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“Harlan isn’t the only one in town with a relative accused of shanghaiing,” Simon said with a wink at Emily.

“True, but no one in my family is fascinated the way Harlan is. We prefer to let the stories about our lawbreaking ancestors fade away.”

“No, no, no.” Simon vehemently shook his head. “I’ve had many discussions with Dory about this. You don’t let history die.” He opened another file cabinet, and his fingers danced across the tabs. “Here it is.” He slid out a narrow file. “I’ve been working on this as a surprise for your aunt, but I think you should spend some time with it.” He thrust it at Emily, and she instinctively took it. The printed label on the tab read BARTON.

“What is this?” she whispered.

“Your homework. You need to learn to appreciate the stories of your past. I’ve made copies of everything I come across that relates to Dory’s family—which includes you. One of these days, I’ll put it in a nice big binder as a gift for her—so don’t let her see it.”

Emily stared at the file, stunned. “This is so thoughtful.”

The historian blushed. “Just put in a good word with Dory for me.”

“I will.”

“I’m sorry Simon wasn’t much help,” Emily said as Zander drove her home. “It was a waste of your time. I can’t see a connection between Sean’s research of hundred-year-old shanghaiing crimes and his murder.” The agent didn’t appear that disappointed, but Emily suspected he hid it well.

“It was interesting,” Zander said. “I think hanging and shanghaiing have a tenuous correlation—weren’t men hanged back then for abandoning their ship’s duties?”

“I don’t know. Could be. But the relationship seems to be a stretch.”


She studied his profile in the pale light. He was preoccupied, his mind hard at work on the case, no doubt. “I feel like I’ve distracted you from your primary investigation.”

He glanced her way in surprise. “Not at all.”

“First my accident and now Simon—”

“Stop right there. Nate Copeland’s shooting requires me to take a closer look at your shooting. Yes, I’m juggling a few things. The Fitches. Nate Copeland. The skeleton we found—who I hope is confirmed as Cynthia Green with dental records soon. It’s all important. Interviewing Simon Rhoads had to be done. Just because it didn’t pan out doesn’t mean it was a waste of time.”

“But your manpower has been reduced.”

“The sheriff is helping, and I’ve got another agent coming tomorrow.” He stopped at the curb in front of the mansion. “Someone shot at you. I don’t take that lightly. Especially since you were at the Fitch deaths.” He turned off the engine and faced her, determination rolling off him.

He meant every word.

His gaze went past her, and he frowned. “Who is that?”

Turning, she spotted Isaac loading an armful of small fir branches into a wheelbarrow. A hood covered his head, and rain ran down his coat. “It’s Isaac. I asked Madison to get our uncle over here to hang around—a male presence at the house, you know? But it looks like she recruited Isaac instead and gave him some outdoor busywork. There’s no point in picking up those branches until this storm is over.”

“He’s scrawny.”

Her mouth twitched. “He’s stronger than he looks.”

“Your safety is a concern.”

“So is the safety of my sister and the aunts,” she said pointedly. “We take what we can get. If deputies driving by the home is a deterrent, then I think seeing a man working around the house can help too. Hopefully my uncle is also here somewhere.”

“True.” He continued to stare past her, following Isaac’s movements.

She wanted to know what he was thinking. He often wore a perfect poker face, probably necessary in his line of work. But at the hospital, she’d caught a glimpse behind it. Zander Wells had very strong emotions; the FBI-agent attitude was a front.

“Thank you for telling me about your wife and daughter today,” she said softly, watching his eyes in the fading light of the evening.

He met her gaze, and the agent mask lifted a bit. “I’m sorry that I—”

“I was married too.”

His gaze intensified. “What happened?”

“Nothing at all like what you went through.” She felt a little embarrassed for bringing it up. “It ended five years ago. He was . . . controlling.”

Anger flickered. “He hurt you?”

“No. He never laid a hand on me.” She gave a shaky laugh. “He slowly tore me down inside. It was emotional and mental. His words, his actions, some gaslighting . . . I was no longer myself. He’s a narcissist. Everything is about him, and he wanted everything about me to be about him.”

“You mentioned him in the present tense.”

“He’s still around.” Emily snorted. “In fact, I saw him yesterday morning. Would you believe he has the gall to think we could get back together? The narcissist in him still doesn’t understand why I filed for divorce.”

“Sounds like a prince.”

“He’s a cop in Astoria.”

“Emily.” Zander leaned closer. “Could he have shot at you?”

She sat very still. “No—I would have known it was him.” But her brain raced through a million possibilities.

“He’s a cop, so I assume he’s a decent shot. Could he still be bitter? If you saw him yesterday, you’d be on his mind.”

Emily couldn’t speak. Her limbs were frozen. Would Brett . . .

“No,” she whispered. “I would have recognized his stance, his shape. Even though I didn’t see a face, every part of me says the man I saw wasn’t him. I know Brett.”

Zander didn’t look convinced. He pressed his lips into a tight line, and his gaze softened, making her face warm.

He cleared his throat. “This is inappropriate and poor timing, but when this case is over . . .”

Emily instantly understood. “I have a lot of baggage,” she murmured, unable to pull her gaze away from him.

The way he’s looking at me . . .

I could get lost in his eyes.

His smile was wistful. “Then that makes two of us.” He took her hand, holding it and running his thumb over her palm.

Her heart rate quickened. He feels it too. She’d been immediately attracted to him but had shut the feelings away. Until now.

“One time I made a mistake by keeping my feelings to myself,” he said. “I swore I’d never do that again. I know now is not the time . . . but I had to say something in case time slipped away from me again.”

“I understand. And I’m glad you said something.” Happiness bubbled deep inside her chest.

Damn, I wish this investigation was behind us.

He moved closer and kissed her, the sensation warming her everywhere. She melted into the kiss, frustrated by the vehicle console between them.

Too soon, he pulled back and rested his forehead against hers, his chest rising with deep breaths. “When this is over.”

“When it’s over,” she promised.


A few hours later, Zander was alone in his hotel room and working on his laptop, but his mind kept wandering.

I shouldn’t have kissed her.

Like he could have stopped. He’d felt a subtle pull toward her the first time he saw her. Now that he’d voiced it out loud, he wanted more. But anything between them had to wait. He had a killer or two to find, and Emily was waist-deep in this case.

Be a fucking professional.

The thought made him grouchy. His phone and laptop rang, and he answered through the laptop.


“Good evening, Agent Wells. I’m Dr. Lacey Harper from the medical examiner’s office, and I did the dental comparison on a case of yours.”

Zander immediately sat up straighter. “Is the skull Cynthia Green?”

“It is.”

He pumped a fist. Finally something was going his way. “Thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate this.”

“Not a problem. It’s rewarding when I can definitively identify someone. It helps answer questions for family members left behind.”

“You’re positive about this, correct?” Zander asked tentatively, afraid he was insulting her.

She laughed. “I am. Would you feel better if I showed you how?”

“I’m not questioning your work,” he added rapidly, relieved that she hadn’t taken offense. “But I would like to see how it’s done. Teeth look alike to me.”

“Can you FaceTime?”

“Yep. Switching over now.” A few moments later he was looking at a very attractive blonde woman with a broad smile. “You work with Dr. Peres?” he asked.

“I do. She’s a close friend, and I’ve met Ava a few times, and I know her fiancé very well. I’m glad to hear she’ll be okay.”

“Me too. What can you show me?”

She switched to the other camera on her phone, and a computer screen of dental X-rays was in front of him. The screen had two large films, the type that show the entire jaw and the lower half of the cranium. They were grim skeletal smiles, creepily stretched wide to convert the three-dimensional objects into two. The images were a mishmash of shades of gray. He could identify teeth and jaw joints but not much else.