Small WondersComing home to Bethlehem in hand-cuffs isn't the way Cole Jackson's life was supposed to turn out. Now, trapped in the last place on earth he wants to be, he's facing serious jail time…and the woman and kids who are both better off without him. Once Cole thought sexy single mother Leanne Wilson could make a new man of him…until he walked away from the tantalizing promise of a future together. But seeing her again rekindles the kind of passion that could set one lifelong sinner on the rocky road to redemption.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Small Wonders by Marilyn Pappano
When he reached the restaurant, Jack Coleman's first stop was the men's room, where he checked his reflection in the mirror. The elderly attendant who watched him seemed to think it was vanity, or so his barely suppressed grin indicated, but it wasn't. In Jack's business, appearances were important. The people he was meeting for lunch put a lot of stock on the cut of a man's suit and the names on the labels. They would take him far more seriously in his Hugo Boss suit, with his diamond tie clasp and cuff links, than they would if they saw him in his usual scruffy jeans and T-shirt.
He wanted them to take him seriously.
He adjusted the knot in his silk tie and combed his fingers through his hair, then gave his reflection a critical once-over. Satisfied that he looked the part he was playing today, he drew a deep breath, then left the men's room. In the broad entrance to the dining room, he skimmed his gaze over the crowd until he located his marks--uh, prospective clients.
Sissy and Marvin Ravenel were among Savannah's historically and socially prominent residents. Marvin's however-many-times-great-grandfather had owned the biggest and most profitable plantation in pre-Civil War Georgia, along with the biggest and most lavish plantation house. Over the generations, the family had produced senators, governors, doctors, lawyers, professors, and a whole regiment of military leaders. Then there was Marvin. Not the brightest bulb in the box.
He was a lawyer by education, a gentleman of leisure by occupation. One thing every generation of Ravenels had excelled at was making money, which left Marvin in the enviable position of never wanting for anything. Why spend time in a stuffy office, taxing his brain, when he could play golf, sail, or travel with Sissy instead
"Jack." Sissy presented her cheek for a kiss, which he pretended to give. She was part of Savannah's socially prominent, only through Marvin. Until their marriage, she'd been just another pretty girl who didn't want to live the rest of her life on the wrong side of the tracks. Having come from the wrong side of the tracks himself, Jack understood her ambition.
He shook hands with Marvin, ordered a martini from the waiter who hovered nearby, then traded small talk until the drink arrived. Truth was, he hated martinis and would be happier with a bottle of beer or, better yet, a Coke, but the Ravenels liked to drink, and liked company while they did it.
The waiter asked if they were ready to order and Sissy waved him away. "Tell us again about this investment opportunity," she said in her husky Georgia drawl. Her gaze seemed sharper than usual, her smile more satisfied.
Movement near the entrance distracted Jack for a moment. Two men in suits were talking to the maitre d', and all three were glancing in the general direction of the table Jack shared with the Ravenels. Granted, men in suits weren't out of place in this restaurant--every male diner wore them--but the two men were. They didn't look as if they made a habit of dropping seventy-five bucks for a meal and a drink or two.