Wondering what happens next? Here's a sneak peek at the first chapter of the tenth Sebastian St. Cyr mystery, Who Buries the Dead...
Sunday, 21 March 1813
They called it Bloody Bridge.
It lay at the end of a dark, winding lane, far beyond the comforting flicker of the oil lamps of Sloane Square, beyond the last of the tumbledown cottages at the edge of a vast stretch of fields that showed only black in the moonless night. Narrow and hemmed in on both sides by high walls, the bridge was built of brick, worn and crumbling with age and slippery with moss where the elms edging the rivulet cast a deep, cold shade.
Cian O’Neal tried to avoid this place, even in daylight. It had been Molly’s idea to come here, for on the far side of the bridge lay a deserted barn with a warm, soft hayloft that beckoned to young lovers in need. But now as the wind tossed the elms along the creek and brought the distant, mournful howl of a dog, Cian felt the hard pulsing urgency that had driven him here begin to ebb.
“Maybe this ain’t such a good idea, Molly,” he said, his step lagging. “The barn, I mean.”
She swung to face him, dark eyes shiny in a plump, merry face. “What’s the matter, Cian?” She pressed her warm, yielding body against his, her voice husky. “You havin’ second thoughts?”
“No. It’s just…”
The wind gusted up stronger, banging a shutter somewhere in the night, and he jerked.
To his shame, he saw enlightenment dawn in her face, and she gave a trill of laughter. “You’re scared.”
“No I ain’t,” he said, even though they both knew it for a lie. He was a big lad, eighteen next month and strong and hale. But at the moment, he felt like a wee tike frightened by old Irish tales of the Dullahan.
She caught his hand in both of hers and backed down the lane ahead of him, pulling him toward the bridge. “Come on, then,” she said. “How ’bout if I cross first?”
It had rained earlier in the evening, a brief but heavy downpour that left the newly budding leaves of the trees dripping moisture and the lane slippery with mud. He felt an icy tickle at the base of his neck and tried to think about the sweet warmth of the hayloft and the way Molly’s soft, eager body would feel beneath his.
They were close enough to the bridge now that Cian could see it quite clearly, its single arch a deeper black against the roiling darkness of the sky. But something wasn’t quite right, and he felt his scalp prickle, his breath catch as the silhouette of a man’s head loomed before them.
“What is it?” Molly asked, the laughter draining from her face as she whirled around and Cian started to scream.