Novel excerpt.
Rosenwyn Tremain stared through her BMW’s windshield at the towering gray struts of the road bridge spanning the River Tamar. The gateway to Cornwall. She swallowed anxiously as the line of traffic edged closer to the bridge. In a few minutes, she’d be over, on Cornish soil—or more precisely Cornish asphalt.

A slash of lightning cut across the leaden sky, briefly relieving the dull afternoon. She shuddered then nervously fluffed her short hair.

Never set foot in Cornwall. Her mother’s plea whispered in her memory as her car crawled forward.

Rose passed beneath the Cornish coat of arms marking the center point of the Tamar Bridge. Tension clenched her belly. She snatched a breath, held it, half expecting to be smote down by a thunderbolt.

“Oh, for goodness sake.” She slapped her palms against the steering wheel. “Pull yourself together, woman, and get over it.” What was the worst that could happen? She’d get a hostile reception from the business she was due to investigate. That wouldn’t be a first. No one liked being told they were insolvent.

Just over an hour later, Rose maneuvered her car along a narrow Cornish lane. She glanced at her satellite navigation system and gnawed her lip. Either the satellite was faulty, or the Elephant’s Nest Public House was in the middle of nowhere. She had a nasty suspicion it was the latter.

She crawled until the road opened out at the head of an estuary. Stopping on a small humpback bridge, she stared at the pretty scatter of lighted cottage windows glowing in the curve of the valley. Living in London, it was easy to forget places like this existed.

The satellite system directed her along a narrow track beside the estuary for another half a mile. Finally, an ancient building with white-washed walls intersected by black beams shone in her headlights. She swung her car around and parked near the front door. Her watch read five thirty, nearly opening time.

The plan had been to make a start on the financial assessment this afternoon, but the drive had taken longer than expected. As she was late, the best she could do was get the preliminaries out of the way so she could make a quick start in the morning. A small review job like this should only take two days. Then she could spend the rest of the week tracing her father.

Climbing out, she slung her purse strap over her shoulder and grabbed her briefcase. A cool breeze flowed up the estuary with the incoming tide. Salty air tingled in her lungs. So, this was Cornwall—the county of her birth.

Checking out the parking lot, she noticed a red Porsche Boxster, spotless and gleaming beneath a street light. The license plate read MICK. She grimaced. Maybe the problem with the business’s finances was an owner who spent the working capital. She’d met a few of those in her years as an accountant. Mr. Michael O’Connor’s private spending would be her first target—and he wouldn’t like that. Those she investigated never did.

As she walked toward the front door, she paused and stared at the incongruous sight of a fat pink elephant with a wicked grin perched on a nest of plastic twigs. Lucky the guy who owned this place clearly had a sense of humor. He would probably need it when he received her report.

When she reached the entrance porch, the low drone of a powerful motorcycle engine rolled through the darkness behind her. Its headlight flickered between the trees on the riverbank as it approached. Rose suppressed a strange compulsion to go inside before it arrived. The air vibrated with the thud of the engine as the machine slowed and, with a crunch of gravel, swung into the parking lot.

The man halted beside the Porsche, dropped a brown booted foot to the ground and turned his head toward her. The lamplight gleamed off the visor of his helmet like an insect’s eye. When he looked at her, the three linked stones on her necklace tingled warmly against her skin. She clasped them through her shirt to stop the weird sensation.

He twisted his hand on the throttle, and the roar of the engine snapped her out of her trance. Rose shivered as she took in his green combat pants and battered leather flight jacket. Hopefully he wasn’t the owner of the pub.

Dragging her attention back to the pub, she cleared her throat, then strode through the door into the lounge bar. The gentle lilt of traditional Irish music and the smell of wood smoke welcomed her in. After the plastic elephant out front, she was pleasantly surprised by the old fashioned interior with a beamed ceiling, brass ornaments and a polished oak bar.

A middle-aged woman, with a mass of fair hair secured atop her head with an orange flower, looked up from where she restocked the shelves behind the bar.

“We’re not open till six, m’ lover.” She poked her thumb behind her. “Boss is still out back working his magic.”

Rose suspected the magic had something to do with the delicious smell of food emanating from the back. So Michael O’Connor cooked. He probably couldn’t afford to pay a chef.

Rose slipped a business card from the leather case in her pocket and held it out. “Sorry to call so late. Mr. O’Connor is expecting me. I just want to introduce myself tonight and get the lay of the land. I’ll be back to start work in the morning.”

The woman took the card and read out loud. “Rose Tremain. Francis Marchant Partnership. You got yourself an impressive list of letters after your name, but it don’t tell me what you’re here for.”

Rose kept her face blank. Keeping the reason for her presence secret from the staff while investigating a business facing bankruptcy was always difficult.

She gave the woman a reassuring smile. “Mr. O’Connor is expecting me. If you’d just give him my card, I’m sure he can spare me a few minutes tonight.”

The woman flicked the card between her fingers thoughtfully. “Now which Mr. O’Connor would you be wanting?”

There were two?
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  1. Mary Marvella // September 15, 2007 at 7:09 PM  

    She's in big trouble, isn't she? Sounds like my kind of hero?

  2. Joanne // September 18, 2007 at 10:03 AM  

    Helen is the best of the best. Her writing is clear, suspenseful, and emotional. You will love her characters.