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A series of personal misfortunes have left Taylor Maxwell reeling. Even a sexy new neighbor in her South Beach apartment complex has no effect on her -- except to make her uneasy. Taylor is suspicious of Shane Donovan's interest in her, and she doesn't know why...
Shane is the last person Taylor expects to see at her mother's house. Recently diagnosed with cancer, Taylor's mother now wants to find the daughter that she had put up for adoption years ago -- and she's hired Shane's security firm to help.
When a woman is found who may be her mother's child, Taylor and Shane don't buy it. There's too much at stake -- including millions of dollars -- to take anything or anyone at face value. Just as Taylor's misgivings about Shane begin to change, her newly discovered sister is killed. Unknown to Taylor, someone has been thriving on the chaos in her family, a devious and patient killer who is playing a game he intends win -- at any cost...
|Product dimensions:||4.36(w) x 6.86(h) x 1.07(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Every Waking Moment
By Meryl Sawyer
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2002 M. Sawyer-Unickel
All rights reserved.
It was nearly ten o'clock, but South Beach was just beginning to wake up, Taylor Maxwell noticed as she strolled along Ocean Drive toward Brew Ha-Ha. SoBe thrived on the club life, which meant dancing until dawn to frenetic music. Not that she was part of the club scene. Taylor lived in SoBe to enjoy the diverse culture.
Or so she told her family and friends.
Taylor secretly admitted she'd stayed in the apartment she'd shared with Paul Ashton to feel closer to him. He'd adored South Beach, and before he had disappeared, Taylor had spent her free time here with him. SoBe wasn't far from Coral Gables, where she'd grown up, but it was another world entirely.
A teenage boy sauntered toward her, his bopping walk swaying to a beat only he could hear. Attitude blazed from his dark eyes, half hidden by a Dolphins ball cap.
"Yo, mama. Lookin' good."
Taylor knew better than to respond. If she did, he'd follow her down the street, refusing to take no for an answer. She'd dressed conservatively — for SoBe — white shorts, strappy high-heeled red sandals, and a sky blue blouse tied at the midriff, baring only a few inches of skin. No exposed navel pierced with rings or studs for her.
The kid strutted into a newsstand specializing in magazines featuring nude women. She walked along the nearly deserted sidewalk, gazing beyond the stately royal palms at the beach. Sparkling blue waves swelled, crested, then tumbled onto the sand, leaving a trail of froth as they lazily retreated.
In the distance, a pale mist hung over the ocean, blurring the horizon where the blue sea met the even bluer sky. A cat's paw of wind ruffled the umbrellas and towels early beachgoers had set up to stake out their places on the white sand.
It was February and pleasantly warm, the weather that made Florida a mecca for snowbirds. Taylor had lived here for almost thirty-two years, her entire life, but she never took the climate or the scenery for granted.
One of the bitterest lessons she'd learned was nothing could be taken for granted.
The ability to — survive and thrive — despite being so heartsick over Paul, was one of her strongest points. Through sheer determination, she'd concentrated on her job and had become very successful.
Nights were the hardest time.
Hours of hope would crash into mind-numbing fear that she would never see Paul again. The only escape was to work until it was almost dawn on her computer trivia game.
Driving herself hard and forcing herself to tamp down her grief, her fear kept her mind off Paul.
Most of the time.
But on sunny mornings like this, she couldn't help thinking he should be at her side, enjoying the beautiful day.
Taylor strolled into Brew Ha-Ha, and the fragrant scent of coffee greeted her. Salsa music pulsed from speakers that hung from the rafters. The coffeehouse was little more than a bamboo shack with palm fronds for a roof, but its Cuban-style coffee drinks made it a popular hangout.
She looked around for her friend, but Lisa hadn't arrived yet. A glance at her Ebell confirmed that she was a few minutes early. She decided to order and relax with coffee while she waited.
"Café cubano," she told the girl behind the counter. "A double."
It would be like mainlining high-octane caffeine — a legal high. Taylor could almost feel the adrenaline rush just watching the girl pour the thick, sugar-laced Cuban coffee into a pink cup not much bigger than a shot glass. The scent of the pan cubano slathered with butter and toasting on the grill reminded Taylor she'd neglected to have dinner last night.
"I'll have a slice of pan cubano tostado, too."
She paid for the coffee and toasted Cuban bread, then found a small table under the shade of the ancient banyan tree that arched over the area like an umbrella. She added a touch of cream to the coffee even though this was a no-no to most who drank the Cuban coffee for its pure, intense flavor. As she was stirring the mixture and munching on the crusty Cuban bread, Taylor spotted Lisa coming up the street with her usual jaunty stride.
Even though they were the same age and height, Lisa Abbott was like the flip side of a coin. While Taylor was fair with blond hair and blue eyes, Lisa had raven-black hair and melt-your-heart chocolate brown eyes. The hot-pink bustier and matching shorts she was wearing captured the attention of every male in the vicinity.
Taylor sprang to her feet, waving. "Lisa! Over here!"
Lisa rushed up and flung herself into Taylor's open arms. "Oh, God, I've missed you!"
Tears welled up in Taylor's eyes as she bear-hugged her closest friend. Nine months had passed since they had seen each other, but to Taylor, it seemed like years. With her brother, Trent, immersed in a new relationship, and with Paul gone for two years, Taylor had missed Lisa more than she ever could have imagined.
"Sit, sit," Taylor said. "Tell me everything."
Lisa rolled her dark eyes. "Do I have time to get coffee first?"
"Sure, but hurry. I want to hear all about your trip."
She sat down, taking a careful sip of her very hot coffee, and watched Lisa put in her order. Brew Ha-Ha was beginning to fill, and Taylor recognized several of the regulars. Most mornings she stopped in here for coffee to-go before climbing into her small Beamer to head to the Coral Gables offices of To The Maxx where she worked in the family business with her uncle and brother.
Lisa returned with a cup of flavored coffee and a double thick slice of pan cubano tostado. The scent of vanilla wafted across the table as her friend gently blew on the coffee to cool it.
"What's new?" Lisa asked.
"You don't want to know."
Taylor realized Lisa didn't inquire about Trent because she wanted Taylor to volunteer the news about her younger brother. Trent and Lisa had been happily married for six years — or so everyone assumed — until Trent asked for a divorce.
Lisa had been devastated. As soon as the papers had been signed, she'd gone on an around the world trip to find herself. Since she'd left, no one had spoken to her, but she'd e-mailed Taylor and her parents to say she was okay.
Still, Taylor had been worried. After the way Paul had vanished while abroad, she'd wondered if someone had stolen Lisa's laptop and she'd met a similar fate. Taylor had answered the telephone last night and discovered Lisa had returned.
"Tell me about your trip. Which country did you like best?" Taylor asked, calculatedly avoiding the subjects it would be painful to discuss — Trent's new love, Paul Ashton, her mother.
"I've been dying for this bread." Lisa took a bite of the pan cubano. "India is my favorite country — hands down."
Interesting, Taylor thought. She wouldn't have pictured Lisa in India.
"I spent six months there studying the Kama Sutra."
Taylor sipped her coffee to hide her shock, thankful she was wearing shades. It was difficult to imagine one of Miami's up-and-coming financial advisors spending months studying the art of making love.
Lisa flipped her long hair back over one shoulder with her hand, a gesture Taylor had noticed the day they first met at Yale. "I'm changing careers. I'm opening a shop here in South Beach as soon as I can find space."
Changing careers? This was not like the steady, goal-oriented Lisa who had married her brother.
Tragedy changes you, Taylor decided.
She'd like to make a career change as well. She wanted to start her own company and develop computer games. She was a trivia buff and had a game already half finished, but now, with her mother so ill, was not the time to leave the family's cosmetics business.
"What kind of shop do you plan to open?"
Lisa smiled at Taylor over the rim of her cup. "I'm not sure what I'm going to call it yet, but it'll be a boutique that sells everything from sexy lingerie to love potions. There'll be classes for women in the evening to teach them the arts of the Kama Sutra."
It was such an outrageous career change that Taylor might have laughed, if she hadn't known Lisa for fourteen years. What was Lisa thinking? This was a ridiculous idea — even in SoBe.
Then the light dawned. Trent. Lisa hadn't seen the divorce coming, hadn't suspected a thing.
Lisa blamed herself.
Taylor recognized the pain in Lisa's eyes because it mirrored her own loss. At times she wanted to break something, hit something. Scream.
The only solution was to maintain inner strength and deal with grim reality any way you could. For Lisa it might just be a Kama Sutra shop.
Only the strong survive, Taylor reminded herself.
"You think I've lost it, don't you?" Lisa asked, her voice pitched low.
Taylor couldn't lie, not to Lisa. She'd pick up on it in a heartbeat.
"No. I don't think you're crazy. I think you're blaming yourself for something that was beyond your control."
Lisa downed the last of her coffee, got up from the table, and went back for a refill. By the time she returned, Taylor had marshaled her thoughts.
"If you want to help people, why don't you go back to school and become a therapist?" Taylor suggested. "Better yet, become a personal coach. That's what many therapists are calling themselves. Men don't like to admit they need a therapist, but a coach —"
"You don't understand. That's the Western way. I'm into Eastern methods. It's a sensual, hands-on technique."
Taylor didn't know what to say. This was her best friend, but after her trip Lisa seemed like a stranger. Her mind wandered and she couldn't help wondering what Paul would be like if he should suddenly reappear after an absence of two long years.
Time had changed her, too. She'd never been afraid to make business decisions, but she was much more confident now. Some of her innovations had received attention from the major cosmetics firms. Now they were fielding offers for their small company.
"Your turn," Lisa said. "What's been happening?"
Taylor took another sip of coffee, stalling, trying to decide if she should mention Trent's new love or not. She caught sight of a tall, dark-haired man and a dog in the line that had formed at the counter. She pushed her shades to the top of her head, leaned closer to Lisa, keeping her voice low.
"There's the mole."
Lisa's dark eyes widened. "Mole?"
"The creep who moved into my building. He lives right across the courtyard. This is the first time I've seen him out in the light of day. He slinks off to work at nine or so and comes back at dawn like a mole."
Lisa wrinkled her nose. "The guy in the wife beater?"
Taylor shook her head, realizing Lisa meant the man in the tank top cut extra wide at the arms to reveal bulging pecs and biceps. "No, the guy with the dog."
"The hunk with the Labrador retriever?" Lisa flipped her hair over her shoulder. "A mole? Nah. He probably works in one of the nightclubs."
"I doubt it. He takes his dog to work with him."
Lisa studied her for a moment. "Okay, what gives? Why don't you like him?"
"I've never met the man. There's something strange about him, that's all."
"I'm not sure exactly. Twice now I've caught him looking at my apartment in an odd way."
"He wouldn't be the first guy to be curious about a knockout blonde, especially if she's right across the courtyard."
"He's never seen me. Both times, I was upstairs in my office, hidden by that humungous fern. I looked down and he was staring at the first floor of my apartment."
"Maybe he's new to the area. You know how people are about South Beach architecture. He was probably studying the cool etched-glass mermaid panels beside your front door or the rounded art deco corners of the building."
Taylor glanced at the man, who was now placing his order. "True, but it ..."
"Gave you the creeps? Well, I think the guy could benefit from some Kama Sutra enlightenment. Introduce me."
"I told you. We haven't met." She stole another peek at the guy. He was ordering, his back to them, but the dog was watching her. "His dog is positively scary. See the way he's glaring at me?"
Lisa looked, but the Labrador had turned away. "You love dogs, especially Labs and retrievers. If it weren't for Paul, you'd have a golden retriever, right?"
Taylor nodded; Paul had been allergic to dogs. It had kept her from adopting one from Retriever Rescue. She adored dogs, always had, so much so her family and friends teased her about it. This was the longest she'd been without a pet. Only the hope of Paul's return kept her from getting one.
"This dog is different," she told Lisa. "He never barks. He just stares."
"I don't get it. If you've never met the man, how do you know so much about his dog?"
"I was in the laundry room one night. I could feel someone watching me. I turned around, and that dog was in the doorway. It was staring at me, one leg up, pointing like he'd spotted fresh kill."
A shadow of alarm touched Lisa's dark eyes. "Did he growl or bare his teeth?"
"No. He just kept his eyes trained on me, and his nostrils were flaring. Then someone whistled, and the dog ran off."
"That is a little weird. Did you report it to the building manager?"
"No. You know old Mrs. Bryant. She's nosy as all get-out, and she upsets so-o-o easily. I didn't want to make trouble for the dog. What if he's harmless?"
"If he does anything, even growls at you, take action. Remember that woman in San Francisco." Lisa brought the last of her pan cubano up to her mouth. "Oh, my God. The stud with the dog is coming this way. Be still, my heart!"
Taylor turned her head toward the busy street but kept her neighbor in sight. He was coming over to them.
He stopped directly in front of their small table and spoke to Taylor. "Hi, there. I'm Shane Donovan, your new neighbor."
"Wow! You live in Taylor's building," Lisa said, managing to sound as if this were news to her. "Sit down."
"I'm Taylor Maxwell," she replied, kicking Lisa under the table. Why would she ask him to join them?
"I know." Shane swung a chair around backward and sat down, straddling it. He placed his coffee mug on the table. He pulled off aviator style shades and shoved them into the pocket of his black T-shirt. His dark blue eyes seemed unusually intense under brows a shade lighter than his black hair.
She supposed most women would be attracted to Shane Donovan, if you went for tall jocks with linebacker shoulders. Personally, Taylor preferred lean runner types with sandy hair and green eyes.
Men like Paul Ashford.
"How do you know who I am?" she asked.
He smiled, his mouth canting slightly to one side and giving him a mischievous, boyish expression. "I'd seen you around, and Mrs. Bryant told me who you were."
Mrs. Bryant. It figured. The old biddy probably was trying her hand at matchmaking. She knew Taylor didn't date and had commented on it several times.
When had Shane Donovan seen her? Taylor wondered. She was certain he hadn't, but obviously she was mistaken. He must have been peeking through the curtains when she wasn't looking.
"Where are you from?" Lisa asked Shane.
"Germany originally, but I've been around a lot."
The way he said "a lot" implied something, Taylor decided. Danger or a situation he'd rather not discuss. His expression kept his secret — whatever it was — but the intensity in his gaze as he looked at Taylor revealed deep, powerful emotions.
She wasn't easily frightened, and she wasn't afraid now, but she had to admit this man made her uneasy. It was a subliminal message that Lisa wasn't picking up. Just from Lisa's smile, Taylor could see how taken her friend was with this stranger.
"I just returned from nine months abroad," Lisa told Shane.
He had an attitude, she decided. A grown-up, more sophisticated version of the teenager she'd passed on the street earlier. He was the kind of man who went after what he wanted, and he probably got it.
His dog had sat down next to Shane, but its eyes were locked on Taylor. This close, the dog appeared less threatening. His eyes were soulful as if he were sad or profoundly troubled about something.
Shane stroked the dog's back while continuing to listen to Lisa, who was asking if Shane had ever been in India. He hadn't.
"What's your dog's name?" Taylor asked.
"Auggie. That's short for Augustus." He jostled the dog's ears. "Right, boy?"
The dog's tail flitted, but it wasn't what Taylor would have called a real wag. "Your dog seems ... different. He sniffs a lot, but I've never heard him bark."
Shane studied her for a moment in a way that unsettled her more than it should have. "Auggie's a Braveheart military dog. I'm detraining him, getting him used to civilian life."
"Really? Was he an attack dog?"
Shane chuckled. "No way. Auggie has an A-rated sense of smell. He's trained to detect explosives."
Excerpted from Every Waking Moment by Meryl Sawyer. Copyright © 2002 M. Sawyer-Unickel. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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