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Wanted! [NOOK Book]

Overview


He's looking for revenge…

Tough, rugged and a dead-eye shot—Ross Santana is the kind of man a woman wants at her side…and in her bed.

She's a wanted woman…

Respectable, refined, her town's virtuous bank-teller—Lark Renault hides a dark secret.

And he wants her for ...

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Wanted!

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Overview


He's looking for revenge…

Tough, rugged and a dead-eye shot—Ross Santana is the kind of man a woman wants at her side…and in her bed.

She's a wanted woman…

Respectable, refined, her town's virtuous bank-teller—Lark Renault hides a dark secret.

And he wants her for himself!

Their new passion heals old wounds, but the bounty hunter and the outlaw must find a way to work together against the danger on their trail!


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459229884
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 1/17/2012
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 288
  • File size: 519 KB

Meet the Author


Pam Crooks has long enjoyed the Old West era. Having lived in Nebraska all her life, it’s no surprise! She penned her first story in a spiral notebook with only the Tonight Show to keep her company and when the computer age hit, she was off and running! Pam is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband and their four daughters, two sons-in-law, their very first grandchild and last but not least, their good-natured golden lab mix, Spencer.


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Read an Excerpt


Five Years Later

Lark Renault pushed the Total key on her shiny new Victor adding machine, pulled the crank and compared the number which printed on the paper tape to the sum on her ledger page. She smiled and sat back in satisfaction.

Balanced to the penny.

She closed the ledger. The last of the quarterly reports Mr. Templeton, the Ida Grove Bank's president, had asked her to compile was finished. She took great pride in that he trusted her with the responsibility, especially since she'd only arrived in this western Iowa town barely six months ago and was his newest employee.

Not that the institution had a large number of people on the payroll. Still, he'd expanded her duties beyond that of a teller, even trusting her with managing the place by herself every day while the rest of the employees went to lunch.

Lark supposed it was her gift with numbers. She was amazingly accurate with them. Sums came quickly to her, even without the aid of the latest Victor Mr. Templeton ordered just for her. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division — numbers fascinated her, any which way she could figure them.

"Miss Renault. Come in here, please."

Mr. Templeton called her from his office at the rear of the small bank and sent her thoughts scattering. She rose quickly from her desk to obey.

Glass enclosed the crisp, efficient room where he conducted the most important financial transactions. Here, he could see each customer as they walked in and the tellers who assisted them. Here, too, was where the vault had been placed and, under Mr. Templeton's watchful eye, no one could enter the steel-enclosed chamber without his notice.

"My wife and son will be arriving soon," he said. Silver streaked the hair at his temples, though he was only a decade or so older than Lark's twenty-two years. His well-tailored suit showed not a speck of lint or unnecessary wrinkle. He was always fastidious about his appearance, from his meticulously trimmed fingernails to the shine on his leather shoes. "Show them in when they get here, won't you?"

"Certainly, Mr. Templeton."

"We'll be going to Omaha for the weekend, so I'll be leaving the bank early this afternoon. I'd like you to close up for me in my absence."

Pride swelled through her at this new responsibility. "I can do that, Mr. Templeton. Of course."

He smiled, gave her a brisk nod of dismissal and immersed himself in his work again. Upon leaving his office to return to her desk, she nearly collided with Mrs. Pankonin, the head cashier.

"So you'll be locking the doors today," she sniffed in a voice their employer couldn't hear. She held a stack of bank notes in each hand and was on her way into the vault to store them.

"Yes, I will." Lark refused to let the older woman's antagonism deflate her pride. Perhaps if she wasn't so crotchety all the time, Mr. Templeton would be more inclined to depend on her more. As it was, most days he tended to avoid her. "Excuse me, won't you?"

Lark sashayed past her. From Mrs. Pankonin's perspective, she guessed, it wasn't fair that Mr. Templeton depended on Lark so much, not when Mrs. Pankonin had been employed longer than any of them, including Mr. Templeton himself. The woman knew the workings of the bank, inside and out. She was certainly capable of any task given to her.

Lark closed her mind to the woman's jealousy. She loved her job too much to let the pinch-nosed, whiny-voiced widow bother her unduly.

She had just finished figuring the interest due upon a draft and recording a customer's payment when Amelia Templeton arrived with her six-year-old son, Phillip. A cloud of expensive perfume alerted Lark to her presence, and before she could direct the pair into the president's office, Phillip pulled his hand from his mother's and darted toward Lark.

"I sit here, Mama," he said and crawled onto the chair closest to Lark's desk.

"But, Phillip," Amelia said with a doting smile. "Don't you want to see Papa? He has peppermint candy in his drawer for you."

"Don't want peppermint." The little boy shook his head emphatically. "I sit here with Lark."

"You must address her properly." Amelia's tone was much too gentle to convince the child to obey. She glanced apologetically at Lark. "I'm sorry. What is your name?"

"Renault," Lark said, trying not to feel inferior that a six-year-old knew who she was but the bank president's wife didn't. "Miss Lark Renault."

"Oh, that's right. I'd forgotten." She turned back to her son. "Did you hear, darling? You must address her as Miss Ree-no."

"No, no," Lark corrected quickly. "It's French. Raynau."

Amelia blinked. Clearly, the woman didn't understand the differences in pronunciation, nor did she care about them either way. "Do you mind watching him while I see my husband?"

"Not at all." Lark forced a smile. What else could she say? Amelia was the bank president's wife. Lark had no choice but to be gracious and add child-caring to her duties for the time being.

Petticoats rustling, Amelia swept into the president's office. Lark busied herself double-checking her figures on the draft she'd just completed and found them accurate as usual. With no customers to assist at the moment, she turned to her young charge and found him staring at her in blatant curiosity.

She'd learned from Mrs. Pankonin that Phillip Templeton had been sickly since the day he was born. Lark was certainly no expert on children, but even she could tell he was small-boned and frail for his age. She doubted he played much outside at all — his skin was too pale, too smooth, too clean. He wore a neat little suit — a replica of his father's — and she couldn't help wondering if he'd ever dressed in dungarees, gotten dirt under his fingernails or scraped up his knees. Tiny, gold-rimmed spectacles sat on the bridge of his nose; his hair was slicked down and parted in a perfect line down one side of his head.

He clutched a drawing pad to his chest and continued to stare at her through the lenses. He stared so intently Lark had to resist the urge to scold him for his rudeness.

She forced a smile. "So, Phillip. I understand you're going to Omaha for the weekend."

The boy nodded somberly, his little legs swinging.

A moment passed. "Well, what will you do when you get there?"

Slender shoulders lifted in a shrug. "Don't know."

"Perhaps you'll go to a fine restaurant. Or attend a performance at the opera house."

Again, he shrugged. Obviously, neither option excited him much.

She grappled for something else to talk about. Up to now, she'd had pitifully little experience making conversation with small children. She indicated the pad of paper he held like it was his best friend. "Do you like to draw?"

For the first time, his bespectacled eyes lit up. He nodded vigorously.

"What's your favorite thing to sketch?" she asked.

"Outlaws."

Lark couldn't help a small gasp. "Outlaws!"

"Robbers is my favorite."

"Oh, Phillip. You shouldn't — It's hardly appropriate for a little boy to — "

"See?" He opened the sketch pad and thrust it at her. She gaped at the penciled shapes on the paper, and though he was only six, the markings he'd drawn were appallingly precise.

Her heart began to pound. "Here's a train," Phillip said. His small finger demanded that she look. "The outlaws are going to rob it. They got guns."

Oh, God, Lark thought in dismay, her gaze riveted to the trio of thieves riding on horses with their weapons smoking. One of them looked like a woman, her hair trailing from beneath her hat....

"And the train has a safe with lots of money in it, but I didn't drawed it 'cuz it's inside the train and you can't see it."

She pressed her fingers to her mouth, watched in horrified fascination as he flipped another page on his sketch pad.

"But I drawed a safe in this picture. See? The money's all gone. The outlaws shot the trainman, and he's dead."

Her eyes widened at the definite shape of a man, lying on the floor, the safe wide open. And empty.

"How can you know about such things?" she demanded, snapping his sketch pad closed. She was tempted to throw the thing in her waste receptacle, but thought better of it. Phillip was Mr. Templeton's son, after all.

"Cuz Papa has a stereoscope."

"He has pictures of outlaws, too?"

He nodded. "He lets me look at them sometimes."

"He does, does he?" She clucked her tongue in disapproval. The newfangled viewer brought images on slides to life. The images were mostly created by actors posing as outlaws for a photographer, but sometimes the outlaws themselves posed, just for fun. Was it any wonder a little boy believed them real?

The child held the drawings against his chest again. "Mama doesn't like me looking at pictures of outlaws. She thinks I'll get scared from 'em."

Lark's mouth tightened. "They're bad people, Phillip."

"I'm not scared of outlaws, Lark. Are you?"

She gritted her teeth from the child's incessant chattering. "Some, I suppose."

"One of Papa's slides has a lady outlaw in it. You ever hear of a lady outlaw?" He grinned, clearly amused.

Lark glared at him. She didn't think the matter funny at all.

"Know what? Papa's scared that outlaws is going to rob his bank some day."

She rose abruptly. Enough was enough. She refused to listen to any more crazy talk about outlaws and bank robbers, and though Amelia expected her to watch over her son, Lark left him sitting in his chair while she headed to the vault to find something else to do. Mrs. Pankonin could keep an eye on him instead.

A small hand tugged at her skirts. Lark's step faltered, but she didn't stop. Phillip hung on, his shiny-shoed feet scampering to keep up with her.

"Where you going, Lark? Can I come with you?"

"I have work to do." She halted, pried his fingers loose from her skirt, and resumed walking, right into Mr. Templeton's office. It wasn't long before the boy was hanging onto her again.

"You going into Papa's vault, Lark? I've never been in the vault before." His voice danced with excitement. He ignored his parents, who smiled indulgently at his enthusiasm. It was all Lark could do to keep from plopping the boy into his mother's lap so she could take care of him.

Once inside the small room, Phillip stared owlishly around him. "O-oh. Look at all the money, Lark. There must be a million dollars in here."

His hushed voice gave her pause. The first time she had stepped into this room, she, too, was taken aback at the amount of currency and gold coins the vault held. Theirs was only a small-town bank; one in a large city would hold several hundred thousand dollars more. Still, to a little boy, the money would look like a fortune.

"No, Phillip. Not a million. Not even close," she said thoughtfully, and upon realizing he no longer clung to her skirts, she busied herself counting a stack of dollar bills.

"Can I help, Lark? Can I?"

"No, you may not."

"I can count good. One, two, three — "

"I'm sure you can count just fine." Exasperated, she stopped counting, her place lost. Now she'd have to start over again. "You can sit next to me and watch if you promise not to say another word."

Again, his eyes lit up. "I'll be real quiet."

Not at all convinced, she found a wooden stool, placed it right beside her and whisked Phillip into the seat. The child hardly weighed a thing, he was so frail, and some of her annoyance with him dissipated.

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