What would happen to a woman who’d been haunted her whole life? Who’d been at the mercy of an enraged poltergeist hellbent on revenge? And how will she respond when her father stumbles across a man who says he can help? An all-new story in Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series is out this week, and I have a little sneak peek for you.
“It looks worse than it feels,” I lied.
Busted, she met my gaze in the mirror and shook her head. “I doubt that.”
I paused before disappearing into the bathroom and asked, “You worried about me?”
As though unable to admit it, she pulled the pup closer and headed for the door. “I’m going to take Flo for a walk.”
“Short for Florabel,” she said, so matter-of-factly I laughed out loud.
So did washing and shampooing and moving in general. I decided to preserve what energy I could and forego shaving for the time being. The scruff would help disguise the abrasions, too. Win-win.
The shower helped with the soreness, but painkillers were still on the breakfast menu. As for the rest of the day, I needed to get Halle to trust me. To open up. If she knew something about Paul Meacham that would help us figure this out… But what? Had he assaulted her when she was a kid? Was she afraid of him? Her secretive behavior would suggest an absolute yes to both of those questions, but I didn’t want to assume anything. And I didn’t want to risk her mental well-being.
Unless I absolutely had to.
Halle’s signature knock sounded at the door.
I strolled over and asked through said door, “Who is it?”
“Me, who?” Yes, I was a five-year-old trapped inside a thirty-three-year-old’s body.
“I got breakfast burritos.”
I swung the door open. “Way to bury the lead.”
She stood there, food in one arm and the furball in the other, as I walked back to the mirror. I’d been in the middle of trying to tame the mop that grew wild on the top of my head—a testament to the never-ending struggle of man versus nature.
I was brushing my hair with my fingers when our gazes met in the mirror mid-fluff. She was still standing at the door like a deer in headlights. I looked down and realized the massive bruise that ran from my lower left abdomen up to my right shoulder must’ve surprised her. “It’s not as bad as it looks. Promise.”
She blinked back to life and stepped inside, closing the door behind her. “I didn’t know what you liked, so I got a couple of options.”
“Always a good plan. You didn’t happen to pick up a bottle of morphine while you were out, did you?”
“No, but I have some ibuprofen.”
That’d work. Hopefully.
She put the furball on the bed. It yipped and ran in circles, as excited about the burritos as I was.
I gave up on my hair and sat at the small table by the window as she put a box on the floor and unpacked the bag. I wondered about the box. Not enough to ask, but… She lifted out a cup of coffee. “Coffee, too?” I stole one and took a sip. Lukewarm but mouthwateringly delicious. “You must really like me.”
She paused, cast me a sideways glance, then continued her work. “I got one with bacon, one with ham, and one with sausage. And can I just say, for the record, you look really good in a towel?”
I stilled. Was that a compliment? Did she just compliment me? And, fuck, I was in a towel.
“I’m sorry.” I jumped up, grabbed an armful of clothes, and headed back to the bathroom. “I live in a kind of compound,” I said through the door, “with like a thousand other people, and none of us were gifted with an overabundance of manners.”
Even when I stepped out in a Cruisers T-shirt and jeans, she continued to avoid eye contact. Fucking hell, I could be an ass. Unless I was greatly mistaken, this woman had been the victim of a malicious criminal for a long time. She’d very likely been assaulted at a young age and then stalked for years, possibly worse. And here I was, walking around half-naked.
I sat again, stretched one leg under the table, and draped an arm over it. She didn’t flinch or back away. A good sign. Hopefully, I hadn’t scarred her for life.
“I’m really sorry about that.”
She shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just, I’ve never seen a body like yours in real life. I wasn’t sure they really existed.”
I frowned and surveyed my body parts. Apart from a few tattoos that were filched from various Asian criminal organizations—and would probably get me killed as a result—the rest of my ink was pretty average American biker. But if someone grew up very sheltered, my inked-up physique could be quite the eye-opener.
“You live in a compound with a thousand people?”
I laughed softly. “No. It just feels like it sometimes. I live in a compound with about twenty other people, but it’s not a cult. I swear.” I was always worried about our image.