“But what?”

Isabel looked at Kate when she answered. “I begged her not to,” she admitted. “I felt sorry for him. I mean he’s living in this fantasy world, and I thought that as soon as he sobered up he would realize he needed to move on. Besides, I’m leaving town for a long time, and he’s in Europe. I’ll just bet he comes home with a new girlfriend.” She nodded as she added, “I think he’ll give up on me, but I doubt he’ll ever forgive Kate. He thinks she’s making me go away to college.”

“Why don’t you both go into the living room,” Kiera said.

“You’re in the way, Kate. Kiera and I need to get dinner on the table,” Isabel said. She was thankful the conversation had turned away from Reece.

Dylan followed Kate out of the kitchen. She sat down on the sofa and said, “Have a seat.”

She should have been more specific, she supposed. He sat down next to her and was so close their arms were touching. She quickly moved to the end of the sofa.

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s go through it again.”


“You might have forgotten something.”

“I didn’t forget anything,” she insisted. “Go back to Boston and tell Jordan to stop worrying.”

“She’s convinced you’re in trouble.”

“And you came all this way to save me?” She pointed her finger at him and stabbed at the air. “I don’t need anyone to save me. I can take care of any problems that come my way.”

He was trying to be patient. “Kate, what is it I do for a living?”

She knew where this was going. “You’re a detective with the Boston Police Department.”

“Which is why Jordan asked me to help figure out what’s going on. Now, who was in charge of the bomb investigation?”

“Detective Nate Hallinger. Why?”

“I want to talk to him,” he said, and before she could argue with him he continued. “Is he convinced that the explosion was meant to kill the artist, Cinnamon?”

“She’s in protective custody,” she said. “So he must think she was the target.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He ignored the question. “What kind of explosive device was used?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask,” she said. “And I doubt that Detective Hallinger would have told me.”

He nodded. His words were more clipped when he asked, “What did he tell you?”

“I don’t remember much.”

“Sure you do.”

She pointed her finger again. “You don’t need to snap at me. This isn’t an interrogation room, and I’m not a suspect.”

He obviously had gotten a kick out of what she’d said because he looked like he wanted to laugh.

“What’s so amusing?”

“You think this is how I interrogate suspects?”

“You had a tone.”

Ignoring her sarcasm, he continued. “You were inside your car when the place blew?”

“Yes, I was. One of the paramedics told me that the fire department had to use a can opener to pry me out of the wreckage. Fortunately, I was unconscious. I don’t think I would have liked opening my eyes and seeing all that metal pressing in on me. It would be like waking up inside a steel coffin.”

He inwardly cringed. “You were extremely lucky.”

She shrugged, acting as though what she’d just told him wasn’t all that terrible.

He had the urge to wrap his arms around her, but in her present mood he thought she’d probably use that finger to poke him in his bad shoulder if he did. He made up his mind that, after they had discussed the more important issues plaguing her, he would find out why she was being so prickly with him. But for now, if she wanted to act as though they barely knew each other, he’d go along with it.

His silence was making her nervous. She crossed one leg, then uncrossed it.

Dylan didn’t believe in coincidences, and he didn’t think that two near misses could be summed up as a streak of bad luck. Being in the wrong place once—okay, he’d buy that. But twice? No way.

“Did Detective Hallinger give you his card?” he asked. “I’d like to talk to him.”

“Yes, he did. I’ll get it for you.”

Kiera was standing at the sink washing fresh vegetables from the garden. Isabel was folding linen napkins.

“Kiera, what did you do with Detective Hallinger’s card?” Kate asked as she entered the kitchen.

Kiera tilted her head toward the refrigerator. “It’s under the cow magnet.”

“Oops. Kate, don’t get mad,” Isabel began.

“What is it?”

“I forgot to tell you Detective Hallinger called.”

“When did he call?”

“About an hour ago. He’d like to stop by later.”

“Did he say why?”

“Not really, and it would have been rude of me to ask.”

“Isabel, you’ve got to learn to write down messages.”

“I was using the phone and I got call-interrupted,” she explained.

“Dinner’s ready,” Kiera announced.

Kate took the card back to the living room and handed it to Dylan. “You don’t need to call him,” she said. “Evidently he’s coming over. Dinner’s ready. I’ll show you where you can wash up.”

Dylan had been checking his text messages. He put the phone away and stood.

Kate led the way. “I would appreciate it if we didn’t discuss explosions at dinner. I don’t want Isabel and Kiera to worry. If they think there’s a . . .”

“A what?”

“Problem,” she said. “Then they won’t leave.”

“You’re protecting them.”

“Yes. Besides, my nearly getting blown up isn’t suitable dinner conversation.” Never in her wildest dreams could she ever have imagined those words coming out of her mouth.

He laughed as he followed her. “Is that in the etiquette book?”

Dinner was quite lovely by Isabel’s standards. The conversation was actually pleasant.

As Isabel cleared the table, Kate and Kiera did the dishes. Dylan had offered to help, but Isabel was vehement in her refusal.

“You’re in the South now, and a guest in our home does not lift a finger.”

Kiera told him it was pointless to argue, and so after once again thanking them for dinner, he excused himself from the table and went into the den at the back of the house to make a phone call. Kate noticed he shut the door.

The doorbell rang a few minutes later.

“I’ll bet that’s Detective Hallinger,” Isabel said. She put a platter down on the counter and hurried out of the kitchen. “Kiera,” she called out, “you have time to go up the back stairs to put on some lipstick.”

Kiera was filling the sink with soapy water when Isabel made the suggestion. She bowed her head and said, “She just doesn’t stop, does she?”

Kate laughed. “Better you than me.”

“The only reason she isn’t focusing on you right now is because she thinks you’ve met your soulmate.”

“Meaning Dylan?”

“That’s right. I think I understand why she’s trying to find someone for me. She doesn’t want me to be lonely . . . or scared.”

“Which means she is.”

“Yes,” she said. “She’s had a harder time of it, much harder, this past year. She was so close to Mom. So the way I see it, we can’t let her think she’s on her own. I’ll call her almost every day until she adjusts, but Kate, you’re going to have to make weekend trips to see her, especially on parents’ weekend. If I can get the time off, I’ll be there, too.”

“Okay, we’ve got a plan,” she said. “Did you happen to notice Dylan was asking Isabel all those questions about Reece?”

“Yes,” she said. “He was very smooth about it, too.”

“I think he’s on the phone now running a check on Reece. You know, finding out if he has a criminal record.”

“Oh Lord, wouldn’t that be something.”

Kate dried her hands, handed Kiera the towel, and went to greet Detective Hallinger.

It was Dylan who actually let the detective inside. Isabel smiled and waited until Kate had made the introduction to say hello.

The two men shook hands. Hallinger was the first to speak. “How long are you in town, Detective?”

“Call me Dylan.”

Kate was about to tell Hallinger that Dylan would be going home tomorrow, but she never got the chance.

“I’m here for a while. Not sure how long.”

The two men were sizing each other up, like two roosters in a henhouse, she thought, and then she realized the comparison wasn’t flattering to her or her sisters.

“Where are you staying?”

“Don’t know yet,” Dylan answered.

“I hope you’ll stay with us,” Isabel urged. She turned her attention to Detective Hallinger and said, “It’s so nice to see you again.”

“Nice to see you, too,” he replied.

“Won’t you come in and sit down,” she offered, gesturing toward the living room.

He and Dylan walked in together. Dylan was talking, but his voice was so low Kate couldn’t hear what he was saying. The detective took his notepad out and started writing.

“Did you offer him a beverage?” Isabel asked.

“You were standing right here. You know I didn’t. Besides, this isn’t a social call.”

“Did he tell you what was so important?”

Kate was watching them. “I’m sorry?”

Isabel pulled her toward the banister and farther away from the men. She glanced into the living room and lowered her voice and said, “When Detective Hallinger called, he said he wanted to talk to you about something important. I thought he sounded kind of grim or something. I’m not going anywhere if you’re in trouble, Kate. I want to know what the detective says. Maybe I could sit with you and listen. I won’t interrupt.”

“The detective just wants to tie up some loose ends,” she said. “Nothing you haven’t already heard.” It was a lie, of course, and Isabel didn’t look like she was buying it.

“How do you know that? He hasn’t had time to tell you anything yet.”

Good point, she thought. “I know because Dylan told me. And you trust him, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course I do,” she said. “But how is that possible? He only just met Detective Hallinger.”

“Good heavens, you’re suspicious. Dylan talked to someone at the police department.”

“Oh . . . okay, then.”

Kate was appalled at how easily she could lie. She was getting a little too good at it.

Isabel looked relieved, though. Kate hadn’t realized how much Isabel was worrying about her. So maybe in this instance the end did justify the means.

“Everything’s fine,” she assured her. “And I will offer the detective something to drink. Okay?”

“Mother would want you to remember your manners.”

World War III could be going on, but by God no one would be thirsty if Isabel had her way, Kate thought.

“I know.”

She tried to go into the living room, but Isabel stopped her once again. “One more thing and don’t get mad.”

Kate sighed. “Who called?”



“This afternoon.”

“What did he want?”

“He just wanted to see how you were doing. He was very upset. He told me he was mortified about you getting blown up at his party.”

“I did not get blown up.”

“You almost did,” she said. “Carl also said to tell you he’s so sorry about everything, and he hopes you can find it in your heart to forgive him. He’s kind of dramatic, isn’t he?”

“He can be,” she agreed. “I’ll call him when I get a free moment.”

“Oh, you can’t call him. He said to tell you he’s going away where no one can bother him. He wouldn’t tell me where.”

“Then I’ll wait until he calls me again. Anything else?”

Isabel looked guilty. “Yes, the box lady called. She said she had something important to ask you.” She rushed on. “I didn’t tell you about it because she said she’d call back soon.” As if on cue, the phone rang. “See?” Isabel said gesturing toward the sound.

Kate glanced at Dylan and Nate, who were deep in conversation, then headed to the den to answer the phone.

Haley George was on the line. To all of her clients she referred to herself as “the box lady.” She was one of Kate’s most valued suppliers. Her small company, which designed and produced specialty containers, had provided the octagon boxes for Kate’s products from the beginning. She never missed a deadline, and Kate had come to rely on her efficiency.

“I’m sorry to call you so late,” Haley apologized. “I realize your business is on hiatus right now, but I thought I should call you about this right away so there won’t be a delay when production starts again. I know how important the details are to you.”

“That’s all right, Haley,” Kate assured. “What’s up?”

“The new spools of ribbon came in today. Your initials were printed in silver as always, but the ribbon color isn’t your usual mint green. This one is more of a sage green. If I send it back, it could take another month to get the right color. I want to know what you want me to do.”

Kate sighed. With all of her other problems, the color of a ribbon seemed at the bottom of her priority list right now. Nevertheless, the design and color of her packaging had become a Kate MacKenna trademark, and if nothing else, she was a perfectionist when it came to consistency and quality.

“Send it back,” she told Haley. “And thanks for letting me know.”

“Will do,” Haley answered.

Kate hung up the phone. Maybe a slight variation in color wasn’t all that important, she thought, but as long as this company was still hers, she would make sure it followed the high standards she had set for it.

Isabel stuck her head in the door. “Dylan’s asking for you,” she said.

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