That Summer In Maine
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I celebrate twenty years of writing for Harlequin just as Harlequin’s American Romance line celebrates twenty years of publishing books for you. So how appropriate that my latest release, That Summer in Maine, is offered as part of American Romance’s 20th Anniversary Celebration.
I feel a particular devotion to the line because of its promise to produce books about heart, home and happiness, because—given those ingredients—anything is possible. My life is a case in point.
My mother died when I was four months old, and her sister and brother-in-law extended themselves to give me a home.
In Los Angeles, a city of millions, the one man in the world who could understand my need for kids, cats and chocolate found me and offered me his heart.
And when infertility threatened to deprive us of the children we wanted, we found three of them anyway—and all at once! Happiness!
Everything you want is out there—you just have to believe in love. And read Harlequin American Romance for inspiration.
My best wishes to you!
Welcome to another wonderful month at Harlequin American Romance. You’ll notice our covers have a brand-new look, but rest assured that we still have the editorial you know and love just inside.
What a lineup we have for you, as reader favorite Muriel Jensen helps us celebrate our 20th Anniversary with her latest release. That Summer in Maine is a beautiful tale of a woman who gets an unexpected second chance at love and family with the last man she imagines. And author Sharon Swan pens the fourth title in our ongoing series MILLIONAIRE, MONTANA. You won’t believe what motivates ever-feuding neighbors Dev and Amanda to take a hasty trip to the altar in Four-Karat Fianc?e.
Speaking of weddings, we have two other tales of marriage this month. Darlene Scalera pens the story of a jilted bride on the hunt for her disappearing groom in May the Best Man Wed. (Hint: the bride may just be falling for her husband-to-be’s brother.) Dianne Castell’s High-Tide Bride has a runaway bride hiding out in a small town where her attraction to the local sheriff is rising just as fast as the flooding river.
So sit back and enjoy our lovely new look and the always-quality novels we have to offer you this—and every—month at Harlequin American Romance.
Associate Senior Editor
Harlequin American Romance
That Summer in Maine
To the Dinner Dames: Bobbi, Sunny, Dorothy and Susan
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Muriel Jensen and her husband, Ron, live in Astoria, Oregon, in an old foursquare Victorian at the mouth of the Columbia River.They share their home with a golden retriever/golden Labrador mix named Amber, and five cats who moved in with them without an invitation. (Muriel insists that a plate of Friskies and a bowl of water are not an invitation!)
They also have three children and their families in their lives—a veritable crowd of the most interesting people and children. In addition, they have irreplaceable friends, wonderful neighbors and “a life they know they don’t deserve, but love desperately anyway.”
Books by Muriel Jensen
HARLEQUIN AMERICAN ROMANCE
119—LOVERS NEVER LOSE
176—THE MALLORY TOUCH
200—FANTASIES AND MEMORIES
219—LOVE AND LAVENDER
244—THE DUCK SHACK AGREEMENT
283—SIDE BY SIDE
321—A CAROL CHRISTMAS
414—RACING WITH THE MOON
425—VALENTINE HEARTS AND FLOWERS
464—MIDDLE OF THE RAINBOW
478—ONE AND ONE MAKES THREE
507—THE UNEXPECTED GROOM
549—THE WEDDING GAMBLE
569—THE COURTSHIP OF DUSTY’S DADDY
603—MOMMY ON BOARD *
606—MAKE WAY FOR MOMMY*
610—MERRY CHRISTMAS, MOMMY!*
654—THE COMEBACK MOM
669—THE PRINCE, THE LADY & THE TOWER
688—KIDS & CO.*
705—CHRISTMAS IN THE COUNTRY
737—DADDY BY DEFAULT **
742—DADDY BY DESIGN**
746—DADDY BY DESTINY**
798—COUNTDOWN TO BABY
813—FOUR REASONS FOR FATHERHOOD
882—DADDY TO BE DETERMINED**
965—THAT SUMMER IN MAINE
June 23, 9:53 p.m.
Somewhere in the Pyrenees Mountains
Maggie Lawton offered sincere apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson as she assessed her situation. She watched with a weird sort of disassociation as the leader of the Basque separatists who’d ambushed her party of six on a hiking trail in the Parc National des Pyrenees spoke to his small army of men gathered around the campfire. They all wore the red boina or beret that was a political statement and a badge of pride for the movement.
To distract herself from the nighttime chill, she remembered that she’d played a kidnapped Arabian princess years ago in her one and only foray into musicals. It had run just fourteen months, and she’d been glad when it was over. Her costume had been skimpy and the theater cold.
She tried to remember the lyrics of the number she sang when captured by Bedouins and held for ransom. It had been jaunty and heroic and she’d sung it loudly and with broad gestures, hoping her enthusiasm would disguise the fact that she had a poor voice.
“Why, for God’s sake, are you humming?” Baldrich Livingston, her costar in several long runs at London’s Old Vic, and the grumpiest man in Europe, glowered at her in the light of the campfire. “There’s no audience beyond the lights, dear heart, and no intermission in fifteen minutes! This is real! Our pal le compte has gotten us into it this time!”
Gerard Armand, Compte de Bastogne, leaned around Glen and Priscilla Thicke to defend himself. Maggie and her companions sat side by side on the cold ground, their wrists tied behind their backs. “Oh, certainement! Blame me! Celine and I had plans to go to Monte Carlo for the weekend, but the four of you barge into my villa uninvited!”
Glen, who was Maggie’s agent, a practical man in his early fifties, took exception to that. “It was your birthday, Jerry. We came to surprise you and help you celebrate.”
“You came,” he returned, “because my servants spoil you and you are able to bask in my reflected glory. You theater people have wealth but no style, unless you borrow it from your royal friends!”
Baldy rolled his eyes. “Please don’t say bask.”
“Yes,” Prissie added while adjusting the sleeves of her chic little hiking jacket. “And you know very well you could not have taken your ch?re aim?e to Monte Carlo, Jerry. She may be old enough for your bed, but I’m sure she’s far too young to gamble.” That observation made, Prissie turned her attention to the Basque leader. “Monsieur! Monsieur! May we have water, please? We have been sitting here in the cold for hours! I’d like something sparkling, not still.”
Baldy rolled his eyes again and even Glen said under his breath, “Priss, shut up.”
She bristled indignantly. “Why? If they want to hold us for ransom or to make some political point, that’s fine. I’m sure the publicity won’t hurt. But I don’t intend to die of thirst or starvation while we wait for rescue.”
“Do you know nothing?” Gerard demanded. “These people are not playing! They are terrorists! Murderers! They would kill us in a heartbeat if—”
“Monsieur le Compte!” The leader of their kidnappers, a muscular man of average height and considerable presence, paced in front of them, an Uzi hooked over his shoulder. He was handsome, but there was a zealot’s fever in his eyes.
Maggie felt a chill trickle down her spine as his gaze touched each one of her companions, rested on her a moment, then focused on Gerard. “You malign me,” he said in an amiable tone that was eerie for all its gentleness. “I fight for my people, though my French Basque brothers are more passive and peaceful than our cousins in Spain, whom I prefer to emulate. We are descendants of the original Iberians and have lived here since before the Celts arrived thirty-five hundred years ago, yet every civilization to live here has preferred to pretend we do not exist. They’ve pushed us higher and higher into the mountains. I am not a murderer, monsieur. I’m simply trying to find a place for my people.”
“What do you think we can do for you?” Baldy asked in a voice slightly thinner than his usually commanding center-stage tones.
The man smiled and took several steps to stand in front of Maggie. “Your designer clothes highlight rather than disguise who you are. Maggie Lawton, American-born star of the British stage. Baldrich Livingston, son of a Liverpool dockworker, former star of London Weekend Television and now Miss Lawton’s leading man. Glen and Priscilla Thicke, powerful theatrical agent and his Long Island society wife, and le compte de Bastogne, toast of every social affair in Europe, and his lover, the daughter of French businessman Etien Langlois and his fashion designer wife, Chantal.”
He paced a little and drew a deep breath.
“I believe the London Mail calls you The Wild Bon Vivants because of your penchant for parties.”
“One is here,” Prissie said, “to have a good time.”
The leader nodded. “Here I have had it all wrong,” he said, as though her words were a revelation. “I thought we were here to ease the plight of our fellow man.”
“And yet your actions,” Maggie said, “have increased our plight.”
“It will be over soon, madame,” he said genially. “I have just spoken to your State Department. Either your ransom will bring us a small fortune with which to continue our work, or your deaths will make a strong statement about our dedication to our cause.”
Prissie gasped, and Celine began to sob. The men subsided in the face of the grim truth Maggie suspected but hadn’t been anxious to say aloud.
The leader raised an eyebrow at Maggie’s continued calm.
“You doubt my commitment, Mrs. Lawton?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I do not,” she replied, thinking how liberating it was to have no fear of death. For two years she’d carried the burden of having to go on living. But now her fearlessness might finally stand her in good stead. “Early in my career I was in a film about Miguel Angel Blanco.” He’d been a Basque politician murdered by ETA, a radical group dedicated to securing a united Basque state.
He nodded. “Basta Ya. I saw it.” He studied her with sudden intensity. “Was that beautiful blond girl you?”
She had to smile at his sincere surprise. Apparently, the past two years had not been kind to her. “You are no gentleman, sir. That was more than twenty years ago, and my makeup man was not along on this hike.”
A subtle change took place in his expression, and he sat down on a flat rock opposite her. “Yes,” he said slowly. “You have had a tragedy. I seem to remember the headlines. Something to do with a rail accident just outside of Paddington Station.”
The need to curl into the fetal position tried to take control of her. She fought it.
He nodded, as though he suddenly remembered. “My mother,” he said with a curiously gentle smile, “thinks you are the finest actress of your generation. She wept as she told me. You lost your husband and your children. Two boys.”
“Good God!” Baldy exploded beside her. “Why not just smash her in the face with your Uzi?” He leaned toward her protectively. “You might be able to explain away murder as serving your cause, but torture only proves you a villain.”
The man didn’t even turn Baldy’s way. His dark eyes, compassionate under their fervor, held hers.
“I mean you no pain, madame. I have lost friends and family in this campaign and I mention it only to remind you that life must go on. If we lose heart, we lose everything.”
“Mine was ripped out,” she replied. “I no longer have one.”
He put a hand to her knee and patted gently, the gesture curiously fraternal. “Ah, but you do. It sleeps after great tragedy, but it will stir again. There is still passion in you onstage.”
She shrugged. “When I’m onstage, that isn’t me. I’m someone else. And there’s no one to pay my ransom. I have no family left. I’m afraid I’ll have to be a political statement rather than a continuation of your work.”
He frowned at her. “It alarms me that you would prefer that. I see it in your eyes.” Then he smiled. “I know you have a father who loves you very much.”
She sat up in alarm. “It would be cruel to frighten an old man for nothing. I assure you he has no money to pay a ransom for me.”
One of his men shouted to him and beckoned him with the radio. He rose gracefully to his feet and shook his head at her. “Take a breath, madame. Inhale the wind and the night. There is much to live for.”
“Do not call my father,” she ordered his retreating figure.
He didn’t hear her. Or if he did, his cause was more important than her concerns for a lonely old man.
“It’ll be okay, love,” Baldy comforted, nudging her with his shoulder. “There’ll be a public outcry when the world learns we’ve been taken. The army will mobilize. Citizens will arm themselves with torches and pitchforks and come to our aid.”
“You’re the one lost in a script, Baldy,” she said grimly, stretching gingerly to try to ease the pain in her shoulders. She longed for the moment a little while ago when she hadn’t really cared whether she lived or died.
Now she was worried about her father.
June 23, 7:05 p.m.
Lamplight Harbor, Maine
Duffy March was already formulating a plan as he listened to Elliott Lawton wind up the story of his daughter’s kidnapping. Under the professional assessment of danger, and the knowledge that he’d have to argue for a place among the gendarmes responding to the scene, was the awareness that this was the scenario he used to dream about when he was eight and Maggie was his sixteen-year-old baby-sitter. Her father worked for the State Department, while his taught history at Georgetown University.
Then nothing had separated them but eight years and a stockade fence between his parents’ property in Arlington and the Lawtons’, but that had changed considerably since she’d moved to Europe.
She was now the much-adored star of the London stage, and the widow of a prominent banker, while he was the single father of two, who owned and operated a security company. He had a staff of forty who’d helped him acquire a worldwide reputation among the noble and the famous who needed protection. The living was good, with a penthouse apartment in Manhattan and a very large waterfront home on the coast of Maine where he and the boys spent the summers.
“What I fear the most,” Elliott confided as he paced the broad deck that looked out on the ocean, “is that…she’ll be happy to let it all go bad.”
Charlie March, Duffy’s father, who’d flown the light plane that had brought them here from Arlington right after the State Department called Charlie with the news, caught his friend’s arm and pushed him into a chair. “Sit down, Elliott, before we have to resuscitate you.”
Charlie sat beside him and shook his head grimly at his son. “She’s had a sort of death wish since she lost Harry and the boys. He’s afraid she’ll do something reckless and…you know.”
“Tell me you can go to France,” Elliott pleaded, on his feet and ignoring his drink. “I know the gendarmes will do all they can, but with six hostages and men with guns everywhere, I’m so afraid she’ll literally get caught in the crossfire. I can get you clearance to accompany them. And you have your own connections there, don’t you? Didn’t you work for a member of the French parliament once?”
He nodded. Gaston Dulude, who’d waged war against a band of French drug dealers, had wanted protection for his wife and himself as the case went to trial.
“Of course I’ll go to France,” Duffy assured him, “but my housekeeper’s on vacation. You’ll have to stay with Mike and Adam, Dad.”
Charlie nodded. “Of course.”
“I’ll stay, too,” Elliott promised. “What can we do to help you get ready?”
“You can get me that clearance, Mr. Lawton,” Duffy said, pointing to the phone, “while I get myself a flight to Paris.”
“Just get packed,” Elliott said. “I’ll get you a plane, too.”
As Duffy headed for the stairs, the back door slammed and his boys came racing through the kitchen into the living room. They’d been at a birthday party for the Baker twins, boys Mike’s age who lived two doors over.
Mike, seven, led the way, stick-straight black hair flopping in his eyes, the red sweater and jeans that had been pristine just a few hours ago now smeared with food or finger paints, or both. Four-year-old Adam followed in his dust, the food and finger paints smeared across his face as well as his clothes. He had Lisa’s fair good looks and passionate personality.
The boys ignored Duffy completely and went straight for their grandfather. “I saw your car, Grandpa!” Mike exclaimed.
Wisely, Charlie sat down as Mike flew into his lap. Adam followed, wrapping his arm gleefully around his grandfather’s neck. Duffy saw Elliott turn away, holding the phone to his ear and blocking the other so that he could hear, using the call as an excuse to be able to focus his attention elsewhere.
It had to be hard for him, Duffy guessed, to see Charlie enveloped by his grandchildren when he’d never see his own again.
“Are you staying for dinner?” Mike asked.
As Duffy topped the stairs, he heard his father reply that he was staying a little longer than that.
Duffy had packed a small bag, made a call to his office in New York and was ready to go when the boys rushed into his room as though pursued. Mike always traveled at top speed, and Adam was determined that his older brother never escape him.
Duffy sat on the edge of his bed to explain his sudden departure.
“When are you coming back?” Mike climbed up next to him and leaned into his arm, looking worried. “Grandpa said he didn’t know.”
“I think three or four days,” Duffy replied, lifting Adam onto his knee. “If it’s going to be longer, I’ll call you.”
“Grandpa said you’re going to help a friend.”
“He said bad guys took her and you have to get her back.”
“Yes. But I’m going to have a lot of help.”
Mike sighed. “You won’t get shot, right, ’cause you always know what you’re doing?”
Duffy liked to think Mike’s faith in him wasn’t misplaced. “That’s right. I’ll be fine. And so will she. I’ll be back home before you know it.”
“You’re friends with a girl?” Adam asked. He screwed up his pink-cheeked face into a ripple of nose, lips and chin, and crossed his bright blue eyes. “We don’t have any girls around here ’cause we don’t like ’em.”
Duffy laughed and squeezed him close. “I like them. I just don’t happen to have one. But I would if I could.”
That was apparently beyond Adam’s comprehension. “They’re silly and they’re afraid of snakes.”
“I thought you were afraid of snakes,” Mike needled.
Adam shrugged off the reminder. “That was when I was little.”
Mike rolled his eyes at Duffy. “He’s a real giant now,” he said under his breath.
Adam socked him on the shoulder.
Duffy caught his hand and reminded, “Hey! No hitting, remember? And no giving Grandpa any trouble while I’m gone. He’s getting older and he can’t chase you down or climb trees to get you when you’ve gone too high.”
“If we’re perfect,” Mike bargained, “can we go to Disney World before summer’s over?”
They’d talked about that a few times during the year, and though Duffy had made no promises, it was on his agenda.
“You think you can be perfect?” Duffy teased Mike.
Mike nodded, then qualified that with his head tilted in Adam’s direction. “But I’m not sure he can do it.”
“I can, too!” Adam raised a fist to punch him again, then at Duffy’s expression, thought better of it and withdrew it. “What is perfect?”
“It means really, really good,” Mike informed him. “No mistakes.”
Duffy lifted Adam onto his hip and let Mike drag his overnight bag toward the stairs. “Perfect’s a little hard to strive for. Just listen to Grandpa, stay in the yard like you’re supposed to, unless Grandpa says it’s okay to go next door, and eat your vegetables.”
Adam made another face as they started down the stairs. “What if Grandpa makes eggplant like Desiree does sometimes?”
“I’ll ask him not to.” Duffy turned to Mike, who struggled with the bag. “Want me to take that?”
Mike shook his head. “I got it, Dad.”
Duffy watched Mike with love and pride, and thought as he had many times over the past three years, that taking him had been one of the best moves he’d ever made.
At the bottom of the stairs, Charlie took the bag from Mike.
“I’m flying you to Kennedy,” he said, “to meet an old CIA pal of Elliott’s who’s taking you to Paris. Elliott’s staying with the boys.”
“Tell him about the eggplant!” Adam whispered loudly in Duffy’s ear.
THE FOLLOWING DAY Duffy lay on his stomach in the grass at the top of a slope in the Pyrenees. A dozen gendarmes were ranged around him, looking down on the Basque camp in the meadow below. The air was sweet with wildflowers, the whispered sounds around him spoken in an unfamiliar language, and somewhere in that meadow, the woman who’d saved his life when she was a teenager waited for rescue. It if weren’t for the glare in his eyes and the itch of grass and insects under his black sweater, he’d think this wasn’t real.
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