The Chance

Thunder Point Book # 4
February 25, 2014
MIRA Paperback

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The Chance

Share the joys, heartbreaks, challenges and triumphs of the people who inhabit the small Oregon town of Thunder Point with #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr.

With its breathtaking vistas and down-to-earth people, Thunder Point is the perfect place for FBI agent Laine Carrington to recuperate from a gunshot wound and contemplate her future. The locals embraced Laine as one of their own after she risked her life to save a young girl from a dangerous cult. Knowing her wounds go beyond the physical, Laine hopes she’ll fit in for a while and find her true self in a town that feels safe. She may even learn to open her heart to others, something an undercover agent has little time to indulge.

Eric Gentry is also new to Thunder Point. Although he’s a man with a dark past, he’s determined to put down roots and get to know the daughter he only recently discovered. When Laine and Eric meet, their attraction is obvious to everyone. But while the law enforcement agent and the reformed criminal want to make things work, their differences may run too deep…unless they take a chance on each other and find that deep and mysterious bond that belongs to those who choose love over fear.

Excerpt

Chapter One
When Laine Carrington arrived in Thunder Point, she went first to the hill above the beach and sat in the parking lot beside Cooper’s bar. She didn’t go inside — she would do that later. She just wanted to see if the view from this perch matched the pictures she’d been sent. She let out her breath, not even realizing she’d been holding it. The vista before her was even better.

What am I doing here? she asked herself again. She’d been asking herself for three thousand miles of driving.

The view was stunning. The beach was wide and long. The huge, black haystack rocks were a powerful contrast against the gray-blue water. The mouth of the bay lay between two promontories, the Pacific stretching endlessly beyond, crashing against the rocky promontories but the water in the bay was calm.

She shivered in the cold and pulled her jacket tighter. It was late January and the damp cold caused her right shoulder to ache all the way to her elbow. She’d had surgery on that shoulder three months ago. A bullet was removed and damage repaired. Maybe it was the bullet that brought her to Thunder Point. Laine had been wounded on the job, then pulled from FBI Field Service and put on a desk while recovering. She wasn’t given any active cases but she had a computer — she was limited to what amounted to research and clerical work for other agents. When she realized they were going to keep her on that desk for a long time, light duty, assisting rather than leading investigations, she requested a one year leave of absence to focus on rehab.

Rehab was an excuse. She didn’t need a year. She was close to seventy-five percent total recovery of the shoulder and in another six months she’d be a hundred percent. But even though she was cleared for duty by the shrink, she could use a little time to rethink her career path. And she was allergic to that full time desk.

Plus, she’d had a miserable holiday visit with her father in Boston. She left angry, went back to her Virginia townhouse, got in touch with a Realtor in Thunder Point where she knew a couple of people, and from emailed photos she had chosen a house to rent. A house with a view of the bay. Because Thunder Point, Oregon was just about as far from Boston as she could get.

Her car was in the parking lot of the bar and she leaned against it for a long time, staring at the sea. It was overcast, cold and there was no one on the water. It was glum, actually. But she liked those cloudy or stormy days. Her mother used to call them soup days. Although her mother had been a career woman, she had loved to cook and bake and it was particularly on days like this that she’d come home from her office or the hospital early, arms filled with grocery bags, and spend a few hours in the kitchen. It relaxed her. She loved filling her family with comfort food — thick soups, rich casseroles, sweet, soft breads, stews and pastas in rich tomato or white sauces or savory broths.

Laine sighed. She would never get over losing her mother. It had been five years and she still reached for the phone before she remembered. She’s gone.

It was time to get to town to meet the Realtor. She got in her car and drove out of the parking lot and took the road that crossed the beach and led to the town. There was some construction on the hill — it looked like a few houses were being built on this beachfront hillside. Like Cooper’s bar, these would have the best views in the town.

She drove to the main street and parked in front of the clinic. When she got out she locked it out of habit. She looked up and down the street lined with lampposts still boasting a bit of Christmas garland. Well, it was only January, she thought with a private chuckle.

She walked into the clinic and there, sitting behind the counter at her desk, was Devon. She rose with a wide smile on her face.

“You’re here,” Devon said in a near whisper. She came around the counter and embraced Laine. “There was a part of me afraid you wouldn’t come. That something would come up, that the FBI would have work for you…”

“Can we please not say a lot about that?”

“About what? The commune? The raid? The FBI?”

Laine couldn’t help herself, she brushed the hair back from Devon’s pretty face as if she were a little sister. Laine had taken Devon under her wing in the commune. “About all of it,” she said. “When people find out I work for the FBI they either ask me a ton of weird questions or they get strange, like they’re worried I’m going to do a background check on them or something. At least until I settle in a little bit, let’s downplay all that stuff.”

“What will you say? Because these people want to know everything about everyone. They’re nice about it, but they will ask.”

“I’ll just say I worked on a Federal task force, but most of my work was just at a desk, compiling data, research, that sort of thing. Not at all a lie. And I’m on leave because of shoulder surgery.”

“Okay,” Devon said, laughing softly. “They really don’t need to know your task force was counter terrorism until you stumbled on an illegal pot farm in the middle of a cult and that you had shoulder surgery because you were shot in the line of duty.” Then she grinned.

Laine groaned. “Please, I really don’t want to sound that interesting.”

“Well, the only people who know certain details where there that night and they were briefed pretty thoroughly. Rawley, Cooper and Spencer will be very happy to see you,” Devon said. “And of course Mac knows — he’s the law around here, can’t get anything by him. I told Scott, my boss, but I can keep him quiet. He’s pretty easy to control.”

“Is that so?” Laine asked with a smile.

“Oh yes,” she said. “In Dr. Grant’s case it has more to do with me being happy so I can keep track of all the paperwork in this clinic. He dreads things like insurance filing, especially Medicaid and Medicare. He does it when he has to and frankly, it takes him five times as long as it takes me. He’s not even very good at keeping lab work and patient files up to date.”

“You’re so different from the person I knew on the farm.”

“Actually, I was different in the commune from the person I really am,” Devon said. “This is more me. I was always a good student, a hard worker. But you are the curiosity. How did a sophisticated city girl like you manage to fit into the family like you did?”

Laine smiled secretly, proudly. “Specialized training, research, good role playing.”

“I can see that working for a couple of days, but it was over six months!” Devon reminded her.

She knew. Only too well. “Very good research and role playing,” she said. Not to mention the fact that lives were at stake and rested on her success or failure. Laine had done a lot of undercover work over the years but her time with The Fellowship had been the longest deep cover assignment in her career. She had requested it, thinking it would be a brief fact-finding assignment. She thought she could probably fit in, get to the bottom of what was happening there, but what was going on was quite different than what the FBI suspected. They had been looking for evidence of sovereign citizenry, tax evasion, fraud, human trafficking and possible domestic terrorism. What she found, once she was inside, was a giant pot farm fronted by a fake cult.

Laine could have left then, escaped, turned her information over to the task force and let them figure out how to proceed, how to best serve a warrant and get inside to make arrests without creating a small war. But there were women and children behind the fence that surrounded The Fellowship and the men in charge would fight back — they were armed to the teeth. So she stayed, getting as many of them out safely as she could before law enforcement breached the compound. It had been an extended dangerous and complex operation and in the end, she’d been shot by the cult leader, the boss. Jacob.

“Are you ready to have a little quiet now?” Devon asked.

“You have no idea,” Laine said. But she’d never actually had quiet before. The thought of whole days without plans stretching out in front of her was intimidating.

“I saw it,” Devon said. “The house you rented.”

“You did?”

“Ray Anne, the Realtor I suggested to you, told me which house it was and I peeked in some windows. It’s beautiful. So beautiful.”

“I’ve only seen pictures,” Laine replied. “I understand I was very lucky; that there’s hardly ever rental property around here.”

“At least not real pretty rental property. This is a vacation home that for some reason the family isn’t going to be using for a while so they’re renting it.”

“Do you know them? The people who own it?”

Devon shook her head. “But I haven’t been here that long. I don’t know everyone, that’s for sure.”

Laine looked at her watch. “I better go meet Ray Anne. “Want to come? See the inside from the inside?”

She grinned and nodded. “Let me check with Scott, then I’ll follow you so I can come right back.”

“Maybe I better follow you,” Laine said. “I haven’t even looked in the windows yet.”

~~~~~~~

Eric Gentry sat at the counter in the diner having a late breakfast. Next to him was Cooper from the beach bar, doing the same. Then the sheriff’s deputy walked in. Mac pulled off his hat and took the seat beside Eric. Mac’s wife, Gina, brought him a cup of coffee. Then she leaned over the counter and collected a kiss.

“I certainly didn’t get that kind of first class treatment,” Cooper said with a smile. “And I ordered a whole meal.”

“Yeah, buddy, the day I hear about you getting treatment like that is the day you start walking with a limp.”

Eric chuckled, but he’d never make such a remark. He and Gina had history. And he liked walking straight.

“Mac,” Gina reprimanded with a laugh in her voice.

“What are you doing here, anyway?” Mac asked Cooper. “Get sick of Rawley’s cooking out at the bar?”

“Rawley doesn’t cook,” Cooper said. “Sometimes he warms things, but that’s just sometimes.”

“Sarah says he’s a good cook,” Gina pointed out.

“Oh, he cooks for Sarah,” Cooper said of his wife. “When she wanders into the kitchen he asks her right away what she’d like. Now that she’s packin’ Rawley takes real good care of her.”

“Packin’?” Eric asked.

“Pregnant,” three people answered in unison.

“I see,” he said, sitting back and wiping his mouth on the napkin.

“Business must be good,” Mac said to Eric. “I saw a dually pulling a trailer through town, an old Plymouth on the trailer.”

“A 1970 Superbird,” Eric told him. “It’s in for a rebuilt engine, new bench seat and a refurbished dash. I think we’re going to have to refresh that roof, too. It’s the original vinyl and not going to be easy.”

“Bench seat? Not buckets?”

Eric shook his head. “Not in the Superbird. I guess if you drove one of those you got girls and if you got girls, you wanted them sitting right next to you.”

“Where’d it come from?” Mac asked.

“Southern California.”

“Someone would bring an old car up from Southern California?”

Eric sipped his coffee. “It’s a two-hundred-thousand dollar classic. The owner would bring it across six states for the right work. I’ve done a lot of work for him. He owns twenty cars. I think its most of his estate. He likes to do a lot of the restoration work himself and he does a great job. He doesn’t have the equipment for replacing an engine block and the car is his baby.”

“His baby?” Gina asked.

“He kisses it before he goes to bed every night. He probably treats the car better than he treats his wife.”

“Boys and their toys,” Gina said.

“You’re putting us on the map,” Mac said. “Imagine — that car is worth more than this diner.”

Eric noticed a couple of young women walking across the street from the clinic. One he knew to be Devon, the doctor’s office manager — he’d met her a couple of months ago and had seen her around. The other one he didn’t recognize. She was wearing a ball cap low over her forehead and fitted spandex pants, jacket, running shoes and blond hair strung through the back of her cap, noticeable when she turned to laugh at something Devon said.

When they walked into the diner Gina beamed a happy grin and said, “Hey!”

“What’s this?” Devon asked. “Grumpy old men’s club?”

“I beg your pardon,” Cooper replied. “I’m not old.”

“He’s older than me,” Mac said.

Eric said nothing. His eyes were busy with the new girl and when something like that happened it tended to tie up his tongue.

“Laine, you know Cooper and Mac, but have you met Eric? Eric owns the service station and body shop at the end of the street. Eric, this is my friend, Laine Carrington. She’s new in town.”

And Eric found himself on his feet. “Nice to meet you.”

“And you,” she replied. “Please, sit. We’re just going to grab a cup of coffee.” Then she looked at Gina. “You due for a break?”

“I am,” she said. “I’ll bring the coffee.”

As Devon and Laine headed toward the back of the diner to a booth, Eric followed them with his eyes. Then he guiltily returned his eyes to his coffee cup, grateful to note that Cooper and Mac were discussing how much money was too much to spend on a car. A two hundred thousand dollar Superbird didn’t even enter the conversation.

Eric had a couple of classics, cars he’d restored himself. He salvaged them and had planned to restore and sell them, then he got attached. It happens. There were dealers and then there were collectors. Then there were guys like him who were looking to make a few bucks and turned into collectors.

He talked with his friends for a while longer, forcefully keeping his eyes from wandering to that back booth, until finally Mac stood and left the waitress a tip, making the men laugh. Cooper left a ten on the counter for his seven dollar breakfast plus tip. But Eric walked to the back booth.

“Gina, I’m going to need some change. You’re good, but not that good.”

“I’d argue with that, but it will be quicker to get your change.” She snatched the twenty out of his hand and headed for the register.

“Nice meeting you, Laine. If you ever need any dents popped or rough edges smoothed out, I’m your guy,” he said. When he saw Laine and Devon looking at him with wide eyes, he winced. But the women laughed.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said.

© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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