Have you ever been captivated by some stranger in a public place? Looked into that stranger's eyes and seen your destiny pass in review? Well, that's what happens to Frank Malone when he spies Cindy Robbins for the first time. My latest romantic suspense novel, THE PERFECT STRANGER was released by Mundania Publications today, and I invite you to log on, check it out, and let me know what you think about it.
Set in Lincoln, Nebraska, with an extended trip to Colorado high country, you'll find out why Frank was mesmerized at his first glimpse of the young mother and her darling little boy, Quentin. All is not as it seems, though, and Frank finds himself deep in the middle of someone else's misery. By that time, he's hopelessly in love with Cindy and vows to go through hell if that's what it takes to free her and her son. When all is done, Frank has reclaimed his hold on life, Cindy has been reunited with her family, and Quentin has a real father to help him grow to manhood.
THE PERFECT STRANGER by Pat Dale
available at: http://www.mundania.com/book.php?title=The-Perfect-Stranger
Frank’s eyes drifted across the aisle to the young woman staring at him. Her smile spoke of softness and refinement, yet held such a hint of sadness it touched him deeply. With jet black hair combed back from her oval face, she could have been the product of an artist’s imagination. And her eyes! Incredible cobalt orbs under perfect long lashes, eyebrows trimmed to a fault. Mouth suddenly dry, he swallowed hard and turned away.
Like a cat drawn to catnip, he had to look again. As he inventoried the woman from head to toe, she smiled, sending a flood of heat through his body. And a rush of blood to his head. He attempted to return her smile before dropping his gaze and closing his eyes.
Avoiding her stare did no good. He’d been smitten by her visual image and sat for long moments cataloging her features. Summer sun had brushed what might have been pure ivory skin into a creamy golden tan. A dark blue sports bra gave sanctuary to her petite bosom. Her smooth tanned midriff swept to an inviting waistline, bare to just below her navel, and a pair of faded threadbare jeans; the lone dissonance in this enticing image of femininity.
His focus dropped to leather sandal-clad feet with polished nails that completed the portrait of the perfect stranger across the aisle. Frank gave her a shy smile when her eyes lifted and locked on his, unleashing an electric charge that surged through his body.
Unaccustomed to focusing on anyone, he could not break visual contact with the woman. Not a word spoken but communication loud and clear, pleading, ‘Help me.’
Her eyes drilled that simple message to the depths of his being. Why would this gorgeous creature need help from anyone? Especially Frank Malone. But he couldn’t shake the notion that she was in need of help and he’d been chosen to render it.
With a shy nod, she blinked once and looked to her side, releasing his focus to travel to her companion, a small boy seated next to her. He looked to be near the age of Frank’s late son. The avid curiosity in this boy’s eyes made him choke on the memory of Josh’s zest for life, the way he’d always loved to come here to eat, the...
Thirty feet from the door waited Frank’s CTS. Twenty paces and he’d be on the way to the rest of his life. Ten seconds later, he still stood frozen at the curb, his feet unwilling to move.
When they came out, the little boy whimpered, “Hungwy, Mommy.” The woman picked him up and kissed him on the cheek. “Sorry, baby. I can’t feed you yet.” Showing surprise to see Frank standing there, she mumbled, “Oh, hi.”
He said, “Hi, again.” Her face lit up in a smile that slowly faded as she stared at him.
His mouth took over before she had a chance to turn away. “I’m Frank Malone and I’d like to know the name of Quentin’s mother, if you don’t mind.”
She took his offered hand, physical contact causing his body to tingle. The feel of her fingers so smooth, but with a grip so firm told him more than her eyes had; eyes that didn’t quite focus on his at the moment. Even as every fiber of his being urged him to pursue this lady, a sense of foreboding cautioned from the deep recesses of his mind.
In a melodic voice, she said, “I’m pleased to meet you, Frank Malone. My name is Lucinda but most people just call me Cindy.”
He said, “Nice meeting you, Cindy. You must be awfully hungry by now. Did someone stand you up for dinner?”
“You could call it that. We’re okay.” Her eyes went on guard as she shifted her weight from foot to foot. “But thanks for your concern.”
Something inside screamed for him to get the hell out of there, but his mouth had gone out of control. “I’d really like to take you and Quentin to get something to eat. What do you say?”
“Why would you want to do that? You don’t even know who we are.”
“It doesn’t take that much to see a mother in distress. To tell you the truth, you’re the first person I’ve talked to other than work and Jenny,” he pointed to the restaurant, “since the accident.” He fought down a lump in his throat. “Truth is, I’m lonesome as hell.”
There was a filmy gleam in her eyes as they gently teased his. “And you think you want to spend time with me?”
“Yes, I think I do. You and your charming son.”
Her smooth cheeks wrinkled into something close to a smile. “In that case, Frank Malone, I’m starved. Could we take Quentin to the place where they give kids those cardboard crowns? He just loves them.”
“You mean Burger King? You’ve got it.”
He led her to his Cadillac. While holding the door, he looked back to see Jenny looking out at them, grinning like a monkey.
“Why don’t you call and tell them you’re going to take the day off? Maybe several days. When’s the last time you took time away from work?”
“I can’t remember.”
“How about vacations? You do take those, don’t you?”
He remembered the last fight he’d had with Marianne. A year ago he’d cancelled his vacation when a new client needed his attention, or so he’d thought at the time. The room blurred before his eyes as he recalled blowing his last opportunity to spend quality time with his family. Or any time at all.
She saw the hideous expression on his face. “Oh, no. I’ve done it again, haven’t I?”
He fought for control. “No, it’s okay. But you’re right. I need to take some time off.”
His machine perfect, well-disciplined robotic world flashed through his mind. Utterly, totally, absolutely D-U-L-L! “You’re right. I’m going to go to the office just long enough to reassign the work. Then I’m coming home for a few days. For that matter, I can do much of the work from here on my computer or my Blackberry.”
“Working at home doesn’t sound like much of a holiday to me.”
“Right again. I need a change of scenery. Cindy, are you doing anything really important this week?”
“Like standing on the street waiting for a handout?”
“No.” The look on her face made him blush with guilt. “I’m sorry. What I was trying to say was, would you like to go somewhere with me? Someplace where we can have fun. We can relax and show Quentin a good time.”
Her eyes flashed with excitement. “You want us to go on a holiday with you?”
“Yes. Why not?”
“You mean here in
“I mean anywhere you’d like to go. Name it and we’re there.”
“I’m going to say yes before you come to your senses.”
He kissed her on the cheek. Sharp electric current ran through his body at the touch of her soft skin, the aroma of her perfume intoxicating him to a level he’d not approached in years.
“I’m not used to that kind of kiss, Frank. Tenderness comes dearly, doesn’t it?”
He nodded and beat a path for the stairs before his tenderness had a chance to morph into something that would probably be much more familiar to her. Once in his bedroom, he dropped his clothes on the bed and climbed into a cooler than usual shower.
When he stepped buck-naked out of the enclosure, Cindy was in the room making the bed. After she left, red-faced, he toweled off, grabbed his clothes from the chair where she’d moved them, and climbed back into them. Headed for the door, he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of Marianne’s photo on the dresser.
What the hell am I doing? This is crazy.
Shrugging off his misgivings, he stuck the Blackberry in his dresser and headed for the stairs, smiling again as he recalled the thrill of looking into Cindy’s eyes moments earlier. And seeing a chance to give Quentin a taste of real life. He grabbed his car keys in the entry hall and shouted, “I’ll be back in two hours. Be ready.”
He could have been gone no more than thirty seconds when she dialed the hall phone, accessing an answering machine. “Hey Jenny. Our plan worked. Frank brought me home. The number on this phone is 555-9204. He wants me to do housework for him but I’ll call later in the week to tell you more. We’re going off on some kind of holiday now.”
After hesitating, she pulled her cell phone out of her purse and made another call, this one answered live. She got right to the point, her words harsh and raw. “It’s me, Lowell. I’m in. Whatever the hell you do, don’t you dare call me on Frank’s phone. I have your number so I’ll call you when I get what you want.”
Cindy held her breath, waiting for his response.
Thus begins the rugged twisty saga of THE PERFECT STRANGER.