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Authors: Diana Palmer

Hoodwinked

BOOK: Hoodwinked
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New York Times
bestselling author Diana Palmer delivers another fan-favorite story of intrigue, passion and unexpected love!

Maureen Harris is dedicated to her job at McFaber Corporation, which manufactures jets. The green-eyed ingenue has her eye on everything that comes through the company's offices…including a report of a sabotaged plane!

When she hears the news, Maureen decides to conduct her own investigation. She is suspicious of the company's newest and most antagonistic mechanic. There's more to him than meets the eye, though. Soon, Maureen is shocked to find herself seduced by the sexy stranger! But Jake has a deeply buried secret that will surprise her even more…

HOODWINKED

DIANA PALMER

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter One

M
aureen Harris was already an hour late for work. One thing after another had conspired to ruin her morning. The washing machine in her small duplex in the suburbs had flooded, her last pair of hose had run just as she put them on, then she'd misplaced her car keys. She ran into the offices of MacFaber Corporation bare-legged with her long black hair threatening to come down from its braided bun on top of her head, her full skirt stained with coffee that she'd tried to substitute for breakfast in a drive-through place on the way.

A tall, burly man was just coming around the corner as she turned it, coffee cup still in hand. She collided with him with a loud thud, fell backward, and the coffee cup seemed to upend in slow motion, pouring its contents all over the carpet, splashing him, and splattering her skirt even more.

She sat up in the ruins of it all, quickly retrieving her wire-rimmed, trendy new glasses from the floor and sticking them on her nose so that she could see. She stared up blankly at the taciturn, very somber man in gray coveralls, her green eyes resigned. “I didn't pay my phone bill on time,” she said, apropos of nothing. “The telephone company has ways of
getting even, you know. They flood your washing machine, put runs in all your stockings and cause you to spill coffee and trample strange men.”

He cocked a heavy eyebrow. He wasn't handsome at all. He looked more like a wrestler than a mechanic, but that was definitely a mechanic's coverall he was wearing. His dark eyes ran over her like hands, narrowing, curious, and a faint smile touched the mouth that seemed carved out of stone. It was a nice, man's mouth—wide and sexy and deliberate. He looked Roman, in fact, right down to the imposing nose and brooding brow. Maureen knew all about brooding brows; she had once taken an art class and spent long hours dreaming of imposing Romans. That had been years ago, of course, before she discovered reality and settled down to being a junior secretary in the MacFaber Corporation.

Since he didn't speak or offer a hand, she scrambled to her feet, staring miserably around at the coffee splatted all over the champagne-colored carpet. She pushed back her hair. “I'm very sorry that I ran into you. I didn't mean to. I really don't know what to do.” She sighed. “Maybe I ought to quit before I'm asked to.”

“How old are you?” the man in the mechanic's outfit asked. He had a gravelly voice—very deep, like rich velvet.

“I'm twenty-four,” she said, faintly surprised by the question. Did he think she was too young for the job? “But usually I'm very competent.”

“How long have you been here?” he asked, eyeing her suspiciously.

“Just since the month before last,” she confessed. “Well, I've been here in this new building since it
opened, that is. But I've worked for the corporation for six months.” Since just before my parents died, she could have said, but she didn't. “I was chosen out of the typing pool to take one of the old secretaries' places. I'm very fast. I mean, my typing is very fast. Oh, dear. Do you suppose I could rush out for some sand and toss it over this stain in the carpet before someone sees?”

“Call the janitorial staff. That's what they're paid to do,” he said. “You'd better get busy. MacFaber doesn't like idle employees. Or so I'm told,” he added in a cold, steady tone.

She sighed. “I don't think he likes anybody. He never sticks his nose in here, anyway, so it's a good thing the company can run itself. He never comes here, they say.”

Both bushy eyebrows went up. “Do tell? I thought he worked in this building?”

“So did we,” she agreed. “But then, we all came up from the old engineering building when this new building was completed three months ago and they added so much new staff. The secretaries, I mean. Even Mr. MacFaber's secretary, Charlene, is new, so none of the secretarial staff has ever laid eyes on him. And Charlene gets her work through the vice president in charge of production, kind of secondhand from the big boss,” she added, leaning close. “We suspect that he's disguised as the big chair in the boardroom.”

“Fascinating.” He cocked his head to one side. “He sounds like a figment of someone's imagination, doesn't he?” he mused, and almost smiled.

She studied him for an instant. He didn't look like a man who knew how to smile. He was big—huge, in
fact. He was tall and streamlined for a big man, very commanding, with a broad face and deep-set dark eyes. His hair was straight and thick and jet black, and his wrists had a feathering of dark hair, too. She felt that he probably was that way all over, and then wondered at her sudden curiosity. She wasn't all that comfortable with men as a rule. She was rather plain, for all that she had a budding sunny personality and dressed neatly. Men hardly noticed her, even now that she had fifty dollars' worth of new makeup.

“Are you new here?” she asked shyly. “You're a mechanic, aren't you?” she added, pushing her slipping glasses back on her nose. Really, she thought miserably, the frames she'd chosen were outrageous; they sat way down on her cheekbones. If only she didn't wear glasses. If only she was beautiful and sexy…

“I'm relatively new—” he answered her earlier question “—and I'm wearing a mechanic's coverall, so that should answer your second question.”

“Then you must be working on the new Faber-jet design,” she said excitedly, curious at the sudden stillness of his big body when she mentioned that.

“Yes,” he said noncommittally. “You're familiar with it?”

“Sort of,” she said, sighing. “Nobody can figure out why it's such a lemon. The computer people ran one of those very expensive design graphics, and according to it, the modifications should produce a big improvement on the old Faber jet design. But it performed very badly on its first test flight. That's too bad. I guess it will give Peters Aviation the edge on us.” They were the competition and were trying to
outmaneuver MacFaber by producing the new design on their own small jet first.

“It might appear that they have the edge, but don't count on it,” he said coolly. “Hadn't you better get to work?”

She flushed a little. He sounded full of authority somehow. Probably he was married and had children. He was old enough. How old? she wondered, glancing at him as she picked up her purse and the coffee cup. Middle or late thirties, definitely. He had a few gray hairs and there were lines on his face.

“I'm Maureen,” she said. She shifted her feet and peeked up at him through her glasses, wishing she had Charlene's gift of gab. “What's your name?” she asked.

“Jake,” he said shortly. “Excuse me. I'm late.”

Jake. He didn't look like a Jake. She stared after him. He was pretty dishy—big and capable looking. And he'd made her feel different. Almost reckless. Imagine her talking to a man like that and being bold enough to ask his name. She grinned to herself. Maybe she wasn't totally helpless. It was like a milestone in her life, and she was glad that she'd decided to stay in Wichita. She'd thought that a change of scenery might bring her out of her shell and help her become independent and capable. It still might. But her newfound male co-worker hadn't seemed too interested. Not that she was surprised. She had so little luck in attracting men. Maybe it was the glasses. If she hadn't been so nearsighted without them, she might have put them back in her purse and risked talking to hat racks and potted plants.

She dashed into Arnold M. Blake's office breathlessly and sat down behind her desk. She
glanced at the phone. One line was open. Thank God. Mr. Blake was at his desk. Maybe he wouldn't realize how late she was. She punched the second of the four lines and rang the janitorial department.

“Someone has spilled coffee all over your spotless carpet in the entrance,” she reported with blithe innocence. “Could someone attend to it, please?”

There was a world-weary sigh on the other end. “Miss Harris?”

She swallowed. “Yes.”

“No problem,” came the dry reply. “Late again, are you?”

She flushed. “My washing machine flooded.”

“Last time,” the man's voice drawled, “it was a strawberry milk shake.”

“I'm sorry,” she groaned. “It's my karma, you see. I must have been an ax murderer in a previous life.”

“We'll get up the stains, don't you worry. And thanks for that bag of pralines you brought us from New Orleans,” the voice added. “We all enjoyed them.”

She smiled sadly. She'd had to go home for a few days to approve the sale of her parents' home. It was her last link with the old life. They'd planned to move to Wichita, Kansas, with her, but a tragic car wreck just before the move had taken their lives. She'd almost gone back herself, after that, but she had decided that a new start might help ease the pain. So she'd invested the money she'd received from the sale of her parents' home in half of a duplex in Wichita and stayed there. Since she'd already gotten her job with the MacFaber Corporation, at least she didn't have to worry about living expenses. The pralines had been an afterthought, and she was glad now that she'd
thought to bring the harried janitorial staff a little sack of treats.

“Thanks.” She hung up and dabbed again at her skirt. It would have to be light blue. Nothing was going to take that stain out.

“So there you are,” Mr. Blake said from the doorway, smiling at her. “I need you to take a letter, Miss Harris.”

“Yes, sir.” She grabbed her pad and pen. “So sorry. I was late, and I've spilled coffee…Everything's gone wrong…”

“No problem,” he said easily. “Come in, please.”

She took several letters in a row, all pertaining to the new Faber-jet design. She never paid much attention to what they contained, which was so much gibberish when he started using technical terms. She had to ask the spelling of one or two of them, but Mr. Blake was very patient and never yelled.

Joseph MacFaber, it was said, could rage like a wounded bear when he was in a bad temper. But then he was filthy rich and used to getting his own way. He spent most of his life trying to commit suicide in a variety of dangerous hobbies, from what Maureen could gather, and left his subordinates in charge of the MacFaber Aircraft Corporation in his absence. He was in Rio now, she'd heard. He'd been away for the better part of a year, getting over the death of his mother—or so they said. Mrs. MacFaber had died in a car wreck in Europe, gossip said, and MacFaber was still grieving. They said he'd been driving the car, so perhaps he was running away from his conscience. It would be a hard thing for a man to live with.

Mr. Blake finished his dictation and Maureen went back to her desk to transcribe her notes on the
electronic typewriter. That was a signal for the phone to start ringing nonstop and two other secretaries to come in and ask questions that she had to ask Mr. Blake to answer.

BOOK: Hoodwinked
7.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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