The ghost hunter a paran.., p.13
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       The Ghost Hunter, a Paranormal Romance (The Hunter Series), p.13

           Lori Brighton

  “Ashley?” Camile interrupted her thoughts.

  “Oh, sorry.” Ashley raked her hair from her face, clasping the back of her head. “Yeah, sort of. Anyway, I think it’s been hyped up so much that they fear going to the other side and being punished.”

  Camile settled on the edge of her bed. “So they stay here.”

  “Yeah.” Ashley stuffed her hands in the back pockets of her jeans and waited for the witch to process the information. Would she refuse to help, knowing the ghosts weren’t exactly angels?

  Camile shook her head. “Balls, this is…this is bloody interesting.”

  Relief was sweet and welcome. Thank God she believed her. Ashley’s shoulders relaxed somewhat. “Yeah, so anyway, my ghosts were adamant they didn’t want to go onto the other side. Yet, two are missing. So why the change of heart?”

  Camile nodded slowly, thoughtfully.

  Ashley shrugged. “Of course, maybe they changed their minds and decided to go. But that’s highly unlikely. The only other alternative is…” She waited a moment, wondering if she’d sound totally paranoid. She was so used to keeping her secrets close that it was hard for her to just come out with the truth.

  “Yeah?” Camile urged.

  “Maybe someone forced them to go.”

  Her eyes widened. “God forced them?”

  Ashley hadn’t been thinking of God. Could be. But for some reason that didn’t fit right. Why would God waste her time with some pathetic ghosts? “Or someone else. Maybe another ghost? Hell, I don’t know.”

  Slowly, Camile set her bag on the mattress, so slowly, so purposefully that Ashley knew she was weighing her next words carefully. “There’s something I didn’t tell you…about your tarot cards.”

  Ashley couldn’t say she was surprised. She’d known something was up, but hadn’t wanted to deal with the possibilities. Camile’s gaze focused on her, reading her face as if judging her ability to handle what she’d say next. She should have known those cards were a bad idea. Obviously it wasn’t good news. Ashley’s heart started hammering wildly in her chest.

  Feeling light-headed, she settled in the chair next to the fireplace, afraid she might do something ridiculous, like faint. “Okay.”

  Camile took her lower lip between her teeth, the woman’s eyes dancing with uncertainty …a worry that frightened Ashley more than she wanted to admit. “There’s something coming, Ashley. A battle of sorts.”

  The words sank into her gut, invading each cell with icy terror. But hadn’t she known since the moment she’d arrived that something was wrong with this place? Still, to hear the words from someone else made it all the more real.

  Camile shook her head, playing with the strap of her bag. “I don’t know when, or what or why, but it is coming.”

  Ashley wanted to laugh at her vague response, but she couldn’t manage to make a sound. She could barely manage to breathe. Her body and mind had grown oddly numb.

  “It’s why I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t know enough of the details. But with this,” she looked around the room, “the disappearance of your ghosts…it all seems odd and I can’t help but wonder if they’re related.”

  Overwhelmed, Ashley held up her hands, palms out, stopping the woman from speaking further. She needed to find Dad. She couldn’t manage whatever else was lurking in the background. One crazy situation at a time. Maybe it was denial, but she had to survive however she could. “We’ll deal with that later. For now, I have to find my ghosts.”

  The spirits had been here when her dad had stayed; they were the only ones who could give her answers to his disappearance.

  Camile nodded and seemed almost as relieved as Ashley to change the subject. “Right, so what do you want from me?”

  Ashley paced the room, surprised her trembling legs could hold her weight. She’d been up practically half the night thinking about Cristian and how he’d seemed to take over her body and soul so easily. Finally, she’d determined the best thing was to stay on course; figure out what had happened to her dad and leave. Avoid Cristian at all costs. But that was going to be easier said than done.

  “I don’t know,” Ashley said. “Is there anyway to talk to those ghosts that went onto the other side? See if they have any information?”

  Camile frowned. “Probably not if they’re in purgatory.”

  Ashley sighed and paced to the windows overlooking the overgrown lawn. She knew two things: her ghosts were disappearing and Cristian was her suspect. After all, the behavior had started with his arrival. Mad Rose was friends with Cristian. If Camile knew the man too, Ashley couldn’t very well accuse him of sending her ghosts away. How much could she trust her new friend?

  “Ashley, we need to talk,” Devon appeared in the middle of the room.

  She was becoming so used to the spirits, that she wasn’t the least surprised to see him. Ashley slid Camile a glance, but the witch was merely sitting there staring blankly at the fireplace. She hadn’t heard nor noticed Devon’s sudden presence.

  “Not now,” she whispered.

  Camile jerked her head toward Ashley. “You don’t want to do anything right now?”

  She sighed. “No, never mind. Forget what I said.”

  Camile narrowed her eyes and for one long moment, she merely stared at Ashley. Then slowly, she looked toward Devon. Ashley sucked in a sharp breath. Camile lifted her hands and waved them through the air. She looked ridiculous, but didn’t seem to care. She’d sensed something and was determined to find it.

  Devon quirked a brow and crossed his arms over his chest. “Is she mad?”

  Ashley frowned at him. If anyone was crazy, it was her for wanting Camile to do a spell, for coming here, for letting Cristian touch her that way.

  “Cold air,” Camile whispered. “Here.” She stepped closer to Devon. “Balls. I think there’s a ghost in here.” She faced Ashley, her eyes wide with excitement “Do you feel the cold air?”

  “Well?” Devon asked, moving away from Ashley and reclining on the edge of her bed. “Do you feel it?”

  Ashley rolled her eyes, in no mood for his sarcasm. “Yeah, there’s a ghost.”

  “Oy!” Camile grabbed her arm. “Where?”

  “Well, he’s on the edge of my bed right now.”

  She spun around to face Devon. “You can see him? Actually see him? How well?”

  Ashley flushed, feeling ridiculous. She sure as hell wasn’t used to talking about her powers, especially with someone who was actually interested. “Yeah, I can see him.” She shrugged. “He looks pretty much like you, but maybe a little more…faded.”

  Camile edged closer to the bed. “What does he look like? Can he hear us?”

  “Bloody hell,” Devon grumbled, obviously growing exasperated.

  “Yes, he can hear.” Ashley laughed, she couldn’t quite help herself. The man looked so sullen. “He’s in his forties.” She said it just to annoy him, when Devon actually looked about the same age as her. It worked.

  “Twenty-eight, thank you very much,” Devon snapped.

  She placed her hands palms out, feigning mock apology. “Okay, sheesh. He’s twenty-eight.”

  “Is he…cute?” Camile asked, leaning closer to her as if Devon couldn’t hear when she’d just told her he could. How could she put her on the spot like that?

  Devon quirked a brow, looking amused. How the tables had turned. “Well? Answer her.”

  The heat crawling up Ashley’s neck shot to her cheeks. “I guess. For a ghost.”

  Devon smiled, flashing a dimple in his left cheek. She hadn’t been expecting that. Ack, she’d always been a sucker for dimples. It was also the first time she’d actually seen Devon truly amused and it left her feeling slightly off balance, a little dizzy.

  “How’d he die?” Camile asked.

  Devon’s smile faded. He looked away before she could read his features. Guilt settled heavily in Ashley’s gut. She should have put an end to this conversation when she’d had a chance. As much as she wa
nted to know about Devon’s past, there was a part of her that would rather be left in the dark. She liked him and she didn’t want that to change.

  She settled on the edge of her bed, a few feet from Camile. “They don’t really remember much of their previous life.”

  Camile’s brows drew together. She looked confused. “So, why’s he here now? What does he want?”

  “Good question.”

  He frowned, floating toward the windows. “I was worried over your welfare.” He started to pace the room in ghost style, which meant floating back and forth. “I saw you rush from the parlor yesterday.”

  Heat shot to Ashley’s cheeks. Oh God, when she and Cristian had been… What else had he seen? “I’m fine,” she said a little too quickly.

  “Uh, okay,” Camile replied, her face puckered in obvious confusion.

  Ashley shook her head. “No, not you. Him. I’m talking to Devon. The ghost.”

  Her eyes widened. “No bloody way. You can actually talk to him? Like, have a real conversation?”

  “Does she think I’m a moron? Of course we can have conversations,” Devon grumbled.

  Ashley crossed her arms over her chest, growing more pissed by the moment. The man was completely uncooperative. Not to mention he’d probably been spying on her. She was sick of dealing with these ghosts and their attitudes. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”

  “Sorry,” Camile murmured, flushing.

  She sighed. “No, not you, Devon.”

  “Oh!” She nodded like she understood. How could she? Ashley didn’t even understand.

  “I don’t trust that man,” Devon insisted and Ashley knew exactly who he was talking about. She found it incredibly odd that none of her ghosts felt easy around Cristian. Were they intimidated, or was it more? “Why’s he still here?” Devon asked.

  “Because he, at least, is a paying tenant. And you need to give me something more concrete than you just don’t trust him.”

  He clasped his hands behind his back and continued to pace, ignoring her completely. “There’s something there, I’m telling you. Something off about the man.”

  In her opinion there was something off about everyone in this house, living and dead. “Well that doesn’t help.”

  Camile raised her hand like a kid trying to get her teacher’s attention. “Um, excuse me, I’m a bit confused.”

  Ashley resisted the urge to sigh. This was one of the many reasons why she didn’t speak to ghosts when living people were near. “My tenant, Cristian, Devon doesn’t trust him.”

  There was no flicker of familiarity when Ashley had mentioned Cristian’s name. Instead, Camile still looked merely confused. “Why doesn’t he trust him?”

  Ashley threw her hands into the air feeling rather vindicated. “Exactly.”

  Devon glared at her.

  Resisting the urge to stick her tongue out at Devon, she turned back to Camile. “We don’t know. You see ghosts don’t really remember their lives, so he can’t say where the distrust comes from.”

  Camile drew her knees to her chest, leaning against the footboard, her excitement almost palpable. “But that’s amazing.”

  Ashley sighed, frustrated once more. “Amazing, but not exactly helpful.”

  “So they can’t remember anything?”

  “They get vague feelings and they remember stuff that happened after they died but their memory is very sporadic.”

  Camile stood and Ashley could practically see the woman’s mind spinning with possibilities. Dare she hope that Camile could help? “And so this Devon, he has a bad feeling about Cristian but doesn’t know why?”

  Ashley nodded.

  “Obviously I’m no help to you, so I’ll just be leaving.” Devon started toward the door, and annoyed with the uncooperative man, Ashley let him go.

  “What if…” Camile paused, her brows drawn together, as if she were desperately thinking something over.

  Devon stopped near the door and glanced over his shoulder. Ashley had to resist the urge to laugh at his obvious interest. The ghost was just as intent on uncovering answers as she.

  Camile slipped her fingers under the blue bracelet covering her wrist. As she paced, she slowly spun the bracelet round and round. Growing dizzy with the movement, Ashley looked away. With all the pacing her room was getting she’d have to replace the floorboards in a month.

  “What if I could bring back his memory?”

  Ashley’s heart skipped a beat. “Is that a rhetorical question? Because if not, I’d say that would be awesome.”

  “There’s a spell,” Camile explained, clasping her hands together. “It’s usually used on…well, living people to help them remember things. If we tweak it a little, maybe we can use it for Devon. Maybe he’d remember why he has a bad feeling about Cristian.”

  Devon floated toward them. “Is she serious?”

  Ashley could read nothing in his features. Was he interested or offended? If they could bring back Devon’s memory, who knew what she’d uncover. “You really think you can do it? Bring back his past?”

  Camile shrugged. “I can give it a try. What do you say?”

  Hell, she knew what she’d say. The question was, would Devon agree?

  Chapter 16

  Devon settled on the floor next to Ashley. He looked leery, yet still gorgeous and her libido betrayed her with the ghost so close. She couldn’t help but slide her gaze up and down his form. He was elegant and lean, and she supposed he’d only be more gorgeous if he were in solid form.

  With his gaze pinned to Camile, who was currently strolling the bedroom, he leaned close. “How many candles does she need?”

  Ashley resisted the urge to laugh, unsure if she should be amused or as leery as Devon. “She likes it for ambiance or something. I don’t know.”

  “What’s that?” Camile turned, her long Bohemian dress flaring. It would be a miracle if nothing caught on fire.

  “Nothing.” Ashley waved her on. Camile turned back to her goal of burning Ashley’s house down and she turned back toward Devon, determined to be all business. “You sure you want to do this?”

  He smiled, but it was a tight smile full of wariness. “Absolutely sure. Why not. Nothing better to do.”

  Out of respect for his obvious unease, she tried to keep the relief from showing on her face, but feared she did a rather poor job. She needed to know about his past, it was her only chance for information. “Any word from Rachel or Bill?”

  He shook his head. “Maggie’s gone back to hiding in the basement.”

  Feeling as if she should at least attempt to comfort the man, Ashley reached out to take his hand, then paused, realizing there was no concrete hand to take. With a frown she drew back.

  Still, her conscious would not leave her in peace. “You don’t have to do this. I mean, I have no idea what will happen.”

  She said the words because she felt like she had to, but of course she didn’t mean them. If he said no, she’d do everything in her power to change his mind. Perhaps she was being selfish, and yes, she did feel the slight sting of guilt, but not enough to stop her from going after her goal.

  He quirked a blond brow. “You afraid of what I’ll remember?”

  She shrugged, trying hard to conceal the truth from showing on her face. Hell yeah, she was worried. But she needed to know the truth, no matter how difficult it would be. “We’ve all got pasts we’d like to forget. Maybe not knowing isn’t such a bad thing.”

  He drew his left leg up to his chest and rested his arm on his knee. His ease and good looks didn’t hide the lethal man beneath. She’d noticed the flex of his muscles and the hard glint that came to his blue eyes at times. Who was this man? He certainly hadn’t been some lazy lord.

  “I must know, Ashley. I need to know for myself, but also because something’s amiss here and if I can assist—”

  “You’re talking to him?” Camile interrupted. She shifted impatiently, her gaze flickering to the area where Ashley had been st
aring. She was obviously searching for Devon. The candle she held highlighted her high cheekbones and only added to the eerie atmosphere. A shiver of unease whispered down Ashley’s spine. A warning?

  She pushed the feeling aside. “Yeah.”

  “Is he having second thoughts?”

  Ashley shook her head. “Nah. He’s good to go.”

  Devon surged to his feet and floated toward the window, his movement elegant for a man and a ghost to boot. “Well, it’s not like she can kill me, right?”

  The words sent her heart racing. She didn’t dare respond. Who knew what the witch was capable of? Not for the first time, Ashley had her misgivings. What if someone was injured, or they raised some evil spirit best left buried? Ridiculous, they weren’t sixteen and playing with an Ouija board. Everything would be fine.

  “All right.” Camile set the candle on the floor in front of Ashley. “We ready to start?”

  Did they have a choice? Of course they did, there was always a choice. She could say forget it, she could return to the States and try to have a normal life. Or… Taking in a shaky breath, she nodded and looked at Devon. He shrugged, which she took for approval. Camile sat across from her and Devon moved just a little closer.

  Camile held out her arms. “Your hands.”

  Hesitating only a moment, Ashley grasped Camile’s warm fingers.

  The witch glanced around the room. “Is he here? He needs to stay in the room.”

  Ashley nodded. “Yeah, he’s here.”

  “Okay, good.” She paused and took her lower lip between her teeth, indecision glaring loudly in the woman’s eyes. “Maybe we should take his hands too.”

  Oh God, Camile had no idea what she was doing. Ashley frowned and glanced at Devon. They were relying on a novice witch, a woman she’d just met. “That might be kind of hard as he’s not exactly solid.”

  “Blimey, right.” She waved her hand through the air in a dismissive manner, as if the fact that Devon had no real hand to hold was an insignificant detail. “Well, we’ll just hold our hands out and he can rest his on top of ours. Would that work?”


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