Night of the Cougar

By: Caridad Pineiro

Reporter Jamie Morrison got the scoop of a lifetime when she snagged a meeting with bestselling author Galen Hawke, but their rendezvous didn’t end with an interview. Their immediate attraction led to a wicked night together and a plan to meet again—until an accident left Galen changed forever…

Now, one year later, Jamie is sent to interview Galen once more. When a snowstorm strands them together in his remote mountain lodge, they are both eager to explore their reawakened passion. But will Jamie stay by Galen’s side when she discovers what he’s become?




Chapter One



“What you’re asking is impossible,” Jamie Morrison warned as she dragged her fingers through the fringed layers of her dark hair. She paced back and forth in front of the imposing mahogany desk in her editor’s equally imposing corner office.

“Some would have said it was impossible a year ago, also,” Frank Black said drolly, and arched one hairy gray eyebrow in emphasis.

Jamie whirled away from that challenging look. Arms akimbo, she stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows, which provided a postcard-pretty view of Manhattan and the vastness of Central Park. Early winter dusk was settling over the island of glittering lights and harsh buildings. The architecture was softened by the last rays of light, which bathed heavy snow clouds with cotton-candy hues of pink and blue.

“They’re predicting a blizzard for tomorrow and yet you expect me to drive to Vermont and hike up half the side of a mountain just to have him turn me down,” she said in challenge.

Frank’s indignant huff greeted her comment. “Come now, Jamie. Galen Hawke didn’t turn you down before. Why would he do it now?”

Maybe because she hadn’t seen Galen since he had been in a horrific accident that had nearly killed him? Maybe because she had been waiting for him to phone since their one night together and he hadn’t, despite her repeated calls. But, regardless, she knew her editor well enough to understand that he wouldn’t settle for no as an answer.

Facing him, she jabbed a finger in his direction. “I’m making reservations at the best inn in town, complete with a full spa package on the magazine’s credit card.”

Frank grinned, but there was something cold and calculating in his smile. “I’ve got something you might want in anticipation of the interview.”

He opened his desk drawer and took out a book. She recognized the cover immediately. Galen’s new release. She had a similar copy sitting on her nightstand at home, but hadn’t been able to get past the handwritten note below the book’s dedication. As her editor opened the book and pushed it across the desk toward her, she held up her hand like a cop directing traffic.

“Thanks, but I’ve got my own.”

“Probably his best work yet. Some might even say it’s inspired.” He leveled his gaze on her, obviously aware that she might have been that inspiring muse.

She waved him off with a flip of her hand and headed for the door, but then paused to look back at him. “I hope you have a backup story for the issue just in case.”

He chuckled and wagged his head, chastising her. “Failure isn’t an option, Jamie. Remember that.”

She shouldn’t have raised the specter of that possibility. Last month Frank had fired a veteran reporter for missing a deadline. Granted it was supposed to have been a huge scoop and the cover story for the upcoming holiday issue, but still extreme in the eyes of most at the weekly entertainment magazine. Especially considering that Frank wasn’t known for his generosity when a writer did provide him front-page material.

All things considered, she often wondered why she stuck it out as a journalist when she would much rather be working on her novel. The one she had been inspired to start after her interview with Galen Hawke last year. An interview that had led to a night she still found hard to forget.

Almost running from Frank’s office, she told herself not to return to memories of that night, but it was impossible to stay away.

*


One year earlier

Cat’s Claw Mountain, Vermont

Galen Hawke scoped out the people filtering into the hall for his workshop, some of whom were vying for front-row seats. They were the ones who considered him a celebrity, an unwelcome status in his mind. He still preferred to think of himself as an ex-cop who had somehow managed to turn his much more suave and successful alter ego, Jack Fitzgerald, into a household name with his bestselling crime novels.

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