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“Does he have your codes and access to the house?”

“No. I mean, he did but I changed them after we broke up. I’m not stupid-and my grandfather was a cop before he went private. He’d have skinned me if I hadn’t taken basic security precautions.”

“He’d have been right to. Who else had the new codes?”

Samantha scrubbed her hands over her hair until it stood up in short, flaming spikes. “The only one who had them besides me is Andrea, and my cleaning service. They’re bonded. That’s Maid In New York. Oh, and my parents. They live in Maryland. I give them all my codes. Just in case.”

Her eyes widened. “The security cam. I have a security cam on the front door.”

“Yes. It’s been shut down, and your disks are missing.”

“Oh.” Her color was coming back, a kind of healthy-girl roses and cream. “That sounds very professional. Why would they be so professional, then trash the house?”

“That’s a good question. I’m going to need to talk to you again at some point, but for now, is there someone you’d like to call?”

“I just don’t think I could talk to anyone. I’m talked out. My parents are on vacation. They’re sailing the Med.” She bit her lip as if chewing on a thought. “I don’t want them to know about this. They’ve been planning this trip for nearly a year and only left a week ago. They’d head straight back.”

“Up to you.”

“My brother’s off-planet on business.” She tapped her fingers against her teeth as she thought it through. “He’ll be gone a few more days at least, and my sister’s in Europe. She’ll be hooking up with my parents in about ten days, so I can just keep them all out of this for now. Yeah, I can keep them out of it. I’ll have to contact my grandparents, but that can wait until tomorrow.”

Eve had been thinking more of Samantha contacting someone to stay with her, someone to lean on. But it seemed the woman’s initial self-estimate was on the mark. She wasn’t a weak woman.

“Do I have to stay here?” Samantha asked her. “As much as I hate the idea, I think I want to go to a hotel for the night-for a while, actually. I don’t want to stay here alone. I don’t want to be here tonight.”

“I’ll arrange for you to be taken anywhere you want to go. I’ll need to know how to reach you.”

“Okay.” She closed her eyes a moment, drew in a breath as Eve got to her feet. “Lieutenant, she’s dead, Andrea’s dead because she was here. She’s dead, isn’t she, because she was here while I was away.”

“She’s dead because someone killed her. Whoever did is the only one responsible for what happened. You’re not. She’s not. It’s my job to find whoever’s responsible.”

“You’re good at your job, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. I am. I’m going to have Officer Ricky take you to a hotel. If you think of anything else, you can contact me through Cop Central. Oh, these diamonds you wrote about. When were they stolen?”

“Two thousand and three. March 2003. Appraised at over twenty-eight million at that time. About three-quarters of them were recovered and returned.”

“That leaves a lot of loose rocks. Thanks for your cooperation, Ms. Gannon. I’m sorry about your friend.”

She stepped out, working various theories in her mind. One of the sweepers tapped her shoulder as she passed.

“Hey, Lieutenant? The fish? They didn’t make it.”

“Shit.” Eve jammed her hands in her pockets and headed out.

Chapter 2

She was closer to home than to Central, and it was late enough to justify avoiding the trip downtown. Her equipment at home was superior to anything the cops could offer-outside of the lauded Electronic Detective Division.

The fact was, she had access to equipment superior than the Pentagon’s, in all likelihood. One of her marital side bennies, she thought. Marry one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful men-one who loved his e-toys-and you got to play with them whenever you liked.

More to the point, Roarke would talk her into letting him help her use that equipment. Since Peabody wasn’t around to do any drone work, Eve was planning to let him, without too much of an argument.

She liked the diamond angle, and wanted to dig up some data on that. Who better to assist in gathering data regarding a heist than a former thief? Roarke’s murky past could be a definite plus on that end.

Marriage, for all its scary pockets and weird corners, was turning out to be a pretty good deal on the whole.

It would do him good to play research assistant. Take his mind off the revelations that had reared up out of that murky past and sucker punched him. When a grown man discovered his mother wasn’t the stone bitch who’d slapped him around through childhood then deserted him, but a young woman who’d loved him, who’d been murdered while he was still a baby-and by his own father-it sent him reeling. Even a man as firmly balanced as Roarke.

So having him help her would help him.

It would make up, a little, for having her plans for the evening ditched. She’d had something a little more personal, and a lot more energetic, in mind. Summerset, her personal bane and Roarke’s majordomo, was spending ten days at a recuperation spa off-planet-at Roarke’s insistence. His holiday after breaking his leg hadn’t put all the roses back in his cheeks. Like those sunken, pasty cheeks even had roses. But he was gone, that was the bottom line. Every minute counted. She and Roarke would be alone in the house, and there’d been no mention, that she remembered, of social or business engagements.

She’d hoped to spend the evening screwing her husband’s brains out, then letting him return the favor.

Still, working together had its points.

She drove through the big iron gates that guarded the world that Roarke built.

It was spectacular, with a roll of lawn as green as the grass she’d seen in Ireland, with huge leafy trees and lovely flowering shrubs. A sanctuary of elegance and peace in the heart of the city they’d both adopted as their own. The house itself was part fortress, part castle, and somehow had come to epitomize home to her. It rose and spread, jutted and spiked with its stones dignified against the deepening sky, and its countless windows flaming from the setting sun.

As she’d come to understand him, the desperation of his childhood and his single-minded determination never to go back, she’d come to understand, even appreciate, Roarke’s need to create a home base so sumptuous-so uniquely his own.

She’d needed her badge, and the home base of the law for exactly the same reasons.

She left her ugly police-issue vehicle in front of the dignified entrance, jogged up the stairs through the filthy summer heat and into the glorious cool of the foyer.

She was already itching to get to work, to put her field notes into some sort of order, to do her first runs, but she turned to the house scanner.

“Where is Roarke?”

Welcome home, darling Eve.

As usual the recorded voice using that particular endearment had slivers of embarrassment pricking at her spine.

“Yeah, yeah. Answer the question.”

“He’s right behind you.”

“Jesus!” She whirled, biting back another curse as she saw Roarke leaning casually in the archway to the parlor. “Why don’t you just pull a blaster and fire away?”

“That wasn’t the welcome home I’d planned. You’ve blood on your pants.”

She glanced down. “It’s not mine.” Rubbing at it absently, she studied him.

It wasn’t just his greeting that spiked her heart rate. That could happen, did happen, just by looking at him. It wasn’t the face. Or not just the face, with its blinding blue eyes, with that incredible mouth curved now in an easy smile, or the miracle of planes and angles that combined into a stunning specimen of male beauty framed by a mane of silky black hair. It wasn’t just that long, rangy build, one she knew was hard with muscle under the business elegance of the dark suit he wore.