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The mystery she must solve . . .
A man who threatens to reveal her secrets . . .
and break her heart.
Burned by a failed marriage, former FBI agent Marc Rossi wants back in the investigation game with no emotional strings attached. Taking an assignment for his enterprising Angelino cousins, he heads to Northern Ireland to pry a key piece of evidence from a missing socialite-any way he can. But when the ice queen turns out to be warm, beautiful, and on a secret mission of her own, the job becomes a passionate reminder of what happens when duty and desire mix. The daughter of an infamous fugitive, Devyn Sterling has survived betrayal only to find that her mother has mysteriously disappeared. When her search uncovers secrets, lies, and threats, Devyn and Marc must trust each other when every instinct says they can’t . . . and a terrorist wants to make sure they won’t live to try.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Face of Danger
A Preview of Edge of Sight
The halogen headlights sliced through the downpour like laser beams, turning the rain eerily white and illuminating each sudden turn in the nick of time. With every near miss on the twisty roads of the North Carolina woods, Devyn Sterling cursed the rental car company for not offering GPS, damned the weather for delaying her flight until this late at night, and wished to God that she had a clue which street was Oak Ridge Drive.
And threw in one more vile curse for the impulsive nature that landed her in this situation.
Arriving on the doorstep of her birth mother to shatter the woman's life should really be done under sunny skies. But Devyn couldn't wait another day. Or night. No matter the weather.
Squinting into the downpour, she tapped the brakes at a cross street, slowing to a crawl to seize the millisecond of clarity between windshield wipes to read the street sign, aided by a sudden bolt of lightning.
Yes. Oak Ridge. Thank God.
Thunder rolled just a second or two later, but Devyn powered on, inching down the residential street, peering at the houses, set far apart on acre-sized lots, most of them dark for the night. As she reached the end of a cul-de-sac and neared the address she'd memorized, Devyn drew in a nervous breath, practicing what she would say when Dr. Sharon Greenberg opened the door.
No matter how many times she rehearsed, the words came out wrong. Especially because Devyn doubted she could get through the whole story before she got the door slammed in her face.
Still, she needed a game plan for this encounter.
Her icy New England upbringing told her to be brutally blunt. Just knock on the door, open her mouth, and say, I'm the daughter you gave up in a secret adoption thirty years ago.
But deep inside, because her blood wasn't truly the chilly WASP of her Hewitt upbringing but some cocktail of hot Irish, she wanted to tell Dr. Greenberg the story with all the drama that had unfolded a few months earlier on the streets of Boston so the woman could fully appreciate the reason for Devyn's visit.
I hired an investigator, found out your identity—and that of my fugitive mobster father—and told my husband, who decided to betray me, only to get murdered by his mistress and a dirty cop who tried to frame Finn MacCauley for the crime. Uh, can I have some shelter from this storm?
Without knowing much about Sharon Greenberg, it was hard to be sure if that tact would work any better than cool bluntness.
She slowed at the last home, the brick ranch house bathed in the headlights of her rental car. Snapping the lights off, Devyn turned into the empty driveway and stared at the house. Maybe she should go for the heartfelt approach.
I'm sorry, Dr. Greenberg. I know you don't want to meet me, and I really planned to respect that wish, but I told my husband your name and I don't know if he told anyone else before he was murdered. Just in case he did, I thought it only proper that I be the one to screw up your life…. And while I'm here, can we talk about why you gave me up?
Don't go there, Devyn. Not at first. The woman had every right to give up a child fathered by a legendary street thug like Finn MacCauley. She didn't even have to have a baby.
Still, Devyn thought as she looked at the darkened house, maybe… maybe they would talk about it. But first, Sharon had a right to know that her secret was no longer buried. And Devyn had a right to know who gave birth to her.
Another flash of lightning illuminated the night, followed almost immediately by a quick explosion of thunder. Chills feathered Devyn's skin despite the warm blasts from the dashboard. The storm was close.
As her eyes adjusted and the rain washed the windshield, she studied the large picture window in the front, nine panes of glass, the blinds behind them closed tight. Water sluiced out the gutters, noisily splattering mud below.
Proper New England upbringing pinched at her conscience. A lady would call before arriving.
Okay, she could do that. Devyn picked up her cell phone and pressed the speed dial she'd foolishly programmed in while delayed at Logan. Back when she was still waging an internal debate, considering abandoning the plan and driving home. But rationale won over reason, and she'd stayed at the airport, gotten on the late plane, and… here she was.
If she hit Send, maybe she'd wake Sharon, and then when Devyn knocked on the door, it wouldn't be such a shock. The older woman would have a minute or two to prepare. That seemed fair.
Devyn watched the words appear on the tiny screen: Calling Dr. Sharon Greenberg.
The fourth ring cut off halfway and clicked into voice mail. Devyn pressed the phone to her ear, blocking out the rain beating on the car so she could listen and absorb the sound of her birth mother's voice for the first time.
"Hey, it's Shar. I'm not able to take your call, but do what needs to be done and I'll get back to you. Leave a message, try my office, text me, send a smoke signal. Peace out."
Devyn stabbed End and slipped the phone back into her purse, staring ahead at the shadows around the house, her heart matching the rhythm of the rain. Fast. Hard. Loud.
Was she going to turn back now? Away from a woman who invited callers to send a smoke signal? Obviously Sharon had a sense of humor. But did that mean she had a heart?
What she had, Devyn thought, was a right to know that somewhere, someone might know her darkest secret. That information could be damning to her career… or worse.
So, really Devyn was doing her a favor.
Holding tight to the justification that had gotten her this far, she scooped up her bag and opened the car door, soaked before she could jog up the three stone steps to the covered front porch. There, she intrepidly opened the screen door and rapped hard on the front door.
Fifteen endless seconds passed; then she knocked again. Emboldened, disappointed, and frustrated, she pounded with the side of her fist, an unwanted lump forming in her throat.
"You have to be home," she murmured, her hand sliding down to the large brass handle. A blinding burst of lightning tore a gasp from her throat, making her squeeze the latch in fear and hold tight as the thunder cracked the night air.
And the door opened.
Devyn jerked her hand away the moment she realized she'd unlatched the unlocked door. The next blindingly close bolt of lightning pushed her inside, survival instinct trumping everything else.
"Dr. Greenberg?" she called, still knocking on the open door. "Are you here, Dr. Greenberg?"
This was so not how she wanted this meeting to unfold.
Pitch-black inside, the cloying scent of candle wax and potpourri fought with the muskiness of a closed-up house.
"Dr. Greenberg, are you home?"
Obviously not. And Devyn, with the blood of a man who once topped the FBI's Most Wanted list cascading through her veins, took another step into a house where she hadn't been invited. Her adopted mother would keel over in disgrace. But right now, her adopted mother didn't matter. Her real mother did.
Two months had passed since Devyn's husband had been murdered. Two months she'd waited for the investigation to close and the police to clear her to leave the Boston area. Two months she'd struggled with a question no one had ever asked and only Joshua Sterling could answer: Had he taken the name of Devyn's birth mother to the grave? Two months was too much time not to have this conversation and deliver the potentially bad news to Dr. Greenberg.
And have the perfect excuse to meet.
All she had to say was, Your secret is no longer safe.
In fact, under the circumstances, a simple note could do the job. Not as satisfying as face-to-face, but maybe this was what was meant to be.
She called out again, blinking to get night vision, able to make out an entry table in the shadows where brown sticks surrounded by curled, dried leaves poked out of a vase.
Either Sharon had been gone a while, or she really didn't care about living things.
And, really, wasn't that what Devyn had traveled to North Carolina to discover?
Somewhere to the left, an antique clock ticked. The soft hum of the refrigerator buzzed from a kitchen around the corner. Rain thumped on the shingles, but there were no other sounds.
On her right, through French doors, Devyn could see the green light of a printer and the shape of a large desk stacked with papers and files. The office was the place to write and leave a note… or find a clue as to what made Dr. Sharon Greenberg tick.
With a shiver of apprehension and a stab of guilt, she pushed open the door and walked to the desk, flipping on a tiny halogen lamp to scan the mess. There were little hills of papers, files, articles, medical journals, a leaning tower of DVDs, and a half dozen candles melted into various sizes and shapes.
For a moment, she just drank in the first impression. Mom was a slob, she thought with a slight twist of a smile. An untidy, disorganized, hardworking scientist who… had sex with mobsters?
Curiosity burned, along with something else Devyn couldn't identify. Something that felt like hunger. A burn to… bond.
Let it go, Devyn.
She lifted some papers, eyeing the magazines, the arcane terminology, seeking clues to who this woman was. The investigator she'd paid dearly for bits of information said Dr. Greenberg was divorced, childless, and working as a researcher at the University of North Carolina teaching hospital.
The tabs on a stack of file folders confirmed her life as a scientist. Retrovirology. Immunology. Serology. Pathology. Belfast.
The word was scratched in pencil, light enough that it looked like it had already been erased. Devyn tugged the file, something pulling at her as the manila folder slid out from under the others.
Belfast. The city conjured up twenty-year-old newscasts of bombings, violence, deaths, Irish mobs, and…
Slowly, she opened the folder, her pulse kicking up after it had finally slowed. Inside, there were several pages of notes, some drawings, an e-mail. And on a "Recycle for Life" notepad were the words US Air Arrives 2:45 pm Belfast w/ layover Heathrow 8/29. Rtn open.
August twenty-ninth was almost two weeks ago. She glanced at the papers in the file, obscure scientific drawings, several printouts of e-mails, a magazine article with the name Liam Baird underlined. She lifted it to read the story, but her gaze was pulled to a grainy photograph in the file behind the article. Taken from a distance, the image was of a girl on a bike, a backpack on her shoulders, her hair in a pony—
"Oh my God." The words stuck in her throat as she stared at the photo. She knew that bike, that street, that girl.
It was her.
Which meant Sharon knew her identity. She knew enough about Devyn to have a picture of her!
Trembling, she flipped the picture over and stared at the small handwriting.
Finn? Finn MacCauley with a Boston phone number?
Lightning flashed blindingly bright with a simultaneous, deafening crack of thunder. The desk light went black, and thunder rolled with such intensity that the hardwood floor vibrated under Devyn's feet.
Had the house been hit? She stood there, the file still in one hand, as the thunder stopped, followed by the soft digital sound of her cell phone. Grabbing her phone, she read the caller ID.
Dr. Sharon Greenberg.
"Oh my God." Sharon was calling her?
She took a moment to breathe and think, too paralyzed to answer. Sharon must have just redialed, curious as to who had called her a few minutes ago.
But she has my picture in a file on her desk.
With unsteady fingers, she tapped the green button and put the phone to her ear. "Hello?"
Nothing. Silence. But someone was there; she could tell.
"Dr. Greenberg?" She pulled the phone away, checked the name again to be sure she hadn't imagined it. "Hello?"
No response. The house was silent around her, all electrical buzzing dead from the power outage. Devyn stood in the pitch blackness, holding the lifeline to her birth mother… which was just as silent. She'd lost the call.
With a soft cry of frustration, she hit Redial. From down the hall, a digital ring cut through the silence.
Sharon was in the house? The call that just came in was made… from this house?
Slowly, like someone was guiding her with puppet strings, she walked around the desk, through the darkness, her arm automatically slipping through the shoulder bag she'd set on top of one of the piles.
The phone stopped midring, and there was a soft click in her ear.
Someone had picked up the phone. Someone in this house.
"Dr. Greenberg?" she said it loudly, not to the phone but toward the hall. "Are you there?"
Icy panic prickled over her skin, sending the hairs on the back of her neck straight up. She wasn't alone.
Fumbling through the dark, she found her way back to the entry hall. There, she stood still, listening, then turned back to call out to Sharon one last time, just as a hand clamped over her mouth and yanked her back into a solid man's chest.
"What are you doing here?" The man growled the words, adding so much pressure that her neck cracked.
White terror flashed behind her eyes, a scream trapped in her throat.
"What?" he demanded, lifting his hand enough for her to breathe and speak.
"Looking… for… Shar—"
"I… I wanted to…" She tried to think of a reasonable answer. "Leave her something."
Whoever this guy was—a husband, a boyfriend, or a guard dog—he probably knew where Sharon was. She had to be calm and come up with a plausible story.
"I'm her student," she said in a controlled voice. "She needed me to give her some papers. In person."
He tightened his grip, pressing so hard across her chest she could feel her heart beat into his forearm.
"Who sent you?" he ground out.
"Nobody sent me. I'm a student—"
"A student who broke in?" He lifted his left hand, palming the side of her head while a beefy arm pinned her. Slowly, he pushed her head to the side until her neck muscles strained and tendons snapped. Pain ricocheted down her arm and terror shot up her spine.
"Who sent you?"
"I came on my own. It's personal." Miraculously, her voice didn't crack like her neck. "I have to talk to her."
He pushed her toward the door, which she just realized was open. Had she left it that way? Had he followed her in? Or had he been waiting?
She dug her feet into the mat, refusing to be pushed into the screen and out into the rain. "I have to talk to her," she said again, trying to squirm around to see his face, but he wouldn't allow it.
Had he hurt Sharon? Was her body lying bloody in the back of the house? "When you find her, give her a message." A shove sent her flying against the screen door, popping it open. She twisted just enough to see a glimpse of his face, older than she expected, light eyes, grim mouth.
He whipped her around and braced her again. "If she comes back here without getting her job done, she's dead."
Devyn squirmed, finally getting her brain to work enough to try fruitlessly to jerk out of his grip. "What job?"
"She knows what job. She steps into this house a failure, she'll leave in a box. We're watching and we're waiting."
He shoved her outside, still holding her so tight she couldn't turn to see him. One more push and she was out from under the overhang, drenched, as the screen door was slammed shut behind her.
She spun around to get a look at him, just as an earsplitting sound sent her jumping backward, staring in disbelief at the hole in the screen.
He'd backed into the shadows of the house and shot at her! Instantly, she pivoted toward the driveway, slipping on the concrete. Using the banister to right herself, she sailed down the stairs, taking another look over her shoulder.
Fear vibrated through her, her heart hammering as if it would explode out of her chest. The rush of blood and rain drowned out the little cries that escaped her lips as she stabbed in her bag for the car keys.
Had she left them in the house?
Panic almost knocked her over, just as the keys scraped her knuckles. She whipped them out and promptly dropped them in a puddle.
"Shit!" Falling to her knees, photos and papers she'd taken from Sharon's file fluttered to the ground. The picture? Everything was soaked before it hit the pavement.
One more shot exploded out into the night.
Abandoning the papers except what she could scoop in one shaky grab, she snatched the keys and dragged open the car door, scrambling inside and tossing the remains of the file and her purse across the console. She found the ignition, turned on the car, and jerked it into reverse. With her full weight on the accelerator, she launched backward out of the driveway.
She stole one last glance at the picture window, the reflection of her headlights illuminating the blinds. They parted briefly as her attacker watched her leave. A man who would kill Sharon Greenberg if she returned… without getting her job done. What kind of job was that? Research for UNC? In Belfast?
She managed a quick look at the papers she'd thrown on the passenger seat; the picture was still there.
A picture of Devyn taken seventeen years ago. Why would Sharon have that?
A hundred answers clobbered her brain, all dizzying in their possibilities. But only one electrified her. Her birth mother had been keeping track of her.
Her birth mother cared.
Was that possible?
She had to know. The burn intensified until she could taste the metallic, bitter flavor of need in her mouth. She had to know why Sharon had that picture. And she had to warn Sharon that her home was under surveillance and that she was in danger.
Trembling, she followed the darkened street back to the curvy Carolina roads. Finding Dr. Sharon Greenberg had just gone from an impulse to a mission. Belfast.
Fortunately, she'd brought her passport.
The offices of the fledgling security and investigation firm sat directly above a lingerie store on Newbury Street, giving Marc Rossi one more reason to like his new job.
He loitered at the window of Silk, drinking in the display of autumn gold thongs and russet front-clasp brassieres. While he briefly imagined the pleasure of putting them on—and taking them off—the right woman, he answered his vibrating cell phone without looking at caller ID.
He knew who it was anyway.
"I see you staring at the unmentionables, Marc."
Inching back, he grinned up at the bay window that protruded from the second floor and saw his cousin looking down at him with an amused expression on her devilish features.
"You can mention them, Vivi. I just don't remember my father's offices having such excellent downstairs neighbors."
"That's because Silk was a Chinese laundry when Uncle Jim used this suite. But I'm thinking we can add a tagline to the Guardian Angelinos Web site: 'We're just above the underwear'."
Marc laughed. "I like it." He pulled open the glass door that led to a small entryway, throwing one more wistful smile at the lace-covered entrance to Silk before heading upstairs. Like so many buildings in Boston's Back Bay, offices and apartments were stacked above high-end retailers, accessible by steep, narrow staircases or rickety elevators. "And it'll make Christmas shopping so much easier for me," he added.
"I wear a small. Bottom and top, sadly."
He took the stairs two at a time. "I wasn't thinking about you, little cousin."
"I've no doubt your shopping list is long and heavily weighted to the Silk customer," she countered. "But no lingering in lingerie. We have ten minutes until your FBI buddy shows up, and I want to have our act together to meet a potential new client."
"Will do, boss." He ended the call as he reached the top landing and continued down a familiar hallway to the suite of offices where his father had practiced law for almost twenty years before becoming a judge. But Jim Rossi had kept the lease on this prime Back Bay real estate and had generously offered the unoccupied offices to house the company Marc's cousins had just started.
The faint scent of cleaning solution and paint wafted into the hall, because the official move had taken place just this past weekend. Marc had been unable to leave his weapons shop to help, but he'd successfully trained a few managers, which left him free to make the leap from small-business owner back to the life he missed and loved—not the life of FBI agent that he'd once enjoyed, but that of consultant.
The brother and sister team of Vivi and Zach Angelino had planned a venture that was very appealing to him. When they asked him to consult for the Guardian Angelinos, he went all in, and proved his enthusiasm by bringing the company its first official new business lead.
He opened the door, and the smell of fresh paint grew stronger, along with the colors. The walls were deep purple and gold, showcasing the ultrahip reception chairs and the glass desk.
"Good-bye, Rossi Law and hello, Guardian Angelinos," he said with a soft laugh.
"You like?" Vivi spun around from the bay window, her smile as cheery as the September sun that backlit her, her dark eyes glittering like the diamond stud in her nose. "Because Zach hates it."
Marc shook his head, chuckling. "Your brother is a killjoy."
"I am not." Zach Angelino's distinctive baritone rolled out from the back offices. "I let her go with the ridiculous name, didn't I? Do I have to like the… the…"
"Jewel tones?" Vivi supplied as she waved Marc toward the rest of the suite. "He's full of it. He loves the Guardian Angelinos. Makes him feel so important to have the name on the door."
"I love the concept," Zach corrected as they entered his office. "I still think the name is… regrettable."
"How'd you get the office with the better view?" Marc glanced around at his father's former law office, the wall of windows overlooking the bustle of chic Back Bay.
"I'm one minute older," Zach said, grinning at Vivi from behind a cheap fiberboard desk placed in the very spot where James Rossi's antique oak monster lived before it became a permanent resident of the family's Sudbury basement.
"And he got the high-end guest chairs," Vivi said, indicating two folding director's chairs with the Ford logo on the back. "They came free with the company Expedition, and I blew the furniture budget on the reception. First impressions and all."
Mark dropped into one of the wobbly chairs. "Don't make excuses. You two have done an amazing job already."
Zach snorted. "We need more clients, but we're getting there." For the first time since he got back from Iraq, Zach seemed completely comfortable in his own skin—as scarred as that skin might be. It wasn't just his role as CEO of a new company, either. Marc knew exactly what—or rather who—made his cousin look so content.
"How's Samantha?" Marc asked.
Although his missing left eye was covered with a simple leather patch, Zach's happiness was still easy to read. "One week into law school, and she's killin' it already. We're looking for a bigger place than her apartment in Somerville."
"What's that I hear?" Vivi asked, curling her lithe little frame into the other chair and cupping a hand at her ear. "Why, it's the sound of bells. Wedding bells."
"Seriously?" Marc turned to Zach and knew instantly that this wasn't Vivi's usual hyperbole.
- 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
- "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
- "When it comes to dishing up great romantic suspense, Roxanne St. Claire is the author you want."—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine
- On Sale
- Apr 1, 2011
- Page Count
- 432 pages