killer curves
WHEN THE EARTH MOVES
The third book in the McGrath Brothers trilogy
Silhouette Desire
ISBN 0-373-76648-3

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when the earth moves

Cameron McGrath never missed the first pitch of a Yankee game. He considered it low class, bad luck and downright disrespectful to a near-holy tradition. So when the receptionist announced that a woman waited in the main lobby of Futura Investments and insisted on seeing him, he swallowed a colorful curse.

"I don’t have any more appointments today, Jen." To be certain, he flipped open his PDA and checked the calendar. Of course he wouldn’t schedule anything past six on a game night. Especially when they were playing Boston. "Who’s she with?"

"Uh, she’s alone."

He smiled, and silently forgave the young girl’s mistake. Jen had personality and charm, and that’s why she was out front. "Did she say what company she’s with? One of our clients? Or is it some kind of sales call?"

No doubt it was. Since he’d taken over as the top attorney at Futura Investments, it seemed he spent far too little time on the law and way too much time on the legal department.

"She’s not with any company, Mr. McGrath." The receptionist lowered her voice. "I think this is personal. I mean – she looks like someone, like maybe she’s...she looks personal."

Personal? Amanda? She could be relentless when ignored. It had only been a week since he’d called her – or was it two? Geez. He’d been perfectly honest from the beginning of their short relationship, but that didn’t stop any marriage-starved Manhattan woman who had her sights set on a new last name. His.

He glanced at his watch. He’d bring her along to the game. At least he wouldn’t be late and she’d count it as a date. "Tell her I’ll be out in a minute. Hope she’s dressed for a game."

Jen’s laugh sounded a little surprised. "I guess it depends on what you’re playing."

With Amanda, he’d place his bets on a short leather skirt, a skimpy, but painfully expensive top, and heels as high as the Chrysler Building. He smiled. She could be relentless all right. And sometimes that worked in everyone’s favor.

The smile was still there as he loosened his tie and turned the corner of the Futura lobby, ready to greet the former model he’d met at a fundraiser two months earlier.

But as he reached for the handle of the glass doors, he froze mid-step and stared.

That was not Amanda.

She stood with her back to him, studying the panoramic city view out the floor to ceiling windows. A pair of worn, faded jeans hugged a heart-shaped backside, with one cowboy-booted foot tapping the carpet, either in impatience or to a tune that played in her head. A thick mane of reddish-brown hair covered most of her back, just about kissing the top of those sinful looking jeans. And on her head, she wore a black cowboy hat.

She looked like one long, lean, bull-riding machine.

Did he know this woman?

At the sound of the lobby door opening, she slowly turned, tipped her hat back on her forehead and answered that question with one heart-stopping gaze. Nope. He’d never forget that face. Wide-set eyes the color of copper pennies, buttercream skin and a mouth that demanded hours of close scrutiny.

And, he noticed with a bit of surprise, not a spec of makeup. He’d never even seen Amanda without makeup -– or at least the remnants of it.

"Mr. McGrath?" She took a few quick strides toward him, the sound of her boot heels on the marble floor echoing the beat of his increased pulse rate.

"Can I..." Help? No, help was not on the list of things he wanted to do to and for her. "I’m Cam McGrath." He reached out to shake her hand.

"Jo Ellen Tremaine." Her handshake was solid, but her gaze held a question, a sense of anticipation. Was he supposed to recognize her name? Was she opposing counsel on a Futura case? He was drawing a blank. Or maybe that was because his brain cells had shut down in deference to an alternative organ.

He forced himself to focus on her face, but she hoisted a tote bag over her shoulder, sliding her shirt a little to the side and revealing the translucent skin of her throat and collarbone.

"I know you’re off to a meeting," she said. "So I won’t take but a second of your time."

"No problem. It’s nothing urgent." Had he just told her the Yankees and Red Sox were not urgent? He had to get a grip. Pretty women were on every street corner in New York. They just didn’t generally come dressed for the rodeo. "What can I do for you?"

She glanced toward Jen, who hadn’t missed one second of the brief interplay. "Could I speak with you privately?"

He weighed his options. Spend some time talking to this gorgeous cowgirl. Be late for the Yankees. Cowgirl. Yankees.

"My office is right down the hall." He tilted his head in invitation.
She took off her hat and shook back her hair, causing some silky strands to fall over her shoulders. His gaze dropped over her pale blue button-down shirt, complete with silver snaps.

Yeehaw.

Holding the door, he managed a good long look at the fitted back pockets of her jeans again. The Yankees would play at home eighty-one times this season. A jaw-dropping version of Dale Evans would only appear in his office once. He had definitely made the right choice.

"Can I offer you something to drink, Ms. Tremaine?" he asked as they entered his office and he closed the door.

"You can call me Jo. And unless you have an ice cold Bud on tap, I’m fine."

He chuckled a little. "Wouldn’t you know it? My office tap is out." He suddenly remembered the six-pack of Amber Bock in his refrigerator at home. Intended for Saturday’s softball game, but easily replaced. "Or we could go somewhere else."

"No thanks." She stood in the middle of the room, her gaze direct and unwavering. "This won’t take that long. I hope."

He heard an infinitesimal catch in her voice, something only a lawyer trained to sniff out half-truths and cover-ups would notice.

He gestured toward the sofa in the sitting area of his office. "Please. Have a seat."

She folded herself into one of the chairs, her endless faded denim and black boots looking oddly out of place on the chrome and leather divan he’d had designed when he took over the massive corner office.

"Are you from around here...Jo?" The name suited her. She wasn’t feminine. Womanly, oh yeah. But nothing fluttered in her movements, not her fingers, not her eyelashes. Jo. He liked it.

"I’m from Sierra Springs, California."

He inched back in surprise.

"Have you heard of it?" She sounded like she expected him to say yes.

"I can’t say that I have, but you’ve come a long way. Is Sierra Springs near the Silicon Valley?" They had clients out there, several of them. This had to be related to Futura somehow.

She shook her head, smoothing her jeans with one long, slow stroke of her hands, a whisper of a cynical smile tipping her lips. "Not that valley. Sierra Springs in on the border between California and Nevada, a hundred miles from Sacramento, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains."

His knowledge of the area geography was scarce, at best. No clients that he could think of. No potential investments. Not much of anything but the Ponderosa Ranch and some second-class gambling in Reno. "Pretty quiet up there, I bet."

"It was. Until the earth shook us down to our boots and rattled our brains into scrambled eggs."

"The earth?" He zipped through a mental hard drive. What was she talking about? "Oh, yes." He snapped his fingers and pointed at her. "I have heard of Sierra Springs. There was an earthquake there a few months ago. A big one."

She nodded. "Five point six. And some nasty aftershocks."

This was definitely a lawsuit waiting to happen. "Five point six, whoa. That is major. Did it affect -- were you hit hard?"

His gaze traveled over those jean-clad legs again, hoping against hope that whatever her business they wouldn’t be adversaries. He’d very much prefer to counsel her. Among other things.

She shrugged. "I lost some...people."

Staff? Family? Whoever, he had no doubt that was at the root of this unorthodox meeting.

"I’m sorry to hear that." He seemed to recall five people died at one site. An apartment building. And then the image of a firefighter carrying a one-year-old from a hellhole of debris flashed in his mind. Of course – the baby found in the rubble. It had been on every news station for days.

Did she own the building? Did Futura? Surely he’d have been briefed on that kind of potential law suit if they did.

"So, what do you do in Sierra Springs?" With some witnesses, the most innocuous questions cut right to the truth. He half-imagined she’d say she roped horses and cattle, but more likely, she was another lawyer. They just dressed differently in California.

"I do body work."

His pulse kicked up again. "Excuse me?"

"Car repairs. Wrecks."

"You’re a mechanic?"

"I’m a collision repair expert." A little light danced in her bronze-brown eyes as she narrowed them. "I own my own body shop."

"Really." So she wasn’t a rodeo queen or a lawyer. She pounded steel for a living.

Without thinking, his gaze slid back to her hands, long and slender and not a grease stain on them. And free of any jewelry – not even a single gold band. "Well you’ve certainly piqued my curiosity, Ms...Jo. What brings you to New York?"

"You."