Read Storm Over the Lake Online
Authors: Diana Palmer
“Nobody tops Diana Palmer when it comes to delivering pure, undiluted romance. I love her stories.”
New York Times
bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz
“Diana Palmer is a mesmerizing storyteller who captures the essence of what a romance should be.”
Affaire de Coeur
“Diana Palmer is a unique talent in the romance industry. Her writing combines wit, humor, and sensuality; and, as the song says, nobody does it better!”
New York Times
bestselling author Linda Howard
“No one beats this author for sensual anticipation.”
“A love story that is pure and enjoyable.”
Lord of the Desert
“The dialogue is charming, the characters likable and the sex sizzlingâ¦”
Once in Paris
has published over seventy category romances, as well as historical romances and longer contemporary works. With over forty million copies of her books in print, Diana Palmer is one of North America's most beloved authors. Her accolades include two
Reviewer's Choice Awards, a Maggie Award, five national Waldenbooks bestseller awards and two national B. Dalton bestseller awards. Diana resides in the north mountains of her home state of Georgia with her husband, James, and their son, Blayne Edward.
here was a sense of foreboding in the morning. Dana Meredith crossed out her second try at a lead for the news-feature she was writing about the city's new school superintendent. Cheating with a pen and paper, she grimaced at the computer that had replaced her old electric typewriter and stacks of paper. Some things about modern journalism were just a bit much.
For instance, this neat, uncluttered, im
peccable news-room. She sighed. Her first job had been on a weekly newspaper, in an office where visitors always seemed to giggle when they noticed the paper wadded and folded and sitting in lopsided stacks on the desk that probably had a top somewhere under all that clutter. A smile touched her mouth at the memory. Along with the clutter and the long hours and the variety of jobsâeverything from writing to proofreading to pasting up to delivering the paperâhad come a sense of belonging that made any sacrifice worthwhile. Then, too, there had been the aura of excitement that came with working for an editor who was already a legendâan awesome experience that time had never dulled.
Dana would never have left voluntarily. But her father's death and her mother's lingering illness that followed it had made it necessary. She moved to Miami, to a bigger job and a more specialized nursing home for her mother. The elderly woman was totally dependent on her doctors, totally oblivious to Dana and the world around her. And it took almost every spare
penny Dana made to keep her there, although Dana would never have called it a sacrifice. Mrs. Meredith, in her day, had been a very special woman; it had taken the death of her husband to break that strong will.
“â¦Dana! Hey, girl, did that interview with the school super deafen you?” a loud voice called inches from her ear.
She jumped and looked up into the dancing blue eyes of the dark-haired girl at the next desk. “Sorry, Phyl, I wasn't listening. What?” she asked pleasantly, her eyebrows raised.
“I said, Jack wants you,” she repeated, nodding toward the glass-enclosed office.
“Let's see,” Dana murmured thoughtfully, one slender hand idly touching the taffy-colored hair in its severe bun, “I haven't used his phone in a week. I didn't paint green shamrocks on his hood on St. Patrick's Day. I didn't slip his name to the F.B.I. as a dangerous underground radical when those two agents were in the lobby last week. Okay,” she said, getting up from the desk. “I've got nothing in this
world to be afraid of. Exceptâ¦well, I only
to stock his swimming pool with guppies, and that doesn't count.”
“Get out of here,” Phyllis groaned. “You're giving me indigestion.”
“Reporters don't get indigestion,” Dana reminded her. “Reporters get ulcers.”
“Not just reporters,” Phyllis contradicted. “Honey, there are two kinds of people in this worldâpeople who get ulcers, and people who give them. I've decided life is too short to be on the receiving end, so shake hands with a giver!”
“A giver?” the sports reporter asked, passing by. “Great! I'll take a couple of twenties, and a fiveâjust until payday, of course.”
“I'm passing out ulcers, not money,” Phyllis replied.
He stopped. “Oh. Well, in that case, I'll pass. Charlie gave me one of those last week, and I'm trying to trade it to Fred for his broken arm.”
Dana eased past him, with her back to
the wall. “I used to be sane,” she told him. “Years ago, of course.”
“Reporters are not sane,” Phyllis broke in. “They become reporters because they can't get normal jobsâ¦”
Dana ducked into Jack's office and closed the door. “You wanted to see me?” she asked the man behind the massive, cluttered desk.
He looked up at the slender young woman. Dana Meredith was pretty, but there was also something very innocent about her, something vulnerable. Maybe it was the soft brown eyes that seemed to dominate her face, or the taffy-colored hair she pulled into that tight bun on top of her head. Maybe it was the soft, pink mouth that always seemed to be smiling. He shrugged. He felt like a Roman throwing a Christian into the jaws of a lion.
And, in a sense, he was.
“There's no easy way to put it, honey,” he said finally. “You're going to Atlanta on the eight a.m. flight to do a story on the Devereaux Textile Corporation.”
She felt the blood drain out of her face,
the life drain out of her body. Too weak-kneed to even stand, she slumped into the nearest chair and caught her breath.
“Atâ¦Atlanta?” she whispered, her big eyes wide and frightened.
“Don't look at me like that,” he groaned, dragging his husky form out of the chair. He turned to the window, running his hands restlessly through his thin hair. “Devereaux asked for you personally. He wants a major news piece on his new production methods, and he wants to give it to usâan exclusive, when it's the hottest copy south of the President. But there's a catch. He'll only give it to you.”
She stared down at her cold, trembling hands. “Oh, my God,” she whispered.
“It was three years ago,” he reminded her.
She folded her arms across her chest, tight, close, as if they could protect her from what lay ahead. “I'd rather you fired me,” she said unsteadily.
“That's what it's going to come down to. I'm sorry as hell, Dana, but Charlie wants it,” he told her flatly. “That means
your job, my job, both jobs go down the drain unless you pick up your nerve and go to Atlanta. Nobody says no to Charlie, remember?”
She closed her eyes. Charlie wants it. Three words that had given the newspaper a national reputation for excellence, for accuracy, for pure doggedness. And if she let them fire her, how would she live and support her mother until she could find another job in an already flooded field? The money was too good, and even the fury of Adrian Devereaux's black temper wasn't going to cost her this job. She owed him the last one, but not this one, and his vengeance wasn't costing her one more hour's peace!
She raised her face proudly. “I'll go. I won't like it. I may never forgive you or Charlie for making me do it, but I'll go.”
“Look at it as a kind of rest period,” Jack told her quietly. “Just between us, you haven't been quite the same since you went to north Georgia to cover that flood. I know, it's been six months, but you
never did let it out, Dana. I never once heard you mention it.”
The memory of it was worse than the one she carried of Adrian's dark, leonine face when he threw her out of his house. She flinched at the thought, pushing it immediately to the back of her mind.
“What was there to mention?” she countered. “It's over, like what I helped do to Adrian Devereaux. He trusted me, Jack. I applied for that job incognito, and lived in his house and worked for him weeks before he found out. He didn't know I was just there to do an exclusive about his wife's death and its effect on him. I tried to kill the story, butâ¦” She sighed. “He was front page news, the editors had no choice.”
“I know the feeling,” Jack said. “Your story did help solve the case, eventually, too. It brought an eyewitness forward and led to the capture of the murderer.”
“It destroyed Adrian Devereaux,” she said on a sigh. “Financially at least. One word left out. When it should have read
that his plants were not closing, the word ânot' was left out.”
“Stock in his company plummeted overnight. He lost everything, I remember,” Jack said, shaking his head. “Pity. But he's back on top again, now. Richer than ever, and he wants the world to know it.”
“He wants me,” she replied quietly. “He wants blood, and I've got to go and give it to him because Charlie wants the story.”
“Three years is a long time,” Jack reminded her. “He had you fired from that magazine, that should have been revenge enough for him.”
She shook her head, staring blankly out the window. “You don't know him. He's a bulldozer. Relentless, unstoppable. I went to the lake with him and Lillian and some of his associates one weekend while I was working for him,” she recalled. “I watched him angle for four hours trying to catch one particularly big bass. He did it. I never doubted that he would. He's waited
three years for me, to pay me back for what I did to him. I expected it, too.”
“Dana, he wouldn't have waited that longâ¦”
“He had to regain his finances first,” she replied dully. “Revenge can be expensive. You see, Jack, it isn't so much that I cost him his fortune as that I cost him his privacy. It was sacred to him.” She laughed. “You,
we don't pay attention to our name in the paper, we're used to seeing our bylines. To the average person, it's something quite different. Adrian Devereaux worshiped his privacy; it was sacred to him. He trusted me, and I betrayed him. Yes, Jack, he'd wait three years to pay me back.”
He eyed her. “Fate, Dana. You can plan your next step a thousand times, but it's never the one you expect.”
“Is that supposed to cheer me up?” she asked.
“No,” he said with a grin, “it's supposed to remind you that it's easier to let life happen than it is to wear yourself out fighting it. You're still a kid.”
“Sure. Twenty-two and growing.” She stood up. “I hope Charlie can afford a ticket for the flight.”
“That, and more. All expenses, baby. And,” he added quietly, “the boys and I will keep an eye on Mama for you while you're gone.”
She fought a rush of tears and bit her lip at the intensity of emotion. Brash, boisterous, and sometimes outrageous, but were there people anywhere who cared as deeply as news people?
“Thanks,” she whispered.
“Get out of here,” he grumbled, going back to sit at his desk. “I've got an axe murder on Jackson Street and a Martian missionary calling every five minutes to send a reporter out to his spaceport to take pix of the invasion. Don't have me crying into the receiver when he calls back.”
“I'll send you a postcard,” she called over her shoulder.
“Of what,” he retorted, “the sewing machines?”
“Where you off to now, love?” Phyllis
asked with a smile as she grabbed her purse and started toward the exit.
“The coliseum,” she replied pleasantly and without breaking stride. “I'm going to feed the lions.”
“Huh?” Phyllis asked.
But not a word floated back from the closing door.
Outside in the street, oblivious to the colorful jostle of passersby, the noise of traffic, the heat, she could feel her hands trembling with the cold of fear. Three years, but it might have been yesterday that Adrian Devereaux threw her out of the big brownstone house on its wooded preserve, leaving her to walk the mile and a half to the main gate with her dignity bruised and her eyes swelling with tears. It had been February, and snow was on the ground. Though it hadn't been deepâit was Atlanta, after all, not Chicagoâit had been cold and wet and humiliating. Almost as humiliating as what came before. She could still see the cold anger in those dark, dark eyes when he found her outâwhen
he accidentally found her news media card on the floor among the spilled contents of her purse. The tirade that had followed hadn't been at all pleasant. She thought she was prepared for anything, but she hadn't been, not for that horrible contempt, not for the sound of those adjectives hurled in his deep, measured voice. She hadn't been prepared because she hadn't thought she was emotionally involved. Not until he threw her out.
The years had only made the memories more potent. She could still think about him and feel the old excitement all over again. She could see that powerful, husky frame reclining in the big armchair in front of the fireplace, his face broad and strong and arrogant in the reflection of the orange flames as he dictated letters. She could hear the deep, clipped voice that held a dark authority, she could hear the quick, measured sound of footsteps in his den. She could feel the impact of his bold, slow eyes on herâ¦.
She glanced down the street in the direction from which the bus would even
tually come. The traffic was bad, the fumes smothering like the spring heat. And all around her were other impatient travelers, just off from work and wanting to go home. Home. Atlanta was that to Dana.
She missed the city of her youth. Young and brassy, innovative architecture mixing with Confederate landmarks, a city of contrasts was the capital of Georgia. From the charred pyre of the Civil War South to the torch-bearer of Civil Rights, from Joel Chandler Harris to Margaret Mitchell, from the Cyclorama to Little Five Points, Atlanta was the sparkling jewel of the south. Elegance enough for an aristocrat, excitement enough for any adventurer, Atlanta had it all. Not to mention Ted Turner's Braves. Dana missed those home games and the sound of the big organ filling the stadium.
But best of all was Atlanta by night. A Christmas tree the year round. The colorful, shimmering lights of her nightclubs and restaurants and hotels and theaters sparkled all the way to the horizon like jewels against black velvet.
Dana sighed with the memory as the bus finally pulled up beside her small group, and she went inside with a silent prayer that she would find a handhold. She did.