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Since she was cruelly left at the altar at the age of twenty-two, Lady Julianna Sterling has resolved to have nothing to do with men. So she is shocked to discover she has unwelcome feelings for the very worst of the breed - a dangerous, unbearably handsome highwayman who has set upon her coach in the countryside and taken her captive. Worse still, her righteous ire turns quickly to disappointment when the irresistible outlaw sets her free.

Viscount Dane Graville knows he should not have revealed his face to the enchanting Lady Julianna - for he has compromised the secret mission he has undertaken for the Crown in the guise of the notorious Magpie. Now their paths are crossing once more, and Dane aches to taste again the sweetness of her kiss. But he must resist what his heart demands, for their passion can only lead to perils beyond imagining.

A Perfect Bride

JULY 2005
Avon Books
· ISBN: 0060006633


A Perfect BrideSince the Sterling Family trilogy has an underlying theme about family closeness, it was rather fitting that I did a lot of brainstorming with my family on this one (hence the book dedication). I originally conceived of writing about a highwayman several years ago while on the train to Bath with my daughter. Heroine Julianna has a home in Bath—thus far, it's one of my favorite places in England.

My new son-in-law Steve threw out the idea of calling the hero-highwayman the Magpie—I knew immediately it was the perfect fit. And my husband helped "choreograph" the final dramatic scene—he got to play the hero (of course!).

I ran a special contest to name the feline in this book (Julianna is befriended by a cat during the scene where... well, I don't want to give anything away). I knew what he looked like as I was writing (see photo), but every name I came up with just didn't fit, so I asked readers for a little help! Thanks to Laurie of California for coming up with the name Maximilian (for her efforts, Laurie won a luscious box of chocolates!). The picture featured here (and for the contest) is actually a photo of my own sweet kitty Sassy. When I'm writing, Sass can usually be found curled up in her bed on the corner of my desk.

Sometimes a name just doesn't fit the character. I originally called the hero Quentin, but visions of Quentin Tarantino kept popping up in my mind. It didn't take me long to change the hero's name to Dane--very appropriate, since my great-grandfather was a Dane.

A Perfect Hero is third in the Sterling family trilogy. A Perfect Bride is the first book, while the second is A Perfect Groom. My original title was Always a Rogue.

 

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IT'S A BESTSELLER! (posted 7.07.05)
A Perfect Hero hits lists! The third in Samantha's Sterling trilogy debuted at
#34 on the New York Times Bestseller list
#51 on the USAToday Bestseller list
#8 on Waldenbooks mass market paperback bestseller list

A Perfect Hero receives TOP PICK status! Four and a half stars!

"A Perfect Hero is a dream come true for Sterling family fans. Not only is Dane perfection, Julianna is his match. What fun to watch these two fall in love as they find a way to catch a spy! James simply gets better and better; like cream she rises to the top of her form."

--Kathe Robin
Romantic Times BOOKclub
(posted 6.16.05)

Read more about Samantha in Romantic Times BOOKclub

(August 2004 issue)

Click here or on small image at right to see it larger. Click here to download a PDF.

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A Perfect Bride

Prologue

London 1814

Whispers had begun to circulate in the church.

Oh, but it was wrong . . . so wrong. For only moments earlier, all she could think was that no other day could have been more perfect for this . . . her wedding day.

High above, the sunlight shone through the stained glass windows of St. George's Church in Hanover Square, bathing the interior of the church in a radiant, ephemeral glow.

It was a sign, Lady Julianna Sterling had decided as she stepped from the carriage and approached the church. For too long now, a cloud of shadow had been cast upon the Sterlings. She'd viewed it as a symbol of her life to come, a good sign. For surely on such a glorious, golden day like this, no hint of darkness would dare come to pass. Her union with Thomas Markham would be blessed, blessed as no other.

And yet now, but moments later . . . . She battled a low-grade panic. Thomas should have been here by now.

Where was he? Where?

A hand touched her elbow. Julianna looked up into her oldest brother's gray eyes. If Sebastian noticed the whispers of their guests, he ignored them.

"You look like a princess," he said huskily.

Julianna struggled for a smile and miraculously produced one. Her gown was of sheer, pale pink silk—her favorite color—draped over silver satin. Matching pink slippers encased her feet. Sheer, Brussels lace adorned the sleeves; embroidered on the hem were delicate white rosebuds, shot here and there with glistening silver thread. But perhaps the most striking feature was the long, elegant train which swirled behind her.

"I feel like one," she admitted softly. "But thank you, my lord. I daresay you're rather dashing yourself."

"And what of me?" Another voice, this one belonging to her brother Justin. "Am I not dashing as well?"

Julianna wrinkled her nose. "Desperate is what you are," she retorted, "if you must seek compliments from your sister."

"Minx," Justin drawled.

Sheltered on each side by her dark-haired, suavely handsome older brothers, Julianna slipped dainty, lace-gloved hands into the crook of their elbows. For twenty-three years Sebastian and Justin had protected her and sheltered her to the best of their ability—not that she had wanted it or needed it—but she loved them dearly for it.

Justin cocked a brow and addressed Sebastian. "While I realize it's normally a mother's duty to see that a young bride is adequately prepared for her wedding night, I trust you've seen to it that our sister has been apprised of all the . . . how may I put this delicately . . . the requisite information—"

"Actually, I asked that Sebastian save that duty for you, Justin. After all, you are a man of vast experience in that particular arena, are you not?"

It was a rare occasion to see Justin discomfited; Julianna savored it.

"Besides," she went on mildly, "there is no need. While I am not a woman of excessive skill, I do pride myself on my imagination—to say nothing of the fact that I became quite adept at listening at keyholes in my younger years when the two of you were in your cups. I garnered quite an education, shall we say. Therefore, I predict no shortcomings in that area."

Sebastian straightened himself to his full height. "The devil you say—"

"Julianna!" Justin was saying. "Now see here—"

"Stop looking so disapproving, both of you." They both appeared so shocked that Julianna couldn't withhold a laugh.

Little did she know it would be the last time she laughed that day.

While her brothers were still glowering at her, her gaze shifted to the nave of the church. From the time she was a child, Julianna had cherished dreams of being married in St. George's at Hanover Square, built nearly a hundred years earlier—why, the marriage of the king's son, Prince Augustus had taken place there in grand fashion! And thanks to Sebastian, the fanciful dreams of a child were about to become a reality—it was he who insisted her wedding take place at St. George's.

Julianna did not argue. It wasn't simply that it was just because of a child's fanciful dream; she knew, too, that for Sebastian, it was a symbol of prosperity and success.

They had come such a long, long way, the three of them, since the days when Society shunned the Sterlings. Upon their father's death, it was Sebastian who had restored respectability to their name.

The box pews on either side of the aisle were filled to overflowing. But Julianna noted several heads had begun to turn, traveling from the back of the church where they stood just to the side of the doors, to the front near the sanctuary . . .

Where Thomas should have awaited her.

An uneasy knot had begun to gather in the pit of her belly. "I daresay fully half the ton is here," she murmured.

"I do believe you'd have invited the whole of England had Sebastian allowed it," Justin said with a faint smile. Sebastian made no comment.

In the west gallery, the organist coughed. The church was still. The organist sat waiting in the west gallery for a signal from Reverend Hodgson, who had begun to shift from one foot to the other.

Several minutes later, Sebastian reached for his pocket watch and flipped it open, his expression grim. The ceremony was set for one o'clock.

It was now nearly a quarter past the hour.

Julianna could not bear to look inside the church. The faces of the guests had turned from mild inquiry to pitying glances; the whispers had turned into an ominous hush.

Julianna looked up at Sebastian imploringly. "Something's wrong," she said, her voice low. "Thomas should have arrived by now."

Justin was not so generous. His features were tight-lipped. "He'd better have an explanation for this. My God, late for his own wedding—"

"Justin! Thomas is a good man, a compassionate man, the best of men. You know as well as I that he has a heart of gold!"

"Then where the devil is he?" growled Justin.

Julianna began to fret. "Oh, a dreadful accident has surely befallen him, for there is nothing that would keep him from this day! He is an honorable man. He—" her voice cracked "—otherwise he would be here. He will be here! There must be some reason . . . "

And so there was.

The side door opened. Three sets of eyes swiveled sharply when Samuel, Thomas's brother, stepped within.

It was just like Justin not to bandy words. "Egad, man, where is Thomas?"

Sebastian stepped forward as well. "Yes," he said sharply. "Where is he?"

Samuel stepped before Julianna. She could barely breathe. His bearing was such that it seemed he carried the weight of the universe on his shoulders.

Something was horribly, horribly wrong. She sensed it. She knew it. "Samuel. Samuel, tell me what's wrong!"

It was only later that she realized she should have known . . . His gaze avoided hers. "I'm sorry, Julianna. But Thomas is gone."

Her heart gave a feeble thud. "Gone?" she said faintly.

"Yes. A note was delivered to me a short while ago. Oh, but I know not how to tell you this! Last night, you see—last night he left for Gretna Greene . . . with Clarice Grey."

Shocked, Samuel raised anxious eyes to Julianna. "Julianna," he ventured tentatively, "did you hear me?"

Julianna stared. This couldn't be happening. It was a dream. Nay, a nightmare! Her heart was as cold as the stone beneath her slippers.

Behind her there was a collective gasp.

"Gretna Greene!" someone was saying. "He's eloped to Gretna Greene with another woman!"

And then it was spreading through the church, like a flame set to tinder, until her ears were roaring and she couldn't even think. And everyone was staring at her. She felt the touch of their eyes like shards of glass digging into her skin. She felt barren. Naked, as never before.

She had little memory of leaving the church. Sebastian and Justin hustled her outside and into the carriage, shielding her from the gaping stars of the guests who had already begun to file from the nave.

By the time they rolled up in front of Sebastian's town house, she had yet to speak. Justin was still swearing, muttering something about a duel when he leaped from the carriage.

Sebastian touched her shoulder. "Julianna?" he murmured. "Jules, are you all right?"

"I'm perfectly fine," she heard herself say in utterly precise tones. But she wasn't. Inside she was cringing. With utter calm she turned her head toward her brother.

"There will be a scandal, won't there?"

A ghost of a smile crept across Sebastian's lips. "We're Sterlings, Jules. Perhaps it's inevitable. But we've weathered scandal before, haven't we?"

He meant to comfort, she knew. Yet how easy for him to say. After all, he was a man. It was easier for men. Men weren't branded as spinsters. As ape-leaders. Some old windbag wouldn't forever be whispering behind her fan about how he had been deserted on his wedding day . . .

She wanted to weep, to cry, to hurl herself into Sebastian's arms and sob out her heartache. As a child, he was the one who soothed her hurts and scrapes.

But this was a hurt he could not heal.

Through eyes so dry they hurt, she stared at him, pressing her lips together. She dared not blink, for she knew the tears would begin in earnest then. He searched her face endlessly, and she wondered if he could see the gash in her heart, the twist in her soul. She tried to be brave. She would be brave. She wouldn't cry. She wouldn't weep. Not yet. Not yet.

For that would come later.

Sebastian leaped out, then extended a hand. Julianna took it, alighting from the carriage. As she stepped toward the house, she felt the warming kiss of the sun upon her head. Mocking her, reviling her.

It was all gone, she thought wildly. All gone . . . her girlish hopes, her fanciful dreams. She wanted to curl up into a ball and sob her heart out.

For something had happened today. She was forever changed.

Forever shamed.



Chapter 1

Spring 1818

It was a perfect night for thievery.

From beneath the crowning shelter of an aged oak tree, the figure on horseback surveyed the roadway. The hour was late, and with a sliver of moon slumbering behind a wisp of a cloud, the night was as dark and depthless as the yawning pits of hell. The faint rush of the wind sighed through the tree limbs to sing a plaintive, lonesome melody.

All the better to conceal his presence. All the better to aid his endeavor. All the better to await his opportunity.

Dressed wholly in black, from his hat to the soles of his boots. A dark mask obscured all but the glint of his eyes. He sat his mount—Percival—like a man accustomed to long hours on horseback, his posture straight as an arrow, betraying no hint of weariness . . . and with the silent stealth of a man who knew well and true that his presence must be concealed at all costs, until such time as he deemed the right time to strike.

Lest his very life be forfeit.

And the man known as the Magpie had no desire to meet his Maker.

Percival's ears pricked forward. Black-gloved fingers tightened on the reins. Squeezing his knees, he stilled the massive horse's movement. A fingertip pressed gently over his neck. "Wait," he cautioned.

The powerful animal quieted beneath his touch, but he could feel his muscles bunched and knotted, ready to spring into action.

With narrowed eyes, the man squinted into the encroaching darkness, directly to the east. This was not his first night masquerading as the Magpie. Nor would it be his last. Not until his purpose was accomplished to his satisfaction.

Beneath the black silk mask, a faint smile appeared. A familiar rush of excitement raced along his veins, an excitement he could not deny that he relished. His heartbeat quickened, for the pounding of hoofbeats had reached his ears as well as Percival's. The light from a dim yellow lantern had now appeared as well, bobbing the distance.

Quarry approached.

He waited until it was within sight, for he was not a man to make mistakes. As if on cue—damn, but he had the devil's own luck!—the moon slid out from behind the cloud. The Magpie lifted his reins, broke free of the waist-high grasses beside the road and stationed himself directly in the path of the lumbering coach.

When he saw him, the coachman stood on the box and hauled on the reins. With a jingle of the harness and a shout from the coachman, the vehicle rolled to a halt.

Coolly the Magpie raised a pair of pistols dead-center at the man.

"Stand and deliver!" came his cool demand.


Hours earlier, Julianna seized her skirt and ran across the courtyard at the inn, zigzagging to avoid the puddles left by yesterday's rain. "Wait!" she cried.

The driver clearly was not particularly disposed to patience. He glared at her. "Ye'd better hurry, mum," he grunted. "We're late already."

Late. Yes, that was certainly the word of the day. There was a thump as her trunk was loaded. And by Jove, she was determined to reach Bath, if not by tonight, then tomorrow.

Nothing about this journey had gone according to plan. Traveling by public coach had not been in the plan. Unfortunately, she'd missed the speedy mail coach.

Breathless, Julianna hurtled herself inside. She'd barely seated herself when the door closed and the contraption lurched forward.

There were three passengers besides herself, an elderly woman, another woman with a huge, drooping bonnet and a man next to her that Julianna guessed was her husband.

Julianna found herself next to the old woman. "Good day to all of you," she greeted pleasantly.

"Good day to ye," nodded the old woman.

The other woman eyed her gray-striped traveling gown curiously. "Are ye traveling alone then, madam?"

Madam? Mercy, but at twenty-seven, had she begun to age so dreadfully then?

"I am," Julianna returned evenly. "My maid and I were en route to Bath—I recently bought a house there, you see—when she became ill early in the afternoon. We stopped and spent the night at the inn. I'd hoped she would be quite recovered by today, but I fear that was not the case. But by this afternoon, it was clear poor Peggy was in no condition to travel the remainder of the way to Bath, so I sent her back to London in my carriage." The fact that Julianna was unaccompanied didn't bother her in the least.

"That was most kind of ye, mum," said the other woman. "But we aren't traveling as far as Bath. And the roads aren't safe after dark."

Her husband sent her a censuring glance. "Leticia! 'Tis hardly your affair."

"Don't look at me like that, Charles. You know it's true! There's that terrible highwayman, the Magpie. What will come next, I ask! Why, the wretched man may very well murder us in our beds, every one of us!" She cast an imploring glance at the elderly woman next to Julianna. "Mother, tell him!"

The old lady folded her hands and bobbed her head. "It's quite true, Charles," she said, her eyes round. "Oh, he's quite a horrid fellow, this Magpie."

"You see?" Leticia transferred her gaze to Julianna.

"I thank you for your concern, Mrs. . . " Julianna paused meaningfully.

"Chadwick, Leticia and Charles," the woman said briskly. "And my mother is Mrs. Nelson. You've heard of him, haven't you? The Magpie?"

Julianna's mouth quirked. The London newspapers had been full of the Magpie's exploits—he was becoming quite the infamous brigand. Perhaps she was growing jaded, but it occurred to her that perhaps his reputation had been exaggerated, merely for the sake of selling more newspapers. Indeed, she would have almost welcomed an encounter with the Magpie, thus named for his cheekiness in robbing a coach carrying the private secretary of the Prime Minister himself, the Earl of Liverpool—a daring if not foolhardy deed, to be sure.

But to think that they would be robbed by this notorious highwayman-she dismissed the notion out of hand. Still, she was reminded of her own rather mundane existence.

Three years ago, Sebastian had wed, and Julianna had taken it upon herself to move out of the family residence. The shame and scandal of being stranded at the altar had been difficult to bear. Julianna counted herself a realist, and she was aware the experience had not left her unscathed. But she liked to think she was at least somewhat wiser. She'd floundered for a time, spending months in Europe, dreading the day she must face the ton again.

What a shock it had been when she returned to London on the eve of Sebastian's wedding!

It was then that she'd realized it was time to face life head-on. There could be no more hiding away, for what would that accomplish? She and Justin and Sebastian would always be close—the circumstances of their childhood had seen to that. She lived quite comfortably on her allowance from Sebastian, but she had made some investments of her own which allowed her to purchase a modest town house in London, and her newest acquisition, a lovely little manor house in Bath.

Julianna was proud of her accomplishments, for she had discovered a courage and a dignity she hadn't known she possessed. It had begun that long-ago night when Thomas and Clarice had returned from Gretna Green. Apologetic and contrite, Thomas had come to her.

"I know my marriage to Clarice must have come as a shock," he'd said. "I can offer no excuse except one . . . Clarice is carrying my child, Julianna."

In shocked, muted silence Julianna listened while Thomas relayed how Clarice had come to him in tears the night before they—Julianna and Thomas—were to wed.

"I cannot deny what I have done, Julianna. Clarice and I have been friends since we were children. We succumbed to a moment of weakness—a moment of abandon. It was wrong. I knew it. But I told myself you would never know. Indeed both Clarice and I agreed that we could not continue to see each other. But when she came to me and confessed that she was with child, I could not deny her. Honor and duty compelled that I do the right thing and marry Clarice. And so I did. I will regret to the end of my days if I hurt you, Julianna. But it was the right thing to do."

If he had hurt her. He knew that he had. He knew that she'd loved him madly . . . And honor and duty. Well, those were things that Julianna understood, and so did her brothers. Indeed, it was all that had stopped Justin from calling him out. Oh, yes, she had understood . . .

In time, she had forgiven him. In time . . . for that, too, was the right thing to do.

But never would she forget. Never.

The pain and bitter hurt had faded. They were but a twinge in the region of her heart. But no man would ever turn her head again. Never again would she be so gullible, so trusting. She would rather be old and alone than to marry simply for the sake of marrying.

For despite the abominable circumstances of their youth—their mother's abandonment, their father's disregard—Julianna had never lost faith in the sanctity of marriage. A nurturer, Sebastian had always called her, sweet and soft-hearted, always taking care of others.

It was true, she supposed. Oh, yes, it was in her nature to be a wife, a mother. She'd once speculated that it was the fact that their mother had run off with her lover which instilled in Julianna the desire to be everything their own mother was not. Indeed, Julianna had once been convinced that the whole sordid make-up of her parents' relationship had simply made her all the more determined that when she, Julianna, married—and as a child she had somehow never doubted that she would—it would be for love . . . and love alone. Ah, yes, the longing for a husband and children was something that only grew stronger as she grew older. Forever it seemed she had planned the day of her wedding . . .

Oddly, it no longer hurt to think of that day.

What hurt was knowing she would never have a child of her own. No, there would be no children.

For there would be no husband.

And that particular heartache was one which had taken a long time to accept—and remained a secret locked tight in her breast for all eternity. She would never experience the joy of a child snug against her breasts . . . her child. For a husband was beyond her reach—perhaps more aptly, beyond her desire. And so she had buried the yearning for a child.

For it could never be.

No, when was no longer quite so carefree, seeing only the good in the world. As for the Magpies of the world, well, in time he would surely get his due.

"I daresay all the Kingdom has heard of the Magpie," she returned lightly.

Mrs. Chadwick eyed her. "Are you not afraid?"

"Afraid of a man I cannot see, a man I've yet to meet?" Smiling, Julianna shook her head, mildly amused. Reports of such men and their misdeeds had fallen off in these last few years. The notion of a highwayman made her shiver, but not in dread. Why, if she were given to such fancies, the notion might be almost romantic!

Now, if he were to leap through that door—" she nodded "—I might be inclined to say otherwise."

"Oh, but you should be afraid. That's a pretty bauble at your throat. No doubt he would take great pleasure in relieving you of it. That and more." Mrs. Chadwick nodded knowingly.

Julianna raised her brows.

"Oh, indeed," put in her mother. "Why, the tales we've heard . . . Why, they're not to be spoken of in polite company."

Mr. Chadwick finally spoke. "What nonsense is this?"

"'Tis not nonsense, Charles!" His wife thrust her chin out. "A lady would not want to fall into his hands, for she would surely suffer a fate worse than death, and I think I need not expound on the matter! The man is a devil—'tis said he even has the devil's eyes—and everyone knows it!"

Her meaning was not lost on Julianna, whose smile froze. Until that moment, she'd actually found herself wishing for a little adventure . . . She chewed the inside of her cheek and reconsidered. For all the notoriety surrounding the Magpie, the papers in London had said nothing of him ravaging women.

Wringing her hands, Mrs. Chadwick glanced anxiously out the window. "Oh, but I do hope the driver hurries. I want to be home before dark. I won't feel safe until we're settled before the fire with a nice cuppa."

Charles Chadwick lifted his gaze heavenward. "For the love of God, missus, will you stop your whinin'! If the Magpie should waylay us, by God, I swear I shall put you on his horse myself and bid you good riddance!"

Mrs. Chadwick gasped. "Well, I never!" Her mother glared daggers at her son-in-law.

Julianna directed her eyes to her lap, biting back a laugh. The four of them lapsed into silence.

They passed through several more villages but no more passengers alighted. It was late in the afternoon when the coach began to slow. Leticia Chadwick had scooted to the edge of their seat even before they came to a halt before a small tavern. "At last," she nearly sang out, then turned to Julianna. "May your journey be a safe one."

Julianna smiled her good-bye, welcoming the rush of clean air that swept in when the door opened. It was cool and fresh, with no stench of coal and smoke. It was good to be away from London, she decided. The decision to go to Bath had been an impetuous one, but she would so enjoy the chance to rest and catch her breath from the hectic pace of the Season, which was in full swing.

The trio disembarked. Julianna had wondered about their state of marital bliss—they were clearly not in the first blush of youth. She looked on when Charles Chadwick took his wife's arm protectively as they crossed the street. Leticia glanced up at him, a wisp of a smile on her lips. An odd ache filled Julianna's throat, an ache for what might have been . . .

Deliberately she looked away.

No other passengers boarded. The coach did not linger. The driver shouted and they were off. The wheels cracked and rumbled as they began to gain speed.

It wasn't long before the walls of darkness began to close in. She found herself peering out the window, anxiously searching the side of the road, trying to see behind every tree and bush until she began to grow dizzy. Oh, but this was silly, she chided herself, to allow herself to be spooked by the Chadwicks' talk of highwaymen!

She forced herself to relax. Eventually, the sway and lurch of the coach lulled her into drowsiness. Swaying with the rhythm of the coach, her eyes drifted shut.

The next thing she felt herself tumbling to the floor. Jarred into wakefulness, she opened her eyes, rubbing her shoulder where she'd landed. What the deuce . . ? Panic enveloped her; it was pitch black inside the coach.

And outside as well.

She was just about to heave herself back onto the cushions when the sound of male voices punctuated the air outside. The coachman . . . and someone else.

"Put it down, I s-say!" the coachman stuttered. "There's nothing of value aboard, I swear! Mercy," the man blubbered. "I beg of you, have mercy!"

Even as a decidedly prickly unease slid down her spine, the door was wrenched open. She found herself staring at the gleaming barrels of twin pistols. In terror she lifted her gaze to the man who possessed them.

Garbed in black he was, from the enveloping folds of his cloak to the kerchief that obscured the lower half of his face. A silk mask was tied around his eyes; they were all that was visible of his features. Even in the dark, there was no mistaking their color. They glimmered like clear, golden fire, pale and unearthly.

The devil's eyes.

"Nothing of value aboard, eh?"

A gust of chill night air funneled in. Yet it was like nothing compared to the chill she felt in hearing that voice. . . So softly querulous, like steel tearing through tightly stretched silk, she decided dazedly.

She had always despised silly, weak, helpless females. Yet when his gaze raked over her—through her, bold and ever so irreverent!—she felt stripped to the bone.

Goosebumps rose on her flesh. She couldn't move. She most certainly couldn't speak. She could not even swallow past the knot lodged deep in her throat. Fear numbed her mind. Her mouth was dry with a sickly dread such as she had never experienced. All she could think was that if Mrs. Chadwick were here, she might take great delight in knowing she'd been right to be so fearful. For somehow Julianna knew with a mind-chilling certainty that it was he . . .

The Magpie.


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