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“Kelsey, grab your purse and a sweater,” he said. “Your phone, you’ll need your phone,” he told her.

She nodded again and went through the house. He followed her; Jonas Weston followed him.

He lowered his head and bit his lip.

Kelsey said that she saw Jonas go by the window. She’d reached the water area just a split second behind him.

Jonas couldn’t have caused this.

“You want to hear something odd?” Jonas asked him.

“What?” Just inside the back door, Liam spun to face him.

Jonas backed away, his jaw tight. “I came over and helped save that man,” he said.

“Sorry. I’m sorry. What?” Liam asked.

“It looked like there was something in the water. Something big. It was right beneath him,” Jonas said.

“Like what?” Liam asked.

“I don’t know. It’s nearly dusk. The water is dark. It—it just looked like a dark shadow.” He tried to offer a weak smile. “Well, you got the man breathing. I’m sure when he comes to, he’ll be able to tell us exactly what happened.”

What the hell had happened? Avery Slater was a well-built, coordinated man who didn’t seem the type to slip off a dock.

“Thanks, Jonas. Thank you. I’m sure Avery is going to be very grateful as well. I’m glad you were here for Kelsey,” he said.

He tried to keep sincerity in his voice.

He wanted the man to leave.

He had to get a few things together for Kelsey and get up to the hospital. No matter how quickly he moved, it was going to take some time to get there. Screw it.

He would call the station and say that he’d need his own helicopter.

“Thank you, Jonas,” he said again pointedly.

“Right. Right,” Jonas said, backing out the door. “Call me. Call me, please, and let me know how he’s doing.”

“Of course,” Liam promised as Jonas finally left.

Liam called the station and ordered his helicopter. He asked for a crime-scene unit to be sent out to the Merlin estate again.

He was asked what they were supposed to be looking for.

“A large black shadow,” he said. “I don’t know. Hopefully, the victim will be able to tell us what happened.”

Ricky Long had answered at the desk. He didn’t seem to think that the request was odd, but before he hung up, he asked, “Lieutenant, are we sure we have a victim?”

“What do you mean?”

“The man might have just fallen off the dock. I mean…never mind. I don’t have any problem telling people they’re supposed to be looking for a large dark shadow. After all, they’re going out to the Merlin house.”

Naturally, they had to save a life first. Ah, yes, running around like chickens with no heads. Desperate to get a man out of the water, desperate to make him breathe.

It had all worked very well, especially considering that it had been a spur-of-the-moment plan. He’d heard Kelsey speaking. The book! That damned book! He could have taken it; it had been right in front of him. But he’d never imagined that old Cutter had stuck notes into the thing. He’d needed Kelsey there, needed her to point the way.

But now he needed the book. God knew what else the notes said, what Cutter Merlin might have suspected or figured out by that time. Merlin had been a fool. He should have gotten rid of the real reliquary years ago. But he had held it, determined to catch his daughter’s murderer….

The excitement began to ease as the med techs left with the body, with Kelsey.

He slipped back in, ready to go for the book.

Kelsey wasn’t sure who gave her the blanket she was wearing. It helped, though. Winter in Florida was doing the right thing, being mild at the moment, but still, being wet, and drying slowly and stiffly, was not comfortable. And yet, other than the fact that she’d been shivering, she hadn’t thought much about it. She simply realized she had acquired a blanket somewhere along the line, and she was grateful for it. She hoped she remembered to thank all the right people.

Avery didn’t come to while they were in the helicopter.

He didn’t come to at the hospital.

She was terrified that any minute, a doctor would walk out of the double-swing doors with a sad expression and shake his head sadly while her heart and mind rebelled at the horror of such an impossible tragedy.

Not Avery, too. Please, God, not Avery, too. Please don’t let him be touched by whatever monstrosity of greed or fate plagues my family.

The day had been absurd. She should pinch herself and discover that the entire thing had been a nightmare or a daymare, or a hideous creation of her mind.

But it wasn’t.

She’d never felt the wet and the cold so thoroughly in a dream. It was real. At least, this part of it was real. Before…before she had seen Avery floating facedown in the water, she’d been talking to a ghost. A ghost named Bartholomew. And everyone knew him, of course. At least, Liam knew him. Liam, the dead-steady, capable, solidly sane cop. Or so said the ghost. But the ghost knew Katie, David, Sean and Vanessa, too. Naturally. The ghost was a conch. Conchs were friendly.

She couldn’t bear sitting there, waiting….

When she thought that she would lose her mind, she saw Liam walking down the hallway. How he had gotten there so quickly, she couldn’t imagine. She jumped up and went running to him.

“How is he?” Liam asked huskily.

“I don’t know. He wasn’t conscious, but they keep telling me that I shouldn’t be horribly worried about that. But they won’t tell me that he’s okay, either. How in God’s name did you get here so fast?” she demanded.

“I decided to abuse a little power and order a copter for myself,” he told her dryly. “It is police business. I believe he was attacked.”

Kelsey shook her head. “Liam, Jonas didn’t attack him.”

“I didn’t say it was Jonas.”

“It’s obvious that you’ve been suspicious of Jonas.”

“Really? It’s that bad?”


“The bone-thin leads I have point to him,” Liam said.

“He didn’t hurt Avery. I saw him run by the window. I ran through the house. I was one step behind him when we plunged into the water to get Avery. Oh, God, he wasn’t breathing. You resuscitated him. I don’t know how long he wasn’t breathing. He hasn’t come to. In movies, when someone spits the water out of their lungs, they wake up!”

“Let’s believe that he’s going to be all right, Kelsey.”

“Liam, I don’t know how long he was in the water!”

“But Jonas heard him scream. That means he couldn’t have been without oxygen that long. The human body is remarkably resilient, Kelsey. He’ll be all right,” Liam said.

She wasn’t sure she dared believe him. But she was glad that he was there. She was more than glad, she realized. He was a steadying influence. He was the love and support she needed.

How strange that she realized it so clearly now. She’d been away so long. They’d been out of one another’s lives. And she knew now that she had always loved him, and it had been so easy to be with him because she should have been with him long ago.

Ah, but could he feel the same? How could anyone be certain about her, when it seemed that her family and even the house itself were cursed?

Not cursed. There was someone out there killing people. A real live human being. She didn’t know what forces were driving that person, but a person was trying to steal the reliquary, and that person was committing murder because of greed.

And, after all, Liam was friends with a ghost. They were all a bit different, so it seemed.

“I’m going to see what I can do,” Liam told her. “I’ll be right back.”

When he stood and left, she saw Bartholomew. He had apparently accompanied Liam.

“You said that you wanted to fly,” she told him, smiling weakly.

“Not this way,” he said.

“It’s all right. How was the ride?”

“Tense,” Bartholomew said.

“But did you enjoy it?” she asked.

“I think I’d like to fly first class in an airplane, someplace with first-class hotel accommodations,” he said. He shrugged. “I’ve roamed the Caribbean, I’ve set sail on majestic waters, I’ve walked streets of mud and seen a great deal of time pass. I’d like something contemporary and modern, and, of course, I can’t really feel it, but I’d love a hot tub and a cushion-top bed.”

He made her smile. She wished she could really touch him, squeeze his hand.

“So, does Liam know that I see you, that we converse?” she asked him.

Bartholomew grinned wickedly. “Not yet. We’ll let him know at an appropriate time.”

Liam came back down the hallway. He wasn’t smiling, but he didn’t look as if he were going to have to give her awful news, either.

“Avery’s brain was not deprived of oxygen too long,” he assured her quickly. “He really should make a full recovery.”


“He’s still unconscious. He took a tremendous wallop on the head,” Liam said.

“So someone struck him?” she asked.

“I asked the doctors about that—they can’t say for certain. They don’t know how he fell into the water. The injury could have been caused by the dock if he fell a certain way. We won’t know until Avery wakes up and tells us,” Liam explained.

“When can I see him?” she asked.

“I brought you dry clothing. Why don’t you go change, and then you can go in and see him,” Liam suggested.

Kelsey nodded and thanked him for the duffel bag of belongings he had brought for her. He pointed down the hall to a restroom.

Kelsey changed from her damp clothing and immediately felt better. Oddly enough, simply being dry and warm seemed to give her more strength.

When she came out, Bartholomew was seated in one of the hallway chairs, listening. The doctor was talking to Liam.