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Summer Reads Ebook Bundle 2 (Books 4-6)

Summer Reads Ebook Bundle 2 (Books 4-6)

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If you love second chance at love stories, you will love this special ebook collection of three standalone NYT bestselling novels. Each book has its own richly developed, complicated, romantic, and heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking story!


The last place Lisa Alvarez expected to find herself was babysitting for her ex-sister-in-law's three rambunctious kids. But when Maggie called her up and begged for time alone, something in Lisa made her say yes. Lisa never expected her handsome ex-husband Nick to show up on the doorstep, walking back into her life, and taking over more than the weekend....

Nick can't believe how Lisa has changed over the years - and how she's stayed the same. His heart still races when her eyes catch his, his pulse pounds when she's near. After tragedy pushed them apart, Nick spent eight years rebuilding his life and his soul. Can he risk losing his heart again, for a second chance at true love?

"A pair of wary, emotionally fragile protagonists, a cast of exceptional secondary characters ... and a multilayered plot that deftly interweaves humor, passion, and a tragedy result in a poignant, heartwrenching, yet heartwarming story that is laced with love." Library Journal


Take a romantic journey to Tucker's Landing, Oregon, where Sam and Alli Tucker have made a life together, a life about to be tested by the return of the only woman who can break them up... Alli's sister, Tessa.

A baby brought them together—and even though Alli has always loved her strong, sexy husband Sam and the life they've built together, she has decided to set him free to follow his youthful dreams. It is no longer enough for her to be wife and lover when she knows she holds so little of his heart.

Sam has always dreamed of a life away from the close-knit world of Tucker's Landing, but marriage and fatherhood ended all that. Now Sam is torn between what was and what was meant to be. He must decide if it's time to rekindle the dreams of the past or accept Alli and her love, just the way she is.

Don't miss this heart-wrenching tale of a man torn between two sisters, the one he loved, the one he married...

"I loved this book! I loved it so much I don’t even know what to say. The characters were so easy to relate to–at times, uncomfortably so. I felt like I learned about myself as I read it. At times I wanted to cry and at others I was so happy but all the way through, I saw truth. This book was beautiful and perfect and I’m a fan of Freethy for life." Jamie – Goodreads Review


Emily was their closest friend, or so they thought—until years later, when her secrets send them on a perilous search for the truth about who she really was ... and why she died ...

Ten years ago, during a party gone out of control, beautiful, vibrant Emily plummeted to her death, leaving her three best friends and sorority sisters—Natalie, Laura and Madison—devastated. None of them has ever forgotten that night, or the role each may have played in Emily's death, the guilt that has pursued them, and the loss they still suffer.

Now an unknown writer has rocketed onto bestseller lists with a novel that eerily mirrors their own story. Who is he? How does he know the intimate details of their lives? And why is he accusing one of them of murder? As they begin to unravel the startling truth about their friend, each will rediscover a love she lost long ago and uncover secrets that will forever change her life...

"Three friends reunited to uncover a haunting mystery -- I couldn't put it down." NYT Bestselling Author Luanne Rice



"Pick a card, any card."

Natalie Bishop stared at the playing cards in the old man's hands. "Mr. Jensen, I really need to listen to your heart. You said you were having some chest pain earlier?"

He ignored her question and tipped his head toward the cards. His fingers were long, his hands wrinkled and pale, weathered with age spots. His dark eyes pleaded with her to do as he asked. The emergency room of St. Timothy's Hospital in San Francisco was not the place for card tricks. But Natalie had learned in the past three years of her residency that healing wasn't always about medicine, and patient visits weren't always about being sick. Sometimes they were just about being old and lonely. So she did what he'd asked—she picked a card. It was the ace of spades. The death card. A chill ran through her.

"Don't tell me what it is, Dr. Bishop. Just hold it in your hand." Mr. Jensen closed his eyes and began to mutter something under his breath.

Natalie had a sudden urge to throw the card down on the bed, which was ridiculous. She wasn't superstitious. She didn't believe in card tricks, hocus pocus or any other kind of magic. She didn't believe in anything that couldn't be scientifically proven. The ace of spades was just a card. If she were playing poker or blackjack, she'd be excited to have it.

Mr. Jensen's eyes flew open and he stared at her as if he'd never seen her before. "The dark ace. Spades."

She swallowed hard. "Good guess." Handing him back the card, she asked, "How did you know?"

"I felt you shiver." He met her gaze with a seriousness that made her feel even more uneasy. "You're afraid."

"No, I'm not." She didn't have time to be afraid. She was a medical resident working double shifts most days. She was overworked, overtired and stressed to the max. She didn't have the energy to be scared. Except that she was scared. She was terrified that something would go wrong at this late date, that with only a month to go on her residency, after years of struggling against almost insurmountable odds to become a doctor, she would somehow fail. And failure wasn't an option. Her career was her life.

"Something bad is coming," the old man continued. "I can feel it in my bones. And these old bones have never been wrong."

"I don't know what you're talking about. Why don't you let me listen to your heart?" Natalie placed her stethoscope on his chest and listened to the steady beating of his heart. It sounded fine. Hers, on the other hand, was pounding against her rib cage. Too much caffeine, she told herself, nothing more than that.

"Your heart sounds good," she said, focusing her mind on the present. "Are you having any pain?"

"Not anymore."

Natalie wasn't surprised. Mr. Jensen was a regular in the ER, and by now they both knew the drill. "What did you have for lunch?”

"Pepperoni pizza."

She had suspected as much. "I think we found our culprit. Was it a burning pain right about here?" she asked, putting her hand on his chest.

He nodded. "Yes, that's it exactly."

"Sounds like the same indigestion you had last week and the week before. It's time to stop eating pizza, Mr. Jensen." She pulled out her prescription pad. "I can give you something to help with your digestion, but you really need to work on changing your diet."

"Maybe I should wait here for a while, make sure it doesn't come back."

Natalie knew she should send him on his way. There was nothing physically wrong with him, and they would no doubt need the bed in the next few hours. It was Friday after all, a perfect night for madness and mayhem. But Mr. Jensen was almost eighty years old and lived alone. He probably needed company more than medical treatment.

Don't get involved, she told herself. Emergency medicine was about fixing specific problems, not getting emotionally involved with the patients. That's why she'd chosen the specialty. She was good at the quick fix but bad at personal relationships.

"I can show you another trick," Mr. Jensen offered, fanning the cards with his hand. "I used to be a magician, you know, a good one, too. I once worked in Las Vegas."

"I've never been to Vegas."

"And you don't believe in magic," he said with a sigh.

"No, I don't."

He tilted his head, considering her with wise old eyes that made her nervous. "When did you stop believing?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"In Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and leprechauns."

"I never believed in those things."

"Never? Not even when you were a little girl?" he asked in amazement.

She opened her mouth to tell him she'd never really been a little girl, when an image of herself in a long pink nightgown came into her head. She couldn't have been more than seven. Her dad had swept her up into his arms so she could hang her stocking over the fireplace and they'd put out chocolate chip cookies for Santa Claus. It was their last Christmas together. A wave of grief hit her hard. She'd almost forgotten. And she didn't know which was worse—that she'd almost forgotten or that she'd remembered.

Natalie looked down at the prescription pad in her hand and forced herself to finish writing. She ripped off the paper and handed it to him. "This should do the trick."

"I don't think I feel well enough to leave yet," he said slowly, putting a hand to his chest.

His lonely eyes pleaded with her to understand. And she did. She knew the old man lived on his own, and she knew how hard it was to be alone. But the attending physician was a fanatic about hospital policies, which always involved moving the patients along as quickly as possible, and he'd love having a reason to call her on the carpet. One more month, she told herself. She had to finish her residency. She could worry about changing hospital policies later. Still...

"You know," she said, the cards in his hand catching her eye, "I bet there are some kids up in pediatrics who would love to see some card tricks. Why don't I send one of the volunteers in, and if you're feeling up to it, she can take you upstairs and put you to work."

A smile lifted the corners of his mouth. "That sounds good. Thank you, Dr. Bishop."

"No problem." Natalie walked out of the room and down the hall, stopping at the nurse's station to drop off his chart and ask the nurse to find someone to take Mr. Jensen up to pediatrics.

"He worked you good," Gloria, the charge nurse, told her, a knowing glint in her experienced eyes.

Natalie shrugged. "It's a win-win situation. The kids will love his tricks, and he'll have someone to talk to. Maybe he can volunteer upstairs and we'll see less of him down here."

"You're trying to stop the dam from breaking with your little finger. There are a hundred more just like Mr. Jensen who come in here every week—are you going to send them all to pediatrics?"

"Only if they can do magic tricks. Do I have time for a break?" she asked, checking the board on the wall.

"A short one," Gloria replied.

"You know where to find me." Natalie headed down the hall to the break room. A lone medical student, Karen Gregg, was eating a sandwich in front of the small television. She put up a hand to shush Natalie when she started to say hello. Natalie glanced at the screen, wondering what was so intriguing. It appeared to be one of those book shows with a man seated at a desk in a bookstore, a hardcover novel displayed next to him. The title of the book was Fallen Angel and the author was Garrett Malone, a man in his forties with a thick beard, studious eyeglasses, and a serious expression.

She was about to turn away when she heard his voice. It was oddly familiar. Or maybe it was his words that resounded in her memory...

"They stood at the gates of heaven, the pledges on one side of the room, the sorority sisters on the other," he read. "They were beautiful young women in white dresses, rings of flowers on their heads. Their faces glowed in the light of the candles held in their hands. The hush of voices provided a beautiful harmony to the night's initiation ceremony.

"One girl didn't belong. She had the urge to run away, but her friends surrounded her. They were called the Fabulous Four, united since their first day as college freshmen and later as sorority pledges. One wanted to be a doctor, another a model, a third wanted a husband and children. But this one girl wasn't sure what she wanted to be. She just knew that she wanted her friends to know the real her.

She wanted to stop pretending to be someone she wasn't. Only she couldn't find the courage to take off the mask, to show her true self. She was afraid they would judge her, and she was right to be afraid."

Garrett Malone paused and looked directly into the camera. Natalie drew in a sharp breath, suddenly reminded of Mr. Jensen and his prediction that something bad was coming.

"In a few moments they would become sisters," Malone continued. "By the end of the night one of them would be dead."

"Emily," Natalie whispered, shaking her head in disbelief. It was Emily's story. It was their story. They were the Fabulous Four: Madison, Laura, Emily, and herself. They'd met at college. They'd pledged together their sophomore year. But the man was reading from a novel. It was fiction, wasn't it? Of course it was. The plot line was just strangely similar. A bizarre coincidence? It couldn't be anything more than that. Could it?

"Is something wrong, Dr. Bishop?" Karen asked.

Natalie realized the woman was looking at her with alarm. "What?"

"You're as white as a sheet. Are you ill?"

"I'm fine. Just fine."

"Have you read the book yet?" Karen tipped her head toward the television set.

"I don't have time to read."

"I don't either, but murder mysteries are my guilty pleasure. This one got a great review in the Tribune."

The Tribune? The Parish family paper? They wouldn't have reviewed a book about their daughter's death, which meant the novel couldn't be about Emily. Natalie forced herself to breathe.

"I read today that it's going to be a movie, too," Karen continued. "I can see why. I just started it yesterday, and I'm hooked. I can't wait to see what happens."

"What's it about?" Natalie asked, then wished she hadn't. She didn't want to know what it was about. She didn't want to know anything more about it. But it was too late to take back her question.

"It's about a murder in a sorority house. A girl named Ellie falls to her death from the second-story roof the night of the initiation."

Natalie's stomach twisted into a painful knot. Ellie, not Emily, but the names were close.

"None of her friends or family knows what happened. At least that's what they say. I'm not sure how it's going to end, but I think one of those girls killed her."

Natalie turned away, her heart racing as the words ran through her head.

One of those girls killed her.

And she was one of those girls.

* * *

Cole Parish strode through the newsroom of the San Francisco Tribune early Friday evening, nodding to reporters and research assistants who would work into the night, making calls, tracking the wires, and scanning the Internet in search of the latest-breaking stories to fill the pages of the Saturday and Sunday editions. The energy in the newsroom never failed to get Cole's blood pumping, and he needed that energy now, having spent most of the afternoon in a meeting with the bean counters. As executive editor of the paper, it was his job to make sure the paper stayed profitable, a trying proposition in the current climate of instant electronic news.

Studying the profit and loss statement was his least favorite part of the job. He was a newsman at heart, not a businessman, but duty to family had landed him behind the big desk in the corner office instead of out on the front lines where he'd always wanted to be. Well, that ship had sailed years ago. No point in crying about it now.

His secretary looked up at his approach. Monica, an older woman with dark hair and shrewd brown eyes, was a longtime employee. She'd worked for his grandfather, his father, and his uncle, and she probably knew as much about running the paper as Cole did. "Any messages?" he asked.

"Your father called earlier to confirm that you'll be having dinner with the family on Wednesday evening when they get back from their trip."

Cole nodded. His parents, along with his aunt and uncle, had spent the past month touring Europe, and he suspected that his father and uncle, who served as chairman of the board and president respectively, were eager to catch up on what was going on with the paper.

"I told him everything was running smoothly," Monica said. "You also had a message from your cousin Cindy, who..." Monica frowned as she stared down at the message slip in her hand. "I didn't quite understand what she was talking about, but it was something about a book review in last Sunday's paper. She said she'd call back. She seemed quite upset. She muttered something about family loyalty."

"When she calls back, take a message. I've told her before that I leave the choices of books up to our book editor, and I don't want to get into another discussion about it. What else?"

"You have a visitor waiting in your office. She insisted," Monica added with a disapproving glint in her eyes. "When are you going to find a nice girl to settle down with?"

"Gisela is a very nice girl."

"She's very something. Nice isn't the word I'd use."

Nice wasn't the word he'd use, either, Cole thought as he entered his office. Hot, stunning, and sexy came to mind. Actually, his mind failed to function when Gisela brushed her well-endowed breasts against his chest and gave him a long, wet kiss.

"I missed you, baby. Where have you been?" she asked in a little-girl voice that immediately dampened his enthusiasm. Why did women think that kind of talk was sexy?

"I've been in meetings all day," he replied, stepping away from her.

"You know what they say about all work and no play. It makes a man very boring." She gave him a flirtatious smile. She really was pretty, he thought: ash-blond hair, dark brown eyes, curves in all the right places. He just wished they had more in common outside of the bedroom. Not that he wanted a long-term relationship. He'd given up on that idea years ago.

"Ask me what I did today," she continued.

"What did you do today?"

"I went to a spa in the Napa Valley with Margarita. It was incredible. We had facials and mud baths, and they wrapped our bodies in seaweed..."

Cole sat down at his desk as Gisela rambled on about her visit to the spa with a fellow lingerie model. He turned on the panel of television monitors that lined the opposite wall and skimmed through the tag lines on each news channel, catching up on the latest happenings in the world. Breaking news in war zones had taken on a new dimension in recent years with reporters embedded in battalions and marching into battle along with the soldiers. It was a dangerous but exciting time to be a foreign correspondent.

"Did you hear what I said?" Gisela asked impatiently.

"Sorry?" he asked, still distracted as he saw a breaking-news tag flash on the CNN screen. He couldn't quite read the words, but the raging winds and swirling waves suggested a hurricane heading toward the North Carolina coast.

"Cole, this is ridiculous. You're not listening to me." Gisela slapped the top of his desk with her hand, a small ineffectual tap that would not have dared to chip her red nail polish, but the fact that she'd hit anything at all with those newly painted fingers told him she was truly irritated—which was par for the course. Gisela was a drama queen.

Every minor annoyance in her life turned into a major problem.

"What was the matter this time -- not enough caviar in the body wrap?" he asked.

"The problem is you."

Cole sighed. He'd heard that one before -- not just once, either. The comment was usually followed by, You don't spend enough time with me or I don't feel like we really know each other. To which he often felt like replying, Do we need to know each other? Can't we just have a good time together, a few laughs, a lot of sex, and leave it at that? Not that he would ever actually say that. He knew better than to wave a red flag in front of a bull or an irritated woman.

Before Gisela could explain exactly why she was upset, there was a knock at his office door, and Josh Somerville entered the room. Josh had a typical California beachboy look: a wiry, lean physique perfect for riding a surfboard, skateboard or any other kind of board, sandy blond hair that was never combed, freckles that got worse in the summer and a wide grin on his perpetually cheerful face. Thank God for Josh. His radar was still working. Growing up next door to each other, Cole and Josh and Josh's twin brother Dylan had developed a system with girls. If one was in trouble, one of the others always came to the rescue.

"Josh, you're right on time." Cole sent his friend a pointed glance.

Josh darted a quick look at Gisela's stormy face. "I see that I am. Hi, Gertie, how are you?"

Cole inwardly groaned. Gisela, once known as Gertrude Hamilstein, had changed her name to Gisela years ago, but Josh, a sports reporter for the Trib, had come across the info and couldn't resist goading her with her real name.

"We're having a private conversation, if you don't mind," Gisela said.

"I don't mind. Go right ahead." Josh sat down in the chair in front of Cole's desk and stretched out his legs. "What are we talking about?"

"Love," she said.

"My favorite topic."

"I said love, not sex. You wouldn't know the difference."

"Most men don't," Josh said with a laugh. "Don't you agree, Cole?"

"Dammit," Cole said, distracted once again by the scene on one of the television monitors. "They just hit the embassy in Jordan." He picked up his phone and punched in the extension for the editor of the foreign affairs desk, his younger cousin Randy. Fortunately, Randy was still at his desk. "Is Hal in Jordan?"

"He's on his way home," Randy answered. "His wife is about to go into labor."

"Who else do we have over there?"

"Anita is in Lebanon. I'm already on it."

"Good." Cole hung up the phone to find Gisela shaking her head in disgust. "What?"

"You're addicted," Gisela replied. "The news is a drug to you, and you can't get enough."

"The news is my business, and this is a newspaper. We're supposed to report what's going on in the world."

"How about what's going on in your own life? Aren't you interested in that?"

"What are you talking about?"

Josh cleared his throat. "I don't think you two need me for this. I'll come back later."

"Oh, you can stay," Gisela said with a frustrated shake of her head. "I'm done. I'm leaving."

"Okay. I'll see you later tonight," Cole said, as Gisela picked up her designer purse.

She shook her head, an expression of amazement on her face. "I don't think so. Did you hear nothing of what I just said?"

"Uh..." he said warily. What on earth had she been talking about?

"Oh, my God," she said in exasperation. "You really don't listen. I'm breaking up with you. I never want to see you again. Is that clear? Or do you need a ton of bricks to hit you in the head?" To make her point, she picked up the heavy stapler on his desk and threw it at him on her way out the door.

Cole ducked, but not fast enough. The stapler caught the side of his head and the next thing he saw was a burst of stars that went along with an explosion of pain in his forehead. He put his fingers to his face and they came away bloody. "What the hell?"

He was barely aware of the flurry of activity that followed. Someone gave him a towel. Josh helped him into the elevator and down to the parking garage, where he put him in his car and drove to the nearest hospital. Apparently, the emergency department of St. Timothy's wasn't as impressed by the gash in his head as his coworkers had been, because they handed him an ice pack and told him to take a seat in a waiting room that was overflowing with a mix of people, many of whom didn't appear to be speaking English.

"This could take hours," Cole muttered. "We should forget it."

"We can't forget it. You probably need stitches." Josh sat down in the chair next to him. "You really know how to piss off a woman, I'll say that for you. How's your head?"

"It hurts like hell." The throbbing pain made it difficult for him to speak.

"Next time you break up with a woman, make sure there aren't any heavy objects lying around."

"I didn't know we were breaking up."

"Apparently that was the problem," Josh said with a grin.

Cole moved his head, then groaned at the pain that shot through his temple. "Dammit. This is the last thing I needed today. I've got to get out of here. I have things to do."

"What things? It's Friday night."

"The news doesn't stop just because it's the weekend. In case you haven't noticed, the world has gone crazy in the last few months."

Josh leaned forward. "In case you haven't noticed, your world is going crazy."

"What does that mean?"

"It means you should start paying attention to problems closer to home, like your girlfriend. You can probably get Gisela back if you call her tonight."

"Why would I want to do that? She almost killed me."

"If you'd moved faster, she wouldn't have hit you. You've gotten slow, Parish."

"I have not gotten slow." Even though his job kept him at his desk for long hours at a time, he worked out every day. "Frankly, I think I've had enough of Gisela anyway. What is with that baby-girl voice she uses? It makes me want to rip my hair out."

"Thank God she finally got to you. She's been driving me crazy for weeks. She was hot, though."

"Cole Parish?" a nurse asked, interrupting them. "Come with me."

Cole got to his feet. "You can wait here, if you want," he said to Josh.

"I'll stick with you. It's a zoo out here," Josh replied as a group of drag queens came into the waiting room.

They followed the nurse down the hall and into a room with three beds, each separated by a thin curtain. An elderly man lay in one bed. The other was empty. "A doctor will be in shortly," the nurse said. She had barely left the room when they heard a commotion in the hallway.

A flurry of people in scrubs dashed past the door, shouting out various medical terms as they pushed a gurney down the hall. Cole's reporter instincts kicked in despite the pain in his head. He craned his neck, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on.

"I'll check it out," Josh said.

Cole frowned as his friend rushed out of the room, irritated that he was sidelined while someone else caught the action. He sat down on the bed, holding the ice pack to his head, and wished for a television set. If they were going to make people wait this long, at least they could offer an all-news channel to take their minds off their pain.

Josh walked back into the room a few minutes later. "Gunshot victim," he said. "Convenience store robbery in the Mission district. The owner shot the robber, a seventeen-year-old kid."

"Will he make it?"

"They took him to surgery."

"I should call Blake," Cole said, referring to the assistant editor who ran the city desk on Friday nights.

"I'm sure he's already heard about it."

"Where's my phone?"

"Who knows? Relax, dude. You might have a concussion."

"I don't have a concussion, and I don't want the Trib to miss the story. We have a lot of competition these days with blogs and online news outlets."

"We can handle the competition." Josh sat down in the chair next to the bed. "Besides, you have a lot of people working for you. Let them do their jobs." Josh leaned back and toyed with a piece of tubing hanging from some sort of a machine. "What do you think this is?"

"I have no idea. Where is the damn doctor anyway? I could have bled to death by now."

"Death by Stapler," Josh said with a laugh. "There's a headline for you. Or how about Psycho Supermodel Snaps?"

Cole groaned. "Not funny."

"It is kind of funny."

Josh was right. His personal life was now officially a joke. Gisela's parting shot had definitely gotten his attention. Maybe he did need to focus on something or someone besides the news. But not Gisela. That was over. He'd known it for a while. He'd just been too busy to end it. Now that she'd done it, he felt more relieved than anything else.

Cole looked up as a woman entered the room.

"Good evening, Mr.— " She stopped abruptly, looking up from the chart with wide, shockingly familiar eyes. "Cole?"


His heart thudded against his chest. It couldn't be Natalie. Not now, not after all these years. Not here, not in his city.

She moved farther into the room, slow, small steps, as if she wasn't quite sure she wanted to come closer. Her hair, a beautiful dark red, was pulled back in a clip, showing off the perfect oval of her face. Her eyes were a brilliant blue, her lips as soft and full as he remembered, but it was the tiny freckle at the corner of her mouth that made him suck in his breath. He'd kissed that freckle. He'd kissed that mouth. God! Natalie Bishop. The only woman he'd ever... No, he couldn't think it, much less say it.

It should have been easy to see her. It had been ten years, but it seemed like ten minutes.

She was older now, a woman—not a girl. There were tiny lines by her eyes and around her mouth. She'd filled out, grown up, and she'd come back. He wasn't ready to see her again. She didn't look ready to see him, either.

Cole suddenly became aware of the white coat she was wearing, the stethoscope around her neck, the chart in her hands. She was a doctor. She was his doctor!

"Well, isn't this quite the reunion?" Josh murmured, breaking the silence between them. "Remember me?"

Natalie looked at Josh blankly for a second; then recognition kicked in. "Of course. You're Josh, Dylan's twin brother and Cole's next-door neighbor."

"Good memory."

Natalie turned her attention back to Cole. "Did you come to see me about the book? Is it really about Emily?" Her gaze moved to his head. "Oh, you're hurt. You have a laceration. That's why you're here. Of course that's why you're here," she added with a shake of her head. "What am I thinking?"

"What book? What are you talking about?"

Her mouth opened, then closed. "Nothing. Are you in pain?"

"I've had better days. Are you really a doctor?"

"Yes, I am. What happened?" She held his chart in front of her like a protective shield.

"I got hit by a flying object," he said, preferring not to go into the details.

"His girlfriend threw a stapler at his head," Josh interjected helpfully. "She was trying to get his attention."

"Did it work?" Natalie asked briskly, her demeanor changing at the mention of a girlfriend. Or maybe she was just coming to grips with the fact that they were in the same room. Whatever the reason, she now had on her game face.

"I'm definitely switching to paper clips," Cole replied.

She stared at him for a long moment. He wondered what she was seeing, what she was thinking. Not that he cared. Why would he care what she thought of him? He knew what he thought of her. And it wasn't good.

"You may need stitches," she said.

He wondered how she knew that when she hadn't looked at the wound. In fact, she'd stopped a good three feet away and couldn't seem to make herself come any closer. "How long have you worked here?"

"A few years."

"A few years?" he echoed. She'd been in San Francisco a few years, working at a hospital a couple of blocks from the newspaper?

"St. Timothy's is an excellent hospital. They offered me a terrific opportunity, better than I could find anywhere else. That's why I came to San Francisco," she said in a defensive rush. "It had nothing to do with you. I'm going to get some sutures. I'll be back."

Josh let out a low whistle as Natalie left the room. "I didn't see that one coming."

"I didn't either," Cole murmured. It must be his night for getting blindsided by women.

"She looks good."

"I didn't notice."

"Yeah, tell that to someone who doesn't remember how crazy you were about her."

"I can't believe she's been in San Francisco for years. Why would she come here after everything that happened with Emily and with me?"

"She always loved the cable cars."

Cole's chest tightened. Natalie had loved the cable cars and the sailboats down at the marina, the fresh crab on Fisherman's Wharf, the long walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. At one time, he'd thought she'd fallen in love with the city as much as with him. Hell, maybe it had always been the city and never him. Not that he cared anymore. She was old news. Nothing was worse than old news.

"What was that book she was talking about?" Josh asked.

"I have no idea." It occurred to him that it was the second time that day someone had mentioned something about a book.

Silence fell between them as several long minutes passed. It was too quiet. Cole didn't like it. "Do you think she's coming back?"

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