Free-spirited Jessie Benedict fights against her family's wishes to marry her father's associate, hoping to pursue her own career as a detective instead
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Jayne Ann Krentz's acclaimed New York Times bestsellers include Light in Shadow, Smoke in Mirrors, Lost and Found, Soft Focus, Eye of the Beholder, Flash, and Grand Passion. She writes contemporary romantic suspense novels under her own name, futuristic novels as Jayne Castle (also available from Pocket Books), and historical romance novels under the pseudonym Amanda Quick. She lives in Seattle.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From Chapter One
"I can't see."
"It's all right, Mrs. Valentine. Your eyes are fine." Jessie Benedict leaned anxiously over the frail figure on the hospital bed and patted the hand that clenched the sheet. "You took a nasty fall and you've got a few cracked ribs and a concussion, but there was no harm done to your eyes. Open them and look at me."
Irene Valentine's faded blue eyes snapped open. "You don't understand, Jessie. I can't see."
"But you're looking right at me. You can see it's me standing here, can't you?" Jessie was alarmed now. She raised her hand. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
"Two." Mrs. Valentine's gray head moved restlessly on the pillow. "For heaven's sake, Jessie, that's not the kind of seeing I'm talking about. Don't you understand? I can't see.
Understanding dawned and Jessie's own eyes widened in shock. "Oh, no. Mrs. Valentine, are you sure? How can you tell?"
The elderly woman sighed and closed her eyes again. "I can't explain it." The words sounded thick and slurred now. "I just know it's gone. It's like losing your sense of smell or touch. Dear God, Jessie, it's like being blind. All my life it's been there, and now it's just gone."
"It's the blow on the head. It must be. As soon as you've recovered from the concussion, everything will be fine." Jessie looked down at her and thought how small and fragile Mrs. Valentine appeared when she was not wearing one of her colorful turbans or the flowing skirts and jangling necklaces she favored.
Mrs. Valentine said nothing for a minute. She lay motionless on the hospital bed, her hand still clenched around the sheet. Jessie wasn't sure if she had fallen asleep.
"Mrs. Valentine?" Jessie whispered. "Are you okay?"
"Didn't fall," Mrs. Valentine muttered heavily.
"What did you say?"
"Didn't fall down those stairs. I was pushed."
"Pushed." Jessie was horrified anew. "Are you sure? Did you tell anyone?"
"Tried to tell 'em. Wouldn't listen. They said I was all alone in the house. Jessie, what am I going to do? The office. Who's going to keep the office open?"
Jessie squared her shoulders. This was her big chance and she was not going to blow it. "I'll take care of everything, Mrs. Valentine. Don't worry about a thing. I'm your assistant, remember? Holding things together while the boss is out of the office is what assistants are for."
Irene Valentine opened her eyes again briefly and gazed at Jessie with a dubious expression. "Maybe it would be better if you just closed the office for a couple of weeks, dear. We don't have all that many clients, heaven knows."
"Nonsense," Jessie said briskly. "I'll manage just fine."
"Jessie, I'm not sure about this. You've been with me only a month. There's so much you don't know about the way I run the business."
A nurse bustled through the door at that moment and smiled pointedly at Jessie. "I think that's enough visiting for now, don't you? Mrs. Valentine needs her rest."
"I understand." Jessie patted the frail hand that clutched the sheet one last time. "I'll be back tomorrow, Mrs. V. Take care and try not to worry about the office. Everything's going to be just fine."
"Oh, dear." Mrs. Valentine sighed and closed her eyes again.
With one last concerned glance at the pale woman in the hospital bed, Jessie turned and walked out into the corridor. She cornered the first official-looking person she saw.
"Mrs. Valentine believes she was pushed down the stairs of her home," Jessie informed him bluntly. "Have the police been notified?"
The resident, an earnest-looking young man, smiled sympathetically. "Yes, as a matter of fact, they were. First thing this morning after she was found. I was told there was no sign of any intruder. It looks like she simply lost her balance on the top step and tumbled to the bottom. It happens, you know. A lot. Especially to older people. You can check with the cops, if you like. They'll have filed a report."
"But she seems to think there was someone in the house. Someone who deliberately pushed her."
"In cases such as this, where there's been a severe blow to the head, the patient often loses any memory of what really happened during the few minutes just before the accident."
"Is it a permanent memory loss?"
The doctor nodded. "Frequently. So even if there had been an intruder, she probably would have no real recollection of it."
"The thing is, Mrs. Valentine is a little different," Jessie began, and then decided the young man probably did not want to hear about her employer's psychic abilities. The medical establishment was notoriously unsympathetic to that sort of thing. "Never mind. Thanks, Doctor. I'll see you later."
Jessie swung around and hurried toward the elevators, her mind intent on the new responsibilities that awaited her back at the office. In a gesture that was unconscious and habitual, she reached up to push a strand of hair back behind her ears. The thick jet-black stuff was cut in a short, gleaming bob. It was angled from a wedge at her nape to a deep curve that fell in place just below her high cheekbones. Long bangs framed her faintly slanting green eyes and emphasized her delicate features, giving her an oddly exotic, almost catlike look.
The feline impression was further enhanced by her slender figure, which seemed to throb with quick energy when she was in motion, or appeared sensually relaxed when she sprawled in a chair. The black jeans, black boots, and billowing white poet's shirt that Jessie had on today suited the look.
She frowned in thought as she waited impatiently for the elevator to reach the hospital lobby. There was a lot to be done now that she was temporarily in charge of Valentine Consultations. And the first thing on the list was to cancel a previous engagement.
The thought brought both giddy relief and simultaneous disappointment. She was off the hook for this evening.
But she was not certain she really wanted to be off the hook.
This unpleasant and confusing mix of emotions was something she was having to deal with frequently of late, and matters were not getting better. Her intuition warned her that as long as Sam Hatchard was in her life, things were only going to get more complicated.
Jessie strode quickly down the street, her boot heels moving at a crisp pace along the sidewalk. It was a beautiful late-spring day, if one ignored the faint tinge of yellow that hung over Seattle. Smog was something nobody really wanted to talk about in what was considered the most beautiful and livable of cities. People tended to ignore it when it had the audacity to appear. They preferred to talk about the rare sunshine instead. And it was perfectly true that the smog would disappear soon, blown away with the next rain. Fortunately, in Seattle a rain shower was always on the way.
The trees planted in a row along the sidewalk formed a fresh green canopy overhead. The rapidly evolving Seattle skyline, with its growing number of high-rise buildings, was spread out against the sparkling backdrop of Elliott Bay. Ferries and tankers glided like toy boats on a deep blue pond. In the distance Jessie could barely make out the rugged Olympic Mountains through the haze.
Jessie narrowed her eyes against the glare. She reached into her black shoulder bag and whipped out a pair of dark glasses. Sunny days were always disconcerting in the Pacific Northwest.
It took Jessie about twenty minutes to cover the distance to the quiet side street where Valentine Consultations had its offices. The tiny firm was housed in a small two-story brick building located several blocks from the First Hill Hospital, where Mrs. Valentine had been taken that morning.
The outer door of the aging structure bore the legend of Irene Valentine's business and the stylized picture of a robin, the logo of a small, struggling computer-software design firm which shared the premises. Jessie opened the door and stepped into the dim hall.
The opaque glass door on the right opened. A thin, rumpled-looking young man in his early twenties stuck his head out. He looked as if he had slept in his clothes, which he probably had. He was wearing jeans, running shoes, and a white short-sleeved shirt with a plastic pocket protector full of pens and assorted computer implements. He peered at her through a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, blinking against the light. Behind him machinery hummed softly and a computer screen glowed eerily. Jessie smiled.
"Oh, it's you, Jessie," Alex Robin said. "I was hoping it might be a client. How's Mrs. V?"
"She's going to be okay. Bruised ribs and a concussion. The doctors want to keep her in the hospital for a couple of days, and then she's going to stay with her sister for a while. But she should be fine."
Alex scratched his head absently. His sandy hair stuck up in patches. "Poor old lady. Lucky she wasn't killed. What about her business?"
Jessie smiled confidently. "I'll be in charge while she's away."
"Is that right?" Alex blinked again. "Well, uh, good luck. Let me know if you need anything."
Jessie wrinkled her nose. "All we really need are a few new clients."
"Same here. Hey, maybe we should try advertising our combined services." Alex grinned. "Robin and Valentine: Psychic Computer Consultants."
"You know," said Jessie as she started up the stairs, "that is not a bad idea. Not bad at all. I'm going to give that some thought."
"Hold on, Jessie, I wasn't serious," Alex called after her. "I was just joking."
"Still, it has distinct possibilities," Jessie yelled back from the second level. She shoved her key into the door marked Valentine Consultations. "I've already got a slogan for us. 'Intuition and Intelligence Working for You.'"
"Forget it. We'd have every weirdo in town knocking on our door."
"Who cares, as long as they pay their bills?"
Jessie stepped into the comfortably shabby office and tossed her shoulder bag and sunglasses down onto the faded chintz sofa. Then she crossed the room to the mam...
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Book Description Hardback. Book Condition: Fair. A readable copy of the book which may include some defects such as highlighting and notes. Cover and pages may be creased and show discolouration. Bookseller Inventory # GOR002825811
Book Description Heinemann, London, 1999. Hard Cover with Dust Jacket. 1st UK Edition. G+, Ex-Library, usual stamps & markings, tape stains, shelfwear, spine lean, spine crease, browning/VG+, Edgewear, creases, indentations. Romantic adventure. Expanded condition report/scan on request. Bookseller Inventory # 026170
Book Description William Heinemann Ltd, 1999. Book Condition: Very Good. New Ed. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Bookseller Inventory # GRP65441485