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Authors: Loreth Anne White

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Melting the Ice

BOOK: Melting the Ice
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Hannah looked straight at Rex. “Tell me why you walked out on me that night.”

“I had to,” he said.

She sighed, then looked away. “What about children?”

God, she was covering six years of ground here, while he was thinking of one step at a time. He thought of his own miserable childhood, how he had vowed he would never visit that kind of pain on himself. “Kids were never part of my plan.”

Something shuttered in her eyes. She was closing him out as he watched. He reached out. She gently pushed his hands away and closed her eyes as tears slid out from under her lids.

He didn’t know what to say.

Dear Reader,

This is a month full of greats: great authors, great miniseries…great books. Start off with award-winning Marie Ferrarella’s
Racing Against Time,
the first in a new miniseries called CAVANAUGH JUSTICE. This family fights for what’s right—and their reward is lasting love.

The miniseries excitement continues with the second of Carla Cassidy’s CHEROKEE CORNERS trilogy.
Dead Certain
brings the hero and heroine together to solve a terrible crime, but it keeps them together with love. Candace Irvin’s latest features
A Dangerous Engagement
, and it’s also the first SISTERS IN ARMS title, introducing a group of military women bonded through friendship and destined to find men worthy of their hearts.

Of course, you won’t want to miss our stand-alone books, either. Marilyn Tracy’s
A Warrior’s Vow
is built around a suspenseful search for a missing child, and it’s there, in the rugged Southwest, that her hero and heroine find each other. Cindy Dees has an irresistible Special Forces officer for a hero in
Line of Fire
—and he takes aim right at the heroine’s heart. Finally, welcome new author Loreth Anne White, who came to us via our eHarlequin.com Web site.
Melting the Ice
is her first book—and we’re all eagerly awaiting her next.

Enjoy—and come back next month for more exciting romantic reading, only from Silhouette Intimate Moments.

Leslie J. Wainger

Executive Editor

Melting the Ice

LORETH ANNE WHITE

LORETH ANNE WHITE

As a child in Africa, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Loreth said a spy…or a psychologist, or maybe marine biologist, archaeologist or lawyer. Instead she fell in love, traveled the world and had a baby. When she looked up again she was back in Africa, writing and editing news and features for a large chain of community newspapers. But those childhood dreams never died. It took another decade, another baby and a move across continents before the lightbulb finally went on. She didn’t
have
to grow up. She could be
them all—
the spy, the psychologist and all the rest—through her characters. She sat down to pen her first novel…and fell in love.

She currently lives with her husband, two daughters and their cats in a ski resort in the rugged Coast Mountains of British Columbia, where there is no shortage of inspiration for larger-than-life characters and adventure.

To Pavlo for believing in me, JoJo for her support and Susan Litman for making it all happen.

Chapter 1

“T
hey found a body.”

Hannah looked up from her computer. Al’s face was ashen.

“They think it’s Amy. Up in Grizzly Bowl.” The forty-five-year-old publisher of the
White River Gazette
dug his hands into his hair, held his head, as if trying to keep reality from seeping in.

Hannah pushed her chair back. She said nothing but moved quickly across the newsroom toward Al. He was shaking, the dial tone still buzzing from the telephone receiver that lay on his desk. She took it, gently replaced it in the cradle and sat next to him.

“Was that the police?” she asked softly.

He nodded. “They’re waiting for the coroner to come in from Vancouver by chopper.”

“God, I’m so sorry, Al.”

He wiped his upper lip with the back of his hand. “Hell, Hannah, I guess I always knew the news would come sometime, but—” he looked away from her, out the floor-to-ceiling windows toward the wild sun-kissed peaks that rose in an amphitheater around British Columbia’s White River Valley “—it still comes as a gut slammer.”

It was last October, almost a year ago, that Amy had vanished, seemingly into thin air. A winter had come and gone. Upwards of two million skiers had carved tracks into Grizzly Bowl on Powder Mountain, where a woman’s cries had been heard by hikers last fall. And once the snows had begun to melt, thousands of sightseers had been ferried via gondola to hike the Grizzly Traverse and look back out over Grizzly Bowl, the glacier and the spectacular Coast Mountain scene below.

How could they have missed her?

Hannah reached forward and took Al’s rough, sun-browned hand in her own. “How’d they find her?”

He cleared his throat. “Wildlife activity. It alerted mountain staff this morning.”

Hannah knew search-and-rescue personnel had told Powder Mountain employees to keep a watch out for any abnormal wildlife activity as snows receded. It was standard procedure in these parts. But nothing had turned up in the spring. Nothing throughout the summer.

And, as long as there’d been no body, no proof that Amy had died, there’d always been hope. Al had hung on to that. All the while he had hoped. And he’d kept paying the rent on Amy’s apartment. “Just in case,” he’d said.

He turned to her, eyes, the same azure as Amy’s, shimmering with emotion. “Sven was the one who found her.”

Hannah’s chest felt tight. Sven Jansen was the mountain guide Amy used to go out with. Things cut so close in a small community like this. As a foreign correspondent Hannah had covered wars and natural disasters, yet there was nothing to compare; this touched her in ways those stories seldom had. When tragedy hit a town as small as White River, it touched everyone. It became personal.

Al dragged both his weather-beaten hands through his thatch of white hair. “God, Hannah, I was supposed to be watching over her.”

“This is beyond your control, Al, we all know that.”

Several phones were ringing. The news of the discovery was out, and media hounds would be baying for information. Amy’s parents were well connected in Canada’s political circles, and the
White River Gazette,
as Amy’s workplace, was part of this story no matter what.

Hannah placed a hand on Al’s shoulder. “Why don’t you go home. I’ll handle this for now. We can regroup when you’re ready.”

He looked up, angst deepening the age lines that mapped his craggy face, his effort to compose himself visible. “Thanks. I think I will. I need to call my sister.” He reached out and took Hannah’s hand. It was an unusual gesture for Al, a man as independent and robust as the Coast Mountain terrain. She had a sense it was more than her hand he was reaching for. He was reaching for answers.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done without your help this past year, Hannah.”

“It’s okay, Al. I owe you. You’ve always been there for me.”

The phones shrilled, relentless. Al stared at the flashing red message lights. Reality calling. It wasn’t going to go away. “This is one of the biggest news stories to hit this valley. I guess the
Gazette
should have someone up there on Grizzly.”

“I know. I’ll see to it.” She patted his hand. “Go home, Al.”

He stood, paused.

She knew what he was thinking. That Amy’s death wasn’t an accident. She couldn’t believe it, either. Especially after the suspicious break-in at Amy’s apartment at the same time Amy went missing. “I’ll be there. Don’t worry. We’ll get to the bottom of this. I promise.”

He nodded.

Hannah watched as Amy’s uncle left the office, his usually powerful posture crumpled.

The gondola doors swung slowly shut. Hannah was cocooned in the little cabin as it swung from its moorings and lifted into the air, swaying slightly from side to side.

It was a twenty-five-minute ride to the top and then a short hike up to the traverse.

She always found the gondola soothing, with its quiet mechanical hum. It was meditative, lifting her above the world, separating her. It helped her think. And she needed to think. She needed to compose herself for what she might find on Grizzly Glacier. She wondered what clues Amy’s body might yield after sleeping for so long under the ice.

The late-August sun was balmy, and bits of light white fluff, the seeds of the fireweed, waltzed on warm currents of air around the gondola. Summer snow—that’s what Danny called it. Hannah smiled, thinking of her boy. She was glad she had relented and let him go and stay with her mom for the last two weeks of his summer holidays.

She had never let him go to his gran’s smallholding on Vancouver Island for so long but Daniel had conspired with his granny to twist Hannah’s arm. Hannah had hoped to join them there for the Labor Day weekend, but with this latest development, she didn’t think she would be able to make it. She was pretty much working full-time at the
Gazette
now, balancing her schedule around Danny’s needs.

She had slipped into this routine after Amy disappeared last year. She had wanted to help Al out. It wasn’t a bad job, and with Danny going into first grade next month, she would have even more time.

The gondola lurched as it passed another lift tower. Hannah could see a black bear and its cub down on the ski run. White River Valley was a sparkling jewel far below, a community built around a string of glacier-fed lakes. From up high the lakes were shimmering beads, with hues from chalky green to crystal-clear sapphire. The town got its name from the river that cascaded down through the gorge separating Powder Mountain from neighboring Moonstone Mountain. The river was milky with glacial silt and the waters gushed frothing and creamy white into frigid Alabaster Lake below.

So beautiful, thought Hannah, yet so harsh. They always made her think of Danny’s father. Beautiful but hard. Cold. Secretive. Rex Logan was like these peaks around her, carved from stone and scarred by time. There was an underlying sense of wildness and danger about him. She should have recognized from the start that he would hurt her.

She hated herself for having fallen for him, for naively believing that he was the one she would spend the rest of her life with.

Never again would she let passion overrule her common sense. Never again would she be so deceived, so lacking in guile.

Never.

She would always stay in control.

Hannah left the gondola station and made her way along the rocky trail that led up to the traverse above Grizzly Bowl, which cradled the glacier and looked like a giant’s scoop out of the mountain. A marmot ducked and scuttled for cover as she approached.

She could see police tape up on the trail above the glacier. It screamed crime scene, except Amy’s death was supposed to have been an accident. The bright-yellow ribbon fluttered in the Alpine breeze against a backdrop of painfully bright blue sky and glacial snow. Behind it a crowd of curious tourists and media gathered on the hiking trail. They were all looking down, watching a group of search-and-rescue personnel and police officers on the glacier below.

Hannah could hear the dull
thuck-thuck-thuck
of a helicopter somewhere, closing in. From her vantage point below, she aimed her camera lens up at the crowd, focused, clicked.

She was used to having her own Canadian News Agency cameraman on a job, but this was not Africa and her CNA days were over. Balancing a career that could see her in Angola one month and Sierra Leone the next was no life for a child. She had experienced what that kind of lifestyle had done to her father, to her family.

As Hannah clicked, the yellow tape was sucked from its moorings into a brutal whirling frenzy. The chopper was coming in for a landing just off the trail, churning up everything in its path. A red hat went flying. People held their hair, ducked their heads. Gray glacial silt boiled up in a cloud around them.

Hannah kept shooting.

She jogged up the steep trail as the blur of the two lethal rotor blades slowed and came into focus. She recognized the coroner and members of a television crew as they alighted from the mechanical beast. A man in a suit followed. He stood out amongst the windbreakers and fleece. This story was pulling them all in, even the suits. Hannah guessed he was with one of the big U.S. outfits.

She joined the crowd, out of breath. There were other newspaper photographers capturing the scene. She tried to peer down into the glacial bowl but couldn’t really make out what was happening below. The TV crew started filming.

“Hannah, over here.” The Swiss-German accent and granular rasp was unmistakable.

“Hey, Gunter.” She moved over to join the plastic surgeon. He was deeply tanned with a head of thick salt-and-pepper hair and clear hazel eyes. Hannah couldn’t help thinking he carried his years exceptionally well. But then, Dr. Gunter Schmidt was devoted to the pursuit of youth. It was that same promise of eternal youth that attracted the rich and famous to his White River Spa.

“I was on a walk up here on the mountain.” Gunter could not pronounce words with a
w.
He said them as if they started with a
v.
But despite his pronunciation oddities and Germanic syntax, his English was good.

“And then I see all this commotion. They say it is Amy.” He was also out of breath. “That is right? They have found her?”

“It looks that way, Gunter.”

“Ach, poor Al. He must be taking it hard, ja?”

“He is. He’s struggling.” Hannah looked away from the scene below, her eyes following the trail she knew so well. From here, it climbed a little farther then leveled out along the ridge toward the ski area boundary. Then it rounded the ridge and led to a series of small, rustic cabins designed for overnight use. A hiker could spend a week doing the full loop. Back-country skiers used the cabins in winter. “I just can’t figure what Amy was doing up here.”

“She was perhaps hiking,” the doctor offered, following her gaze.

“No, Gunter. I don’t buy it. Her clothes were wrong. The weather, the timing, the break-in. Nothing fits.”

The doctor frowned.

Hannah lifted her camera and peered through her lens at the scene below on the glacier. She could make out the form of Sven Jansen. She clicked the shutter as the team started to slowly make their way with a body bag back up the glacier toward the chopper.

Rex Logan’s heart missed a beat.

Anyone watching him in his air-conditioned Toronto office would not have noticed a thing. He never showed his emotion. That came from his British Special Air Services training. That, combined with his medical specialty, was one of the reasons the Bellona Channel found him so valuable.

But the picture on page three of the
Toronto Star
had upped his pulse rate.

He leaned forward to press the button on his phone. “Hold all my calls, Margaret.”

He loosened his tie and flattened the page out onto his desk. It was Hannah McGuire.

In grainy black-and-white.

He scanned the headlines. A body had been found on Powder Mountain in White River. Hannah had been captured by a news photographer among a crowd on the mountain. She was holding a camera in one hand, looking toward a body bag. Her long hair was blowing across her face. She was trying to hold it back with her other hand.

Rex ran his forefinger slowly over her grainy image. He knew the feel of that hair. Her knew her smell. He knew the sensation of her golden skin. Her image haunted his dreams at night.

He absently fingered the small Ethiopian silver ring on his finger as the hot memories welled up and assaulted him in his cool office. He could almost smell the crushed frangipani blooms, hear the sound of night insects, taste the salt on her skin, see her eyes. Those eyes, leonine, with the color and fire of fine whiskey.

Rex closed his eyes and slowly sucked in air. The memories of Marumba often came like that. They would wash over him before he could send the unbidden images scuttling back into the recesses of his tired brain.

He knew Hannah was in White River. He knew that much from the Canadian News Agency office. Once, just once, when he had a whiskey too many, he’d called the CNA headquarters. It was a lapse of reason. She was the only one who did that to him, skewed his judgment. He’d wanted to know where he could find her. They’d put him through to a photographer who used to work with Hannah on her Africa assignments. He told Rex that Hannah had quit and moved to White River.

Why the hell she had dropped her career as one of the best damn foreign correspondents this country had known was beyond him. She was at the peak of her profession. And now, here she was, in a photo on his desk that had caught her looking out over a body on a mountain in White River.

White River, where the International Toxicology Conference was due to start in one week.

His contacts in Cairo had indicated that several rogue nations were planning to send agents to that conference. The list of participants was already starting to read like a who’s who in the world of biological warfare. Red flags were going up all over the place. Something was going down. And the Bellona Channel board members wanted him there. Only trouble was, Rex didn’t want to go.

BOOK: Melting the Ice
9.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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