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“Trust me!” Will said briefly.

Ivy and Cecilia were escorted to the stage, where they stammered and flushed some more and thanked everyone who had helped them.

“And now, they shall be crowned true queens of the ball!” Will announced. “But! Every queen must have a king, and it’s our beautiful Celtic goddess of old who will help find the proper kings for our queens! Goddess!” he said, looking at Jenna.

She arched a brow.

“Just turn around and lift your hands!” Will whispered.

When she followed his instructions, rays of light started shooting through the audience and landing upon the men in the crowd. Somehow, Will managed to find all those wearing the horned god costumes; there were a few vampires and werewolves thrown in, apparently for good measure.

The audience was laughing and applauding.

The costumed guests could do little but oblige, coming to the stage. Will was determined that each man would unmask, and she would choose the appropriate kings through their answers.

The first two horned gods were from out of town; the second two were women, giggling schoolteachers from Idaho. Will said that they had every right to be kings, but if they were kings, they’d still be called queens. The crowd laughed some more.

A vampire and a werewolf followed. The vampire, too, was a woman.

Three more horned gods came up. One was from Boston, one from Ipswich, and one was down from Gloucester.

They went through more and more horned gods.

Jenna didn’t recognize any of them or their names.

Until the end.

The last horned god had tried to slip away, but the good-natured crowd pushed him forward.

He was unmasked.

This horned god she knew.

It was Joshua Abbott, best friend of David Yates. Jenna decided that she definitely had to name him as one of the kings. The other honor went to Jason Middleton from Gloucester, since she’d suspected that Ivy had been flirting with him earlier.

There was laughter and applause. And finally, Jenna was released from the stage. Sam was there, watching over her, arms across his chest as he surveyed everyone around her.

He stepped forward as an Indian—Councilman Yates—approached her. She could see that Sam was going to bar his way.

He did. Andy Yates stopped and stared at him.

“My God, I just heard what my wife did. I am so, so sorry.”

“It’s all right, she’s upset,” Jenna said.

Yates looked at Sam, shaking his head. “She—she’s so fragile. Honestly, I’m so sorry. She went home, you won’t be bothered again.”

“Councilman, it’s all right,” Sam said. “We understand.”

Yates shook his head. “I meant what I said. People should help you. But, you know, of course, everyone heard that there was blood found on a costume that boy had worn to try to scare you all away. It’s reopened the whole thing for everyone.” He paused. “Look, we’re good people, we really are. Ordinary people—maybe better than others, because we do have a history of what lies and hatred can do. But be careful. Please, be careful!”

Jenna nodded. “Thank you.”

He nodded to Sam. “Really. I’m so sorry your evening was spoiled.”

“It’s not spoiled. We were about to dance,” Sam said.

“Yes, yes, of course,” Andy Yates said, hurrying on.

“Were we really about to dance?” Jenna asked Sam.

“Hell, yes. It’s a slow number. I’m kind of a tall guy, and I look ridiculous when I try to gyrate—trust me. It’s an ugly picture.”

She was happy to go out on the dance floor with him, and shocked to hear the number end with an announcement that it was after two in the morning, time for all kings, queens, princes, princesses and frogs to head on out. They ended with the song “Closing Time,” and everyone started heading out.

As they drove from the hotel, Jackson said, “A very interesting evening. Of course, Jenna, you did have to get slapped, but now we’ve seen that Cindy Yates really is pretty much a basket case.”

“I heard her talking earlier—I don’t think she believes her husband did enough when David received the so-called evil eye,” Jenna said.

“The question is—could her disappointment in him for his failure to defend his son have caused him to commit murder, to prove he’s a good enough father?” Angela said.

“I’ve got to admit—I’m frustrated that it’s another day until we get into the school,” Sam said. “I think it’s really interesting that Joshua Abbott decided to come tonight as the horned god.”

“A show of defiance or of strength?” Jackson asked.

“Oh, the little weasel wouldn’t have taken off his mask if Will hadn’t forced the issue!” Jenna said.

“But Will did indeed force it,” Sam said, smiling. “Good man!”

“My team is the best,” Jackson said gruffly.

Sam stopped at Jamie’s house. Jenna felt Sam’s hand on her arm. “Come back with me. Please.”

“Reconvene in the morning? Around ten?” he asked the others.

They agreed and said good-night.

Jenna and Sam drove in silence the rest of the way to his house. Inside, Jenna doffed her cape and let out an oath of exasperation. “Corsets! The hardest damned thing in the world to get off.”

“Ah, yes, but I’m happy to be of assistance.” He came to her, met her eyes and spun her around to work at the ribbons that tied the corset. “Have to say, good outfit.”

“Glad you liked it.”

“It was the best in the room.”

“Aw. You’re just saying that.”


The corset fell to the floor and she turned in his arms, reached up, lifted his mask and tossed it down, as well. He let the cloak fall.

“I must say, we are messy.”

“Hey! We pick up in the morning.”

The back of his fingers brushed over her collarbone and her breasts, and he said, “Now, it’s really becoming the best outfit.”

“Ah? Better than the bits of fabric covering Madam Samantha Yeager?”

“Did she bother you?” Sam asked, grinning.

“No, it might have been the other way around.”


“I think she was really angry. I insulted her.”


“She said that even if you were with me, you were a man, and when she slinked against you, she was sure you got an erection.”

He laughed. “Oh?”

Jenna shrugged.

He grinned, sweeping her off the ground and heading into the bedroom. He plopped her down on the bed and lay beside her.

He played with the catch on her velvet skirt. “Actually,” he said, his smile deepening, “I think that woman could shrivel the old horned god himself.”

“Mmm,” she murmured, tugging at his jeans.

He eased them off, lay half on top of Jenna and repeated, “Mmm. And that’s a fact. Know what does give me an erection?” he asked.

“What?” she whispered.

“The sound of your voice.”

“I think I can handle that.”

“Good,” he said softly, touching her cheek.

“No. I mean, I think that I can physically handle that,” she told him. She reached out for him, touching far more than his cheek.

He moaned, pulling her to him. They kissed, and she moved down on him, and they made love until light began to break, just drifting through the windows in whispers of luminescence.

When Jenna slept, she slept deeply, basking in the comfort of the heat that emanated from his body. She didn’t dream.

They woke up to the loud sound of his bedside phone ringing.

The sound was strident, as if the plastic piece of equipment knew it was about to report something shattering.

Sam rolled over and answered.

Jenna watched the grim expression that tightened his jaw.

“I’ll be down there. Thanks,” he said tersely.

“What?” Jenna whispered.

“I have a dead witness,” he told her.


A crowd had gathered around Sedge’s grocery store.

Police tape, of course, prevented onlookers from coming too close. An emergency vehicle stood near the front door, helping the police create a shield to stop the curious from looking in.

John Alden, after conferring with one of the medical examiners, looked up to see that Sam was there with Jenna at his side.

He walked over to them and lifted the tape.

“It’s not what you think—you can see for yourself. And this is a courtesy, just so that you don’t get conspiracy theories running around in your mind,” John asked.

“How do you know what I’m thinking?” Sam asked in reply.

“You’re thinking the old guy was murdered, that he was being shut up just in case the D.A.’s office decided to charge Malachi with the Earnest Covington murder. But Milton Sedge wasn’t murdered,” John said.

“Okay. Then how did he die? Heart attack? What happened?” Sam asked. It was just too damned convenient that Sedge—the one voice to stand against the boys who claimed to have seen what they hadn’t—was dead.

“Damnedest thing—well, he was an old coot, you know. And I couldn’t believe it myself at first, but he was done in by olive oil.”

If John Alden weren’t so grimly serious, Sam would have been tempted to laugh. As it was, he couldn’t speak for a moment.

“Excuse me?” Jenna finally said.

“Bad shelving, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” John explained. “He was having a special on those gallon tins of olive oil. Extra-extra-virgin olive oil. We have a large Italian community up here, you know…. Sometime this week, they’d done up a display with tin on top of tin. He must have jounced against the stack, and the tins and the shelf and everything came down. I just talked to the medical examiner—he received a lot of good head wounds, but it is possible that his old ticker stopped when all those gallons upon gallons crashed down on him. They’re heavy as hell, especially for an oldtimer like Sedge—test them yourselves one of these days.”