Linda Winstead Jones
Annie Lockhart's colorful exterior concealed a serious psychic ability. And if her latest visions were true, a serial killer was preying on couples deeply in love. She had been burned by her talents before, so instead of going to the police, she hired private investigator Lucky Santana to find the killer.Even though Lucky wasn't sure about this assignment, Annie drove him crazy, in more ways than one…which made their task all the more torturous: Annie and Lucky set out to look like a happy couple. As their faux relationship turned all too real and passionate, the killer came in for one last deadly showdown.
“I don’t believe in your special abilities, Miss Lockhart,” Santana said in that deep voice of his.
Annie shot up and crossed the short distance between her and the handsome, aggravating Santana. She reached down and placed her hand on his shoulder. There was tension in his shoulder, in his neck and the way he held his arm….
A vision immediately popped into her mind. The first thing that came to her made her twitch, and she almost drew her hand in and jumped back. She saw, with a clarity so sharp she held her breath, this gorgeous man hovering above her. Naked. The fan on her bedroom ceiling whirred slowly over his left shoulder. He had a small crescent-shaped scar on that finely sculpted shoulder. An old one. The expression on his face was…She shivered. Feral. Possessive. Hungry.
Writers are often told, “Write what you know.” Some days that’s easy. Other days…not so much. I’ve never been a private detective, like Lucky, and my husband has told me time and again that I can’t have a gun. I don’t know what he’s so worried about, but it seems important to him so there’s another subject on which I am not an expert. I’m certainly not psychic, like Annie, and while I have dabbled in crafty hobbies in the past, making pretty things that other people actually want is beyond me.
And still, I found myself identifying with both Lucky and Annie. Love, with all the joys and heartaches it brings, is universal. Two people who at first glance have absolutely nothing in common can, and do, discover that maybe deep down they’re not so different after all.
I hope you enjoy the book!
Linda Winstead Jones
LINDA WINSTEAD JONES
has written more than fifty romance books in several subgenres. Historical, fairy-tale, paranormal and, of course, romantic suspense. She’s won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence twice, is a three-time RITA
Award finalist and (writing as Linda Fallon) winner of the 2004 RITA
Award for paranormal romance.
Linda lives in north Alabama with her husband of thirty-four years. She can be reached via www.eHarlequin.com or her own Web site, www.lindawinsteadjones.com.
To Marge and Dave,
for all the loving support through the years.
Annie came up off the bed with a gasp, one hand flying to her sweaty forehead, the other gripping the sheet beneath her. Not again. Not that same damn dream again. Her heart was pumping so hard and fast she could feel it, and a sheen of perspiration that wasn’t normal on such a cool morning covered her face and made her lightweight pajamas stick to her skin.
She left the bed quickly—as if she could escape the dream that way—peeling off her pajamas as she walked to the master bath to turn on the shower. Standing beneath the spray with her eyes closed, she tried to imagine the dream washing away and swirling down the drain. It didn’t, of course. It stayed with her much too vividly.
In the dream, a handsome man and a pretty dark-haired woman sat on a blue couch, happy for the moment. Obliviously, innocently happy and very much in love. They were bathed in a pink glow, as if their love surrounded and protected them. Their world was small, and sweet, and they saw nothing before them but years and years of love and togetherness.
All of a sudden he was there without warning, with a knife in his hand and an anger that colored the edges of the dream red. With that anger boiling and raging, he killed them.
Annie shampooed her short, blond hair and began to scrub as if she were washing away the blood she’d seen in her nightmare. Tears stung her eyes, but she didn’t cry. She’d had the dream four nights in a row, and she didn’t know what to do.
This wasn’t the first time she’d had dreams that were more than dreams, but it had been a long while. She’d been so sure the aberration was over—gone—finished, once and for all. Apparently this curse or ability she’d never wanted had just been pushed deep. Something had caused it to rise to the surface, and she’d do whatever she had to in order to make the dreams stop.
Annie’s psychic gift had been inherited from her grandmother on her mother’s side. Grams had told her long ago that if she didn’t exercise the ability it would eventually go away. It was no different than being naturally good at baseball but choosing not to play the game. Since being psychic hadn’t done Grams any good at all, deciding not to play had been easy for Annie. For the most part, it worked. Since she didn’t exercise the ability, it didn’t often surface. But now and then, she had the dreams….
Last time something like this had happened, Annie had been twenty-two years old and unbelievably naive. Grams, the only person who might truly understand, had been gone three years by that time. Unable to turn to her recently divorced parents, and unsure about how her friends would react, Annie made the worst mistake of her life. She went to the police.
That wasn’t a mistake she cared to repeat.
Wrapped in a towel, her short hair towel-dried and the latest dream still too closely with her, Annie went to her computer. She needed help—serious help—and she wasn’t sure where to turn. She wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. It had been five years since the fiasco in Nashville, and she would not allow the heartbreak and embarrassment to be repeated. She liked it here in Mercerville, Tennessee, tucked into the mountains in what had to be one of the most naturally beautiful spots in the world. She had friends here, and her business was doing well. Tourists who came here for the serenity of the mountains found her one-of-a-kind hats and handbags intriguing. They told their friends, who called and placed orders by phone. One customer at a time, the business had grown. She had two small but prosperous shops in the area—one in Mercerville and another in Wears Valley—and was thinking of opening a third in Pigeon Forge. She had a life, a good life, and she wasn’t going to throw it away by confronting police officers who would just laugh at her.
But she had to do something. Someone had to stop this madman who’d killed two people simply because they were happy.
She keyed “private investigator” into the search engine, and scrolled down the first page, her fingers trembling. She’d be best off finding someone in the southeast, but not right in her backyard. When this was finished, she wouldn’t want the person who’d helped her to be too close.