Vendetta, page 1
“The last thing someone like you needs in her life is someone like me.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
Courtney turned her small boat toward the cove. She wouldn’t leave herself open and vulnerable around Blair again. She deserved complete honesty, and that was what he’d given her. If it hurt, so be it. Better to be hurt now, before this went any further.
As he tossed the anchor over the side, they started toward the dock. Blair put a hand on her arm and pointed.
A thin ribbon of light was moving around the perimeter of his cottage. He motioned for her to remain behind while he hurried ashore.
Courtney dashed through the shallows and reached shore just behind Blair. At the sound of their splashing, the light was extinguished. All that could be seen was a shadowy figure dissolving into the darkness. The only sound was hurried footsteps receding into the distance.
Then there was only silence, but for the gentle lap of water against the shore.
Welcome to another month of excitingly romantic reading from Silhouette Intimate Moments. Ruth Langan starts things off with a bang in Vendetta, the third of her four DEVIL’S COVE titles. Blair Colby came back to town looking for a quiet summer. Instead he found danger, mystery—and love.
Fans of Sara Orwig’s STALLION PASS miniseries will be glad to see it continued in Bring On The Night, part of STALLION PASS: TEXAS KNIGHTS, also a fixture in Silhouette Desire. Mix one tough agent, the ex-wife he’s never forgotten and the son he never knew existed, and you have a recipe for high emotion. Whether you experienced our FAMILY SECRETS continuity or are new to it now, you won’t want to miss our six FAMILY SECRETS: THE NEXT GENERATION titles, starting with Jenna Mills’ A Cry In The Dark. Ana Leigh’s Face of Deception is the first of her BISHOP’S HEROES stories, and your heart will beat faster with every step of Mike Bishop’s mission to rescue Ann Hamilton and her adopted son from danger. Are you a fan of the paranormal? Don’t miss One Eye Open, popular author Karen Whiddon’s first book for the line, which features a shape-shifting heroine and a hero who’s all man. Finally, go To The Limit with new author Virginia Kelly, who really knows how to write heart-pounding romantic adventure.
And come back next month, for more of the best and most exciting romance reading around, right here in Silhouette Intimate Moments.
Leslie J. Wainger
Books by Ruth Langan
Silhouette Intimate Moments
§The Wildes of Wyoming—Chance #985
§The Wildes of Wyoming—Hazard #997
§The Wildes of Wyoming—Ace #1009
**Awakening Alex #1054
**Loving Lizbeth #1060
**Seducing Celeste #1065
‡‡By Honor Bound #1111
‡‡Return of the Prodigal Son #1123
‡‡Banning’s Woman #1135
‡‡His Father’s Son #1147
Just Like Yesterday #121
Hidden Isle #224
No Gentle Love #303
Eden of Temptation #317
This Time Forever #371
Family Secrets #407
Mysteries of the Heart #458
The Proper Miss Porter #492
Silhouette Special Edition
To Love a Dreamer #218
Whims of Fate #354
The Fortunes of Texas
is an award-winning and bestselling author. Her books have been finalists for the Romance Writers of America’s (RWA) RITA® Award. Over the years, she has given dozens of print, radio and TV interviews, including Good Morning America and CNN News, and has been quoted in such diverse publications as the Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan and the Detroit Free Press. Married to her childhood sweetheart, she has raised five children and lives in Michigan, the state where she was born and raised. Ruth enjoys hearing from her readers. Letters can be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via her Web site at www.ryanlangan.com.
For our very own Courtney Langan, lucky number 20.
I hope you dance.
And for Tom, who brought me to the dance.
My special thanks to Haley and Kelsey Bissonnette, for sharing with me their valuable experience in sailing.
Devil’s Cove, Michigan—2003
Retired judge Frank Brennan had just taken a turn around the gardens of his lovely old home known as The Willows. With a sigh of satisfaction he settled himself in his favorite leather chair in his office. His wife, Bert, had already retired for the night, and he’d promised to join her upstairs in a few minutes.
When the phone rang he picked it up absently.
“Poppie?” At the strangled voice of his grand-daughter on the other end of the line, the old man sat up straighter, cupping the phone in both hands.
“Oh, Poppie. I had to talk to you.”
He knew by the way her voice trembled that she was fighting tears. That in itself was difficult to imagine, since he’d always seen Courtney, the third of his son Christopher’s daughters, as the strongest of his grandchildren. Courtney, who had decided while still in high school that she wanted to study interior design, and had never veered from her charted course. Courtney, who had graduated from the prestigious New York School of Design before going on to Paris and then Rome, before settling in Milan, where she had opened a lovely studio and boutique with her partner, Pietro Amalfi.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
He heard her take a deep breath. “It’s Pietro. He…” She struggled to get the words out over the tears that had started up again. “I found out that he’s been…stealing. None of the bills have been paid. And now the bank is threatening to take our shop. And that’s not all. He’s run off with—” she paused before managing to say “—with one of the girls I’d hired in the boutique.”
Frank Brennan stened in silence as the story poured out. It was a tale as old as time, but one that never got easier to hear, especially when it broke the heart of someone as dear as this beautiful young woman, who had been wildly in love for the first time in her life.
When the words had all been said, and the only sounds were an occasional hiccupping sob, Frank’s tone gentled. “You asked me what I think, so I’ll tell you. I think you need to come home, honey. To be with the people who love you.”
“But I feel like such a fool. If I run home now, I’ll look like a failure, as well, Poppie.”
“When it comes to affairs of the heart, Courtney my love, we’re all fools. But a failure? Never. If it would make matters simpler, I can recommend a good law firm in Milan to handle this sad affair. Once Pietro is apprehended, he will be ordered to make restitution or go to jail.”
“I don’t want to send him to jail, Poppie. I just want my credit cleared and a chance to start over.”
“One thing at a time, Courtney. Pietro may have mishandled your heart and your business, but he can’t be allowed to walk away wi
After a strained silence she gave a long, deep sigh. “I know you’re right, Poppie. Thank you. I’ll contact the law firm. Maybe once I get things started, I’ll be able to think more clearly.”
“Good girl. And when this is behind you, you need to come home. I can’t think of anything better for your heart and soul than to spend a summer here at The Willows while you plan your future.”
There was a long pause before she said simply, “I knew I could count on you to say just the right thing. I’ll be home as soon as I’ve dealt with this.”
When he replaced the receiver, Frank reached across the desk and picked up a framed photograph taken more than fifteen years earlier. In it, four little girls stood with their arms around each other. Emily was clutching one of her many stray kittens. Hannah’s knees were grass-stained from weeding the garden. Sidney was holding one of her drawings, and her nose and cheek were streaked with finger paint. Courtney’s tennis shorts and shirt looked as crisp and white as when she’d put them on hours earlier. Her waist-length caramel hair was plaited in two perfect braids. Her dimpled smile was angelic.
Frank thought of the callous young man who had just broken her trust and her heart. Knowing his tough, perfectionist granddaughter, she would build a shield around that heart to keep it from being hurt again. It would take a long time, if ever, for her to trust another man.
He whispered a prayer that somewhere in this world there was not only one worthy of that fine heart but wise enough to break through the defenses she would surely build as strong, as high, as any fortress.
Devil’s Cove—Present Day
“Poppie? Got a minute?
At the sound of Courtney’s voice, Frank Brennan tore his attention from the legal journal he’d been reading and looked up with a smile. “I al ways have time for one of my favorite grand daughters.” Since he referred to all four of his granddaughters as his favorite, Courtney merely chuckled.
He indicated the chair across from his desk in his office. Though he’d been retired from the law for a decade, he continued to fill his days, when he wasn’t gardening, in his favorite room poring over the latest legal cases, especially those involving his home district. “What’s on your mind, my darling?”
“I was talking to Bert about the Colby cottage.”
Just the mention of his wife, Alberta, whom everyone called Bert, had his smile widening. “Bert knew Sarah Colby better than I did. A private woman. Kept to herself. Never married, and as far as I know, had little family.”
“I was thinking, now that she’s gone, that I might try to buy the place.”
Frank felt a quickening of his heartbeat. Since Courtney had returned to Devil’s Cove more than a year ago, he’d been holding his breath, hoping she might consider staying, but trying to resign himself that she might soon hunger for the exotic life she’d left behind. “Sounds like a commitment.”
She laughed. “I guess it does. I love my apartment above the shop, but if I could move into the Colby cottage, I’d have twice the space. Plus I could add a stone walkway between the two buildings, and gardens to display the garden art I’ve been accumulating.”
She had given this a good deal of thought, he could see. “It makes sense from a business standpoint. Since the two buildings share a driveway, and the cottage is directly behind your shop, most folks would probably mistake it as one address and one owner, anyway.”
Courtney nodded. “That’s what I think, too. Bert said she remembers a nephew at the funeral, but she heard that he’d taken a big job out of the country. I checked with the city clerk, and she said a law firm in Boston is handling Sarah’s estate. I’d like your help drafting a letter to the firm asking if the cottage is for sale, and whether or not they would consider my offer to purchase.”
Frank reached into his drawer and withdrew a legal tablet. “Write down what you just said, and I’ll add the proper language before we have the document drawn up for your signature.”
Courtney rounded the desk and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “What would I do without you, Poppie?”
He chuckled. “Let’s hope you don’t have to find out for many a year, my darling.”
“It has to be something really unique.” Prentice Osborn took another turn around Courtney Brennan’s gift shop, Treasures. “I want to give it to Carrie tonight when I ask her—” He stopped abruptly when he realized what he’d almost revealed and glanced over quickly at the only other patron in the shop, Wade Bentley, the mayor of Devil’s Cove, who was being assisted by Kendra Crowley, the high-school graduate Courtney had hired to help in the shop for the summer. The mayor seemed to be busy examining a disy of pretty painted glassware on the far side of the room. “Not a word, Courtney.”
“My lips are sealed.” Though she didn’t crack a smile, the glint of humor in Courtney’s eyes gave her away. The romance between Prentice, who belonged to one of Devil’s Cove’s wealthiest families and Carrie Lester, who worked in the Daisy Diner, was the worst-kept secret in town. It was impossible not to notice Prentice hanging around the diner for hours while Carrie worked her shift, just so he could walk her home.
At first, whenever they went out to dinner, they’d taken along his mentally-challenged brother Will and Carrie’s daughter Jenny. Lately they’d been seen without their chaperons, lingering over seafood and the world’s best cheesecake at The Pier, one of Devil’s Cove’s finest restaurants.
“How about this?” Courtney held up a hand-painted gargoyle.
“I said unique, not ugly.”
“I think it’s adorable. Knowing Carrie, she’d agree.”
He gave it a closer appraisal. “Do you really think Carrie would like something like that?”
“Absolutely. Look.” Courtney held it up to the window. “The artist gave it a secret.” Light spilled through, revealing a tiny heart that could only be seen when it was turned a certain way.
“Wow.” Prentice took it from Courtney’s hand and turned it this way and that, watching the heart appear and disappear. Just looking at it had him grinning.
He seemed to be reconsidering. “It’s different, all right. I’m just not sure it’s special enough. How will I know if she really likes it, or if she’s just humoring me?”
Courtney gave her childhood friend a gentle smile. “Prentice, Carrie is going to love anything you buy for her.”
“Is it that obvious?” He actually blushed, a trait that Courtney found endearing.
“It is.” She patted his arm. “But your secret is safe with me.”
Prentice sighed before handing over the gargoyle. “All right. Wrap it up. I’m going to give it to her tonight after dinner. Right before I ask her…the big question.”
Courtney cushioned the little sculpture in tissue before fitting it into one of the gold-and-silver boxes that bore the name Treasures on the lid. That, in turn, was tucked into a handled bag with the same gold-and-silver coin design. The bags had become such a fashion statement, they were the favorite totes of many of the town’s tourists and year-round residents.
Courtney handed him his credit card and receipt along with the bag. “Good luck, Prentice.”
“Thanks.” He paused. “You’ve got a great shop here, Courtney. I know I’m not the only one in town who’s glad you came home. You’ve added a lot of class to Devil’s Cove.”
“Thanks, Prentice. Have a good night.” She watched as he walked outside, then turned to where the mayor was still studying the glassware.
“See anything you like, ?” Courtney glanced at her watch, eager to close up shop. She’d been here since her first delivery at nine, and it was now well past the dinner hour.
The mayor shrugged and ambled toward the counter, carrying a pair of hand-painted candlesticks. “Thinking about buying these. Your young assistant tells me they’re all the rage.”
“They’re beautiful. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you in
He smiled, showing white, even teeth in a handsome, tanned face. In his early forties, he still ran the annual summer marathon and routinely beat runners years younger.
The Bentley family had been involved in politics in the state since Wade’s father Dade Bentley had been governor. The name alone was enough to guarantee recognition wherever he went. When Wade had decided to make his mark in the city of Devil’s Cove, he’d found little competition. There was talk that he might be considering a run for the state senate in the next year. With his family history, his good looks and winning way with people, it was rumored that he might even use that as a stepping stone to Washington.
Courtney began carefully wrapping the candlesticks, before placing them in a bag. He handed over his charge card. “The city clerk tells me you’re interested in buying the Colby cottage.”
Courtney smiled. “That’s right. I guess there’s not much that goes on in this town that you don’t know about, Wade.”
He returned the smile before signing the sales slip. “Not much. What’re you planning on doing with it? Not tearing it down, I hope.”
“I’d live there and enlarge my shop, maybe turn the upstairs where I’m living now into an art gallery.”
He glanced around. “A fine idea, Courtney. You’ve got a really nice place here. I guess the Colby cottage would be a nice addition to your holdings.” He turned away. “Good night.”
As soon as he was gone, Kendra walked behind the counter and retrieved her denim bag from a locked cabinet. Her hair, bright orange spikes, framed a heart-shaped face made sultry by dark, sooty eyelids and a mouth outlined in deep purple. Kendra bought all her clothes from a nearby resale shop, the more outrageous the better. Today she wore a shapeless fringed sack dress that might have been popular in the seventies, topped by a fitted denim vest painted with old peace signs. She’d confided to Courtney that she was only going on to college in the fall to please her father. Her real goal was to own her own retail shop.
Other author's books:
- The BetrayalBadlands LegendBy Honor BoundSeducing CelesteLoving LizbethCover-UpReturn of the Prodigal SonSnowbound Cinderella
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