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by Pauline Baird Jones
Description: A lonely lawman finds love again. If only she could remember her name? Denver Homicide detective Luke Kirby is looking for some peace and quiet when he heads up to the family cabin in the mountains. Instead he finds trouble. A beautiful and mysterious woman has taken refuge in his cabin as a storm moves in. She's lost her memory but not the trouble on her trail. While Luke tries to help her figure out who she is, his brothers arrive in town, needing his help with a murder and a missing secret military project. Now the brothers Kirby must join forces when she disappears?
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2002 Texas
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [416 KB]
Reading time: 272-382 min.
- "This rounds out the marvelous Lonesome Lawmen Trilogy. The wonderful characters from previous books are back, making this a truly exciting, engaging read! Talented author Pauline Baird Jones' star is on the rise!"--4 1/2 stars! Romantic Times - "Fans of Tami Hoag, Iris Johansen, and Catherine Coulter's Sherlock and Savich series will find Jones' fast-paced and suspenseful romance satisfying, even though it's kinder and gentler...Teen fans of contemporary adult romantic suspense may enjoy this even though the protagonists are middle aged."--Booklist - "...MISSING YOU keeps you on the edge of your seat, as Luke and "Amelia" have to make a fast getaway on skis and evade the baddies who are after them. More intrigue and secrets are revealed as this story takes you for a downhill race into danger and romance. I loved it! Pauline Baird Jones is a master at creating superb romantic suspense. I knew she was going to be a star the moment I read her first book. Her books are all keepers."--Suzanne Scoleburn, Reader to Reader
Snowflakes fell thick and fast as Luke Kirby stopped his 4x4 in front of the family cabin, just south of Estes Park. On a clear day, Long's Peak was visible from the cabin, but now his headlights had trouble penetrating more than a few yards ahead. The wind kicked up the falling snow, erasing not just the tracks his truck had made on the dirt road, but the place where sky and earth met, turning the world into a disorienting, white tunnel.
The storm hadn't been bad when he left Denver but had turned nasty with the rise in altitude. If the storm hadn't cut off his retreat, he might have turned back and faced a family determined to distract him from the significance of tomorrow--the anniversary of the death of his wife, Rosemary.
He rested his arms on the steering wheel, remembering a time when he couldn't think the word "dead," not about Rosemary, who had been so very much alive. He knew all the euphemisms and all the synonyms for death. None of them had changed the reality of being left alive, left alone in a world without her. How he'd hated it. He'd spent a lot of time dodging being alone, trying to stay too busy, too surrounded by people, to face it. He'd loved the "ball and chain," had relished being one half of a whole that included her.
A platitude, but true--time did heal. So gradually had time done its work that he'd hardly noticed at first. One day he'd realized he was above the shadows. Not happy, but no longer sad, finally able to feel whole--and be whole--all by himself.
If someone asked him why he was here on this bitter night, instead of with his family, he could tell them it wasn't because he was living in the past or because he begrudged his brothers their happiness. They'd earned their time with their women the hard way. Matt and Dani had saved each other from the jaws of death up on Long's Peak just over two years ago.
Jake had saved his Phoebe's butt, and now she regularly kicked his up over his ears. Luke could see that Jake didn't mind; in fact, he seemed happy to bend over and present his backside for her boot. He had a tiger by the tail with that girl.
Luke grinned. Even Matt had given in to the Phoebe juggernaut, after strong initial resistance, allowing her to stand as godmother to the first Kirby grandson. Young Mark had them all wrapped around his tiny, pink finger. Even Phoebe was smitten. He expected her to enter the motherhood stakes any day now.
The only two people more amusing than his brothers were Bryn Bailey, Jake's FBI partner-in-crime solving, and Dewey Hyatt, Phoebe's former partner-in-crime committing. He just hoped he was there when Bryn realized she was in love with her pet criminal, though Jake had hinted she also had softer feelings for the elusive Phagan, who Dewey was supposed to be helping her hunt down. Luke had his own ideas about Phagan and Dewey, but it wasn't his job to point out the obvious, not when it was so entertaining to let events play out on their own.
No, he wasn't here because he couldn't handle their happiness. In a way, their happiness had lifted him with them and had brought him here tonight. In the headlights, the cabin was dark. Empty of everything but years of memories, not just of Rosemary, but his dad, killed in the line of duty. This was the first time he'd been here alone since Rosemary's death. She'd loved the mountains, loved the cabin, even in a storm--if they were safe inside with a good fire.
With a start, he realized the cabin had almost disappeared into the storm. The warmth from the truck's heater had faded and his exhaled breath turned into a white fog in the icy air. Snowflakes, lit by the headlights, swirled in a wind-driven frenzy. He'd better get moving. Didn't want to spend the night in his truck. Good thing he'd brought plenty of supplies with him. If the weather report was right, he could be stuck up here for a couple of days. Looked like there'd be enough snow for some cross-country skiing when it cleared. Nothing like a brisk battle with nature to remind him that he was alive.
He left the headlights on while he unlocked the door, though the benefit was limited, and unloaded his supplies. Inside the cabin, he tested the silence and found it bearable--though not much warmer than outside. He turned on the refrigerator, wondering how long the power would stay on, while he stowed his perishables. Well, he'd used a snow bank for a fridge before, no reason he couldn't do so again.
A gust of wind caught the window over the sink, lifting it, then dropping it with a bang. He caught it before it could lift again, making a mental note to tweak Jake about it when he got home. He and Phoebe had been the last ones to use the cabin. He noticed a bit of snow and some dried stuff on the counter under the window and brushed it into the sink.
The air was chill, damp, and tainted with the smell of old fire and older food, but a new fire would soon burn it away. He didn't turn on any lights besides the kitchen. He knew his way around and besides, there was enough light spilling out from the kitchen until he got the fire going. Rosemary had liked the room lit by fire. Many a snowy night they'd huddled together under a pile of quilts and watched snow pile up in drifts against the windows.
He stopped for a moment as the memories caught up with him. Rosemary laughing as she pelted him with snowballs. Rosemary smiling up at him from the blanket as the mountain sun bathed her in its crystal light. Rosemary looking at the mountains and not at him when she told him she was dying and there was nothing either of them could do about it.
Seven years. Like Jacob in the Bible, he'd served his time, done his duty and now it was time to move on. Not to forget, but to move out of the shadows and live again.
"Don't mourn too long, Luke," she'd said to him that last day, her voice the only part of her he still recognized. She'd never said what too long was, but he could almost see her standing in the light from the kitchen, tapping her watch the way she had when he'd been out on the mountain too long.
"I know, Rose," he murmured. "I know."
He checked the wood box and found it filled. Jake had also laid out logs in the fireplace. Only needed a match. That made up for the open window, Luke decided. In a short time, he had the fire started, putting out cheerful heat against the winter chill. When the power went, he'd be warm and have hot coffee. He could live without a lot of things, but hot coffee in the morning wasn't one of them.
He'd sleep in front of the fire. It would be warmer and he could feed the hungry fire. He and Rosemary had slept downstairs the last time they were here. They'd made a bed for two on the floor. He'd use the couch. Wouldn't be the first time he'd done time on one. Life with Rosemary hadn't been all smooth and easy. The Kirby men had a weakness for spirited women.
He did a quick run upstairs for a couple more quilts. There was a sturdy mega-sized lap quilt kept folded over the back of the couch, but it wasn't enough on a night like this. He also grabbed some pillows to soften the hard arms on each end. Back downstairs, he noticed that the quilt wasn't folded over the back, but spread across the seat. In the flickering light from the fire, it almost looked like there was someone under it. For a minute chills snaked down his back, until common sense reasserted itself.
If someone was here, it was a squatter who'd likely used the unlatched window to get in. He bit back an expletive. Couldn't kick a dog out on a night like this. So much for being alone. He dumped his blanket load on a chair. Odd that whoever it was hadn't heard his noisy arrival and made their presence known. It was enough to make him uneasy, so he pulled his gun. As a cop, he'd learned to err on the side of caution. He knew which boards creaked and took care to avoid them as he approached the couch. Keeping the figure covered, he reached out and flipped the edge of the blanket back and saw--
Or more precisely, a pair of hiking boots and blue-jean covered legs below the knees. Good boots. Not a squatter then. Maybe a hiker?
Luke felt a bit ridiculous and a little anxious about the lack of movement as he moved to the other end. Being alone with a body wasn't what he had in mind either. This time when he flipped the blanket back, he saw hair. Lots of it. Tangled and blonde enough to make Marilyn Monroe jealous. The ends of most of it were hidden under the part of the blanket that still covered her middle, except for a bunch that hung over her face and off the edge of the couch, forming a question mark on the wood floor.
It seemed Goldilocks had come calling but found only one bear.
He stowed his gun and knelt down beside her. Bits of dried brush, brown grass and twigs were caught in the tousled strands of her hair. She had a thick, fleece jacket on, with bits of dried brush stuck to it, too and it had been torn in several places. One of her arms hung off the edge of the couch; the hand at the end of the arm was bare and badly scratched. A couple of her nails were broken, the edges ragged and torn.
"Who's sleeping on my couch?" he muttered, as he gathered up the trailing strands of hair, icy cold and soft as silk, to expose her face. It was scratched, too, and there was a nasty looking bump just above her temple. A thin trail of dried blood disappeared into her hairline. The bones under the scratches were good, the kind that wear well over time. Her jaw was strong and determined. Laugh lines at the corners of her mouth and eyes seemed at odds with a mouth that was full and rather sad. Her thick lashes lay in dark fans against her pale, bruised skin, hiding her eyes. Equally dark brows arched over them.
It was hard to be sure because memory was so unreliable, and his memories of Rosemary as a young woman were buried under her last months of wasting away from ovarian cancer, but she kind of reminded him of a young Rosemary, or her sister, if Rosemary had had one. It was a bit eerie on a dark and stormy night. If her eyes were blue when she opened them, he might just have to join the X-Files fan club.
Luke felt along her neck. Her skin was cold, but he found a pulse--rapid and a bit shallow--but there. She wasn't dead. Yet.