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Authors: Caridad Pineiro

Night of the Cougar

BOOK: Night of the Cougar
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Reporter Jamie Morrison got the scoop of a lifetime when she snagged a meeting with bestselling author Galen Hawke, but their rendezvous didn’t end with an interview. Their immediate attraction led to a wicked night together and a plan to meet again—until an accident left Galen changed forever…

Now, one year later, Jamie is sent to interview Galen once more. When a snowstorm strands them together in his remote mountain lodge, they are both eager to explore their reawakened passion. But will Jamie stay by Galen’s side when she discovers what he’s become?

Night of the Cougar

Caridad Piñeiro

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Booklist

Nocturne Cravings BPA

Copyright

Chapter One

“What you’re asking is impossible,” Jamie Morrison warned as she dragged her fingers through the fringed layers of her dark hair. She paced back and forth in front of the imposing mahogany desk in her editor’s equally imposing corner office.

“Some would have said it was impossible a year ago, also,” Frank Black said drolly, and arched one hairy gray eyebrow in emphasis.

Jamie whirled away from that challenging look. Arms akimbo, she stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows, which provided a postcard-pretty view of Manhattan and the vastness of Central Park. Early winter dusk was settling over the island of glittering lights and harsh buildings. The architecture was softened by the last rays of light, which bathed heavy snow clouds with cotton-candy hues of pink and blue.

“They’re predicting a blizzard for tomorrow and yet you expect me to drive to Vermont and hike up half the side of a mountain just to have him turn me down,” she said in challenge.

Frank’s indignant huff greeted her comment. “Come now, Jamie. Galen Hawke didn’t turn you down before. Why would he do it now?”

Maybe because she hadn’t seen Galen since he had been in a horrific accident that had nearly killed him? Maybe because she had been waiting for him to phone since their one night together and he hadn’t, despite her repeated calls. But, regardless, she knew her editor well enough to understand that he wouldn’t settle for no as an answer.

Facing him, she jabbed a finger in his direction. “I’m making reservations at the best inn in town, complete with a full spa package on the magazine’s credit card.”

Frank grinned, but there was something cold and calculating in his smile. “I’ve got something you might want in anticipation of the interview.”

He opened his desk drawer and took out a book. She recognized the cover immediately. Galen’s new release. She had a similar copy sitting on her nightstand at home, but hadn’t been able to get past the handwritten note below the book’s dedication. As her editor opened the book and pushed it across the desk toward her, she held up her hand like a cop directing traffic.

“Thanks, but I’ve got my own.”

“Probably his best work yet. Some might even say it’s inspired.” He leveled his gaze on her, obviously aware that she might have been that inspiring muse.

She waved him off with a flip of her hand and headed for the door, but then paused to look back at him. “I hope you have a backup story for the issue just in case.”

He chuckled and wagged his head, chastising her. “Failure isn’t an option, Jamie. Remember that.”

She shouldn’t have raised the specter of that possibility. Last month Frank had fired a veteran reporter for missing a deadline. Granted it was supposed to have been a huge scoop and the cover story for the upcoming holiday issue, but still extreme in the eyes of most at the weekly entertainment magazine. Especially considering that Frank wasn’t known for his generosity when a writer
did
provide him front-page material.

All things considered, she often wondered why she stuck it out as a journalist when she would much rather be working on her novel. The one she had been inspired to start after her interview with Galen Hawke last year. An interview that had led to a night she still found hard to forget.

Almost running from Frank’s office, she told herself not to return to memories of that night, but it was impossible to stay away.

* * *

One year earlier
Cat’s Claw Mountain, Vermont

Galen Hawke scoped out the people filtering into the hall for his workshop, some of whom were vying for front-row seats. They were the ones who considered him a celebrity, an unwelcome status in his mind. He still preferred to think of himself as an ex-cop who had somehow managed to turn his much more suave and successful alter ego, Jack Fitzgerald, into a household name with his bestselling crime novels.

As an ex-cop, it was hard not to notice people and profile them.

Besides the groupies now settled into the first row tittering at him, a fifty-something woman in a diaphanous floral outfit and beads that dangled at her neck, ears and wrists floated into a seat in the second row. He imagined her in Zen meditation, waiting for writing inspiration to channel itself into her brain.

The seats around and behind her quickly filled up with an assortment of attendees. The workshop had been a hot ticket, especially since he was donating the funds raised to a local environmental group that would secure and preserve a large swath of the mountainside. He had purchased the area next to the preserve, which was where he now had his home. The two areas combined would safeguard most of Cat’s Claw Mountain for future generations.

Almost all of the spaces were filled when
she
walked in.

She had an athlete’s body, all long, lean lines except for the delicious curves displayed by her faded jeans and the thermal fabric Henley shirt. Despite the tomboy, girl-next-door ensemble, there was something off about her, like she was trying too hard to look like an average hometown girl.

Maybe because she carried herself with an aplomb that screamed city girl.

Plus her shoulder-length dark hair was artfully done with streaks of honey that hinted at the work of a high-end salon. Minimal makeup highlighted a heart-shaped face with high cheekbones a model would covet. Full lips broadened into a dazzling smile at something the man beside her said while they took seats at the back of the auditorium. But as she sat, her gaze skipped to the front of the room and collided with his.

Her eyes were a blue as clear and clean as the stream that ran not far from his mountain lodge home.

“Mr. Hawke,” came from beside him. The moderator for the workshop stood there, wringing his hands. “Is it all right to begin?”

Galen nodded and took a spot in a chair by the podium, waiting for the obligatory reading of his bio and the applause that followed.

Listening to his so-called accomplishments made him uneasy basically because he didn’t consider what he’d done to be anything out of the ordinary. He’d just been lucky to turn something he loved into a career of sorts. But he did his best to offer his advice on writing and answer the questions that came at him from various spots around the auditorium. He held back from calling on the quivering and eager hands waving from the front row because he feared their questions would have nothing to do with his books or his craft. Unfortunately, the moderator stepped in to make sure he was aware of the enthusiastic attendees seeking his attention.

Galen motioned to one of the women and she popped up out of her chair with the speed of a jack-in-the-box. “We’d like to know,” she began, and shot a conspiratorial wink at her friends. “Is there someone special in your life?”

He had been expecting the question and so he was prepared. “I have lots of special people in my life. My parents and siblings. My agent and publisher—”

“No, I mean a special lady,” she clarified.

Something made him look to the back row, searching for the woman he had seen earlier. She was still there and this time her gaze met his as he said, “Not yet, but maybe I’ll get lucky someday.”

Before his admirer could press again, the moderator stepped in, raising his hands to quiet the crowd.

“Let’s end on that upbeat note, ladies and gentlemen. Please thank Mr. Hawke for his time and his generous donation to the Cat’s Claw Mountain Preservation Society.”

Galen stepped back out of the spotlight and immediately experienced relief, until the moderator laid a hand on his arm. “We do have a special request, Galen. If you don’t mind, there’s a reporter here for a short interview.”

“I hadn’t really planned on any interviews with the press.”

“But the story might help bring awareness to our attempt to preserve the mountain,” the man advised, once again wringing his hands.

Galen wasn’t good with interviews. The reporters generally tried to push him for personal details that he preferred to keep private. “I’d rather not,” he said, and was about to walk away when he caught sight of her waiting by the steps leading to the stage.

“She’s right there, Galen. Please. It might prompt donations so we could reach our goal.”

Galen examined the woman again and as she smiled, at him this time, desire awakened. Returning her grin, he said to the moderator, “If it will help, I guess a short interview would be fine.”

“We appreciate it, Galen. You can’t imagine how much.”

Galen dipped his head in farewell and took a step toward the reporter. As her gaze raked up and down his body and her eyes widened with appreciation, he got the sense that this interview wasn’t going to be all that bad.

Chapter Two

Jamie shot a half glance at him as she took notes. So far Galen had been solicitous during their discussion, but then again, she had seen the gleam of male interest in his eyes that had replaced his initial annoyance when the moderator introduced them.

She couldn’t deny that being passably pretty helped with the men she was supposed to cover, but a smile and hint of flirtation were as far as she usually took it. She suspected that was not where it was going to stop with this man, maybe because he was all man. Rock solid, her father would have said, and so far nothing in the interview had led her to believe otherwise.

Not to mention that even as she was doing her job, it had been impossible not to engage in that man-woman dance of attraction. She could feel the anticipation rising with each subtle smile or prolonged gaze.

Satisfied that she had enough for her story, she closed her notebook and faced him full on. “I really appreciate you taking the time to sit with me.”

“It’s the least I could do. I appreciate you mentioning the society in your story.” He was sitting across from her at a very small table near the windows of the inn’s coffee shop. Well, maybe the table wasn’t that small, but the size of him made it seem that way.

BOOK: Night of the Cougar
9.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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