“Yes.” Still holding the binoculars to her eyes, she watched the pair take off together as though on cue.

“Did you see the white patch on top of the wing?”


Gretchen lowered the binoculars. Matt wasn’t watching the birds fly off. He was gazing steadily at her. He flashed a smile. The guy had the best smile in the world. “Come here,” he said, sitting down and reaching out to her.

She scooted over and they kissed under an enormous saguaro cactus, its white flowers closed since late afternoon. After nightfall they would open again. The romantic in Gretchen wanted to stay, watch them reopen, let nature take its course.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Matt said.

“Really?” She hoped not.

“Let me show you.”

The second kiss should have been sweeter than the first, but instead Gretchen felt the familiar and highly annoying vibration of his cell phone.

Matt released her abruptly and raised the phone to his ear. “Detective Albright,” he said, suddenly all business.

Gretchen sat up straight and allowed herself an internal moan. She wanted to throw his phone off a cliff. She was used to long hours spent apart from Steve, her ex-fiance. He was an attorney, driven to make partner, but Matt’s career as a Phoenix detective seemed to consume him even more. His work cut into the tiny amount of time they found for each other. It would take some getting used to.

She saw the hard edge to his jaw, the narrowing eyes. She could feel the distance between them growing as it always did when he switched into work mode.

Just great. Here it comes.

“Gotta go,” he said, snapping the phone closed and rising. “I’m sorry.”

“Me, too.”

They began the descent, Matt moving faster than she thought safe.

“Be careful,” she warned, hopping from rock to rock. “Don’t slip.”

“As soon as we’re in the car, call your mother. Ask her to pick you up at Eternal View Cemetery. I’ll be busy for the rest of the night.”

Stones gave way under his feet.

“Slow down,” she warned again.

Amateurs! They thought the hardest part of a mountain climb was the ascent, but beginners suffered more injuries on the way back down by becoming too relaxed, too careless. Gretchen took a final moment to look out over the Sonoran Desert, at the city of Phoenix spread out below. She slowed to take it in and to consider lost possibilities and opportunities.

If only she’d destroyed his phone.

“Hurry up, please.” Matt kept going.

“All right. I’m coming. Tell me what happened.”

“A homicide.”

“In Eternal View Cemetery?”


Gretchen glanced at Matt, taking in his broad shoulders and lean, muscled back. How could he do this job? And could she deal with the hours and the internal baggage that had to come with his work? Was this really what she wanted? A guy who seemed to crave danger, who mingled with drug addicts and pedophiles and killers and who knew what else?

Gretchen didn’t know what the distant future held for them, but here in the present she knew she wanted Matt Albright.

Slow down, she reminded herself as they reached the trailhead, step cautiously in this relationship in the same way you’ve learned to traverse rocky terrain.

Once in his car, Gretchen attempted to reach her mother. Caroline didn’t answer the home phone or her cell. Gretchen left voice messages at both locations.

Matt was on his cell phone, immersed in a world of human atrocities and blight that Gretchen hadn’t been able to understand or imagine. Tonight, she would get her first chance.

Should she try to find Nina for a ride home? As soon as she thought of her aunt, she rejected the idea. Nina would flip out if she had to enter a cemetery at night, let alone one where there’d been a recent murder. Aunt Nina avoided places where negative energy lurked. One of her many quirks, right up there with her claims of colored auras and psychic messages.

Matt sped along Twenty-fourth Street and turned onto Camelback Road, heading toward the cemetery. He reached over and squeezed her shoulder, sending an electrical charge down her spine.

“I really am sorry,” he said.

“It’s okay.”

“We were having such a great time.”

“Wonderful,” she agreed. “And I have a faynodoodad to add to my life list.”

Matt laughed, but with an edge that told her he was paying only slight attention. His mind was elsewhere. “You’re going to have to learn to pronounce its name properly. That’s one of the most important birding rules.”

“You made that up.”

“On the spot.”

Ahead Gretchen saw lights flashing. Matt rolled down the window when a police officer walked up to the car. Matt flipped out identification, so impatient to get to the scene that the wheels still inched forward. “Let Caroline Birch through when she arrives,” he said once the cop recognized him and waved them through.

“You’re taking me inside the cemetery with you?” Gretchen had hoped he would, but hadn’t expected it. He could have dropped her at the entrance to wait for her mother. Instead, she really would have the opportunity to observe him in the field.

How romantic!

“A gorgeous woman like you? The cops would be all over you. No way am I taking that chance.” He flashed a quick smile. “And you know how vulnerable a woman alone is. I want you to wait in the car. Keep the doors locked until your mom gets here.”

Another cop waved them through a second checkpoint.

“It happened in the old section,” Matt said, driving toward the back of the cemetery. He parked behind a line of cars. A van was already positioned between the headstones, its back doors wide open. Gretchen could see a gurney inside. She looked away.

“The medical examiner beat us,” he said, swinging out of the car. “Be good. Stay in the car.”

He walked rapidly away before Gretchen could reply.

How was she supposed to completely understand him and his work when she was ordered to wait in the car?

Through the car’s windows, Gretchen watched a flurry of activity, as much as she could make out in the darkness. People stood in a group a distance away. Two officers were with them, their heavy-duty flashlights and gleaming badges visible. Who were the others? Witnesses to the crime? Passersby who had stumbled upon a corpse? Or were they suspects?

Her cell phone rang. “I got your message,” her mother said. “I’m on the way, but it’s going to take about twenty minutes. Where will I find you?”

“At the crime scene.”

“What! I don’t like that at all.”

“We didn’t have a choice. When you get to the cemetery entrance, give your name to the officer. He’ll let you through. I’m waiting in Matt’s car.”

“Gotcha. Oh, and Gretchen? Stay in the car.”

The same thing Matt had told her.

After disconnecting, she leaned back and tried to concentrate on life rather than on death. She and her mother hadn’t been particularly close until Caroline had been diagnosed with breast cancer several years previously. After

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