Small-Town Secrets. Debra Webb
He pressed his mouth firmly over hers and kissed her the way a man should kiss a woman. With utter respect and tenderness and mind-blowing desire.
She made the sweetest sound. Her fingers threaded into his hair and pulled him closer still.
The kiss went on and on. Deeper and deeper, then slower and sweeter.
He would have given almost anything to make love to her. But she was vulnerable right now. He wouldn’t take advantage of that. Instead, he lay down beside her and held her close. Let her feel how much he wanted her. Let her know that he was there for her.
Whatever the cost, he was in for the duration.
Debra Webb was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, to parents who taught her that anything is possible if you want it badly enough. She began writing at age nine. Eventually, she met and married the man of her dreams,and tried some other occupations, including selling vacuum cleaners, working in a factory, a day-care centre, a hospital and a department store. When her husband joined the military, they moved to Berlin, Germany, and Debra became a secretary in the commanding general’s office. By 1985 they were back in the States and finally moved to tennessee, to a small town where everyone knows everyone else. With the support of her husband and two beautiful daughters, Debra took up writing again, looking to mysteries and movies for inspiration. You can visit Deb’s website at www.debrawebb.com to find out exciting news about her next book.
MILLS & BOON
To my amazing editor, Denise Zaza, and to the readers
who keep the Colby Agency alive.
Chicago Inside the Colby Agency
“She’s the perfect choice.”
Victoria Colby-Camp reclined in her leather executive chair and considered the man who had spoken. Simon Ruhl was one of her most committed colleagues. He and Ian Michaels were her seconds in command. She trusted both implicitly. If Simon had concluded that Merrilee Walters was the perfect choice, then she was without doubt the ideal choice.
“Excellent.” Victoria nodded, punctuating the announcement. “Ian, you’ll follow up with Spence as to any possible legal ramifications in hiring an investigator who is hearing impaired?”
“I will.” Ian had left the final decision up to Simon. Still, he had reservations about Merrilee’s ability to fulfill the requirements of the position, but nothing conclusive to veto bringing her on board. More a feeling, he insisted in previous discussions.
“If Spence finds no legal precedent of concern, then we’ll move forward,” Victoria offered.
Simon and Ian exchanged a look. One that said the decision wasn’t nearly as cut-and-dried as Victoria suggested.
“What am I missing?” They had been over all the issues more than once. No one assigned to the agency’s Elite Reconnaissance Division had voiced a problem with this potential staff addition. The final approval was Victoria’s, but Simon’s and Ian’s agreement was paramount to her decision. If there was still a problem beyond the one Ian had mentioned, she needed to know.
Ian clasped his hands in front of him, an uncharacteristic move for a man whose absolute stillness even in moments of extreme tension proved intimidating to most. “My gut instinct hasn’t changed,” he finally said. “The Colby Agency has made its reputation on employing only the best. The most highly trained, the most honorable as well as the most physically able. Rarely have we stepped outside those parameters. Miss Walters is deaf—a challenge that puts her at a considerable disadvantage in normal situations.”
Ian held up a hand when Victoria would have interrupted. “I am fully aware that she reads lips with inordinate skill. The hearing impairment is not my actual concern, though there will be clients who won’t understand that Miss Walters is fully capable. My concern,” he added with a pointed look at Victoria, “is the seemingly relentless need to prove herself that she appears to possess. Her record at Nashville Metro is solid evidence of a potential problem. She may very well take risks that put both her and the client in danger.”
True. However, Victoria never allowed the evaluations of others to wholly guide her. Not that she doubted Metro’s assessment, but that was only one side of the story. Nonetheless, Ian’s point regarding Merrilee’s penchant for diving headlong into a situation without regard to caution held merit. Victoria was surprised that Ian felt so strongly about this particular characteristic. More often than not, he was an avid proponent of those who took the initiative to set themselves apart from the rest.
“Are you recommending we don’t move forward?” Victoria really hoped that wasn’t the case. Since she’d conceived the idea of an agency reconnaissance division, her primary goal had been to ensure the team was made up of members from every walk of life. After all, those who went missing came from all backgrounds. She wanted her team to be able to fit in anywhere. No one understood the needs of those physically challenged better than one who carried that burden.
The Colby Agency’s Elite Reconnaissance Division had one mission: find the missing. Victoria, with Ian’s and Simon’s help, had organized an elite team thus far. Like William Spencer, a former child advocacy attorney. And though, as Ian pointed out, Merrilee Walters was considered a bit of a rogue by her peers and superiors back in Nashville, she had definitely proven what she was made of over and over again.
Bottom line, Victoria wanted Merrilee on their team. But all seated in Victoria’s office at the moment needed to be on the same page.
“I’m recommending,” Ian explained, “that we hire Miss Walters on a conditional basis with an extended probationary period. We’ll see how it goes for a time before putting her in the field.”
“Fair enough,” Simon agreed. “I’m convinced you’ll grow to respect her ability to assess a situation before plunging in as well as her skills.”
“Time will tell.”
Obviously Ian was far from convinced. A good deal more than Victoria had realized. And she was relatively certain his reservations had more to do with the woman than the opinions of others. But, as he said, time would tell. “Very well. We’re all agreed then.”
With a nod from each man, both of whom Victoria respected tremendously, the meeting was adjourned. Simon would move into negotiations with Merrilee and Ian would follow up with Spence.
Before the door could close behind Ian and Simon, Mildred Ballard, Victoria’s personal assistant, stepped into the office. “Victoria, you received a call from Dave Glenn.”
Victoria smiled. She hadn’t spoken to Dave in ages. “Put him through.”
“Unfortunately he was on his way to a meeting.” Mildred glanced at the note in her hand. “He wanted to know if you could have lunch with him at Tony’s Pub around one.”
Victoria checked her wristwatch. It was eleven now. She had to pick up her granddaughter from preschool at twelve-thirty. With Jim and Tasha out of the country, Victoria generally brought Jamie back to the office with her for the afternoon.
“Don’t worry,” Mildred said, reading her mind, “I’ll pick up Jamie and keep her out of trouble. Go to lunch,” she urged. “You’ve been spending too many lunches in the office lately.”
That was all too true. Victoria would very much like to catch up with Dave. “You’re absolutely right. Do I need to leave him a message to say I’m coming?”