Authors: Leslie Parrish
relaying a ghost story when she’d only wanted him to hear her own certainty,
her reasons for being so sure she could help him.
Mainly, she’d wanted him to trust her before he found out the rest, before he
found out who she real y was and what she did for a living. Knowing he was
headed back to his desk to get the sketch—and, undoubtedly, to do a little
research on her—she’d felt compel ed to show him just how deeply affected
she was by this whole situation.
Judging by the visible clenching of Gabe Cooper’s jaw and the way his
eyes narrowed as he offered her one brief nod, she’d made her point. He
might suspect her memory was faulty, but he could no longer doubt she
passionately believed what she was tel ing him. After her surprising
admission, he’d left the room without another word, leaving her to wonder just
how bad it was going to be when he came back.
Probably pretty bad.
“You should have brought somebody,” she told herself, though she didn’t
Her sister had cal ed this morning, after seeing the local news, her mind
obviously going the same way Olivia’s had. But Liv had downplayed the whole
thing and definitely hadn’t told her she recognized the boy in the sketch.
Brooke was recently engaged. And though Olivia considered her sister’s
fiancé a complete ass, she stil didn’t want to do anything to intrude on the
younger woman’s excitement over making wedding plans.
Nor did she want to drag her parents into this. Her kidnapping had wrought
enough havoc on them, including the breakup of their marriage. Wel , at least,
that’s what she thought had caused it, though they insisted otherwise. Stil , it
was hard to argue with the fact that as soon as Olivia had recovered from her
ordeal, her mother had packed up her and Brooke and, over her father’s loud
objections, moved them to Tucson for several years. The destruction of even a
happy marriage had been painful y easy when husband and wife lived on two
different sides of the country and one blamed the other for their child’s
Her mother’s eventual boyfriend hadn’t helped matters. Nor had her father’s
eventual girlfriend. And yet neither one of them had taken the oh-so-final step
toward filing for a divorce.
God, wasn’t Thanksgiving a convoluted mess in the Wainwright house
In any case, no, she didn’t want to involve them. Her parents would go into
protector mode. Her sister would just worry. Her senator cousin and his
ambitious wife would shudder at the thought of al that unpleasantness being
dredged up again only a year away from the next election. That was it for
Nor could she have brought one of her col eagues. Considering the
Savannah authorities didn’t have much use for anybody who worked for Julia
Harrington at eXtreme Investigations, it had been bad enough for Olivia, one
of them, to come in unannounced.
Coming alone to this squat, cold police building on Bul Street had taken a
lot of wil . If she’d stopped to think more about it, or if she’d told anyone else
what she planned to do, she might not have gone through with it. Yet she was
glad she had, even if the uniformed officer who’d shown her to this room had
been a little slimy, his milky eyes way too intrusive, his hand too quick to move
to the smal of her back when he ushered her in.
But as for Detective Gabe Cooper, it had been a completely different story.
The man had saved her life or darn near close to it.
Even if he hadn’t, though, even if she’d never met him before today, she had
the feeling she’d stil have trusted him. Maybe it was because this morning
during that TV interview he’d looked so strong and resolute despite his
physical weariness. Or it could have been because he’d so obviously tried to
lay on some Southern charm in order to relax her, as if he knew she’d been
crying her face off half the morning. Being honest, she had to acknowledge
one more possibility: It could have been because she was just so damned
attracted to him. Not just because of his looks but also his personality, his
ease with people—with her.
Then there’d been that sweet, unexpected moment when he’d told her how
sorry he was about what she’d been through. Olivia had heard a lot of people
rehash the story over the years, saying what an awful thing it was. But she
couldn’t remember anyone saying quite those words in quite so tender a way.
He had a very kind streak, this big, tough cop. He was quickly working his way
around every last one of her defenses.
Olivia wasn’t usual y the type to let her guard down around good-looking
men. God knew she’d been the target of a number of them. Most of them saw
dol ar signs where her eyebal s should be or wanted her family’s political
connections more than they wanted her. Or, if they did take the time to real y
get to know her and found out what she could do, they usual y got scared and
ran like she was Wednesday Addams and she’d just introduced them to
Gabe Cooper seemed different. Within a mere half hour she’d found herself
liking this man a lot. He was easy to talk to, reasonable, friendly. And he
obviously cared about the same thing she did—finding out what had
happened to the boy who had saved her al those years ago.
She only hoped her instincts were right and he didn’t prove to be one of the
suspicious, judgmental types who could turn on a dime. Like the ones who’d
nearly ridden her col eague Aidan McConnel out of town on a rail last spring
after a bad turn in a child murder case.
She needed Detective Cooper to be much more than that. Even if he was
the open-minded sort and didn’t come back in here tel ing her to get out and
take her woo-woo reputation with her, he was probably going to have some
serious reservations about granting the request she intended to make when
he came back. She didn’t know anybody who wouldn’t. Because it was a
The minute she heard footsteps approaching the door from the hal , she
stiffened in her chair. And as soon as he stepped back inside, his face stern,
his mouth looking like it had been carved out of pure granite, she let out a long
She couldn’t help feeling a surprising rush of disappointment, knowing
whatever sparks of interest or friendship or attraction had flashed between
them a few minutes ago were now gone, lost forever. Sharp, realistic, blunt
police detectives didn’t get involved with slightly eccentric paranormal
investigators with a thing for death.
Not that she’d real y been thinking they might have gotten personal y
involved beyond a
wonder what it would be like
moment or two. But it might
have been nice for the entire team to actual y get along wel with somebody in
the police department. The fact that he was pretty damn sexy wouldn’t have
“Wel , you’re stil here,” he said, eyeing her as he pushed the door closed.
“Did you think I wouldn’t be?”
His shrug said the thought had crossed his mind.
“It doesn’t make me an unreliable witness,” she told him, cutting through any
pretense or preamble to the conversation she knew they were going to have.
He didn’t jump to the bait. “What doesn’t?”
“What I do for a living.”
Looking resolute, stiff, he approached her, eating up the floor in three long
strides. He pul ed out the metal chair opposite her. It scraped across the
faded linoleum, emitting a long, low squeal that made her flinch. Spinning the
chair around, so its back touched the table, he straddled it, resting his arms
loosely on the back. Then he placed a few sheets of paper on the table
between them. “If you say so.”
She did. Sort of. Only she couldn’t protest, considering what she real y
wanted from this man, because her profession was definitely going to come
into it sooner or later. “I didn’t say anything because . . .”
He threw a hand up, palm out, stopping her midsentence. “Look, I don’t care
what you do from nine to five,” he said matter-of-factly. “You came in here only
as a former crime victim and as a witness, and that’s al I’m interested in
Which was fine. Good. Perfect.
Except for the fact that it wasn’t entirely true. She wasn’t here strictly as a
crime victim and potential witness. In fact, sooner or later—probably sooner
—she was going to ask him to trust her to do something most people would
find utterly horrific and ghoulish.
“I don’t care if you say you can look into a bunch’a tea leaves and tel me
who was on the grassy knol when JFK got shot,” he added. “The only thing I’m
concerned about is the case I’m workin’ on right this minute.”
Spoken like a stubborn, nose-to-the-grindstone skeptic.
He’d left here ten minutes ago someone she thought she could trust,
someone she suspected might even trust her. He’d come back a suspicious,
She felt the loss somewhere deep inside, wondering why it always came
back to this. Why she could stil be surprised by people’s reactions to what
she could do and what she had done. Not, she suspected, that he knew al
that. He had probably just seen eXtreme Investigations as the name of her
employer and formed as much of an impression as he needed to.
Olivia Wainwright: Rich. Spoiled. Freak. Next?
“Fine,” she said, crossing her arms and lifting her chin. He wanted to play
this cool and professional; that was just fine by her, at least for a little while.
Until she got around to tel ing him why she had real y come here today.
As if realizing he might have come off a bit judgmental, Cooper sighed
heavily. “Look, I know one of the people you work with, okay?”
“Is that a good thing or a bad one?” she asked. Considering he worked for
the SCMPD, she suspected she already knew the answer.
“Actual y, I thought Aidan McConnel got a lousy deal on the Remington
case. That was some shoddy police work, and I think he was made a
scapegoat to cover some asses.”
“Yes, he was,” she murmured, surprised a city detective would admit such a
Aidan had caught the blame for steering local police in the wrong direction
during the search for a missing little boy. When the child had been found dead,
Aidan had been blamed by the press, the family, and the authorities. Lately,
though, due to some diligent investigative work and wel -placed whispers in
the right ears, the case was being reexamined. The city was rife with rumors
that the child hadn’t merely wandered away and gotten trapped in an old
freezer at al . Which everyone who worked with eXtreme Investigations had
already figured out—the boy’s mother had kil ed him. They just couldn’t prove
“He and I have crossed paths on the job once or twice,” he added, “and he’s
been helpful. So can we get past any idea that I think you’re a whack job
looking for attention?”
Her jaw dropped open.
Wincing, he clarified. “I mean, if that’s what you thought I was thinking.”
“Until now,” she mumbled.
Ignoring her last comment, he lifted the sheets of papers from the table and
quickly flipped through them. “Here’s the sketch,” he said, pushing the drawing
she’d seen on this morning’s news over the table to her. Then he pul ed out
another sheet—a printout of a police interview—and placed it before her as
wel . “And your original statement about this boy, Jack.”
“You read my case file?” she whispered, feeling her stomach turn over. Not
just at having to revisit that night but also at the thought that
He shook his head. “No, it’s pretty big. I printed it out but just grabbed this
page where you gave the description of the boy for right now.”
She managed to hide a sigh of relief. It was one thing for him to know she
worked for eXtreme Investigations; it was another for him to read exactly what
had happened. Then she’d go from poor-little-kidnapped-rich-girl to poor-little-
kidnapped-and-murdered-rich-girl. That familiar look of pity and horror would
cross his face, the same one she’d seen on just about everyone else’s who’d
ever heard the whole story.
He frowned. “But I wil have to read through the rest of it. Is there anything
else you want to tel me?”
She thought about it, wondering how much to reveal. Then she decided to
reveal nothing, at least not right now. Once she made her request, she would
have to give him some more answers, if only to explain what she thought she
could accomplish. And why. But for right now, she’d just as soon not don the
freak cloak and instead work on rebuilding whatever sense of trust might