Kate Blake has lived her life in the shadow of her powerful father. Now, after a wrenching betrayal, Kate is determined to reclaim her own future.
It is a future that begins with rugged Australian Sean Harris — the man who married her sister, a man who unleashed in Kate her primal desires she yearned to set free. In the ancient land of Australia, Kate discovers herself, the family secrets that have shadowed her, and the love she’s been waiting for all her life….
The exchange was so blatant, so audacious that Kate Blake couldn’t believe she’d seen it. The lobby was crowded, and people swirled past her, laughing and talking as they waited for the opera to resume. Kate stood frozen in their midst, fingers curved around her glass of intermission orange juice, her indigo eyes wide, afraid even to blink.
She hadn’t imagined it. Brad had handed another man a packet of white powder and taken money in return, right there in front of half the population of Seattle.
Perhaps, she thought desperately, it was all a mistake. Perhaps she had only imagined that the packet contained cocaine, and that Brad, the man she’d meant to marry in less than a month, had just accepted money for it.
In the next instant, Brad turned, tucking a folded bill into the pocket of his coat as he moved. His eyes met Kate’s, and it was clear that he knew she’d seen. There was no apology in his gaze, however, only defiance. Then he was looking at his companion again, and Kate might not have existed at all.
She felt dizzy, and then claustrophobic, and she knew she had to get out into the fresh air fast. She set her cup aside and hurried toward the main door.
Outside, Kate gripped the stair railings in both hands and dragged in deep, clean breaths until the choking sensation passed. A glance back over one elegantly bared shoulder told her that Brad hadn’t followed. He probably hadn’t even noticed she was gone.
She looked up at the dark, star-speckled sky aglow with city lights, and her vision blurred as tears filled her eyes. She was torn. One part of her wanted to go back inside, grip Brad by the lapels and demand to know why he’d thrown everything away; another preferred to pretend that nothing had changed.
Kate inched down the stairs, still grasping the railing with both hands. Brad was the man she’d planned to marry. He was her father’s campaign manager. And she’d just seen him break the law in the most brazen of ways.
A thousand thoughts whirled through her head. This wasn’t new behavior for Brad; she was certain of that. And yet she hadn’t known. She’d been engaged to him and she hadn’t known what kind of man he was! How could that be?
There were no cabs lined up in front of the theater, since the opera would run another full hour. Kate looked back again, knowing she should go inside, call for a taxi and wait in the lobby until it arrived. But something within her demanded action. She needed to walk, hard and fast, with the cool, clean night wind blowing against her face. She started out in the general direction of her downtown condominium, chin held high, her grandmother’s antique brass evening bag swinging at her side.
Hard-eyed street people watched her pass, but there was none of the usual panhandling. Kate supposed that in her present mood she didn’t look approachable.
Moments later, as she passed a popular department store, her pace slackened. The breeze had dried her tears. Kate’s reflection in the windows regarded her forlornly as she took in her own tall, slender body, the sleek designer gown that had cost the earth, the soft, Gibson-girl arrangement of her dark hair.
"So who wanted to marry Bradley Wilshire anyway?" she demanded aloud. As she rounded the corner, Kate was careful not to look at her image in the glass, fearing it might answer, You did.
Kate pulled her paisley silk shawl around her bare shoulders and shivered. In just a few minutes, she reminded herself, she would be home in her small, elegant condominium overlooking the harbor. She would put classical music on the stereo, pour herself a glass of low-cal Chablis and spend the rest of the evening soaking in a bubble bath.
Was it possible that Brad was a pusher?
Trying to forget what she’d seen would be useless, she knew, but the ramifications were more than she could deal with, too big to take in all at once.
She was nearly home, just passing the Commercial Bank building, when she noticed two men standing in front of the cash machine. Kate considered crossing to the other side of the street, but they seemed so engrossed in conversation that they probably wouldn’t notice her, anyway.
The man facing Kate was tall and well built, familiar in a disturbing sort of way. In the dim light of the cash machine, she could see he was wearing a tuxedo, and his mouth was curved into an ingenuous smile. She sensed he was ware of her presence, though he gave no sign of it. "Take it easy now, mate," he said in a thick Australian accent. "If it’s money you want, you’ll have it, but the machine will only give me so much in a 24-hour period."
An almost dizzying sensation of mingled despair and excitement filled Kate. The voice, the accent — it couldn’t be!
It was then that Kate spotted the glint of a switchblade in the second man’s hand.
She was filled with instant ire. Thanks to Brad, she’d seen her share of crime for the day, and she was fed up. Without considering possible results, she spun her grandmother’s purse on its chain until it became a whistling blur. When it struck the mugger in the side of the head, he dropped the knife. In the same instant, his knees folded and he sank to the sidewalk in an unlikely position of prayer…