The legacy that haunts her . . .
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.
About the Author
First published in 2003, Roxanne St. Claire is a RITA-award winning author of twenty-five novels, including her bestselling Bullet Catcher series. Her critically-acclaimed books have been published in numerous languages and recognized with multiple awards including The National Reader's Choice Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award and the HOLT Medallion, all for best romantic suspense. She currently lives on the east coast of Florida with her husband and two children. Excerpts, contact information, and free reads are available via her website, www.roxannestclaire.com.
Read an Excerpt
Shiver of Fear
By St. Claire, Roxanne
ForeverCopyright © 2011 St. Claire, Roxanne
All right reserved.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1978
The moment Sharon Mulvaney slipped the cushioned case containing three sealed vials of purified botulinum toxins into her handbag and left the microbiology lab, she became a criminal.
Before that, she’d never done anything worse than protest the administration on the lawn in front of MIT’s Dome. Drinking whiskey while talking trash with fervent Irish Catholic supporters in the basement of a bar in Harvard Square certainly hadn’t gotten her arrested. Even loving a man with deep ties to and deeper sentiments for IRA dissidents didn’t qualify as illegal, although the fact that he was married and almost thirty years her senior pushed the boundaries of what was kosher.
But stealing the most toxic substance known to mankind—after isolating, purifying, and crystallizing the spores herself and knowingly handing over the whole concoction for secret delivery to Belfast—was most definitely punishable with some prison time.
She wished her brush with crime thrilled her. Since it didn’t, she chose to believe she didn’t have an evil soul, just a weak heart.
The bitter wind buffeted her across a winter-break-deserted campus. She pulled her scarf over her mouth and dragged her cap down to her brows while navigating the ice and traffic-blackened snow. Fueled equally by the fear of getting caught and the desire to get out of the freezing cold, she shouldered the handbag deep into her down coat, kept her head low, and marched toward her apartment.
Even on a warm spring day when the only thing on her mind was grading papers as a graduate student TA, this was a long walk. But in a frigid New England winter, carrying enough poison to paralyze a regiment of British soldiers, knowing she was breaking the law and taking chances with every single thing she held dear, the trek became a brutal hike that pained every muscle in her body.
By the time she crossed Binney and the student pedestrian walkway widened into Sixth, her toes tingled with the bite of cold, her fingers were stiffened with numbness, and every brain cell was too deadened to even scare up some rationalization for what she was doing.
Anyway, she was way past rationalizing; she was in love.
She turned onto her street, carefully switching the bag to her other shoulder. It wasn’t heavy physically, but metaphorically, the weight of her crime pressed on her heart.
Sometimes a few have to suffer for the good of many.
Had Finn said that? Knowing him, it was probably more like, Do this for me, my darling girl, and I’ll… Leave my wife for you.
Right. Did she really believe that? She must, or she wouldn’t be taking a chance like this.
She stepped gingerly around a snowdrift and headed down the stone steps to the front door of her garden-level apartment, already imagining what she’d wear tonight. The black dress he liked, with the big gold buckle, and some high heels. Her lover brought out the girl in her. And the criminal, evidently, she thought as she turned the key and pushed.
“Did you get it?”
She gasped at the voice, squinting into the living room to see Finn, a drink in one hand and his three-hundred-dollar loafers propped on her coffee table, jacket open, tie loose, hair tousled like he’d been running his hands through it while waiting for her.
All the ice inside her just… melted.
“I got it,” she said, easing the bag down to her elbow and holding it out to him. With the other hand, she yanked off the knit cap, fluffing hair that was probably a flat, flyaway mess. Not to mention that the down jacket made her look like the Michelin Man, and she didn’t have a speck of makeup on.
He didn’t move to take the bag or, as she foolishly fantasized, rise to give her a kiss. Instead, he sat stone still, exuding power, control, authority, maturity, and knee-weakening sex appeal. How a fifty-three-year-old man with tiny creases at the corners of his eyes and a few threads of silver glinting in golden hair could make a twenty-five-year old microbiologist go so damn rubbery was a mystery.
One she had no desire to solve.
“And no one saw you.” It wasn’t a question. With Finn, everything was an order.
She shook her head.
He raised the amber liquid of Jameson she’d splurged on just so she’d have it in the apartment for him, cocking his head as eyes the color of summer skies raked over her appreciatively. “We should celebrate.”
Despite the automatic response of her body, her brain screamed out a protest. Should they celebrate a crime?
“Darling girl, you aren’t having second thoughts, are you?”
Naturally, he could read whatever subtle cues her nonverbals were shouting. “It’s a little late,” she said with a soft laugh. “The deed, as they say, is done.”
“I told you, no one’s going to use that stuff.” He jutted his chin toward the bag as if its contents were harmless, meaningless. “It’s a bargaining chip, and in Belfast these days, you just can’t get enough of those. I’m only sending that stuff over there to give them some power.”
Power? She suspected there was more cash than cache involved.
“That’s the name of the game these days,” he continued. “And they are, after all, family, however distant.”
Very distant. She’d done a little digging through a friend who studied the various clans of Ireland and couldn’t really find a connection between the names Finn had mentioned and the MacCauley clan. In fact, that spelling of his last name didn’t even show up, but she knew better than to question this man. He hated to be questioned. When she did, he punished her by disappearing for a few days. Sometimes more.
“I realize that,” she said, feeling as weak and ineffective as she sounded. “I thought we’d celebrate over dinner.”
Then he stood, his gaze locked on her as he clunked the drink on the table. “That’s not what I had in mind. I don’t have time for dinner tonight.”
“Plans with Anne?” The question was too sharp; she knew it instantly. Instead of facing his fierce look, she turned to take off her coat.
“I have business tonight,” he replied. “So no dinner.”
She tossed the coat over a chair, her back still to him.
Business. That she wasn’t stupid enough to question. They pretended she didn’t know exactly what his business was, and in return, she got…
His hands slid around her waist, possessive and strong. She got this.
“You’re one of us now, sweet girl of mine.”
One of whom? A bunch of criminals? “Truly Irish?”
“Truly fearless.” He pressed his body, already hard, against her backside, nuzzling her neck with kisses, the tangy smell of Irish whiskey like a familiar trigger that warned her body to brace for an onslaught of Finn.
“I’m not…” She lost the ability to speak as he reached up under her sweater and took ownership of her breasts. “Fearless.”
Not for one minute was she naïve enough to think a man as powerful and important as Finn MacCauley saw fearlessness in her. But he must have seen something in her, other than her ability to get inside the microbiology lab to make and steal weapons of mass destruction. She had to believe that.
He turned her to face him, instantly feasting on her mouth, sliding his hands down to her buttocks, pressing her against his erection.
“Look what you do to me, darling girl.” He guided her back toward the bedroom, kissing her, pausing at the table to lift the strap of her bag. “Let’s not let these get too far out of our sight.”
She refused to look at the purse and think that it represented her utter willingness to give him whatever he wanted. Her body. Her heart. Her very reputation.
And yet, he wouldn’t give her the legitimacy she needed more than anything. Even though she could give him what Anne could not: a child.
He nudged her forward, already taking off her sweater, her bra, his jacket and shirt. By the time he lowered her to the bed, they wore nothing but pants, and those came off quickly.
He angled his head toward the bathroom, pushing his boxer shorts over a throbbing red hard-on. “Get your protection.”
She fought the urge to shake her head. He was always so adamant about not taking chances and making her wear her diaphragm. Why? Because he didn’t want to be tied to her, and a baby would bind them to each other forever.
He could never disappear if she had his baby.
She swallowed and made an impulsive decision to lie, looking him right in the eye without wavering.
“I already have it in.” At his slightly surprised look, she gave him a sly smile and eased her legs apart. “I knew you’d be waiting here when I got home, Finn.”
He was inside her before she had a chance to change her mind, pumping and sweating and swearing until he came ferociously. He fell on her, spent and satisfied, while she waited for an endearment that didn’t come.
“Listen, Sharon, if anyone, and I mean anyone, asks you about—”
“I don’t plan to tell a soul what I did today,” she interjected.
“Just when, or if, anyone asks you, you have to deny knowing me. Anyone at all, even—”
“I do deny you, Finn.” But she wouldn’t have to if he was the father of her child. Had they just made a—
A heavy pounding on the door silenced that thought, and the conversation. He rolled over and grabbed his clothes wordlessly.
“Miss Mulvaney, we need to speak with you. FBI.”
Finn mouthed the word “fuck” and seized his jacket, his eyes on fire as he pointed to the door. “Get out there and stall,” he ordered in a harsh whisper. “Don’t give me away, Sharon, or you won’t live to talk about it.”
For a moment, she couldn’t speak. He’d kill her?
“FBI! We’re coming in.”
He grabbed her arm, fingers digging into her flesh, and flung her onto her feet with a shockingly strong jerk. “Go!”
She stood there, naked and stunned, as he lunged for her purse. Another hard rap forced a reply from a throat thick with fear.
“Just… a second,” she called, her heart thundering so loudly she could barely hear her own voice.
Finn pushed her again, rougher this time, and she stumbled out of the bedroom and into the hall. “You have to cover for me, Sharon.” He closed the door and left her naked in the hall.
“I’m coming,” she called at the next insistent knock, spying her down coat on the chair. She slid the cool nylon over her bare skin, shaking fingers working the zipper.
“Miss Mulvaney, this is the FBI. Please open the door.”
She’d been a criminal exactly one hour, and the FBI was already at her front door.
You have to cover for me, Sharon.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door to find two clean-cut men who looked like they’d been sent from Hollywood to play FBI agents.
“How can I help you?” she asked, blocking the entrance with her body.
Two ID badges were flipped open in front of her eyes, but her head was spinning and the words and pictures just blurred, her ears not even registering their names.
“We’d like to ask you some questions.”
She blinked, nodded. “ ’Kay.”
The taller, darker of the two men looked pointedly at her coat. “Are you on your way out, miss?”
“Just got in.” From the lab. Where she’d stolen weapons of biological warfare that would be shipped to the distant cousin of the married man who led one of Boston’s largest organized crime syndicates—a man who just happened to be naked in her bedroom.
“May we come in?”
“No, you may not come in.”
That got her double takes of surprise. Well, one of surprise. The other guy, the stocky blond, looked suspicious. He must be the smart one.
“I’m sorry I can’t let you in,” she said, steadfast and stalling. “I see you have badges and all, but a woman alone can’t be too careful.”
“Do you know a man named Finley MacCauley?”
Blood drained from her head and landed low in a nauseous stomach. “I don’t know.” Stupid, stupid answer.
Suspicious Blond Agent lifted both eyebrows. “You’ve never met a man named Finn MacCauley?”
“I might have,” she said, certain they could hear the drumbeat of her heart rattling her rib cage. “Who is he?”
“He’s a criminal, Ms. Mulvaney, and if you aid and abet his activities, you’ll be a criminal, too.”
Too late for the future tense. “Do you have a picture of him?” she asked, desperate for a stall. “Maybe I’d recognize him.”
“You don’t recognize the name?” the other man asked.
“I… I… don’t know.”
“Let us in, Miss Mulvaney.” He was definitely the bad cop, that blond one.
“Why?” She directed the question to the nicer cop, but the other one answered.
“Because we’ve received a tip that Finn MacCauley would be here today, and if you don’t let us in, we’re going to arrest you.” He took a step forward, his body enough of a weapon to force her back.
Before she could stop them, they were inside. Balling her fists in her pockets, she watched the nasty one walk right over to the coffee table and pick up the drink, sniffing.
“Jameson,” she offered before he asked. “Is that illegal?”
The other agent was already striding down the hall, weapon drawn and held with two hands as he shouldered his way into her bedroom.
She didn’t breathe, waiting for a shout or a shot. Seconds later, the agent emerged. He shook his head and muttered, “Nothin’.”
Nothing? Where was Finn?
She waited for the next question, but it didn’t come as they searched the tiny apartment, stuffed their guns away, and returned to the front door.
“You better watch your back, miss,” the dark-haired agent said. “You’re hanging around with some pretty dangerous people.”
She just nodded, remarkably cool considering the somersaults her stomach was doing, the blood coursing through her veins, and the question screaming in her brain.
Where was Finn?
They left and she remained still for a long moment, vaguely aware of the dribble of sticky moisture down her thigh, a reminder that minutes ago she had been making love to a man wanted by the FBI.
“Finn?” she whispered, dragging her feet toward the bedroom, stepping in to see what the FBI agent had seen. A rumpled bed. Her clothes strewn on the floor. The window wide open.
Finally, she exhaled, dropping on the bed from the weight of what had just happened. Her gaze shifted to the bureau. No surprise, Finn had taken her bag.
Tears burned. Her throat closed. And a painful punch of regret hit her in the chest. God, she was a fool! A stupid, childish, trusting fool.
And he was the worst kind of man—a user.
For a long moment, she just sat there in her down coat, tears brimming but unshed. She listened to the silence of the apartment, inhaled the bitter fragrance of sex that hung in the room.
And she waited.
Not for Finn; he’d never be back. Not until he needed something only she could give him again. Then he’d charm her and coerce her and weaken her defenses and… get exactly what he wanted from her. That was Finn.
But she could say no.
So she waited for the agony in her heart to transform into something else. Visualized the change taking place deep in the molecular level of her soul. Harmless, healthy proteins of love gradually degrading into deadly toxins of hate.
After all, wasn’t this her expertise? Creating poison from something as common as dirt? Love. What could be more common? Or dirtier?
Minutes passed, maybe hours. Finally, she made a decision. She wasn’t sure how or when, but someday she’d find a way to use Finn MacCauley the way he used her, and then she’d watch him suffer.
Until then, she damn well hoped some other molecular transformation wasn’t taking place inside her. Remembering her impetuous decision, she pushed off the bed, slid out of the coat, and headed into the shower to wash away the remnants of Finn. Please, God, let the hot shower water be enough to eliminate every drop of him from inside me.
Because the last thing she wanted now was a baby. She had something different to live for—revenge on Finn MacCauley.
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.
Excerpted from Shiver of Fear by St. Claire, Roxanne Copyright © 2011 by St. Claire, Roxanne. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Devyn Hewitt Sterling is convinced she will never amount to anything good in this lifetime. Her late husband was a criminal just like the parents who conceived her and gave her up for adoption. She keeps chasing dreams that never materialize and yes she grew up with wonderful adopted parents but could that stop the evil that her biological parents gave her from their bloodline? Determined to find out where she came from Devyn takes off to find her mother and winds up in Ireland running from the bad guys and straight into the arms of a man she hopes is one of the good guys, Marc Rossi. Marc is part of family run business that does a little of this and allot of undercover that. He was an FBI agent but these days he chases some consulting work with his cousins for the Guardian Angelinos and is happy to take the assignment that has Devyn landing right where he wants her, close enough to kiss. He is supposed to be there to bring her home per their present client, the FBI. The order was to find the woman and bring her home, simple and without complications. But the woman is one determined, spontaneous and beautiful temptation who is able to get him to spill all his secrets and then Marc winds up helping her figure out where her biological mother is and keep all of them alive. The longer Marc and Devyn keep looking the more danger they are in and the harder it is to get out not only with all things in tact but alive. Cryptic notes, CIA spooks, shots in the dark and thugs in bell towers are becoming a common every day experience and they absolutely should not be in anyone's world. But the more the pieces don't fit, descriptions continue to not make sense and no one is telling the truth, not even Devyn. The truth is the one factor Marc needs in any relationship and if Devyn isn't going to provide it do they have a future with or without the mysteries solved? Marc may have a past as well that he needs to reveal but family issues is not one thing he has to worry about and convincing Devyn that her past is not her present is a difficult sell. Marc and Devyn are fascinating characters that bring so much to this book. Every page is a mystery to unravel and the more you know about each of them the more you are convinced they are the perfect match. This book will have you reading until you finish it and wishing the next book in the series was coming out tomorrow!
When is book 2 better than book 1? Now! Loved it!
Very good story but it took a little too long for the puzzle pieces to start coming togrther.
This book was very good from beginning to end. I love the Guardian Angelinos Series. Can't wait to read Vivi's story in #3.
I liked the story and the characters, though got a little tired of the 'poor me' attitude of Devon. Otherwise - it was paced well and mystery kept you intrigued.
My Review: Overall I really enjoyed this book. Roxanne St. Claire has such an amazing writing voice. I love the way that she puts a book together and the huge cast of characters that she builds up in this world. Really well done and well-written. From page one, she had my full attention and it never wandered far until the book was finished. I love getting immersed in a world to this extreme! Set in Ireland, this book has a very different feel than the first book had, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It made the two stories very distinctive from each other which sometimes becomes an issue in a series like this, so I liked that about it. Another thing that set this book far apart from the first was Marc. He's a former FBI agent. He knows what he's doing and is fully trained to do the job. It gave a different feel than from dealing with Zach and Vivi who are still working to learn the security field. That brings us to the things that are the same in this second book from the first...the family! I love this family...every single one of them. We didn't get to see as much of them in this installment, but when they did show up, the scenes were complete perfection. The family dynamic with the Angelino's and Rossi's....ah, I just love it! The other thing that rocked in this book once again...the suspense!! OMG, I did NOT see all the twists and turns coming. I just kept gasping out loud. That is so awesome in a suspense book and definitely the sign of a good one! Finally, we need to chat about the romance between Devyn & Marc. I really adored Marc's character. Honestly, what's not to love? He's charming. He's good-looking. He packs a gun and is willing to place his body in front of a bullet for the heroine. He has amazing integrity. And yes, his heart is more than a little wounded because once upon a time, he fell in love with the wrong woman...you have to love that little bit of vulnerability. I had a harder time with Devyn and that is probably because through so much of the story, she honestly was having a hard time accepting herself and where she belongs. So much of her self-worth was tied up in making a connection with her mother. On the one hand, I could understand that a bit, but I think that she became too obsessed in defining herself by her DNA. I just had a hard time relating to that part of her character, although my heart ached for her throughout so much of this book. Her internal pain is palpable and heartbreaking. The sexual tension between these two was so immense. They both have reasons for avoiding an entanglement and I was beginning to wonder if it was ever really going to happen, but this is a romance novel, so... It's all good...VERY GOOD!! ;o) And now I am going to stop writing because I cannot wait to dig into book #3...finally Vivi's book and it looks like she is paired up with Agent Lang. Oh my! There are going to be huge fireworks in that book. I can't wait!!