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Excerpt of Way Of The Wolf by Rebecca Daniels

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Montana Mavericks #7
Silhouette Special
February 2010
On Sale: February 1, 2010
Featuring: Raeanne Martin; Rafe "Wolf Boy" Rawlings
182 pages
ISBN: 0373310293
EAN: 9780373310296
Mass Market Paperback (reprint)
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Romance

Also by Rebecca Daniels:

Way Of The Wolf, February 2010
Mass Market Paperback (reprint)

Excerpt of Way Of The Wolf by Rebecca Daniels

"Looks like you got your man this time, huh, Wolf Boy?" Detective Sergeant Rafe Rawlings stopped when he heard the familiar nickname and felt the strong tug on his jacket sleeve. He cringed, however, when he turned and found himself snared in Lily Mae Wheeler's iron grip. She smiled up at him, but Rafe remembered all too well the times he'd been victim of her vicious gossip.

"That's up to the jury to decide, Mrs. Wheeler. Will you excuse me, please?" he said politely, pulling the sleeve of his corduroy jacket free of her hold as tactfully as possible. "I've got to keep moving."

Rafe continued pushing his way through the crowd of spectators that lined the courthouse corridor. He didn't have time for idle chitchat—especially not with a meddlesome busybody like Lily Mae. He had more pressing things on his mind at the moment—like trying to stay as far from Raeanne Martin as he could. But he knew that wouldn't be easy. They would be sitting on opposite sides of the courtroom, but as far as he was concerned, that wasn't far enough.

Seven years ago, he had stood on the platform of the Whitehorn bus station and watched a shiny silver Greyhound carry her out of town and out of his life. She'd left for California, for law school and for a new life that didn't include him and he'd never expected to see her again. But three months ago, all that had changed. She was back now—looking stronger, more confident and more beautiful than ever. He'd had seven years to get her out of his system—to forget how smooth her skin felt, how soft her voice sounded. Seven long, torturous years to forget just how much he'd loved her.

"Hello, Detective Rawlings."

Rafe glanced down, surprised to find Whitehorn's demure and very proper, town librarian, Mary Jo Plumber Kincaid, standing in the crowd beside him.

"Hello, Mrs. Kincaid," he said, inwardly cursing his luck. He wasn't any more interested in small talk than he was in gossip, but the crowded corridor made it impossible to judiciously escape. Forcing himself to smile, he gave her a tiny, polite bow of the head. "I wouldn't have thought you'd be interested in all of this."

Mary Jo smiled, her cheeks blushing prettily. "Well, I might be relatively new to Whitehorn, but I'm interested in everything that happens in my community. And my husband, Dugin, has told me about Charlie Avery and all the stories about him. He worked by my husband's ranch when he died, you know."

Rafe smiled. "Yes, I'm aware of that."

The color in Mary Jo's cheeks deepened. "Of course, you would be."As they moved with the crowd for a few steps, the smile on Mary Jo's face faded. "Uh, Detective Rawlings?"

"Yes?"

"I met him once—Ethan Walker, that is—in the library."

"I see."

"And I must say, he frightened me," she confessed, twisting the handle on her purse.

"Well, you don't need to be afraid any longer, Mrs. Kincaid," he said, noticing how the muscle near her jaw clenched tight. "Walker's not going to be able to hurt anyone else again."

"But he's… he's never confessed, has he?"

"No, that's true."

"But you think he'll be convicted anyway?"

"That's what the district attorney seems to think, Mrs. Kincaid."

"Oh, I hope so," she said with a shudder. "The thought of someone like him on the loose…" She thought for a moment, then looked up at him. "This Miss Martin, though—Raeanne Martin, his lawyer? I hear she's very good. You aren't concerned she might… well, you know, get him off?"

Rafe's dark eyes narrowed, marveling at the depth of still waters. In a million years, he wouldn't have suspected that this quiet, reserved librarian possessed such a peculiar interest, or such a morbid concern. "I think the prosecution has a strong case," he said diplomatically. "And the rest, I'm afraid, is up to the jury."

"Yes, well, of course you're right," she said, slipping the handle of her handbag over her arm.

Mary Jo stepped quietly aside and watched Rafe as newly hired Journal reporter Sandra Wilson rushed up to interview him. Handsome, she thought as she listened to Rafe deftly avoid the reporter's questions, and smart, too.

Her mind wandered back in time and a sly smile curved the corners of her pink lips upward. Handsome and smart, she mused, pleased. Certainly not traits he'd inherited from his father. But she didn't have to worry about him any more. Ethan Walker was the one that she had to be concerned about now. She thought of the man who stood accused of murder. Would he tell all he knew before the trial was over? She didn't think so. No man was ever anxious to admit he'd been made a fool of.

Ah, Mary Jo thought to herself with her smile widening, the male ego. What would she do without it? With flattery a man was putty in your hands. Add a little bit of blackmail and he would do anything you wanted.

"Okay," Sandra said with a frustrated sigh. "If you don't want to comment on the trial, what about Raeanne Martin's return to Whitehorn? How does it feel going up against an old friend? What kind of job do you think she might do?"

"Sorry, Sandy—" Rafe began.

"Don't tell me," she said, interrupting him with a shake of the head. Taking a deep breath, she joined him as he told her, "No comment!"

Rafe almost smiled, but then he spotted a sudden gap in the crowd. In one smooth motion, he made his move. "Ladies, I'm sorry," he said quickly as he stepped through the momentary break. "I really have to go. Excuse me."

Almost instantly, the crowd swallowed him up and he breathed a sigh of relief. He walked quickly, not anxious to be stopped again by any more reporters or curious spectators. The last thing he wanted was more idle chitchat—

or to be asked to comment to the press on his thoughts concerning Raeanne Martin's return. Besides, if he was to say what he really felt about Raeanne's moving back to White-horn, it would no doubt make headlines.

Damn—why did she have to come back? Why couldn't she just have stayed in L.A., stayed out of his life once and for all? After seven years, he'd managed to convince himself he was over her, but that hadn't made the past three months any easier.

He wasn't sure if it was some perverse act of providence, or just plain bad luck, that Raeanne Martin had been appointed defense counsel on this particular case. All he wanted was to stay out of her way, but as chief investigator for the prosecution, he would have to be in court throughout the entire trial and that would make avoiding her a little tough.

When she first moved back to town, he'd managed to keep their meetings to a minimum—short, casual encounters, impersonal and unimportant. He would have liked to avoid her completely, but that had been impossible. For all its big-city problems and urban sprawl, Whitehorn was still a small town and they were, after all, old friends. They had known each other since they were kids and to ignore her completely would have set too many tongues wagging. Everyone in town knew there was a history between them. They all knew Raeanne Martin had married his best friend.

Rafe stepped into the jammed courtroom. The spectators' section was nearly filled to capacity and the center aisle was packed. Of course, he wasn't surprised by the mob. The publicity about the trail had been building for weeks and it was only natural that all of Whitehorn wanted to be there to hear every grisly detail. Not that he blamed them, exactly. It wasn't every day that one of the town's most puzzling mysteries was solved.

Rafe had to admit that being called upon to investigate a homicide twenty-seven years after the fact wasn't exactly routine. He'd been found abandoned soon after Charlie Avery disappeared, over a quarter century ago, but he'd grown up hearing the rumors about it. Married, with two young children, Avery had hardly seemed the type to abandon his family and take off without a trace. But when week after week passed and no body turned up, no crime was uncovered, the rumors had begun to fly. There had been talk of drinking and bar brawls, of rowdy feuds and womanizing. For the next twenty-seven years, the folks around Whitehorn had speculated on what—or who—had caused Charlie Avery to desert his wife and children.

But nine months ago a horrifying discovery had been made and the community was still reeling from its effects. Human remains unearthed on the Laughing Horse Indian Reservation outside of town had later been determined to be Charlie's. Suddenly, a longtime missing persons case had become an unsolved homicide.

Assigned by Sheriff Hensley to the nearly impossible task of finding a killer almost thirty years after the crime, Rafe had discovered, to his surprise, that even though the trail to the murderer was an old one, it was far from cold. While it had been obvious that the killer had taken care to hide his tracks, there had been physical evidence found at the scene.

Near where a broken lipstick container and compact case had been discovered, a battered and badly tarnished Whitehorn High School class ring had been found. Of course, it had been impossible to trace the lipstick and compact, but the class ring had revealed a great deal. Engraved on the inside of the ring were the letters E.W., and after meticulous probing through school archives and a careful process of elimination, that had led him directly to Ethan Walker.

But while the ring was damning, it hadn't been enough for an arrest. Still, it had placed Walker at the top of the list of suspects. A hotheaded teenager at the time of Avery's disappearance, Walker had been known for his explosive nature and the two men had a history. Avery had accused the Walkers more than once of rustling cattle from the Kincaid ranch and that had enraged Ethan. Rafe had interviewed a dozen or so witnesses who remembered seeing the two men arguing violently in the weeks before Avery's disappearance.

But it had only been after private investigator Nick Dean, whom Charlie's daughter Melissa had hired to investigate her father's death, helped trace the explosive used to bomb Dean's car to a lot purchased by Walker, that Rafe had the proof he'd needed. Ethan Walker was their killer.

And now, twenty-seven years after his death, Charlie Avery was about to exact his revenge. Ethan Walker was on trial for his life and the only thing that stood between him and the gallows was Raeanne Martin.

Rafe's thoughts turned again to Raeanne. She was a public defender now, but that hardly surprised him. She'd been defending the underdog since they were both in Mrs. Whitney's fourth-grade class. Only he'd been her underdog back then—the poor Wolf Boy all the kids feared and teased and ran away from. But Raeanne had never been afraid, had never feared Wolf Boy as the others did.

She had stuck up for him, had fiercely defended him against the others when they'd teased and taunted.

Now she would do the same for Walker. She would plead his case before the jury, make an ardent and impassioned argument before the court. Only this time Rafe was determined to see that argument fail. For as far as he was concerned, Ethan Walker was a murderer and he was going to hang.

Rafe made his way down the center aisle of the courtroom. He thought again of the quirky twist of fate that had brought him to this point. Solving the Avery case and delivering Ethan Walker to justice after nearly thirty years had been quite a coup for him. But victory never seemed to come without a price and his was going to be a big one. Seeing Raeanne in court every day wasn't going to be easy. It would mean being on a collision course with the past—a past he'd worked to forget.

"Well, here goes nothing."

Startled, Rafe looked up. Resting in a heavy wooden chair at one of the two counsel tables at the front of the courtroom sat Blue Lake County's district attorney, Harlan Collins.

"Nothing?" Rafe asked skeptically. He walked through the narrow gate in the railing that separated counsel from the spectators and took a chair beside the lawyer. "Don't you mean here goes something?"

"Actually, what I mean is here goes everything." Harlan took a deep breath and shook his head solemnly. "I tell you, I think my butterflies have butterflies."

Rafe smiled, the almost reluctant movement breaking the rigid line of his jaw. The two men had worked closely together in the past few months—Rafe as chief investigator and Harlan as chief prosecutor—and Rafe had come to have a grudging respect for the portly prosecutor. Rafe found his courtly, easygoing manner refreshing and had soon learned it masked a quick wit and a razor-sharp mind. But Harlan looked anything but easygoing this morning and that only made Rafe's smile widen.

"Now, don't tell me you're nervous," he said, nodding toward the stack of files piled on the table in front of them. "You look like you came armed for bear."

"Oh, I'm quite prepared," Harlan assured him, making a face. "But you never quite get over the jitters." Glancing back, he motioned toward the line of people filtering into the seats behind them. "And I could have done without the crowd. Nothing like having the entire community in attendance to watch you fall on your face."

"Well, you knew this would have them coming out of the woodwork," Rafe pointed out. "Let's face it, you can't solve a case that's kept tongues wagging around here for nearly thirty years without people being a little curious."

"I know, I know," Harlan conceded. "But did the whole damn town have to show up? The mayor's here, for God's sake and practically the entire city council. I saw you talking to Mary Jo Kincaid. She didn't even live in White-horn when Charlie Avery disappeared. What possible interest could she have in this case?"

Rafe looked back through the crowd to see Mary Jo, sitting in one of the middle rows, just behind the victim's family. He acknowledged her smile and wave with a slight nod of his head. Still waters, he thought, remembering her curiosity. "I don't know. Maybe she wants to write a book or something, or—" He stopped and turned back to Harlan, seeing the tension in his face and smiling again.

"Or maybe she's just got a thing for prosecutors…old prosecutors."

"I think the word you're looking for is mature." Harlan gave his bushy gray mustache an indignant twist. "And you're not helping."

"Sorry," Rafe said with a laugh, swinging around in his chair to face the front of the courtroom.

Excerpt from Way Of The Wolf by Rebecca Daniels
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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