The Black Sheep and the Princess

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IS—IS THAT WHY YOU CAME BACK, THEN?

“You had some wild reaction to a picture of me, so…you came back as some sort of personal test?”

His gaze dropped to her mouth, and it was all she could do not to wet her lips.

“Maybe that's part of it. I don't know. I do know one thing, though.” He pressed his fingers beneath her chin, tilted her head slightly. And she did absolutely nothing to stop him. “I no longer seem to have any restraint around you. Or maybe it's just I see no reason to any longer. I'm not the insecure teenager I was back then, desperate for approval, terrified of rejection.”

“You were hardly that,” she murmured, surprised she could form words at all.

“I was exactly that, with those who mattered. It was a very short list. But you were on it.”

He leaned closer. She swallowed hard.

“Donovan—”

“Kick me out of the truck now, Kate.”

“I—”

“On second thought, don't. Not yet.” He tipped her chin up farther and leaned closer. “At least not until I give you a better reason to.”

Also by Donna Kauffman

Catch Me If You Can

Bad Boys in Kilts

The Great Scot

The Black Sheep and the Hidden Beauty

The Black Sheep and the English Rose

Let Me In

A Great Kisser

Donna is also featured in these anthologies:

I Love Bad Boys

Bad Boys Next Exit

Bad Boys on Board

Jingle Bell Rock

Merry Christmas, Baby

To All a Good Night

Kissing Santa Claus

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

The Black Sheep and the Princess
Donna Kauffman

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP
.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

Mom, you were the key
.
I couldn't have done this without you
.

Chapter 1

D
onovan MacLeod ducked as the compressed-air tank shot like a cannonball over his head and slammed into the shelves lining the cinderblock wall behind him. The impact reverberated through the cavernous warehouse.

Mac scooted over next to his partner, pressing his back against the overturned desk as he pulled his gun from his ankle holster. “Could be worse.”

“Oh?”

“He could have a grenade launcher.”

Rafe glared at him. “You said the place was secure, Mr. Motion Detectors Don't Lie.”

“Shh. They don't.”

There was a humming noise; then something began plinking into the cinderblock, spraying clumps of gray debris everywhere.

Rafe hunched down farther. “So, those are what, pretend bullets? And all those crates of antiques, including the urn with Mr. Fortenberry's ashes, must have just gotten up and walked out on their own. Because if the sensors didn't go off, no one could possibly have gotten in here to steal them, right? All ten of them. Which means Frank couldn't possibly be in here shooting at us.”

“So cranky.” Mac propped his semiautomatic on his knee as he shifted closer to one end of the heavy oak desk. Thank God for old office furniture. They didn't make stuff out of real wood anymore. It was all compressed crap these days. Compressed crap wasn't worth shit for stopping bullets. “He has to get through us to get out of here. I say we make that a bit more difficult for him.”

There was a pause in the shooting. Reloading.

“On three,” Mac said, not needing to glance over his shoulder to know that Rafe had shifted down to the other end.

“One…two—”

“Three” was interrupted by a tremendous explosion that rocked both Mac and Rafe back a good five feet and would have sent them farther still if the metal shelving hadn't abruptly stopped their trajectory. A thick haze of dust and grit instantly filled the air, forcing them to shield their eyes and yank the fronts of their shirts over their mouths to keep from gagging.

As the dust began to filter through the air and sift to the floor, Mac motioned to Rafe and pointed across the empty space. There was now a very large hole in the opposite wall of the previously secure riverfront warehouse. A hole easily big enough to drive a tank through. Frank DiMateo was a big guy, but he wasn't Humvee big.

“Damn,” Mac murmured. “I didn't think he had that in him.”

“Son of a bitchin' bitch.” Rafe was already on his feet, brushing the cinderblock debris and dust from his tailored black leather jacket, alternately coughing and swearing. “Asshole actually tried to blow me up.”

“Us,” Mac corrected, standing up now, too, albeit a bit more slowly. Cop knees. Unlike his partner, Mac was completely unconcerned about his appearance and did little more than rub his hand over his face to keep the grit from getting in his eyes. “Asshole tried to blow us up. I believe there are two of us here trying not to get ourselves killed.”

“Yeah, but only one of us thought the place was secure.”

“Hey, I checked the place last night and everything was functioning properly. I don't know how the sensors were tampered with, but I can easily find out. Frank is too damn stupid to override the system, which means he had help.”

“You think Shanahan would risk getting personally involved?”

“An art collector? No. But he sure as hell has the funds to send someone who would. I just can't figure out how they even knew we were here. We should have been in and out with the urn before they had a clue anything was up.”

“Gee, maybe their sensors worked,” Rafe deadpanned.

“Very funny. But even if they suspected they were being cased and moved the stuff early, why hang around? Seems like a stupid risk to take. Why go to the trouble of messing up their warehouse and inviting an official investigation unless—” Mac broke off and stared at his partner as comprehension dawned on both of them at the same time. “Shit!”

“Run!”
they both yelled simultaneously.

Rafe grabbed Mac by the arm, and they lit out across the empty warehouse floor at a dead run, leaving behind Frank's makeshift office and whatever trail of evidence might still be there as they headed for daylight. It never ceased to amaze Mac what a good punch of adrenaline could do for a bum knee. He ran like a track star, with the far more agile Rafe only a half step ahead of him. They made it maybe ten yards through the gaping hole in the wall before both of them were bodily launched across the remainder of the cracked-cement parking lot when the rest of the warehouse went up in a second explosion.

Fortunately a cargo-sized Dumpster stopped their abrupt exodus before they both went flipping into the Hudson River.

It took a minute or two before his head stopped ringing from the impact. He groaned and rolled over. “We need to be right on his ass,” Mac croaked out, lying half on his side, legs sprawled, one elbow jammed under the Dumpster. “You go get the car.”

“I'm missing a shoe,” was Rafe's only response. “It was Italian.”

“Well, then, that does it. We certainly can't be chasing bad guys, hopping around on one designer loafer.”

Rafe ignored the jibe, as he pretty much always did. It was true he took a fair amount of care with his appearance and an unfair amount of grief for it. It was just, when contrasted with Mac's Fashion-by-Goodwill sensibility, well, it made for good ribbing material.

“You know, when we tracked Frank as the go-between, he was just a paid schmuck too stupid to know the trouble he was involved in. I didn't like the guy, but as long as we got Doris Fortenberry her urn back, it was live and let live as far as I was concerned.” Rafe swore again and went digging for his shoe. “Now, it's personal.”

Mac dislodged his arm and righted himself, leaning back against the Dumpster, hoping he'd get most of his hearing back at some point. He flexed his jaw and tried to make his ears pop. “You know, I thought when we started working for Finn, our lives would improve and we'd deal with a better class of people.”

“We do,” Rafe reminded him, still digging. “These days our clients actually deserve our help.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Mac gave up trying to pop his ears and resigned himself to feeling as if he was living underwater for the time being. As a police detective he'd spent most of his days tracking down scum who preyed on other scum. And those were just the cases he actually made progress on. Sure, there were the redeeming cases, too: A child saved, a teenager kept off the streets, a mom able to bury her child with some peace of mind, knowing the killer was behind bars, unable to hurt anyone else's kids. He'd taken redemption where he'd found it.

Now, however, he got to choose his own clients, and all of them deserved justice. With the extended resources of Trinity behind him, he could make sure they always got it, too. One way, or the other. He usually liked it when getting the job done included the “other” part. Today? Not so much.

“Of course, that's what I thought when I took that job with Hightower, too,” Mac said.

Rafe snorted as he dug through the debris and trash that had collected under the Dumpster. “I told you working high-end security systems for a tight-ass white-collar agency wasn't for you. We're not white-collar guys, Mac. Never were, wouldn't want to be.” Grimacing, he straightened with his missing shoe in hand. It was covered in…something. “We just dress better than our blue-collar compadres.” He brushed off the Dumpster scum with a piece of crumpled newspaper, then glanced down at his partner. “Some of us, anyway.”

“Very amusing.” Mac winced as he rolled to his knees and pushed to stand. “At least when I worked for Hightower and NYPD, no one tried to blow me up. In fact, never once did I get shot across a parking lot like a cannonball.” He made a cursory effort at brushing the soot and grime off his pants, then gave up with a shrug. “Toss a coin. Heads gets to chase down Frank and beat his sorry ass until he tells us where the hell the crates went, and tails gets to call Doris Fortenberry.”

But Rafe wasn't answering him. He'd smoothed open the newspaper he'd been cleaning his shoe with and was reading something.

Mac turned his head, trying again to pop his ears, then paused. “Shit. I hear sirens. We gotta roll.” He looked at Rafe, who was still engrossed. “Come on, you can find out how the two-headed alien baby survived being raised by wolves later.”

Rafe continued to read, ignoring him. Finally Mac reached out and snatched the paper from him.

“Hey!” Rafe protested, trying to grab it back. “Wait, don't—”

“They start putting nude photos in the
Times
now or what?” Mac joked, flipping the paper over.

“Mac, it's not—” Rafe broke off when the smile on Mac's face died a swift death. He sighed and shoved his shoe back on.

Mac wasn't paying him any attention. Actually, he'd forgotten his partner was even there. Or, for that matter, that the two of them were standing on an old shipping pier in the Red Hook District of Brooklyn, having just narrowly escaped death.

He'd taken one look at her picture, and the words “Camp Winnimocca” in the caption beneath, and been instantly transported to another time, another place, where he'd also narrowly escaped death, albeit a far more protracted one. Otherwise known as his childhood.

“Hard to believe Big Lou finally kicked the bucket,” Rafe said, in a lame attempt to lighten the sudden shift in mood.

Mac absently thought that if Louisa Sutherland, the severely elegant owner of the elite retreat for children of the very wealthy, had ever heard them call her that, she'd probably come back from the grave just to kick their sorry asses. At the moment, he'd welcome the chance to kick back.

He skimmed the headline again: SUTHERLAND HEIRESS GIVES UP FORTUNE TO INHERIT FAMILY LAKE PROPERTY.

“This makes no sense,” he muttered, mostly to himself, as he reread the article. “Why would Kate do something so stupid for a place she hated?”

“We were teenagers the last time we saw either her or Shelby,” Rafe needlessly reminded him. “Who knows what's gone on since then. I'm surprised we never heard about Louisa dying, though. She really climbed the social register over the years.”

Mac wasn't. Unless it was case related, he didn't read the society columns, much less follow the
Town and Country
set of Washington or New York. Hell, he'd been surprised when the Sutherlands' secretary had tracked down Donny Mac's long-lost son a decade ago to tell him his father had died. Mac had been on the force in those days and not impossible to find, even though he hadn't spoken to his father since the day he'd left home.

He wouldn't have thought they'd go to the trouble to locate the camp handyman's next-of-kin. Though by the time they had, his father was already in the ground, courtesy of the state. Mac had handled the requisite legal and financial details, such as they were, over the phone, and paid someone else to handle whatever was left. He'd never gone back. He had no regrets. Then, or now.

Rafe and Finn figured into the only memories from his past that he'd bothered to keep alive. If not for those ten weeks spent with them every summer, Frank probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to try and blow him to smithereens today because he'd have long since been dead.

“Yeah,” he said, his voice sounding gruff even to his own ears. Stupid to get emotional over something that had nothing to do with his life anymore, and hadn't since the day he'd turned eighteen. Doubly stupid to let Kate Sutherland still have any effect on him at all.

“Hard to believe she would swap her entire inheritance with Shelby's for a place she'd barely stepped foot in back then,” Rafe said, cleaning the rest of the muck off his shoe. “Hell, you'd think they'd be in a race to see who could sell it to the highest bidder and split the profits.”

“Says here Kate plans to turn it into a therapy facility for disabled kids,” Mac read, still not quite believing his eyes.

“No shit? Well, I don't know. I guess people can change, but you'll pardon me if I don't see Katherine Sutherland as benefactor to the needy and underprivileged, any more than her mother was. Hell, your father was as close to charity as the woman ever came, and she worked his ass into the ground.”

Only because Rafe had been there, and only because he'd suffered as much, if not more, at the hands of his own past, was he comfortable speaking so frankly. But Mac wasn't thinking about his father, or Louisa, or any of that.

He was too busy staring at the picture and thinking about Kate. Even though they'd been teenagers when they'd last laid eyes on Louisa Sutherland's only daughter, and almost two decades had since past, Rafe was probably right in his assessment about people changing. But then Rafe had never had much patience for Kate, the unflappable, unapproachable, and most certainly unattainable sleek, blond princess of their youth. Mac had pretended the same indifference, but the truth was he'd spent many a fevered night dreaming about her…and hating himself for it. She represented everything he both envied and abhorred. But that didn't stop him from sporting an almost constant, raging hard-on every time she swung through camp. The grainy black-and-white newspaper photo proved that the ensuing years had done little to diminish her impact on him.

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