Heart of the Raven(7)

By: Susan Crosby


“Why haven’t—”

“The subject’s not on the table, Cassie.”

It ended not only that particular discussion about why he didn’t leave the house but also their conversation in general. He walked her to the front door.

“Did you design this house?” she asked.

“I did.”

“It’s spectacular.”

“But?”

“No but.”

“Yes, there is.” He heard it in her voice even if she didn’t realize it.

She shook her head.

Ah. Keeps her own counsel. He liked that.

“If Eva had simply disappeared, without leaving a note,” Cassie said, her hand on the doorknob, “this whole situation would be different. The police would get involved. We would have access to their resources. I still think someone at her office could help.”

“I refuse to cause problems for her at work if she’s just having some kind of hormone overload. I’m already disregarding her wishes by hiring you to try to find her, for which I feel no guilt whatsoever, by the way. That’s my child she’s got. My life she’s playing with, as well.” He shoved his hands through his hair, locked his fingers behind his neck and made himself calm down. “Look, I’m trying to do the right thing here. It’s my fault she’s pregnant.”

“You know, Heath, these days I think we consider pregnancy a dual responsibility.”

“She was young.”

“Not that young. And you were vulnerable.”

It was the second time she’d used that word to describe him. He didn’t like it. Who was she to come to that conclusion so quickly?

“Vulnerable doesn’t mean weak,” she said, somehow reading his mind. “It means you’d been hurt so deeply you didn’t want to survive, but you did, so you have to deal with it, but it’s harder for you than for others. Most people can’t cope too long without the company of other people, of a compatible partner, no matter how short-lived.”

“Personal experience?”

“I haven’t lost a child.” She opened the door. “I’ll be in touch when I have news.”

“I want progress reports, not just news.”

“No problem.”

He didn’t want her to leave…but he couldn’t ask her to stay.





Three




Cassie grabbed an official-looking envelope from the passenger seat then headed into Eva’s apartment building. The hallway was surprisingly bright and cheerful. Someone was playing a clarinet, repeating the same section again and again. The fragrance of sautéing onions drifted, mingling with something spicy. Curry? It was five o’clock on Friday night. She hoped to catch Eva’s roommate before she headed out for the evening.

Eva and Darcy lived on the third floor. Cassie climbed the stairs then knocked on the door. After fifteen seconds she tried again. No one answered. No sounds came from inside.

She propped her shoulders against the wall next to the door to wait. So much of her job involved patience. She surprised even herself that she not only coped well with all the waiting involved but that she didn’t even mind it most of the time. Surveillance was often boring, but she was so grateful to be working for ARC that she didn’t even mind the long, dull hours sitting in her car waiting and watching for something to happen. Her life had changed drastically since Quinn had hired her late last year.

An image of Heath popped into her head. A fascinating man, simmering with emotion he carefully controlled. Talented and intelligent. Angry. Somber.

He had good reasons to be somber. Cassie had learned that his five-year-old son, Kyle, had died in a school bus accident three years ago, and that Heath had been with him but couldn’t save him. Heath was still married at the time, so the divorce had obviously come after they lost their son.

The death of a child, a divorce and now the disappearance of the woman carrying his baby—Cassie was surprised he was speaking in complete sentences.

She thought back to the look on his face when he’d opened the door to her last night. The hope that died fast when she didn’t have good news for him. She’d wanted to put her arms around him and tell him it was going to be okay. His pain sent her reeling back to her own, different but still caused by other people taking away control, making you—

Someone was jogging up the stairs. Cassie pushed herself away from the wall just as a woman in her early twenties rounded the corner. Her hair was black and chin-length, a choppy cut popular with her age group. Her gold nose stud reflected light from a wall sconce. She wore a ruffled minidress over form-fitting jeans, a look that worked for her.

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