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Authors: Kate Perry

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Looking for You

BOOK: Looking for You
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Kate Perry

 

 

 

 

Looking for You

 

Praise for Kate Perry's Novels

 

 

Perry's storytelling skills just keep getting better and better!"
–Romantic Times Book Reviews
"Can't wait for the next in this series...simply great reading. Another winner by this amazing author."
–Romance Reviews Magazine
"Exciting and simply terrific."
–Romancereviews.com
"Kate Perry is on my auto buy list."
–Night Owl Romance
"A winning and entertaining combination of humor and pathos."
–Booklist

 

Other Titles by Kate Perry

 
The Laurel Heights Series:
Perfect for You
Close to You
Return to You
The Family and Love Series:
Project Date
Playing Doctor
Playing for Keeps
Project Daddy
The Guardians of Destiny Series:
Marked by Passion
Chosen by Desire
Tempted by Fate

 

 
www.kateperry.com
www.twitter.com/KatePerry
www.facebook.com/TutuKate
[email protected]
Sign up for Kate's newsletter.

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or
are used fictiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

© 2012 by Kathia Zolfaghari

Cover Graphic © Yuri Arcurs

 

For my Magic Man's grandma Jeanne, who, after meeting me, turned to him and said, "Let's keep her." Regardless of her good sense and excellent taste, she's a legend.

Also to Parisa Zolfaghari and Julie Linker: Thank you. If you were here with me, I'd drown you in champagne (non-lethally), rub your feet with scented oils, and feed you delectable sweets (after I washed my hands).

And, lastly, smooches for my Magic Man, who tells me I'm great and encourages me to be even better, even when I threaten to defenestrate him. I love you, baby.

 

Chapter One

 

 

It was a dark and stormy night.

Gwen chuckled as she slipped on her
red rain slicker. Good thing she was an artist instead of a writer. If words
were her livelihood, she'd be the proud owner of a cardboard box instead of a
lovely store in Laurel Heights.

Checking the straps on her
rollerblades, she rolled through her shop, Outta My Gourd, stopping once to
rearrange one of the displays. It still boggled her mind that she'd built all
this. Ten years ago, if someone had told her she'd end up a gourd artist, she'd
have immediately taken the person to a psychiatric ward.

If her family knew how she made her
living, they'd
definitely
lock her
away. No de la Roche would
ever
consider being anything so common as an artist, much less one who painted
squash. The paparazzi would have a field day.

Which was why she ran away and became
Gwendolyn Pierce, anonymous free spirit.

It'd been the best decision she'd
ever made, and she had her grandmother to thank for it. If Mamie Yvette hadn't
encouraged her to leave the nest and find her own way, she'd be miserable and
trapped instead of content and fulfilled. She'd come into her own. If Mamie
Yvette could see her now, she'd wink in her sly way and ask how freedom tasted.

It tasted delicious.

It'd be perfect, if it weren't for
the fact that she couldn't tell anyone who she'd been.
Anyone
. The more people who knew, the greater the chance of her
secret getting out.

She stopped, hand on a light switch,
and looked around her store. If her secret got out, she'd lose all this. She'd
lose her independence and privacy. The media—she cringed, thinking what a
zoo that'd be. Her friends would look at her differently, and she'd question
anyone's motive who wanted to get to know her.

The very thought was crushing.

But sometimes she just wanted to be
loud. She wanted to cause a ruckus instead of living quietly in the shadows.

She wanted to be seen, to be
acknowledged—for herself, not because of her name.

She wanted to accept the de Young
Museum's offer.

They'd called again today. They
wanted her to participate in a special exhibit: "Artisans of the Americas:
Past and Present." They asked her to do a modern gourd project inspired from
one of the ancient gourds the museum had on display. Other artists were
participating, and in the end one project would be picked as a permanent
exhibit in the museum.

Just the thought of it made her want
to jump up and down with excitement. How incredible would it be to have her
work displayed in one of the premier museums of the world? Her grandmother
would have been proud of her.

But there was no way she could do it.

She couldn't chance the recognition
and attention it'd draw. What if someone recognized her as the missing Geneviève
de la Roche and outed her?

She resented needing to hide.

Unfortunately, hiding was better than
having to live under a microscope again.

Gwen flipped the lights off and went
outside to face the unseasonal August storm.

Before, as Geneviève de la Roche, she
wouldn't have been allowed to rollerblade at all, much less rollerblade in
rain.

"Before no longer exists,"
she murmured to herself, locking the door.

The heavy click of the latch was like
the past was shut behind her. Memories didn't always stay shut away, but the
further she got from them, the more distant they seemed.

Distant was just the way she wanted
to keep things, because there was no way she was going back. Not that her
family would take her back, anyway.

Except Mamie Yvette. Her grandmother
would welcome her with open arms,
chocolat
chaud
waiting, wanting to hear of all the adventures she'd had over the fourteen
years Gwen had been gone.

Over the years, they'd had
intermittent contact—brief, unsatisfying calls from disposable phones and
such—but it'd been fleeting and infrequent. When Gwen had settled in San
Francisco, Mamie Yvette had asked her not to gamble her happiness and call
again, afraid someone would discover her location. It'd been three years since
their last conversation.

She missed Yvette de la Roche.

Gwen shook off the melancholy that
blanketed her whenever she thought about her old life and stepped into the
storm. Holding her arms open, she embraced the rain and let it wash her
thoughts away, focusing on the little things she appreciated so much—the
crinkly sound of the slicker, the feel of the water weighing down her grown-out
curls and running down her neck, the anticipation of the hot bath she'd have
when she arrived home.

Carefully, she pushed off down the
slippery sidewalk. She hadn't gone two blocks before a car slowed to a snail's
pace next to her.

Normally, she'd have ignored it and
sped away, but it was the sort of car she'd always wanted: one of those old
American tanks, restored to its original glory. Even in the deluge she could
see the gleam of the dark paint and the fancy rims. She slowed down, admiring
the beauty.

The window rolled down. Gwen started
to smile automatically, but then she saw the driver's face and her smile faded,
replaced by a jittery feeling in the pit of her stomach and sweaty palms. For
some reason, being around Rick Clancy always did that to her.

Of course he did. He was a private
investigator, and she was a woman with a secret.

He leaned across the bench seats and
scowled out the window at her. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Going home," she said,
wanting to smack his handsome face. Not that she'd
ever
admit she found his dark, mysterious looks intriguing.

That chiseled, manly face looked at
her now, the same way it always did: with distaste. "It's raining,"
he said as though she were five.

"No wonder you're a private
investigator." The rain stopped feeling invigorating and began to chill
her. She drew her coat closed tighter around her neck. "You're so
astute."

He studied her with sharp eyes.
"Only someone insane would rollerblade in this storm."

She shrugged, knowing it'd irritate
him. "No one ever accused me of being sane."

"Get in."

She blinked in surprise. "You're
offering me a ride?"

"Yes." He sounded like it
pained him, too.

"Why?" she asked
suspiciously. They didn't get along. They hadn't from the moment their mutual
friend, Olivia, had introduced them to each other. She thought he was
overbearing and bossy, and he considered her to be loony. Not that she cared
what he thought—much. "You don't like me."

"I don't trust you. There's a
difference."

She stepped back from his probing
gaze. He was too observant, and she had a past she didn't want anyone to uncover.
The last thing she needed to do was jeopardize the new life she cherished by
getting friendly with someone who made his living ferreting out people's secrets,
no matter how attractive he was.

"I don't trust you,
either," she said finally.

"Good, it's unanimous." He
leaned forward. "Look, I'm only offering the ride because if Olivia finds
out I let you trek home in this she'll be pissed. You know Olivia."

Olivia Parker-Wallace was the closest
friend she'd ever had. Being from such a wealthy family, Gwen hadn't had many
friends growing up. It was hard to be close to people when you constantly
questioned if they liked you for yourself or for your family name. Her brother
Roger was kind, but he was so much older they'd never really been friends. She
hadn't had anyone except her grandmother.

That was one of the reasons she'd
bonded with Olivia so quickly and completely. Olivia had grown up with her
grandmother, too. Plus they were both shopkeepers in Laurel Heights. Olivia's
lingerie store was just down the block from Outta My Gourd.

Gwen hadn't known Olivia long, but
she knew Olivia had opinions, one of them being that she and Rick were meant to
be together. So, yes, Olivia would have insisted that Rick give her a ride
home.

Of course, Olivia didn't know of
Gwen's past, or that hanging around a private investigator was the last thing
she needed to do. She shook her head and said the one thing that was guaranteed
to send Rick running. "Olivia thinks you and I should date."

His expression didn't change. "I
wonder why that is."

"I'm a catch. She thinks I'd be
good for you."

"Is that what you think?"

She thought she wanted to strip him
naked and pour chocolate all over his body. But how idiotic would it be to
invite a detective into her life? "What else could it be?"

"Maybe
I'm
the catch."

He
was
a catch—she'd always thought so, even if she'd never
verbally admit it. Successful, highly educated, and settled. Funny and smart. As
if that wasn't lethal enough, he was long and lean and hard, nothing soft or
pampered about him. Every time she saw him, something in her went tingly and
reckless.

It annoyed her.

So she laughed at his statement. By
the look on his face, it'd sounded genuine enough to deceive him. Then again,
why wouldn't it? She'd been taught to hide her thoughts and feelings behind a
facade before she could even walk.

Rick glared at her. "Look, my
upholstery is getting wet. Just get in the goddamn car."

"I'm capable of making it home
on my own."

"I don't care. I'm giving you a
ride."

"Why?"

He leaned out the window. "Get.
In
."

The glare on his face should have
frightened her, but oddly she felt a shiver of excitement, very similar to the
feeling she'd had the day she'd run away. Excitement mingled with a touch of
fear and the knowledge that her life would never be the same from that day
forward.

"Ridiculous," she murmured.
Getting a ride from Rick was nothing like running away from her family.

"It
is
ridiculous," he growled. "We're both getting soaked,
and you're standing there like a stubborn fool. For the last time, get in the
goddamn car."

Hell no,
she
thought as she opened her mouth and said, "Okay."

 

Chapter Two

 

 

He'd lied.

Rick gripped the steering wheel, very
aware of the woman sitting next to him. He'd told Gwendolyn Pierce that he
offered the ride because Olivia would be pissed at him if he hadn't, but that
wasn't true. Yeah, Olivia would nag him about it, but she'd let it go after two
seconds. Really, he'd offered Gwen the ride because he couldn't help himself.
It'd been clearly a moment of insanity.

He glanced at her. She stared ahead,
seemingly oblivious of the rain dripping down her face. Her big blue eyes were
clear and lucid, which he found odd: he'd known artists and they tended to live
in an altered state most of the time. She wore one of those red rubber
raincoats little kids wore, and somehow she made it look sexy instead of silly.
On her lips, she wore a dreamy half-smile.

BOOK: Looking for You
5.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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