Thursday, 25 February 2010

Excerpt Day - The Seduction of His Wife (Bk 1- The Logger Series) © Janet Chapman



Alex Knight fought the fatigue weighing on his eyelids and brushed an unsteady hand through his hair in an attempt to wipe the fog from his brain. He needed to stay focused on the road ahead, to avoid the final irony of cheating death in the jungles of Brazil only to die in a car wreck less than ten miles from home. He rolled down the window of the rented sedan and sucked in the crisp November air, hoping the scent of fir and spruce and pine would perk him up. Not three days ago, he'd thought the rotting jungle would be the last thing he smelled and screaming monkeys the last thing he heard.

But he was home now, thanks to a healthy amount of luck and the determination not to die in that stinking jungle at the hands of some crazy rebel bastards. Well, luck and the thought of his father and brothers who needed him, and his two would-be orphaned children who needed him even more.

Alex came fully awake the moment he turned onto the Knights' private logging road, anticipation quickening his pulse and making his foot heavy on the gas as he passed the sign that said he was entering NorthWoods Timber land. Only eight miles of blessedly familiar gravel road, and he would be back in the bosom of his family.

Alex dodged frozen puddles as he picked up speed, guiding the car around a sweeping curve and thumping over the solid wooden bridge that crossed Oak Creek. He'd rebuilt that bridge two summers ago with Ethan and Paul, and he remembered the arguments he'd had with his brothers over the bridge's design. Ethan had wanted to use steel beams, Paul had wanted to make it single-laned, and Grady, their father and patriarch of their little clan, hadn't cared how it was built as long as it got done before a loaded logging truck ended up in the creek.

Alex frowned as he pushed the car recklessly faster. Where in hell was everyone, anyway? He had called home countless times from the U.S. embassy in Brazil three days ago; he'd tried again from Mexico yesterday, and yet again this morning when he'd landed in Maine. No one had answered, and this morning all he'd gotten was a mechanical voice saying the message machine was full.

Some homecoming this was going to be. He was back from the dead, dammit, and nobody knew it! The company he'd been working for in Brazil had told Alex they'd sent two men to Oak Grove eleven days ago, to tell his family he had been killed and that his body had likely been swept downriver when a murdering band of rebels had attacked the dam site where he'd been working as a road engineer. Which meant everyone should be home mourning their loss instead of running around the countryside, but it appeared that the five people he loved were about to miss his miraculous resurrection.

Alex slammed on the brakes when the dense forest suddenly opened to reveal a spectacular view of the lake, then waited for the frozen dust to settle as he stared out the open window. He sighed long and painfully hard, emotion welling in his chest at the sight of Frost Lake's northernmost cove stretching deep into the densely forested mountains. The view never failed to move him, and this morning it was especially sweet.

Completely unbidden, Alex remembered another homecoming ten years ago, when he'd brought home his bride. He'd stopped in this same spot, and they'd talked about their future -- Charlotte about her plans to update the lodge's kitchen and Alex about his hope to expand their landholdings by another hundred thousand acres within two years.

He shook his head at how naive he'd been at twenty-two. Or, rather, how blinded he'd been by Charlotte's beauty that he hadn't seen the dollar signs in her eyes. She'd left him and their two children five years later, once she had finally understood that profits went into land and equipment purchases and that redecorating meant only a new stove. Four months later Charlotte had died in a car wreck, leaving Alex a widower and the sole parent of Delaney and Tucker. Delaney was ten now, and Tucker had turned seven only three months ago.

Yes, marriage was one mistake he was in no hurry to repeat. He had his kids, his father and brothers, and their logging business; he had everything a man could hope for in life. A life he was getting a second chance at and would never take for granted again, Alex vowed as he stared at the Knight homestead, snuggled in a stand of old-growth pines three miles up the rocky shoreline.

He could just make out the dock jutting off the south side of the peninsula, and he noticed that the floatplane was gone. But there was smoke rising from the chimney of the seventy-year-old lodge, which meant someone was home. So why weren't they answering the phone?

Alex heard the 22-wheeler coming toward him just moments before he saw it, and he stepped on the gas and spun the sedan to the side of the road. He rolled up the window to avoid the dust storm that arrived along with the deafening blast of an air horn as the tractor-trailer loaded with sawlogs went speeding by.

It was Wednesday, Alex realized, so the crew was hauling today. And tomorrow was Thanksgiving, which meant Delaney and Tucker had this week off from school and that his father had likely taken them to Portland in the floatplane as he did every year. Grady must be trying to give his grieving grandchildren some sense of normality, hoping to get their minds off their loss for a little while. Ethan would have gone in Alex's place as their pilot, and Paul was likely taking advantage of having the house to himself, dealing with his own grief by sitting in front of a crackling fire with a lady friend.

Alex headed home with a grin, thinking about the little tryst he was about to walk in on. He soon turned off the main hauling artery and onto a narrow lane for the last mile of his fantastical journey, which had begun with the sound of gunshots thirteen days ago in the mountainous jungles of Brazil. He'd spent the next eleven days in that hellhole of a rain forest, trying to make his way down to civilization while hiding from the murdering rebels hunting for foreign hostages to fund their personal war. Then there'd been two days of embassy red tape and unanswered calls home, and all day yesterday and last night spent in a succession of airports as he made his way back to Maine.

Alex finally pulled into the yard at the back of the lodge, shut off the engine, and unfolded his aching six-foot-two body out of the rented sedan. He absently brushed down the front of the jacket he'd bought at the Cincinnati airport and scanned the dooryard with a frown. All four pickups were parked beside the machine shed, which meant the loggers working farther up the road were on their own. That wasn't unusual, as the experienced crew was more than capable of cutting and loading the pulp and timber onto the trucks without supervision.

So he must have guessed right: Grady and Ethan and the kids were gone in the floatplane, and Paul had shut off the phones to hide out with his girlfriend. Alex leapt over the single step onto the back porch but stopped with his hand on the screen door handle. Should he just barge in on them? He'd likely give his baby brother a heart attack.

Hell, Paul deserved a good scare for drowning his sorrow in the arms of a woman while he thought his brother was floating facedown in some jungle backwater. Alex opened the screen door with a grin of expectancy and twisted the doorknob to burst inside with all the drama of a returning ghost.

But his shout of hello ended with a grunt when he came to a halt against the solid wood door. Alex stepped back and rubbed his forehead as he twisted the knob again, only to realize that the damn thing was locked.

They never locked their doors! It was an unwritten code of the woods never to lock a house with a telephone inside in case of an emergency. Alex pounded on the door so hard he rattled its frame. "Paul!" he shouted. "Get the hell out of bed, Casanova! It's past noon! Paul!"

His only answer was silence.

"Paul, open up!"

Still silence.

"Dammit, don't make be break down this door!"

"Paul's not here," came a soft, barely audible reply.

It took Alex a good five seconds to realize the voice he'd heard was female, and several more seconds to notice the face peeking from a crack in the curtain of a nearby window.

He stepped over and grinned down at the unfamiliar brown eyes staring up at him. "Where's Paul?" he asked in a more civil tone.

"He's in Augusta, lobbying against a tree-harvesting bill."

"And who are you?"

"Mrs. Knight."

"Mrs.?" Alex repeated, straightening in surprise. "You're married to Paul?"

She gave a small shake of her head.

"Ethan?" he whispered. "Ethan got married?"

She shook her head again.

He took another step back. "You married Grady!"

Her eyes widened at his shout, and she violently shook her head with a yelped "No!"

Alex stepped up to the window and bent at the waist to put his eyes level with hers, finding a perverse pleasure in seeing her lean away and the curtain close. "Then who in hell did you marry, lady? There are no more Knights."

"I married Grady's oldest son, Alex. I -- I'm his widow."

Read the entire first chapter HERE


The Seduction of His Wife

(The first book in the Logger series)
Janet Chapman

Publisher: Pocket Star

Buy LInk

He set out to seduce her for all the wrong reasons -- but found himself falling in love with her for all the right ones.

Alex Knight is dead -- or so everyone thinks. A widowed logger baron with a risk-taking streak, he took on a South American engineering project and was reported dead after a rebel attack. So when he turns up back in Maine very much alive, his grieving family is shocked. But the biggest shock is Alex's, when he discovers he's now married -- to a woman he's never met.

Sarah Banks is ready for a change from running a quiet Bed & Breakfast, and working for the Knight family offers not only a bigger opportunity, but also the family life she yearns for. So she's glad to help secure custody of Alex's orphaned children, whom she's come to love, by marrying their father by proxy before he's legally declared dead. But when Alex returns, the sexy, determined woodsman upends all of Sarah's plans. Because suddenly she's married to a passionate stranger with an easy smile...and tumbling headlong into a fiery dance of seduction.



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