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Long-Lost Mom

Jill Shalvis

  Her goal hadn’t changed,

  Letter to Reader

  Title Page

  Books by Jill Shalvis

  About the Author


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15



  Her goal hadn’t changed,

  Jenna reassured herself as she watched Stone move toward her. She still wanted to atone for the things she’d done. But if she told Stone the truth about who she was, he would turn from her, his eyes icy and distant.

  But as Cindy Beatty, a complete stranger, she could do anything.

  Stone held her gaze as he came close. Jenna couldn’t have looked away to save her life, not when so pinned by his burning intensity.

  And she knew by the very power of what shimmered between them that it was the same for him—except he had no idea that this...thing between them was not new, that it had been there since the very beginning.

  “Hello,” Stone said in that voice like dark honey. “It’s... Cindy, isn’t it?”

  “Yes,” she murmured, sealing her fate with yet another lie. “It’s Cindy.”

  Dear Reader,

  Happy New Year! And welcome to another month of great reading from Silhouette Intimate Moments, just perfect for sitting back after the hectic holidays. You’ll love Marilyn Pappano’s Murphy’s Law, a MEN IN BLUE title set in New Orleans, with all that city’s trademark steam. You’ll remember Jack Murphy and Evie DesJardiens long after you put down this book, I promise you.

  We’ve got some great miniseries titles this month, too. Welcome back to Carla Cassidy’s Western town of MUSTANG, MONTANA in Code Name: Cowboy. Then pay a visit to Margaret Watson’s CAMERON, UTAH in Cowboy with a Badge. And of course, don’t forget our other titles this month. Look for Dangerous To Love, by Sally Tyler Hayes, a book whose title I personally find irresistible. And we’ve got books from a couple of our newest stars, too. Jill Shalvis checks in with Long-Lost Mom, and Virginia Kantra pens our FAMILIES ARE FOREVER title, The Passion of Patrick MacNeill.

  Enjoy them all—and be sure to come back next month for more of the most exciting romantic reading around, right here in Silhouette Intimate Moments.


  Leslie J. Wainger

  Executive Senior Editor

  * * *

  Please address questions and book requests to

  Silhouette Reader Service

  U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269

  Canadian P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont L2A 5X3

  * * *



  Books by Jill Shalvis

  Silhouette Intimate Moments

  Hiding Out at the Circle C #887

  Long-Lost Mom #905


  When pressed for an answer on why she writes romance, Jill Shalvis just smiles and says she didn’t realize there was anything else. She’s written over a dozen novels so far, and doesn’t plan on stopping. She lives in California, in a house filled with young children, too many animals and her hero/husband.

  To Matrice, for believing in me, even when I didn’t. Thank you!

  Chapter 1

  He came every year without fail. Same day, same time, and he wondered, as he always did, if Jenna knew it. If she was haunted by their past, too.

  Of course she wasn’t, and never had been.

  Annoyed at himself, Stone Cameron tossed a curious squirrel a handful of his trail mix. “This is the last year I do this,” he told the animal over the roar of the surf.

  The squirrel sat up on its haunches, hoping for more.

  Stone tossed some more food, then laughed in spite of himself when the greedy thing tried to eat it all on the spot.

  “ God.”

  At the soft gasp Stone shifted on the large rock and looked over his shoulder.

  A woman stood on the sand of the deserted beach, covered from head to toe in black. Black trousers, black hooded wool coat, gloves and boots. The early-morning spring sun spilled over her, bathing her in a golden glow, and for an instant she looked so familiar his heart all but stopped.


  A shaft of pain sliced through him, neatly destroying his calm. For a moment he’d thought she’d come back, but he knew now that was impossible.

  Jenna Loggins was gone. Long gone.

  And he was glad.

  The woman standing before him appeared rigid, practically unbreathing. All he could see of her was her nose, but somehow it was enough to know she was deeply troubled.

  Great. For the past ten years Stone had made it a habit to stay away from women in distress. Far away.

  The woman, medium height and willowy as a reed, suddenly swayed on her feet as though feeling faint.

  Dammit. “Are you all right?” His voice was rougher and grittier than he would have liked, but sitting here, in this precise spot, where he hadn’t been in an entire year, was tearing his guts out.

  She nodded, then raised a glove-covered hand to her face. Behind her mirrored sunglasses he sensed her intense unwavering stare, which he returned.

  She didn’t look all right, although he couldn’t see her well at all, just a vague impression of porcelain skin, carefully painted lips and shuttered eyes. “Maybe you should sit down,” he suggested, shifting over on the large rock. There was ample room for two.

  Slowly, as if in a trance, the woman walked around the rock to face him. For a long minute she said nothing, did nothing, just stared at him.

  And despite Stone’s resolve to be alone and miserable on this day, something about the woman caused a stir deep within him. It wasn’t her body; he couldn’t see it clearly. It certainly wasn’t the face she’d hidden from him with such care. No, it was something much more profound, and it disturbed him in a way he hadn’t been disturbed in some time.

  He was inexplicably aware of her as a woman. And he didn’t want to be. God, he so didn’t want to be.

  “I...can’t believe it,” she whispered.

  Neither could he, but he couldn’t deny it. Some silent connection was drawing him to her.

  The squirrel, clearly sensing snack time had come to an end, took off, chattering loudly, and disappeared into the thick woods lining the California beach. The noise seemed to snap the woman out of her spell. Again she lifted a hand to one cheek as if protecting herself from his gaze. Stone couldn’t see her eyes behind the reflective sunglasses, but he knew she stared at him as if waiting for something.

  “Are you sure you’re all right?” The minute the words were out he wished them back. Would he never learn to stop trying to fix everyone’s problems but his own?

  “You...don’t know me.”

  She sounded so shocked that Stone took a closer look. Her hood had fallen back some, revealing a crop of fawn-colored hair, artfully cut to fall in soft waves about her face—a face still more than half-covered by her scarf and the tilt of her head, almost as though she was afraid he would recognize her.

  He didn’t.

  A horrible bone-seizing tension seem to grip her, a tension he didn’t understand and told himself he didn’t want to.

  “Don’t tell me you have amnesia,” he quipped, trying to lighten the mood, when in fact, for some reason, he really wanted to take her hand and tell her everything would be okay.

  He was an idiot.

  “No, I don’t h
ave amnesia. But...” Her voice trailed off and her mouth closed tight. Suddenly she sank onto the rock beside him. “You... I’m a stranger to you.” As if she realized how much she’d revealed, she dragged her hood back over her head and hugged herself with her arms. “A complete stranger.”

  “We can fix that easily enough,” he said, disturbed by the anguish in her voice. “I’m Stone Cameron. And you’re...”

  “I’m...” She hesitated so long Stone became convinced she wasn’t going to tell him. She continued to regard him intently, as if he could fill in the blank for her. “Cindy,” she said finally, almost regretfully. “My name is Cindy Beatty.”

  A lie. He knew it even before she refused to meet his gaze. And just that quickly, his sympathy and curiosity vanished, for he’d had enough of that sort of woman to last him a lifetime. Standing abruptly, he shrugged into his jacket and without another word started walking away, across the sand, toward the steep stairs that led to his truck.

  “You’re...leaving?” The last word was a squeak of surprise.

  “Yes. Goodbye,” he added politely, unwilling, even in the face of her lie, to be completely rude. Hardening himself to the pained disbelief in her voice, Stone forced himself to keep walking. His reaction was ridiculous, but he couldn’t stop himself.

  Not on this day.

  She’d lied, and hated herself for it. Still, Jenna watched him go with hungry eyes, suddenly transported back in time. Ten years since she’d seen him. He’d been the most coolheaded, most strong-willed and honest man she’d ever known. That had obviously not changed with time, for she knew he’d sensed her lie.

  Heart aching, she watched his broad-shouldered form slowly disappear from sight. Physically he’d changed little. His laugh lines were deeper, his eyes a bit more cynical, and he wasn’t as lanky, almost gawky, as he’d been at twenty. But he still possessed a raw sensuality that tugged at some elementary core of her, and his body was still honed to a lean toughness by the physical labor he’d done to put himself through college.

  She’d gotten that tidbit from the detective she’d hired, and her heart had nearly broken. For it had been her fault that he’d had to work so hard back then.

  Her fault. Her fault. Her fault.

  The words repeated like a mantra through her head, mixing with the crashing waves.

  Why hadn’t she told him the truth just now? Why had she reverted to the young girl of her past and taken the easy way out, using the name she’d adopted for herself—Cindy Beatty?

  She could have told him about the car accident that had changed her life. Yes, she’d nearly died—should have died. Instead, she’d been given a new lease on life. A chance to right her wrongs, of which there were an unfortunate many. And oh, yes, thanks to plowing face first through her windshield and then having three cosmetic surgeries to repair the damage, she had a new face with which to do it.

  Jenna had waited until today, her twenty-seventh birthday, to make the final move, to come back to San Paso Bay, midway up the California coast and get what she’d always dreamed of.

  Forgiveness. And her daughter.

  A new birthday, a new beginning.

  She hoped.

  But sitting on the rock that had once been hers and Stone’s safe haven, all she could think of was how it’d been one of the last times she’d seen Stone. The way he looked without the restriction of any clothes covering that surprisingly savage strength. What she would give to feel him pressed against her, to have his hard arms encircle her body and tighten around her until...

  She was crazy thinking like this. Crazy. Drawing a shaky breath, Jenna cleared her head and forced her thoughts in a different direction.

  She had to right some of her wrongs, and as hard as it would be, she had to tell everyone who she was.

  Or did she?

  Confused and surprisingly hurt, she stared at the stairs up which Stone had disappeared.

  The detective she’d hired had done his job. She knew all the paper facts about Stone and his daughter—her daughter knew where they lived, what he did for a living, what he drove, and still it wasn’t enough. She yearned for more. She yearned to see her child.

  For that, Jenna needed forgiveness. And Stone—she needed him, too. He’d looked so good. So big and powerful and darkly beautiful. So... hers. Only he would never be hers again. She’d seen to that ten years ago, when she’d run from both of them like the frightened seventeen-year-old she’d been. The ache in her heart was so sharp it almost doubled her over.

  So did the shock of him not recognizing her—an additionally painful and deflating blow.

  Well, what had she expected? A jagged windshield tearing off her face hadn’t helped any. Neither had the reconstructive surgeries or the way her hair had returned darker after being shaved in pre-op. And no one would recognize her voice, which was now throatier—even sexier—thanks to her voice box also being damaged in the accident. But most of all she blamed the ten years that had passed so quickly since she’d left the small town nestled on the California coast.

  “It’ll be okay,” she whispered. Stone, in spite of his inner toughness and sometimes blunt nature, was a gentleman at heart. No matter how much rage and resentment he’d built up against her—and she was certain there was plenty—his sense of decency and honor would prevail. He had a will of iron and a stubborn streak to go along with it, but regardless, Stone was honest to a fault.

  Unlike her.

  At the thought, the tears she’d been barely holding back began to fall.

  Late that afternoon Stone flipped up the page on the calendar and drew a ragged breath as he reminded himself what he already knew.

  Jenna’s birthday.

  She’d be... He pretended to count. As though he’d forgotten it’d been ten years since he’d last laid eyes on her.

  She’d be twenty-seven now. And he wondered, as he often did, what she was doing. She wasn’t living in a small town enjoying the quaint lifestyle, that was for certain. Jenna had never been one for restrictions of any kind, and San Paso Bay, a typical small town, certainly posed them. Stone found the place refreshing and real compared with the bigger cities of the world, but he knew Jenna would be doing something entirely different.

  Such as hang gliding off the Angeles Crest. Or sky diving in the Mojave Desert. Maybe even mountain climbing in Tibet. Wait—this was the nineties. She was probably bungee jumping off the Golden Gate bridge or extreme skiing in the Canadian Rockies.

  In the quiet of his shop Stone felt his anger swell up once again and grab him by the throat.

  He turned abruptly from the calendar.

  This date always got him, left him feeling as though he’d just taken a sucker punch to the solar plexus. Always left him drowning in a sea of furious emotion that time never seemed to ease. But it was just this one day, he told himself. All the other days of the year he was perfectly fine.

  Yet he went to the beach—their beach—on this day every year at dawn. Just as they had together... The pencil he held snapped. He couldn’t keep doing this.

  Look what had happened to him this morning with that woman. Hours later, and he was still thinking about the mysterious Cindy Beatty.

  Purposely Stone drew a deep breath and let his surroundings calm him. Toy Station, his pride and joy, never failed him. Some said he wasted his talent as an architect designing and building educational toys for gifted children, which he insisted on making by hand for classrooms all over the globe. Others rumored he’d been disinherited by his rich family and therefore had to spend every day working his fingers to the bone.

  It was true, all of it. But Stone loved his life. Loved his work.

  And loved...

  Sara rushed into Toy Station with a wide grin on her face.

  Sara. Just the sight of her completed his thought. He loved his daughter.

  “Didja get it?” She bounced from one foot to the other like a Ping-Pong ball. “Didja? Didja?”

  “Get what?”


  Smiling, he handed her the one-hour-photo envelope.

  “Cool!” She tore open the envelope, then flipped through each shot, giggling at some, making faces at others. “Come look. I’m getting good.”

  Stone glanced down at the mostly blurred and very unbalanced shots, some with suspicious-looking smudges that might have been a finger on the lens, and nodded seriously. “Very,” he said encouragingly.

  “Look, there’s Sally pretending my teddy is her daddy. She doesn’t see him since he remarried, so I told her it was okay to pretend, just like I do about Mommy.”

  Stone held his tongue, but it was difficult because anger nearly choked him. He had no patience for people who turned away from family. To him, family was everything. Family took care of their own, or rather, they should. It was that simple. Maybe he was just old-fashioned, but it was the way he felt, and he knew nothing would ever change that.

  Unfortunately, he also knew that things rarely happened as they should. “Bring Sally over here, Sara. We’ll be her family anytime she needs us. Okay?”

  Her smile lit his heart. “’Kay.”

  “So what was your hurry to have the pictures developed?”

  She didn’t answer, but pulled out the last photograph with a frown. “Oh, Daddy. I can’t believe you took this one.” She moaned theatrically, as only a ten-year-old can do.

  Stone glanced at the photo causing the distress and laughed. “This is my proof,” he teased, tugging on a loose curl the color of coal. “You helped me paint your bedroom. You picked out those horrid colors.” He shook his head. “Chartreuse, of all things.”

  Sara snickered.

  “Anyway, I needed the snapshot so that in three months, when you come to me with those big baby blues begging for yet another color change, I can pull it out and remind you—this was what you wanted. You wanted it so badly you helped paint it.”