Authors: Christine DePetrillo
Tags: #romance, paranormal,spicy
Amelia Earhart, 1897-1939, first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean before disappearing...or so the public thought. Keane had other theories about where Amelia had gone.
Rachel Carson, 1907-1964, zoologist who promoted environmental awareness and not a moment too soon. Keane had been around long enough to see the unfortunate deterioration of the planet. Hopefully things would turn around soon. If he were to live forever, he wanted a comfortable environment.
Elvis Presley, 1935-1977, King of Rock and Roll. The man still met a premature end, but not before changing the music world forever.
Plus there were the everyday heroes—the firefighters, police officers, soldiers, doctors, and other citizens who did something life changing for the people around them. He had saved them too. He’d been all over the globe, but the last few centuries found him concentrating mostly on Americans who, it seemed, were in the habit of getting killed before their time. In any event, they’d all done something to prove their worth—to prove they’d deserved saving.
To make Keane feel as if he weren’t entirely wretched. That some part of him was still good, still worthy.
Holly, his latest save, had to be important in some way as well or he wouldn’t have been drawn to her accident scene. Once he saved someone, he couldn’t move on until the important accomplishment was achieved. Part of the damned curse. He had to keep killing demons to maintain the abra cadaver or his save would die.
How long would it take Holly to do whatever she was meant to do for the world? Keane had been able to manage the loathing his saves arrowed his way while he stayed with them, but he couldn’t take Holly hating him anymore. Couldn’t take the cool contempt that simmered behind her lovely eyes right now.
What was it about her?
Looking back to the map still on the kitchen table, he drew in a deep breath then swept his gaze up to study Holly’s pale face. He knew she wasn’t sleeping at night. Demon energy produced horrific nightmares until the save did something important. He wanted Holly to hurry up with her
so she wouldn’t suffer anymore.
“It’s been two months, Holly,” he said. “I know it doesn’t get any easier to accept, but I only kill the bad guys. They’re not humans.”
He said this at least five times a week. At first Holly hadn’t believed the demon part of the curse. No one ever did. Not until they saw the green hue of demon blood. Not until a demon host body disintegrated before their eyes. He made his saves watch the first kill fade away so they’d believe him. He still felt like a killer, but he wanted his saves to think better of him.
They never did.
“I wish I knew what I was supposed to do so you could leave,” Holly said.
“Always so eager to get rid of me, huh?” He stood and folded the map. He was used to this stage of the game, but Holly’s disgust bothered him. Why did he want her to like him?
“You don’t belong here,” she said. “Neither do I. We’re both supposed to be dead.”
The guilt. His saves always felt as if they were getting a second chance they didn’t deserve.
“Yes, but we’re not dead.” He tucked the map under his arm. “You need to get on with things.”
“I can’t get on with things until you go,” Holly said.
“I can’t go until you get on with things,” Keane said.
She shrugged and finished her drink. Rising from the table, she washed her wine glass at the sink. “You made a huge mistake saving me, Keane. I’m nothing special.”
Why did she feel like something special?
Holly adjusted her beach chair and burrowed her bare feet into the warm, smooth sand. She sighed in satisfaction. She hadn’t felt this relaxed in months and hadn’t been away from the house for a weekend since meeting Keane. Her contact with the outside world had been limited. Trips to the grocery store, the library, a car dealership to purchase another vehicle. She’d told the police that her prior mode of transport had been stolen, wrecked, and apparently cut in half. The officer who filled out the report had raised an eyebrow at her story.
“Cut in half, miss?”
“From driver to passenger side, yes.”
The officer had made a noise that registered somewhere between
Well, this is a new one
Is she drunk?
She had said as little as possible and hoped the whole event would get filed under
Weird, But Not Worth Investigating Further.
Fortunately, that was the way things rolled, and now here she was at the beach on her first official outing since not being dead.
In the chair to her left, her mother sat happily chatting on her cell phone with her father who was back at the beach house at the top of the dune. Every August for as long as she could remember, her parents had rented a house on Virginia Beach for the month. She always looked forward to spending time here. She loved the sun, the sand, the salted air.
This summer, however, she hadn’t been to the beach house once until now. How could she with Keane bringing bodies home every seven days? Sure they were nothing but ash in about a day, but she still felt as if she were running a funeral home. How could she face her parents when her cowardice had kept her unrightfully alive? Other people died because of her. They were, as Keane always put it, the “bad guys,” but still her existence meant death for others. She knew they were demons, but they looked so much like humans. The more demons Keane killed, the worse her dreams became.
She hated those dreams.
Holly shivered though the sun was out in all of its noontime glory. Fat golden rays rained down on the sand and shimmered on the water. If she hadn’t agreed to come to the beach house this weekend, her mother had threatened to drive to her house. That certainly wouldn’t do. She didn’t want her parents to meet Keane. Didn’t want to have to explain him to her parents, especially her mother. No way.
“So good to finally see you, Holly Berry.” Her mother dropped the cell phone into her canvas bag and gave Holly’s sun-screened forearm a little squeeze. “Your father and I were getting concerned.”
“I was busy.” She twisted her feet deeper into the sand, hitting a cool spot.
“So you’ve said, but it’s not like you to stay away from the beach. You love it here, don’t you?” Her mother took a swig from her water bottle and repositioned the straw hat shading her face. Even in the shadows under the hat, her mother was exquisite. Mona Brimmer’s Italian complexion gave her a Mediterranean beauty that Holly hadn’t inherited. Her mother’s youthful appearance often had people mistaking her for Holly’s sibling, not her parent. Holly knew for a fact that several younger men had asked for dates with Mona, but fortunately her parents were devoted to one another like no two people she had ever met.
Will I ever have love like that?
Hard to imagine. Her life resembled a zombie comic book at the moment. How could she even consider looking for someone now?
“Holly, I said, don’t you love it here?” Her mother poked Holly’s bicep with her elbow.
“Of course I love it here.” She traced the rim of her sunglasses with her index finger. “I just couldn’t get away, with teaching summer school and all.” White lie. No big deal. Better than trying to explain the truth to her mother. A truth her mother would never accept.
So you see, I died, and this guy brought me back to life and…
Holly shook her head. Not going to happen.
“Well, you’re here now.” Her mother smiled. “Your father will be down with lunch in a little while. Tell me what’s been going on with you.”
Holly scanned the horizon and counted the sailboats that dotted the line between sky and sea. The water got deep quickly at this beach. If she waded in and kept walking, it would be over her head in a few yards. If she didn’t let her arms and legs do what they’d been trained to do in deep water—if she didn’t swim—the ocean could swallow her. Those dark waves could take away this game of pretend she was playing. Yes, she was alive, but she wasn’t living. She was supposed to be dead. The universe had decided her time on Earth was done. How dare Keane zoom in on his motorcycle and meddle with her life…or her death? She gripped the arms of her beach chair and nearly choked over the tightness in her chest.
So much for being relaxed.
And how did she even know if the story Keane had told her was true? She was certain the car accident had been real. Her destroyed car was proof of that, but there was no way to be sure she had actually died. No way to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Keane had zapped her back to life. That he had undone her death.
Maybe she’d wake up in the hospital some day. Her parents would be sitting beside the bed where they had waited for her to open her eyes. Maybe she’d only dreamed about Keane while in a coma. That seemed more realistic. A trauma-induced haze versus an ancient and cursed Celtic warrior sent to save her so she could do something important for the world. Logic supported the first notion over the second. Holly was a big fan of logic.
If she was in a coma, when the hell would she wake? Why did Keane’s presence in her house seem so real? Why did one look at him have her wanting things she couldn’t have? Those bodies she buried every seven nights seemed real, too. She had to face the fact that she wasn’t in a coma. She had to be the only person to think not being in a coma was bad news.
A little girl played in the sand near Holly’s chair. The child scooped sand into a bright red bucket, poured it out, then started the filling process again. All the while, she sang a happy song about seagulls that she had undoubtedly made up a few moments ago. Holly marveled over how content the girl appeared. As if she didn’t have a single care in the world besides filling and dumping that bucket and singing her tune.
Remember when life was that simple?
She wondered if she could return to her own happier times then she realized that even before the accident, life hadn’t been all that wonderful. She had her work—she loved teaching—but that was all she had. Wasn’t life supposed to be more than a paycheck? And if it wasn’t, what was the point in living it?
Her mother’s hand on her arm jarred her from her morbid ponderings. It seemed a shame to contemplate ending her life when Keane had gone through all the trouble of hunting down and sacrificing demons to keep her heart beating. But what in the hell was she supposed to do that was so important? And when was she going to do it? She wanted to be rid of Keane in the worst way. His constant presence was a daily reminder that she wasn’t supposed to be here. That her mother and father should be grieving over her death, not enjoying a visit with her. She wanted those damn dreams to stop, too. How many nights could a person go without sleep anyway?
“Holly Berry?” Her mother pulled down her sunglasses and eyed her suspiciously. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said too quickly. “I’m fine. Really. Guess I’m tired.”
“Tired doing things besides working, I hope.” Her mother wagged a finger.
Digging graves, contemplating suicide, tossing all night long in bed, and gazing lustily at an immortal Celtic warrior I shouldn’t want.
Busy, busy, busy.
“I’m waiting, Holly Berry.” Her mother snapped her fingers.
“What else have you been doing besides working?”
Holly scrambled around the corners of her mind searching for plausible activities she could feed her mother.
“Tending the yard.” Not a total lie. Digging graves was tending the yard. “Entertaining guests.” Also technically true if she counted Keane as a guest and considered avoiding him a form of entertainment. “Preparing for the start of school. That kind of stuff.” She shrugged hoping she’d given enough information to satisfy her mother’s curiosity.
“No dates with nice, young gentlemen?” Her mother’s eyebrows swooped up over her sunglasses as her lips curled up.
“Dates? Umm, no.”
“Well, let’s see if we can fix that.”
Before Holly could stop her mother, she was dragged to her feet and paraded over to the lifeguard station.
“Mother, what are you—”
“Hello up there,” her mother crooned.
The lifeguard looked down at them, and an instant smile, bright and perfect, slid across his lips.
“The fabulous Mona Brimmer.” The lifeguard jumped down in one powerful leap, and suddenly the temperature on the beach skyrocketed. Or maybe that was Holly’s temperature rising as her cheeks burned in embarrassment.
“Oh, Luke, you’re such a puppy.” Her mother ran a hand down the lifeguard’s bronzed arm as if she were actually petting a dog.
The lifeguard slid his gaze to Holly. “And who is this vision of perfection?”
Vision of perfection?
Did talk like that actually work on women?
“Luke Vassiteau, this is my amazing daughter, Holly Brimmer. I thought I’d introduce you two. Maybe you can keep Holly company while I see if I can get my husband to shake a leg. He’s taking forever with our lunch.”
Luke’s gaze combed over Holly, and she wished she’d grabbed her cover up before her mother yanked her from the beach chair. In her bikini, she was so utterly exposed. So ghost white from staying at home all summer so far. Her biceps, she had to admit however, were looking the best they ever had. Cutting into the grass with a shovel every seven days was quite the workout routine.
“My pleasure, Mona.” Luke grinned with those ultra-glow white teeth and motioned to the top of the lifeguard station. “Want to sit up there with me?”
“Actually, I should—”
“Of course she would, Luke.” Her mother turned to her and nodded as if to say she’d been interviewing Luke all summer for this very moment. Mona wasn’t going to let Holly ruin it.
“I’ll be right back, kids.” Mona held her hat in place as she jogged up to the house.
“Your mother is great even if she’s not subtle,” Luke said.
“I’m sorry about her.” Holly hung her head and drew a line in the sand with her big toe.