The Man She Once Knew

By: Jean Brashear


“What are you doing here?”




David said the words more harshly than he should have, but he didn’t want to have her here in this place that was his sanctuary.



“I’m sorry. I’ll leave.” Callie turned, then stumbled on the uneven ground.



He grabbed her to steady her. The warmth of her skin was like a door opening to a room with a crackling fireplace and the heady scent of welcome.



David had been cold for a long, long time. He felt the stir of a sense of possibility, the slightest tendril of hope. “Callie…”



Her lips parted, and he leaned toward her. It would be so easy to forget, to cast out doubts, to lose himself….



David backed away. He could not afford to trust her. Feeling Callie’s eyes on him every step down the road, he cursed himself. And fate.





Dear Reader,



I believe to the depths of my soul that love is the most powerful force on the planet. I didn’t discover romance novels until I was grown and raising my family, but though I came late to the party, I have the utmost admiration for what Harlequin celebrates—not simply love, but honor, loyalty, courage and compassion, a core faith in the goodness of human nature, all values that strengthen us in our daily lives and help us endure the rough patches.



I feel very fortunate to be one of those granted the privilege of sharing my stories with you. To be a part of the compelling and noteworthy legacy of Harlequin Superromance, to join a tradition formed by stellar authors such as Judith Arnold, Marisa Carroll, Margot Early and others is a true honor. I first came to Harlequin Superromance during the time of the remarkable and innovative Paula Eykelhof and am fortunate today to have the pleasure of working with Wanda Ottewell, who’s not only a lovely and fun person but whose keen editorial insights sincerely impress me.



It was a lucky day in my life when I became a part of Harlequin’s grand adventure. Please join me in saluting a remarkable achievement while looking forward to many more years of wonderful stories—happy 60th Anniversary, Harlequin!



All my best,



Jean Brashear




To Ercel, whose strong shoulders have always

been there for me to lean on.

Your love is my life’s greatest blessing.





Acknowledgments




Kelly Brashear Kitchens, lawyer extraordinaire, has been a godsend during the writing of this book, not only for her knowledge of Georgia criminal law but for her willingness to let me spin out tales while yanking me back to reality in the kindest of manners…all with response times that were a lifesaver!

Any errors made or liberties taken are most assuredly my own.



My thanks to Wanda Ottewell for bringing me back home to Harlequin Superromance and being a delightful presence at the doorway when I arrived!







CHAPTER ONE





Blue Ridge Mountains

Georgia



THE CHAPEL WAS wall-to-wall strangers. All the better.

Callie Hunter had no desire to be connected to the hell-raising fourteen-year-old she’d been, bottle-black, scarlet-tipped hair, piercings and all. That summer she’d been banished to Oak Hollow by her mother was one she’d shoved to the back of the closet.

One stiletto-clad foot swung impatiently from her crossed knees. As soon as the service was over, she was out of here. Only her feelings for Miss Margaret, as her great-aunt Margaret Jennings was known, could have dragged Callie back to the mountain of Georgia. Not one time in the sixteen years since she’d left had she returned. Memories of shame and sorrow clogged the valleys and hollows of this Smoky Mountain landscape. Agonizing reminders lurked on each rounded peak, waiting to pounce on her with the stealth of a wildcat.

Faint murmuring began to creep through the congregation like fog stealing over a riverbank, spilling up the nearest rise of land, and Callie could only assume someone had, after all, recognized her. She steeled herself. The funeral would be over soon. She’d deposit a generous donation with the minister and jump into her car. Be back in Philadelphia before morning, burrowed safely in her real life where she balanced the scales of justice, put the bad guys away. Where Callie Hunter was a rising star in the District Attorney’s office, with plans to one day run for election and replace her boss.