked like his mother, she must have been talking about his birth mother. The woman he'd called Mother all his life had been five foot one in her best heels. She'd had a round and cheerful face with dimples that appeared when she smiled, blue eyes and blond hair. No one had ever mentioned a resemblance before, because there wasn't one.
Hawk's eyes and hair were dark, and he'd always been tall for his age. In his youth he'd been lean, but in the past few years he'd added some muscle to his frame. His disposition was nothing like his mother's, either. She'd been sunny. She'd been able to laugh easily. She'd loved people and they loved her.
Nope, Hawk Donovan had nothing in common with his mother.
Excerpted from A Touch Of The Beast by Linda Jones Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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