“I have several ideas,” she answered. “And I will discuss them with my sisters before a final decision is made, but I’m leaning toward a research facility. My mother died of a terrible disease,” she said. “I’m also considering a new cancer wing for the hospital in Silver Springs. However,” she added, “I do know this. Whatever the money is used for will have my mother’s name on it. Leah MacKenna.”

They looked horrified.

“Compton will roll over in his grave,” sniffed the man with the red-striped tie. “He didn’t even consider her a part of his family.”

Kate headed for the door, but she turned at the last comment. She thought for a second before answering. “Thank you. What a lovely thing to say.”

Chapter Forty-four

Home never looked so good to Kate. The house was old and run-down, desperately in need of a new coat of paint and new shutters, but she still thought it was beautiful.

By one o’clock in the morning she was pulling back the sheets and slipping into her bed next to Dylan. He was already sound asleep. She’d taken a long, soothing shower. Exhausted now, she was certain she’d be out the second her head hit the pillow.

She had to tug her pillow out from under him first. She’d just gotten comfortable when the trembling started. Within seconds she was violently shaking. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong. The bed shuddered. If it had been on rollers, they would have been scooting all over the bedroom.

He came awake with a start. Lifting up, he squinted at her and dragged her toward him.

Kate curled up against him, her head tucked under his chin. His body was warm and comforting.

“Sorry I woke you,” she said. “I can’t stop shaking. I’m not cold.”

He rubbed her back. “The day is finally catching up with you,” he said. “You’ve been operating on adrenaline and fear.”

A minute passed, and then she whispered, “Are you ever afraid?”

“Yes, I am.” Dylan thought about Kate inside the house with a bomb and a cold-blooded killer. He’d been damned scared then.


“Yes, Pickle.”

She heard him yawn. “I was thinking . . .”

“That can’t be good.”

“I trusted him.” Her voice quivered. “I had to trust him. I had to believe what he told me . . .”

He tried to ease her mind. “Why wouldn’t you trust Nate? The son of a bitch was a cop. You should have been able to trust him.”

“No, not Nate,” she said. “The Florist. I had to trust him.”

Dylan propped himself up on one elbow and leaned over her, waiting for her to continue.

“I followed the instructions of a man who admitted to me that he likes to blow things up . . . oh, dear heaven . . .”

She put her hand over her eyes. The enormity of what she had been through was finally sinking in.

“You didn’t have a choice. Isn’t that what you told me? You had to trust him.”

She wasn’t quite ready to be reasonable. “Yes, I remember telling everyone I didn’t have a choice. You know what I didn’t tell them about The Florist?”

He pulled her hand away from her face. “What’s that?”

“I felt a little sorry for him,” she said. “Am I crazy?”

He kissed her forehead. “Yeah, maybe a little.”

She thought about the basket of flowers and how terrified she’d been when she’d cut the blue wire. That thought jumped to another, and she suddenly was furious with Dylan.

He was trying to kiss her. She pushed him away. “You ran into that house knowing there was a bomb that could explode any second. You could have been killed! Why did you do such a stupid thing?”

“You were inside. That’s why.”

Her eyes welled up. “The bomb squad was there. You should have—”

“You were inside,” he repeated firmly.

She shook her head. “You take stupid chances.”

“I’ve heard that criticism before—from you, as a matter of fact.”

He tried once again to capture her mouth with his own, but she evaded him. “When did I ever . . .”

He sighed. “In the hospital in Boston after my surgery . . . maybe the day after. I woke up and saw you. It felt good, knowing you were there, but I couldn’t figure out why. You were always such a pain in the—”

“I was not.”

“Every time you came to Nathan’s Bay, you did something to annoy me.”

She could hear the smile in his voice. “Give me an example.”

“If you got to the phone, and it was for me, you came up with the most outrageous stories.”

“No, I didn’t,” she said defensively.

“You told Janey Callahan I’d enlisted in the French Foreign Legion.”

“Well, maybe one time, but if she was stupid enough to believe that, then you shouldn’t have been dating her in the first place.”

“I lost a lot of girlfriends because of you.” He kissed her earlobe. “But the worst thing you did . . .”


“You ignored me. Drove me crazy.” He let out an exaggerated yawn. “Think you’ll be able to sleep after?”

“After what?”

He didn’t need to explain. His body was already covering hers.

Dylan walked into Chief Drummond’s office at ten o’clock the following morning. The chief was eager to talk to him.

“Shut the door and take a seat,” Drummond said. “I want to hear all about it. Did Hallinger have any inkling you knew?”

Dylan placed the gun and badge on the desk. “No, he didn’t,” he said. Then he sat down and told him how it had all gone down. When he was finished, he said, “I never would have figured it out in time if you hadn’t helped. I didn’t want to go to Savannah PD on little more than a gut feeling, especially since he’d worked for them.”

Drummond nodded. “When you asked me if you could run something by me, and you told me about that peculiar remark Hallinger made . . .”

“That he heard Kate turned the money down,” Dylan finished.

“That’s right. You were already suspicious. You just resisted the notion. All I did was help out a little. After forty years in law enforcement, I’ve learned a thing or two, and one of those things is how to get information fast. It didn’t take too many calls for me to get a buddy to check phone records and credit card receipts that put Nate Hallinger and Vanessa MacKenna in the same place at the same time. Looks like they had a nice little rendezvous in Cancún about six months ago.”

Dylan continued. “Finding out Vanessa was sleeping with Nate. That pretty much put the nail in the coffin.”

“What about Jackman?” Drummond asked.

“They had to let him go.”

“Lack of evidence, huh?”

Dylan nodded.

“Crying shame,” Drummond said.

They talked about the case a few more minutes, and then Drummond changed the subject.

“I’m going to be retiring soon,” he said as he stretched his arms up and clasped his hands behind his head.

“Yes, I heard.”

“I’ll stay in the area, of course. It’s too pretty here to leave.”

Dylan agreed. “You don’t have to worry about traffic,” he said. “That’s something I appreciate. Boston’s another story.”

“You like to fish?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Great fishing around here. Do you ever think about leaving law enforcement?”


“Good. We need men like you. What about a change of pace? We don’t have many homicides or bombs going off here. Kate’s going to be the talk of the town for years to come. She’s quite a pistol, isn’t she?”

“Yes, she is.”

“Like I was saying, I’m going to retire. I could probably hold on another six months. What do you think? Will that give you enough time?”

Dylan was gone.

Kate was just waking up when she heard the front door shut. She bolted upright in bed. She heard a car start and was instantly furious. How could he leave without so much as a “see you later”?

“Oh, I don’t think so,” she muttered.

She kicked off the sheet and jumped out of bed ready to run after him and give him a piece of her mind because he hadn’t bothered to say good-bye. Fortunately, she came to her senses before she left the bedroom. Good Lord, she was stark naked. Wouldn’t that be a memory to cherish? A crazed, shrieking, and na*ed ex-lover chasing him down the street.

He probably left her a note, she decided, but she wasn’t in any hurry to read it. It would just break her heart. She took her time getting dressed and finally went downstairs. She walked past his garment bag, stopped, and turned back. Now she felt like an idiot. He hadn’t left for Boston after all.

But he would leave today. He was all packed and ready to go, wasn’t he? A note in the kitchen confirmed it. He’d written the flight number and time on a piece of paper. The airline’s phone number was written above it.

“You knew this was coming,” she told herself.

She sighed. Yes, she’d known, but that didn’t make it any easier. How was she going to say good-bye to him? She was a wreck just thinking about it. It would be mortifying if she cried. Don’t let me cry, she prayed. Plenty of time for that after he’s gone.

It was ridiculous to worry about this a moment longer. He was leaving, and that was that. Breakfast. Yes, she’d fix breakfast because that was what a normal, rational person would do. And when she was finished, she would start her day, and the rest of her life . . . her lonely, pathetic, stupid, I-don’t-need-anyone life.

She grabbed a box of Cheerios out of the pantry and opened it. She didn’t bother pouring some into a bowl. She stood at the sink looking out at the overgrown garden while she ate dry cereal.

How would Dylan handle their good-bye? With style, she supposed. Yes, style. He was a pro, after all. With all of his experience, he had to have the routine down pat. There had been so many women over the years he’d kissed good-bye.

And now Kate was one of them.

How could she have been so stupid? This broken heart was her own fault. Dylan hadn’t tricked her into falling in love with him. She knew what he was.

She’d spent all those weekends on Nathan’s Bay with Jordan and the Buchanans, and every weekend that Dylan and his brothers joined them, the phone never stopped ringing. The callers were invariably female, and they were always looking for Dylan.

It drove her nuts. And he was still driving her nuts.

Kate would concentrate on keeping her emotions under control until he left. Surely she could come up with something clever to say . . . and she hoped to be inspired any minute now. She heard the front door open.

“Kate?” he called.

And there he was, standing in the doorway, looking almost too good to be out in public. No wonder women flocked to him. He was irresistible.

“You’re leaving,” she blurted. Oh, boy, that was inspired.

“In a little while, but—”

She interrupted. “Please, no explanations are needed. I appreciate your help with . . . you know, the craziness, but now it’s time for you to go home. Your life is in Boston.”

His eyes sparkled. What was he thinking? And why was he so obviously amused? Good-byes weren’t funny.

“And my life is here,” she continued. “I’m not going to move my company to Boston. This is where I belong. I watched that video, and I know I’m nothing like Compton, but listening to him made me realize I don’t want to be on the fast track, and I don’t want to become obsessed with building my company. I’ll expand, but at my own pace. However,” she added, “there will be times when I’m in Boston visiting Jordan, and we’re bound to run into each other. It’s inevitable. I don’t want what happened between us . . . why are you smiling?”

“You’re not going to give me the ‘that was then, this is now’ speech again, are you?”

Well, she wouldn’t now. “Good-bye,” she blurted out. “That’s all I wanted to say.”

She considered kissing him on the cheek and telling him she’d miss him, but she decided not to. If she got too close, she’d probably throw herself into his arms and start crying.

“Is it my turn yet?” he asked.

Here it comes, she thought. The smooth good-bye.

“Of course,” she said, bracing herself.

He was casually leaning against the door, acting as though he had all the time in the world to dump her. “I used to hate pickles when I was a kid. It’s an acquired taste,” he explained. “I love them now.”

Now that, she had to admit, was a unique beginning.

“And I call you pickle.”

She gave him a quizzical frown.

He pulled away from the door. “Jeez, Kate, put it together.”

“I get it,” she said. “But you love lots of foods. You love black olives and pretzels and sweet corn and pizza and hot peppers and—”

“No, I don’t. Those are all really swell foods. But . . . I only love pickles.”

“This is the strangest good-bye . . .”

“I’m not saying good-bye. I’m saying I love you.”

“You love . . . you what? No, you don’t.” She waved the cereal box around as she reacted. “Don’t say . . . you can’t . . . “ Cheerios were flying everywhere.

“Every time I ran into you on Nathan’s Bay, you interfered with my love life. You were such a pain. When you weren’t screwing things up, you were acting like I wasn’t there. I was so damned mad at you all the time, but I kept coming back for more. Then it occurred to me that I always made it a point to find out when you were going to be there for the weekend, and I’d show up, too. Yes, I love you. It just took me awhile to figure it out. And when I did, I started calling you “pickle” just to make you crazy.”

“You knew I didn’t like it.”

“So? I didn’t much like being in love with you. For a long time there I thought you were ignoring me and it . . . unnerved me.”

She pointed the box at him. “What do you mean, you thought I was ignoring you?”

“You love me, Kate. It took me awhile to figure that out, too. I think you’ve loved me a long time. You just hadn’t realized it yet.”

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