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if you’re not reading through a veil of tears when you get to, what was for me, one of the most emotional final scenes that I’ve read in many years, then it’s time for a trip to see the wizard to get a heart.

Reviews by Jessewave
the sequel to in a dark wood
Two and a half years ago, travel writer Timothy O’Shay let NYPD Detective Luke O’Brien talk him into hiking into the New Jersey Pine Barrens to face down a monster.
Now Tim and Luke meet again under very different circumstances. The old attraction is still there — but so are some of Tim’s monsters. Is it too late to find their way back to each other?

“Tim?”

I glanced over my shoulder, surprised to hear my name, surprised that anyone in New York should recognize me after all this time. Two guys stood in line behind me, waiting to buy tickets for that night’s concert at the Irish Arts Center. Jeans and leather jackets. They looked youngish, fit, and clean shaven in a way that seemed to advertise off-duty cops. I didn’t especially like cops.

I thought the red-haired one had spoken to me, but his gaze was as curious as my own.

His companion said — and there was no hiding the shock in his voice, “Timothy McShay?”

I got a good look at him then, at first only taking in the independent components of his straightforward handsomeness: soft, dark hair, wide hazel eyes, startled mouth. He was just over medium height. Wide shoulders, narrow hips, long legs. My eyes jerked back to his. We stared at each other. Stared and stared and couldn’t look away. Disbelieving happiness surged through me.

Luke?

Timmy?

Luke O’Brien. After all this time. Happiness was too thin, too watered down a word to describe that wellspring of feeling. Joy. That was the word. A blaze of delight that almost defied definition. His startled face was alight with it, and I guess mine must have been too. People around us were smiling as we grabbed each other.

“My God. Tim. I can’t believe it. You look…”

“You too!” No surprise there. Luke always looked great. Always had. Probably always would. Me on the other hand…not so much in the old days.

“I can’t believe it,” Luke was saying again. He really did look stunned. Stunned and…that word again. Joyful.

Joy is one of those naked emotions. You can’t hide joy. It’s like trying to cover a rocket launch with a lampshade. I think there might even have been tears in his too-bright eyes. I think maybe there were tears in mine.

Then I looked at Luke’s friend. There were no tears in his eyes, but there was plenty of emotion there, and abruptly I remembered the past two years and let go of Luke. I stepped back — or would have, if Luke had let go of me as well. But he was still gripping my shoulders, his hands a warm weight I felt through the wool of my coat, staring at me, so glad to see me. Incredulous but so glad. Holding me as though there was nobody in the world but the two of us. “What are you doing here?” he questioned. “Where the hell have you been?”

I said, “I live in California now. I came back for Rob’s wedding.”

“Rob?”

“Rob Sachs.” We’d met at Rob’s, about a million years ago. How could he not remember Rob? He hadn’t been to the wedding though. I guess that wasn’t a surprise. Luke’s dark brows drew together. “Oh. Right. I haven’t seen Sachs in a while.” Sachs not Rob. Because there were hard feelings there now.

Recollection changed his expression, awareness flooding back. And suddenly it was right in front of us, the reason we’d split up, the reason I’d left town, the reason we’d never spoken again. He released me — reluctantly, I think — glancing at his friend.

“Jeff, this is Tim McShay. Tim, this is Jeff Rogers. Jeff’s a good friend of mine.”

The Tim McShay?” Jeff said. He had a deep, dark voice. Sexy. “Well, what do you know?” His smile was brief and I didn’t understand the emphasis on my name. We shook hands briskly.

The line to the ticket window was shuffling forward. We shuffled with it, me glancing over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t holding up the queue.

“Nice to meet you, Jeff. You work with Luke?” Jeff was attractive if you liked blue eyes and red hair and freckles. Very Irish-looking, which I happened to know Luke was partial to.

At the same time, Jeff was saying — probably reading the wariness of my expression, “You’re a legend down at the precinct, Tim.”

“I am?” I threw a doubtful, frowning look at Luke, but then the light went on. Oh yeah. The Forester. The shooting in the Pines. How funny was it that my feelings for Luke were — had once been — so strong that the memory of my run-in with a homicidal maniac paled by comparison?

“Are you on your own?” Luke asked. He glanced automatically at Jeff, and Jeff shrugged infinitesimally.

“No,” I said quickly. “I’m, uh, meeting people.”

I think Jeff saw through it. Luke was still grappling with the shock of running into me and the subsequent, inevitable rush of memories. Most not good.

Tim, do you know what time it is?

Tim, why do you keep doing this to yourself?

Tim, if you get behind the wheel of that car, I’ll arrest you myself.

I knew, because I was dealing with the same. It was like going down a slide backwards. First the thrill and then the thud.

The couple in front of me moved away from the ticket window. I said hastily, “Whoops, my turn. It was great seeing you again, Luke —” Busy, busy guy. No time to talk!

Luke shot another of those quick questioning looks at Jeff. “Maybe we could get together for a drink after the show?” Instant consternation as he heard his own words. Almost funny. “Coffee somewhere? Or maybe tomorrow —”

I shook my head. “I’m flying out tomorrow. Next time I’m in town, though. For sure.” That time I did turn my back on them.

I could hear the resounding silence behind me. Closing my ears to it, I said into the ticket window speak thru. “Guest pass for McShay?”

The girl on the other side of the bulletproof glass rifled around in a little tin box.

“Tim.” I closed my eyes at Luke’s quiet protest behind me. My heart thumped hard beneath my breastbone in that old flight or fight response. Flight, in my case. Always flight. Only once had I ever stood and fought.