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    Synopsis

    Kindred spirits Makenna Reagan and Kenzie Reese have been best friends since college. There is nothing one would not do for the other. So when a car wreck lands Kenzie in the hospital, Makenna agrees to pose as her friend on a photo assignment for Now Magazine. Skeptical at first, she is quickly enchanted by the beautiful White Mountains and the captivating man she meets on the plane. This crazy scheme just might work!

    But impersonating her friend comes at a price. A car tries to run her off the road… a stranger delivers cryptic messages for ‘her father’… an armed assailant follows her. Kidnapped and mistaken for Kenzie, Makenna realizes her dearest friend has dark secrets in her past. Long before learning of the connection to organized crime and political corruption, Makenna knows they are both in serious trouble.

    No one is who they claim to be. Not Kenzie, not the handsome and charming Hardin Kaczmarek, not the odd couple who has befriended her. Not even Makenna herself. Determined to protect her friend at all costs and get back home to Texas, Makenna knows trusting the wrong person could prove fatal.

    Interwoven with mystery and intrigue, this powerful saga of best friends, loyalty, love, and belonging is the first book of the Mirrors Don’t Lie Mystery Series. A romantic suspense novel full of danger and delight.

    What Readers are Saying about The Girl from Her Mirror:

    “I absolutely loved this book. It was fast-paced and almost impossible to put down. The main characters are appealing. This is the first book in a three book series. You could stop with just this book. It wraps up most of the plot lines. But if you're like me, you are going to want to find out what happens to Kenzie. Give it a try. Bet you can't read just one.

    “There are very few authors that grab my attention and make me hate having to put the book down. Becki Willis is now one of those authors for me! The book was so well written and it grabs you from page one until the last page. I was thrilled when I found out that the characters would be continuing in a second and third sequel.

    “Great book! By the end if the book you will feel like you know each character personally.”

    "A thrill ride that will have you gripping the edge of your seat."

    "This is a must-read. The characters are amazing."

    CHAPTER ONE

    San Antonio, TX

    June, 1991

    The little girl stared into the mirror, studying the reflection before her with wide, intelligent eyes. Even at the tender age of three, she knew there was something monumental about this moment. Something she needed to absorb, needed to remember.

    Her solemn gaze roamed over the image, taking in the tumble of wayward curls, tracing the outline of a chubby cheek, memorizing the light in the wide green eyes.

    “I’ll never forget you,” she whispered.

    Her mother stepped into the room, her body rigid. “It’s time,” she announced briskly.

    The little girl continued to gaze into the mirror. She put her tiny hand up, palm against palm.

    “I’ll never forget you,” she promised. “Never.”

    CHAPTER TWO

    Austin, TX

    April, 2014

    Makenna Reagan rushed through the automatic doors of the Emergency Room, desperate to find her best friend. The message left on her voice mail had been sketchy, at best; there had been an accident, and she was listed as next of kin. If she hurried, she could make it before Miss Reese went into surgery.

    “I’m here to see Kenzie Reese,” she told the receptionist, pushing back an unruly lock of auburn curls. “She was admitted about an hour ago.”

    “Have a seat. Someone will be with you shortly.”

    Be with her? What did that mean? Makenna nibbled on her bottom lip as she took a seat in the hard plastic chair. Why didn’t they just take her straight back? Maybe Kenzie was more seriously injured than they said. Maybe…

    “Ma’am? You may see your sister now.” A nurse in blue scrubs motioned from the electronically controlled door she held open. Makenna scrambled to her feet, not bothering to correct the mistake. The two of them looked so much alike, everyone thought they were sisters. Being listed as next of kin only cemented the misconception.

    “How is she? Is she all right?”

    “Pretty banged up, but all and all, she’s very fortunate. The doctor will be in to speak with you before we take her up to OR. She’s been asking for you.” The nurse talked as she led the way through a maze of hallways and cubicles. “Here you go,” the nurse said, pulling back the curtain and revealing her very bruised and battered friend.

    “Oh, Kenzie! Kenzie, are you all right?” She rushed to her friend’s bedside, trying to note all her injuries at once. There was a wide bandage wrapped around her forehead, blood caked in her dark tangled hair, an angry red bruise encircling the point of her chin, scrapes and bruises and small cuts on both arms, and her left leg was heavily bandaged and elevated on a stack of pillows. Wires and tubes sprouted from her in all directions.

    “Makenna. You came.” This, groggily.

    “Of course I came! What on earth happened?”

    “Don’t know. One minute I’m driving home, the next thing I know there’s a car in my windshield. When I woke up, I was here. What time is it?”

    Makenna glanced around for a clock. “Uhm, just after noon.”

    “Good, there’s still time.” She sounded relieved.

    “Time for what?”

    “My flight. It leaves at 2:35.”

    “You aren’t going anywhere, my friend, except to the operating room.”

    “Not me. You.”

    Makenna frowned. Either she had taken a nasty knock to the head or the pain medication was making her loopy. “I’m not going with you, Kenzie. You were going on this trip by yourself. For work.”

    “I know. But I need you to go for me.”

    “Kenzie, I think you’re a little confused. Why don’t you just lie back and relax? Can I get you anything, do anything for you?”

    “Yes.”

    “What? You name it. Would you like some ice chips?”

    The young woman in the hospital bed shook her bed, wincing at the pain caused by the simple action. “I need you to do this for me.”

    “Okay, honey, what? What can I do for you?” She found a spot on her friend’s arm that wasn’t injured and patted it comfortingly.

    “Take my place. You get on that plane.”

    “What? What on earth are you talking about?” Makenna drew back, her brow furrowed.

    “I need you to do this for me, Makenna.” Focusing her eyes on her friend with obvious effort, the injured woman spoke in a clear, strong voice. “My career depends on it. Please, take my place. Pretend you’re me.”

    “I can’t do that!” Makenna cried. “I don’t know the first thing about taking pictures.”

    “Of course you do. Point and shoot. And you know how to do research.”

    “Kenzie, I think that bump on your head knocked something loose. Do you know what you’re asking?”

    Kenzie Reese took a deep breath, willing the pain away until she made her point. After she won the argument - which she knew she would - she would reward herself with a nice, deep sleep. Medically induced, perhaps, but numbed to the pain that radiated throughout her body.

    “I’m asking you to save my shaky career. The trip is already paid for, but I maxed out my credit cards doing it. The magazine will pay me back, but only if I turn in the story. If I don’t make this assignment, I’m toast. Please, Makenna. I need you to do this.”

    “I can’t just up and leave at a moment’s notice!”

    “Why not? You don’t have a job.”

    True. As of two days ago, she was ‘relieved’ of her duties as reporter for the Austin Daily Newsprint. If Kenzie weren’t in her current condition, Makenna wouldn’t appreciate her blunt reminder of the situation.

    “Still, I can’t just hop on a plane and fly off to New England for a week!”

    “Why not? What’s keeping you here?” she asked pointedly.

    This time, she was polite enough not to remind Makenna of her new status as ‘single’. Seemed when it rained, it really did pour. Within five days, Makenna had lost her boyfriend and her job. Surprisingly, the first didn’t smart nearly as much as the latter.

    “You, for one thing. Who’s going to take care of you when you get out of here?”

    “There was something about cracked ribs and a bruised spleen, plus this leg. I’ll be in here a couple of days. You’ll be home before I am.” Her strength was fading. She closed her eyes and continued, “If not, I’ll call Marci or Linda.”

    “I couldn’t leave you at a time like this!”

    “You’ll be doing me a bigger favor, bigger service, by going.”

    “But the plane ticket is in your name . . .”

    “So take my driver’s license, I won’t need it. Pretend you’re me. We’ve done it before.” She opened her eyes long enough to summon an impish grin.

    “Fooling blind dates, job interviewers, and crazy old Professor Nolan is one thing; impersonating someone else to airport security is a federal offense!” Makenna protested. Nibbling her lip again, she added, “At least, I guess it is. Yes, I’m sure it must be. Why would you ask me to do something like that?”

    “Because I’m desperate. I have to make this assignment, Kenna. My job depends on it. My financial future depends on it.” She tried a new tactic. “Our apartment rent depends on it.”

    “But…”

    “I’m stuck here with a busted leg. I’ll be out of commission for who-knows-how-long. This piece can either make me or break me. Please, Kenna. The magazine will never know who gets on that plane, who takes those pictures. Please, do this for me.”

    Makenna hesitated, thinking of all that could go wrong with her friend’s scheme. Something always did.

    “Please, when have I ever asked anything of you?” At Makenna’s unbelieving snort, the bruised and battered woman changed her question. “Okay, so when have you ever turned me down? And why start now, when it’s so important? As your best friend, as your roommate, please, please, I’m begging you to do this for me.”

    Makenna shoved back a handful of curls as she leaned over the hospital bed to peer more closely at her friend. What if her wounds were more serious than she thought? Should she deny her something that was obviously so important to her? But could she leave her at such a crucial moment? Torn between wanting to go and needing to stay, she insisted, “Kenzie, it’s not that simple!”

    “Of course it is,” Kenzie argued. “You’ve been saying you’re stuck in a rut, that your life is too boring, too predictable. For once, do something spur-of-the-moment. Do this for both of us.”

    “But - But the plane leaves in two hours! I hardly have time to get to the airport, much less pack.”

    She was weakening, Kenzie thought with a smile. “Already done. Half your closet is in my suitcases anyway. You have just enough time to pack your own overnight bag, drop my bag with Linda to bring down here, and get to the airport.”

    Makenna paced the small confines of the cubicle. “But so many things could go wrong! I would have to check in with the magazine, wouldn’t I?”

    “By e-mail. You know my account.”

    “What if I need some sort of verification for something?”

    “Like what? You know all my information.”

    It was true. Kenzie was terrible at remembering passwords and numbers; her best back-up was Makenna’s uncanny memory for details. Still doubtful, she threw out a half dozen other scenarios, all of which her friend had an answer for.

    “Makenna!” Kenzie finally stopped her. “It’s already 12:30. If you don’t leave now, my career is over. Will you do this for me, or not?”

    Makenna hesitated another full thirty seconds, staring hard at her friend. She was torn between the duty to stay and the thrill of going. Kenzie was right; this was the perfect time, the perfect opportunity, to step out of her boring little box and do something completely spontaneous, all while helping her best friend. It seemed to be a win/win situation, so what did she have to lose?

    Before she could answer her own question, Makenna drew a deep breath and took a leap of faith. “I have a feeling I’m going to regret this, but … all right. I will take your place this week. I will pretend to be Kenzie Reese.”

    If she could have managed it, Kenzie would have squealed with delight. Instead, the best she could muster was a weary smile as she closed her eyes and sighed in relief. “Thank you. I can’t tell you what this means to me.”

    “I still feel terrible about leaving you at a time like this…”

    “Don’t. It’s what I want.” Kenzie took her hand and squeezed, her grip strong. “They put my purse on that shelf. Take my wallet. It’s got everything you’ll need, even cash. I stopped by the ATM just before the accident. Now get out of here, before you change your mind.”

    “I’ll call when I land. Please, please be fine.”

    “I’m already better, knowing you’re doing this for me.” They said their goodbyes, and Makenna grabbed her friend’s wallet from her purse before leaving. Just as she pulled open the curtain, Kenzie called groggily, “Oh, and I may have borrowed your new black boots.”

    With absolutely no time to spare, Makenna made it to the airport. Check-in went smoothly enough, but she feared hyperventilation at the security checkpoint. When she handed the TSA agent her ticket and photo ID, the woman looked first at Makenna, then at the license, then back at Makenna.

    “Says here you have black hair.”

    Makenna grabbed a curly auburn strand and stared at it, searching for a plausible excuse. Praying she wouldn’t get arrested, right then and there, she struggled to keep her voice light. “They did an amazing job, right? Who would guess this wasn’t my natural color?”

    The woman raised her eyebrows, still unconvinced. “Birth date?”

    Without hesitating, she rattled off her friend’s birth date. “2-21-88.”

    “Address?”

    Again, she supplied it without missing a beat.

    “Guess I need the name of your stylist,” the security officer muttered, handing Makenna back her license. “Have a good flight.”

    Makenna’s knees were weak as she made her way to screening. Her hands trembled as she tugged off her shoes, placed them in the plastic bin alongside her purse and Kenzie’s camera case, and waited her turn through the full-body scanner. As she feared, the camera case had to be searched, costing precious minutes before she was cleared. She started down the long corridors at a fast clipped pace that soon turned into an all-out sprint. She arrived at her gate, out of breath and practically frantic, just as the first passengers were called. Her borrowed ticket granted her select boarding privileges, so she went straight to the gate.

    Makenna stumbled through the boarding, hoping her breathlessness would be attributed to cutting her arrival so close. It was one of those seat-yourself flights, so she found the first empty row and plopped down by the window. As more passengers filed down the aisle, she found herself watching for someone in uniform. Any minute now, they would stop at her row and demand she come with them.

    She looked at each passenger without really seeing them, scanning their faces for any sign of censure. A nun, a businessman, a grandmotherly type. Her gaze fell on one particularly nice looking man with vivid blue eyes. On some level, as their eyes met and held, her brain acknowledged how attractive he was, but she didn’t have time for chemistry right now. She looked past him, to the next person. So far, so good. No one in uniform appeared.

    Her line of vision was blocked as someone stopped to deposit their case into the overhead bin in front of her. She tried to see around the person, but all she could see was a torso wrapped in blue. Again, on a subconscious level, she appreciated the trim waist and well-toned abs, quite nicely defined beneath the clingy blue knit sports shirt; on a conscious level, she was slightly irritated at the man for obstructing her view.

    The man fluidly swiveled into one of the seats beside her, nearest the aisle. Even with an empty seat between them, Makenna was instantly aware of his presence. He had that sort of magnetism, the kind that demanded your attention and sharpened your awareness. This was a man not easily ignored. He oozed a sense of strength and confidence, an aura of control. Even the spice of his cologne did not hide the heady musk of the man. He was of average height and weight, had average coloring, average styled hair and clothes. He was, however, anything but average. His body was in excellent shape. His muscles were lean and well sculpted. His hair was a bit more blond than brown, and clipped close to his head. The neatly trimmed box beard and mustache that ran along the firm line of his jaw and framed the generous curve of his mouth were a few shades darker than his hair and emphasized the square, handsome chisel of his face. And his eyes. There was absolutely nothing average about the clear blue depths of his eyes.

    Those eyes were turned on her now, making observations of their own. Makenna smiled nervously, allowing her gaze to linger in appreciation for just a second more before she went back to scanning the aisle.

    “Waiting on someone?” She knew his voice would be pleasant and mellow, even before she heard it.

    “Uhm…. no.” She pulled her eyes back to him, trying to focus on his question. She was so worried about getting caught using someone else’s ID that she couldn’t appreciate having caught this attractive man’s attention. She really should relax. Other than the TSA agent, no one had even questioned her claim to be Kenzie Reese. And if she had convinced trained personnel standing only two feet away, she really had nothing to worry about. Surely.

    “You keep watching the aisle. I thought maybe you were holding the seat for someone.” He subtly glanced at the empty cushion between them.

    “No, just people watching,” she denied. “It’s a good way to pass the time.”

    “Didn’t look like you had much of a chance before boarding the plane.”

    “You saw that?” Makenna groaned. She knew her cheeks were now pink, an unattractive contrast to her dark auburn hair.

    “I might have noticed you, racing down the corridor and skidding to a halt five feet past the gate.”

    His easy grin made laughing at herself so much easier. “Running a bit late today,” she confessed. “I can’t believe I actually made the flight.”

    Before he could comment, a young woman stopped in the aisle and nodded to the empty seat between them. “Taken?” she asked, hoisting a large purse more securely onto her shoulder.

    With graceful economy of motion, the blue-eyed man swung from his seat to the one in question, bringing himself that much closer to Makenna. A little surge of pleasure rippled through her; he was deliberately taking the middle seat for a three-hour flight, based on their brief conversation.

    After a few polite words to the newcomer, the man turned back to Makenna. She was watching the aisle again.

    “You’ll have to key me in on the fascination,” he murmured, following her gaze. He saw only harried passengers, filing down the aisle one after another.

    Instead of revealing her true reason for watching the aisle, she reverted to an old game she liked to play. “You have to imagine their story.”

    “Their story?”

    “Sure. For instance, see the woman in gray? She looks irritated at having to go to the back of the plane. It’s because she’s anxious to get to Manchester. She’ll have a new grand baby waiting at the airport, and wanted to be the first one off.”

    “And the man behind her?”

    “He’s in no real hurry. He’s divorced. He’ll just have an empty house to go home to.”

    As the man neared, he steadied himself by reaching for the seat-back in front of them. The diamond on his shiny gold wedding band winked in the dim light.

    “Okay, so sometimes I miss,” Makenna admitted with a laugh.

    “Oh, but I definitely agree about Grandma. And I think this young lady in red is headed to an exciting job interview, her first real job out of college,” the man said, falling into the spirit of the game.

    “I hear it’s an impressive law firm in Boston. She’s their new intern.” Makenna played along with a serious expression. “And see the guy in the cowboy hat? First time to fly.”

    “Where’s he headed?”

    Makenna thought for a moment. “Nashville. It’s a connecting flight, the only one he could find on short notice. His girlfriend left him in hopes of making it big in the music business. He’s headed there to propose.”

    “Ah, a romantic at heart,” he grinned, sliding her a speculative glance.

    She offered a noncommittal shrug. She wasn’t sure if he meant her or the cowboy. “What do you think the story is behind the man in the gray jacket?”

    “Oh, he’s the sky marshal.”

    The words were spoken in jest, but there was no mistaking Makenna’s reaction. She jerked, the breath catching in her throat as her eyes darted guiltily away from the man, then flitted nervously back.

    “Hey, I was only kidding,” her neighbor reassured her. With curious eyes, he asked, “What’s wrong? You running from the law or something?”

    “Of - Of course not.” She tried to muster the sound of outrage. Searching for a plausible explanation, she said, “I guess I sometimes get nervous when flying. The need for sky marshals and all….” She let her words trail off.

    “Hey, I hear ya. Never know these days. But at least we know we’re not in danger from Johnny Kidd up there.” With his chin, he pointed to the young man coming down the aisle. “He’s obviously headed home, and can’t wait to get back to his girlfriend and tell her about the colleges he checked out.”

    “Obviously.” Relaxing once again, Makenna’s eyes twinkled as she teased, “Now who’s the romantic?”

    “Just call ‘em like I see ‘em,” the man said with a flourishing hand movement and an easy smile.

    The flight attendant came over the speaker, asking passengers to prepare for final boarding. Makenna’s cell phone buzzed, alerting her to a text message from her neighbor Linda.

    Still in surgery.

    Will let you know when out.

    Makenna’s fingers flew over the keys in reply.

    Please do. Hated to leave, but she insisted.

    Have to turn off phone, will check msg when land.

    Thanks for being there.

    She deliberately led their friend to believe this had been her trip all along; no need in pulling more people into their web of deceit. As she turned off her phone and slid it into the bag resting at her feet, she noticed her seatmate sending his own last-minute message before tucking his phone away.

    “So, do you fly often?” he asked.

    Makenna shrugged. “Not often enough to earn any fabulous vacations, but I’m no stranger to the airlines. And you?”

    “About the same.”

    The flight attendants were making their way down the aisle, checking to see that overhead bins were secure and seat belts were fastened. Two different attendants passed their aisle and paused, creating a fine sheen of perspiration to form on Makenna’s forehead. She maintained an innocent pose, her breath clutched in her chest. Any minute now …

    She did not breathe easily until the plane had been cleared for take-off and they began to roll down the runway. If her seatmate noticed her obvious discomfort, he was polite enough not to mention it. He pulled out a magazine and began rifling through it as the plane bumped its way along the tarmac. With a shaky exhale, Makenna turned grateful eyes out the window and stared blindly at the parting view.

    New worries plagued her. She had fooled the officials here in Texas, but what about the return trip? The Manchester, New Hampshire airport was smaller than the one here in Austin, but that might mean they had more time to study her identification. What if she couldn’t get home? Were the fines stiffer out-of-state?

    No, silly, her inner voice scolded. A federal crime is a federal crime, regardless of the state it is committed in.

    She nibbled on her lower lip, thinking of all the things that could go wrong. Why on earth had she let Kenzie talk her into this scheme? She still had to get past the rental car company, where she would be forging her friend’s signature. That would encompass insurance fraud and credit card fraud and lying-to-the-person-behind-the-counter fraud and Heaven only knew what else! Makenna’s palms turned sweaty and her breathing came in short, quick puffs.

    Even if she made it through the car rental, there was still the hurdle of checking into the hotel. She felt less guilty about deceiving the hotel staff, although she wasn’t sure why. But then she would have to pose as her friend for the rest of the week, doing her interviews and taking her photos and remembering to introduce herself as Kenzie Reese. Basically, she had to lie to everyone she met. The upside was that no one here knew Kenzie and would ever know the difference; the downside was that she had to lie and cheat and break the law, and she had to do it all without having a nervous breakdown.

    Tenting her hands over her mouth, Makenna rocked slightly in her seat, considering her options. She could get off the plane right now, before it lifted into the air. It would mean causing a stir and raising suspicions, but her conscious would be clear.

    Except that she would be letting her friend down, and this was so very important to Kenzie.

    Okay, so she had to stay seated. But that didn’t mean she had to lie, did it? She could rent the car in her own name and check in at the hotel as herself. The room was already waiting and paid for, so it didn’t matter who slept in the bed. And she could simply tell the people she interviewed that someone else was covering the story, no further explanation needed. No further lying needed.

    Except, then the magazine wouldn’t reimburse Kenzie. Knowing her extravagant friend, she had booked the best hotel and the fastest sports car, racking up quite a bill. And if the editors knew Kenzie didn’t go on the trip and do the actual interviews herself, they might not pick up the story as promised, meaning Kenzie wouldn’t be paid, at all.

    She had promised her friend. Kenzie was resting easier, knowing Makenna was doing this for her. And if something horrible should go wrong in surgery, at least Makenna would know she had honored her friend’s last request.

    Before she got any further with her thoughts, the man beside her was talking again. “Wow, you really do get nervous flying, don’t you?” he asked sympathetically.

    “I’m sorry, what was that?” With an effort, Makenna pulled herself from her reverie.

    “Are you all right? You look a little pale.”

    “No, no, I’m fine.”

    “No offense, but you don’t look fine.”

    The plane was moving now, picking up speed as it rolled ever closer to lift-off. As the huge machine left the ground and vaulted into the air, Makenna drew an obvious sigh of relief. Addressing her neighbor, she went with the truth. “I’m worried about a friend of mine. She’s in surgery as we speak and I couldn’t be there for her.”

    “Ah, that’s rough. Anything serious?”

    “She was in a car wreck this morning. They’re operating on her leg, but who knows if more is wrong with her? I feel so guilty, leaving like this.”

    “Did you talk to her before you left?”

    “Yes. She insisted I come.” In more ways than you can imagine!

    “So there you go,” the man said with a charming smile. “She understands and gives you her blessing. Stop feeling guilty.”

    “Easier said than done,” Makenna muttered.

    Makenna turned to gaze down at the city below, still dumbfounded that she was actually on the plane. She rarely did anything spontaneous. Most trips she took required weeks of planning, what with itineraries and reservations and packing and lining up all the little details. This was totally unlike her, on so many levels.

    Kenzie, however, had been right about one thing: Makenna was stuck in a rut. Her life had become boring and predictable, her routine more like that of a middle-aged spinster than a twenty-six-year-old young professional. She needed an adventure, something unexpected to happen in her life. Losing her job and her boyfriend, all in one week, definitely offered the unexpected; maybe this spur-of-the-moment trip would offer the adventure. If not actual excitement, perhaps this trip would at least offer a refreshing change of pace.

    “So, what’s your story?” Her new friend turned the tables on the little game they had been playing. “I now know all about our fellow travelers, but not a thing about you. What adventure awaits you?”

    “Job assignment.”

    “As in reporter?”

    “Photojournalist.” She was pretending to be her friend this week, so she might as well start now.

    “Really?” He seemed duly impressed. “Who do you work for?”

    Now Magazine.”

    He let out an appreciative whistle. “Very impressive.”

    Okay, so if Kenzie were here, she would toss her head and flirt. And since she was pretending to be Kenzie…

    “It’ll do,” she shrugged saucily. In her best sultry voice, she purred, “And you? What’s your story?”

    His intriguing blue eyes twinkled, picking up on the flirtatious tone. “Actually, I’m headed to the mountains for cross country training.”

    “Skiing?” She frowned in confusion. It was late April.

    “Cycling.”

    “You’re a cyclist?” In her brief imaginary synopsis, she had never imagined him as a cyclist. He had the physique, but cycling never crossed her mind, probably because she knew nothing about the sport.

    “Not professionally,” he was quick to say. “I’m participating in the Ride for the Hills Cancer Charity. I’m just getting in shape.”

    “Wow, that’s … impressive.” She hated to copy him, but it was the truth. “Going all the way to New England to practice for a charity event?”

    He shrugged his nicely developed shoulders. “I had a week’s vacation coming, and needed to practice for the race. Weather’s so much nicer in New England than in Texas, I decided to come north.”

    Makenna wondered if Kenzie had packed for cooler temperatures. Surely it would have occurred to her, but with Kenzie, you never knew. She had probably been more concerned with fashion than with comfort. “Hmmm, you definitely have a point. It’s supposed to be in the mid 90’s by this weekend.”

    “Not where we’re headed.” Again, that fascinating twinkle, this time with a waggled brow. “In my case, it’s primarily New Hampshire. What about you?”

    “The same.” At least, she supposed so. Kenzie had mentioned a few of her plans, but Makenna knew very little about the actual assignment and specific elements of the trip. The more she thought about this crazy scheme, the less it made sense.

    He mentioned a few more of his plans, day-trips he intended to take into Vermont and the western edge of Maine, trails he had heard of in the White Mountains, places he wanted to see. Makenna made mental notes of the locations that would be of interest to her project, wondering if Kenzie had made an itinerary of her own. Knowing her impulsive friend, she suspected she already knew the answer.

    As the plane banked and headed north, Makenna felt a burden lift from her shoulders. The journey had begun, and so far, no one even suspected she wasn’t who she claimed to be. Maybe this crazy scheme was going to work, after all.

    “Please secure your personal belongings as we prepare for descent into Manchester.”

    The three-hour flight had literally flown by. Makenna and the handsome blue eyed man spent the entire time chatting about everything from current movies and magazines - particularly Now - to tastes in music, from their home state of Texas to the undeniable lure of New England. Makenna’s worries melted away as she laughed with her charming companion. He was witty and sharp, and offered the perfect distraction from her guilt-plagued conscious. By the time the flight attendant announced the current time and temperature in New Hampshire, Makenna was feeling much more optimistic about the upcoming week.

    “Let’s exchange phone numbers,” her companion suggested as they touched down and were allowed to turn their cells back on. “Maybe we can touch base during the week, have lunch or something.”

    “Sounds like a plan.” Makenna fiddled with her phone, finding the right screen. “By the way, what’s your name?”

    “Hardin. But here, let me. It’s easier this way.” He went to the corresponding screen on his phone and traded devices, so they could each enter their own information. As he keyed in his number, he glanced up at her. “So what’s your name?”

    She almost goofed. She was busy putting her friend’s name alongside her own phone number, which took a fair amount of concentration. She started to answer automatically, “Ma - .” She quickly caught herself. “McKenzie, but look under the ‘K’s. Everyone calls me Kenzie.”

    “All right, Kenzie with a K.” He returned her phone with a charismatic smile. “All done. Be expecting a call.”

    “I will.” She gave him a cheeky little grin before slipping her phone into her bag.

    They continued a casual conversation as they made their way down the aisle, off the plane, and toward baggage claim. When no one came rushing toward her, demanding an explanation for posing as her friend, Makenna breathed easier.

    “Well, thanks for making the flight less stressful,” she said, piling her bags together after retrieving them all from the carousel. His still had not arrived. “It definitely kept my mind occupied.”

    “No problem. I’m glad I sat on your row,” he grinned. “Oops. That’s mine.” He nodded at the black bag tumbling onto the conveyor belt.

    “Well, have a great vacation.” She was reluctant to part with the handsome man, but his luggage was moving closer.

    “Hey, I’ll call you,” he promised. He was obviously torn between lingering beside her and retrieving his bag now, without waiting for it to cycle again. He reached out to touch her hand, their fingers trailing through the air as he stepped away.

    “You do that.” Makenna would have offered her best smile, but he had already turned his back toward her. Puffing a breath of air from her cheeks, Makenna made her way toward Ground Transportation.

    Her adventure was now underway.

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