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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
416 pages
Aug 2004
Steeple Hill

Safe Haven

by Hannah Alexander

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Chapter 1

Fawn Morrison glided across the atrium of the crowded country-music theater, enjoying the glances aimed in her direction. So what if the stares weren't all filled with admiration? Those jealous women could learn to apply makeup the right way and emphasize their few positive qualities. Everybody had at least one or two. Almost everybody.

With a grin and a wink at the old geezer who stood behind the ticket counter, Fawn eased herself past a group of chattering people and strolled toward the ATM machine in the corner.

Some of these people probably thought she was one of the entertainers in the production  — she'd never looked better in her life. She wore a calf-length gown of blue silk that Bruce had selected, telling her it matched the color of her eyes. The plunging neckline raised a few eyebrows, and the thigh-high slit had almost caused an accident out in the parking lot. She sure wasn't in Las Vegas anymore. Branson, Missouri, seemed like a different planet. Hokey, maybe, but she kind of liked this place.

As she waited for the cash to click out of the machine, Fawn enjoyed the sight of her reflection in the mirrored wall. She looked hot. Sophisticated and grown-up. She'd come a long way in eight months  — from earning money the hardest way, to flouncing through the casino in her cutesy little monkey outfit, smiling and calling "Keno, Keno, Keno" like a brain-injured parrot, to riding in limousines and living in luxury, eating lobster and drinking champagne.

All because she didn't mind a balding man with a paunch, and pockmarks on his face.

Okay, sure he'd been acting a little wacky the past couple of days, but what did that matter? He could afford to act wacky. Besides, he knew how to treat a lady  — if the lady didn't expect him to open doors for her and if she didn't mind a burp or two during the dinner conversation.

She used the entry card and stepped into the elevator reserved for special guests, then rode up to the seventh-floor penthouse suite  — Branson didn't have skyscrapers like Vegas. It didn't have casinos, either, and smoke didn't hang in the air like a cloud of poison.

Bruce was talking on his cell phone when she glided through the door. She allowed it to close with a muted clunk, and he glanced around at her. She smiled as she slid the thin spaghetti strap of her blue beaded purse from her shoulder and placed it on the counter by the minibar.

His gaze darted away and his fingers whitened on the tiny phone. "No, Vin, I told you what I'd do if you didn't stop the purchase."

Fawn sighed as Bruce paced to the other end of the carpeted great room. Okay, so he didn't seem as distracted by her hot looks as the old geezer at the counter downstairs.

He lowered his already deep, gravelly voice. "I've got everything I need to…no, you listen. I don't need the cash from this deal, I was just doing you a favor, but I'm not risking no lives for this." He grunted and held the phone out from his ear.

Fawn heard the angry rant all the way across the room, and she winced at the threat in that voice. Bruce frowned at her, then put the phone back to his ear. The lamplight made his face look as white as mashed potatoes. "No? Well, you didn't tell me about their new little discovery, did you? How many other investors know your dirty little secret? I'm not taking the heat for  —"

He sighed and glanced over his shoulder toward Fawn, then disconnected with a push of a button. "Stupid jerk can have his little temper tantrum on his own time. Sorry you had to hear that, Princess. You got back fast." The edges of his voice softened as his gaze caressed her.

"What am I, your errand girl now?" she teased in the husky, seductive voice she'd practiced for months before she ever went to Las Vegas. She crossed the room in slow, easy strides and reached up to trail a fingertip along his shoulder, then rubbed at the bristles on his chin.

He jerked away as if she'd zapped him with electricity.

She pouted at him. "Did you get the show tickets?"

"They're in my purse."

"And the cash?"


"That, too."

Bruce nodded, though she couldn't be sure he'd even heard her words. He reached into the front pocket of his slacks and pulled out a beautiful steel cigarette lighter, strolling slowly, thoughtfully, over to her purse on the counter. He opened the purse and slid the lighter into the tiny zippered pocket inside, then zipped it shut.

"I don't smoke," she said.

He sighed, the plump lines of his face drawing down with concern. "Whatever you do, don't lose the purse."

"You know I won't." Two weeks ago, some loser had tried to lift it from her shoulder, and he'd nearly lost his future children. He'd limped away, hopefully wiser.

"Are you done being serious?" Fawn asked. "Can we go play now?"

The question brought another frown. Bruce chewed on his lower lip for a moment, then pointed toward the satiny cushions of a Victorian love seat beside the wall of windows that overlooked Branson. "We've got to talk."

She blinked up at him. This was a new thing with Bruce since they'd flown here from Vegas two days ago. He seemed to want to talk a lot more, and he'd barely touched her since they arrived. Although in one way that was a big relief, in another way…

"Have a seat, Princess," he rumbled.

She smoothed the silk dress beneath her and sat, making sure the slit fell away and revealed her leg. She patted the cushion beside her. He ignored her gesture, pulled a chair from the dining set and sank down across from her, hands on his knees as he leaned forward and narrowed his heavy-lidded eyes.

She quietly sucked in her breath. Was she getting dumped? "First of all, that isn't a lighter, it's a computer data storage device. It's called a flash drive, and that's all you need to know for now. Hopefully, you'll never need to know."

"But what if I do?"

"Just remember that it has important information in it  — information that lives could depend on. If anything happens  —"

"Anything like what?"

He closed his eyes. "Don't ask me that. Please. You're smart, and you'll know. If anything happens, find someone you know you can trust and give them the flash drive."