Tess Jennings has the ability to see and talk to spirits. On a daily basis, they harass and annoy her to save their souls. Sometimes she helps, other times she ignores them, but one ghost will give her no choice. Kipp McGowan, a cop with the Memphis Police Department, uses his ghostly charms to gain her attention and forces her to expose herself to his partner.
As she’s pulled into the five year old cold case of Hannah Reid she wants no part of, she finds herself in more than one precarious situation. But that’s the least of her worries―Tess begins to have a serious problem on her hands. Kipp might be dead, but he’s drop-dead gorgeous and she’s beginning to forget that he’s a ghost.
Murder and corruption has brought Tess and Kipp together. But as her feelings for Kipp deepen, she suspects she just signed herself up for a one-way ticket to the nut house, and can only hope, straitjackets come in a size four.
Chapter OneStarbucks was in its usual rush hour craze when I breezed through the doors. Coffee is my addiction. Looking around, evidently I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t get my ass in gear without a cup of Joe.
After ten minutes in line, I made it to the counter and was greeted by a young woman who looked way too happy for this hour of the morning. Her blue eyes sparkling, white teeth gleaming and spiked artistic black hair, perfectly put together. “Can I get a Venti Skinny Caramel Macchiato.”
“Venti Skinny Caramel Macchiato,” she called out as I handed her a ten.
While I waited for my change, I glanced to my watch. Eight-forty. The time spent in line had cost me. I only had twenty minutes to get to work. Being late just wasn’t an option as the assistant to the Event Manager of Randall Marketing, Dylan Cobb. It didn’t matter if the job had him halfway around the world, he checked in at nine o’clock sharp to make sure I remained at his beck and call. Sadly, I always was.
The job itself was ideal as Mr. Cobb was only in the office one week out of the month due to his promotional work. It meant I was left alone most of the time. Bossless and getting paid good money―I had the life of self-employment, but without the headache. Now, if I actually had to see Dylan on a daily basis, that would be a different story. I wouldn’t have lasted three days with him constantly looking over my shoulder, always in my space.
“One Caramel Macchiato,” another employee called out, drawing me away from my thoughts.
“Than…” I started, but as a cold breeze swept in behind me, my words froze. To anyone else, the sensation would have been passed off as a cold breeze. I knew better than to believe that.
There was a spirit here.
I refused to acknowledge said spirit. “Thank you.” I impressed myself by sounding calm and collect. The server was looking at me as if I’d lost my mind as I took the cup from her hand. Ignoring that too, I spun on my heels, and kept my focus on the ceramic tiled floor to avoid any and all curious glances at my peculiar behaviour.
Just as I reached for the door handle, a voice came from behind me, “Can you hear me?”
The male ghost sounded shocked. Apparently my glow grabbed his attention. As ghosts before this one had told me, I had a light around me―a golden aura. It made me stick out like a sore thumb. Ghosts were harmless―annoying, but harmless. From the surprise in his tone, it was obvious he wasn’t expecting me to hear him. Shit! I’d already given myself away. Well, I could rectify that.
Without hesitation, I grabbed the door handle, pulled it open and forced myself to remain deaf to the voice. If I ignored the ghosts long enough, they moved on and searched out someone else who held this gift, which I had yet to meet. To this day, I still questioned if calling my ailment a gift was appropriate. An ability to see and hear ghosts had become more of a daily irritation than anything else.
Much to my annoyance, I felt the spirit join me outside as I walked down the street. The ghost stayed right on my heels, his presence strong behind me. The cold air at my back was a contrast to the warm air in front of me as every hair on my neck stood, goose bumps pimpled a trail along my skin. If only I could rub them away, but I wouldn’t dare. That would acknowledge I knew he was there.
“Can you hear me?”
His voice was rich and deep enough to send vibrations into my soul. I wasn’t so deaf that I couldn’t tell this was one smooth talking male spirit, even if his voice did come sharp with frustration. I quickened my steps to get away from him hoping he’d catch the drift, weaving in and out of pedestrians as I made my way down Peabody Place.
Something in his insistent tone made me want to be as far away from him as possible. He sounded desperate, which meant a big headache for me. If I hadn’t worn my damn sling-backs, I would have tried to run and hide. But the three-inch Manolos and the tight tailored gray skirt around my knees made it impossible.
Within minutes, I hit the heart of the Memphis City―Beale Street. I let out a breath of relief as warmth surrounded me. It wasn’t just the basking sun, the spirit had left me be. Pleased that my dodge worked, I took a sip of my energy in a cup then smiled. Coffee’s fantastic, the ghost is gone―life’s good.
As I continued to walk down the street, the Hard Rock Cafe came and went. The smell of eggs and bacon filled the air and my stomach growled in response. I wasn’t a morning person by nature. My only thought when I woke this morning had been caffeine. Now, I wished I’d grabbed a muffin. But with ten minutes to get to my desk, I couldn’t worry about such things and would have to wait until lunch.
Another block passed under my heels before I reached the historical red brick building with its stripped green and white awning. To me, this place looked more like a market than an office space but being downtown in the heart of Elvis Land, nothing modern existed here. The City needed a serious makeover.
The moment I opened the door to the office, a bubbly voice greeted me, “Good morning, Ms. Tess.”
“Mornin’,” I responded to Doris, the receptionist at the firm who was in every way a butterscotch sundae. In her mid-forties auburn curls reached down to her ears and big brown eyes that could warm you on the coldest of days.
“A lovely day today, is it not?” Doris asked as she shuffled eons of paperwork around on her desk. The woman was very messy, yet somehow organized. Within her mess, she knew where to find the smallest items. Truly incredible to watch. After a brief moment, she lifted her face with a sweet smile as she held out the messages over the counter.
“Sure is.” So, I just told a little white lie. The ghost hadn’t exactly started my day off right, but I wasn’t about to tell her about it. I grabbed the post-it notes from her hands. “Did you have a nice weekend?”
“Started my gardening. It’s going to be a beauty this year. You’ll have to come out and have a look-see.”
I smiled. “I’d love to.”
Doris created a piece of art with her gardening skills and I would never turn down the invitation to see it. Doris loved flowers. I could at least appear interested, even though my green thumb was black.
Her face lit up, but when the phone rang, she just waved a good-bye and answered it. “It’s another beautiful day here at Randall Marketing, how can I direct your call?”
That was Doris, sunshine on the gloomiest of days. I started to walk toward my office and headed down the hall. Two doors down, I arrived. Once there, I grabbed the door handle, opened it, then closed it behind me.
Just because the building was historic didn’t mean my office had to be. Complete modern chic was what I had created here―glass table, dark charcoal walls with a white upholstered rolling chair.
Placing the coffee on the table, I pulled out the chair and sat down. Cool leather came against my warm skin as I flipped through the messages left for me. None were urgent enough to worry about now.
I powered up the computer. As it booted up, I took a sip of my coffee. The warmth slid down my throat and gave an immediate rush to my energy levels. Before I could place the cup back on the table, a knock sounded at the door and a moment later, it opened.
“And just where were you all weekend?” Caley snapped, shutting the door behind her.
Caley, my best friend since the age of four, was a typical pageant Queen. Bleach blonde, sparkling baby blue eyes, perfect skin and a body men drooled over. But it’s all a front―she’s the devil in disguise.
“I was at home.” I gave her an innocent smile. “Did you try and call me?” Of course, I lied. If I let Caley drag me out every time she had an itch for a party, I’d be considered a sorority girl.
Caley pointed at my face and glared. “Don’t you try that shit on me! I called you all weekend and your damn phone went straight to voicemail.”
“Hmm…” I pretended to ponder for a moment then finally said, “The battery must have died.”
It was the only sure way to get Caley to leave me be. Truth was, she could have just come over, and I wouldn’t put it past her that she would. But the little hint was a subtle way of telling Caley I wanted to be left alone. Normally, she knew enough to stay away.
“Liar.” Caley plopped down in the seat in front of my desk. “Where were you, Tess? I wanted to go out.”
“I wasn’t anywhere.” I placed the coffee cup back on the table. Caley’s brows rose in disbelief as I continued. “Honestly, I vegged on the couch.”
Caley snorted. “Now doesn’t that sound appealing?”
My mouth parted to offer a snappy retort, but a cold wisp of air brushed across my skin and I froze in shock. This ghost was persistent. Normally, they never took this much time to see if I could hear them. His insistence began to intrigue me.
“Hello.” Caley snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Leave the aliens behind and return to mother earth.”
I laughed it away, but felt uncomfortable. The ghost knelt right beside Caley, well not really kneeling but more floating, and made it impossible not to look at him. The thing with ghost was they made it appear as if they were sitting on objects, lying down―things like that. In actuality, they floated very close but were never quite able to obtain any physical contact with the world around them. It was weird at first. Now, after seeing it for so many years, it no longer fazed me.
This ghost though had captured my attention. As much as I wanted to look away, I couldn’t―men like this were meant to be ogled. His eyes were predominantly blue, but each contained a thick chunk of chocolate brown within the blue. The contrast was stunning.
I’d never seen anything like it, but my amazement had only begun. He may be a ghost, but just by looking at him, I knew he either belonged to law enforcement or the military. Only men of this calibre―chiselled bodies, a tough air about them―were created within their ranks. His expression was firm and serious, but personality lived there too. Everything about him was conflicting. His strong jaw, the muscles clenching along his cheeks, all spoke of power. His kind eyes, soft plush lips, and untidy dirty blond hair showed playfulness.
He wore a black tank top which left his arms exposed and muscles upon muscles layered those arms. His body thick, wide with pure tough guy appeal.
“Anyways,” Caley said, drawing my gaze back to her. “I had to go out with Susanne and you know how much I enjoy that.”
I laughed. “Now that sounds appealing.” Caley’s step-sister is a horny twenty year old who had the body to fulfill her needs. Whenever Caley was out with her, she spent most of the time trying to keep her out of trouble. “You could have stayed home, you know.”
“Stayed home?” Caley’s expression showed her disgust. “On a Saturday night?”
“Yeah, you know, get some popcorn, watch movies―relax.”
Caley shook her head and gave a chastising look. “If you don’t stop this grandma behaviour, your va-jay-jay is going to shrivel up and die.”
The ghost let out a low chuckle. The sound hit me like a cup of warm cocoa causing my insides to melt. Annoyed, I forced the reaction away. First off, Caley was so wrong―well, maybe a little right―but I’d never admit it out loud. Second, being swooned by a ghost wasn’t on my to-do-list today.
“Excuse me, my va-jay-jay is just fine,” I retorted, not only to Caley, but I also wanted the irritating ghost to know.
“Well, I’m glad to hear you’ve still got some spunk.” Caley stood, placed her hands on her hips. “Because I have a date for us tonight.”
“A what?” A date? Oh God, no. What had Caley gotten me involved with now and more important who?
Caley’s grin showed pride in herself. “Yes, my dearest Grammy, we have a double date.”
“Two guys I met on Saturday night.” Her hands fell from her waist and she wagged her finger at me in classic Caley fashion. “And you’re going, either willingly or unwillingly, so deal with it.”
“But it’s a Monday night” Not that a date didn’t sound like fun. Hell, it’d been months, actually a year since I’d been on one, but a man Caley chose in a drunken stupor. No thanks. Being a dark brunette with the long shag look, emerald eyes surrounded by dark lashes, body of a twenty year old with boobs which screamed of youth, my looks were never the problem.
It was my random spouts of talking to myself, which was the anchor in my ship. My sex life was as dead as the man in front of me. That particular part of my body was more like a woman married for forty years―bored. But it didn’t mean I wanted to go out with anyone Caley set up for me, so I did my best to get out of this. “I have to work tomorrow.”
Caley pointed her wagging finger directly at my face, as a knowing glance rose to her face. “Grandma.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. There would be no winning here. Caley’s relentless. It was a personality trait I respected most in her. She never backed down, always dreamed big and went for it. But it wasn’t all rays of sunshine. Her determination made her a little rough around the edges. Still, I loved her for it. She may have flaws, but she was loyal and trustworthy. Qualities hard to find nowadays.
If I wanted to keep any pride, I had to give in or it’d look like she won. That I couldn’t have. “Fine. I’ll go.”
Caley grinned, appeased. She spun on heels and headed toward the door. “I’ll pick you up at eight.” Then, she glanced back and winked. “Leave the granny panties at home.”
Ten long, gruelling hours dragged by. Not because my boss was as demanding as any two-year-old, but because the ghost still hadn’t left or shut up. The past hours he tried his best to get my attention. Good thing, I’m great at tuning people out or I would have caved after hour two.
With a long heavy sigh, I turned off the computer, cleaned up the papers, and just as I stood pushing the chair under the desk, the ghost said, “I know you can hear me.”
Apparently this was his favourite line, since he’d said it a thousand times over the past ten hours. A non-stop stream of jibber-jabber which was irritating. If the ghost’s voice wasn’t so damn luscious I wouldn’t be so wound up. Some spirits tried harder than others did but I never reacted to them like this. He had me intrigued. Still, I’d fight against that ridiculous feeling.
Quickly, I made it out of my office and toward the front door. After a wave good-bye to Doris, I stepped outside and breathed in the early evening air. Food mixed with exhaust from the cars on the busy street―everything that meant I was home.
The moment I took a step forward, my happiness faded when the ghost said, “I’m not leaving until you admit you can hear me.”
With a flick of my hair to dismiss him, I started down the street and soon I rounded onto Third Street. The ghost tried again, a little louder and more abrupt this time. “Dammit woman! Will you stop ignoring me? It’s annoying.”
I’m annoying him? I wanted to laugh at the ridiculous notion, but it would only give me away. So instead, I kept my eyes glued to the street in front of me, wanting nothing more than to be home.
A few blocks down, I turned onto G E Patterson Avenue, and my aching feet and head shouted in relief as my building came into view. On the outside, it appeared to be an old textile factory. Inside, it was anything but. The exact reason why I snatched one of the modern condos the day it’d gone on the market.
I made my way up the stairs while I took my keys from my purse. At the thick mahogany wooden door, I raised my key pass to the scanner, grabbed the chrome door handle, and swung it open. After I hurried in, the door closed behind me with the ghost right on my heels.
Just three doors down, I opened the door to my condo before slamming it closed behind me. Of course, it didn’t stop the ghost from melting through the door to invade my personal space.
Tossing the keys on the kitchen table, I dropped my purse on the floor and went straight for the bathroom. If this sneaky spirit followed me, a serious fit would be released.
As the bathroom closed shut behind me, I waited a moment, marvelling at my granite masterpiece. Large shower, corner Jacuzzi tub, modern sink with a glass bowl sitting atop, even the toilet looked sleek.
After a moment, I let out the breath I’d been holding, pleased the ghost was smart enough to stay away from here. At least, he had some morals or maybe just common sense.
What I needed was some space to breathe and the silence was pure bliss. At the shower, I turned on the water as hot as I could stand it, stripped off my clothes and stepped in to enjoy the moment of peace.
It wasn’t until my fingers were wrinkled and the bathroom was full of steam did I dare to get out. I turned the shower off, squeezed the water from my hair, and wrapped the warm towel around my body. With hesitation, knowing what was ahead of me, I opened the door to the bathroom and followed the steam out as I made my way across the dark hardwood floors toward the bedroom.
Halfway there, a sudden gasp―a deep, low gasp that spoke of shock and desire―stopped me.
But it didn’t stop me for long. No, I couldn’t play into this type of nonsense. I scooted into my bedroom then shut the door behind me and leaned against it. What in the hell was that all about? Did he think I was beautiful? The thought did bring a smile to my face. But as fast as it came, I forced it away. What was I thinking? Being flattered by a ghost was about as sick as it came.
Pushing those thoughts aside, I got dressed. Once done, I made my way back to the bathroom to take on the task of becoming a sexy kitten.
A while later, I replaced the cap on my lip gloss, returned it to the make-up bag, and took a step back to examine myself in the mirror. My hair was being kind to me and my makeup was bang on. With my low-riding dark wash jeans and blue plaid three-quarter length sleeve top, tied to leave my midriff exposed, I couldn’t have been more pleased. At least, I would look sexy while I suffered through the embarrassing blind date.
Right then, the familiar cold breeze swept across me again. I raised my gaze back from admiring my clothing to the mirror, I wasn’t alone. The ghost had joined me in the bathroom, and instinctively, I glanced at his face in the mirror.
“You can see me?” he stared at me with intent.
His eyes were so captivating. Everything in me screamed to look away and ignore him. But something in me just couldn’t do it. I wanted to be lost in those eyes. Who knew maybe that was his thing―a powerful presence which demanded he be heard. Whatever it was, it worked on me.
Seconds passed before I snapped back to reality, tore my gaze from the mirror, spun around and walked right through him. My breath hitched as a cold shudder rendered my muscles useless for a moment. It was equivalent to walking into a deep freeze. Luckily, the effects weren’t long lasting.
After my initial stagger, I persisted on and as I walked by the kitchen, the green numbers on my stainless steel stove glowed seven-fifty-eight. With sure steps, I hurried on and made it to the door, just needing to get the hell out of here and away from him. It’s one thing to see ghosts, another thing to help them if they demanded it, but to be attracted to one? This was beginning to linger into the land of the mentally unstable. I grabbed the door handle, tore through the door and didn’t stop for a second even as I heard him speak again.
“By the way, you look sexy as hell.”