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Authors: Leslie Parrish

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BOOK: Cold Touch
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We’re now hearing that human remains have been found on the site.”

Fire—smoke inhalation. What an awful way to die. Olivia knew that better

than most.

“But an inside source tel s us that the remains apparently were hidden at the

site several years ago. A smal skeleton was found wal ed up inside the

burned-out structure.”

Shock made her slowly lower herself to the bed, and she barely heard the

voice on the radio as it continued. She was too focused on what the deejay

had already said:
A skeleton. Walled up for years.
Twelve years, perhaps?

Was it even possible?

“There’s no way,” she told herself. “How many people die in Savannah every

year?”

A lot. God knows, in her line of work, she knew a lot about death and

murder. So the idea that this particular victim could possibly be connected to

him
was incredibly slight.

A
smal
skeleton. There for years.

Olivia shook her head, angry at herself for thinking those thoughts. It had

been over for twelve years; she needed to leave the past in the past. She

turned off the radio, no longer worrying about the weather. Hot was hot, and

she would dress appropriately.

Forty-five minutes later, she left her Victorian District house to head to work.

But somehow, instead of skirting Forsyth Park to Abercorn so she could head

north to downtown, she found herself going south. She didn’t even think about

it, didn’t recal making a conscious decision to do it, right up until she hit West

Thirty-first and turned right.

“What are you doing?” she mumbled, not sure what had compel ed her to

come this way.

Then she saw the sign for Ogeechee and realized where her subconscious

was taking her.

Go there, Olivia. You have to see for yourself.

Why she had to see, she didn’t know. Nor was she entirely sure whose

voice that whisper in her brain had sounded like. Not real y hers, it was as if

she were being directed by someone else altogether. Someone who wanted

her to find out what was happening at the scene of that fire and whose skeletal

remains had been found there.
His?

As she drew closer, she saw the news vans parked at the corner. Onlookers

who had gathered on the sidewalk across the street from what had once been

Fast Eddie’s were staring avidly at the police and fire investigation officials

who fil ed the scene.

“Make a U-turn and go back,” she told herself, knowing she wouldn’t want to

turn right and drive past Laurel Grove, which she always took great pains to

avoid.

But she didn’t turn around, and she didn’t turn right. Instead, she pul ed over

and parked behind a WJCL van, with its antennas up and a cameraman and

reporter standing nearby.

She sat in the car for a minute, her hands clenching the steering wheel.

Something had drawn her here, something compel ing and insistent.

Rational y, she knew that made no sense, but how long had it been since

anything about her life made a whole lot of sense?

Whatever instinct had brought her here, she wasn’t content to watch from

the car. She cut the engine, then stepped out into the hot, bright morning and

walked up the sidewalk. She saw the onlookers blocking the path. Saw the

vehicles and the twirling lights and the reporters. But her mind didn’t real y

register any of that other than as obstacles to move around. So she moved

around them, silently, almost as if in a trance. Then farther, stepping down off

the curb, drawn irrevocably closer to that burned-out shel across the street.

You have to see, have to make sure. You must find out what happened to

him.

“Hey, lady, what the hel are you doing?!” a voice yel ed. “Watch out!” The

shout was quickly fol owed up by the blast of a horn and the loud squeal of

tires on pavement.

As if she’d been slapped out of a daze, Olivia blinked and swung her head

around just in time to see a car barreling down on her, so close she could see

the driver’s huge eyes and his screaming mouth. Shocked into near

immobility, al she could do was throw her hands up in a self-protective

gesture, even as her brain screamed at her to move.

Waiting for the crunch of steel on her body, knowing this time the pain would

be hers, she gasped when someone tackled her around the waist, hauling her

out of the way. Her rescuer stumbled several feet, carrying her along with him.

He held her close, his back to the street, shielding her, as if determined to

provide one final barrier between her and the vehicle—the vehicle that

skidded to a stop right where she’d been standing.

It had al happened in less than ten seconds.

“Jesus, that was close,” a man’s voice said, low and thick, close to her ear.

She felt his breath on her cheek and his big, hard form pressed against every

inch of her.

“No kidding,” she whispered, feeling as though she’d suddenly awakened

from a dream, like this morning’s, when she’d been fal ing through the air. Only

this had been no dream—she could have been kil ed.

Swal owing hard, she peered around him, seeing a car angled across the

opposite lane, its driver shaking a fist at her. The crowd on the corner was

abuzz, and the cameraman had swung his equipment around, al bearing

witness to what could have been her death.

Good Lord. She’d walked right into the middle of the road, into oncoming

traffic.

“Are you okay?” her rescuer asked.

The powerful arms that had hauled her out from in front of the oncoming car

released her, and she dropped onto her toes. Olivia hauled in a deep breath,

then nodded once, stil too shaken to even look at him ful y. “Yes.” She lifted a

hand and pushed her hair back off her face, feeling the cold sweat on her

forehead. “Thanks to you.”

“You stupid bitch, what the hel were you thinking?” someone screamed.

Her savior, who was stil so close she could feel the brush of his pants

against her bare legs, swung around and pointed at the man. “Get back in

your car, sir.”

“She walked right out in front of me!”

The man reached for his belt, pul ed off a leather wal et and flipped it open

to display a badge. “I said, get in your car and move along. You’re blocking

traffic.”

The driver ignored the order. “Are you gonna charge her with something?”

The stranger took one step toward the vehicle, his powerful body rigid, his

shoulders bunching against his brown suit jacket. “If you say one more word,

I’l ticket you. You were driving like a maniac through a crime scene, and if

you’d been paying attention to the road rather than what was going on across

the street, you would have seen this pedestrian in plenty of time.”

The man’s eyes widened, and his face flamed, confirming what the officer

had said. Stil , Olivia knew she’d been responsible for the near miss. She’d

walked right into the path of the car, focused solely on whatever force seemed

to be tugging her toward the burned-out ruin.

She stepped toward the officer. “It was entirely my fault.”

That seemed to mol ify the driver, as did the subsequent apology she

offered him. He gave her a single, harsh nod, then got back into his car and

drove away. Slowly.

Once he was gone, the cop turned back toward her. For the first time, she

was able to look at him, face-to-face, and for a second, her breath caught in

her throat. Her legs, which had been firmly planted on the ground once he’d

set her down, wobbled just a bit, and both her X chromosomes went on alert,

reacting to his mighty Y one.

The man wasn’t so much handsome as incredibly good-looking, rugged

and utterly masculine. His face was strong and determined, his nose a little

crooked like he’d taken a few hits in his day. That was a nice change from the

more plastic, perfect male faces she’d seen. She’d grown up around rich

lawyers and politicians; a nose job was general y a prerequisite before the

launch of any political career.

The stranger’s jaw was strong, jutting; the mouth wide and probably

incredibly attractive when he smiled. Which he was not. His light brown hair fel

a bit shaggily over his brow, and his dark green eyes seemed to see more

than the average person’s. He wasn’t excessively tal , just of average height,

but his body was big, compact, incredibly muscular and intimidating.

No wonder he’d been able to pick her up so easily and haul her out of

harm’s way. He was built like a gladiator.

Olivia usual y dated lean, softer-looking men. But for the life of her, she

suddenly couldn’t remember why. Because this one had her stomach—not to

mention her female parts—fluttering with just one long look.

“Are you sure you’re okay? I didn’t hurt you?”

Hurt her? He might have just saved her life. “I’m fine, thank you. I can’t

believe I was so oblivious.”

He took her arm and steered her toward the curb, making sure she stepped

up onto it. Then, glancing around, he stepped back, bent and scooped up a

pair of dark sunglasses off the street. They must have fal en off his face when

he’d rescued her. They were now missing a lens. And the other was badly

scratched.

“I’ m
so
sorry,” she told him. “Please let me replace those. Were they

prescription?”

“Nah.” He shrugged, tucking them into his suit pocket. “No biggie. I’m so

hard on ’em I stock up at the dol ar store.”

He had a nice voice, she realized, when he wasn’t barking at people. His

soft drawl said he was a Georgia native—maybe not Savannah, more country

—but stil attractive, sexy.

“You, uh, wanna tel me what had you so fascinated that you almost walked

right up to the pearly gates and introduced yourself to St. Peter?” he asked,

his voice low, lightly amused. But his stare remained keen, assessing.

She licked her lips, glancing past him at the fire scene, where emergency

responders continued to work, making sure the area was secure. “I, uh . . .”

What could she say, that she’d heard about the fire on the news and had

driven down here because she had this strange mental compulsion?

Savannah police already thought those associated with eXtreme

Investigations were bonkers; why on earth would she add to that conclusion? “I

just saw the activity and came over to see what was happening. I didn’t even

realize I’d actual y stepped out into traffic.” A weak excuse, and she doubted

he entirely bought it.

He didn’t. “That’s al ? You wouldn’t have any information about the fire,

would you?”

She evaded the question. “I heard you found human remains inside.”

His eyes widened, and his jaw dropped briefly. “How the hel . . .”

“It was on the radio.”

“Damn it,” he snapped. “Are you kiddin’ me?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” she said, realizing his anger at having a leak on the

scene might work to her advantage. He looked ready to go rip somebody a

new one, which meant he might not be too interested in questioning her

further.

That was a good thing. She suddenly wanted to get out of here, to forget

she’d ever come down here. Whatever strange force had made her come

here had nearly gotten her kil ed, and she wasn’t interested in heeding it

anymore.

The officer was glaring toward the news truck, then glancing over his

shoulder at the site across the street, already distracted, his mind back on his

job.

“I’m so sorry I took you away from your work,” she told him. “I promise I’l

stick to the sidewalk from now on.”

He nodded absently. “Yeah, you do that, please. Have a good day, ma’am.”

“You, too,” she said. “And thanks again.”

“Take care now,” he said; then he turned, looked both ways, and jogged

across the street. He immediately engaged in a serious conversation with a

uniformed police officer, forgetting about her and her near miss.

But Olivia had the feeling she wasn’t going to soon forget him. Not only

because he’d saved her life but also because he’d done it without even

thinking about it, without giving a thought for his own safety. He’d been

decisive and powerful, forceful and strong. She wasn’t used to being around

such men, men who could easily swoop in at a dangerous moment, pick a

woman up in his arms and carry her away as if she weighed next to nothing.

Like a hero, a real one.

“You’re watching too many romantic movies,” she mumbled. “He’s just a

man.”

No, he wasn’t. He was the man who’d saved her from a lot of pain or worse

and whose name she didn’t even know.

It doesn’t matter; you’ll never see him again,
she told herself as she got in

her car, determined to drive straight to work without any more detours.

BOOK: Cold Touch
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