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Shadow Danceby Julie Garwood
The wedding of Jordan Buchanan's brother Dylan to her best friend, Kate MacKenna, was a joyous occasion, and the reception a beautiful affair --
Jordan walked into the ballroom and stood near the entrance trying to find Noah in the crowd on the dance floor. He still had her glasses in his pocket and her contacts were bothering her.
"What's got you frowning?"
Her brother Nick asked the question as he sauntered over to her.
"I'm not frowning. Im squinting. Noah has my glasses. Do you see him?"
"Yeah. He's right in front of you."
She focused in, spotted him, and then did frown. "Look at those silly women panting all over your partner. It's disgusting."
"I think," she replied. "Promise me something."
"If I ever act like that, you'll shoot me."
"Be happy to," Nick promised before laughing at her.
Noah had excused himself from his fan club and walked over to join them.
"What so funny?"
"Jordan wants me to shoot her."
Noah glanced down at her, and for a second or two she had his full, undivided attention.
"I'll do it," he offered
There was a little too much glee in his voice to suit her. She had just decided to walk away from the two of them when she spotted Dan Robbins heading her way. At least she thought it was Dan. He was too blurry to be sure. Shed had one dance with Dan earlier in the evening, and no matter what music was playing, whether it was a waltz, a tango, or hip hop, Dan bounced to his own tune in something that resembled a spasmodic version of a polka. Jordan changed her mind and stayed put. She moved a little closer to Noah and smiled at him. The ploy seemed to work. Dan hesitated and then turned away.
"Don't you want to know why she wants me to shoot her?" Nick asked.
"I already know why," Noah said. "She's bored."
She slipped her hand into his pocket, found her glasses, and put them on.
"I am not bored."
"Yes, you are," Noah said.
He was looking over her head when he spoke to her. She suspected he did it on purpose just to irritate her.
"He's right," Nick said. "You have to be bored. All you had was your company, and since you sold everything…"
Nick shrugged. "You've got to be bored."
"Just because I don't like the same things you two do doesn't mean I'm bored or unhappy. I have a wonderful social life and-"
Noah cut her off. "Dead people have a better social life."
Nick agreed. "You really don't have much fun, do you?"
"Of course I do. I enjoy reading and…"
They were both grinning at her. They were obnoxious clowns, and she was about to tell them so when Nick said, "She does like a good book. What was it you were reading a couple of days ago?"
"I don't remember. I read lots of books."
"I do," Noah said, his voice gratingly cheerful. "Nick and Dylan and I had just gotten back from fishing, and you were sitting on the deck reading the complete works of Stephen Hawkings."
"It was riveting."
They had a good laugh over her defensive comment. "Stop making fun of me and go away. Both of you."
Her timing could have been better. As soon as she told them to leave, she spotted Dan approaching her again. She grabbed hold of Noah's arm. She was sure he knew what she was doing and why-he'd have to be blind not to notice Dan strolling toward them-but he didn't say anything about it.
"Your sister lives in a box," said Noah.
Nick agreed. "Jordan, when was the last time you did anything just for fun?'
"I do lots of things for fun."
"Let me qualify that question. When did you do anything fun that didn't involve computers or computer chips or software?"
She opened her mouth to answer and then closed it. She couldn't think of anything, but surely that was only because she was under pressure.
"Have you ever done anything impractical?" Noah asked.
"Where's the logic in that?" she asked.
Noah turned to Nick. "Is she serious?"
"Afraid so," Nick answered. "Before my sister would ever consider doing anything on the spur of the moment, she would have to first analyze all the data, then figure the statistical probabilities of success…"
The two men were having a fine time tormenting her and would have continued if their employer, Doctor Peter Morganstern, hadn't joined them. He carried a plate with two pieces of wedding cake.
Morganstern had become a good friend of the family and wouldn't have missed the wedding for anything in the world. Jordan liked and admired him. He was a brilliant forensic psychiatrist who ran a highly specialized unit operating within the FBI. They called it the lost and found department. Her brother Nick and Noah were part of Morganstern's program. Among their responsibilities was finding lost and exploited children, and Jordan believed they were a substantial reason for the program's success.
"You three seem to be enjoying yourselves."
"How do you stand working with them?" Jordan asked.
"There are moments when I question my sanity. Especially with this one," he said, tilting his head toward Noah.
"Sir, I'm sorry you and your wife got stuck at the same table with our Aunt Iris," Nick said. "Did she find out you were a doctor?"
"I'm afraid so, yes."
"Iris is an obsessive hypochondriac," he explained to Noah.
"What are the odds the doctor would get stuck sitting next to her?" Noah asked.
Everyone turned toward Morganterns table where Aunt Iris sat.
"One chance in one hundred seventy-nine thousand seven hundred," Jordan answered before she could stop herself.
The men turned back now to look at her.
Astonished, the doctor asked, "Is that an exact number or a guess?'
"An exact number based on six hundred guests," she said. "I never guess."
"Does she do this kind of stuff all the time?" Noah wondered aloud.
"Pretty much," Nick answered.
"Just because I have a mind for math-"
"But with no common sense," Nick finished.
"I could certainly use you on my team," Morganstern said. "If you ever consider a change in careers, come work for me."
"No," Nick said emphatically.
"Absolutely not," Noah said at the same time.
The doctor turned his head toward Jordan and gave her a conspiratorial wink. "I wouldn't put her in the field right away. Like you two, she would need extensive training." He looked as though he were pondering the possibility for a second or two and then said, "I've got a good feeling about Jordan. I believe she'd be an asset to the unit."
"Sir, isn't there a rule against two members of the same family working together?"
"I don't have that rule," Morganstern said. "I wouldn't make her go through the academy. I'd train her myself."
Noah looked appalled. "Sir, it still isn't a good idea," he insisted while Nick vigorously nodded agreement.
Exasperated, Jordan turned to Noah and said, "Listen, Mister Butinski. This isn't your decision. It's mine."
The doctor seemed fascinated by Noah's reaction to his proposal.
"Would I get to carry a gun?" she asked.
"A gun is out of the question," Nick said.
“You're too uncoordinated and youre blind as a bat," Noah interjected. "Youd shoot yourself,” he predicted.
She smiled at Morganstern. "It was lovely talking to you. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get away from these two cretins."
Noah grabbed her arm. "Come on. Dance with me."
Since he was already dragging her toward the dance floor, she felt it would be pointless to argue. The bride had coaxed her sister into singing. Isabel had the most wonderful voice, and when she began to sing Kate's favorite ballad, a hush fell over the crowd. Young and old, they were all mesmerized by her.
Noah pulled Jordan into his arms and held her tight against him. She had to admit it wasn't completely unpleasant. She did like the feel of his hard body pressed against hers. She liked his scent too. Whatever he was wearing was ruggedly sexy.
He was looking over the top of her head when he asked, "You wouldn't really consider working for the doctor, would you?"
He actually sounded a little worried. She couldn't resist provoking him just a little. "Only if I get to work with you."
He smiled as he shook his head. "Not gonna happen. And you can't really be serious, right?"
"Right," she agreed. "I wouldn't consider working for Doctor Morganstern. Happy now?"
"I'm always happy."
She rolled her eyes. Oh, brother. The ego. "By the way," she said, "Doctor Morganstern wasn't serious. He was teasing to get a rise out of you and Nick. It worked too. You did get riled."
"The doctor never teases, and I never get riled."
"Okay, even if he wasn't teasing, I still wouldn't consider working for him."
He flashed a smile, and for a fleeting second she forgot how irritating he could be.
"I didn't think you would be interested."
Annoyed, she asked, "Then why are we having this conversation? If you knew the answer, why did you ask?"
"Just making sure. That's all."
They swayed to the music for a good half a minute, and she was actually feeling relaxed when he ruined it.
"You'd be terrible at it, by the way."
"How would you know if I'd be good or bad?"
"You live in a comfort zone. That's how I know."
"I'll bite. What's a comfort zone?"
"It's where you live. You never step outside your safe environment, your comfort zone," he explained. "You stay in the shadows." Before she could object, he said, "I'll bet you've never done anything in your entire life that was spontaneous, or taken any risks."
"I've taken plenty of risks in the past year alone."
"Yeah? Name one."
“I sold my company.”
“That was a calculated decision and you netted a huge profit,” he countered. “What else?”
“Ive been doing a lot of running. I thought Id try for the Boston Marathon next year,” she offered.
“Its a regimen, requires discipline. Plus, you do it to stay fit,” he argued.
He wasnt looking over her head now. He was staring into her eyes, and he was making her extremely uncomfortable. For the life of her, she couldn't think of a single spontaneous action or risk she'd ever taken. Everything she did was well thought out and planned down to the last detail. Was her life really that boring? Was she that boring?
"Having trouble coming up with one?"
"There's nothing wrong with being careful." Great, now she sounded like a ninety year old.
He looked like he was about to laugh. "You're right," he said. "Nothing wrong with being careful."
Embarrassed because she had only just realized how dull she was, and guessing that he had already figured that out about her as well, she hurriedly changed the subject to get the focus off of herself. She blurted out the first thought that came into her mind.
"Isabel has a great voice, doesn't she? I could listen to her all night. Did you know she's been hounded by agents wanting to make her a star. She's not interested though. She's only a freshman, but she's already decided she wants to be a history major, then get her masters and teach. Interesting, don't you think? She's giving up fame and fortune. I think that's amazing, don't you?"
Noah gave her a piercing smile that went right through her, but he looked puzzled as well. No wonder. She was babbling like a toddler. She knew she should stop talking, but she couldn't seem to make herself close her mouth. Thanks to his scrutiny she had a bad, bad case of nerves.
For the love of God, Isabel, wind it up. Enough already.
"And did you know that in a few years Isabel is going to inherit land in Scotland? It's called Glen MacKenna," she rushed on. "She invited the strangest little man to the wedding and the reception. I just met him, and he has all the information hes collected in boxes in Texas. He's a professor, you see, and he's done quite a lot of research on a feud that he says has existed for centuries between the Buchanans and the MacKennas. According to the professor, Dylan and Kate should never have gotten married. There's a legend about a treasure too. It's fascinating, really it is."
She finally had to pause to take a breath or shed pass out.
He stopped dancing for a few seconds and then asked, "Do I make you nervous?"
"When you stare at me you do. I'd appreciate it if you would go back to being rude and stare over my head when you speak to me. That is why you do it, isn't it? To be rude?"
His face lit up. "And to irritate you."
"It works. You do irritate me."
Would Isabel never finish the song? She was taking forever. Jordan smiled nonchalantly at the couples gliding by as she wished for the dance to end. It would be rude to just walk away, wouldn't it?
Noah nudged her chin up with his index finger and looked squarely at her. "May I make a suggestion?" he asked.
“Sure," she said. "Suggest away."
"You ought to think about getting into the game."
She sighed. "What game would that be?"
Apparently he wasnt through giving her suggestions on ways to improve her dull existence.
“Do you know the difference between you and me?" he asked.
"I can think of more than a thousand differences."
"I eat the dessert."
“And whats that supposed to mean?” she asked.
“Only that lifes too short. Sometimes you just have to eat dessert first.”
She knew where this was going. “I get it. I watch life while you live it. I know you think I should do something spontaneous instead of always planning everything out, but for your information, Im already doing something spontaneous."
"Yeah?" he asked, the challenge was there in his voice. "What's that?"
"Spontaneous," she stalled.
"And what would that be?"
She knew he didn't believe her. Come hell or high water, she was determined to do something spontaneous, even if it killed her. The satisfaction of wiping that arrogant know-it-all grin off his face would be worth any sacrifice, even if it wasn't logical.
"I'm going to Texas," she said, enforcing her decision with a nod.
"What for?" he asked.
"Why am I going to Texas?" She didn't have the faintest idea at first, but fortunately she was a quick thinker. Before he could say another word, she answered her own question.
"I'm going on a treasure hunt."
From the Hardcover edition.
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