Friday, September 19, 2014

Interview with Regina Kyle - Triple Threat HQN Blaze

Today I welcome Harlequin Blaze author Regina Kyle who is here chatting about her debut novel Triple Threat.

  • ISBN-13: 9780373798223
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 9/16/2014
  • Series: Harlequin Blaze Series , #818
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback


Sabotage…and Seduction!
The Playwright It's emerging playwright Holly Nelson's big break. Broadway. Having survived her traumatic marriage and divorce, Holly is now aiming for success, not love. And any naughty dreams about Nick Damone—the gorgeously dishy star who was her crush back in high school—must remain a fantasy.

Read an Excerpt:

"Are you out of your goddamn mind?" Nick Damone threw the script down on his agent's desk. To his credit, Garrett Chandler didn't flinch, most likely because he'd dealt with more than his fair share of temperamental clients. Not that Nick was temperamental. He had every right to be pissed. "Even if I wanted to play an adulterous, wife-beating scumbag—which I don't—there's absolutely no way the studio's going to go for it."
"Leave Eclipse to me. You've made them a midsize mint playing Trent Savage." Garrett sank into his butter-leather chair. "Besides, you said you wanted to get out of L.A. for a few months. So do it. Get back to your theater roots. Break free from your on-screen persona and try something edgy."
"Yeah." Nick was tired of the backstabbers and bootlickers who were the bedrock of Hollywood society. Spent from the acrobatics of embracing fame but avoiding scandal. And at thirty-three, his days as action hero Trent Savage were numbered, and with it his livelihood unless he expanded. Denzel starred in action, drama, comedy. Won an Oscar in his thirties, another in his forties, and kept getting nominated every year or two. Robert Downey Jr. was buried in awards and prime projects, with first refusal on scripts that would make Nick weep on cue. If he wanted his career to have legs like that, he needed to be more than Trent Savage.
But there was edgy and there was diving off cliffs. Onto jagged rocks, at low tide, in front of a live audience. Eight times a week.
"Trust me, Nick. I didn't get you this far by pulling advice out of my ass. This role is gold. I'm talking Tony-worthy." Garrett motioned for Nick to sit in one of the webbed chairs opposite the wide mahogany desk and pushed the script toward him. "Dig into this again. I think you'll see it's everything you're looking for."
Nick sat, stretching his long legs and crossing them at the ankles. The flight from Hong Kong, where his latest picture just wrapped, had been long and damn uncomfortable. Even first class was no place for a guy of six foot four. All he wanted now was a thick steak, a hot shower and a good night's sleep. All of which he'd get after he won this argument with his worthless agent, who, unfortunately, also happened to be the closest he had to a best friend. He tended to keep people at arm's length, where they couldn't mess with his head. Or his heart.
"What do we know about this playwright?" He traced the words on the script cover, his brain taking a moment to decipher the jumbled letters. The Lesser Vessel by H. N. Ryan.
"Not much," Garrett admitted. "She's new. Her bio's pretty sketchy—went to Wesleyan, a few plays off-off-Broadway that closed early. But Ted and Judith say her talent is once a generation. They optioned this play before it was even finished. Coming from two of the hottest producers on Broadway, that's a pretty big endorsement."
"She?" Nick leaned forward in his chair. Spousal abuse was a hot-button topic after a spate of recent celebrity arrests, but the writing hadn't felt like an "issue" play, which—shoot him for saying so—made him assume it was written by a man.
He wouldn't admit it to Garrett, but he'd read the whole gut-wrenching story on the plane—instead of sleeping. The author had gotten into his head, and to find out the guy who spoke to him was a woman was…disconcerting.
What Garrett didn't know—what almost no one knew—was that domestic violence had been a part of Nick's daily existence for years. It still reared its ugly head every time his mom visited him, or when he talked to her on the phone. Affected him most on those rare occasions when he contemplated going home to confront his father.
He'd kept his distance, though, because he didn't trust either of them to control their rage. His mother suffered enough already. She didn't need the two of them beating each other to a pulp.
"A woman," he said again.
"Down, boy. She's not your type."
Nick didn't bother correcting Garrett's perception of him as a skirt-chasing man whore. He'd given up fighting that image. In reality, he was more of a serial monogamist, but he'd learned the hard way that it wasn't worth bucking the Hollywood machine. The press, the studio—hell, even Garrett—were happy to exploit his image as a ladies' man, truth be damned. Nothing he could do or say was going to change that. "How do you know she's not my type?"
"According to Ted, she's short, smart and sweet. That's three strikes against her in your book."
"Hey," Nick protested with a wry smile. "The women I date are sweet." Tall, leggy and vapid, sure. But sweet. He wasn't looking for a lifetime commitment. If watching his parents hadn't been enough to sour him on marriage, then dealing with the liars and cheaters in Hollywood for the past ten years had put the nail in that coffin.
Love would have to wait a very long time to catch Nick.
"I'm not kidding." Unlike Nick, Garrett wasn't smiling. "This one's off-limits. She's a serious author, not one of your blonde bimbos."
"Whatever." Garrett's threat was meaningless for one simple reason: Nick wasn't doing this play. Final answer. Game over.
Exhaustion invading like crystalline Ambien, he closed his eyes and rested his head against the back of the chair. He needed to come up with a new plan of attack or he'd find himself in a rehearsal room in Chelsea. "So the writer's legit and the play's the real deal. But why the bastard ex-husband? What about the cop?"
Garrett shook his head. "Pussy part. Besides, it's already been offered and accepted."
Nick snapped to attention. "Who?"
Garrett shuffled through some papers, doing a shit job of stalling. They both spoke fluent body language, and Nick could tell he wasn't going to like Garrett's answer. "Malcolm Justice."
"You can't be serious." It was Nick's turn to push the script back across the desk. "I wouldn't play opposite that goddamn lightweight to save my career. Even if he was the asshole ex-husband and I got to beat on his pretty-boy face every night."
"Get over it, Nick. You're Trent Savage. He's not, even if he claims he'd have been the better choice. His fans' bitching and moaning on those stupid message boards is just sour grapes."
"What about the fact that people will see me as a wife beater? Stop me in Starbucks to berate me…" The most important of those people being his mom. If she managed to sneak away from his father long enough to catch the show, she'd probably watch the whole thing from between her fingers, experiencing every blow. Stage an intervention to curb his violent tendencies. Definitely cry. A lot.
"That's the price of being an artist." Garrett poured another drink, handed it to Nick and stared out at his fortieth-floor glass-plated view.
"Some artist." Nick took a sip. He'd wondered when Garrett would get around to sharing the Maker's Mark. "I've spent the past six years playing a globe-trotting, womanizing fortune hunter. Not exactly Shakespeare."
Hell, he wasn't even sure if what he did could be considered acting anymore. And now his own agent wanted to serve him up as fodder for critics like that jerk at the Times, the one who made no secret of his disgust for what he called Broadway's "star worship."
As much as Nick hated to admit it, this whole thing scared him. It had been years since he'd been onstage. He figured he'd pick up where he left off before heading west, at some obscure way-off-Broadway theater where he could flop without risking career suicide.
Nick took another sip of bourbon. It scorched a warm trail down his throat, but not even that familiar, normally reassuring sensation could help him shake the feeling that he was in way over his head. Broadway? Who the fuck was he kidding?
"What's that motto you're always repeating?" Garrett's tone was mocking. "'Be beautiful, be brilliant'?"
"Be bold. Be brave." The words jolted him back almost fifteen years to a lakeside dock and the girl who'd first said them and changed his life.
Holly Nelson. He wondered if she remembered that night at the cast party as vividly as he did. The breeze ruffling her wavy brown hair. Her hand, warm and insistent on his arm, urging him to dream big. Her wide, bottle-green eyes seeing him completely, as weird as that sounded. Not just who he was but who he could become.
No, she probably didn't remember any of that. Probably didn't remember their kiss, either, although it was imprinted in his brain. He'd known she was inexperienced, and he'd meant it to be innocent, a thank-you for telling him what he needed to hear. But the second his lips met hers, all thoughts of innocence had disintegrated. She'd melted in his arms like butter, soft and pliant. He'd closed his eyes against the rush of pleasure as her mouth opened to him and her hands fluttered up to stroke his chest through his T-shirt. He'd been so far gone he hadn't seen Jessie Pagano sauntering across the lawn to interrupt them until it was too late. Lost camera, his ass.
While he'd thought about Holly over the years more than he cared to admit, Nick hadn't kept track of her. He owed her for kick-starting his acting career, but it would be presumptuous to track her down. He imagined her back home in suburban Stockton, married to a high school gym teacher, with kids she kissed and praised all day. What would she think of this whole Broadway thing?
"You okay, buddy?"
Garrett's voice brought Nick back to the present. He downed the rest of his bourbon and wiped his mouth, nodding. "Fine."
"So you'll meet with the production team?"
Shit. "Where and when?"
"New York." Garrett paused to finish off his drink, and once again Nick knew what followed was going to be bad news. "Tomorrow afternoon."
"No way. I just got off a goddamn plane. Can't it wait a few days?"
"No can do. Casting was supposed to be finished last week but they held off, waiting for you to return stateside. Seems someone over there's got a real hard-on for you in this part."
"Jesus Christ."
"You said it, brother. That's why I booked both of us on the red-eye."
"Pretty sure of yourself, aren't you?"
"Sure this part will catapult you to the next level, if that's what you mean. Rumor has it Spielberg's shopping a Joe DiMaggio biopic. You'd be a great fit for the title role, and this play is just the thing to put you on his radar."
Damn. Nick would give his left nut to work with Spielberg. And Joltin' Joe was a national hero.
He slumped over and ran a hand through his hair. It was a foregone conclusion Garrett would win this battle, but he felt compelled to take one last stand. "I'm starving, exhausted and in serious need of a shower."
"No problem." Garrett crossed the room and grabbed his jacket off a coatrack. "We've got just enough time to get to your place for you to clean up and pack. You can sleep and eat on the plane."
"What about you?"
Garrett picked up an overnight bag from behind the coatrack. "All set."
"Cocky son of a bitch." Nick grinned in spite of himself.
"That's why I make the big bucks." Garrett swung open his office door and strode out.
Nick grabbed the script and followed him. There was no way he'd be sleeping on the plane. If he was auditioning for the powers that be, he intended to be prepared. He needed to reread the play at least twice, break down specific scenes, write a character bio… Not easy tasks given his dyslexia.
"This better be worth it." He slipped on a pair of Oakley sunglasses. "Or I'll be in the market for a new agent. And a new best friend."
Holly Ryan turned her head, trying to catch a glimpse of her backside in the black linen dress pants, and scowled. "They're too tight. I don't know what was wrong with what I had on."
"These old things?" Her sister Noelle nudged the pale pink button-down and khakis lying in a heap on the floor with her foot. "Please. They made you look like a hausfrau. Now you've got a waist. And an ass. And how about those boobs? I feel like I've just unearthed Atlantis."
"Which brings us to our next problem." Holly toyed with the plunging neckline of the silk blouse, another loaner from her baby sister, who, at twenty-six, was a fullblown fashionista. "Isn't this a little."
"Flattering? Attractive? Eye-catching?"
"I was thinking more like revealing. Inappropriate.
Noelle put a hand to her heart and staggered as if she'd been shot. "You wound me, sis. That's my lucky Marc Jacobs chemise. I wore it to my first opening night party.
Holly trudged to her bed and collapsed. All this primping was exhausting. First, Noelle had insisted on styling Holly's notoriously stick-straight hair. Then she'd spent an hour applying just the right amount of makeup. And now she was forcing Holly to play dress-up. It was like senior prom all over again, when twelve-year-old Noelle had schooled Holly on all the "girlie girl" things that were still so foreign to her.
"It's not that I'm not grateful for all your effort, Noe." Holly flopped onto her back, bouncing a bit on the too-firm mattress. "I just don't understand why it's necessary."
"First of all," Noelle began, sitting on the bed next to her and holding up one finger in a gesture that said a list of reasons was forthcoming, "you deserve a little pampering after the past couple of years you've had. Consider it your reward for dumping that bottom-feeder, Clark."
"Can't argue with that." Holly pushed up onto her elbows. Her sister didn't know the half of it. No one did except the police and a handful of medical professionals.
"And second—" Noelle held up another finger "—you're a big-time playwright now. You've got to look the part."
Holly rolled her eyes. "I'm nowhere near big-time."
Noelle gave her a playful smack upside the head. "Wake up and smell the success, girl! Your play's headed for Broadway. With at least one, maybe even two major movie stars. I'd call that big-time."
She had a point. But Holly had a hard time thinking of herself as anything other than the perennial screw-up in a family of overachievers. Her three younger siblings had each climbed their career mountains and planted their flags on top, wisely ignoring the example of their hopeless older sister. Holly had had more jobs than hairstyles, from substitute teaching to bartending to dog walking. It had become something of a family joke, guessing what she'd "explore" next. "Holly's follies," they called them.
The "follies" stopped a couple of years into her five-year marriage, when Clark had decided he wanted her at home, happy to greet him at the door each evening with a gin and tonic in her hand and dinner on the table. Always game, Holly had tried the new role. Massive mistake.
Domestic goddesshood evaded her, at least in Clark's estimation. Dinner was always overdone or underdone, the toilets never sufficiently shiny, his shirts never starched enough. Her saving grace—what made the debacle bearable—was an article in a women's magazine about the benefits of journaling.
And thus H. N. Ryan, author, was born.
"I'll believe it when I see the marquee go up." A healthy chunk of her still doubted that would ever happen. There were too many ways things could crash and burn in high def. "Until then…"
"Honestly, Holls." Noelle pushed a strand of long blond hair, so different from Holly's, behind one ear. "You worry too much. You said the producers signed Malcolm Justice to play the cop, right?"
Holly nodded and sat up fully.
"And this new guy? The one who's reading for you today?" Noelle turned away from Holly to the selection of shoes she had lined up at the foot of the bed. Holly groaned inwardly. Not one of them had a heel less than four inches.
"No clue. All Ethan would say is that he's a grade-A film star and major heartthrob."
Which was strange, Holly thought. They never kept secrets. Ethan Phelps had been her best friend since their freshman year at Wesleyan when she'd helped him conquer Chaucer and Dickens. He'd rewarded her with the irritating nickname "Hollypop," a name he unfortunately still insisted on using.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

October's Line-Up AND The Reading Frenzy's 500 Facebook Likes GIVEAWAY!!

Well the weather is finally turning cooler, the leaves are just taking on their beautiful Autumn colors and as you get ready for all those ghosts and goblins, Prince and Princesses to show up at your door on the 31st take a break and check out my October line-up.

But first I'd like to thank all my fans
Facebook and otherwise by having a
The prize is 5 recently released novels and a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card
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Now on to the October Line-UP

October 1st - Interview with author John Lutz-Frenzy

October 2nd - Interview with Michael Siemsen-Exingency (which is our January Goodreads book club selection so stay tuned for more information)

October 7th - Partners In Crime Blond Cargo by John Lansing Book Blast

October 8th - The Edison Effect Showcase Partners In Crime Blog Tours

October 15th - My Monthly GoneReading Showcase which in case you didn't know is the philanthropic reading accessory site I partner with.

October 20th - Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth Interview + Giveaway sponsored by St. Martin's Press

October 21st - Interview with Joe Clifford- Lamant + Giveaway

October 22nd - Contest for Jennifer Armentrout - Stone Cold Touch - Where readers choose which hero the heroine chooses to end up with.

October 30th - Interview with Kat Latham - Tempting The Player

Remember there are always add ons so check in every day for fantastic interviews/giveaways and blog tours.

Enjoy Your October!!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Partners In Crime blog tour Cornered by Alan Brenham - Interview - Giveaway

Welcome to my stop on the Partners In Crime Blog Tour for Cornered by Alan Brenham. Enjoy our interview and don't forget to enter the contest below!
Thanks for stopping by!


by Alan Brenham

on Tour September 2014

Cornered by Alan Brenham

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: July 19, 2014
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781626941380/9781626941373
Purchase Links:


He’s haunted by the memory of a kidnapping case gone wrong…
Not wanting history to repeat itself, Detective Matt Brady struggles to solve the disappearances of seven young women, but he quickly finds himself pitted against a criminal organization that knows as much about police procedure as he does—an organization that will do whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of him. His troubles are compounded when a young veterinarian injects herself into the investigation and is targeted to become victim number eight. When he tries to protect her, he finds himself in the crosshairs of a professional cop killer. Can Brady solve the case in time to save his new love, or will this investigation be the death of both of them?


"Alan Brenham’s Cornered is a taunt thriller filled with murderous twists and turns that will satisfy readers who love good crime fiction. As a cop and a lawyer, Brenham has been there and done that and in this, his second outing, the authenticity of his storytelling ability continues to shine through." - Michael McGarrity, New York Times Bestselling Author of Hard Country & Backlands

Read an excerpt:

Brady moved next to Killebrew. “So you find anything?”
“No prints. But we did find a nine millimeter shell casing outside.” He pointed at the door. “The witness said she used a key to open the door when Becker failed to answer the doorbell.”
Brady knelt down next to the body and peered at her head. One apparent gunshot wound above the right eye. Her half-opened dilated pupils stared straight up towards the ceiling.
Killebrew stepped close to the wall opposite the front door, pointing at a hole. Blood spatter was on the lower half of the wall. “We removed the bullet from here. The round appears to be a nine millimeter. Same as the shell casing.”
He stood up and surveyed the living room. The front window was covered with flowery-patterned drapes. A piano sat in the far corner by the front window. He was no expert on furniture but the furniture appeared to be fairly expensive pieces. He saw some mail lying on the coffee table. Using a pen, he sifted through it, checking the sender’s address, but nothing jumped out at him. A family portrait of her, an ordinary-looking man with narrow shoulders he assumed was Burt Smith, and twins—a girl and a boy—sat on the end of the table.

 Interview with Alan

Alan Welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
The cover on your new novel Cornered is fantastic.
Did you have any say in the choosing and do you think it represents your novel well?
Yes, I did. The artist created a draft cover image and from that point we went back and forth with changes until we finally agreed on the present cover. I wanted a different color and format arrangement than the one he did for Price of Justice. I think it does a fantastic job of depicting what Cornered is all about.

 Tell us a little about Cornered.
Cornered is a story about a small town detective trying hard to solve the disappearances of young women while trying to exorcise a long-time demon from a kidnapping case gone wrong. His efforts change his status from hunter to hunted. I chose Temple for the setting because I used to be a Temple PD detective and was very familiar with the city’s geography.

 Alan what a varied and distinguished career background you have in both law enforcement and being an attorney, both in the US and overseas. What do you think in your background most helps you in your being a novelist?
Thank you. My law enforcement experience opened a lot of doors allowing me to consult with other detectives in Texas. It’s been a while since I worked a criminal case from a law enforcement perspective so their help is very important.
My criminal trial experience both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney gives me the ability to make the story more realistic. It also lessens the need for some fact-checking.

Alan Cornered is your second novel, your first novel Price of Justice was voted best in Police/Crime fiction from the Texas Association of Authors in 2013, a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Awards, and a finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards. Wow! Congratulations!
This is a hard act to follow. How did winning these awards affect the writing of the second novel Cornered? Or did it?
Thank you. They spurred me on to make Cornered even better. One always likes a pat on the back for a good job. I hope Cornered fares as well with readers and judges as Price of Justice did. Time will tell.

Alan you’re now working on your 4th novel. Has your writing changed from number one to now?
It’s my belief that one never stops learning. It was like that as a law enforcement officer - new ways of doing things. As an attorney, reading the latest cases and keeping up with court decisions which affected my own cases was a daily thing.
Now I spend non-writing hours studying a lot of different authors in the thriller genre - breaking down how their characters blend into the plot as well as techniques for creating and maintaining conflict and suspense. So, in answer to your question, I believe my writing has gotten better. The readers will be the final judges.

Alan do you write to a certain audience or do you think your novels cross the gender barrier?
I’ve written all three novels featuring strong male and female characters with a romantic twist added in so they would appeal to both genders. At the same time, these three novels, Price of Justice, Cornered, and Rampage, are aimed at an adult audience due to the language and the violence. My next novel, at least at this stage of planning, will seek a wider audience while still crossing the gender barrier.

Alan, Cornered has received some wonderful critical/editorial and reader reviews. As an author what’s your take on reviews? Do you think they help or hurt book sales?
Reviews, good or bad, are one person’s opinion of the worth of a book. That said, I believe those reviews are helpful to potential readers in deciding whether they want to purchase a certain book. But I don’t think they are the sole determining factor behind whether a reader buys this book instead of that one.     

Alan you’re a pretty connected author. How much time per day do you devote to social media/your website etc..
For me, it’s important to keep an active social media presence. As soon as I park myself and my cup of coffee in front of the computer monitor, my first stop are the social media pages - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. During the course of an average day, I’ll spend most of the morning reading posts and connecting with both old and new followers.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.
Good luck with this book and all your future endeavors.

Author Bio:

Alan Behr served as a law enforcement officer and criminal investigator for seventeen years before earning a law degree from Baylor University. After obtaining his law license, he worked as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney for twenty-two years. His personal and official travels took him to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Alaska and almost every island in the Caribbean. He has lived in Berlin, Germany while working with US military forces. After retiring from government service, he has authored two crime novels - Price of Justice and Cornered - under the pen name of Alan Brenham. He is presently working on two more novels. Alan and his wife, Lillian, currently live in the Austin, Texas area.

Tour Participants:

To Sign up either complete the linky with your Blog Name, Requested Book Format, Requested Post Date(s) and how you'd like to Host (Review or Other Option) or email me at Thank you for your interest in this tour.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview with NYT Bestseller Carla Neggers-Harbor Island + Review courtesy RT Reviews Magazine

Please welcome USA Today and NYT bestselling author Carla Neggers, a personal favorite who I'm lucky enough to review for RT Magazine. Carla is here today to talk about her latest Donovan and Sharpe novel Harbor Island and a little about her last Irish trip.
Carla Take it away!!!

  • ISBN-13: 9780778316534
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/26/2014
  • Series: Sharpe & Donovan Series , #4
  • Pages: 352


In this vivid and suspenseful addition to her widely acclaimed Sharpe & Donovan series, New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers takes readers on a heart-stopping journey from Boston to Ireland to the rocky coast of Maine
Emma Sharpe, granddaughter of world-renowned art detective Wendell Sharpe, is a handpicked member of a small Boston-based FBI team. For the past decade Emma and her grandfather have been trailing an elusive serial art thief. The first heist was in Ireland, where an ancient Celtic cross was stolen. Now the Sharpes receive a replica of the cross after every new theft—reminding them of their continued failure to capture their prey.

Read an excerpt:

Boston, Massachusetts
As she wound down her run on the Boston waterfront, Emma Sharpe could feel the effects ofjet lag in every stride. Three days home from Dublin, she was still partly on Irish time and had awakened early on the cool November Saturday. She'd strapped her snub-nosed .38 onto her hip, slipped into her worn-out running shoes and was off. With less than a half mile left in her five-mile route, she was confident she hadn't been followed. Not that as an art-crimes specialist she was an expert at spotting a tail, but she was an FBI agent and knew the basics.
Matt Yankowski, the special agent in charge of the small Boston-based unit Emma had joined in March, hadn't minced words when he'd addressed his agents yesterday on a video conference call. "This Sharpe thief knows who we are. He knows where we work. It's also possible he knows where we live. If he doesn't, he could be trying to find out. Be extra vigilant." Yank had looked straight at Emma. "Especially you, Emma."
Yes. Especially her.
This Sharpe thief.
Well, it was true. She was, after all, the granddaughter of Wendell Sharpe, the octogenarian private art detective who had been on the trail of this particular serial art thief for a decade. Her brother, Lucas, now at the helm of Sharpe Fine Art Recovery, was also deeply involved in the stepped-up search for their thief, a clever, brazen individual—probably a man—who had managed to elude capture since his first heist in a small village on the south Irish coast.
Emma slowed her pace and turned onto the wharf where she had a small, ground-level apartment in a three-story brick building that had once been a produce warehouse. Her front windows looked out on a marina that shared the wharf. A nice view, but people passing by to get to their boats would often stop outside her windows for a chat, a cigarette, a phone call. Although she'd grown up on the water in southern Maine, she hadn't expected her Boston apartment to be such a fishbowl when she'd snapped it up in March, weeks before the boating season.
Had the thief peeked in her windows one day?
She ducked into her apartment, expecting to find Colin still in bed or on the sofa drinking coffee. Special Agent Colin Donovan. A deep-cover agent, another Mainer and her fiancé as of four days ago. He'd proposed to her in a Dublin pub. "Emma Sharpe, I'm madly in love with you, and I want to be with you forever."
She smiled at the memory as she checked the cozy living area, bedroom and bathroom. Colin wasn't anywhere in the 300-square-foot apartment they now more or less shared. Then she found the note he'd scrawled on the back of an envelope and left on the counter next to the coffee press in the galley kitchen. "Back soon."
Not a man to waste words.
He'd filled the kettle and scooped coffee into the press, and he'd taken her favorite Maine wild-blueberry jam out of the refrigerator.
Still smiling, Emma headed for the shower. She was wide awake after her run, early even by her standards. After three weeks in Ireland, she and Colin had thoroughly adapted to the five-hour time difference. Their stay started with a blissful couple of weeks in an isolated cottage, getting to know each other better. Then they got caught up in the disappearance and murder of an American diver and dolphin-and-whale enthusiast named Lindsey Hargreaves. Now, back home in Boston, Emma was reacquainting herself with Eastern Standard Time.
Making love with Colin last night had helped keep her from falling asleep at eight o'clock—one in the morning in Ireland. He seemed impervious to jet lag. His undercover work with its constant dangers and frequent time-zone changes no doubt had helped, but Emma also suspected he was just like that.
Colin would know if someone tried to follow him. No question.
She pulled on a bathrobe and headed back to the kitchen. She made coffee and toast and took them to her inexpensive downsize couch, which was pushed up against an exposed-brick wall and perpendicular to the windows overlooking the marina. She collected up a stack of photographs she and Colin had pulled out last night, including one of herself as a novice at twenty-one. Colin had put it under the light and commented on her short hair and "sensible" shoes. She wore her hair longer now, and although she would never be one for four-inch heels, her shoes and boots were more fashionable than the ones she'd worn at the convent.
Colin had peered closer at the photo. "Ah, but look at that cute smile and the spark in your green eyes." He'd grinned at her. "Sister Brigid was just waiting for a rugged lobsterman to wander into her convent."
Emma had gone by the name Brigid during her short time as a novice with the Sisters of the Joyful Heart, a small order on a quiet peninsula not far from her hometown on the southern Maine coast. In September, a longtime member of the convent and Emma's former mentor, an expert in art conservation, was murdered. Yank had dispatched Colin to keep an eye on her. He'd tried to pass himself off as a lobsterman—he'd been one before joining the Maine marine patrol and then the FBI—but Emma had quickly realized what he was up to.
"I bet you were wearing red lace undies," he'd said as he'd set the photo back on the table.
Emma had felt herself flush. "I don't wear red undies now."
He'd given her one of his sexy, blue-eyed winks. "Wait until Valentine's Day."
They'd abandoned the photos and had ended up in bed, making love until she'd finally collapsed in his arms. He was dark-haired, broad-shouldered and scarred, a man who relied on his natural instincts and experience to size up a situation instantly. He didn't ruminate, and he wasn't one to sit at a desk for more than twenty minutes at a time. She was more analytical, more likely to see all the ins and outs and possibilities—and she was a ruminator.
As different as they were, Emma thought, she and Colin also had similarities. The FBI, their Maine upbringings, their strong families, their love of Ireland. Their whirlwind romance wasn't allan "opposites attract" phenomenon, a case of forbidden love that had come on fast and hard. They hadn't told anyone yet of their engagement. On Monday night in Dublin, Colin had presented her with a beautiful diamond ring, handmade by a jeweler on the southwest Irish coast. She'd reluctantly slipped the ring off her finger when they'd arrived at Boston's Logan Airport from Dublin late Tuesday.
Emma was so lost in thought, she jumped when her cell phone vibrated on the table. She scooped it up, expecting to see Co-lin's name on the screen. Instead, it was a number she didn't recognize. A wrong number? She clicked to answer, but before she could say anything, a woman spoke. "Is this Emma Sharpe? Agent Sharpe with the FBI?"
"Yes, it is. Who are you?"
"What? Oh. My name's Rachel Bristol. I need to talk to you. It's important."
"All right. Please go ahead."
"Not on the phone. In person. Meet me on Bristol Island. It's in Boston Harbor. There's a bridge. You don't have to take a boat."
"Ms. Bristol, what's this about?"
"It's about your art thief. Bristol Island, Agent Sharpe. Be at the white cottage in thirty minutes or less. There's a trail by the marina." She paused. "Come alone. Please. I will talk only to you."
Rachel Bristol—or whoever she was—disconnected. Emma sprang to her feet. Thirty minutes didn't give her much time.
She ran to her bedroom and dressed in dark jeans, a dark blue sweater, a leather jacket and boots. She grabbed her credentials and strapped on her service pistol. She didn't leave a note for Colin. She would text him on the way.
Meeting confidential informants was a tricky business even with protocols, training and experience. But it didn't matter. Not this time.
Her thief.
Her problem.
• *
"Check the bathroom," Matt Yankowski said, making an obvious effort to hide his mix of urgency and irritation over the whereabouts of his wife, Lucy.
Colin Donovan frowned as he stood on the uneven wood floor in the sole bedroom of the senior FBI agent's hovel of an apartment near Boston's South Station. It was bigger than Emma's, but it had roaches and rusted appliances and a shower out of Psycho. He'd had a quick peek into the bathroom. He hadn't gone in and checked for signs of Lucy's presence. What was the point? If he'd been Lucy Yankowski, he'd have gone running from this place, too.
But this was Yank, technically Colin's boss and a man on his own in Ireland, worried about his wife and his marriage. Colin didn't want Yank to have to explain. Easier, smoother and more tactful just to check the damn bathroom.
Colin pushed the bathroom door open the rest of the way and stepped onto the cracked black-and-white hexagon tile, so old and worn that the black tiles by the shower stall were now gray. With his cell phone pressed to his ear, he glanced at the pedestal sink and the towel rack. "Yank, do you know your towel rack is on crooked?"
"Yeah, and I don't care. It does the job. See anything?"
"Guy stuff. Shaving brush, shaving soap, razor. Nothing remotely feminine."
"Check the shower. See if she left her shampoo in there."
"I guarantee you she didn't use the shower. She'd have gone to a hotel before she used your shower, Yank. Damn."
"Just check, will you?"
"That means I have to touch the shower curtain."
"It's clean. It's just stained. It came with the place. I didn't want to spring for a new one."
"You can get a new shower curtain for next to nothing."
Yank made no comment. Colin pulled open the curtain. He figured he could wash his hands when he was done. Yank was tidy and clean despite his rathole apartment, but the shower and shower curtain were disgusting. Only word for it.
"No shampoo at all in here," Colin said, stepping back from the shower. "Just a bar of orange soap."
"My coal-tar soap. I didn't bring it to Ireland with me."
"I could have gone my whole life without knowing you use coal-tar soap, Yank."
"Think I like having you search my place?"
Colin sighed and went back into the bedroom. "Lucy wasn't here, or if she was, she didn't stay long. Your bed's made. Your fridge is empty. Your bathroom and kitchen sinks are clean. The roaches—"
"I don't need to hear about the roaches," Yank said. "I've been living there almost a year. I know all about the damn roaches. I got a cheap place and rent month-to-month because I thought Lucy would move with me. We would sell our house in northern Virginia and buy a place in Boston. Made sense to rough it a little."
He'd roughed it more than a little, but Colin let it go. He returned to the kitchen. A roach was parading across the floor.
Where there was one cockroach, there were a hundred cockroaches. Often like that in their line of work, too. But Yank didn't need to hear that right now.
"Where do you think she is?" Colin asked.
"Off stewing."
"Paris. Prague. Tahiti. How the hell do I know? I'm just her husband."
Colin could hear the strain in Yank's voice. He was in his early forties, a classic, square-jawed, buttoned-down FBI agent with hardly ever a wrinkle in his suit. He and Colin had met four years ago when Colin had volunteered for his first undercover mission. Matt Yankowski, a legendary field agent, had been his contact agent through two years of grueling, dangerous, isolating work. Then the director of the FBI had called in Colin for another mission—one even more grueling, dangerous and isolating. It had ended in October with the arrest of the last of a network of ruthless illegal arms traffickers. They'd almost killed his family. A friend. Emma.
"When was the last time you were in contact with Lucy?" Colin asked.
"Sunday. Before I left for Ireland. It wasn't a good conversation. Leave it at that. I called her on Thursday and left her a message. She didn't call back. I texted and emailed her yesterday and again this morning. Zip."
"Did you tell her you were going to Ireland?"
"No, I did not." Yank grunted, as if he was already regretting having called Colin. "All right, thanks for taking a look. I just wanted to be sure she wasn't in Boston passed out in my apartment."
"What about passed out at home in Virginia?"
"Not your problem."
"Yank, I don't have to tell you that you need her back in touch soon. With all that's going on, we can't have your wife AWOL."
"That's right, Donovan. You don't have to tell me."
"Yank…" Colin hesitated a half beat. "Have you talked to the director lately?"
"Yeah. He says he's retiring." Yank sounded relieved at the change in subject. "He's moving to Mount Desert Island to be a grandfather and write his memoirs. That's why you two bonded, you know. He loves Maine."
"Maybe he and I could do puffin tours together."
"I could see that, but I don't know who'd scare tourists more, you or him. I've heard some rumors about his replacement. All the names give me hives, but it'll be what it'll be. Hey, you wouldn't want to spray for roaches before you leave my place, would you? There's a can of Raid under the sink."
A can of Raid and a million roaches. Colin debated, then said, "I'll spray for roaches if you stop at the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dawson Street in Dublin before you leave and pick me up a good bottle of Irish whiskey."
"Let me know when Lucy is back in touch."
Colin disconnected. He sprayed for roaches—and sprayed actual roaches—and then got the hell out of Yank's walk-up as fast as he could. The only reason the place didn't have rats was because it was on the third floor. Needless to say, there was no security in the building. There was barely a front door.
Colin welcomed the bright, cool November air. He had woken up to Yank's email asking him to check his apartment for Lucy and telling him where to find a spare key in his office a few blocks from Emma's place. She'd already left on her run. Bemused by Yank's request, Colin had walked over to the highly secure, unassuming waterfront building that housed HIT, short for "high impact target" and the name Yank had chosen for his handpicked team. Yank had shoehorned Colin into HIT in October. Colin had packed his bags for Ireland a few weeks later to decompress. He'd expected to hike the Irish hills and drink Irish whiskey and Guinness alone, but Emma had joined him in his little cottage in the Kerry hills. She hadn't waited for an invitation, but that was Emma Sharpe. His ex-nun, art historian, art conservationist, art-crimes expert—the love of his life—was the bravest woman he knew. Which had its downside, since she'd do anything regardless of the risk. He saw he had a text message from her.
Meeting CI on Bristol Island. Back soon. Had a good run.
A confidential informant? Emma? Bristol Island? Where the hell was Bristol Island? Colin texted back.
Are you alone?
He buttoned his coat and continued toward the HIT offices and her apartment, looking up Bristol Island on his phone. It was one of more than thirty Boston Harbor islands, unusual in that it was privately owned and not part of the Boston Harbor National Recreational Area. He waited but Emma didn't respond to his text. He didn't want to call her in the middle of a delicate meeting. As with Lucy Yankowski, Emma's silence didn't necessarily mean anything.
It didn't necessarily not mean anything, either.