She wasn't strictly beautiful, but something about Maggie Mann made a man sit up and take notice. Like her warm green eyes. Her honeyed smile. And the gun she carried with confident ease. Yes, there was something about Maggie, all right. And scientist Rick Dornier wasn't letting her out of his sight until he discovered what made her tick--and what she knew about his missing sister.
The fact that she stirred his blood was an inconvenience he would have to conceal. Because as they became reluctant partners in unraveling a web of danger and deceit, love might prove the deadliest distraction of all....
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By Anne Woodard
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe sign swinging from the wrought-iron rack over the door said Cuppa Joe's in bright red letters. The painted placard propped in the window read, Coffee, Pastries, Homemade Sandwiches. Come On In!
The coffee shop was in the heart of the restored downtown of Fenton, Colorado, where a pedestrian mall had replaced the formerly traffic-choked street. The Victorian-style streetlamps were lit, making the fallen leaves glint amber and coppery red as they skittered across the mall in the cold autumn breeze. Light from the shop poured through the windows and into the street in a welcoming wash of gold.
But despite the inviting setting, the muscles in Rick Dornier's shoulders tensed.
His sister's college roommate, Grace Navarre, had sent him here. It seemed an unlikely place to find news of his missing sister, but he was running out of options.
Grace had been more interested in the joint she'd rolled than in Tina's disappearance. The last time she'd seen Tina, Grace had said Tina had been with some "hottie" at the Good Times bar. Grace seemed to think the existence of the hottie explained it all.
It didn't explain anything.
Serious, shy, hardworking Tina, whose only wild moment in her entire life, so far as he knew, had been moving in with someone like Grace, had been gone almost eight days before her roommate had mentioned the fact to a neighbor. Fortunately, the neighbor had had the good sense to notify the Grayson College police.
The campus cops had called his mother when they failed to turn up any trace of his sister. When even the local police drew a blank, his mother had put aside her own long-held resentments and called him.
Rick hadn't even stopped to unload his truck after his latest venture into the Montana backcountry. He told his boss he was taking whatever leave he'd accumulated, arranged for a colleague to cover his classes at the university, then driven all night to reach the small town of Fenton in the mountains west of Denver, which was home to Grayson College.
Tina was in her final year at the exclusive, private college. She expected to graduate summa cum laude next spring and had already been offered a full fellowship to pursue graduate studies in art history at Stanford University. From what he knew of her, the last thing she would have done is disappear for a week of wild sex with a stranger.
But then, he didn't know his own sister very well at all. Their parents, at war with each other since long before their divorce over eighteen years ago, had seen to that.
Although Rick had spent most of the day talking to the local police, the campus cops and all of Tina's professors he could find, he hadn't been able to find any leads. The few friends and classmates he'd been able to track down had been as casual as Grace about Tina's absence - college students were so accustomed to fellow students' irregular hours that they hadn't worried when they didn't see her around.
Tina had vanished without raising so much as a ripple in Grayson's small pond.
When Rick had pressed Grace for more information, all she would say was, "Ask Maggie."
She meant Maggie Mann, manager of the Cuppa Joe's, a woman, according to Grace, who knew everyone.
Rick just hoped she did. He was running out of options.
The inside of Cuppa Joe's was as funky as the name, an eclectic mix of chromed modern lights and solid turn-of-the-century oak tables and chairs that somehow fit well together. This early in the evening, about half of the tables were occupied, but any conversation was covered by the mellow jazz floating from hidden speakers. A college guy with a buzz cut and a T-shirt with the Grayson College logo on it was working the espresso machine with cheerful efficiency.
There was no sign of anyone named Maggie behind the counter.
"Can't decide?" The deep, feminine voice came from behind him.
Rick turned and blinked.
She wasn't beautiful, but she was the kind of woman that made a man's blood stir just to look at her - tall, slender, with full breasts, a narrow waist and long, shapely legs that fantasies were made of. Her hair was a casual tangle of short-cropped brown curls that made his fingers itch to touch them. Her nose would never grace Vogue's cover. Her chin was too square, her mouth too wide and her eyes set too far apart under surprisingly dark, thick brows. And yet there was an appealing warmth in those dark eyes and an irresistible smile on that too-wide mouth that managed somehow to look just right on her face.
Rick swallowed, hard. "I'm sorry. Did you say something?"
"You have the look of a man in need of help," she teased.
"Are you Maggie?"
She nodded. "I'm Maggie. And you are ...?"
"Rick." He cleared his throat. She had the oddest effect on him. "Richard Dornier."
"Rick Dornier?" A frown flitted across her face so quickly that he wasn't sure he'd really seen it.
"You know Tina?"
"Sure. Almond latte. Decaf if it's after three. Cinnamon orange scone if we have them, or a slice of honey-bran nut bread if we don't." She laughed. He'd swear he heard bells ringing.
Excerpted from Dead Aim by Anne Woodard Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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