Mac knows there's no contest when it comes to one of his vows: a child is missing and he will track her down. But can he stick to his other promise—and keep Linda at arm's length?
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By Catherine Spencer
Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Copyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe day they shipped her sister off by ambulance to the psychiatric wing of Lion's Gate Hospital was the day Linda Carr decided to take matters into her own hands. The police had had their chance and, as far as she could tell, were getting precisely nowhere. Bad enough that the baby had been missing for seven weeks now; to stand idly by while June retired farther into the fuzzy world of tranquilizers was not to be countenanced.
Not that Linda blamed her sister. She'd known her own share of sleepless nights since the infant girl had disappeared, and she could only imagine how much worse it had been for the new mother to be told that her firstborn had been smuggled out of the hospital nursery - by the father, no less!
It shouldn't have come as a surprise that Kirk Thayer would resort to extreme measures. From all accounts, he'd shown an astonishing lack of moderation in most things to do with June, practically from the day he'd learned she was expecting his child. It was the main reason she'd refused to marry him. But that he'd go so far as to kidnap the baby and disappear without trace ...!
"I'll bring your little daughter home," Linda promised, when she visited June the morning after she'd been hospitalized. "You just concentrate on getting well so that you're ready to be a mommy, and leave the rest to me."
"And how do you propose to do that?" Linda's friend Melissa asked that night, as the two of them dined on pasta primavera at their favorite West Vancouver restaurant. "Being a bona fide European-trained chef doesn't exactly qualify you as a private investigator. It's already been established that Thayer left town the same day he stole the baby and probably returned to the States. He could be anywhere by now, and given his unpredictable state of mind, I think you're going to need an expert to track him down."
"Uh-uh!" Linda shook her head decisively. "Not an expert, the expert - and I've got you to thank for finding him for me. Remember that magazine article you sent to me when I was living in Rome - the one you wrote about the maverick police officer who quit the force because he refused to be bound by all the red tape surrounding it?"
Melissa eyed her incredulously. "Please tell me you're not referring to the reclusive Mac Sullivan, former ace detective now living in exclusive solitude on the Oregon coast."
"The very same. Going through the conventional channels isn't working. It's time for a more radical approach."
"Quite possibly it is, but Mac Sullivan's not your man. He won't even return your phone calls, much less agree to help you. I'd even go so far as to say that he's the most bullheaded creature on earth, and I know whereof I speak. Researching that article was worse than pulling hen's teeth. Setting up a private tell-all interview with the Queen of England would have been easier."
"I don't care. He's the acknowledged expert when it comes to tracking down missing persons - practically clairvoyant, according to your article - and I'm prepared to camp on his doorstep so that he trips over me every time he sets foot outside his house, if necessary. It beats sitting on my hands and watching June turn into a wraith of the woman she used to be."
"I can't say I blame you. I barely recognized her the last time I saw her. She's nothing but skin and bone. And those haunted eyes ...!" Melissa inspected her glass of wine and let out an exaggerated sigh. "So what can I do to help - since I assume that's why you're bribing me with this very fine merlot?"
"I want you to check your sources and find out exactly where this Sullivan man lives. I need something a bit more specific than 'on the Oregon coast', which covers a lot of territory."
"I don't need to check any sources for that. He lives right on the beach in Trillium Cove."
"Never heard of it."
"Not many people have. It lies between Bandon and Coos Bay, and caters to the rich and reclusive, not tourists or newshounds. We were treated like lepers when we started nosing around town. Your best bet, if you're determined to go this route, is to be discreet and look sophisticated, which shouldn't be too difficult, given your worldly, cosmopolitan air. It's a small town and none of the streets have names, so there's no point in looking at a map. On the plus-side, though, his place lies at the end of a gravel road running directly west of the post office, so you'll find it easily enough. But for what it's worth, if you do find him - "
"When," Linda corrected her. "I will find him, Melissa. I have to. June can't go on like this and neither, come to that, can our mother. She's been sick with worry for weeks now and the stress ... well, you know how much she has to put up with already. This could be the last straw for her."
"Then when you find him, don't rush your fences."
"Why not? This is an emergency and time's of the essence. What's wrong with being up-front about that?"
"Trillium Cove isn't Rome or Paris - or even Vancouver. Things don't happen at breakneck speed around there just because you want them to - and Mac Sullivan's definitely not someone to be pushed. You can't go hammering on his door and expect the only thing he'll ask is 'How high?' just because you tell him to jump. If there was one thing which came across loud and clear during the brief interview he granted us, it's that his priority these days is completing the book he's writing on criminal profiles, and he resents anything which takes time away from that, although he did admit to doing a bit of police consulting on the side, once in a very rare while."
"He'll make an exception when I explain what happened. He has to."
"Uh-uh!" Melissa scooped up a forkful of pasta and shook her head decisively. "He doesn't have to do anything. This is a man who values both his privacy and his freedom to pick and choose how he spends his time."
"He'll choose this case when he finds out how much I'm prepared to pay."
Again, Melissa shook her head. "He's also filthy rich. It takes more zeroes than I earn in three months to pay the taxes on that property of his, let alone afford all the other little perks he enjoys. No, kiddo. To get him to take an interest in your case, you're going to have to adopt a sneakier method and be very persuasive - if you get my drift!"
Linda's stared at her, affronted. "I hope you're not implying I come on to him?"
"I wouldn't have put it quite like that, but since you did, then yes. In a way."
"Fat chance! The day has yet to dawn when - "
"I'm suggesting you stroke his ego, not show up stark naked and offer to give him a full body massage, for heaven's sake!"
"No!" Linda was adamant. She'd fended off romantic overtures from infatuated master chefs and five-star restaurateurs with equal dispatch during her years of training abroad, and wasn't about to compromise her standards now for some small-town ex-police officer with an overblown sense of his own importance. "Apart from the principle of the thing, I can't afford the time for those kinds of games."
"You can't afford not to! And if appealing to his vanity gets the results you're after, what's another couple of days?" Melissa's tone softened. "Look, Linda, I know better than anyone that this isn't how you usually operate. You're the most straightforward person I've ever met - to a fault, sometimes. But there's nothing usual about what's happened to your family. It's cruel and heartbreaking and scary beyond any normal person's wildest imaginings, and if you want to put an end to the misery, the only thing you can afford to focus on is bringing your niece home safely and seeing that Kirk Thayer is brought to justice."
Linda chewed on that for a while, then sighed deeply. "Loath though I am to admit it, I'm afraid you might be right," she said, not much liking it but realistic enough to recognize there was no getting away from the truth of Melissa's analysis. "If flattery will bring Mac Sullivan on board, I'll butter him up one side and down the other so thoroughly, he'll glow. I'll do whatever it takes, and worry about my methods when that baby is back in her mother's arms where she belongs."
"And I wish you luck. Because, believe me, you'll need lots of it."
Excerpted from Mackenzie's Promise by Catherine Spencer
Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Catherine Spencer's newest novel, MacKenzie's Promise, is more than a romance. The story starts with a mystery to be solved ASAP, the kidnapping of Linda's newborn niece, Angela. Linda's ingenuity leads her to Mac, the former police detective who can find the baby if anyone can. The characters are superbly described. Linda is so caring and passionate, Mac so tough yet so tuned-in. Linda's parents are key characters, a vulnerable yet strong mother and a father who has strayed but returned to help his family. This romance is both about the exciting rocky path to romance Linda and Mac follow and a realistic story of Linda's parents who overcome estrangement and find their love anew. The of tale of finding baby Angela showcases yet another of Catherine Spencer's incredible writing talents, her skill the telling a suspenseful mystery. Once you start reading this novel, you will want to finish it before you put it down. Like Catherine Spencer's earlier novels you will be so engrossed in the story and so satisfied with the book's resolution. Once again you will marvel at the compassion she has for her so-real characters. This is a book you will want to read more than once!