Copyright © STACEY KENNEDY, 2011
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
An icy wisp of air swept in behind me, causing my heel to twist as I stumbled. To the other pedestrians striding along the downtown Memphis street, the sensation would be brushed off as a cold breeze.
They were wrong. A spirit lingered here.
“Can you hear me?”
From the intrigue rolling in his voice, he hadn’t expected me to acknowledge him. Shit! I’d already given myself away. A mistake I’d rectify.
Without hesitation, I righted my stance and strode forward with purpose, forcing myself to remain deaf to the voice. If I ignored ghosts long enough, they moved on and searched out someone else who held the same irritating ability, whom I had yet to meet.
Much to my annoyance, the ghost stayed right on my heels and his presence remained strong behind me. The cold air at my back remained a contrast to the warm morning air in front of me. Every hair on my neck stood up and goose bumps pimpled a trail along my skin. If only I could rub them away, but I didn’t dare. Ignoring him would make him go away.
“You can hear me, can’t you?” the ghost asked again.
Spirits were typically harmless, but annoying. I’m dead, what’s going on, why am I a ghost—yada, yada, yada. I quickened my steps and made my way down Peabody Place in hopes he’d leave me alone.
He sounded desperate, which meant a big headache for me. If I hadn’t worn my damn slingbacks, I would’ve tried to run and hide. But the three-inch Manolos and the tight, tailored gray skirt restrained my movements.
I passed Miss Polly’s Soul Food Café, and the delicious aroma of bacon and eggs drifted along the air. My empty stomach complained. My only thought after I woke had been caffeine. Now I wished I’d grabbed a muffin with my latté at Starbucks. With ten minutes to get to my desk, I couldn’t worry about such things.
My boss, Event Manager Dylan Cobb, would hand me my ass if I stepped into the office a minute late. Sadly, there’d never been a day I didn’t cater to his every need.
I approached Beale Street and sighed in relief, relishing the warmth surrounding me. Not only from the sun above—the spirit’s cold presence at my back had vanished. Pleased my dodge of him had worked, I took a sip of my energy in a cup and smiled. Coffee’s fantastic, the ghost is gone—life is good.
Another block passed under my heels before I reached the historical red-brick building. Randall Marketing, written in black block letters, decorated the striped green-and-white awning.
I opened the door to the office and strode in, greeted by a bubbly voice. “Good morning, Tess.”
“Give me a moment here.” Doris shuffled paperwork around her desk, her auburn curls bouncing on her shoulders. The receptionist had always been messy, yet somehow organized. “There were a few messages on the voicemail for you.” She raised her head and held out the pink slips of paper. “A lovely day today, is it not?”
“Sure is.” So I lied. The ghost hadn’t kicked off my day on a high note. Not as if I’d tell her about my interaction with spirits. My ability to converse with spirits remained on a need-to-know basis, and as far as it concerned me, no one needed to know. I grabbed the messages from her hand. “Did your weekend treat you good?”
“I spent the entire weekend knee-deep in my garden.” Her cocoa-colored eyes lit up. “My best year ever, I’m hoping. You’ll have to come out and have a look-see.”
“I’d love to.” Doris treasured her gardens, so I tried to appear interested, even though my green thumb looked black.
Her smile brightened, but when the phone rang, she waved a goodbye and answered the call. “It’s another beautiful day here at Randall Marketing, how may I direct your call?”
Leaving her behind, I strode down the hall toward my office and sipped my coffee. The warmth slid down my throat and provided an immediate rush to my energy levels. At the third door on the right, I entered my bleak workspace with its pale-blue walls, closed the door behind me and approached the desk. I dropped down into the black leather chair and flipped through the messages. None were urgent enough to worry about now.
I powered up my computer, but a knock at the door had me glancing up. Before I got a word out, the door swished open and I cringed, fully aware of the looming trouble.
Caley, the officer manager and my best friend since the age of four, looked like a typical Barbie. Perfect skin, long flowing blonde hair and a body men drooled over. I might have been jealous of her perfection since I couldn’t pull off her looks even with a makeover—so maybe a little envious—but her appearance had always been a front. She was the devil in disguise.
She scowled, shutting the door behind her with a slam. “Do you mind explaining where you were all weekend?”
“At home.” I batted my lashes. “Why? Did you try to call me?”
She pointed her finger, narrowing her eyes at me. “Don’t you try that shit on me. I called you all weekend and your phone went straight to voicemail.”
“Hmm…” I pretended to ponder. “The battery must have died.” She had enough gall to just come over, but the little hint had been a subtle way of telling Caley to leave me alone.
“Liar.” She plopped down in the seat across from my desk. “Where were you? I wanted to go out.”
“Nowhere. Honestly, I vegged on the couch.”
Caley snorted. “You lead such an exciting life.”
My mouth parted to offer a snappy retort, but a cold wisp of air brushed across my skin, causing my lips to snap shut. Damn! I thought I’d got rid of him.
“Hello.” Caley snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Leave the aliens behind and return to Mother Earth.”
I blinked, trying to force my attention back to her, yet failing. The ghost knelt right beside Caley—not kneeling, of course; more like floating, since ghosts were never able to obtain physical contact with the world around them—and my focus held strong on him, unable to stop myself from ogling. He stared intently, with one crystal-blue eye, while the other was a chocolate color. His strong jaw, the muscles clenching along his cheeks, all spoke of power. But as he ran his hand through his untidy sandy-colored hair, his expression showed playfulness. His black tank top left his arms exposed and muscles upon muscles layered those arms.
“Anyways,” she said, dragging my gaze back to her. “I had to go out with Susanne because you left me high and dry.”
I laughed. Caley’s horny, twenty-year-old stepsister had the body that men chased after. “You did have the option to stay home, you know.”
Her eyes widened. “On a Saturday night?”
“Yeah, you know, get some popcorn, watch a movie and relax.”
She frowned. “If you don’t stop your grandma behavior, your va-jay-jay is going to shrivel up and die.”
The ghost chuckled.
His smooth laugh hit me like a cup of warm cocoa, causing my insides to melt. Nothing amused me. First off, Caley had been so wrong—maybe a little right—but I’d never admit to her accuracy aloud. Second, reacting in such a heated way to a ghost definitely didn’t hit my to-do list today.
“Excuse me.” I spoke not only to Caley, but also to the irritating ghost. “My va-jay-jay is just fine.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear you’ve still got some spunk.” She stood and placed her hands on her hips. “Because we’ve got a double date tonight.”
“A what?” Dear God!
She grinned from ear to ear. “Yes, my dearest Grammy, we’re going out.”
“Two guys I met on Saturday night. You’re coming with me, either willingly or unwillingly, so suck up your hesitations, babe, because saying no isn’t an option.”
“But it’s a Monday night.” Not saying a date didn’t sound like fun. A month had passed since my last attempt at dating—which failed miserably—but a man Caley chose while drunk? No thanks. My sex life might have been as dead as the sexy ghost in front of me, but I’d still search for a way out. “I have to work tomorrow.”
She wagged her finger in classic Caley fashion. “You’re a grandma.”
Most times, I respected her persistent personality. She never backed down, always dreamed big and went for the gold, but her grit hadn’t been all rays of sunshine. Her determination made her annoyingly tenacious. I had to agree or she’d never give up, and getting her out of my office sounded all too good. “Fine. I’ll go with you.”
“Oh, stop looking so pissy. We’ll have fun. Promise. I’ll come to your place at eight.” She opened the door, glanced over her shoulder and winked. “Leave the granny panties at home.”
* * * * *
The day came and went. My head pounded, not because my boss had been as demanding as any two-year-old, which he did often, but because the ghost hadn’t shut up. The past hours, even after I returned home to get ready for tonight,he’d tried his best to gain my attention. Good thing I’m great at tuning people—ghosts—out, or I would’ve caved after hour two.
“I’m not leaving until you admit you can hear me,” the ghost said.
With a flick of my shag-cut brown hair—that actually didn’t give me any trouble tonight—to dismiss him, I strode next to Caley, heading back toward the downtown core. Dressed in my low-riding, dark wash jeans and blue plaid three-quarter-length-sleeve top, tied to leave my midriff exposed, at least I looked half decent while I suffered through the embarrassing blind date.
The ghost’s tone came a little louder and more abrupt. “Dammit, woman! Will you stop ignoring me? It’s annoying.”
I’m annoying him? I nearly laughed at the ridiculous notion, but did not intend to give myself away. I’d held strong for nine hours. Soon, he’d catch the drift and piss off.
Caley knocked my arm. “Will you stop looking so tight assed?”
I glanced away from the sidewalk and smiled at her. “My ass is tight.” Okay, not eighteen-year-old tight, but only twenty-five now, I worked hard to keep things tight.
She chuckled. “You’re…”
“Damn right, you do, sweet cheeks,” the ghost said.
Caley stopped dead in her tracks, which caused me to stumble. “What’s got you blushing?”
I righted my stance, raised my hand to my face and, to my horror, my cheeks were warm. “I’m not blushing. I‑I‑I’m hot.”
“Unless you somehow turned into a lesbian and have fallen for your best friend,you’re acting weird.”
“I do love you.” At her widened eyes, I laughed. “But I don’t want you in the sack. Seriously, I’m just hot.”
The ghost’s voice deepened. “Ah, a way to grab your attention, I see.”
The little purr hanging off his tone made my stomach flip-flop. Clearly, I craved some attention and needed to get some in a bad way if I reacted in such a heated way to a non-living person.
I shoved the ridiculous reaction away and focused back on Caley, falling into stride with her. “Who’s the guy I’m hooking up with tonight?”
“He’s just your type.” She wiggled her brows. “You’re going to thank me later.”
“What do you mean my type?” I liked men, all types of them, and I’d never confine my options into a little box. Caley had apparently taped the box shut and shipped the package.
“He’s a pro baseball player and is home visiting his family for a couple days.”
“A pro, huh?” Maybe I had fooled myself into believing I didn’t have a type, because hearing baseball player made my interest rise. Images of skintight white pants and a scrumptious ass filled my mind.
“Yeah, he’s got the looks too.” She nudged her shoulder into mine. “And the money.”
“Women,” the ghost muttered.
I ignored the ghost like the ghost he was, turned onto Beale Street and Coyote Ugly Saloon appeared. A line of people outside meant an hour of waiting. Not as if I thought we’d have to wait. I had Caley with me, after all.
She snatched up my hand, yanking me forward, and hurried her steps. “Brandon,” she called out.
Two men turned toward her, and evidently, Caley knew my type better than I did, since either of the men would have fallen into the fantasy category.
“I’m so glad y’all came,” Brandon said.
Caley gave one of her pageant smiles. “We’re glad you asked us to come.”
“You must be Tess.”
I glanced toward hunk number two. He held the typical all-American look—brown hair, blue-eyed, charming smile, and with his dimple, I suspected he could woo his way into anyone’s bed. Maybe even mine if he played his cards right tonight.
“Nice to meet you.” I ogled his trim body and handsome face and caught sight of the big white D on his navy-blue hat. “You play for Detroit?”
He nodded. “Both Brandon and I do. We were lucky enough to get a little time off to see the family.”
“Figures, Detroit sucks,” the ghost said.
I smiled, keeping my focus on Trent, ignoring the annoyingly sexy voice by my ear.
“Come on, let’s go get a drink.” Caley wrapped her arm in Brandon’s and approached the bouncer. If one good thing came from her charismatic pushy attitude, she’d always been quite the social butterfly. No one, including me, ever said no to her.
“Did you grow up here in Memphis?” I asked Trent.
“Born and raised.”
Seemed as if he wanted to say more, but Caley interrupted with her typical impatient yell. “Come on, y’all.”
I glanced over my shoulder to find her waving her hands. “We’ve been summoned.”
I strode past the irritated crowd, who didn’t have a Caley in their group to push their way through. Entering the bar, loud country music, accompanied by hoots and hollers, rang out around me. The stench of sweat made my nose crinkle. Caley pointed to a table across the way and I maneuvered through the partygoers, following her.
At the table, Trent held out a stool and gestured for me to sit. He sure played his cards right to a royal flush. I slid onto the stool, and he asked, “What’s your drink?”
“A cold beer sounds great.”
He winked. “My kind of lady.”
The boys headed to the bar. I glanced over at Caley, who bounced up and down on her seat in excitement. “I did good, right?”
I nodded, not at all ashamed to give her props for her choice. “He’s not only sexy as sin, but a gentleman too. You did great.”
The ghost snorted.
I’d forgotten all about him and had hoped he wouldn’t follow me into the bar. Nothing would ruin my excitement now. A long time had passed since I’d met anyone worth meeting. The ghost wouldn’t put a damper on my fun.
Within minutes, Trent and Brandon returned to the table with four beers in hand. I claimed a bottle, took a long sip and sighed in happiness. After the day I had, the beer comforted me. The alcohol refreshed the senses, revived the mood and removed the tension sitting heavy on my shoulders.
Trent grinned. “Looks like you needed a drink.”
I licked the dribble of beer from my lips. “I’ve been craving a beer all day long.” I set the bottle onto the table. “So, tell me, what’s it like to play baseball as a pro?”
I’ve never regretted saying words more in my life. One question led to a twenty-minute conversation I wished I’d never instigated. Caley, the traitor, had vanished onto the dance floor with Brandon, which left me with the pompous stud.
“I’ve grown as a player…” Trent went on.
“This guy is a fucking joke,” the ghost said.
I almost turned my head to nod, but of course refrained. I continued to listen to Trent’s words without truly hearing what he had to say. I merely muttered “yeah” or “cool” when appropriate.
“If I were him, I would’ve skipped the conversation all together and had you back in my bed the moment I laid eyes on you.”
He did not just say that! My stomach leapt up into my throat and my body warmed in places that shouldn’t from a ghost. He’d only said words—not used soft touches to entice me—but the way his voice carried into my soul, the effect had been similar to sweet caresses. “The coach has been pleased…”
The ghost’s tone dropped an octave. “I wouldn’t have wasted the time with small talk. I would’ve used my mouth to learn my way around your luscious curves and used your responses to tell me about the woman you are.”
I squirmed on the stool in an attempt to ignore the soft purr of his voice sending shivers down my spine. I even leaned in further toward Trent and tried to concentrate on his boring conversation.
“After I tasted your sweet skin and saw your desperation for more, I would kiss your mouth until your lips were rosy and swollen. I’d deepen the kiss by tangling my fingers through your hair and holding you close to feel all of me.”
I gulped, crossed my legs and squeezed them tight. He’s a ghost! Nothing that involved him should arouse me. But the pulse between my thighs declared he held the power to make me undone.
“I’d kiss my way along your jaw while I lowered my hand to trail along your stomach. Then I would seek to discover all those little places that make you squirm.”
He ran his finger from below my ear all the way to my nape. His touch forced my eyes closed. A cold shiver danced along my skin to leave goose bumps in its wake. Wild sensations stole my logical mind. My will to ignore him plummeted.
“Tess,” Caley shouted.
I opened my eyes, and after taking a moment to focus, I discovered not only Caley staring at me, but Trent and Brandon too.
She frowned. “What’s wrong with you?”
I shook my head and released the breath stuck in my throat, which came out in a slow wisp of air. “Nothing—I’m fine.”
“I’d lower myself between those luscious legs of yours, tempting you and teasing you. I’d stare into those pretty green eyes of yours until they widened in pleasure.”
“You’re not fine,” Caley retorted. “Your face is bright red.”
“I’d wait until your hips arched toward me and begged me to take you. Then, and only then, would I give you what you desire.”
I grabbed my beer, took a big swig and a couple more. All eyes stared at me with blatant confusion. Part of me wanted to move away, while the other needed to hear more.
“Ah, Tess,” Caley whispered. “Seriously, are you okay?”
I paid my obvious inappropriate behavior no attention. The fantasy the ghost built in my mind needed to have a conclusion. “Yes. Yes. I’m good.”
“I would thrust against you, demanding you react to my intentions. You’d scream out and I would echo the sound with a moan of my own, as I used all my strength to satisfy you.”
Caley chuckled nervously.
I gripped the edge of the table in front of me and held on tight.
“You’d come into your orgasm because I’d leave you with no other choice. But I wouldn’t stop there.” He ran his finger along my exposed lower back and the coldness against my hot skin made me shiver. “Without giving you the chance to recover, I’d flip you over on your knees,” his tone dipped lower, “and fuck you senseless.”
I shot up from my seat, which caused the stool to slam back into the person behind me, who swore in return. “I have to go.”
Caley nodded. “Ah yeah, I think you do.”
Without another word—or a goodbye to the living men or the dead one who had got me all hot and bothered—I bolted from the bar and ran so hard my calves burned, reminding me of the three-inch heels strapped to my feet.
The ghost didn’t follow me and nothing pleased me more. I needed some space, time to return to reality or to pleasure the need out of me—either would do.
Within only a few minutes, I arrived at my condominium, which appeared more like an old textile factory, but inside were renovated modern apartments. The arousal burning inside me hadn’t vanished. The wetness between my thighs was a constant reminder of the ghost’s words.
I ran up the stairs while I took my keys out from my back pocket. At the thick mahogany wooden door, I raised my key pass to the scanner, grabbed the chrome door handle and swung it open.
Just three doors down, I opened the door to my condo before slamming it closed behind me. I didn’t bother to lock the door and did the only thing I thought of now. I sprinted to the bedroom, stripped out of my clothes and finished the fantasy the ghost had built in my mind.