Read Her Special Charm Online

Authors: Marie Ferrarella

Her Special Charm

BOOK: Her Special Charm
2.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
“You're free,” Constance said.

They were barely an inch apart from one another, so close that their breaths mixed and became one.

All sorts of things were going on inside of James. Things he couldn't understand or unravel. Things he felt it best not to examine.

“Not hardly,” he murmured, more to himself than to her.

Constance's heart jumped up into her throat and made itself a home there just beneath the oval of the cameo.

And then everything stopped.

For all she knew, the world had abruptly stopped turning on its axis. Because she felt the room tilting.

James placed the crook of his finger beneath her chin and raised her head a fraction. Placing her lips just within reach.

Their eyes met and held. Seconds were knitting themselves into eternity.

She wasn't sure who cut the tiny distance between them to nothing….

HER SPECIAL CHARM
MARIE FERRARELLA

To everyone who's ever believed,
against all odds, in the power of love.

Books by Marie Ferrarella

ChildFinders, Inc.

A Hero for All Seasons
IM #932

A Forever Kind of Hero
IM #943

Hero in the Nick of Time
IM #956

Hero for Hire
IM #1042

An Uncommon Hero

Silhouette Books

A Hero in Her Eyes
IM #1059

Heart of a Hero
IM #1105

The Baby of the Month Club

Baby's First Christmas
SE #997

Happy New Year—Baby!
IM #686

The 7lb., 2oz. Valentine
Yours Truly

Husband: Optional
SD #988

Do You Take This Child?
SR #1145

Detective Dad
World's Most Eligible Bachelors

The Once and Future Father
IM #1017

In the Family Way
Silhouette Books

Baby Talk
Silhouette Books

An Abundance of Babies
SE #1422

The Bachelors of Blair Memorial

In Graywolf's Hands
IM #1155

M.D. Most Wanted
IM #1167

Mac's Bedside Manner
SE #1492

Undercover M.D.
IM #1191

The M.D.'s Surprise Family
SE #1653

The Cameo

Because a Husband Is Forever
SE #1671

She's Having a Baby
SE #1713

Her Special Charm
SE #1726

Those Sinclairs

Holding Out for a Hero
IM #496

Heroes Great and Small
IM #501

Christmas Every Day
IM #538

Caitlin's Guardian Angel
IM #661

The Cutlers of the Shady Lady Ranch

(Yours Truly titles)

Fiona and the Sexy Stranger

Cowboys Are for Loving

Will and the Headstrong Female

The Law and Ginny Marlow

A Match for Morgan

A Triple Threat to Bachelorhood
SR #1564

*
The Alaskans

Wife in the Mail
SE #1217

Stand-In Mom
SE #1294

Found: His Perfect Wife
SE #1310

The M.D. Meets His Match
SE #1401

Lily and the Lawman
SE #1467

The Bride Wore Blue Jeans
SE #1565

The Mom Squad

A Billionaire and a Baby
SE #1528

A Bachelor and a Baby
SD #1503

The Baby Mission
IM #1220

Beauty and the Baby
SR #1668

Cavanaugh Justice

Racing Against Time
IM #1249

Crime and Passion
IM #1256

Internal Affair
Silhouette Books

Dangerous Games
IM #1274

The Strong Silent Type
SE #1613

Cavanaugh's Woman
SE #1617

In Broad Daylight
IM #1315

Alone in the Dark
IM #1327

Dangerous Disguise
IM #1339

MARIE FERRARELLA

This
USA TODAY
bestselling and RITA® Award-winning author has written over 140 books for Silhouette, some under the name Marie Nicole. Her romances are beloved by fans worldwide.

October 8, 1861

My dearest love,

I hope this letter finds you and that you are well and whole. That is the worst of this awful war, the not knowing where you are and if you are. I tell myself that in my heart, I would know if you are no longer among the living. That if you were taken from me in body as well as in spirit, some piece of my heart would surely wither and die because it only beats for you.

Each evening I press a kiss to my fingers and touch the cameo you gave me—the very same one I shall not remove until you are standing right here beside me—and pray that in the morning I will rise and look out my window to see you coming over the ridge. It is what sustains me in these dark hours.

I miss you and love you more each day.

Your Amanda

Prologue

July 1, 1865

A
manda Deveaux paused to wipe her forehead with the back of her hand. The sun was merciless today. As merciless as the war that had engulfed them all these long years, turning all their lives into ashes.

She paused and looked to the north. To the road that led onto her property. She hoped to see some sign of Will. Like every day since he had left her to fight and be brave, there was no sign of his approach.

Amanda sighed. Each day her hope grew a little thinner, her despair a little heavier.

Squaring her shoulders, she wrapped her fingers
around the hoe she'd been using to coax life from the garden that sustained them.

The War between the States had come to an end three months ago, but not her ordeal. That continued to stretch out endlessly before her, each day no different than the one before. No different than the one after.

Everything had changed since Lt. William Slattery had ridden away, leaving her behind to wait. To pray. To each day slip a little further into her own personal living hell. The war had taken her brother Jonathan. He was one of the many who had fallen at Chancellorsville. And it had taken her father as well. Not on the battlefield, but here, where each day she watched him grow more distant, more lost. Eventually, Alexander Deveaux had faded away from life because his oldest born was no longer in it.

A year ago, her younger sister, Susannah, had married Frasier O'Brien. Frasier had come home early from the war, nursing a wound, and had just forgotten to return. He'd taken over his father's emporium, sustaining the town at a large profit to himself. Savannah had become his wife and avarice his mistress, which suited her mother just fine. Belinda Deveaux admired a man who worshipped money. Which was why her mother had never liked Will. His family's wealth had never met her standards.

And now, no one but Frasier had money.

She knew her mother had been secretly glad when Will's name had appeared on that awful list of men who were missing. That had been almost two years ago.
Right after Gettysburg had broken their backs and their spirit.

Many had left the area, but even after her father had died, Amanda continued working the plantation with the few emancipated souls who had chosen to stay in the only home they had ever known. She couldn't pay them. They remained anyway, saying that when there was money to be had, they would collect.

And all the while, she watched the road, praying for some sign of the man she had never stopped loving. The man whose cameo she wore around her neck, the one she had promised never to remove until he returned to claim her for his bride.

The ivory image of Penelope against the Wedgwood-blue background had been worn down from her constant fingering. She touched it whenever she thought of Will. And whenever she prayed for his safe return.

She touched it a great deal.

In town, they called her “the widow woman who had never been a wife” behind her back. They said she was a little crazy, waiting for a dead man to come back to her.

She didn't care what people said. All she cared about was getting from one end of the day to the other, holding on until Will returned to her. Because he had given his word that he would and he had never broken a promise to her.

Amanda got back to work. There were mouths to feed and people depending on her.

Chapter One

Present Day.

J
ames Munro liked to come out early in the morning, when the city that never slept dozed a little. At five-thirty in the morning, New York City was a little less. A little less noisy, a little less traffic and, the elements willing, a little less sweltering. So far, July had been merciless.

So he and his dog Stanley went out to jog earlier and earlier, trying to find some kind of happy medium between exercising and melting in the heat of the morning. It was the only time of day when he could make his mind a blank. To focus on nothing. To keep away the demons that populated his world.

The air was particularly hard to draw into his lungs this morning. Just a little farther, he promised himself as he sprinted from one curb to the next, and then he and Stanley could turn around and go home.

He'd turn at the newsstand on the next corner. The way he always did. Raul, the man who operated the tiny stand, was usually just opening up as he'd make his turn. They had a nodding acquaintance. More than once, Raul looked as if he wanted to say something. But the ex-vet, as the sign over the newsstand proudly proclaimed, could save it for one of his customers, James thought. He wasn't out here to talk to anyone. Except maybe Stanley.

He didn't see the woman until he'd almost tripped over her.

Which was highly unusual, given that, as a robbery-and-burglary detective, James was pretty much aware of all his surroundings, even when he was tuning things out. But one minute, there was no one in front of him, and the next, he had to come to a skidding halt to avoid colliding with the short, rounded woman in the soft-blue sundress.

Reflexes honed to a sharp point, James just narrowly avoided running straight into her. Stanley, his five-year-old German shepherd, looked disgruntled as he shifted from side to side, wanting to continue.

The jog was placed on hold. Thrown off balance, the woman sank to the sidewalk right in front of James. His arms went out to break her fall, but he was too late. She was already down. For a second, James was convinced
he was going to have to summon an ambulance. People around the woman's apparent age didn't fall like that without suffering consequences.

A startled, small cry escaped from the woman's lips as she met the concrete, but there was no scream, no cry of anguish. There wasn't even a look of horror flashing across her cherubic face.

Stanley tossed his noble head, barking once, as if to bring James's attention to the woman on the sidewalk. The dog's keen brown eyes darted around. Stanley had obviously appointed himself the woman's guardian until such time as his master helped her to her feet and they could be back on their way.

The woman attempted to rise. “No, wait,” James cautioned, placing a hand on her shoulder, “don't try to get up.”

She gave him a kindly, if reproving, glare. “I can't just sit here all day, young man. At my age, it isn't dignified. Besides, in half an hour I'll be in everyone's way.” She extended her hand to him, a patient expression on her face.

He had no choice but to help her up. Placing one arm around her shoulders, he all but lifted her to her feet and was surprised at how light she felt. She gained her feet a little uncertainly, but seemed determined to stand.

James had his doubts about what she was doing. She had to be seventy-five if she was a day. “Are you sure you're all right?”

The woman waved away his concern. “I'm fine, young man, really. Just a little bruised and winded. And
embarrassed,” she added in a lowered tone that ended in a small chuckle.

James stifled the urge to brush the woman off. The last robbery victim he and his partner, Nick Santini, had interviewed was about this woman's age. The interview had been conducted in a hospital because the woman had suffered a heart attack during the robbery. “No reason for that. I came up on you suddenly.”

She smiled warmly at him. “That you did. I was counting out my change for the newspaper.” She nodded toward the stand at the end of the block, then her bright blue eyes turned toward the German shepherd standing beside him. Stanley was panting audibly, his tongue almost touching the sidewalk. “He won't bite me, will he?”

For a dog whose mother had been a guard dog, Stanley had turned out to be incredibly docile. “Not unless you're committing a felony.”

“Oh my, no.” The woman covered her mouth with her steepled fingers, as if to keep her smile from widening too much and splitting her face. And then her eyes took full measure of him. He could almost feel her thinking. “You're a policeman, aren't you?”

Since he was wearing sweats that proclaimed a popular line of clothing rather than tying him in with any particular precinct, he was a little taken aback by her question. “How would you know that?”

Her smile was disarming. “Just something about your bearing.” Her eyes swept over him. “I can always tell.” And then, after a beat, she added, “My son Michael was a policeman.”

She said the words with pride. But she'd used the past tense. Though when he was outside the job, he didn't usually possess any curiosity, James still heard himself asking, “Was?”

She nodded. “He retired.” And then she frowned slightly, but it wasn't the kind of frown that bore malice or any ill feelings at all. She shivered, as if to throw off her earlier words. “Makes me feel old, saying that. Thought it was bad enough when my husband retired, but now I have a retired son as well.”

Her eyes seemed to delve into his as she spoke. Being a good detective had taught him how to listen, even when there wasn't anything worth listening to, as this clearly wasn't. It had no place in the small world around him.

“He lives out in Arizona. Don't see him and his family nearly as much we both would like. If Michael were here, I would give this to him to take care of.”

She hadn't hit her head, but maybe the fall had jarred something loose anyway. James hadn't the slightest idea what she was talking about. “‘This'?”

“The necklace.”

It was just getting stranger. He shook his head, wondering if she knew Raul. He could leave her at the newspaper stand and Raul could take care of her. He shifted his body, ready to lead her over to the man. “I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't quite…”

She pointed to the ground. “Right there, at your feet. It's what caught my attention while I was counting my change. I didn't see you coming at all.”

Looking down to humor her, James didn't expect to see anything.

But there is was.

An old-fashioned piece of jewelry from the looks of it. It was attached to a black velvet ribbon that was no longer tied together. Stooping down to pick it up, he held the cameo up to the woman.

“It's not yours?”

A delicate hand fluttered to her ample bosom. “Oh my, no. Wish it was.” And then she smiled. “My memory's not that bad, young man. Still remember what happened to me years ago. And minutes ago,” she added with a twinkle in her eye.

Leaning forward, the woman looked at the cameo she'd pointed out. Stanley came forward and did the same, sniffing the piece, or perhaps the black velvet ribbon that was attached to it. James was tempted to ask Stanley if he detected the scent of past owners on it.

“Lovely, isn't it?” the woman suddenly asked him. “Exquisite, really. And expensive, I'd say. Probably has a history to it. Perhaps a family heirloom.” She raised her eyes to his. “Someone must be very upset about losing it.” She said it as if it were an emphatic statement that left no room for argument. “I'd say the best thing you could do would be to place an ad in the newspaper about it.” She put her hand over his. “It would be the kind thing to do, putting an end to someone's unrest.”

It might be the kind thing to do, but in his line of work, there was no room for kindness, no time to stop and even notice the roses, much less attempt to smell one of them.

He opened his mouth to say as much.

James couldn't explain it. If he tried, he was sure whoever he told would think he was crazy. Maybe he even entertained that notion himself, but when the old woman placed her small, soft hand on his, he experienced the oddest sensation of peace wafting over him. Something he was completely unacquainted with, but somehow still recognized.

It was fleeting, but it was there.

He cleared his throat, giving a half shrug. “Maybe I'll do that.”

She beamed with pride, looking every inch the grandmother than he had never known.

“That's just what I'd expect an officer of the law to say.” She glanced at the piece, than back at him. “It's a cameo, you know.”

“No,” he admitted, “I didn't.” Santini knew his way around jewelry, but he didn't. The man's wife demanded a decent piece for every occasion.

“Young men don't usually,” the woman replied with a gentle laugh. Taking the cameo from him for a moment, she turned it around to examine. “And there seems to be an inscription on it.” Her eyes squinted. “But it's very faint.”

He took it from her and looked at the back of the cameo. At first, there appeared to be nothing, but when he angled it just right, the early New York sun bounced off it in a way that managed to highlight very faint, thin letters.

“From W.S. to A.D.,” he read out loud.

He supposed she was right. This was more than just a piece of junk jewelry. Still, he would have paid it no mind if the woman hadn't pointed it out to him. His field might be robbery, but his expertise was the criminal mind. When it came to things like jewelry, he didn't know costume from the real thing. That was for someone else to ascertain.

If he put an ad in the paper, phone calls would start coming in and he didn't have the time or, more to the point, the desire to interact with the callers this would bring out of the woodwork. That kind of thing was for someone who didn't have a life that went full throttle every waking minute.

He turned to the woman, holding out the cameo to her. “I think that maybe you should be the one who places the ad in the paper. After all, you're the one who really found it.”

James fully expected her to take the cameo from him. So he was surprised when she placed both her hands over his, closing his hand around the piece of jewelry, and shook her head.

“No, my dear, I think that you would be better suited for the task,” she pronounced softly, her voice carrying the kind of conviction he found very difficult to argue against.

But he was nothing if not firm. He just didn't have the time for this. “No, I—”

“Trust me,” she said, her eyes on his. “I have an instinct about these things.”

He frowned. Just what the city needed, another pseudo-psychic. Still, in his experience, people usually
were quick to take what wasn't theirs. That she didn't was admirable.

“If no one claims this, it's yours, you know.”

“Yes,” she murmured, looking down at the cameo in his palm. “I know.”

Well, if he had to do this, he might as well get to it. Time and his early morning were ticking away. “Why don't you give me your name and address and your telephone number—”

There was pleasure in the woman's eyes as she laughed. He was struck by the thought that she must have been beautiful at one point. And that time was a thief. “Anyone listening would say you were asking me for a date. My name is Harriet. Harriet Stewart. I live just over there, in those apartments.”

She pointed vaguely toward a block that was comprised of two high-rise buildings standing elbow to elbow as they faced the early morning haze.

Stanley was impatient to be gone. That made two of them, James thought. By now, he would have been more than halfway through his jog and back to his apartment for a quick shower and another regenerating cup of black coffee before he went to the precinct.

This woman with her pleasant chatter was throwing everything off. “You're going to have to be more specific than that.”

“Wait, I'll write it down for you.” Taking a piece of paper and a pen out of her purse, Harriet quickly jotted down the particulars, then handed him the paper. “And you're with the fifty-first, right?”

He looked at her, the hairs on the back of his neck beginning to stand at attention, the way they always did when something was out of sync. He'd never met this woman before. He would have remembered if he had. “How would you know that?”

She gave a slight shrug of her shoulders. “Closest one here. A detective likes to live near his precinct. Makes rushing to the scene of the crime in the middle of the night easier.”

When she said this, it sounded humorous, not suspicious. Probably something her son had told her at one time or another, James thought.

“Yeah, right.” Because there was no other choice available to him if he wanted to get going, he closed his hand over the cameo.

“You have to go,” she said with an understanding nod of her head.

“Yeah, I do.” He muttered something that passed for “Goodbye,” then turned toward his dog. “Let's go, Stanley.”

“Don't lose the cameo,” Harriet called after him cheerfully as he began to jog away from her.

James sighed. “I won't.”

He could have sworn that Stanley sighed right along with him.

 

“You mean she wasn't hot?” Disappointment dripped from Detective Nicholas Santini's every pore as he stared at his partner within their police vehicle.

James had no idea why he'd said anything at all to
Santini. It wasn't as if he was one for sharing. That was Santini's department. Santini shared everything with him, from last night's fight with Rita to his concern with premature male-pattern baldness—something anyone looking at the man's extremely full head of hair would have chalked off to paranoia. James was the closed-mouth one, but the woman he'd encountered had left a strange impression on him and he guessed he just wanted to sound it out loud.

BOOK: Her Special Charm
2.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Hollow-Eyed Angel by Janwillem Van De Wetering
Annatrice of Cayborne by Davison, Jonathan
Aztlan: The Last Sun by Michael Jan Friedman
Deed of Murder by Cora Harrison
The Boudoir Bible by Betony Vernon
The Widow of Windsor by Jean Plaidy
First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain
Sentido y sensibilidad y monstruos marinos by Jane Austen, Ben H. Winters