Authors: Maggie Shayne
She didn’t want to need him.
Murder brought self-help guru Rachel de Luca and Detective Mason Brown together. Their shared secrets drove them apart. But now they’re together again in this riveting novella that begins where
New York Times
bestselling author Maggie Shayne’s
Sleep with the Lights On
She may have been blind for twenty years, but Rachel’s always had an uncanny gift for seeing through people—and she distrusts her assistant’s new boyfriend at first sight. Amy isn’t interested in Rachel’s misgivings, though. She’s too eager to celebrate Thanksgiving by introducing her family to the new man in her life.
Then Amy doesn’t show up for the holiday....
Desperate to find her missing friend, Rachel has no choice but to turn to Mason. Their investigation into Amy’s disappearance takes them ever deeper into danger—and reignites the attraction that they’ve both sworn to resist. Now it’s a race against time as these reluctant partners fight to stave off passion and save a life.
Wake to Darkness,
the next installment in this suspenseful series, coming in December from Harlequin MIRA and Maggie Shayne.
Praise for the novels of Maggie Shayne
“Shayne crafts a convincing world, tweaking vampire legends just enough to draw fresh blood.”
“Maggie Shayne writes wonderful stories combining romance with page-turning thrills.”
New York Times
bestselling author Karen Robards
“This story will have readers on the edge of their seats and begging for more.”
RT Book Reviews
“A tasty, tension-packed read.”
Thicker Than Water
“Tense...frightening...a page-turner in the best sense.”
RT Book Reviews
Colder than Ice
“Mystery and danger abound in
Darker than Midnight
, a fast-paced, chilling thrill read that will keep readers turning the pages long after bedtime....Suspense, mystery, danger and passion—no one does them better than Maggie Shayne.”
Romance Reviews Today
Darker than Midnight
(winner of a Perfect 10 Award)
“Maggie Shayne is better than chocolate. She satisfies every wicked craving.”
“Shayne’s haunting tale is intricately woven....A moving mix of high suspense and romance, this haunting Halloween thriller will propel readers to bolt their doors at night.”
The Gingerbread Man
“[A] gripping story of small-town secrets. The suspense will keep you guessing. The characters will steal your heart.”
New York Times
bestselling author Lisa Gardner
The Gingerbread Man
Kiss of the Shadow Man
is a] crackerjack novel of romantic suspense.”
RT Book Reviews
Also by Maggie Shayne
SLEEP WITH THE LIGHTS ON
BLOOD OF THE SORCERESS
DAUGHTER OF THE SPELLCASTER
MARK OF THE WITCH
Secrets of Shadow Falls
KISS ME, KILL ME
KILL ME AGAIN
KILLING ME SOFTLY
Wings in the Night
BEFORE BLUE TWILIGHT
EDGE OF TWILIGHT
RUN FROM TWILIGHT
EMBRACE THE TWILIGHT
BORN IN TWILIGHT
DARKER THAN MIDNIGHT
COLDER THAN ICE
THICKER THAN WATER
Look for Maggie Shayne’s next novel
available soon from Harlequin MIRA
To my overworked editor, Leslie Wainger.
I’d send you a vacation instead, but I couldn’t
get along without you for that long.
“Who the hell is
” I asked, indicating the car at the end of the drive.
It wasn’t my usual front-door greeting, but it wasn’t a usual morning. Myrtle had an appointment at the vet, I had to get my daily ten pages written and my faithful companion and right-hand goth-chick assistant, Amy Montrose, was late.
Despite the black clothes and, occasionally, lipstick and nail polish, Amy was never late.
And she’d been dropped off by a Jag-driving douche bag outside the gate, despite that it was wide open and he could’ve easily driven her right to the front door.
was currently trying to execute a three-point turn in my narrow dirt road without getting his tires dirty. I pushed past Amy, Myrtle, my bulldog, sticking close to my side, and walked down the driveway in my fluffy slippers, yoga pants and tank top—aka my work clothes—waving my arms to get his attention and yelling, in case that might help. “Yo! Mel!”
He glanced my way, then did a double take and got the look on his face that a kid gets when caught with his hand in the cookie jar: guilty, but unapologetic. He put his window down about the time I got within talking distance, and I reminded myself it was 9:30 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving, in Whitney Point, New York. In other words, freakin’ freezing outside. But I was close enough to get a read on the guy. I could tell a lot about a person just by standing close enough to talk to them. Sort of feel them. Being blind for twenty years of your life gives your other senses a boost, maybe even opens up one or two that sighted people don’t have. I’d only had my vision back for a few months now. Since August. And so far my superkeen perceptions hadn’t seemed to fade.
“Hello,” Mel said from inside his toasty-warm car. “You must be Rachel.”
De Luca to you
“And you must be incredibly shy, Mel. ’Cause clearly you’d have driven Amy up the driveway to the door otherwise, especially on such a chilly morning.”
He looked at me, the length of driveway between his car and the front door, and then me again. “Not shy, just running late.”
“You can turn around a lot easier if you pull in,” I said, then added under my breath, “should’ve thought of that to begin with.”
By then Amy had joined me and leaned close to whisper loudly in my ear. “Rachel, don’t be a bitch and scare him off. Jeez, he’s already nervous as hell about meeting my folks tomorrow.”
I gaped at her, taking my attention off Mel. Didn’t matter, I’d managed to get a read on him. The guy was hiding something. And he was kind of a jerk. “Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.”
“Uh-huh.” Her diamond nose stud winked in the sun. “I invited him to Erie for T-day with the fam.” She smiled. “He said yes.”
He’d already closed his window, backed into my driveway, and was about to pull out again. “He’s going home to meet your parents and I haven’t even got his last name yet?” I waved at Mel again. “Heylre, wait up!”
He waved back and drove away with a pleasant smile. My antennae were quivering. There was something majorly off about that guy.
But it was thirty-five degrees and way too breezy to stay out here arguing. Myrtle had already peed and was leaning on my calf for warmth, and Mel and his silver Jaguar were vanishing in a cloud of dust on my isolated road. I heaved an impatient sigh and turned back toward my front door. Amy followed behind me, her arms full of mail from the post-office box, because it was Wednesday, and Wednesdays were answer-the-fan-mail days.
Except I had the vet. And the pages. I waited for her to trundle in, then closed the door while she dumped the truckload of mail on the coffee table.
“So tell me about this Mel,” I said as I heeled off my boots.
“What do you want to know?” She talked while she walked, straight through my giant living room, formerly off-white, currently a deep brick-red hue with gold petroglyphs stenciled all around the walls way up high. I liked color. The kitchen, also formerly off-white, was freshly yellow, with big fat sunflowers in every possible location. We’d done it last week, and I was planning to tackle the currently beige dining room next. I was thinking gold. Or maybe orange. How I’d lived in a colorless home for so long was beyond me. You’d think I’d have sensed the boredom, even blind.
“Who is he? What’s he do for a living? How come I haven’t met him yet? How long have you been seeing him? Why didn’t you tell me? How the hell did he wrangle an invitation to Thanksgiving with the family already? Are you having sex?”
She returned from the kitchen with two filled coffee mugs. The maker was programmed to turn on first thing in the morning so I didn’t have to mess with it, and her keen eye always detected whether I had a full cup or not. She handed me my mug and went to sit on the sofa to begin thumbing through my fan mail while sipping. “His name is Mel Brennan. He’s a lawyer. He travels a lot out of state, so I only get to see him a couple of times a month. I’ve been seeing him for six months. And you haven’t met him because I didn’t want to hear your creepy ESP analysis of his deepest secrets. I’d rather find them out the old-fashioned way. Did I miss any of your questions, Your Honor?”
“Yeah. A hundred. And I’ve told you a million times, I don’t have freakin’ ESP. Also, ouch.”
She smiled. “You can meet him later. He’s picking me up.” She looked at me looking at her and added, “Because my car’s getting serviced. Not because we’re shacking up.”
“No. God, you’re nosy.”
“Your mother’s in Erie. I like to think of myself as her stand-in. How old is he?”
“I haven’t asked.”
“You’re the worst liar in the world. He looks old.”
I shrugged. “Forty?”
“Forty’s not old.”
“It is when you’re twenty-four.”
She started a stack of fan mail, a stack of junk mail and a stack of possible business mail. “Why the hell don’t they just email you? Who writes on paper anymore?”
“Old people. Like your boyfriend. How old is he again?”
“And I’m eighteen.”
She eyed me. “You could actually pass for eighteen. Which pisses me off, because I probably couldn’t.”
“Goth is ageless. No one can guess a goth’s age. And you’re a gorgeous goth. Thanks, by the way.”
“You’re welcome. Thanks back.”
“So he’s going to Thanksgiving dinner with your family. It’s that serious?”
She shrugged. “He’s coming to Thanksgiving dinner. What are you doing for dinner tomorrow, Rache?”
change the subject.
“Probably going to Sandra’s, like always. My sister will cook more than ten people could eat. Jim will stuff himself and watch football. The twins will spend all day texting and griping about their identical eighteen-inch waistlines being endangered by their mother’s apple-and-walnut stuffing. And I’ll do my best to make myself useful.”
She puckered her lips at me, bloodred today. “If you could do anything you wanted for Thanksgiving, what would it be?”
I shrugged. “Call Mason and have him run a background check on your boyfriend.”
“Mason.” She nodded like an ancient sage. “I knew it.”
“You’d spend the day with him if you could. Wouldn’t you?”
In a New York minute.
“I told you, Mason and I decided to go our separate ways. For now.”
“Yeah, yeah. You need time to experience life as a sighted adult. He needs time to get over his brother’s death and help his nephews adjust to life without their dad. I heard all the logical reasons. I just don’t
any of them.”
“You really think you can distract me from my misgivings about your relationship by talking about mine?” I asked.
a relationship, then!”
I rolled my eyes at her. She pretended not to notice and tore open a fan letter. “Huh. This is a good one. She wants to know how to tell when she’s overstepping the bounds of the employer/employee relationship with her constant advice and concern for her personal assistant’s love life.”
“Subtle you are not.” I yanked the sheet from her hand and read aloud. “‘Dear Rachel, I’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The end is going to be long and painful. You say every situation has a silver lining. Please tell me how to find the one in this.’ Jesus H. Christ.”
“Jesus wrote you that?”
I sent her a look. “No. It’s signed Marianna. I really hate the tough ones.”
Amy compressed her lips, grabbed the laptop off the coffee table, clicked a few keys and then scrolled and scrolled. I tried to see what she was doing, but she turned the laptop away so I couldn’t, so I just let it go. Then she started typing and narrated as she went.
“Dear Marianna, every single one of us has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It’s called being human. For some reason we’ve all got this warped and twisted idea about death, that it’s the biggest tragedy ever and must be avoided at all costs, when instead it’s hostead i the natural transition into the most amazing existence imaginable. And then some. You might move into the afterlife from a dread disease, or you might step in front of a bus tomorrow. You might heal from whatever diagnosis you’ve been given and live to be a hundred and six. It happens every day. You also might make the most frightening experience of your life into the most deeply meaningful and spiritual part of your entire life. Ultimately, it’s up to you, and your higher self. Everything happens exactly the way it’s supposed to.”
I blinked in shock. “Damn, you’re good.”
She turned the computer toward me. “No, you are. That’s from The Truth About Death, Chapter two, ‘Terminal Illness.’ I’m just copying and pasting.”
I saw that she’d opened the galley version of the three-year-old book. “I’m really very wise, huh?”
“Mostly,” she said.
“Then you should listen to me. There’s something off about Mel.”
She closed her eyes. “I told you I didn’t want you to do that.”
“Maybe if I spent more than ten seconds with him—”
“I told you, you can meet him when he picks me up tonight.”
“Okay.” I looked at my watch, sighed, pushed to my feet. “I have to go change. Myrtle has a date with the vet.”
“‘Kay. I’ll have the fan mail dealt with by the time you get back. Ten pages after that.”
“Yeah, yeah. Ten pages of regurgitated positive thinking before five.” I saluted her and looked around for my dog.
She’d heard the word
, and was hiding under the coffee table, as if I was still as blind as she was.
can see and you can’t.
You’re freakin’ doomed.
Then the phone rang. I still had a landline, because there were days when heavy rain or thick cloud cover would result in a weak or nonexistent cell signal.
I ignored it, going to get Myrt’s goggles from the closet. She might hate the vet, but she loved riding in the car. If she smelled those goggles and her matching yellow scarf, she’d perk up.
Amy got the phone, as I’d known she would. Then she said, “She’s on her way out, but I’ll see if I can catch her before she gets out of the driveway. Hold on.” Then she hit the phone’s handy mute button while I waited. “It’s him.”
I blinked like a doe in headlights. We didn’t need to say who “him” was. There was only one
in my life. Mason. We’d been through hell together a month ago, nearly been killed. That was no way to start a relationship.
But damn, the sex had been great.
My cell rang. I pulled it out and looked at it. Mason. I rolled my eyes and took the call. “I thought you were on hold on my landline.”
“And I thought you were already out the door. Ditching my calls, Rachel?”
“No.” I shrugged. “I was
whether to ditch your call. There’s a difference. I have to go. Myrtle’s due at the vet.”
“I need you,” he said.
I gave my imagination permission to play with that for a minute. Then he added, “It’s about the case.”
I sighed as he burst my bubble. “We’re already late for the vet. Besides, isn’t that case old news?”
“Not to the review board. I need you to look over my statement about the extent of your involvement and sign off on it. Particularly since they might decide to come asking you about it.”
“Shit,” I said.
“I need to turn it in by noon.”
It was nine forty-five. I had Myrt’s designer goggles dangling from one finger. Amy held out her hand. “I’ll take vet duty if I can borrow the Subaru.”
“She’ll be scared if I don’t go with her.”
“Yeah. Right up until I get her some McNuggets for the ride over. We’ll be fine. Myrtle loves me. Don’t you, Myrt?”
Mason was still waiting for my answer. Myrt was still under the table, no longer hiding. Snoring instead. Bulldogs snore louder than most lumberjacks. Okay, I’m making that up. I’ve never heard a lumberjack snore, but I bet she’d beat them.
“Wanna go for a ride in the car, Myrt?” Amy asked.
Myrt opened her sightless eyes and lifted her head.
“Well, come on, then,” Amy said.
Myrtle scrambled over to Amy’s feet, where she did the wiggly butt happy dance.
I could not argue with the evidence. Myrtle would be thrilled to go for a ride in the car with Amy, and I would be stuck in a meeting with the man I most wanted to bone, trying not to be blatantly obvious about it. “Bring me back a Happy Meal,” I said, then handed over the goggles and said to Mason, “Okay, I’ll do it. Where do you want to meet?”