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Authors: Carla Neggers

A Rare Chance

BOOK: A Rare Chance
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Praise for Carla Neggers' Previous Romances
FINDING YOU

“Carla Neggers has written a unique story about a sassy, down-to-earth heroine and a strong yet caring hero. You'll enjoy this one.”

—
Rendezvous


Finding You
is a rare find…. Carla Neggers is one of the most distinctive, talented writers in our genre.”

—Debbie Macomber

“Carla Neggers at her warmest, wittiest, and down-home hilarious best…Ms. Neggers has earned her place in the spotlight alongside such notables as Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz.”

—Harriet Klausner,
Affaire de Coeur


Finding You
showcases the award-winning Ms. Neggers' own unique blend of quirky humor, sizzling romance, and engrossing suspense, which combine to produce irresistibly entertaining novels. Perfect reading for those long winter nights!”

—Jill M. Smith,
Romantic Times

“Neggers, who has been writing award-winning romantic fiction since the mid-1980s, weighs in with…witty dialogue and vivid descriptions of autumn in Vermont….”

—
Publishers Weekly

Tempting Fate

“If you love good, funny, suspenseful contemporary romance, you have got to read this book. It's in the Jayne Ann Krentz/Nora Roberts mode; well-written, fast-paced, and tightly plotted. It is also funny, very funny, on every level. The dialogue crackles, the characters are priceless….”

—
Heart to Heart

“This excellent book is recommended to all lovers of contemporary romantic suspense.”

—
Gothic Journal

“Talented author Carla Neggers once again demonstrates her extraordinary skill and mastery of the romantic suspense genre.
Tempting Fate
is chock-full of action, suspense, dark secrets and dangerous romance. A terrific read.”

—
Rave Reviews

“Neggers' engaging romantic mystery neatly blends fiction with authentic detail.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“All the characters are fully developed and individually inspired, the mystery keeps the tension and pace at a high, and the romance between Dani and Zeke is passionate and caring.
Tempting Fate
is multi-layered and is a fascinating reading experience.”

—
Rendezvous

Minstrel's Fire

“Carla Neggers blends suspense, romance, and whimsy in this fast-moving tale…. Well-crafted entertainment.”

—
Publishers Weekly

Trying Patience

“A riot of a good time…a delightfully offbeat romp. Carla Neggers writes an entertaining tale.”

—Teresa Roebuck,
Romantic Times

Betrayals

“[Carla Neggers] adeptly locates well-drawn characters against glamorous backdrops to create a believable, gripping story that will keep armchair sleuths guessing…. [She] forces her characters to confront issues of humanity, integrity, and the multifaceted aspects of love without slowing the ever-quickening pace or losing the many plot threads. Here is intelligent writing that remains highly entertaining.”

—
Publishers Weekly

Books by Carla Neggers

Finding You

A Rare Chance

Published by POCKET BOOKS

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

An
Original
Publication of POCKET BOOKS

 

 
POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 1996 by Carla Neggers

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

ISBN-13: 978-0-7434-9635-3
ISBN-10: 0-7434-9635-3

POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

To my father and mother-in-law,

James and Estelle Jewell

Chapter
One

H
e had followed her three times in the past week. Today made four.

Gabriella Starr decided four was enough.

She dumped her untouched pasta salad in a nearby trash can and started across jam-packed Fanueil Hall Marketplace, straight toward the South Market Building, where he had stationed himself in front of the Crate & Barrel display window. His tall, lean good looks reminded her of Sean Connery back in his 007 days, just without the natural charm. She had spotted him in front of her apartment almost a week before, then on her way home from work a few days later, and just last night as she'd emerged from the dry cleaner's.

It was the same man each time. Gabriella had no doubts about that.

She'd kept her chocolate chip cookies, and she clutched the small white bag to her as she edged her way through the crowd. The cookies were still warm. She'd meant to find a bench in the courtyard-like area of trees and stone and brick walks amidst the three long, renovated nineteenth-century buildings that made up the heart of Boston's famous marketplace. The warm, sunny weather had brought out the crowds. Surely her stranger wouldn't try anything with so many potential witnesses.

She groaned to herself. She did not need this wrinkle in her life. For a whole year her life had been nearly wrinkle-free. Work she loved, an apartment she loved, friends, money in the bank. She was content.

More or less.

But she quickly pushed back thoughts of her father, thoughts as insidious as the cold wind off Boston Harbor. She loved him, missed him, worried about him, and might stay mad at him forever—and chasing down a man to find out who he was and why he was following her was just the sort of thing he'd do.

Well, she had no choice. She had to do it. Better to confront him here, now—at Fanueil Hall Marketplace on a beautiful spring afternoon—than at a time and place not of her own choosing. It didn't matter that her father would approve.

Barely ten yards to go and he was clearly in sight. Had he seen her? Was he waiting for her? Was this his plan, to provoke her into a confrontation?

The man snapped his fingers, dispersing a swarm of pigeons that had gathered at his feet. He seemed in no hurry, just a man killing time. He had on neat khaki pants and a black windbreaker, unzipped. His dark hair was trimmed close.

A pigeon flew up in Gabriella's face, startling her.

When she recovered, the man had his back to her and was threading his way through the crowd toward the waterfront, away from her.

Gabriella lunged forward. “Wait!”

She resisted the temptation to push people aside, knock them over, do what she had to do to get to him before he could disappear or slip on to a quiet, isolated street where she wouldn't dare confront him. She broke into a half-run, cursing her mid-heel taupe shoes. She was dressed for work, not for chasing some strange man who'd been following her.

She reached the South Market Building, stopping hard in front of the display window. She squinted in the bright sunlight as she searched the crowd for a black windbreaker and khaki pants, for that ramrod-straight stance.

But she'd lost him.

He could have ducked into a store, down a street, behind a tree. It didn't matter. He was gone.

“Damn.” Gabriella crushed her bag of cookies in one hand, her heart racing as much from nerves as from exertion. “Damn and blast.”

“You always charge after guys following you?”

The voice was deep, male, languid, irreverent. Gabriella spun around, almost into the chest of a thick, compact man with shaggy, tawny hair and eyes she immediately noticed were the color of the sea.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Name's Cam Yeager. You?”

She didn't answer. He wore jeans, a faded black Bruins sweatshirt, and running shoes that needed replacing. She had never seen him before, had never heard of a Cam Yeager. He had what she estimated was a two-day growth of beard and exuded an earthy sensuality that had her automatically taking a step back from him.

He studied her a moment. “So what would you have done if he'd stayed put?”

“Who?”

“The man following you.”

She took a breath. Playing dumb wasn't going to work, not with this man. “I'd have demanded to know why he's been following me.”

“Not smart.”

“Why not? Do you know him?”

His sea-blue eyes narrowed on her, and she sensed she would be foolish to let his casual irreverence deceive her. “His name's Pete Darrow. If you spotted him following you, it's because he wanted you to spot him. He's got a gift for tailing people.”

“Mr. Yeager—”

“Forget this Mr. Yeager business. Makes me think of my father. Here, let's sit down before your knees give out.”

“I'm not the type to faint, if that's what you're worried about.”

He glanced at her. “It's not. I'm just making up excuses so you'll share your cookies with me. Chocolate chip, right?”

Her grip tightened on the white baker's bag. “Who
are
you?”

He dropped onto a vacant wood-and-iron bench and patted the spot next to him. Gabriella noticed a three-inch scar that ran along the edge of his jaw. It didn't have the look of a childhood injury.

When she didn't take him up on his invitation, he leaned back, unconcerned. “Pete's an ex-cop. He resigned as a detective with the Boston police department a couple weeks ago. Now will you sit down and give me one of those cookies?”

“Why would an ex-cop be following me?”

“Seeing how I don't know who you are, I couldn't say.”

Gabriella hesitated. This time she couldn't blame Scag for her difficulties. Her father was in South America. She hadn't seen or heard from him in a year. He couldn't be responsible for a former police detective upsetting the peaceful, stable life she'd established for herself in Boston.

She sat down next to Cam Yeager, taking care that her thighs didn't touch his. If Pete Darrow were an ex-cop, what did that make this guy? She pried her fingers loose from the bag and fished out a couple of tiny chocolate chip cookies, each no bigger than a quarter.

“I bought a dozen,” she said. “You can have as many as you want.”

He popped one into his mouth. “Not very big, are they?”

“That's why I bought a dozen.”

“I don't blame you for ditching lunch and keeping dessert.”

Gabriella squelched a wave of uneasiness at the idea of two men having watched her. What would Cam Yeager have done if she hadn't gone after Pete Darrow? She could feel his eyes on her. She wore a simple double-breasted navy suit with a cream silk top and a silver lapel pin of a lady slipper, a wild New England orchid. Her hair was a medium brown, cut just above her shoulders, and she wore neutral makeup that downplayed the fullness of her lips and the warmth of her brown eyes. She wasn't tall, but she stayed slim and fit with regular workouts and not too many chocolate chip cookies.

She ate half of her cookie, barely tasting the sugar and the gooey semi-sweet chocolate. “So what else do you know about this Pete Darrow? What's he do now that he's no longer a police detective? Why did he quit?”

“Whoa. Easy on the interrogation.”

Gabriella gave him a tentative smile. “Sorry. I'm just nervous. This isn't the first time he's followed me. I first spotted him a week ago outside my apartment. It was creepy.” She breathed out, trying to stay calm. “So I'd appreciate anything you can tell me about him.”

“Okay.” He helped himself to another cookie. “Pete quit the force to take a job with TJR Associates.”

Gabriella stared at him.
“What?”

“Thought that might strike a nerve. You work there, don't you?”

“Yes, I—I've been there a year.” Her words came out in something just above a whisper, almost as if she were talking to herself. “My name's Gabriella Starr. I can't believe I wouldn't know—” She forced herself to stop. She didn't know who this man was or why he was at Fanueil Hall or what he wanted from her. She didn't need to give him information; she needed to get information from him. “Are you positive?”

He nodded, his expression alert, even wary. “It's my understanding Titus and Joshua Reading hired Pete to beef up their personal security after the attempt to kidnap Joshua a few weeks ago.”

“How do you know all this?”

“Pete and I used to be partners.”

Gabriella almost shot out of her seat. “Partners? You mean
you're
a cop?”

“Ex. I resigned just over a month ago. I start in the D.A.'s office the first of June as a prosecutor. I'm supposed to be taking an extended vacation, going fishing, painting the bathroom. Stuff like that.”

Gabriella got out two cookies that had stuck together and ate them both. A cop turned prosecutor. Good God. She was sharing a bag of cookies with him, discussing another former cop who was following her.

She knew exactly what her father would say: Cops involved? Get out now.

“I haven't seen Pete since I left,” Cam Yeager went on. “When I heard he took the job with TJR Associates, it didn't make sense to me he'd quit to become a glorified bodyguard. So I decided to check it out.”

“By following him,” Gabriella said.

He shrugged. Behind the casual facade, she sensed that Cam Yeager was one intense, deliberate man, alert to every nuance of his surroundings. “That wasn't my plan. I saw him coming out of TJR Associates' offices, realized he was following you, and tailed you both to New England Merchants Bank.”

“I had a meeting there.”

“He waited for you, then followed you here. I just tagged along.”

She shuddered at the thought of both Pete Darrow and Cam Yeager—two ex-cops—following her all morning, without her knowledge.

He stretched out his thick legs, crossing his ankles. “Think the Reading brothers put Darrow up to following you?”

The question caught Gabriella off guard. “Of course not. Why would they?”

“You tell me.”

“Mr. Yeager—” She breathed in, trying not to be too snappy. “You might be who you say you are. But I have no proof anything you've told me is true. For all I know, you're in cahoots with Pete Darrow and this is some elaborate scam.”

He stretched one arm across the back of the bench. “I'll bet you work with numbers at TJR Associates. The brass-tacks type. Have to see proof before you believe anything. However, you're right. I could be lying.” His sea-blue eyes narrowed on Gabriella, all business, nothing calm or irreverent about him now. “But I'm not.”

Gabriella believed him. She didn't know why, and that was enough to propel her to her feet. She was relying on her instincts, but too often her instincts had betrayed her. She left the remaining cookies behind on the bench and hoisted her leather tote onto her shoulder.

“I've got to get back to the office,” she said.

“Just a couple cookies for lunch?”

“They'll do.”

“Here.” He had a pen out and was scratching something on the cookie bag. “This is my address and phone number. If you need me, give a yell.”

“Why would I need you?”

He leaned back, amusement creeping back into his eyes. “You never know.”

She ignored him, pretended the unmistakable attraction gnawing at her insides wasn't there. It was purely physical, an involuntary response. She did not go for cops, cops turned prosecutors, law enforcement types in general. And they didn't go for her. She was too smart, too driven, too naturally defiant.

She'd spent too many nights in jail.

“Just tell me one thing,” she said. “Is Pete Darrow dangerous?”

His eyes reached hers, serious again. “If you cross him, yes. He can be dangerous.”

And you?
she wanted to ask.
Are you dangerous?

Instead she snatched the bag from him and got out of there, refusing to glance back as she made her way to TJR Associates' waterfront offices.
What a fine pickle you're in,
she thought. Thanks to her own efforts, she no longer had just one man keeping an eye on her for reasons unknown. She had two.

 

Cam Yeager stared out at the crowd as he contemplated dark-haired, dark-eyed Gabriella Starr and what trouble she might be in with Pete Darrow. She worked at TJR Associates. So did Pete. And Pete was following her.

None of it was good.

Cam had done some basic research on TJR Associates, a real estate and development outfit specializing in historic buildings. It was run by two brothers, Titus and Joshua Reading. On the surface, they were the embodiment of the American dream: middle-class guys who'd worked hard, done well, and maintained high principles as their bank accounts grew by leaps and bounds. Titus had the drive and vision, Joshua the charm and personality.

BOOK: A Rare Chance
13.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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