Nikki realized that she was still covered in goose bumps.
And she was afraid. Afraid as she had never been before.
She didn't know what she was up to herself when she then said, "Andy shows up in the middle of the night sometimes."
"I fall asleep with the TV on. She always liked television."
"She's watching over you."
The words tumbled out of her mouth then in a rush. "I have a guest room. If you really want a chance to meet Andy, you can stay in it, and if she appears… I can call you. I can tell her about you, and you can meet her right there and then." Oh, God! Her words sounded really and truly insane.
"I told you, I don't want to push things with you," he said very gently. "I want you to know me and trust me."
"Dammit," she said, standing. "You want me to know you and trust you. Well, so far, you've managed to scare me half out of my wits. What do you want, an engraved invitation? There's a guest room upstairs. Since I'm now afraid of my own shadow, I would deeply appreciate it if you would sleep there."
She watched his slow smile appear, that smile that changed his face from hard as rock to something that was entirely beguiling.
"Well, all right. If you put it that way."
She turned away, shaking, afraid of saying even more. The next thing, she would be begging him to stay in her room, to sleep with her… to hold her.
"Are ghosts mischievous?" she asked him.
"How do you mean?"
"Do they play tricks? Move things?"
He shrugged, hesitating. Then he asked, "You mean… like poltergeists?"
"I'm just curious."
Again he hesitated, then said, "I don't have all the answers. Have I seen ghosts move things? Yes. There's one old guy in St. Louis Number 1 who likes to throw pebbles and things at vandals who sneak over the walls. He's very protective. But… okay, there are young ghosts and old ghosts. And moving things takes trial and error and experience. Even materializing when they want to can be difficult, especially at first. When they're frightened, it's almost impossible for them."
"How can a ghost be frightened?" she demanded.
"Okay, let's forget that most people think you're insane if you see ghosts. Now think of what a ghost would be. Made up of heart and soul and personality. If the person that they were could be frightened, so can their ghost. Especially a young ghost. Anything the person could feel, their ghost can feel."
She knew she was looking at him as if he were completely insane.
She lowered her head. "Could Andy have moved my coffeepot?" she asked him.
His brows shot up. Then he looked downward, playing with his teacup, a slight smile tugging at his lips. "Your coffeepot moved? You're certain?"
"Well, no. Not certain."
He looked straight at her then. "Perhaps you want to look around your house. Find out if anything is missing. Is everything as it should be… here?"
She looked around the living room. "Seems to be."
"Want to check out the upstairs?"
He followed her.
He hovered in her bedroom doorway as she looked into her jewelry cases, drawers and closet.
She shook her head. "I really am losing my mind," she said.
"No you're not," he promised gently.
"The guest room is next," she said.
But there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary there, either. She let out a soft sigh. "I guess I just left the pot out farther than usual," she told him with a shrug.
"It's always safer to check things out," he told her simply.
"Well, then, I'll secure the balcony doors in my room, if you wouldn't mind checking out the rest of the place… ?"
"Not at all."
Back in her room, she made sure that the balcony doors were locked and secure. They hadn't been left open, she noted.
"All locked up," Brent called to her from the hallway.
"You're all right?"
"Absolutely. Um… you should be comfortable, I hope. Good night."
"Good night. And don't worry. I'm here. Just call out if anything frightens you in any way. Any way at all."
"Right. Thanks again. Good night."
She closed her own door but didn't lock it. Then she went through her bedtime ritual—brushing her teeth, washing her face, changing clothes—by rote.
In the bathroom, she hesitated again. In the cabinet above the sink, it seemed that one of the large bottles of her favorite perfume—a Christmas gift from Patricia—had been moved just slightly, too. It was a wee bit too close to the edge of the shelf.
It was ridiculous, she told herself. She could be too organized—she knew that. But, especially now, there was no reason to believe she was putting things back exactly as they had been. She had used the perfume that morning. Just as she had used the coffeepot that morning. She just hadn't been as precise as usual when she put them back.
It disturbed her.
Everything was disturbing her, she thought; she was undoubtedly making mountains out of molehills. She would start to see something evil in every face on the street soon if she didn't get a handle on her emotions.
With that she determined she was going to bed.
She lay down, certain she would never get to sleep.
Her things had been moved.
That was ridiculous. No one broke into an apartment to shift around a coffeepot and a perfume bottle.
Maybe it had been Andy. Whether she was a young ghost or not.
And maybe she was really nuts right now.
Sleep. She needed sleep.
No, she would never be able to sleep.
Her eyes were closing, and she was definitely in a comfortable drowsy state. She'd invited a near stranger to stay in her house. But because he was there, she felt safe. Safe and secure as she hadn't since…
She closed her eyes.
And the next thing she knew, it was morning.
* * *
Patricia woke early and was annoyed with herself. She hated it when she awoke before her alarm rang. Their nights could run late, and she treasured her sleep in the morning.
The room was still dark. There was nothing to have awakened her.
At her side, Nathan still slept soundly. She was glad of him being there.
Things had been perfect, in her job and her life, until…
Until Andy had died.
She felt a little shiver of fear, and a rush of empathy for Andy swept through her. She hadn't known her that well, but that didn't really matter—she had known her, and what had happened to her had been terrible. No, terrible wasn't nearly adequate to describe the fact that a gorgeous, vivacious young woman with everything in the world to live for was gone.
By her own hand? Or, as Nikki seemed to believe, with the help of another?
Had Andy fallen back into her old ways?
Or had she really been a victim?
Had she known her fate? Had she been terrified? Had she fought, then lost her fight?
Patricia swallowed, glancing to her side again. Nathan's dark hair was just discernible against the pillow in the pale light that filtered into the room. She heard his even breathing.
With Nikki being so insistent, the police had been forced to give Andy's case serious thought. But they had nothing. Detective Massey had been honest with them about that.
If Andy had been attacked, no one had heard anything. But then again, who had been around to hear? Just poor old deaf Mrs. Montobello?
Patricia wished suddenly and desperately that they'd never met Andy Ciello. Whatever happened to her must have happened because of her past.
Maybe not. Maybe she had been the random victim of a psychopath.
One who didn't leave behind a fingerprint, a fiber or a hair.
No, psychopaths didn't run around making it appear that someone had died from a drug overdose.
She nearly hit the ceiling, the sound of Nathan's voice was so startling.
"Oh, jeez!" she gasped out.
"Patricia, what's the matter with you?" he demanded, slipping an arm around her. "You're cold as ice and shaking like a leaf."
"You startled me."
"How could I startle you? I've been here all night."
Been here all night.
Nathan. She had fallen into lust with him first—he'd walked her home after one of their tours, and somehow they'd looked at each other and started stripping themselves and each other—and only later had she discovered just how head over heels she was with him.
She was grateful that they'd discovered their passion for one another. She wasn't alone now.
But that night…
The night Andy had died…
They'd all been out together, drinking. Too much. She and Nathan had gone home together. And in the middle of the night, she'd gotten up for aspirin. Staggered into the bathroom and back, falling down onto the sheets. And there had been something, something not quite right…
The bed had been…
Or had it?
She didn't really know. She'd had too much to drink, and she'd been exhausted. She'd gone back to bed, thinking something was ever so slightly wrong, nothing warm touching her, but she'd crashed out again, and when she had awakened, he'd been next to her, just as if he had been there all night, and she figured she had just imagined in her silly drunken stupor that she had been alone.
"I was just… thinking about poor Andy," she whispered.
He drew her close. His arms felt warm and sure and strong.
"We can't spend our lives dwelling on what happened to her," he told her quietly.
"I know. But it isn't easy to forget."
"Of course not. And we'd be terrible human beings if it didn't cut to the core."