Saturday, May 08, 2010

Indivisible; A Daughter's Legacy

"Part mystery, part romance, and part psychological thriller, "Indivisible" is Kristen's most challenging work to date. You can't zip through this one. A multi-layered feast for the imagination. One of the richest novels I've read so far this year, and the message still lingers like a sweet aroma in my mind. "Indivisible" is most definitely a must read!"

Heitzmann follows an embattled police chief as he investigates an act of animal cruelty in a small Colorado town, which escalates into a discovery that could wreak havoc on the tranquil mountain town.


by Kristen Heitzmann

Wrapped in a woolen throw, Jonah stared out through moon-silvered evergreen spires. He drew in the clean, sharp air of the rugged mountains, the piercing stars visible to an amazing depth, the sickle moon casting the clearing in stark relief. He had not expected to sleep—didn't dare with memories tugging so hard.

He shut his eyes and let the night enclose him. The chilled tip of his nose stung as he breathed the piquant scents of wild grasses, earth and pine, a heady overlay with a hint of moisture condensing in the cold and dark.

The beam above moaned with the motion of the porch swing, a rhythmic counterpart to the rushing creek out of sight in the dark except for flashes of white where water struck rock. He felt something brush against his hand and looked down. A white, powdery moth fluttered at the lighted face of his watch. The fluffy whoosh of an owl passed, a silent shadow in search of a small, beating heart.

His pulse made a low throb in his ears. He moved the breath in and out through his lungs, filling his senses easier than stilling the thoughts.

Somewhere in the rocky crags a coyote yipped, one of the few predators that had enlarged its range in spite of human encroachment, a bold and canny cohabiter, bearing ever bolder offspring. A long howl sailed into the night, a territorial declaration, signaling roving males to stay away, any females to come hither. He pressed up from the swing and leaned on the rail, trying to get a bead on the coyote's location. After a time, he turned and went inside.

* * * *

Piper loved morning, the brightness, the cleanness of a new day. But morning started with the sunrise, not when the sky was still black and the room shivery. She burrowed her feet deeper beneath the down comforter, avoiding for one more moment the cold floorboards. It was too brief a moment.

Crabbing her hand across the lace covered bed stand, she stopped the alarm on the cell phone before it could nag her. She groomed and dressed without shedding the film of sleep, slipped on her jacket and turned up the collar, then switched on the iPod in her pocket and inserted the ear buds. Enya's Only Time accompanied her out the door.

The first gasp of cold air pierced her fog. She drew a flashlight from the other pocket and trudged behind the beam down the steep path, weaving through the pines. Streaks of deep magenta broke through the black tree silhouettes, announcing dawn, but, around her, darkness clung. Over the music, she detected the rushing of Kicking Horse Creek that paralleled the main street through old town. Neither dark and muddy nor sluggish and green, the creek ran frothy white and clear down to the rocky bed.

She couldn't see it from the path even if the sun were up, but its voice carried up the stony crags as she picked her way down the steepest stretch of the path. Her nostrils constricted. She slapped a hand to her mouth and nose to block a putrid scent carried on the sharp air. She swung her light and the beam caught a furry mound of carnage.

* * * * *

Breathing the honey scent of beeswax, Tia lowered the candles into the clear amber liquid,

curbing her natural impatience. Any pause or jerk would leave a flaw each ensuing dip would reinforce. She worked hard to keep her hand steady. Dipping tapers had trained her in self-control better than any scolding instructor.

She raised the wooden bar looped with six double wicks. As soon as the air touched the wax, it paled to ochre. She fitted the bar onto the side braces to cool the tapers before lowering them again, each plunge having the potential to reclaim with greedy heat what solidity the cool air had bestowed. The life metaphor struck her again. The destructive power of pain; the strength of endurance. She would give them all they needed to stand strong, even though their fate was to burn away, the glow and aroma of their passing a benediction.

A knock brought her out of her thoughts, and she wended through the dim shop where little by little she had replaced the former knick-knacks with candles, scented oils, and hand-thrown melting pots. She looked around, satisfied that nothing she saw was made in China. "Just a sec," she called through the door, tangling with the keys since she hadn't opened yet.

"Try this." Piper raised the drooping croissant.

Tia bit into the buttery, melted-cheesy pastry, savoring a chewy tang of sun dried tomatoes and fresh basil. She leaned her shoulder to the door jamb and sighed. Not all of Piper's creations worked, but this one . . . "Mmm."

"You like it?"

"Oh yeah."

"You're not just encouraging me because you hope I'll get better if I keep trying?"

"No, it's really—"

Piper snatched the croissant out of her hands, turned the bitten end around in the parchment and held it out to someone else. Tia leaned out far enough to see who.

Lanky in jeans, mountain boots and brown leather jacket bearing the police department emblem, he looked as ragged as a night spent with Johnny Walker, though she didn't smell it on him, had not, in fact, for years. Even so, every muscle in her hardened, a visceral reflex as automatic as breath.

His features were edged, and in an instant she realized what day it was. His gaze flicked over, weighing, measuring her. Sometimes they went weeks without crossing paths, but every time the encounter arced between them like a chemical adhesion, the two parts of epoxy that did fine until combined, then interacted toxically.

Backing into the shop, she closed and locked the door, returning to complacent tapers that had forgotten the burn of the wax.

* * *

A Daughter's Legacy

By Virginia Smith

To receive her inheritance and make peace with her late mother, Kelli Jackson must abide by the woman's will. Even though it means working as a zookeeper for six months -- with animals that terrify her. How can she possibly explain her fears -- and her past -- to her handsome boss, Jason Andover? The glimpses of kindness -- and painful secrets -- she sees in his eyes have her sharing everything. But then she makes a startling discovery--one that may tear them apart forever.

"Kelli and Jason's budding romance and her discoveries about a mother she spent little time with make this a wonderful story of love in its many forms." – Susan Mobley, Romantic Times

(4 1/2 Stars)


Of all the ways she could have chosen to spend a Thursday morning, attending a stranger's memorial service wasn't at the top of Kelli Jackson's list.

Especially when that stranger was her own mother.

Kelli faced the front of the open-air amphitheater clasping a completely dry tissue in her lap and trying to ignore the curious glances being cast her way. Apparently everybody wanted to get a glimpse of the outsider who claimed to be Lillian Mitchell's daughter. As people had filed toward their seats among the rows of semi-circular wooden benches in the moments before the service began, more than one puzzled whisper reached her ears.

"I never knew Lillian had any family. Did you?"

"Can't say as I did. Looks like her, though. Wonder why Lil never talked about her."
Kelli kept her face schooled in the detached, professional mask she wore when preparing a tax return for a new client. Wouldn't do to show dismay at the humiliating affirmation that her mother hadn't even cared enough to mention to those she worked with that she'd given birth to a daughter twenty-six years before. As person after person stepped up to the podium on the center of the stage to recall incidents from Lillian's life, Kelli's gaze kept stealing to the table where the polished wooden box holding her mother's ashes rested, a single vase of flowers beside it.

The deep roar of a lion exploded in the distance, and a wave of gooseflesh rose along Kelli's bare arms as the primeval cry reverberated in the air around her. The sound echoed across the years from childhood nightmares she'd thought safely forgotten long ago.

What am I doing here, Lord? This is no place for me.

The man standing behind the podium paused in his tribute and raised his head to listen until the roar died away. His smile swept the crowded amphitheater.

"Apparently Samson would like to speak a few words on Lillian's behalf. He always was an attention hog."

The crowd's chuckle held an indulgent tone. Obviously Samson was a favorite among the mourners. Kelli shifted on the rough wooden bench.

"Actually, it's fitting that Samson be included in this service to honor Lillian. She dedicated her life to making sure that he and the rest of the animals here at Cougar Bay Zoological Park receive nothing but excellent care and the highest quality of life."

Of course she did. Kelli's lips tightened, despite her efforts to keep her expression impassive. She cared more for those zoo animals than she did her own child.

Which was one reason she wanted to get this ordeal over with as quickly as possible and get out of here. Back home in Denver life could return to normal. She could go to work and lose herself in the comfort of her clients' finances. All the questions she encountered there were easy ones, with concrete answers, like, "Can I deduct the clown I hired for my daughter's birthday since I invited my boss to the party?" ("Uh, no, Mr. Farmer, I'm sorry but that's not a legitimate deduction.")

"The first time I laid eyes on Lil, she was cleaning out the chimp house." The man eulogizing Lillian—Kelli couldn't think of her as Mom—smiled, and from her vantage point on the first row Kelli recognized genuine affection in his face. Tall and fit, with sun-kissed brown hair curling around the collar of the tan shirt with the zoo's logo over the breast pocket. Nice looking, probably only a few years older than Kelli. What was he to Lillian? An employee, no doubt, since Lillian ran everything here at the zoo.

"I shouted through the bars that I was there to interview for the keeper position. She let me in, handed me a hose, and told me to show her my stuff." An appealing grin twisted his lips. "I must have looked hesitant, because she barked, "You're not afraid of a little poop, are you?""
Everyone around Kelli laughed. She couldn't hold back a smile herself. Judging from the voice she'd heard over the phone during their stilted, twice-yearly conversations, the guy had Lillian's gravelly, no-nonsense bark down pat. He must have known her pretty well, then. Kelli cast a quick glance over her shoulder at the sparsely filled benches. No doubt these people knew Lillian better than her own daughter. How sad was that?

"I didn't bother to point out that she was wearing rubber boots, while I was in a suit and had just polished my shoes. Knowing Lil as I do now, she wouldn't have cared. It's a good thing I took the hose and got to work." His head dropped forward, and when he continued his voice sounded choked.

"Landing this job six years ago was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me the chance to work with someone whose devotion to animals went far beyond anyone I'd ever met, or likely will again. Lil changed my outlook on my job, and on my life. I'll never forget her."
A hushed murmur of agreement rose from the mourners as he left the stage to return to his seat on the front row, a few feet away from Kelli. She watched him covertly as the minister stepped up to the podium for his final remarks. The guy sat with his head drooping forward, hands dangling between his knees. When he brushed tears from his eyes, Kelli experienced a twinge of self-reproach.

What's wrong with me, God? My mother is dead. Why can't I grieve, like this guy?
But Kelli's soul felt leaden, numb, as the minister led them in a closing prayer. How could she grieve the loss of her mother today, when the real loss had taken place years before?


Copyright © 2010 by Harlequin Enterprises

Copyright © 2010 by Virginia Smith

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.

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