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By Janelle Denison
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePAIGE MONTGOMERY looked beautiful in black, Josh Marchiano decided. Graceful, elegant and poised, despite the recent tragedy that had made her a widow.
A small, intimate crowd of friends and family filled Paige's luxurious oceanfront home, to offer their condolences after attending the funeral services for her husband, Anthony Montgomery. Josh stood off to the side, near the spread of food the arrivals were contributing to, watching as Paige made sure she greeted everyone. A faint smile touched her lips as she gently squeezed the hand of an elderly woman offering her sympathies. Paige nodded in response to something the woman said, then moved on to the next person.
Sadness dimmed her green eyes. That particular emotion was one Josh had seen too frequently during Paige's three-year marriage to the man he'd once considered his best friend. There had been too many promises Anthony had broken, too many nights he'd opted to spend out with the boys instead of with the woman waiting for him at home.
Anthony had treated Paige more like a possession than a wife, and over the years Josh had found himself trying to make up for Anthony's neglect by being a friend to Paige. His good intentions had backfired.
Anthony might have married Paige, but Josh had fallen inlove with her.
Paige glanced around, as if searching for someone specific, and stopped when she saw him. From across the room their gazes connected. Her expression softened, and for several heartbeats everyone else in the room faded away. A familiar awareness stirred between them, a tempting attraction neither one of them had ever talked about, or acted upon.
It didn't make the chemistry between them any less powerful.
She started toward him, weaving through the guests. Her simple, traditional black dress draped subtly along her slender curves to just above the knee. Smoke-hued stockings encased a pair of long legs down to black heels. The dark color accentuated her flawless complexion and complemented her hair, a rich brown shade with natural auburn highlights. Today, she'd worn her hair up in an efficient, neat twist. Josh had the fleeting thought that he preferred the thick, silky strands flowing free down around her shoulders.
She stopped in front of him, her gaze at once uncertain and expectant. Not caring that there were people in the room, Josh closed the distance between them and brushed his lips across her cheek.
"I'm so sorry, Paige," he said, knowing he'd repeated that sentiment at least a hundred times since delivering the devastating news of Anthony's death. The condolence seemed inadequate in view of the tragic events of the past week.
"Yeah, me too," she whispered, a wealth of heartache lingering in her soft voice. "Thanks for coming today."
"You don't need polite formalities with me." Frowning at her, he pushed back his suit jacket and slid his hands into the front pockets of his navy trousers. "You know I would have been here for you. No matter what."
Her smile didn't reach her eyes. "I wasn't sure if your lieutenant was going to let you attend the service, considering the risk to the case Anthony was working on."
"Lieutenant Reynolds had no choice in the matter."
Oh, they'd argued vehemently about the possible hazards of a Metro-Dade detective attending the funeral of a man who'd worked undercover to infiltrate a jewel-smuggling ring. In the end, Josh had won the heated debate. Though Anthony had been killed in the line of duty, sources still on the case had reported that no one in the ring had known Anthony Montgomery was a vice cop. He'd died with his assumed identity intact. Lieutenant Reynolds had decided any police association or political fanfare normally accompanying the death of a law enforcement officer would only draw attention to Anthony's true occupation and risk the lives of the other undercover officers still planted in the ring, so his funeral had become a simple, intimate affair, without any pomp and circumstance.
Josh had suggested that one ordinary person could blend in with family and friends much easier than a hundred uniformed officers. His lieutenant grudgingly agreed that it might not be a bad idea if he kept an eye on Paige until things settled down, and they determined the motive for Anthony's death.
"I could really use some fresh air," Paige said, pulling Josh's thoughts off police bureaucracy and back to her. "Care to join me?"
Considering how claustrophobic the house was beginning to feel, the thought of sunshine and a cool breeze appealed to him. "Sure."
He had every intention of passing through the living room to the slider leading to the deck where other people had gathered, but she grabbed his arm before he could head that way.
"I want to be alone," she said, answering his questioning look. "If we go that way it'll take me an hour of accepting more condolences before we make it out to the deck, and it's even getting crowded out there."
He smiled, understanding she was tired of keeping up a polite front. "Come on, we'll sneak out the other way." Pressing his hand to the small of her back, he ushered her toward the marbled foyer.
They slipped discreetly out the front door and followed a tiled walkway veering toward the right side of the house. The path led to a white gazebo surrounded by tropical plants and flowers. Night-blooming jasmine twined through the lattice columns around the structure. The warmth of the mild fall afternoon intensified the pleasant fragrance drifting from the tiny white flowers.
Once inside the gazebo, Paige crossed to the opening overlooking a stretch of Miami beach and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Pressing her hands to the railing, she took a deep breath of sea air. Josh imagined he could see some of her tension drain away.
"How have you been?" he asked quietly. He'd asked her that question numerous times over the past week when he'd talked to her on the phone and always received an automatic response of "fine." In person, he expected a more honest answer.
She didn't disappoint him. Glancing back at him, she gave a slight shrug. "As well as can be expected, I suppose. I'm glad the funeral is over, but I have to admit that Anthony's death still doesn't seem real."
What with the funeral arrangements, the steady stream of people paying their respects, and the arrival of her sister, Valerie, from Connecticut offering moral support, he guessed she'd been too distracted to accept the reality of the situation. "It'll take more than a week for the shock to wear off, Paige."
"Oh, the sensible side of me knows that," she said, leaning against one of the jasmine-draped columns.
"But Anthony was gone so much that a part of me just feels like this is an extended leave on another case."
He heard the pain in her voice that touched beyond her current sorrow. It mingled with the misery and loneliness he'd seen glimpses of the past few years, and grabbed at something deep and elemental in him.
Folding her arms across her chest, she turned her gaze back out to the sea. "You know, it was one of my greatest fears that Anthony would get killed working on some secretive, undercover case."
"Getting killed in the line of duty is a risk all cops take." He grimaced. The automatic response sounded trite even to his own ears.
"Yeah, Anthony told me that plenty of times," she said, her lips pursing into a tight, angry line. "It never did do much to ease the fears and uncertainties or the long, sleepless nights."
Excerpted from Forbidden by Janelle Denison Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I like Janelle Denison but the heroine was TSTL so the book was TATF (too annoying to finish).
It was all right. Not spectacular, but good. I didn't really care for the heroine. I wish the author had given her more personality. She always seemed to be complaining or whining. It's hard to imagine the hero falling for her. Anyway, I probably won't be reading it again. ##