Aug 7, 2017

Theif's Mark - Excerpt Tour

Chapter 1

Dublin, Ireland
Colin Donovan eyed his wife of almost two weeks, a glass of champagne in front of her on their low table at the crowded, upscale bar at the landmark Shelbourne Hotel in the heart of Dublin. Since he knew Emma Sharpe as well as he did, he noticed the slight pull in her eyes that indicated tension. “Last night of our honeymoon,” he said, leaning back in his comfortable stuffed chair.
She smiled. “We’ll make the most of it.”
He returned her smile. “We will. You look good, Emma. Rested, happy and rosy-cheeked.”
“The rosy cheeks are due to the champagne.”
“And the tension I see in those green eyes of yours?”
She picked up her champagne. “I’m in reentry mode.”
Colin got that. They would be back at their offices on the Boston waterfront in a few days. Right now, they could enjoy the views out the tall Shelbourne windows across to St. Stephen’s Green as the long June day slowly wound down. Every seat at the polished bar and the tables was occupied with laughing shoppers with their Brown Thomas bags, tourists in sensible shoes and young office workers with loosened ties.
“Then there’s Granddad,” Emma added. “He’s up to something.”
Wendell Sharpe was always up to something but Colin knew he didn’t need to tell Emma. “Speak of the devil,” he said, nodding to the entrance off the lobby.
She followed his gaze, sipping her champagne as she watched her octogenarian grandfather, who lived in Dublin, make his way toward them in his rumpled khakis, sport coat and bow tie. He was semiretired, but no one believed he would ever fully give up his work as a private art detective. Not willingly, anyway. Meeting for drinks at the Shelbourne had been his idea.
He shuddered as he arrived at their table. “Could you two at least try to look less like FBI agents?”
“We are FBI agents, Granddad.” Emma set down her glass and rose, smiling as she and her grandfather embraced. “It’s great to see you.”
Colin got to his feet and he and Wendell shook hands. “Good to see you, Wendell.”
“Welcome to Dublin. How was the honeymoon?” He grinned. “Don’t answer.” He pulled out a chair and sat with a heavy sigh. “I walked from my place. Beautiful day. When did you get in?”
“About an hour ago,” Emma said. “We walked in the park and got here about twenty minutes ago. It’s the last day of a perfect honeymoon.”
“Your secret Irish honeymoon didn’t stay secret for long, did it?”
Emma laughed. “It didn’t stay secret at all.”
“Everyone knows we’re here,” Colin added, glad to see some of Emma’s earlier strain ease.
“You chose Ireland for Emma,” Wendell said. “Tough to think of you as romantic.”
“Not going there, Wendell.”
“Are you making a stop in Dublin on FBI business?”
Emma shook her head, strands of her fair hair falling onto her forehead. She reached for her champagne and sat back with it. “We’re here to see you, Granddad.”
Colin picked up his Smithwick’s. “What’re you drinking, Wendell?”
“Sparkling water. I like to keep my head about me with you two.”
A typical Wendell Sharpe exaggeration, but Colin ordered the water. He drank some of his beer and contained his impatience. He’d been on alert since Wendell had texted Emma two hours ago and suggested they meet at the Shelbourne instead of at his home a few blocks away.
The sparkling water arrived, and Wendell drained about a third of his glass before setting it on the table and taking a breath. “We’re getting looks. I’ve lived in Dublin for fifteen years but I don’t recognize a soul here. I’m an old man. It’s got to be you two.”
Colin made no comment. They weren’t getting looks. It was a diversion tactic. No one near their table was paying attention to them much less sneaking looks at them. He and Emma were dressed comfortably but suitably for their surroundings, not in the hiking clothes they’d worn much of the past ten days in the Irish countryside.
“It’s nice of you to invite us here, Granddad,” Emma said casually. “Any particular reason for the change in plan?”
Wendell glanced around the elegant bar. “I haven’t been here in a while. I thought we should celebrate your marriage at a special place. I didn’t make it to your wedding. Least I could do is buy you a drink.” He settled back in his chair. “Glad you two didn’t order expensive whiskey. I’m retired.”
Emma gave him a skeptical look. “Semiretired at best.”
Colin stayed out of this one. In the months he’d come to know Emma—as he’d fallen in love with her—he had learned to steer clear of meddling with or even trying to understand her deep-seated, often impenetrable relationship with her eccentric family. Wendell had launched Sharpe Fine Art Recovery sixty years ago in the front room of his home on the southern Maine coast. After his wife’s death, he’d returned to the land of his birth and set up a Dublin office. When Colin had planned their Irish honeymoon, he’d included a night in Dublin for Emma to see her grandfather. Wendell had invited them to stay with him. It had seemed like a good way to start the reentry process back to their normal lives. Family, friends, their work with the FBI. No more boutique hotels, cute cottages and long walks in the Irish hills, at least not for a while.
“You two go back to work…when?” Wendell asked. “You’re flying back to Boston tomorrow, right? They’ll let you get home first, do a load of laundry, buy some milk and coffee?”
“We’re flying to London tomorrow,” Emma said. “We’re taking advantage of being on this side of the Atlantic and meeting with a few people.”
Wendell frowned. “So you’re back to work tomorrow?”
“We’ll return to Boston for the weekend and be at our desks on Monday.”
“I thought Colin didn’t have a desk.”
“I don’t,” Colin interjected. “They let me nap on Emma’s couch once in a while.”
They being HIT, the small Boston-based team Emma had joined early last year and he’d been shoehorned into last fall. He wasn’t a good fit, but for the past ten days, he’d had one focus and that was the woman on the other side of the table. It was Wednesday. They had an early flight to London. Emma would meet with her UK counterparts in art crimes, her area of expertise, and Colin would focus on…whatever Matt Yankowski, their FBI boss, wanted him to focus on. He and Yank would talk tomorrow. Colin had completed an undercover assignment before the wedding. Yank no doubt would be chewing on a new assignment.
Wendell took another big drink of his sparkling water. “I have a surprise for you. I’m treating you to a night here at the Shelbourne. Figured it’s a better choice for the last night of a honeymoon than my guest room.”