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France, 1993

Gabriela Martinez has a few problems to solve:  she strongly suspects that her mentor and friend wants her as his mistress, her husband is increasingly neglecting her, and her latest illustration has been ruined. But while going to her favorite thinking spot in La Marbriére, the mountain overlooking her home in the Côte d'Azur, Gabriela makes a wrong turn and finds herself lost.  There, in a clearing cocooned in emerald forest and towering cliffs, she finds a beautiful coin, half-buried in dirt.  She is delighted with her discovery; but what Gabriela doesn't know is that an unknown xenophobic terrorist has been using similar coins and will do anything to keep it a secret.

When intelligence sources discover the coin's resurfacing, an unwilling American intelligence officer, Richard Harrison, must uncover what Gabriela knows about the coin.  Together with Maurice Nôret, Harrison's counterpart in French intelligence, Richard attempts to bring to light the madman's identity while protecting Gabriela.  But as the psychological games to terrorize Gabriela into silence grow more lethal, Richard's budding love for this woman becomes a dangerous handicap to them both.

Set in the exotic region of the French Riviera, The Coin is a story of unfounded hatred, betrayal, love, and duty—of terrible and painful choices that, nonetheless, bring about personal triumph.

The Coin

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Excerpt from The Coin

Gabriela took it and averted her face, pretending to look at the passing view.  Richard wasn’t fooled.  He knew she wasn’t watching her surroundings.  “Gabriela.  We have to talk.”

“Like hell we do,” she answered, without turning her head.

“Yes, we do.  You can’t go on like this all day, pretending I don’t exist, biting my head off every time you answer my questions.”

She shrugged in answer and kept staring out the window.  They passed an ancient chimney stack from an abandoned perfume factory and rounded their way up past the old railway station.  As they climbed higher, the traffic became thicker with tourist buses, cars with foreign plates, and impatient locals.  They would be crawling along before they ever reached the road turnoff.

“Listen.  What happened last night shouldn’t have—”

“You’re damn right it shouldn’t have happened,” she told him viciously.  “And it won’t happen again.”  She turned sparkling, angry eyes at him.  “Last night, I was a fool to allow you to even touch me.  And you, chivalrous person that you are, took full advantage of a weak moment.”

He ground the car gears as the car crawled even slower, inching its way around a traffic circle with an iron sculpture of a rose cradling a perfume bottle in its center.  The fragile hold on his temper snapped.  “Damn it to hell, Gabriela.  Do you think this is easy on me?  I’m a man who’s always taken what I’ve goddamn wanted, without asking permission.  Look at me, for God’s sake.  For the first time in my life, I’m considerate of a woman, careful not to wound your damn moral sensibilities.  I’ve never given a shit about what the opposite sex has thought of me, or wanted, or whether my actions have pleased or hurt.  I’ve never been in love, Gabriela.  Do you think I enjoy feeling weak and vulnerable?  Do you?”

“No,” she admitted, and looked down at her hands.  She couldn’t fool herself.  She was lashing out at him to better protect herself against her growing attachment, her irrational love.  It was her only defense.

“I love you, Gabriela,” he said, and felt her wince at his words.  “I’m sorry about last night, but I don’t regret it happening.  I’d be a hypocrite if I told you otherwise.”  He shifted to first and managed only an inch.  “What’s done is done.  That’s no reason for going at each other’s throats for the remainder of the day.  Can we at least act civilized toward each other until I can have Maurice finish things off?  That way, I’ll finally be out of your hair and you can go back to your life the way it was.”

Outside the car, life seemed to be pulsating.  Inside, it was holding its breath.  “My life can never be the same again,” she said low, with heartrending sadness.

Richard clenched his jaw, recognizing the truth in her statement.  What comfort could he offer?  The situation could never be repaired.  He was in the same shoes.

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