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Authors: Becky Barker

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Stowaway (37 page)

BOOK: Stowaway
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Ray’s gaze remain fixed on her as if he hadn’t been listening. “No, it’s not that.” He cocked his head a bit and narrowed his gaze.

“What do you mean ‘it’s not that’? What else could it be?”

“I haven’t read a Jacksonville newspaper in about two years. Are you sure we’ve never met? Maybe when we were younger?”

He couldn’t possibly remember her, Hayley thought.
Why not?
Her sub-conscious asked.
You remember him.

“You mean like in high school?”

“I think I’d remember you if you went to Jannings Point.”

Hayley’s ankle began to throb, warning her she’d been in an upright position for too long. Plus she needed to leave for work shortly. “I did, but I was a couple of years behind you. I don’t think we ever met.”

“Maybe not. But I still feel like I know you. Anyway, I’ll see you around, I guess.” Ray turned and exited the small screened porch and headed back to his side of the duplex. He stopped halfway and turned back to her. “Let me know if you need help with anything.”

I most certainly will not.
She knew from her experience with Trey exactly what happened when she relied on a man. Even if she wasn’t too good at it yet, she relied only on herself now, and her plans called for her to keep it that way.

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you…run.


Full Circle

© 2011 Avery Beck


Nine years ago, Elisa Haley set tongues wagging when she returned home from college single and pregnant. Finally, her long-delayed graduation is just weeks away. She’s ready to move out and move on to a bright, shiny future in another state…until a face from her past walks into her brother’s veterinary office. A man who once offered her one night of comfort in his arms. The memory burns as hot in her soul as the guilty secret he must never learn.

Tired of the big city, grieving a recent loss, Dr. Liam Barton longs for a home and family in a quiet small town. When he arrives for his first day at the veterinary clinic, he’s not surprised to find Elisa behind the desk. Curiously, though, she barely acknowledges their shared past, and insists she can’t wait to get out of the town he’s already come to love.

Elisa, determined to be nothing more than friends, tries fixing Liam up with Windy Flats’ most eligible women. Yet the old passion still simmering between them melts her resolve, and uncovers secrets that refuse to stay buried. Secrets that put both their hard-earned futures—and their hearts—at risk.

Warning: Paranormal? No. Sci-fi? Nothing otherworldly here. Just a sinfully gorgeous vet who loves animals, and knows how to turn a gal inside out with supremely mushy love scenes? Oh, absolutely!


Enjoy the following excerpt for
Full Circle:

Liam closed the door of his Explorer and inhaled the breezy rural air. Though June in central Texas sent temperatures soaring above ninety, the sparsely populated roads and rich green trees of Windy Flats offered a welcome respite from Dallas’s endless traffic jams and multiple high-rises. The silence alone made him feel he was on vacation instead of beginning his first day at a new job.

He shouldn’t have any problem building a life here.

He dropped his sunglasses into his pocket and headed for the single-story building in front of him. Modest in size, it appeared to have once been a house, which gave it a warm atmosphere a sterile office building couldn’t compete with. No wonder the town’s residents brought their beloved pets here for treatment and, occasionally, boarding. He’d done his research—Dr. Haley’s place was popular. To earn the partnership he eventually hoped to gain at the clinic, Liam suspected he might work harder to earn the respect of the clients than he would to treat their animals.

The sun blazed down and he sweated as he made his way up the sidewalk, but the chill that greeted him when he stepped through the door didn’t come from the central air-conditioning. An attractive woman sat behind the desk, and though her fingers stopped typing when he entered, she continued to stare intently at her screen as though willing him to turn around and walk back out.

He cleared his throat. “Excuse me, I’m—”

“The new doctor.” Coming out of her trance, she rolled her chair away from the computer and faced him with crossed arms.

His mouth fell open, his heart sinking to his knees. This woman didn’t look exactly like her, but at the same time, he knew those eyes. He knew that face, that voice.

Elisa Haley, his most painful loss until his mother’s unexpected death a few months ago. She was in the same room with him for the first time in nine years.

“That’s right,” he managed to say through his shock. “Looks like you succeeded in your field of choice too.”

He was referring to the way they’d met, in a first-year biology class back in college, where they had discovered their mutual pursuit of medicine and become friends. If they focused on the good memories, maybe he wouldn’t have to think about what had happened later.

But she winced at his words. “I didn’t think you’d recognize me. I’ve changed a little.”

A little
was hardly accurate. The girl he remembered had long blonde hair and wore her makeup too heavy, her skirts too short. Not that she hadn’t looked good, but she had dressed that way for Brett. She had done entirely too many things for that loser.

With any luck, that was part of the change. This woman had Elisa’s expressive eyes, and that same mouth he’d stopped himself from kissing so many times before he finally couldn’t take it anymore, but her hair was dark and barely touched her shoulders. Pastel scrubs draped her petite frame, and the absence of her old signature red lipstick brought more attention to flashing brown eyes that had
back off
written all over them.

That was different. She’d never been much for telling anyone to back off. That kind of grit would have saved her a lot of trouble.

He wanted to say a thousand things, ask a million questions. But his future in Windy Flats depended on everything going well today, and he couldn’t risk his position at the clinic by letting old hurts distract him.

He opted for the casual greeting. “How have you been?”

The strain on her face told him she didn’t welcome his presence. She stood and handed him a clipboard stuffed with paperwork.

“Justin’s with a patient, and he wants me to show you around until he’s finished. So let’s see. The first thing you should know is that we have a long list of female clients. With the addition of you, it will likely grow.”

Ah, she wanted to play
game. As though he were a player who had left her. As though she hadn’t blatantly chosen someone else, and a miserable excuse for a man, at that.

“That’s interesting, but I’m here for the animals, not the women.”

Her gaze flicked to his left hand. She wasn’t going to ask, because she was doing a great job pretending this was the first day she’d ever laid eyes on him, but he didn’t mind her indifference. The last several years had brought nothing but bad news, and he intended to seek a long-term relationship without bringing any of that negativity with him. This town was his new home, his new start.

Running into Elisa wouldn’t change that.

She came out from behind the desk. “Well, some women make unnecessary appointments and waste everyone’s time. Justin finds it pretty annoying and I’m sure you will too, but it’s just something you’ll have to deal with. The more you flirt, the more money the clinic makes.”

At last, she offered a smile—a small one, but enough to let him know she was joking. He was thankful for that. A reputation as the town gigolo wouldn’t do him any favors when it came to dating, and he wanted something more meaningful than a fling.

“And what about you?” he asked. “Do the male residents line up to have you treat their pets?”

“Nope. I won’t be here soon. I have plans.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You’re leaving your clients?”

Elisa fell silent. Possibly he had pushed for too much information from a woman he hadn’t seen in years, but words used to come easily between them. A bit of awkwardness, he could understand. Her treating him like a complete stranger, though, was odd.

“I’m not a doctor,” she finally answered. “I’m helping out my brother. I decided this isn’t the business for me, so I’m finishing school right now and—” She stopped then clapped her hands. “But who wants to hear about that? Finish your paperwork and then I’ll show you around. Justin should be here soon.”

She avoided his eyes and talked business while she bustled around her desk. She’d mentioned something about school…and that she’d lost interest in her dream of becoming a vet. His mood soured. He could guess what had thrown her off track.

Hoping for the whole story, Liam feigned casual interest. “What are you studying?”

She handed him a pen and directed him to the row of blue chairs that lined one wall of the waiting room. “Public relations.”

Swallowing his disbelief, he scrawled his personal data across the top of the first form and waited for her to continue. She’d always talked about being involved in people’s lives, immersed in hands-on experience. Why in the world would she choose something so…corporate?

His ears met silence. She wasn’t going to give him an inch.

He pressed on. “That sounds interesting. Where would you like to work?”

“I’ve gotten some interest from a software company in Nashville.” Elisa’s face twisted, and she snatched the forms from his hands. “You can finish this paperwork later. Let me show you around this place so we can both get to work.”

Tossing the clipboard onto her desk as she passed, she stalked into the back of the clinic. Liam followed her, not keen to cause problems during his first hour on the job. “Did I say something wrong?”

She stopped inside a doorway. “I don’t want to talk about my plans. I want us to…just work today, okay?”

In other words,
let’s pretend we never knew each other.
Apparently, it was the theme of the day. If he’d entertained any hope that over the years she might have come to value him more than she used to, he could go ahead and forget it. His role in her life remained that of sidekick—nice guy, reliable pal.

Oh well. He had spent enough time picking up the pieces each time her arrogant ex broke her heart. If she still went for that type of guy, it wasn’t Liam’s business or problem.

Elisa’s gaze dropped when he met her eyes, as if she knew what he was thinking.





Becky Barker





He’s handsome, hot, hunted and hurt…a plea for help from this detective is one her heart can’t refuse.


Keri Merritt desperately needs her long-overdue vacation, preferably as far as she can get from anyone with a badge. It’s not that she doesn’t respect those modern knights, but between her job as a trauma nurse and her overprotective law enforcement family, she’s overrun.

When she finds something in the back of her truck she definitely
pack, all hope of a peaceful break from reality burns away in the heat of a dark, fevered gaze. Behind those chocolate eyes lies everything she wants to avoid.

Nick Lamanto is in trouble. He’s tracked the mastermind of a gunrunning operation from Florida to Tennessee, only to wind up with an attempted murder warrant hanging over his head, a bullet in his arm and no one he can trust. Except the sheriff’s petite, strong-willed daughter, whose jittery finger is on the trigger of the .45 pointed between his eyes.

Lucky for Nick, Keri’s healing instinct kicks in. And so does a powerful attraction sharper than the needle with which she stitches him. As the threads of his investigation connect with unanswered questions about Keri’s past, keeping her safe matters more to him than his next breath. Even if it’s his last…


Warning: If you have a weakness for dark-haired, dark-eyed law enforcement officers with strong protective instincts, prepare to lose your heart.

eBooks are

They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.


This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.


Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

11821 Mason Montgomery Road Suite 4B

Cincinnati OH 45249



Copyright © 2011 by Becky Barker

ISBN: 978-1-60928-684-2

Edited by Sue Ellen Gower

Cover by Kendra Egert


All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.


Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: December 2011

BOOK: Stowaway
2.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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