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No, I do not need a lifetime supply of Viagra. Michelle Girard snorted as she deleted the unopened email, sending it to the black hole of cyberspace. Maybe Alec Wright, the computer teacher at school, could suggest a better spam filter, one that didn't allow this garbage to slip through to her in-box.
As her cursor hovered over the next message, a breath of apprehension puffed against the nape of her neck and her hand trembled. The words in the subject line punched her in the gut. Like mother, like daughter?
Different unknown sender from last month, same message. And just like last month, she deleted the email without opening it or reading it and then cleared her delete folder. She didn't know if the message contained more content than the insidious question, and she didn't want to find out.
She jumped at the sharp rap on her front door and slammed her laptop shut, as if that could banish the disturbing email from her mind. She dropped the math quizzes she had to grade on top of the computer and crept to the door. Twitching back the curtain on the window, she blew out a deep breath and waved at Amanda, her best friend.
Amanda banged on the door and yelled, "Don't just stand there gawking. Let me in, already."
Michelle swung open the door, and Amanda charged across the threshold, gripping her upper arms, a sweater draped around her shoulders. She gave an exaggerated shiver. "This June gloom sucks."
Michelle peered outside at the once-sunny day now shrouded in a slow-moving fog rolling in from the beach. June days in the little coastal town of Coral Cove usually started out overcast and ended that way.
She snapped the door shut and turned to survey her friend. "What are you doing here, and why are you all dressed up?"
"This old thing?" Amanda glanced down at her shimmering summer dress and plucked at the floral skirt as her sweater slipped to the floor.
"Since you usually work at home in sweats and a T-shirt, there must be some special occasion." Michelle crossed her arms, waiting for news of Amanda's next harebrained scheme. She adored her friend, but she was as flighty as a butterfly in a gust of wind.
"You have to point that out, don't you?" She adjusted the bodice of her dress and spread her arms out, pausing theatrically. "Colin Roarke is back in town."
Michelle raised one brow. "Colin Roarke?"
"Oh, please. Even you with your bookish ways and band of nerds must've heard of the Roarke brothers in high school." She tousled her blond-streaked hair and took a twirl around the room. "Colin was four years ahead of us and Kieran was six years ahead."
"Of course I've heard of them." Michelle dipped to scoop up Amanda's sweater from the floor, her hair sweeping across her suddenly flushed cheeks. She hadn't given Colin Roarke much thought since she'd had a mad, useless, crazy crush on him in high school.
"I know they both got football scholarships to college. The family lived down the road from here." Michelle tilted her head. "Didn't the parents retire to Hawaii or something?
The dad made a killing in the dot-com industry and pulled out before it all went bust."
Amanda's mouth hung open. "Who cares about their parents? Colin is back in town, and he's hotter and hunkier than ever, or so I've heard. I haven't had a peek at him yet, but we're about to remedy that."
"You're going to check out Colin Roarke?" Michelle laughed. Amanda and her husband had separated exactly two months ago, and she spent all her time trying to make him jealous.
"And you're coming with me, so I don't look too obvious."
Michelle smirked. "Yeah, wouldn't want to look too obvious. Where is this rare specimen of hunky manhood and what's he doing back in town? We're the ones with the ten-year reunion this summer."
Amanda formed a pout with her lipsticked mouth. "Too bad Colin wasn't in our class. Maybe I could've snagged him instead of that loser Ryan."
Michelle clicked her tongue feeling like a schoolmarm. "Ryan is not a loser. He's a good cop and he loves you."
"He cheated on me."
"Not exactly. He sent some inappropriate emails to a woman in another state." Michelle's gaze darted to her closed-up laptop. Those inappropriate emails seemed to be contagious.
Amanda brushed her hands together. "Whatever. Are you coming with me or not? Colin's at Burgers and Brews, but we'll miss him if you dawdle."
"Early dinner?" Michelle dropped Amanda's sweater across the arm of a chair and checked her watch.
She really had to get those quizzes graded so she could enjoy the rest of her weekend, but she welcomed Amanda's interruption. That email, the second in two months, had spooked her, and she didn't relish the thought of hunkering down in her beach cottage alone as the fog pressed in on her.
"Sure. That's a good excuse." Amanda grabbed Michelle's purse from the table by the window and tossed it to her.
A short drive later in Amanda's Mercedes, they rolled into the center of town. Michelle rubbed a circle in the condensation on the window and peered outside. "You can actually see more than ten feet in front of you here, but that's not going to last long. The fog's on its way."
"And I'm on my way to meet Colin." Amanda threw her car into Park and cut the engine.
Michelle struggled into her sweater as she climbed from the car. "You never did tell me what he's doing back in town. Visiting old friends?"
"That's what he's doing at Bryan's restaurant." Hunching forward, Amanda dabbed at her lipstick in the side mirror. "He was good friends with Bryan Sotelo, but I think he's here on a case."
"A case?" Michelle hugged the sweater around her body against the cool, moist air seeping into her skin. From the town grapevine, she'd heard that Colin had become an FBI agent after returning from Afghanistan to a hero's welcome. There had been some tragedy over there involving his older brother.
"Something about Tiffany Gunderson's accident."
Michelle wrinkled her nose. "The FBI doesn't investigate accidents. She fell down an elevator shaft and broke her neck. It didn't even happen here in Coral Cove. Do they suspect foul play?"
"How am I supposed to know that? You sound exactly like my husband." Amanda grabbed Michelle's arm. "Let's go before Colin leaves."
"Hi, Ms. Girard."
Michelle turned toward the two voices, the greeting spoken in unison. Four of her students lounged on the bench outside the local pizza place. The two girls waved, their long, skinny legs encased in short shorts and furry boots. The two boys perched on the arms of the bench, their hoods pulled up over their heads, matching teenaged smirks on their faces.
Michelle's heart lurched for a moment before she waved and pasted on a smile. "Enjoy your weekend."
Could one of her students be behind the annoying emails? They probably wouldn't know her history, but their parents might. She hadn't thought of reporting the emails to the police, but a third one might constitute harassment.
Amanda sighed. "Sorry. I forgot it was dollar night at Vinnie's, and some of your snot-nosed students would be hanging around. Just didn't think they'd be here this early."
"Sydney and Maddie are nice girls. I don't mind running into my students as long as I'm not doing something stupid."
"You never do anything stupid, Michelle. Remember dollar nights at Vinnie's? We just used it as an excuse to hook up with guys in the back parking lot." Amanda clapped a hand over her mouth.
Michelle shrugged. "Yeah, I never spent a lot of time at Vinnie's in high school."
"I'm sorry, sweetie." Amanda pulled her close in a one-armed hug. "Teenagers can be so cruel."
Cruel enough to send hurtful emails?
Laughing, Michelle returned the hug. Amanda had been one of the girls who'd shunned her in high school, but they'd become good friends since Michelle had helped Amanda set up an accounting system for her home business a few years ago.
"Nothing much has changed. Here you are hoping to hook up with Colin Roarke, except this time it's in a restaurant, not behind it."
As they pushed through the front door of Burgers and Brews, Amanda pinched her. "Shh."
Not that anyone in the restaurant could hear Michelle's comment. The chatter from the group of people in the far corner of the room drowned out the music, and the hostess had to shout above the noise.
"Table for two?"
Michelle nodded and jerked her thumb toward the noisy crowd. "What's going on over there?"
The young hostess shrugged. "Word got out that Colin Roarke was back in town, which created a ministampede of his high school buds."
As Michelle pulled out her chair, she glanced at the clutch of people. A tall man at its center, oddly detached amid the furor, met her gaze. For whatever reason, an electric current zapped between them, and Michelle felt it down to her toes.
She averted her gaze and dropped into her chair. Must be those football-star good looksthe broad shoulders, the square jaw. She hadn't been immune to those attractions in high school, and now the man's appeal hit her like a sledgehammer all over again.
After the waitress took their drink orders, Amanda propped up her menu and peeped over the top. "They're having their own class reunion over there. Mmm-mmm, Colin looks better than ever. A few more lines on his face, but the body still looks rock hard. He's probably older, wiser
and more experienced."
sad." Michelle shot a few glances at the group, bubbling with laughter and conversation. Colin contributed a word or a smile here and there, but he seemed aloof, separate from the people around him.
"Are you crazy? That's Colin Roarke you're talking aboutfootball star, war hero, FBI stud."
The waitress delivered their drinks and Michelle blew on her hot tea. "Why was he a war hero? What did he do?"
Amanda wrapped her lips around the straw from her soda, staring unabashedly at Colin across the room. "I think you were in Europe on that sabbatical when all the news came through. Taliban forces captured Colin in Afghanistan. He escaped, but."
Ducking behind her menu, Amanda hissed. "He's coming."
Colin strode past their table, a frown creasing his brow. He waved to someone behind the bar and then turned the corner to the restrooms.
"I think he noticed us." Amanda slapped the menu against the table. "Or at least you. He kept staring over here."
Michelle scoffed even though she'd felt a jolt when her eyes had met Colin's. Had he felt it, too? "Aren't you going to follow him into the bathroom?"
Amanda's eyes narrowed and she clicked her long fingernails on the side of her glass. "That's not a bad idea. I could stumble in there and pretend I thought it was the ladies' room."
The waitress took their order and apologized for the slow service. "I'm a little overwhelmed tonight."
When she walked away, Amanda shot a quick glance at herself in the mirror over the bar. "She's not the only one who's overwhelmed. I almost swooned when Colin walked past our table."
Michelle smiled into her tea. Her friend desperately wanted to feel an attraction for anyone other than her estranged husband, but Michelle could see right through her. She nodded toward the tall man striding back into the dining room. "If you were planning on following him, you're too late."
Colin crossed the room, running a hand through his short, dark hair. His gait slowed as he approached their table, and Michelle held her breath for some absurd reason. Amanda had infected her with her silliness.
He stalled at their table, and Michelle's heart jumped. "Excuse me, ladies. Did you both graduate the same year as Tiffany Gunderson?"
Nothing personal, just business. Michelle blew out a breath and answered, since Amanda seemed uncharacteristically tongue-tied. "Yes, we did." She stuck out her hand. "I'm Michelle Girard and this is Amanda Stewart."
As he clasped her hand in a warm embrace, she noticed scars crisscrossing his wrist. Had the sadness she'd sensed led him to try something crazy?
"Of course I remember youthe girl down the block. In case you've forgotten, I'm Colin Roarke." He released her hand and Michelle had an acute feeling of loss.
He remembered her?
He turned to Amanda. "Stewart? Are you related to Sergeant Ryan Stewart of the Coral Cove P.D.?"
"Married to him." A soft pink brushed Amanda's cheeks. "Sort of."
Colin raised his brows and a crooked smile claimed his mouth. "He's a good man."
That smile set into a motion a chain of events across Michelle's body, ending in butterfly wings in her belly. Her unrequited schoolgirl crush had sneaked up on her sensible adult self.
Colin reached into the front pocket of his denim shirt and pulled out two business cards. He slid them onto the table. "I'd like to talk to you about Tiffany while I'm in town. Give me a call."
Michelle traced the edge of the card with her fingertip. "So Tiffany's death wasn't an accident? If not, why aren't the San Francisco police handling the investigation?"
A spark of interest ignited Colin's dark blue eyes. "I'd rather not discuss that here. Call me."
"Hey, Colin. Come over here and set Jeff straight on how that game with Costa ended."
Colin pinned Michelle with his dusky blue gaze and rolled his eyes. "Nice to
see you again."
Michelle chewed her bottom lip as Colin ambled back to his high school classmates, their bubbling memories sweeping him back into their circle. The favorite hometown son didn't wear the label with ease.
"We haven't been in the joint fifteen minutes and we have his card." Amanda scooped up the prize and pressed it to her breast.
"Because he wants to ask us questions about Tiffany." Michelle rubbed her thumb against the embossed letters proclaiming Colin Roarke an FBI agent. "Why do you think the FBI's involved in an investigation of Tiffany's death?"
Amanda lifted a bare shoulder. "It happened in the big city. Anything can happen there. At least we have an excuse to call him."
"How did he know we were in Tiffany's class and what would we know about her life in San Francisco?"
"Why do you have to analyze everything to death? Just sit back and enjoy, because I swear the man had his eye on you. He even remembered you from the neighborhood."
Michelle pressed her lips together as the waitress delivered their food. So Amanda had noticed that, too. Michelle hadn't had much contact with the popular Roarke boys growing up, even though the family had lived down the road. But one scene shifted into focus, and Michelle's cheeks burned with the memory.