Anniversary excerpt: Shadow of Doubt

SoD released on this day in 2010 -- one of my favorite books with one of my favorite heroes (Nathan Stokes. Funny and romantic -- what a combo!)

Here's to Nathan and his proposal ...during the middle of a murder investigation!

“Margaret, I’m trying to be serious here.” Nathan immediately regretted the snappish tone in his voice. “I’d like to talk to you about something.”

“I’m sorry.” She came back and resumed her seat. “It’s just so weird to see a mummy in a hotel room. I mean, I’d expect it in Vegas or—”

“Will you marry me?”

She stared at him. “What?”

Nathan closed his eyes, mortified at the way he’d blurted it out. “This wasn’t quite the venue I planned on when I decided to do this.” Nathan looked around the suite then to the window where bright sunlight glinted on the piles of snow outside. “I thought we’d be dancing on a beach and the moon would be shining and…” He pulled out the velvet box from his coat pocket. It looked a bit smudged and grimy. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to hold it all the time with sweaty hands. Too late now. He thrust it at her. “I know a guy who knows a guy who made a ring for me. Shannon said you’d like it. She said it was perfect.”

“This from the sister who suggested personalized dog tags,” Margaret said with a smile.

“Take it.” Nathan held the box in the palm of his hand.

“I’m not sure… I don’t…” Margaret hesitantly picked up the box and opened it. She stared down at the two stones in the silver setting, nestled on a dark red cushion. “It’s a rock.” She looked up at him, puzzled. “A rock and a diamond.”

Nathan took the box from her and pulled out the ring. “See, one is an unpolished garnet. That’s my birthstone. The other is a diamond. That’s your birthstone.” He held up the ring. “I figured the unpolished thing made sense because, well, you know. I’m unpolished. And you’re so polished. You’re like a diamond. Because you’re so beautiful.”

He was babbling but he couldn’t stop himself. She was just staring at him, her brown eyes as big as saucers. He couldn’t interpret the expression in them—surprise, worry, fear? What was it? He kept talking so he wouldn’t have to think about it.

“I mean, you’re not hard and cold like a diamond. That worried me at first. Then I talked about it with Shannon and explained my reasons. Shannon said you’d like it. She said it made perfect sense. I knew this guy—I helped him with a case last year—he knew where he could get an unpolished garnet.” Nathan laughed nervously. “Actually, his wife had some unpolished stones. She wasn’t his wife then. They just got married a while ago. Harry needed some help and… It’s a long story. I’ll tell you sometime. She inherited them because—Well, anyway, they’re friends with my grandmother. And—” A sharp knock on the door startled him so much he almost dropped the ring.

“Margaret? It’s Kerry Songhorse.”

“Damn it.” Nathan started to put the ring back in the box. “I was hoping we’d have some time alone. I should have waited.”

Margaret put her hand on his. “Let me look at it,” she said in a soft voice.

He put the ring in the palm of his hand. She touched it, her fingers dancing over his skin and sending shivers through him.

“Margaret?” Kerry knocked again.

Margaret held out her left hand. “Yes.”


“Yes.” She wiggled her fingers.

Nathan dropped the ring box on the floor and grabbed Margaret’s hand. “Are you sure? I’m not the kind of guy you probably thought you’d marry. I’m not real sophisticated. I mean, you could probably marry anybody you wanted. Why—?”

Margaret leaned forward and kissed him, her lips silencing his words. “Yes, Nathan.”

He aimed the ring toward her finger and managed to get it on without too much damage, just scraping her knuckle a bit. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I won’t let you down.”

She flexed her finger, staring down at the ring. “It’s beautiful.”

“Margaret?” Kerry knocked again.

“I swear to God, relative of yours or not, I’m going to deck that guy if he doesn’t shut up.” Nathan pulled Margaret to her feet and she wrapped her arms around his neck. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She kissed him, a slow, lingering kiss that made his head spin. “But now we have to face the world.”

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