JoAnn Ross, one of the most passionate voices in contemporary romantic fiction, returns to the moss-draped splendor of Blue Bayou in a powerful novel of love and suspense, filled with characters you will never forget.
Julia Summers is in Blue Bayou, Louisiana, wrapping up her role on the sizzling soap opera River Road before jetting off to play the part of her dreams. But when she receives an all-too-real threat, her director saddles her with a no-nonsense FBI agent as protection. Free-spirited Julia figures she'll just use her feminine wiles to keep the handsome bodyguard out of her way.
Finn Callahan has no interest in baby-sitting a spoiled starlet, but he owes his brother, Blue Bayou's mayor, a favor. When danger closes in on Julia, Finn realizes that what he feels for her is much more than physical attraction. Now he'll willingly lay his life on the line for the woman who has shown him how beautiful life can be when it's filled with laughter and love.
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Finn Callahan hated bad guys, criminal lawyers, bureaucrats and cockroaches. At least the bad guys had provided him with a livelihood as an FBI Special Agent for the past thirteen years. Why the good Lord had created the other three remained one of those universal mysteries, like how the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids or why it always rained right after you washed your truck.
"It's not like I killed the guy," he muttered. The way Finn saw it, a broken nose, some bruises and a few broken ribs didn't begin to equal the crimes that scumbag serial killer had committed.
"Only because two agents, a Maryland state trooper and a court-appointed shrink managed to pull you off him before you could," the woman behind the wide desk said. There was enough ice in her tone to coat Jupiter. Her black suit was unadorned; her champagne blond hair, cut nearly as short as his, barely reached the collar, and her jaw thrust toward him like a spear. Put her in dress blues and she could have appeared on a U.S. Marine recruiting poster.
"I've spent the past hour on the phone with Lawson's lead attorney. Unsurprisingly, he wants to file assault and battery charges. And that's just for starters. I'm attempting to convince him to allow us to handle the matter internally."
Unpolished fingernails, trimmed short as a nun's, tapped an irritated tattoo on the gleaming desktop.
Finn had no problem with women in the Bureau; he'd worked with several and would have trusted his life to them any day. Hell, even James Bond had gotten a woman boss when Judi Dench took over as M. Finn didn't even have any problem with ice queens like Special Agent in Charge Lillian Jansen.
He did, however, have a Herculean problem with any SAC who wasn't a stand-up guy. From the day she'd arrived from the New York field office, Jansen had proven herself to be far more interested in the politics of the job than in locking up criminals.
"It's a helluva thing when an SAC takes the side of a sicko killer over one of her own men," he muttered.
"Christ, Callahan," the other man in the office warned. James Burke's ruddy cheeks were the hue of ripe cherries, suggesting that Finn's recent behavior hadn't been good for his blood pressure problem. A faint white ring around his mouth was evidence he'd been chugging Maalox directly from the bottle again.
"You're out of line, Special Agent," Jansen snapped. "Again."
Leaning back in the leather swivel chair, she dropped the sword that had been hanging over his head for the past forty-eight hours -- ever since the killer it had taken Finn nearly three years to track through eight states had made the mistake of trying to escape from the hospital, just as Finn dropped by to see how the court-appointed psychiatric evaluation was going.
"I will, of course, have no choice but to turn this incident over to OPR."
The Office of Professional Responsibility was the equivalent of a police force's internal affairs bureau. Since many of its investigators possessed a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude, a lot of agents tended to distrust the OPR right back.
The idea of being thrown to the wolves made Finn's gut churn, but unwilling to allow Jansen to know she'd gotten beneath his skin, he forced his shoulders to relax, schooled his expression to a mask, and although it wasn't easy, kept his mouth shut.
"You're scheduled to be questioned tomorrow afternoon at three o'clock. You are, of course, entitled to be represented by legal counsel."
"Now there's an idea. Maybe I can get one of those worms making up Lawson's legal dream team to represent me. Of course, the only problem with that idea is since Lawson's a gazillionaire sicko with bucks out the kazoo, I doubt any of those scumbags would want to take on the case of a middle income cop who got pissed off at their client for raping and killing coeds."
Ronald Lawson had murdered eight college women scattered across the country from California to Maryland. Finn's recurring nightmare was that there were still more missing women he hadn't yet discovered who could be linked to the guy.
"We would have had eleven victims if Callahan hadn't gotten to Lawson's house when he did and found those girls locked up in his basement." A chain-smoker, Burke's voice was as rough as a bad gravel road.
"That's part of my problem." Frustration sharpened the SAC's brisk voice. "The Georgetown girl's parents are close personal friends of the Attorney General. In fact, the AG and his wife are her godparents. They heard about Lawson's attempted escape on the nightly news and are pressuring the AG to allow Callahan's outrageous cowboy tactics to slide."
Finn shot a sideways look at Burke, whose expression told him they were thinking the same thing. That perhaps he just should have put his gun barrel into the guy's mouth and pulled the trigger in those midnight hours when they'd descended on Lawson's Pontiac mansion. Every cop in the place would have sworn on a stack of bibles that deadly force had been absolutely justified.
He'd always been a by-the-book kind of guy, the type of FBI agent Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. had played on TV, but sometimes the laws protecting the bad guys really sucked.
"How about we come up with a compromise?" Burke suggested.
"What type of compromise do you have in mind?" Jansen asked.
"Callahan takes a leave of absence until this blows over. Say, two weeks."
"That's not enough time for damage control. Four weeks suspension," she countered. "Without pay."
Finn had been staring up at the ceiling, pretending disinterest in the negotiation. When he realized Burke wasn't countering Jansen's proposal, he shot the SAC a savage look.
"Fuck that." He rubbed knuckles which had been bruised when they'd connected so satisfyingly with Lawson's jaw. You are not, he instructed his itchy fist, going to screw this up worse by punching a hole through that damn trophy wall. A wall covered with photographs of SAC Lillian Jansen with seemingly every politician in town.
"I'll take my chances with OPR."
"Dammit, Finn, it's not that bad an offer." Burke plowed a hand through thinning hair the color of a rusty Brillo pad. "You haven't taken a real vacation in years. Go home, do some fishing, unwind, and when you come back all this shit will have blown over."
They both knew it'd probably take another Hurricane Andrew to blow this particular shit pile away.
"If I were you, I'd take your squad supervisor's advice." Jansen folded her arms across the front of a jacket as black as her heart.
Finn suspected that not only was she enjoying this, she was just waiting for him to squirm. Not in this lifetime, his expression said.
Want to bet? hers said right back. "If this goes any further, my recommendation will be to terminate you."
And she'd do it if it'd help her career. Hell, she'd probably run over her own dog if it'd get her a promotion to ADIC. Of course she didn't actually have a dog; that would take some kind of personal commitment -- and from what he'd seen, the woman was only committed to her swift climb up the Bureau's political ladder.
"Two weeks." Forget Hurricane Andrew. Finn needed a tornado to come sweeping out of Kansas, swoop down over K Street, and drop a damn house on Lillian Jansen.
"Four." Her lips actually quirked a bit at the corners, hinting at the closest thing to a smile he'd witnessed since her heralded arrival from New York. She held out her hand, palm up. "And I'll take your weapon and shield."
Feeling Burke's gaze on him, the silent plea to make nice radiating off his squad commander like a physical presence, Finn swallowed the frustration that rose like bile in his mouth, took his .40mm Glock from his shoulder holster and resisted, just barely, the urge to throw it onto her desk.
When he failed to manage the same restraint with his shield, all three pairs of eyes watched the leather case slide off the highly polished surface onto the carpet. Finn hoped Jansen would ask him to pick it up, so he could suggest where she could plant those thin, pale lips.
"Do you know the trouble with you, Callahan?"
"No. But I have a feeling you're going to tell me."
"You've begun to believe your own press. There are those in the Bureau, including your former SAC, who may be impressed by your appearances on Nightline and your dinners at the White House. But as far as I'm concerned, you have a very bad attitude toward authority. You also take your work personally."
"And your point is?"
She glared at him with nearly as much contempt as he felt for her, then pressed a button on her intercom. "Please send in security to escort Special Agent Callahan out of the building."
"I'll do that," Burke offered quickly. It was obvious he wanted to get Finn out of the office before things got worse.
"It's not your job," Jansen said.
"A superior stands by his men." His tone clearly implied the SAC did not. If Jansen's eyes were frost, Burke's were flame.
Finn was willing to take the heat himself, but didn't want to cause a longtime friend any more problems. Especially since he knew Burke had put a second mortgage on his Arlington house to pay for his three kids' college tuition and couldn't afford a disciplinary suspension.
"Jim, it's okay."
"The hell it is," the older man shot back. "This whole mess stinks to high heaven." He pinned the SAC with a hard look.
Clearly unwounded, she merely shrugged in return. "You have ten minutes," she told Finn.
Finn turned on his heel with military precision, and had just opened the office door when she called his name. Glancing back over his shoulder, he imagined a black widow spider sitting in the center of her web.
"If I were you Callahan, I'd spend the next month sending out resumes. Because if and when you return, you'll be transferred to another field office, where -- if I have anything to say about it, and believe me, I do -- you'll be reassigned to desk duty."
Oh, she was good. Coldly efficient, deadly accurate, hitting right on target. She knew he'd rather be gut shot than spend the rest of his career stuck in some dreary outpost, shuffling papers. Finn would bet his last grade increase that, instead of playing Barbie dolls and having pretend tea parties like other little girls, SAC Jansen had spent her childhood drowning kittens.
He heard Burke clear his throat, another less-than-subtle warning. But Finn refused to justify her threat with a response.
Since his work had always been his life, he didn't have any hobbies, nor had he bothered to accumulate any superfluous stuff that might clutter up either his desk or his life. He cleaned a few personal effects from his desk and was out of the building in just under eight minutes.
Copyright © 2002 by The Ross Family Trust
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Made me laugh is several different places and the soap story lines were crazy! The dynamic between the brothers is realistic. Good read.
Lookkng foward to NATE' S story soon.
Loved the whole series
For the past five years, Julia Summers has starred as an Erica Kane-type vamp on the number one nighttime soap opera, RIVER ROAD. However, when her contract ends in less than a month, Julia will leave the TV show to become a 'Bond Girl'. Currently, Julia is on location in Blue Bayou, Louisiana filming her last story line for RIVER ROAD. After three years trying to capture a serial killer, FBI Special Agent Finn Callahan succeeds. However, when his prisoner tries to escape Finn gleefully uses more force then is necessary. Though his peers quietly applaud Finn for doing what they want to do, he receives a one-month suspension. Finn returns to his hometown of Blue Bayou where his brother Nate serves as the mayor. When an unknown assailant stalks Julia, his sibling asks Finn to protect the actress. Neither Finn nor Julia wants that, but reluctantly both agree. As their passion for James Bond surfaces, the duo falls in love, but before either can decide what to do about their feelings, Julia¿s stalker must be stop before he kills her. RIVER ROAD is an engaging romantic suspense that brings back favorites from BLUE BAYOU and provides the added bonus of James Bond trivia. The lead characters are a delightful duet and the support cast provides a touch of the Deep South. Though the suspense is the impetus to bringing the couple together, it feels insignificant until the climax when played out against their love for 007 and for each other. JoAnn Ross furbishes a winner that leaves her audience impatiently awaiting the third and final Callahan tale. Harriet Klausner