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First pages

Chapter One

Megan Trent jerked out of a deep sleep to the cacophony of sound as her clock radio turned on and off in a rapid beat of white noise and eerie silence. She stared in terror, her heartbeat pounding in her throat, as the red display numbers flickered in and out with a frantic Morse code lightshow. Gasping in an ice-cold breath, goose bumps pimpled her flesh, and her breath plumed in the frigid air. Air at odds with the heatwave when she’d gone to bed. She knew he had come again in the deep, predawn hours of the night. That time when the veil between reality and imagination is whisper thin.

Her lover.

Her dead husband’s ghost.

Like fingers on the Ouija board’s planchette, her thoughts stood uncertain and shaking between yes, I will and no, I won’t. A swift, eager decision brought peace to her heart and her mind. Happy tears poured down her wintery-cold cheeks as she fell back against her pillow and gave in to the temptation yet again.

Her eyes closed, tears frozen on her icy skin, Aaron’s memorable scent of spicy musk aftershave filled the air, enveloping her and the sheets, as if he were truly there with her. Megan sighed and arched her back as his familiar weight pressed her deep into the mattress, his effervescent flesh surrounding her. His soldier-hardened hands caressed her face and wiped the dampness from her cheeks, the calluses rasping against her tender skin. Her face warmed with passion as his cool lips slid along her jaw. Cold, sweet breath tickled the hairs by her ear as Aaron found the familiar, sweet spot between her neck and shoulder. The one that set her nerves to zinging. A tingle shot straight to between her thighs, wetting her panties as her breath caught on a sigh.

Heat bubbled beneath her skin, competing with the chill of the room as Aaron’s mouth kissed her neck, his tongue teasing on her skin. Pleasure spiked through her body as his teeth nipped her ear. Goose bumps that had nothing to do with cold, and everything to do with passion, ran down her arms and legs. The pleasure built as the familiar, comforting feelings they’d always shared filled her body and soul. The familiar moves and rhythms comforted her.

Her breasts ached as Aaron’s firm chest slid against her. Her nipples tightened with need. Megan’s arms reached for him and encountered cold, empty air. A cry escaped her lips just before Aaron’s mouth claimed her in a hot, passionate kiss. He tasted of want and need, a need as strong as her own.

She lost all coherent thought as his hands were everywhere, as impossible as that was, as if he had more than two. A warmth flooded between her thighs as his hands brushed lightly across her breasts, the nipples hard and tight, pebbled beneath the thin fabric of her sleep shirt.

She grasped handfuls of silk sheets as his mouth suckled her breasts through the sheer fabric. Wetness chaffed her tender flesh as he slid down her body. Her back rose off the bed as his cool mouth and tongue reached the juncture between her thighs. A husky moan escaped her as his tongue slipped inside her and played with her tender flesh. In her imagination, her hands grasped his soft, thick hair and pulled him closer. Her husky whisper rang in the empty room as she begged for more.

Her inner vision and memories replaced empty air with strands of surfer, sun-kissed hair. In her treasured fantasies, she could look deep into his blue eyes and lose herself, make time stand still, make the past the present. Like a dream, she could caress his face, touch his skin, and revel in erotic love play.

A whimper of protest slipped between her lips as she held on to the sheets, knowing if she touched him, opened her eyes to see him—the illusion would be gone. If she risked trying to view him, she would see nothing but a few twinkling lights and misty shadows above her bed. Her eyelids tightened as she fought to hold onto the deception for a little longer. A deception made easier as he found her night after night, bringing a remembered pleasure. One she’d been missing for too long.

She sighed as more weight settled on her and pressed her into the bed, the sheets piling around her like clouds. Aaron’s spicy scent enveloped her, his mouth found hers and she tasted herself on his tongue. A sweet scent flooded her mouth as her tongue glided across his. Her breath came in short pants and he slid into her. His flesh filled her full and beyond. Every nerve ending screamed for more. Slowly, he slid in and out of her wet center. Her inner muscles tightened to feel every stroke of his heated flesh. Longer. It had to last longer. Let it last until she reached orgasm.

Blood and heat rushed to her sex. Her heart pounded double-time to every thrust. Colors swirled behind her eyelids and the tempo raced faster and faster and harder and harder. Her hands reached behind her head and grasped the ironwork of the headboard. Perspiration coated her body in the frozen room as the climax approached. Pleasure on the thin edge of pain radiated through her body as fingers tangled in her hair and lips and tongue pressed against her neck. Everything in the universe centered between her thighs where her husband drove her to completion. Nothing else in the world mattered except he was where he was supposed to be.

“Yes, Aaron,” she whimpered, as she moved faster to the edge. Fireworks exploded in her head as her flesh grasped him in her hot pleasure. Her muscles tightened around him until he found his release as well.

“I love you, Aaron.”

Dawn etched the window with golden light around the closed blinds. She opened her eyes as the light shone through her eyelids. Aaron's ghost shimmered for a second in a familiar shape before dissolving into dust motes and sprinkles of light fooling the eye into believing he’d been there. Megan raised her arms and cried out at his leaving. She was losing her mind. All this just a delusion in her sick, lonely mind. She’d been fucking a phantom.

She kicked the covers to the floor. Rolling over, she sniffed the musky scent of the sheets. The smell of sex surrounded her. Her face burrowed into the material. This was real. The smell of their lovemaking saturated the sheets. Her body loose, relaxed, and sated with intense lovemaking.

Her fingers grasped the bunched, rumpled material, holding on to the sensations of pleasure from moments before. Her body still twitched with sexual satisfaction. Her inner muscles still clenched in ecstasy, her orgasm still roiled through her body. She opened her fists as her body cooled, perspiration evaporated, and the tingling feeling left her body. She curled into a fetal position, refusing to accept the truth—she had no one. Just a figment of her imagination to pleasure her.

“I hate you, Aaron,” she cried as the room warmed and brightened with sunlight for another scorching California day.

* * *

Megan stared in disbelief at the steam-coated mirror in the bathroom. After this morning’s love-making she’d fallen back to sleep amid her crumpled sheets and had mere minutes to get ready for lunch with her sister, and now—this.

She swiped at the mirror, blinked her eyes, and stared at the ring of love-bites on her neck. With her finger, she pressed the skin of one and winced with pain. They hurt. The flesh violated and sore with abuse. Red bumps of burst blood vessels encircled each purple bruise.

Her face heated with anger. She remembered back in high school, Aaron joking about the girls running around with hickeys on their necks like it was a badge of honor, saying a gentleman didn’t need to mark his girl, they should just know they belonged together, to each other.

Her hand shook, her fingertips touched her neck again. Why would Aaron do that? Why would he mark her this way? His lovemaking this morning had been so aggressive and rough toward the end, not like Aaron at all. She shivered as a spike of fear rammed down her spine and chilled her wet body. She’d been having sex with her husband, right? How twisted was that thought? He was dead. He was gone.

She jumped when the Grandfather clock in the entry hall chimed the hour. “Shit,” she moaned, running the towel over her body too fast to dry her skin, tossing it over the shower curtain rod instead of folding it, and running to her bedroom to dress. She still had to get ready and now she needed to find a scarf as well. Did she have one long enough to hide her entire neck?

Megan opened the spare room’s door and sighed. The sound of rubber wheels dragging on the floor greeted her as she pushed the old, broken tricycle away from the doorway. It rolled several inches and butted up against the teetering tower of bins.

She closed her eyes and mentally cataloged the filled-to-the-brim room. Scarves were with accessories in the Northeast corner, two bins down. Walking along the stacked bins, her fingers trailed across the lids and a flash picture formed in her mind of each bin’s contents.

Pulling the top bin off the pile, she opened the second one down. Neat rolls of scarves greeted her, each in its own plastic cubby. She plucked a pale pink, silk one and wound it around her neck, tying a few knots to keep it in place. She replaced the lid and lifted the other bin to place on top. Her fingers lingered. The bin held Aaron’s dress uniform and Purple Heart medal. A gust of wind breezed through the room, heavy with a musky scent.

She rushed from the room, tripping on her childhood tricycle as she slammed the door and darted out of the house.

* * *

“I think I’m losing my mind.” Megan’s whispered words barely loud enough to reach her sister across the luncheon table. For a second, she wanted them to fail or to pull them back. Andrea Martin-Stovall stretched her arm across the damask tablecloth and grasped Megan’s hand. Megan’s fingers twitched as Andrea’s warm flesh grasped her ice-cold hand.

Her sister smiled, squeezing Megan’s hand, rubbing fingers along it, as if trying to warm her up. Andrea’s gaze swept over her face. Megan grimaced. She knew her sister was seeing her paler than normal skin, and the bags under her eyes that no makeup seemed to cover. Her shiny blonde hair pulled back into a simple ponytail instead of her favorite, elaborate French twist, and still damp to boot. She’d always felt inferior to Andrea’s effortless perfection, but never more than today.

“If you think you’re losing your mind, you’re probably not, you know.” Andrea said, in a lighthearted tone at odds with the worried look on her face. “As mother would say, ‘No Martin-Stovall has ever had diminished mental faculties, and we are not going to begin with this generation.’”

Megan smiled at Andrea’s pitch-perfect imitation of their mother’s genteel Southern accent, with a touch of condescension and upper crust superiority. An old, favorite game they played, mimicking their mother’s snootiness for laughs. Today it wasn’t enough to distract her frenzied mind for long.

Megan slid her hand from under Andrea’s and reached for her iced-tea glass. The crystal rang out as she hit the edge of the china plate before raising it in her shaking hand to her mouth. Megan drained the tea in one nervous gulp like a shot of whiskey and slammed the glass back down on the table. She shouldn’t have come to lunch. Why hadn’t she canceled? Rubbing her forehead, she realized she wasn’t ready to face her family with her situation. She would never be ready.

She tried to eat. Her fork clattered against her plate with each bite. She felt as if controlling the utensil was beyond her capabilities. Megan dropped a bite of salad into her lap and threw her fork onto the plate. She watched as Andrea jumped in her seat, looking around to see if anyone else was staring.

“I can’t do this. I shouldn’t have come out today.”

Andrea set her fork gently down on the edge of the plate and patted her lips with the napkin. “Megan, you know you can tell me anything. I’m your big sister, I’m always here for you. If something is upsetting you, I want to help. Please let me.”

Megan twisted her own napkin in her hands, half-expecting to tear the sturdy linen to rags. Her eyes welled up with her need for Andrea to understand what she was feeling. She took a shaky breath. “I’m being haunted. I’m seeing Aaron. Every night.”

Andrea smiled, heaving a big sigh as if her sister’s revelation was normal. “You are not being haunted, Megan. He’s only been gone a year. You visit the cemetery every Sunday. He’s just fresh in your mind and you’re daydreaming and thinking about him. It’s only natural. You and Aaron had such a special love. Just because he died doesn’t mean you stop thinking about him.”

Megan leaned in closer across the table and whispered, “He comes every night and makes love to me. For three months now, I go to sleep and there he is.”

Andrea shot back into her seat, the chair rocking with the force. Her wide eyes and downturned lips all but said maybe Megan was losing her mind. Damn, if this was Andrea’s reaction she didn’t dare tell their mother. Beverly Martin-Stovall would have her in the padded cell by nightfall, snuck in without paparazzi and the tabloids knowing, of course. Must keep up appearances, even if it meant locking your youngest child away. She wanted to laugh, but she was afraid it would come out as a hysterical cackle.

“Megan, you’re sleeping. Those are dreams.”

Megan winced at Andrea’s matter-of-fact voice, the one psychiatrists used to talk suicidal people down from ledges. “Just dreams. Perfectly normal.”

“Dreams?” Megan’s voice came out shrill in the tranquil quiet of the country club dining room. “Do dreams do this?” She pulled her scarf away from her neck and watched with glee as Andrea gasped and started coughing at the bruised love bites covering her pale skin.

Andrea sipped her tea, her teeth clicking on the glass while Megan rewrapped the silk scarf around her neck. The hiding of the marks and the renewed quiet in the dining room allowed them to continue their conversation in a calmer mood.

Andrea spoke up in her lawyer voice Megan detested. “There has to be a rational explanation for this whole situation. We both know Aaron is dead. I was there with you when the chaplain and his aide arrived at your house. The whole family, ours and his, was there at his funeral. He’s gone, Megan.”

She tossed down her fork again, with another clatter on the plate. “I’m not stupid, Andrea. I know he’s d-d-dead.” She still stuttered over the word, even after a year with him gone. She clenched her jaw. “This is something else. It’s supernatural. I think he’s a spirit who hasn’t crossed over.”

Megan clammed up, her lips pressed together as the waiter took their dishes and poured coffee for them. Once he left, she leaned forward again. Andrea leaned forward as well, as Megan whispered across the tablecloth.

“I’ve always loved Aaron, since the moment I met him. Then he married me. It was like a dream. He was the perfect husband. Kind, sweet, and good-looking. Even mother approved of him.” She giggled. “We both know how difficult an accomplishment that is. But now, he is the perfect man. I go about my day, work, and do errands. At night, he comes and gives me the best orgasms I’ve ever had. And poof, he’s gone. Well, I take that back, he was perfect—but lately.” Her voice trailed off at the thought of the latest rough sexual encounter.

She swallowed past the knot in her throat. “Lately, he scares me. Like the love-bites. That is so not Aaron. And he’s rougher, more intense.”

Megan wanted to giggle again watching Andrea scope out the room, looking to see if anyone heard their conversation about sex. Mother would need her own padded room if she found out about her daughters’ latest conversation at the country club.

“Megan, I don’t know what to say,” Andrea stated, sipping her coffee as if they talked like this every day. “Ghosts are in the realm of goblins, vampires, and werewolves. Stories to frighten little children to make them stay in their beds. Something I’m not equipped to deal with even if I did believe in them, which I don’t. There is no ‘crossing over.’ We live. We die. The end.”

“Megan, perhaps you need to see someone. Someone you can talk to about your problems.” Andrea reached across the table and took her hand.

Megan grimaced and jerked her hand away. “You mean a shrink? You think I’m crazy, don’t you? I’m not. He really comes to me. He’s there. His aftershave scent permeates the room. The tangy citrus taste of his kisses from the gum he liked to chew. The feel of his skin against my hands. The weight of his body on mine. He’s there.”

“I believe you believe he’s there.”

“Andrea, do not condescend to me. They are not dreams,” Megan gritted out between clenched teeth, her jaw aching. “He is there.”

Megan sat up straight in her chair, an idea blooming in her head. “What about your friend, Lynne? You said she got a position with a paranormal company. Maybe they can tell me whether I’m dreaming, or I have a real ghostly visitor.”

“Megan, our mother would have a conniption fit if she knew you wanted to have some ghost chaser do hocus-pocus at your house. Buying into all that junk would be worse than being crazy. She wouldn’t just have you locked up. She would do it herself and throw away the key.”

Megan’s shoulders slumped, and her finger picked at the crumbs scattered on the tablecloth. Her nails scratched across the damask material, making a sound like nails on a chalkboard.

“I’ll do this with or without your help,” Megan said, glaring at the one person she’d thought would help. “I’ll check the internet, I’m sure I can find them. How many listings can there be starting with ghost?”

Andrea sighed, reaching across the table to grab her hand again. “I’ll do it. I’ll call Lynne and set something up.” Megan felt a tremor run through Andrea into their joined hands. “But, you must promise me, when this turns out to be nothing, you will see someone, someone who can help you work this out. I’m worried for you.” Her sister stared into her eyes, the concern shining through.

Megan watched as Andrea rubbed her fingers and grasped her hand tightly. She tried for a joking tone to lighten the mood. Her sister seemed lost in a world of her own. “You never did tell me why you called her Wacky Lynne.”

Andrea smiled slightly, the tension leaving her shoulders. “The first day of college I came into the dorm room with Mother to find Lynne Harley standing on her head, back against the wall, and humming a mantra at the same time. Mother was speechless for the only time in my life that I can remember. I decided right there Lynne would be my friend, even with Mother trying to drag me out of the room to find a new roommate. Things were great between us until I decided to go on to law school. She had some strange idea of us being inseparable, like twin sisters. It was eerie. We were never close again, but we’ve stayed in touch. She called me last year to tell me about her job at Ghost Releasers Inc. and her new, hunky boss, Jack O’Malley.”

Wariness and sadness filled Andrea’s eyes. Megan rushed to steer the subject back to Ghost Releasers and away from her sister’s former friend.

“I’ve seen the commercials about his television program,” Megan replied. “He seems so wild, like a pirate, or something. As if he can take on the world, and knows it.” She shuddered.

Andrea laughed. “Jack O’Malley is definitely not your type. Hunky or not. You need a nice, safe house cat, not a jungle panther.”

Megan stopped laughing. Was that how Andrea saw her, with a nice, safe type? Afraid of adventure and action?

“Aaron was nice and safe, wasn’t he? Look how that turned out. Him dead and me alone.”

“Megan, you have to stop being so angry. You knew he wanted to be in the army way back in high school. The war in the Middle East is terrible and men and women are still being killed every day, but you knew that when he enlisted. Hell, Megan, you went down there with him on the day he joined. You knew the dangers.”

Megan bit her trembling lip. Tears pooled and ran down her face. “Two tours. That’s what they told us, just two tours. But no, Aaron Trent had to think three times was the charm. Some fucking charm.”

Chapter Two

Jack O’Malley ran his fingers through his long hair and rubbed the two-day stubble on his chin as he tried to make heads or tails of Lynne’s chicken scratch. He could usually decipher his assistant’s writing, but today’s defied readability. He opened a manila folder to start a case file, jotting down the words he could make out between the dark slashes underlining some words, others surrounded with deep gorges, as if she had dug her pen into the paper. Her notes were rumpled as if she’d wadded them up into a ball and then smoothed them out. He wasn’t sure why she bothered, they were a waste of paper.

Granted, Lynne was a little off-centered, but to the outside world, all of them in the paranormal research field were off center. To the rest of the world, what they did was hokum, fairy tales, unbelievable.

Most of the time, he took his assistant as she came. The woman was working toward her paranormal license, and she would be an asset to the team once she was a full paranormal researcher. Secretaries were easier to come by then a true paranormal believer and researcher. Sometimes, being a little out-of-the-ordinary helped in their line of work. Just not in taking legible notes.

Ghost Releasers was his baby. Envisioned from the time he was five years old. As if it were yesterday, he could hear the phone ringing. His father picking it up and talking. The look on Dad’s face as it crumpled into weary folds, aging the man beyond his years in seconds. He’d gone gray in the days after. Dropping the phone and reaching for Jack. Sobs echoing in his ear as his father told him his big sister was dead. Death is such a mystery at five. If you’re unlucky enough you’ve lost a hamster or goldfish, maybe a great-aunt or great-uncle, but sisters didn’t die. Not at ten years old. Not ones who played jump rope with you or taught you to skip stones on the pond out back. Sure as hell, not by a drunken driver, plowing up on the sidewalk at a friend’s house.

Shannon came to him that night. Not a dream, but a ghostly visit. Shivers still spiked down his spine when he remembered that event. His first paranormal experience. Falling asleep at almost dawn, Jack heard his mother’s soft cries in the room beside his. His father’s muddled murmurings to his mother added to his sense of unreality. In the predawn hours, their house was usually silent except for the creaks and groans of a settling home or the click of Mutt’s nails as the dog surveyed their house in the nocturne hours.

Something touched his arm. A chill covered the skin and goosebumps popped in the frigid air. He opened his eyes and his sister was there. Her light rose scent filled the room. Their mother had started letting Shannon wear cologne to be a big girl. His sister moved closer. She reached down and touched his arm again. Shivers shot down his spine. The bed jostled as she sat on the edge, his body rolling toward her. He should have been afraid, but he would never fear his big sister.

“Jack, it’s your job to watch over mom and dad now. I’ll always be keeping an eye on all of you, but I’ll be too far away. I wish I didn’t have to go, but I do.”

He touched her hand. Her skin was soft and real, although as cold as ice. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Shannon ran a hand over his head and ruffled his buzz-cut hair as she always did. The rose scent grew denser in the room, clogging his nostrils, and making him light-headed. Her wispy image fluttered in his teary gaze.

“Jack, you have to let me go. I can’t go unless you release me.”

He closed his eyes, pulling back his hand. “I will always love you, Shannon. You can go now.”

When he opened his eyes, she was gone, along with her floral scent he would recognize until the day he died. He cried as he hugged his pillow and whispered good-bye to his big sister.

What had he done? He wanted her back. He wasn’t ready to let her go.

The knock on the office door yanked him from his past into the present. He scooped papers together and tossed them into the file. Looking up as the door opened, Jack spotted his assistant and two other women. Lynne was talking to the brunette one. He could see where his assistant might have problems with her; she was perfection. Ivory skin, not a hair out of place, self-esteem screaming this woman knew who she was and where she was going. Must be Andrea Martin-Stovall, the college friend. Lynne had called her Miss Perfect.

They parted slightly as the brunette edged away from Lynne and there stood Megan Trent. He didn’t know what he had been expecting. Maybe, a grown-up Pippi Longstocking with red hair and freckles, the only image he had of a Megan he knew in grade school.

This woman did not look like any Megan he could picture in his imagination. Blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail cascaded over her shoulder in long curls, flowing past her chest. Her eyes haunted him. They were a light crystal-blue filled with too many sleepless nights and too much pain. Dark circles under her eyes marred a creamy complexion. Her delicate features showed a fragility a man would fight to protect, like an old-fashioned knight in shining armor, until he saw the determination in her square chin, and noticed her ramrod-straight spine and knew this was a woman with inner strength in addition to her gorgeous face. This was no damsel in distress. She wasn’t looking for a rescue, but help and support in her paranormal fight.

“Thank you, Lynne.” He watched as the woman left and shut the door harder than necessary, rattling the pictures on the wall. He shook hands with Andrea and she took a seat in front of his desk. His eyes followed Megan as she strolled along the wall, gazing at his photos and thank you letters from grateful clients. A small smile quirked her lips as she viewed the drawings he saved and framed from his young clients. An answering smile molded his own lips. No satisfaction could equal the feelings he got when they released a ghost and allowed a young boy or girl to move on with their lives and sleep peacefully. Not every ghost encounter was as fulfilling as his young childhood one had been. Every child should feel safe in their bed. Not all monsters lived under the bed or in the closet.

Megan turned, and her eyes met his. Static electricity bolted across the space like a poltergeist filled the office. She came over and shook hands. Heat radiated as their hands joined. Her eyes narrowed and glittered with a hint of steel as he realized he’d held her hand too long. He slowly pulled away and waited for her to sit down, before he took his seat behind the desk.

He focused his attention on Andrea, starting the conversation on a safe subject. “Lynne tells me you two went to college together. You’re a lawyer now, I understand. Let me be frank, I’m surprised to find someone in such a matter-of-fact, logical field to be in my office about a case. Even if an event happens to a lawyer or logic-based individual, they seem to write it off as imagination or some other easier to explain explanation.”

Andrea leaned back in her seat, crossed her legs, and put her clasped hands on her lap in a calculated move Jack was sure intimidated most guilty parties in a courtroom. Her eyes narrowed and glared at him. “Not as surprised as I am, Mr. O’Malley. But, Megan was determined to see you and find out if you could do anything for her. I’ll be honest with you. I’m doing this for my sister’s sake. If nothing comes of your investigation, we’ll be checking out more conventional reasons for the…difficulties.”

Jack coughed to cover his startled laugh. Megan’s grimace and glare at her sister implied she didn’t think she had difficulties at all, at least not ones that couldn’t be solved one way or another, albeit a little unconventional. He was more than immune to the attitude Ms. Martin-Stovall sent out with her upturned nose and civilized snort. He’d suffered the slings and arrows of nonbelievers his entire life. In this business, you built up a thick skin or got out of the ghost hunting game. He knew what he’d seen and done, and he didn’t need anyone’s approval or understanding.

Megan’s attitude, unfortunately, was all too familiar. The desperation vibrated like a violin string pulled taut between them. To some people a haunting sounded like a fun adventure, like a carnival haunted house or an episode of the various ghost shows; to the haunted it was literally Hell on Earth. He’d seen too many people who just wanted it to end.

He swallowed deeply. He’d known too many people who found any means to make it end. Even to the point of joining their loved ones on the other side of the veil. His fist clenched on the desk. He wouldn’t let that happen to the young woman in front of him. He turned back to the reason the women were in his office today.

His gaze locked onto Megan. “My assistant said you had a physical manifestation of paranormal phenomenon. You actually had contact with the apparition.”

She blushed, a rosy hue painting her cheeks and her fingers shook as she peeled the pale pink scarf from her neck. He gasped, unable to stop his staring eyes and dropped jaw. Deep-purple bruises pebbled her neck with abrasions around each one. They were fading, and it had been some time since high school, but Jack recognized love bites when he saw them. He would have discounted them from someone looking for publicity, but the Martin-Stovall family wasn’t the type. They abhorred any notoriety in their family members. They were well-known in the Sacramento society scene. The family was upper crust, old money, First Californians. This was not a stunt. The woman had had a full-contact event with an apparition. Much stronger than a simple scratch or a pulling of a few strands of hair.

He pushed back his chair and moved around the desk. In a fog, he reached out and touched her neck, rubbing one of the spots. Her wince of pain was genuine. He yanked his hand back from the heated softness of her flesh. Under his breath, he muttered an apology as he strode back to his seat. Opening the folder, he scribbled some notes. Such a physical manifestation was unique and rare.

“Was there any other physical contact?” Silence greeted his question. Looking up, he saw a blush on both women’s faces. “This is confidential, just for my records. I can’t help you if I don’t know everything.”

Megan swallowed with an audible gulp at his ‘everything’. Her fingers twisted together in her lap, the knuckles white with tension. Her eyes looked everywhere but his face. Her gaze locked below his chin, on the buttons of his shirt as she talked. Her voice so soft he leaned forward to capture the hesitant words. Her cultured tones contrasted with the sensual words.

“Aaron makes love to me. Every night for the past three months. I feel his hands, his kisses, his…his everything. We make love. He’s there, and then he’s gone. It’s like losing him all over again, every night.” Her voice broke into wretched sobs, her body shuddering with the force of her clear pain.

His fingers trembled with anger as he forced himself to stay calm and write. A glance at the heartbroken woman in front of him had his hand itching to wrap around her husband’s neck. If he weren’t already dead, Jack would have gladly killed him. How could you confess to love someone, and then torture her from the afterlife? Some souls just didn’t know how to move on. It was one thing to return for a quick, final good-bye like Shannon, but why hadn’t Aaron continued his journey? His notes said the man had been dead for over a year. He should be nothing more than a residual haunting, a memory, a dream. The sister’s thoughts aside, this was no dream.

“Have you tried to tell him to move on? Told him good-bye?”

Megan’s sobs subsided into little hiccups. Her tear-stained face looked at him as if he’d struck her. Or he’d lost his mind. Her fingers gripped the front of his desk as she leaned toward him.

“Why would I tell him good-bye, tell him to move on? I want him back. Anyway I can have him.”

He’d seen this attitude before. It never ended well.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Jill James is a published author of contemporary, paranormal, and zompoc romance. She is a member of RWA. When she isn't writing romance, she is reading romance. She lives in Nevada with her own romance novel hero who has made all her dreams come true for almost 30 years.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
I love the ghost hunting shows on television. What if our loved ones could still communicate with us and help us, even though they have moved on?
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
The hardest part was putting my own feelings about ghosts and spirits into the book. I've had wonderful and not so wonderful experiences with the paranormal world and I knew I wanted those feelings to show in the story.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
I love suspense writers. I'm inspired by Karen Rose, Allison Brennan, Cindy Gerard, and Lisa Gardner.

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