Heart of Stone

By: Diana Palmer

Dear Reader,



This is a book that I’ve had in the back of my mind for over two years. I couldn’t get the premise to work at first, so I mulled it over in my spare time and streamlined it until I could get the plot just right. That happens a lot, with books I love but can’t organize in any readable manner. So I sort of work on them in my spare time until they become presentable. It wasn’t until this year that I really began to write Heart of Stone.



I was born in southwest Georgia, in Cuthbert, where my sister Dannis and my niece Maggie still live. We had lots of diamondback rattlesnakes in Randolph County, also in Calhoun County, where my grandfather and grandmother farmed. When I was a child, I had a hound dog companion my exact age named Buck who was my protector. I was nearsighted but nobody knew. It wouldn’t have mattered, because sharecroppers were very poor. There was no money for eyeglasses, no matter how necessary. One day I started down a grassy path on Granddaddy’s farm and Buck ran in front of me. There was a sound of sizzling bacon (to this day it can freeze my blood just to hear it on the stove), and Buck emerged with a dying five-foot rattler. I might add, that in my part of the country, a five-foot rattler the size of a man’s thigh was no rare thing. Buck saved my life. The old dog died when he and I were both twelve years old. I will never forget him. Without Buck, I would never have grown up to be a writer in the first place.



As I wrote this book, I was remembering not only rattlesnakes, but lazy summer nights sitting on the front porch listening to crickets and hound dogs and watching lightning bugs flash neon yellow while I ate boiled peanuts. Sweet memories.



Your biggest fan,



Diana Palmer






DIANA PALMER


has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. With over forty million copies of her books in print, Diana Palmer is one of North America’s most beloved authors and considered one of the top ten romance authors in the U.S.

Diana’s hobbies include gardening, archaeology, anthropology, iguanas, astronomy and music. She has been married to James Kyle for over twenty-five years, and they have one son.





To my sister, Dannis Spaeth Cole,

and my niece, Maggie, in Cuthbert, Georgia,

and to my other niece Amanda Hofstetter,

in Portland, Oregon. Love you all.






Chapter One


K eely Welsh felt his presence before she looked up and saw him. It had been that way from the day she met Boone Sinclair, her best friend’s eldest brother. The man wasn’t movie-star handsome or gregarious. He was a recluse, a loner who hardly ever smiled, who intimidated people simply by walking into a room. For some unknown reason, Keely always knew when he was around, even if she didn’t see him.

He was tall and slender, but he had powerful legs and big hands and feet. There were rumors about him that grew more exaggerated with the telling. He’d been in Special Forces overseas five years earlier. He’d saved his unit from certain destruction. He’d won medals. He’d had lunch with the president at the White House. He’d taken a cruise with a world-famous author. He’d almost married a European princess. And on and on and on.

Nobody knew the truth. Well, maybe Winona and Clark Sinclair did. Winnie and Clark and Boone were closer than brothers and sisters usually were. But Winnie didn’t talk about her brother’s private life, not even to Keely.

There hadn’t been a day since she was thirteen when Keely hadn’t loved Boone Sinclair. She watched him from a distance, her green eyes soft and covetous. Her hands would shake when she happened on him unexpectedly. They were shaking now. He was standing at the counter, signing in. He had an appointment for his dog’s routine shots. He made one every year. He loved the old tan-and-black German shepherd, whose name was Bailey. People said it was the only thing on earth that he did love. Maybe he was fond of his siblings, but it didn’t show. His affection for Bailey did.

One of the other vet techs came out with a pad and called in Bailey, with a grin at Boone. It wasn’t returned. He led the old dog into one of the examination rooms. He walked right past Keely. He never looked at her. He didn’t speak to her. As far as he was concerned, she was invisible.

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