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Two years ago
She'd never believed in love at first sight. Lust was another matter. Her current object of lust was about six-two, with dark blond hair, broad shoulders, a navy blue suit and a killer smile.
And he was walking right toward her.
He approached her table at a small bistro called Amelia's. It was one of her favorite restaurants and as good a place as any for an interview such as this.
"Carrie Stanfield?" the man asked, smiling in a way that made her knees go weak. Luckily she was sitting down. "Sorry to keep you waiting. I'm Patrick McKay."
His voice was the same as over the phonedeep and mellow, with an edge of friendly amusement to it. She'd liked his voice the two times they'd spoken about setting up this meeting. She had no idea that the rest of him could possibly compete with it. In fact, she'd been expecting an old, short guy with a bald spot and thick glasses.
She composed herself quickly and held out her hand. "It's great to meet you in person, Patrick."
"You, too." His skin was warm as his fingers curled around hers. His eyes were a vivid emerald green. The color reminded her of the oceanclear, invigorating, bottomless.
She was not usually this distracted by a hot-looking guy, especially one she had to interview. She'd been sent here to write an article for the Mystic Medallionthe magazine she hoped was just a stepping-stone to the New Yorker or The New York Times. A tiny stepping-stone.
Patrick McKay was the branch manager of a local business in Mystic Ridge, New York, called the Paranormal Assessment and Recovery Agency. They investigated supernatural phenomena, and every agent who worked there was allegedly psychic.
Carrie didn't believe in psychics or paranormal phenomena. But she believed in a good story when she heard it.
"You don't believe in psychics," Patrick said. He was still holding her hand.
Her eyes snapped to his handsome face. "Pardon me?"
"Do you think being a skeptic is going to negatively color your story about me?"
She felt as if she'd been cornered, but he was still looking at her with friendly curiosity in his clear green eyes. He had yet to let go of her hand, though. And she had yet to pull away.
"Iuh, how did you know that?"
He placed his other hand on top of hers. The warmth of his touch slid up her arm. "I'm empathic."
She blinked. "That's the type of psychic that can read other people's emotions."
"You've done some homework." He finally released her and she had to say she was sorry about that. "You take your job very seriously."
Carrie gave a nervous laugh. "I try. So, what else did you sense from me? That's what this is, right? You're trying to give me a psychic reading now to break the ice?"
His smile widened. "But you didn't call my 1-800 number. And I don't have your Visa card on file." She couldn't help but grin. "Funny guy."
The waiter came over to the table, but Patrick asked him to give them a few minutes. There were no other customers. It was midafternoon, between the lunch and dinner crowds. The bistro felt like a private dining room for just the two of themmuch more intimate than she'd anticipated.
Patrick studied her, his gaze moving over her face to her throat and down to the neckline of her white blouse, which she'd unbuttoned at the top. He politely didn't go farther, but returned his attention to her face. "I read that you're curious, you're practical, and you like to be in control at all times. I read that you're a skeptic, that you don't believe in PARA being a legitimate business and that you're just doing this article so you can flesh out your resume and get a better job elsewhere, preferably far away from this dull little town."
She felt the color draining from her face with every word he spoke. Maybe he was the real deal after all. "That sounds pretty specific for an empathic reading. Aren't you just supposed to read emotions?"
"I'm very good at what I do. And the skin-to-skin contact helps to make things that much clearer for me." He glanced down at her hand. Her nails were short but well manicured, thanks to a visit to the salon yesterday.
He was tanned, which meant he spent a lot of time outside or he'd recently been on vacation. It made his teeth seem that much whiter when he smiled at her shocked expression.
"So did you see anything else?" she asked after a moment.
His smile faded and his expression tensed a little as if he were concentrating. "You're in a relationship right now, but you know he's not the right man for you. Another man hurt you a long time ago and you're hesitant to give your heart away to just anyone. But you know there's someone better out there. Someone who feels right from the first moment you meet."
She moved away from him. It felt intimatetoo intimatesitting here with him and having him tell her things she already knew about herself, including that man in her past who'd made her untrusting toward others. It was equal parts scary and excitingas if Patrick knew her inside and out after only a couple of minutes. She felt off balance. One thing Patrick said rang completely trueshe liked to be in control of a situation. At the moment, she wasn't.
"We should probably order something." She reached for the menu at the same time he did and their fingers brushed against each other. Her heart began to pound faster.
"Carrie I'm sorry," he said, his voice low. "I didn't do that just now to scare you. I simply wanted to prove that psychics are real. That I'm real."
"You didn't scare me." She sounded breathless.
He looked uncertain. "You're sure about that?"
"Yes, I'm sure. I mean, you didn't tell me anything I don't already know."
"I felt something else, but it wasn't completely clear " He looked down at her hand. "Do you mind?"
She licked her lips, eyeing her empty glass of wine and wishing for another one. This interview wasn't going according to plan. She'd wanted to come here, chat with Patrick for an hour or so about PARA, go back to her desk at the magazine's office and write up a couple thousand words to appeal to readers who soaked up all things mystical in Mystic Ridge.
Instead, she was getting a psychic reading from the sexiest man she'd ever met. A reading that involved touching.
Now that she thought about it, there really wasn't much of a downside to that.
She extended her hand, facing up, on the table. "Fine. Go ahead."
He slid his fingers over her skin until their palms touched. Desire curled low in her body, enough to make a blush crawl over her cheeks at the thought of touching more than just his hand.
If he could read her as well as he claimed, he'd be able to tell that she really wanted to
"You're psychic, too," he said.
She blinked. "Excuse me?"
He looked into her eyes, his brow furrowing. "I thought I felt it before, but I wasn't sure. He glanced up at the light above their heads, which had been flickering for a couple of minutes as if the lightbulb needed changing. "You're doing that, you know."
She glanced up. "I'm making the light flicker?"
He nodded. "You're a telekinetic. Unlike other psychics, a lot of TKs don't fully develop their abilities until they're well into their twenties."
Her eyes widened. Telekinetic. From the general research she'd done, she knew that term referred to psychics who could move things with their mind. They were also extremely rare. "What?"
"Your abilities haven't completely surfaced yet, but they're there. It won't be long before they become more evident."
That was the most ridiculous thing she'd heard in a very long time. "You're wrong."
His smile returned. "I'm not. But there's no reason to be afraid."
"I'm not afraid."
"I can help you."
"Right. Well, if I decide I need help with my light flickering telekinesis, you're the first person I'll call." She let out a shaky breath. Her emotionsnormally well under controlwere all out of whack from meeting Patrick. She felt flustered and confused by her uncontrollable attraction to him. "Maybe we should just focus on the interview."
She bit her bottom lip. "You're still holding my hand."
"I am." He looked down at it. "And you're not pulling away."
She wasn't sure if it had anything to do with Patrick's abilities, but a tingling sensation was sliding up her arm, moving further throughout her body the longer they remained touching. It felt really good. He was wrong about herabout the telekinetic thing, anywaybut she was so attracted to him she might consider letting the ridiculous subject slide.
The problem was, she was seeing someone. Joe was a great guy she'd met at the magazine a month ago. He worked in the layout area as a designer. They'd only been dating for two weeks, but there was no reason she'd simply break up with him because of a couple of minutes of intense hand-holding, sexual tension and empathic reading with the psychically seductive Patrick McKay.
He slid his index finger along one of the lines on her palm. Could be her life line, maybe her love line. She didn't know.
Her breath caught. "Do you get this close with every woman whose fortune you read?"
"I don't normally read fortunes."
"So I'm special?"
He met her gaze and held it with a heated one of his own. His grip on her hand increased. "Carrie, you're"
There was a buzzing sound, and Patrick's jaw tensed before he pulled his hand away from hers and fished into his inner jacket pocket for his a cell phone.
"Yes," he said. "No, I won't be long. Talk to you soon."
He hung up.
"Let me guess," she said, sliding her fingers around the rim of her wineglass. "It's PARA wanting you to jet across the country to pick up a cursed garden gnome from somewhere."
"That wouldn't be completely unusual in my line of work, actually." He put the phone away. "But, no, that was my fiancée."
"Oh." That piece of news worked like a glass of cold water thrown directly in her face. She hadn't seen a wedding ring, so she thought
What had she thought? That something meaningful was going on between them? Stupid. This was only an interview and a glorified palm reading. Nothing more.
She shook her head and smiled at her own naivete. "So let's talk PARA."
Patrick leaned back in his chair. "You'd be good there, you know."
"Would I? Did you read that, too?"
He kept his hands on his side of the table, on either side of the place mat. It was easier to concentrate now that the thought of being totally skin to skin with Patrick McKay was no longer a possibility. And damn it, she felt disappointed about that. She couldn't help it. A lot of things she wanted in life were positioned just out of her reach. Patrick was the most recent example.
"Yes, I read it. You're meant to be an investigatorwhether it's journalism or something else. You're analytical, you're naturally curious, you're levelheadedwell, most of the time." He smiled.
She felt heat flood her cheeks again. "You make it sound like you know me."
"I think I do."
It was well past time that she gained full control over this conversation again. "Let me tell you one thing, Patrick. I am a good investigator, but I won't ever be working at PARA. I'm a writer, not a psychic. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm done with this topic of conversation."
The light above them flickered violently until it finally went out completely.
She looked up at it. "And I didn't do that."
"I think you'd best be careful of elevated emotions in the future. It makes the TK go a little crazy if you don't have a firm grasp of it." He reached into his pocket and produced a business card. "Here's my number at the office. Whenever you need me, just call. I'd be glad to help you."
She picked up the card and pointed it at him. "I won't need it. Now let's get back to these questions because I have to be somewhere else soon."
"No you don't."
She hissed out a breath. "That is really annoying."
He grinned. "Sorry. Okay, ask your questions, Carrie. I'm all yours."
No, he wasn't. But that was okay. She was only interested in the next hour. After that, she'd probably never see the gorgeous and engaged empath Patrick McKay again.
She had to admit that the thought was disappointing.
Two years sure could change a lot of thingspersonally and professionally.
Carrie pulled her jacket tighter around her, ignoring the winter chill in the air and the snow falling around her. She stared up at the tall glass front doors of the Paranormal Assessment and Recovery Agency a moment before entering the building's front lobby.
Well, here I am.
She'd kept Patrick McKay's business card safely tucked away in her wallet all this time, taking it out every now and then to look at his name, title, phone number and email address. He'd somehow managed to frequently work his way into her hottest dreams after spending only one hour in her company. But dreams weren't reality and she was more than aware of that.
Her normal life was just thatnormal. She still wrote articles for the Mystic Medallion. The profile on Patrick had garnered rave reviews from readers who loved finding out more about all things supernatural. A year ago, she'd rented an apartment in New York to try her hand at big city living and bigger writing gigs.