Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 26, 2005)
Private investigator Kat Vargas once cared about someone so much it hurt. Once she lived a dream life with her first love and fiancé—until betrayal followed by shattering tragedy ended it all. Kat has sworn never to get too close to anyone again. But now the peace and quiet of Twilight Cove is driving the straight-talking, no-nonsense P.I. crazy. Then a prospective new client shows up at the door. Moved by his stubbornness and sincerity, Kat takes his case, breaking a promise to relax, recoup, and rethink her solitary life.
Ty Chandler is desperate to locate the child he fathered nineteen years ago—a child he never knew existed until now. Although he's no stranger to heartache, he is irresistibly drawn to the exotic, vibrantly alluring P.I. Their search not only leads them to Ty's troubled, strong-willed daughter, but into each others' arms. Though Kat courageously works to help Ty reunite his family, she's terrified of confronting a painful secret of her own—one that will cost her the love of the only man capable of tearing down the walls she's built around her heart.
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LONG BEACH. CALIFORNIA
Sometimes it paid not to answer the phone.
When the call for help came, Kat Vargas had just kicked off her shoes and sat down to eat a take-out Chinese chicken salad.
She slid wooden chopsticks out of their paper wrapper as she glanced at the caller 1.0. It was Sandi Kline, a new client who suspected her husband was having an affair.
Kat picked up the phone, remembering the hollow sound of the woman's heart-wrenching sobs the day Sandi had first walked into the office.
Kat was no stranger to betrayal.
"Hi, Sandi." She tucked the phone between her ear and shoulder. Starving, she was tempted to take a bite of salad but spared Sandi having to hear her crunch a mouthful of cabbage.
"I found them!" The other woman's breathing was rapid and shallow, rasping over the line. "I followed him to the Seal Beach Inn and Gardens. They're in there right now. Together."
Kat's adrenaline spiked. She pictured the neat, old building built around a courtyard on a quiet residential street. The place was the quintessential bed-and-breakfast with lace curtains at every window. Trailing vines loaded with hanging cup-o-gold blossoms and morning glories clung to the exterior walls.
She'd already run the standard credit card checks and surveillance on Dan Kline the weekend before, but so far, turned up nothing out of the ordinary.
But Sandi Kline was adamant. She knew her husband was having an affair and she wanted proof. She wanted him to pay. She wanted more than half of everything they owned, and if what Sandi said was true, half was a considerable amount.
"Are you sure it's him?" Kat picked a slivered almond off the top of the salad and popped it into her mouth. "You definitely saw your husband go into the motel with someone?"
"No, but I saw him walk into the office alone, then he came out and went into the room. She must have gone in ahead of him. He's in there with her right now."
"Where are you? "
"Parked across the street from the inn."
"Look, Sandi. Go home. I'll drive over there and handle this." Kat glanced through the half-open mini-blinds, watched the rain streak the windowpane. "You don't have a birthday or anniversary coming up, do you? Maybe he's checking the place out, planning to surprise you with a getaway."
"Fat chance. The asshole is cheating on me. I know he's with another woman."
In Kat's experience there was always "another" someone. Another woman. Another man. She was convinced happy endings were only for romance novels and that ninety percent of the population shouldn't even bother getting married.
No "other woman" would suddenly be appearing in her life again. Once was more than enough.
"Please, Kat. Meet me here." Sandi Kline's voice broke.
Kat set the Styrofoam take-out box on her coffee table. Mrs. Kline had done her own legwork, but it would take a level head to get good pictures. Juicy photos always helped when lawyers started tossing deals on the table.
Kat shoved her salad aside, her appetite curbed by the rush of catching a wayward husband in the act. It might be raining cats and dogs out, but Sandi was her client and this was her job.
Besides, she was an insomniac by design anyway. Staying up all hours on surveillance helped keep her from facing her own nightmares. Still, she had already been on the job nearly twenty-four hours and was looking forward to unwinding with a new martial arts movie tonight – but Sandi's tears got to her.
She wasn't fond of driving around in the rain, not with the streets as slick as snot on a doorknob. But the woman's pitiful pleas had clamped on to Kat's heartstrings, inspiring her more than the thrill of the hunt or the hefty retainer Sandi was paying.
"Where are you exactly?" she wanted to know.
"I'm on the corner of Electric and Fifth. In the gold Mercedes station wagon."
"You go on home. I can be there in ten minutes and I'll get photos."
"I'll wait. He might come out before you get here."
Rain always reminded Kat of the worst night of her life. Tonight was no different. The wet streets glistened in the beams of her headlights. She drove carefully, slower than usual as she headed to Seal Beach. She forced herself to focus on the case and not the head-on collision she'd been involved in on Kauai five years ago.
That was old news. She ought to have let it go by now, but the ache hung on despite the fact she'd left her old life behind and thrown herself into her work.