A member of a powerful clan and gifted with the ability to control electrical energy, homicide detective Gideon Raintree can also see and talk with ghosts, a hidden talent that helps when solving murders thanks to his postdeath discussions with the victims. Skilled, focused, and all business, Gideon certainly doesn't need a partner, especially one as sexy, smart, and curious as Hope Malory. Yet when Hope joins Gideon in his search for a killer who is targeting his prophetically endowed sister, it's only a matter of time before their professional relationship becomes a lot more personal. Well-described secondary characters and appealing protagonists enliven this high-voltage romantic thriller that neatly fills the center slot in the "Raintree Trilogy" (between Linda Howard's Raintree: Infernoand Beverly Barton's Raintree: Sanctuary) yet delivers its own compelling story. Jones (Prince of Magic) lives in Huntsville, AL.
Read an Excerpt
When Gideon's phone rang in the middle of the night, it meant someone was dead. "Raintree," he answered, his voice rumbling with the edges of sleep.
"Sorry to wake you."
Surprised to hear his brother Dante's voice, Gideon came instantly awake. "What's wrong?"
"There's a fire at the casino. Could be worse," Dante added before Gideon could ask, "but it's bad enough. I didn't want you to see it on the morning news without some warning. Call Mercy in a couple of hours and tell her I'm all right. I'd call her myself, but I'm going to have my hands full for the next few days."
Gideon sat up, wide awake. "If you need me, I'm there." "No, thanks. You've got no business getting on an airplane this week, and everything here is fine. I just wanted to call you before I got so tied up in red tape I couldn't get to a phone."
Gideon ran his fingers through his hair. Outside his window, the waves of the Atlantic crashed and rolled. He offered again to go to Reno and help. He could drive, if necessary. But once again Dante told him everything was fine, and they ended the call. Gideon reset his alarm for five–thirty. He would call Mercy before she started her day. The fire must have been a bad one for Dante to be so certain it would make the national news.
Alarm reset, Gideon fell back onto the bed. Maybe he'd sleep, maybe not. He listened to the ocean waves and let his mind wander. With the solstice coming in less than a week, his normal electric abnormalities were really out of whack. The surges usually spiraled out of control only when a ghost was nearby, but for the past few days, and for theweek to come, it didn't take the addition of an electrically charged spirit to make appliances and electronics in his path go haywire. There was nothing he could do but be cautious. Maybe he should take a few days off, stay away from the station altogether and lie low. He closed his eyes and fell back asleep.
She appeared without warning, floating over the end of the bed and smiling down at him, as she always did. Tonight she wore a plain white dress that touched her bare ankles, and her long dark hair was unbound. Emma, as she said she would one day be called, always came to him in the form of a child. She was very much unlike the ghosts who haunted him. This child came only in dreams and was untainted by the pain of life's hardships. She carried with her no need for justice, no heartbreak, no gnawing deed left undone. Instead, she brought with her light and love, and a sense of peace. And she insisted on calling him Daddy.
"Good morning, Daddy."
Gideon sighed and sat up. he'd first seen this particular spirit three months ago, but lately her visits had become more and more frequent. More and more real. Who knew? Maybe he had been her father in another life, but he wasn't going to be anyone's daddy in this one.
"Good morning, Emma."
The spirit of the little girl drifted down to stand on the foot of the bed. "I'm so excited." She laughed, and the sound was oddly familiar. Gideon liked that laugh. It made his heart do strange things. He convinced himself that the sense of warm familiarity meant nothing. Nothing at all.
"Why are you excited?"
"I'm coming to you soon, Daddy."
He closed his eyes and sighed. "Emma, honey, I've told you a hundred times, I'm not going to have kids in this lifetime, so you can stop calling me Daddy."
She just laughed again. "Don't be silly, Daddy. You always have me."
The spirit who had told him that her name would be Emma in this lifetime did have the Raintree eyes, his own dark brown hair and a touch of honey in her skin. But he knew better than to trust what he saw. After all, she only showed up in dreams. He was going to have to stop eating nachos before going to bed.
"I hate to tell you this, sweetheart, but in order to make a baby there has to be a mommy as well as a daddy. I'm not getting married and I'm not having kids, so you'll just have to choose someone else to be your daddy this time around."
Emma was not at all perturbed. "You're always so stubborn. I am coming to you, Daddy, I am. I'm coming to you in a moonbeam."
Gideon had tried romantic relationships before, and they never worked. He had to hide so much of himself from the women in his life; it would never do to have someone that close. And a wife and kid? Forget it. He already had to answer to the new chief, his family and a never–ending stream of ghosts. He wasn't about to put himself in a position where he would be obligated to answer to anyone else. Women came and went, but he made sure none ever got too close or stayed too long.
It was Dante's job to reproduce, not his. Gideon glanced toward the dresser, where the latest fertility charm sat ready to be packaged up and mailed. Once Dante had kids of his own, Gideon would no longer be next in line for the position of Dranir, head of the Raintree family. He couldn't think of anything worse than being Dranir, except maybe getting married and having kids of his own.
Big brother had his hands full at the moment, though, so maybe he would hold off a few days before mailing that charm. Maybe.
"Be careful," Emma said as she floated a bit closer.
"She's very bad, Daddy.Very bad.You have to be careful."
"Don't call me Daddy," Gideon said. As an afterthought he added, "Who's very bad?"
"You'll know soon. Take care of my moonbeam, Daddy."
"In a moonbeam," he said softly. "What a load of…"
"It's just begun," Emma said, her voice and her body fading away.
The alarm went off, and Gideon woke with a start. He hated that freakin' dream. He glanced toward the dresser where Dante's fertility charm sat, and then he looked up, almost as if he expected to see Emma floating there. The dreams that were touched with reality were always hardest to shake.
He left the bed and the dreams behind, feeling his body and his mind come awake as he walked slowly to the French doors that opened onto a small private deck. He tossed open the drapes to reveal the ocean, drawing strength from the water as he always did. There were times when he was certain the breaking of the waves came in time with his heartbeat, and there was so much electricity in the ocean that he could smell it, taste it.
He needed to call Mercy and tell her what had happened at Dante's casino, and he would get that taken care of as soon as he had the coffee percolating. He dreaded telling her what had happened. Even though Dante was fine, she would worry.
After he made the call he would head for the office. He knew without a doubt that Frank Stiles had murdered Johnny Ray Black, but he didn't have the evidence just yet. He would, though, in time. He thought again about taking a few days off, just until the summer solstice passed. If everything was quiet at the station, he could bring the case files home and work from here.
Then Emma's final words rang in his ears, as if she were whispering to him still. "It's just begun."
The small apartment had been trashed. Broken glass sparkled on anonymous beige carpet; books and carefully chosen knickknacks had been raked from the shelf to the floor; an empty pizza box lay discarded on the floor; and someone had taken a sharp blade to the old red leather sofa that sat in the middle of the room. Had the sofa been mutilated with the same knife that had killed Sherry Bishop? He didn't know. Not yet.
Gideon kept his eyes on Bishop's body while the woman behind him talked, her voice quick and high. "I thought maybe Echo was on her way home early and had ordered a pizza on her cell, you know? She does like to eat late at night, so I didn't even think…" She snorted. "Stupid. My mother will kill me when she finds out I let a wacko into the apartment."
Gideon glanced up and back. Was that an expression Sherry Bishop had used a hundred times before and automatically called upon now? Or did she not yet realize that she was dead? My mother will kill me…
She looked almost solid, perched on the chair behind him. As usual, she wore a faded pair of hip–hugger jeans and a T–shirt with the hem ripped to display her belly button and the piercing there. The hairdo was new.
Echo had found the body earlier this morning, after returning from a weekend trip to Charlotte. She'd immediately called him instead of dialing 911. So much for taking the week off. Gideon had made the necessary calls by cell phone, while on his way to the scene. After he'd arrived, he'd talked to Echo in the hallway. he'd calmed her down as best he could, and he'd been here to stop the first patrolmen who arrived from entering and possibly contaminating the crime scene. The uniforms stood in the hallway still, peering into the apartment like kids who weren't allowed into the candy store. Had he ever been that young?
They were all watching, but he couldn't worry about that. He already had a reputation as being odd; that was the least of his worries.
"Did you know him?" he asked softly.
"Her," Sherry said.
A woman? Gideon glanced at the body again, then at the mess the attacker had made of the apartment.
She's very bad, Daddy. Very bad. When Emma had appeared to him in the dream, Sherry Bishop had been dead for hours. Not only dead, but mutilated. The index finger of her right hand was missing, cut off after death, judging by the small amount of blood that had been shed. A neat square of her scalp, as well as a portion of blond and pink hair, had also been taken. He had a hard time comprehending that a woman had done this, but by now he should know that anything and everything was possible.
"Did you know her?"
The specter shook her head. She looked almost real, except that she wasn't entirely solid. It was as if she were manufactured entirely of a thick mist. Her pink–and blond spiked hair, the jeans and T–shirt she wore, her pale skin. It was all slightly less than substantial. "I opened the door, she rushed in and said she wouldn't hurt me if I didn't scream, and then she hit me on my neck and…" She laid a hand over her throat and looked past Gideon to the body. Her body. "That bitch killed me, didn't she?"
"I'm afraid so. Anything you can tell me about her would be helpful."
Sherry looked at the body and gasped. "She cut off my finger? How am I supposed to play the drums with…" The ghost fell back against the couch. "Yeah, I know," she sighed. "Dead."
"Detective Raintree?" One of the patrolmen stuck his head in the room. "Are you, uh, okay?"
Gideon lifted a hand without looking at the officer. "I'm fine."