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Reporter Sara O’Rourke never shies away from a tough story. With a serial killer on the loose, Sara is willing to put herself in harm’s way to get the scoop. But when it comes to her personal life, she’s not so confident. It’s been a year and a half since Sara left her husband in Australia and moved to San Francisco. Sara believes she’s made the right decision—until he suddenly appears to tell her that he still loves her.
Jordan Bandor has never let anyone get too close—not even his own wife. Their chemistry was always explosive, but Jordan pushed Sara away—all the way to the other side of the world. Now that mistake may cost Sara her life. Jordan knows that she’s in danger. Determined to keep her safe, Jordan must find a way to stop a madman from killing the only woman he’s ever loved—and prove his devotion by reminding Sara of the magic that brought them together in the first place.
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The man couldn’t have been Jordan.
Sara’s grip tightened on the delicate china cup in her hand, her gaze searching the fog-shrouded sidewalk beyond the mullioned windows of the tearoom. It was foolish of her to be so nervous. She had caught only the most fleeting glimpse of a tall man wearing jeans and a white fisherman’s sweater before he had disappeared into the fog. She wasn’t even sure his hair had been as dark as Jordan’s. Yet there had been something about the way he moved.… No one had a walk like Jordan’s. He moved in a way that was so deceptive at first glance, for it looked lazy, but quite quickly that impression gave way to the truth: He was full of fierce energy … leashed. She had watched him stride naked across the room toward her so many times, his muscular thighs rippling with power.…
“What’s wrong?” Penny Lassiter was frowning at Sara. “You haven’t heard a word I’ve said for the last five minutes.”
Sara forced her grasp to loosen on the cup and smiled with an effort. “Sorry. I thought I saw someone I knew.” It had to have been her imagination. Sausalito was half a world away from Half Moon Bay and the life she had lived there.
Penny’s eyes widened in alarm as her gaze followed Sara’s to the window. “Kemp?”
Sara shook her head as she lifted the cup to her lips. “Not Kemp. You’re jumping at shadows. Julian Kemp is in New York and no threat to me. It’s over, Penny.”
“The hell it is.” Penny’s brown eyes met Sara’s as she lit a cigarette. “You were a material witness at Kemp’s trial and that slimeball isn’t going to forget you. He made threats on your life, dammit.”
“That was four months ago and the New York police told us he hasn’t given any sign of planning to leave their jurisdiction since Judge Brenlaw declared a mistrial.” Sara reached across the table and gave her editor’s hand an affectionate squeeze. “I’m not so stupid that I’m not worried, but I can’t lock myself in my apartment and never go out. I couldn’t live like that. Kemp knows he’s being watched by the police around the clock and he’d be a fool to make a move on me.”
“Or crazy,” Penny said. “And we both know the man is unbalanced. He killed four women, and I’m not going to let you become number five. I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve about decided to reassign you to the South Pacific bureau.”
“No!” Sara said. “You can’t do that. You’re overreacting, Penny.”
Penny’s lips tightened. “I was the one who sent you to New York to cover the finish of that investigation on Kemp, and it’s my fault that you were on the spot to witnesss Kemp’s attack on the woman. So don’t tell me what I can or can’t do, Sara.”
There was the touch of steel in Penny’s voice that broadcast the message she was speaking now as Sara’s boss not her friend. Sara experienced a swift rush of panic. No one knew better than she how tough Penny could be when she chose. Penny Lassiter hadn’t become the editor of the most prestigious news magazine in the United States at the age of thirty-one by being easily swayed by anything or anyone. Dynamic, intelligent, and charismatic, Penny could also be obstinate as the devil when she made up her mind. But perhaps she hadn’t quite made up her mind yet, Sara thought. “I don’t want to go back to Sydney.”
Penny’s expression softened. “Who said anything about Australia? I was thinking about Honolulu. Wouldn’t you like to spend six months in the paradise of the Pacific?”
Sara quickly lowered her lashes to hide the relief she felt. Jordan owned a luxury hotel in Honolulu, but he seldom visited it. His brother, Cam, had always handled their properties outside of Australia. “It’s better than Sydney, but I’d probably be bored stiff in your island paradise. I’d rather stay here.”
Penny looked down into the amber depths of the tea in her cup. She had been afraid Sara was going to be difficult about this. She had known Sara O’Rourke for more than five years, had been her close friend for about four of those years. She had learned to read Sara pretty well. Not that Sara was difficult to read. She had never tried to be anything but open and honest with everyone.
When Penny had hired her fresh out of college she’d had serious reservations about two of Sara’s chief characteristics: her sensitivity and glowing warmth. In Penny’s experience, a reporter’s sensitivity soon turned to cynicism and warmth to wariness as the years passed. She had thought it likely Sara would become either embittered or so disillusioned she wouldn’t last more than six months at World Report.
She had been delighted to find herself wrong about Sara, who had gained confidence and strength but never lost her tender qualities. And, indeed, her sensitivity and warmth made her interviews one of the magazine’s top features. “Six months will be tolerable. You may even learn how to hula.” She crushed her cigarette out in the crystal ashtray on the table. “Maybe by that time the N.Y.P.D. will have enough evidence to file charges on one of the other cases against Kemp on their books.”
“But it’s not necessary,” Sara said urgently. “I don’t want to leave San Franscisco. I like it here and I’ve made several good friends. I’ve just finished decorating and moving into my new apartment and I—”
“Honolulu is a long way from Half Moon Bay, Sara,” Penny interrupted. “It’s not as if I’m sending you into the lion’s den. The chances of your running across your ex-husband in Honolulu are extremely slim. If I had a choice, I’d send you to the Paris bureau, but there’s no opening there now.”
“Jordon has nothing to do with my not wanting to leave San Francisco.” Sara met her friend’s skeptical gaze and made a face. “All right, I’m not telling the truth. I don’t want to see Jordan again. Not yet.”
“It’s been eighteen months since you left Half Moon Bay,” Penny said gently. “You’ve never flinched at facing up to anything or anyone before, Sara. I think perhaps you’ve let the image of Jordan Bandor grow too large in your memory. He’s only a man.”
“Is he?” Sara smiled crookedly. “You’ve never met him. Jordan is definitely larger than life.”
Penny’s gaze narrowed on her face. “Are you afraid of him?”
“Of course not. It’s just that Jordan …” Sara moistened her lips. “I’m not ready to encounter him again. Not yet. Jordan always managed to turn me inside out. He’s—” she paused, searching for words—“overpowering.”
The description coincided with what Penny had heard of Jordan Bandor. The Australian hotelier had the reputation of being both ruthless and hard as nails in his business as well as in his personal life. It was a mystery to her that sensible Sara could have been swept off her feet by the man. Of course, Jordan Bandor was fabulously wealthy and Half Moon Bay was reputed to be one of the most beautiful estates in the world, but she doubted that his money would have influenced Sara. Sara had known Jordan only one week before he had managed to persuade her to give up her job with World Report and marry him. Nine months later Sara had walked into Penny’s office in San Francisco, announced her marriage was over, she was resuming her maiden name, and wanted her old job back. She had never mentioned Jordan Bandor again. Until now.
“Damn, you’re actually intimidated by the man and you’re no doormat.” Penny frowned. “Why?”
“I’m not intimidated. I’m probably giving you the wrong impression. Jordan is brilliant and he can be very charming. You might even admire him. He’s just … very intense. Probably the most intense man I’ve ever known.”
Sara shook her head. “Steady as a rock.”
Penny scowled. “I still don’t think I’d care for your charming ex-husband.”
Sara’s gaze returned to the window. “He’s not my ex-husband yet, there’s some sort of legal delay.”
Penny gave a low whistle. “I thought the divorce had gone through.”
“Soon. It can’t take much longer. I’m sure it’s just international red tape.” Sara glanced at her wristwatch. “I’d better get going. It’s almost four and I have an interview at five with Michael Donovan. He promised me an exclusive about his new science fiction movie.” She stood up. “This has been nice, hasn’t it? There’s something very soothing and old world about taking afternoon tea. If you weren’t such a busy lady, I’d suggest we make it a standing date every week.” She leaned across the small table and brushed Penny’s cheek with her lips. “I’ll see you at the office tomorrow.”
“Yes, you will.” Penny smiled sweetly. “And then we’ll sit down and discuss travel arrangements.”
She should have realized Penny wouldn’t let herself be sidetracked, Sara thought ruefully. “Okay, we’ll talk about the possibility of a reassignment.”
“Arrangements,” Penny repeated firmly. “And remember Mac Devlin’s bash tomorrow night. He needs all the support he can get when he tries to wheedle more money out of World Report’s board members.”
“Mac Devlin needs support like I need that assignment in Honolulu. He’ll have them eating out of his hand.”
“Maybe, but show up anyway. You don’t say no to the publisher, Sara.”
“No problem. I’ll be there. I like parties.” Sara gave her an affectionate smile and walked quickly out of the tearoom.
The fog was becoming worse, wreathing the streets of Sausalito in a blanket of white mist. It was going to be the very devil driving back to the downtown San Francisco hotel where she was to meet the producer. She’d be lucky if she didn’t blunder off the blasted bridge.
Sara unlocked the door of her beige Honda and paused a moment to look down the street toward the pier where the man in the white fisherman’s sweater had vanished in the mist. Strange what tricks the mind could play. This Kemp business had strained her nerves to the point that it was triggering all sorts of disturbing hallucinations. She smiled ruefully as she remembered that last week she had been sure someone was following her and had called Lieutenant Blaise in a panic to make certain Kemp was still in New York. He had been very patient and reassuring, and even made a special call to the New York police to verify that Kemp was still there. She had felt like a complete idiot.
And thinking that she had caught a glimpse of Jordan had to be her imagination also. He had so dominated her life and her thoughts in the brief period they’d been together that it was probably natural for a stray tendril of memory to creep into her consciousness now and then. But she had neither heard from nor seen Jordan since she had left Half Moon Bay eighteen months ago.
No, it couldn’t have been Jordan Bandor who had been standing on the sidewalk outside the tearoom.