CAROL MCPHEE'S LOVE, LAUGHTER AND ADVENTURE NOVELS

Strong, smart, sensuous heroines; heroes to die for.

MEANS TO AN END

From the first scene depicting Lori Wheeler's frustration with the criminal justice system, turmoil and guilt prevail. Danger, conflict, and suspense abound in this captivating romance between a woman who believes her dreams of love died in a car crash and a Mountie whose dedication makes love a complication he doesn't need.

Dedicated to law enforcement, RCMP officer, Rand McCormick, will get his man and he will use the woman to do it:

The objective---stop illegal drugs coming ashore.

The prize--------the smugglers' kingpin.

The means------use of a luxury yacht and Lori Wheeler.

The fly-in-the-ointment----Lori Wheeler--she detests cops.

 Excerpt #1

Seated in Lochaber Haven's restaurant, Lori Wheeler watched a spooky sight round the bend of the mist-shrouded river in front of her--a large yacht navigating to the resort's dockside. She shelved her glum mood just as a waitress approached.

"We've never had a yacht that big try to dock here," the waitress exclaimed, looking out the window. "If the captain takes her any farther up the channel, he'll never get her out." She pressed her hands to the small of her back in awe of the spectacular appearance.

Lori's eyes widened and she glanced up at her. "He's taking a risk to escape the heavy fog, isn't he? It must be scary out on the Atlantic." She peered back at the skilful progress of the yacht. "It looks like he's trading one hazard for another."

As the craft sliced through the mirror-black water, Lori's curiosity pushed her misery to the back of her mind. The apparition slowed and inched forward. "He probably has every navigational instrument known to man on board."

"That won't help him in these tight quarters." The waitress, dressed in a white blouse and a Nova Scotia tartan skirt, stood beside Lori and, mesmerized by the vision, suspended the water pitcher she carried in midair.

Lori didn't need to be told that this narrow river, carved inland from the rugged Nova Scotia coast, would cause problems for the boat. The rock-bound cliff rising on the far side of the channel screamed danger. On this side, the resort's dockside hosted small pleasure boats, not long luxurious ones. The risk of damage to the yacht and surroundings intrigued her.

The yacht's engines stopped.

Lori's interest honed in on a hazy figure as it leapt from the wheelhouse down onto the main deck. She could barely make out the captain's cap. Two green-shirted lodge employees rushed to the wharf, yelling out suggestions. There simply was no room to tie up, let alone latitude for the boat to turn and leave. Reversal, skirting the bend, begged for trouble in the deepening fog.

The yachtsman's white sneakers stood out as he tracked from one end of the craft to the other, surveying the water's glassy surface. He climbed back up to the wheelhouse and disappeared.

Lori squinted and concentrated on the boat's ultra-white gleam piercing through the opaque vapor. The eerie motion of the yacht started again but was so slow it was almost impossible to detect. If it hadn't been for the few ripples of dark water kissing the Fiberglas sides and the slight bubbling wake, she would have thought the mirage had anchored. Nudging closer to the cliff, the yacht edged along the rock base. Suddenly, the water stilled.

A second shadowy form appeared on the deck. She watched as he checked the sides of the yacht and appeared to holler up to the boat's captain, his words muted by the dampness in the air and the barrier of the restaurant's glass. A few minutes later, the phantom slung a rope over the rail. He accurately scored a hit from the bow as the looped end draped over one of the four pylons fastened to the cliff rock. Embedded there for tying up the overflow when the main dockside was filled, tires dangling from the posts protected boats from scrubbing against the hard surface.

"They made it." Lori's rare burst of enthusiasm surprised her.

"I'd like to be here to see how they squeeze out." The waitress laughed, filled Lori's water goblet and returned to the kitchen.

Lori sipped her water and turned back to watch the excitement. The captain reappeared, and with bounding agility duplicated the performance of his mate, winching the yacht's stern securely to another pylon along the cliff's stone wall.

The two men stood on the deck engaged in animated conversation. The way their arms flung in wide measuring gestures, their concern involved the limiting space they were in. She wondered if they had argued about their destination beforehand, because it was evident the mate was not pleased to be here. The captain's tall, large frame was impressive from this distance, especially with his bone-straight stature. He seemed determined to win the discussion and she saw he finally succeeded. The two men ended the argument and worked to lower an inflatable rubber boat with ZODIAC printed on the side. The pair climbed in and paddled the short distance to the dock.

Her chin resting on her steepled fingers, Lori followed their movement while waiting for her meal. Her face heated when the captain glanced up at her window as he walked with his mate up the incline from the wharf. At the sight of her, he came to an abrupt stop. She wanted to look away, but something compelled her to meet his brooding scowl. Her head reeled from the impact.

"Do you know those men?" Lori asked the waitress, when she served her a small tossed salad with a tiny loaf of homemade bread.

"They've been here before but not with the boat. They came for dinner one night last week." She bent down and whispered, "I remember, because the captain left a big tip, and of course his good looks make him hard to forget." The waitress moved to tidy nearby tables.

When Lori looked back outside, the captain was still staring up at her, even though his companion had continued into the sports office beneath the restaurant. Was the man spellbound? Not by her beauty, he wasn't. Nothing about her should attract his attention.

To Lori's way of thinking, there wasn't a thing about her to attract anyone. Since the accident, there was less reason than ever to draw a man's eye. But her scar was on the side away from his line of vision--he hadn't seen that she limped.

She narrowed her eyes and bore down on his mist-bound face, then realized something was vaguely familiar about him. She couldn't remember where she might have seen him. That was the way of her memory the past year. Nothing, except for the anger, stayed in focus long. As quickly as she managed to grasp some tidbit of information, it left her.

This lack of permanent stability, in addition to her bitterness, forced her delay in returning to work. As the Administrator of Criminal Court Services, her job had always satisfied her. But she believed in justice for all, then. Lately, she'd realized she might never again be able to face entering the building. And did she really care? Yes. She cared. Cared enough to absorb the expense and come to a resort she could hardly afford.

The man outside lowered his eyes with her inspection, then took off his cap and ran his fingers through his hair. Without looking back up, he placed the cap on his head and chased after his companion.

Lori absent-mindedly drizzled the house dressing on her salad and sipped the ice water to clear her head. Where had she seen him before? When? She stared into the gloom.

"Ma'am, you're dinner will be ready in a few minutes." The waitress seemed concerned she wasn't eating, but the woman had been right: he was not the kind that could be easily forgotten.

Lori took her first bite of salad and while chewing it cut off and buttered a slice of the fresh loaf. This bread smells delicious. The butter melted quickly. It tastes even better. She continued eating, but her mind ran rampant. The moment she had seen his thick dark hair, it commanded her attention. She had a habit of noticing men's haircuts and was certain she would never have forgotten that healthy mass. The strength harbored within those frowning eyes twitched every nerve in her body, though. She had seen them before somewhere. He'd seemed shocked to see her, as if he recognized her. Damn. Why can't I remember?

 Excerpt #2

A bitter taste welled up the back of Rand's throat when Lori moved to the edge of the sofa and slammed her crystal glass on the coffee table. He expected the glass to shatter from the force. Miraculously it held together.

Obviously, she took umbrage at the word, "no." With her grudge against the RCMP, he didn't stand a chance in hell of gaining her cooperation. He should have seen it coming; the vibes had been there.

"I'm leaving, Rand."

Rand's mind raced ahead. She couldn't be allowed to go and blow his investigation by grumbling to others, casting suspicion on him. He had to divert her and avoid problems that would interfere with the momentum of his mission. This time he had a chance to not only cut back the spread of drugs in the province, but also to hurt the South American cartel providing the shipments. Holding her against her will wasn't an option he'd want to try, though. She hadn't done anything wrong and it was hardly fair to confine her without another attempt to put their association on an even keel.

She jumped up, her eyes blistering a warning--back off. Her hands buckled and the movement didn't signify a general uneasiness--it foretold of an imminent eruption of fury. The realization challenged his usual finesse. He leapt to his feet and blocked the door.

"Look. I didn't mean you can't leave. Of course you can go, but I'm afraid I've upset you. I haven't been through what you have, otherwise, I'd probably be even more hostile with the law. Lori, give me a chance to make up sounding so sharp... I'm the one being judgmental... Please? Stay for the evening. We can understand each other better if we keep the lines of communication open."

He wasn't shoveling bull this time; he was dead serious. It meant a great deal that she didn't take offense. She had postured, aware she had placed herself in peril. The truth of it was: he was stronger and blocking the only escape route. She'd never make it out on the deck. Surely, she was wise enough to give in to his plea while it still was a request. But she wouldn't fool him; she was smart, and he'd have to be on guard for any tricks she might come up with to get away.

Lori sank slowly to the leather surface and stared out at the gloom. Her pale face reflected her inner turmoil. He wanted to help.

"Can you forget what I said?" He needed her on his side, but insulting her because he'd let his temper run askew wouldn't cut it. "I had no right calling you judgmental. I'm sure you have reasons for your slant on the case." Sitting across from her once again, he was surprised by how defensive and angry he'd become in just a matter of minutes. She had slandered the RCMP--his pride and joy--and he couldn't find a way to defend it without making her suspicious. Watch it, or those sparkly eyes and her quick mind will do you in, Rand. He wondered if George's prediction that he'd someday meet more than his match had come back to taunt him.


Means To An End: Available from http://www.books-by-wings-epress.com/means-to-an-end

A Structured Affair
Now available from www.champagnebooks.com and www.fictionwise.com

Carol McPhee - Strong, smart, sensuous heroines; heroes to die for.

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