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Authors: Leslie Parrish

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BOOK: Cold Touch
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words had caused in her and realize what was going on here.

No man was stalking her. Something else was.

She didn’t bother to turn around. She didn’t need to look, because there

was nothing to see. Al her eyes would show her was empty parking lot. The

presence behind her didn’t have shape or form here, she understood that now.

It only had voice.

O-liiiii-via . . . I’m sorry I told him to do that to you
.

The truth leapt into her brain, and a name came to her lips. The wrong

name. She didn’t say it, instead uttering what she knew to be the right one.

“Zachary?”

Sorry.

“I’m the one who’s sorry.” Tears formed in her eyes, spil ing down her

cheeks. Olivia clenched her hands together, lifting them to her face, tipping her

forehead onto her fist. “I shouldn’t have left without you.” She’d regretted that

decision ever since that night, never more so than yesterday when she’d seen,

heard and felt exactly what that monster had put him through because he’d

helped her escape.

The presence moved closer. She could feel it pushing harder against her

back. The feeling was unlike anything she’d ever experienced, and she

couldn’t quite define it. Not solid but not purely a vapor, either. There was a

tingling sensation and a hint of pressure. It felt as though the air itself had

gained the barest whisper of mass, like tiny wildflower petals picked up and

tossed about by a gust of wind.

Nor did she feel cold, as she’d always seen in the movies. This was warm,

comforting, heartbreakingly tender. She suddenly had a vision: his ethereal

form pressed up behind her, his skinny arms slipping around her waist and his

cheek resting against her spine. A hug from beyond the grave, because he

thought he needed to be forgiven.

“I forgive you, Zachary,” she whispered. “I forgave you a long time ago. And I

thank you. You saved me.”

The warmth increased, the soft blanket of butterfly-light pressure spread

even wider, as if he wanted to envelop her entire body. She had pleased him.

You need to save Jack
.

Shame made her drop her head, her chin hitting her chest as her hair fel

over her face. “I didn’t save you. I’m so sorry for that.”

I hafta go now. I think I can go now that they found me.

Found him? Found his bones?

My mama’s waiting at the station. She’s been waiting on me a long time.

“What station? Your mother’s . . .”

She died a long time ago and she’s been awful sad, but I’m pretty sure

she’ll be happy now that I can go, too. Bye, Olivia.

“Wait, Zachary!”

Don’t forget, you have to save Jack. He’ll be twelve soon. His time’s

almost up.

Her thoughts had been in a crazy whirl; she hadn’t real y been focusing on

individual words, more on the experience as a whole. Part of her had listened,

part of her had grieved, while yet another part had wondered if she’d

completely lost her mind. But now certain things he’d said started to sink in.

She sucked in a shocked gasp. “Are you tel ing me there’s another boy?”

The pressure lightened a little, as if he were pul ing away, diminishing, the

substance and form he’d put together out of air melting apart. Then one final

whisper in her brain.

There’s always another boy.

Her stomach clenched. She thought she’d be sick. Especial y as he

continued to pul away, and she found herself missing the comforting warmth,

the delicate weight of him against her body. “Wait, Zachary. Please, you have

to tel me more!”

There was no answer, nothing but silence. The air grew more buoyant, that

pressing sensation having disappeared completely. Noises started to return:

the whirring of the elevator equipment, the ding as it reached her floor, the

throaty hum of traffic on the street above her. Al of which told her one thing:

Zachary had final y moved on.

Gabe knew as soon as he saw Olivia’s face that something was wrong.

He’d arrived a couple of minutes ago, had been standing with Julia

Harrington at the reception desk in their darkened office suite, when he heard

the elevator doors open in the hal way. He’d glanced toward them, taken one

look at Olivia, who was wide-eyed and pale, and his heart had leapt into his

throat.

“What happened?” he asked, rushing toward her.

“I need to talk to Julia,” she insisted.

“I’m here, honey,” the woman said, taking Olivia’s arm and helping him lead

her into the office. The three of them went to a leather sofa in the waiting area,

the women sitting down, Gabe squatting down in front of Olivia.

She looked strange. Upset, yes, but not afraid. Or even worried. In fact,

judging by the frown tugging at her brow and the twist on her mouth, he’d have

to cal her mood determined.

“What is it?” Julia asked.

Olivia responded with a question of her own, which surprised them both.

“When Morgan first came around, could you see him? Or did you just hear

him?”

Julia didn’t even hesitate at the strange question. She merely answered it: “I

saw him, but later I realized I’d been hearing him for quite a while. He’d been

talking to me in my head; I thought his whispers were my memories of him

talking.”

“Who is this Morgan?” Gabe asked. He’d been curious since yesterday,

when he’d heard this Morgan guy had seen Gabe carry Liv into her house.

Olivia’s boss cast him a quick sideways look, replying, “Morgan Raines. He

was my partner on the Charleston PD.”

Oh, right. She’d been on the job. Gabe had known that, but he’d forgotten.

He suddenly began to feel a little bad about being so hard on her.

“Morgan’s been dead for almost eight years,” the woman added.

Which pretty much made the “feeling bad” thing dissipate. He had a sudden

urge to stick his fingers in his ears and sing “La la la” in order to drown out the

conversation. God help him, he was getting in so far over his head that he

couldn’t even see the surface of the water anymore.

Olivia licked her lips and nodded. “Have you ever, uh,
felt
him? Morgan, I

mean?”

The brunette blinked, then shifted in her seat, looking uncomfortable for the

first time since he’d met her. Which led Gabe to believe he real y didn’t want to

hear her answer, because he suspected he’d thereafter be hearing

“Unchained Melody” and picturing Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore having

ghost sex. The very idea made him rise to his feet and walk over to the

reception desk, lean against it and cross his arms over his chest.

“I’m sorry,” Olivia said. “It doesn’t matter. The point is, I did. I felt him.”

Julia’s jaw dropped open. “Morgan?”

“No!” Looking at Gabe with eyes that pleaded with him to believe her, she

explained, “The boy. Zachary. I . . . he . . . I couldn’t see him, but I heard him.

And I could, I don’t know, feel him there with me, like I was draped in a warm

blanket made of air.”

“Yes,” Julia said, sounding shocked. “That’s how it is. Where? When did this

happen?”

“A few minutes ago, down in the garage. Though, I suspect he tried to

connect with me yesterday at my house. Something happened right before I

came down to meet with you al .”

Julia suddenly stiffened, her eyes widening. “Oh, my God! Morgan told me

about this.”

“About what?” Olivia asked.

“He told me the other day that somebody like
him
was trying to get to you.”

Olivia was shaking her head, stil visibly shocked by whatever had

happened down in the garage. “Why? How could this happen? I’ve never had

any kind of encounter with a ghost.”

“According to Morgan, there are plenty around. They stay; others depart

right away.”

“Via some sort of station?”

“Yes!” Julia clapped her hands together, smiling. “Oh, God, it’s so wonderful

to final y have somebody to talk to about this.”

Olivia didn’t look like she considered it wonderful. More confusing and

nerve-racking. “Has Morgan ever explained it to you? How it works, why you

can see him?”

“Wel , I know he stayed because he was worried about me and because he

wanted—stil wants—to help catch the people who had him kil ed.”

Gabe couldn’t deny being interested by that statement. If he were to die in

the line of duty, and if there real y were an afterlife, he’d probably want the

same thing. Justice, even if it was from beyond the grave.

“I think I heard him and eventual y could see him, because I was with him

when he died. I shared his final moments.”

Olivia shook her head slowly. “I wasn’t there when Zachary died.”

Julia reached over and covered Olivia’s hand tenderly, offering her warmth

but also, Gabe thought, lending her strength for what she was about to say.

“Liv, honey, don’t you see? You might not have been there, but you actual y

lived his death. You experienced it with him.”

Olivia let out a long, slow breath, thinking about that. Gabe could only

imagine what was going through her mind—probably the first thing that had

popped into his.

She’d lived a lot of people’s deaths. A whole lot.

“If it’s any help, I don’t think anybody else has ever, um, tried to reach you

before,” Julia said. “Morgan told me right away about this one, and I’m pretty

sure he’d know. I bet the rest just moved on. This boy, though, felt he had a

reason to stay.”

“I don’t think he could leave,” Olivia whispered, sounding terribly weary and

sad. “Not until his remains were found.” Then she looked up at Gabe, pushing

her sadness aside, getting back to business. Important business. “Zachary

told me some things you need to know.”

Part of him—the traditional, rational part that didn’t believe in woo-woo stuff

—wanted to walk out of there so he didn’t have to admit the woman he was

majorly attracted to had just said she’d had a chat with a ghost. Another part,

the Gabe who had watched her put herself through such hel yesterday, then

asked him to stay with her and watch her sleep afterward, couldn’t do it. He

couldn’t let her down like that, couldn’t say, even without words, that he thought

she was imagining things.

Which was, of course, the first thing he’d thought. Old habits died hard, and

it wasn’t going to be easy for him to let go of his instinctive skepticism

overnight. First sharing someone else’s death memories, now ghosts
?
Lord,

wouldn’t his grandfather be cackling right now at the thought of how off the

reservation Gabe had gone with his thinking in just a few days’ time. At this

rate, he’d be out of a job by the end of the week. Taking up with psychics,

letting one of them handle evidence? What the hel was he doing? If he had

any sense at al , he’d put an end to this right now, walk out the door and go

back to a normal life and a normal murder investigation.

Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have much sense when it came to the

green-eyed redhead watching him with trepidation, waiting for him to either tel

her he believed her or else break her heart.

You know you believed her yesterday. Why is it so hard to accept this?

Besides which, he’d been raised in the church. If he believed in the spirit

—the soul—why was it so crazy to think that occasional y spirits outstayed

their welcomes?

“Why don’t you tel us what happened?” he asked, not exactly giving her

what she wanted but not refusing to, either.

She did as he asked, but there wasn’t much to tel . An apology, a moment of

penance with a boy she felt she owed . . . whose brush with the afterlife

wouldn’t include that?

But then she said something that floored him.

“The worst thing is, Gabe, I think this monster has another little boy, right

now. And that his time might be running out.”

Gabe straightened, dropping his arms to his sides. He had not told Olivia

anything about Sue-Ann Bowles’s visit, or the possible conclusion both he and

Ty had reached because of it. “Why do you say that?” he asked, keeping his

voice low.

“Zachary told me, twice, that I needed to save Jack. The second time he

mentioned that he was almost twelve and his time was running out.”

Gabe thought he managed to keep the shock off his face. But maybe not.

How could she possibly know that?
Thanks to Mrs. Bowles, he and Ty had

already realized the age of twelve seemed to be some personal trigger point

for the man they were dealing with. But no way could Olivia know.

“At first, I thought he was talking about himself, but then I realized he wasn’t.

He would never cal himself Jack, not considering the last words he said on

this earth.”

Julia blew out an audible breath. “We have to assume the monster who

kidnapped him is the one who changed his name.”

BOOK: Cold Touch
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