“Don’t worry about Nick,” Mercy added. “He’s the type of guy that needs to feel secure before he makes a move. We’ll make sure he gets that security.”

“You talk like it’s a sure thing,” muttered Rose. “I’m not desperate for a husband, you know. I won’t be a crazy stalker.”

“I know. But this path with Nick should be explored.”

“That’s exactly how I feel,” she admitted. “I’ll never forgive myself if I let it fade away without getting to know him better.” Rose sighed. “Say, any word on Morrigan and her mother yet? I hate to think of that little girl out in the snow.”

“I’m confident Salome is keeping her daughter as safe as possible.” The possessiveness on Salome’s face the night she got her daughter out of foster care flashed in Mercy’s brain. That was a mother determined to protect her child.

Rose lowered her voice. “But they could be the next targets, right?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Mercy. “We haven’t figured out the reasons or found a connection between the other murders. Clearly Salome knows something. She was terrified for her daughter’s safety.”

“Scared enough to run away from the police,” Rose said. “What could it be that she doesn’t trust the police or FBI?”

“That’s the big question.”

“It doesn’t look good that she took her daughter and ran. Do you think she committed any of the murders?”

“We don’t know.” In her heart Mercy believed the mother was a victim. But she’d been wrong before.

Mercy ended the call after promising to check in the next day. A half hour later she parked in the dim light at the Eagle’s Nest library behind Truman’s Tahoe. The town was silent; the only other cars were parked at the diner. Its neon restaurant sign turned the snow on its roof a bright red. A plow had gone down the main street recently, leaving piles of snow on each side of the road, but a light dusting of snow continued. Just enough to keep the world freshly white.

She slid out of her truck and stood in the street, relishing the quiet and still world as tiny icy flakes tapped softly on her jacket. The streetlight highlighted a halo of falling flakes. She lifted her face to the gentle flurry and the icy bits tickled her lashes.

“Cold?” asked Truman.

His footsteps had crunched two seconds before he spoke. She’d known it was him and hadn’t startled at the sounds of his boots in snow. She didn’t need to see him to know he was near. As she turned, her chest warmed at the sight of him; he grounded her. He was solid when she was flighty. He was straightforward while she sometimes moved in the shadows. And for some insane reason he wanted her. Ten feet apart, they watched each other in the powdery mist.

“God, you’re beautiful.”

The need in his voice ripped at her soul.

“The snow in your dark hair sparkles like diamonds.” He laughed. “Jeez, I sound like a sappy idiot.”

“You do. It’s not often I hear the police chief get mushy and poetic.”

“Do you want more of it?”

Mercy considered it. “No. Flowery words don’t impress me. I need to see the dedication and devotion with my own eyes.” Right now she saw a man hungry for her in the peaceful snowfall. The heat and adoration in his gaze exposed his heart more than any words.

“You know I love you, right?” He made no move toward her.

“I do.” She did. He didn’t need to frequently verbalize it; his actions and affection told her every day. Breaking the spell in their living snow globe, she moved to him. Finding his mouth, she kissed him long and deep. “I love you too,” she said against his lips.

“Clearly,” he muttered, kissing her back and pulling her tight against him.

It was a scene from a movie. The snowfall. The lovers. The silence. Mercy ached to go home with him and sleep in his arms. Not stare at microfiche.

“We could look at the film tomorrow,” he said in her ear, sending bolts of arousal down her limbs. “I don’t think twelve hours will make a difference.”

“Your home,” Mercy ordered. It was closest.

He gave her one last kiss.

“See you in five minutes.”


Truman tossed and turned, drifting off to sleep while stretching his hand out and finding bare sheets. He’d jerk awake at the empty space at his fingertips and stare at the ceiling for another twenty minutes. Mercy had left his bed just before midnight.

Kaylie had finally made it back to their apartment, and Mercy wanted to be there. He wondered if the teen noticed the effort Mercy put into being present. He sure did. I can’t complain about Mercy’s dedication.

Simon wandered into Truman’s bedroom, leaped on the bed, and curled up near his hip. He was touched by the cat’s attention and stroked her soft fur. A poor substitute for Mercy’s skin. The cat rarely slept in his room, but maybe she knew he needed company.

Or maybe she was cold.

He finally got up hours before he needed to and drank a full pot of coffee while watching the early news shows from the East Coast. His morning crawled at a lethargic rate.

Now he waited for Mercy at the library, stomping his feet in the freezing morning air and watching the town’s businesses come to life. Owners shoveled their walks and greeted their neighbors. A hustling vibe filled the town. People who wanted to stock up before the next storm moved quickly, intent on their errands.

Mercy arrived. As she walked toward him, the rueful expression on her face told him the world wasn’t the romantic wonderland they’d experienced last night.

He understood. It felt different this morning. The sun was out and the sky was an intense blue, but low, dark clouds threatened to the west. They shared a quick kiss and exchanged a longer look, memories of the night swirling between them. He wanted to wake with those memories every day. An inexplicable rise of urgency that had nothing to do with physical needs overtook him, and he wondered how he had fallen to this point. At one time he’d been content with his cat. Now he would never be content until his life fully merged with hers.

Is that what she wants?

He wouldn’t rush her. He had nothing but time.

“I can’t stay long,” Mercy told him. “I need to get to the office.”

Truman unlocked the library’s front door and held it open for her. It was one of the budget-cut days, so the building was closed. A faint hint of lemon reached him as Mercy passed by. Her usual scent. He liked it, but it wasn’t as heady as the warm scent from her skin after she’d rolled in bed with him. That was his favorite.

“It’s freezing in here,” Mercy exclaimed, snapping up her coat.

“She turns off the heat when it’s not open.”

“It must take hours to get it back up to a livable temperature.”

“Maybe that’s part of the reason the patronage is down.” He led her to the microfiche machine and turned it on as he pulled the two rolls of film from his pocket. He’d dusted them for prints but found nothing helpful.

“There’s only one machine? Bummer.” Mercy sat in the unit’s chair while he grabbed another from a reading table.

“I think two sets of eyes will still be better than one.”

“I don’t understand what we’re looking for.”

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