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Hard Evidence [Secure eReader]
eBook by Roxanne Rustand

eBook Category: Mystery/Crime/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: COME OUT, COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE.... Someone was lurking in the woods behind the isolated old cabins Janna McAllister was fixing up. Who was he? And what could he want with a single mother who hadn't set foot in Wyoming in years? Janna was suddenly grateful for her unexpected new lodgers: deputy sheriff Michael Robertson and his teen-aged son. The strong, silent type, Michael made her feel safe--especially when human remains were found on the property. The cold case threatened to remain unsolved. Until Janna unwittingly found a clue that would tempt a killer to come out of the woodwork.

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Steeple Hill
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2007

9 Reader Ratings:
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Janna McAllister swept a cobweb away from her ear, blew at the damp tendrils of hair trailing over her forehead and stared at the three mice sitting on the kitchen counter of Cabin Ten.

They stared right back, whiskers twitching, paws folded in front of their little chests, probably even more surprised than she was. But it wasn't the mice that worried her.

She gazed past them to the candy wrappers and soda cans on the counter.

Snow Canyon Lodge had been closed for a good fifteen years, though the cabins had been empty for longer than that. There shouldn't have been any sign of recent human habitation.

And yet…the padlock on the door had been pried off and someone had been in here recently, given the brand names on those wrappers. Hikers? High school kids out for a lark?

Considering what she'd found in a cupboard, she tried not to dwell on other, darker possibilities.

But the people who'd broken in were long gone. She had a job to do, and not much time to get it done. She couldn't afford to let anyone stand in her way.

Determination had taken on a whole new meaning, now that she was a single mom, dealing with an ex-husband who could afford little financial support, plus the care of her elderly mother.

Setting her jaw, she continued her inspection of the property with a clipboard in hand, working backward from the most distant cabins toward the ones near the lodge.

Cabins Four and Five had miraculously withstood years of Wyoming's snow and wind and sun, but precious few of the others would be usable without a lot of work…and then only after she hauled away truckloads of trash and moldering furniture. Two of the cabins were just shy of needing demolition.

The main lodge would take months of cleaning, repairs and redecorating to fully restore.

She'd clearly been naive, thinking she could leave her career in Minneapolis the day after Rylie finished school and be ready for business in a few weeks.

Lord, I feel you led me here—and that this place is your answer to my prayers for a new life for Rylie and me. Please help me handle all of this, because I'm sure going to need Your help.

"Mom! Someone's here! Hurry!" Rylie's breathless, excited words floated through the torn screen door of Cabin Three. "I think it's important!"

The nine-year-old's high-pitched voice sent the mice scampering across the buckled vinyl countertops and over the far edge like lemmings over a cliff.

"Just a minute," Janna called out. The last thing the child needed to see was mice. She was already terrified of spiders and ladybugs, thanks to an older boy who'd teased her with both on the school bus.

Janna gingerly stepped around piles of old newspapers, tractor parts and a peach crate filled with grimy Mason canning jars to peer into the back room of the cabin.

She sneezed once—twice—three times at the eddies of dust stirred up by her shoes.

A sagging iron bed filled most of the space. Its stained mattress undoubtedly provided lodging for immeasurable varieties of vermin—and possibly dozens of little relatives of the three mice she'd just met. There was no way she wanted to set foot in that room.

Faced with the hard reality of her new life in this remote corner of her mother's ranch, she was torn between tears and incredulous laughter.

"Mom!" Rylie's voice was closer now. A moment later footsteps raced across the lopsided porch of the cabin, and the door squealed open. Rylie stood in the doorway as Maggie, her little white highland terrier-beagle mix, barreled inside. "You should see."

Expecting a feed delivery or possibly something from FedEx, Janna managed a weary smile. Rylie was done with school for the summer and there were no neighborhood kids in the area, so even deliveries were exciting when no one else was around. "Must be about as good as a birthday present, whatever it is."

"It's a man who looks like he could be in a movie. And he's got another guy with him, too."

"Really." Janna dusted off her hands and lifted Rylie's chin to study the smudges across her cheeks and brow. Like all the McAllister women, Rylie had the family's green eyes, strawberry-blond hair and petite, delicate build, but she was defiantly in her tomboy phase. "Where have you been?"

"The barn. Up in the loft."

At least there, the rodents were kept at bay by an extended family of cats…and Rylie hadn't seen any spiders.

Janna stifled another sneeze. "Why don't you run up to the lodge and check on your grandma Claire. And I'll—" Janna started out the door, but faltered to a stop when she caught sight of the gleaming black Ford 250 club cab parked over by the lodge.

A tall, dark-haired man leaned against its front fender, his booted feet crossed at the ankles, one elbow propped on the hood. His Stetson tipped low over his forehead, and sunglasses shaded his eyes, but even from where Janna was standing, she could see that the strong jaw and sharp angle of his cheekbones promised that this was one good-looking guy.

Probably a very lost good-looking guy, given the out-of-state plates on his truck. Though perhaps he was one of the rich Californians who'd been flooding the area over the past decade, buying up family owned ranches and driving up land values with their palatial homes. According to Janna's sisters, their mother had been pressured to sell out by several of them already—investors who'd apparently thought an elderly woman would be easy prey.

Copyright © 2007 by Roxanne Rustand.

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