Quiet Walks the Tiger - By Heather Graham Page 0,1

earth. Her hands flew to her face, and even from his distance he could hear the terrible sobs wracking her slender frame.

He knew he couldn’t go to her; he knew he couldn’t help her. He just stood there, railing against his helplessness, watching until the sun sank in a burst of crimson behind the hills.

It would be another two years before he would go to her.


THE BAND IN THE dinner lounge was really very good. They were versatile and had done everything from Sinatra to Blondie and managed to complacently oblige almost any request for a song from the thirties to the eighties—spacing them to please the young hard rockers and the mature dinner clientele.

Sloan Tallett had been on the dance floor, twirling beneath the lights, for the majority of the evening. She was a beautiful woman, never more regal than when on a dance floor, and with her escort being the head of the dance department from the college where she taught, she had provided the patrons of the lounge with visual entertainment as well as acoustical. Eyes riveted and stayed upon the handsome couple, which was what Jim Baskins intended. They were the best advertising he could manage for the College of Fine Arts.

The number, a breath-stealing piece from the late sixties, came to a halt. Sloan laughed gaily to Jim as they wove their way to their table, hand in hand. She was flushed as she sat, her blue eyes as radiant as sapphires. Someone stopped by to issue a compliment, and she smiled with lazy thanks, the full-lipped, seductive smile of a temptress.

She had been born to dance—her friend and escort was thinking—but she had also been born to captivate. Only someone close could ever see the hard line of reserve and pain that lurked beneath the stars in her eyes and the radiance of her smile.

“Another scotch and soda?” Jim asked.

“No!” She chuckled, but her answer was firm. She glanced at her black-banded wristwatch with a frown. “It’s too close to pumpkin time, I’m afraid. I’d love a plain soda, though, with a twist of lime.”

“I’d probably better order the same,” Jim said with a grimace, motioning to their waitress. “You’re good for me, Sloan, do you know that?” he said after putting their order in. “You keep me on the straight and narrow.”

Sloan smiled at her companion. Jim Baskins was twenty years her senior, and she was sure he had traveled the straight and narrow all his life. He was her immediate supervisor, and a more gentle, understanding man couldn’t be found. A confirmed bachelor, Jim had dedicated his life to two demanding mistresses—dance and teaching. Approaching fifty, he had the look of a much younger man. An inch or so over Sloan’s five feet seven inches, he was thin and wiry, the touches of silver in his thick blond hair adding an air of distinguished maturity. Most people who saw them together decided there was a romantic interest between the two—which wasn’t true. They were co-workers and friends who enjoyed one another’s company.

“I think it’s the other way around,” Sloan told him. “You keep me on the straight and narrow.”

“Two damn straight and narrow, if you ask me,” Jim replied. “You should be dating, Sloan. You’re a young woman, and it’s been two years...” His voice trailed away; he hadn’t meant to remind her of the husband he had never met.

Clouds passed over the sapphire of her eyes, but Sloan kept smiling. “It’s all right, Jim. It has been two years since Terry died. And I do date occasionally. When I’m interested. But society has picked up a little too much for me. Every time I date someone a second time, they seem to think I’ve said yes to hop into bed.”

“It wouldn’t kill you to have an affair,” Jim advised, surveying her over his soda. “And you should consider a second marriage—”

“I don’t want to marry again,” Sloan interrupted softly. She had had a good marriage, and anything shallow to follow would be sacrilege. She looked at Jim to see him, miserable, before her and realized she was extending her own unhappiness to him. And she wasn’t really unhappy. She had her job, she had the children. “Why would I want to marry?” she queried cheerfully. “I have enough of my own problems! I don’t need someone else’s!”

Jim didn’t look quite so miserable. “Bad attitude, Sloan. You share the good along with the bad.”

Sloan laughed easily. “Jim—it’s not something I have