Talking with the Dead
Michael O’Rourke’s days are filled with ghosts and guilt. A psychic who can connect lost souls, his life is about finding justice for the dead. Enter Sheriff Daisy Crandall-she sees him, she wants him, but he’s in the middle of a crime scene and she can’t trust him.
Graeme lived a hard life. His afterlife isn’t any easier. Betrayed, murdered, he has one chance at redemption-redemption for the woman he loved, the woman who killed him. How can he keep Vixen safe when she only wants her own death?
Talking with the Dead
Michael came awake at the knock on the door.
His neck was stiff, his mouth was dry as cotton and his back hurt like hell after falling asleep at the desk. Slowly, he stood up and stretched, trying to ease the kinks in his muscles. It didn’t do much good.
“Yeah?” He wasn’t going to open that door until he knew it was the innkeeper. That woman made the Bureau look soft when it came to interrogation. Mike wasn’t going through the inquisition again.
The sound of her soft, husky voice started a low burn deep in his gut. His cock jerked a little and he pressed a hand against his fly. Just hearing her voice and he got hard. “Just a minute.” He glanced at the computer. He’d bumped the mouse when he woke up and the images on the Bureau’s website glared at him. He wasn’t working this case in any official capacity, but he’d hoped there might be something in the Bureau’s database that might help.
He’d been logged out due to inactivity but he didn’t want the pretty sheriff seeing him there. If he had something to tell her, maybe. He didn’t want her worrying that a lot more feds were going to show up, in an official capacity, and start poaching.
Mike had spent most of the night checking databases, hoping to find something. But no luck.
He padded over to the door and muffled a yawn. Shoving a hand through his hair, he opened the door. She looked a lot more awake than he felt, he thought tiredly. She held up a piece of paper but instead of looking at it, he just stared into her furious eyes. “She was fifteen. Fifteen.”
Michael felt yet another crack etch itself into his heart as he looked at the flyer. Kerri Etheridge. Fifteen. Runaway from Denton, Indiana. The bright red font across the bottom alerted authorities to the fact that she had a heart murmur.
“Heart attack,” he said, closing his eyes. A blessing in disguise.
“You already knew that,” Daisy said, her voice trembling with rage.
Michael glanced at her as he reached out and gently tugged the flyer from her. “I suspected it,” he said, stepping to the side. She frowned at him but came in, crossing her arms over her chest. Turning around, she watched him while he closed the door.
Kerri. Pretty name. “She’s worried about her mom.” Michael closed his eyes. “She wants her mom to know what happened. She just wanted to go to a play.” He crumpled the flyer in his fist, clenching his jaw. Impotent fury ate at him. He wanted to hit something. Anything. But instead of pounding on something with his fists, he dropped down onto the bed and stared at the crumpled flyer. “All she wanted to do was see a play.”
“I can’t say anything to her mom until I find her,” Daisy said quietly. “Nobody has even seen her. If I say something now, without proof—that would be cruel, Michael.”
“I know. Daisy, you don’t seem to understand—I’ve been doing this a long time.” Too long…
“You’ve been doing this too long.”
His eyes flew up to meet hers and an unwitting smile curled his lips. He watched as she moved forward and knelt down in front of him. “This hurts you,” she whispered, staring up at him. “I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t need you to help me.”
Michael reached out and traced his fingers along the curve of her cheek. “This is what I do, ma’am,” he drawled. “Nothing to apologize about.” Dropping his gaze to her mouth, he finally gave into the urge that had been driving him nuts ever since he’d seen her. Threading his hand through her hair, he drew her a little closer, slowly, giving her the chance to pull away.
Dropping his gaze to her lips, he stared at her mouth until the sneer faded away and she started to squirm as nerves settled in. Then he made himself look into her eyes. Under his hand, the skin of her throat was satiny soft and it felt so damn fragile. Involuntarily, he squeezed lightly and then shifted his grip so he could cup her chin in his hand. “You keep sneering at me like that, keep challenging me, and I’m going to take you up on it, Vixen.”
She swallowed. He felt it. Then she licked her lips and Graeme bit back a groan as he thought about the times she’d put that pretty pink tongue on him and licked him.
“Get away from me,” she said, her hard-edged voice cutting through the memories.
But it didn’t quell the heat raging inside him.
Leaning against her the way he was, he knew the heat was mutual. Her body reacted to his and he knew if she stripped her naked, he’d find her wet and soft, her nipples hard and swollen. Knew that if he touched just so, he could have her climaxing in under a minute. He teased himself with that thought and leaned, pressed his mouth to hers. “Do you really want me to get away, Vixen?” he asked, tracing her lips with his tongue.
She didn’t respond and he took advantage of her silence to deepen the kiss, pushing his tongue inside her mouth. He closed his hands around her narrow waist, stroked upward until he could cup the slight weight of her breasts in his hands. Rubbing his thumbs over her nipples, he trailed a line of kisses from her mouth to her ear. “Do you?”
Still no answer.
Playing with fire, he knew it, but he couldn’t stop. Hoping like hell that Gus didn’t come to investigate, Graeme slid a hand down her torso, undid the belt cinched at her waist. He lifted his head and stared into her eyes as he touched her, slipping the tips of his fingers inside her panties, down over curls and slick wet flesh until he could plunge them inside her pussy. “You’re so soft…so wet. I think you want to get fucked—not left alone.”
Her eyes, gone black with desire, burned into his. She reached down and wrapped a hand around his wrist, tugging on him, but he had no intention of stopping just yet.
“You don’t want to do this with me,” she said, her voice stark, icy.
“Don’t I?” He leaned into her harder, the aching ridge of his cock pressing against her and leaving no doubt about what he wanted.
“The last man I slept with?” She arched her head forward. Graeme met her lips, let her kiss him. Then she sank her teeth into his lip, hard enough to draw blood.
He didn’t make a sound as he pulled away and when she reached down and stroked him through his jeans, he had no thoughts of caution or self-preservation. Nothing but her existed for him.
“The last man I slept with was Graeme,” she said against his mouth. She slipped her fingers inside his jeans, cool and agile, seeking out the hard column of his dick and stroking him.
“I slept with him, let him tell me he loved me, let him fuck me and feed me and care for me. I even cared for him. Maybe I even loved him.”
The shock of that, actually hearing her say it, had him jerking his head up. And as though that was what she’d been waiting for, she smiled at him. An ugly, angry smile that froze him through, one that warned him. Still, he didn’t move away and when she slipped her hand further down and caught his balls, squeezing until the pain was a brilliant, sickening wave inside him, he continued to stand there.
“And then I killed him.”
She let go and this time, when she went to move around him, he didn’t stop her. Sweat beaded on his brow and he sagged against the wall, wondering if he’d puke.
But already the pain was fading—fading until in a matter of seconds, it was gone. The pain in his heart remained though and it threatened to do what no physical pain could do. It almost sent him to his knees as she turned and stared at him.
“That poor old man.” She continued to speak quietly, so quietly nobody more than two feet away could hear her. “He wants to know who killed the boy he loved like a son. And it was me. I’m a vicious, vindictive, cold-hearted bitch, Mac. I’ll bite any hand that comes too close.” Her gaze dropped lower. “And anything else.”
Despite the threat in her eyes, he reacted with need, felt it swamp him completely and utterly, so completely that his body had already forgotten the pain she’d purposely inflicted on him.
“Bite me all you want,” he offered. “Just let me bite back.”