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Authors: Erin Richards

ChasingShadows

BOOK: ChasingShadows
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Chasing Shadows

Erin Richards

 

Juliana Westwood confronts her past
head-on after she returns to California and dreams of a young girl's abduction.
While aiding the police, she risks her life by delving into the kidnapper's
mind, relying on the psychic abilities that forced her away years before.
Juliana must also regain the trust of the child's uncle, lead detective Alex
MacKenzie — the only man she's ever loved.

Alex was devastated when Juliana
disappeared twelve years ago. He's wary of becoming involved with her either
professionally or personally, but his top priority is to find his niece before
it's too late. With few leads to follow, Alex must rely on Juliana's glimpses
into the kidnapper's mind. Juliana's escalating telepathy takes her into new
and dangerous territory, and if the kidnapper discovers who Juliana is, she
could become his next victim.

While chasing clues together, Alex
and Juliana are powerless to halt their re-awakening passion. But with the
ability to read minds, Juliana fears any relationship is doomed. Alex and
Juliana must ultimately find the strength to let go of the past in order to
have a future together…if the kidnapper doesn't destroy the woman Alex never
stopped loving.

Chasing Shadows

Erin Richards

Chapter One

Thursday, August 10

 

Hardly a kidnapper’s friend, the moon floated round and
luminous in the ebony sky. At least it could never reveal his secrets.

Stifling a chuckle, he slipped into the backyard, leaving
the gate unlatched. Thick bushes created ghostly shapes along the dark fence
line. He scanned the tiny yard until he found his entry point.

Honeysuckle teased his senses. Disgust bolted through his
gut. He grimaced and disregarded the childhood memories the familiar reek
evoked. Such distractions were a waste of time.

The window beckoned, inviting him through the frilly
curtains framing the panes. The young girl slept, innocent and unsuspecting,
inside the darkened bedroom.

He stared at the silent house. His body vibrated with the
hunger flowing hot through his veins. Could he climb in and out through the
window with his prize without disturbing the tranquility? Oh yeah. He grinned.
Nothing would stop him now.

Like a lover whispering his name, his treasure inside
lured him closer to the window. His pulse quickened. The full moon—his sole
witness—illuminated his prey. He gazed at the girl through the open curtains. Another
tremor of anticipation warmed his gut, adding fuel to his fire.

Three months of preparation would soon culminate in his
final triumph. Excitement rolled through him as he touched his gloved palm to
the window.

Soon she would be his.

An anguished cry escaped Juliana Westwood. She bolted
upright in bed, her breath caught thick in her throat. Clutching at the sheer
scarves cocooning her bed, Juliana parted them to let air flow inside. A
throbbing started in her temples, then raced behind her eyes.

After what seemed an eternity, Juliana’s heartbeat steadied,
her lungs synchronized. She tugged the satin sheet over her breasts and
massaged her temples with her fingertips.

There would be a kidnapping soon. She had endured enough
psychic visions in her past to know this was real. Juliana quivered as the
kidnapper’s intentions invaded her. Already a strong psychic connection to the
unknown assailant spiraled through her. She knew his thoughts, felt his
emotions.

She racked her brain to recall the details of her
precognitive dream. Oddly, even though she felt his excitement and desire, she
felt not one grain of fear.

What interest did he have in the child? Why her? Who was she?
Would he hurt her, kill her? And who was he? Juliana wanted to scream in
frustration at the lack of answers. But the truth would surface soon enough. More
dreams would swiftly follow, like waves crashing on the beach, just as briskly
receding, leaving fear and hope in the wake. Fear that the dream would become
reality. Hope that she could glean enough clues to stop the kidnapper before he
could act.

Juliana sighed heavily. The purple and gold scarves billowed
gently. She flung aside the sheet and hopped off the bed. Grabbing the cordless
phone from the night table, she headed downstairs to look up the number to
police headquarters. This would most likely be the first of many such phone
calls to the San Jose Police Department.

Walking into her office, Juliana raised her eyes heavenward,
closing them for a brief moment.
God, couldn’t you have given me some time
to settle in first?

* * * * *

As Juliana walked toward the SJPD building, the fragrance of
late summer lilies eclipsed the downtown smog. Her gaze drifted to the golden
flowers growing in profusion around the stark façade. Juliana sighed and
swallowed her apprehension. The flower garden was her last slice of heaven
before she succumbed to the barrage of questions from a typical skeptical
detective.

Breathing in deeply, she assessed her appearance, smoothing
the wrinkles in her silk skirt and straightening the matching blazer.

Juliana entered the glass and concrete building and
approached the counter separating the lobby from the squad room. The expansive
work area beyond the counter hummed with computers, fax machines and copiers. Uniformed
and plain-clothed personnel moved briskly about their tasks.

A uniformed policewoman at the reception window glanced at
her impatiently. “Can I help you?”

Juliana dug her fingernails into her scarred leather
portfolio. “I have an appointment with Captain Hayes.”

The officer frowned and looked over her shoulder. A man’s
voice came from behind a cubicle wall. “I got her.”

The grubby brown door leading into the squad room creaked
open. Juliana turned toward the attractive, lanky man who stepped through.

“Captain Hayes had an emergency.” He flashed a lopsided
smile. “Detective James O’Malley.” His russet crew cut and freckled face gave
away his Irish ancestry as much as his name did.

She handed him her business card. “Juliana Westwood.”

He took the card and shook her hand, his grip firm. She
returned his charming smile, despite the renewed nervous stirring in her
stomach. She always had good luck working with Irish cops.

Without warning, Juliana’s heartbeat quickened and an ache
began behind her eyes. Strange and incomprehensible thoughts flitted through
her mind. Thoughts from someone else. As quickly as these sensations assaulted
her, they disappeared. Juliana wiped the dots of perspiration off her forehead
and rubbed her fingers on her purse. Something wasn’t right and she suspected
the looming abduction would be problematic, more so than any other case.

She shoved the forewarning aside to deal with later and
followed O’Malley to a cramped, bleak interrogation room. Four chairs and a
gray-speckled laminate table occupied the lion's share of space. A
closed-circuit surveillance television dangled from the ceiling in the farthest
corner. A two-way mirror on the opposite wall rounded off the furnishings.

Juliana wrinkled her nose as harsh pine cleaner clashed with
O’Malley’s citrus and amber cologne.

Her wary gaze dallied on the two-way mirror. “There’s no one
behind the mirror I take it?” She skirted the table and sat in a battered chair
on the other side, her back to the mirror. Juliana groaned as her bottom made
contact with the worn seat cushion that mimicked a cement slab.

“No.” O’Malley shrugged. “Why?” He dropped in a chair next
to the door and pulled it closer to the table. He squared her business card in
front of him, a small white blip on the blank expanse of gray table.

Relief began a slow crawl up her spine. “Just wondering.” Juliana
smiled and shifted in her seat, vainly seeking a comfortable position. The
concept of two-way mirrors hit too close to home with her telepathic abilities.
She’d hate someone unobtrusively watching her, even though she was capable of
doing the same in an even more intrusive manner. It was absurd, she knew it,
but it wasn’t as if she could help being who she was.

“Your message was mysterious.” O’Malley smiled crookedly.

His melodious voice soothed her and her body loosened up
another notch, despite the new presentiment.

She didn’t have any experience working with the SJPD, so she
wasn’t sure how tolerant they were of psychics. She swallowed. “As I informed
Captain Hayes on the phone, I’m a psychic. I have information regarding a
possible kidnapping.”

O’Malley squinted, his mouth a straight, tight line. He
pushed away from the table. “Hayes didn’t tell me you were a psychic.”

Juliana crossed her ankles, her calf brushing against a cold
steel table leg. Shivers raced up her body. “Is there a problem?” She kept her
voice impassive, confident. Cool objectivity afforded her the only means to
maintain her sanity while engaged in a criminal case.

“Policy.” He glanced at her business card. “A senior officer
has to sit in on first-timer psychic interviews.” His voice was gruff with
annoyance and he flicked his pen on his pad once.

After a moment of seeming deliberation, O’Malley rose to his
feet, pocketed her business card and opened the door. “Hang tight for a sec.” He
took one last, assessing look at her over his shoulder before the door slammed
shut behind him.

* * * * *

Alex MacKenzie sensed a presence in his open doorway before
he heard one. He was so engrossed in his work that his normally astute senses
had betrayed him. Glancing up from the unsolved homicide files burying his desk,
he saw James fill the doorway. “What’s up?” he asked, leaning back in his
chair, relieved to abandon the endless research and analysis.

James leaned his shoulder against the doorframe, shoving his
hands in his pockets. “Hayes dumped a psychic on me.”

Alex laughed and tossed his pen on the desk. “And you want
me as your senior officer? You’re full of it.”

“Yeah, man. I know how you
love
psychics.” James
flipped him the bird.

“Why me?”

“Take a guess,” James said with a snicker. “You’re top of
the dung heap right now.”

“Damn Hayes.” Alex scowled. “He did this on purpose.”

James grinned and jangled his keys in his pants pocket. “Not
that you give a rat’s ass, but she looks legit. Professional, serious,
nervous.”

Alex groaned and shoved his chair back from the desk,
bumping into the window frame. He made no bones about his dislike of psychics,
but he trusted James’ judgment before anyone else’s.

“Shit.” Alex sighed and stood, stretching his cramped legs. “Let’s
get it over with.”

Stepping around his desk, he grimaced at the files that
seemed to multiply as the clocked ticked. But he needed the break, if only for
the amusement factor. If he analyzed one more report on homicidal killing
sprees, he’d have to drink his lunch.

The walk to the interrogation room was silent, and Alex had
a bad feeling seeping inside his gut. He halted before the interrogation room
door and slowly turned around to face James. “What’s her name?”

“Juliana.” James plucked a business card from his shirt
pocket. “Westwood. Financial planner.”

Alex stiffened.
No. Impossible.
He clenched his hands
into fists, then slowly unclenched them. Memories surged forward. Long-buried pain
rose to meet the anger he thought he’d relinquished years ago.

“Man, are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“And she just waltzed over my grave.” Alex took the card
from James and studied it silently. “Damn.” He shrugged and opened the door. There
sat Juliana Westwood in the flesh. Back from the dead.

* * * * *

Juliana froze in her seat, unable to move a muscle.
Perspiration wet her face like a misty rain before turning into snow as the
blood rushed downward. “Alex?” she managed to croak. ”Alex MacKenzie?”

Her heart thumped against her ribcage and she thought it
might burst through her chest. A key turned the rusty lock on the box where memories
of her first eighteen years were stowed away.

O’Malley glanced from one to the other, eyes gleaming with
speculation. “You two know each other?”

“Yes,” Juliana whispered.

“Hardly,” Alex said sarcastically. He pulled out the chair
James had vacated earlier and sank down, his face granite.

O’Malley shut the door and sat next to Alex.

Juliana let Alex’s barb slide. After all, she deserved it.
She just wanted to run and hide, but she couldn’t tear her gaze from Alex. She
never could have envisioned that he would become a cop.

Despite Alex’s authoritative air, he looked the same. Mature,
bulked up, still undeniably gorgeous. Unforgettable azure eyes glared at her in
a face darkened by the California sun. A four-inch scar along his right jawline
marred his otherwise perfect face. The scar’s ivory ridge reminded her of the
dangers of law enforcement.

Perfect cop face.
Frowning pensively, she strained to
read his eyes, but they remained unfathomable.

Some things did change. Once, she could read him as well as
her own soul.

“Okay, now that we have that out in the open,” O’Malley
chuckled in an attempt at levity to break the awful tension. He glanced from
Alex to Juliana.

Alex sat motionless but looked as menacing as the gun protruding
from his shoulder holster. The feeling of déjà vu from earlier grew in
Juliana’s stomach. No wonder she felt as if this case would be tricky.
Alex
MacKenzie? What the hell is he doing here?

His gaze traveled leisurely from Juliana’s eyes to her mouth.
Her pulse skittered as his gaze slipped lower. Something close to desire flickered
in his eyes before quickly dimming to a glower.

Juliana pressed her hands against her stomach, trying to
ward off the thoughts and emotions attacking her. Did she imagine the way he
looked at her? As if time had spun backward and they were eighteen and in love again.
She must have mistaken the look.

Her back muscles twitched when Alex crushed the silence with
a soft and even, “Hello, Juliana.” His expression mellowed, but the softening
didn’t spread to his eyes. “What can we do for you?” He leaned his elbows on
the table, fingers steepled under his chin.

Juliana tugged together every loose strand of her being to
manage the impact of seeing Alex for the first time in twelve years.

The only man she’d ever loved.

Get through the meeting and escape this hell before Alex
lunges across the table and beats answers out of me
. She painted on a cool
veneer and straightened in her chair. “I’m here on official police business.” She
felt compelled to add, “This isn’t personal.”

“Why would it be after all this time?”

Alex’s question squeezed her heart so hard that it skipped a
beat. Ignoring his dig, she reached inside her leather portfolio. She pulled
out a sheet of paper and slid it across the table toward Alex. Even though he’d
experienced her psychic abilities firsthand a long time ago, he would need
major convincing now.

BOOK: ChasingShadows
5.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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