"Why would he have done that?"
Good, she didn't know. "I'll explain that later. I went to your father's office and scared his poor secretary out of his wits, and then I started shouting at your father, but it didn't take long to realize he had no idea what I was talking about."
"What did he say?"
"He gave me some good advice."
"Your father is a wise man."
"A wise man who likes to tell other people what to do. Did he tell you what to do?"
"He tried." That made her smile, as he'd intended.
"What did he tell you to do?"
"He told me to take the money."
"That's probably good advice."
"Sarah, I want you to understand some things. First of all, I never wanted to be rich."
"Of course not."
"There's no 'of course' about it. I'm not a fool. I've dreamed about being rich. All men do. We think about what we'd do and where we'd go and how nice it would be to never have to worry about supporting our families. I've done that. But I never wanted to have the kind of life where all you worried about were what clothes to wear and who invited you to dinner and which gentleman's club to join."
"I never wanted that life either. That's why I left my parents' home and never went back."
"I know. That's why . . . Well, that's why I was so angry. But your father pointed out that I don't have to have that kind of life, even if I take the money. I can live however I want."
"He said that?"
"Yes. And he also solved another problem for me, one that's been bothering me for a while."
"And what problem was that?"
"Well, you see, I'd been sure that nothing could make an Irish Catholic cop socially acceptable in this city."
"Since when did you want to be socially acceptable?"
"Oh, for about two years now. And your father explained it to me. He said there are two ways to be accepted in this city. You can be born into an old, respected family, like the Deckers."
"Or the Van Horns," she reminded him.
"Or you can have lots of money, like Wilbanks or the Vanderbilts."
"And if you have enough money, the Van Horns will want to marry you."
"Will the Deckers want to marry me, too?"
"Well, I'm really only interested in one of the Deckers."
"Which one?" She still didn't understand.
"Definitely not your father, and your mother is already married."
"Malloy, what are you talking about?"
He really hadn't expected this to be easy, but he was making it harder than it needed to be, he knew. "Sarah, maybe you already know this, but I've been in love with you since . . . Well, I can't remember even knowing you when I wasn't in love with you, so almost from the very beginning. Two years ago." He watched the color bloom in her cheeks for a moment. "The trouble was, I couldn't imagine any way that I could offer you a proper kind of life, but now . . ."
"Now I'm asking you to be my wife."
He didn't know what he'd expected but not the frown she was giving him. "Did you think I wouldn't marry you before, when you were just an ordinary policeman?"
"I didn't know, but I thought you might, and that's why I never asked you."
She gaped at him. "You didn't ask me to marry you because you thought I would say yes?"
"Yes, and I couldn't ask you to live that kind of life."
"I wouldn't have cared!"
"I would have cared. You'd have my Irish name, and you'd live off the money I got from bribes, and people would feel sorry for you because you'd settled for a crooked cop, and your family would try to put a good face on it, but their friends would laugh at them behind their back, and someday maybe you'd be sorry but I'd be sorry for sure that I did that to you."
"Am I supposed to accept that explanation?"
"No, I'm just answering your question."
She glared at him for another long moment, but slowly, the anger died out of her eyes. "So now you think you're good enough to marry me?"
"No, but at least I don't have to be a cop anymore and people won't feel sorry for you because you married me."
"That's right. They'll think I'm a gold digger instead."
"I hadn't thought of that."
"Don't let it go to your head."
"No danger of that. I'm still trying to figure out why you're so mad I proposed to you."
She seemed surprised. "I'm not mad you proposed!"
"I told you I love you and I asked you to be my wife, and all you've done is complain because I didn't ask you sooner."
"Oh, Malloy, I did, didn't I? I'm so sorry! That's not what I meant at all."
"What did you mean?"
"I just wanted you to know that I'm not just willing to marry you because of the money and because you're Catherine's guardian and all of that."
"Then you are willing to marry me?"
"Yes, of course!"
"Why are you willing to marry me?"
"Oh! Because I love you, too. I can't say I loved you from the very beginning, because you were quite unpleasant to me in the very beginning, but it wasn't long before I began to appreciate your finer qualities and-"
"That's good enough." He took her hand and stood up, and she rose and stepped into his arms as if she'd been waiting to do it all her life. He kissed her long and deeply, the way he'd wanted to kiss her every day since he'd met her, and when they were both breathless, she said, "That was much better than the first time."
She pulled his face to hers for another kiss, and when they paused again for breath, he said, "It won't be easy. People will still talk about you behind your back and make fun or pity you."
She smiled and shook her head. "But I'll be the luckiest woman in the world, and nothing else will matter."
LIKE MANY OF YOU, I HAVE BEEN HOPING FRANK AND Sarah would find a way to get together and live happily ever after. Well, maybe not completely happily, since they'd continue to deal with many tragic murders as they move on with their lives, but at least they'd be together. The problem, of course, was that I had placed so many barriers between them, I couldn't figure out how to overcome them all.
Luckily for Frank and Sarah (and those of us who love them), I expressed my frustration one day to my cla.s.smates in the Seton Hill University Master's of Fine Arts program. I even mentioned that I was considering having a contest to ask for help from my fans in solving this difficult problem. One of my cla.s.smates, David Wilbanks, decided to "enter" the proposed contest by offering a list of suggestions. Since Dave had never read the series and knew practically nothing about it, he was not hindered by any of the facts that prevented me from seeing a solution, and he sent me a list of suggestions. None of them were exactly right, but one of them triggered the idea I eventually chose. Dave suggested that Frank inherit a fortune from a rich relative he didn't know existed. I thought, "Frank is Irish. He's never had a rich relative in his whole family tree!" and skipped to the next suggestion on his list, but then I thought, "Wait a minute, it doesn't have to be a relative!" I had already plotted this book, and I knew immediately that Catherine's father would want to take care of her. So thanks to Dave, Frank and Sarah will be starting a new chapter in their lives. They'll have a lot of things to work out. Where will they live? What will they do with Frank's mother? Will Sarah continue to work as a midwife? How will Frank adapt to being a wealthy man? But one thing will not change: People will still ask them to solve mysteries, hopefully for many years to come.
Dave's reward was to have a character named for him in this book. The fan contest became a test to see who could guess how I would finally get Frank and Sarah together. Many people guessed that Sarah's father would somehow intervene. Believe me, that was always a possibility, but I'm afraid Frank would never have accepted anything from Felix Decker. The solution had to be something Frank earned on his own and which did not leave him in anyone's debt. The clever Ingrid Cordova is the fan who came closest to guessing the real solution, so she also has a character named for her as well.
Please let me know how you liked this book by contacting me through my website www.victoriathompson.com or "like" me at www.facebook.com/Victoria.Thompson.Author. I'll put you on my e-mail list and send you a reminder when the next book in the series comes out.
Berkley Prime Crime t.i.tles by Victoria Thompson.
MURDER ON ASTOR PLACE.
MURDER ON ST. MARK'S PLACE.
MURDER ON GRAMERCY PARK.
MURDER ON WASHINGTON SQUARE.
MURDER ON MULBERRY BEND.
MURDER ON MARBLE ROW.
MURDER ON LENOX HILL.
MURDER IN LITTLE ITALY.
MURDER IN CHINATOWN.
MURDER ON BANK STREET.
MURDER ON WAVERLY PLACE.
MURDER ON LEXINGTON AVENUE.
MURDER ON SISTERS' ROW MURDER ON FIFTH AVENUE.
MURDER IN CHELSEA.
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