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Summer reading in July you need to start

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Can a fairy garden shop owner and her sleuth fairy sidekick solve this murder?


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Someone in London is cooking up murder


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Sometimes the biggest emotional risk reaps the best romantic reward


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A riveting new novel about family, secrets, and a woman ready to embrace who she really is by facing down her past.


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Now in paperback! New York Times bestseller Cleo Coyle's "delightfully twisty" Coffeehouse Mystery


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The Demon Hunters are about to face their biggest test, and theyll need a lady to make the grade


Excerpt of Morgan's Mercenaries: Heart of the Jaguar by Lindsay McKenna

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Silhouette Special Releases
May 2006
On Sale: May 1, 2006
Featuring: Ann Parsons; Mike Houston
256 pages
ISBN: 0373470576
EAN: 9781426837234
Kindle: B0028OLE2O
Paperback / e-Book (reprint)
Add to Wish List

Romance Suspense

Also by Lindsay McKenna:

Strength Under Fire, October 2021
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
A Soldier's Mission, July 2021
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Courage Under Fire, March 2021
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Silver Creek Fire, November 2020
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Wind River Undercover, April 2020
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Wind River Protector, August 2019
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Marrying My Cowboy, April 2019
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Home to Wind River, December 2018
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Wind River Lawman, September 2018
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Lone Rider, April 2018
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Wrangler's Challenge, November 2017
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Christmas with My Cowboy, October 2017
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Trapped, July 2017
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Dream of Me, June 2017
e-Book
Wind River Cowboy, April 2017
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Never Enough, March 2017
e-Book
Snowflake's Gift, February 2017
e-Book
Wind River Rancher, January 2017
Paperback / e-Book
Secrets, December 2016
e-Book
Wind River Wrangler, November 2016
Paperback / e-Book
Unbound Pursuit, October 2016
e-Book
Hold On, August 2016
e-Book
Secret Dream, August 2016
e-Book
Blind Sided, May 2016
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Out Rider, May 2016
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Cowboy Justice, April 2016
e-Book
Saved by a SEAL, February 2016
e-Book
Ranchers and Cowboys Collection, February 2016
e-Book
Night Hawk, January 2016
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Broken Dreams, January 2016
e-Book
Forged in Fire, December 2015
e-Book
Tangled Pursuit, November 2015
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Nowhere to Hide, October 2015
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Last Chance, July 2015
e-Book
Course of Action: Crossfire, June 2015
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Running Fire, May 2015
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On Fire, March 2015
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Taking Fire, March 2015
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Zone of Fire, February 2015
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Wolf Haven, December 2014
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Coming Home For Christmas, November 2014
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Heart of the Eagle, September 2014
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Course Of Action: The Rescue, September 2014
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Solitaire, September 2014
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A Measure of Love, September 2014
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Never Surrender, July 2014
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Breaking Point, May 2014
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Wilderness Passion, April 2014
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Touch the Heavens, April 2014
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Too Near the Fire, April 2014
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Texas Wildcat, April 2014
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Point of Departure, April 2014
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My Only One, April 2014
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Degree of Risk, March 2014
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King of Swords, February 2014
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Brave Heart, February 2014
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Sun Woman, February 2014
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Lord of Shadowhawk, February 2014
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Risk Taker, February 2014
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Love Me Before Dawn, January 2014
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Heart of the Tiger, January 2014
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Come Gentle the Dawn, January 2014
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Chase the Clouds, January 2014
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Captive of Fate, January 2014
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Down Range, December 2013
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Course of Action, November 2013
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A Proposal for Christmas, September 2013
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High Country Rebel, September 2013
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Torrid Nights, September 2013
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When Tomorrow Comes, September 2013
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Night Flight, September 2013
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Untamed Desire, September 2013
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On Wings of Passion, September 2013
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Hostage Heart, September 2013
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Danger Close, September 2013
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Beginning With You, September 2013
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A Chance Encounter, September 2013
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The Loner, July 2013
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Beyond Valor, February 2013
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The Defender, November 2012
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The Wrangler, July 2012
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His Duty to Protect, February 2012
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The Last Cowboy, November 2011
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Deadly Silence, June 2011
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Operation Forbidden, March 2011
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Deadly Identity, December 2010
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Guardian, June 2010
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The Adversary, May 2010
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Reunion, April 2010
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His Woman In Command, March 2010
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Shadows From The Past, December 2009
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The Seeker, August 2009
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Dangerous Prey, December 2008
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Mission: Christmas, November 2008
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Come Gentle The Dawn, June 2008
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The Quest, February 2008
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Snowbound, January 2008
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Heart Of The Storm, December 2007
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Dark Truth, July 2007
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White Wolf, June 2007
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Heart of the Eagle, June 2007
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Her Healing Touch, June 2007
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Commando, June 2007
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Beyond the Limit, December 2006
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Unforgiven, October 2006
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Hangar 13, September 2006
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Morgan's Mercenaries: Heart of the Jaguar, May 2006
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Morgan's Mercenaries: Heart of Stone, March 2006
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Morgan's Mercenaries: Heart of the Warrior, March 2006
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Morgan's Mercenaries: Man of Passion, March 2006
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Silent Witness, December 2005
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Wild Woman, April 2005
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Snowy Nights, November 2003
Trade Size

Excerpt of Morgan's Mercenaries: Heart of the Jaguar by Lindsay McKenna

"Mike? Mike, it's time to get up!"

Groaning, Houston turned on his side, jamming his face into the feather pillow. Damn, he thought groggily, he'd had that nightmare again. A flashback really, the same one he'd had a hundred times before...

"Mike?"

"Uh, yeah...I'm awake...." he muttered.

Where was he? Rolling over, he forced his eyes open. The plain timbers of the Santa Fe architecture of the room met his eyes, reminding him he was no longer in the jungle. The sounds were different here. He heard the crow of a nearby rooster and the soft snort of some horses in a corral. As he blinked the sleep out of his eyes, he heard the lowing of cattle, too. Oh yeah, he remembered suddenly. He was staying at the Donovan Ranch near Sedona, Arizona. Helluva long way from his normal digs.

He shoved himself upright in the old brass bed, the covers falling away to expose his naked chest and upper body. When he got the chance, he never slept with clothes on — even pajamas — preferring nakedness instead. All too often in his work he had to sleep in his fatigues, ready to leap up and start moving at a moment's notice. In fact, sleeping in a bed was a luxury for him.

Savagely rubbing his face to wake up, Mike felt the stiff prickle of beard beneath his fingers. He'd had that post- traumatic-stress-disorder dream again, reminding him of who he really was, of what made him different from other men, other human beings. Scowling, he shook his head and sent the fragments of memory back into the depths of that cauldron, his subconscious. More like Pandora's box with an ugly twist, he thought with a sleepy grin.

What time is it? he wondered, shoving his feet from beneath the covers and placing them on the cool cedar floor. The clock on his bed stand said 0800.

Dr. Ann Parsons had called him from the next room, he realized belatedly. The alarm clock must have gone off and he hadn't heard it. Damn. He'd promised Morgan Trayhern that he'd meet him at 0800 to get the details of his next mission. Grunting, Mike launched himself out of bed and stretched. He liked the feeling of each group of muscles in his body bunching, stretching and relaxing. Arcing his arms over his head, he closed his eyes and appreciated his physical strength. It was one helluva body, one that had more scars on it, had taken more blows and survived more than most.

Exhaling loudly, he ran his fingers through his military short, dark hair and headed to the bathroom that adjoined his room. As he padded across the pale gold floor, he remembered his nightmare. A smile cut across his thinned lips as he opened the door to the shower and turned it on. Nine years had passed since that incident in the jungle, and at thirty-five years of age, he still dreamed about that miraculous, life-changing event.

As he stepped into the pummeling stream of hot water for his morning shower — another luxury — the steam roiled in clouds around him reminding him of the endless twisting clouds that haunted the jungles of South America. He grabbed the soap and began to briskly wash himself. There was nothing like a hot shower to get the blood flowing and wake him up. For the first hour of the morning Houston was a bear of sorts, until he was fully awake and had poured a cup of good, black espresso down his gullet. Then and only then was he human and not growling or snarling at everyone. Mike had a reputation of being a grizzly in the morning.

Soaping his left arm, he blinked away the water running in rivulets across his face. Grinning, he studied the burn scars on his darkly haired arm, reminding him of his escape from the flaming copter that had been shot down. Various white scars from shrapnel that had exploded from the craft after it had crashed were also visible reminders of that day he'd faced death and won.

But he no longer saw a tuft of gold fur with black crescents across it. Scrubbing his arm, Mike turned his face into the stream of hot water. That old shaman from the village, Grandfather Adaire, had informed him that Mike's guardian had guided him to rescue Mike and care for him. It took nearly a week of rest in that remote jungle village known as the Village of the Clouds before Houston had been in any shape to decide whether he wanted to live or not.

Mike recalled how his men at the military barracks just outside of Lima called him El Jaguar, or the jaguar god — the man who had returned from the dead. Jaguars were believed to be the only animal able to do that, according to legends about them that abounded throughout South America. Everyone had thought Mike died with the other men of his squad in that crash. But he hadn't. And he never told anyone of his strange adventure through life, death and life again. They'd have called him loco — crazy. No one would ever know the truth of what had really happened out there.

Only that old shaman, his white hair sticking out around his head like a hen's nest, seemed to know exactly what had happened. Mike had been too weak to question him. Inca, the young Indian girl from Brazil with the willow green eyes and long black hair, had fed him nourishing soup, kept him warm and tended him hourly in a hut near the shaman's dwelling in the village. For that entire week, Inca had cared for him like he was a newborn baby. She was only eighteen years old, an orphan who had been adopted by Adaire and his wife, Alaria. Every time Adaire dropped by to see how well Mike was recovering, the old shaman would laugh the laugh of a man who knew an inside joke. Only Mike didn't know the joke and the shaman didn't seem particularly desirous of letting him in on it.

After washing his hair, Mike quickly rinsed, shut off the shower and climbed out. Rubbing himself briskly with a thick, white, terry-cloth towel, he reveled in the sensations it created across his goose-bump-covered flesh. Funny, but since that incident nine years earlier, he'd become far more aware of his body than ever before. He had walked away from his experience in the jungle with a sense of pleasure about his tall, strong physical form that he'd not had previous to his brush with death. Sometimes he felt like a great, giant cat stretching. And if he ran, he could feel the joy of blood pumping through him, the incredible power in his muscles. It was a euphoric sensation, one that he'd come to enjoy.

Hurrying through the rest of his morning duties, Mike quickly dressed in his camouflage fatigues, put his spotless, shining boots on and placed his beret in the left epaulet of his blouse. Taking one more look in the steamy mirror, he saw staring back at him a man who looked like one tough hombre, in his opinion. His blue eyes were large, though more often they were narrowed, focusing on something that would catch his wary attention. Tiny white scars stood out against his recently shaved jaw. The many lines at the corners of his eyes and the slash brackets on either side of his pursed mouth shouted of his military hardness. He was a major in Special Forces and damn proud of it. He'd survived thirteen long years in the Peruvian jungle, where life was often snuffed out in a heartbeat by vengeful drug lords.

Glancing at the watch on his hairy wrist, he realized he'd better get a move on. He'd just hurry out to the kitchen, grab his very necessary cup of espresso and gulp it down before meeting Morgan. And he was anxious to get to that meeting for another reason beside the fact that he was late. Though Mike had enjoyed the peace and quiet of this ranch, he had discovered other, greater benefits to staying there — such as spending time with the good doctor. Dr. Ann Parsons had been assigned to tend to Morgan and his wife's recovery, while Mike had been assigned to keep guard. And he certainly hadn't minded working with the pretty M.D.

Even better than seeing his boss today, Mike decided as he opened the door to his bedroom, he'd get to sit and look at Ann once more. Smiling to himself, he realized he was looking forward to that pleasure most of all. Even though she also worked for Morgan at Perseus, a high-level, supersecret government entity, he wouldn't see her after today. Houston wanted to take every opportunity to absorb her beauty before they parted ways. Sighing as he walked down the gleaming hallway, he knew he could easily fall in love with Ann. If he allowed himself to. The price that they'd pay, however, would be too high. Besides, his keen interest in her was only one-sided. Yes, they'd shared a number of heated, promising kisses over the last two months, but she wasn't really interested in him as much as he wished she were. Ann was afraid of commitment, Mike realized. Why, he didn't know.

The memory of her sweet, soft mouth beneath his made him go hot with yearning all over again. Ann enjoyed their stolen moments together, there was no doubt. So why did she keep pushing him away? He'd seen the desire in her thoughtful blue-gray eyes after one of their torrid, hungry kisses. Had felt her tremble deliciously in his arms. The hunger in her eyes went all the way through him. So what had stopped her every damn time? Mike was confused. He'd tried to get Ann to open up, to talk about it, but she wouldn't. It was like hitting a damn brick wall. But he didn't press Ann any longer. Because although this was the first time in a long time he found himself wanting a woman, being with Ann wasn't a game with him, either. Mike didn't see her as a one-night stand or someone to amuse himself with while he was here in Arizona. He, too, was wary of having a relationship and he knew he couldn't have things both ways. But what really did he want with her?

The realistic side of him told him that even though he could fall hopelessly in love with her if he threw caution to the wind, their relationship could go nowhere anyway. Not with his jaded past. Not with his dangerous present and future. His heart ached. He reluctantly admitted that he'd felt a lot of things for Ann over the past two months and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. Maybe, Houston ruminated sadly, it was just as well she kept her distance from him — for whatever secret reasons she held. Anyone he had ever loved had died. It was that heartbreakingly simple. A fact. And he had no desire to see Ann die. Hell...

More than anything, Mike respected Ann. She had started out as an Air Force flight surgeon and her training also included work as a psychiatrist. Now a medical doctor for Perseus, she was very good at what she did. Her work with Morgan had often placed her in danger; she was frequently assigned to fly in and pick up wounded mercenaries when they got into more trouble than they'd bargained for. Mike decided that maybe Ann had made a pact with herself a long time ago not to get involved with military types. Oh, he didn't blame her there. Hell, a military man could be alive one moment, dead the next. And where did that leave the woman who loved him? Alone, without the man she'd hoped to have around for a long, long time. Her lover gone — forever.

Too bad. She's a looker. Tall, leggy, self-confident, she had a gutsiness he admired. There was nothing about the thirty-two-year-old doctor that didn't appeal to him. Pity she didn't see him in the same light. Maybe her womanly instincts warned her how different he really was. Maybe she was picking up on his secret life and it was scaring her away from him....

Mike turned the corner and headed to the kitchen. Hell, any woman who took one look at his hard-bitten, scarred countenance and heard of his fearsome reputation would run the other way. He was one mean son of a bitch and he had his actions in Peru to prove it.

Down there they called him the jaguar god because he seemed to have nine lives like the most powerful hunter in the South American jungle — the dreaded, mystical jaguar. The drug lords feared Mike and they damn well should. Those bastards had destroyed his mother's helpless people, and as long as Houston could take a breath into his body, his whole life would be geared to eradicating them from Peru.

Maybe that's why no women wanted to become involved in a long-term relationship with him. They wouldn't be the focus of his life or his attentions. Houston couldn't blame them. Still, he'd miss Ann Parsons like hell. Her soft, exploratory kisses, the hunger she sparked in him would be no more. It was a damn shame. For she was a woman who could not only turn his head, but even make him consider devoting a little time to her instead of the one- man war he waged continuously against the cocaine lords....

When Houston reached the kitchen, he heard voices. Groaning inwardly, he realized it was Ann's honeyed, cultured tone and Morgan Trayhern's deep, probing voice. Mike was so late the meeting was already underway. As he headed for the espresso machine, he heard them in the living room talking animatedly, like the good friends they were. Ann had worked for Morgan almost from the time he'd created Perseus many years ago. It was then he saw the note beside the tiled sink, next to the espresso machine. "In case you oversleep," it said in Ann's "doctor scrawl." No one could read her writing but him, and he'd teased her about it mercilessly during the eight weeks they had been at the Donovan Ranch babysitting Morgan and his wife.

Mike hurriedly snapped on the machine. Ann had ground the coffee, put it in the small basket and filled the steel container with fresh water that would soon be boiling, ready to percolate his desperately needed espresso. A mirthless, one-cornered smile cut into the hard planes of Mike's face. Though Ann didn't like him to the degree he fancied her, she had a good heart. She'd even taken pity on the likes of him.

Houston poked his head around the entrance to the living room of the cabin he was staying in on the ranch. They'd agreed to meet at his cabin and he saw Morgan, dressed in a pair of jeans and a red plaid, flannel shirt, sitting at the end of a leather couch, near the open fireplace. Ann stood in front of the blazing flames, which brought out the red and gold highlights in her shoulder-length, sable hair. She was rubbing her long, thin surgeon's hands together vigorously, warming herself.

Excerpt from Morgan's Mercenaries: Heart of the Jaguar by Lindsay McKenna
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