This trio of irresistible stories from Maggie Shayne, Linda Winstead Jones and Day Leclaire touch the heart of who we are and what we desire....
Melinda Terwilliger is a mild-mannered teacher--until she accidentally becomes The Toughest Girl in Town. But she meets her match in an undercover cop determined to get to know the real Melinda...with kisses hot enough to melt any woman's heart!
When law secretary Nell Rose is snowbound with a handsome stranger, keeping her New Year's Resolution becomes nearly impossible. Why swear off men when a romantic weekend with a reclusive writer seems to be the ideal way to ring in the new year?
Plain Jayne Myleston seduced her office crush at a masked ball--and then found she'd turned up the heat with the wrong man! Even after the ball, she can't say no to her Mystery Lover. That is, until Jayne finds out who he really is!
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January 01, 2011
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Excerpt from The Heart of Winter by Linda Winstead Jones
"My walk home from the train after work at night always takes me past groups of those slathering dogs, but this was the first time one broke away from the pack to follow me."
Rodney Foster, Melinda Terwilliger's best friend and part-time therapist, nodded. He was always nodding during their "sessions." He was only a grad student, but his father was one of the most brilliant minds in psychotherapy, and Rodney was planning to follow in his father's footsteps.
Melinda didn't mind being his lab rat, really. Their sessions were informal, helpful and free. And, most important, she trusted him.
"When did you first become aware the thug was following you?" he asked.
Melinda's muscles tensed as she felt transported back to the events of a few days earlier. "I felt his eyes on me. I know he turned his head to watch me as I walked quickly past, and there was some kind of warning bell going off in my head, telling me something was up. But I didn't know what to do, or whether to trust it." She felt like an idiot now for having ignored what, in hindsight, seemed so obvious.
"Not surprising," Rodney said. "You know, the instinctive awareness of danger is something animals have, particularly in the wild. There's no reason to assume we humans don't have similar senses. I happen to believe we do, but we bury them in things like reason and logic and even good manners. Often, to our own detriment."
"That's exactly what I did." She nodded slowly as she recalled the incident. "I didn't turn around, didn't look back, but I heard his footsteps behind me, and I knew he was following me. A cold shiver rushed up my spine, just like people always say it does. I felt it so palpably that I wanted to slap it away. No, no, that's not what I wanted to do. I wanted to break into a dead run. Everything in me told me to run. I had to fight not to."
"At least you know your instincts were working. You just weren't listening to them."
"I will next time, that's for sure."
"There you go, something positive came from this."
"You and your positive thinking," she muttered.
Rodney shrugged his skinny shoulders in a distinctly feminine way. "It works for me. But back to you. Why do you think you didn't want to let yourself run, Melinda?"
She shrugged. "I guess I thought I'd look like an idiot."
"To whom? The thug? Why did you care?"
"I don't know."
"And yet, you didn't run. You basically put your chronic worry about what other people think of you, your constant need to please others, to be liked and approved of by them, ahead of your own well-being."
She pursed her lips as he touched on her most sensitive issue. "I--I quickened my pace, though."
He sighed, but didn't press her on what he called her Doormat Tendencies. "And then what happened?"
She drew in a nasal breath and caught a whiff of her own perfume, tender-scented sweat pea. It gave her little comfort. She even smelled like a 'fraidy cat, she thought miserably. Why couldn't she be strong and tough and self-assured the way some women were?
"He quickened his pace, too," she said. "And there was a dark alley up ahead, the last one before my duplex. The one that always gives me the worst case of goose bumps when I walk past it after dark. I just knew he was going to yank me into that alley when I got close enough. So I started to cross the street. That's when he grabbed me."
"Stop right there," Rodney interrupted. "Answer quickly, without thinking first. What did you feel when he grabbed you?"
"Panic, of course."
"Surprise? Now try to answer honestly."
She frowned. "No. No, I was expecting it by then."
He nodded. "I think you've been expecting it for months. Ever since those thugs...