Discover romance across America with Janet Dailey’s classic series featuring a love story set in each of the fifty states. A New York Times–bestselling author with over 300 million copies of her books in print, Dailey transports you to the picturesque northern border of New York State in Beware of the Stranger.
Samantha Jones is a small town journalist with a big secret. She is actually Samantha Gentry, daughter of one of New York’s most famous and powerful moguls. At twenty-two, she’s decided that finding true love isn’t easy for an heiress. But she’s willing to change her mind when she meets a man who knows her secret—and claims to have a message from her father.
Soon, the handsome stranger has Samantha traveling by boat to a remote island along the St. Lawrence River. But who is Chris Andrews and what does he want? Why isn’t Samantha allowed to leave the island? A prisoner of the passionate lover whose motives she can’t begin to fathom, she is also a hostage to the powerful desires he awakens in her. And surrendering her heart could demand the highest ransom of all.
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Beware of the Stranger
The Americana Series: New York
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1978 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
SAMANTHA'S FINGERS punched relentlessly at the typewriter keys. A furrow of concentration formed between her dark eyebrows and the line of her mouth was grim with determination. Regardless of her efforts, she couldn't achieve any speed with the manual typewriter. She might as well have been pecking the keys with one finger. Her little finger missed the "a" in "Yale" and the typed word became "Yle."
Sighing impatiently, Samantha reached for the eraser, nearly worn out from frequent use. The image of the sleek electric typewriter at home flitted wistfully through her mind. If only she could bring it to work, she thought, and immediately shelved the idea. An expensive model like that would raise too many eyebrows and too many questions.
The eraser gouged a hole in the paper, completely obliterating the error. "Damn!" Samantha muttered in exasperation, and ripped the sheet from the carriage.
"Problems?" The question was loaded with good-natured ribbing.
Samantha shot the dark-haired girl a quelling look. "None that a little manual dexterity wouldn't cure. Why don't you lend me some of yours, Beth? You can afford it."
The snappish reply carried a trace of envy. There wasn't a machine in the place that Beth couldn't operate with lightning speed and efficiency. It didn't matter whether it was a manual or an electric typewriter, a copy machine or the teletype in the adjoining news wire room.
"Poor Sammi," Beth laughed. "Why don't you try the one-finger, hunt and peck method? Mr. Lindsey has used it for years." Referring to their mutual boss and the owner-editor of the newspaper.
"This is one reporter who's going to be a speedy typist—even if I have a mental breakdown first," Samantha grimaced, but her sense of humor had returned, however wryly.
"What are you working on?" Beth ignored the comment except for a faintly sympathetic smile that touched her lips. "I'm not busy. Maybe I can type it for you?"
"No, thanks." Samantha shook her head firmly, thick, luxurious seal-brown hair rippling about her shoulders. "It's the Around and About column. It's so dull you'd fall asleep before you were half-done. I wish Har—Mr. Lindsey would let me spice it up a bit." She quickly corrected her near reference to their boss by his first name.
Beth wrinkled her nose. "How could you ever spice up that boring column? 'Mrs. Carmichael's daughter Susan was home for the weekend.' 'Mr. and Mrs. Donald Bradshaw entertained guests from out of state.'" She irreverently mimicked the type of copy that appeared in the column.
"It would be easy," Samantha asserted, "if I were allowed to do a little snooping. Take this item about Frank Howard, our esteemed attorney and Yale graduate, who had one of his former classmates spend the weekend. It just happens that this former classmate applied for the position of District School Superintendent and Frank Howard just happens to be chairman of the school board. Now if that doesn't smack of political maneuvering and collusion, nothing does."
"Really?" Beth breathed, her eyes widening at that piece of gossip. "But no one's been offered the position yet?"
"Not yet," Samantha agreed dryly. "But I doubt if anyone else will get it other than our chairman's friend and fellow alumnus."
"Does the boss know?"
"Yes." She inserted a new sheet of paper into the typewriter and turned her disgruntled expression to her notes. "And he reminded me that he doesn't print that type of column."
Harry Lindsey had said a bit more than that. Samantha had listened to his twenty-minute lecture concerning the diplomacy needed to operate a small-town newspaper. He had pointed out that any of the innocent items in the column could be turned, through conjecture and supposition, into juicy gossip, a fact Samantha was well aware of.
He had also forcefully pointed out that these same people who liked to see their names in print in the innocent column were generally business people in the community. The same business people he relied on to run advertisements in his newspapers and provide him with an income to keep the newspaper going. And a good editor didn't offend his clients just to sell copies unless there was ample justification. A little political back-scratching did not fall into that category unless there was fraud or criminal intention involved.
It was a statement Samantha couldn't throw stones at for fear one of them would boomerang. Her father did plenty of back-scratching. It was his considerable influencethat had obtained her this job with Harry Lindsey for the summer. She had wanted to learn the basics of newspaper reporting, and what better place to do it than on the staff of a small-town newspaper? With this experience and a diploma in journalism that would be in her hands at the end of her next college year, Samantha was confident that she could get a job with a big publication. Her ambition was to become one of the best investigative reporters around.
But realistically, Samantha sighed, she had to concede the wisdom of Harry's attitude. For the time being, she would simply have to stem the instinctive urge to delve below the surface of a given situation. Her natural curiosity could run free later when she had achieved her ambition.
It wasn't a goal she talked about too much. Few people she knew would understand her desire. Most of her female classmates and even her co-workers on the paper, such as Beth, still considered work of secondary importance. Their first ambition was to find a man, with luck, to marry. There were one or two who were as dedicated as Samantha was to the pursuit of their careers, but each one also planned to have a man to share in her future.
At twenty-two, Samantha had few illusions left about men, at least as far as she was concerned. She didn't hate them or even dislike them. Samantha had simply faced the fact that there never could be "one" man in her life.
It wasn't that she was repulsive to look at—quite the contrary. Her freshly scrubbed, wholesome features were quite pleasing to the eye. There was even a suggestion of sensuality to the curve of her lips. The brown of her eyes, the same richly dark shade as her hair, sparkled often with animation and a zest for life. There was a frankness to their expression that was decidedly fresh and appealing. Her eyes didn't know how to be coy and flirt. Occasionally there was a glimmer of shrewdness in the warm brown depths, an inheritance from her father and a trait that Samantha intended to put to use in her chosen career.
The truth was that she was every man's ideal of a perfect sister. It was a backhanded compliment received so often that it had lost its sting. That could have been overcome with the right man. But Samantha doubted that there was a man alive who could overcome her biggest obstacle.
This summer's charade had pointed that out to her. Being a new female face in a small town had attracted a lot of male attention to Samantha. Most of it was dissolved by her sisterly looks. At a local dance, she had overheard her date being teased that it must be like kissing his sister when he took her home. It was the last time the man had asked her out.
The few, very few, who had remained attentive would run to the hills the minute they found out she was Reuben Gentry's daughter, Samantha knew. She had discovered very early in life that the male ego was too fragile. Men weren't willing to marry a woman whose father would overshadow them their entire lives. Unless they wanted to share in the wealth and power he commanded, and Samantha wanted no part of that kind of man. Thanks to the shrewd perception she had inherited from her father, she usually spotted that kind the instant she met them and steered clear.
For a while Samantha had thought if she could find a man as powerful and wealthy as her father, she wouldn't have to worry about the problem of being Reuben Gentry's daughter. She had even been engaged to such a man when she was eighteen, but it had lasted only a month. She had found out two things. One was that money always wants more money and her fiancé considered their engagement more of a business alliance with her father. And secondly, she didn't love the man.
The broken engagement had also brought anend to any plans for a man in her life—at least in the singular. In time she would probably have affairs with men. She was a red-blooded woman with physical needs, too. It was even possible that she would fall in love with someone, but it wouldn't last—Samantha knew that. She loathed the terms "spinster" and "old maid." She preferred to think of herself as a confirmed "bachelorette." In these liberated times there was nothing to be ashamed of in not being married.
Reuben Gentry had always silently understood the burden she carried as his daughter. Only once had he said anything about it, and that had been after her engagement was broken and Samantha had explained why she had done it. He had suggested that she might prefer some anonymity, hinting that he wouldn't object if she changed her name.
Samantha had refused outright, declaring, "I'm not ashamed of who I am!"
Her cheeks dimpled slightly as Samantha concealed a smile. Only for this summer had she concealed her identity, wanting to work for the small newspaper without the usual notoriety that followed her. The smile continued to play about the corners of her mouth. Only minutes ago she had been wanting to spice up the column with a bit of gossip. And she was the biggest story in the entire town. Imagine how everyone would be set back on their heels if they found out that the innocuous Samantha Jones was really the Samantha Gentry!
"What are you smiling about?" Beth wanted to know.
Samantha let her mouth curve into a full smile. "Just imagining the readers' reactions if I actually printed the truth," she replied, without explaining further her exact meaning.
Beth shrugged, not finding the idea nearly as humorous as Samantha did. She continued flipping through the magazine lying on her desk and stopped turning pages when a particular article caught her interest.
"Here's my horoscope for the month," Beth said aloud and began reading it. "'June will be a calm month with plenty of warmth andlaughter. Weekends will mean pleasant jaunts but not too far from home. Your closest friends will be a source of joy.' Nothing about weddings," she sighed. She glanced over the rest of the page. "Here's yours, Sammi. Do you want to hear it?"
"I don't' care," Samantha shrugged. She didn't put any stock in horoscopes. To her they always seemed to be couched in words that could be interpreted any way the reader wanted.
Her lack of enthusiasm didn't deter Beth. "'June will be an uncertain month. Beware of strangers entering your life. They may not be what they represent. Check the facts before trusting your intuition. Travel is not recommended.'"
"Wait until I tell the boss that," Samantha laughed. "I've finally got him to agree to let me do a feature article on that lady celebrating her hundredth birthday in the next town, and now I'll have to tell him I can't do it because my horoscope says travel isn't recommended."
"He'll be furious," Beth agreed seriously.
"Oh, honestly, you don't really believe all that hogwash, do you?" Samantha declared with an incredulous shake of her head. She had been kidding, but Beth seemed to have taken her joke literally.
There was a defensive tilt of Beth's chin. "These forecasts are quite accurate."
"It depends on how you read between the lines," Samantha muttered, a little surprised that someone as efficient and practical as Beth could be superstitious about astrology forecasts. Most of them were turned out as haphazardly as pieces of paper in a fortune cookie.
But she wasn't about to become embroiled in any discussion about the facts or fantasies of astrology. With a dismissive shake of her head, Samantha turned back to the paper in her typewriter and began punching away at the keys. Beth said no more, slightly offended by Samantha's openly skeptical attitude toward something she half, if not completely, believed to be gospel.
When the column was typed, Samantha removed it from the carriage and began double-checking the spelling of the names with her notes. The street door opened and Samantha glanced up automatically. The tall, dark-haired stranger who walked in caught and held her attention.
Although Samantha had been living in the small town less than a month, intuition told her positively that the man was not a local resident. He was dressed casually in a forest green blazer and plaid slacks, nothing flashy nor overly affluent. His easygoing air wouldn't attract attention, yet Samantha couldn't shake the feeling that word would have reached her if there was such a man around. He wasn't the kind anyone ignored.
He walked directly to Beth's desk, which, besides being a reception desk, doubled as the classified advertisement section. Behind his relaxed attitude, Samantha sensed an uncanny alertness. The smooth suppleness of his stride suggested superb physical condition. Beneath the jacket, she guessed that the breadth of his shoulders tapering to a lean waist would confirm it.
The stranger stopped at the desk. "I'm looking for Samantha—"
A warning bell rang in her mind. "I'm Samantha Jones," she interrupted swiftly.
The man turned toward her at the sound of her clear voice. Instinct insisted that he had been aware of her watching him from the instant he walked through the door. She rose from her chair, the frankness of her gaze not wavering under the steady regard of his. Again with deceptive laziness, he smiled and walked toward her desk.
"The photograph on your father's desk doesn't do you justice, Miss Jones." There was the slightest inflection on her assumed name. The man spoke quietly yet firmly, as if he was unaccustomed to raising his voice. The iron thread of command was there without the need to shout.
Perhaps that was what had first tipped Samantha off to the fact that he had come to see Samantha Gentry and not Samantha Jones, the reporter. It was a trait her father looked for in his executives and associates. The reference to her picture on Reuben Gentry's desk seemed to confirm the stranger's connection with her father.
Samantha didn't recognize him, but that wasn't so strange. She knew very few of the people who worked with and for Reuben Gentry. Mostly they were faceless names.
"Your father?" Beth's voice echoed blankly from her desk. "I thought you said your father died two years ago, Sammi?"
For a fraction of a second, Samantha felt trapped by her own charade. "Yes, he did," she continued the white lie, calmly meeting the faint narrowing of the stranger's gaze. "But this man evidently knew my father."
"Yes, that's correct." The well-shaped masculine mouth, an underlying hardness in its line, twisted briefly as the man went along with her story.
Obviously he was bringing a message from her father, one he couldn't deliver in front of Beth, who believed Samantha's father was dead. Samantha reached for her handbag sitting beside her chair.
"Beth, we're going to the back room for some coffee," Samantha stated without satisfying the curiosity gleaming in the girl's eyes.
A table and folding chairs occupied the corner of a back room. A large coffee urn sat at one end of the table cluttered with clean and dirty paper cups and plastic spoons. It hardly resembled the plush boardrooms where Reuben Gentry held his meetings, but Samantha didn't even attempt to apologize for the ink-and coffee-stained tabletop. She walked to the urn and began filling one of the clean paper cups.
"I'm sorry, but I don't know you." Her gaze flicked briefly to the stranger. His veiled alertness was almost a tangible thing. "I assume Reuben sent you." It had been years since she had referred to her father as such.
"Owen Bradley, your fa—"
Samantha straightened. "You are Owen Bradley!" The statement came out smothered in an incredulous laugh. A dark eyebrow flicked upward in silent inquiry. Immediately she pressed her lips together and tried to stop smiling. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to laugh. It's just that, well, you're not at all like I pictured Reuben's Man Friday to be."
Her frank brown eyes traveled over the man again, now identified as Owen Bradley, her father's secretary and general everything. Her image of Owen Bradley had been somewhat effeminate—a short, thin man perhaps with pale skin and thick glasses, highly efficient and a walking computer.
Excerpted from Beware of the Stranger by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1978 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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