Monday, September 28, 2015

Trial by Fire (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #6 and Smoke Screen (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #7 - Available for PREORDER!

The next two books in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series will be released soon!

Trial by Fire (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #6 will be released September 29, 2015! Yes, that's tomorrow. But you can preorder it right now at these link:

Smoke Screen (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #7 will be released October 10, 2015. You can preorder it here:

I'm so excited to share these two new stories with my readers. If you've been wondering about those mysterious texts on Miranda's phone, you're about to find out more. And you won't believe what Parker's been up to.

Here's a little more about them:

Trial by Fire (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #6

Trial by Fire
Fulfilling your destiny…one killer at a time.
Miranda Steele has a reputation for being tough. But that won’t keep her daughter from searching for her real father. If Mackenzie found the man who raped Miranda fifteen years ago? The fallout would be…well, traumatic would be an understatement.
Meanwhile her sexy investigator husband wants to take on a cold case back in Chicago. A house fire that might have been arson. Miranda is less than thrilled, but Parker won’t take no for an answer.
When Miranda learns years ago a young female art student was burnt to a crisp in her own bed, the case sparks a desire to find who did it and bring him to justice.
But suddenly Parker becomes aloof. He’s up to something, Miranda knows. She just can't figure out what. And now she’s beginning to sense the presence of something very, very evil.
When the case starts to dig up painful memories, Miranda sees Parker's secrets could ignite her past into an inferno that might destroy them.
Can she make Parker tell her the truth before it’s too late? Or will they both go up in flames?

Available for Preorder on:

Smoke Screen (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #7

Trial by Fire
Fulfilling your destiny…one killer at a time.
Striking out on her own after a gut wrenching fight with Parker, Miranda is ready to prove she’s an investigator in her own right. Problem is…she has no clients.
So when a scary dude from her past walks through the door and wants to hire her to find a missing exotic dancer, she’s forced to take the case.
Meanwhile Parker is done with Miranda and the pain she puts him through. But if he can find whoever sent her those threatening texts on her cell phone weeks ago, he could prove he was right about her disregard of danger.
Little do they know they’re both in danger—and about to face the most terrifying killer of their lives.

Available for Preorder on:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Miranda's Rights now in Paperback!

Hi Everyone!

For those of you who love "the feel" of a "real" book, the entire Miranda's Rights series is now out in trade paperback for $9.99 each. Here's where you can get them:

Someone Else's Daughter
Delicious Torment
Forever Mine
Fire Dancer
Thin Ice

PS: Starting June 14, it's Serial Killers & Dark Thrillers week on Storyfinds and Someone Else's Daughter is being featured. Plus I'm giving away a FREE copy of Someone Else's Daughter for their week long contest. (Yes! That's a trade paperback copy!) To find out more, click HERE.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Zero Dark Chocolate (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #5

Yes! The next book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, is now available.

In Zero Dark Chocolate, the fifth book in the series, Miranda and Parker end up in Paris, no less. But this is no vacation. They are in for one harrowing time. Especially with Miranda wondering what Parker knows about those mysterious text messages she's been getting.

Please enjoy a sample below.

If you'd like to be among the first to be notified of my new releases, feel free to join my mailing list.

Zero Dark Chocolate (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #5
Fulfilling your destiny…one killer at a time.

Paris. The City of Lights. The City of Love.

Not to mention the food. Gourmet dining. Fine wines. Exquisite French pastries. Especially the ones covered in dark chocolate and crafted by the best chefs in the city.

But when a dear friend goes missing and Miranda and Parker hop a plane to France to find him, they soon learn the city of romance can also be—a City of Death.

Chapter One

How could anything bad happen on such a perfect day?
Joan Becker stepped out of the glass doors of Le Gastronomique Divine in the city’s fifteenth arrondissement, into the quaint little French back street, and breathed in the foreign-smelling air.
She’d been in the city three whole days and still couldn’t believe she was really here.
With the smile that must have now been permanently plastered on her face and the luscious taste of the chocolate and fresh raspberries from her cooking class still on her tongue, she headed for the corner.
The dessert she and the other students had prepared today had reminded her of her own Chocolate Raspberry Delight, the entry in the Summer Dessert Contest back home that had won her this week of chocolatier and patisserie classes at the famous cooking school.
Today’s lesson had been even more challenging than the two previous days.
An individual-sized yellow cake with a cream cheese filling topped by a dark chocolate ganache and garnished with the raspberries the students had selected that very morning from the open air market.
Their teacher, Chef Emile, had patiently demonstrated how to make the dish while everyone took notes. Then there was a tasting and finally, they each had to reproduce the dessert.
An elderly gentleman, Monsieur Emile was so tall, he towered over his students, especially in his mile high chef’s hat. With his long arms and dramatic gestures he could be a little frightening.
But Joan thought his pale blue eyes were kind. She liked the way he quoted some of his father’s sayings, such as Le secret est dans la recette. “The secret is in the recipe.”
And besides, he’d taken a liking to her.
Today when he’d tasted her creation he declared it the best of all. Her layers were even. Her flavors were wonderful. He’d even pointed out the artistry of her raspberry drizzle over the concoction and given her a sly wink.
Parfait!” he had exclaimed, waving a hand in the air.
The others in the class had seemed a little jealous.
Still dizzy from the compliment, Joan made her way down the bustling Paris street, through the pedestrians and bicyclists on the sidewalk and climbed aboard a waiting bus.
Rather than the Metro, she liked taking the bus back to the hotel because she preferred seeing the sights above ground.
She’d learned it was considered impolite to smile at strangers on public transportation here so she ignored the grumpy looking man with a beard and a beret beside her and instead grinned out the window at the passing architecture.
The five- and six-story structures of cream and ivory facades with their fanciful rooftops, charming rounded balconies and delicate iron railings seemed to smile back at her. They were centuries old. Had been here when carriages rolled down this avenue, maybe since Marie Antoinette lost her head. Maybe she’d do a replica of one in white chocolate for her final project.
There were tons of food places along this street. On every street she’d been to, really. Bistros, brasseries and boulangeries. Patisseries and chocolatiers and cafés.
She wondered what it would be like to live here, maybe open her own place and make wares to rival her neighbors. Would be a tough gig, here in the gastronomical capital of Europe. Plus she had her own catering service back in Atlanta.
And there was her honey bun, who was waiting for her back at the hotel.
Dave liked to wander the nearby shops and do some sight-seeing while she was in class. But when she got home, all bets were off. After all, it was a second honeymoon and they were about to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
Her smile deepened as she thought of his adorably homely face over strong coffee and fresh baked croissants this morning. With a sly look, Dave had promised her a surprise when she got home.
She wondered what it was.
It didn’t matter. She loved everything about Paris and everything about Dave. He’d been her childhood sweetheart. She still had to pinch herself at all the wonderful things that were coming true for her.
Little Joan Fanuzzi from Brooklyn in the City of Lights and romance with the love of her life.
She’d always thought of herself as a tough cookie. Life had dealt her some hard knocks. But she’d survived and now…Yes, right now life was just about perfect. Or as Chef Emile would say, “Parfait.”
She giggled to herself as she got off the bus at her exit.
She was humming as she rode up the hotel’s quaint little elevator and nearly danced down the hall once it stopped. She couldn’t wait to see what Dave had gotten her.
She put the old-fashioned key in the door and turned it.
“Honey, I’m home,” she sang out in her most seductive voice.
No answer. That was weird.
“Snookums, guess what Chef Emile said today?” She stepped inside and locked the door behind her. The room was empty. The bed neatly made.
It was a small room done in plain brown and beige with a wide angle photo of the Arc de Triomphe along the wall. Everything looked clean and tidy, as if no one had been here since the maid. But that couldn’t be right.
She crossed the floor to the tiny balcony and peeked through the lightweight curtains. No Dave there. Just the pretty wrought iron railing and the city landscape with a smidgen of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
She turned around. Was he in the bathroom?
She scampered over to the old wooden door and knocked. Was the surprise a bubble bath in that old fashioned clawfoot tub? That would be romantic.
“Dave? You in there?”
This was getting ridiculous. She opened the door. “Ready or not, here I come.”
But there was nothing inside but the checkerboard floor, the sink, the tub, the small shower stall that looked like a modern afterthought to the décor.
Fresh soap and towels neatly arranged on the vanity. Here, too, it looked like the maid had just left. Everything clean and dry.
What the Sam Hill?
She stomped back to the bed and flopped down on the mattress, pulling out her cell phone. Least he could do was leave a message. But she’d had her phone off all morning for the lesson.
She turned it on and checked.
Nothing. The last text was from yesterday.
Had he gone off somewhere? Gotten distracted by some shiny gadget in an electronics store? Would be just like him, she thought, pressing his number. Dave could be spacey at times, but he wouldn’t forget his own surprise, would he?
She’d fuss at him for giving her such a start then forgive him right away.
How could she not? He was so adorable. And he loved her to distraction. And he was a great father to her three kids. They’d whined when she told them they had to stay with her mother during this trip. And then there were those big brown puppy dog eyes of his.
She sighed as the phone rang. But then it went to voice mail.
His familiar voice echoed in her ear. “Uh…hi…yeah. You’ve reached Dave. I’m probably busy now but leave a message and I’ll get right back. Later.”
“Dave, it’s me,” she said with a nervous laugh. “I’m done with class and I’m at the hotel. What’s going on? Call me right away.”
She dropped the phone in her lap and just sat there staring out the window at the city beyond. A strange feeling of dread began to steal over her. This just wasn’t like Dave.
Something was wrong.
She picked up the phone again and dialed his number. Maybe he had a bad connection. Again it went to voice mail. She hung up and went to the desk, shuffled through the few papers there, looking for a note he might have left her.
There was none.
She went back to the bed and sank down onto the mattress. She glared down at the phone willing it to ring.
But it didn’t.
Okay, she thought, nerves and anger getting the best of her. If you’re not coming to me, Dave Becker, I’ll come to you. She got up, grabbed her purse and headed out the door.
Enough with the fun and games already. Where the hell was her husband?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Watcher (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) 4 - now available!

I'm thrilled to announce that The Watcher, the fourth book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, is now available.

Please enjoy a sample below.

If you'd like to be among the first to be notified of my new releases, feel free to join my mailing list.

The Watcher (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #4
Fulfilling your destiny…one killer at a time.

When Parker gets a call from an old friend who needs the top investigator’s aid to stop whoever is sending her death threats, Miranda feels the call of her destiny. But it seems a lot of people would like to get their hands on the new client’s valuable mountain resort property and any of them might be the potential killer. Plus Parker’s old personal losses make him hesitate to involve Miranda in the case, causing nothing but friction.

He needs to get over it fast. The killer is on the attack. And if she and Parker can’t figure out who is sending those letters soon, they all might wind up dead.

Barnes & Noble
iTunes, US
iTunes, Australia
Trade Paperback

Chapter One

He watched her.
Hidden beneath a canopy of cool green mountain laurels at the edge of the property, he watched her emerge from the elegant home and stride across the lawn to the road.
His heart swelled, the folds of her expensive silk suit of frosty cream mesmerizing him as she moved. Her lovely neck was graced with jewels. Her long black hair was caught up in the back, neat and straight, as always. Oh, how he wished she would let her hair flow free to blow in the breeze as he’d seen her do in her own garden.
She moved down the road with purpose, her long, luscious legs turning every step into a work of art. He studied the curve of her calf, the flex in her muscles as she walked. Longing burned in his breast. She was breathtaking.
Strength, grace, determination. Too much determination.
Butterflies skirted along the tall grass, making the view even more perfect. He loved the fresh mountain air. He loved this land of Campos de Flores. Twenty-four hundred kilometers below the equator and fifty-six to the sea. It was a land like no other.
He rubbed his arms. At last the days were beginning to grow chilly. The hydrangeas were still in bloom, their wide blue blossoms covering the ground. Winter was late this year but he welcomed the cool weather.
She was almost to the end of the lane now. Heading just where he feared she might be.
He followed her.
It was not hard to keep himself well hidden from sight. He knew these forest paths, as the gringos say, like the back of his hand. He was right about her destination.
Without a sound or the rustle of a leaf he matched her stride and kept pace until she reached the steps of the Boteco do Sabor.
A young man in the standard white coat and black slacks greeted her, led her across the room.
The garçom seated her at a table with another, older man. He wore a dark tweed suit and thick horn-rimmed glasses.
Oh, no, Portia. She could only be up to one thing. The last thing he wanted her to do. The thing he would never allow her to do.
And yet there she sat, such a serious frown between her dark brows. The man pulled out papers from an attaché case to show her. Conducting business? No, this was more than business.
He watched the two of them order drinks and sip them slowly as they continued to chat. The man had plain coffee. And Tia? She would choose Caipifruta with mango. Only the freshest for her.
Quietly he clucked his tongue as if he were scolding a child.
If she kept behaving like that, he would have to take action soon. If she kept behaving like that, he would have to stop her. But she couldn’t go through with what he knew she was discussing with this man. Could she? Could she truly betray him? Watching the intent look on her face as she listened and slowly nodded, he knew she could.
His heart sank in bitter disappointment. This meant he would have to make good on his promise soon. He would have no choice. He would have to act. What a shame.

It would break his heart to lose her. But she would remain a beautiful memory in his heart forever. He wished it was not so but there was no other way.
As much as he admired her beauty and grace, he would have to kill her.

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Trade Paperback

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Clowns and Cowboys (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) 3 - now available!

I'm thrilled to announce that Clowns and Cowboys, the third book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, is now available.

Please enjoy a sample below.

If you'd like to be among the first to be notified of my new releases, feel free to join my mailing list.

Clowns and Cowboys (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #3
Fulfilling your destiny…one killer at a time.

When PI Miranda Steele gets a call from an old “friend” in Dallas and decides to take his case, her boss and husband Wade Parker is none too pleased. Especially when she insists he stay home due to his recent injuries.

No way, Jose.

But when southeastern sophisticated meets southwestern country, tempers blaze hotter than Texas chili sauce, sending Miranda into turmoil. How can she solve this case with the clash between her past “friend” and her present husband raging? She needs to figure it out soon.

The murder of a circus clown is about to lead her to something not even Parker could have predicted.

Barnes & Noble
iTunes, US
iTunes, Australia

Chapter One

“Death values a prince no more than a clown.” Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

“I’ll see what I can do.”
In her cube at the Parker Agency where she was now a Level Three investigator, Miranda Steele hung up the phone and stared blankly at her computer. The text on the screen—data from the super boring worker’s comp case she’d been piddling over—blurred before her eyes.
Soft typing and voices floated over the fabric-covered walls, but all she could hear was her heart pounding in her ears. She was shivering all over, like she was coming down with the flu.
But it wasn’t the flu. It was that phone call.
Her old pal Yosemite Sam, as everyone used to call him on the work site, was in trouble. She hadn’t seen him in, what? Ten or eleven years? Not since they’d been in Phoenix together. She smiled at the memory playing in her head. Cruising down a dusty Arizona highway with Sam on a pair of motorcycles.
He’d taught her how to ride.
Talk about a blast from the past.
Then her smile faded. Sam was in Texas now, outside of Dallas—where there had been a murder.
He needed her help.
Her mind buzzing, she tapped her fingers on the smooth gray surface of her desk. What in the world was she going to say to Parker?
She and her sexy husband had just come back from a case overseas and he’d wanted to take a break. He needed it, so she’d agreed. He’d been beaten up pretty bad and wasn’t fully recovered yet.
But this call from Sam?
She couldn’t ignore it. Even though she had a feeling Parker wasn’t going to go for it. Well, she’d just have to face Parker head on.
Straightening her shoulders, she rose, picked up the notepad she’d scribbled some data on, and headed for her boss’s corner office. Double time.
At the end of a row of cubes near the coffee maker, Miranda barreled around the corner—and nearly collided with someone who should have been watching where he was going.
She looked up and saw her buddy Dave Becker.
“Oh! Steele. I—I’m so sorry,” Becker stammered in his typically nervous way. He’d had his big nose buried in the e-pad thingy he was carrying and hadn’t been watching where he was going.
She took in his jeans and T-shirt and noticed his hair was growing over his ears. Plus his eyebrows looked bushier than she remembered. She realized she hadn’t seen him in quite a while.
She pointed at his outfit. “Out of uniform today?”
Not that she relished the dress code herself or policed her coworkers. It just seemed odd for Becker not to be in the required suit and tie.
He blinked at her as if he’d just woken up. “I guess you haven’t heard, what with you and the boss being out of town so much. I’ve moved to Digital Forensics. I’ve been working with Jenkins in the lab.”
“Digital Forensics?”
“Yeah. You know. Cyberstalking, hacking, data recovery. We just closed a missing persons case tracking the guy’s emails. He was alive, in a hotel down town. Not kidnapped, as his wife feared. Marriage is in trouble, though. He’d been emailing a hooker, seeing her on the side. Was at the hotel with her, if you get my drift.”
“Yeah, I get it.” The scumbag. But Miranda was impressed. She’d never thought of her old buddy Becker as a techno-nerd.
She waved a hand at the tablet. “You’re really turning into a geek there, huh?”
He blushed shyly. “I think I’ve found my passion.”
That was cool. Everybody needed a passion. But Becker seemed out of place by himself. “Where’s Holloway?” The two used to be inseparable and were her first buds at the agency when she started.
“In the field.”
So Holloway hadn’t followed in his sidekick’s geeky footsteps.
“With Wesson,” he added staring at his screen.
“Wesson? Really?” Definitely not one of Miranda’s favorite people. She wondered how Holloway had gotten teamed up with that bitch.
“Yeah. Oh, Joan wanted me to ask you something.”
“O…kay.” Miranda poked at the carpet with the toe of her shoe. She hadn’t talked to her best friend in a long while and Fanuzzi was probably pissed about it.
“Let’s see. What was it, again?” He stared down at his e-pad, gave something a swipe.
Yep, Becker was getting to be a real absentminded professor.
Something came to him and he brightened. “Oh, I remember. About the party.”
She folded her arms defensively. “What party?”
His eyes grew round. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you. Or maybe they decided it wasn’t going to be a surprise. No, that’s right. They couldn’t make it a surprise since you and the boss are travelling so much nowadays.”
She folded her arms tighter. “What the hell are you talking about, Becker?”
“Your anniversary. Joan wants to throw you a party. She wants to set a date for it and start planning. She wants you to call her.”
“Yeah. You know, wedding anniversary? Ours is coming up, too. Right around the corner. But we might postpone our celebration...” His voice drifted off as he stared at his pad again.
Miranda blinked at him.
Had it really been a year since her friend and Becker had tied the knot? Since she’d walked down the aisle in that awful gown? And…wait. Her friends wanted to throw a party? Hadn’t the wedding itself been enough?
“Uh, it’s not necessary. I’m sure Parker will have something planned.”
The corners of Becker’s lips turned down and he suddenly looked like a lost puppy. “Really? Joan is going to be so disappointed.”
Oh, good grief.
When she’d first met Fanuzzi—Miranda couldn’t shake the habit of calling her by her maiden name—they’d been on a road crew together. Joan Fanuzzi was the Dump Person and had directed the heavy machinery. She was one tough broad. The last thing Miranda had expected was for Fanuzzi to drop the crew, go into catering, and live for putting together fancy parties.
But she couldn’t disappoint the woman. Fanuzzi had been loyal to her when she didn’t deserve it. Besides Miranda wasn’t good at making friends and didn’t have many. She didn’t want to lose her best one.
“Okay. Tell her to call me sometime.”
“How about now?”
Miranda curled a lip. Since when did Becker get so pushy?
She glanced down at the pad in her hand. The paper one. Not possible. Sam needed her help. “Can’t right now, I’m on my way to see Parker.”
Becker’s face faded from a scowl into that schoolboy awe he used to wear when they were in training whenever she’d mentioned the top investigator he fairly worshipped. “Got another case?”
Couldn’t talk about this one. “Maybe. We’ll see.”
And she stepped around him, leaving him staring at his tablet for an answer.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Heart Wounds (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) 2 - now available!

I'm happy to let everyone know that the second book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, Heart Wounds, is now available.

I had a great time writing this story and I'm so excited to share it with my readers. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter.

Right now, I'm hard at work on the third book in the series. Next time, Miranda and Parker are going to Texas. Can't wait to see what they'll get into there. We're planning a fall release for book 3, so stay tuned.

If you'd like to be notified of my releases, feel free to join my mailing list.

Heart Wounds (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #2
Fulfilling your destiny…one killer at a time.

Miranda Steele probes the British upper crust in the second Miranda and Parker mystery.

In the London Museum of Antiquity a heart-breaking event occurs. Someone steals the priceless, newly acquired Egyptian dagger used by Marc Antony to kill himself over Cleopatra. Beside himself, the museum director calls in Parker and Miranda to investigate.

Miranda realizes someone could kill for a relic valued at over five million pounds. And that the first victim might be—her. The threat sets Parker’s nerves on edge and he doesn’t hesitate to show it. And Miranda doesn’t hesitate to flare up.

Can the detectives work out their issues before the theft escalates to murder?

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iTunes, US
iTunes, Australia

Chapter One

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy

If all went as planned, it promised to be a most monumental day.
Sir Neville Ravensdale sat on the wide rear portico of Eaton House in Surrey, England breakfasting with his wife of nineteen years. He was dressed in his best silk suit, an Ascot cravat of cobalt blue arranged carefully at his neck, a color Davinia once told him made his eyes sparkle.
He had barely touched his croissant or his single poached egg. He hadn’t heard the warblers singing in the hawthorns or smelled the fragrance of the blossoming bluebells or noticed the neoclassical design of the hedgerows, which he greatly admired.
All he could think about was the dagger.
It was Egyptian, just as his years of study told him it would be. The gleam of its ornate hilt flashed in his mind just the way it had when he’d first seen it two years ago on the excavation site, the foreign dust in his throat, the sun’s heat forming sweat beads on his brow, his heart racing madly with excitement of the discovery and trepidation of what might lie ahead.
Just the way it did now.
He rested his fork across the Eaton china plate and picked up his teacup. “Positively everyone will be there, Davinia. I do wish you’d come.”
Not even a flinch.
Wearing a pale chiffon morning dress, her dark hair pulled back in an artful chignon at the nape of her swanlike neck and looking as graceful as the statue of Artemis in the Louvre, his beloved wife stared out at the gardens studying her climbing roses with an empty gaze. They had bloomed too late for Chelsea but would be in time for the Hampton Court Palace flower show.
But Davinia probably wasn’t thinking that far ahead. No, she was thinking of how she’d show off the flowers during her Wildlife Rescue Charity meeting tomorrow.
At any rate she wasn’t giving a thought to what was before him today. For the hundredth-and-first time in what seemed like so many years, he forced himself to admit the truth.
The love of his life no longer cared for him.
“I still can’t believe my good fortune in acquiring such a find. Imagine. The very dagger Marc Antony used to do away with himself in 30 BC. And this morning, the museum shall have it on display.”
Again Davinia’s only response was a sip of tea.
What did he expect? She hadn’t taken an interest in any of his projects in years. And why should she? She had been Lady Eaton before the Earl passed. She’d been born the daughter of a duke. Why she had chosen a lowly museum curator as her second husband, he’d never know.
He was far beneath her.
“Don’t you agree that the excavation in Alexandria was a godsend? Think of it. The very instrument the Roman leader used to attempt suicide. Found right in Cleopatra’s mausoleum. It will bring the museum to the public’s attention once again.” The institute had suffered from financial difficulties in recent years. After today that would change. “Can’t you share in my enthusiasm just a little?”
Davinia sat up. “Oh. Yes, very nice, dear.”
She hadn’t heard a word. Her look of sheer boredom was as painful as what Marc Antony must have felt from that dagger when he sliced open his own abdomen.
To be sure, they’d fallen in love when they’d met. Deeply, passionately in love. But after three or four years of marriage the fervor had died away. The only explanation he could think was Davinia had come to regret having wed a mere commoner. And now with her at fifty-seven and him at sixty-two, there was little hope for rekindling any romance.
Pushing away his breakfast, Sir Neville rose to his feet. “Well, my sweet. I must be off. Cannot be late, you know. Not today.”
He strode across the terrazzo floor to give her a peck on the cheek.
She smiled thinly, her first natural response to him this morning, and lifted her hands to straighten the Grand Cross pin on his lapel. His knighthood several years ago was a poor substitute for real noble blood. “Do make sure you look your best, Neville.”
His best. Of all things in life Davinia cared most about keeping up appearances. He returned her lean smile. “Yes, dear. I’ll do that.”
And with that, he left and headed out for the car.
The drive to London was uneventful and when the chauffeur dropped him off at the museum’s rear entrance and Sir Neville stepped out of the car, his heart swelled.
He inhaled a deep breath of city air as he smiled up at the tall ionic columns, the Greek Revival gables and cornices, the expansive wings of the sprawling building. The London Museum of Antiquity. This place was much more of a home to him than Eaton House. That was Davinia’s domain.
The museum was his. And today would be his greatest coup to date. The acquisition of a dagger worth millions of pounds, though its historical significance was much more important than money. The story of Antony and Cleopatra, the two star-crossed lovers, had been revived in the media and all the country was abuzz with anticipation.
This was something he would be remembered for.
His dreary home life forgotten for the moment, he hurried up the steps with a spring in his gait.
Inside, the first person to greet him was his Chief Collections Manager, George Eames.
“Sir, I’m so relieved you’re here.”
The man was as much as a friend as a colleague, ever since their days at Cambridge together. He had a sturdy frame some people would call big-boned. Taller than Sir Neville with a heartwarming rounded belly stretching the waist of his worsted wool suit, he had the deep-set eyes and heavy jowls of an old English bulldog.
His thinning brown hair was neatly combed, his brows trimmed, his suit pressed. But he looked tired. Well, he’d been working late here last night.
Sir Neville wished he could have been with him. He should have been here last night. But Davinia had insisted on going to the philharmonic and as usual, he’d given in.
“Everything in order, George?”
“Yes, yes. Of course. The reporters are assembled in room seventeen, the designers, the security staff, everyone is there. We’ve just been waiting for you to check everything out before the presentation.”
“Excellent.” He followed his man down the labyrinth of corridors, down two short flights of stairs, and into the holding area of the storeroom.
There in the center of the large expanse, among other deliveries, stood a cart covered in black velvet. Perched atop it was a small crate.
“Is that it?” Sir Neville whispered with reverence.
Toby Waverly, a young intern with longish, curly red hair nodded with his broad, friendly smile. “It is indeed, sir.” He looked very smart this morning in his dark vest and crimson necktie.
A woman in a severe, dark blue skirt suit consulted her clipboard. “The plan is to roll the crate out first, then you’ll be introduced, sir.” The pleasant hint of her Indian accent under the crisp British reassured Sir Neville of the efficiency he relied on.
“Very good, Emily.” Sir Neville gave the nod and followed his staff through the large double doors and inside the lift. When it opened, two workers rolled the cart across the Great Hall and into Room Seventeen, the Special Exhibitions room.
He waited at the door and peeked inside.
There among the hieroglyphics, the ancient coins, the busts of assorted pharaohs, and the newly constructed replication of Cleopatra’s mausoleum, stood a crowd of people.
Friends, patrons, and reporters. Everyone from the BBC to the London News.
Excitement coursed through his veins as George made some introductory remarks that were far too flattering. Then George gestured to him and Sir Neville entered the room to loud applause.
The press of the crowd combined with the smell of artifacts made him feel a bit dizzy. No, it was what that crate held that was doing that. The most important acquisition of his career. If only Davinia were here to share this feat.
“Thank you,” he said smiling brightly. “On behalf of all of us on the museum staff, thank you all for coming today. As you know, it’s been over a year and a half since the artifact we’re receiving today was first discovered.”
Briefly, he detailed the difficulties of the excavation, the tedious negotiations with the government, the rivals who demanded the piece be put up for auction. “But in the traditional British spirit, we have carried on and weathered those storms. Thus we stand here today about to put this historic find on display for all to see. And so, without further ado, I give you, Marc Antony’s dagger.”
Emily handed him a hammer and he worked the claw against the metal braces, loosening them one at a time. One, two, three. His heart soared. He thought of the Roman legions, the ships of ancient Egypt. Antony and Cleopatra at the helm, then the lovers being driven into a tomb.
He could feel antiquity at his fingertips as the last brace came loose. He handed the brace and the hammer to Emily, and lifted the wooden lid.
The container was filled with Styrofoam peanuts as was usual. Emily showed him a plastic bag she was holding open. He nodded and began to scoop the peanuts into the bag. One handful. Two. Three. When he’d emptied half the crate, he stopped.
The dagger should have been in the middle of the crate encased in bubble wrap for additional protection. He shot a frown of concern to George. His brow was always furrowed but just now, the creases were deeper.
Perhaps the packers weren’t exact. The dagger must be somewhere. He scooped out more peanuts. More. More. He could see the bottom of the box. Surely he hadn’t missed it.
Emily handed the peanut bag to Toby and began frantically searching her clipboard. “The bill of lading is right here,” she whispered, showing it to Sir Neville.
He scanned it. Everything looked intact.
And then his heart stopped as he realized what had happened. The troubled excavation, the rivals, the publicity. Spasms of confusion and panic and embarrassment reverberated up his legs, into his torso, through his chest.
Merciful heavens, was he having a heart attack?
The crowd began to murmur as he reached for the side of the box to steady himself. He gasped for air.
George rushed to his side. “Sir, are you all right?”
Sir Neville reached out for the man’s hand and whispered in his ear. “Call Scotland Yard. The dagger has been stolen.”
George’s eyes went wide with shock, but he knew it was true. “Take care of the crowd,” he said to Emily and began to lead Sir Neville out of the room.
She nodded and turned to the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, it seems there’s been a slight mishap.”
As Emily’s voice rang in Sir Neville’s ears and his head spun wildly with bewildered dismay, another thought stuck him.
By the time they had crossed the Great Court he knew, in addition to the police, he had to make another call to an old friend. To his friend’s son, actually.