Heart of the Raven(6)

By: Susan Crosby

She dropped the receiver into the cradle and stared sightlessly at the phone.


She roused herself as James Paladin rapped his knuckles on her desk. Like her, he’d been hired as an investigator nine months ago when the L.A.-based ARC Security & Investigations opened its branch office in San Francisco.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah.” She straightened, paid attention. “Yeah. You need something, Jamey?”

“To brainstorm the Kobieski case, if you’ve got time.”

She looked at her watch—five o’clock exactly. She didn’t want to tell Heath over the phone. He’d had enough heartache already. She could at least soften the blow in person. But the commute traffic from San Francisco across the bridge would be horrendous now. If she waited an hour or two…

“Sure,” she said. “I’ve got time.”

From a downstairs bedroom Heath watched Cassie walk from her car toward his house, her strides purposeful. She’d called a few minutes ago, as she was driving across the bridge, alerting him she was coming, an unnecessary thoughtfulness since he never went anywhere and she knew it.

What had she found out? Something important or she would’ve told him over the phone. Something good, he hoped.

He tried to turn off his appreciation of her as a woman, but he couldn’t. She was beautiful, pure and simple. And unaware of it. If she used makeup at all, it was minimal. She pulled her hair back into a simple braid. No fuss, no muss. Her body was athletic and curvy, a one-two punch to a man who’d recently convinced himself that celibacy should be the only path for him from now on, but who obviously wasn’t capable of such a sacrifice.

Aside from her spectacular face and body she had a mind that appealed, too. And she didn’t giggle.

The doorbell rang. He hadn’t meant to make her wait, but he’d been distracted by thoughts of her—didn’t want to be, but he was. This time, however, he would control his response, even though her passion-filled promise that she would find his baby was as seductive as her physical being.

He set the little white teddy bear he’d been holding onto a nearby rocking chair and headed into the foyer. He opened the door, hope in his heart.

All hope fled when he looked in her eyes. “Tell me,” he said.

“Can we sit?” she asked.

“Tell me.”

Her mouth tightened. “Are you sure she’s pregnant?”

Not dead. Not dead, or she would’ve said so right away. Relief rushed through him like three straight shots of bourbon, hot and dizzying. “Yes.”



“Because Dr. Sorenson’s office says she wasn’t a patient. How do you know for sure she was pregnant?”

“I felt the baby move.”

“I don’t mean to question you on this, but—”

“She let me put my hand on her abdomen many times while she visited. Sometimes she lifted her blouse enough that I could watch the baby move inside her. I’ve been through a pregnancy before, Cassie.”

She propped her fists on her hips and looked at the floor, blowing out a breath. “I thought she’d been toying with you. Playing you for—” She stopped.

“A fool? A sucker?” he finished.

She shook her head. “A decent, but vulnerable man. One with money.”

He let the words linger for a few seconds.

“What’s the next step?” he asked, ignoring the implications of what she’d said. “You can’t call every doctor in the city.”

“Yes, I can.”

It took him a moment to let that idea sink in. “You’re kidding.”

“I’ll start with the obstetricians, of course.”

“You can’t possibly—”

“Yes. I can. And I’ll try to hook up with the roommate tomorrow. I think that’s our best chance for information. The problem I’m going to have with calling the doctors is that there are so many group practices. I would be asked which doctor, and I can’t name more than one.”

“So, it’s a long shot.”

She smiled at the understatement. “We could get lucky.”

He admired her resolve. “What can I do?”

“Be here if she calls or comes by.”

“That goes without saying.”

She studied him. “Are you sure you’ll be able to leave the house if you need to?”

He didn’t like being questioned, wasn’t used to it. “Has it occurred to you that I choose to stay in my house? That it’s a conscious choice I made?” He leaned toward her. “I will do what needs to be done.”