The most stubborn of the Bailey sisters was back in town, and determined to start a horse ranch. She'd set her sights on the long-deserted Harper House and no one was going to change McKenna's mind--not the enigmatic Nate Dempsey or the superstitious folk of Whitehorse, who wanted her married off. Now that the gossips' tongues were wagging, the sinister rumors plaguing the house had resurfaced. And though McKenna refused to be scared off, someone was trying to run her off the property. Luckily, Nate had always been there to protect her--and Whitehorse's matchmakers wondered, would the mystery man become a permanent fixture in town?
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April 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Matchmaking with A Mission by B.J. Daniels
He'd known where she was for almost two weeks. He'd been watching her house, watching her. He just hadn't felt a need to do anything about it.
Until now. Fate had forced his hand. He didn't have much time left. He had to use it wisely. Take care of all those loose ends in his life.
As he pried at the flimsy lock on the side window he thought about how he had loved her. Idolized her. Thought she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.
Unfortunately she hadn't felt the same way about him.
The lock snapped with a soft pop. He froze, listening even though he knew she wouldn't have heard it. Usually by this time of the night she'd finished off enough cheap wine that she would be dead to the world.
Dead to the world. He liked that. He'd been dead to the world thanks to her.
He'd planned this for so long and yet he felt uneasy, a little thrown by the fact that he'd had to break in tonight. All the other nights, she'd forgotten to lock up. Why tonight, of all nights, did she have to remember to lock the damn doors?
A few days ago he'd waited in the overgrown shrubs outside, watching her shadow move behind the sheer curtains in the living room to turn off the television before she stumbled down the hall to bed.
When he'd been sure she'd passed out, he'd slipped inside the house, wanting to take a look around, to know the layout of the house. Not good to bump into something and wake her up on the night he planned to finally finish it.
So he'd poked around, looking into her things, seeing how she'd been doing since he'd last seen her. He'd made a point of testing to see just how deep a sleeper she was. He couldn't have her screaming her head off when the time came, now could he?
For some reason tonight, though, she'd locked the doors. He tried not to let that worry him. But he was superstitious about crap like that. It was her fault. She'd put all that hocuspocus stuff in his head, her and her horoscopes, palm readings and psychic phone calls. She wouldn't cross the street without checking to make sure her stars were aligned.
Except when she was drunk. Then she threw caution to the wind. He hated to think he was a lot like her that way. Except he didn't have to be drunk.
So, as much as he hated it, he was leery as he hoisted himself up and over the windowsill to drop into the bathroom tub. He landed with a thud and froze to listen.
Maybe she'd remembered to lock the front door because her horoscope told her that she should be more careful today. Or she could have spotted him watching the house, he supposed. But wouldn't it also be possible, given the connection between them, that she'd sensed he was here?
He liked the latter explanation the best. That would mean that she had occasionally thought of him, wondered what had happened to him.
A shell-shaped night-light next to the sink made the bathroom glow pink. She'd done the whole place in a tropical motif. The shower curtain was plastic with huge palm trees. What the hell had she been thinking? As far as he could tell, she'd been landlocked all her life and never even seen an ocean, let alone a real palm tree.
He wasn't sure why, but it made him even more angry with her, this pretending she lived in a beach house. Did she also pretend he'd never existed?
The shower curtain made a soft swishing sound as he brushed against it. Again he froze and listened. A breeze wafted in with the smell of the river.
He thought he heard a noise from the bedroom. The creak of bedsprings as she rolled over. Or got up to come find out what the noise had been in the bathroom. Had she bought herself a gun?
He waited behind the shower curtain, hidden by the fake palms. I'm right here. Right here. Just waiting for you.
It surprised him how nervous he was about seeing her again. He'd anticipated this moment for so long he'd expected to be excited. But as he drew the switchblade from his pocket, his fingers were slick with sweat. He wiped them on his jeans and blamed the hot, humid night.
It reminded him of other hot nights, lying in bed, afraid he wouldn't live until morning. The only thing that had kept him going was imagining this day, the day he found her and made her pay for what she'd done to him.
He wanted her to know that kind of fear before this night was over. He glanced at his watch in the glow of the shell night-light. He had plenty of time before her husband came home.
She'd married some guy who worked the graveyard shift as a night watchman. The irony of that didn't escape him as he got tired of waiting in the bathtub and peered around the edge of the shower curtain.
No movement out in the hall. No sound coming from the vicinity of the bedroom. Gently he slid the curtain aside to step out onto the mermaid-shaped shag rug.
He felt hatred bubble up as he noticed she'd bought herself a pretty new mirror since he was here just a few days ago. The mirror was framed in seashells, and it was all he could do not to smash it on the tile floor.