"'Sergeant Raeburn, I didn't kill my husband.'"
Sydney Green wiped at the perspiration dotting her
forehead, wishing she could forget the image of Doug lying
facedown in a pool of blood.
The detective's bold look of disbelief unnerved her. "'And
you have no idea who'd want him dead?'"
"'No.'' The wooden chair squeaked as she shifted her
weight. Even two weeks later, the scent of death and the
coppery taste of fear she'd experienced as she'd knelt
beside Doug rushed back.
The paunchy, near-bald policeman paced, his heavy boots
thudding against the wood floor. His incessant motion
intensified the tension radiating through the small
office. The stained, yellowed walls felt as if they were
closing in on her.
Raeburn finally paused, planted one beefy arm on the
scarred table and bent over so his face was only inches
from hers. His breath smelled of cigarettes, his body of
sweat. "'You put on a good innocent act, Mrs. Green, but
I'm not buying it.'"
The condemning look in his expression almost shattered her
"'You said you came home around 11:00 p.m. and found your
husband immediately, but you didn't report it until almost
an hour later. And no fingerprints other than yours and
your husband's were found in your house.'"
"'Just what are you implying?'' Sydney asked bitterly,
unable to believe anyone could think she was a killer.
Raeburn had read her her rights the first time he'd
questioned her, but she'd been in such a state of shock
she hadn't realized the implications of answering his
questions. Perhaps she should call a lawyer.
"'I'm just trying to get to the truth.'"
"'I told you the truth.'' Her stomach clenched into a
knot. "'I came in and found Doug on the floor. He was
pale, chalky-looking.'' She hesitated, twisting her hands
in her lap. "'I rushed to him and saw the blood. So much
blood. He didn't respond to me. I jumped up to call for
help...then someone knocked me over the head.'' She
hesitated again, wondering if she could have done
something different. Something that would have saved Doug.
She tucked away the guilt, but not before she saw
suspicion in the detective's feral eyes. "'As soon as I
regained consciousness, I called 911. You have to believe
me! Why aren't you looking for the killer?'"
Raeburn dug a toothpick out of his plaid-shirt pocket and
stuck it in the corner of his mouth, chewing on it
thoughtfully as he continued to stare at her. Sydney
fought the urge to close her eyes. Every time she did, she
saw the awful bloodstain that had soaked the carpet.
"'What if I think I've got the killer right here?'' Rae-
burn asked in a deceptively calm voice as if he'd already
tried and convicted her.
"'Sergeant, I photograph babies and children for a
living,'' she replied softly, swiping at her tears. "'I
believe in family and home and all that sappy stuff. I'm
not a murderer. I had no reason to hurt Doug. I loved
She stood, ready to leave. "'And if you continue to harass
me, I will call an attorney.'"
His eyes didn't soften. "'So you're telling me you and
your husband had a good marriage?'"
Sydney prayed her voice didn't give her away. "'Yes. Now I
wish you'd leave me alone and let me grieve.'"
"'Are you sure your marriage was stable? No problems?
Arguments, money trouble?'' The sardonic edge in his tone
sent a chill slithering up her spine. "'Everything okay in
the bedroom, Mrs. Green?'"
Sydney refused to let him coerce her into discussing the
more intimate details of her marriage. Instead, she folded
her arms across her chest and met his gaze, praying her
voice sounded steady. "'Not that our personal life is any
of your business, but that was fine, too.'' She took a
deep breath. "'In fact, we were trying to have a baby.'"
For a fraction of a second, the steely glint in his eyes
slipped. "'Is that so?'"
"'Yes.'' Sydney looked away, picking at a piece of lint on
her dress. "'I wanted a baby more than anything in the
Raeburn leaned so close Sydney unconsciously retreated as
far as possible against the table, ignoring the pain when
the wood pressed into her hip. "'Then why did your husband
have a vasectomy?'"
The breath whooshed from her lungs. ''What?'' "'You want
me to believe you didn't know?'"
Hurt, shock, then anger rippled through her. The tears
she'd tried to keep at bay tracked down her face, un-
checked, as she shook her head. "'You're lying. That's not
true. We were trying to have a baby. Doug wanted one as
badly as I did. He said so.'"
"'It is true, Mrs. Green,'' Raeburn said in a quiet voice.
"'I saw the autopsy report. He'd had a vasectomy.'"
Sydney pressed her fist against her mouth to hold back a
sob as the detective's words sliced through her. Any hope
she'd had that Doug had really loved her died immediately.
She'd known her husband had secrets, had suspected an
affair, maybe something illegal going on. But this...
Raeburn laid his hand beside the tape recorder and leaned
forward. "'You know what I think? I think you killed your
husband, and you needed that extra time to get rid of the
gun before you called 911.'' His voice lowered to a
menacing pitch. "'And I'll give you credit â€” you were
good, even made a real lump on your head to throw
suspicion off yourself. And now I know why.'"
A feeble protest died on her lips as she realized she'd
fallen right into Raeburn's trap. The next time she spoke
with him, she would definitely have a lawyer present.
Because in her grief and her inability to hide her pain,
she'd just confirmed she had a motive to kill her husband.
AS DUSK SETTLED around the small town of Beaufort, Collin
removed his sunglasses, cataloging the details of the
police station, trying to decide whether or not to get out
of his Bronco, go in and ask questions. He'd come here to
repay his debt to the man who'd given him back his sight.
After the bizarre vision, he'd hounded his friend and
colleague, Sam, until he'd pulled some strings and found
out the name of the donor. The short report Sam had faxed
him about Doug Green said he'd been an entrepreneur, that
he put together deals for start-up companies. He raised
capital for them, then took them public.
Not only a smart man, but an honorable one â€” Green had
donated a part of his body for someone else's benefit.
And Collin would never be able to thank him personally for
Green had been married to his wife, Sydney, for only a
year. Collin shifted in his seat, unable to shake the
feeling that had nagged him for the past few weeks and
made him drive to Beaufort. Doug Green had been murdered.
Why? Maybe there was something he could do to solve the
crime, something that would make his nightmares disappear.
Unofficially, of course.
The door to the station opened and a woman exited. Sydney
Green. He recognized her from the snapshot in the
newspaper article Sam had sent him. For a brief second she
raised her head and seemed to stare right at him. Tears
streaked her cheeks and his gut clenched at the sorrow in
her heart-shaped face.
Her beauty and vulnerability struck a chord of longing in
him he hadn't experienced in a long time. Slender, she
wore a light blue sundress with spaghetti straps and flat
sandals. Her sable hair fell in waves over her shoulders,
and her eyes were as blue as the summer sky. He felt like
an intruder, spying on her as she walked slowly toward a
green Honda, her face pale, her shoulders hunched.
What had happened inside? Had the local police already
solved the case?
If not, did they suspect Sydney Green? The cop in him had
dissected the case the minute he'd finished Sam's report.
The prime suspect in a murder case was usually the spouse.
Given the facts, this case looked classic â€” domestic
passion gone awry. No break-and-enter. No struggle. Victim
shot at close range with a .40 caliber gun. Amount of time
elapsed before the wife reported the crime sufficient for
her to hide evidence. Was Sydney Green a grieving widow in
need of help or one hell of an actress?
Still unsure whether or not to tell her about the
transplant or to go in undercover, he watched her pull
away. He gripped the steering wheel, his mind cluttered
with questions. Some small spark of awareness, an aching
familiarity streaked through him, making him shift
uncomfortably in his seat. She looked fragile, and he
could imagine the kind of interrogation they'd put her
through â€” the kind he would have put her through himself.
He started his Bronco and began to follow her at a safe
distance. She wound through the streets of the quaint
South Carolina town and crossed the bridge over the inlet,
then eventually turned onto a graveled driveway that led
to a small, white-clapboard church. He drove past the
driveway, then parked at the side of the road and killed
the engine. He watched her climb out of her car and pick
her way across the weed-filled graveyard beside the church.
Faded plastic flowers filled chipped cemetery vases while
other vases sat empty. His uneasiness grew. If he'd died,
instead of being blinded, would anyone have brought
flowers to his grave? He felt a momentary longing for
someone to love and love him back, but he shrugged it off.
Cops were loners. He'd always lived alone. He always would.
A light sprinkling of rain dotted his windshield. He
pulled a pair of binoculars from his dash and rolled down
his window. He watched her push the damp tresses of her
hair away from her face, saw her tears mingle with the
raindrops as she knelt at the tombstone. She was talking
to the grave. A creepy feeling crawled up his spine, and
an urge to go to her tightened his gut.
He climbed silently from his car, telling himself he would
only go close enough to hear what she was saying.
Stuffing his hands in the pockets of his faded jeans, he
walked toward her. Sobs racked her body now.
Emotions bombarded him. No one could stand by and witness
such misery without feeling sympathetic.
"'Doug, why did you lie to me?'' he heard her whisper. He
hesitated at her comment, but unable to stop himself, he
approached her slowly and laid a hand gently on her
shoulder. She jerked and turned to stare at him, her
reddened eyes wide with a mixture of fear, hurt, surprise.
"'Who are you?'' she choked out, quickly standing and
putting some distance between them.
Collin released a strained breath, pausing when her gaze
locked with his. He slowly peeled off his dark glasses,
and something strange, surreal, passed between them,
connecting them in a way he couldn't explain. It was
almost as if she recognized him. Then wariness darkened
"'I asked you who you are,'' she said in a shaky voice.
"'My name is Collin Cash.'' He extended his hand and she
simply stared at it, biting her lip. "'I'm truly sorry for
your loss,'' he said quietly. He'd frightened her. A
twinge of guilt inched into his conscience.
She rejected his outstretched hand, so he dropped it and
took a step back. She, too, retreated another step as if
she was about to run, but a beige sedan pulled into the
parking lot and an elderly couple climbed out, and she
Her skin glowed in the dimming light, looked smooth and
silky soft. Raindrops clung to her eyelashes and hair. A
tingle of awareness he didn't want to admit to raced
through him. Even in grief, Sydney Green was a strikingly
beautiful woman. Porcelain skin, hair like an ebony
curtain, eyes a misty blue.
"'I'm sorry about your husband's death.'"
Her eyes momentarily filled with renewed tears and he felt
his gut clench. Should he tell her the truth?
"'I gather you knew Doug,'' she said, her gaze raking over
him in an uncomfortable way. A suspicious, cautious way,
he realized, wondering about the direction of her thoughts.
"'We had a mutual business acquaintance,'' he hedged.
"'You weren't at the funeral?'"
"'No. I just arrived in town and wanted to pay my
respects. I've been in the hospital...'' He let his
explanation fade into silence. "'Is there anything I can
do for you?'"
Distrust flashed into her expression. "'No thanks, I'm
fine. I just need to be alone.'"
She didn't look fine. She looked vulnerable and sad, as if
the last thing she needed was to be alone. He acknowledged
her words with a slight nod. Maybe now wasn't the time to
tell her the truth. It might come as too much of a
shock. "'I'm going to be staying at the Beaufort Bedand-
Breakfast. If there's any way I can help you, let me
Sydney retreated another step, hugging herself
protectively. The elderly couple, having placed flowers on
a nearby grave, walked past hand in hand.
"'Look, I have to go now.'' She lowered her head and
focused on the soaked leather of her sandals, then hurried
"'I'll walk you to your car,'' he said, falling into step
"'I'd rather you didn't.'' She cast him an anxious glance
and he realized she really was afraid, so he slowed his
steps. Was she always this fearful around men, or had her
husband's murder spooked her?