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By Rhonda Nelson
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS again?"
"Yours," Trudy said drolly.
Faith Bonner bit her bottom lip, glanced at the passing scenery as they wound their way higher and higher up into the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Despite the glorious display of fall color, a tremor of trepidation shook her tummy.
"Well, it was a bad one," she said grimly.
Her assistant expelled a small breath. "No, it wasn't - it was brilliant." Smiling, she nudged Faith's shoulder. "You just need to relax. That was the purpose of coming up early, remember? I'm going to finalize all the arrangements for the To Catch a Thief event - which is going to be spectacular, by the way," Trudy said excitedly. "And you're going to rest."
That would be a neat trick, Faith thought, since her muscles were practically atrophied with stress. What the hell had she been thinking? Honestly, they could have hosted this publicity event in any number of fine hotels in Nashville, or any other large city, for that matter. Not in the wilds of east Tennessee, where signs like Do Not Feed Bears Under Penalty of Law were posted every several hundred feet.
While Faith appreciated nature, she nonetheless preferred her creature comforts. By all accounts, Oak Crest Lodge - their ultimate destination - had every necessary amenity, but Faith couldn't help but be a little nervous this far removed from true civilization. While she wasn't precisely a dyed-in-the-wool city girl, she still hadn't had a single camping/hiking/kayaking outdoor adventure that hadn't ended in disaster. Broken bones, snake bites, poison oak ... You name it, it had most likely happened to her. She was a graceless klutz and had long ago accepted that unflattering truth about herself.
To make matters worse, she'd been attacked by a small dog as a child - a Chihuahua, for pity's sake - but the experience had been nothing short of traumatic and had left her ridiculously terrified of most animals - particularly ones with teeth. Faith's worried gaze scoured the tree line and she fidgeted in her seat. The idea that wild creatures with huge, glistening incisors roamed in these beautiful woods scared the living daylights out of her, made her stomach twist with an oh-hell kind of dread.
Trudy negotiated a hairpin turn. "I don't know why you're so worried about this, Faith," she chided gently. "It's not like you don't know what you're doing. Hell, you know the character - you've been writing the Zoe Wilder books for years - and you wrote the mini-mystery for this weekend. Why are you so freaked?"
Faith summoned a droll smile. "Oh, I don't know. I guess the idea of making a complete fool of myself is a little intimidating."
Trudy huffed an exasperated sigh. "You're not going to make a fool of yourself. First of all, no one but you will know if you screw up. And secondly, the fans are going to be so excited about being a part of this that nothing else will matter."
Faith had her doubts about that. She knew her readers expected her to be every bit as bold and brash, as hot and sexy as the heroine - Zoe Wilder - in her wildly popular romantic adventure books. Faith resisted the urge to snort. She and Zoe were polar opposites, couldn't be any more different. Faith had purposely given Zoe every trait she'd like to possess but, sadly, didn't.
Instead, she lived out her dreams vicariously through her audacious, chic, savvy gun-toting heroine. Through her books, she was beautiful, she was brave and fearless, charming, witty and sexy. She wore too-tight too-short skirts, a push-up bra and red lipstick. And, when taking care of the bad guys hadn't been enough - when Faith had found herself miserably lonely - she'd given Zoe Nash - a badass to end all badasses, a to-die-for heartthrob whose melting smile was so hot it could make an orchid bloom in an arctic frost.
She'd also made him the best lover in the northern hemisphere and she couldn't write a love scene between the two during which she didn't have an overwhelming orgasm. She repressed a delicate shiver.
In fact, though she'd never risk the psych ward by admitting this to anyone, Faith feared that the fictitious Nash Austin - a total figment of her imagination - had ruined her for any living male. Now how pathetic was that? She'd fallen in love with a character, a person who existed only on paper and in her mind.
Furthermore, she'd made him so damn good that no real guy could ever compare. Or at least if one did, Faith had yet to find him. If someday hell froze over and he did happen along her path, Faith knew he wouldn't be the type to be interested in her.
Men like that - or any man, for that matter - rarely gave her a second glance.
Regrettably, she seemed to blend in, like a part of the scenery.
Most of the time, Faith preferred being unremarkable. She liked order - her childhood had provided enough chaos, thank you very much - and moved through her daily routine without any glitches. She got up every morning, ran a couple of miles, came home, showered, ate breakfast, then sat down at her computer and worked on her work-in-progress until her belly rumbled. She'd eat lunch, then work until another hunger pain struck, heralding the end of that day in front of the computer.
Excerpted from Unforgettable by Rhonda Nelson Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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