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"Death comes, as it must, to all men, and with it the inevitable separation from loved ones," Reverend Tippet droned in his flat solemn tone. "We will miss Henry Shaw, beloved husband, father, and prominent member of our community." The reverend paused and glanced about the large group gathered to bid their final farewell. "Henry would be pleased to see so many friends here today."
Henry Shaw would have taken one look at the line of cars backed up to the gated entrance of Salvation Cemetery, and he would have regarded the respectable turnout as somewhat less than his due. Until he'd been voted out of office last year in favor of that yellow-dog Democrat George Tanasee, he'd been mayor of Truly, Idaho for over twentyfour years.
Henry had been a big man in the small community. He'd owned half the businesses and had more money then the whole town combined. Shortly after his first wife had divorced him twenty-six years ago, he'd gone out and. replaced her with the prettiest woman he could find. He'd owned the finest pair of Weimaraners in the state, Duke and Dolores, and until recently, he'd lived in the biggest house in town. But that had been before those Allegrezza boys had started building all over the damn place. He'd had a stepdaughter too, but he hadn't talked about her in years.
Henry had loved his position in the community. He'd been warm and generous to the people who'd agreed with his opinions, but if you weren't Henry's friend, you were his enemy. Those who'd dared to challenge him usually regretted it. He'd been a pompous, redneck son of a bitch, and when they'd pulled his charred remains from the inferno which hadclaimed his life, there were some members of the community who felt that Henry Shaw got exactly what he deserved.
"To the earth we give the body of our loved one. Henry's life..."
Delaney Shaw, Henry's stepdaughter, listened to the bland Muzak quality in Reverend Tippet's voice and cast a sideways glance at her mother. The soft shadows of bereavement looked good on Gwen Shaw, but Delaney wasn't surprised. Her mother looked good in everything. She always had. Delaney returned her gaze to the spray of yellow roses on Henry's casket. The bright June sun shot sparks off the polished mahogany and shiny brass hardware. She reached inside the pocket of the mint green suit she'd borrowed from her mother and found her sunglasses. Sliding the tortoiseshell frame onto her face, she hid from the sun's stabbing rays and the curious glances of the people around her. She straightened her shoulders and took several long deep breaths. She hadn't been home for ten years. She'd always meant to come back and make her peace with Henry. Now it was too late.
A light breeze tossed red and gold streaked curls about her face, and she pushed her chin-length hair behind her ears. She should have tried. She shouldn't have stayed away for so long. She shouldn't have allowed so many years to pass, but she'd never thought he'd die. Not Henry. The last time she'd seen him, they'd said some horrible things to each other. His anger had been so fierce, she could still remember it clearly.
A sound like the wrath of God rolled in the distance, and Delaney raised her gaze to the heavens, half expecting to see thunder and lightning bolts, certain the arrival of a man like Henry had created turbulence in paradise. The sky remained a clear blue, but the rumbling continued, drawing her attention to the iron gates of the cemetery.
Straddling gleaming black lacquer and shimmering chrome, windblown hair tousled about broad shoulders, a lone biker bore down on the crowd gathered to bid their farewells. The monster engine vibrated the ground and shook the air, the act of committal suffocated by a set of bad-dog pipes. Dressed in faded jeans and a soft white T-shirt, the biker slowed and brought the Harley to a rumbling stop in front of the gray hearse. The engine died, and his boot heel scraped the asphalt as he laid the bike on its kickstand. Then in one smooth motion, he rose. Several days' growth of beard darkened a strong jaw and cheeks, drawing attention to a firm mouth. A small gold hoop pierced his earlobe while a pair of platinum Oakley's concealed his eyes.
There was something vaguely familiar about the bad-ass biker. Something about his smooth olive skin and black hair, but Delaney couldn't place him.
"Oh, my God," her mother gasped beside her. "I can't believe he dared to show up dressed like that."
Her incredulity was shared by other mourners who had the bad manners to break into loud whispers.
"Always has been bad to the bone."
Levi's caressed his firm thighs, cupped his crotch, and covered his long legs in soft denim. The warm breeze flattened his shirt against his broad muscular chest. Delaney lifted her gaze to his face again. Slowly he removed the sunglasses from the bridge of his straight nose and shoved them into the front pocket of his T-shirt. His light gray eyes stared directly back at her.
Delaney's heart stopped and her bones fused. She recognized those eyes burning a hole in her. They were the exact copy of his Irish father's but much more startling because they were set in a face typical of his Basque heritage.
Nick Allegrezza, the source of her girlhood fascinations and the origin of her disillusions. Nick, the slick-talking, smooth-tongued snake. He stood with his weight on one foot as if he didn't notice the stir he'd caused. More than likely he did notice and simply didn't care. Delaney had been gone ten years, but some things obviously hadn't changed. Nick had filled out and his features had matured, but his presence still attracted attention.
Truly Madly Yours. Copyright © by Rachel Gibson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.