As she leapt out of bed to rescue the pot someone knocked at the front door. She checked the
clock. 8:00. A bit early. Maybe it’s the milkman. She clucked at her little joke, but took a
moment to smooth her hair and flip off her fuzzy slippers. Halfway down the stairs, she peered
through the glass door to see a tall, broad-shouldered silhouette. Someone new? And handsome
too! Panting only slightly, she tripped on the last step and almost fell flat. Ingesting a couple of
ragged gulps, she called, “Who is it?”
“Miss Lonegan? It’s Tom Ellis. I’m the Chincoteague Refuge Manager. I’d like to ask you a
couple of questions.”
Questions? Dagne opened the door and took a step back. A tall, remarkably good-looking
man in the tan uniform of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stood on the mat. His dark brown
eyes flecked with cream reminded her of the Sika elk that roamed Assateague. The flat-rimmed
ranger hat obscured his hair but his tanned face sported a bit of five o’clock shadow, which only
served to highlight the straight Roman nose. He smiled a dazzling smile and stuck his hand out.
“May I come in?” Dagne realized she was still holding his hand and gazing hungrily into
those chocolate eyes. She shook her head to clear it.
“Of course, of course.” She led the way into the living room and indicated one of the easy
chairs patterned in blue ponies. She sat on the sleep sofa, only to jump up hastily to clear the
coffee table of half-filled take-out boxes and bits of underwear, her face burning. The ranger sat
quietly, hat in hand, while she bustled about trying not to stare at his large, strong hands. A full
head of rich brown hair too—is there anything that isn’t gorgeous about him? “Sorry. I’ve just
moved in and I haven’t had time to organize or even grocery shop.”
“I understand. Cora Anne said you’re staying for a year?”
Chincoteague sure was a small town. “Yes. I’m trying to write a novel.”
“That’s wonderful.” He didn’t seem surprised at the news. The pause lengthened. Dagne
finally settled down on the sofa. “Well…Mr. Ellis, is it? What can I do for you?” How about a
big, wet one?
“Miss Lonegan, as I mentioned, I supervise the wildlife refuge. I don’t know whether you’ve
heard, but there’s been a murder.”
Dagne took a moment to pull her jaw back up and her eyes back in. “A what?”
“A murder. We found the body Saturday morning. On the refuge.”
“No, I had no idea. I haven’t talked to anyone yet today.” Wait a minute. When was I
trapped on the Woodland Trail? “Saturday? The day before yesterday?”
“Yes.” He studied her, his eyes sharp. “I heard you were there the afternoon before. I mean,
on the refuge. On Friday. Nick, one of our volunteers, said he talked to you.”
Dagne tried to think. “Yes, that’s right. I stopped in at the visitors’ center just at closing
around four. I’d seen a fawn with a broken leg on the Swan Cove trail and wanted to let them
“And where did you go after that?”
“I decided to walk the Woodland Trail.”
He sat forward eagerly. “You did? Did you see anyone else on the path?”
“There were a few people, yes. But they were heading back when I started walking. I was
alone for most of the hike.”
“Did you see anyone in the parking lot?”
“No. No one. By the time I got back to my car everyone had gone.”
“What made you decide to go so late in the day?”
Why did this begin to sound like an interrogation? She hoped she didn’t sound like a person
with something to hide, but his close scrutiny made her nervous. “I…I didn’t really think about
the time. I’d been working and thought I’d take a break and get some exercise. To tell the truth,
I’d forgotten how long the trail was. When the sun went down the place spooked me a bit and I
ran most of the way back.”
“Hmmm.” He sat back. A couple of minutes ticked by while he seemed lost in reverie.
“Mr. Ellis? Who was murdered?”
“What? Oh, please, call me Tom. The victim? A local girl, name of Terri Aster.”
“Oh dear. And have you caught the murderer?”
“No, ma’am. We’re just following up leads, looking for possible witnesses. That sort of
thing.” He looked grim.
“I see…Tom. And you can call me Dagne.” God, he’s cute. Did I just simper?
“Dagne. Nice name.” He smiled, and a little tingling sensation trickled up her back.
“Anyway, we don’t have much to go on yet. We’re questioning anyone who visited the refuge on
Friday or early Saturday.”
Curiosity getting the better of prudence, Dagne ventured, “So, how was she killed?”
Tom stopped smiling. “I’m afraid it would be inappropriate to give out details at this stage.”
He stood. “Here’s my card. I may have to interview you again. Since we found the body on
federal property I’ll be in charge of the investigation. Make sure you get in touch if you think of
anything else that might be of interest. For example, if you saw or heard anything unusual.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to make a flirtatious reply, but she bit it instead. Talk about
inappropriate timing!—but he was so gorgeous, so polite, so different from Jack. Maybe, just
A young woman shuffled toward them, stopping to pick up two large leather-bound
They took that to mean they had a choice of seating and picked a table by the window.
Dagne ordered the flounder and Jack chose crab cakes. They stared out at the choppy gray water,
faces studiously averted from at each other. The waitress brought glasses of wine. Dagne took a
large swig, but still couldn’t think of anything to say. She didn’t have a clue where they stood or
what Jack was thinking, not to mention how she felt about things. His profile was, as usual,
sphinx-like. Impassive. Unreadable. And so handsome. She could see his long black lashes and
the glint of cyan from his eyes. She could smell his scent, always fresh and clean, from across
the table. He turned to face her, and she felt the blood rise hotly to her cheeks.
He sipped his wine, studying her. “I’d forgotten how beautiful you are.” He said it
Dagne waited for her heart to stop thumping and finally emitted a squirrely “Thank you.”
He continued to canvass her features.
A broad face, heavily made up, came between them. The query “Crab cakes?” came out
along with a puff of Marlborough.
Jack accepted his plate with a wry grin. The waitress set trenchers of coleslaw and hush
puppies on the table, and slid a platter eclipsed by an enormous fish bulging with crabmeat under
Dagne’s nose. It smelled wonderful.
An hour later, Jack paid and they walked arm in arm out to her car. Both Dagne’s
stomach and heart were replete. Night had fallen. “The traffic should have cleared by now. Why
don’t I give you a ride back to…I’ve forgotten where you’re staying?”
“It’s a B and B in New Church. Not far. Thanks.” They got in. As Dagne searched for her
keys, Jack’s arm settled on her shoulder. She backed out of the parking lot and headed down the
dirt road. His hand rubbed her neck gently. She pressed back. It felt so good. She didn’t even
mind when his other hand began to wander down toward her breast but thought it prudent to
suppress the urge to help him. His breath came huskily in her ear. “Dagne, I want you. Now.”
“Jack, we’re in a car!”
“On a deserted road. Out in the wilderness.”
“It’s a farm. Somebody’s farm.”
“Yeah, I know. Perfect. Pull over.”
Anticipation clouded her judgment. She could feel different parts of her body begin to
tingle—whether at the secret thrill of the exotic location or the nearness of him, she couldn’t tell.
He pulled her out of the car, opened the back door and pushed her onto the back seat. His hot
breath seared her belly where he’d pulled up her sweatshirt. A tongue tickled her navel, then
licked upwards till it reached her bra. His hand moved on her back and an instant later, she felt
the sweet release of her breasts from the underwire. They weren’t free for long. His mouth
fastened on her nipple and began to suckle. Dagne writhed in ecstasy. “Jack, no. You are too bad.
For answer, he moved to the other nipple. When he lifted her skirt something cold and
hard ground into her. The seat belt buckle gouged her naked thighs. Fortunately fingers
distracted her from the pain as they pulled her silk panties aside—“Mmmm, silk. You know what
that does to me, Dagne”—and pressed inside her. A second later, they were replaced by a mouth
that began to massage her labia, blowing softly on the engorged lips. She felt his tongue dart
inside, licking and sucking, setting the tender flesh on fire. Her orgasm crackled upward and
sucked all the oxygen out of the tiny space.
“Jack…Jack…oh my God…Jack.” She fell to earth. As she lay panting she heard the
sound of a zipper. Where his fingers had roamed there infiltrated a most welcome, rough, hard
cock that beat up her thigh and entered her. It moved in and out, hardening with each thrust,
faster and faster. She fell into the rhythm and they rocked, the car rocking in tandem with their
Jack’s voice came urgently, muffled in her hair. “Dagne, come with me, come with me.”
“I will.” What else could she say? She rose to meet him and in a great whoosh they met
and melded into one perfect creature, undivided. He let his body gently settle on hers and they
lay quietly. Just as Dagne began to drift off to sleep, a light hit her eyes and the sound of a truck
engine broke the stillness. “Jack, Jack, get off me! Quick! It’s the tow truck!”
Jack scrambled to the side, pulling his jeans up. He let out an oath and she heard a
sucking sound. “Damned zipper.” Meanwhile she pulled both her sweatshirt and her skirt down,
scrambled out the door and dove for the front seat. Just in time for the driver to pull off the road
behind the Subaru.
“You the one needing a tow, Lady?”