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FINDING JEENA Cover Art

Books by
Miralee Ferrell


FINDING JEENA

Reading Group Guides

FINDING JEENA


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FINDING JEENA
Miralee Ferrell
Kregel Publications
Mystery
ISBN: 9780825426452

About the Book
Reading Group Guide

Chapter 1

Sean had chosen a small, rather exclusive restaurant, a rarity in River City, Oregon. They could have driven an hour up I-84 to Portland, but the recent growth of tourism in the Columbia River Gorge had birthed new hot spots, popular with locals and tourists alike.

They were seated by a window that afforded a breathtaking view of the river, and Jeena could see the colorful sails of windsurfers kiting along in the evening breeze, the soft glow of the late April sunset bronzing the multi-colored sails. Candles glowed against the damask tablecloth, giving off a subtle air of luxury. Strains of low music added to the ambiance, creating a soothing background for the trickle of diners still drifting in.

Sean had requested a quiet spot in the corner, giving a sense of privacy that still allowed a good view. While he ordered, Jeena glanced around the room, wondering if any of their friends might be here tonight. No familiar faces appeared within her line of sight. Good. She wanted this evening to be theirs alone. Maybe they could sort out the nasty rumor starting to circulate and kill it before it morphed into something worse.

Sean leaned back in his seat and sighed, stretching his legs out from under the heavy brocade cloth.

“Long day?” Jeena reached across to stroke the side of his face. He didn’t pull away, but he didn’t wrap his long fingers around hers as she’d expected. A small alarm went off in the back of her mind.

He gave a small shake of his head, dislodging her hand. “Not really. It feels good to sit across the table from a beautiful woman, instead of looking at bored businessmen all day.”

She sat back in her chair and relaxed. “Something going on at work that’s bothering you?”

“Very little. How about you? When does your lease start on the new townhouse?”

“In ten days, so I’m boxing everything up now. I’ve got my final interview a week from Monday with Browning and Thayer.”

“It’s too bad it’s only a temporary job, but with your expertise in design, they can’t go wrong contracting you.” He straightened in his chair and leaned toward her, an affectionate smile flickering across his lips.

She flashed him a grateful look. “Thanks. I hope they feel the same. But being a private contractor has its advantages, and the project is big --- it should last at least a year.”

The waiter arrived, placing steaming plates of fragrant pasta in front of them and gathering the empty salad dishes. A few minutes passed in comfortable silence, and Jeena’s misgivings evaporated in the relaxed intimacy.

Candlelight cast a warm light across Sean’s face, accentuating his masculine good looks. Jeena smiled and settled deeper into her chair. “So tell me about your family. Last time we talked, you were concerned about your mom living alone, now that your dad’s gone. How’s she doing?”

“Great, from what I gather when I have time to call.” He wound the last strand of pasta onto his fork and took a bite, then wiped his mouth with a napkin. “I’m sorry --- I see a client I need to speak to. I’ll only be a minute. Do you mind?” He nodded across the room to a silver-haired man sitting with an elegantly dressed woman.

“Not at all.” She smiled, then watched him make his way through the tables.

She’d first spotted him at a party a little over a year ago. Tall, mid-thirties, dressed in an Italian three-piece suit, and built like a model, he stood out in the crowd of older businessmen. An air of sophistication clung to him, enhanced by vivid blue eyes set in a deeply tanned face. A striking blonde who’d had too much to drink was hanging on his arm. He looked slightly disgusted and appeared to be searching for an escape.

Setting aside her drink, Jeena strolled across the room, knowing she’d captured his attention even before she approached.

She extended her hand and smiled when he held it longer than necessary. “I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Jeena Gregory, a friend of our hostess.”

“Sean Matthews. This is . . . I’m sorry, what’s your name again?” His bored gaze turned to the blonde.

The woman released her grip on his arm and glared at Jeena. “Angie.”

Sean cocked his head toward the woman. “Right. Sorry. This is Angie.”

Angie’s lips turned down in a pout. “I’m getting something to drink. I’ll find someone more interesting to take me home.” Angie flounced across the room without looking back.

Sean’s blue eyes shone with something more than amusement. “I didn’t bring her, but she’s had too much to drink and must have forgotten. She latched onto me when I arrived. Thanks for the rescue.”

Jeena spent the rest of the evening in his company --- and many evenings after that. Within a few weeks, she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with this man. Intelligent, witty, generous, and advancing up the corporate ladder at a fast pace, he possessed much that she found attractive.

Sean, however, remained an enigma. While engaging and attentive, he had yet to commit to a permanent relationship. Jeena sensed his frustration at her adamant refusal to move in together. She enjoyed the party life and didn’t judge others for their lifestyle choices, but she drew the line at moving in with a man before marriage. She deserved more. Besides, too many of her crowd had gone that direction, and she’d seen disaster strike more than once.

“Jeena? I’m sorry I took so long. I hope you weren’t bored.” Sean’s deep voice woke her from the memories.

She brushed the hair from her eyes. “Not at all. Just remembering our first meeting.”

“Ah, yes. The party.”

Jeena tried to suppress a smile but failed. “And poor Angie.”

Sean laughed outright. “Poor Angie, nothing. That woman clung like a leech with no encouragement from me. You came along just in time.”

She leaned toward him and stroked the back of his hand. “Did I?”

He slowly pulled back, and the smile disappeared.

“What’s wrong?” Her heart rate accelerated.

He cleared his throat and picked up a napkin. “There’s something I want to tell you.”

Tell. Not ask. Jeena leaned back and crossed her arms. “Yes?”

“I’ve been offered a new job. It means a huge increase in pay and could lead to a partnership.”

“That sounds wonderful. I didn’t realize you were looking.”

“I didn’t mention it until I knew something would come of it. I didn’t want to worry you.”

“Why would I care?” Her palms grew clammy, but she refused to give in to fear.

His lips set in a firm line; then he took a deep breath and plunged forward. “It’s taking me out of the States. A large construction conglomerate wants me in the Middle East.”

A small shiver of fear traveled up her back. “But that’s dangerous. Tell me you’re not going to take it.”

“I’ve said yes. I’ll be living in Kuwait and going across the border occasionally, and then only to areas that are deemed safe. I leave in two weeks.”

“Two weeks,” she whispered. “What about us?”

He shifted in his chair and looked at his hands, then raised his eyes. “I’m sorry, Jeena.”

“What do you mean, you’re sorry? You’re not asking me to come with you or wait? How long will you be gone?” She tried to keep the pain out of her voice, but her words rose in tone and volume.

An irritated look flashed across his face. The small, secluded spot he’d chosen closed in around her. No longer did the flickering candles on the table give off an aura of romance --- instead, they gleamed with an ominous light.

“I’ll be gone at least a year, maybe two. You didn’t want to live with me here in the States, so I didn’t think you’d be willing to move to Kuwait.” Sean leaned back in his chair, holding her gaze.

She’d probably hold onto him if she gave in, but something inside protested. Her parents’ marriage had been lousy, no doubt about that. But her mother had saved herself for the man she married and had often urged Jeena to do the same. Besides, Grammie would be be horrified if Jeena made that decision. A deep love for both her mother and grandmother had prompted Jeena to walk the same path.

“But if we were married…” She could have bitten off her tongue for letting the words slip.

Sean’s lips twisted in a wry smile. “I have no desire to get married.”

“So all of this has been what…a game? You aren’t in love with me? Never have been?”

He shrugged. “I think a lot of you. But marriage isn’t part of my plan. I thought we’d have a good time. Frankly, I hung around hoping you’d change your mind.”

“You knew how I felt about living together. It’s not something I’m comfortable with.”

Sean smirked. “You told me your dad was a religious Jekyll and Hyde and you had no use for God. I never expected you’d stick with your decision and be such a prude.”

His words brought the chaos in her mind to a halt. An icy calm washed over her. “Prude. I see. So, who is she?”

His face flamed red, then faded to a dirty white. “Who?”

She rose quickly, her chair sliding into the waiter who was walking behind her. Pride stiffened her spine and held her head high. “I nailed that one. Never mind. I’m sure you’ll be very happy together, and my prudish life will be better off without you.”

She slipped around the table and started to walk past him, but he reached out and grasped her wrist. “Jeena. Don’t be that way. I’ll drive you home. I’m sorry.”

Shaking off his hand, she stepped out of his reach and lowered her voice, conscious of the curious looks from the tables nearby. “I’ll get a taxi. Have a great life, Sean.”

Somehow she managed to exit the restaurant without calling more attention to herself. Humiliation at making a scene while leaving the table forced her to increase her pace and not look back. The poor waiter --- she’d nearly bowled him over while rushing from the table. But no way could she allow Sean to see her cry. She needed to get home and face this. The tears would come later, and no telling when they’d stop.

Men. Anger bubbled inside, momentarily pushing aside the sting of tears. Her father had proven men couldn’t be trusted --- he hadn’t loved her, either. Why had she forgotten? Never again would a man suck her in with promises and lies. >From now on, her career would come first. She’d show them all. The only person in the world who mattered was her grandmother. She’d neglected her recently, but tomorrow was a new day. Grammie would be happy to see her, and Sean was no longer important.

Excerpted from FINDING JEENA © Copyright 2017 by Miralee Ferrell. Reprinted with permission by Kregel Publications. All rights reserved.

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