Art appraiser Adeline Montgomery just wants a normal life. One where she can ignore the vicious ghosts who follow her. One where she’s free from her “gift” of touching an object and seeing the owner’s deepest secrets. And one where she can fall in love without having all of the above get in the way.
But when tall, dark, and dangerous gallery owner Blake Greenwood enters her life, normal is the last thing she’s feeling. The man has more secrets than the priceless art he sells, giving Adeline’s quest for normal no chance. That, and he may just hold the key to uncovering the truth behind her father’s unexplained disappearance.
Despite her paranormal gifts warning her to stay away, she feels an inexplicable, captivating fascination for him, something that goes deeper than attraction. There’s something between them that’s older than time, and if she can learn to give him her trust, it may just save her life.
The perfect life can disappear without warning. Like an elegantly designed wisp of smoke, it can be here one minute, then gone the next. And the simple, busy, normal you took for granted suddenly becomes a part of your past, while its absence fuels your obsession to find it again.
And I was down to my last chance to find it again.
In slow, deliberate cadence I paced through the library of my townhome, then across the salon and into the kitchen. My insomnia gave me ample opportunity to practice my pacing rou-tine.
There was comfort in routine. I was calm now.
But just an hour ago I’d woken up gasping, my neck and back slick with sweat. It wasn’t just a nightmare. It was a memory from my childhood—a recurring fear I couldn’t entirely put to rest.
With bare feet I took a turn and padded onto the cold, marble-floored bathroom, sat at the vanity, and brushed the tangles from my hair, giving extra attention to the mass of knots that gathered at the nape of my neck. Fitful dreams gave me fitful hair.
I smoothed a few long strands behind my ears and stared into the large, round mirror. As usual, a related image of my father stared back at me. My sisters favored our mother with their thicker hair and warm, ginger skin tones, but there was no mistaking that I was my father’s child.
I lifted the lid on the wooden box first and looked at my diamond solitaire engagement ring in the back left corner. Jeremy and I had been planning our wedding when he left me for Catherine. She was my best friend at the time. Not so much anymore.
Looking at the ring was part of my morning constitution to remind myself that men weren’t the best investment. For varying reasons, they all left without warning.
I closed the lid on the wooden jewelry box.
Though there was Jack...
This amazing perfection of a man who dropped in on my dreams from some other life we’d shared together. Yes, he had been real to me at one time. Now he was only real to me in my dreams. Still, this man I would keep.
Maybe one day we would meet. Past life reconnections happened all the time. Though I found the idea of meeting him in this life rather terrifying. And potentially exciting.
I picked up the second jewelry box. Trimmed in antique gold and coated in pink enamel, it looked like it could have belonged to Marie Antoinette. Inside was the one surefire weapon that could move me beyond all the tragedies of my life. At least for a few moments. I’d found it in a dusty, antique shop while on a trip to Paris. A cushion-cut, cornflower-blue sapphire, sur-rounded by pavé diamonds in a wide platinum setting. I’d known immediately that it had been my ring.
I picked it up and read the inscription which was written in English:
To Sassy, All My Love. Always, Jack. May 23rd, 1922
I knew from the first instant I touched the ring that this Jack was the same and only Jack of my dreams. The energy from the ring, and the energy from the man in my dreams, were one in the same. It was undeniable. I had jeweled proof that he existed. That we existed. I thought per-haps it was a gift from the universe to remind me that I had been loved.
When I was Sassy, I had been a very lucky woman.I chose to wear the ring as a reminder that true love existed, so I wouldn’t give up entirely on men, love, and relationships. Something I pledged to do after Jeremy. And basically had.
If the Sassy of 1922 could find someone who loved her that much, why couldn’t Addie of the new millennium find someone who loved her so completely, too? I’d found true love once, maybe I would again someday.
I reluctantly put the ring back in its case, and climbed into the marble-encased tub that sat in the middle of the room to soak in a hot, lavender-infused bath.
The scent that wafted off my heated skin immediately transported me back to childhood when my mother used to give me a lavender bath every morning, telling me it was “the way of the Goddess.” It felt a bit like my duty as a woman in the Montgomery family to continue the tradition.
Plus, it made me feel like a figure in a Greco-Roman relief. Not an everyday occurrence for most people. Unless, of course, you’re taking a scented bath every morning. There’s just something so regal about it. Not the least of which is how the lavender smoothed the frayed edg-es of dreams destroyed and loves lost.
I downed the last drop of the Italian-born espresso I’d made and stared out the warped glass of my favorite room of the house—a quiet turret nestled on the side of what used to be my grandfather’s New York City townhome.
He’d vanished with my father while on a buying trip in Paris a while ago. No one in my family had gotten over their disappearance.
I glanced up at the black mantel clock that sat on the third shelf, and watched the second hand drag what was left of the night into daylight. Four more hours until my interview. An inter-view that had to go well, because my former life had gone to hell. I had nothing left.
I’d learned my lesson. Keep your gifts tucked away. Don’t let people know what you see. They couldn’t handle it. Got it.
If I got this job, not only would I finally be happy every day of my career, but maybe I could even make a career for myself authenticating art. That was my theory, anyway. No one had to know how I did it. Then my normal masquerade would succeed.
There really was no end to the details I could see about art, or anything else for that mat-ter. As long as I had the hunger to know the details of the object. Of course some of those details came through, whether I wanted to know or not.
Being psychic wasn’t an exact science.
Through the library glass, I watched a petite runner as she jogged down the street and paused under the lamplight to take her pulse, and jogged in place. Her ponytail bounced from left to right as she fumbled with what looked like an old Sony Walkman. Thoughts of how much she hated her husband pulsed through my head each time her white running shoes hit the wet side-walk.
He should just give me the divorce, but I know he’ll never let me go.
The not-so-funny feeling of being seen blasted me in the chest and ignited the caffeine I’d just sent into my system. Even though she had just been half a football field away, I turned to leave the room and suddenly ran into her. Her face was drawn tight, her brown eyes dark and focused, searching like heat-seeking missiles.
A tiny bullet hole sat above her left eyebrow.
Though I didn’t want it to happen, my own world slipped away. I had no choice but to see how the hooded man with the long face and the thin lips surprised her in the parking garage. He knew her schedule, had waited until she was pulling groceries out of the trunk of the black Mercedes. When she turned, he shot her before she knew what was happening.
That’s why she didn’t know she was dead.
There were two young boys in the backseat. Their screaming and crying charred my nerves as apples and oranges hit the ground in dull thuds and rolled across the parking garage floor. I guess Dad didn’t account for the boys’ whereabouts when he set up their mother’s death. My legs went weak as her anguish clawed through me.
I dragged myself into the kitchen hoping to escape her, but she followed. Yelling.
“I’ve been a good wife, you know. I was everything he wanted when he was building his life. I was thin and charming and beautiful because that’s what he needed on his arm so he could make partner.” She leaned close to my face and my heart clanged inside my ribs. I abandoned the small mug and the bowl on the sink counter, slunk around her and out of the kitchen.
“When he wanted children, I gave them to him! When he had affairs? I looked the other way! All I want now is a little freedom and my sanity. Is that too much to ask?”
“I hear you, sister,” I mumbled, and scurried toward my bedroom to get dressed. The weight on my chest was unbearable. It was nearly impossible for me to breathe when ghosts were around.
“Where are you going? Where are you going? Why does everyone ignore me? I need to find my boys!”
I gently closed my bedroom door behind me, but my nerves jumped against my skin as a loud clatter echoed through my home.
Okay. That would be my porcelain mug and dish shattering on the marble floor. Great. A ghost who can move things. A bit of a rarity. Maybe she could be a ghost that cleaned up, too? No, of course not.
My only hope was that she would go away before she caused any more damage. Both to my fragile dishes and to my all-too-fracturable mind. No matter how many times this happened, I never got used to self-obsessed strangers dropping into my home and making my life their own.
Ghosts had no boundaries. And with my ability to sense, I wasn’t afforded any, either.
As a child the ghosts stalked me at night, waking me, tormenting me, leaving me plagued with so much terror I was powerless to move. Even as an adult, I still didn’t sleep much. They were always out there. Watching. Waiting. Impossible to ignore. And because normal had always been my goal, I hated their presence in my life. By virtue of their very existence, they threatened to destroy the normal life I’d trying so hard to build for myself.
The first pangs of a migraine beat at the inside of my skull as the runner’s story continued to rake through my mind.
I hate my life.
A closed door wouldn’t keep the lady away from me forever, but I hoped it might buy me a few minutes to catch my breath.
Sometimes they just drifted away, so ensconced in their own troubles they could forget about you. Others knew they could get to you, and hurt you. This brought them a certain amount of satisfaction, knowing they had a little power in their pathetic, nonexistent lives. I wasn’t for sure just yet which category she fit into.
I pulled my phone out of my robe pocket, scrolled through the short list of favorites until I got to my sister’s name.
Adeline: Need a change of venue. Going to The Remedy early. Come when you can.
I needed to get myself together before seeing her, though. She was going to be far less than pleased when I told her I was interviewing at the same firm our father and grandfather worked for when they disappeared. But I was out of choices. The Albrecht Firm was my last op-tion. And though it wasn’t my primary goal, maybe I would find a few clues that helped us fig-ure out what really happened to our father and grandfather.