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Authors: Carla Cassidy

A Gift from the Past

BOOK: A Gift from the Past
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1859

Dear Diary,

I've wrapped myself up in a blanket of grief, not letting anyone close to me, not even my dear husband, Daniel. He has grieved, as well, silently, stoically, in the way of men. Daniel has been so patient with me, but I know he feels my distance.

Still, as the sun settled on the horizon this morning, shedding its light and awakening the world, life flickered anew inside me. Love for my husband and the possibility of happiness filled the empty spaces that had kept me in the darkness, in isolation, for so long.

Daniel, my heart, my husband. We have survived so much, the long and strange journey to this vast, new land; yet, I know our love is strong.

Now I must go. I am eager to once more be the woman Daniel needs, the woman he loves, the woman he married before all that we have been through. I am eager to start my new life with my husband….

 

Dear Reader,

Oh, baby! This June, Silhouette Romance has the perfect poolside reads for you, from babies to royalty, from sexy millionaires to rugged cowboys!

In Carol Grace's
Pregnant by the Boss!
(#1666), champagne and mistletoe lead to a night of passion between Claudia Madison and her handsome boss—but will it end in a lifetime of love? And don't miss the final installment in Marie Ferrarella's crossline miniseries, THE MOM SQUAD, with
Beauty and the Baby
(#1668), about widowed mother-to-be Lori O'Neill and the forbidden feelings she can't deny for her late husband's caring brother!

In Raye Morgan's
Betrothed to the Prince
(#1667), the second in the exciting CATCHING THE CROWN miniseries, a princess goes undercover when an abandoned baby is left in the care of a playboy prince. And some things are truly meant to be, as Carla Cassidy shows us in her incredibly tender SOULMATES series title,
A Gift from the Past
(#1669), about a couple given a surprising second chance at forever.

What happens when a rugged cowboy wins fifty million dollars? According to Debrah Morris, in
Tutoring Tucker
(#1670), he hires a sexy oil heiress to refine his rough-and-tumble ways, and they both get a lesson in love. Then two charity dating-game contestants get the shock of their lives when they discover
Oops…We're Married?
(#1671), by brand-new Silhouette Romance author Susan Lute.

See you next month for more fun-in-the-sun romances!

Happy reading!

Mary-Theresa Hussey

Senior Editor

A Gift from the Past
CARLA CASSIDY

Books by Carla Cassidy

Silhouette Romance

Patchwork Family
#818

Whatever Alex Wants…
#856

Fire and Spice
#884

Homespun Hearts
#905

Golden Girl
#924

Something New
#942

Pixie Dust
#958

The Littlest Matchmaker
#978

The Marriage Scheme
#996

Anything for Danny
#1048

*
Deputy Daddy
#1141

*
Mom in the Making
#1147

*
An Impromptu Proposal
#1152

*
Daddy on the Run
#1158

Pregnant with His Child…
#1259

Will You Give My Mommy a Baby?
#1315

‡
Wife for a Week
#1400

The Princess's White Knight
#1415

Waiting for the Wedding
#1426

Just One Kiss
#1496

Lost in His Arms
#1514

An Officer and a Princess
#1522

More Than Meets the Eye
#1602

††
What If I'm Pregnant…?
#1644

††
If the Stick Turns Pink…
#1645

A Gift from the Past
#1669

Silhouette Shadows

Swamp Secrets
#4

Heart of the Beast
#11

Silent Screams
#25

Mystery Child
#61

Silhouette Intimate Moments

One of the Good Guys
#531

Try To Remember
#560

Fugitive Father
#604

Behind Closed Doors
#778

†
Reluctant Wife
#850

†
Reluctant Dad
#856

‡
Her Counterfeit Husband
#885

‡
Code Name: Cowboy
#902

‡
Rodeo Dad
#934

In a Heartbeat
#1005

‡
Imminent Danger
#1018

Strangers When We Married
#1046

**
Man on a Mission
#1077

Born of Passion
#1094

**
Once Forbidden…
#1115

**
To Wed and Protect
#1126

**
Out of Exile
#1149

Secrets of a Pregnant Princess
#1166

Silhouette Desire

A Fleeting Moment
#784

Under the Boardwalk
#882

Silhouette Books

Shadows
1993

“Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

The Loop

Getting It Right: Jessica

Silhouette Yours Truly

Pop Goes the Question

The Coltons

Pregnant in Prosperino

Lone Star Country Club

Promised to a Sheik

CARLA CASSIDY

is an award-winning author who has written over fifty books for Silhouette. In 1995, she won Best Silhouette Romance from
Romantic Times
for
Anything for Danny
. In 1998, she also won a Career Achievement Award for Best Innovative Series from
Romantic Times.

Carla believes the only thing better than curling up with a good book to read is sitting down at the computer with a good story to write. She's looking forward to writing many more books and bringing hours of pleasure to readers.

Chapter One

C
laire McCane looked like a bag lady. But, as far as she was concerned, most amateur treasure hunters looked like street people. Of course, the small town of Mayfield, Missouri, didn't draw many true treasure hunters.

It had only been since Clark Windsloe, owner of Windsloe Automotive and the mayor of Mayfield, had begun the Pot of Gold contest that the citizens of Mayfield had transformed themselves from ordinary people into half-crazed puzzle-solvers and earth-diggers.

The final three clues leading to where the ten-thousand-dollar treasure was buried would appear in the Saturday morning paper over the next three weeks, but Claire thought she knew where to find
the windfall. And heaven knew she could use a windfall.

She briskly walked across the large expanse of manicured lawn that surrounded the two-story brick building that housed City Hall and the police station. She didn't want to draw attention to herself, didn't want anyone else to know where she was going to hunt for the buried money.

Behind the city building were thick woods and it was there she was headed, to the base of a certain tree. Unfortunately she hadn't been able to afford one of those treasure-finding machines with all their bells and whistles. She was armed only with a trusty spade and a healthy dose of excitement.

The late June air felt hot on her shoulders and was sweetly fragrant with the scent of the blooming flowers surrounding the building. As she left the well-trimmed grass for the taller, more tangled underbrush of the woods, she glanced at her wristwatch.

Time was of the essence. She always felt guilty leaving her grandfather in anyone else's care for any length of time. Thank goodness for Wilma Iverson, her neighbor who was available to sit with Sarge.

It was cooler here, with the canopy of leaves overhead to shade the ground. The tree she sought was on the far side of the wooded area, a tree scarred by lightning that had been referred to as the Dragon Tree when she was a child.

The clue in the paper that morning had been something about the roots of fire and ash yielding sweet fruit. She had instantly thought of the Dragon Tree. She desperately hoped she was right. She had a hundred plans for the money if she managed to find it.

She quickened her pace, ducking beneath tree limbs, picking her way through vines and brush, hoping she was the only one who had thought of the lightning-scarred tree.

She heard him before she saw him, somewhere ahead of her, like a bear lumbering through the brush, only there were no bears in Mayfield. At the same time, she became aware of the faint scent of expensive cologne lingering in the air.

Somebody was after her treasure. She quickened her pace, dismay sweeping through her. If she could get to the tree first and get her spade in the ground before whoever was in the woods with her, the treasure would rightfully be hers.

The tree was just ahead when she heard the sound of a shovel hitting the ground. She halted, disappointment crashing through her, then continued forward, intrigued to see who had beaten her to the punch.

As she stepped closer to the tree, she spied him. His back was to her and he was far too well-dressed for a treasure seeker. Dark-blue dress slacks encased long muscular legs and slim hips. A white dress shirt stretched across an impossibly
broad back, the center of the shirt damp with sweat.

“Looks like you beat me to the punch,” she said dispiritedly.

He whirled around to face her, and she gasped and stumbled back a step as shock riveted through her.

“Joshua.” She whispered his name as she stared at the man she hadn't seen for five years, the man who had been her husband…the man who was
still
her husband.

“Hello, Claire.”

His voice, that deep, whisky voice, raked millions of unwanted memories through her at the same time as his eyes, as green as the woods that surrounded them, swept over her from top to toe.

Defensive walls shot up inside her. “What are you doing here?” she demanded, irritated by the fact that just for a moment she'd wished she was wearing something other than her oldest pair of jean shorts and a T-shirt streaked with the remnants of white paint.

He gestured to the shovel stuck in the ground. “I'm treasure-hunting.”

He certainly didn't look as though he needed to find a treasure. The loafers on his feet looked Italian and had probably cost enough to keep her and Sarge in groceries for a year.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she realized she was in shock. The last person she'd expected
ever to see again in her life was Joshua McCane. “I meant, what are you doing here…in Mayfield. Nobody told me you were in town.”

He pulled the shovel out of the ground and leaned it against the base of the tree. “I got in late last night. I had coffee this morning in the diner and read the clues to the Pot of Gold contest and thought I'd try my luck in figuring it out.”

“Why don't you go try your luck someplace else? This is where I was going to dig.” She sounded like a petulant child and she wasn't sure what she resented most, the fact that he looked like a million dollars or that he was thwarting her chance to gain ten thousand dollars.

“It appears I beat you to it, Cookie.” To accentuate his point, he grabbed the shovel and dug into the earth at the base of the tree.

She bristled at his use of her old nickname, the one he used to call her when his eyes were lit with love or fired with passion—the name he'd used when he'd loved her…when she'd loved him.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded once again. She didn't want him in Mayfield, and she certainly didn't want him here at the Dragon Tree.

“I told you, digging for treasure.” He scooped up a shovelful of dirt and threw it to the side, the muscles of his tanned forearms taut with the exertion.

“I mean, what are you doing back in May
field?” He was being thick on purpose, not answering the question she was asking.

His gaze met hers, a stranger's eyes holding her captive. “I decided it was time I came home.”

She leaned against the tree trunk. Her legs felt shaky and she wasn't sure if it was from shock or anger. Time he came home. He had no home here, at least not with her. She watched him dig for a moment. “I can't imagine Mayfield would hold much appeal for a jet-setter like you.”

“Ah, you've been keeping tabs on me.” He flashed her a quick grin.

The passing of years hadn't diminished the force of his beautiful smile, and she felt it stab her deep in the pit of her stomach. “Not really,” she returned unevenly, although it was a lie. “You know Mayfield. People like to gossip and you've become something of a folk hero…the bad boy who made good.”

Sun drifting through the leaves played on his dark hair, and she saw that he needed a haircut. For most of their life together, Joshua had needed a haircut. Her fingers tingled for a moment with the memory of his thick, rich strands of hair beneath her fingertips.

Resentment ripped through her and she pushed herself off the tree trunk. “You don't need this money, Joshua. Why don't you go away and let me dig?”

He glanced at her once again, but continued
shoveling. “You wouldn't need this money if you'd cashed the checks I've sent you over the years.”

“I didn't want your money.” She hadn't wanted anything from him after he'd left her, and all she wanted from him at the moment was for him to go away.

“How's Sarge?”

“He's fine. We're all fine, and now you can go back to California or London or wherever you came from.” Again she heard the petulance in her voice and she hated herself for it, hated him for creating it.

“Is he still keeping the streets of Mayfield safe from crime?” he asked, obviously ignoring her outburst.

It took her a moment to realize he was talking about Sarge. Apparently he hadn't kept tabs on her over the years. Otherwise he would have known about Sarge. “No, he retired three years ago.”

“Really?” One of his dark eyebrows quirked up in surprise. “I can't imagine Sarge retired.” At that moment his shovel hit something hard and metallic-sounding.

“Oh, my gosh. The treasure…it's really here.” She sprang forward and peered into the hole he'd dug. Any anger or resentment she felt toward him was squashed beneath a rush of excitement.

“Hang on…move back…I'm not sure what I've hit. It could just be a rock.”

But it wasn't a rock. She watched as he used the point of the shovel to dig around the object, which appeared to be an old tin box.

“I can't believe it's here,” she said, watching as he scooted dirt from the surface and freed the edges. “I thought this was where the clues led, but I couldn't be sure.”

He laid the shovel aside and reached into the hole to pull out the box. With a grunt, he freed it and stood. It was a plain gray tin box tied in the center with what looked as though it had once been a piece of lace.

“This doesn't look like it was buried a couple of weeks ago,” he said, a frown marring his handsome, broad forehead.

“Open it!” she exclaimed eagerly. “We won't know if the money is inside unless you open it.”

Suddenly her mind worked to process the fact that Joshua was back in town, that he looked as if he'd not only survived the years away, but had thrived. And he had her treasure…the money that had been going to change her life.

It wasn't fair. But if there was one thing Claire had learned in her twenty-six years on earth, it was that life wasn't fair and seemed to take particular pleasure in kicking her.

She watched as he attempted to untie the piece of lace. It disintegrated beneath his fingers and fell to the ground. Once again she took a step toward
him and smelled the pleasant, spicy scent of his cologne. It was different from that he'd once worn.

When he'd left her five years before, for months she'd smelled the scent of him lingering on her skin, whispering in the air, taunting her with all that had been lost.

She shoved all thoughts of the past aside as his long, strong fingers worked to open the box. The box opened toward him, so she couldn't immediately see what was inside.

She watched his face as he peered inside, saw a look of bewilderment, then shock. “What…what is it?”

He looked at her, his green eyes filled with confusion. “I hate to burst your bubble, Cookie, but there's no money in here. There's just an old photograph.”

“An old photograph?” Disappointment swept through her. “An old photograph of what?”

“I think you have to see it to believe it.” He plucked the picture out of the box and held it out to her.

She took the photo and looked at it, for a moment not comprehending what she saw. It was obvious the picture was old; it was on faded paper in sepia tones.

It was a young couple, a formal sitting with the woman in a straight-backed chair and a man standing at her side. They wore clothing that dated the
picture to the 1800s, but it was their faces that sent an electric shock through Claire.

The man was the spitting image of Joshua and the woman was a mirror image of herself. She looked back up at Joshua, the photo shaking in her trembling hands. “They look just like us. I mean, they look exactly like us. How…how is that possible?”

 

Joshua looked at the woman he had once loved to distraction, unsure what caused him more confusion, the fact that there was a picture of the two of them that had been buried in a tin box or that after all these years something about her still managed to touch him. She looked much the same as she had on the day he'd left, except perhaps more fragile. Like a thin wisp of smoke, she was slender enough that it appeared as if the slightest of breezes might blow her away.

Her hair was still the color of corn silk, long and surprisingly thick. He wondered if she still used the same strawberry-scented shampoo?

Her eyes were as he remembered them…dark-lashed and gray as turbulent skies. They hadn't always been that way…there had been a time when they'd been the color of passion, of dreams…of love.

“Joshua?”

Her irritated voice pulled him back from the past and he took the photo from her and looked at it
once again. There was no mistake. The people in the photo were virtual clones of him and her.

“I don't know…I don't know how it's possible,” he replied.

“But they look exactly like us,” she repeated, a sense of wonder in her voice.

He turned the picture over. There was writing on the back, so faint it was almost illegible. He read aloud, “Daniel and Sarah Walker, 1856.” He looked back at Claire. “It appears we have something of a mystery here.”

For a moment, their gazes remained locked, and in the depths of her smoky eyes he saw bewilderment, wonder and something soft and yielding. It was there only a moment, then gone, as dark shutters snapped into place.


We
don't have anything,” she replied. “You have an old photo and I have nothing.” She turned to leave, stiffening as he fell into step beside her.

“Aren't you curious?” he asked, as they made their way back through the woods.

“Curious about what?”

He held the tin box out in front of her. “About them? About Daniel and Sarah, about why they look like us? Maybe they're long-lost relatives or, you know, what do you call them, doppelgängers.”

He wanted to ask her if she'd felt it, the strange tingle and warmth that had raced up his arm when he'd first picked up the photo.

“The only thing I'm curious about is why
you're walking with me instead of going back to wherever you came from,” she replied coolly.

As the path narrowed, he fell behind her. He dodged a sapling branch that nearly slapped him in the face as she passed by it. She still had the sexiest rear end he'd ever seen.

“I thought I'd stop in and say hello to Sarge,” he replied and forced his gaze upward from her shapely derriere.

BOOK: A Gift from the Past
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