The Rawley Family Romances Volume I

By: Olivia Hardin

Dedication




This one is for Mom, who shared with me her love of the romance novel.

Thank you for being the wind beneath my wings.

I love you.





Chapter 1




“ARE YOU ALONE?”

“Good Lord, Hope, it's three o'clock in the morning,” Mark Terrance mumbled at the nervous woman standing in his doorway. Her hair was whipped by a fierce wind as she waited.

“Are you alone?” she pleaded with urgent eyes.

“Yes.”

Hope Sheffield shoved past him and pulled him out of the entryway as she closed the door. With her arms crossed in front of her, she squeezed herself to draw out the chill, then looked up into the man's confused eyes as she stomped the wet off her shoes onto the doormat.

“Mark, I need your help.”

“Somehow, I figured that.”

Hope clenched her eyes closed for a moment and sighed. “This is serious, Mark.”

His smile was meant to reassure her, but instead she was tempted to bolt out of the house. She shouldn't be involving him in this. It wasn't fair to him or his wife, but she didn't have anywhere else to turn,

“I need some money.”

He looked at her as if she was a confused two-year old and shook his head. “What are you talking about?”

“Mark, listen, I'm in trouble. I can't give you all of the details, but you have to trust me. A friend of mine is in trouble and she needs me to do something very important for her. I–”

“What is it that’s so important?”

“I can't tell you. You'll know about it soon enough, but now I have to hurry.”

“What makes you think I have a lot of money here—”

She smiled for the first time. “I know everything about you, Mark. You keep at least three thousand in that safe of yours.”

Mark Terrance studied her face closely. Hope had been a dear friend to him for years, and she did know everything about him. She figured he could tell just by looking in her eyes that whatever she was involved in was serious.

“Are you sure you know what you're doing?” He grabbed a key ring from the fob just inside the hall closet and moved to the office where his small fireproof safe was hidden.

“No,” Hope admitted as she reached over and deliberately slid her hands over his desk. “But I have no other choice.”

“Here you go,” he said and tried to close the door to the safe. Her hands stopped him. “Now what are you doing?”

She touched everything in the safe and began to give him instructions. “I want you to call the police tomorrow afternoon and tell them that this money was taken from your safe. Show them this.” She handed him a letter in exchange for the wad of money. “Tell them you found it on your desk. The prints will verify that I was here.”

“I will not say you stole this!”

“You have to do it,” she ordered. “By then I'll be long gone so don't worry, but you have to protect yourself and your family. This letter explains my plans.”

She watched the emotions and questions pass one by one in his expression, until finally he sighed with a nod. “There's over seven thousand dollars in there.”

“Mark, I can't take this much.” She started to pass the bills back to him.

“Yes, you can. You wouldn't approve of what I was saving it for anyway.”

“What?”

He shrugged. “A motorcycle.”

Hope laughed aloud. “Then I will take it. Cindy would probably thank me for it,” she joked, referring to his wife. Her face then turned grim. “Do just what I said. I'll find some way to let you know I'm all right.”

“You’d better.”

“No matter what you hear, no matter what the authorities or the news say, believe that I’m all right, okay?” She waited for him to inflect his head in the affirmative. “Bye, now.”

She hurried to open the front door, being sure to touch the knob to the hall closet on her way through.

“Hope,” he called, following her. “What would you have done if Cindy had been here?”

“I knew you'd be the one to open the door. Plus I was pretty sure she had decided to go to see her parents this weekend; she always answers the phone.”

It took him a moment to realize what she meant. “You were the caller who kept hanging up a couple of minutes ago?”

“Yes. I had to make sure you would be awake when I got here. It wouldn’t do for someone to catch me banging down your door.”

She turned to go, and he called out to her again. He didn’t seem to know what to say. “Where's your car?” he asked lamely.

“Several blocks down.”

Motioning to her dark clothing, perfect for sneaking in and out of the shadows, he smiled. “You're full of tricks.”