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A Twist In Time
By Lee Karr
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDella Arnell crossed her arms and shivered as she looked out the window of the old hotel she'd recently bought for renovation. Despite an expensive new heating system, a chill remained in the high-ceilinged rooms and lobby of the historic building. In the darkness of rain and shadow, streetlights stood like lonely sentinels along the sidewalks of lower downtown Denver.
Staring out, she tried to focus beyond the streams of water assaulting the windowpane. She could barely make out a vacant lot and an old warehouse across the street. Most of the buildings on the famous "Row," Denver's 1880s red-light district, were being torn down or renovated. In the steady downpour of black rain, the street was without any sign of life. She was about to turn away, when a hand and face suddenly pressed against the glass at eye level. She cried out and jerked back.
The shadowy face disappeared and in the next moment there was pounding on the front door. "Let me in, Della."
Above the noise of the rain, she recognized Colin Delaney's voice. Relieved and angry at the same time, she opened the door to the dark-haired Irishman. "What on earth do you think you're doing, scaring me like that?" she railed.
"I didn't mean to frighten you." Thick black eyebrows and eyelashes dripped water as he squinted at her. "Sorry," he said gruffly as he brushed back the hair waving darkly around his face.
She would have preferred that a smile accompany his apology, but in the few weeks she'd known Colin, his strong Celtic features rarely softened into casual smiles. His rugged good looks had intrigued her when they first met, but something about his guarded nature made her uneasy. She wondered why he was paying her a visit on such a stormy night.
A flash of lightning forked across the night sky, followed by a loud clap of vibrating thunder. All at once, the chilled air in the hotel snapped with electricity, as if Colin had brought the storm in with him. As he stood there, looming over her, his face in shadow, Della wished he hadn't come. She was suddenly uneasy for the first time since she had moved into the empty three-story hotel. During the day, the place was filled with workmen doing the renovations, but at night she was alone - and vulnerable.
She gave herself a mental shake. Colin Delaney had sold her this hotel, which had been in his family for four generations, and she was satisfied that the investment would pay off now that the new Rockies baseball field was completed. All of her dealings with Colin had been straightforward and businesslike. Why was she uneasy about this visit?
"Did you walk from your office in this downpour?" she asked, trying to make some sense out of his showing up in the midst of lightning and thunder. As he took off his lightweight raincoat, she saw that the soft navy slacks and a light summer pullover damply accented his hard physique.
"I suppose I could have called, but I wanted to talk to you face-to-face," he admitted.
She was puzzled. From the first time she'd met Colin Delaney, she'd felt peculiarly off stride around him and found his strong masculine energy disconcerting. She knew he was a bachelor with no immediate family, and as far as she knew, no serious relationships at the moment. But he gave every indication of knowing his way around women. As much as she may have been tempted, their business relationship had never edged toward anything personal. Any romantic entanglement with a man like Colin Delaney would create the kind of emotional waves that Della had been trying to avoid. She wasn't prim or frigid, only cautious when it came to her love life. She'd always been able to control her emotions, and the few men who had briefly romanced her had never threatened the deep feelings she kept hidden and protected. She had to admit, however, that Colin challenged that protective detachment. She didn't like the way he could engage her emotions without even seeming to realize he was doing it. She felt her defenses go up. "I don't understand what could be so urgent to bring you out on a night like this."
"It's important," he said flatly.
A lot of property in the area had come down through the Delaney family to Colin. She knew that his investment company was turning a couple of old warehouses into loft apartments just a couple of blocks away. But he'd been very tight-lipped about the reasons he'd decided not to renovate the historic Denver Railroad Hotel himself.
"All right. Come back to my apartment," Della said. Their footsteps echoed on the wooden floor as she led the way down a short hall to the three rooms behind the hotel office, which she had turned into her private apartment. Blending the old with the new had been a challenge. She'd cleaned the brick fireplace, polished blackened copper fixtures to a bright glow, freshened the elaborate moldings adorning the walls and ceilings, and chosen wallpaper and window hangings that were harmonious with the ambience of the original building. She had filled the apartment with some nice pieces of old furniture from her aunt's home and had added a few things she'd found in the shops on Larimer Street.
Much to her surprise, Colin nodded his approval as his measuring gaze went around the living room. "I like it."
His open appreciation of what she'd accomplished in her apartment disarmed her. "Thank you," she said as a spurt of pleasure rushed through her.
"I think you've made a good investment."
She laughed. "I hope so. My Aunt Frances would be horrified to see what I've done with the inheritance she left me. She never gambled on anything speculative. Always put her money in solid investments. The idea of buying this place and spending so much money on renovations would have sent her into orbit. My aunt wasn't sentimental about anything. She was a hard-nosed businesswoman."
"Like you?" Was there a hint of a smile at the corner of those appealing masculine lips?
"I owe my aunt for whatever business sense I have," she admitted. "She raised my sister and me from the time we were ten and twelve. My parents were killed by a drunken motorist who demolished our car. Somehow Brenda and I miraculously survived the crash."
"I didn't know you had a sister."
An ache Della thought she'd conquered stabbed her.
"I'm two years older. Brenda never adjusted to Aunt Frances's strict upbringing and ran away from home when she was sixteen. She broke my heart and was a great disappointment to my aunt."
"And you tried to make up for it?"
"I suppose so," she said thoughtfully. "Yes. I guess I've always been what you'd call an overachiever." She gave a light dismissive laugh and fixed her gray-green eyes on him. She realized she was glad he'd come. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"
Excerpted from A Twist In Time by Lee Karr Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.