Ten years ago Kara Thistle fled her sleepy California town. She left behind bittersweet memories and a night that changed her life. Now deadly business brings the FBI special agent back home and face-to-face with her ex-lover--Lantern Cove police chief Matthew Beauchamp.
Forced to work with the special agent to track down a killer, Matt has to play nice with Kara, the last person he expected to see again. The woman he's never forgotten. Despite everything, he still wants her...even when he discovers her secret. Now their daughter's in danger, and Kara is stealing his heart all over again. This time they have everything to lose....
The morning broke gray and dismal. Cloud cover drifted, creeping among the trees of Wolf's Tooth ravine, overgrown with hundred-year-old cedars and western red hemlock. It was a place Matthew Beauchamp would normally enjoy hiking to, but today was no ordinary day.
A freelance photographer taking photos of the area had stumbled upon the body of a little girl. Now, looking down at the body, Matthew thought he had not come across a more heart-rending scene in his entire law enforcement career. Having grown up in the sleepy town of Lantern Cove, Matthew, as chief of police, was more accustomed to crimes of opportunity: petty theft, vandalism, the usual pot smokers and growers. Nothing like this.
Mud spattered her short-sleeve "Princess" shirt and pink sweatpants; she was missing a shoe. Her small toes had the remnants of pink polish and her flaxen hair was matted with dirt and underbrush. Someone had tossed this child away as if she were garbage.
"Feds are on their way. Should be here anytime," Sgt. Oren Lawrence said, coming to stand next to Matthew. Wiping his ruddy nose with the back of his glove, he sucked back the rest of the snot before continuing, "You thinking what I'm thinking?"
Cold seeping into his bones, Matthew nodded. "It's that Linney girl. Went missing a week ago in San Francisco."
"Far from home."
"Yeah," Matthew said grimly. "But only someone who's familiar with this area would've known about Wolf's Tooth. It's not like this place is popular with tourists. It's hard to get to and you risk a broken ankle coming down that ridge." He shook his head.
"How about the shutterbug who found her?" Oren speculated but Matthew shook his head.
"At this point he seems clean. Looked ready to puke. I don't blame him. Coming across a body like this might make any normal person lose his lunch. But I've got Dinky looking into his alibi."
The sound of cars pulling off the shoulder above them drew their attention and Oren grimaced. "Feds." Then he clapped Matthew on the shoulder before returning to the team who were canvassing the area. "Remember to play nice," he said.
Matthew looked up as two agents appeared over the ridge, a man and a woman, and he waved them down.
At first there was nothing extraordinary about the two. They had the look of federal agents, complete with austere coats, serious expressions and an air of arrogance that seemed to come with being affiliated with a government agency. But as they traversed the dangerous, uneven terrain, and walked toward him, Matthew sucked in a sharp breath as recognition hit him in a flash, knocking the wind out of him. He hadn't seen her in almost ten years but he'd recognize that face anywhere.
She had been the fiancée of his best friend--they had all grown up together. Now she was a special agent for the FBI. Kara was the last person he expected to see walking back into his life, if even only professionally.
Time had treated her well enough, although she'd lost the softness of youth. Her cinnamon hair was scraped back in a no-nonsense ponytail at the base of her neck, and she wore neither earrings nor makeup. Her cheeks glowed from the salty sea air and clear, marble-green eyes stared back at him. A stunning young woman had blossomed into a striking adult, not that Matthew was surprised. Good looks had never been her problem.
"Matthew." Her voice gave away nothing of what she may have been feeling, but there was something behind her eyes that betrayed her for a split second. To her credit, she recovered...