Three Little Words by Carrie Alexander released on Jan 23, 2004 is available now for purchase.
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Three Little Words
By Carrie Alexander
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe man looked like a smuggler.
In a library? Amused with the incongruity, Tess Bucek slid the card from the pocket of Sis Boom Bah! A Survival Guide to Cheerleading Camp and passed the book beneath the bar-code scanner. She was so accustomed to the task that it wasn't necessary to look away from the suspicious character loitering between the arts and history sections. As he moved to one of the study tables with a stack of books, she stamped a date on the card in red and returned it to the pocket.
"Due back in three weeks." Tess slid the book across the checkout desk to Sarah Johnson, who would have been her niece if she'd married into the family as planned. Instead, they were merely acquaintances, and lucky to be that since Tess wasn't on speaking terms with Sarah's father, Erik. "Have a nice time at camp."
"Oh, I will. Thanks, Miss Bucek," Sarah bubbled, thrilled about making the JV cheerleading squad before school had let out for the summer. "I can already do a super cartwheel, but my herkies ..."
Tess smiled and nodded as Sarah went on about cheerleading stunts, surreptitiously rising off her heels and telescoping her neck to keep sight of the stranger seated beyond the girl's bobbing blond ponytail.
He was tall, dark and mysterious. Tess would have shivered if she was the shivering type.
A smuggler with a tortured conscience, she decided as Sarah finally said goodbye. There was an air about him - intense, conflicted, maybe even dangerous. Definitely shady.
Grosse Pointe Blank, Tony Soprano, The Tulip Thief, every detective novel she'd ever read ... they all filtered through Tess's quick-firing synapses. After serving more than ten years as a librarian in a poky small town where "danger" meant icy roads or the fire index, pop culture was all she had for reference. She preferred fiction, anyway. Particularly when it came to the criminal element.
She'd honed a vivid imagination during the time when she'd been stuck in a one-bedroom cottage with her newly divorced and depressed mother, listening to a limited collection of Beatles, Bread and Simon and Garfunkel LPs. Ever since the bow tie that was really a spy camera in the song "America," Tess had taken to making up little stories about everyone around her. Their next-door neighbor with the green thumb had become a poisoner burying bodies in the petunia patch. She imagined that her fourth-grade teacher, bland Mrs. Gorski, metamorphosed into a disco diva after the bell rang, complete with polyester wrap dress and sparkly blue eye shadow.
Even now, Tess continued to indulge her flights of fancy. Cheap entertainment for the comfortably settled.
Impelled by an inward squiggly feeling - not a shiver - Tess stepped out from behind the desk and grabbed the half-filled return cart parked nearby. The wheels squeaked as she pushed it toward the 900s - the history section. The stranger looked up from his book, his gaze watchful. Perhaps leery.
She smiled her pleasant professional-librarian smile. "Did you find what you wanted, sir?"
The man had keen eyes, even though his lashes lowered and his gaze avoided hers. Oddly evasive, Tess thought with a genuine twinge of suspicion.
The stranger nodded and returned to the open book, ducking his head between hunched shoulders. The back of his collar gaped around locks of wavy black hair. The long hair and a chin shadowed with stubble gave him the intriguing devil-may-care air that had sparked her imagination, even though a similar look was affected by a good third of the local single-male population. On them it was scrubby and slapdash. On this guy - dashing.
Tess sneaked a peak at the heavily illustrated book he'd selected. Lighthouses. Just as he'd asked for. She'd volunteered to show him the way, but he'd wanted to browse.
He's the brains behind a Canadian smuggling operation, she decided. A modern-day pirate. Hence the lighthouse research. He'd come to Alouette scouting for a remote drop-off point. Guns or drugs, she imagined.
Or animal smuggling. Monkeys, marmosets or exotic birds - rare blue macaws. That's what Jack Colton had been doing in Romancing the Stone and she remembered an article in a back issue of Smithsonian about the trafficking of rare species. Except it didn't make a lot of sense, sneaking contraband across two borders....
Abandoning Dewey decimal, Tess blindly thrust a cookbook among the Egyptians. Black-bear organs - that was it! He was smuggling contraband out of the Upper Peninsula, not in.
Her imagination took full flight. A Chinese man with an eye patch was the contact. His name was Suk Yung Foo and he'd been sent by his gangster father to an American college to better himself. Instead, he'd met this guy, a former, um, professor ... who'd been on the track to full tenure until the ... cheating scandal? Embezzlement of research grants?
No. The man had too much sex appeal for his downfall to be anything but nubile young coeds.
Tess shook her head. "How predictable."
The stranger glanced back at her. "Predictable?"
"Oh." She blinked. "Why, uh, someone's misfiled a cookbook. Dust Off Your Bread Machine does not belong beside Nubian Artifacts."
"You put it there."
"Did I?" The man must have eyes in the back of his head, but then she'd heard that of crooks.
He shrugged and returned to his reading. For a long moment Tess watched, frozen, as he flipped from illustration to illustration. Then she jammed the bread book onto her cart and wheeled it fast in the opposite direction, her heels clacking on the parquet floor. She slowed when she turned at the end of the row and peered back at him, catching glimpses of him along the aisles as she moved away at a more leisurely pace.
She was being ridiculous. He was a perfectly normal man reading about lighthouses. Alouette's Gull Rock Lighthouse, situated on the narrow, rocky peninsula that framed one side of the bay, was frequently photographed by tourists, and it had been featured in several travel books. Although the lighthouse was out of commission and not accessible to the public, it was too prominent and exposed to be the base of operations for a smuggling operation.
Even one that operated at night? Alouette rolled up the sidewalks by ten. A herd of zebras could stampede downtown and no one would know until they stepped in the evidence the next morning.
Tess shook her head. Oh, stop it. Get back to your job.
Excerpted from Three Little Words by Carrie Alexander Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was a slow G rated romance. The romance scenes were lame. This is a romance for middle schoolers.
In Alouette off of Lake Superior, librarian Tess Bucek lets her imagination run wild when enigmatic Connor Reed enters the library where she works. She pictures him as either the hero or villain in every detective book she ever read. When he looks at a book on Lighthouses, she assumes that the handsome stranger is a Canadian smuggler or a pirate. Tess sighs as she knows that growing up in limited environment with a single depressed mother led to her runaway imagination............................... Connor is actually escaping the nasty taint of his role in a New York City media trial event. He selected Alouette as his haven because he spent summers as a child here with his grandfather and his elderly relative resides in a nearby nursing home. After watching her work with children, he shocks her when the thirty-nine year old visitor asks Tess to teach him to read, but he clears the mix-up as he wants her to actually help his grandfather learn to read. As Connor and Tess become acquainted they fall in love, but he is big city and she is small town making a relationship impossible except perhaps the impetus of a crusty matchmaking geriatric who loves both of them................................... THREE LITTLE WORDS is a fun contemporary romance starring two wonderful lead characters and charming residents of a small Michigan town. The story line is relatively simplistic yet entertaining as neither Tess nor Connor expected love, but both relish and fear it as compromise seems impossible to find. The teaching to read to an adult adds depth to Carrie Alexander¿s fine tale that sub-genre readers will find quite pleasant.......................... Harriet Klausner