When it comes to affairs of the heart, there's no place like home
Jill Strathern left sleepy Los Lobos for the big city years ago, thinking she'd never be back. But now, contrary to all her plans, she finds herself running a small law practice in her hometown. And not only that, but Mac Kendrick, a burned-out LAPD cop and Jill's longtime crush, is also back in town.
Mac may have rejected Jill back in high school, but neither of them can deny the attraction between them. And he quickly finds that being in Jill's company is more than a little complicated. With Mafia dons, hovering social workers, angry exes and one quirky eight-year-old taking up Jill's time, Mac will have to decide if the perfect storm of drama will actually result in the perfect match.
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Someone Like You
By Susan Mallery
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I LOOK LIKE A FREAK," Shelley said as she plopped down in the chair and covered her face with her hands.
"I'll have to move under the cover of darkness so I don't frighten small children."
Jill Strathern sat down next to her assistant and patted her back. "You're not a freak."
"You're right." Shelley raised her head and sniffed.
"Being a freak would be an improvement." She gave a strangled sob.
"This is all fixable," Jill reminded her. "You're not scarred for life."
"My psyche is."
"I think you'll recover."
In fact, Jill was sure of it. Shelley had left work the previous evening excited about her appointment at a new and trendy salon. She'd gone in expecting some subtle highlights and a few layers. She'd left with a botched body perm, orange brassy color and a cut that could only be described as ... unfortunate.
"You know what? I have a great idea." Jill stood and walked around her desk where she flipped through her electronic Rolodex. "I know exactly who can fix this for you."
Shelley looked up. "Who?"
Shelley sucked in a breath and for the first time that morning, hope filled her swollen eyes. "Anton? You know him?"
Anton, like Madonna, was famous enough not to need a last name. Two-tone highlights and a styling cost as much as a small imported car, but the rich and famous swore by his magic fingers.
"I'm his lawyer," Jill said with a grin. "Now let me call him and explain we have a hair emergency. I'm sure he can take care of everything."
Fifteen minutes later, Shelley had an appointment for early that afternoon. Jill promised to let her make up the time by coming in early for the next couple of days.
"You're the best," Shelley said as she walked to the door and stepped out into the hallway. "If you ever need me to do anything, let me know. I'm serious. A kidney. Have your baby, whatever."
"Maybe you could look over the brief I left on your desk," Jill told her with a laugh. "It's due first thing in the morning."
"Absolutely. Right this second. Thanks."
Jill chuckled as she turned back to her computer. If only all of life's problems could be solved so easily.
Two hours later, she looked up from her research. Coffee, she decided. A nice, little jump start to keep her brain going. She stood and headed for the centrally located lunchroom where jumbo carafes full of liquid energy waited.
On her way back, she detoured around to the other side of the offices where her husband, also a third-year associate, had his office. They'd been working so many hours the past few weeks, they'd barely seen each other. Her calendar was free. If Lyle's was, too, maybe they could grab lunch together.
His assistant was gone and his door closed. Jill knocked lightly once, then pushed inside. She moved quietly, not wanting to interrupt if he was on the phone.
He was busy, all right, but not with a call. Jill stopped in the center of the room. Breath left her body as the mug of coffee fell to the carpeted floor. She didn't remember letting go, but she felt the hot liquid splash onto her legs.
Her husband of three years, the man she lived with, worked with and cooked for, stood beside his credenza. His jacket was over his chair, his pants around his ankles and he was busily banging his assistant. So busy, in fact, he hadn't noticed Jill's entrance.
"Oh, yeah, baby," Lyle breathed. "Just like that."
But the woman saw Jill. Her face paled and she shoved Lyle away.
Later Jill would remember the silence and how time seemed to slow. Later she would recall the way papers had fluttered to the floor as his assistant scrambled off the credenza and jerked up her panty hose. Later she would want to kill Lyle. But right now she could only stare in disbelief.
This wasn't happening, she told herself. He was her husband. He was supposed to love her.
"Next time you should knock," he said as he bent over and grabbed his pants.
She had, she thought, too stunned to feel much of anything. Then she turned on her heel and ran from the room.
FORTY-NINE HOURS and eighteen minutes later, Jill decided that being buried alive was too good for Lyle. Still, she was due some serious revenge. Unfortunately, as she had no idea on how to get the revenge she so desperately needed, she contented herself with imagining him lying on the edge of a desert highway, gasping for breath as she zoomed by at a comfortable ninety miles an hour. She liked the vision of her soon-to-be ex-husband as roadkill.
"Lying weasel rat-fink dog," she muttered as she slowed at the bottom of the freeway off-ramp and turned west.
The lying weasel rat-fink dog was currently back in San Francisco, moving into what should have been her junior partner office with a window. No doubt he would celebrate what should have been her promotion by taking out his assistant, then seducing her with wine from the collection she'd put together, and carrying her off to what had been their bed.
Yes, it was true. Jill's day had gone from bad to worse. It wasn't enough to catch her husband in the act; later that afternoon she'd been fired.
"I hope Lyle gets a sexually transmitted disease and Big Willie falls off," she said aloud, before correcting herself. "Not exactly 'Big'Willie. In fact, nothing to be proud of. I had to fake most of those orgasms, you rat bastard lying weasel dog."
Worse, she'd cooked for him. Jill could accept a bad sex life, but to think she'd ducked out of important meetings so that Lyle could come home to meals she'd prepared really made her teeth ache.
She wanted to roll down the windows and scream into the sea-soaked air that she hated her husband and couldn't wait until their divorce was final. She wished she'd never met him, had never fallen for him and had never married him. But there was no point in frightening the seagulls on the sidewalk and the two old guys playing checkers in the park.
The only bright spot in an otherwise completely black situation was that Shelley's hair had turned out movie-star gorgeous. Something to hang on to, Jill thought as she pulled to a stop at a red light and looked around for the first time since leaving San Francisco. Really looked.
Excerpted from Someone Like You by Susan Mallery Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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