Natalie Jones is the lucky survivor of an elusive killer who preys on young women and then disappears from view. And since her harrowing ordeal, the once gutsy photojournalist has remained isolated in her home, paralyzed by fear and her failing vision.
Special Agent Liam "Mac" McKenzie has scars of his own. But despite his efforts to ignore the attraction that simmers between him and Natalie, he needs her help to catch a predator. Soon, they will forge a tentative alliancecharged with desire. Through a soft-focus lens, Natalie dares to envision a future with Mac beyond the investigation never guessing that the clues hidden within her photographs are drawing them into an explosive confrontation with a madman.
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Plainville was a quaint picturesque town. Northern California's version of Andy Griffith's Mayberry. Bucolic enough to provide cinematic contrast for any low-budget stalk-and-slash film. Juxtaposition played just as important a role in still photography as it did in cinematography. Maybe that's why Natalie Jones had picked Plainville for her final descent into darkness.
The climactic scene in a comedic tragedy. Cast of one. Audience of one.
For now, however, she enjoyed one last intermission.
She could pretend she'd never heard the words retinal degeneration. Pretend the darkness wasn't coming for her. Pretend she was just a normal woman whiling away a morning at the local farmers' market, perusing the organic fruit and vegetables and enjoying a sense of community.
When she spotted one of the horse cops that occasionally circled the market, she resolutely lifted her camera and snapped its picture. Doing so, however, made pretending impossible.
She wasn't normal. In truth, she never had been.
She could appreciate the imposing size of the animal, see its general shape and movements, knew it was a typical chestnut brown. But even with a super-magnified lens, she couldn't see the bunching muscles moving underneath the horse's skin, distinguish the leather saddle that had been placed on its back from the blanket that was likely underneath it, or say with certainty that its rider was a man as opposed to a large woman.
Pressing her lips together, she lowered the camera and blinked back the threat of tears.
The saying's true, she thought. Bigger wasn't always betternot if she couldn't see the details on a twelve-hundred pound equine. Still, it was better than nothing.
With a snort of disgust, she started walking again, making sure to keep her head up and her strides slow. But not too slow.
She passed a grove of redwood trees to her right, then paused again when the bright rays of the sun unexpectedly shone through them, momentarily blinding her. Her mouth curled with irony just before she closed her eyes and lifted her face toward the sky, relishing the subtle warmth that spread across her skin. She'd have to recall this moment in darker times. Store it along with her memories of other places that had brought her peace.
The Seine in France.
The winding mountain trails in Switzerland. The dirt roads in Malaysia that were bordered on either side by the lush green of the tropical jungle. The memories would help hide her grief.
It was a term she'd become quite familiar with. A skill she'd honed to near perfection.
She'd spent so many years dreading what might be coming that, no matter how much fear and panic she felt inside, her outward appearance rarely reflected it. Now that the disease was no longer possibility but reality, her ability to hide her feelings would give her something precious. Control, yes, but even more important than thatdignity. Unlike her mother, she'd face her fate with grace and wouldn't allow her situation to defeat or destroy her. And it wouldn't matter that she faced her future alone, either. Alone was better, even if she'd forgotten that for a while.
Her thoughts automatically turned to Duncan Oliver. Despite the rays of light still shining on her face, she shivered and pulled her sweater closer to her body.
Why, in addition to everything else, did she have to feel so cold all the time?
Nothingnot coffee, not the warmth of a fire, not even an electric blanketcould quite cut through the chill that had settled inside her ever since Duncan had come to her two weeks ago, his expression tense yet resolute, saying they needed to talk.
"I'm sorry, Natalie. I love you, butbut I can't handle this. I can't bear to see you go through this," he'd said.
At the time, Natalie had barely stopped herself from crying. "But you can bear for me to go through it alone? When going through it alone will make it a hundred times worse?" Forget a hundred. Try a thousand. A hundred thousand. But of course she hadn't said the words out loud. Instead, she'd moved on. And that's exactly what she'd keep doing.
With a sigh, she opened her eyes, blinked until her vision went from fuzzy to less fuzzy, then started walking again. In the background, she could hear Pete, a local who'd served in several wars, only to return home and lose his wife to cancer, calling out his doomsday predictions and political rhetoric. The cops would tolerate it only until it got more crowded, then they'd start to gently nudge him along.
She moved toward him with deliberation, taking care to avoid stepping in anyone's path. The market had just opened, so there weren't the throngs of people that would descend upon the park in a little more than two hours. By then, she'd be long gone, editing her photos on her computer with the help of a magnified screen, trying not to judge them too harshly or dwell on the fact they were going to be some of the last she ever took.
She stumbled when something brushed against her lower legs, and she automatically reached down, her hands sinking in a soft thatch of fur. She laughed, the husky sound surprising her. "Hey there, sweetie," she crooned and patted the dog until its owner whistled and it loped away.
Her smile didn't fade for several minutes, and she savored the unexpected feeling of contentment. When she reached Pete, he stopped addressing the crowd to greet her. "Hello, pretty Natalie."
She smiled again at the familiar greeting. Pete was unfailingly polite to her whenever they met. He always recognized her, and it amazed her how his mind could flip from delusional to rational in the blink of an eye. "Hi, Pete. How are you feeling today?"
"Right as rain. Don't be afraid. Things are going to work out just fine."
"Thanks, Pete. I appreciate that." She dropped a five-dollar bill into his basket and kept moving, oddly moved by his words of good tiding. They were the same he always said to her, easily dismissed most of the time. But today, she clung to them.
Despite the progression of the disease, she could still see. Still work. Perhaps Pete was right and things really would work out fine.
She'd already provided Plainville magazine hundreds of photos for its feature on the renovation of its downtown district. The unusually sunny day, however, would make the farmers' market shots a nice touch. Although far from crowded, there were still several people wandering about. Some of them moved so quickly that their bodies were a kaleidoscope of blurred colors. When they slowed down and she got close enough, however, she could classify thembusinesspeople, couples, families.
She circled the park several times, framing shots and repeating them until she got them just right. Several times, when objects or individuals gave her a particular feeling, heightened by setting or, where she could see it, facial expression, she mentally gave the shots a title to go along with the image. It was a habit she'd adopted in Dubai, and it had stuck ever since.
The shot of the petite dark-haired woman tilting her head as she laughed with the silver-haired man beside her, her hand on his arm, was "Joy."
The one of the three women walking together, two of them huddled closer than the third, who walked with her arms crossed, was "left Out."
And the one of a man leaning against a tree, his head turned toward a nearby playground, something that looked like a video camera in his hand, she dubbed
An older woman walked by, her expression solemn, but she immediately smiled when the baby in her arms blew raspberries on her neck. The distinctive scents of baby shampoo and formula were a faint tickle on the breeze as they passed. Unable to resist, Natalie turned to keep the baby in her vision, hazy as it was, for as long as possible. It wasn't very long.
In the bustle of the now-growing crowd, Pete's chatter drifted toward her again. "Not what you think he's blinded you "
Frowning, she turned her head, then gasped when she ran into something hard.
Strong fingers grasped her arms to steady her. "Whoa there, little lady. You should watch where you're going."
Natalie's brows shot up in automatic annoyance. Little lady? He'd sounded sincere if a little distracted. Tilting her head up, she squinted her eyes, but because he was backlit by the sun, she saw even less of him than she normally would. He was tall and smelled of tobacco, but there was another scent competing with it, as if he'd doused himself with cologne in an attempt to hide his vice. He was wearing some kind of hat. Given his words and the faintest hint of a Texan accent, she'd guess a cowboy hat, but there was some kind of colorful design on it, a blur of gold that looked like a diamond.
Forcing her mingled embarrassment and annoyance down, she said, "I apologize," and walked around him. Pete was shouting now, and she winced when he accused someone of being a hypocrite. A charlatan. It was when Pete started addressing individuals that the police finally cracked down on him. This time she stopped before turning. Pete was pointing at a couple, and several people had stopped to watch.
"Don't give him what he wants," Pete shrieked. "Go home! Go home. Go"
A figure approached him. "All right, Pete. That's enough. Come along now." The voice was kind but also held the ring of authority. Definitely a cop. Sure enough, Pete's voice quieted, then disappeared altogether as the cop led him away. The crowd dispersed.
She wondered whether the cop would simply escort Pete to the edge of the park or drop him off at his mobile home several blocks away. She'd been there once, to offer her help. She knew the cops had offered their help, as well. Pete graciously shunned all such attempts.
She started walking again, but Pete and his accusations played through her mind. When she heard children laughing and the sound of water, she shook off her distraction. She was approaching the park fountain. Since it would make a nice final shot, she quickened her pace.
With no warning, she felt pain explode behind her eyes. She saw an intense flash of light before her remaining vision tunneled.
Her hands, which had been lightly gripping her camera, jerked violently, snapping the strap around her neck. Vaguely, she heard the camera hit the ground in front of her. Then her other senses seemed to go haywire. Her hearing faded. Her fingers went numb. Her already cool skin seemed to ice over with realization. But there was none of the detachment she'd hoped for. None of the calm acceptance she'd been slowly hoarding for almost twenty years.
Nowhere to hide.
"No," she whispered. "Not now. Please, not now." Just like that, Natalie's world had gone completely dark.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Virna DePaul never disappoints! This story is filled with emotion, danger, and passion. The bad guys are layered and complex, and the hero and heroine have realistic issues to overcome before they can be together. Fast paced but slows down in all right places.
In this story you meet Natalie and Liam. Natalie was a famous photojournalist. She had been all over the world until she began loosing her sight due to an eye disease that quickly eats away at her sight. Because of this, Natalie doesn't really like to go out in public anymore, and when she is brutally attacked in her own home for an unknown reason she is terrified. Enter Liam "Mac" McKenzie Mac is an agent and leader of a special investigations group that works all over the state solving horrific cases. When he hears of the attack on Natalie, Mac and his partner go and question her. He needs Natalie's help identifying the criminal, only he isn't aware that Natalie is going blind and actually wasn't able to see the criminal, something that she failed to mention at the initial interview with local police. After the interview Mac's partner points out Natalie's blindness. Together, Natalie and Mac figure out that some pictures she had taken recently could hold the clues to the criminal and crime. The chemistry between Natalie and Mac is there from the beginning but neither of them want to act upon it. Natalie wants her space and is convinced she doesn't need help, and Mac just doesn't want a serious relationship and is focused on his job. It was nice to see they didn't just jump into bed right from the get go. The book had that believableness (yes i made that word up but you know what i mean *lol*) to it. You got to read from the villains point of view and you just weren't sure who it was at first. It was suspenseful but not frustrating suspense. It's worth picking up and reading and I am looking forward to the next installment of this series
Natalie has been racing the hands of time and her time has finally run out. Her vision is now gone. Natalie is trying to learn how to best cope with her new life, which is not easy. But Natalie is a fighter. She may lock herself away from the world, but she will not give up. She will not be like her mom. Natalie needs that fighting spirit when she is attacked in her own home and almost killed by a mad man. Liam “Mac” McKenzie, has seen many thing in his long career as a cop. So this murder case was nothing new to him until he see a picture of the mad man’s latest victim. A victim that survived. A victim that could have seen something that will help them. Only problem is that Natalie is blind. Natalie and Mac are a great team. Both are stubborn, independent and very protective. This was a good romantic suspense books with so many layers of who done. If you like romantic suspenses you need to pick up a copy of Shades of Desire.
SHADES OF DESIRE by author Virna DePaul is from Harlequin line.Natalie Jones is a professional photographer and to lose her sight to a genetic disorder is distressing for her. She had retinal degeneration and for a photographer who depended on her eyesight and camera this was devastating, not just personally but professionally as well. Her long term relationship also broke when her boyfriend had walked away after saying he couldn¿t go through this losing of her sight with her. But he left her to go through the devastation and pain alone. She takes some last photos as she is a photographer of some considerable repute and can just manage to make out outlines and blurry shapes now. She is not ready to hang her camera yet. Then she is completely unnerved by her final descent into darkness as she falls down in the market square where she was taking these photos and blacks out.Liam `Mac¿ McKenzie was a homicide detective who was divorced due to the pressures of his work. But he consoled himself that he was being the `voice¿ and bringing justice to victims who couldn¿t seek it out themselves. He was part of an elite group of Special Investigators working for the California Department of Justice. Mac is investigating a murder of a young girl when the murderer strikes again. This time his target was Natalie Jones. But she struggled and managed to fight him off. Why was the murderer targeting Natalie? She was blind now but what had she seen when she was last photographing? As Mac tries to get his questions answered he is very much aware of Natalie as a person. He is attracted to her and starts desiring her. But he tries to do the right thing and keeps away from her as he believes he won¿t be able to give her what she needs and she is a potential witness after all! He could lose his career. And the murderer tries to kill Natalie yet again! Mac feels the urge to protect Natalie, as he races against time to investigate the reason for the murderer¿s intent to kill Natalie.SHADES OF DESIRE is a fast paced, thrilling and keeping me on the edge of seat story! It¿s full of tension and danger. Natalie being blind is a small part but her courage and determination through it all is amazing. Mac had thought Natalie would be needy and clingy yet she brought strength with her gentleness and her unwavering goodness and fixed Mac. She made him strong and brave to turn away from fear and death and to simply love. With the loss of her eyesight and her other senses heightened, how Natalie feels desire for Mac is remarkably told by the author. The sensuality in the love scenes just sizzles. SHADES OF DESIRE is a romance story amid the police drama and murder mayhem which sparkles with plenty of sizzle, sensuality, emotions and passion. It¿s a gripping tale of second chances, past secrets and unexpected attraction.
3 STARSIt was a good story. The characters all had flaws, some worsethan others. Thier was too much sex in the book for me.Natalie Jones was going blind. She new for years that she was like her mom had inheired the desease that ended in blindnessNatalie was a photographer. When she came home one dayshe heard someone in her house and he attacked her. Shewas able to get to a different room and lock herself in andcall 911.Her attacker left behind somthing from a girl who's body hadjust been found. He also left fingerprints and he had a record.Lindsay the dead girl had runnaway from her home a year ago.Because her family had politcal power she got a special favors her case special agents CA. Department of Justice.Jase Tyler and Liam McKenzie drove two hours to interview Natalieand see if she new Lindsay or new anything to help them.Liam was attracted to Natalie even before he met her and did notnotice at first that she was blind.Natalie just wants to be left alone. She does not know who or whysomeone was in her home and attacked her. She doesn't want to needanyone. Natalie just wants to be normal and she pushes everyone a waybefore anyone can let her down again.Liam is divorced mainly becuase he put his job ahead of his wife.He does not want to get serious with anyone.You know pretty soon who some of the bad guys are. But the cops don'tknow for awhile.It is entertaining book for a few hours. I was given this ebook to readin exchange of honest review from Netgalley.05/22/2012 PUB HarlequinHQN
Love all her books
These two should not be together. The heroine is rediculously stubborn and the hero is just simply an ass. Skip it.
3 STARS It was a good story. The characters all had flaws, some worse than others. Thier was too much sex in the book for me. Natalie Jones was going blind. She new for years that she was like her mom had inheired the desease that ended in blindness Natalie was a photographer. When she came home one day she heard someone in her house and he attacked her. She was able to get to a different room and lock herself in and call 911. Her attacker left behind somthing from a girl who's body had just been found. He also left fingerprints and he had a record. Lindsay the dead girl had runnaway from her home a year ago. Because her family had politcal power she got a special favors her case special agents CA. Department of Justice. Jase Tyler and Liam McKenzie drove two hours to interview Natalie and see if she new Lindsay or new anything to help them. Liam was attracted to Natalie even before he met her and did not notice at first that she was blind. Natalie just wants to be left alone. She does not know who or why someone was in her home and attacked her. She doesn't want to need anyone. Natalie just wants to be normal and she pushes everyone a way before anyone can let her down again. Liam is divorced mainly becuase he put his job ahead of his wife. He does not want to get serious with anyone. You know pretty soon who some of the bad guys are. But the cops don't know for awhile. It is entertaining book for a few hours. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review from Netgalley. 05/22/2012 PUB HarlequinHQN
My Review: I liked this one and am looking forward to the rest of the SIG series. SIG is a special branch of the Department of Justice investigative offices in California. Mac is a detective who works on this five (I think that's the right number) person team. The book starts with him commiserating the fact that relationships are impossible in their line of work. The job they do requires these men and women to put the job first and that leaves very little time, real or emotional, for a significant other. Mac has one failed marriage under his belt and knows that he'll never even try to have a relationship again. Natalie is a professional photographer. At the beginning of the book, she is walking around a farmers market taking photos through her VERY shadowy eyesight. Natalie has been losing her vision for the last 20 years to the point where life around her is just shadows and blobs of color, but on this day, the final veil comes down and Natalie is shattered to lose it all. Eight weeks later, these two are brought together when Natalie is attacked in her home. She manages to fight the attacker off, but the clues show that he is someone of interest in a murder case of a 16 yo girl that Mac is working. When Natalie's name comes across his desk, he does a search on her and is immediately drawn to both the woman and the art of her photography, but he doesn't realize she's now blind. So that's the set-up, but there is so much to this story. Natalie is mentally in a really scary place right now as she's trying to adjust to her blindness. She has learned over her lifetime to count on no one but herself, but that's basically impossible as she's trying to learn to cope. To complicate an already impossible situation, now she's being attacked by a man she can't see coming. She's scared and stubborn and trying to keep some semblance of her pride intact. Mac feels the draw to her and doesn't want to have anything to do with it so he's incredibly harsh with her. It's a defense mechanism, but *gah*...this man does not handle the situation well at all. Jase, his partner, on the case keeps trying to reign him in, but Mac is pretty stubborn too. But you know, this is a romance....there is no keeping these two apart. I have to admit, as a reader, it was painful to watch these two lash out at each other. They each are doing it to try to build protective walls, but each of them say some incredibly hurtful things and that was the one thing that hurt this book for me. I understood it and why they did it, but once those things are out there, there is no taking them back. There was so much though that I did really love about this book. *the chemistry between Mac and Natalie is HOT....OMG, is it hot! *I loved the photography aspect of the story. Natalie can't see any longer, but she still visualizes and that makes this book extremely descriptive in its imagery. It was really a wonderful aspect to the story. *I loved SIG and cannot wait for Jase and Carrie's story. We got to see glimpses of them in this one and I liked what I saw. Overall this was a good book and a wonderful addition to the Romantic Suspense genre. I can't wait to read more from this series!