#1 New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag tells a powerful story of love and surrender in this classic novel about a young woman determined to save the world on her own, and the man who may help her save herself.
Lynn Shaw knows teenage rebellion all too well. And she knows the damage it can leave in its wake. She hadn't been able to spare herself those growing pains, but as a counselor she's determined to help the troubled girls of Horizon House, girls who need love--not publicity. But when unfriendly locals protest the residence, they draw the attention of the state senator--a movie-star-handsome man Lynn assumes is merely interested in a photo op.
But helping Lynn is what Erik Gunther is interested in. And Lynn doesn't buy it for a second. Not even when he takes up her cause as his own. Not even when their mutual attraction becomes undeniable. But for the sake of the girls, Lynn will have to let down her defenses. Easier said than done, as a private war against her past demons rages on. A battle with an army of one, until now.
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December 30, 2008
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Excerpt from The Last White Knight by Tami Hoag
"What we need is a white knight." Lillian Johnson looked up toward the big house, worry creasing her forehead above the rims of her glasses. She stood stiffly at the nose of her Volvo, slender shoulders set as if to take a blow, the summer evening breeze just teasing the ends of silver hair cut in a sleek pageboy. In her blouse with the Peter Pan collar and pleated skirt, she looked like a librarian about to be set upon by a mob of book-burning fanatics.
The sidewalk in front of the house was crowded with unhappy people, neighbors who were not inclined to feel neighborly toward the new folks on the block. Many were holding hand-lettered signs aloft. No Delinquents! Runaways Go Home! Citizens for Family Neighborhoods. A news crew from the local television station was capturing the action on videotape.
Lynn Shaw frowned as a breeze caught at strands of her long black hair and whipped them across her face. She raked them back with one hand, green eyes fixed on the crowd. "There's no such thing as white knights." She leaned down into the trunk of her middle-aged Buick and emerged with a box of kitchen utensils cradled in her arms. "Besides, I'll be damned if I'm waiting around for some man to come and save me."
Leaving her friend and employer behind, she stepped up onto the boulevard and started toward the house with a determined stride. She was a counselor, after all. She knew how to handle people. She had the skills to defuse the situation-provided she didn't lose her temper. Of course, there was an ever-present danger of her losing her temper these days.
The relocation of Horizon House should have been simple. Call a moving van, pack a few boxes, change the letterhead on the stationery. The home had been in its former location for three years without incident. Lynn doubted if most of the citizens of Rochester, Minnesota, had had any idea it existed until the building that housed Horizon's residents had been scheduled for demolition to make room for a new hotel. And the Horizon staff might have pulled off the move to this nondescript house with the neighbors going on in self-absorbed, quiet bliss if it hadn't been for one pompous, ill-informed, obnoxious man.
"We don't want you here!"
He materialized in front of Lynn as if her thoughts had conjured him up. Elliot Graham. A man who looked so normal, so ordinary, he might have been a mailman or a dermatologist. He stood before her, a man of average height, average build, average brown hair neatly combed. His face was an average face, unremarkable in every way except one-he had the eyes of a fanatic.
He looked self-important and self-righteous in his charcoal slacks, white shirt, burgundy tie. The epitome of the well-dressed protestor. Lynn caught a whiff of woodsy aftershave and knew instantly who had called the news crew. They were too late for the six o'clock news, but Elliot would look just as spiffy at ten. She, on the other hand, would look like a street person in her old jeans and faded T-shirt.
She closed her eyes briefly against the warning flash of pain in her right temple. As she opened them again a cameraman stepped into her line of vision, a minion behind him raising a blinding white spotlight on a long pole. Lynn flinched from the light as a reporter stepped up to her, microphone in hand.
"What do you have to say about community resentment against this move?"
"We don't want this institution in our neighborhood," Elliot Graham said emphatically, butting in front of Lynn.
"St. Stephen's Church has graciously donated the use of this house to Horizon, Mr. Graham," Lynn said, edging her way back in front of him, her hold on her temper slipping as the pain level of her headache escalated. "We intend to move in with or without your permission."
"We'll see about that."
The look on Graham's face was entirely too smug, too confident. He had an ace in the hole. Lynn braced herself mentally as she waited for him to produce it. Graham's teenage son, a budding right-wing extremist in an outfit that nearly matched his father's, stepped up and handed Graham a manila file folder from which he produced a sheaf of papers.
"Citizens for Family Neighborhoods has circulated a petition against relocating Horizon House to this property. I intend to present it to Father Bartholomew tomorrow morning. A copy will also be delivered to the bishop in Winona. We have over eight hundred signatures. . . ."
The rest of his soliloquy about quality of life and moral standards was lost on Lynn as she fought to contain her anger. Citizens for Family Neighborhoods. Good God-fearing people just trying to do what was right. She wanted to rail at them, shake them, somehow make them see that what they were doing wasn't right at all. They had no reason to fear the residents of Horizon House. Her girls weren't hardened criminals. They were just kids who needed a break, kids who needed love and understanding and acceptance.
It was clear they wouldn't find acceptance in this neighborhood, thanks to Elliot Graham and his band of vigilantes. After all the furor about their move, Lynn doubted they would find acceptance anyplace in Rochester. And there was nothing she could do about it. Nothing she could say would change their minds. In her experience, the voice of reason and truth was seldom heard above the shouts of alarmists. Her sense of impotence lodged like a hot rock behind her breastbone and her counseling skills deserted her altogether as her emotions rushed to the fore.
"You talk a good game about morals, Mr. Graham, but you don't seem to know the first thing about kindness or charity," she snapped, the tide of passion and pain rising together and bringing a sheen of tears to blur her vision. "Do you know what you are, Mr. Graham? You're nothing but a petty, pompous-"
The news crew turned abruptly away. With the absence of light came the easing of the sword of pain, replaced by blessed cool relief. She almost collapsed as rigid muscles relaxed automatically, but her indignation held her upright. She might have finished telling Elliot Graham what she thought of him, but he had whirled away from her. Irritation pulled her brows low over her eyes. The jerk didn't even have the decency to pay attention while she told him off!
She turned to see what had so captured everyone's attention and was immediately struck in the face once again with the death strobe. Then someone stepped in front of it, blocking the worst of the light-a tall man dressed in white. The light glowed in a golden halo around his head and illuminated a pair of shoulders that belonged on a lumberjack. The effect was reminiscent of the way Hollywood portrayed holy visions. Lynn half expected to see Christ himself walk out of that aura, or Lillian's mythical white knight, Galahad come to rescue them. Fat chance.
The light shifted, coming around to illuminate his face as the news crew adjusted their positions, dancing around him like fawning spaniels. Lynn's heart did an involuntary little jump in her chest. Galahad, indeed.
State Senator Erik Gunther. Golden boy of the Democrats. Thirty-three and charming, destined for greatness, according to the media. Lynn fought a wry smile as she took in the movie-star looks of Senator Gunther, ignoring her body's physical responses to the man with the ease of long practice. She didn't have time for relationships, and she certainly had more sense than to go looking for one with a politician.
Erik Gunther might have been easy to look at, with his strong square face and dreamy blue eyes, and his boyish smile might have been enough to win the vote of every female in his district, but looks didn't make the politician. What made men like Erik Gunther was a thirst for power, a hunger for success, a drive and ambition that left room for little else. No, even if she had been interested-and she wasn't-she wouldn't have touched Erik Gunther with a ten-foot pole. She had endured enough strained and broken relationships to last her a lifetime. No sense going hunting for one.
That he wasn't here looking for a date was a cinch, anyway. He was here to get himself a cameo spot on the late news. Lynn conceded that he had a record for backing causes, but she knew how that worked. The depth of a politician's caring was in direct proportion to the amount of good it would do his image. If she was lucky, Senator Gunther would see Horizon House as being worthy of his attention long enough for her and the girls to become entrenched in this neighborhood and prove the Elliot Grahams of the town wrong.
The television reporter planted himself in front of Gunther and thrust a microphone under his nose. "Senator Gunther, can you tell us how you became involved in the dispute between Citizens for Family Neighborhoods and Horizon House?"