Read Strangers in Paradise Online
Authors: Heather Graham
A SAFE PLACE
Alexi Jordan moves to her family's crumbling Florida estate to start over. The house needs work, but that's exactly what she's looking for to get her life back on track after a disastrous marriage and an exhausting career. But after a series of unsettling phone calls and someone tampering with her lights, Alexi begins to fear that her home is far from a refuge.
Her neighbor, Rex Morrow, insists on protecting Alexi. She can't deny that Rex is strong and sheltering, but the feelings she begins to develop for him are just as frightening as the series of scary events in her home. As the danger increases, Alexi must decide who poses the greater riskâher mysterious stalker, or the man who threatens to steal her heart...
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Sheltered in His Arms
bestselling author Tara Taylor Quinn
Ten years after doing the unforgivable and leaving Shelter Valley, Sam Montford returns home. But forgiveness proves hard to find...particularly with the one woman he loved the most and hurt the deepest: his ex-wife, Cassie Tate.
New York Times
“An incredible storyteller.”
Los Angeles Daily News
“[Heather] Graham has the uncanny ability to bring her books to life, using exceptionally vivid details to add depth to all the people and places.”
RT Book Reviews
, Top Pick, on
Waking the Dead
“Once again, Heather Graham has outdone herself... This chilling novel has everything: suspense, romance, intrigue and an ending that takes your breath away.”
Tara Taylor Quinn
“[Tara Taylor] Quinn writes touching stories about real people that transcend plot type or genre.”
All About Romance
“Readers will enjoy Quinn's easy-to-love characters, mysterious plot and sweet romance as they quickly turn the pages.”
RT Book Reviews
Once Upon a Friendship
New York Times
has written more than a hundred novels, many of which have been featured by the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild. An avid scuba diver, ballroom dancer and mother of five, she still enjoys her south Florida home, but loves to travel, as well, from locations such as Cairo, Egypt, to her own backyard, the Florida Keys. Reading, however, is the pastime she still loves best, and she is a member of many writing groups. She's the winner of a Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award and a Thriller Writers' Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, and also the founder of The Slush Pile Players, an author band and theatrical group. Heather hosts the annual Writers for New Orleans conference to benefit both the city, which is near and dear to her heart, and various other causes, and she hosts a ball each year at the RT Booklovers Convention to benefit pediatric AIDS foundations.
For more information, check out her website,
. You can also find Heather on Facebook.
An author of more than seventy novels,
Tara Taylor Quinn
bestselling author with more than seven million copies sold. She is known for delivering emotional and psychologically astute novels of suspense and romance. Tara is a past president of Romance Writers of America. She has won a Readers' Choice Award and is a five-time finalist for an RWA RITAÂ® Award, a finalist for a Reviewers' Choice Award and a Booksellers' Best Award. She has also appeared on TV across the country, including
CBS Sunday Morning
. She supports the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If you or someone you know might be a victim of domestic violence in the United States, please contact 1-800-799-7233.
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New York Times
Strangers in Paradise
Table of Contents
Strangers in Paradise
by Heather Graham
Sheltered in His Arms
by Tara Taylor Quinn
Strangers in Paradise
Also by HEATHER GRAHAM
THE DEAD PLAY ON
WAKING THE DEAD
THE NIGHT IS FOREVER
THE NIGHT IS ALIVE
THE NIGHT IS WATCHING
LET THE DEAD SLEEP
AN ANGEL FOR CHRISTMAS
THE EVIL INSIDE
HEART OF EVIL
NIGHT OF THE VAMPIRES
THE KILLING EDGE
NIGHT OF THE WOLVES
HOME IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS
DUST TO DUST
THE DEATH DEALER
THE LAST NOEL
THE DEAD ROOM
KISS OF DARKNESS
DEAD ON THE DANCE FLOOR
PICTURE ME DEAD
A SEASON OF MIRACLES
NIGHT OF THE BLACKBIRD
NEVER SLEEP WITH STRANGERS
EYES OF FIRE
* * * * *
Look for Heather Graham's next novel
available now from MIRA Books
Fernandina Beach, Florida
iz Eugenia! Miz Eugenia! Look!”
Eugenia straightened, easing the pain in her back, and stared out through the long trail of pines to the distant beach, where Mary's call directed her. Her sewing fell unheeded to her feet; she rose, her heart pounding, her soul soaring, dizzy with incredulity and relief.
A man was alighting from a small skiff. The waves on the beach pounded against his high black cavalry boots as he splashed through the water. From a distance, he was beautiful and perfect.
“Pierre!” Upon the porch of the old house, Eugenia whispered his name, afraid to voice it too loudly lest he disappear. She wanted so badly for him to be real and not a fantasy created by the summer's heat, by the shimmering waves of sun pounding against the scrub and sand.
He was real. Tall and regal in his handsome uniform of butternut and gray, with his medals reflecting the sun. He was far away, but Eugenia was certain that he saw her, certain that his blue hawk's eyes had met her own and that the love they shared sang and soared likewise in his soul.
He started to run down the sand path, which was carpeted in pine needles and shaded by branches. Sun and shadow, shadow and sunâshe could no longer see his face clearly, but she gave a glad cry and leaped down the steps, clutching her heavy spill of skirts in her hand so that she could run, tooârun to meet her beautiful man in his butternut and gray and hurl herself into his arms.
Sunlight continued to glitter through the trees, golden as it fell upon her love. She felt the carpet of sand and pine under her feet, and the great rush of her breath. She could see the fine planes and lines of his features, the intelligence and tenderness in his eyes. She could see the strain in his face as he, too, ran, and she could see the love he bore for her, the need to touch.
“Eugenia!” He nearly wept her name. She flew the last few steps, those steps that brought her into his arms. He lifted her high and swirled her beneath the sun. He stared into her face, trembling, cherishing the mere fact that he could look upon her, and she was beautiful.
Eugenia saw that in truth he was not perfect. His butternut and gray were tattered and worn, there were slashes in his handsome boots, and his medals were rusted and dark.
“Oh, Pierre!” Eugenia cried, not so much from his uniform as from the strain that lined his handsome face. “Tell me! What has happened? Pierre, why are you here? Is something wrong?”
“Are you not glad to see your husband?” he charged her.
“Ever so glad! Butâ”
“No, Eugenia! No buts, no words. Just hold me. And I'll hold you, tenderly, this night. Tenderly, with all my love.”
He carried her back along that path of softest pine and gentle sand. His eyes held hers, drinking in the sight of her so desperately. And she, in turn, could not take her gaze from him, her cavalier. Pierre, handsome, magnificent, tender Pierre, with his fine eyes and clear-cut features and beautiful golden hair. Pierre, scarred and hard and wounded and sometimes bitter, but ever gentle to her, his bride.
They reached the house. Mary mumbled something in welcome, and Pierre gave her a dazzling smile. He paused to give her a hug, to ask after his infant son, who was asleep in Mary's old, gnarled arms. Tears came to Mary's eyes, but she winked back as Pierre winked at her and asked if they might have dinner a wee bit late that night.
Eugenia was still in his arms as he kicked open the screen door with his foot. He knew the house by heart, for it was his house; he had built it. He did not need to look for the stairs; he walked to them easily, his eyes, with all their adoration, still boring into those of his wife. He climbed the stairs and took her to their room, and although they were the only ones on the barren peninsula, he locked the door.
And then he made love to her.
Desperately, Eugenia thought. So hungry, so hard, so fevered. She could not hold him tightly enough, she could not give enough, she could not sate him. He was a soldier, she reminded herself. A soldier, long gone from home, barely back from battle. But he touched her again and again, and he kissed her with a fascinated hunger, as if he had never known the taste of her lips before. He entwined his limbs with hers and held her, as if he could not bear to part.
“My love, my love,” she whispered to him. She adored him in turn; sensed his needs, and she gave in to them, all. Stars lit the heavens again and again for her, and when he whispered apologies, thinking himself too rough, she hushed him and whispered in turn that he was the only lover she could ever want.
Dinner was very late. Pierre dandled his son on his knee while Mary served, and Mary and Eugenia did their best to speak lightly, to laugh, to entertain their soldier home from the war. Dinner was wonderfulâbroiled grouper in Mary's old Louisiana creole sauce, but Pierre had noted that fish was the diet because the domestic fowl were gone, and when Mary took their little boy up to bed, Eugenia was forced to admit that, yes, the Yankees had come again, and they had taken the chickens and the pigs and even old Gretchen, the mule. Pierre swore in fury, and then he stared at Eugenia with panic and accusation. She went to him, swearing that the Yanks had been gentlemen plunderersânone had shown her anything but respect.
She hesitated. “They'll not come here again. Even as they waltz in and out of Jacksonville. They won't come becauseâ”
“Because of your father,” Pierre supplied bitterly, referring to Eugenia's father, General George Drew of Baltimore. His home was being spared by the Yanks because his wife was one.
“Dammit,” Pierre said simply. He sank back into his chair. With a cry of distress, Eugenia came to him, knelt at his feet and gripped his hands.
“I love you, Pierre. I love you so much!”
“You should go back to him.”
“I will never leave you.”
He lifted her onto his lap and cradled her there, holding her tight against the pulse of his heart. “I have to leave,” he said softly. “The Old ManâGeneral Leeâis determined to make a thrust northward. I have to be back in Richmond in forty-eight hours.”
“Pierre, no! You've justâ”
“I have to go back.”
“You sound so...strange, Pierre.” She tightened her arms around him.
“I'm frightened, my Genie, and I can't even describe why,” he told her. “Not frightened of battle anymore, for I've been there too many times. I'm frightened...for the future.”
“We shall win!”
He smiled, for his Northern-born belle had one loyalty: to his cause, whatever it should be.
An ocean breeze swept by him, drawing goose pimples to his flesh, and he knew. They would not win.
He buried his face against his wife's slender throat, inhaling her scent, feeling already the pain of parting. He held her fiercely. “You need not fear, Eugenia. I will provide for youâalways. I've been careful. The money is in the house.”
He whispered to her, though they were alone.
“Yes, yes, I will be fineâbut I will not need anything. When this is over, we will be together, love.”
“Yes, together, my love.”
Eugenia loved him too well to tell him that she knew the South was dead. She did not tell him that the money he had hidden in the house, his Confederate currency, was as useless as the paper it had been printed on. He was her man, her provider. She would not tell him that he had provided her with ashes.
And he did not tell her that he felt a cold breeze, a cold, icy wind that whistled plaintively, like a ghost moaning and crying. Warning, foreboding. Whispering that death was ever near.
He took her in his arms and carried her up the stairs once again. Their eyes met.
They smiled, so tenderly, so lovingly.
“We're having another baby, Pierre.”
His arms tightened. She smiled sweetly, happy, pleased, smug.
“A baby, Pierre.”
He kissed her reverently.
All through the night, he loved her reverently.
Pierre woke before Eugenia. Restless, he wrapped a sheet around himself and checked his hiding place, pulling the brick from the wall in silence.
A beautiful glitter greeted him. He inhaled and exhaled.
He had to go back to the war. He wanted to take his pregnant wife and his young son and disappear forever. But he was a soldier; he could not forsake his duty. He could assure himself, though, that whatever came, Eugenia would not want for anything.
He replaced the brick.
No, Eugenia would not want for anything.