Read an Excerpt
Everyone lives by selling something.
Robert Louis Stevenson
San Francisco, California
Logan Sinclair was surprised when Drew Mochrie herself opened the front door. He'd expected to see some harried maid and not the woman he'd set up as his mark. The fact she was so anxious to meet him that she'd ignored one of the maxims of wealth and performed an underling's chore, mitigated any lingering doubt as to the course he was hell-bent to take.
Aye, and wasn't the hungry shine of her eyes more revealing than anything he'd find in even the most comprehensive personnel file?
"Miss Mochrie, is it?" he said, as though he didn't know damn well who she was. He considered a bow, then discarded the idea as being a bit much. "I am Logan Sinclair, and this is my assistant, Oliver Kerr." He gestured to the man standing behind him on the bottom step of the porch.
Ignoring Ollie, she said, "I've been expecting you." Her gaze raked him head to toe. "And a distinct pleasure it is to see a fellow Scot after these two years in America." She offered her hand.
He clasped it between his own, giving it a squeeze. Immediately, her lips bowed in a demure smile. She lowered her lashes, and her cheeks flushed. "The photo on the back of your books don't do you justice, Mr. Sinclair," she purred. "It's a fact, you're younger and more handsome in the flesh."Her none-too-subtle innuendo aside, it was clear she didn't realize who he was; more's the better since his plan would go straight to hell if she did, and all would be for naught.
She might even figure out what he'd come for.
Ashe held her hand and waited...lest recognition dawn belatedly...Drew Mochrie's blue eyes did not narrow in recollection. There was no suspicious "Have we met?" No tilt of the head and thoughtful finger tap to the jaw. No "You seem so familiar." Instead, she appeared to accept who he said he was without question. Aye, then. The con is on.
The knots in his gut that had plagued him for these last many weeks began to loosen. His shoulders relaxed, and he allowed himself a genuine smile of relief. He released her hand, and she said, "Agreeing to come all the way from Scotland, and so quickly, too, is most gracious of you, Mr. Sinclair. I'm forever in your debt."
Then, as though she couldn't restrain herself one second longer, she sucked in enough breath to douse five thousand birthday candles. Clutching at his sleeve, she gushed, "I must add, Mr. Sinclair, 'tis God's own truth that I'm a great admirer and have read both your books, and I've been so looking forward to meeting you, and you so . . . well, you standing here, handsome as a Hollywood film star, and won't all my friends be jealous, and well, impressed, too, that the renowned Mr. Sinclair himself was willing to come and help me urge my brother to move from where he lingers just beyond the veil to a place of peace and tranquility, and since I did promise Bartholomew when I first arrived here from Edinburgh that he would nae be sorry for taking me in after my divorce from that bastard who treated me like so much baggage, and penniless as I was since my first husband had done much the same thing, leaving poor, helpless me with nothing . . ."
When the woman seemed in no danger of deflating for several seconds yet, Logan simply nodded absently, his attention caught and held by a photograph on the far wall of the grand foyer.
As Miss Mochrie jabbered on, he stared at the picture of the girl and young man, realizing at once who they were.
Grief and guilt turned to anger, surging through his blood, washing away any hesitancy that might have remained.
For once in his life, he was doing the right thing. Aye, it was a rare event, given his proclivities, but this debt was an old one, and he intended to repay it the only way he knew how.
At last, Miss Mochrie seemed to run out of breath and words at the same time, ending her fawning, self-indulgent tirade on a tittering snort.
When she finally fell silent and just blinked worshipfully up at him, he said, "Thank you for your warm welcome, lass. Now, please be so good as to show me where the tragedy happened."
Her expression went instantly from open admiration to closed apprehension. Her fingertips covered her lips. "Hmm. Of course. Aye. It's this way and through the kitchen."
Glancing over his shoulder, he nodded to Ollie, who shot a sardonic look at the retreating Miss Mochrie, then picked up his enormous camera bag and joined Logan in the foyer.
Whether from inclination or nerves, as she escorted them through the mansion and down the cellar steps to the scene of the "unfortunate incident," she chirped away like an overcaffeinated parrot.
Drew Mochrie had been much younger when Logan had last seen her in Edinburgh. In the intervening years, she had gone from a pretty, self-indulgent, silly teenager, to an attractive, self-indulgent, silly woman.
As for himself, he'd morphed from a young man with too much money and too little humility, to the curiosité du jour of the rich and famous, a tabloid "clairvoyant" . . . among other things.
No wonder Drew didn't recognize him; he barely recognized himself.When they reached the bottom of the cellar stairs, she made as if to speak, but he stopped her.
"Say nothing," he instructed. "And leave off the light, if you will. I want no influences. The information I receive must be pure."
In the near dark, he saw her nod. "I understand," she whispered, then closed her mouth and pressed her lips together.
Silence at last. Logan wanted to shake his head and cast off the woman's babbling the way a retriever shakes off water.
Instead, he inhaled a calming breath and let it out slowly, then moved to the center of the room. His stance solid, his jaw tight, a serene expression planted on his face, he waited for, eh, contact.Killer Charms
. Copyright © by Marianne Stillings. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.