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The Complete Novel
Available for the first time as a complete novel—the serial from the New York Times bestselling author of When I’m With You that explores hidden pasts, dangerous obsessions, and uncontrollable passion…
Harper McFaddan established herself as an investigative journalist by being both compassionate and fearless. After tragedy strikes her family, she moves to the shores of Lake Tahoe to find some peace. But when mysterious software mogul Jacob Latimer enters her life, her thoughts turn from her own healing to an insatiable desire to get closer to him…
No one knows what secrets lurk in the past of Jacob Latimer. He built his corporation from nothing, but rumors abound about his mysterious rise to power. Harper is the last person he should let into his life. She could expose the truth about his origins. But Jacob knows things about Harper’s past that draw him in. He wants nothing more than to make her his—and Jacob is a man who always gets what he wants…
Read an Excerpt
The scene was breathtaking, something straight out of a movie set. The section of the terrace closest to the house was under a protective roof, so that one could use it even in inclement weather. Given the two outdoor stone fireplaces on the upper deck, a person could sit out there comfortably, enjoying the scenery even as the surrounding mountains became white with snow. Even in late August, the nights could turn pleasantly chilly in the alpine setting. Cozy flames flickered in the fireplaces, beckoning a person to curl up on one of the many couches or chairs near them.
Elizabeth led her down some stairs, and they arrived at the second terrace level. This and the next deck down were places to bask in the sun. Again, there were multiple seating areas, landscaped flora, trickling fountains, and stone paths. Harper’s eyes caught on one of several circular-shaped, deep wicker divans with a sunscreen attached to the top of it. The circular screen on one had been lowered to block what was happening in the deep couch. Six bare feet stuck out of the bottom of the obscured divan. Harper heard muffled male and female laughter.
Steam rose from a large sauna to the far right. Down on the next level of the terrace was a pool. From there, another set of wide stairs led down to the beach. Towering Jeffrey and ponderosa pines framed the view. Two long docks stretched out onto the sapphire blue lake, three Jet Skis tied up to one of them. In the distance, a yacht was moored alongside one of the beautiful, handcrafted wooden motorboats that were favored in Tahoe.
Elizabeth led her toward a square-shaped stone pedestal that contained a fire pit. Twenty or so people had gathered around the open fire. They stood or lounged in cushioned sofas and chairs. Most of them wore sunglasses to protect their eyes from the brilliant setting sun. A waiter was moving among them, serving hors d’oeuvres and drinks. In the distance, a jazz quartet was playing a lazy, sensual tune. Several of the well-heeled partygoers glanced over at Harper and Elizabeth as they approached.
A quick surveillance told her that more than half of the people were women. Not just any women, either. Stunning ones. Exotic ones. Were these some of Latimer’s imports, as Ruth had mentioned? Some of the women’s stares on her were rapier sharp and speculative . . . like they were eying the competition? Annoyance flickered through her at the idea of being considered a candidate for Latimer’s harem. Maybe now that she’d seen the haloed interior of Latimer’s compound, she had enough information to satisfy Ruth’s curiosity and could sneak out of here ASAP. She didn’t relish spending the evening in a den of clawing cats.
Elizabeth turned to her and murmured quietly as their pace slowed. “I’ll introduce you to him right away. He’s very anxious to meet you.”
Harper’s bewilderment soared. An urge to laugh struck her. That was the final straw. Clearly there had been some kind of mistake. They thought she was someone else. She’d been granted entry into this forbidden paradise because of a colossal error.
Latimer’s assistant stopped next to a man with short, spiky, bleached white hair. He wore a fitted, trendy European-cut dark blue suit, a pink plaid tie, and a pair of old-fashioned Ray-Ban sunglasses. He immediately gave off an air of being dapper, quirky, and sharp as a whip all at once. So this was Latimer? He hardly seemed mysterious. She couldn’t imagine this man’s flamboyance being called ghostlike. He was about as obvious as a slap to the face. He peered over the top of his glasses at Harper pointedly.
“Is this her?” he demanded of Elizabeth in a clipped British accent. Without waiting for Elizabeth to reply, he addressed Harper. “Are you Harper McFadden?”
“Uh . . . yes.”
His gaze dropped over her in an assessing fashion. “Well aren’t you gorgeous. I love that dress,” he declared, reaching to take her hand.
Elizabeth laughed. “Harper McFadden, meet Cyril Atwater. He’s been looking forward to meeting you.”
“Really?” Harper strained to remain polite, but realized she sounded incredulous, anyway.
“Of course. This film is going to be spectacular. I think it’ll be shoo-in to win at Sundance, and it might even be a dark horse for some commercial success Stateside.”
“What film is that?” Harper wondered.
“The one based on your story, of course,” Cyril said, looking vaguely put out by her ignorance. “Didn’t you tell her?” he asked Elizabeth sharply.
“I don’t know anything about it. I just follow orders,” Elizabeth said. Again, Harper caught Elizabeth’s curiosity as she regarded her.
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to seem rude,” Harper said at last. “But I don’t know what you’re talking about. And I have no idea why I’ve been invited here tonight.”
“I’m Cyril Atwater,” the man repeated. “The director?” he added with a trace of annoyance when Harper gave him an apologetic look for her ignorance. She suspected he rolled his eyes behind his Ray-Bans. “I realize you Yanks have been spoon-fed tedious car chases and shoot-’em-ups since the cradle, but surely a woman of your obvious intelligence and compassion occasionally watches a documentary or film of actual substance.”
Despite his acerbic tongue, a smile twitched at Harper’s mouth when he’d seamlessly switched from his clipped English accent to say shoot-’em-ups with a perfect cowboy drawl.
“Can I get you something to drink, miss?” a waiter asked her over her right shoulder.
“Yes, I’ll have a glass of chardonnay, thank you,” Harper said. She turned back to Cyril. “I’m sorry, I don’t watch many movies, either of the documentary or shoot-’em-up variety.”
“But you must realize that the story you did on Ellie, that homeless teenager in San Francisco, would make a brilliant film.”
“And this is why I’ve been asked here tonight?” Harper asked dazedly. Well, this certainly was an odd turn of events.
“It must be,” Elizabeth said. “I asked you because Mr. Latimer requested it, but I wasn’t sure about the details.” Elizabeth glanced over at a still-bristling Cyril. “Mr. Atwater has won several major film awards, including the Academy Award last year for his documentary Bitter Secrets.”
“I’m not a child, Elizabeth. You don’t have to soothe any feathers,” Atwater said peevishly. Elizabeth’s upraised brows and amused glance at Harper seemed to say she felt differently. “So what do you think, Harper? Is it all right if I call you Harper?” Cyril asked.
“Well? What do you think of letting me do the film?”
Harper shrugged dubiously. “I don’t think that’d work, to be honest.”
“Why not?” Cyril demanded.
“Because it’s not just me you’d have to get agreement from, but Ellie.”
“That’s done easily enough.”
“But she doesn’t live on the streets anymore,” Harper explained. “She’s a waitress and attends junior college part-time.”
“Thanks to your story, I’m sure that’s all true. I’m not planning on doing an actual documentary for this. It’d be done with actors and actresses, but based on the feature you did.”
Harper glanced over at Elizabeth and gave a short laugh. “This isn’t what I expected in coming here tonight.”
“What did you expect?” Elizabeth asked.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised when I got the invitation. I was under the impression Mr. Latimer was responsible for it, which confused me even more. I see now that it was you”—she glanced at Cyril—“who was behind it all.”
“Oh, Jacob was responsible for it. He suggested the whole thing to me at lunch a few days ago. I thought his idea was brilliant. But of course, everything Jacob suggests is,” Cyril said as though stating the obvious.
The waiter arrived with an empty wine goblet and a bottle on a tray.
“Is he here?” Harper asked, smiling in thanks as she took the glass. She noticed the label as the waiter poured the chardonnay: It was Latimer’s own.
“Mr. Latimer, you mean?”
Harper nodded at Elizabeth and took a sip. She blinked in pleasure at the subtle, oaky taste of the wine. Nothing but the best for Latimer.
“No, he got caught up in an emergency work situation, unfortunately,” Elizabeth said smoothly. Harper had the impression this was Elizabeth’s standard reply for queries in regard to Latimer’s presence . . . or absence, as the case likely usually was.
“Jacob hardly ever attends these things. I tell him this place is his cave”—Cyril waved his crystal highball glass at the magnificent mansion—“and he’s the hermit who inhabits it. If I didn’t come over and push my way in a few times a week, I’d never catch sight of him. He’d be just as much a legend to me as Sasquatch and our local Tahoe Tessie. I live just a house down,” he explained to Harper, pointing behind her. “I suppose if I harp too much, the hermit will toss me out on my bony butt, so I try to—” Cyril paused, his brow furrowing.
Harper instinctively turned to where he was staring. Other partygoers looked around in the direction of the house, as well. Conversation faded off until a breathless hush prevailed.
It was like a charge had ignited the evening air and an electrical current passed through them all. Or at least that’s how it felt to Harper as she watched the man from the beach saunter toward the party with easy grace, eyes trained directly on her.
Read the Reviews
“Ms. Kery weaves together the past and the present to provide a complete and enthralling tale”
5 Stars, a Recommended Read, Harlequin Junkie Blog
“Filled with steam and emotion, as well as mystery and intrigue. I highly recommend.”
Ramblings from this Chick Blog.
“Intriguing mystery and sizzling romance; one of the best authors in this genre.”
The Book Pushers
“A suspense filled romance about accepting each other, and knowing that you can share your secrets with the right people. I was rooting for this couple from that first meeting.”
“Dark, mysterious, and pure Beth Kery.”
Leigh, Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews