Read Lingering Touch: The Summer Park Psychics, Book 3 Online

Authors: Cassandra Chandler

Tags: #Psychics;Psychometry;Ghosts;Possession;Second Chances;Private Investigator;Alligators

Lingering Touch: The Summer Park Psychics, Book 3

BOOK: Lingering Touch: The Summer Park Psychics, Book 3
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The memory of his touch has never left her heart…or her body.

The Summer Park Psychics
, Book 3

Finn Connelly can see the past by touching objects, even read people’s thoughts. This power allows him to be the best private investigator in Summer Park. Until his abilities spiral out of control, leaving his thoughts and emotions inextricably entangled with those of others.

The only one who can help him regain control is the last person he trusts. Jazz Zhou, the woman who broke his heart.

Jazz is still reeling from nearly losing her closest friends to a serial killer—a man she brought into their lives. When she learns Finn is psychically bound to the ghost of one of the killer’s victims, she grabs the chance to atone for past mistakes.

As their investigation takes them to the killer’s hometown, they realize the threat to Jazz’s friends isn’t over—and neither is their relationship. But the more Finn uses his powers, the more he loses himself. And soon even Jazz’s touch might not be enough to help him claw his way out of a murderer’s memories.

Warning: Contains a heroine with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a hunky private eye with a touch that will leave you begging for more. And alligators. Lots of alligators.

Lingering Touch

Cassandra Chandler

Dedication

For those who dare to try again.

Prologue

Summer Park—May 2015

Time travel was impossible. There was no such thing.

Finn had worked plenty of weird cases as a private investigator. This one might break into his top ten.

He picked the lock on the theatre’s back door, then slipped into the building. The most recent production had wrapped almost three weeks ago. That meant only construction crews would be around. They’d be focused on the stage. Finn was interested in the theatre’s seating.

All he needed was a few minutes in the box reserved for Elsa Sinclair—famous novelist and professional recluse. His best friend, Garrett, had hired Finn to figure out if Elsa was being conned by the guy she was living with—Dante Lucerne.

It seemed likely. For starters, Dante Lucerne had been dead over a hundred years. Finn turned up that little gem of information within an hour of working the case. The original Dante had been killed in a fire in London in 1881. Finn couldn’t find any other men matching the name and description Garrett had provided. And it was a very unusual description.

Six foot tall, short dark hair, thin build, blue-green eyes, and scarring over a quarter of his face centered on his right temple. Oh, and he dressed like a guy from the 1800s…who chose to wear a
Phantom of the Opera
mask.

Yeah, this case had definitely cracked his top ten.

Garrett had turned around and told Finn to drop the case right away, but it was too late. Finn’s curiosity had been piqued. The more Finn learned, the more curious he became. He had even already brought out his secret weapon—psychometry. He’d used his psychic ability to read what had happened in the limo Elsa rented the night Dante appeared in her life.

Finn snorted and shook his head as he remembered Elsa telling Dante that she had basically teleported him from 1800s London to modern-day Florida.

Time travel. Yeah, right.

Finn could buy into a lot of things—psychometry and telepathy, for instance. His very personal experience proved those were real. But going back in time and bringing someone to the future? No way.

Dante had been really convincing, though. Not only had he been wearing the old-timey clothes Garrett had mentioned, but Dante had been covered in soot and sweat. He had the accent down, speech cadences sounding like something from a period piece.

Only one explanation seemed plausible—Elsa was researching a new book. She was going all out and had hired an actor to help her get into the spirit of things. For all Finn knew, this was how she researched all of her stories. It would explain why everyone talked about how real they felt. Hell, even Finn’s dad was a fan.

Finn might have to read her next book. The horror novels he usually read right before sleep were finally getting to him. It had been decades since he’d woken up screaming from a nightmare. He was a grown man, for crying out loud. He couldn’t quite remember what had happened in his dreams the night before, but he felt in his gut that it was somehow related to this case.

He’d never had an investigation get under his skin like this. He’d been on edge all day, jumping at the smallest things and feeling…honestly, kind of terrified. He didn’t understand where it was coming from. He did understand that it needed to stop.

If sifting through the memories of the dozen or more people who had been in the limo since Elsa and Dante would help him figure out the mystery, it was worth it. Even the ones that were a graphic and unwelcome reminder of his last encounter with Jazz. They had broken up after a disastrous date in a limo.

That was Fate’s punchline. Elsa wasn’t just tight with Garrett—who was as close to a brother as Finn was going to get this lifetime—she was best friends with Finn’s ex, Zhou Jazz.

Who was he kidding? Jazz wasn’t just an ex-girlfriend—she was
the
ex-girlfriend. The only woman Finn had ever wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Their relationship had escalated so quickly, even though they’d only been together for a couple of months. He’d been certain she was the one he was meant for. Part of him still thought so.

Normally, he used his work to avoid thinking about her, letting himself get lost in the puzzles his investigations presented. With this case, everything reminded him of her.

He had even seen her a few times, talked to contacts that he introduced her to. For some reason, she was putting together a fake ID for Dante. If Dante was conning Elsa, he was conning Jazz too. Finn took a deep breath and willed his body to relax, his hands to uncurl.

If Dante was conning Jazz, if he tried to hurt her in any way… It would not end well for him.

Finn made his way to the box that Elsa had reserved for every single showing of the play. It was unlocked. Two chairs sat facing away from him. The curtains were already closed. Apparently, she insisted they were kept that way—yet another of her eccentricities. No one had bothered to open them yet.

It worked in his favor. He could check things out without being seen. Her memories should be all over the place.

Finn closed the door behind him and set to work. He held out his hands and shifted his awareness, letting the feel of the place soak in. A few deep breaths would open him to…

Holy shit.

The tiny room was bursting with energy. Finn felt like he was on a roller coaster, his stomach lurching and doing flip-flops. He staggered forward and grabbed one of the seats in front of him to stay upright. A jolt of energy lit him up like the Fourth of July. His eyes were electrified, his body tingling from head to toe. He blinked a few times, waiting for his perspective to shift as his powers kicked in.

Normally, he felt like he was floating above the place he was viewing—his awareness on the shoulder of whoever had touched what he was touching. This time, he was booted out of his body like someone rammed him in the gut. The vision was different too—the colors more vivid. Too vivid to be real.

He looked down from the ceiling to see Elsa standing in the same spot that Finn’s body must be occupying. She was staring at…nothing. Between the no-blinking and standing completely still, she looked like a mannequin.

It would have been creepy if not for the ribbons of golden light whipping around, centered on her. They cast off little fireworks of energy that filled the space. Finn felt like he was inside a glitter-filled snow-globe that was being swirled around.

The light started to gather in front of her, taking on the shape of a man. Elsa’s arms shifted so that she was embracing him, clinging to him. The light was painfully bright. In a final flash that made Finn wish he had eyelids to shut, Dante appeared in her arms.

What the fuck! What the flaming flying fuck!

Dante collapsed. It looked like he was convulsing.

“Dante? Dante, are you all right?” She grabbed a dark cloak from the back of the other chair. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t think it would be this bad.”

She draped the cloak over him, then dropped to the ground. She snuggled up against his back, spooning him and rubbing his arms and chest. He was shivering and breathing heavy.

“Stay with me. Please stay with me,” she said.

Finn watched, dumbfounded. After a few moments, Dante’s tremors subsided. He gripped Elsa’s wrist and said, “I assure you, I have no plans to go elsewhere.”

They sat up slowly. She knelt next to him, hovering like a hummingbird, her face pinched with worry. The pair finally faced each other, and damn, Finn could sense the chemistry even without his body. A much dimmer version of the golden lights was hovering around their bodies, linking them together like she was still holding on to him.

“How do you feel?” Elsa asked.

“I scarcely know where to begin.”

“Are you hurt?”

“I do not believe so. For the most part, I am confused.”

That made two of them.

“That’s understandable. I’ll explain everything as soon as I can. But right now, we have to go.”

Elsa rose to her feet and offered her hand to help Dante up. Of course, he took it. The two stood close, staring into each other’s eyes like…

Like Finn wished he and Jazz would have. He groaned at himself, then forced thoughts of Jazz out of his mind.

“Where is it we are going?” Dante asked.

Elsa smiled. Finn realized he had never seen her look happy before. Not that they’d spent much—or any—time together. Jazz wasn’t keen on incorporating Finn into her life.

“Home,” Elsa said.

She stepped toward the door. The vision faded as she and Dante moved away. Finn blinked a few times as his awareness returned to his body. He was sitting on the floor where Elsa and Dante had been talking. When had Finn fallen?

The conversation Finn had viewed in Elsa’s limo took on a whole new depth of meaning. She really
had
brought Dante forward over a century, had saved him from the fire that supposedly killed him.

Finn stood, careful not to touch anything. Once was enough for being pulled into the current of such a powerful memory. He staggered out into the hall, closing the door behind him. His thoughts whirled as he leaned against the dark wood, still clutching the doorknob.

Finn’s hearing cut out suddenly, his perspective shifting so he was looking down at the door. Another vision? What the
fuck
was up with his powers today?

A blond guy was standing in front of Elsa’s theatre box, stroking the door. Yeah, that wasn’t suspicious at all.

Finn recognized him as one of the people he had sifted through when finding Elsa’s memories in the limo she rented. He remembered the guy because he had just sat there, completely still, for a long time the day after Elsa and Dante rented it. That was too much of a coincidence.

Finn made a note of the guy’s height and weight, his build, his clothes, anything that might help ID him later. The vision ended gradually, letting Finn sink back into the awareness of his own body again.

He had a call to make. Garrett needed to know that Dante wasn’t the one Elsa should be concerned about. And after that, Finn would start looking for the blond guy.

Chapter One

Summer Park—July 2015

Garrett’s car was in his driveway. Jazz parked her SUV behind it, clutching her wheel with a white-knuckled grip. The day was already oppressively hot. His car was going to be an oven. Why wasn’t it in the garage?

The garage. Right.

She had never really thought about garages before. Now she hated them. She couldn’t imagine how they made Rachel feel after what had happened to her.

No, Jazz could. She just didn’t want to.

“Get off your ass,” she said. Rachel was waiting for her.

Jazz grabbed the green bag sitting in the passenger’s seat. Apparently, Rachel was in the mood for some metaphysical arts-and-crafts. If it helped her feel better, Jazz was all for it. She opened the door and slid to the ground.

Heat reflected up from the white concrete of Garrett’s driveway. Her leather pants held on to the cool from the AC, deflecting some of it. The big black sweater she had decided to wear—not so much. She stood for a moment as the humidity penetrated the fabric, baking her.

Today’s wardrobe choice brought to you by yet another lapse in judgment.

“Fuck. This.”

She slammed the door shut. It was even more satisfying than swearing—a habit she had picked up from Finn.

Don’t think about Finn.

She repeated the mantra a few times as she marched up to the house and rang the doorbell.

“Coming!”

Rachel’s voice. She sounded…happy. How could that be possible after everything she’d been through?

Rachel opened the door. She had a broad smile on her face. It was almost like nothing had happened. No, not quite. The lines of tension around her eyes had deepened.

She always had a haunted quality about her that made Jazz want to kick her parents’ asses. It had never been this bad before. She ran through a quick, assessing check.

Rachel’s hair was brushed but otherwise left alone. Simple blue shirt, jeans, sneakers. No jewelry, no makeup… Yeah, Rachel was still healing. The dark circles under her eyes weren’t the only sign. She kept one hand behind her back, as if she was hiding something.

“Hi!”

Jazz knew Rachel’s enthusiasm must be at least partially forced. Probably to benefit Jazz. Her eyes were burning. She was grateful that Rachel was okay. Would be, anyway. They would all make sure of it. Especially now that Rachel was at Garrett’s.

“Hi.”

Rachel’s brow knitted and her smile vanished. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

Did something…

“Are you kidding me? Yes, something happened. I haven’t seen you since you left the hospital, and you’ve barely texted or called!”

Jazz walked into the house and shut the door, then grabbed Rachel and hugged her. Rachel stiffened as the awkwardness of the moment sank in. Dammit, Jazz needed to start hugging people more often. The idea that she could have missed the chance to make up for it…

It was too much. Her eyes were still burning. No way in hell would she cry. If she did, Rachel would try to comfort Jazz, and that was not okay. Rachel was the one who needed comforting.

“Are you okay?” Jazz asked. “You look better.”

“I am better. Getting there, anyway.”

Jazz sniffed to keep her nose from running. The air was thick with incense. Not freshen-the-air incense, either. It was the same scent that Chloe used at her metaphysical bookstore, Bookwyrm.

“Why does it smell like a temple in here?” Jazz asked.

Rachel laughed and stepped back. “That would be from this.”

She held up a small brass incense holder with holes punched in patterns along the sides and lid. Three tiny chains attached to it led to a small hook at the top that Rachel had looped over one finger. The thing—a censer, Jazz remembered—was used in rituals and religious observations. Smoke trailed out of it, slowly wending its way up Rachel’s arm.

“If you don’t mind, I need to smudge you,” Rachel said.

How did Rachel know what smudging was? Jazz was the only member of her group who was into metaphysics. Well, aside from Elsa. But Elsa wasn’t so much interested in the topic as forced into it from first-hand experience. Maybe Rachel didn’t know what she was talking about.

“You want to cleanse my aura?” Jazz asked.

“That’s the idea.”

Okay, she
does
know.

Jazz stepped back toward the door and lifted her arms to give Rachel space to work. Like a pro, Rachel wafted the smoke around Jazz’s body, clearing and cleansing her energy field.

Auras were kind of mainstream. Lots of people knew what they were and Jazz wouldn’t have been too surprised for that topic to come up in conversation. But smudging was a level deeper.

The question of “how Rachel knew” wasn’t as disturbing as “why was she doing this?” Jazz actually cleansed and combed her aura on a regular basis. She smudged herself and her apartment every month during the dark moon, banishing thoughts and attachments she wanted to clear out.

Finn’s smiling face popped into Jazz’s mind—his cocky grin surrounded by dark brown stubble and those pale blue eyes that she could dive into. She had never been able to bring herself to try to clear Finn’s energy from her life, even though she constantly told herself to stop thinking about him.

He and Rachel had the same exact eye color. It had unsettled Jazz at first. Now she found it weirdly comforting. Nostalgic even.

Bullshit
.

It just gave Jazz an excuse to think about him—let her blame it on an external stimulus instead of the soul-deep longing that kept her up at night and made her that much more dedicated to her work.

Dammit, stop thinking about Finn.

Her mantra wasn’t working. Then again, it seldom did with him.

One month, three weeks, six days, and twenty-two hours. That was how long they had been together before he left. Even after all this time, she still thought of him every day.

She needed to be thinking about Rachel.

“If you need me to open the bag to cleanse the stuff inside, let me know,” Jazz said.

Rachel paused briefly with the censer under the bag. She let the smoke float up around the green plastic.

“That should be good enough.” She laughed abruptly. “I know we’ve never discussed paranormal stuff before, but I have to say I’m very grateful you’re into it and already know so much.”

“I didn’t know you were into it at all.”

“It’s kind of been a necessity for me. Let’s sit down and talk.” Rachel took the bag and led Jazz into the living room.

Necessity. Like Elsa.

Jazz wondered if Rachel might be psychic too. It was pretty common in Summer Park. Something about the place seemed to call to people with gifts, drawing in whole families sometimes.

Like Finn and his dad, Tommy.

Her stomach tightened as she remembered sitting around their kitchen table and laughing till her sides hurt. Finn hadn’t just given her his heart—he’d given her a family. She had messed up and lost them both.

She modified her standard mantra, trying to get a better handle on her emotions.

Do not think about Tommy.

“Can I get you a drink or anything?” Rachel asked.

“I’m good.”

Garrett’s coffee table was covered in an impressive library of metaphysical texts. Jazz recognized several of the same books she had in her collection. Chloe was doing good business.

Jazz sat on the couch and said, “I’m guessing this isn’t a passing interest.”

“No.”

Where was Garrett? Jazz broadened her attention and heard water running at the other side of the house. He must be in the shower. While she was scanning the room, she noticed a poppet hanging above the sliding glass doors that led to the patio.

A poppet?

It was made of plain white cloth and shaped like a person, but didn’t have any other defining characteristics. Jazz checked the kitchen window with her limited view from the couch. Sure enough, a poppet was hanging there as well. Rachel was warding away spirits. Not just a specific spirit—otherwise, there would have been more detail to the things. She was keeping away all of them.

That explained the smudging.

“I see you’re already redecorating,” Jazz said.

Rachel’s smile faltered and the tension around her eyes increased. She’d said she wanted to talk metaphysics, but maybe she was like Elsa and new to the whole thing.

“It’s a poppet,” Rachel said. “They keep away spirits.”

Maybe not-so-new.

Rachel made herself a workspace on the coffee table, then sat on the floor and opened the bag. She placed what Jazz had picked up at Bookwyrm on the table. Silver jewelry wire, a wire cutter, a silver chain, and three stones.

“Snowflake obsidian, fluorite, and opal, as requested,” Jazz said. “I picked out three that looked like you could make them work in a necklace.”

“These are perfect, thanks.”

They were in a small sealed plastic bag. Rachel opened it, then let the stones tumble gently onto her hand. She set them on the table reverently.

The snowflake obsidian was black with little gray speckles that looked like snow. Obsidian was used in metaphysical work with the subconscious. Snowflake obsidian specifically could be used in meditation and rituals designed to help a person manifest their most authentic self.

Fluorite, on the other hand, was about boundaries and concentration. Jazz used it when she really needed to focus on a project and didn’t want to be distracted by outside influences.

The one she’d picked out had lots of blue and purple flowing through the translucent body of the stone, which would bring out the iridescent qualities of the otherwise milky-white opal. Opal was used for journeying and balance.

Journeying…
Was the necklace meant for Elsa?

Rachel was linking the stones together, wrapping the jewelry wire around each one to hold it in place. While she worked, she said, “I spoke with Elsa on the phone today. She told me what she can do.”

Yup. It was for Elsa.

The choice of stones suddenly made sense. No, not just sense—they were genius. Opal to aid journeying, fluorite to aid focus. Using those stones together, Elsa’s psychic ability of astral projection would be heightened. They would give her more control. Jazz wasn’t sure how the snowflake obsidian factored in, though.

She also wasn’t completely certain that she and Rachel were on the same page. Until she was, Jazz wouldn’t spill Elsa’s secret, even though Elsa said she was planning to tell Rachel eventually.

“Elsa can do a lot of things,” Jazz said.

“So can I.”

Rachel let her hands drop to her lap and stared at Jazz intently. She had never seen Rachel look so serious.

“I can hear spirits,” Rachel said. “Sometimes I see them in reflections. Especially mirrors.”

Damn. Was Jazz a psychic magnet or something? She knew she didn’t have any abilities herself. She would have discovered it over her years of practicing, researching, trying to reach the other side.

Plus, Chloe had tested her.

One of the reasons Jazz settled in Summer Park was to be closer to Chloe and work with her. She had been the most promising lead in Jazz’s ultimately futile quest.

Aside from “having a heightened sense of people’s character”, Jazz was within the normal levels of sensory perception. And even that ability hadn’t helped to avoid—

Do not think about Michael.

Her mantra didn’t keep her stomach from knotting. She hated that Michael could affect her so viscerally. She took a slow, deep breath through her nose and let it out through slightly pursed lips, hoping that Rachel wouldn’t notice.

“Aren’t you going to say something?” Rachel asked.

“I’m being inscrutable,” Jazz said. “It’s an Asian thing.”

As she hoped, Rachel laughed. Jazz felt her own face pull into a stiff smile.

“Okay. I need more information.”

Rachel nodded. “You know how I sometimes get distracted? That’s usually when I’m hearing spirits having a conversation. Florida is filled with ghosts. That’s why I’m making this for Elsa.”

How did ghosts intersect with astral projection?

“I don’t see the connection.”

“Elsa travels astrally. She leaves her body behind, ready to be occupied.”

The knots in Jazz’s stomach tightened.

“Occupied?”

“It’s easy for a spirit to enter an empty body.”

“You’re talking about possession.”

Rachel nodded. “Some ghosts can even take over bodies that have souls in them. If they have a strong enough personality, they can overcome the existing consciousness. All they need is an opening or conduit. It would be easy for a spirit to take over Elsa’s body while she’s traveling.”

Shit. Jazz should have thought of that as soon as Elsa had told Jazz what she could do. Jazz had been too dazzled and happy and proud of Elsa’s ability.

Elsa didn’t just use her power to let her soul travel through space—she traveled back in time
on a regular basis
. No wonder her novels were so rich in historical detail.

As if that wasn’t enough, she had discovered Dante, basically fallen in love with him while observing him, and saved his life by pulling him forward through time
physically
. Jazz had never heard of anything happening on that level. She was still kind of in awe of the whole thing. Even so, she should have realized the danger inherent in Elsa leaving her body empty.

Jazz knew that mediums could channel spirits through their bodies during séances and that sometimes the spirits didn’t want to leave. She had studied the phenomenon of walk-ins, even a bit about possession. Finding out more about how spirits and the living could interact had been a near-obsession of hers for years after her father’s unexpected death.

Never think about Father.

Her mind shied away from the topic instantly, like the thought was made of shards of broken glass. She pulled her focus back to Rachel again.

The snowflake obsidian finally made sense. The necklace wasn’t meant to boost Elsa’s powers. It was meant to keep her safe.

BOOK: Lingering Touch: The Summer Park Psychics, Book 3
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