A Madness of Sunshine Page 1

Author: Nalini Singh

Genres: Mystery , Thriller



She returned home two hundred and seventeen days after burying her husband while his pregnant mistress sobbed so hard that she made herself sick. Anahera had stood ­stone-­faced, staring down at the gleaming mahogany coffin she’d chosen because that was what Edward would’ve wanted. Quiet elegance and money that didn’t make itself obvious, that had been Edward’s way. Appearances above everything.

His friends had looked at her with sympathetic eyes, believing her grief so great that she couldn’t cry.

And all the while, Edward’s mistress sobbed.

No one knew her.

Anahera hadn’t explained who the woman was.

And she hadn’t cried. Not then. Not since.

Now, she drove the dark green Jeep she’d bought sight unseen over the internet and arranged to have delivered to the airport that had been the last stop in her long plane trek from London.

Christchurch, New Zealand.

A land at the bottom of the world. So far south that she’d felt no surprise when their pilot pointed out a cargo plane being loaded with freight bound for an Antarctic research station.

How many hours had it been since she walked through the departure gate at Heathrow?

­Thirty-­six? ­Thirty-­eight?

She’d lost count somewhere between yesterday and tomorrow. Between the gray drizzle of a city full of theaters and museums and the cold sunlight of a barely civilized land adrift in the ocean.

Edward had liked cities.

He and Anahera had never driven through such a primal and untamed landscape together, the trees born of ancient seeds, and the ferns huge and green and singing a song of homecoming.

Tauti mai, hoki mai.

And this moment a whisper from the end of her journey, she stood on a jagged cliff looking out over the crashing sea below as fog wove through the treetops, a light misty rain falling and dissipating before it ever got to her.

Dark gray water smashed against unforgiving black rock, sending up a frothy white spray that disappeared under the violence of the next crashing wave. The water went on endlessly, a tumultuous vastness that was nothing like the European beaches she’d visited with Edward. You couldn’t swim in the water below, not unless you wanted to be swept out into the cold arms of the ocean, but its beauty spoke to Anahera’s heart, made it ache.

She could watch it forever, might just do that once she reached the cabin. Josie told her it was still ­standing—­and that no one had smashed in the windows.

Maybe it had been out of respect. Perhaps out of fear.

To some, the cabin was a place of ghosts.

To Josie, it was where she and Anahera had once sat on the porch and laughed, two ­nineteen-­year-­olds with their whole lives ahead of them. Her best friend from high school was the only person with whom Anahera had kept in touch after she left Golden Cove, and she’d told Josie not to bother worrying about keeping an eye on the place.

After all, Anahera was never going to come back.

Turning away from the cliff, she got into the Jeep and started it up.

Driving inland and away from the crashing ­sea—­it was an illusion, the sea still there, just hidden by the ­trees—­she drove the last ten minutes to the edge of forever. The sign startled her. Golden Cove hadn’t had a sign when she’d left. Only an old gumboot on a fencepost that Nikau Martin had put there when they were eleven.

For some reason, the adults had never taken it off.

But it was gone now, and in its place stood a gleaming sign that said: HAERE MAI, with GOLDEN COVE lettered in swirling font below, and WELCOME below that. She went past, then stopped and looked back to see that, from this side, it said, HAERE RĀ, with GOLDEN COVE below, and under that, FAREWELL.

Shrugging off the disquiet of the unfamiliar after a long moment, she continued on down the otherwise empty road.

Her car hiccuped, then jerked.

“Don’t you crap out on me now,” she said, hitting the dashboard. But the Jeep was in no mood to listen to her. It spluttered and hiccuped again before going dead.

Managing to guide it to the side of the road, Anahera put it in park, then turned off the engine. Well, at least it wasn’t a total disaster. From here, it would only take her about twenty minutes to walk into Golden Cove. She’d have to leave her two suitcases in the back or maybe not. They had wheels, didn’t they? It just seemed appropriate that the angry girl who’d left this town in her dust would return dusty and travel worn.

Fate sure had a sense of humor.

A car engine sounded in the distance, growing increasingly louder. Before she’d left the stark emptiness of New Zealand’s West Coast all those years ago, Anahera would’ve thought nothing of jumping out and flagging down that truck or car or whatever it was.

Despite her childhood and the chill darkness of her fourteenth summer, she’d grown up thinking of this entire wild landscape as safe, those who lived within it all people she knew. But the wider world had hammered it home that no one could be trusted. So she stayed inside her locked vehicle and watched a large SUV approach in her rearview mirror.

It was white, with a bull bar in the front. That wasn’t ­unusual—­what was unusual was the distinctive ­blue-­and-­yellow-­check pattern along its sides, a pattern she could see because the SUV had come to a stop right alongside her, though it stayed far enough away that she could easily open her door should she need to.

The word POLICE was written in solid white letters against a large blue piece of the pattern. Since when, she wondered, did Golden Cove deserve any kind of a police presence? It was too small, the residents relying on the police station in the closest big town, Greymouth, to supply their needs, though “big” was a relative term on the West Coast. Last she’d heard, the population of the entire coast had been hovering around ­thirty-­one thousand.

She cautiously lowered her window as the other driver lowered their ­passenger-­side window so that the two of them could talk. A man. ­Thirty-­something, with a hardness to his jaw and grooves carved into his face, as if he’d seen things he couldn’t ­forget—­and they hadn’t been good things.

His hair was dark, his skin that ­light-­brownish tone that made it difficult to tell if he was just tanned, or if he had ancestors on her side of the genetic tree. She couldn’t see his eyes behind the opaque darkness of his sunglasses, but she imagined they’d be as hard as his jaw. “Everything all right?” he asked.

She noticed that he wasn’t in uniform, but then, if he really was stationed in Golden Cove, it wasn’t as if any of the locals would report him for breaching protocol. “Car trouble,” she answered. “I can walk the rest of the way into town.” She had no intention of getting into a vehicle with an unknown man on a deserted road surrounded by dark green native forest and not much else.

“Let me have a look at it.” Pulling ahead of her car before she could answer, he got out and she saw immediately that he was a big man: wide shoulders; strong, long legs; equally strong arms. But everything about him was hard, as if he’d been smelted down until all softness was lost.

Gut tight, she raised her window a little farther, but he didn’t come around to the door. Instead, he indicated that she should pop open her hood. Figuring she had nothing to lose, Anahera went ahead and did so.

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