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Authors: Virginia Kantra

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Suspense, #General

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BOOK: Sea Witch
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not?”

He narrowed his gaze on her face, mentally reassessing her age. Her

skin was baby fine, smooth and well cared for. No makeup. No visible

piercings or tattoos. Not even a tan.

9

“How old are you?”

Her smile broadened. “Older than I look.”

He resisted the urge to smile back. She could be over the legal

drinking age—not jailbait, after all. Those eyes held a purely adult

awareness, and her smile was knowing. But he’d pounded Portland’s

pavements long enough to know the kind of trouble a cop invited giving a

pretty woman a break. “Can I see your license, please?”

She blinked slowly. “My . . .”

“ID,” he snapped. “Do you have it?”

“Ah. No. I did not realize I would need any.”

He took in her damp hair, the towel tucked around her waist. If she’d

come down to the beach to swim . . . Okay, nobody swam in May but

fools or tourists. But even if she was simply taking a walk, her story made

sense. “You staying near here?”

Her dark gaze traveled over him. She nodded. “Yes, I believe I will.

Am,” she corrected.

He was sweating again, and not from nerves. His emotions had been

on ice a long time, but he still recognized the slow burn of desire.

“Address?” he asked harshly.

“I don’t remember.” She smiled again, charmingly, looking him full

in the eyes. “I only recently arrived.”

He refused to be charmed. But he couldn’t deny the tug of attraction,

deep in his belly. “Name?”

“Margred.”

Mar-gred. Sounded foreign. He kind of liked it.

He raised his brows. “Just Margred?”

“Margaret, I think you would say.”

10

“Last name?”

She took a step closer, making everything under the sweatshirt sway.

Hell-o
,
breasts
. “Do you need one?”

He couldn’t think. He couldn’t remember being this distracted and

turned on since he’d sat behind Susanna Colburn in seventh-grade

English and spent most of second period with a hard-on. Something about

her voice . . . Her eyes . . . It was weird.

“In case I need to get in touch with you,” he explained.

“That would be nice.”

He was staring at her mouth. Her wide, wet, full-lipped mouth.

“What?”

“If you got in touch with me. I want you to touch me.”

He jerked himself back. “What?”

She looked surprised. “Isn’t that what you want?”

Yes
.

“No.”

Fuck
.

Caleb was frustrated, savagely disappointed with himself and with

her. He knew plenty of women—badge bunnies—went for cops. Some

figured sex would get them out of trouble or a ticket. Some were simply

into uniforms or guns or handcuffs.

He hadn’t taken her for one of them.

“Oh.” She regarded him thoughtfully.

His stomach muscles tightened.

And then she smiled. “You are lying,” she said.

11

Yeah, he was.

He shrugged. “Just because I’m”—
horny
,
hot
,
hard
— “attracted

doesn’t mean I have to act on it.”

She tilted her head. “Why not?”

He exhaled, a gust between a laugh and a groan. “For starters, I’m a

cop.”

“Cops don’t have sex?”

He couldn’t believe they were having this discussion. “Not on duty.”

Which was mostly true. True for him anyway. He hadn’t seen any

horizontal action since . . . God, since the last time he was home on leave,

over eighteen months ago. His brief marriage hadn’t survived his first

deployment, and nobody since had cared enough to be waiting when he

got out.

“When are you not on duty?” she asked.

He shook his head. “What, you want a date?”

Even sarcasm didn’t throw this chick. “I would meet you again, yes.

I am . . . attracted, too.”

She wanted him
.

Not that it mattered.

He cleared his throat. “I’m never off duty. I’m the only cop on the

island.”

“I don’t live on your island. I am only . . .” Again with the pause,

like English was her second language or something. “Visiting,” she

concluded with a smile.

Like fucking a tourist would be perfectly okay.

Well
,
wouldn’t it
?

12

The thought popped unbidden into his head. It wasn’t like he was

arresting her. He didn’t even suspect her of anything except wanting to

have sex with him, and he wasn’t a big enough hypocrite to hold that

against her.

But he didn’t understand this alleged attraction she felt. He felt.

And Caleb did not trust what he did not understand.

“Where are you staying?” he asked. “I’ll walk you home.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“I’m trying to keep you safe.”

“That’s very kind of you. And quite unnecessary.”

He stuck his hands in his pockets, rocking back on his heels. “You

getting rid of me now?”

She smiled, her teeth white in the moonlight. “No.”

“So?”

She turned away, her footprints creating small, reflective pools in the

sand. “So I will see you.”

He was oddly reluctant to let her go. “Where?”

“Around. On the beach. I walk on the beach in the evening.” She

looked at him over her shoulder. “Come find me sometime . . . when

you’re not on duty.”

13

Two

THE FOUR O’CLOCK FERRY WHISTLE CUT THROUGH the

bright air like an ambulance siren, piercing the quiet of Caleb’s office.

He set his coffee mug on the desk blotter with a steady hand.

Only six weeks, and the rising wail no longer made him tense and

wait for the inevitable second explosion that took out civilians and

rescuers alike. He’d grown up with that whistle; he’d ridden that ferry

home from high school; and part of him, at least, accepted he was home.

Slowly, the familiar sounds and rhythms of the island were settling into

his consciousness, awakening reassuring echoes in his blood. The cry of

the gulls, the tide’s ebb and flow, the lobster boats chugging out every

morning, soothed him like a mother’s rocking.

Progress, he thought wryly. Maybe in another two months he’d be

able to walk down the street without his jaw and neck clenching, without

scanning the doorways and rooftops for snipers. Maybe he’d start

sleeping through the nights again.

An image of Margred—Margaret—wavered in his mind, her cloudy

dark hair, her round breasts under a loose sweatshirt.
Come find me

sometime . . . when you’re not on duty
.

Okay, bad idea. After the mess he’d made of his marriage, Caleb

knew better than to fall into another relationship based on loneliness and

convenience.

But at least for those few minutes on the beach last night, he’d felt

alive again.

A tap sounded on his door. Edith Paine, the town clerk, stuck her

smooth gray bob into Caleb’s office. Edith had been running town hall

since before the current building’s construction. She handled the town’s

billing and permits, scheduled appointments for the mayor, and served as

the island’s dispatcher during the day. Caleb never walked past her desk

in the outer office without feeling like he ought to wipe his shoes first.

14

She sniffed. “Bruce Whittaker to see you.”

Edith hadn’t taken Whittaker’s complaint last night— after-hours

calls to the police were bounced to Caleb’s cell phone. She wouldn’t like

being out of the loop.

Or maybe, Caleb thought, she just didn’t like Whittaker.

“Thanks. Tell him to come in.”

“You’ll need to let him out,” she warned. “I get off at four.”

“Can’t miss
Oprah
,” Caleb joked.

Edith looked down her nose at him. “I have a four thirty kickboxing

class at the community center.” Turning her head, she spoke over her

shoulder. “You can go in now. He’s not doing anything.”

Nothing that couldn’t wait. Caleb tossed away a catalog advertising

high-tech SWAT equipment and glanced up.

White male, six feet, wiry build, Bruce Whittaker wore his brown

hair short and his shirt sleeves rolled. Caleb put his age in the mid-forties

and his income considerably higher.

“Mr. Whittaker. What can I do for you?”

"You can do something about those trespassers on my beach.”

The point was public land, but the question wasn’t worth disputing.

Caleb raised his eyebrows. “They’re back?”

“They came back this morning to pick up their vehicles.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“You should have arrested them.”

Caleb relaxed his hands on his desk blotter. “I wrote them up. And

Stowe will have to appear in court.”

“I want to see him in jail,” Whittaker said.

15

Caleb nodded toward the steel and glass doorway that separated the

chief’s office from the island’s two small holding cells. “We don’t have

the space or the manpower for me to play Barney Fife. I lock somebody

up, we’re both spending the night in jail. I don’t mind sleeping on a cot if

somebody’s committed a serious crime. But I don’t give up my bed

because some kid bought beer for his buddies.”

“They were trespassing,” Whittaker insisted. “My beach rights

extend to the low water mark.”

Lawyer
, Caleb thought.

“Within your property lines, yes,” he said. “These kids were just

outside, on public beach.”

“They were still violating the law.”

“Yeah, they were,” Caleb agreed. “But I’d bet they won’t now they

know you’ve got a nice view of the party. I can drive by the next couple

of nights, see if they show up again.”

Or if she did
.
The woman
.
Margred
.

Caleb shook his head. He’d already tried to track her down. Edith

had never heard of her. Nobody at Island Realty had any record or

recollection of a dark-haired Margaret, last name unknown. As chief of

police, he had better things to do with his time than chase after some

fantasy woman on the beach. But the lack of information about her

aroused his professional curiosity.

Along with other things.

“Let me know if you see anyone,” Whittaker said. “You catch them

lighting fires again, I’ll take care of them.”

“You let me take care of them,” Caleb said. “I’m not calling an open

season on tourists or kids.”

“An uncontrolled burn could destroy the ecosystem of this island.”

The son of a lobsterman, Caleb understood how fragile the island’s

environment was . . . and how shaky its economy. The islanders, the real

16

islanders, depended on both the sea and tourism to survive. Something a

newcomer like Whittaker would never understand.

He saw him out and began his evening swing through town.

A tumbled line of weathered gray shops and houses divided the hard,

bright blue of the sky from the deeper, wilder blue of the sea. A half-dozen high school kids straggled up from the ferry, the boys in boots and

flannel shirts, the girls in flip-flops and midriff-baring jeans. Gulls

wheeled and cried after the boats in the harbor. Everything appeared

clear, bright, and remote, like the view through the wrong end of a pair of

binoculars.

Or a rifle scope.

Caleb drew a deep breath and started down the hill, past Sea View

Bed-and-Breakfast and Wiley’s Market. The Bar-low house was an art

gallery now, the old Thompson cottage had been spruced up into a tourist

center, but the narrow streets and struggling gardens hadn’t changed in

fifteen years. In fifty.

This is what he needed, he told himself. A sense of community, a

shot at stability. Here he could assemble the pieces of a normal life to

make himself whole again.

But today the snug, square houses, the quiet harbor, felt as pretty and

flat as one of those postcards in the gift shop. Dissatisfaction lodged in

his chest like unexploded ordnance, heavy and deadly. For a moment he

couldn’t breathe.

He forced himself along the uneven sidewalk, his gaze lingering

between the buildings. Like insurgents were going to pop from behind the

Lighthouse Gift Shop and start shooting.

Caleb kept walking.
Positive coping actions
, the shrink had

counseled. Exercise. Work. Positive thinking.

Sex.

Which made him think again of the woman on the beach, her big,

dark eyes, her wide, lush mouth. Her breasts.

17

Intimate relationships assist with relaxation and provide practical

and emotional support
, the Army doc had said.

Okay, so seeking out a foreign tourist with a thing for uniforms

probably wasn’t what the shrink had in mind, but a guy had to start

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