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HERON'S COVE
by Carla Neggers

Genre: General Romantic Suspense, Romantic Suspense

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Emma was surprised to find a rolling pin in one of Colin’s kitchen drawers. It had a worn, broken-in feel that suggested he had inherited it from someone else’s kitchen. She didn’t find a pastry cutter, but she used her fingers to work in the shortening and flour that a cupboard had yielded — another surprise. She managed to put together a respectable pie while Colin was drinking whiskey with his brothers and Father Bracken.

She leaned back against the sink and forced herself to focus on her surroundings and practice the kind of mindfulness she had during her days with the Sisters of the Joyful Heart. They had shared all the routine chores of convent life, hiring out only what they couldn’t do themselves. She had discovered purpose and comfort in preparing meals, cleaning, doing laundry, gardening — daily work that didn’t directly involve the sisters’ mission in art conservation, education and history.

A different life, and yet she still could draw on what she had learned during her time as Sister Brigid.

“I see you didn’t lock the door behind you,” Colin said, entering the kitchen. “I guess you’re not worried about intruders.”

“I guess not.” She smiled through her sudden, inexplicable tension. She had just been with him at Hurley’s, but his presence still was a shock to her system. She pointed at the gas stove. “I have a pie in the oven.”

“Smells good. Apple, right?”

“I had some Northern Spies in the car. I bought them at the orchard where we went apple-picking before you took off to parts unknown.”

“You enjoy baking.”

“Most of the time. Baking helps me think.”

His smoky eyes narrowed on her. “What were you thinking about, Special Agent Sharpe?”

Dmitri Rusakov, a Russian billionaire. Ivan Alexander, a private security consultant who had started out as Dmitri’s bodyguard. Her week in London four years ago when she had met them, shortly after the disappearance of the Russian Art Nouveau collection Dmitri had discovered in the walls of his Moscow house sixteen years earlier.

She hadn’t heard from Dmitri since London, but she had heard from Ivan.

She stood straight, noticed the shadows on Colin’s face. “You must be exhausted.”

“Emma, Emma.” He took a dish towel she had forgotten about off her shoulder and set it on the counter. “You have a lot on your mind. Calls from confidential informants in the middle of the night. Russians in Heron’s Cove.”

Emma covered her surprise that he knew about Tatiana by turning on the faucet at the sink, washing a stray apple seed down the drain. “One call, and one Russian. I assume Yank told you about the call. Who told you about Tatiana Pavlova?”

“That’s her name—Tatiana Pavlova?”

“She’s a jewelry designer in London. She’s renting a cottage in Heron’s Cove.”           

“Do you know her?” Colin asked.

“We only met today.”

He leaned against the counter, then stood straight again.

“My back doesn’t like that position. I have some nice bruises where two Russians pounded me last night. Imagine that. I also investigated a Russian arms merchant now in federal custody. And here I come home to a Russian jeweler down the road. What are the odds?”

Emma didn’t want to lie to him. Couldn’t lie to him. “I’m glad you’re safe, Colin. That’s what counts.”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

“No, I didn’t. I’m not going to talk about my source.”

She tucked her hand into one of the pot holders. “I came here to do something with the bag of apples. Tatiana Pavlova isn’t your problem. I’ll deal with her.”

“All right. For now.” Colin touched a finger to her cheek.

Emma eased her arms along his sides and around to his back, her physical attraction to him as strong, as immediate, as the first time he had touched her a little more than a month ago.

“It’s been a long month,” she said. “If you want to talk, I can put on coffee and cut the pie.”

“I’m good with Fin’s whiskey and warming up my cold bed with you. We can save the pie for tomorrow.” Colin drew her closer to him. “I don’t need to talk about what happened. I’m here. I’m with you. The rest can wait.”