Bastard, he thought. The bastard had hunted her down. A rabid wolf after a doe. Because he could. Because he would rather have seen her dead than free of him. Prepared to swipe the knife over her throat rather than lose what he considered his possession.
Fury raged in him, hot, roiling fury. He could almost smell the blood, the hate. The fear. Steeped in it, he needed several moments to realize that his sensors were going wild.
“Jesus!” He jolted back, shook himself, and was abruptly the cool-headed scientist again.
“Here. Right here.”
He swept with scanners, dragging out his tape recorder, muttering data into it. He paced off the area, using another gauge to measure distance, radius, diameter. Down on his knees in the snow, he recorded, calculated, documented. Considered, while the numbers and needles on his tools swung wildly.
“Highest charge, almost pure positive energy encompasses an area of twelve feet, in a perfect circle. Most rites of paranormal origin involve protective circles. This is the most powerful I’ve found.”
Pocketing his tools, he used his hands to dig, to clear. A light sweat covered his back before he uncovered a reasonable portion of the energy circle.
“There are no markings under the snow. No symbols. I’ll need to come back with a shovel to clear the entire circle. If this was made on the night Evan Remington was arrested, it was cast more than two months ago and would have been ritualistically closed on that same night. Yet there is a positive echo registering a steady six-point-two on my scale.”
Six-point-two! His mind leaped at the data. Hot dog!
“My previous experience, with an active circle during an initiation rite, registered no more than five-eight. Check those data.”
He got to his feet again, snow clinging everywhere as he took photographs. He dropped his tape recorder, cursed, and spent some time scooping it out of a pile of snow, then worrying that he’d damaged it.
But nothing could diminish the thrill. He stood in the silent wood and wondered if he had stumbled across the heart of the Sisters.
An hour later,without bothering to go back to the cottage, Mac was trudging along the snowy beach. The tide had moved in, moved out and swallowed some of the snow with it. But the damp and the cold had packed what remained like bricks in a wall.
The air was far from still here, shivering in from the sea in icy streams. Despite the layers he wore, his fingers and toes were beginning to feel it.
He thought idly about a steaming-hot shower, steaming-hot coffee, as he examined the area where he remembered seeing the woman on his first night on the island.
“What the hell are you doing?”
He looked up and saw Ripley standing at the seawall. And was mildly embarrassed that looking at her turned his thoughts, immediately, to steaming-hot sex.
“Working. How about you?”
She set her hands on her hips. He couldn’t see her eyes, as she wore dark glasses. It made him wish he’d remembered h
is own, for the sun bouncing off the snow was blinding.
“Working at what? Becoming the Abominable Snowman?”
“The yeti isn’t indigenous to this part of the world.”
“Take a look at yourself, Booke.”
He did, glancing down. He was, indeed, covered with snow. It was, he knew, going to be a damn mess when he peeled everything off for that shower. “I guess I’m really into my work.” He shrugged.
Since it didn’t appear that she would come to him, he started toward her. It wasn’t an easy process, and he managed to find a couple of snowdrifts that hit above his knees. But he trudged to the seawall, hitched himself up on it, and caught his breath.
“Ever hear of frostbite?” she said dryly.
“I can still feel my toes, but thanks for thinking of me. How about some coffee?”
“I don’t happen to have any on me.”
“Buy you a cup.”
“Maybe I do have frostbite.” He turned his head and sent her a soulful look. “Wouldn’t it be your duty as a civil servant to assist me to a warm and sheltered location?”
“No, but I’ll call the health clinic.”
“Okay, strike one.” He swung over the wall, remembering in the nick of time to protect his dangling camera, and stood beside her. “Where are you headed?”
“I thought wherever it was, there’d be coffee.”
She sighed. He looked frozen and ridiculously adorable. “All right, come on. I’m heading in, anyway.”
“Didn’t see you at the gym this morning.”
“I got a late start.”
“Didn’t see you around the village either.”
“You’re seeing me now.”
She had a long stride, he noted. He barely had to check his to keep pace with her.
She stopped in front of the station house, took a good look at him. “Stomp that snow off your boots.”
He obeyed, sent a little flurry of snow from his coat and pants.
“Oh, for God’s sake. Turn around.” She slapped and brushed at the snow that clung to him, scowling as she worked her way around to the front. Then her eyes flicked up, caught his grin.
“What are you smiling at?”
“Maybe I just like being handled. Want me to do you?”
“You’ll watch your step if you want that coffee.” She shoved the door open and was bitterly disappointed that Zack wasn’t in.
She peeled off her gloves, her coat, unwinding her neck scarf as he did the same. “What the hell were you doing crawling around in the snow?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“I guess I don’t.” She walked to the coffeepot, poured the last of the thick brew into two cups.
“I’ll tell you anyway. I was in the woods earlier, and found the area where you . . . dealt with Remington that night.”