Tall dark and eligible? That's all that matters to the women of Jacobsville when it comes to handsome and aloof FBI agent Jon Blackhawk. But if it were up to him, he would never settle down. Luckily, Jon has the best gatekeeper: his efficient and reliable assistant, Joceline Perry. Without her help, he'd be at the mercy of husband hunters but the more he comes to rely on her, the more he notices how invaluable she really is. While Joceline can't deny that her boss is attractive, as a single mother with responsibilities she's determined to be professional. But when Jon is accosted by a criminal seeking revenge, she comes to his aid fueling the spark that is growing between them. As the attempts on Jon's life increase, Joceline stands by his side. But when the smoke clears, will the man who avoided love realize that all he ever needed was right there all along?
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The prolific author of more than 100 books, Diana Palmer got her start as a newspaper reporter. A multi-New York Times bestselling author and one of the top ten romance writers in America, she has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The attractive blonde sitting on the chair beside Jon Blackhawk's desk in the San Antonio FBI office was as irritating as most of the prospective brides his well-meaning mother threw at his head. He was impatient and half out of humor already, with testimony on an upcoming court case awaiting him. This woman's fascination with the latest trend in hairstyles was leading him to think of bars. And he never took a drink.
"See, mine was done by Mr. James at Sheri-gan's," she continued, indicating her haircut, which looked quite frankly as if someone had put her head in a blender. He bit his tongue trying not to make the comment out loud. "He could do wonders for you. That long hair is so retro!"
There was a perfunctory knock at the door and his administrative assistant, Joceline Perry, stuck her head in the door. "Excuse me, Mr. Blackhawk, but you're due in court in ten minutes."
He nodded, forcing himself not to dance on the desk with glee. It would have been totally out of character, but the past thirty minutes of fashion information had left him feeling brainless.
He got to his feet. "It was good to see you, Charlene. Please give my love to my mother when you see her."
"I'll be seeing her tonight, since we're going to the theater together. It's a production of that romantic comedy that Shakespeare wrote, in a modern setting," she enthused. "Your mother has three tickets to it," she added with a hopeful smile.
He cleared his throat and tried desperately to think of an excuse.
Joceline, her blue eyes twinkling, interjected, "There's that meeting with your informer tonight at seven," she lied.
"Oh. Oh, yes, thank you," he said, trying not to sound as relieved as he felt. "Another time, perhaps," he told charlene.
She shrugged. "I suppose your job requires you to do things at odd times," she said. "You might think about another profession," she said with a thoughtful frown. "I mean, if you get married, you won't have time for these evening job-related thingies."
His black eyes glittered. "I have no plans to marry."
She gave him an odd look. "Your mother said you were ready to start a family," she said blandly.
The glare darkened. "My mother has plans of her own. They are not mine," he added firmly. Charlene gave him a charming smile and touched the sleeve of his gray suit jacket with a well-manicured hand. "Well, most men don't want to marry and have a family, until they realize how nice it is."
He didn't bend an inch.
Charlene sighed. "Rome wasn't built in a day," she ventured.
"It was, however, sacked by Charles V and his forces in one of the most violent attacks in military history," Joceline said with a sigh. "The Pope was forced to flee for his life." Her blue eyes went dreamy in their frame of short, straight black hair that just covered her small ears. "Charles V was the father-in-law of Mary Tudor, who was the sister of Elizabeth the First. Mary was in her thirties and Philip II was in his twenties when they married. It was a very strange match. But royalty in the sixteenth century was somewhat different in attitude." She smiled. "Do you study history?" she asked Charlene.
"Ugh," Charlene said, and shuddered dramatically. "What a sick and horrible subject. Old dead people."
Joceline's eyebrows arched. "The past determines the future," she said. "For instance, did you know that in seventeenth-century America, women were accused of witchcraft and hanged for any sort of misbehavior?" She cocked her head. "That blouse you're wearing would have landed you in a river in Massachusetts in no time. You see, there was a common belief that only witches floated when thrown into bodies of water," she added helpfully. She smiled again.
Charlene gave her a blank look. "This is the latest fashion," she pointed out. She glared at Joceline's neat black skirt, small-heeled black shoes and blue button-up blouse. "You might have been jailed for having such awful fashion sense," she countered with contempt.
"No, no, they didn't jail people for that," Joceline replied smoothly. "They put them in stocks, but not for being conservatively dressed." She cocked her head again. "However, women who cheated on their husbands were branded with a large letter A."
Charlene cleared her throat and glared even more. "I am separated from my husband and we are in the process of a divorce."
"Really?" Joceline asked, all eyes. "Well, isn't it lucky this is the twenty-first century?" she asked.
"I did not cheat on him!" Charlene raged.
Joceline's blue eyes were innocent. "I never insinuated such a thing!"
Charlene's face flushed. Beside her slender hips, against the expensive fabric of her slacks, her manicured hands were clenched. "The gentleman in question and I were merely having supper together after the theater! It was all lies!"
"I'm certain that it was," Joceline said with a bland smile.
Jon had been enjoying the repartee, but he quickly collected himself. "Ms. Perry, aren't you working on a case?" he asked deliberately.
She blinked. "A case, sir?" she asked.
"Follow-up interviews in my kidnapping court case?"
"The court case. Right." But she didn't leave.
Charlene was more irritated than ever. She grabbed her purse. "I see that it's an inconvenient time for us to talk," she told Jon. She went close to him, enveloping him in expensive perfume that made him cough. "I'll talk to you again later, in a more...personal environment, okay?"
He cleared his throat. He wished to goodness that she'd just leave. "KK," he said, using a gamer's abbreviation for "okay."
She glared at him. "Those abbreviations are silly. You play those stupid video games, too, like your brother, don't you?" she demanded. "Well, that's another thing you'll have to work on. No woman is going to tolerate a man who games in every free minute!"
"Unless she's a gamer, too," Joceline said, smiling sweetly. "So many of us women are, these days."
Jon gaped at her.
Charlene glared at her. "It figures," she said curtly.
Joceline kept smiling. She stared pointedly at the other woman's haircut. "My goodness, did your head get caught in a blender or something?"
Jon coughed enthusiastically, trying to conceal laughter.
"I'll have you know I paid a hundred dollars for this styling cut!" Charlene raged.
Joceline held out a hand. "Please lower your voice, ma'am," she urged. "This is a federal office. No verbal outbursts are allowed."
Charlene glanced from one of them to the other with exasperation. "I will never come here again! I'll see you at Cammy's house, when you have time for civilized conversation," she said haughtily.
Jon didn't answer her. Joceline pointedly held the door open and smiled vacantly.
"Have a nice day," she told the departing woman.
Charlene was muttering to herself as she reached the outer office.
Jon let out the laugh he'd been concealing. "That was rude," he told Joceline.
She gave him a blank stare. "Was it, really?" She glanced toward the door. "Should I call her back and apologize?" she asked innocently.
"You do, and you're really fired," he threatened.
She shrugged. "Jobs aren't that hard to get for a woman who knows how to type and give free video game advice," she said. She smiled.
He waved a hand. "Go work on that brief.
And what meeting do I have with an informer tonight?" he added with a frown.
"I could arrange one, if you like."
He let out a rough laugh and went back around to sit at his desk. "Cammy's driving me nuts with these prospective brides," he muttered. "I don't want to get married!" he added firmly and glared at Joceline, in the doorway.
She held out both hands. "Don't look at me! I don't want to get married, either. So if you were thinking of asking me," she added outrageously, and with a haughty look, "don't bother. My son would be devastated if we had to try to fit a third person into our Super Mario battles," she added, naming one of the more popular games.
"No worries, there, I like military-themed games."
"And that MMORPG you play with your brother," she told him, referring to federal agent McKuen Kilraven.
"Massively multiplayer online role playing game," he translated and smiled. "I never would have suspected you of being a closet gamer."
She sighed. "Me, either," she replied. "But Markie loves them."
Her son. She had never married, but she'd been going out with a soldier who shipped out to the Middle East and never came back. It had surprised Jon that she'd had a child out of wedlock, when she was such a conservative, religious person. She never spoke of the child's father, and rarely of the child. She kept her personal life as private as Jon kept his own.
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