concerned when she strode into Leslie’s room just after noon the next day.

“Why did you wait so damn long to tell me there was a problem with your going


“You didn’t need to rush over here,” Leslie said. “I just wanted you to know

that I hadn’t been released yet.”

Rachel had obviously come directly from court. Her immaculately cut slate gray

jacket and skirt hinted at her statuesque Þ gure without being suggestive. Her

lustrous copper hair ß amed around her shoulders, and her green eyes that could

look so warm and seductive during sex snapped with impatience now. Despite

Rachel’s annoyance, Leslie was glad to see her. Something as normal as

Rachel’s quicksilver temper made the situation feel normal, and the fear that had

been niggling at her all morning dissipated.

“Why are you still here?” Rachel glanced at her watch and leaned down to kiss

Leslie all in the same motion. “I’ve got twenty minutes, and then I need to be

back in court.”

“I seem to have this sensitive heart rate all of a sudden,” Leslie said lightly. “And

apparently my blood pressure problem is a little out of order.”

“Let’s cut to the chase, darling,” Rachel said, folding her arms and

• 25 •


canting one hip in a strikingly feminine yet unmistakably aggressive pose.


Leslie sighed. “I had an episode of atrial ß utter in the middle of the night that

they weren’t able to control with medication. Finally at seven a.m. they

cardioverted me.”

For the Þ rst time, Rachel looked worried. “God. Why the hell didn’t you call


“Because I knew that you were in court this morning, and there was nothing you

could have done here. They sedated me, and it was over in a second. I didn’t

feel anything at all.” She smiled. “And I feel much better now. I’m just waiting

for another cardiogram to conÞ rm that the rhythm has been corrected, and then

I’m getting out of here.”

“I’m not going to be able to wait.” Rachel closed her eyes and rubbed the

bridge of her nose, sorting through alternatives. “Is it safe for you to take a


“I’ll call a limo service.” Leslie took a deep breath. “That’s not what I needed to

talk to you about, Rach. I know this is a bad time, but there just didn’t seem to

be a good time.”

“What?” Rachel said sharply. “What else?”

“I’m going to take a few weeks off.” Leslie looked away, then into Rachel’s

eyes. “The doctors pretty much told me I have to. This stupid rhythm problem

can be controlled by medication, but I don’t seem to be one of the ones where

it’s easy. The episodes might recur for a while.

It’s sort of unpredictable.”

“So it could happen again,” Rachel said with understanding.

Leslie winced. “Yes.”

“Christ, Leslie. What a mess.”

“Believe me, I know.”

“Well, at least you’ve got plenty of vacation time stored up. I can’t remember

the last time either of us went anywhere.”

Neither could Leslie. In the nearly two years they’d been dating, or whatever it

was they’d been doing, they’d never gone anywhere together for more than a

long weekend. Even then, they both brought work and frequently spent hours in

phone consultation.

“What are you going to do?” Rachel asked curiously. The concept of days with

nothing to do was not only foreign to her, it was vaguely discomforting.

“It’s not exactly going to be a vacation. I talked to Rex Myers this morning,”

Leslie said, referring to the managing partner at the Þ rm.

• 26 •


At Rachel’s look of astonishment, Leslie held up a hand. “I had to tell him

something. I explained that I needed to cut back on my hours for a short time

because I just started a new medication that wasn’t agreeing with me. Which is

deÞ nitely true.” Leslie laughed shakily. “We’ve got a regional ofÞ ce in Albany,

which isn’t that far from my parents’ house in Bolton Landing. I’m going to stay

at the lake while this gets sorted out and work out of that ofÞ ce as much as I


“You’re going home home?” Rachel shook her head. “I thought you didn’t get

along with your parents. You haven’t been up there for one holiday since I’ve

known you.”

“It’s not that we don’t get along. We just don’t…always see eye to eye on


“I don’t get it. Why don’t you just stay here and work part time out of the main

ofÞ ce?”

It made sense. It made perfect sense. Leslie didn’t have words to explain how

frightened she’d been in the middle of the night when she couldn’t breathe, when

she’d felt as if her heart would pound its way out of her chest or simply stop

beating altogether. She wasn’t superstitious.

She didn’t believe in omens. But that morning, as they’d been injecting the drug

into her arm to put her to sleep while they administered an electric current strong

enough to completely inactivate her heart, her last thought had been that she

wanted to go home. She just wanted a few days to breathe free again. She

looked at Rachel and knew there was no way her totally focused, driven lover

would ever understand that. Rachel lived to work. So did Leslie. It was the

strongest bond they shared.

She couldn’t very well explain to Rachel what she didn’t understand herself.

“I don’t want to go into the ofÞ ce every day and have people look at me as if

there’s something wrong with me,” Leslie said, which was partially true. So

many half-truths. “I’ll get this straightened out while I’m up there and be done

with it.”

“I don’t know that I can get away, darling. You know what my calendar—”

“I don’t expect you to.” Leslie reached through the aluminum bars of the railing

for Rachel’s hand. Her skin was smooth and soft. “I’ll miss you if you can’t Þ

nd a way to come up, but I’ll understand.”

Rachel leaned over the railing and kissed Leslie quickly. “Good.

Call me when you get settled up there. I’ll see what I can do.”

• 27 •


“Okay. You should go before you’re late.” Leslie watched Rachel walk out the

door, wondering when she would see her again. Rachel likely wouldn’t even

miss her, not when she was this tied up in a big case. With an increasing surge of

melancholy, Leslie admitted that she didn’t really mind.

• 28 •



Shortly after 6 a.m., Dev opened her eyes to sunshine and the unmistakable

sounds of morning in the mountains. Birdsong.

Wind rustling in the trees. A far-distant hum of an outboard motor. Her rented

cabin was the last in a row of ten similar rustic log cabins that were situated at Þ

fty-yard intervals within small clearings in the woods.

A meandering dirt path connected them to one another and to the main lodge at

Lakeview Cottages. Similar wooded trails led from each small front porch down

to the water and a sliver of sandy beach. She couldn’t see the other cabins,

most of which were still empty so early in the season, or the lodge where the

owners also lived, nearly a quarter of a mile away. The solitude was welcome,

and although meals were included in her weekly rent, she had yet to avail herself

of that amenity in the three days she’d been at Lakeview. She hadn’t quite

gotten over her uneasiness at Þ nding herself at the Harrises’.

When she’d called the park ranger headquarters a month before to explain who

she was and the work she’d be doing in the lake area that summer, Natalie had

extended the professional courtesy of arranging local accommodations for her.

Dev had been happy to have one fewer thing to do, her only stipulation being

that she wanted a private cabin that was as far from the popular tourist haunts as

possible. She hadn’t even considered that Natalie might reserve a place for her

at the Harrises’ secluded resort just north of Bolton Landing, and when she’d

found out, there hadn’t really been a good reason to refuse it. It was close to the

Institute’s labs, and she doubted that anyone would recognize her. No one had.

• 29 •


Even so, when she’d arrived to check in, she couldn’t shake the disorienting

effect that seeing the place again produced. She hadn’t expected to be bothered

—it had all been over so long ago. Dead and buried and gone.

At the moment, though, lying naked beneath a soft ß oral print sheet that smelled

of wind and water, she was very glad to be there.

Turning on her side, she just enjoyed the beauty outside her windows.

She also reß ected on the question of why she was enjoying it alone.

When Natalie had casually asked her to dinner at the end of the workday the

night before, it had seemed natural to say yes. They’d worked well together all

day, collecting samples, planning when and where to take others, and

conversation had come easily.

Dinner hadn’t had the feel of a date, not quite. It had the feel of two women

who liked one another at Þ rst meeting, getting to know each other better. And