In this vivid and suspenseful novel, New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers takes readers on a heart-stopping journey
Emma Sharpe, granddaughter of world-renowned art detective Wendell Sharpe, is a member of a small Boston-based FBI team. For a decade, Emma and her grandfather have been trailing a thief whose first heist was an ancient Celtic cross. Since then, the Sharpes receive a replica after every new theftreminding them of their failure to capture their prey.
When Emma finds a murder victim holding a small, cross-inscribed stoneone she recognizes all too wellher fiancé, FBI deep-cover agent Colin Donovan, is troubled. But together they dig deeper, certain there is more to this murder than meets the eye.
As the danger escalates, the couple faces questions about their relationship. Can they give their hearts and souls to their work and have anything left for each other? Before they can focus on their future, they must outwit one of the smartest, most ruthless killers they've ever encountered.
Includes the bonus story Rock Point
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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 individualprobably a manwho 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'clockone 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 lobstermanhe'd been one before joining the Maine marine patrol and then the FBIbut 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 possibilitiesand 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 all an "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 Bristolor whoever she wasdisconnected. 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.
* * *
"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.
"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 missionone 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 roachesand sprayed actual roachesand 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 expertthe love of his lifewas 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.