Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt
He’s sexy, Scottish, and too good to be true.
That’s the problem.
David Crogan’s got the voice, the looks, the charm, and he
loves to read. Mossy Creek librarian Hannah Longstreet can’t resist that
combination, though it’s the first time in years this single mom has let her
guard down. She allows herself to be romanced by the handsome, if mysterious,
photographer, who’s in town for a few weeks to photograph Mossy Creek’s
colorful people and places. But just when she’s about to toss all caution to
the wind, she finds out who he really is. And his real purpose will break her
Sabrina Jeffries is the NYT bestselling
author of 36 novels and 9 works of short fiction (some written under the
pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas). Whatever time not spent
writing in a coffee-fueled haze of dreams and madness is spent traveling with
her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions--jigsaw
puzzles, chocolate, and music. With over 7 million books in print in 18
different languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a
budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction, and hopes
that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world. She always dreams
"HE’S HEADED THIS way, Mrs. Longstreet,”
my intern Linda Polk announced from the glass front door, which she was
supposed to be cleaning. "He’s, like, three blocks away now.”
I scowled at her from behind the
circulation desk. "He who?”
"You know who.” Linda faced me with a
self-satisfied smile. "Mr. Crogan has a thing for you, you know. That’s why he
comes here after he’s done for the day.”
"He comes here because he likes to
read,” I said firmly as I keyed in an interlibrary loan request and tried to
ignore the silly skip in my pulse. "He comes here because there’s little else
to do in Mossy Creek at night at the Hamilton House Inn. To my knowledge, it
doesn’t have cable.”
"He could go to the movies down in
Bigelow. Or watch a basketball game on the big-screen TV at O’ Day’s Pub.
Shoot, he could even read in his room, instead of hanging out here whenever
you’re working. Or hadn’t you noticed?”
Of course I
had. Every night for the past three weeks, the New York photographer had
entered the library precisely at sunset, like some reverse vampire who hid when
the sun went down. He’d chosen a book, lounged on the couch to read it, and
then checked it out right before closing. I could only assume he finished it
back at the inn, since he always returned it the next night promptly at sunset.
"Maybe he doesn’t find his room comfortable.”
snorted. "He’s got 101, the biggest suite in the whole hotel.”
been to his room?” I exclaimed, thoroughly shocked.
shot me a superior glance. "Katie Bell told me.”
columnist at the Mossy Creek Gazette, was definitely the person to go to
for gossip. "I see.” I worked hard to sound nonchalant. "And I suppose she told
you plenty of other information about Mr. Crogan.”
no fool. With a little smirk, she sprayed cleaner on the door. "Maybe.”
said nothing more, I gritted my teeth to keep from begging.
moment, Linda cut her eyes at me. "Mr. Crogan is a hottie, don’t you think?”
And I lusted after every lanky, dusky-skinned inch of him.
mortifying. Mothers of middle-school children were supposed to limit their
lusting to the latest Kenmore appliances and brand-new Beemers, not
photographers with gymnast physiques. Which was why I wasn’t about to admit my
weakness to Linda.
that my eleven-year-old, Rachel, had also been on my case lately about starting
to date again. Just tonight, she’d ragged me so hard I’d had to banish her to
the break room, where I knew she’d get engrossed in playing computer games on
my laptop. Valentine’s Day was fast approaching, and it was infecting every
female in sight, even my daughter.
That was my
only explanation for why she was so adamant about pairing me off. All right, so
her dad had been dead for over eight years, and I was a bit too
prone to bury myself in my work, but that didn’t mean I was itching to find
another mate. Between my work at the library and my determination to maintain a
safe and comfortable home for my clumsy daughter, who had time to date?
Too bad I
couldn’t say that to Rachel. Or Linda, for that matter. "Don’t you leave at
five?” I told my intern irritably.
cleaner aside, Linda planted her elbows on the circulation desk. "Katie Bell
says she’s pretty sure Mr. Crogan isn’t married. He doesn’t wear a ring.”
matter. A man like that has to have a girlfriend somewhere.” Probably several,
all of them young and buxom photographer’s models. Why should he even look at a
modestly proportioned librarian, even one who kept in shape with biweekly
found out that he’s in town taking stock photos.”
that already. I just didn’t believe it. Sure, he did spend from dawn to dusk
snapping shots of people and fields and even our famous Sitting Tree, but he
did it with a large format camera. I’d read enough to know that most
photographers these days had gone digital. Hardly anybody used
ten-thousand-dollar Hasselblads with massive tripods and actual film that had
to be Fed-Exed to some lab for dark room printing.
Googled his name, along with the words photographer and Hasselblad,
but if there were any professional photographers named David Crogan, Google
couldn’t find them. That alone made me suspicious. Not to mention even more
"How old do
you think he is?” Linda asked.
begin to speculate.” I’d heard guesses anywhere from twenty-five to
thirty-five. I prayed it was the upper end, because the idea of my lusting
after a guy more than ten years my junior was worrisome in light of the gossip-fest
that erupted when our fiftyish mayor and thirty-fiveish police chief were
caught kissing last month.
don’t think it matters.” Linda surveyed me up and down. "You’re really pretty,
you know, even with the glasses and the khakis. And I bet that if you asked
Jasmine Beleau, she’d be happy to give you a few tips on—”
but I’m not looking for a makeover just now.”
swung open, and we both froze as the object of our speculation entered.
Blessedly oblivious to Linda’s not-so-subtle wink in my direction, he
approached the circulation desk and slid a copy of Poul Anderson’s Time
Patrol into the Return Books slot.
evening, Mr. Crogan,” Linda chirped.
Miss Polk,” he answered in his deep, whiskey-rough Scottish brogue. Then he
acknowledged me with a nod. "Mrs. Longstreet. I hope you’re well this evening.”
thank you,” I said in my professional librarian’s voice.
my knees were going weak. I admit it—I’m no different from any other American
female. I’m a complete sucker for a British accent. Make it Scottish, and you
might as well douse the guy in pheromones. It even trumped the red-brown
dreadlocks he wore tied back with a strip of black leather.
interlibrary loan copy of The Smoke Ring come in?” he paused to ask.
"Not yet. I
suppose you’ve read the rest of our Nivens?”
made his unusual grey eyes gleam like freshly polished silver. "You ought to
know the answer to that. You’re the one who introduced me to his works.”
winking was practically a twitch now, which I determinedly ignored. "I’m sorry
we don’t have more of his. But you could always try something other than hard
science fiction. Perhaps some Terry Brooks?”
but fantasy isn’t my cup of tea.” He pronounced cup as "coop.” He leaned one
leather-jacketed arm on the front desk in a move that curled my toes like raw
potato chips hitting hot oil, then added, "Don’t worry about it, luv. There’s a
Heinlein over there I haven’t read in a long while.”
Luv. I turned to mush. Or moosh, as he would
probably say it.
photography going?” Linda asked before he could leave the desk.
up tighter than a book with new binding. "Pretty well,” he said tersely. "The
light was good today.” Then shoving away from the desk, he headed off to his
usual spot on the worn couch in the reading area.
"Thatwas rude,” Linda muttered under her breath.
like talking about his work.” And I should know, since I’d tried questioning
him about it a few times. Invariably it got me the cold shoulder, though he was
more than happy to discuss books and art and music.
mysterious man, our Mr. Crogan. Unfortunately, that did nothing to subdue my
I’d better go,” Linda said, handing the window cleaner over the desk. "Sorry I
can’t stay until closing tonight.”
problem. The place is practically deserted anyway.”
was fine by me. To tell the truth, I preferred the library to just about
anywhere else in town, especially when I had Rachel with me. It was safe and
bright and blessedly devoid of sharp objects, so I never had to worry about her
getting hurt. Knocking stuff off shelves, yes, but not getting herself hurt.
after Linda headed out, the front door opened again, and Mossy Creek police
officer Sandy Crane hurried in, towing a thin blond woman whose wan cheeks
showed the strain of late nights and long hours. "You haven’t changed your mind
about taking in one of the Cirque d’Europa people, right?”
my groan. I’d completely forgotten about our phone conversation earlier. "Of
course not.” I managed a smile for the thin woman, who returned it tentatively.
"Rachel said she’ll give up her room and sleep with me for as long as
Sandy turned to the woman. "This is Mrs. Longstreet. You’ll be staying with her
Yes,” the woman said.
frowned. "No, Rachel is her daughter. This is—”
corrected her, wanting to put the woman at ease. "Call me Hannah.”
The woman looked confused.
cell rang, and she answered it. "Yes, Chief. I’m headed over there now.”
pocketed the phone, she glanced at me. "Gotta go. This lady’s name is Monique
Laplante. That’s about all I can tell you.”
Too late. Sandy had already sprinted out the door, leaving me with a circus
performer who was starting to look a little panicked.
leave until closing,” I explained to Monique, "but until then you’re free to
read or use one of the terminals to check your e-mail.” I noticed Mr. Crogan
listening in on the conversation as the woman just stared at me. "Are you hungry?
Have you had anything to eat?”
quivered. "Parlez-vous Francais?”
sank. Sandy had conveniently neglected to mention that the woman didn’t speak
parle Francais,” said Mr. Crogan, unfolding his angular body from where it
was sprawled on the couch.
French?” I said as he headed for us. "You told me you were born and raised in
my mother was originally from Burundi, where French is the state language. I
grew up bilingual.”
"I grew up
uni-lingual, I’m afraid. Would you mind telling Ms. Laplante that she’s staying
with me and my daughter?”
your daughter and... er... your husband?”
It had never occurred to me that Mr. Crogan might not know I was a widow. "My
husband passed away some years ago.”
said with what I would have sworn was relief. "I wasn’t sure.”
that he didn’t say he was sorry, as if it could possibly be his fault. I never
knew how to answer people who did. Luke’s aneurysm wasn’t anybody’s fault...
not even Luke’s.
I lifted my
left hand and wiggled my fingers. "No ring. I guess you didn’t notice.”
noticed. But divorced women don’t usually go by Mrs. these days and you’re so
young to be a widow that—” He halted, as if realizing he’d just revealed how
thoroughly he’d considered the matter. "Anyway...” he
mumbled, and abruptly turned to Monique.
something in French, and she nodded vigorously, casting me a shy smile as she
to call her Monique,” Mr. Crogan explained.
ask if she’s eaten?”
conversation ensued between him and the Frenchwoman, in which the only words I
picked out were "McDonald’s” and "café.”
turned to me. "It seems she and her companions stopped for a bit of lunch, but
the poor lass has had no more than coffee since then.”
do.” I gestured toward the back of the library. "There’s yogurt in the
refrigerator in the break room. That might hold her until the library closes.
Rachel’s back there—she can show you where I keep the potato chips.”
an eyebrow. "Potato chips and yogurt? Quite the interesting diet you have
there, Mrs. Longstreet.”
chips are for Rachel.”
story.” His eyes glinted with mischief. "Are you sure you don’t dip them in
yogurt whenever no one’s looking?”
Oh my God,
he was flirting with me. Wasn’t he?
to keep my tone light. "Hey, the only weird food I will admit to is my dad’s
toasted peanut butter and ketchup sandwiches.”
"They’re not as bad as you’d think. Besides, don’t you Scots eat haggis and
haggis and kippers are delicious, something you’d realize if you ever tried
them. In fact—” He cast me a challenging glance. "We should do more than
speculate about our respective cuisines. If you’ll agree to try kippers, I’ll
agree to try your horrible sandwiches.”
on,” I said blithely.
expected to have to do a bit more convincing.”
"You’ll never find kippers in Mossy Creek.”
devilish grin transforming his dusky features gave me pause. "I wouldn’t lay
odds on that if I were you.” He lifted one eyebrow. "So it’s a date, is it?”
began to pound. "Sure. A food-tasting date.”
forget,” he said, then winked as he led Monique to the back of the library.
had winked at me. And flirted. And asked me out on a date. Well, a sort of
I wiped my
clammy hands on my slacks. I must be out of my mind. He was in town
temporarily. Nothing could come of this.
photographers can live anywhere.
That line of thinking was dangerous. And here I’d thought that the library was
safe—apparently sharp objects came in more than one guise.
next hour or so, I tried not to feel left out as sounds of a party going on in
the break room wafted out to me. My daughter’s high-pitched Southern accent
mingled with the low rumble of Mr. Crogan’s Scots English, which was
interrupted by bursts of melodious French in both his and Monique’s voices. It
was like listening to a multi-national orchestra from outside the auditorium.
didn’t dare leave my post. Someone had to man the desk. Besides, I had work to
thing, I had to Google "David Crogan” and the word kippers.Unfortunately, that led me in every direction except the one that told me more
about my mysterious photographer.
sigh, I glanced at the clock. Almost closing time, thank God. Remembering what
Linda had said about a makeover, I whipped out my compact and put on the
lipstick I rarely used, then finger-combed my spiky blond hair.
suddenly dashed from the break room. As I whisked my makeup away, Rachel
stumbled over a chair, reeled toward a bookshelf, then caught herself before
she sent books flying. She finished off by rushing breathlessly up to the desk.
"Mom, did you know Mr. Crogan’s dad is Scottish?”
"Is he?” I
said, trying to sound cool and professional as he and Monique emerged from my
office behind Rachel.
Ms. Laplante is from Provence. Isn’t that cool?”
Rachel askance. "Do you even know where Provence is?”
but it sounds really pretty. Mr. Crogan shot pictures there for a month, and he
told me all about it.”
Something else to Google with his name.
I winced as
I glanced over to where he chatted in French with Monique. The man was turning
me into a cyber-stalker. "I hope you had Mr. Crogan explain to Ms. Laplante
that our house will be nothing like Provence.”
heard me and smiled. "She won’t care—she’s grateful for the place to stay. They
feared they’d have to spend the night on the tour bus.”
Laplante is a knife-thrower,” Rachel exclaimed, fairly bouncing on her toes at
the prospect of having a circus performer in our house. "She says she’ll show
me how to throw knives, too.”
I stifled a groan at the thought of my clumsy daughter sending any kind of
missile flying through the air, much less one with a bladed edge.
"And I told
Mr. Crogan that he has to come home with us for dinner,” Rachel added, "so he
can explain things to Ms. Laplante in French.”
snagged in my throat before I got hold of myself. "Now, Rachel, I’m sure Mr.
Crogan has better things to do this evening than spend it interpreting for us.”
he broke in, the burr of his brogue humming along my senses, "I’m happy to work
for my supper. Though I do hope you’re serving something more traditional than
peanut butter and ketchup sandwiches.”
"You eat pb-and-k
sandwiches, too?” Rachel exclaimed. "Cool! Mom, now you have to make—”
having pizza, Rachel, and that’s final. Why don’t you show Ms. Laplante to the
car while I close up and talk to Mr. Crogan for a second?”
As soon as
my daughter had tugged Monique out the door, I turned to the photographer. "Pay
no attention to my daughter. She’s always eager to impose on people, and I
don’t want you to feel as if you have to indulge her, Mr. Crogan.”
And call me Dave. Please.”
went dry. "All right. But only if you call me Hannah.”
dazzled me. "The name suits you.”
I said inanely, feeling as if I were thirteen again and sitting tongue-tied
while Bobby Jackson, the most popular boy in school, asked me the time in study
I’d be the one imposing. Much as I enjoy Rosie’s fried chicken, I’m ready for a
change. I’ll even pay for the pizza.”
drew myself up with a mock sniff. "I’ll have you know, sir, that we make our
pizza from scratch.”
be joking. No one does that anymore.”
admitted, "we don’t have any choice. Domino’s doesn’t exactly carry the
ingredients we like to eat.”
"Please say you don’t make them with peanut butter and tomato sauce.”
worry,” I teased. "You can always order the standard old boring pizza if you
don’t like our version. But you will like it, I promise.”
he echoed, obviously skeptical.