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The heartbreak she can’t forget . . .
The one man who can stop them both.
When Samantha Fairchild witnesses a murder in the wine cellar of the restaurant where she works, the Harvard-bound law student becomes the next target of a professional assassin. Desperate for protection the authorities won’t provide, Sam seeks help from Vivi Angelino, an investigative reporter who recruits her brother, Zach, to protect Samantha.
A Special Forces vet with the scars to prove he’s equally fearless and flawed, Zach takes the job, despite the fact that he and Sam once shared a lusty interlude that ended when he left for war and disappeared from her life. Now, as they crack a conspiracy that leads to Boston’s darkest corners, Sam and Zach must face their fears, desires, and doubts, before a hired killer gets a second shot…
“When it comes to dishing up great romantic suspense, Roxanne St. Claire is the author you want.” — RT Book Reviews
Table of Contents
A Preview of "SHIVER OF FEAR"
A Preview of "FACE OF DANGER"
"What do you want?"
Us. Love. Forever. Sight. Wholeness. You. Nothing Zaccaria Angelino could ever have.
"What do you want?" Sam asked again, more softly, defeat in her voice.
He went with the easiest. "You."
"I want you, too, Zaccaria." She whispered his name and held out her arms. "I want you so much."
But he couldn't move into those arms. "You deserve better."
So she closed the space between them, taking that one step that he couldn't. And his heart folded in half with love for her.
"Zach." She cupped his face like she had in her apartment, her warm, dry palm closing over his scar. "I don't want better."
He just looked at her.
"I want you," she said. "Just like you are."
He couldn't speak, couldn't utter a word that was in his heart.
But Sam didn't notice, because she was still touching him. She inched up on her toes and kissed his good cheek. Then his scarred cheek. Then his mouth. Heat coiled up inside him, his body betraying his brain, his need so much bigger than his pride. "I want to make love to you," she whispered.
"Hot, fun, fast, and fearless! I want one of these bodyguards."
—CHERRY ADAIR, New York Times bestselling author on Take Me Tonight
I understand you got into that little law school across the river."
Samantha Fairchild scooped up the cocktails from the service bar, sending a smile to the man who'd been subtly checking her out from behind rimless glasses. "Our trusty bartender's been bragging about me again."
Behind the bar, Wendy waved a martini shaker like a sparkler, her eyes twinkling. "Just a little, Sam. You're our only Harvard-bound server."
Sam nodded to the light-haired gentleman, not really wanting to start a conversation when Paupiette's dining room was wall-to-wall with a Saturday night crowd. Anyway, he wasn't her type. Too pale, too blond, too… safe.
"Nothing to be ashamed of, a Harvard law degree," the man said. "I've got one myself."
"Really? What did you do with it?"
The smile widened. "Print money, like you will."
Spoken like a typical Harvard law grad. "I'm not that interested in the money. I have another plan for the future." One she doubted a guy dripping in Armani and Rolex would appreciate. Unless he was a defense attorney. She eyed him just as two hands landed on her shoulders from behind.
"I seated Joshua Sterling and company in your section." Keegan Kennedy's soft voice had a rumble of warning in it, probably because she was flirting with lawyers in the bar when her tables were full. "I'll expect a kickback."
"That sounds fair." She shrugged out of his grip, balancing the cocktail tray.
"I bet he's a generous tipper, Sam," the lawyer said as he placed two twenties on the bar and flicked his wrist for the bartender to keep the change. "You'll need it for the Con Law texts alone."
She gave him a wistful smile, not too encouraging, but not a complete shutdown, either. "Thanks…"
"Larry," he supplied. "Maybe I'll stop in before you start classes with some first-year pointers."
"Great, Larry." She forced a more encouraging smile. He looked like a nice guy. Dull as dry toast, but then he probably wouldn't kick her in the heart with an… army boot. "You do that."
She turned to peer into the main dining area, catching a glimpse of a party of six being led by the maître d's second-in-command.
Joshua Sterling's signature silver hair, prematurely gray and preternaturally attractive, glistened under the halogen droplights, hung to highlight the haute cuisine but casting a perfect halo over this particular patron.
It wasn't just his tipping that interested Sam. The last time Boston's favorite columnist had dined here, they'd gotten into a lively debate about the Innocence Mission, and he ended up writing a whole article in the Globe about the nonprofit. The Boston office where Sam volunteered had received a huge influx of cash because of that story.
"Good work, Keegan." Sam offered a grateful smile to the maître d', who had vacillated between pain in the ass and godsend since he'd started a few months ago. "Count on ten percent."
He laid a wine list on her cocktail tray, threatening the delicate balance of the top-heavy martini glasses. "He tips on wine, so talk him into something from the vault. Make my cut fifteen percent and I promise you we will not run out of the tartare. It's Sterling's favorite."
She grinned. "Deal, you little Irish weasel."
After delivering the cocktails to another table, she headed toward the newly seated party, nodding to a patron who signaled for a check while she paused to top off the Cakebread chardonnay for the lovers in the corner, all the while assessing just who Joshua Sterling was entertaining tonight.
Next to him was his beautiful wife, a stunning young socialite named Devyn with sharp-edged cheekbones and waves of golden hair down to trainer-toned shoulders. Two other couples completed a glossy party of six, one of the women finishing an animated story as they settled into their seats, delivering a punch line with a finger pointed at Joshua and eliciting a hoot of laughter from the rest. Except for Devyn, who leaned back expressionless while a menu was placed in front of her.
Joshua put a light hand on his wife's back, waving casually to someone across the dining room. He whispered to her; then he beamed at Sam as she approached the table.
"Hello, Samantha." Of course he remembered her. That was his gift, his charm. "All ready to tackle Hahvahd?" He drew out the word, giving it an exaggerated Boston accent.
"Classes start in two months," she said, handing over the wine list, open to the priciest selection. "So, I'm ready, but nervous."
"From what you told me about that volunteer work of yours, I think you've got more legal background and experience than half that first-year class. You'll kick butt over there." He added a smile to his laser-blue gaze, one that had been getting more and more television airtime as a talking head for liberal issues on the cable news shows.
No one doubted that Joshua Sterling could hit the big time down in New York.
"I hope you're right," she said, stepping aside for the junior maître d' to snap a black napkin on Devyn Sterling's dark trousers. "Otherwise I'm going to give it all up and go back into advertising."
"Don't doubt yourself," Joshua warned with a sharp look. "You've got too much upstairs to push computers and burgers. You need to save innocent victims of the screwed-up system."
She gave him a tight smile of gratitude, wishing she were that certain of her talents. Of course, doling out bullshit was another gift of his. "What's the occasion?" she asked, wanting to get the conversation off her and onto a nice big drink order.
Joshua waved toward the brunette who'd been telling the story. "We're celebrating Meredith's birthday."
"Happy birthday." Sam nodded to her. "We have two bottles of the '94 Tattinger left."
"Nice call for champagne," he said, "but I think this is a wine crowd. You like Bordeaux, right, Meredith?"
The woman leaned forward on one elbow, a slow smile forming as she looked at him. "Something complex and elegant."
Sam waited a beat, as the woman's gaze stayed fixed on her host. Devyn shifted in her seat, and Sam could practically taste the tension crackling in the air.
"Let me get the sommelier," Sam suggested quickly. "I bet he has the perfect Bordeaux."
"I know he does." Joshua handed Sam the wine list back without even looking at it. "Tell Rene we'd like two bottles of the 1982 Chateau Haut-Brion."
"Excellent selection." Was it ever. "While I get that, can we offer you sparkling water or bottled?"
They made their choices, which Sam whispered to a busboy before darting down the narrow passage from the dining area to the kitchen, her shoes bouncing on the rubber floor as she left the gentle conversation and music of the dining room for the clatter and sizzle of the kitchen.
"Where's Rene?" she asked, a smell of buttery garlic and seared meat rolling over her.
"I'm right here." The door to the cellars flipped open as the beefy sommelier hustled toward her, carrying far too many bottles. Two more servers came in right behind him with similar armloads.
"Rene, I need two bottles of '82 Haut-Brion, stat."
"After I help with the upstairs party," he shot back.
"Then give me the key and a general idea where I can find the '82s."
"You're not getting the '82s, sister." The faux French accent he used with customers was absent as he deftly set bottles on the prep deck. "One slip of the hand and you just cost us both a month's pay."
"Come on, Rene. I can get two bottles of wine, for crying out loud."
"You can wait like everyone else, Sam." He started handing bottles to one of the other servers, who gave her a smug look of victory.
The doors from the dining area swung open, and Sam squinted down the hallway, just in time to get a glimpse of Joshua strolling across the room, reaching out to greet a gorgeous former model and her date sitting at the deuce near the bar. So he wasn't in a huge rush for his wine. She glanced at the plates on the stainless steel pass, calculating exactly how much time she had to get this wine poured before her four orders for the old Brahmins on ten came up.
Not much. She wanted the Haut-Brion delivered first or she'd lose her whole rhythm.
One more of the waitstaff came up from the cellar, several bottles in hand. "This is the last of it, Rene. I just have to go back down and lock up."
"I'll lock it," Sam said, snatching the keys.
"No." Rene sliced her with a glare. "I'll get them, Sam. Five minutes is all."
"Come on, Rene."
The door from the dining room flung open and Keegan marched through. "Sterling wants his wine," he announced, his gaze hard on Rene.
"Then you get it," Rene said. "Not Sam."
But Sam was already on her way. "Thanks, Keegan," she said quietly as she passed. "You know I'll slather you with payola tonight." As she opened the door, she called back to Rene, "The Bordeaux are in the back nests, the Haut-Brion on the lower half, right?"
"Sam, if you fuck this up—"
"I will dust the bottles! You can watch the video tomorrow," she added with a laugh. As if that prehistoric camera was ever used.
"I will!" Rene shouted. "I just put a new tape in."
She hustled down the poorly lit stairs, brushing by one of the sous-chefs carrying a sack of flour from the dry storage pantry. Farther underground, the temperature dropped, a chill emanating from the stone walls as she reached the heavy door of the wine vault.
A breeze blew the strands of hair that had escaped her ponytail, making her pause and look down the dark hallway. Was the alley exit open again? The busboys were always out there smoking, but they sure as shit better not be taking lung therapy when Paupiette's was this packed.
Tarragon and rosemary wafted from dry storage, but the tangy scents disappeared the moment she cranked the brass handle of the wine vault, the hinges snapping and squeaking as she entered. In this dim and dusty room, it just smelled of earth and musk.
She flipped on the overhead, but the single bare bulb did little to illuminate the long, narrow vault or the racks that jutted out to form a five-foot-high maze. She navigated her way to the back, her rubber soles soundless on the stone floor. Dust tickled her sinuses and the fifty-eight-degree air finished the job. She didn't even fight the urge to sneeze, managing to pull out a tissue in time to catch the noisy release.
Behind the back row, she tucked into the corner where the most expensive wines were kept and started blowing and brushing the bottles, almost instantly finding the distinctive gold and white label of Haut-Brion.
Sliding the bottle out, she dusted it clean, and read the year 2000. In racks stocked chronologically, that made her a good eighteen years from where she wanted to be. She coughed softly, more dust catching in her throat. Crouching lower, she eased out another, 1985.
Getting closer. On her haunches, her fingers closed over a bottle just as the door opened, the sound of the brass knob echoing through the vault. She started to stand but a man's hushed voice stopped her.
Freezing, she worked to place the voice, but couldn't. It was low, gruff, masculine.
There was something urgent in the tone. Something that stilled her.
She waited for a footstep; if he was another server, he'd walk to a stack to find his bottle of wine. If it was Rene, he'd call her name, knowing she was down there, and anyone else…
No one else should be down here.
Her pulse kicked a little as she waited for the next sound, unease prickling up her spine.
Nothing moved. No one breathed.
Praying her knees wouldn't creak and give her away, she rose an inch, wanting to get high enough to see over the stack. As she did, the knob cracked again, and this time the squeak of the hinges dragged out as though the door were being opened very slowly. She rose a little higher to peek over the top rack of bottles.
A man stood flattened against the wall, his hand to his chest, inside a jacket, his head turned to face the door. In the shadows, she could hardly make out his profile, taking in his black shirt, the way his dark hair blended into the wall behind him. Not a server. No one she'd ever seen before.
He stood perfectly still as the door opened wider, and Sam tore her gaze from the stranger to the new arrival. The overhead bulb caught a glimmer of silver hair, instantly recognizable. What the hell was Josh—
The move was so fast, Sam barely saw the man's hand flip from the jacket. She might have gasped at the sight of a freakishly long pistol, but the whoomf of sound covered her breath, the blast muffled like a fist into a pillow.
Joshua's face contorted, then froze in shock. He folded to the floor, disappearing from her sight.
The instinct for self-preservation pushed Sam down behind the rack, her head suddenly light, her thoughts so electrified that she couldn't pull a coherent one to the forefront. Only that image of Joshua Sterling getting a bullet in his head.
She closed her eyes but the mental snapshot didn't disappear. It seared her lids, branded her brain.
Something scraped the floor and her whole being tensed. She squeezed the bottle in her right hand, finding balance on the balls of her feet, ready to pounce on whoever came around the corner.
She could blind him with the bottle. Crash it on his head. Buy time and help.
But no one came around the rack. Instead, she heard the sound of metal on metal, a click, and a low grunt from the front of the vault. What the hell?
Still primed to fight for her life, she stood again, just high enough to see the man up on a crate, deftly removing the video camera.
The security camera that was aimed directly at the back stacks.
She ducked again, but it was too late. She heard him working the screws in the wall, trying to memorize his profile. A bump in a patrician nose. A high forehead. Pockmarks in a grouping low on his cheek.
Dust danced under and up her nose, tickling, tormenting, teasing a sneeze. Oh, please, no.
She held her breath as the camera cracked off the wall, and the man's feet hit the floor. In one more second, the door squeaked, slammed shut, and he was gone.
Could Joshua still be alive? She had to help him. She waited exactly five strangling heartbeats before sliding around the stacks and running up the middle aisle.
Lifeless blue eyes stared back at her, his face colorless as a stream of deep red blood oozed from a single hole in his temple. The bottle slipped out of her hands, the explosion of glass barely registering as she stared at the dead man.
God, no. God, no. Not again.
She dropped to her hands and knees with a whimper of disbelief, fighting the urge to reach out and touch the man who just minutes ago laughed with friends, explained a joke to his wife, ordered rare, expensive Bordeaux.
This couldn't be happening. It couldn't be.
The blood pooled by his cheek, mixing with the wine. The smell roiled her stomach, gagging her as bile rose in her throat and broken glass sliced her knees and palms.
For the second time in her life, she'd seen one man take another's life. Only this time, her face was caught on tape.
Sam hatched her entire escape plan from the floor of her bedroom closet. There, with her laptop and phone, she figured out how to fashion a disguise, sneak out of her apartment in the middle of the night, and maybe not get caught and killed in the act. Maybe.
Until that very moment, though, she didn't know where she would go once she got out. She needed a friend, obviously, but more than that, she needed someone who could help her find out just how close the police were to catching Joshua Sterling's killer. 'Cause they sure as hell weren't telling her anything.
And then, surfing through news stories on her computer, hidden in her closet with her apartment door barricaded, she saw the name and instantly had her answer.
Vivi Angelino. Normally, she would not be high on Sam's list of friends—former friends, in this case, since they'd grown so far apart in the last three years—who could help in this particular jam. But seeing her byline as the author of the lead story on the Boston Bullet crime investigative website catapulted Vivi to the top her list.
Vivi, a relentless reporter with a nose for news and an inquisitive streak that didn't know the meaning of the words "no comment," was the perfect person to help. She would know what was going on inside the Boston PD, she would know if they had any suspects in custody or under investigation, and she would understand exactly why the police weren't offering any protection to the eyewitness.
She knew Sam's history with the local cops. She also knew… no, they'd just keep him out of it. The man had done enough damage to Vivi and Sam's friendship. She wasn't about to let the hurt of hearing his name keep her from getting the help she needed.
She opened her phone and scrolled down the recent calls. Now she understood why Vivi had called her twice this past week after several months without even a hello. Sam hadn't considered returning the call—she hadn't really talked to anyone but the police this past week. But Vivi probably wanted to interview Paupiette's employees if she was covering the crime. Well, Sam would give Vivi the scoop of a lifetime… if she could give Sam some inside information.
She tapped the keypad of her phone and sent the text.
Hey. Saw your story on Boston Bullet. R u home?
That was innocuous enough in case anyone was tracking her calls or texts.
She hit Send and let her gaze linger on the headline.
Police Hit Brick Wall in Sterling Case.
The headache that had started in the wine cellar a week ago clobbered Sam's temples with every word Vivi had written.
No break in the case.
No clues to the killing.
No evidence, no motive, no suspect… no witnesses. Police suspect professional assassin at work.
Two words stood out at her. No witnesses. That meant the police still hadn't released the fact that there was an eyewitness; at least they'd kept their word on that.
What other information were they withholding? Sam had to know if they had anyone in custody or on a suspicious persons list. And, despite the man who'd come between them, Vivi was definitely the person to help her find out.
But she couldn't risk having this conversation on the phone. This would have to be in person.
Requiring her escape plan to work.
In her hands, the BlackBerry vibrated, flashing Vivi's name like a lifeline.
Wow. Long time no hear from. How are you?
Yeah, really long time.
How to respond… how was she? Scared to death, in hiding, desperate? She went for direct. Can I come over?
She squeezed the phone, willing Vivi to understand that she meant now, and not ask why.
Sure. Come on over.
She stared at the response, affection and appreciation swelling her heart. Now that was a true friend. No questions asked—a minor miracle considering this was Vivi Angelino, and every sentence started with who, what, when, where, and why.
Thanks, she wrote back, then turned the phone off before a barrage of questions lit the screen. Sam would answer in person. If she had the answers.
Staying low so she didn't make a shadow, she crawled across her bedroom floor for the wig and sneakers. She'd found the black wig in the back of the closet, a leftover from some college Halloween party costume when she'd gone as Cleopatra.
Well, Cleo was about to buy Sam some air and information and, she hoped, a disguise that would get her right past anyone watching for her. Right past him.
Assuming he was out there. She had to make that assumption; it was the only way to stay alive.
She stuffed her hair under the wig, itchy where the cheap netting clawed her scalp. Still low enough not to be seen through the windows, she shoved her feet into a pair of Nikes, tied the laces, and duckwalked to the bedroom door. She moved stealthily through the windowless hallway, then crawled through the living room and made her way across the linoleum floor to the kitchen door.
Now came the tough part. Leaving through the back door from the second floor of a house… with no back stairs.
As quietly as possible, she stepped out to a small wooden deck overlooking the Brodys' fenced-in backyard. In all the time she'd rented the place, Mr. B. had promised that he was going to build a little stairway so Sam could have access to their yard. He hadn't gotten around to it, but Sam knew her landlord would move heaven and earth for her, after what the Innocence Mission had done for his cousin in Arizona. When he'd learned Sam volunteered at the organization, he'd actually lowered the rent.
But he still hadn't built the stairs. Even though he knew damn well that the place didn't meet fire code. But that turned out to be a good thing. Anyone who'd staked out her place would focus on the front, the only exit from the upstairs apartment.
No one would watch the fenced-in backyard, or the dilapidated second-floor porch that was home to her plants and a place to catch some rays. No one would suspect that she would put on a wig and dark clothes, jump off a second-story deck fifteen feet off the ground, then slide through a secret opening in the fence, follow the alley to the corner of Prospect and Somerville Ave, where cabs were always parked outside to take drunks home on a Saturday night.
No one—especially not the man with the bump on his nose, the pockmarked cheeks, and the deadly pistol, who, right this minute, could be parked in a car across the street—was waiting for her to leave.
She crawled to the railing, glancing at the houses on either side, both dark for the night. In fact, the entire Somerville neighborhood was pretty quiet, but it was summer and most student renters were gone now. Leaning over, she gauged the drop. Maybe not fifteen feet. Maybe twelve, and if she hung from the side, only about seven to the soft grass below. A little risky, but not exactly skydiving without a chute.
The other option was using the drainpipe and windowsill, which looked really easy in the movies, but probably didn't execute so well in real life. Plus, Mrs. Brody was a light sleeper and that was their bathroom window. Close enough to the bedroom to be heard. Lights would come on; questions would be asked. Anyone staking her house would be on red alert.
She opted to hang and drop, climbing over the railing, then shimmying into position, a splinter of wood stabbing her finger. Ignoring the sting, she peeked down to the ground, her breath caught in her throat.
She could break a leg.
Damn it, Sam, stop second-guessing and move.
- "A bold new series with this taut, complex and intelligent page-turner ...Readers will thrill to this dynamic tale and its nonstop action, sweet and sexy romance, lively characters, and celebration of family and forgiveness."—Publishers Weekly
- 4 ½ stars "St. Claire has become the go-to gal for romantic suspense. Rip-roaring fun, gripping intensity and sizzling passion span the pages of Edge of Sight."—RT Book Reviews
- "When it comes to dishing up great romantic suspense, Roxanne St. Claire is the author you want."—RT Book Reviews
- "On the fast track to making her name a household one."—Publishers Weekly
"With Roxanne St. Claire, you are guaranteed a powerful, sexy and provocative read."
- On Sale
- Nov 1, 2010
- Page Count
- 432 pages