Saturday Excerpt: Rival’s Break by Carla Neggers
The latest in the Sharpe & Donovan series from New York Times bestseller Carla Neggers is the perfect read for any romantic suspense fan. The book hits stores August 27, but we are giving you an early look at what comes next for Emma and Colin!
About Rival’s Break:
A deadly poisoning, a stolen painting and a criminal mastermind challenge the skills of FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan as never before in their latest high-stakes case. New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers has crafted a gripping novel of international intrigue and suspense not to be missed.
Emma Sharpe is recovering from a shattering loss while her husband, Colin Donovan, is deep into his latest undercover mission. So they’re grateful to enjoy a peaceful autumn weekend together on the southern Maine coast to celebrate Colin’s brother Andy’s wedding.
But the peace is short-lived when Kevin Donovan, a marine patrol officer, receives a call to check on suspected food poisoning at a party aboard a yacht. Colin decides to tag along. He is surprised to recognize one of the victims as an undercover British intelligence officer, and it quickly becomes evident they’re dealing with something very sinister. At the same time a valuable painting by Irish artist Aoife O’Byrne—a friend of Emma and Colin’s—is missing from the yacht, and the connections make the investigation international and extremely personal.
Emma and Colin discover they are up against a deadly foe who plans to strike again. With the help of HIT, their small, elite Boston-based FBI team, they must foil an attack that will have devastating effects. It’s a case that will alter their lives beyond anything they’ve ever imagined…
Emma Sharpe opened all the windows in the small Maine coastal house she shared with her husband of almost four months, ending with the stubborn one above the kitchen sink. A crisp, salt-tinged breeze blew in on her, and she shut her eyes, taking it in, relishing it after her slog of a drive up from Boston. She’d left her FBI office early, hoping to beat the worst of the foliage traffic. Maybe she had. Maybe it was even worse now, at rush hour.
The weather forecast called for a sunny, cool weekend, perfect for leaf peeping, hiking, kayaking—or a family wedding.
I’ll be there for the wedding, Emma. Promise.
That was three weeks ago. Long weeks, Emma thought. Hard weeks. The details of Colin’s whereabouts were on a need-to-know basis, and in her role as an art crimes analyst, Emma didn’t need to know.
But tomorrow, after many ups and downs, her brother-in- law Andy, a lobsterman and third-born of the four Donovan brothers, and his marine biologist love, Julianne Maroney, were finally getting married in their small hometown of Rock Point, Maine.
A fresh, gusty breeze caught the calendar Emma had bought in Ireland and hung on the wall by the refrigerator, one of her touches in the Craftsman-style house. Colin hadn’t objected. They’d met a year ago…fallen in love fast…married in June…a whirlwind of a love affair, every second etched in her memory. But the last weeks of summer and first weeks of autumn had been a blur of grief, work and long walks in the Irish hills with her grandfather, mourning his only son, her father…gone too soon…and Colin, the hardheaded, hard-driving man she loved, away on his latest FBI undercover mission…
Emma noticed the calendar was still set to August. She pulled it off its prosaic nail and f lipped past September to October. The blank weeks reminded her of the passage of time since she and Colin had last been here, in the house he’d bought before they’d met. She’d added a few touches of her own here and there. In time, she’d add more.
She hung the calendar back on its nail and admired the photo of Moll’s Gap on the southwest Irish coast. She and Colin had stopped there in June on their honeymoon. Holding hands, taking in the stunning views of the mountains and lakes, it was as if time stood still and nothing bad could ever happen to them.
Faintly unsettled, she took off her lightweight leather jacket and hung it on the back of a chair at the table. She was in black slacks and a white blouse, but would change into something more casual for tonight’s rehearsal dinner, a casual affair at Hurley’s, a favorite Rock Point watering hole on the harbor. Would Colin get back in time?
Emma yanked open the refrigerator. Three bottles of a local craft beer sat on the top shelf. Colin wouldn’t mind not coming home to actual food in the fridge, but beer? A staple for any Donovan. She wondered how many times in the past weeks he’d thought about the beer waiting for him when he finally made his way back home.
Then she spotted a glass jar of local, whole-milk yogurt tucked on a shelf in the door. Had she left it on her last visit?
She shook her head. “No.”
As she shut the refrigerator door, she felt the flutter in her stomach she always felt when she knew Colin was near.
And he was, she thought. He was here.
Footsteps sounded on the back stairs. She saw him through the screen door as he pulled it open and came into the kitchen. Her heart skipped a couple of beats. The tousled dark hair, the blue-gray eyes, the small scar on his upper cheek. The broad shoulders. The slight, knowing smile. He wore jeans and a dark blue sweatshirt. His Maine clothes, his undercover clothes—it didn’t matter.
He shut the door behind him. “Hey, there. Did you see I got you your favorite yogurt?”
“I did see that.”
“I got your favorite granola, too. It’s in the cupboard.”
“You’re the best, Colin Donovan.” Emma smiled as he slipped his arms around her. She’d pulled back her hair, fair and straight, but a few strands came loose as she took in the feel of him, his warmth, his strength. “When did you get back?”
“After lunch. I went for a walk.” Of course. “Felt good?”
“Not as good as this.” He drew her closer, opening his palms on her hips. “How are you, Emma?”
“Happy you’re here, safe and sound.” She eased her arms around his waist, settling them where sweatshirt and jeans met on his back. “How did you get here?”
“Mike picked me up at the airport in Portland. I didn’t want to fly into Boston and risk not getting here in time.”
Mike was the eldest brother, a Maine wilderness guide and an occasional security contractor. “You didn’t want to miss tonight’s rehearsal dinner,” Emma said.
“And you. I didn’t want to miss tonight with you.”
Heat spread through her, a contrast to the cool late afternoon breezes blowing through the small house. “Now here we are.”
“Yes.” Colin’s eyes held hers. “Together again.”
“And you are safe and sound, yes?”
“I am.” He pulled her closer. “Our lives won’t always be like this, Emma.”
“Thinking about doing puffin tours again?”
“Cap’n Colin. I have three brothers in Maine. We’d make puffin and whale tours and such work.”
He was at least half-serious. Emma was familiar with this reentry mood, understood the appeal of a quieter life here in his hometown. “No doubt in my mind. Whatever you decide is next for you is fine with me. Right now, the work you do, the absences…” She leaned into him, solid, warm, here. “That’s fine, too.”
“I love you, Emma,” he said, as his mouth lowered to hers. He lifted her and carried her into the front room and on to the entry. He was a strong, fit man, and although Emma could see the fatigue in his face, he continued up the stairs without a pause.
Their thing, from their earliest days together.
He carried her up the stairs without breaking stride, ducked into their bedroom at the back of the house and laid her on the bed. She sank into the soft quilt. He wasn’t the least bit winded, but she could hardly get a decent breath. Nothing to do with exertion, everything to do with having him here again, with her.
“I’m sorry I had to leave when I did,” Colin said. “Your dad… Emma…”
“I needed that time on my own. You knew that.”
“Because I know you.” He kissed her softly. “It’s good to be home.”
“I’m glad you’re here,” she managed to whisper, before speaking became impossible, and unnecessary.