of Cobbogoth. After her archaeologist uncle’s murder, Norah is asked to
translate his old research journal for evidence and discovers that his murder
was a cover-up for something far more sinister.
When she turns to neighbor and only friend James Riley for help, she realizes
that not only is their bitter-sweet past haunting her every step, but James is
keeping dangerous secrets. Can Norah discover what they are before its too late
to share her own.
Nor? ” James rubbed the sleep from his eyes with the heel of his hand. One look at me, however, and he was wide awake. “What is it? Is it Gram?”
“No. No, not that,” I croaked, guilt rushing through me for causing him more worry.
The panic left his eyes, and he squinted at me.
I shuffled self-consciously. I knew I looked terrible. I’d been up crying half the night after my argument with Uncle Jack about James breaking my heart. Finally, I snuck out my window, climbed down my cherry tree, and headed to the fire station to see James.
“Hey, Riley! Cut the lights, man!”
James glanced back into the dark, communal bedroom where the rest of the night shift firefighters slept.
“Come here.” He took my hand, closed the bedroom door and, in stockinged feet, led me down the hall. A moment later, we were sitting side by side on the stairs. James still held my hand, and I hoped he’d never let go. I watched as he reached into his shirt pocket, fishing around until he found a piece of peppermint gum.
He offered me half. I shook my head, so he stuffed the whole thing in his mouth. Then he turned those kind, piercing eyes on me.
Growing warm under his gaze, I cleared my throat. “I-I’m so sorry to wake you up,” I started. “I hoped you’d still be awake. It’s just . . .”
James mindlessly ran his thumb in circles over my knuckles. I lost my train of thought. Blinking, I took a deep breath and plunged on. “My uncle . . . he wants me to stop spending time with you. I mean, I can still help with Gram and everything, he just doesn’t want us hanging out any other time.” I sucked in another unsteady breath. “But I—I can’t let that happen, James. You’re my only friend.”
James was quiet for what seemed like forever. I prayed he wouldn’t just shrug his broad shoulders and shuffle back to bed.
To my relief, he reached up, rumpling his chocolate curls with his free hand. “Did he give you a reason why?” he asked, avoiding my eyes. I shook my head. “I think he’s afraid you’ll end up hurting me—that you’ll break my heart. You know how protective he is.”
He was silent again, this time longer.
Stupid, Norah! Why had I come here? Why did I think James would even care about this—that it would upset him at all?
Finally, James let out his breath. And the next moment, he was pressing the back of my hand to his lips.
I swallowed my shock. I’d never imagined that his lips could be so warm and soft. The contact sent a shock straight to my heart.
“What do you think?” James mumbled a moment later, still contemplating my hand. “Do you think I could hurt you?”
I wanted to burst into tears all over again. “I don’t think, James, I know. But it would be worth it.”
James chuckled this time, resting his forehead against my temple. “Now that’s a compliment.”
I smiled. Having him so close—smelling the fresh peppermint on his breath—was a fierce mixture of agony and ecstasy. They were feelings I’d never imagined I could feel.
“I’d never hurt you, Nor,” James whispered at last, and his breath tickled my neck. “Not really.”