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By Marianne Stillings
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Marianne Stillings
All right reserved.
If you dream the same dream three nights in a row, it will come true.
She took his hand and turned it over, settling it gently into her palm. His fingers curled as though he were cupping water. His skin was smooth, cool.
Awareness surged through her like the aftershocks of a deep earth tremor. She struggled to center her emotions, allowing him in on one level, on another keeping him out.
His brown eyes smiled, suggested, connected.
"Close your eyes, please," she said.
He stared at her for a heartbeat, then his lids drifted down.
"Good. Now take a deep breath. Relax. When you're ready, tell me your dream."
He was a new client and, judging from his hesitation, uneasy about putting words to personal, private, possibly intimate thoughts. She was not only a stranger to him, but a woman. Would he be able to move past his defenses and allow her in? Was he prepared for the consequences of raw honesty?
She tried to get a sense of how important this was to him, how badly he needed to know, but his energy seemed to be turned in another direction, and she came up empty.
His eyes were closed; she studied his face. Strong bones, handsome features. Earlythirties. Light brown hair streaked golden by the sun, dark lashes, strong jaw. He wore glasses, and even though his eyes were shut, he'd kept them on.
She let her own lids drift down as he began to speak. His voice was deep, interesting, boyishly sexy. She focused on his words—and the pictures materializing inside her head.
A sense of uneasiness skittered across her skin, prickling the nape of her neck. Where she had felt comfortable a moment ago, now she felt . . . exposed.
His voice changed, deepened, roughened. Impressions formed behind her closed lids, but they were as fragmented as his words, as though he were forcing a puzzle together using the wrong pieces.
She tried to remain calm, to listen, to see, but her nerves were beginning to fray, and when she lost hold of the bizarre images, she felt relief.
She opened her eyes to study him. Blinking in shock, she jerked her hand away, holding it to her as if she'd been burned. His hand remained in the air, frozen, fingers curled grotesquely. He slowly opened his eyes, stared into hers, then let his knuckles hit the table with a dull thud, as though his hand had no life in it at all.
Swallowing, she stared back at him.
Gone were the light hair and glasses, the handsome, youthful features. His hair was dark now. His eyes, black and empty as night, transfixed her. He continued speaking, his thin lips forming words, but what she heard made no sense.
Terrified, she pushed her chair away, but before she could stand and run, he lunged, grabbing her throat with one hand, tearing her dress with the other.
She choked and gasped, clawing at his fingers, fighting for breath. He shoved her down to the floor, tightening his grip, his eyes telling her what he intended to do to her. . .
Tabitha March struggled with her twisted bedsheet as though it were a pink muslin anaconda eager to squeeze the life out of her. Finally throwing it off, she sat up and gulped for air, raising her hand to her neck, making sure the fingers around her throat had dissolved along with the dream.
Her heart pounded in her ears; perspiration beaded her forehead. She reached for the water bottle on the bedside table, twisted off the cap, and downed its contents. Wiping her mouth with the sleeve of her coral sleep shirt, she used a wad of bedsheet to dab at her brow and rub the back of her sweaty neck.
Finally, after taking ten or so deep breaths, she felt her shoulders relax, her heartbeat slow to normal. In her head, the terrible images faded.
From the foot of her bed, two pairs of eyes stared warily at her.
Obviously awakened by Tabitha's abrupt movements, Winkin looked at her like he wanted to offer her comfort, while Blinkin just looked peeved. The difference between dogs and cats, she mused.
"The next time I feel the urge to munch on pepperoni pizza before bedtime, stop me, okay?"
She was fairly sure the Jack Russell terrier and the green-eyed Siamese agreed, but it was hard to tell, what with Winks licking his haunches and Blinks scratching an itch behind her ear.
"You guys are some comfort." Her sarcasm was wasted on the pair.
She looked over at her bedside clock. Seven-fifteen. Scooping up her daytimer, she flipped to Tuesday, April the tenth. Nothing at eight, but . . .
Oh, right, right. She had a new client coming at nine. Nathan Damon. On the phone, he'd sounded a little shy. He said he'd never consulted a psychic dream interpreter before, so that could explain his hesitation.
Tabitha always felt a little apprehensive before seeing someone new, though she had little choice but to take on new clients since her livelihood depended on expanding her client base.
Her part-time legal transcribing service didn't come close to providing the income she needed. The Victorian she'd inherited from her grandmother was so expensive to maintain, the repairs so constant, the taxes so outrageous, it took every penny she made each month just to stay ahead of her creditors.
Most people who sought out her services did so because they understood how psychic dream interpretation worked. But there were the occasional clients who reacted badly to her revelations, either because they didn't get what they wanted from a reading or got too much.
Three weeks ago, Ed Figueroa had been just such a man. After his reading, his round cheeks had become flushed, his bald head damp with perspiration.
Excerpted from Arousing Suspicions by Marianne Stillings Copyright © 2007 by Marianne Stillings. Excerpted by permission.
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