The leather-clad stranger didn't look like any job-seeker Elizabeth had ever seen. But the restaurant owner needed a bartender, and the bad boy fit the bill. Until she discovered what Aidan was really after. As a peaceful kingdom exploded in scandal, Elizabeth faced another kind of threat: the sensual danger to one woman's heart.
About the Author
Caridad Pi¤eiro Scordato was born in Havana, Cuba, and settled in the New York Metropolitan area. She attended Villanova University on a Presidential Scholarship and graduated Magna cum laude. Caridad earned her Juris Doctor from St. John's University and became the first female partner of Abelman, Frayne&Schwab, an intellectual property firm in midtown-Manhattan.
Caridad is a multi-published author whose love of the written word developed when her fifth-grade teacher assigned a project--to write a book that would be placed in a class-lending library. She has been hooked on writing ever since.
Caridad's seventh novel, Darkness Calls, was a Silhouette Intimate Moments release in March 2004. The Calling vampire series, based on characters from Darkness Calls, debuted with Danger Calls in June 2005 and Temptation Calls in October 2005. Due to overwhelming fan support and reviews, look for Death Calls and two other books in The Calling series beginning in December 2006! Death Calls helped the Silhouette line launch its new Nocturne paranormal line, and Caridad was one of the authors featured by Harlequin at this year's BookExpo America in Washington, D.C.
Join Caridad and five other writers in April 2006 for a Silhouette Intimate Moments series, Capturing the Crown. Caridad's title, More Than a Mission, will be available in August. The sequel to More Than a Mission, as yet untitled, will be available in August 2007.
Caridad has appeared on FOX Television's Good Day New York, New Jersey News' Jersey's Talking with Lee Leonard and WGN-TV's Adelante Chicago. She was also one of the Latino authors featured at the first ever Spanish Pavilion at BookExpo America 2000. Articles featuring Caridad's works have appeared in the New York Daily News, The Star Ledger, Sun Sentinel, Waterbury Republican-American, latinolink.com and Variety Yahoo! News.
When not writing, Caridad is a mom and wife, and teaches workshops on various topics related to writing. Caridad also heads a writing group at a local bookstore.
Read an Excerpt
She's to be taken alive, Aidan Spaulding reminded himself as he walked the streets of Leonia, trying to become familiar with the lay of the land before heading to his latest assign-ment — identifying the killer of Prince Reginald, the man who would have been king of Silvershire.
Corbett Lazlo, Aidan's boss, had received information that a world-renowned female assassin was behind the killing. The Sparrow, as she was known, was believed to have poisoned the prince. Aidan was to confirm that and try to capture the elusive gun for hire.
Aidan had more personal reasons for wanting the Sparrow caught. Two years earlier, he and his best friend, Mitchell Lama, had been on the trail of a suspected terrorist as part of another Lazlo Group detail. They had been about to close in on their suspect, unaware that the man they were seeking was also being sought by the Sparrow.
Mitch and he had split up in the narrow and twisting alleyways of Rome's Trastevere section, communicating via walkie-talkie as they attempted to corner their man.
When the walkie-talkie in his hand had gone dead, Aidan had realized his friend was in trouble. After years in the military together, Mitch knew better than to go incommunicado without signaling his partner. The nature of the mission had changed suddenly as Aidan raced through the alleyways, now trying to locate Mitch. He had finally found the friend who was almost like a brother sprawled on the ancient cobblestones of a back alley.
Mitch had been nearly gutted and was barely alive. Somehow, though, his friend had managed one last word before he died in Aidan's arms — Sparrow.
He had been looking for her ever since, intent on avenging Mitch's death. Now here she was, being handed to him on a silver platter. The only problem was, he could do nothing about it until after the Lazlo Group had all the answers it needed regarding Prince Reginald's murder. But after that...
Nothing would keep him from giving the Sparrow just what she deserved.
The young woman they suspected of being the Sparrow — Elizabeth Moore, aka Elizabeth Cavanaugh — ran a restaurant in this modest seaside town. The restaurant — apparently a cover for her real occupation — had become quite well-known for its seafood and Silvershire-inspired cuisine.
He had seen the help wanted sign go up late yesterday morning in her restaurant's front window, so it was the perfect time to see about applying for the bartending position.
Pulling his PDA off his belt as he approached the Sparrow's restaurant, he used the walkie-talkie adapter he had built into the unit to cue Lucia, the Lazlo group's top computer specialist, to see if she was picking up the signal from the earpiece he was wearing.
"Mixmaster to Red Rover. Come in Red Rover. I'm about to go in."
Lucia's chuckle crackled across the airwaves a moment before she said, "Mixmaster... Do we really have to do this stupid name thing?"
Aidan smiled. Lucia was never one for clandestine shenanigans. Shutting off his walkie-talkie, he replied, "No problema, Lucia. Can you hear me?"
"Loud and clear, Blender Boy," she responded.
He immediately asked, "Kir Royale?"
There was a barely noticeable pause before Lucia said,
"One part creme de cassis to five parts champagne."
Satisfied that the wire was working, he started walking toward the restaurant and said, "Let's get this show on the road."
The sun was warm on her back as she tended the garden at the front of the restaurant. Wildly spreading nasturtiums lapped over onto the large granite slabs that made up the patio where guests shared drinks while they waited for a table inside the ivy-covered stone building that housed her restaurant.
Carefully she deadheaded older blossoms and picked others for inclusion in one of the seasonal salads she was offering on this week's menu. She was just about finished when she heard a footfall behind her. A man walked through the opening of the low stone wall that separated her property from the main road. A very attractive man.
Slipping the basket holding her gatherings onto her arm, she strolled toward him, easing off her gardening gloves as she did so.
"May I help you?" Elizabeth asked as she met him by the path leading to the restaurant. She realized she had to look up slightly to meet his gaze. He was about half a foot taller than her with a lean athletic build that accentuated the long lines of his body.
He motioned to her front window with one hand and replied, "I noticed the sign. I'm here to apply for the bartender's position."
She examined him more carefully, from the faded and sinfully tight jeans to his logo T-shirt and black leather jacket. He looked more like a tourist on vacation than someone interested in permanent employment. "I'm sorry. I didn't quite catch your name."
He held out his hand with a brisk, almost military snap. "Aidan Rawlings. Are you the owner?"
With a quick glance at her hand to make sure it wasn't too dirty from her gardening, she shook his hand and said, "Elizabeth Moore. Chief cook and bottle washer. Literally."
He smiled with teeth too white and too perfect for normal humans. They seemed apropos with his shaggy and sunstreaked blond hair and eyes so blue she couldn't believe he wasn't wearing colored contacts. His smile broadened as he noticed her perusal of him and that she was still busily shaking his hand.
Yanking it away, she wiped her hand down on the gardening apron she wore, realizing her palm had gotten sweaty from the brief contact. "I'm sorry. You said you were here for the bartender's job?"
He nodded and tucked his hands into his jeans pockets. Or maybe it was better to say, tucked the tips of his fingers into those pockets, since the jeans were so tight they didn't really leave a lot of room for anything else besides his long lean legs and...
She stopped herself from proceeding with the perusal. "Is the job still available?" He rocked back and forth on his heels as he asked, apparently growing uncomfortable, but then again, so was she. Not much of a surprise considering she generally avoided strangers, in particular, men like this one.
Handsome, danger-to-your-common-sense kind of men. "Do you have experience?" After she asked, she began to walk toward the door of the restaurant and he followed beside her, keeping his paces small to accommodate her shorter legs.
"I've worked in a number of bars," he replied with a careless shrug.
She supposed that he had, but not as a bartender. There was something about him. Something in the way he moved and in the slight swagger that screamed Bad Boy. She could picture him as either a bouncer — he had an air that said he could take care of himself — or an exotic dancer, but not a bartender.
As she reached the door, she faced him. "I'm sorry, Mr....Rawlings was it?"
"How about you just call me Aidan?" he said with a practiced smile that had probably swept more than one woman off her feet. Aidan, however, was going to get a swift lesson in the art of Just Say No!
"I appreciate you coming by, but the position — "
"Is still available, right?"
She responded to his statement with a subtle drop of her head as if she didn't want to acknowledge it. "Quite frankly, my restaurant isn't the kind of place for a Tom Cruise Cocktail redux."
He actually jerked back as if slapped and a stain of color came to his sharply defined cheeks. "Excuse me?"
"I just don't think you're the right type." And he definitely was not used to being turned down by a woman.
Surprise appeared once more on his face, followed by what she would possibly call admiration until he carefully schooled his expression.
"And what type are you looking for exactly?" he asked and placed his hands on his hips.
"Someone more...professional. This is a four-star restaurant and my patrons expect — "
"Uptight and pompous? Fair enough." With that, he turned and walked away, but she couldn't help but notice just how nice a derriere he had. Not that it would change her mind.
She needed someone who wouldn't cause trouble and, although pleasant to look at, Aidan Rawlings was trouble with a capital T.
"Crash and burn."
Lucia's words cut rudely across the airways and into the earpiece as he hurried from the Sparrow's restaurant. He was at the edge of the property when something compelled him to look back.
She was standing at the door, still watching him, and when their gazes collided from across the distance, a becoming blush stained her cheeks before she escaped into the building.
Aidan smiled. Good. The lady was not as unaffected as she let on.
"Shut up, Cordez," he whispered beneath his breath.
"All bad moody are we? What do you plan on doing now?" Lucia asked while he continued on to the hotel at which the team was staying, only a few blocks from the restaurant.
"If she wants someone a little more professional, that's what she'll get."
He was already at the door of the hotel when Lucia quipped, "That may take a lot of work."
He ignored her dig and headed up to their suite. Inside, Lucia was busily working on her laptop.
Not that they'd needed it today, Aidan thought as he walked over and stood behind her, watching as she entered a date onto a list she was compiling.
"What's that?" he said and motioned to the screen. Lucia looked up over her shoulder. "Corbett's contacts — "
"So it's Corbett now is it?" he teased, well aware that Lucia had a crush on the mysterious head of their group.
"His contact at MI6 provided a list of kills that they attribute to the Sparrow. That's in this column." She pointed to one list and Aidan scrutinized the schedule, which comprised nearly a dozen incidents in the last six years. The Sparrow had been busy. There was just one glaring error.
"Mitch's name is not on the list."
Concern flashed across Lucia's face a moment before she said, "MI6 can't connect Mitch to the Sparrow."
"Well, they're wrong. I know what Mitch said to me." He sat on the edge of the desk and crossed his arms.
Lucia laid a hand on his forearm as if to comfort him. "Maybe Mitch was trying to tell you something else about her."
He thought about it, but what kinds of things did a dying man think important enough to say? In his book, first was the name of his killer. "The Sparrow did it. End of discussion."
Seeing that he had gotten his defenses up, Lucia said nothing else, but instead began entering another set of dates onto the list. A number of the dates and locations matched those for the Sparrow's kills. "What are you doing now?"
"More than you are, clearly," she teased, but then added,
"Whoever spilled the beans to Corbett about Elizabeth being the Sparrow wasn't completely sure. So I did a search to see where she might have gone. Contests, expos, vacations and..."
Fingers tapping away on the computer keys, she finished her entries. Beside a number of the dates that had already been there courtesy of MI6, there were now four entries for Chef Elizabeth Moore that matched.
"Seems like we have a pretty good candidate for the Sparrow," he said.
"It appears that way. There's just too much coincidence, including this weekend here." Lucia motioned to one entry on her list. "She was at a cooking expo in the town next to the prince's estate. He was found dead that weekend."
"Poisoned, which seems to be a favorite method for our assassin." Which could be why MI6 hadn't listed Mitch, although some of the Sparrow's other kills had been the plain old get-up-close-and-kill-them type. Which made him wonder just what motivated her. Sticking a knife in someone... Seeing that look of surprise fade to a lifeless stare...
He knew it well, having had to kill more than once on his assignments as an army Ranger. It wasn't easy even if you told yourself that you had to do it. That it was either you and your men, or the man whose life you had just taken. But that look never left you. Not even when you slept.
Like the final expression on Mitch's face. One of surprise and possibly even regret. For months after Mitch's death, that image had chased him through his nightmares.
"Aidan?" Lucia asked, apparently sensing that she had lost him.
"I'm going to review the Elizabeth Moore file. Do you think you could give me a copy of that when you're done? And can you add Mitch to the list and see if she was in Rome then?"
"You got it."
He went to his room, slipped out the earpiece and placed it on a mahogany desk that held an assortment of other electronic gadgets he had designed. Grabbing the file on Elizabeth Moore once more, he plopped down onto the bed and began to review the facts.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Set in a small town called Leonia, near Silvershire. Elizabeth 'Lizzy Bee' Moore runs a four star restaurant/bar. Everyone around knows her well and genuinely cares for her. Her face shows all her emotions as she feels them. Other than spending Friday nights out with her girlfriends, she eats and breathes only for her business. There is just no way she could fake all those things. Yet the Lazlo Group is sure that Elizabeth is the world-renowned assassin called the Sparrow. ....................... Aidan Spaulding has only been careless once in his years as an agent. That once had been in Rome, two years ago, and cost the lift of his best friend and partner, Mitch. Mitch died with the Sparrow's name on his lips. The Lazlo Group might have been hired to find out who killed Prince Reginald back then, but Aidan only wanted Mitch's killer. That the Sparrow did both murders was sure, so in doing his mission, Aidan also got revenge for his best friend. All leads pointed to Leonia. Elizabeth's garden has all the ingredients that had been used in the prince's poison, she has the fighting skills, and she has mastered the skills with the knives in her kitchen that no one else is allowed to ever touch. All the dates and places of the Sparrow's assassinations had Elizabeth in town. The only thing needed now was physical proof. .................... Aidan is hired by Elizabeth as her bartender. Both are attracted to each other, yet both try to deny it. Neither can afford to get attached emotionally. And a danger, unknown to them both, is coming. ........................ ***** As I have come to expect from this author, I found my attention captured faster than lightning and just as startling. I am glad I had several hours reserved for the story, because I never stopped reading until the last page had been turned. I never noticed how much time had passed as I sat on the edge of my seat with my nose stuck in this book. Next time I get something written by this author, I'll order out for pizza before opening the cover! Romantic Suspense gets no better than this! *****