Prologue

 

“HE LOVES you. He’ll say yes.”

Donovan Campbell snapped shut the small box in his hand. “How long have you been there?” He didn’t bother turning around to talk to the man standing in the doorway behind him. “I thought we talked about this crap before. Eavesdropping on another guy’s emotions is gonna get you into trouble one day.”

Cathal Emerys poured a cup of coffee and slipped into the seat opposite Donovan. “Long enough, and it’s already got me into trouble. I also don’t need to be able to sense your emotions to notice your nervousness. That box you’re holding is a bit of a giveaway.” He grinned. “Besides, I’m a man of habit, and you know I can never resist a decent cup of coffee, especially this early in the morning.”

“Yeah, which is why I always make extra.” Donovan shook his head in amusement. He put the box back into his pocket. “Today is our anniversary. Ethan’s and mine, I mean. We met two years ago today.”

“When Ethan came to Oakwood to look for Tomas?” Cathal nodded. “It seems a lifetime ago. I can’t imagine my life without Tomas now.” He took a sip of his coffee, growing quiet. “I still feel bad about all of that. Of how much we worried everyone. How you thought Tomas was….”

“In trouble? Or worse?” Donovan finished Cathal’s sentence dryly. “It wasn’t too far off, was it?”

Tomas Kemp had followed Cathal across a magical portal into another world called Naearu, so intent on finding the man he loved that he hadn’t let anyone know he was doing so. In fairness, he’d found the way through by accident, but still…. His friends and family had been worried and thought the worst when Tomas—and Cathal—had disappeared.

“No, it wasn’t.” Cathal put his cup down. “In hindsight, I should have trusted you and told you, and Tomas, about what was going on and asked for your help.”

“We hardly knew each other, and you were trying to keep Tomas safe.” Donovan shrugged. “Besides, the truth is still a stretch. Some days I have trouble believing your world exists, even though I’ve seen enough to know it must be real.”

Six weeks on Earth roughly equated to only two days in Naearu. Time moved differently there—and inconsistently in relation to Earth—and instead of pursuing science, their society had embraced magic. That magic was one reason why Cathal had the ability to sense emotions, but it also brought with it other complications that weren’t so good.

Like trying to track down a guy who had spent a year on Earth over ninety years ago. At least by Earth standards. For Cathal it had only been six.

“People often believe what they need to and ignore what doesn’t fit their view of the world.” Cathal seemed thoughtful for a moment. “I’ve decided it’s better to live in the present than worry about something that might never happen.” He nodded toward the ring case. “Speaking of which…. You should just ask Ethan. He’s already moved into the inn, and he loves you.”

“I know he loves me.” Donovan had never thought he’d find love again. “I love him too, but getting married is a way bigger step than moving in together.”

“It’s a good step.” Cathal and Tomas had been married nearly two years now. “You and Ethan are good for each other.”

“We didn’t see eye to eye when we first met.” Donovan remembered that all too well. By the time they’d both gotten past their issues and admitted their feelings for each other, it had almost been too late.

Cathal looked up and smiled in the direction of the doorway. “You can come in, love.” He drained his coffee. “I’ll find you a Thermos and fill it with more coffee. I feel like a walk this morning.”

“Real subtle, Cat,” Donovan muttered. “Hey, Tomas.” There was only one man Cathal called “love,” so it was a safe bet he was talking to Tomas.

“Donovan.” Tomas walked over to Cathal and kissed the top of his head. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Donovan said.

“Then why—” Tomas stopped when Cathal jerked his head toward the door. “Oh,” he said. “A walk. What a good idea.”

“What am I missing?” Ethan Leavitt asked. He ran his hand through sleep-mussed hair as he walked over to Donovan.

“Nothing yet.” Donovan gave Cathal a glare. “You were tired, so I figured I’d let you sleep.”

“It sounded—” Tomas started to say.

Cathal pushed his chair out, wrapped one arm around Tomas, and steered him toward the counter. “Ethan and Donovan need some time alone.” He grabbed a Thermos from the cupboard, filled it with coffee, and headed for the door. “Good morning, Ethan. Talk to you later. Much later.” He mouthed at Donovan, “Ask him,” and then he and Tomas were gone.

“Cat’s getting about as subtle as Tomas.” Ethan leaned over and gave Donovan a good-morning kiss.

“Getting?” Donovan snorted. He patted the chair next to his. “Sit down and I’ll make you some tea.”

“Tell me what’s going on first.” Ethan looked equal parts concerned and amused. “There’s nothing wrong, is there?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Donovan confirmed. He took Ethan’s hand in his. “I was thinking about how we met.”

“It’s our anniversary today,” Ethan said.

“You remembered.”

“Of course I did, or rather my phone did.”

“You programmed our anniversary into your phone?”

“Well, yes. Doesn’t everyone do that?” Ethan had conveniently forgotten he hadn’t done it the year before. He stroked Donovan’s hand, then kissed his fingers. “A lot has happened in the last two years,” he said softly. “And I was remembering how we met too. I had no clue what it would all lead to. I thought I was coming to Oakwood to look for a lost friend, and instead I found so much more….”

Donovan smiled. “So did I.”

 

 

 

Chapter One

Two Years Ago—Oakwood Railway Station

 

THE TRAIN was late.

Something brushed against his leg. He startled, jerked away, and reached for a weapon he hadn’t carried in years.

“Meow?”

The longhaired gray cat met his gaze for a moment before he bent to pat her.

“Sorry, Thomasina,” he murmured, both embarrassed and horrified he’d momentarily given in to an instinct he’d thought long behind him. “Didn’t see you there.”

“Train should be along in a few, Mr. Campbell.” Red spoke quietly from behind him. “Lovely autumn day, it is. Why not relax and just enjoy what’s left of the sun? Be the rainy season soon enough, if that storm the other week was anything to go by.”

“Thanks, Red. The storm was kind of dramatic, wasn’t it? And it’s Donovan. I’ve been here often enough that we can drop the formality, yeah?” Donovan still had no clue why the man had been given that nickname, as his hair was a very unassuming mouse brown, but he didn’t like to ask. The village of Oakwood had plenty of secrets, none of which anyone seemed inclined to share anytime soon.

Red grinned and tilted his cap. “Come along now, Thomasina. I have a lovely bowl of your favorite food waiting for you in my office.” Although Red worked at the station, Donovan had yet to discover what his job actually was.

The cat pricked her ears when Red called her and followed him back into the ticket office. Donovan had never been sure whether she’d been named after Thomas the Tank Engine from Awdry’s railway series or the cat from Paul Gallico’s book, although she was the wrong color for the latter. He’d asked once, but Red had neatly sidestepped and avoided giving him an answer. There were far too many locals who had that trait down to an art form.

It was damn annoying, especially with recent events.

If Donovan didn’t know better, he’d swear they were doing it on purpose. But then he and Heidi—his longtime friend and co-owner of Crossroads Inn—had only lived in the village for five years, unlike most of the locals, who could trace their families back several generations. Sure, the villagers had been welcoming and all that, but that wasn’t the point. He just wanted somewhere he felt he belonged, and although he loved it here, he wasn’t convinced this was it.

Thomasina.

It was, of course, a coincidence that her name wasn’t far off from Tomas’s, the man who was the reason Donovan was waiting at the station in the first place.

He stepped back from the edge of the platform at the sound of the approaching train. Despite feeling that he’d been waiting for ages, the train was only a few minutes late.

Several people stepped off the train once it stopped. Sally, who owned the property adjacent to the inn, waved to him, and he waved back, but she didn’t come over to speak to him, instead turning her attention to the man with her. Donovan glanced at him, then dismissed him, as he didn’t fit the description of the man he was looking for.

Tall, with dark hair.

Tall, dark, and handsome, his mind helpfully supplied, despite the sparse description Donovan had of the guy.

It would have made it so much easier if he had a photo. He and Ethan had talked a few times and exchanged emails, but Donovan hadn’t thought of swapping pictures until it was too late. He’d tried to phone Ethan that morning to ask for one, but the call had gone to voicemail.

Where is he? Donovan turned back toward the station in case he’d missed Ethan when he’d waved at Sally.

“Donovan Campbell?” A deep voice asked behind him.

“Yes.” Donovan spun around to face whoever had spoken. “Ethan?”

Ethan nodded and held out his hand. “Ethan Leavitt,” he confirmed. His grip was firm, but he withdrew his hand quickly after they’d shaken. “I figured as you were the only one on the platform who hadn’t been on the train, there was a good probability it was you.”

Tall, dark, and handsome hadn’t been too far wrong. The guy had at least an inch on Donovan in height and had intense dark brown eyes. They reminded Donovan of freshly brewed strong coffee—not that he was addicted to the stuff or anything.

“Darn it,” Ethan said. “I thought I’d got all of that chocolate sauce off.” He scrubbed at his face. “Sorry.”

“What?” Surely he hadn’t been staring that much? “Oh right. Yeah. Don’t worry, you’ve got it now.” Donovan felt himself blush at the lie. If there had been sauce at the side of Ethan’s mouth, he sure as hell hadn’t noticed it.

“I hope you haven’t been trying to phone me.” Ethan picked up his backpack and swung it over his shoulder. “I pulled out my mobile to warn you that the train was running late, only to find I’d forgotten to charge it. Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Donovan said. At least a dead phone explained why his calls had gone to voicemail. “I haven’t been waiting long.” He bent to pick up Ethan’s second bag, but Ethan beat him to it.

“I can manage,” Ethan said. “Are you parked close by? I hope it’s not far to this inn of yours.”

“Not too far,” Donovan said. He hadn’t brought up the subject of Tomas and noticed Ethan hadn’t either. Despite the fact they’d already discussed it on the phone, it was going to be an awkward conversation in person. Tomas hadn’t said much about Ethan, and the man hadn’t been very forthcoming about himself. It would be interesting to hear how Ethan and Tomas had gotten to know each other.

“This is yours?” Ethan raised one eyebrow when he saw Donovan’s green Morris Minor. He ran his hand over it appreciatively. “It’s well restored. I learned to drive in one of these. Fifties model, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and thanks. I did the work on her myself.” Donovan opened the trunk, and Ethan stowed his bags inside. “You know much about cars?”

“One of my colleagues at school is a car buff. I’ve picked up a bit listening to him.” Ethan grimaced. “Unfortunately he loves the sound of his own voice, and I’ve had the misfortune of being cornered by him a few times.” He glanced at Donovan. “I’m sure it’s not as boring as he makes it sound. It’s a reflection of the man rather than anything else. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“You didn’t.” Donovan shrugged, waited until Ethan had climbed into the passenger seat and fastened his seat belt, and then started the car. “I’ve met people like that too. Everything in moderation and all that, and don’t lapse into technobabble in front of the uninitiated.”

The side of Ethan’s mouth twitched. “Uh-huh. That sounds suspiciously like something you’ve been told by one of those uninitiated types. Please correct me if I’m wrong.”

“Got it in one.” Donovan pulled out of the station parking lot and onto the road. “Heidi doesn’t understand my ‘fixation,’ as she calls it.” Considering her own camouflage pink Land Rover, it wasn’t surprising. “She nods politely and doesn’t interfere, though, so all is good.”

“Heidi’s your… partner?”

“Yeah.” Donovan had already mentioned Heidi when he and Ethan had spoken on the phone. “We bought the inn together about five years ago.” Surely he’d told Ethan that too?

“That’s right,” Ethan said. He leaned back in his seat.

After five minutes, Donovan turned up the volume on the car radio, not enough to drown any potential conversation, but enough to mask the awkward silence. Usually he wouldn’t have resorted to background noise, but it made it easier to focus on the road ahead.

Ethan sounded different than he had on the phone, not quite as formal. Donovan risked a glance at his passenger. Frown lines that hadn’t been there a moment before creased his brow. He looked tired, as though he hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in some time.

Worrying about a friend would do that.

Donovan had only met Cathal—the man Tomas had fallen for—once, but he’d always prided himself on being a good judge of character. The guy was in some kind of trouble, that was for sure. He just hoped whatever mess he’d gotten himself into, he hadn’t dragged Tomas along for the ride.

It didn’t take much for civilians to get in over their heads, and there was some nasty shit out there. Shit that Donovan had spent years trying to forget and didn’t want to become involved in again.

 

 

ETHAN STARED out the car window. The scenery, with its thatched-roof cottages and fields, looked like something out of a Country Living magazine. It was a different world from the busy streets he’d left behind in London.

“Are you okay, buddy?”

Startled from his reverie, Ethan turned from the window. “I’m fine,” he snapped, hoping he didn’t sound as much of an idiot as he felt. He pulled himself up sharply, both mentally and physically, mortified he’d drifted off into his own thoughts in front of a stranger. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Donovan repeated. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap.” Ethan ran one hand through his hair, using the motion to calm himself. The last couple of months had taken more of a toll on him than he’d thought. First all that crap with Duncan—his ex—and now Tomas. What next?

“It’s fine,” Donovan said again. He didn’t seem fazed by Ethan’s reaction, but rather like he’d expected the response. Ethan wasn’t sure what to make of Donovan, but then he was a terrible judge of character—Duncan had shown him that, loud and clear.

“Thank you,” Ethan replied some moments later, suddenly aware he’d drifted off again instead of giving Donovan the decency of a reply.

Not that it had been a question, but….

He’d come to Oakwood for one reason and one reason only. To find out what the hell had happened to Tomas. His friend had picked a great time to get lost.

That was all it was, right? Tomas had no sense of direction, especially when he got lost in his own thoughts. But he’d never been missing for this long before. A couple of days a few years back, but this wasn’t London; it was a backwater English village. He wouldn’t get far without some kind of transport, and none of the locals had seen him or reported any other strangers in the area who might have picked him up.

It was also surprising he’d pulled something like this again, especially after both Ethan and Kathleen—Tomas’s sister—had ripped into him that last time once he’d surfaced again.

So where the hell was he? Ethan wasn’t in the mood to lose any more friends. Tomas had to be somewhere. He’d turn up with some story, inspiration for whatever bloody novel he was working on this time. He always did.

If this time was different, if Tomas had been hurt or even killed, why hadn’t the police discovered any clues? They hadn’t even found a body.

Yet.

Without proof, it wasn’t real. If there was no body, then Tomas wasn’t dead.

Ethan bit his lip and tasted blood. He turned his attention to the view outside the window again.

The cottages they passed looked old although they were well-preserved. He felt as though he’d stepped back in time.

“You guys have Wi-Fi, right?”

Donovan laughed. “Don’t worry, we have the important stuff. You know, running water and all that.”

“All these old cottages had me worried there for a moment.”

Ethan had lost track of how long they’d been driving, so he was surprised when Donovan turned off the road into a smaller country lane. Another left turn took them into a long driveway. Ahead stood an old wooden building, covered in ivy. Crossroads Inn had been a family home in another life, according to what Ethan had read about it. He wondered if the original owner—Edgar Finlay—had been responsible for the climbing roses by the front door. Ethan didn’t know much about roses, but considering the growth on them, they’d been there awhile.

To the side of the inn, an oak presided over an empty field. It was old too, much older than the roses or even the house.

“Oak, as in Oakwood,” Ethan mused out loud.

Donovan pulled up in front of the inn and stopped the car. “Right,” he drawled, his American accent more obvious than it had been when they’d met. Was he emphasizing it for effect? “There used to be a forest of them, but now this is the only one left in the area. According to the locals, it’s nearly a thousand years old.” He lowered his voice to a whisper, almost like he was talking to himself. “I can’t help but wonder if Tomas and Mikey are right, and it knows more than it’s letting on.”

“Tomas and who? Who’s Mikey?”

“You’ll meet him soon enough. Mikey comes by most days to find out whether there’s been any news of Tomas and Cat.”

Ethan raised an eyebrow. “Cat?” He climbed out of the car and retrieved his bags from the boot before following Donovan into the house. “Cathal, you mean?” Ethan still couldn’t get his head around Tomas falling for some guy. He would have been just as surprised if it had been a girl. At first he’d thought there must have been some mistake. Tomas kept to himself and would have never allowed anyone to get past those barriers he’d erected around himself. It had taken Ethan years to get through them, and even now there was stuff he and Tomas didn’t talk about.

Duncan being one of them.

“Yeah. He told Mikey that his friends call him Cat, and Mikey’s been using the name ever since. I guess it stuck,” Donovan said again. He closed the front door behind them. “Ethan, there’s a few things about Tomas’s disappearance that I haven’t told you yet. They’re connected to Cathal. I thought it was better if I didn’t tell you everything over the phone, especially as you were going to be here in a day or so anyway.”

“What few things?” Ethan took a step back toward the door. He’d been told Cathal hadn’t been seen since before Tomas’s disappearance, but Donovan had changed the subject when Ethan had asked if he thought Tomas and Cathal might have gone somewhere together. If Tomas had taken off to spend time with someone he’d just met…. No, Tomas wasn’t that trusting. “You’ve found something, haven’t you?” Why hadn’t anyone told him? “Tomas is in real trouble, isn’t he?” He took a deep breath, determined to stand his ground. “What kind of trouble? Or is he…?”

Ethan felt the blood drain from his face. Damn it. He should have come to Oakwood sooner rather than waiting to organize someone to take over his classes first, as he’d be away for a while. The school would have done it for him, given the circumstances. What kind of friend was he?

“Donovan, show Ethan to his room and get him settled before you scare him off with your theories.” A woman poked her head around the door leading to what Ethan guessed—considering the smells coming from that direction—was the kitchen. Her hands were covered in flour, and she had a tea towel thrown over one shoulder.

“Hi, I’m Heidi,” she continued, walking toward them. Her accent was American, like Donovan’s. “You must be Ethan. I’d shake your hand, but you probably wouldn’t appreciate it.”

Ethan managed a smile. She sounded friendly and welcoming. “It’s nice to meet you, Heidi, and yes, I’m Ethan,” he said politely. “I’m impressed by your deduction skills.”

Heidi grinned. “Elementary, my dear Watson. We don’t get a lot of guests, and Donovan told me he was going to the station to pick you up.” She winked, laugh lines crinkling around her eyes. “Besides, I heard Donovan call you Ethan, so it wasn’t that difficult to work out who you were.”

Donovan hadn’t answered any of Ethan’s questions. In fact he’d clammed right up as soon as Heidi had spoken. She narrowed her eyes at Donovan, and he shrugged.

“There’s that,” Ethan admitted. “I appreciate the hospitality, but I can get settled later. Whatever you’re keeping from me, I want to know now.”

“I’ll put the kettle on,” Heidi said, “and I apologize for Donovan. He should have known better than to alarm you like that. There hasn’t been any more news. If there had, we would have let you know immediately.”

“I forgot to charge my phone, so you couldn’t have contacted me, even if you’d wanted to,” Ethan said. He put his bags down in the hallway. “A cup of tea sounds wonderful.” He felt tired, and was relieved he’d thought it a good idea to stay at the inn rather than making a day trip of it. “I’ll put my bags away later if that’s okay.”

“As I said, we didn’t need to, so don’t worry about it.” Heidi gestured for them to follow her into the kitchen. “As you’re staying down here, Donovan can put the kettle on while I finish tidying up. There’ll be fresh scones to go with the tea and coffee in a few minutes.”

“I thought you—” Donovan stopped midway with whatever he’d been about to say. “I’ll put the kettle on, shall I?” he said brightly.

“Don’t eat all the scones,” Heidi told him. “Doug’s coming around for tea, and I promised him you’d leave some.”

Donovan grinned. “Who me?”

Heidi flicked him with the edge of her tea towel.

“What was that for?” Donovan protested.

Ethan sat down quickly at the table, before Heidi decided to target him next. Her relationship with Donovan reminded him more of siblings than of a couple. Despite her stature—she was at least six inches shorter than Donovan—she struck Ethan as someone he shouldn’t piss off. At least not intentionally.

His stomach growled, and he looked up in embarrassment, but no one seemed to notice. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and it was now midafternoon.

Donovan put the teapot on the table, and a cup and saucer in front of Ethan. He then poured himself and Heidi a cup of coffee each. “I know you said you wanted tea, but there’s coffee too if you’d prefer.”

“No, thanks. I don’t drink it.”

“Not an addict like Tomas, then.” Donovan sat opposite Ethan, studying him for a moment. His eyes were an interesting shade. Gray, Ethan decided, like clouds in an overcast sky, and there was no missing the intelligence and sharp wit reflected in them. The gaze belied the man, and was serious enough that Ethan felt a shiver go down his spine in response to it.

“He’s never managed to convince me to join the dark side,” Ethan said, “although it wasn’t for lack of trying.” He poured milk into his cup from the crockery jug Heidi brought over when she joined Donovan at the table, then added the tea. “Let’s cut the crap, shall we?” he suggested. “We’ve danced around the real reason I’m here for long enough. I’m tired, and I apologize in advance for being short, but I need to know whatever it is you haven’t told me yet.” He wrapped his fingers around his cup and steadied his voice. “While I know Tomas can be a pain in the arse, and he’s not the easiest person to get on with, he’s my friend. Not only that, but I promised his sister I’d find him. What the hell’s going on here, and why do I get the impression that whatever I’m missing is something big? I don’t care that the police think he’s gone off with this mysterious Cathal or whatever his name is. He wouldn’t do that. And if that’s the case, why not just track this guy down and find them both that way?”

Donovan and Heidi glanced at each other.

To hell with this.

“What aren’t you telling me?” Ethan took several deep breaths, and tried to squash his temper. These people were his hosts. Alienating them wasn’t the way to go. “You know something. You’ve already told me you do!”

So much for staying calm. But he couldn’t just pretend when Tomas was missing.

“We’ve tried to find him—”

Ethan cut Donovan off. “Not very hard, by the sound of it,” he muttered.

“Hold it right there,” Heidi ordered. “Ethan, I know this is difficult for you. It’s not easy for us either. We haven’t known Tomas as long as you have, but he’s still our friend too. Listen for a moment, and at least give Donovan the chance to explain everything.”

“That’s the thing,” Donovan said. “We’ve tried to track down Cathal. Hell, we did that before Tomas disappeared. The locals just shake their heads like they know something we don’t, and the police have scaled back their search. And before you ask, yes, they did search the area thoroughly and question everyone and his dog, but they say there’s nothing more they can do.”

“Doug says there are no leads to follow, so there’s not much they can do. It’s as though Tomas just disappeared into thin air,” Heidi added. “The case is still open, and if there are any further leads, they’ll pursue them, but in the meantime, all we can do is hope and pray he turns up again.”

Who the hell was this Doug? Heidi had mentioned him twice now. Was he one of the local coppers?

“And…?” Ethan asked. He’d ask about Doug later, as there was still something they hadn’t told him about Tomas. He could hear it in Donovan’s voice. Yes, Ethan knew Tomas was an adult, and there were no obvious signs of foul play, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a logical explanation for what had happened.

Everything could be explained. It was just that some answers took a bit longer to find than others.

Donovan scratched at his neck. His hair flopped forward, and he pushed it back. “When Cathal disappeared, we tried to find him then, but the stuff we found….” He shook his head. “Yeah, we found mention of a guy by that name all right, but see, here’s the thing. He lived here in 1918.”

“And?” Ethan prompted again.

Heidi and Donovan glanced at each other as though unsure how to continue.

“Look, I just want to get to the bottom of this, whatever it takes. I haven’t come all this way for you to hide stuff from me.” Ethan frowned. “So, what’s some guy from 1918 got to do with Tomas’s disappearance? There’s no way he’s the Cathal that Tomas met. That’s crazy.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Donovan muttered but didn’t elaborate.

“It’s never a good idea to mutter something if you don’t want it overheard. So what else haven’t you told me yet?”

“We think Cathal’s disappearance is connected to whatever happened to Tomas,” Heidi said. “Tomas was—is—in love with him, and from what I saw of them together, it was mutual.”

“I interrupted them making out on the landing upstairs,” Donovan said.

“We are talking about the same guy, aren’t we?” Although they’d known each other since university, Ethan had never seen Tomas interested in anyone. Ever. As much as he thought of Tomas as a friend, he was still fully aware of Tomas’s shortcomings. He’d never let anyone close like that. They used to joke that Tomas would end up being the world’s oldest virgin, but Tomas would shrug and say he hadn’t met the right person yet. This Cathal must have done a number on him. It was the only explanation for what Heidi had just said. “Tall, green eyes, reddish brown hair? Not to mention he’s stubborn as hell and not the easiest person to get on with?”

“Sounds like him.” Donovan got up from the table and retrieved a folder from one of the kitchen counters. He laid it down in front of Ethan. “This is what we have so far.” Heidi poked him in the ribs with her elbow. “Hey,” he said. “All cards on the table and all that. Ethan here strikes me as a kind of guy who likes proof for stuff, so isn’t it better to get that part out of the way first?”

“What am I looking at?” Ethan opened the folder and picked up the photocopied sheet sitting on top of the pile of papers. “Or should I say who?” He peered at the sketch and shook his head. It showed a man about his own age. Ethan frowned when he saw the signature and the date. Alice Finlay had inherited the house from her father, Edgar. “How is a sketch of a guy who lived nearly one hundred years ago going to help?” Alice had written “Cat” in flowing script above her signature. As in Cathal. As soon as he’d learned of Tomas’s disappearance, Ethan had read everything he could find about Crossroads Inn and the village of Oakwood. He didn’t remember any reference to any Cathal, and the mysterious man Alice claimed to have married was called Christian.

“We took copies of the originals, as the owner wanted them back,” Donovan didn’t answer Ethan’s question. “Take a look at the one under it.”

“This looks like the same guy, although he’s a couple of years older in this one.” He turned it over. “There’s no signature on this one and no date. I doubt it’s by Alice Finlay.”

As much as he regretted his time with Duncan, the guy had known his art, and Ethan had learnt enough from him to notice the subtle differences in style between artists.

“I don’t sign my stuff.”