- The Vision
But there were the other disappearances.
The scent of salt water suddenly seemed to be upon them again.
“Genevieve,” he whispered urgently, pulling her close. Her eyes opened. She stared at him in the shadows, smiling, still half asleep. “Stay with me,” he murmured urgently. A slight frown crossed her brow. His words made no sense, he knew. She obviously had no plans to.
But he repeated the words, anyway.
“Stay with me.”
He cradled her to him. Made love with a ferocity that bordered on the violent. Held her against him, flesh to flesh.
He realized he didn’t want to sleep, even as she drowsed in his arms. But in time, despite his desire to remain awake, he slept. Completely entwined with the woman he realized he loved.
As if his very flesh could keep away the demons in which he did not believe.
It came again.
The smell of the sea.
Salt, waves, wind.
And she knew they were coming. Men, marching slowly, grimly. Tattered frock coats in many colors. White unbleached cotton shirts that were in rags.
The white gleam of bone.
Eyeless sockets that still seemed to stare…
Marching. Coming closer, closer…
Here a blunderbuss, there a saber.
Shreds of hair from bony heads topped by angled hats. And there the remnant of an earlobe, gold hoop dangling precariously.
She fought the fear. Fought the conviction that they meant to surround and entrap her. But still they came closer…closer.
And then, as usual, the woman. The beautiful young woman. Hair floating around her. White gown drifting in the invisible water.
Her eyes, so sad. Her lips, forming the word.
Genevieve fought against her innate panic; the survival instinct that begged her to awaken. She knew she needed to wait, to let them enter her unconscious mind.
To let them have their say.
Beware of what? she entreated in silence.
The woman’s full, rich, beautiful lips, so miraculously preserved against the absolute decay of her companions, began to move.
But her words dissipated at the ear splitting blare of the alarm.
Genevieve bolted upright. She gasped, drawing a deep breath, more panicked by the noise than she had been by the dream. She looked around. The room was in shadows.
Thor was gone.
She couldn’t remember hearing the alarm earlier. He must have awoken on his own, then, as he had promised, reset it. She let out a long breath, closed her eyes tightly, steeled herself for the day. She started to rise.
The bed was soaked. When she stepped onto the rug, it, too, was drenched. She stood there, naked and shaking, fighting the urge to burst into tears.
She hunkered down, smelling the sea. “What?” she cried out. “What do you want? What are you trying to tell me? What?”
There was no answer in the shadows of the early morning.
Swearing, she headed for the shower.
There were two men sitting together in the dining room when Thor arrived. Adam was wearing khaki shorts in concession to the heat and a tailored short-sleeved shirt, while the younger man was wearing jeans and a T-shirt that advertised a nineties rock group. Before Thor could greet Adam, the younger man spoke. “Hey. I’m Josh. Adam’s son. It’s a pleasure.”
Thor nodded somewhat curtly and indicated that the men should sit, then took a chair himself.
“Mr. Harrison, I’ll start right off by saying I did some investigating myself last night.”
The younger man’s eyes widened. Adam Harrison smiled. “Of course. I would have expected no less.”
“I admit my former colleagues have only good things to say about you.”
The waitress stopped by to pour Thor’s coffee and take their order. The younger man waved a hand, indicating he wasn’t eating. Adam ordered an English muffin and orange juice. Thor opted for eggs and toast. Though it wasn’t good to overeat before a dive, it could be worse not to eat at all.
Thor sipped his coffee, staring at Adam. “You’ve come here to ask me to leave,” Adam said.
Thor arched a brow, setting his mug down with precision. “You’re not going to convince me that our project is being hounded by ghosts.”
“It doesn’t disturb you that a young woman you obviously care about is suffering?” Adam asked.
“I think you insinuating that she really is seeing ghosts is just going to make matters worse,” Thor said quietly.
“You do know I’ve worked for the government?” Adam said.
“Oh, yes.” They were engaging in a staring contest, Thor realized. “And I know some presidents have sworn that Lincoln haunts the White House.”
“He does,” Josh Harrison commented.
Thor ignored that.
“Mr. Harrison, the body of a woman was discovered on the beach. There is a serious danger in the Keys. It’s coming from a real killer. Messing everyone up with talk of ghosts and things that go bump in the night isn’t going to help anything.”
“Ghosts are not necessarily evil,” Josh said seriously, his brow furrowed. “If you let them, they can help with the real, the present.”
“Thank you,” Thor murmured, stopped from saying more when the food arrived. “You’ve got to see my position,” he went on when the waitress had gone.
“I do,” Adam Harrison said. “And my people and I will try very hard to stay out of your way.”
Thor chewed his food without tasting it. “Don’t disturb my divers,” he said at last.
Adam Harrison leaned forward. “Look. You’ve checked me out. You know I’m honest. Give me a chance to be around. And we’re not talking about divers, plural. We both know we’re only talking about one. And she’s more than a diver to you.”
“She’s scaring you,” Josh said.
Thor shot the young man a withering stare.
“Don’t let what’s happening turn you against a wonderful woman,” Adam said softly.
Thor wondered if the guilt the words made him feel was clearly written across his face. Yes, all this made him uneasy. It made him want to hold her, protect her. It also made him—him—want to run. To get out before…
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” he said firmly.
“But you will,” Josh said softly, almost sorrowfully.
Thor sighed. “I know I can’t convince you to leave today. So be aware I don’t believe in what you’re doing for a second. And tread lightly.”
Adam shook his head. “I’ll do my best to stay out of your way, but I have a job to do, too. And I honestly believe you’ll wind up grateful for my presence.”
Thor was surprised to discover he had eaten his eggs, apparently, much like a normal, unenraged human being. He rose. “I had hoped we could come to some kind of an agreement,” he said tersely.
Adam Harrison’s slow, easy smile was grating. “No, you had hoped to intimidate me into leaving. But I do understand. I harbor no resentment. Good day, and good diving to you.”
Fortified by a long, hot shower, Genevieve dressed for a day of diving, throwing on a suit and a terry cover-up.
Downstairs, she discovered Thor had left her coffee. She smiled, wondered how she could feel so touched and poignantly sad at the same time.
Because he would never stay with her. Because she really was going crazy.
She washed up in the kitchen, angry again. Until they locked her up, she had to work, had to keep going.
She gathered the few things she wanted to take back to the cottage at the resort and locked up the house.
As she turned the key in the lock, she froze, a prickling sensation suddenly sweeping up her spine to her nape.
She looked around. It was still early. Not full light. Shadows everywhere.
And from the shadows, she felt as if there were eyes. Staring at her.
She swore aloud. This was really getting ridiculous.
Determinedly, she started down the path. Bushes and trees seemed to rustle behind her. She found herself hurrying.
She was alone on the streets.
She started to walk, still feeling as if she was being watched. She stopped, angry, spun around. There was no one. And not a sound. Not even a bird cheeped.
She started forward again.
Then she heard the footsteps. Running footsteps, hurrying over grass and pavement.
She turned quickly. Yes, there by the bush…a shadow.
She started to run, afraid to turn back to look.
And hit Duval Street.
And there, coming from one of the bed-and-breakfasts, was a deliveryman.
She nearly crashed into him.
“Good morning,” he called cheerfully.
She came to a halt, swallowing, heart pounding. She dared to look back.
The street was empty.
G enevieve wound up being just a few minutes late—the last arrival of the morning. The deliveryman had realized she was shaking and worried about her, even getting her a bottle of water. She had quickly regained her composure and bought him a Starbucks latte in thanks.
Still, the morning should have been good. The skies were clear, the breeze soft. Perfect diving conditions.
Professor Henry Sheridan was ready with his model and his lecture.
There was one flaw.
Marshall wasn’t there.
His absence had already been discussed when Genevieve arrived. Thor appeared to be so completely irritated—though whether about Marshall or something else, she couldn’t tell—that she immediately determined to keep her distance from him.
“This isn’t like Marshall,” Victor insisted.
“Not at all,” Alex chimed in.
“I’m really worried about him,” Bethany said.
While Marshall was absent, Jay was present, as were a pair of handsome strangers, the woman a beautiful blonde, the man with striking features that denoted Native American ancestry. Sliding into a seat on the bench at the picnic table next to Bethany, Genevieve demanded in a whisper, “What’s going on? Who are those people with Jay? I don’t understand anything here. Marshall isn’t here—Jay is. With strangers. But I take it someone knows why Marshall isn’t here?”