Neither desires to work together—but they’ll never uncover the truth alone.
Landing a front page headline isn’t why reporter Caitlin Sparks is investigating a string of suspicious deaths connected to the U.S. State Department. She has a personal stake in finding the killer.
Detective Blake Madison has a connection to the murders too, and will risk anything to uncover the truth. But a journalist is the last person he’d rely on to help him solve a crime—especially one whose trail of evidence leads back to him.
“Here you go.” The detective set the mug down on the table and took a seat. His sleeves were rolled up now and the tie had disappeared completely. The way his dark hair and complexion stood out against the crisp, white shirt he wore made him look a little more amiable and pleasant than the last time they’d met. But when he leaned forward with his arms on the table, Caitlin could see why he had such a reputation as a menacing interrogator. The look in his eyes turned intense and commanding—the kind of look that both drew her in and made her want to run away. Fast.
“I don’t usually do this.”
“Talk to reporters.” He exaggerated the word to make clear it was a profession extremely distasteful to him.
Caitlin refused to be intimidated or swayed. “Thanks for clearing that up.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, matching her sarcasm with some of his own. “And just to be clear, I’m no longer on the case so I don’t have anything to give you.”
“Excuse me?” Caitlin’s tone revealed her confusion and surprise.
“I told you I’m off the case.” He appeared surprised that she was surprised.
“Yes, and I’m off the story. But I thought we were sharing.”
“Minor correction. You’re sharing.”
Caitlin blinked. And blinked again. She thought he must be joking, but the expression on his face did not suggest that intent. “If you’re no longer actively working the case, why am I sharing with you?”
He lifted his mug and took a drink of coffee as he pondered the question.
“I don’t like what I’m being told. I want to see if you have anything to substantiate my gut feeling.”
Caitlin stood her ground. “In my world, sharing implies that we both give a little.” She closed the file and pushed out her chair. “Thanks for the coffee.”
“Hold on.” He sat back in his chair, crossed his arms, and stared at her a moment.
Caitlin hated the way he was able to combine unnerving intensity with disinterested detachment. She wondered if it was a natural habit of his or if he had been trained by the military to remain remote and aloof even in the most distressing situations. His body language revealed nothing, and his facial expression, as usual, was that of a stone. She didn’t like being around people she couldn’t read.
“So you came all the way out here, and now you want to negotiate?”
Caitlin was stunned, both by his self-assurance and his assertion.
“Negotiate? I didn’t realize I was going to have to negotiate. I’m pretty sure the word you used in your email was share.”
“Okay, maybe negotiate is the wrong word. How about co-op- erate?”
He drew the word out, pronouncing each syllable.
Caitlin couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “So you lured me out here on the pretext of sharing, and then have the gall to think you can bully me into providing information with nothing in return?” Shestood. “You can call it negotiation or cooperation or even collaboration for all I care, but you want to know what I call it?”
He didn’t answer, but she thought she saw a hint of amusement in his eyes, which infuriated her even more. She was too angry to think of a word to call it, so she pushed in her chair and turned to leave.
“Hold on.” His commanding voice stopped her in mid-stride. It took everything within her to turn around, but what she saw when she did surprised her.
Madison was fingering through a stack of folders in front of him, intent it seemed on locating one in particular. “Have you seen the autopsy report?” His voice was casual, as if the last few minutes had never transpired.
“Of course not.”
He lifted his gaze for just a second at the tone of her voice, and then went back to searching through the manila folders. Finding the one he wanted, he pushed it over to where she had been sitting, and then picked up his coffee mug. “Take a look.”
Caitlin stared at the file and then back at his stone-cold face. “From the Hillside murders?”
He gave a single nod of affirmation, but he didn’t look happy about it.
Her novels have been used in schools to teach visualization techniques and are available in more than one hundred libraries including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy.
James stays active working part-time as a stagehand where she assists with shows ranging from country bands and stage plays, to operas, symphonies and ballets. She resides in Gettysburg, Pa., and has a passion for old dwellings and first edition books.