About the Book :: Behind the Scenes :: Excerpt

Henson Trilogy Book 3 / May 2005 / BET Books / ISBN 1-58314-628-8
buy at barnes&noble.com - buy at amazon.com

Can't Deny Passion...

First, Jackie Henson's boyfriend announces plans to marry his ex-wife; then, a major benefactor for her nonprofit organization dies, putting Jackie's company in jeopardy. Despite these obstacles, Jackie is prepared to make the best of a bad situation. However, when clients start disappearing, she knows she needs the help of a private investigator and there's only one man that comes to mind.

...Can't Deny Love

Clay Jarrett finds Jackie stubborn and infuriating, but that doesn't stop him from taking her on as a client or from accepting an invitation to her ex's wedding. He's determined to ignore the feelings she ignites in him--especially during a heated slow dance. As they work together, Clay finds it increasingly difficult to keep his mind on just the task at hand. Can he find a way to keep Jackie safe without jeopardizing the investigation?

Okay, let me be honest. I was not supposed to have a trilogy. Once Cassie and Adriana were matched up, I thought ‘Good, that’s done. Now let me meet some new people.’

Then some readers asked, ‘What happened to Jackie?’ and I thought, ‘Hmm. Good question.’ I was a bit curious myself since her two brothers were married and the dynamics in the family had changed. So I began a novella about Jackie just for fun. (I sometimes write short stories for other characters just for my enjoyment and so that I can answer questions like the one above.) At the time, I didn’t think I could do a novel about her. She proved me wrong.

Jackie had an interesting job and I liked her interaction with her growing family so I lengthened the story. She’d met a nice fellow (who will remain nameless just in case he decides to pop up somewhere else) and they had a great chemistry. I was quite pleased with myself as well as the direction of the story and confident I would be months ahead of my deadline. Then Jackie had a scene with Clay and I nearly keeled over in shock.

They were bickering as usual and I felt a sexual tension I’d never noticed before. I thought, ‘Oh no! This is going to ruin my story. He’s too old for her; she’s too spoiled for him and Drake would be furious!!’

And then of course I smiled (how could I resist a juicy bit of family conflict?). So I tossed out my old story and wrote about Clay and Jackie. However, even as I wrote it I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Clay had a very painful past and huge issues about trust, but Jackie proved stronger than I thought and they turned out to be just the right match.

Chapter One

Clay Jarrett knew two things about women like Jackie Henson. One, they didn’t like to hear the word “no,” and two, they could make a man regret saying it. Unfortunately, the moment Jackie walked into his office looking like a willful sprite in a crisp gray business suit with a red scarf artistically draped over her shoulders, he knew what his answer would be: no. And he wouldn’t regret it. He’d been a private investigator long enough to rarely regret a decision.

She wasn’t a pretty woman, but she didn’t need to be. She was cute—and knew it—with straight black hair that reached her chin. She didn’t have much height or much of a figure, but her big brown eyes made up for it all. They were warm, wicked, and smart, with a tendency to tilt a little at the ends. Her looks made him think of a fairy tale. He could certainly picture her as an imp causing mischief. It started as soon as she came into his office.

Jackie could hypnotize a man with a gaze. He would have allowed himself to succumb. However, he considered her brothers, Drake and Eric, friends and would do nothing to jeopardize that relationship. Not even to satisfy a growing curiosity.

Although he knew his answer would be no, he still listened to her request. It only reinforced his initial decision. She wanted him to look for an invisible man. That wasn’t his job. Cheating spouses, missing loved ones, courier service? Yes. Chasing a man out of curiosity? No.

He leaned forward, twirling a pen between his fingers. “I can’t help you,” he said. He tried to sound apologetic, but failed.

“Why not?” she asked, her words more of an accusation than a query.

“Because it’s a waste of time.” He continued before she could protest. “You have nothing for me to work with. You want me to track down a man with no name, no address, nothing. And your sole basis for this investigation is that a client of yours thinks she’s cured.”

Her hand gripped the strap of her handbag. “Melanie is an intelligent woman who has been part of HOPE Services for two years. All of a sudden she calls to cancel services, saying she doesn’t need us anymore. No ordinary man could have convinced her of this.”

He shrugged. “These things happen.”

“She’s the fifth client in three weeks to cancel services. When I went to visit her, she’d changed. She seemed different. More spiritual somehow, and she kept talking about a man.”

“With no name.”

Restless, Jackie shifted, frustrated by the bored look on his face. She didn’t blame him for not seeing the urgency of her case. Her supervisor, Faye, hadn’t paid much attention either. Faye was certain the man was just a boyfriend. That theory was a possibility, since many of their female clients had unreliable boyfriends or husbands that led them astray. But this was different. Jackie was certain and the proof was what she had seen.

The Melanie who answered the door yesterday was not the Melanie she knew. She had Melanie’s same angular face, dyed brown hair to cover her gray, and tight mouth that rarely offered a smile because of missing teeth. But her eyes were too bright—not from a spark or health or even the use of drugs, but something completely unfamiliar.

When she had stepped into the apartment, a sickening sense of dread had crawled over Jackie’s skin. The room lay bare. All Melanie’s furniture was gone, with only a few cushions in its place. All her photographs, trinkets, and valuables were gone. It looked as though her life had been erased. Then she spoke of her spiritual adviser.

Melanie wouldn’t give his name, which had worried Jackie most. She knew going to a private investigator was a drastic measure but she didn’t know what else to do. Clay had been her first choice. She’d known him since his sister Cassie married her brother Drake four years ago. They saw each other at family dinners and holidays and were like family. Except looking at him now as he sat across the desk from her, he seemed like a stranger. Probably because in a sense he was.

She still didn’t know much about him. His full name, Clarence, didn’t suit him properly. It implied a big bespectacled man with an awkward grin and an unhealthy attachment to his mother. Yet the name Clay didn’t completely suit him either. Though his skin was the exact shade his name described, he seemed far more unreachable than the common earth beneath one’s feet. There was a distance to him.

His dark eyes, while always friendly, were never warm. His face, though handsome, was not classically so. It held an ageless, rugged strength as though all his distant ancestors had contributed to its creation—an aristocratic jaw was balanced by a blunt-cut nose. His eyes were his most intriguing feature. Instead of revealing emotions, they seemed to mask them as though shadows drifted through, altering any true feelings.

The shadows were there now as he watched her with the intense patience of a hawk.

Jackie shifted again, awkward under the penetrating stare. “I can’t give you a name because she wouldn’t tell me. She calls him her adviser. She said he was a messenger or a higher power. I said he had to have a name like a pastor or rabbi. She said he didn’t want to be known because his message is revolutionary and if he is known he’ll be persecuted. So obviously he’s not just some boyfriend she’s in love with.”

He shrugged.

She found his complacency maddening and pounded his desk. “Look, this guy is convincing my clients that they’re cured. I need to know who he is and I need to know why.”

May 2005 / BET Books / ISBN 1-58314-628-8
buy at barnes&noble.com - buy at amazon.com

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