Night Whispers

Night Whispers

by Leslie Kelly

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Original)

$4.99 View All Available Formats & Editions

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373198658
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 02/13/2007
Series: Readers Choice Series
Edition description: Original
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 4.22(w) x 6.61(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author



Leslie Kelly has written dozens of books and novellas for Harlequin Blaze, Temptation and HQN. Known for her sparkling dialogue, fun characters and depth of emotion, her books have been honored with numerous awards. Leslie lives in Maryland with her own romantic hero, Bruce, and their three daughters. Visit her online at www.lesliekelly.com

Read an Excerpt

"What has she done to my yard?"

Mitch Wymore stared out his kitchen window and shook his head. Rubbing a weary hand against his unshaved jaw, he closed his eyes briefly. He'd just returned from a six-month research stint in China—his luggage still lay heaped on the floor in the foyer. He'd looked forward to returning to his brownstone, to his own huge bed, some real American junk food, and familiar surroundings. But this place didn't look familiar! From the moment the taxi dropped him off in his driveway and he saw the little red sports car parked in his spot, he'd wondered if he was at the wrong house.

It wasn't just the yard. The kitchen was changed. There were frilly yellow curtains at the window, and copper pots hung over the cooking island. The last time he'd seen them they'd been gathering dust in a box in the basement. A delicate-looking tea set perched on the sideboard. Pot holders and matching towels hung from a new towel rack. Fresh flowers burst out of a cut-crystal vase on the butcher- block table.

"Someone's also been messing with my kitchen." Mitch didn't really expect Fred to respond. He'd been speaking more to himself than to his tenant. "Yeah, looks nice, doesn't it?"

Mitch slowly turned on his heel and stared at him. He didn't know Fred that well, despite the fact that the man had been renting the top-floor apartment in his home for the past year. Fred was a young grad student—serious, studious and quiet—the perfect tenant, and, frankly, that was just how Mitch liked it. They'd never socialized, and in the few encounters he'd had with Fred, he'd never seen him crack a real smile. Now a huge grin creased his face.

"Is there anything else I should know about?"

Fred's grin widened, and Mitch nearly groaned.

"Well, she painted the dining room, fixed the cracked chair rail in the living room, and repapered the foyer."

Mitch didn't have to ask who "she" was. Of course, it was Kelsey.

He glanced back out the window and rolled his eyes. The quiet little courtyard he'd left six months ago had been a nice blend of stone patio, a few rosebushes and a little grass. Two stately old maples provided shade in the back corner. Nice and easy. Low maintenance.

Now it looked like the pictures of those English gardens, a mass of trees, shrubs and flowers. A stone path mean- dered around clumps of evergreens and mums. Some green, palmy thing hung right over the gate and he dreaded having to circumnavigate it when taking out the trash. A huge mound of wildflowers surrounded most of the back patio. There was even a fountain splashing merrily near the fence.

He hated it. "I'm gonna strangle that kid."

Tossing his keys onto the kitchen table, Mitch shrugged off his jacket and loosened his tie. All he wanted to do was strip away his stale clothes and take a forty-five-minute shower. Instead, he was going to leap into a confrontation with Kelsey Logan, the bane of his childhood!

"Kid?" Fred asked.

Mitch didn't pay him any attention. "I can't believe I was stupid enough to let her move in here. She's a menace, always has been, always will be. And she has liked nothing better than to irritate me since the day we met."

Fred seemed surprised. "I don't see her that way." "Believe me, you don't know her."

Mitch wished he'd told her mother no when she'd called last spring to ask if Kelsey could rent one of the apartments in the Baltimore brownstone he'd just reno- vated. But of all the people in the world, Marge Logan was one he couldn't say no to. She'd done too much for him. He shuddered to think where he might be now if it hadn't been for Marge and her husband Ralph—in jail, dead—no telling. So he'd said yes, hoping the move would be temporary and Kelsey would be long gone by the time he got back from his trip.

"How long has it been since you've seen Kelsey?" Fred asked.

"Not long enough," he muttered. "Where is she?" Fred pointed out the window toward the backyard. Mitch wasn't surprised.

"I'd better be on my guard. That monster dumped a bucket of fertilizer—fresh fertilizer—on my head once, just because her brother and I made the mistake of walking through her vegetable garden."

Fred laughed out loud until Mitch glared at him. "I can't begin to tell you the number of acts of terror she's inflicted." Mitch mentally ticked off memories in his head of the times she'd run his underwear up a flagpole, hidden dirty diapers beneath his bed—and then there was the time she'd told half the neighborhood that Mitch slept with a stuffed bear and liked to dress her Barbie dolls up as Southern belles. Oh, the list went on and on. And those were only the harmless pranks. She'd gotten him into real trouble a couple of times.

Mitch had, of course, retaliated. He'd considered pounding her into the ground, and if she'd been a boy, and five years older, that's exactly what he would have done. Instead, he'd reacted by treating her exactly in the way he knew she'd hate most: he ignored her. It drove her nuts. He smiled at the memory.

"That was a long time ago, though," Fred said.

"Of course, fifteen years ago," Mitch conceded. "And I'm certainly not the type to hold a grudge. But I'm still going to strangle her."

Mitch burst through the French doors onto the back patio, wondering why he'd been surprised at what she'd done. He should have expected it. After all, her mother owned a plant nursery in western Virginia, and Kelsey had always spent more time digging in the dirt than playing with dolls.

Mitch stopped staring at the changes in his yard and took a brief moment to enjoy the slight breeze. It was an utterly gorgeous afternoon. Indian summer had stretched into the last week of September and everything was golden and glowing. The aroma of honeysuckle and apples floated on the wind. For a moment Mitch let go of his anger to enjoy breathing clean air.

The months he'd spent in China doing research for his newest book project had been difficult. Much tougher than he'd expected. The initial thrill he always felt when im- mersing himself in a culture he planned to study had faded quickly amid the crowds, congestion and rigid political policies of the country. In retrospect, the months spent re- searching his first book, a text on the ancient Mayan civiliza- tion, now seemed like a cakewalk, though he'd been living in a small jungle village that didn't even have a telephone.

Now that he was home, all Mitch wanted was quiet, solitude and privacy. He was ready to think, ready to absorb what he'd learned, and begin putting his thoughts on paper for the college textbook he was under contract to produce.

Fat chance, he thought. Solitude and quiet were two words he had never yet been able to associate with Kelsey Logan, the demon-child. He wondered how Baltimore had survived her presence.

Feeling a splash of water on his cheek, Mitch noticed he was standing directly in the path of a sprinkler. He grimaced, squared his shoulders and went to find Kelsey.

Mitch tiptoed along the stone walk and rounded a newly planted evergreen. Smothering a curse when he saw a little ceramic chipmunk, he restrained an impulse to kick it over the fence. Then he looked to the far corner of the yard and found her.

She obviously had been working. The pruning shears lay near some bushes, and a rake lay sprawled, spines up, across the lawn, just waiting for a Three Stooges-like accident to occur. Kelsey lay in a lounge chair with her back to him and he walked softly, being extremely careful to avoid potential mishaps with gardening tools. His shoes sank into the soft soil next to a leaking watering can. Glancing ruefully at the dirty Italian leather, he figured that was just one more thing to thank Kelsey for.

She didn't notice him. He was a step or two behind her, far enough that he cast no shadow over her face to warn her of his presence.

Then he stopped dead in his tracks. This curvaceous, vo- luptuous even, woman in the lounge chair could not be Kelsey! He'd made a mistake. Kelsey was the skinny, ob- noxious, freckle-faced younger sister of his best friend. So he hadn't seen her in several years. She couldn't have changed this much, could she?

She wore a devil-red bikini, which was damp with the sweat of her exertions and clung to her skin. Her legs were slightly bent and raised, a golden honey color, slender and about a mile long. His gaze slid up, taking in the gently flared hips and small waist, then on to the trim midriff and the deep vee of cleavage revealed by the low-cut bathing suit, and up to the top of her sun-streaked hair.

He stared as she reached a slim arm over the side of the chair and felt around until her hand brushed against her cool water glass. She caressed the side of it, her fingers becoming damp and slick with the condensation, and she smoothed a little of the water over her fingertips. Then she reached into the glass to fish out a piece of ice, shook it gently and brought it toward her chest.

He swallowed hard. The woman—Kelsey?—moved the ice just above her flesh, and Mitch watched each drop of water as it fell in a trail along her collarbone. When she finally lowered the ice to the hollow of her throat, he released the breath he'd been holding. Then he slowly drew in another as she moved the cube down her skin, allowing it to melt on her chest. He heard her small moan of contentment at the cool relief and very nearly echoed it. The ice disappeared quickly until her fingers were moving over her neck and shoulders with nothing but the tiniest sliver, and then just a few drops of water. Her hand remained motionless for a few moments, lightly resting on her throat, and he thought she'd perhaps fallen asleep. He considered backing up and retreating into the house, but she shifted slightly, and he remained still.

No. No, this couldn't be Kelsey.

The last time he'd seen her had been at her high school graduation, seven years ago, back home in Virginia. She'd looked skinny and gawky and uncomfortable in the flowery dress her mother had made her wear under her graduation gown. They hadn't exchanged more than a dozen words that day, as Mitch had spent most of the time catching up with his buddy Nathan. She'd just been— there—little Kelsey the pest. When had she become little Kelsey the temptress? And where the hell had he been during her amazing transformation?

When she reached toward the glass, ostensibly for another piece, Mitch cleared his throat. He was not about to watch a repeat performance of what had undoubtedly been the most unconsciously seductive moment he'd ever witnessed.

"IT's ABOUT TIME YOU SHOWED UP, Fred," Kelsey said, not turning around to greet her upstairs neighbor. She felt too warm and lethargic to even open her eyes. She'd been working all morning, wanting everything perfect before Mitch returned home the next day. She suspected he wouldn't be too happy about the work she'd done, but it was too late to worry about it now.

The warmth of the sun felt relaxing, not vicious as it could be in mid-July, but hazy and soothing, the way only an Indian summer sun in the mid-Atlantic states can feel. A light breeze blew across her body, and where the ice had touched her skin, it brought delicious coolness. She could lounge like this all day. But it appeared Fred had finally come to help out.

"I'd just about finished without you—you said you'd be down by ten. Are you still going to help me get this place cleaned up?"

Kelsey sat up and stretched a little. Arching her back, she moved her head from side to side to work the kinks out of her neck. If she didn't get back to work now she might never be able to. Her shoulders already felt achy.

"I'm going to pay for this tonight," she said, not even turning to face him. "My arms are killing me from lugging the wheelbarrow around."

Fred didn't say anything, which wasn't surprising. The man was incredibly shy. Until his girlfriend, Celia, had become friendly with Kelsey, he hadn't spoken much more than a half-dozen words to her. After that, he'd come out of his shell and the three of them had become the best of friends.

"Let me," he murmured very quietly. She didn't know what he meant until he moved behind her chair and put his hands on her shoulders. Kelsey scooted forward on the lounge chair, dropping her chin to her chest so he could rub the back of her neck. He worked expertly on her tight muscles, and she instantly felt better. Kelsey was a little surprised. His hands felt rougher and stronger than she'd expect from someone who spent ten hours a day in a lab. He also pressed and stroked with complete confidence, not typical for a guy who seemed so shy around women.

"Wow," she said with a lazy drawl, "I think you have a future as a masseur."

He still didn't say anything. She didn't mind. Fred was sturdy and dependable, a little too serious, but a great neighbor. He minded his own business and yet always let her know she could call on him if needed. She hoped Mitch's return tomorrow wouldn't upset the peaceful balance they'd created in the brownstone.

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