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Authors: Anne Marie Winston

The Homecoming

BOOK: The Homecoming
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Sydney turned her face into his neck and laid her head against his shoulder. Her breath whispered across his skin.

Danny's breath caught in his throat and his heart stuttered. It would be so easy to draw her down onto the blanket they shared, to explore the feminine treasures of her body—

What was he thinking? A rogue wave of longing surged high and swept over him, urging him to drop his head and set his mouth against her soft pink lips. He wanted it so badly. Releasing her, he surged to his feet. “Well. We should get going if you want to see the rest of the island's attractions.”

“Actually, I'm getting tired. It probably would be best if we went back and took a nap.”

Danny hadn't imagined he'd ever feel such a strong need to make love again. It was almost a relief to know his body still yearned for feminine contact. But he didn't need Sydney, he reminded himself forcefully. He didn't need anyone, and the last thing he wanted was to be more involved in her life than he already was.

ANNE MARIE WINSTON

RITA
®
Award finalist and bestselling author ANNE MARIE WINSTON loves babies she can give back when they cry, animals in all shapes and sizes and just about anything that blooms. When she's not writing, she's managing a house full of animals and teenagers, reading anything she can find and trying not to eat chocolate. She will dance at the slightest provocation and weeds her gardens when she can't see the sun for the weeds anymore. You can learn more about Anne Marie's novels by visiting her Web site at www.annemariewinston.com.

USA TODAY
Bestselling Author

A
NNE
M
ARIE
W
INSTON
THE HOMECOMING

Be a part of

Because birthright has its privileges and family ties run deep.

On an island retreat, a lost man rescues a woman claiming to know his kidnapped son. Will redemption and love touch them both?

Sydney Aston:
Her adopted son's history was mysterious, so she went on a quest to find his biological family. When she encountered Danny Crosby, she fell in love with him and wrestled with her heart. He had to know the truth—that his beloved son was still alive!

Danny Crosby:
A broken man after his son's disappearance, Danny led a reclusive life. But Sydney brought him back into the world…and back to the son he'd ached for all these years. Would he be given a second chance at having a family?

A Logan reunion:
The Logans visited their long-lost son and vowed to help the sweet boy robbed from them so many years ago. Robbie Logan had finally come home.

Because birthright has its privileges and family ties run deep.

AVAILABLE JUNE 2010

1.)
To Love and Protect
by Susan Mallery

2.)
Secrets & Seductions
by Pamela Toth

3.)
Royal Affair
by Laurie Paige

4.)
For Love and Family
by Victoria Pade

AVAILABLE JULY 2010

5.)
The Bachelor
by Marie Ferrarella

6.)
A Precious Gift
by Karen Rose Smith

7.)
Child of Her Heart
by Cheryl St. John

8.)
Intimate Surrender
by RaeAnne Thayne

AVAILABLE AUGUST 2010

9.)
The Secret Heir
by Gina Wilkins

10.)
The Newlyweds
by Elizabeth Bevarly

11.)
Right by Her Side
by Christie Ridgway

12.)
The Homecoming
by Anne Marie Winston

AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 2010

13.)
The Greatest Risk
by Cara Colter

14.)
What a Man Needs
by Patricia Thayer

15.)
Undercover Passion
by Raye Morgan

16.)
Royal Seduction
by Donna Clayton

In memory of Katrina Sue Smith. I wish we were still sharing life's adventures, dear friend. “Precious moments” just aren't the same without you.

One

T
he dream started as it always did. Danny's best friend was walking away with the strange man.

Danny was afraid. Their teacher, Miss Hanley, always told them never to get in a car with strangers. She said if they were only going to learn one thing in first grade, that was the one they should learn. Even Danny's mother, who didn't seem to care what he did as long as he stayed out of her way, had made him promise never to go anywhere with anyone other than his dad or her without permission.

Danny ran into his house, yelling for his mother. She could stop Robbie. If he could just find his mother, she could help his friend.

But she wasn't in the kitchen, or the living room, or anywhere. He called and called but she never answered him.

He frantically rushed back outside. There! A lady. One of the neighbors walking down the street. Danny rushed up to her, heedless of the tears streaking his cheeks. “Help me, please,” he cried. “A bad man's taking my friend!”

But the lady didn't even look down at him, and he realized suddenly that it wasn't his neighbor. It wasn't anybody he knew, and she wouldn't look at him, wouldn't talk to him.

Another man approached and Danny asked him for help, but the man kept on going as if he hadn't even heard him. Danny repeated his actions with each passerby, growing ever more frantic as person after person brushed him off and kept going. He could hear himself sobbing, “Help me, please help my friend.”

Then he heard a voice behind him. “I'll help you. Come with me.”

Danny turned around, relief almost a physical thing rushing through him. But as his gaze focused on the face of the man standing there with his hand outstretched, shock and fear erased the relief.

The bad man stood right behind him. Danny was too terrified to move. All he could do was watch as the man reached for him—

 

Danny Crosby woke with a shout, sitting bolt upright in his bed. Or had it been a scream? His staff
would wonder what was going on in his bedroom at—he glanced at the glowing face of the bedside clock—six in the morning. He raised his hands and scrubbed them over his face, dragging back his thick hair. God, that nightmare had been worse than usual, as bad as it had been when he was much, much younger.

His heart was racing and he felt hot and sweaty, unable to stay in bed a moment longer. He only had nightmares about once a month these days, but he knew from long experience there was no point in attempting to go back to sleep.

Throwing back the light cover, he rose and walked naked through the wide French doors onto the terrace outside his bedroom. He owned the whole island of Nanilani, less than a mile off the southern coast of Kauai island; there was no one around to see him. It was a typically clear and lovely early-July night in the Hawaiian Islands, the temperature hovering in the seventies, although he barely noticed. The beauty of the setting amid which he'd chosen to spend the rest of his life was overlaid by the harsh memories he'd never been able to escape.

He automatically patted his chest for a cigarette, then remembered that he wasn't wearing anything. And even more importantly, he'd quit smoking when he'd entered rehab well over a decade ago. Even after Noah and Felicia— He cut off the thought before it could go any further. There was a limit to how many kinds of mental torture he could endure in one night.

He raised a hand to pat his pocket again but caught
the gesture in midair. Some habits died harder than others. He supposed it was a good thing that cigarettes were all he felt the need for after that damned dream.

He took a deep breath and focused his jangled nerves, letting himself be hypnotized by the rolling surf he could see from the lanai.

Below the outcropping of black volcanic rock that fell away from the edge of the terrace, the sea rolled in against the edges of his beach in rhythmic curls of white that disintegrated as they smashed against the shallow slope that marked the water's edge. The sand was lighter than the rocks. Black sand beaches were more common in the eastern part of the islands, which were still young and growing, thanks to their active volcanoes. True black sand was created as an explosive result of molten lava entering cool sea water. The reaction literally pulverized the lava. Here on Nanilani, as on the other islands at the northwestern end of the chain, the islands' growth had stopped eons ago.

It wasn't really
his
beach in a personal sense. Brian Summers, the real estate developer back in Portland, had been quite clear about that when he'd found the special piece of secluded property that he'd thought would meet Danny's needs. All beaches in Hawaii technically were public property, but he owned the rest of the island so there was no access except by sea. And since the beaches of Nanilani were neither exceptionally safe nor exceptionally beautiful compared to some of the state's most famous, he rarely had to worry about tour boats stopping for any length of time.
Of course, beauty was a relative term in Hawaii, where every place you looked were lovely and breathtaking views. Even the name of his island referred to it:
nani
was the Hawaiian word for beautiful, and
lani
referred to the sky or heaven. Nanilani: beautiful heaven. Danny sincerely doubted it was possible to buy an ugly piece of property here.

He'd been unbelievably lucky three years ago; when he'd asked Brian to find him an isolated home in the islands, the Robinson family who owned Ni'ihau and part of Kauai were selling Nanilani.

Suddenly he realized what he'd just been thinking. He'd been lucky? Having his son abducted and his wife kill herself wasn't the kind of luck he'd wish on anyone. Abandoning thought, he purposely emptied his mind and focused again on the view before him. The breakers rolling in from the ocean were hypnotizing in their endless rhythm. The surf was incredibly powerful here where there were no reefs to slow their approach to land. How many times had he stood down there on that beach and contemplated simply walking into the water until those waves sucked him under?

Plenty. But he'd gone the route of self-destruction in his past and he'd never do it again. Trent would be devastated. And Danny would cut off his arm rather than hurt his older brother, who'd dragged him back from the brink four times already if Danny counted getting him out of that hellish military school, bugging their father Jack to find him when he'd subsequently
done his disappearing act, getting him into counseling after that one halfhearted overdose and finally, dragging him back into the company business after Noah and Felicia were gone. The last might not sound like the action of a savior but it had been: it had given Danny a purpose and a focus that had kept him sane throughout the darkest days of his life. He'd sworn he would never let Trent down again, and he wouldn't. Not in the business and not in any other way.

Damn it, Dan, you're thinking again.
He wasn't having much success with his mind-emptying meditation today.

To the left, the beach disappeared in a seemingly endless ribbon of sand that he knew from experience went on for miles before it came up against a rock cliff. These older islands also had more beach than the younger ones. On his right, not nearly as far away, another such cliff cut off his beach abruptly. Its base was strewn with dark boulders that had crumbled from the main body of the rock eons ago when earthquakes beneath the sea floor had heaved the rock upward. Like Kauai and Ni'ihau, Nanilani was among the oldest of the existing islands in the Hawaiian chain, with no volcanic activity. All that remained of the earth's ancient contortions were the black rock and red dirt upon which much of the island was built.

Below him, a scattering of the broken boulders rose from the sea while others lay on the sand, deceptively small from up here. He'd stood on those boulders and he knew many of them were significantly taller than he was.

The waves frothed and churned around the base of the cliff and surged in to smack at the boulders, boiling up around them to the beach. Something caught his eye and he frowned, trying to focus more clearly. Atop one of the smaller boulders lay something light-colored and out of place. He knew this view, had looked out on it for over three years now. Whatever that was, it wasn't part of the natural scenery.

He studied the shape of the lighter blob, mildly puzzled. There hadn't been a storm to toss anything up that high out of the water's reach.

Then his brain clicked into focus and he realized the shape was a person!

The revelation hadn't even completely jelled in his consciousness as he bolted back inside and snagged a pair of ragged denim shorts from the chair where he'd tossed them when he went to bed. He stepped into the cutoffs and zipped them. Then he ripped the cover from his bed before he raced from his room. Pausing briefly outside the door to shove his feet into his reef shoes, he ran to the stone steps that led from his terrace to the path down the cliff.

Where the hell had the person come from? The figure hadn't been moving. Please, God, don't let him be dead. More people drowned each year in this state than anywhere else in the country. And even if he hadn't drowned, he could be hypothermic if he'd been in the water long enough. Hawaiian waters might be temperate but a prolonged dip in the Pacific when the sun wasn't out wouldn't have been a pleasant experi
ence. If indeed, the person had been in the water. He had assumed that was the case, since he hadn't seen a boat.

As he descended, he could see the lights of Kauai, the northernmost of the main Hawaiian chain and his nearest neighbor, twinkling in the distance. Had the person been sailing from there and gotten lost?

Reaching the bottom of the steps, he raced across the soft, dry sand, which still held the warmth of the day before. The boulders to the right were much farther away than they looked from the bird's-eye view he had from the house, and he pushed through the soft sand until he hit the hard-packed surface near the water's edge. Then he settled into a fast but steady pace, much as he did during his daily morning runs.

As he ran, his mind continued to work. It occurred to him that he'd been stupid to run out of the house without one of the portable intercom devices he'd bought. Only two people lived with him on the island, an older native Hawaiian couple who had worked for the previous owner and had proved highly satisfactory to Danny. They had a large family of children and grandchildren who came over in a motor launch several times a week with mail and food and other supplies. Occasionally a couple of them would stay for a few days, but for the most part, it was just Danny and Leilani and Johnny.

Leilani cooked and kept the house clean while her husband did a fine job keeping the house and grounds in top shape. People outside the family called him Big
John and the name was well deserved. He had the deceptively beefy build of the native Hawaiian people; he was actually far more muscle than fat. If the person on the rocks was badly hurt, Danny would go back and enlist Johnny to help him get the guy to the house.

Increasing his pace, Danny pushed himself until the boulders drew near. Now the shape on the rocks definitely looked like a person. A person who wasn't moving and didn't appear to have changed position since Danny had first seen him.
Please don't let him be dead.

Breathing heavily, Danny scrambled up over the rocks, dropping the blanket he'd tucked beneath his arm as he reached the top. The guy was small. God, he hoped it wasn't a kid. He had a bad feeling that he might be looking at a drowning victim as he dropped to his knees at the side of the body.

Close up, he was stunned to find that the guy was really a woman. She lay on her stomach with her head turned to one side, her brown hair flung out around her head. It wasn't dripping but certainly was still wet. The hair partly covered her face and all he could see was the curve of her cheek and a small straight nose.

Rivulets of water had run out of her shorts and shirt and down the sides of the rock. Though it appeared she'd been there long enough for the excess water to drain away, she still was soaking wet, confirming what he'd thought earlier. She must have been on a boat from one of the other islands. Kauai, almost certainly, since Ni'ihau was populated only by a small village
of native people. Although why a tourist would come out on the ocean alone escaped him.

He was sure she wasn't local. What gave her away was the color of her skin. His unmoving guest was paler than the golden sand he'd just run across. And she didn't look badly sunburned, so she must not have gotten onto these rocks until sometime after dark last night.

A tourist out alone at night?

Placing a tentative hand on one out-flung arm, he nearly sagged with relief. The arm wasn't cold as in corpse-cold, and beneath the delicate wrist he could feel a pulse. Not strong, but far from thready and faint, either.

He bent over until his ear was near her mouth. Thank God she was breathing as well. Slowly and steadily, with no sign that she might stop.

Gingerly he started running his hands over her arms and legs, noting that she seemed slender and well-muscled. He wasn't experienced with first aid and probably wouldn't know a broken bone unless it was an obvious fracture, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him.

She had very pretty skin, he noted with absent appreciation. Smooth and silky, but a little too cool. He shook out the blanket and carefully tucked it around her. If she was in shock, he knew it was important to keep her warm.

“Hey,” he said, reluctant to move her. He placed a hand on her upper arm, a little surprised to see how big his own hand looked in contrast. “Miss? Wake up. Talk to me, please?”

He didn't want to move her, knew he shouldn't turn her over. Since she seemed all right, he should go and call for help, then come back. But he hated to leave while she was unconscious. What if she woke up and there was nobody here? She could wander off in the wrong direction.

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