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Every Move She Makes
Who's Watching Now
By Jannine Gallant
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Jannine Gallant
All rights reserved.
"My baby has pink hair." Rachel Carpenter planted her elbows on the table and held her face in her hands. "No, I take that back. Not pink. Magenta. Her beautiful, blond hair is magenta."
Her sister smiled from across the table, the green eyes they'd both inherited from their mother sparkling with amusement. "Magenta is a lovely color."
"Did I mention she cut it, too? Her hair is short and spiky. She looks like a punk rocker."
Grace Hanover covered her mouth but couldn't hide a smile. "I bet she still looks cute, even with short, magenta hair."
"Of course she does. Lark would be beautiful bald." Rachel let out a deep sigh and poked at a scallop on her plate. "I don't know what to do with her. She's so rebellious and angry all the time. She's only fourteen, for heaven's sake."
Grace reached across the table to squeeze her sister's hand. "Lark is too smart to do anything really stupid."
"Her actions lately haven't shown a lot of forethought. I'm worried about this new friend of hers. Rose is the one who talked Lark into dyeing her hair. Rose's hair is Day-Glo orange." Rachel pleated the napkin in her lap. "Why did Bryce have to go skiing that weekend? He might have been a lousy husband, but he was good with the girls."
"The avalanche was a freak accident — one that wouldn't have happened to him if he'd taken the girls to Hawaii like he promised." Grace's tone hardened. "Oh, no, his current bimbo wanted to hit the slopes instead." She tossed long, brown hair over her shoulder with a sharp flip of her wrist. "Too bad you wasted over ten years of your life on the bastard before you finally divorced him."
"They weren't wasted. He gave me three beautiful daughters. You and I both know Bryce was a cheating idiot, but the girls loved him. They miss him so much. Jade and Ivy are adjusting, but Lark broods. She's been seeing a therapist. The woman assures me she'll come around eventually."
"There you have it. Your daughter just needs more time. Eat your dinner."
If only Rachel could dismiss her worries so easily.
They dined at her favorite restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf. Through the window, the sun cast a golden glow over San Francisco Bay. To their left, the majestic span of the Golden Gate Bridge stretched northward. Farther out in the bay, Alcatraz stood sentinel on its lonely rock.
"How's work? Do you have a full staff for the summer?"
Rachel turned to face her sister. "I think so. Ellen and Chandra are still with me, and I hired a new guy, Tim."
Grace's eyes held a challenge. "How about a quick fling with a young stud?"
"Very funny. I would never hit on an employee. Anyway, I think Tim's gay, and I don't date college boys."
"You don't date anyone."
"Let's not go there. It's your turn for the hot seat. Who's the new guy you're seeing?"
"Nolan Marconi. He's Italian and very intense."
"What does he do?"
"Believe it or not, he's a cop, a detective with the SFPD. Cops usually hate investigative reporters as a rule." She sipped her wine and smiled. "But this one seems to like me — and not just in bed."
Rachel covered her ears. "Too much information. Geez, Gracie, some things should remain private."
"I'm trying to motivate you. Live a little. At thirty-five, you probably still have a few good years left."
She ignored the direct hit. "Am I going to meet him before he goes by the wayside like the legions of men you've dated before him?"
"Yep. He's picking me up when his shift is over." Her eyes brightened. "In fact, here he comes now, and he has someone with him. Talk about hot." She fanned a hand in front of her face.
Rachel glanced over her shoulder. Two men approached, and more than one woman in the crowded restaurant gave the pair a lingering look. They were definitely worth a second glance. One was of medium height with a rangy build. With his black hair tied back in a ponytail, he was movie-star handsome. The other man stood well over six feet and looked like he spent some serious time in the gym. Chestnut hair brushed the collar of his shirt, and sharp blue eyes didn't miss a thing. When his gaze landed on her, Rachel sucked in a breath. Her sister was right about the hot factor.
Grace greeted the black-haired man with a lingering kiss.
"Grace, this is a friend of mine, Kane Lafferty." The detective's gaze never left her sister's face. "Kane, this gorgeous creature is Grace."
"Nice to meet you. Nolan and Kane, say hello to my big sister, Rachel Carpenter."
"It's a pleasure." Nolan reached across the table to shake her hand. "Grace has told me all about you."
"That can't be good." Rachel turned to the man at his side and smiled. When he grasped her hand in his large, warm palm, a tingle jolted through her. The last person she'd felt that kind of chemistry with was her ex.
Kane's brow creased as he released her hand. "Rachel Carpenter ... Why does that name sound familiar?"
"Not because you saw it on a rap sheet." Grace scowled. "Her husband was Bryce Carpenter."
The frown cleared. "Of course! I was a huge fan."
Nolan nodded. "Everyone on the force was a fan. With that amazing arm, he led the Niners to some incredible victories. What's not to love?"
"Plenty, but we won't get into it. Have a seat, gentlemen." Grace pointed to the empty chairs. "How about a drink before we leave?"
Despite the temptation to stay, Rachel lodged a quick protest. "I really shouldn't. I have a long drive, and it's getting late. The girls are home alone with Lark babysitting."
"Don't be a spoilsport. You've been nursing the same glass of wine all evening. The girls are fine. Lark is fourteen, and Mom and Dad are practically a stone's throw from your house."
Her sister was right. She was just making excuses, and it wouldn't kill her to be social for a change. "I guess one small drink won't hurt."
"Darn straight. Enjoy yourself while you can. Summer vacation is just around the corner. In a couple of weeks, you'll want to run screaming away from your children."
"Probably." Rachel turned when Kane took the seat beside her. "Do you have a family?"
He shook his head. "Just an ex-wife. No kids. Look, I didn't mean to crash your evening."
"You aren't crashing anything." Nolan tore his attention away from Grace. "Kane and I ran into each other at the station, and I asked him to join us."
"The more the merrier." Grace waved to catch their server's attention. "What does everyone want to drink? I think I'll have a cosmopolitan."
After they ordered, Rachel restarted the conversation. "Do you two work together?" Her gaze wandered from Kane to Nolan and back. Strong was the word that sprang to mind. Kane had a jaw carved out of rock, and those shoulders ... She squirmed in her seat. A broad set of shoulders was her secret weakness.
"We're both homicide detectives." Nolan draped his arm over the back of Grace's chair and twirled a lock of her hair around his finger.
"Right now I'm on a ... vacation of sorts." Kane's fist clenched on the tablecloth. "I'm headed up to the mountains in the morning for some camping. Hopefully a couple weeks spent under the stars will clear away the cobwebs."
Before Rachel could ask what he meant, Nolan spoke up.
"Which is why I insisted he join us. Anyone who plans to commune with nature for more than a night deserves a civilized send off."
Their server delivered the drinks.
Rachel took a sip of her Irish coffee. "Where're you camping?"
"My brother runs a wilderness camp on Donner Summit called Granite Lake Retreat. There're cabins to sleep in, and all the food is provided for the guests. He offers nature hikes and canoeing, that sort of thing. I volunteered to give him a hand until the rest of his summer staff arrives."
Rachel smiled. "Sounds like fun. I haven't been camping in ages."
"My sister actually enjoys sleeping in a tent." Grace shuddered. "She hikes for fun. If I'm on vacation, I want a luxury hotel with a gym."
"I'm with you there, babe."
"You two are soft." Rachel shook her head. "You're missing out. Nature is good for the soul."
"You didn't tell me you had a crazy sister." Nolan gazed into Grace's eyes.
"I try to keep it a secret. A whacko in the family might reflect badly on the rest of us."
Kane raised a brow. "How many of you are there?"
"Five." Grace rolled her eyes. "We have another sister and two brothers. It was always a battle for the bathrooms when we all lived at home."
"That's nothing." Nolan tapped his chest. "My mama raised seven boys and two girls."
"I thought having one brother was more than enough." Kane swallowed the last of his cocktail. "I'm sorry to break up the party, but I really should go. I still have to pack, and I want to hit the road early to beat the morning traffic."
"Me, too." Rachel pushed back her chair. "It was nice meeting you, Nolan." She turned to face the man beside her. "I hope you enjoy your vacation."
"I'll walk you to your car."
"Thanks, but it's a bit of a hike. I couldn't find any parking close by."
"All the more reason to have an escort. Are you ready to go?" "As soon as I pay the bill." She stood and swooped to retrieve the folder from the approaching server.
"I'll get the drinks." He pulled his wallet out of his pocket.
"Don't be silly. You're our guests, right, Grace?"
"Right. Let her pay. She always gets her way in the end, so you may as well save the argument."
After Rachel handed the young man her credit card, he retreated, nearly bumping into an older woman hovering nearby. The woman stepped around him with a broad smile.
"It is you! I told my husband I couldn't be mistaken. I said, 'Ted, that's Jordan Hale.' Sure enough, I was right. Honey, would you mind signing an autograph. I adored you before you fell off that cliff and drowned." The woman paused for breath and pulled a notepad from her purse.
Rachel pasted on a smile. "I'd be happy to."
"Make it out to Mary Cooke, with an e, please. And can you sign it from Jordan Hale and then your real name? I can't tell you how thrilled I am to meet you in person. I don't know why those horrible writers had to go and kill you."
"Here you go, Mrs. Cooke. It's always a pleasure to meet a fan who still remembers me."
"Thank you, dear. Why you're just as nice as you were on the show." The woman backed toward her own table. "Wait until I tell Mildred. She's going to be green with envy."
Rachel laughed. "Tell Mildred I said hello." When the server returned with the credit card slip, she signed it.
Nolan looked from Rachel to Grace. "What was that all about?"
Kane's brow creased. "Yeah, why did that woman call you Jordan Hale?"
"Because that's who she was back in the day. My sister was Jordan Hale, seductress extraordinaire on Days of Desire." Grace grinned. "Pretty cool, huh?"
Rachel shook her head. "Neither of them looks like a soap fan, so I doubt they know what you're talking about."
"Don't be such a sexist. Plenty of men watch soap operas. After all, the women are hot. Why shouldn't men watch them?"
Nolan scowled. "Grace, what the hell are you rambling on about?"
Rachel took pity on him and explained. "I was on a soap opera while Bryce and I lived in New York. You might remember he played for the Giants before he was traded to San Francisco. Anyway, my character's name was Jordan Hale."
Kane pushed his chair in and stepped closer. "That was, what, a dozen years ago?"
"Soap fans have long memories, and mine was a popular character. I had quite a following back then."
"You still get recognized, though not as often since you cut your hair shorter." Her sister studied her and tapped one manicured nail on the table. "Jordan Hale looked a lot younger than you do."
Rachel rolled her eyes. "Thanks, Gracie. Remind me to break out the support hose."
"I don't think you're ready for a nursing home yet." A smile tugged at the edges of Kane's firm mouth. "Shall we go?"
She nodded. "Good night, Nolan. Grace, I'll talk to you soon."
"You certainly will." A speculative gleam lit her eyes. "I'll expect a full report."
Kane guided Rachel through the restaurant with a warm hand against the small of her back. "What did your sister mean by that?"
"Nothing. Grace is just being Grace. She's a nut." Rachel's cheeks heated. She knew full well what her sister had meant. Unfortunately, Grace had seen her attraction to Kane and was undoubtedly hoping for a juicy end to the evening. As Rachel wasn't in the habit of jumping into bed with relative strangers, her sister was doomed to disappointment.
"Where'd you park?" Kane waited for her response as they stepped out into the brisk spring air.
"Down the Embarcadero." She shrugged on the sweater her mother had knit her the previous Christmas. "I suppose you're in the opposite direction."
"No, I'm that way, too." Taking her arm, he led her around a crowd of people who'd stopped to listen to a street musician.
The clear, clean notes of his saxophone followed them as they strolled down the brick-paved sidewalk. The moon was out, a silver orb shining over the bay.
She tilted her chin. "Look at that sky."
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Rachel nodded. "I'm glad I don't live in the city anymore, but I do miss nights like these."
"Where do you live?"
"Up in Vine Haven, north of Napa."
"I know the area, lots of rolling hills and grape vines. What do you do there?"
"I own a combination bookstore coffee bar. The town has enough of a tourist trade to survive, but not enough to ruin the small town atmosphere."
"I think I've been there. Years ago, my ex-wife dragged me through Napa County on a wine-tasting tour. Is there a small winery in Vine Haven?"
Rachel smiled. "Only the best one in Northern California, but I may be a teensy bit prejudiced. Hanover Vineyards belongs to my family. I grew up there, and my father and brother still run the vineyard and winery. We offer tours on the weekends."
"Oh, yeah? So you moved back to the family homestead after your husband died?"
"Actually, the year before. Bryce and I were divorced when he died in the skiing accident."
"I remember hearing about that. I don't imagine living with a professional athlete was easy."
"There were some negatives." Bitterness edged her voice, and she forced herself to relax.
"Cops make lousy husbands, too. Just ask my ex-wife."
"You seem like a good guy. What happened?"
"The usual. I spent more time at work than I did with her. Diana is a very nice person, and she's a fighter. She stuck it out for five long years before she finally gave up. I guess she came to the conclusion I wasn't going to change."
Rachel stopped walking and looked up at him. The breeze blew her hair across her face. One strand caught at the corner of her mouth, and Kane reached out a finger to free it. Her breath stuck in her throat as she struggled to remember what they were talking about.
"Did you want to change?"
"Not really. I was younger and had a lot to prove."
He ran a hand through his hair. "I'm not sure anymore, but I do need a break."
"Did something happen?"
His expression closed. "Yeah, something happened." After a moment's hesitation he took her arm to lead her forward. "I don't know why I'm boring you with my problems. How did we end up talking about me?"
"I have that effect on people. Something about me makes everyone I talk to want to spill their guts."
He grimaced. "I'm not the only one? There's a crowd of needy jerks bending your ear? Terrific."
"Mostly just family." She gave him a teasing poke to lighten the mood. "I'm no psych guru, and even if there was a crowd, I'd say you're unique."
"Hardly. I'm just one of a million divorced cops. You may want to warn your sister we're bad relationship risks before she gets too involved with Nolan. Not that he isn't a great guy."
"I'm sure he is. Anyway, I'd be more inclined to worry about him. Grace discards men faster than empty pizza boxes."
Kane grinned. "Your sister seems like quite a dynamo."
"She is. When God passed out inhibitions, he skipped Grace and gave me a double dose."
"I doubt that. Anyone who was a soap star can't have too many restraints."
"Ask my oldest daughter. She'll tell you all about them. Here's my car." Rachel stopped beside her red SUV.
"I rest my case. Inhibited people don't buy red cars."
"I chose the model, but I let my girls pick the color. They take after their aunt."
Excerpted from Every Move She Makes by Jannine Gallant. Copyright © 2014 Jannine Gallant. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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