Lauren Van Slyke and Jack "Sully" Sullivan are total opposites
Lauren works for her family's charitable foundation, a foundation that has just cut off financial support to Sully's boys' home in the Adirondack Mountains. Sully's an ex-con with a heart of gold, who's pretty sure Lauren's heart is made of stone.
They're attracted from the moment they meetbut they see everything from very different perspectives. She's city, he's country. She's old money, he's no money. Love doesn't stand a chance, does it?
Sure it doesif Sully's boys have any say in the matter!
About the Author
"I've always fantasized that the sea captain buried treasure in the backyard," she told us. However, the only things she's unearthed thus far have been bones the dogs buried.
Dawn's first book for Harlequin was a 1987 Intrigue. Since then, she has regularly written for both Intrigue and Harlequin Superromance. She has also published nonfiction and shorter fiction.
Before becoming a full-time writer, she taught English at a Toronto university and then worked in a quasi-government job - which drove her to seek escape in a writing career. Once or twice a year, she ventures back into the real world to teach a course on writing romance novels at Toronto's Ryerson Polytechnic University.
Her exercise regime consists of a daily trip to the park with the dogs. Her favorite type of research involves travel - preferably to southern countries in midwinter.
She invites readers to visit the superauthors.com web site that she shares with several other authors. Copies of many of her back titles are available from Amazon.com
Read an Excerpt
On the sidewalks of New York
If a hurrying pedestrian hadn't rushed in front of her, Lauren would never have veered left and noticed the cat. When she did, she stopped dead. You never saw a cat on Madison Avenue.
Of course, she almost hadn't seen this one. It wasn't very big, really, not more than a kitten. And its dirty coppercolored fur blended perfectly with the dirty copper pipe it was huddled againstone of those grossly fat utility pipes that look as if they're growing out of the sidewalk beside a building.
She stood watching the cat for a few seconds, then told herself she'd better get moving. This was the kind of Manhattan morning that melted your makeup.
July could be brutal in the city, and today the temperature had already climbed into the eighties. The air was muggy, there hadn't been a break in the heat for over a week, and the city's stench had reached the impossibletoignore stageall in all, not a good day to be lingering on the sidewalks of New York.
Besides which, the boss was supposed to set a good example. And in the three months since her father had convinced her to take this job she'd been late more often than not.
She started to turn away, then hesitated. unless something unexpected had come up, all she had to do this morning was make a few phone calls. And she hardly had a staff of thousands to set an example for. There was only Rosalie, who at fiftysix didn't have the slightest interest in any example set by a thirtyyearold.
Besides, the cat looked so darned pathetic she hated to just leave it sitting there. If she did, it was bound to end up as road kill. Or was the appropriate term here avenue kill?
Whichever, she'd really rather it didn't end up dead. She took a couple of tentative steps in the little guy's directiondeciding it had to be a male because no selfrespecting female would let herself get that disheveled.
He hadn't noticed her, so she called, "Hey, kitty," then glanced selfconsciously at the people hurrying past. New Yorkers simply didn't stand out on the street calling "Hey, kitty." On the other hand, no one in the crush of humanity eddying around her could care less what anyone else was up to.
When she looked at the cat again he still hadn't twitched a whisker, so she edged closer and tried calling him once more. He finally looked at her, his yellow eyes unblinking. Then he looked to either sideunmistakably scoping out an escape route.
The sidewalk was solid human traffic, though. So if the cat made a mad dash for freedom, it would be foot kill before it even had a chance to become road kill.
She hesitated again, afraid that taking one more step would make him bolt, then she made her decision. Putting her briefcase down against the building, with a quick prayer that nobody would steal it, she dashed forward and grabbed the cat.
He let out an indignant yowl, but didn't scratch her.
"Good kitty," she murmured. "Good kitty, you're safe with me."
He eyed her for a moment, then apparently decided she was telling the truth and snuggled closedigging his claws firmly into her jacket.
She gazed unhappily down at him. Now that he was nestled against her offwhite suit, she could see he was even dirtier and more bedraggled than she'd realized. His fur was covered with the dry, dusty kind of dirt that instantly rubs off onto whatever it comes in contact with. And apparently, it was especially attracted to raw silk.
Telling herself that's why dry cleaners existed, she retrieved her briefcase and started toward the entrance of the Van Slyke Building. To preclude a runin with the security people she hoisted the briefcase in front of her, effectively concealing the cat, then breezed across the lobby and into an open elevator.
One of the advantages of being late was that the elevator was almost empty and nobody had pushed a floor below eleven. That made the trip up fast and uneventfulexcept that, halfway there, the cat began purring and kneading her jacket.
There wasn't much she could do to stop him when he was tucked under her left arm and she was holding her briefcase with her right hand. So by the time the doors opened on her floor, a patch of pulled threads and a gray area had developed on her chest.
Rescuing the cat, she realized, was rapidly becoming an example of what her father referred to as "Lauren's little errors in judgment." But she could hardly abandon a cat in the hallowed confines of the Van Slyke Building, so she quickly carried it down the corridor to the Foundation offices and opened the door into the reception area.
Rosalie glanced up from behind her desk, her dark eyes coming to rest on the cat. She slowly pushed a strand of graying hair back from her brown face, then said, "You didn't warn me we'd be playing showandtell today."
Neither the Jamaican lilt in her voice, nor her expression, betrayed the slightest hint that she was teasing, so Lauren resisted smiling. She'd gotten used to playing Rosalie's game of deadpan humor, although it had taken a while.
"I found the little guy just outside the building," she explained. "And he looked so hungry I thought I'd call Nate's Deli and get them to bring over some tuna fish."
"On rye or whole wheat?"
"Oh, I thought they could hold the bread. And the mayo and pickle, too. He strikes me as a nofrills kind of cat."
Rosalie almost smiled, but not quite. "Yeah? Well, he strikes me as a nobaths kind of cat. You haven't forgotten you've got a couple of appointments this afternoon, have you? That jacket isn't looking exactly fresh."
Lauren nodded, thinking how frequently Rosalie sounded more like her mother than her administrative assistant. But that wasn't entirely surprising, considering the woman had raised five children.
"And if you try to sponge off that dirt," she continued, "you'll only make it worse."
"I know. So I thought I'd run down to that onehour cleaners as soon as I got the cat fed and cleaned up."
"Cleaned up," Rosalie repeated. "So now we're into more than giving him a free meal. Does that mean you're keeping him?"
"No well, maybe. I don't really know. I haven't thought that far ahead. But it's not going to hurt to take him into my office and wash the dirt off, is it?"
"You mean in the executive washroom?"
Lauren couldn't keep from smiling this time. Rosalie's term for the minuscule bathroom off her office amused her. "Yes, I think the executive washroom's best. If I took him to the one down the hall, that snippy Karen Petroff would probably come waltzing in and tell me I was being inappropriate."
Rosalie finally smiled, tooa slow, sly smile. Then she said, "Do you know much about cats, Lauren?"
"Not very much," she admitted. Both her brother and sister had allergies, so her parents had ruled out pets before she'd even been born. But how hard could it be to deal with one small cat? Half the people in America had a cat. Or more than one. Why, in the apartment across the hall from hers, Jenny and Mark had three.
"I know cats aren't too crazy about water," she added, to show she wasn't completely ignorant. "But if I just put him in the sink and give him a quick rinse, that shouldn't be a big deal, should it?"
"I'll tell you what," Rosalie said thoughtfully. "Instead of having Nate's deliver, why don't we just let the voice mail handle our calls while I go get some cat food. And if I take your jacket with me, I can get it looked after, too."
"Thanks, but I don't have a blouse on under it, only a slip."
"Oh, well, you can wear this while I'm gone." Rosalie reached for the long fuchsia cardigan that always hung on the back of her chair.
"Ahh " Lauren gazed at the sweater, wondering whether the bright acrylic nightmare was large enough to wrap around her three times or only twice. Her hundredandtwelve pounds scarcely compared to what had to be Rosalie's twofifty.
"You go put it on," Rosalie pressed. "Then give me your jacket. I'm not too crazy about cats, so I'd just as soon leave him to you and look after everything else. I shouldn't be long, though," she added as Lauren headed into her office to change. "I'll be back as soon as that dry cleaner does his thing."
Sully had murder on his mind. Merely standing here, staring up at her family's name on the damn building, had gotten him furious at Ms. Lauren Van Slyke all over again. But as tempting as the thought of killing her was, he knew it was one he'd better forget about before he got to her office.
He turned and strode down the block a few hundred yards, telling himself that nothing was worth risking another stretch in prison. If anyone had ever deserved to be murdered, though
He'd never had a single problem while Matthew Grimes was director of the Van Slyke Foundation. But now that Grimes had retired, now that this moronic family member had been put in charge, he was facing the worst problem he could have imagined.
"That woman," he muttered, turning and starting back the way he'd come. He'd been trying to figure out exactly where Lauren Van Slyke fit into the family, and his best guess pegged her as an old maid auntthe sort that, in an earlier era, would have been locked away in somebody's attic.
But since this wasn't an earlier era, the relatives must have decided that making her director of their foundation would keep her occupied.
Of course, his best guess could be wrong. He really only knew two things about her for sure. One, she was a Van Slyke, which undoubtedly meant she was up to her ears in inherited money. And two, she wasn't exactly a straight shooter.
As soon as he'd discovered that, he'd begun suspecting she might be trouble. And sure enough, he'd been right.
When he reached the front of the building once more, he couldn't keep his gaze from drifting back up to those huge brass letters over the front entrance. The Van Slyke Building, they proclaimed. And the date, in smaller letters, told him it had been constructed in 1932. Obviously, the Van Slyke family had gotten through the depression years just fine. It made him wonder, not for the first time, exactly how much Lauren Van Slyke was worth.
When you'd grown up in a rough neighborhood in the Bronx, it was tough to even imagine coming from a family with enough money to have established a private charitable foundation, let alone have an office building on Madison Avenue.
Running his fingers through his hair, he told himself to get on with what he'd come here for. Then, taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and headed inside. The cool air was a relief. This might be the last place in the world he wanted to be, but at least it was airconditioned.
The security guy at the desk sized Sully up with obvious disapproval as he signed him in. The guy probably figured anyone who'd walk in here wearing jeans and a Tshirt was a complete boor. But he hadn't driven four hours through the early morning traffic to impress Ms. Lauren Van Slyke with his wardrobe. He'd driven down here to impress upon her that she was an idiot.
He marched into an elevator and pushed the button for eleven. When the doors closed and the elevator started upward, he began mentally picturing herwhich was a little tricky, when he hadn't as much as spoken to her. She'd called Eagles Roost once, though, and talked to the boys' teacher. And according to Otis she had a voice like a chicken scratching. So she was probably a skinny old bat of a woman. As the elevator slowed and stopped, he began imagining himself wringing her scrawny neck.
Ordering himself to knock it off, he strode down the hall to 1117. A plaque on the double doors assured him this was the Van Slyke Foundation office and told him to please walk in.
He did, but all was silent and empty inside. Nobody was at the elegant reception desk and nobody was in the expensively furnished waiting area.
When he wandered closer to the sole door leading off it, he could see its nameplate read Ms. Lauren Van Slyke. He smiled, silently congratulating himself on having cornered the old bat in her cave. But there was no response to his knock.
Tentatively, he opened the door and peered in. The office, too, was emptyexcept for enough antique furnishings to make it look like a miniature museum.
So he hadn't quite cornered the old bat, after all. He would have, though, if she'd been here. He took a couple of steps forward and stood surveying the large office. Then, just as he turned to leave, deciding he'd better wait in the reception area rather than the inner sanctum, a woman shrieked, "Stay!"
He froze for a second, then turned back. It had been a most unladylike shriek, and unless the woman was invisible it could only have come from the closet.
But what in blazes was the old bat doing in her closet? Hanging upside down, waiting for nightfall?
"Stay!" she shouted again. "Will you stay still? You're going to feel a lot better when I'm finished with you. I promise you will."
What was she doing in there? There were some questions in life you just had to have answers to.
He quietly closed the office door against potential prying eyeswho knew what he was about to discover?then walked over to the closet and called, "Everything all right?"
For a moment, there wasn't a sound. Then the closet door burst open, a wet weasel or something shot between his ankles and a teenaged girl who looked like a drowned rat was standing glaring up at him.
She was drenched from head to shoeless feet. Her hair was plastered to her skull, there were lines of mascara running down her cheeks, and the bright shapeless pink thing she was wearing looked like it had come straight out of a washer's spindry cycle.
Strangely, just seeing how wet she was gave him the sensation of not being quite dry himself. Then he looked down and saw there was a good reason for the sensation. There were a pair of little wet patches at the bottoms of his jeans, where the weasel had rushed between his legs.
"Who are you?" the girl was demanding. "And what are you doing in here?"
Instead of answering, he glanced over her headwhich wasn't tough since she was only about fivefootfourand tried to make sense of things. What he'd assumed was a closet was actually a tiny washroom, so maybe the girl had been washing her hair. Of course, that didn't explain the wet weasel, but
"What are you doing in here?" she demanded again.
He wanted to ask her the same thing, but quickly thought better of it. It wasn't tough to read the look in her big blue eyes. She was mad and maybe a bit frightened, too. He took a step backward and slowly raised his hands to chest level, palms facing her, to show he meant her no harm.
"I'm sorry if I scared you," he said quietly. "But I heard you yelling and I just " When her face flushed almost as bright as that baggy thing she had on he cut the explanation and said, "I just came in looking for Ms. Van Slyke."
"I am Ms. Van Slyke."
He stared at the kid for a moment, waiting for a punch line. When she didn't deliver one, he shook his head. "No, no. I'm looking for Ms. Lauren Van Slyke."
"I told you," she snapped, wiping water off her chin, "that's me."
"No, no," he tried again. This girl couldn't be more than eighteen, but maybe she was a niece or somethingnamed Lauren after the old bat aunt. "It's the Lauren Van Slyke who's the director of the Van Slyke Foundation I'm looking for."
"And that's who you're looking at. But you'll have to give me a minute to find the cat. If I don't get him dried off, the airconditioning will give him pneumonia."
Sully impatiently paced across Lauren Van Slyke's office and stood staring down onto the rat race of Madison Avenue, wishing she'd hurry up and come back out of that washroom.
They'd captured her cat, although not before it had laid a slash that would have done a tiger proud down his forearm. But then, before he'd even had a chance to introduce himself, her assistant had arrived and taken the little beast into the reception arealeaving behind something dry for Lauren to change into.
So now that the important things had been taken care of, maybe they could get down to business. But only if she ever reappeared.
Just as he was deciding she was a human fly who'd crawled out the bathroom window and buzzed away, the door opened. He stared at her as she walked over to her desk, knowing he'd never have taken her for the same person he'd seen a few minutes ago.
The smell of wet cat had been replaced by the scent of perfume. If she'd been a different woman, it would have been almost appealing particularly since it was obvious now that she was no teenager. She was, he'd guess, in her late twenties.
She'd washed off the mascara stains and had dried her hair enough that it was fluffed out, softly framing her face. It wasn't very long, but he liked its dark honey color.
And she was now wearing clothes that fit. A creamycolored suit had replaced the baggy pink thing. It turned out that the ghastly thing had been concealing a surprisingly nice figure.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a light read, perhaps a bit too light. It had a lot of potential dealing with differences in class, past histories as well as two criminal plots. But in the end it kind of flopped for me. There wasn't enough struggle or suspense to really build off the potential there. Lauren was a bit old to be so under her father's thumb, but she was feisty with everyone else. Sully isn't explained very well, but he's a man with a heart of gold. I'm still concerned at the concept of an ex-con being able to create a foster home for multiple pre-teen boys, but oh well. There is some action to the story and it is fun - it just left me wishing it had taken more advantage of the possibilities.