A social worker in hiding discovers her insolent neighbor belongs to the gang with a price on her head.
ZOOM! The Harley-Davidson revs up as it passes in the night. Jen Murray's cabin walls shudder. She knows it's only a matter of time until the motorcycle returns. The answering yips of her pup, Spooky, irritate her further. She needs peace and quiet and a clear mind to deal with the tragedy that brought her to the lake. The situation calls for confrontation--and she knows all about confrontation.
Jen rushes next door to ask the rider to gear down when he drives by. She is repulsed by his Neanderthal appearance and equally turned off by his rude behavior. Mitch Waverley's attitude stinks as well and sends her running for cover. She soon learns she can't even enjoy a peaceful swim because the hoodlum skinny-dips in the lake. Yet after being attacked by leeches from under her wharf, she's forced to call upon his help and endure his touch on her body.
Excerpt from chapter one
"Yip-Yip-Yip!" Jen Murray flipped her red-haired ponytail as she scrambled off her chair. "There it goes again. Spooky, you noisy dog, stop barking at the damn motorcycle or I'll take you back to the animal pound." Spooky let out one more squeak, then flattened his ears. "Don't worry, Spooks. I really wouldn't do that." Jen shoved the screen door wide and stepped onto her cabin's porch. Her violent push caused a hinge bracket to slide sideways and pull from the frame, leaving the door dangling betwixt and between... not fully attached, but not landing on the warped floorboards, either. She tossed her hands in the air with the frustration of it all. "Now I've got one more thing to fix, pup, and you're no help." The puppy responded with a twitch of his ears and a quick, "Yip." "Yeah, sure. You've got my number and know I'm just blowing smoke." Stretched on tiptoes, Jen peered through the patch of trees separating her refuge from the only other cottage on the road. Somewhere out in the middle of Sawtooth Lake, the panicked call of a loon protested the cycle's noisy invasion. The strong scent of the pines, which earlier in the day had soothed her woes, disturbed her now. It emphasized her isolation. Like the loon, she wanted tranquility. A couple of minutes passed, then a light flickered in the residence next door. Jen groaned and turned her attention to the starry sky. She'd bought this ramshackle property to enjoy nature's serenity, but she wasn't getting what she'd paid for. "Spooky, wouldn't you think that in the three days we've been here, we'd be able to get all the sleep we wanted?" Still grumbling to herself, she reached down and tickled under the puppy's chin. "Both nights have been ruined by the roar of that monster's wheels on the gravel. The freakin' engine's so loud the whole place shudders when he rides by." Tonight, she'd found herself anticipating the inevitable, which not only disrupted her rest, but also distracted her from conversations with cyber friends in her favorite computer chat room. "I'm fed up! What do you think, Spooks? Should I go over and give the rider a piece of my mind? It's early for his nightly trip; he's probably going out again at his usual time." The small terrier-mix looked up. His amber melting gaze had won Jen's heart and coerced her into choosing him from a pathetic batch of dogs. His adoring watchfulness wasn't calming her heart this night. Spooky appeared to know what she meant though, because he glanced toward the other cottage and plunked his gray, curly-haired body on the top step. He wagged his tail at the prospect of excitement. "Okay. Wait `til I get a flashlight." Rather than take the road, Jen chose a shortcut through the trees. The brambles clawing at her arms irritated her further. At the back of the log structure, she rounded the tail end of the contraption causing such a flurry in her life. In the dim light from the cottage's windows, she noticed the Harley-Davidson logo in relief across the gas tank. The red of the letters matched the fury between her temples. She stifled the urge to knock over the gleaming black machine. Jen rapped three times on the front door, then stooped to push Spooky's enthusiastic paws off her legs. The door jerked open to leave her staring at a pair of huge scuffed leather boots. She took her time straightening up to consider her best approach. By the time she confronted him, her face had heated as though she'd stood too close to steaming coals in a sauna. Her brain hissed a warning. Spooky plopped down his bottom and stared at the human towering above him. "What do you want?" the deep, raspy voice boomed. She ignored having to look up so high to meet his eyes. "I have a problem, otherwise I wouldn't be here." "Your car broke down?" After giving Jen's figure a lecherous once over, the man stepped past her to the edge of the porch and peered down his pitch-black driveway. She glanced in at the cozy, pine-walled interior and noted a loft overlooking a stone-faced fireplace. She turned, and with the inside light now illuminating him, swept her eyes over his brown shoulder-length shaggy hair and scruffy beard. He looked like something from a Werewolves R Us TV show. Two gold earrings glistened from one ear lobe, adding to the glimmer of three chains that dripped from his neck. His tanned, wind-worn cheeks made it difficult to judge his age, but she suspected he was at least a couple of years older than her own thirty-two. Jen stiffened her backbone. "I live next door. I should have said, `we' have a problem." "We do?" His eyebrows lifted. "Your motorbike is wrecking my evening's peace. The noise wakes me up when you return." "Hold it right there! It isn't a motorbike! It's a Harley-Davidson. Motorbikes are for pussies." When she noticed his size, she intended to remain calm and controlled, but his tone made her want to throw flames. "To me they're all the same because they have two wheels and an engine that rumbles loud enough to wake the dead. Is it necessary to rev up when you ride past my cabin? Do you have to be coming and going at all hours of the night? Some people like to get a good night's rest, you know." The hulk checked his watch and scowled. "It's not bedtime yet." "It's not right now, but my point is that you'll probably come past later. That's when I'm asleep or trying to sleep. And that's why I'm here now, to..." Damn. She was babbling. She didn't need to explain. "What's that thing at your feet, a mop?" She looked down at Spooky sitting meekly beside her. Some enforcer he was. "That's my dog." Suddenly, Jen wondered what on earth had possessed her to be so foolish. She'd come here alone and angry at God-knows-who. She had to learn to keep a tight rein on her temper. The aftermath of her last outburst was the reason she'd come to the lake in the first place. "He's not much of a dog." Temper be damned. She scowled and said, "Well, he's not a pussy, either. You didn't answer my questions about revving up your engine when you pass my cottage." "I wasn't aware I was revving up anything." The Neanderthal peered down at her, then scrutinized the darkness. "Want to come in and discuss this?" "No!" She shivered. "Look, I don't want to be a pain. I just want you to be more considerate and keep the noise level down." The neighbor stepped onto the six-inch high threshold and stretched his arm to the doorjamb, facing her. A heavy drift of body odor invaded her nose, forcing her to move back. Her eyes flitted along the football-player shoulders attached to arms so firm and thick his tee shirted short sleeves had to stretch tight to enclose them. She was thankful his sleeves hid his armpits; the thought of seeing a nest of hair under each arm was enough to make her puke. A sarcastic smile glided across his tightened mouth. "It's hard to quiet a Harley. They're made to rock your world." "They're made to give the illusion of power to those who have rocks in their heads," she replied without missing a beat. Or the illusion of balls to guys who have teeny-weeny weenies. Which probably wouldn't be the case here. She shook the silly thought from her head. Jen couldn't believe it was her usually proper self, acting like a foolhardy David against a tough-looking, bad-smelling Goliath. She had a jarring thought: with no rocks, no slingshot, just a pacifist pooch, she made a stupid David. "I take it you're into lumping all bikers together?" He shifted his feet and stretched taller, taking up much of the doorway's open space. She gulped, then took her stand. "No. I'm into wanting some quiet and a decent night's sleep." She thought she detected a slight glint in his eyes. It could have been a spark of moonlight, but more than likely, with those overhanging, dark bushy brows, it was her imagination. The fluttering of his scraggly whiskers made her cringe at the thought that this weirdo, out of touch with soap and cleanwater, lived next door. The man shifted his posture again and placed one hand on his hip. "Not that I need to explain, but alongside your cabin the road rises and gives me a rush when I go over it at high speed. I didn't think about the noise disturbing you. Hell, I never noticed the old dump was occupied." "It's not a dump. It's a fixer-upper. That's why I bought it." "You bought it? As in ... paid cash?" "At least there's nothing wrong with your hearing. I'm Jennifer Murray. It looks like we have the... ah... misfortune of being neighbors." "I was hoping my run of bad luck had started to change." His words brought a smile to her face. He shook his head. "Thanks to you, my luck is getting worse." Jen's smile disappeared; her fingernails dug deep into her palms. "If you have to be racing the road like a teenager, tone it down when you pass by my place." "And if I don't?" "Then I'll be forced to take drastic action." The nerve of this guy. She made a quick turn to her left and fled off his porch. "Hey, Jennifer Murray! Take your mop with you." Jen twisted in mid-flight, glowering back. To her chagrin, she saw Spooky sitting quietly, staring up at the giant with what might be construed as adoration. Fast backtracking brought her within inches of the man she vowed to dislike for eternity. Scooping the puppy into her arms, she retreated. "By the way, baby cakes, I'm Mitch Waverley... the misfortune's all yours." Excerpt 2: Jen floated on her back and gazed at the diamond chips in the nighttime sky. The battery-powered lantern on the dock cast a shimmering glow onto ripples made by a lazy kicking of her feet. This was one place that was comforting to her. She needed that solace tonight after--Damn the grungy jerk. His presence leaped into her mind again, destroying her relaxation. As she drifted with the stress of him in her thoughts, she recalled other anxieties in her life, especially those of the past two weeks. She had to shake the memory of her shameful action or at least accept it and move on. To do this she had to get her inner rage under control and think clearly. Her volatility had already shattered one life and threatened to do the same with hers. She couldn't afford more mistakes. "Don't you know you shouldn't be swimming alone at night?" She shrieked, "Wha--?" and squinted into the darkness. "Who's out there?" A deep voice echoed from the water beyond where the lantern light splashed the surface. "It's only me. Your friendly, neighborhood Harley owner. There's no one to hear you if you run into trouble swimming alone." Jen made a beeline for the safety of the dock. Within its reach, she turned and treaded water. Why should she allow him to chase her out? Her fingers swiped the droplets from her eyelids. She detected a movement a short distance away. Set to dart out of the water if she had to, she waited, held firm by her stubbornness and curiosity. Her breath caught in her throat. A guttural growl rose from Spooky and increased its pitch to an enthusiastic bark. "Yip-Yip-Yip!" "That mutt will wake the dead." The male voice spoke from the darkness. "Eek! You! My worst nightdisturber." "Who did you expect it to be?" "I didn't expect anyone on my territory." Jen tried to sound forceful, overshadowing her tremors. "The lake belongs to everyone. Your boundaries don't extend out here.
Undercover Trouble is available in ebook formats at http://champagnebooks.com/store/index.php?id_manufacturer=14&controller=manufacturer
Strong, smart, sensuous heroines, heroes to die for.