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Honor Donovan took one look and knew the man was trouble. On the other hand, she was already in the kind of trouble even tier family's company, Donovan International, couldn't handle.
"if you're from the police, shut the door on your way out," she said. "if you're a reporter, go to hell."
"Been there. Done that."
"You have the T-shirt to prove it?"
He reached for the buttons on his stained denim jacket.
"Never mind," she said quickly. "Are you a reporter?"
"No. I'm a fishing guide,"
You are the Ms. Honor Donovan who advertised for a person with expertise in Pacific Northwest waters in general and SeaSport boats in particular'?"
She sighed and accepted the inevitable. The big man with the black beard stubble, light eyes, scatted left eye- brow, and clean fingernails hadn't wandered by accident into her missing brother's Puget Sound cottage. Despite this man's less-than-cozy looks, her instincts said he was a better candidate than the others who had come looking for the job.
One of the men had been a cop trying to pass for a fisherman. Another was a recent immigrant whose English defied understanding. A third man was convinced she really wanted the body he was so proud of. The fourth man's English was good, but his eyes had made her think of things that lived in swamps.
It had been three days since anyone else had applied for the job. She was going nuts counting minutes and waiting for Kyle to appear suddenly in the doorway with his crooked grin and a good explanation of why the cops thought he had stolen a million bucks in amber. She refused to consider any other reason forhis disappearance, especially the one that kept her from sleeping, the one that made her throat close around tears she wouldn't cry.
Kyle had to be alive. He just had to be.
Belatedly Honor realized that the most recent applicant was still waiting for her to say that she was indeed the one who had posted ads all over the small town of Anacortes.
"I'm the one," she said.
"You took the words right out of my mouth."
She looked at his mouth and knew how Little Red Riding Hood felt when she first saw "grandmother's" teeth.
"Excuse me?" she asked.
"Your ad could have been written with me in mind," he explained
"Do you have references?"
"Driver's license? Fishing license? Boat handier's ticket? Tetanus shot?"
"How about rabies?"
The retort popped out before Honor could think better of it. It came front a lifetime of dealing with big brothers.
"Try Jake. Saves time."
"Um, Jake. I meant references given by people you worked for in the past."
"You don't know much about fishing guides, do you?"
"If I did, I wouldn't have to hire one, would I?"
She thought of poor Little Red. "You should work on that smile. It really isn't reassuring."
Jake tried to look downcast. It wasn't any more convincing than his smile.
"If your hands are half as quick as your tongue," he said, "I'll make a fisherman out of you in no time."
"Ain't no such animal."
"Man and woman both end in an. Do you want the job?"
"Fishersan," he said, rolling the word around on his tongue. "Yeah, I want the job. We'll be the only fishersen on the water."
This time Jake's smile was slow, warm, amused, and something more. It reminded Honor that she was a woman as well as the seared younger sister of a missing man. She looked down at her hands and cleared her throat.
"Fishersen?" she asked, distracted. "Oh, I get it. En. Plural. Men and women. You're pretty quick yourself. When can you start?"
"Do you have a fishing license?"
"Then we can't start yet. Too bad. The sun is out. The wind isn't- Slack tide in a few hours. It doesn't get any better than this in the San Juan Islands."
"What would we be fishing for?"
"Whatever we catch. Less disappointment that way."
"Is that your life philosophy?"
"Only after I grew up."
She lifted her head and looked at him intently.
"What's the matter?" Jake asked. "Are my ears on backwards?"
"I was just trying to imagine you as a child in need of growing up."
"Funny. I have no problem imagining you that way. Can you swim?"
"Like a fish."
"Considering my profession and all, you might want to rethink that description."
"You have a point."
"It's on the business end of the hook. First lesson of fishing."
Ambushed by Jake's slow, unexpected smile and deadpan humor, Honor laughed almost helplessly. Then she had to fight tears that were burning behind her eyes.
In the past few weeks she had been through too many sleepless nights. That was why after only two minutes with Jake Mallory she felt like she had been hit by a truck. His particular combination of rough edges, male warmth, and wry intelligence would have appealed to her under any circumstances. Right now, when her defenses were down and her emotions were all over the place, he was lethally attractive to her.
Bad choice of words, she thought. Really bad If she started thinking about death she would cloud up and rain all over Kyle's messy desk,
Blinking hard, Honor stared through one of the cottage's many small windows. Beyond the panes of glass, fit trees swept down rocky slopes to the cold blue-green waters of Puget Sound. Amber Beach was a strip of tawny sand ringed by dark rocks and stranded logs bleached pale by the sea. Kyle's twenty-seven-foot powerboat gleamed whitely next to the floating dock he had built. He had named the boat Tomorrow, because he rarely had time to go fishing today. Amber Beach
. Copyright © by Elizabeth Lowell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.