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Genre: Contemporary, Ghosts, Romance
Love and betrayal. Broken hearts and broken promises.
Jason walked out of ex-cop and PI Danny King’s life seven years ago after Danny gave into years of wanting and kissed him. But now Jason is back in town, haunted by a past he won’t talk about, and Danny doesn’t know where they stand.
When a friend asks him to investigate some slashed tires and spectral sightings at a gay rodeo school, Danny says yes. With Jason’s help, figuring out the cause of a little ghostly vandalism should be easy. After all, Jason has been talking to ghosts for his whole life.
But nothing’s easy between Jace and Danny anymore. Danny wants Jason more than ever. And Jason is giving Danny some serious mixed signals.
With a vengeful ghost bent on murder and old secrets threatening to erupt, Danny and Jason are at the center of a maelstrom, and they may not make it out alive.
Danny held up his empty beer bottle at Jace. When Jace nodded yes, Danny crossed the room to the fridge, pausing with one hand on the door. “Karl? D’you mind?”
Danny pulled out one for himself, one for Jace. Held one up for Billy who shook his head. Karl’s first one was mostly untouched, so he didn’t bother. He popped the caps and walked over to Jace. They leaned against the wall, shoulder to shoulder. “So, Billy said it was mostly normal poltergeist level stuff? Things thrown across a room, stuff moved?”
“I guess. If you call that normal. But, yeah. Stuff was moved, broken. Tires slashed. The vandalism seemed to be specifically targeted at a couple of people.”
“Who?” Jace asked.
Karl frowned and contemplated the ceiling. “Marge Keller was the first one. All her framed photos were smashed. Then David Espinoza. All his CDs were pulled out of their cases and snapped. All the air was let out of Kim’s tires. Every one of them - truck, trailer, ATV.”
“That doesn’t sound supernatural,” Danny said, shifting restlessly. Jace hip-checked him to make him stop fidgeting. “It sounds like a pissed off girlfriend or something.”
Billy rested his hand on Karl’s shoulder. “Tell them.”
Karl rolled the beer bottle between his palms. “Truthfully, I thought the same thing at first. I mean, there’s a lot of people in the circuit, even on our smaller IGRA circuit, but you tend to run into the same ones over and over, especially the professionals. And sure, there’s drama, just like everywhere.”
“Remember Kristen and Amber in Cheyenne?” Billy said. “That thing with Ken?”
Karl scoffed and shook his head at past drama.
Danny straightened up, finger raised, to ask more about Kristen and Amber and Ken when Jace’s pointy elbow caught him right in the ribs. Danny was usually better at ducking Jace’s blows considering Jace still used the same moves he did in kindergarten. “Ow.” he elbowed Jace back just as hard. “Prude.”
Jace was about to retaliate, and Danny was planning his next move when they froze at Billy’s pointed throat-clearing.
Danny quickly snapped on his most innocent expression. Billy was obviously even less impressed than his elementary school teachers had been.
“Sorry,” Jace apologized. “So was there, uh, drama around these incidents?”
“Not drama, really. Poor communication, maybe. Someone said they saw David with some guy who wasn’t his boyfriend, that new guy from out by Grand Junction. But I think they were just looking for his dog.”
“But then it got worse,” Billy prompted. Karl’s expression was pained, and he ran both hands through his short hair. “You’re gonna think I’m crazy.”
Danny snorted. Jace fought to hold back a smile. “Look, let’s shortcut through the ‘you won’t believe me’ and ‘try us’ part of the conversation and tell us what you saw.”
The papers on Karl’s borrowed desk fluttered with the force of his exhale. He threw back the now-warm beer, earning him an approving look from Danny. “I think I saw a ghost.” Billy rubbed his shoulder.
Karl’s smile as he leaned into the touch was sweet. Good for Billy. Danny liked the old cowboy. Billy should think about taking a break from dating other starving artists and wannabe musicians who were one step up from grifters. Date somebody with a job.
“Jason’s been seeing ghosts since he was eleven.”
“Really?” Karl’s eyes widened.
“Yes. When I was eleven, I fell through the ice into the lake. I was clinically dead for twenty-four minutes.”
Karl whistled. “Holy cow. And since then you see dead people?”
Danny is impressed by Jace’s restraint when instead of leaping across the room and strangling Karl, Jace just rolled his eyes at the reference. “Yeah. I do,” he answered.
“Are you seeing any now?”
“I don’t think so,” he answered. “Unless you’re dead.” He cocked his head like he was appraising him. “Are you?”
“No, of course not. Do I look like a ghost?”
“Ghosts look any way they want. Sometimes I can’t tell ghosts apart from real people. That was fun in middle school.”
Okay, enough of that. Danny put his arm around Jace, giving him a squeeze. “Nobody in this room is dead. Yet. Though if Billy tries to play any of that crap he calls music again, I can’t vouch for how long he has to live.” No one laughed.
Outside the window, the sun sank into that perfect golden hour light, making the hills glow and throwing sparkles off the pond. Dust rose from the far holding pens and the light streaked through it like a picture of God in a Sunday-school classroom. The barking of dogs and the voices of the small crowd of men and women practicing roping on some barrels drifted through the window.
Danny turned back to Karl. “Okay, tell me what you saw.”
“I was looking out the window there, and I saw some guy walking across the field. Normal kinda guy. Young, not too tall, skinny, tight jeans, cowboy boots. I’m thinking something was off about him and then, poof,” Karl spread his fingers wide. “He disappears. From the middle of the field.”
“Could you have lost sight of him?” Jace asked.
“Yeah, sure. But the thing was.” He leaned closer, looking around as if the ghost might be in the room. “I saw him again. By Kim’s trailer. And I was sure I could see right through him. I yelled, and he looked up at me. I think,” he stopped, shaking his head. “This part was probably the sun, but it looked like him eyes were red. He pointed at me, and I am not embarrassed to say it scared the piss outta me. Then he disappeared again.”
The room was quiet for a long second until Jace realized everyone was looking at him. “What?”
“Well? Is it a ghost?” Billy asked.
“How the hell would I know?” Jace crossed his arms over his chest.
“You’ve seen them,” Karl answered.
“Yeah? Well, so have you.” He pushed off from the wall, pacing, gathering his hair in his hand, and tugging it as he walked. Billy handed him a fresh beer as he passed by him.
“Thanks,” he said. “Sorry. I’m sorry. It’s just so much pressure. I feel like if I get things wrong, people will get hurt.”
“Have you guys done this a lot?” Karl asked.
Danny frowned. “Investigate? Yeah. I’ve been a PI for the last five, six years. Since I quit the police force.”
Karl gave Danny a glare rivaling any Jace had ever thrown at him. “You know what I mean. Ghosts.”
“No,” he confessed. “This is only the second time.” Danny leaned up, stretching his back out. Between the drive, the beers, and the slanted afternoon sunlight coming through the windows, all he wanted was a nap. “I guess we’ll need to do some research. Right, Jace?”
Jace’s shoulders slumped, his eyes half-closed. “Yeah. Try to find out who it could be if it were a ghost. What they want, if we could give it to them.”
“Ghosts want something?” Karl asked. “Like unfinished business?”
“Yeah. Sometimes. Sometimes they’re just lonely. When I was little, I mostly saw other little kids who wanted to play.”
“I don’t know if that’s sweet or terrifying.”
Billy walked over to Karl, sat on his lap and put his hands on Karl’s shoulder. “It’s terrifying. Trust me. I remember hanging out with him, and suddenly he starts talking to invisible people.” He shuddered. “And you get this feeling that someone’s watching you, from just outside your peripheral vision. Or that someone’s almost touching you.”
Karl pulled him in tight. “God.”
Danny’s mouth twisted in a half-smile. “Hey, maybe you’ll get lucky, and it will be a run-of-the-mill crazy person.”
“Great,” Karl said faintly.
“Library tomorrow?” Jace asked. “Research any deaths?”
“Yeah, sounds great. I’ll talk to the vics, see if we could find some pattern. See if it’s tied to the place or something you brought with you. But for now, dinner? Find a room? I thought I saw a place out by the highway.”
Karl and Billy stood. “Don’t worry about that. I’ve got a trailer you can use for a few days. Belongs to a couple of friends of mine who aren’t using it during the week.”
The muffled boom of an explosion rattled the window, and a flare of red light flooded the room.