Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Memories

Look what I found! One of my grandad's adventures to Canada :) I'm thinking this is Algonquin Park. He was 77 and we dragged him hiking and camping :) Happy Days.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fifty Dollar Bill

See the new Canadian $50 bill? The cool thing about this (aside from the fact it's a polymer based note) is the ship. That ship is the CCGS Amundsen, which was previously CCGS Sir John Franklin, and that my friends, is the boat I spent a summer on in Northern Labrador in the 90s. 
The same boat I based my fictional boat, Imaviaq (which means 'open water amidst ice' in one of the Inuit languages), on in EDGE OF SURVIVAL.
(Great article on the need to replace Canada's aging icebreaker fleet here, BTW)
So, I feel like I own a little part of history.
 And, as another aside, my working title for that story was always ICEBREAKER :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Excerpt: STORM WARNING

Here's the first chapter of STORM WARNING.
Oh, Eric, Ben, I miss you...
**Contains some bad language**

Chapter One
The rocks and stones that flanked the Scottish coastline could twist an unwary ankle or break a foolish neck. Sorcha ran anyway. Waves crashed and pounded the rocky shore. Bitter wind flayed her face and slapped spray against her cheeks. Her foot slipped on the dangerous rocks but she was gaining on the man who tormented her and she pumped her legs faster.
A crack of thunder jerked her head right, and in that split-second her foot connected with a patch of green algae and she crashed to the granite. The figure disappeared around the next corner.
“Bloody hell!” She sat up, flexed sore wrists and rubbed her battered knees. Apart from the graze on her shin she was uninjured. “Just crazy,” she muttered as she climbed to her feet.
Unwelcome sensations spun through the air. Her heart raced triple-time and the sweat on her body crystallized to hoarfrost. The pressure of probing eyes snagged her attention to the houses that lined the coast. A jumble of seventeenth and eighteenth-century cottages that crowded the shore, as if the fishermen who’d built them had staked their claim on the sea and dared it to come any closer. Shivering, she held her breath, blood pounding through her ears with the cadence of thunder. Danger pulsed through the air. Or was it just her oversensitive imagination?
She started jogging, tiredly stretching out aching muscles, wanting to get home and away from the nightmare her life had become.
She rounded the corner and lurched to a stop, shock welding her feet to the ancient Scottish bedrock.
A body rolled in the surf.
Oh God, not again. Was he real?
Indecision held her in place. Should she pretend she didn’t see him? Was she really this insane? She squeezed her eyes shut and curled her hands into fists because she didn’t want to be the crazy lady. She was sick of being the weirdo. When she opened her eyes again, the pewter sky had darkened, reflecting ominous hues in the green-tinged North Sea, and the body was still there. Her hands shook. Breath jammed in her lungs. She expelled it and took one tentative step forward. Then she began to run.
Horror ripped away decades and she couldn’t move fast enough. She climbed rocky steeples, staggered across granite ledges and plunged into water so cold her skin blistered. She skidded, hissed out a cry and grabbed at his sweater.
But Christ, he was real! She hadn’t expected him to be.
She swallowed her relief because now there was a genuine emergency. He weighed more than lead, heavy clothes dragging him into the swirling depths. A wave crashed over the top of the ledge, cascading into the pool and over Sorcha’s head as she tore at the man, trying to lift his face for air. Panic gave her strength.
He may not be dead. He may not be dead yet.
Desperate, she grabbed the material, felt the stretch and give of waterlogged wool, and heaved. Turning him over, she took an instant to absorb the fact that it wasn’t him.
Thank God, it wasn’t him.
This man was young with dirty blond hair plastered to his skull. He looked more like a student or a tourist than a fisherman, and he wasn’t breathing. Currents tried to steal him as waves pounded the rock pool, but she refused to let go.
Using every muscle in her body, she worked at pulling his dead weight clear of the water. If she could get him there, if she could get him breathing, there was a five-minute window where she could run for help before the storm-driven tide stole him again.
Imagine how crazy she’d sound if she claimed to have found another body on the beach, only this one disappeared? She’d been gone for many years, but in this part of Scotland people didn’t forget—and they didn’t forgive.
Her feet slipped. “No!” She lost her balance on the treacherous rock and his weight pushed her under. She banged her head on granite and choked as seawater entered her airway.
Spluttering, she rose to her feet, hooked her hands beneath his arms and dragged him backward out of the weed-infested pool before she collapsed.
Waves lashed around both sides of the rocks. There wasn’t much time to resuscitate him before the tide caught up with them, but she had to try. Rough stone bit into her knees as she checked for a pulse. She searched his thick wrist, then the wall of his neck for the telltale beat of life. Nothing moved. No flutter of blood, no rise or fall of his chest. His lips were blue. Skin, pale and waxy. Glassy eyes stared up at her, reminding her of another face…
“He’s dead.” The voice came out of nowhere, loud and startling, despite the howling gale.
Sorcha screamed. She didn’t mean to, couldn’t help the screech that escaped her lips.
“Take it easy.” A stranger stood nearby, holding up his hands, fingers spread wide in a nonthreatening gesture. Black eyes stared at her from a harsh face, spray or perspiration beading his forehead. His lips were compressed into a thin red line and a muscle ticked in his jaw.
There was no compassion in his gaze, no relief to be found in his presence. A shudder ran through her as the wind cut through her wet clothes to penetrate her skin, only it wasn’t the temperature that made her shake. The guy was about as friendly as razor wire.
“Do you know him?” The man, an American by his accent, shouted above the roar of wind and water.
Sorcha looked down at the man at her feet—the undoubtedly dead man at her feet.
Lord, I should recognize a corpse.
She shook her head. She’d never seen the young man before.
“Think you can make it up the shore?” he asked.
“Of course. What about him?” Despite the lungful of water she’d inhaled, her voice held. She wasn’t the one who needed to be rescued. In case he hadn’t noticed, she was the one doing the rescuing.
Foam frothed. The tempest was about to hit full force. The furious gray clouds started to spit. He tore his gaze from the surging water back to her. “I’ll carry him.”
“He’s heavy.” Sorcha hesitated to touch the man now that she knew he was dead, but she felt bound to him. Just like so many years ago. “I can help.” She moved forward to pick up the dead man’s arm, preparing to haul him up.
Ignoring her, the newcomer maneuvered himself around the rocks to stand on the other side of the body and hefted the dead man across his shoulders.
Sorcha opened her mouth to argue, but the Yank was already striding away and she had no choice except to follow. Why did men take over like that?
“Bloody hell.”
The American couldn’t hear, but she wasn’t so sure about the dead.
The stranger negotiated the jutting slabs of bedrock with ease, the corpse strung across his shoulders as though he carried dead bodies every day. Wrapping her arms tight across her chest, she trailed him. A boulder wobbled beneath her trainers and she slipped, letting out a yelp of surprise. The American turned, the dead guy streaming water down his crimson jacket like fresh-flowing blood.
Unsettled, she forced the image away.
“Need some help?” he asked.
Away from the violent surf he’d relaxed a little, his expression unlocked by the barest degree. Although the derision in his eyes suggested he found her discomfort amusing.
Just what I need. A sadist.
And suddenly there was her father again, strolling up the beach ahead of them, disappearing through the garden gate. A voice whispered close by, the words whisked away by the fury of the storm. She held herself rigid, fighting the urge to close her eyes and weep.
Her father was dead.
The American didn’t notice anything was wrong. He just turned around and carried on walking. Her fingers shook as she dragged her hand through her sticky hair. She lurched onward, barely able to feel her toes. She wasn’t sure what affected her more—the icy water, the cruel storm or the ghosts from her past.
Her eyes latched onto the stranger’s red jacket, a lifeline, and her feet carried her on autopilot. He headed to the old Johnstone cottage, the one closest to the beach.
She didn’t want to remember the last time she’d been in that house. Fifteen years was a long time, but not long enough to eradicate those memories.
Despite the rain that made distinct splashes on the rocks, her pace slowed. Part of her wanted to go home, to continue walking up the beach a few houses and forget she’d ever found another body in the rock pool. Instead she followed the American past where the rocks turned into coarse sand and salt-tolerant wildflowers encroached on the sea’s territory. They went up three stone steps and through a newly painted blue door set in the old stone wall. And each step brought with it a sharp sense of déjà vu.
The stranger laid the dead man on the thin strip of grass that constituted a lawn, and the corpse seemed to glow in the twilight. Who was he? How had he ended up on this beach?
She resisted the urge to cross herself.
The American disappeared along the covered passageway toward the cottage’s door, but the vulnerability of the body pulled at her. An old stone potting shed stood in the garden. She rattled the doorknob in search of a tarp or a towel to cover the dead man, but it was locked. Old Mrs. Johnstone used to hide the key beneath the dusty flowerpot which still sat at the corner of the shed. Numbly Sorcha scrabbled her fingers beneath it, found only dried dirt and cobwebs. Some things did change if you stayed away long enough. She rested against the wall, and the rain beat down on her head.
The American approached, carrying a coarse pink blanket and a cell phone. The sharp angles of his face contrasted with the weathered stone of the cottage behind him.
“Who are you?” she asked softly.
“Name’s Ben Foley.”
Nothing else. No pleasantries. No “Isn’t it terrible we found a dead man on the beach?” Droplets of moisture glistened in his hair. Knowledge and intelligence sparked in the pitch of his eyes.
She shrank away, alarmed by what he might see. “I need to go home and change—”
“No. I called the cops.”
She edged back, but he followed. He held up his cell phone and tilted his head. “Said they’d be right over.”
Bloody hell. She needed to get away. “Look, I’m freezing. I need to change out of these wet things.”
“Sorry.” He didn’t sound sorry at all. “The police wanna talk to you.” His tone was firm, brooking no argument. He flashed a smile, a crease bisecting one clean-shaven cheek. He was deeply, gloriously tanned, making her feel washed-out and insipid by comparison. “The fire’s lit.” He slipped the phone back into his pocket. “And I can lend you some dry stuff.”
Tension gripped her as he stepped closer and held the blanket wide as if to wrap her in it.
She twisted away. “Put it over him.” She pointed a finger at the body.
“Believe me, he doesn’t need it.” He stood in front of her, a solid wall of determination.
“Yes, he does.” She tried to control the tremor in her voice and glanced at the neighbors’ windows, which shone with light. At least one curious onlooker was silhouetted against pale curtains. How could she express her distress at the thought of people seeing the dead man at his most vulnerable? “He needs to be covered up.”
They glared at each other until he finally backed away. “Fine, lady. Whatever.”
God, he was cranky.
The wind sliced through her. She rubbed her arms and stamped her feet to try to get warm, silently cursing as her soggy trainers squished. She did not have time for hypothermia.
“Are you sure you don’t recognize him?” he asked.
“I’ve never seen him before.” And hoped to hell she never saw him again. One ghost was enough.
Ben Foley covered the body with the blanket. He knelt to one side and swept the sleeve of the sweater up above the elbow of the dead man’s arm and quickly pulled it back down, adjusting the cuff. Sorcha’s teeth chattered as he tucked the blanket securely beneath the head and torso to foil the wind.
His movements were respectful. It helped, though she didn’t know why.
The storm ripped at his jacket as he turned back toward her, this tall startling foreigner. She stood her ground even though what she really wanted to do was run.
“Let’s get you inside.” Gripping her arm, he escorted her toward the cottage and pushed her through the small wooden doorway into a wall of heat. Even so she felt chilled. She hadn’t been inside this cottage since she was a little girl. She hadn’t been here since that awful day…
It hadn’t changed much, although her memories of the cottage itself were dim. A fire blazed on the hearth and she moved toward the fierce, bright flames, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind on the floor.
The American hesitated before closing the door. He seemed agitated all of a sudden. More agitated than when he’d carried a dead body off the beach.
What’s with that?
He moved to the dining table and began clearing away his laptop and papers.
Hah. Like she cared. Unlike the rest of this town, she wasn’t always poking her nose into other people’s business.
A chair faced the picture window overlooking the beach. A fat white telescope was mounted in front of it and pointed toward the sea. Had Ben Foley been watching the storm? Had he seen her race for home, trying to beat the rain? Had he watched as her nightly run ended in gruesome discovery?
She should be grateful. Without him, the boy’s body would have been lost.
She held her hands outstretched to the fire and dropped to her knees to get closer to the heat, regretting the movement as soon as her wet clothes slapped her skin. Yuck. She yanked the clingy cotton sweatshirt over her head, and dropped it in a soggy heap on the hearth. A prickly sensation spread along her nerves as she felt Ben’s eyes bore into her. She toed off her runners and peeled wet jogging pants down her legs. Stripping to her underwear didn’t bother her. In fact, her body was one of the few things in her life she wasn’t ashamed of.
Turning to warm her back, her gaze locked with Ben Foley’s. Unease filtered through the shock. Her breath stopped.
Maybe this wasn’t the brightest idea she’d ever had.
The flames danced higher and Sorcha wondered if she’d made a terrible mistake. She was down to her underwear, alone with a strange man, a dead body in the garden, and only his word that the police were on their way.

Outside the storm intensified. Gulls screamed and the wind rattled the windowpanes. Ben barely noticed. Anger worked through his veins as blood headed south. Jacob would have found the situation amusing. But Jacob was dead.
Ben hadn’t expected her to strip in front of him and he didn’t like surprises. Her sports bra and panties were more than some women wore on the beach, but they weren’t designed to be wet.
Was this part of her game?
Hiding his reaction, Ben took his time and examined every inch of exposed flesh, from her high-arched feet to her thick blond hair. His palms itched and heat stirred. No doubt about it, she was hot. One sexy lady. Not what he’d expected from a Ph.D. candidate, or his prime suspect—the phone call to Santayana’s mansion having been traced to Sorcha Logan’s cottage.
The flaws had to be hidden deep beneath the surface.
“Have you never seen a naked woman before?” Her accent was scathing. She dropped her pants next to her shirt and raised a brow, toying with him.
If she hoped to disconcert him, she was shit out of luck. He ate girls like her for breakfast.
He let a smile curl his lips, rocked back on his heels, wondering how far she’d go. Nipples pressed against the damp fabric of her bra, drawing his attention. “You’re not naked…yet.” He gave himself points when her eyes flashed and she crossed her arms over her breasts.
“Yeah, well today isn’t your lucky day, pal, and tomorrow doesn’t look good either.”
Her attitude amused him despite himself. He smothered a grin, but she spotted it.
“Brilliant. A comedian. Move over, Billy Connolly.” Her accent grew stronger, but an edge of caution crept into her tight lips and watchful eyes. “Do you have a towel and some clothes I can borrow? Please? Before I freeze to death?”
Her mouth settled into a pout. Probably pissed he wasn’t so easily manipulated by a wet-dream body and dumb-blonde hair.
Jerking himself out of his distraction, he strode to the bedroom through a small door at the end of the room. He ducked his head going through the low opening. Place was built for midgets. His notes and photographs were out of sight, nevertheless he couldn’t risk her snooping around. He grabbed a towel and some sweats and headed back to the living room.
She hadn’t moved from beside the fireplace. She rose awkwardly to her feet and took a big quivering breath. Ben wrestled his gaze above her chest. She might be down to her skivvies, but he was the one risking exposure.
He held out the clothes, yet, despite her complaints about being cold, she hesitated before taking them from him. When she finally reached for them, her fingers brushed his sweater and he felt a spark. Her irises flared in reaction.
Well, what do you know? A little animal attraction.
How could he use it?
He drew his hands along the soft skin of her inner arms as he stepped back, but she broke the connection and looked away. She smelled like brine, her hair tangling around her face in wet strands. Pretty though. Not that it mattered. Beauty was skin deep and evil didn’t always wear horns.
Lights strobed outside the window, blue spots gyroscoping around the room. The cops.
“Oh, bugger,” she muttered.
“You got something against cops?”
She scrubbed her hair vigorously with the towel. “Not exactly.” She tried to appear nonchalant though she was unable to lie worth a damn.
Interesting. Women like her were usually naturals.
There was a rap on the door and he opened it. A police officer in a crisp black uniform stared first at him and then at the half-naked woman who was trembling in front of the fire.
Damn. Ben hadn’t even considered that possibility. An assault charge would get him off the case before it even began.
“Sorcha?” the police officer questioned.
“Uncle Davy.”
“Everything all right, lass?” The skin around the man’s eyes pinched with suspicion. He fixed Ben with a look.
“I’m fine.” She sounded upbeat, totally at odds with how she’d looked just seconds before. Maybe she was a better liar than Ben had given her credit for.
Sergeant David Logan of Fife Constabulary was shorter than he looked in photographs. “Come on in. You two are related?” Ben faked surprise. He faked a lot of stuff. He’d probably be able to drum up a few tears when his grandfather passed away. Then again, maybe not.
“We are.” Nodding, Davy Logan took one step across the threshold out of the driving rain. Sorcha remained silent. Neither oozed warmth nor hospitality. “And who are you?” He stuck out his hand. The accent was broad Scots, but he spoke slowly enough for Ben to unravel the words, even if his grip was crushing.
“Ben Foley.” He put a little extra teeth into his smile.
Sorcha pulled on the sweatpants he’d given her.
About damn time.
“You found a body?” Davy Logan addressed him, but his eyes darted to his niece.
“Yeah.” They spoke simultaneously. Ben jammed his fists in his pockets and waited to see what the cop would do next.
“Do you know who it is?”
Ben shrugged. “I don’t live around here.”
“Sorcha?” the cop asked.
She shook her head.
“Where is it?” Sergeant Logan removed his cap, raindrops dripping off and splashing onto the tile.
“In the yard.” Ben nodded in the direction of the sea. The dead boy might have been in the water for minutes or hours for all Ben knew. The thought made his gut churn. The corpse didn’t bother him—it was the water that freaked him out.
“And why is Sorcha the one all wet?”
Her head jerked up, unspoken tension stretching between her and her uncle, so thick Ben could taste it.
“I saw her from the window.” And though he’d been shadowing the woman for days, it felt too weird to say her given name. “She was already in the pool by the time I got there.”
Freeing her hair from the collar of the sweatshirt, she straightened and regarded him with turbulent blue eyes.
Ben stared right back. Then he produced a smile he wasn’t feeling. “Figured I’d have to go in and haul her out myself.”
And that would have topped off his year, like it wasn’t already screwed to hell.
“What’s the matter?” Sarcasm dripped from her tongue. “Can’t you swim?”
So the kitty has claws.
He controlled his anger, not wanting to scare her. Yet. “As a matter of fact, no, I can’t swim.” Turning to the policeman, Ben consciously hid his irritation. He trusted the cop less than he trusted the woman, but neither of them needed to know that. “She got there first. Not that it mattered in the end—”
“What do you mean—” her voice rose an octave, “‘—not that it mattered in the end’?”
“Well, he was dead, wasn’t he?” Damn. So much for his self-control.
“I didn’t know that!” She blinked rapidly, fighting her emotions. “At least his family will have a body to bury. At least now—”
“Sorcha, don’t worry yourself.” Sergeant Davy Logan strode across the room and pulled her into his arms, squeezing her tight to his short barrel frame. “Don’t fret, lass. It must have brought it all back.”
“Brought all what back?” Ben’s patience had crashed and burned the day his best friend had bled out on a Colombian drug lord’s floor. He needed answers. But all he got were more questions and an anger that ripped and gnawed inside him like a rabid dog.
Sorcha Logan’s gaze locked on his, her expression catching him off guard. Pain and desolation shone brightly in the depths of her eyes.
Oh shit. He recognized that look.
“Well, the last time she found a dead body on the beach, of course,” the policeman carried on, oblivious to the effect his words had on his niece. She clamped her eyes shut and buried her face in her uncle’s shoulder. “Only that time…it was her father.”
(Available in ebook & audio)

Sorcha Logan is looking for peace.

Recently returned to her hometown on Scotland’s craggy coast, Sorcha wants to tame the spirits that made her flee. When she finds a corpse in the surf, however, she can’t suppress the memory of discovering her father’s body. Nor can she suppress the ghosts that haunt her—or the town’s conviction that she’s dangerous, and a witch.

Ben Foley is looking for a killer.

An American DEA agent, Ben is in town to investigate the suspicious death of his partner. He’s sure that Sorcha knows more than she’s letting on—but the more time he spends with the sexy suspect, the less he can fight their illicit attraction. And the less certain he is she’s involved with a drug cartel.

But can Ben protect Sorcha from being set up? Or worse—killed?

ISBN: 978-14268-9064-2
Read an Excerpt
To Buy Links...
Carina Press | | | Barnes & Noble | | iTunes

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dog's Life

Holly is enjoying our weird and wonderful early hot spring. Whoot! 
I am inside and working. *Scratches head*. 
Obviously she deserves a little R&R. :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day, World

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Green Green Grass of Home...

Because I like visual records here is a photo of today's garden. The usual temp for this time of year is 0C. The predicted high for today is 21C. Snowshoeing and skiing are officially done. Ice fishers should get off the ice. Wowzers. Now, if it snows you'll be hearing from me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Writing Epiphany

Yup--another one.
Why does it take me this amount of time every single novel to figure out that my writing process is tedious and messy? I try and push through that rough first draft ala the great Nora Roberts. Every single time I stall. Even if I know the next scene I stall. Because after writing the last ten scenes I have added notes and threads that I now know need to be worked into the plot from the beginning and my mind is divided between going back and starting over, or carrying on. That slows me down.
So rather than getting that first rough draft written, I have to constantly start back at the beginning and work through it. And because it is slow, because it feels like I'm wasting time and being inefficient, I punish myself terribly (it's only a mental whip-lashing, but a whip-lashing nonetheless). This only gets worse when I look at my calendar and calculate my time.
So what's to be done?
At the end of the day the question should always be 'are you writing the best book possible?' Not, 'can you write four of these babies a year?' Some people can do both (that darned Nora who must be watching over my shoulder today (but we all need heroes, right?)). I can't.  
When I'm consumed by a book I write pretty fast. I just need to learn to trust my instincts and do what needs to be done. Stop panicking, start enjoying the incredible privilege I have right now of writing novels. 

Who knows how long it will last?

Anyone else have a process they hate?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Melt

In case anyone thought this might be pretty...
 And dog dry off--every single time she goes out :)
But it is melting!! Yay!

Friday, March 02, 2012

I haven't done this for ages. I'm going to start posting excerpts from some of my books. I thought I'd start with the opening of SEA OF SUSPICION.

St. Andrews cathedral.

*contains bad language*

Nick stumbled. He was drunk and if Chrissie hadn’t been dead, she’d have been furious. Raindrops splashed off gravestones, stirring up the smell of freshly dug earth and crushed grass. Dougie caught his arm and jerked him upright.
Good man, Dougie.
His parents-in-law stared into the rectangular pit with reddened eyes and strained mouths. Chrissie’s mother, Emily, sobbed as though her heart was being ripped from her throat with a grappling hook. Chrissie’s dad braced his wife with an arm around her waist. Wet hair hung limply around the woman’s shoulders and she looked as if she’d aged a year for every day Chrissie had been dead.
Nick’s fault.
Emily sank to her knees and her husband followed, holding on grimly as if fearing she’d end up in that muddy grave with her daughter. Nick frowned. He was the one who was supposed to be howling. Beneath his alcohol-soaked despair a small kernel of envy knotted his gut. Emily’s grief bespoke an agony deeper than his, as if she was being physically tortured while they all stood by and watched. He looked away.
It hurt to watch a mother’s grief. It hurt almost as much as losing the woman you’d pledged your life to.
His fault.
If he’d paid more attention, buried his pride, this would never have happened. The muscles in his throat worked, but were so sore he felt as though he’d drunk paint stripper rather than single malt. Unconsciously he took a step forward. Automatically Dougie tightened his grip on the back of Nick’s jacket and held him in place.
Good man, Dougie.
Emily and Peter’s remaining daughter watched him with big, rounded eyes. Ten years old, but no one was paying her any attention. She looked exactly like photographs of Chrissie at that age. Dark ringlets, bright eyes that glittered like stars when she laughed and stabbed like knives when she was mad. The kid searched his face for a glimmer of comfort, and a tiny drowning part of his brain wanted to reach out to her. But guilt paralyzed his heart like a lightning shock. He had no experience with comfort and less with guilt.
The crowd stirred and suddenly all eyes were on him. Nick felt their expectation and pity. Dougie nudged him forward and Nick held out his hand for dirt, as if he’d buried a thousand wives and knew exactly what to do. The thick clod of earth hit Chrissie’s ornate casket and he made a silent vow to his dead wife. Despite the whisky in his bloodstream, pain was beginning to seep back into his brain. Dougie put an arm around his shoulders and guided him toward the outer wall of the ruins. People started to drift away.
“Are you all right?” Dougie asked.
Nick looked at his friend, truth exposed in his eyes.
No. He wasn’t all right. He’d failed and God was paying him back.
Nobody came to offer condolences. He and Dougie stood awhile, just the two of them, Dougie rolling a ciggie while Nick sat on some other poor bastard’s tomb. The rain battered the marble and soaked through the arse of his trousers. Silently Dougie handed him the cigarette, watching him with somber brown eyes. Cold seeped into Nick’s flesh and the pewter storm clouds brought a heavy dullness that matched the throb in his head. But he didn’t want to leave. Not yet.
He took out his hipflask and shook it. Damn. Empty. He stuffed it back in his pocket. “I need a drink.”
Turning to leave, he saw Chrissie’s Ph.D. supervisor standing over her open grave. Tears ran down the man’s cheeks, mixing with the rain. And suddenly there was nothing but pain. It drew a sharp knife over Nick’s every thought, savaged each breath, lanced each cell like a septic boil.
“Nick…” Dougie warned.
But it was too late. The numbness had exploded into rage. Nick ran to Jake Sizemore and slammed his fist into the man’s jaw. “You bastard. You bloody, fucking, bastard.”
Sizemore went down, slipping on the wet grass, and Nick was on him, pounding, pounding. His one good suit was plastered in mud, his wedding shoes slipping on the rain-drenched earth, but he didn’t stop. Sizemore fought, his arms fending off a really good uppercut.
“You killed her. You fucking killed her!” Nick shouted.
“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I loved her.” Sizemore twisted, grabbed one of Nick’s wrists with both hands, straining away as far as he could.
There were no words to describe the hatred that fueled Nick. Every bad thing, every evil act twisted inside him until he became the avenger, he became fury, he lusted to kill. He slammed his fist into Jake’s face, splitting skin, drawing blood. And Nick hit him again. Again. Unable to stop. Fought off Dougie, who tried to drag him away. Finally Sizemore’s eyes rolled back in his head and Nick hit him again.
He raised his fist for another strike only to have it dragged roughly behind his back as he was hauled off Sizemore’s unconscious body. He spat on the man who lay bleeding in the rain. Sizemore looked dead, but Nick wasn’t that lucky.
“Let’s away with you, Nicky, that’s enough now.”
He hadn’t expected the priest to come. He swallowed the need to throw himself into the man’s arms. Stood taller. This man was more a father to him than a man of God. “He killed her, Father.” His knuckles started to sting, but it wasn’t even close to the pain ripping through his heart.
“And he’ll have to live with that, won’t he?” Father Mike propelled Nick along the gravel path.
“He doesn’t have to live with it.” The cold air hurt his lungs as Nick inhaled. It made him realize just how much he’d sobered up, and how little he had left to lose.
The priest grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. “Chrissie left you, son.” Father Mike spoke words no one else had dared utter. “It’s in God’s hands now.”
Grief fused Nick to the ground. Chrissie had left him, but he had loved her, and she hadn’t deserved to die like that. No one deserved to die like that.
He stared at Sizemore over Father Mike’s shoulders. It didn’t matter how long it took. He was going to make the murderous sonofabitch pay for what he’d done to his wife.

Chapter One

Rafael Domenici, a gorgeous Brazilian post-grad student, followed her into her office. His English wasn’t perfect but sure beat the heck out of her Portuguese. Susie took off her lab coat and hung it on the back of the door, uncomfortably aware of the young man’s eyes following every muscle movement with the desire to touch.
It would be flattering if it wasn’t so darned awkward.
“Just leave those on the desk, please, Rafael. And I’ll need your literature review before I go home this afternoon.” That should cure his adoration and remind him who was boss.
He didn’t move. The young god just stared at her with bedroom eyes and ridiculously long lashes. Not a single line of age on that perfect face. He was twenty-two years old and had more sexuality in one little finger than most men accumulated in a lifetime.
There was a time when Susie Cooper had been comfortable flirting with gorgeous men. Not anymore. She’d once used her looks as a weapon and had been smashed into emotional spare parts for her effort. She was looking for other things now…commitment, family, kids. Ignoring Rafael’s puppy-dog gaze, she sat in her chair, mechanical and biological joints creaking as she leaned forward to reactivate her computer.
Finally she sent him a tight smile of dismissal but rather than quenching the smoldering passion in his gaze, he laughed and pushed away from her desk.
Obrigado, Dr. Cooper. I see you later, maybe for a drink in the pub?”
Dream on, little boy.
At that moment her other student, Lily Heathcote, appeared in the doorway and gave Rafael a hostile look. Lily was a local girl but if she was intimidated by her cosmopolitan coworker, it didn’t show. Impatiently, the petite girl tapped lacquered fingernails against the doorjamb as the Brazilian angled around her, careful not to touch. A sly smile touched Lily’s painted lips even though her eyes never left Susie’s.
Always eccentric, today Lily was dressed in skintight leopard-print pants and a faded Cure T-shirt that had once been the color of eggplant. But beneath the layers of heavy makeup, weird clothes and incongruous blond braids sticking out like handlebars from above her ears, Lily was a nice, intelligent girl, whom Susie liked a lot. Rafael should have been attracted to his bright young peer, but maybe he only went for older women. That thought depressed the heck out of Susie.
Thirty-six wasn’t old, though it was starting to feel like it. She stared at a photograph on her desk of her friend Dela Ortiz. Dela had died of an air embolism six months ago while they’d been diving off Fraser Island in Australia. She hadn’t made it to thirty-five.
“You should do what I did,” Lily interrupted Susie’s reverie even as she leaned back to check out Rafael’s butt.
Susie didn’t pretend to misunderstand. She’d love to know how a girl like Lily handled guys like Rafael Domenici.
“What did you do?” Curious, Susie picked up her coffee, took a swallow of the cold, bitter brew.
“I put my hand on his dick and told him to let me know when the patch kicked in.”
Susie spurted coffee all over her papers and reports. Trying not to laugh, she tore off blue lab tissue she kept in her drawer for emergencies—right next to the cookies—and dabbed at the brown splotches. “In the States, supervisors aren’t quite that hands-on,” she commented dryly.
She’d only worked at this prestigious marine laboratory for one short month, but she needed to deal with her handsome pain-in-the-butt Romeo before he did or said something unprofessional. God knew, she didn’t want false rumors dogging her career. It was bad enough dealing with the fallout from her mother’s political machinations, even if Scotland was thousands of miles from Washington.
“Does he look at every woman like he wants to—” Susie broke off. It was a totally unsuitable question to ask one of his peers.
“Like he wants to lay you down and lick you from the soles of your feet to the inner recesses of your mind? Too bloody right he does.” Lily took a few steps into the room. “He gives the same look to everyone with a vagina, including Mabel.”
Mabel was the hunchbacked retirement-age cleaning lady. A lovely woman, sure…
Lily crossed her arms in a belligerent pose. “He’s an arrogant wee shite.” Lab harmony sure was off to a smooth start. “Not that you’re not hot,” she assured Susie belatedly, biting her purple-painted lips as if it had just occurred to her she might have said the wrong thing.
Susie didn’t care if she was hot or not. “I just need a way to get him to treat me like his boss and not a potential—” She broke off with a grimace. This was not how she’d imagined her supervisor-student relations would go.
Lily flashed a grin, cocked a hip. “Well, I told you my secret and it worked for me. You could pretend to have a really big boyfriend.” She wiggled her eyebrows then her bottom jaw dropped as she checked the time. “Hell. I have to go. I’ve got a hot lunch date.”
And with that she rushed over, dumped her proposal on Susie’s overflowing desk, and dashed out of the room.
Susie mumbled to herself, “‘Here’s my report, Dr. Cooper. Gee, thanks, Lily.’” But her attention was captured by a man climbing the concrete steps outside her windows. It hadn’t been much of a view until now. He was tall, long-legged, had quarterback shoulders and was clad in head-to-toe black leather with two motorcycle helmets hooked carelessly over one arm. Sweaty blond hair twisted into untidy tufts on his head, and she glimpsed a harsh unsmiling profile. Everything about him screamed pure animalistic male. No simpering eyelashes for him.
She pressed cold hands to her neck. And then he turned. Captured her gaze unerringly, assessing her through the glass with fierce green eyes.
The corner of his lips twitched before his attention shot back to the main entrance where Lily bounded out, clutching her knapsack and coat in one arm, throwing the other around his neck and giving him a big kiss on the cheek. Unwanted jealousy scratched Susie’s insides.
Oblivious, Lily threw her a wave, chatting animatedly to her “hot lunch date.” Susie pretended to concentrate on her computer screen, but not before she noted the slow sardonic grin sent in her direction from the man who towered over her diminutive student. Hot enough to scorch flesh.

The raw power of the 865 cc air-cooled twin cylinder Triumph Thruxton vibrated through his bones, the noise from the engine a deep-throated roar. Nick eased his weight to the right to take a bend in the road, hard left for the chicane, perfect control on the well-balanced machine. Lily gripped his waist, nails digging hard enough to score the leather, but as long as she didn’t fall off he didn’t care.
Barely slowing, he turned off the main road, down the secluded lane leading to her cottage. He slowed the bike to a gentle crawl, tires crunching softly over the gravel. Pulling to a stop, he put his foot on the ground and kicked down the stand.
Lily jumped off and dashed up the steps to the kitchen door, tearing off her helmet.
“Mom. Mom. Nick’s here!” She gave him a cheeky grin, this woman-child who hid her resemblance to her long-dead sister beneath fancy dress and war paint.
He remembered Lily the day of his wife’s funeral. Ten years old—black coat, black hair, blue eyes, arsenic-white skin—the perfect miniature incarnation of his wife, Chrissie. He’d wanted to reach out to that child, but he’d had nothing to offer.
The front door opened and a woman who looked much older than her sixty-odd years hurried down the steps, unsteady on her feet. A feeling of dread fingered his heart. He curved his mouth into an easy half smile and swallowed the rough sensation of suffocation. “Emily.”
From the distance in the woman’s blue eyes, he knew he’d left it too long. Again. He’d stretched their relationship as thin as he dared. Lily chatted, mortaring the wounds, bandaging the blows left by tragedy.
He stepped toward Emily and opened his arms, shame burning through him when the old woman sank into his embrace like a soft, frail dove. He squeezed her gently, held her away so he could examine the new wrinkles engraved on her skin.
“How are you, Em?”
She sniffed and blinked as if hoping to hide the redness of her eyes. Odd, considering grief was the thing she lived for. Her fingers plucked her cardigan.
“It’s always difficult this time of year.” She frowned at him, her bottom lip reproachful. “I thought you’d forgotten.”
Regret and remorse cut to the bone like a butcher’s blade. Old pain twisted in his chest until he could barely breathe.
The twelfth anniversary of Chrissie’s death.
The twelfth anniversary of his wife’s murder.
“I never forget, Em.”
“He’s still out there.” Her eyes bulged, her hands clawed his sleeve. “Waltzing around like nothing happened, like she didn’t even exist.” Vehemence infused the words with hatred, juxtaposed against such soft features. “All these years and the police never caught him. You promised me, Nick! You promised he’d be punished.”
He hugged Emily’s shoulders and they turned to walk inside. Into a house full of memories he didn’t want to remember and she didn’t want to forget. She started sobbing. All these years, and her grief was still as fresh as it had been the day they’d stood in the rain and buried her other daughter. 
It didn’t matter what it took. He was going to bring the bastard who’d killed his wife to justice. And now he knew exactly how he was going to do it.
ISBN: 978-14268-9010-9
Available from Carina Press, Barnes & Noble, ,, and all other ebook stockists. Also as print and audiobook (iTunes and Audible).
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Sea of Suspicion by Toni Anderson

Sea of Suspicion

by Toni Anderson

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