Only the direst emergency could bring Jared Perry back to the small town he'd left at eighteen, swearing he'd never return. But he couldn't turn his back on a family member in trouble. And he never expected to find a reason in lovely Mara Pratt for staying....
She'd been burned by love before and wasn't about to risk her heart to a big-city corporate raider. Especially one who'd been ready to escape the moment his tailored coat had picked up some country dust. Still, something about Jared made Mara willing to fight for a chance to be together. She'd start by showing him what coming home really meant.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
August 31, 2007
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Bachelor No More by Victoria Pade
"Is that someone coming up the stairs? Now? At ten o'clock on a Sunday night? I don't believe these people!"
"I'll take care of it. Go on and do what you were going to do," Mara Pratt advised the elderly woman as Mara stood to give her a hand, pulling her severely
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. That's one of the reasons I'm here, remember? To run interference for you," Mara reminded.
Celeste Perry managed a tight, weary smile. "I don't know what I would have done without you this last week." "I don't know what I would have done without you for longer than that," Mara countered.
Celeste gave Mara a warm hug and then pointed at Mara's nose. "You have a little flour smudge from making cookies."
Mara brushed at the spot the older woman had brought to her attention. "Go. Get ready for bed. Tomorrow will be the roughest day yet and you need some rest. As soon as I send this reporter--or whoever it is--on their way, I'll pour you a little brandy and you can wind down."
The rotund woman nodded and disappeared around a corner of the small apartment the Pratt family owned and had rented to Celeste for decades.
Not that they had known they were renting it to the notorious Celeste Perry any more than they'd known her true identity throughout all the years they'd employed her at their dry cleaners. They--like the rest of the people of Northbridge, Montana--had believed they were renting and giving work to a quiet, unassuming woman named Leslie Vance, a stranger new to town in 1970.
The solid, even thuds of steps coming up the outer stairs stopped about the time Mara heard Celeste's bedroom door close. Then a knock sounded.
Wanting to make sure she wasn't too unpresentable if she had to open the door, Mara glanced into a mirror on the wall for a quick check as she called, "Who is it?" "I'm here to see Celeste Perry," a deep male voice called back.
That was hardly a revelation. As the woman who had--in 1960, after a bank robbery that had rocked the small community--left her two sons and her husband to run off with one of the robbers, Celeste was in high demand.
"That doesn't tell me who you are," Mara said, double-checking for any other problems with her appearance.
Earlier in the week she'd been caught off guard by a reporter and photographer at the door and had ended up with an unflattering picture splashed all over town. Not wanting that repeated, she made sure her shoulder-length, cocoa-colored hair was neatly tucked behind her ears and that blush still highlighted her reasonably high cheekbones. She wished that she at least had gloss on lips she thought needed to be a bit fuller, and she noted that, while her straight, thin nose was now unfloured, there was a tiny shadow of mascara beneath one navy blue eye. She ran a fingertip under her lashes to wipe it away and decided that was as good as it was going to get.
"I'd rather not announce my name from out here," the deep voice answered tightly.
Suspicious, Mara moved from the mirror and went to the door. She wasn't about to open it, however, without some information. If the man outside was--like Mara, her siblings and a large portion of the citizens of Northbridge--a supporter of Celeste, it might be okay. But if the visitor was someone who condemned Celeste, or one of the many reporters hounding her for interviews, it could be dicier. So, without knowing who was outside now, Mara wasn't opening that door.
"I don't care whether you want to announce your name. Unless you tell me who you are, you might as well just go away."
"I'm not Celeste," Mara informed him, cutting off his uncertain use of the name.
"Who are you then?" he demanded, no longer uncertain.
"The question is, who are you?" Mara reiterated.
"I'm here to see Celeste Perry," the man repeated firmly, speaking more slowly, as if Mara would understand him better that way. Then, in a louder voice, he added, "If this isn't where I can find her, then where is she?"
Mara had faced down any number of muckraking reporters this last week, all of them tenacious, some of them pushy, but none this demanding or insistent. It was almost as if he felt somehow entitled to be. What Mara wanted to do was tell this guy to take a hike. The trouble was, if his loud voice roused the suspicions of the state patrolman, on duty to ensure Celeste remained in her apartment under informal house arrest, the officer would come up to the apartment, too. And very little peace would be had tonight.
So Mara knew she was going to have to give a little. "I'm Mara Pratt," she said. "And no one gets to Celeste without going through me."
"Pratt?" the man echoed. "I know the Pratts. At least I knew them. Cam and Scott--"
"My older brothers. Who I can call and have over here in five minutes to escort you away from that door if you don't tell me who you are."
"I'm Jared Perry."