Excerpt from Birthright by Nora Roberts, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Birthright

By Nora Roberts

Birthright
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2003,
    480 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2004,
    512 pages.

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She pulled into a visitor's slot, hopped out into a vicious, soupy heat. Her feet began to sweat inside her Wolverines before she made it to the building's entrance.

The building's receptionist glanced over, saw a woman with a compact, athletic body, an ugly straw hat and terrific wire-framed sunglasses.

"Dr. Dunbrook for Dr. Greenbaum."

"Sign in, please."

She handed Callie a visitor's pass. "Third floor."

Callie glanced at her watch as she strode to the elevators. She was only forty-five minutes later than she'd planned to be. But the Quarter Pounder she'd wolfed down on the drive was rapidly wearing off.

She wondered if she could hit Leo up for a meal.

She rode up to three, found another receptionist. This time she was asked to wait.

She was good at waiting. All right, Callie admitted as she dropped into a chair. Better at waiting than she'd once been. She used up her store of patience in her work. Could she help it if there wasn't much left over to spread around in other areas?

She could only work with what she had.

But Leo didn't keep her long.

He had a quick walk. It always reminded Callie of the way a corgi moved--rapid, stubby legs racing too fast for the rest of the body. At five-four, he was an inch shorter than Callie herself and had a sleeked-back mane of walnut-brown hair, which he unashamedly dyed. His face was weathered, sun-beaten and narrow with his brown eyes in a permanent squint behind square, rimless glasses.

He wore, as he did habitually, baggy brown pants and a shirt of wrinkled cotton. Papers leaked out of every pocket.

He walked straight up to Callie and kissed her--and was the only man of her acquaintance not related to her who was permitted to do so.

"Looking good, Blondie."

"You're not looking so bad yourself."

"How was the drive?"

"Vicious. Make it worth my while, Leo."

"Oh, I think I will. How's the family?" he asked as he led her back the way he'd come.

"Great. Mom and Dad got out of Dodge for a couple weeks. Beating the heat up in Maine. How's Clara?"

Leo shook his head at the thought of his wife. "She's taken up pottery. Expect a very ugly vase for Christmas."

"And the kids?"

"Ben's playing with stocks and bonds, Melissa's juggling motherhood and dentistry. How did an old digger like me raise such normal kids?"

"Clara," Callie told him as he opened a door and gestured her in.

Though she'd expected him to take her to one of the labs, she looked around his sunny, well-appointed office. "I'd forgotten what a slick setup you've got here, Leo. No burning desire to go back out and dig?"

"Oh, it comes over me now and again. Usually I just take a nap and it goes away. But this time...Take a look at this."

He walked behind his desk, unlocked a drawer. He drew out a bone fragment in a sealed bag.

Callie took the bag and, hooking her glasses in the V of her shirt, examined the bone within. "Looks like part of a tibia. Given the size and fusion, probably from a young female. Very well preserved."

"Best guess of age from visual study?"

"This is from western Maryland, right? Near a running creek. I don't like best guess. You got soil samples, stratigraphic report?"

"Ballpark. Come on, Blondie, play."

"Jeez." Her brow knitted as she turned the bag over in her hand. She wanted her fingers on bone. Her foot began to tap to her own inner rhythm. "I don't know the ground. Visual study, without benefit of testing, I'd make it three to five hundred years old. Could be somewhat older, depending on the silt deposits, the floodplain."

She turned the bone over again, and her instincts began to quiver. "That's Civil War country, isn't it? This predates that. It's not from a Rebel soldier boy."

From Birthright by Nora Roberts, Copyright © 2003 Nora Roberts, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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