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Authors: Tami Hoag

Reilly's Return

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Dear Reader,

Readers sometimes ask me where I got my start as a writer. When I tell people that my first novels were romantic comedies for Bantam’s Loveswept line, they’re usually quite surprised. Although this genre may seem completely different from the suspense I write now, the two have more in common than it seems.

For me, every good story has two essential elements to it: characters to fall in love with and root for, and a mystery to figure out—whether it is an unsolved crime or that baffling and bewildering emotion that puzzles us most of all—love. Even the most intricate murder plot can’t compare to the complex inner workings of the human heart.

In
Reilly’s Return
, Pat Reilly is a sexy Australian movie star who is used to ladies throwing themselves at his feet. But the one woman who holds Pat’s heart was married to his best friend, and now is mourning her husband’s death. Pat promised that he would give Jayne Jordan time to grieve, but a man can only stay away from his love for so long. Just as Jayne thinks she’s finally settled into her life after her husband’s passing, writing movie reviews in an idyllic coastal town, Pat comes storming back into her life. Can Jayne give herself over to this dangerously handsome man without losing her head and her heart?

Pat and Jayne’s story brings us back to the small town featured in my Rainbow Chasers trilogy that captured my imagination years ago. I hope that you’ll enjoy this story as much today as I did at the very beginning of my writing career.

All my best,

Tami Hoag

BANTAM TITLES BY TAMI HOAG

The Alibi Man
Prior Bad Acts
Kill the Messenger
Dark Horse
Dust to Dust
Ashes to Ashes
A Thin Dark Line
Guilty as Sin
Night Sins
Dark Paradise
Cry Wolf
Still Waters
Lucky’s Lady
The Last White Knight
Straight from the Heart
Tempestuous/The Restless Heart
Taken by Storm
Heart of Dixie
Mismatch
Man of Her Dreams
Rumor Has It
The Trouble with J.J.
McKnight in Shining Armor
Heart of Gold

Contents

Letter from the Author

Other Books by this Author

Title Page

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Copyright

PROLOGUE

University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana Spring 1977

“O
KAY, EVERYBODY, THIS
is it. The final portrait of the Fearsome Foursome. Make sure your caps are on straight, ladies. I’m setting the timer now.” Bryan Hennessy hunched over the 3.5-millimeter camera, fussing with buttons and switches, pausing once to push his glasses up on his straight nose.

Jayne Jordan watched him, her dark eyes bright with curiosity and unshed tears. She memorized everything about the moment, Bryan’s athletic way of moving, the gentleness of his big hands on the delicate equipment, the way his tawny hair stuck out between his cap and the collar
of his shirt. At some later date she would be able to replay this moment through her mind as if it were a movie clip.

Absently she lifted a slim hand in a token attempt at straightening her wild mane of dark auburn hair. Her heart ached at the thought that memories would soon be all she would have of her friends.

Decked out in graduation caps and gowns, they stood on the damp grass near the blue expanse of St. Mary’s Lake. The clean, cool air was sweet with the scents of spring flowers, new leaves, and freshly cut grass. Birdsong mingled with Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” blasting from a boom box in a distant dorm.

Beside her stood sweet-natured Faith Kincaid—golden hair, golden heart, and an inner peacefulness Jayne had always admired and envied. Beside Faith stood Alaina Montgomery, the group’s cynic. Alaina was as practical as the short style of her chestnut hair. She stubbornly refused to believe in anything that couldn’t be admitted as evidence in a court of law. Bryan hustled around to stand behind them, his cap askew. He was handsome, sweet, and eccentric. A student of all things mystical and magical, he was her soul mate
in many ways. To the group as a whole, Bryan was their surrogate big brother, their confidant.

These were Jayne’s three best friends in the world. They were the first people who had ever really understood her, including her own beloved family back in Paris, Kentucky.

They had banded together their freshman year. Four people with nothing in common but a class in medieval sociology. Over the four years that followed they had seen each other through finals and failures, triumphs and tragedies, and doomed romances. They were friends in the truest, deepest sense of the word.

And today they would graduate and go their separate ways.

As hard as she tried, Jayne couldn’t be philosophical about it. As eager as she was to plunge into the future, she couldn’t help but feel she was being cut adrift.

“Okay. Everybody smile,” Bryan ordered, his voice a little huskier than usual. “It’s going to go off any second now. Any second.”

They all grinned engagingly and held their collective breath.

The camera suddenly tilted downward on its tripod, pointing its lens at one of the white geese that wandered freely around St. Mary’s Lake. The
shutter clicked and the motor advanced the film. The goose honked an outraged protest and waddled away.

“I hope that’s not an omen,” Jayne said, frowning as she nibbled at her thumbnail. She was devoutly superstitious, and this certainly didn’t look like good luck.

“It’s a loose screw,” Bryan announced, digging a dime out of his pants pocket to repair the tripod with.

“In Jayne or the camera?” Alaina queried, her cool blue eyes sparkling with teasing mischief.

Jayne made a face at her. “Very funny, Alaina.”

“I think it’s a sign that Bryan needs a new tripod,” said Faith.

“That’s not what Jessica Porter says,” Alaina remarked slyly.

The girls giggled as Bryan blushed up to the roots of his hair. Outside of this unusual set of friendships with Jayne, Faith, and Alaina, Bryan had led an active social life.

“If you want a sign, look behind you,” he said as he fussed unnecessarily with the aperture setting on the camera.

Jayne turned and immediately caught sight of a rainbow arching gracefully across the morning
sky above the golden dome of the administration building.

“Oh, how beautiful,” Faith said with a sigh.

“Symbolic,” Jayne whispered. A tingling feeling raced through her as she admired the soft colors and contemplated the meaning of this moment. A rainbow seemed like a good sign, something to follow and believe in.

“It’s the diffusion of light through raindrops,” Alaina said flatly.

Bryan looked up from fiddling with the camera to frown at her, his strong jaw jutting forward aggressively. “Rainbows have lots of magic in them,” he said, dead serious. “Ask any leprechaun. It’d do you some good to believe in magic, Alaina.”

Alaina’s lush mouth turned down at the corners. “Take the picture, Hennessy.”

Bryan ignored her, his wise, warm blue eyes taking on a dreamy quality as he gazed up at the soft stripes of color. “We’ll each be chasing our own rainbows after today. I wonder where they’ll lead us.”

They each recited the stock answers they’d been giving faculty, friends, and family for months. Bryan had been accepted into the graduate program of parapsychology at Purdue. Faith
was heading for a managerial position in a business office in Cincinnati. Alaina was staying on at Notre Dame to attend law school. Jayne was all packed and ready to leave for Hollywood to pursue a career as a writer and director.

“That’s where our brains are taking us,” Bryan said, pulling his cap off to comb a hand back through his hair as he always did when he went into one of his “deep thinking modes.” “I wonder where our hearts would take us.”

If anyone knew the answer to that, it was Bryan, Jayne thought. He was the one they told all their secrets to. He was the one who understood her need to find a place of her own, a place where she fit in, a place where she wouldn’t be an outsider looking in.

“That’s the question we should all be asking ourselves,” she said, wagging a slender finger at her friends. “Are we in pursuit of our true bliss, or are we merely following a course charted by the expectations of others?”

“Do we have to get philosophical?” Alaina groaned, rubbing her temples. “I haven’t had my mandatory ten cups of coffee yet this morning.”

“Life is philosophy, honey,” Jayne explained patiently, her voice a slow Kentucky drawl that hadn’t altered one iota during the four years she’d
spent in northern Indiana. The expression on her delicately sculpted features was almost comically earnest as she tried once again to breach Alaina’s wall of practicality. “That’s a cosmic reality.”

Alaina stared at her, speechless for a full twenty seconds. Finally she said, “We don’t have to worry about you. You’ll fit right in in California.”

Jayne’s wide mouth split into a smile, her beautifully carved lips lifting at the corners. Alaina was her opposite in almost every way, which was probably why they understood each other so well. Lord, she was going to miss her friend’s sardonic teasing.

“Why, thank you,” she said, knowing Alaina would have preferred a spirited argument. She almost giggled at the disgruntled expression her comment received.

Faith chuckled. “Give up, Alaina. You can’t win.”

Alaina winced and held her hands up as if to ward off the words. “Don’t say that. I
abhor
losing.”

“Anastasia,” Bryan declared loudly. He gave a decisive nod that set the tassel on his cap dancing. The word would have seemed straight out of left field to anyone who didn’t know Bryan Hennessy and the workings of his unconventional mind.

Anastasia was the small town on California’s rugged northern coast where the four of them had spent spring break. Jayne’s eyes misted over at the memory of how they’d fantasized about moving there and pursuing idealistic existences: Bryan had wanted to play the role of local mad scientist; an inn with a view of the ocean had been Faith’s wish; they had somehow gotten Alaina to admit to a secret desire to paint; and Jayne had told them all of her dream to have a little farm of her own. It was a desire she’d had ever since she was a child growing up as a tenant in a cottage for hired help on one of Kentucky’s prominent thoroughbred farms.

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