Other Books by Liana Laverentz:
2008 Golden Leaf Winner
The last person small town bad boy Jacob Donovan expects to find when he returns home in disgrace after serving time is Rebecca Reed, head librarian.Rebecca had always had much bigger ambitions.Jake hadn’t wanted to stand in her way, so after one night of passion with his former best friend, he’d hit the open road.
Rebecca refuses to believe Jake is guilty of murder.The boy who’d been her friend and protector when they were town outcasts together could never have killed a woman.Not to mention the tender, loving man who’d given her their daughter, Katie.
But who is Jake now?That’s what everyone wants to know, including the town council chairman, who is determined to send Jake back to prison, by any means available.
Jake’s been running from love for all of his life.Will he find the courage to defeat his demons and stay this time?
Rebecca Reed would never forget the sound of Jacob Donovan walking back into her life.The sharp hiss of startled gasps that suddenly swept across the town library’s main reading room was enough to grab anyone’s attention.She frowned and straightened from where she was shelving books in the children’s section, looked to see what had happened, and felt her heart stop.
Omigod, she thought.He’s here.He’s really here.In Warner.
Her heart jerked to a start again, and she was sure every soul in the building could hear its wild, erratic beat in the shocked silence that had settled over the room.
Jake stood at the front desk, his left profile turned toward her and the rest of the main reading room.He looked tall, dark and rangy in faded denims and a black T-shirt that matched his windswept hair.The clerk behind the desk finished checking out a patron with two small children.A short, stout, no-nonsense woman who had never married, Eunice Lee Larmer had been with the library for as long as most of the town could remember.She looked up at Jake and froze, her eyes rounding with recognition.Her face two shades paler, she stepped back carefully.
The sight of Eunice’s fear sparked a surge of protective anger in Rebecca, taking her by surprise.Damn.She’d thought she was prepared for this.
Obviously not.Telling herself she was rescuing the situation—not Jake—Rebecca started forward just as Jake turned her way.His expression stopped Rebecca in her tracks.He looked completely out of place.Completely unapproachable.A lone wolf barely tolerating the trappings of civilization.
An eternity passed as she bore the weight of his sharp scrutiny from across the now suffocatingly silent room.Rebecca would have sworn she actually felt his cold, dark gaze move from the top of her French twist to the tips of her navy pumps.
Sounding as if it were right next door instead of three blocks away, the daily noon wail of the firehouse siren pierced the unnatural silence.The familiar sound seemed to nudge everyone back to life.Rebecca swallowed hard and braced herself to meet Jake again, to speak with him for the first time in eight years.
The first time since the night he’d given her Katie.
Amid a rising tide of rustles and scandalized whispers, Jake seemed to recall why he’d come to the library.As he slowly wended his way across the crowded reading room to where Rebecca stood, neither of them smiling, a paralyzing thought struck her.
What if he still doesn’t want anything to do with us?
She beat back her own wave of fear, and focused on Jake. He was leaner now, harder and tougher-looking than she remembered. True, he’d always looked tough, but his toughness as a teenager had been a façade. One she’d seen through from the start. But this was different. This was no small town bad boy trying to make the best of his messed-up life alone. This was a grown man who’d spend most of his adult life in hell.
With a sinking sense of dread Rebecca realized she’d made a mistake. She was staring into the face of a stranger.
His voice was rougher, deeper than she remembered. Deep enough to send a shot of awareness down her spine. “Jake.”
“Been a long time.”
Rebecca knew exactly how long it had been. Counting Jake’s four-year stint in the army, with the exception of those few unforgettable hours they’d shared in Pittsburgh eight years ago, they’d been apart for almost twelve years.
Before that, they’d been the town outcasts together.
“You’re looking good,” he said quietly.
“Thank you. You look...fit.”
He arched a dark brow. “Considering I spent the last eight years locked up, you mean?”
Rebecca flushed. A nearby cough reminded her everyone within earshot would shamelessly repeat anything she or Jake said, first chance they got. A town like Warner had precious few secrets, and Jake obviously didn’t intend to play down his recent parole from prison.
She squared her shoulders and offered Jake her most professional smile. “Would you like a cup of coffee? My office is right behind the desk.”
“Your office?” He looked blank, then over his shoulder at the checkout desk, the open door that led to the tiny office behind it. The eavesdroppers’ expressions ranged from indignant to shocked. Frowning, Jake turned back to Rebecca. “You’re head librarian?”
She understood his confusion. She wasn’t even supposed to be in Warner, much less working at the library. The last time he’d seen her, she’d had much bigger plans. “For three years now.”
Jake stared at her a moment longer, then ran a slow, speculative gaze over her short-skirted navy summer suit and heels. Just as slowly, he smiled. “Well, I’ll be damned.”
Rebecca’s knees nearly buckled. His smile was vintage Jake. Reckless, unrepentant, and sexier than black satin sheets. Her heartbeat soared, her palms broke into a sweat. With what she considered an amazing amount of grace, given the state of her nerves, she managed to smile back neutrally and avoid tripping over anything as she led Jake past their astonished audience, and into her office.
Once inside, she made a beeline for the coffee pot, then forced herself to take a deep breath before she handed Jake a steaming mug of coffee. “Black still okay?” Her hand only trembled a little.
His slow half-smile hovered between some private amusement and pleasant surprise. “You remembered.”
Thin Ice, Contemporary Romance, EPPIE and Golden Leaf Award Winner
The last thing Emily Jordan needs in her life is a man, and certainly not one who uses his fists in his work. Her father hit her mother, and Emily’s already made the mistake of marrying a man who seemed to be a dream come true, but proved to be no better. An emergency room doctor and volunteer at a women’s shelter, she sees more than enough of the results of violence in the world, and has no use for anybody who contributes to it.
When she treats Eric Cameron in her ER after a bar brawl, her opinions of men in general seem to be confirmed. It isn’t until she meets Eric outside her eight-year-old son’s school after Eric gives a talk against using drugs and alcohol, that Emily learns he’s a hockey player, and her son’s newest idol. Robbie has been begging her to let him play hockey for months, and has now enlisted his new friend Eric, captain of the struggling Minneapolis Saints, to help him convince Emily to let him play.
Eric Cameron is more than willing to be Robbie’s ally. He’s never met a woman who intrigued him so much. Emily Jordan has it all…brains and beauty, a home of her own, a career she excels at, a son who adores her, and loving friends and family to help her bring it all together in a way Eric has longed for ever since he was a kid living over the ramshackle bar his mom ran when his dad ran out on them. He realized early on that hockey was going to be his only way out of spending his life busting up barfights. Still, Eric was raised to respect and protect women, and this feisty, independent woman who wants nothing to do with him—and needs nothing from him--totally confounds him. The memory of her healing hands that first night drives him to find the key to Emily’s heart, because he knows that once he wins it, he will have everything he’s ever wanted in life. But for him to succeed would mean that Emily would have to give up everything she has—her home, her career, her independence--and subject her life to the whims of the NHL….for a hockey player’s life is anything but settled. Will Eric be able to win her heart despite her opposition to the only life he’s ever known? Or when the season ends will he move on again--alone?
Feeling drained, Emily entered the lounge. She crossed to the sink, turned on the faucet and splashed cool water on her face. Toweling her face dry, she caught her reflection in the mirror above the sink. First a twelve-hour shift, then being called back in to work barely four hours later...this had to stop. She was operating on two hours sleep and looked it. Her lab coat was covered with stains and smelled, her eyes bloodshot, her hair a disaster—“Excuse me, Miss.”Emily stilled, wondering if she’d imagined the hoarse male voice. It almost sounded like...But that was impossible. The owner of that raspy voice was seven hundred miles away and hadn’t terrorized her for years. No. She was exhausted, her mind playing tricks on her. She turned, fully expecting to find herself alone. Instead she found the most dangerous-looking man she’d seen in quite a while. He sat on the couch behind the door, his back propped against the wall, his long legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankles. His blue oxford shirt was torn and bloodstained, his faded jeans filthy. His black eye was at least three days old, his dark hair a matted mess, his face and hands dirty, swollen and seriously scraped.“Mind if I have a refill?”Emily noticed the paper cup in his hand and smelled alcohol at the same time. She looked up and met eyes as bleary and bloodshot as her own. Another drunk. For Pete’s sake, hadn’t she dealt with enough of them for one night?“What do you think you’re doing in here?”His eyes not leaving hers, the man slowly, almost deliberately, set his paper cup aside. A long-suppressed memory flared in Emily and she felt a flash of remembered fear. She reminded herself those days were over. He was the fish out of water here, not she. “Waiting for the doctor,” he said. “Apparently someone forgot to tell him he has another overgrown idiot to examine.”So he’d overheard her conversation with Sarah. Too bad. “Her,” she said.“Her?”“Her. Somebody apparently forgot to tell her.”Surprise skittered across his battered features. Awareness seeped into his dark brown eyes, as he slowly looked her up, then down, then lowered his head and shook it, chuckling softly.Enough was enough. “Listen, if you have a problem with women doctors, I suggest you pick yourself up and stumble down to the waiting room, where you’ll find—”“Whoa. Whoa.” He held up a puffy hand. “I didn’t say I had anything against women doctors. I just wasn’t expecting to meet one tonight, okay? I’m not exactly, uh, looking my best.”