Small-Town Secrets (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1145)

Small-Town Secrets (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1145)

by Debra Webb

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426836053
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 07/01/2009
Series: Colby Agency: Elite Reconnaissance Division Series
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 400,261
File size: 135 KB

About the Author

DEBRA WEBB is the award winning, USA Today bestselling author of more than 130 novels, including reader favorites the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency, and the Shades of Death series. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra's love of storytelling goes back to her childhood on a farm in Alabama. Visit Debra at or write to her at PO Box 176, Madison, AL 35758.

Read an Excerpt


Inside the Colby Agency

"She's the perfect choice."

Victoria Colby-Camp reclined in her leather executive chair and considered the man who had spoken. Simon Ruhl was one of her most committed colleagues. He and Ian Michaels were her seconds in command. She trusted both implicitly. If Simon had concluded that Merrilee Walters was the perfect choice, then she was without doubt the ideal choice.

"Excellent." Victoria nodded, punctuating the announcement. "Ian, you'll follow up with Spence as to any possible legal ramifications in hiring an investigator who is hearing impaired?"

"I will." Ian had left the final decision up to Simon. Still, he had reservations about Merrilee's ability to fulfill the requirements of the position, but nothing conclusive to veto bringing her on board. More a feeling, he insisted in previous discussions.

"If Spence finds no legal precedent of concern, then we'll move forward," Victoria offered.

Simon and Ian exchanged a look. One that said the decision wasn't nearly as cut-and-dried as Victoria suggested.

"What am I missing?" They had been over all the issues more than once. No one assigned to the agency's Elite Reconnaissance Division had voiced a problem with this potential staff addition. The final approval was Victoria's, but Simon's and Ian's agreement was paramount to her decision. If there was still a problem beyond the one Ian had mentioned, she needed to know.

Ian clasped his hands in front of him, an uncharacteristic move for a man whose absolute stillness even in moments of extreme tension proved intimidating to most. "My gut instinct hasn't changed," he finally said. "The Colby Agency has made its reputation on employing only the best. The most highly trained, the most honorable as well as the most physically able. Rarely have we stepped outside those parameters. Miss Walters is deaf—a challenge that puts her at a considerable disadvantage in normal situations."

Ian held up a hand when Victoria would have interrupted. "I am fully aware that she reads lips with inordinate skill. The hearing impairment is not my actual concern, though there will be clients who won't understand that Miss Walters is fully capable. My concern," he added with a pointed look at Victoria, "is the seemingly relentless need to prove herself that she appears to possess. Her record at Nashville Metro is solid evidence of a potential problem. She may very well take risks that put both her and the client in danger."

True. However, Victoria never allowed the evaluations of others to wholly guide her. Not that she doubted Metro's assessment, but that was only one side of the story. Nonetheless, Ian's point regarding Merrilee's penchant for diving headlong into a situation without regard to caution held merit. Victoria was surprised that Ian felt so strongly about this particular characteristic. More often than not, he was an avid proponent of those who took the initiative to set themselves apart from the rest.

"Are you recommending we don't move forward?" Victoria really hoped that wasn't the case. Since she'd conceived the idea of an agency reconnaissance division, her primary goal had been to ensure the team was made up of members from every walk of life. After all, those who went missing came from all backgrounds. She wanted her team to be able to fit in anywhere. No one understood the needs of those physically challenged better than one who carried that burden.

The Colby Agency's Elite Reconnaissance Division had one mission: find the missing. Victoria, with Ian's and Simon's help, had organized an elite team thus far. Like William Spencer, a former child advocacy attorney. And though, as Ian pointed out, Merrilee Walters was considered a bit of a rogue by her peers and superiors back in Nashville, she had definitely proven what she was made of over and over again.

Bottom line, Victoria wanted Merrilee on their team. But all seated in Victoria's office at the moment needed to be on the same page.

"I'm recommending," Ian explained, "that we hire Miss Walters on a conditional basis with an extended probationary period. We'll see how it goes for a time before putting her in the field."

"Fair enough," Simon agreed. "I'm convinced you'll grow to respect her ability to assess a situation before plunging in as well as her skills."

"Time will tell."

Obviously Ian was far from convinced. A good deal more than Victoria had realized. And she was relatively certain his reservations had more to do with the woman than the opinions of others. But, as he said, time would tell. "Very well. We're all agreed then."

With a nod from each man, both of whom Victoria respected tremendously, the meeting was adjourned. Simon would move into negotiations with Merrilee and Ian would follow up with Spence.

Before the door could close behind Ian and Simon, Mildred Ballard, Victoria's personal assistant, stepped into the office. "Victoria, you received a call from Dave Glenn."

Victoria smiled. She hadn't spoken to Dave in ages. "Put him through."

"Unfortunately he was on his way to a meeting." Mildred glanced at the note in her hand. "He wanted to know if you could have lunch with him at Tony's Pub around one."

Victoria checked her wristwatch. It was eleven now. She had to pick up her granddaughter from preschool at twelve-thirty. With Jim and Tasha out of the country, Victoria generally brought Jamie back to the office with her for the afternoon.

"Don't worry," Mildred said, reading her mind, "I'll pick up Jamie and keep her out of trouble. Go to lunch," she urged. "You've been spending too many lunches in the office lately."

That was all too true. Victoria would very much like to catch up with Dave. "You're absolutely right. Do I need to leave him a message to say I'm coming?"

Mildred shook her head. "All you have to do is show up. He's already made the reservation for the two of you."

That was Dave all right. Always completely sure of himself. But then, he'd trained with the best: Lucas Camp. Victoria's husband was a man who never took no for an answer. Lucas and Dave had been friends since childhood. Lucas's unwavering determination had long ago rubbed off on the other man.

"You don't have another appointment until three-thirty," her loyal assistant added. "Take your time. Enjoy catching up."

"Thank you, Mildred."

As the door closed, Victoria found herself sighing. She'd suffered so much loss and pain in the past. Taking for granted a moment of her wonderful life now was out of the question. She had the most amazing husband whom she loved more deeply every day. She had her son and he was well and happy. And she had a beautiful granddaughter. Not to mention the agency continued to thrive.

Basically, Victoria had it all.

She deserved this happiness. She intended to enjoy it to the fullest.

At one when Victoria entered Tony's Pub, Dave Glenn waited at the bar. As she approached, Victoria took a moment to consider the man. The same age as Lucas, his hair had long ago paled from blond to a lustrous white. Age had not diminished his intimidating stature or his proud military bearing. He was still a force with which to be reckoned.

As if he'd sensed her presence, he turned on the bar stool to face her. Sharp blue eyes lit with the smile that broadened his lips in welcome.

"Victoria, I'm glad you could come." He set his glass aside, slid off the stool and reached for a hug. "It's been too long."

Victoria relished the embrace of a dear friend. It really had been too long. Drawing back, she assessed the rugged face that spoke of decades of too many secrets and too little R&R. He needed to slow down and enjoy life. Lucas had told him so many times. She wished Lucas were here now.

"Dave, it's so good to see you."

He reclaimed his glass and ushered her toward the dining room. "Our table is waiting."

When Victoria had settled into a chair and Dave had done the same, she sent a pointed look at his drink of choice. "It's a little early for scotch, isn't it?" She'd never known Dave to indulge in the middle of the day. "Are we celebrating something?"

Dave peered into his glass a moment before meeting her gaze. This time there was a bleakness about his expression. "I'm old, Victoria." He gave his head a little shake. "The job is finally beginning to get to me."

A frown tugged at her brow. Though both she and Lucas had seen this coming, the statement was uncharacteristic of the man who never failed to present himself a pillar of strength and determination.

"Our chosen fields can become burdensome at times." She knew this all too well. But to her knowledge Dave had not suffered the personal loss Victoria had experienced. Perhaps this was nothing more than the long overdue realization that his work could not continue to have priority over his personal life. "Is Catherine doing well?"

Dave managed another smile, but this time it didn't reach his eyes. "She's tired of spending so much time alone." A halfhearted shrug lifted his shoulders. "She's found other ways to occupy her time."

Victoria ached for the man. A breakup was never easy, but he and Catherine had been married for twenty-five years. Clearly he was devastated. "I'm sorry to hear that." What else was there to say? Sorry, however, seemed a pathetic offering.

Dave pointed to his glass as the waiter paused at their table. "And a white wine for the lady." When he'd returned his full attention to Victoria, he said, "It happens. I suppose I should have been paying better attention."

A gentleman to the end. It would have been so easy to blame everything on his wife's inability to appreciate his commitment to his country. "Perhaps you'll find a way to work things out."

"Perhaps." He finished the last of his drink. "How's Lucas?"

Victoria's lips slid into an automatic smile at the mention of her husband's name. "He's well. He's away on business for a few days. Thankfully he's home more often than not, but he continues to work in an advisory capacity when he's needed."

Dave gave her one of those looks that said he knew exactly what she meant despite her understanding words. "You remind him that retired means precisely that. I knew he wouldn't take himself completely out of the game."

"Now that's the pot calling the kettle black," she teased, opting to lighten the moment.

He laughed, but the sound was dry. The waiter arrived with their drinks, and they placed their meal orders.

"And Jim?" Dave asked. "He's still doing well with his shop?"

"Yes." Victoria's chest tightened with pride. "The Equalizers are doing exceptionally well. Jim is happy helping those who don't seem to fit in anywhere else. He has a knack for resolving the unsolvable."

"Like father, like son," Dave offered, his gaze distant as if he were remembering his days with Lucas and Jim's father, James Colby.

Victoria sipped her white wine, mainly to restrain herself from asking the question pressing against her sternum. This small talk was nice, but it failed to camouflage a glaring ulterior motive for today's impromptu invitation. Victoria's instincts were on point. Something was very wrong. Something more than her old friend's personal problems. Dave was not himself by any means.

He lifted his glass, apparently thought better of it and lowered it back to the table. He exhaled a heavy breath. "There's something I need to tell you, Victoria, and I'm not sure how to go about it."

"Don't mince words with me, Dave. We've known each other far too long for that. Say what's on your mind." Lucas was deep in negotiations related to national security. Jim and Tasha were on safari in Africa. She'd heard from them only two days ago, just before they left for an extended excursion into a remote jungle location. Whatever Dave's news, it couldn't be related to her family.

Dave propped his forearms on the table and rested his gaze heavily on hers.

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Small-Town Secrets (Colby Agency Series #32) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the flow of the story takes you in so you feel like your there
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