44 Cranberry Point Page 2

It wasn't a question Troy could answer.

"Max was found dead over a year ago. I was supposedly in danger then, right?"

Sheriff Davis exchanged a concerned look with Peggy. "I understand what you're saying, but we didn't know then what we know now."

"I'm not running! I spent half my life running, and I won't do it again. If somebody wants me dead, then so be it."

Peggy gasped.

"I'm sorry, honey," her husband said, stretching his arm across the table to clasp her fingers with his. "I refuse to live like that, looking over my shoulder all the time."

"Then perhaps you could compromise," Davis said. "There's no need to invite someone into your home who might want to harm you."

"What do you mean?" Bob leaned closer, his stomach pressed against the rounded edge of the pinewood table. Peggy realized that despite his defiant words he was afraid. His body language revealed what he was unwilling to admit.

"I don't know how many reservations you have for the B and B, but I'd advise you to not take any more."

"We can easily cancel the ones we have," Peggy murmured. Any number of businesses in town would welcome the additional bookings.

Bob directed his gaze at Peggy. "Would that make you more comfortable?"

She swallowed and nodded.

Bob continued to look unsure, as if even this one concession was more than he felt inclined to make.

"I've been worried ever since Jack and Olivia's wedding," she whispered.

A week earlier, Bob had stood up as Jack Griffin's best man. That was just a day or two before they'd learned Max Russell had been murdered.

"All right." Bob's voice was heavy with reluctance. "We'll cancel the reservations."

"No guests," Peggy said.

"No guests," he confirmed, "until this matter is settled once and for all."

This was going to hurt financially, but it didn't matter. What did matter was having the reassurance that her husband was safe.

"I'll do what I can to solve this quickly," Troy promised them.

Peggy could only wonder how long that would take.


Cecilia Randall stood on the navy pier and watched the aircraft carrier George Washington sail into SinclairInlet. After six months serving in the Persian Gulf, her husband, Ian, was finally home. Cecilia had often heard people talk about hearts swelling and dismissed the expression as exaggerated, sentimental. Now she knew what it meant, how it felt. Her heart swelled with love, pride and patriotism as the massive ship headed toward Bremerton.

The other navy wives and hordes of friends and family crowded the pier. Colorful banners waved in the wind, along with Welcome Home signs. News helicopters from the Seattle television stations circled the area, taping the event for the five-o'clock broadcast. The joy and excitement around her was infectious, despite the dreary, cloudy day. Even the lead-gray skies and the threat of imminent rain didn't dampen Cecilia's mood. A band played in the background, and the American flag rippled in the breeze. It could have been a Norman Rockwell painting.

Cecilia's dearest friends, two other navy wives, Cathy Lackey and Carol Greendale, stood with her, each holding a toddler against her hip while madly waving. Cecilia hoped that before long she'd be a mother again herself.

"I think I see Andrew," Cathy cried. She screeched with happiness and waved one arm wildly above her head. Then she pointed his daddy out to her young son.

Three thousand sailors, dressed in white navy uniforms, stood along the rail, feet apart, hands behind their backs, as they lined the perimeter of the flight deck. At this distance it was impossible for Cecilia to find Ian. The wind whipped at her face and she shouted and waved. Perhaps Ian would see her.

"Take Amanda," Carol said, heaving her three-year-old daughter toward Cecilia.

She gladly held the toddler. There'd been a time when even looking at this little girl brought her pain. Allison, Ian's and her baby daughter, was born the same week as Amanda. Had she lived, Allison, too, would've been three years old. But she'd died after clinging to life for only a few days. Her death had ripped the marriage apart. If not for a wise family court judge who ignored convention and denied their divorce, they might have ended up like so many other sad marriage statistics.

"Ian, over here," Cecilia shouted, as she thrust one arm high above her head. "Do you see your daddy?" she asked Amanda.

The little girl's arms were tight around Cecilia's neck, and she buried her face in Cecilia's shoulder.

"There's Daddy, there's Daddy," Carol said, pointing to the aircraft carrier.

Amanda looked up then, smiling, and Carol reached for her daughter again.

An eternity passed before the gangplank was lowered and the sailors disembarked, carrying their duffel bags. Soon there were reunions everywhere. Cathy spotted Andrew and ran toward her husband, weeping with happiness.

Cecilia searched frantically for Ian. Then she saw him, tall and fit and tan, his dark hair visible beneath his white Navy cap. The breath left her lungs at the sight of him and she burst into tears of joy.

Not a minute later, Cecilia was caught up in her husband's arms. They clung to each other, tears still clouding her eyes as Ian brought his mouth to hers.

Their kiss was slow, sensual and filled with six months of longing and need. By the time they'd finished, Cecilia was weak and breathless. Ian was home; her world was complete once again. The universe could have dissolved around her and she wouldn't have cared.

"I've missed you like crazy," she whispered, holding on to him, her fingers massaging the nape of his neck. There was so much to say, so much that was in her heart. None of it mattered right then, however. All she cared about was the feel of Ian's arms around her and the knowledge that he was home and safe and hers, if only on loan from the United States Navy.

"Oh, sweetheart, this has been the longest six months of my life." He continued to hold her tight against him. Cecilia closed her eyes and savored this moment she'd been waiting for.

Ian had three days of shore leave and Cecilia planned to make full use of every one of them. The days—and the nights. His return couldn't have been better planned. As far as she could tell, these next few days were her fertile period.

With his duffel bag over his shoulder, Ian reached for her hand as they walked toward the parking area. Apparently she still wasn't close enough to suit him because he wrapped his arm around her waist and drew her to his side. He smiled and his love washed over her like...like warm sunshine. That was all she could compare it to, the life-giving warmth so absent today. A light drizzle had begun and they walked a little faster, still gazing at each other.

"I love you," she mouthed.

"I can hardly wait to show you how much I love you." Then, as if the question had only now occurred to him, he asked, "You don't have to go back to work, do you?"

She toyed with the idea of letting him worry, but couldn't make herself do it. "As a matter of fact, Mr. Cox gave me all three days off." She handed Ian the car keys, and he promptly unlocked their vehicle.

"I like your boss more and more."

Cecilia did, too, especially now that Mr. and Mrs. Cox had remarried. The office became a much more relaxed place once the couple reunited. But it wasn't the Coxes on Cecilia's mind as Ian drove to their duplex. They met each other's eyes frequently but didn't speak much. Ten minutes later they were home.

"Did you bring back everything I sent you?" Cecilia asked in a husky voice when Ian parked in their assigned spot. They'd moved into military housing just before his most recent deployment, when a unit became available.

"That was very sadistic of you, wife," Ian said, his eyebrows drawing together.

Had she not known him so well, Cecilia might think he hadn't been amused by her small prank. The gleam in his eyes told her otherwise. For each of the last three weeks before he was due home, Cecilia had sent him one piece of a sheer negligee outfit. With the last piece, she'd included a note that promised she'd wear it for him when he got back. In his last e-mail to her, she could almost hear him panting.

"I hope you realize you've created a monster with that little trick of yours."

"A monster I'm eager to tame," she whispered, leaning over to kiss him.

"Oh, honey..." He broke off the kiss. "Let's get inside— fast."

"Aye, aye," she said dreamily, saluting him.

Ian slid out the driver's side and dashed around the front of the car. He opened the passenger door, helped her out and grabbed his duffel bag from the back. Giggling with excitement, they ran through the light rain toward their duplex. Ian was all thumbs as he struggled to unlock their door.

Cecilia had cleaned the place until it sparkled. The sheets on their bed were fresh and turned down, the bedroom shades drawn. After six months of separation she'd known they wouldn't want to wait to make love.

As soon as they got inside, Ian dropped his duffel and reached out for her. Cecilia came willingly, throwing her arms around his neck. He hoisted her up and headed directly for the bedroom. The second they cleared the door, Ian kissed her again, his mouth open and moist, moving urgently against hers.

He released her and immediately started undressing.

"You want me to put on that black nightie for you?" she asked.

"Next time," Ian said, his breathing shallow as he sat on the bed and quickly removed his shoes.

"One more thing..."

He gave her a questioning glance.

She knelt behind him on the bed and rested her chin on his bare shoulder. "I think there's something you should know."

"It can't wait?"

"Well, it could, but I figure this is something you might want to know."

"What?" he growled, turning toward her. He grabbed her around the waist, and his dark eyes bore into hers.

Cecilia smiled at her husband, smoothing her hands down his muscular shoulders, loving the feel of him. "I'm thinking this afternoon would be a wonderful time to make a baby."

Ian's eyes flared briefly. "I thought you were on the pill."

Her smile broadened as she slowly shook her head. "Not anymore. I tossed them into the garbage six months ago."

He frowned.

"With you at sea, there wasn't any need for me to be on birth control. Besides—"

"You didn't start again when you knew I was coming home?"


"But—but you knew when I was due back."

"I did.. .and I've been greatly anticipating your homecoming," she purred.

"But, sweetheart, you never said a word! I don't have anything to protect you from pregnancy."

"Who says I want protection? What I want, sailor man," she whispered, "is a baby."

Ian went completely still.


Her husband straightened, sitting on the side of the bed with his back to her. "Don't you think this is something we should've discussed first?"

"We're...we're discussing it now."

"At the last possible moment."

"You don't want a baby?"

Ian stood then and faced her. His shoulders were bare and his pants half unzipped. He rubbed his hand over his eyes as if her question had overwhelmed him. "I do want children, but not yet."

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