Eclipse Bay (Eclipse Bay #1)

Eclipse Bay (Eclipse Bay #1) Page 1
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Eclipse Bay (Eclipse Bay #1) Page 1


Eclipse Bay, Oregon

Midnight, eight years earlier…

“It’s going to be a long walk home.”

The voice was low and rough around the edges, unmistakably masculine. The kind of voice that sent little shivers down a woman’s spine. It came out of the bottomless shadows near the base of Eclipse Arch, the stone monolith that dominated this secluded stretch of rocky beach.

Hannah Harte jerked her gaze away from the sight of Perry Decatur’s disappearing taillights and spun around. Her pulse, already beating briskly as a result of the unpleasant tussle in the front seat, shifted into high gear.

Maybe getting out of the car had not been one of her brighter ideas. This stretch of Bayview Drive was a very lonely place at this hour of the night. Nice going, Hannah, she thought. The old frying-pan-into-the-fire trick. And you’re supposed to be so sensible and cautious. The one who never takes chances. The one who never gets into trouble.

“Who’s there?” She edged back a step and prepared to run.

The man on the beach sauntered casually out of the dense darkness of the arched rock and stepped into the cold light of the late-summer moon. He was less than twenty feet away.

“You’re a Harte,” he said. Cold, ironic amusement filtered through the words. “Don’t you recongnize a no-good, low-down, untrustworthy Madison on sight?”

She took in the stark profile, the glint of silver light on midnight-dark hair, and the air of arrogant, prowling grace. She didn’t need the additional clues of a leather jacket, a black crew-neck T-shirt, and jeans.

Rafe Madison. Her generation’s most notorious member of the disreputable, thoroughly scandalous Madison clan. For three generations, ever since the legendary street fight between Mitchell Madison and Sullivan Harte in front of Fulton’s Supermarket, the Hartes had dutifully warned their offspring not to get involved with the wild, unruly Madisons.

Rafe had apparently made it a point to live up to his family’s scandalous heritage. The product of an affair between his sculptor father and a model, Rafe had been orphaned along with his brother at the tender age of nine. Both boys had been raised by their disreputable grandfather, Mitchell, who was, according to Hannah’s mother, in no way qualified to be a father.

Rafe had blossomed into the quintessential bad boy, but he had somehow managed, by the skin of his teeth, to stay out of jail. As far as most people in Eclipse Bay were concerned, it was only a matter of time before he wound up behind bars.

He was twenty-four, four years older than herself, Hannah thought. It was common knowledge that his grandfather was furious with him because he had dropped out of college in the middle of his sophomore year. Rafe had done a short stint in the military, and from all accounts, he had managed to prove all the recruitment posters wrong and emerge with no marketable skills. Word had it that this summer Mitchell was trying to coerce him into going to work for his older brother, Gabe, who was attempting, against all odds, to revive the family business. No one expected Gabe to succeed in that endeavor.

Although she and her family spent every summer and many weekends and vacations here in Eclipse Bay, Hannah had had no direct contact with Rafe while she was growing up. The four years’ difference in their ages had, until tonight, served to keep their orbits safely separated, even in this small seaside community where both families had deep roots. Four years was a chasm when one was a kid.

But tonight was her twentieth birthday. In the fall she would start her junior year of college in Portland. For some reason the four years between herself and Rafe Madison no longer seemed an impenetrable barrier.

Her first reaction to the realization that he had witnessed the struggle in the front seat of Perry’s car was overwhelming mortification. Hartes did not indulge in public scenes. Just her dumb luck to have a Madison hanging around when she broke that unwritten rule. Anger warred with acute embarrassment.

“Do you do this a lot?” she asked gruffly.

“Do what a lot?”

“Hide behind large rocks in order to spy on people who want to have private conversations?”

“You’ve got to admit that the entertainment options in this town are a little limited.”

“I suppose that’s especially true if you’ve got a severely limited concept of what constitutes entertainment.” Everyone knew that Rafe’s motorcycle was frequently spotted in the small parking lot behind Virgil’s Adult Books and Video Arcade. “What do you do when you’re not being a voyeur?”

“A voyeur?” He whistled softly. “That’s a fancy word for a Peeping Tom, isn’t it?”

She stiffened. “Yes, it is.”

“Thought so. Wasn’t absolutely sure, though. I dropped out of college before we got to some of the more up-scale words.”

He was mocking her. She knew it, but she was not certain how to deal with it.

“I wouldn’t brag about leaving school if I were you.” She clutched her purse more tightly in front of her body, as if it were a magic shield she could use to ward off any demonic vibes Rafe might be emitting. “My father says that it’s too bad you blew off your future like that. He says you have potential.”

Rafe’s teeth flashed briefly in a sardonic grin. “Lots of people have said that over the years, starting with my first-grade teacher. But they’ve all concluded that I won’t ever live up to whatever potential I’ve got.”

“You’re an adult now. It’s your responsibility to make your life work properly. You can’t blame your failure on others.”

“I never do that,” he assured her earnestly. “I’m proud to say that I am solely to blame for my own screwups.”

She was out of her depth here. She tightened her grip on the purse and took another step back.

“You sort of implied that you and the guy who just took off came here to talk privately.” His words pursued her in the darkness. “But I didn’t get the feeling that the two of you were having what you’d call a meaningful conversation. Who was the jerk, anyway?”

For some oblique reason she felt compelled to defend Perry, who, unlike Rafe Madison, would amount to something someday. Or maybe it was her own self-image she wanted to protect. She did not like to think of herself as the kind of woman who dated jerks.

Not that Perry was a jerk. He was a budding academic.

“His name is Perry Decatur,” she said coolly. “He’s a grad student at Chamberlain. Not that it’s any of your business.”

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