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Authors: Kaki Warner

Behind His Blue Eyes

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Kaki Warner, 2011 RITA Winner for Best First Book for
Pieces of Sky
, is“A truly original new voice in historical fiction.”

—Jodi Thomas,
New York Times
bestselling author

Praise for the Runaway Brides Novels

BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY

“A smart, resourceful heroine . . . a strong, honorable hero who refuses to let her go, and a surfeit of diverse, unforgettable characters combine in a gripping, multilayered story that pulls few punches as it draws readers into the romance and often unvarnished reality of life in nineteenth-century America.”

—
Library Journal

“I just love Kaki Warner books. Always filled with warmth, adventure, and laughs,
Bride of the High Country
is no exception.”

—
Smexy Books

“A runaway hit with readers who want Westerns with atmosphere. Like Penelope Williamson and Jill Marie Landis, Warner brings the Americana aura, the grit, the romance, and the memorable characters to life in an unforgettable love story.”

—
RT Book Reviews

COLORADO DAWN

“Kaki Warner's warm, witty, and lovable characters shine.”

—
USA Today

“Filled with passion, adventure, heartbreak, and humor.”

—
The Romance Dish

“The next Runaway Brides story is what fans of Westerns crave. Halfway between Penelope Williamson's and Jodi Thomas's gritty, powerful novels and Lavyrle Spencer's small-town stories lie Warner's realistic, atmospheric romances. She is a fine talent.”

—
RT Book Reviews

HEARTBREAK CREEK

“Warner delivers an engaging read full of likable characters and lovely descriptions of the rugged countryside.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“Another extraordinary book from Kaki Warner.”

—
The Romance Dish

“Kaki Warner once again succeeds in bringing the Old West to sprawling and vivid life . . . An entertaining Western romance and a great series starter.”

—
BookLoons

Praise for the Blood Rose Trilogy

CHASING THE SUN

“[A] sweet nineteenth-century Western . . . Fans of the series will enjoy another visit to the Wilkins clan, while new readers are sure to admire Warner's vivid descriptions of love and life in the land of enchantment.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“No wonder Ms. Warner is garnering rave reviews for her work . . . This is Western historical romance at its best.”

—
The Romance Reader

“A fitting end to one of the best Western historical romance series I've had the pleasure of reading.”

—
BookLoons

OPEN COUNTRY

“Warner earned readers' respect as a strong Western writer with her debut, the first book in the Blood Rose Trilogy. With the second, she cements that reputation. Her powerful prose, realistic details, and memorable characters all add up to a compelling, emotionally intense read.”

—
RT Book Reviews

“A thoroughly enjoyable historical romance.”

—
Night Owl Reviews
(Top Pick)

“[A] beautifully spun tale.”

—
The Season
(Top Pick)

PIECES OF SKY

“Readers may need a big box of Kleenex while reading this emotionally compelling, subtly nuanced tale of revenge, redemption, and romance, but this flawlessly written book is worth every tear.”

—
Chicago Tribune

“Romance, passion, and thrilling adventure fill the pages of this unforgettable saga that sweeps the reader from England to the Old West. Jessy and Brady are truly lovers for the ages!”

—Rosemary Rogers, bestselling author of
Bride for a Night


Pieces of Sky
reminds us why New Mexico is called the land of enchantment.”

—Jodi Thomas,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Can't Stop Believing

“Generates enough heat to light the old New Mexico sky. A sharp, sweet love story of two opposites, a beautifully observed setting, and voilà—a romance you won't soon forget.”

—Sara Donati, author of
The Endless Forest

“A very good book.”

—
All About Romance

“It's been a very long time since I read an engaging and sweet historical romance such as
Pieces of Sky
 . . . I absolutely loved Kaki Warner's writing.”

—
Babbling About Books

Berkley Sensation titles by Kaki Warner

Blood Rose Trilogy

PIECES OF SKY

OPEN COUNTRY

CHASING THE SUN

Runaway Brides Novels

HEARTBREAK CREEK

COLORADO DAWN

BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY

Heroes of Heartbreak Creek

BEHIND HIS BLUE EYES

Behind His Blue Eyes

KAKI WARNER

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

For more information about the Penguin Group, visit penguin.com.

BEHIND HIS BLUE EYES

A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2013 by Kathleen Warner.

Excerpt from
Something in His Smile
by Kaki Warner copyright © 2013 by Kathleen Warner.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

BERKLEY SENSATION
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-59918-1

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / August 2013

Cover art by Claudio Marinesco.

Cover design by Lesley Worrell.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Contents

Praise

Also by Kaki Warner

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

 

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

Twenty-seven

Twenty-eight

Twenty-nine

Thirty

Thirty-one

Thirty-two

Thirty-three

Thirty-four

Epilogue

 

Special Excerpt from
Something In His Smile

Prologue

One

To the lovely ladies of the Loose-Hipped Book Club of Cashmere. Y'all are the best!

One

FEBRUARY 1871, BALTIMORE

“A
nother letter come today.”

Audra looked up, her mind still caught on whether to use “further” or “farther”—she always confused the two no matter how many times she consulted
Butler's English Usage Manual
. “From whom?”

“That town in Colorado Territory.” Winnie Abraham set a travel-worn envelope beside the stack of scribbled pages on Audra's desk, her disdain apparent in the pinch of her full lips. “Sound a right dismal place, you ask me.”

Audra checked that the letter had, indeed, come from Heartbreak Creek, then dropped the unopened missive into the overflowing waste bin beside her desk. “Has Father eaten?”

Winnie nodded, the white cap pinned atop her tight gray curls bobbing with the motion. “Had a good lunch. Hardly spill a drop.”

Movement drew Audra's eye to the front window. A black, closed carriage stopped before the rented house she shared with her father, Winnie, and Winnie's husband, Curtis. Four men stepped out.
Oh, no!

She jumped to her feet. Did they know?
Had they found out what she had done? Frantically, she gathered the notes piled on the desk and shoved them into the drawer. “Hurry! Help me pick up this mess.”

“What's wrong?”

“It's Father's colleagues. Maybe they found out about him.” Racing to the bookcase, she stuffed books and notepads into the lower cabinet.

Winnie crammed down the wads of paper in the waste bin and pushed it under the desk. “Maybe they just dropping by.”

“To have me arrested, no doubt.” Audra slammed the cabinet door and looked breathlessly around. Her heart pounded so hard she thought she might faint. “Where are Father and Curtis?”

“Last I seen, headed to the stable to pet the cats.”

“Make sure they stay there.”

They both flinched when the knocker on the front door sounded. With trembling fingers, Audra tucked a loose strand of brown hair into her bun and made a final inspection of the room for loose papers and reference books. Everything appeared in order.

She faced the stout, dark-skinned woman, who was old enough to be her mother, and since Audra's sixth birthday had served as such. In the twenty years since, Winnie had added housekeeper, cook, nurse, and benevolent tyrant to her duties, ruling the household with sharp criticisms and gentle hugs. Audra was terrified of what might become of her, and Curtis, and Father if she went to jail. “How do I look?”

“Best remove those.” Winnie waggled a finger at the cloth shields tied around the cuffs of Audra's sensible at-home dress.

Quickly stripping off the protectors, Audra stuffed them into the cabinet with the papers and slammed the door shut again. “Anything else?”

“Spectacles.”

She slipped those into her skirt pocket, then smoothed her hair again with trembling hands. “Better?”

“You might at least try to look pleased. Not every day you get callers.”

“Especially ones who have come to accuse me of fraud.”

“Smile anyway. Wouldn't kill you and might fool them.”

Audra pasted on a stiff smile. “How's that?”

“Make an undertaker proud.”

Another wave of panic rolled over her. “Oh, Winnie, what if they—”

“Calm yourself, child. And quit twisting your hands. I can hear your knuckles cracking from over here.”

Audra struggled to breathe. Her throat was so tight she felt suffocated. Excuses and explanations and lies tumbled through her head.

She could tell them she had always transcribed Father's papers and that when he became ill and she found his notes in his desk, she had continued to do so. It was his research, not hers. She had just put it in readable form.

And signed it with his name. And forged his signature on the royalty checks. And lied to anyone who asked about him.

Another knock almost buckled her knees.

She took a deep breath, let it out, and nodded. “You may let them in, Winnie. Then go tell Curtis under no circumstances is he to allow Father to come into the house. Understand?”

“'Course I understand. I'm not a nitwit like some in this house.” Muttering, she crossed the entry hall and flung open the front door. “Afternoon, gentlemens. What a fine day for visiting. I'll tell Miss Audra she got company.”

“Actually,” a deep voice said, “we've come to see the professor. Is he in?”

“No, suh. He off studying whatever it is he study. But Miss Audra here.”

A moment later, they filed into the room. Audra recognized them all, and knew the youngest quite well. Scarcely daring to breathe, she studied their faces, but saw nothing to increase her alarm. Richard even smiled at her.

Audra's father, Professor Percival Prendergast Pearsall, had once been a revered member of the group that these men represented. He had been the driving force behind the Baltimore Society of Learned Historians for so many years he had become the yardstick by which all other members were measured. “Mind your
P
s” had become the frequently heard admonishment whenever a contributor offered his treatise or essay for consideration in the esteemed annual historians' publication. It had been her father's exacting standards that had made the society and its annual competition the final word in historical analysis.

And now all of that was in jeopardy because of her.

Fearing the worst, she positioned herself so that the callers faced the front windows rather than the buggy house and stable in back. “May I offer you refreshment, gentlemen?” she asked, nodding in welcome to misters Uxley, Beamis, and Collins, and to her onetime suitor, Richard Villars. It was a struggle to keep her smile intact and her voice steady.

Hiram Uxley, the president and most officious member of the group, shook his head. “We cannot stay long, Miss Pearsall. But it's imperative that we see the professor. Do you expect him soon?”

Heat flooded her face. “I regret not, sir. He is still visiting the ancient pueblos in New Mexico Territory and will be gone for several more months.” This was the third time she had put off her father's colleagues with that excuse. Had they finally seen through her lies?

“Several more months?” Uxley's mustache trembled in agitation. “He's already been gone over two years. What on earth could he have found?”

“I ca-cannot tell you, sir. He's been very secretive about it.”

“This certainly puts a twist in our plans.” With a huff, he turned to the other three gentlemen and engaged in a low-voiced conversation.

Audra watched them, terror pounding through her. A familiar bark sounded, and she looked out the window behind her guests to see Winnie chasing after Curtis, who was chasing after her father, who was shuffling after Cleo, his little dog. Horrified, she glanced at the others to see if they had noticed, and found Richard Villars also watching the drama playing out beside the buggy house.

She watched puzzlement come over his face. Then recognition.

He knows.

He turned to her and started to say something, but Uxley interrupted. “Well, Richard, there's no help for it. Present the award to Miss Pearsall, and she can inform her father when next she sees him.”

Award?

Richard pulled a small brass medallion and a folded piece of paper from the inside pocket of his frock coat.

“As treasurer of the Baltimore Society of Learned Historians,” he said, “I am pleased to present our annual Historian of Merit Medallion, as well as the Peabody Grant, to Professor Percival Prendergast Pearsall for his very excellent essay,
The Development of Gas Artillery Capsules and How They Might Have Altered the Outcome of the War of the Rebellion
.” With a bow, he held out the paper and medallion. “Please convey to your father my congratulations, Miss Pearsall. His article was one of the most articulate and compelling I have ever read.”

Audra stared at the items in his hand, her mind slow to take it all in. They didn't know? They hadn't come to have her arrested?

“Miss Pearsall?”

Looking up into Richard's worried face, she forced a smile. “Th-Thank you.” With shaking fingers, she slipped the paper and medallion into her pocket. “I-I wasn't aware he had entered it in this year's competition.” She certainly had not done so, and had only transcribed her father's notes on the subject in hopes of gaining another small royalty to augment their meager income.

Mr. Uxley stepped forward. “That was my doing, Miss Pearsall. With so few entries of true merit”—he sent Richard a pointed look—“I thought it wise to put the society's best work forward. Reputation is all, you know.”

Color surged into Richard's face, but he didn't respond to the jab.

“It's an excellent piece,” Mr. Beamis offered.

“Hear, hear,” Mr. Collins seconded. “Odd, though, he didn't write about his current project. We're all most curious about what he's found.”

Audra felt wretched. One of the reasons she hadn't entered the article in the contest—other than the fact it would have been even more dishonest than offering it for publication—was that she guessed Richard would be submitting his own paper on cave drawings in the southern Appalachians. He was so desperate to establish himself as a leading American historian it was almost painful to watch. Sadly, he was a much better researcher than writer.

Uxley waved the others toward the door. “We must be off, Miss Pearsall. Our congratulations again to your father.” As misters Beamis and Collins filed out, he glanced back at Richard, who hadn't moved. “You coming, Villars?”

“I'll be along in a moment.”

After the front door closed behind them, Richard frowned at Audra, then at the buggy house. Thankfully, neither the Abrahams nor Father were in sight. “Was that your father I saw, Audra?”

“My father? When?”

“Just now. Out back.”

She pretended confusion while her mind raced for a plausible lie. Then she smiled and shook her head. “You must have seen Uncle Edward, Father's older brother. He took ill not long after my aunt died, and has been slow to recover. We've taken him in until Father returns.”

“I could have sworn he was the professor.”

“They do look much alike, don't they? Although since his illness, Uncle Edward has become alarmingly weak. I'm not sure how much longer we can keep him here without proper nursing. But I would hate to put him in a home. They're so awful. I'm quite worried about him.” She realized she was babbling but couldn't seem to stop herself. She was a horrid liar.

Richard's dark gaze bored into her in that intense way she had always found intrusive. “Maybe on my next visit I might meet him. Next week, perhaps?”

“That would be lovely.” The muscles in her face trembled with the effort to hold her smile. “But do let us know when you plan to come, won't you, so we can be sure he's up to a visit. As I said, he's quite frail.”

“Of course. Until then.”

As he let himself out, Audra collapsed into the chair at the desk, tears further blurring her faulty vision. Now what was she to do?

Winnie came in, still winded from her chase out back. “What happened?”

“Richard Villars saw Father. I told him it was my uncle Edward, but I don't think he believed me. He's invited himself back next week to meet him. What should I tell him?”

“The truth.”

Audra pressed fingertips against her throbbing temple. “I fear it's gone too far, Winnie. If Richard tells Uxley, he'll feel honor-bound to bring my deception to light. Father's reputation will be ruined and all his hard work will be forever shrouded in doubt. And if I go to jail for fraud, you and Curtis will be on the street and Father will be shuffled off to one of those wretched institutions for mentally impaired indigents. I can't allow that to happen.”

“Mr. Villars care enough to propose to you last year. Maybe he still take you.” Winnie gave Audra a critical look. “'Specially you fix up some.”

Audra doubted it. Richard didn't like being thwarted and had taken her refusal hard. But how could she have accepted him—even if she'd wanted to—without revealing Father's dementia? And if he found out she'd been lying to him and had cheated him out of a coveted award, there was no telling what he might do.

“It's too big a risk, Winnie. Richard has much to gain by exposing Father, and you know he has always been ambitious.”

“Then leave.”

She looked up in surprise. “Leave? How? You know I have barely enough money to keep the four of us fed. And even if I could afford it, where could we go?”

Winnie dug through the waste bin, then straightened, the sealed envelope Audra had thrown away earlier in her hand. “How about here?”

“Heartbreak Creek?”

“Why not? You say your daddy inherited a cabin there. Dismal-sounding town like that be a fine place to hide. I bet nobody there care that you wrote your daddy's papers for him.” She tossed the letter on the desk. “Jail, marriage to Mr. Villars, or Heartbreak Creek. You pick. Though after thirty years married to that no-talking Curtis, I had the choice, I'd pick jail or that dismal place. Be livelier, that for sure.”

Audra pulled the society's letter from her pocket and unfolded it. Richard had said something about a grant. If it was enough—

She gasped when she saw the amount. With that much money, they could cover a lot of miles—assuming Father was strong enough to make the trip, and the cabin was even habitable, and she was willing to leave everything she'd ever known.

A ghastly prospect, but what other option did she have?

Pulling out her pen and a fresh sheet of paper, she began to write.

Dear Richard,

I know this comes as a surprise, but Father has asked us to join him in New Mexico. By the time this reaches you, we will already be gone, and I doubt we'll return in the near future . . .

BOOK: Behind His Blue Eyes
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