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First pages

Chapter 1

The dead man materialized several yards away.

Mandy Howard let out a sigh, and tucked a lock of her unruly hair behind her ear. She stopped walking along the gravel path and crossed her arms, an angry scowl on her face. If looks could kill, the guy staring at her with dark eyes—bedroom eyes, her mother would have said—would have been a goner.

Of course, technically, he already was.

I can’t ever catch a break. I just wanted a few minutes to myself, a few minutes of peace and quiet.

It figured that a needy spirit would find her out here by the lapping water of Lake Birth, which was surrounded by willowy trees whose green arms sheltered the expensive homes dotting the shoreline. She’d wanted to clear her head, get a grip on the gnawing feelings of anxiety that plagued her since she’d arrived two days ago in the small town of Birthrite. A nice walk was just the thing.

But the dead weren’t exactly known for their social skills.

She couldn’t even count on both hands the number of times she’d been in the middle of being intimate with a lover and some dead person had popped up needing help right that minute. As a young co-ed in college, her love life had suffered from this ghostly invasion of privacy until she’d learned to enchant her bedroom with a spell designed to keep all dead things out.

If only there was a way to set up office hours with ghosts.

The man on the walking path studied her, his pale face sharp and lean in the morning sunshine, those sexy eyes taking her in. Though a soft glow surrounded him, he wasn’t faded or washed out like many spirits she worked with. There was vibrancy to him and he held enough energy to ripple the air. His ebony hair was slicked back in a style that had been popular in the fifties. Indeed, his manner of dress made her think he must have died that long ago. Tan trousers clung to muscled legs and the buttons on his white shirt were buttoned only up to his collarbone while rolled up sleeves showed off toned arms. Raw sexuality exuded from him, and despite being disgruntled at the interruption to her privacy, Mandy couldn’t help but appreciate the alpha male specimen in front of her.

They don’t make men like that anymore.

Then he smiled.

And damn if she didn’t feel her heart go pitter pat while the urge to giggle like a schoolgirl welled up. Thoughts of tearing away his shirt like it was tissue paper drifted through her mind. Was he as fit below as he appeared above? His smile widened as if he could hear her thoughts. She fanned herself lightly, trying hard not to smile back at him.

Whoa, girl. Get a grip. He’s dead. Nothing on him is working in the sex department.

“Uh…hello,” she said, taking a small step forward. “Can I help you?”

Usually, this was just the invitation a spirit needed to spill their guts and start babbling about reconnecting with a loved one or needing to find someone who had wronged them before they died. However, the man said nothing. Instead, he turned to look at something on the side of the path, giving her a view of his handsome profile.

“Okay.” Mandy frowned. “I take it you’re the strong silent type.”

He ignored her, staring at something just out of her sightline, but whatever it was must have been important to him. Sadness settled into what she could see of his face, and his posture slumped slightly. Cautious, Mandy edged closer, and turned to see what he looked at.

The dandelions caught her attention first.

A sea of them grew together in the middle of a long back yard leading away from a worn two-story house. The April wind whipped down the sloping yard, carrying with it the scent of jasmine and causing the fuzz of the flowers to break off, lifting up like a cloud of wishes. For a brief moment, she thought the tiny seeds banded together to form the torso of a woman, but then the breeze pushed them forward, setting them free.

She turned her head to say something to the dead man, but he was gone. Looking around, Mandy saw no sign of him. Odd. It wasn’t like a spirit to leave without asking for something.

Mandy turned back to the old house, the anxiety which had tugged at her all morning drifting away as easily as the dandelion seeds, replaced by a certainty that this was where she was meant to be. Whatever force had guided her to take the walk had wanted her here.

Dead guy or not.

She touched the small book of spells in the pocket of her dress and wondered if she should do a quick protection spell. Aunt Ruby had recently given her the book, saying it had once belonged to Mandy’s mother. As she contemplated what to do, she could have sworn her dead mother’s voice echoed down the lush lawn to her.

“Houses are like people. They have a soul of their own, built upon the residual memories that remain there. A house can speak to us. You just have to listen.”

“Okay, Momma. I’m listening." She crossed her arms and studied the home that was rose from the ground with a breathtaking mightiness. "I just wish I knew what I was supposed to hear."

The sturdy foundation held up a two-story mansion with a balcony on the top and a verandah on the bottom, both of which wrapped around the side. Overgrown shrubs and vines clung to the back porch railings, choking the rotted wood that led to French doors. One of the panes was broken and someone had repaired it with a piece of brown cardboard. Up on the balcony, she could see sets of screen doors evenly spaced out, which Mandy figured might lead to bedrooms. A couple of the screens were falling off the hinges, hanging at odd angles. The peeling paint might have once been white, but now it revealed the soft grain of weathered wood.

Her vision retracted a bit, and she took note of the tall Cypress trees whose mossy arms swept down low, protecting a long, wide lawn which framed the house and ended where she stood at the gravel walking path by the shore of Lake Birth.

And this is just the back of it!

Curious, she left the walking path, ambling up the back yard before cutting over to the right side of the home. She ran her fingers along the woody grain of the house’s exterior wall as she made her way to the front, feeling little sparks of energy flutter beneath her finger tips. Her heart beat a little faster, but she managed not to let her old anxieties overwhelm her.

A For Sale sign had been stuck in the unkempt tall grass of the yard. Mandy placed a hand on it, steadying herself as she viewed the front of the building.

Majestic but morose.

She couldn’t think of what it was exactly that gave her that impression. Perhaps it was the way the large windows of the house with their matching green shutters looked like eyes filled with emptiness and abandon.

Mandy walked up the steps to the front door. Like the shutters, it was painted a dark green. Two long scratches ran across it, reminding her of claw marks. Had something been trying to get in? Or had something been trying to get out?

She shuddered involuntarily.

“Stop it, Mandy,” she whispered. “You’re spooking yourself.”

Just as she was about to place her hand on the old brass knob, the door creaked opened on its own.

Okay. Not good. This is the opening for a horror movie on the Lifetime channel. Walk away now before that sexy ghost from the lake jumps out at you with an axe.

But she didn’t. As much as she enjoyed a good Lifetime movie, she knew much more about what fear was than they did. She’d seen the real things that went bump in the night. A door opening on its own was nothing new in her world, and she was definitely not afraid of a ghost.

“Hello?” Her voice echoed in the home. "Anyone home?"

Mandy stepped just inside the doorway, closed her eyes, and listened.

So far, so good. Nothing feels off.

There it was again—the scent of jasmine. Where did it come from? She breathed it in, relaxing enough to step into the home. Before her was a short hallway. On one side was the entrance to a room, and on the wall opposite it was a large, rectangular mirror trimmed in gold. She walked forward, glancing at herself briefly in the mirror, and noting that her honey blonde hair was a flurry of curls—what her mother would have deemed a bird’s nest. There were dark smudges beneath her eyes—a sign of her sleeping habits—and her full lips were pressed together with practiced control. Her red dress with its tiny white polka dots clung to her curvy body, swishing slightly like a bell around her knees. She’d spotted it in the vintage store in downtown Birthrite and knew she had to have it. It was probably too formal for a walk around the lake, but who cared?

Not like you have anyone to take notice of what your hair looks like or the super cute swish of this dress.

Once, the thought would have sent her into an all encompassing depression. Now, it only mildly bothered her that she was alone in the world. Well, not really alone. She did have her aunt and cousins. They weren’t the same as a having a companion who knew her thoughts and desires though.

Get your head in the game. Stop thinking about your state of single “blessedness” all the time.

Passing up the first room, which she deemed to be a dining room, Mandy took a leisurely tour of the rest of the bottom floor. The light from the big windows in the house shone in, sparkling along the hard wood floors, carrying with it residual bursts of events from the home’s past. Mandy let the energy surround her, mentally turning on her “inner” eye, and glimpsing bits and pieces of the building’s past.

Music and laughter mixed with people milling about in the large rooms.

Slow dancing. Swirling ceiling fans to chase away the heat.

Ice clinking in heavy crystal glasses.

Mahogany tables with white lace tablecloths covered with sumptuous food.

Mandy sighed, almost able to smell the scent of prime rib and steaks. Curious, she climbed the staircase, her hand clutching the oak banister and then wandered into the upstairs bedrooms, impressed by their spaciousness. Her shoes echoed on the hard wood floors, the sound pleasing as she poked her head into the empty rooms. There were five in all, and here, too, there were memories the house held onto which Mandy absorbed.

A vanity table against that wall.

The sun glittering off a crystal lamp.

A lover’s laugh.

She drifted back to the staircase, and envisioned herself as the belle of the ball. How easy to play the flirt if one lived in such a magnificent place. A nod here, a wink there.

With each step, Mandy fell in love with the old home.

I would totally buy this place if I could afford it. But even with my inheritance, something tells me an old beauty like this house will be way out of my price range.

Reality was a real bitch sometimes.

She headed for the front door, leaving her dreams of being the belle of the ball behind. However, as she passed the dining room, she couldn’t resist the urge to peek in there and see what other charming memories of the past the house held.

Maybe she’d spot the handsome ghost who’d disappeared earlier.

Sticking her tongue out at herself in the gold mirror as she passed, Mandy entered the room. Standing in the center of it, she observed the space had the same shiny hard wood floors and crisp white walls she’d seen in the rest of the house. A set of French doors led outside, and she could just glimpse the remains of a worn gazebo through the grimy panes of glass in the doors.

The air changed. An odd energy pressed heavily against her chest causing her heart to beat faster and her breath to catch. Mandy closed her eyes, counted to ten, and tried to block the dizzying images from the house running rampant and clear through her mind, but they were determined to be seen.

Blood stained the wall.

The candles cast shadows on the other walls of the dining room, dancing to the beat of a secret tune as darkness slid around the man with dark hair. His white shirt, once pressed and cleaned, was saturated with blood from the woman he cradled in his arms.

 Several feet away, another man lay crumpled on the wood floor, tucked in the dim light at the edge of the room, a gun just out of his reach. The acrid smell of gunfire clung to the air.

“Is he dead?” The woman’s fingers reached up to touch the blue stone set into a gold medallion at her neck, leaving a smear of blood against it.

“Yes.” With trembling hands, he stroked her blond hair. "He's dead."

“Good.” Bitterness thickened her tone.

“Everything’s going to be all right. I’ve got you.”

“Bullshit.” She gave a small laugh. “I’m dying.”

“No. Don’t say that. I’ll get help.”

“Don’t bother.”

“You can’t leave me now.” The ache in his voice betrayed the stoicism on his face. “We’ve just started to figure things out again.”

“Love you, darlin’.” Her breath wheezed in and out one last time.

Mandy gasped for air, the memory too real, too vivid.

The man in the vision, the one cradling the woman…it had definitely been the ghost she’d seen earlier. He had more power than she’d given him credit for if he could invade her mind with such an intense vision. She fanned herself, trying to get more air before taking a few steps toward the French doors.

But whatever was in the room was not done yet.

A presence summoned energy, wanting to break through the thin veil between the living and the dead to communicate with her beyond just a simple vision. For a moment, Mandy thought it might be the man she’d seen by the lake, but no…this didn’t feel masculine at all. Whatever it was, she could sense its desperation, the frantic tone of its desire. Mandy shivered, closed her eyes, and murmured a small blocking spell.

After a moment or two, the tension in the room lessened, the desperation faded. She continued to breathe in and out slowly before opening her eyes, half expecting to come face to face with a ghost. However, there was no one in the room but her.

Shaken, she exited through the French doors, ignoring the way her hands shook slightly as she worked the lock on the door. She stepped out into what might have once been a lovely garden. Now it was a shamble of weeds and vines wrapping around a dilapidated gazebo. The broken frame clung haphazardly to its foundations and looked as though a good spring storm would topple the whole thing over.

I should leave right now. Just run away from this place.

She’d certainly spent enough time running away. It wouldn’t be hard to continue the trend. No one would ever have to know.

But I’ll know.

Mandy forced herself to return to the back of the house and stand on the porch. She watched the lake water slap against the bank, and listened to the birds chirping in the tall cypress trees. After a few minutes, peace overtook the last vestige of fear from her experience in the dining room and she could think clearly again.

What the hell had happened back there? The memory had been so strong, stronger than any of the other past energy the house contained. And that presence…someone had wanted to make contact. Someone other than the sexy ghost. Unease flickered through her.

Yep. This is definitely Lifetime movie material.

Mandy bit her lip and swatted at a loose strand of her hair.

But I’m stronger than the chicks in those movies, right? Maybe I should call Ruby.

Aunt Ruby had advised her something was about to change in her life. The old woman had looked at the tarot cards two days earlier with a furrowed brow before turning over a final one. The sinister face of a skeleton stared up at her.

“Good. I’d hoped to see Death,” Aunt Ruby muttered and then looked at Mandy who’d sat opposite of the older, gray haired woman, her heart in her throat, a deep sadness inside her that made her bones ache with weariness. “He brings change. You’ve been stagnant for too long. These cards signify the end of that phase. It’s spring. Time for renewal. Now, you will follow a path by the water. It will be filled with dark choices, choices only you can make to bring forth the light.”

Dark choices.

Mandy had believed her. There was a reason so many people came to Aunt Ruby in New Orleans for help. The old witch may not have inherited every gift that blossomed in their family, but she knew how to read the future better than any of their ancestors ever had.

If only she didn’t have to be so damn cryptic in her messages.

What did “dark” choices mean exactly? What light was she referring to?

On her way home to Austin, Mandy had seen the sign for Birthrite. Almost unconsciously, she’d exited the highway and followed the signs until she’d driven into the quaint town. The pristine shops of the town square with their striped red awnings, the trimmed lawns and hedges lining cookie cutter homes with picket fences, and the sparkling waters of the nearby lake had charmed her even as a sense of anxiety blossomed. She only got this kind of creeping nervous energy when something new was coming into her life. Following her instincts, she’d checked in to the local bed and breakfast, unsure of how long she planned to stay. That had been two days ago.

Now she knew.

She would be staying awhile. In this house. A house haunted by its past. She glanced over her shoulder, thinking of the room she’d just left, of the ghost she’d already met, of the dining room spirit who she’d not seen, but had tasted its desires.

There’s bad energy there, the kind you’ve been running from since William died.

"Damn.” She sighed. "No more running."

And the money? What about that? How will you pay for this place?

She’d find a way. Her inheritance money could have afforded her to live her whole life without ever working again. A house like this might mean a huge cut into those finances, into her plans.

Not that she had any. She’d been running from place to place the last two years, never slowing down, never thinking farther than a few months. It was time to stop.

Like it or not, the house’s future was to be entwined with hers.

Chapter 2


Dill Tate walked along the bank of Lake Birth as he did every morning before going to work. He seldom encountered people on his walk, which was the way he liked it. It was a break from his town persona, a peaceful moment in a well inspected life.

He couldn’t honestly say he walked for the exercise, though it was a nice benefit. It was his way of sorting through his problems and daydreams, more exercise of the mind than the body. On these walks, he escaped to places unknown, dreaming dreams that could never be his reality, till he was present in body only, his spirit far away.

But today he was distracted from his daily musings by Spivey House.

Dill paused a moment to look up the long backyard running from the lake to the old antebellum home perched on a small rise. Three months ago he’d heard someone had bought the house, causing quite a stir of excitement in the small town of Birthrite. But the new owner did not appear particularly social, and other than the fact that she was a woman who loved to frequent Mollie Mae’s vintage dress shop, little was known about her.

Whoever she was, there was no denying the good job she was doing in restoring the place. The over grown bushes around the back porch had been trimmed and tidy. New flowerbeds had been created and a mixture of zinnias and geraniums splashed their colors against the exterior’s fresh coat of white paint. There was no sign of the cracked windowpanes that once filled the rickety French doors leading into the house. As his eyes roamed the top floor, he noted that the worn screen doors to the upstairs bedrooms had been fixed.

The place hummed with new life.

No longer looks like something out of a ghost story. What will the kids have to be spooked by at Halloween?

He grinned, remembering the old stories of the house being haunted, stories he’d heard when he was just a kid. How many generations of youngsters had grown up on similar tales of the Spivey House being a hotbed of supernatural activity?

A woman came out of one of the upstairs door and leaned casually against the balcony post. Her shoulder length blonde hair whipped around lightly in the morning breeze, and she wore a white sundress with a red pattern on it, which showed off a curvy figure. Were those polka dots? Cherries, maybe? Too far away to tell for sure, Dill couldn’t help but be reminded of Marilyn Monroe in his favorite classic movie, The Misfits.

He smiled before he could help himself.

She smiled back, and something in her stance made him think she was a little mischievous. As if hearing his thoughts, the woman tossed her hair flirtatiously, revealing a circular pendant of some sort caught tight against her throat. It was large enough to be seen from his distance, but small enough so that the details of it were fuzzy. The woman gathered it between her fingers, rubbing it as if she knew it had caught his attention.

Soft laughter trickled down to him, and for a few seconds, he felt like time stopped. There was only the warm summer breeze, the scent of the lake, and the lovely woman on the balcony who stared at him as if she knew every secret he’d ever had.

A door slammed, jolting him back to reality.

Another woman came out from the back entrance of the house. Her worn jean shorts and gray t-shirt was smudged with dirt from the large potted plant she carried. Judging from the tendril of hair slipping free from her ponytail, she was a blonde, too. The lick of dirt on her cheek made her seem sweet, almost vulnerable, and he could feel his protective instincts awaken. Unaware of Dill due to the size of the plant, she squatted at a nearby flowerbed, placed the pot down, and began digging a hole with a small shovel that had been lying nearby. He glanced up at the other woman on the balcony, but she had retreated inside.

Sisters. They must be sisters. How did get lucky enough to have two beauties living in such close proximity? Time to meet the new neighbors!

He opened his mouth to call out to the gardener, but before he could utter a sound, he noticed the tears streaming down her face. A small sob escaped from her and he found himself struck to the soul by the heartache in the sound. Uncomfortable, he quietly stepped behind one of the sweeping trees bordering the property and thought about what to do.

Around the small town of Birthrite, Dill knew he was considered a charmer, a family trait passed down from his father, Clark Tate. Clark had once been considered the catch of the town, a wild and dashing playboy who no one ever thought would settle down. If he was his father, Dill would have produced a linen handkerchief and offered it to the woman along with a consoling shoulder to cry on followed by dinner and drinks.

That, of course, would lead to the bedroom.

“Women want to be listened to, son,” Clark used to say, his watery blue eyes rimmed red with the signs of excessive alcohol. “All you have to do is tilt your head to the side, nod at the right places, and before you know it, you’ve got yourself a bed time friend.”

The weeping woman would weep no more in the arms of persuasive Clark.

But Dill was not his father.

Remembering to carry tissues for crying women wasn't on his daily “To Do” list. The only thing in his wallet that had remained there for any length of time, besides his ID, was a condom he’d had since seventh grade as sort of a keepsake. Somehow that didn’t seem the appropriate thing to offer a woman in such an emotional state.

Instead, he decided to let her keep her privacy, moving quickly down the path without a sound. Just as the house was about to be out of view, he glanced back. Once again the woman on the balcony watched him. This time she waved an impatient arm in the air as if beckoning. Something slipped from her neck, landing in the soft grass. The necklace, he supposed. He paused a moment, debating.

Was she gesturing to him?

No. He was too far away. She couldn’t have been looking at him. Dill was certain she must have been asking her crying sister to come in the house.

He moved on.


Tate’s was an upscale restaurant. Or at least it was upscale for Birthrite, Louisiana. It was the only meal place in town that didn’t have any booths or stools at a counter for patrons to eat at. The scent of steak perfumed the air instead of burgers and the cork pop of champagne was more common to hear than the caffeinated drip of a soda fountain machine. With its polished round tables covered with lace tablecloths and elegant high backed chairs, Tate’s was where people went to celebrate the special moments of their lives.

Dill was proud of the place and it gave purpose to his life. His grandmother had opened the business years ago and he’d only taken over when she’d passed away. He liked the hustle and bustle of the restaurant, liked to see the same families come in, and in a sense, watch them grow. As years went by, he’d seen small children blossom into teens and bring their dates in for a pre-Prom meal. Wedding anniversaries were celebrated with frequency at Tate’s, and it always interested Dill to see how the couple that toasted to this year fared the following. He could easily see the ones who would grow old together and the ones that would be divorced soon.

Being the owner also made him a well-known person around town. But then, he’d always been well known for one reason or another. When he was younger, it was because he was the son of the town’s ladies man, a man who couldn’t get over the fact that his beloved wife had died.

“Poor boy. Ever since his mama passed, that Clark ain’t done right by him,” the town folk would comment, listing his father’s sins within young Dill’s hearing. “Lost in the whiskey bottle, Clark Tate is. A different woman every week. You just know that his wife, Lily, is rolling over in her grave. Shameful. Ain’t her fault she died of cancer.”

As Dill got older he was known because God put a fire bolt into his throwing arm, making him the most important quarterback Birthrite had ever seen.

“You gonna do us proud, boy?” The shouts followed seventeen-year-old Dill as he strutted along the town square, drunk on popularity.

“Sure gonna try,” he called back, displaying his famous dimpled smile.

“Go get em’ Tate!”

But after his senior year, people knew who he was because of his own wild ways and the girl he’d gotten pregnant but refused to marry. She had been the head cheerleader, and it was assumed that they would become Birthrite’s golden couple. Dill almost gave in to the pressure.

His grandmother changed his mind.

“Don’t you dare even consider marryin’ that two bit piece of Christmas paper trash!” Grandmother Tate shouted, her long, black hair swinging around her face in a mass of unruly curls flecked with gray. Even in her late seventies, she was still considered a striking woman and her temper and outspoken ways were legendary. “Take it from me, Dill. That girl thinks you are going places and wants a free ride. Well, she won’t get one. Not on the coattails of my grandson.”

“Grandmother, don’t call her trash. You’ll regret it later when you have to face her at the dinner table every night,” Dill placated, but secretly, he agreed with his grandmother. He’d always sensed Abby Sanford was with him because of his status. It didn’t bother him in high school. Hell, it was a boon to his place in the hierarchy of youth, but as a young man with all of life rolled out before him…it was a different story. Her clinginess, the ever-present jealousy that caused her to lose her temper with him and usually at the worst possible times—it was a bit much.

Still…he had gotten her pregnant, and not under the most gallant of circumstances. He should take care of his responsibilities.

“Are you sure the baby is yours? I’ve seen Abby with that Kevin Brandt. I bet he’s had her, too. It would be in your best interest to find out how many times that girl has had her feathers plucked.” Grandmother Tate crossed her arms. “Something tells me you weren’t the only rooster in the hen house.”

It turned out there had been much more to the story than Dill knew. Finding out the truth kept him firm in his resolve not to marry her, but the damage to Dill’s golden boy reputation was done. The town gossips were horrified at the ugly story going around Birthrite about the possibility that the young football star had forced himself on the innocent cheerleader. And when no baby bump appeared on Abby…well, it was quietly whispered that he’d threatened her, making her get rid of it.

If there was one thing Birthrite loved, it was a juicy scandal.

Dill had weathered a cold shoulder from people for several years, allowing people to think the worst, choosing to keep his mouth shut about what had really occurred. He’d devoted his time to helping out with local charities, volunteering at town events, and being as friendly and kind as he could to those that crossed his path. Eventually, people stopped talking about what he’d done in high school. By then, Abby was long gone, and the town now saw Dill as a successful thirty something business owner who needed to settle down and start his own family.

He wasn’t sure he agreed with that. Women were wonderful creatures, but having one around permanently? Having someone who expected him to do this or that? Agreeing to compromise when his heart wasn’t in it? No. He considered himself set in his ways and unwilling to change.

 Waking up in the morning, taking his daily walk, running his business, and dating whoever caught his fancy—that was his life. Simplicity was the key, which was another reason he had not stopped to console the crying woman at the Spivey place this morning.

No need to create complications by giving comfort to a hysterical female. Women were logical most of the time, but once they started crying…all bets were off. Comforting someone had never been his strong suit.

And yet, he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her or the sound of her heartbreak. It lingered in his head, a delicate sound of misery that he recognized from his own past. Whatever had upset the poor woman had been something that had hurt her soul.

That’s way too private of a thing for me to get involved with.

He shoved thoughts of her away and focused on his work as evening crept into Birthrite, gathering around the town like a soft, warm blanket. The summer breeze was nice and someone had opened the restaurant doors to the patio so patrons could take in the night air. Dill counted up his reservations, reviewing the names in order to give instructions to the waiters. He liked people to feel that their wants and needs were remembered between visits, that they were thought about when absent from the place. The waiters were good about remembering little details related to the regulars thanks to Dill. Tonight there were seven repeat families scheduled to come in and one reservation he did not recognize.

Mandy Howard.

As he reviewed his list, a familiar voice spoke to him.

“Well, what’s it looking like tonight, son?”

He looked up into the twinkling blue eyes of Toby Brandt. A legend around town, the man had to be in his nineties, but something in those eyes always made Dill think Mr. Brandt was much younger.

“Any prospects?” the old man asked.

Dill grinned. “Depends on what you mean by prospects.”

“You know what I mean, son. I’m talking about the good lookin’ prospects, the kind that sashay around a room smelling sweet. Got any of those coming in?” Mr. Brandt grinned back.

“Can’t say for sure but if I do, I’ll send them your way.”

“See that you do.” Mr. Brandt tipped his hat at a pretty, dark haired waitress walking by. She smiled but didn’t stop. "That a new girl?"

"She's too young for you." Dill shook his head in mock disgust. Truth be told, he’d had some lusty thoughts about his latest hire, too. However, voluptuous and sexy Kat was definitely off limits. All of his employees were. No sense in inviting a sexual harassment charge. "Not that age would ever stop a man like you from trying to charm her into bed."

"I can still give you a run for your money when it comes to picking up ladies any day, kid."

Dill took Mr. Brandt to his regular table and offered him a menu, which was waved away. “Bring me a plate of Oysters Rockefeller and a dry martini.”



About me

Esmae Browder is the author of Bite Thy Neighbor and the upcoming Witches of Shakespeare series. Residing in Austin, TX, Esmae loves to curl up on the couch with good romance and an adult beverage. Connecting with readers is also one of her favorite past times. Visit her at

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
Drop by my website at or follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
I read a little bit of everything, but right now I'm obsessed with Jill Shalvis. Her Heartbreaker Bay series melts my butter and I can't get enough of her quirky, fun romances.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
I've also loved the southern plays of Tennessee Williams. Their steamy, gothic mix of language and drama intrigued me. When I started writing the flashback sequences of this book, stories like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Streetcar Named Desire inspired me.

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