Secretly Craving You

By: Nicole North

Chapter One

"Damn you for getting yourself killed," Detective Nick Sullivan muttered into the silence of the empty room. He stared out the second floor window at the view his brother, Jared, must have gazed at hundreds of times—the narrow street in the historic district of Savannah with its nineteenth-century homes and Spanish moss dangling from ancient gnarled oaks.

Jared had flirted with the dangerous edge of criminal activity too long, and now he'd paid the ultimate price. The murderer had made the car crash into the river look like an accident, but Nick knew the truth.

Because of everything he'd learned up to this point, along with a healthy dose of gut instinct, he believed he would find the most important piece of evidence—perhaps the stolen art object itself—hidden here at Jared's ex-wife's home. They'd been divorced a year and he doubted she knew anything about the object. But if she did, she could be in danger, too.

Illegal activity or not, Jared was still his big brother, and Nick loved him. He would do whatever it took to put the bastard who'd killed him behind bars. Since Jared's death three weeks ago, Nick kept remembering his freshman year of high school when the senior jocks had tried to beat up on him. Jared, a senior, had stepped in and defended him. How could he do any less for his older brother now that he was no longer able to defend himself or tell what happened to him?

Nick knew part of it, but he had to uncover the rest and see what kind of tangled mess Jared had gotten himself into.

Nick had spent the last hour searching through every closet, drawer and corner of the spotless Victorian house where Jared and Emily lived during their marriage. Since their divorce last year, when Emily received the house as part of the settlement, she'd lived here alone. The only thing Nick had learned so far in his search was that Emily was a neat freak.

Getting a whiff of a faint but familiar fragrance, he glanced aside at the mahogany chest to his right. She'd left the fancy lid off the bottle of spray perfume—the only thing out of place in the room.

He picked up the half-full bottle. The combination of lavender, vanilla and some other floral scent wafted up his nose.

Damn. The seemingly innocent fragrance reminded him of the two times he'd been near Emily—when he'd kissed her cheek and welcomed her to the family. The enticing scent also reminded him of the burning guilt that had always tormented him for being strongly attracted to his brother's bride.

"Don't think about that," Nick muttered to himself, setting the perfume down. He slipped across the oriental carpet that covered the creaking wood floor and passed between the small fireplace and a four-poster, mahogany bed to peer out the side window at the empty off-street parking area below. The last thing he wanted was for Emily to catch him snooping.

He knew he shouldn't rummage through her personal things, but this was the best way to find out if the object in question was hidden here. If Jared hid it well, she probably didn't even know of its existence.

Nick turned back to scan the bedroom, all frills, designer purple silk and embroidery. He didn't suspect Emily of murder. She was one of the most in-demand wedding planners in Savannah, and her whereabouts during the time of the murder were easily verified. Besides, he knew the murderer was male.

Though the home had obviously been remodeled recently, considering the updated kitchen and baths, it still retained some distinctive features like a dumbwaiter and slightly skewed doorframes. The house might also contain secret passages or hidden compartments.

If he didn't find anything during this search, he'd have to ask for Emily's help. His stomach tightened at the thought of seeing her again, face to face. He hoped like hell he wasn't as drawn to her as he used to be. The last thing he wanted to do was lust after his brother's ex.

Nick crouched and opened the nightstand drawer, filled with paperbacks. After removing them, he searched the bottom of the drawer. Nothing. As he replaced the books, the police badge, along with a man's bare chest, on one of the covers caught his eye. One of those sexy romance novels. He snorted, then scanned the others. They were all about cops except one, which featured a man in a kilt.

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