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She fought the urge to peel away from the curb, to keep driving until she reached the airstrip just outside of Oakwood and caught the next flight back to New York. Turning off the ignition, she glanced down at herself, then dropped her head to the steering wheel.
She was a B-movie cliche.
Her city clothes, black on black on black, had seemed a logical choice when she'd left the roadside motel on the outskirts of town. She was sneaking back in the dead of night, for heaven's sake. She needed invisibility, anonymity.
With a groan, she sat back. What she needed was to have her head examined. Who cared what she was wearing, when she was about to walk back into the world that had nearly destroyed her?
Her eyes traveled to the dormer windows her grandfather slept behind. Controlling yet distant, Oliver Wilmington had been the only family she'd ever known after her mother had died giving her life, and he'd let her down when she'd needed him the most. Now, seventeen years later, he couldn't know she was back. No one could. If she was lucky and found what she'd come for, she'd be out of here and back in New York by tomorrow afternoon.
Get on with it, Carrinne.
She pushed open the door and slid out, gritting her teeth against the sick taste of fear.
"Get in, find Mom's diary, then get out," she whispered, creeping through the dimness toward the gray brick house. The diary had to be in the attic, inside the trunk that held her mother's things. "Forget about everything else."
But the past shimmered in every shadow as she skirted landscaped shrubs and flowerbeds that were exactly where they had always been. She turned the corner toward the back terrace and stumbled to a halt at the base of an enormous cypress tree, her childhood refuge where she'd read fairy tales and dreamed girlish dreams.
Her old friend welcomed her home, its phantomlike branches rustling in the night. She turned her back on the memories, on the dreams she'd finally wised up and stopped dreaming years ago.
The solarium's angles came into view. The sight of its glass-and-wooden frame kicked the butterflies in her stomach into a frenzied tap dance. Nostalgia she hadn't expected tugged her lips into a smile even as she panted for breath, winded by the short walk from the car. She struggled against the light-headed, ear-ringing haze, bending at the waist, hands on her knees.
Not now. She straightened and waited for her vision to clear, her lungs to work. This isn't happening, not now that I'm this close.
Her equilibrium returning, she took in the sight of the one place in her grandfather's ordered world that had truly belonged to her. Inside the solarium's sanctuary, she'd nurtured tiny buds and seedlings, watching them burst to life year after year. Oliver had called her obsession folly, but the plants had needed her when no one else had. And the solarium had meant freedom in ways her grandfather had never imagined.
She approached the corner windows, willing strength into her legs. Ivy cascaded like a waterfall from a nearby oak, obscuring all but a few inches of the long, opaque panes of glass. She reached for the screwdriver in her back pocket, but a whisper from the past stopped her. The stone was still there, directly beneath the last window, mostly buried now. She knelt and pulled until the rock shifted and she could feel beneath. When her fingers closed around cold steel, her heart nearly beat its way out of her chest.
Pulling the encrusted screwdriver free, she wiped until streaks of metal gleamed in the pale moonlight. How many nights had she done this, popping the loose latch she'd discovered on the last window and sneaking into a cold, silent house long after curfew? Only, back then she hadn't been alone. Back then there'd been one last kiss to keep her warm until she could escape and once more find heaven in the arms of the boy she'd thought she'd love forever. Her hand clenched around the tool. An overpowering urge to hurl it into the window brought her to her senses.
Standing, she shoved aside the ivy, using the screwdriver to jimmy the latch free. She pushed against the vertical window, strained when it refused to swing inward. The frame stubbornly resisted, then wrenched open with a wood-splitting moan. Staring at the shattered hinge, Carrinne held her breath and waited. Night sounds continued their hypnotic refrain, unperturbed by the commotion.
No alarm sounded, though she hadn't really expected one. Her grandfather abhorred newfangled conveniences, no matter how practical. Changing with the times was a sign of weakness. For once, Oliver's uncompromising certainty that his way was always best would work in her favor.
She pocketed the old screwdriver and slipped through the narrow opening. Back into the one place on earth she'd sworn never to set foot in again.
"WHAT AM I doing here?" Sheriff Eric Rivers cut the headlights and turned into Governor's Square.
"My question exactly," his younger brother, Tony, muttered from the passenger's seat of the squad car.
"You could have let me take this one on my own."
"No way are you going solo on a burglary, kid." Eric parked in front of the Wilmington mansion and scanned the grounds for signs of trouble. All he saw was the house he'd managed to avoid for the last seventeen years.
"Unit Fifteen, at 2201 Governor's Square," Tony barked their location through the hands-free radio attached to his uniform near the shoulder - standard equipment Eric had insisted everyone on patrol start carrying. "Give us five to have a look around."
"Roger, Fifteen," Marge replied from dispatch.
Eric walked around the car and waited at the curb for Tony, shaking his head at his brother's scowl. Tony shoved his nightstick into his belt and adjusted his sidearm with a jerk.
Excerpted from The Unknown Daughter by Anna DeStefano Copyright © 2004 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 9, 2008
Though her memories are bad, Carrinne Wilmington must return to Oakwood, Georgia to learn the identity of her father because she needs him for the transplant. Her plan is to avoid her grandfather and the man she loves Eric Rivers who both rejected her and drove her from town. Besides not wanting to see the two gentlemen who rebuffed her, she wants to hide her teenage daughter Maggie from the duo especially Sheriff Rivers, the father................... Carrinne¿s effort to sneak in without detection fails from her first effort to get in and out as she is caught by a silent alarm and Eric. Worse someone wants the secret identity of her father left secret and is willing to kill the nosy Carrinne to accomplish this deed. Carrinne must give up on her quest, take her chance on surviving a killer, or rely on Eric to keep her safe although she does not trust the man she disappointingly still loves............................... This entertaining contemporary romance is a five tissue box tale filled with angst and perhaps too much tear jerking yet fans will want even more. The cast keeps the tale from going over the edge into soap opera city as Eric sees a second chance, Carrinne and her grandfather has an opportunity, and then there is magnificent Maggie, perhaps older than her teen years suggest. Readers will appreciate Anna DeStefano¿s debut except perhaps tree lovers as an awful lot of tissues will be used............................. Harriet Klausner
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