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Authors: Peggy Bird

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Falling Again

BOOK: Falling Again
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Falling Again
Book 6 in the Second Chances Series
Peggy Bird, author of
Believing Again
Trusting Again

Avon, Massachusetts

This edition published by Crimson Romance

an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.

10151 Carver Road, Suite 200

Blue Ash, Ohio 45242

Copyright © 2014 by Peggy Bird.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author's imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.

ISBN 10: 1-4405-6976-2

ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6976-0

eISBN 10: 1-4405-6977-0

eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6977-7

Cover art ©

With thanks to Jennifer Lawler, who took a chance on a new writer and brought the stories and characters of the “Second Chances” series to life. Or at least, to publication. You’re the best.

Chapter 1

“He knows more than he told me. I can see it on his face. But how the hell can I get him to say it out loud?” Fiona McCarthy muttered to herself, frowning at the notes she’d hastily scribbled after her lunch with a just-departed Senate staffer. Her frustration at her inability to get more out of him was at stratospheric levels. If only she had the nerve to chase him across Capitol Hill and stick to him like a tick until he told her what she wanted to know.

She was enjoying the image of riding piggyback on the staffer, yelling her questions in his ear while he tried to go about his business, when a male voice interrupted.

“Fiona? I don’t know if you remember me. We met about six months ago in Portland.” The man belonging to the voice was standing beside her table, a leather jacket in one hand and a battered messenger bag slung over his other shoulder.

When she looked up she quickly shifted to what she hoped was a welcoming expression. “Of course I remember you, Nick. We met at your sister’s house, Danny and Jake’s engagement party.”

She was not likely to forget him. Six-feet-something of broad-shouldered, slim-hipped male. Chestnut brown hair tamed with some sort of product to keep it tousled and in place at the same time. Carefully maintained fashionable stubble, which didn’t manage to hide dimples when he smiled, as he was doing now. Sleepy, just-got-out-of-bed hazel eyes capable of melting the knees or any other part of a woman’s anatomy.

Add a small gold hoop earring and a gold stud in his left ear, cargo pants he might have had tailor-made, a shirt setting off a better set of chest muscles than any she’d ever seen, (dressed or undressed) and if she hadn’t known it before, she knew from seeing him she wasn’t in Oregon any more. No one in Portland looked this good.

Ah, yes. Portland. Where her friend Amanda—his sister—lived. The sister who called him
brother. The baby brother who was, from the way Amanda talked, barely out of his teens. Since Fiona didn’t think she was old enough to qualify as a cougar, it meant her less than platonic thoughts about Nick made her a cradle robber. Not how she wanted to think of herself. Which was the important point to keep in mind; not how hot he looked.

It was also important to keep in mind how she’d met him. He’d blown into Oregon on an unannounced visit and proceeded to command—no,
—the attention of everyone at a party he hadn’t been invited to. Then, just before she left the party he’d done the “we should get together sometime” thing with her. Of course, he never asked how to get in touch with her. Not that she’d have given her number or address to him. Probably.

At the party he kept saying he didn’t want to hog the spotlight, but he didn’t do much to keep it from happening. Just like every other picture taker she knew, he thought his glamorous overseas assignments made him a star. Probably even a better reporter than the wordsmiths like her who pecked away at their computers all day in a nice safe office. The hell it did. Journalism wasn’t about photographs; it was about words, stories that changed people’s lives and opinions. If he wanted to move people with images, he should have majored in film studies.

Of course, if he had, his sexy good looks would have probably earned him an Oscar by now and she’d be even more annoyed with him.

Oops. He looked like he’d said something during her mental rant. “Sorry, it’s noisy in here. I didn’t quite hear you,” she said trying to cover for her inattention.

“I said, I’m flattered you remember me,” Nick said.

“Reporters never forget interesting people with fascinating jobs who might be a good source for a story someday,” she said.
There. That should put him in his place.

His smile turned into a semi-serious frown. “Ouch. I was hoping I was memorable for something more than my potential as an interview.”

Was he really flirting? She couldn’t believe it. “Doesn’t ‘interesting’ and ‘fascinating’ count for something?” Waving at the empty chair across from her, she asked, “Have you had lunch? I’m finished, but if you’d like to join me…”

“I’ve eaten but I’ll never turn down a cup of coffee with a beautiful woman.” He draped his jacket on the back of the chair, sat and flagged down a server.

“How did you recognize me out of context?” Fiona asked. “I’m not always good at it.”
Maybe if she led by example, he’d keep his ego at bay and his flirting on a low flame.

After he ordered coffee, he answered her question. “It would be hard to forget you. The expression on your face when my niece asked during the toasts if Jake was going to plant a seed in Danny to make a baby is indelibly etched on my mind.”

Something she, too, had to acknowledge wasn’t easy to forget. “I thought you were the one who looked surprised.”

With a sinfully sensuous smile he said, “No, I’d heard vague rumors about sex before then. Are you sure you weren’t startled?”

“Not about sex—I’ve done a story or two about it in my career. Although I was surprised to find out how much four-year-olds know about the subject these days.”

“I have a feeling my brother-in-law was not too happy with my sister for giving their daughter that little piece of information.” The server interrupted, placing Nick’s coffee in front of him with a flourish. “Are you in D.C. for business or pleasure?” he asked when the man was gone.

“A little of both. I was coming back east on vacation, for a wedding on the Eastern Shore of Maryland this weekend, in St. Michaels, and decided to make some appointments on Capitol Hill tracking down a couple stories. On my own dime, of course. The paper barely pays for mileage to Salem to cover the legislature these days.”
Unlike your foreign junkets, five star hotels, and fancy banquets with important people.

“How long will you be here?”

“Not quite a week, broken up with the weekend in Maryland.”

“I just got back in town from an assignment, but when I sort out my schedule maybe we could have dinner before you leave.”

“You’re sweet, but it’s not necessary. You must have a ton of things to catch up on.”
And none of them include amusing yourself with me.

“It would be my pleasure. Not only do I eat dinner on a regular basis, but I prefer good company while I do. Do you have a favorite restaurant in town?”

“Actually, I usually end up eating at my hotel or having room service.”

“If you give me your cell phone number, I’ll call and we can expand your horizons.”

For a half hour, until he had to leave for a meeting, they drank coffee and talked about the people they knew in common and their jobs—his as a photojournalist, hers as an investigative reporter for
Willamette Week
, Portland’s alternative newspaper.

It was a good thing they were covering familiar ground because in spite of the fact he irritated her with his extra helping of self-assurance, Fiona couldn’t deny how damn attractive he was, which made it hard to concentrate on what he was saying. He was a smart and entertaining conversationalist, all right. But she was more interested at
at his mouth than in listening to what was coming out of it. With a voluptuous lower lip and a perfect Cupid’s bow upper lip, it was a mouth she wouldn’t mind having kiss her at the spot right behind her ear or the one at the base of her throat. She stifled a moan at the thought.

Oh, God. He licked a drop of coffee off his lower lip with the tip of his tongue. How could something so simple be so sexy? Before she could rid herself of images of him tasting the inside of her mouth, his eyes caught hers with a look she could swear said he knew exactly what she’d been thinking. Which was not good.

And which switched her attention from his mouth to his eyes. With the longest eyelashes she’d ever seen on anyone—male or female—and the gold flecks flashing in the hazel, she could get lost there, too.

Dear God, there better not be a quiz on this conversation. I’ll flunk for sure

Even repeated silent reminders that he was Amanda’s much younger brother couldn’t whip her errant thoughts into some semblance of adult behavior. Well, the kind of adult behavior two grown-ups demonstrated in public. The other kind, the private kind, was what she wanted to suppress.

She tried mental math. She was thirty-two. He looked like he was in his twenties, which, from Amanda’s comments about when he graduated from college, would make him maybe twenty-two or twenty-three. Being this attracted to someone who was practically a teenager felt…well, it felt naughty.

Or exciting.

Whoa, reining in imagination here

Even if he had spent most of the party at Amanda’s home chatting her up, she didn’t think the reason was any more complicated than they’d been the only single people there and had related jobs. Even without the age thing, she was sure someone who traveled the world for his job would find a girl from Tacoma, Washington, who’d never been out of the country, fairly uninteresting. And then there was the “I’ll call you” thing, which hadn’t happened. Was it any more likely to occur this time?

She tuned back into the conversation in time for him to ask for her cell number, again, and to promise to call as soon as he got a couple things on his schedule straightened out.

As she watched him walk toward the door, Fiona reminded herself not to hold her breath waiting for the phone to ring. What was more important was digging the information she was after out of the staffers she would be talking to on the Hill. She went back to reviewing her notes, the sexy, young photographer relegated to the same place she’d put him after the party in Portland—to the back of beyond.

• • •

Nick St. Claire left the restaurant near Capitol Hill where he’d been listening to a pitch about a possible piece of work very, very pleased with himself. He’d arrived back in town two days earlier after covering another tribal clash in Indonesia. There wasn’t much on his plate until his next assignment in a couple weeks other than the opening of a show of his work at a gallery in Alexandria. Then he got his usual “let’s-check-on-baby-brother-Nicky” phone call from Amanda, and she casually mentioned Fiona’s presence in D.C.

Amanda couldn’t have known—at least he didn’t think she knew—how her friend, the beautiful redhead with creamy skin and blue-gray eyes, had been his mental companion off and on during several recent photo shoots. Had he met Fiona any other way than through his sister, he’d have already followed up after the party last fall to scout out the territory. But he’d been reluctant. Getting involved with someone who was friends with his sister might not be such a good idea. Much to his dismay, Amanda still babied him, felt it her duty to comment on his life, and picked apart any of the women he dated who she met or heard about through the family grapevine. In short, she interfered to such an extent, he wasn’t interested in having her know he found her friend attractive; wasn’t sure how he could ever find a way to test the waters with Fiona to see how warm they were as long as she was in Portland where his sister was.

But Fiona was hard to forget. She was smart, she was funny, and she was great to talk to. Although he had to confess he wasn’t exactly looking for interesting conversation at the moment. After a month of living in mud, eating bad food, and avoiding Toyota pickups full of roaming groups of armed rebels, he wanted something more basic: dinner at a nice restaurant with a beautiful woman followed by dessert in his bed. And Fiona might just fill the bill. Today, even in the Ms. Business Professional black suit with the lacy bit under her jacket modestly covering up her cleavage, he could see curves he wouldn’t mind exploring further.

BOOK: Falling Again
9.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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