“You don’t need to be sorry,” he told her. She was leaning toward him. He was in a pair of long flannel pajama pants himself, and shirtless, and if she came against his chest, he wasn’t sure he could control the sheer physical reaction that was sure to arise—no pun intended, he mocked himself.


“How stupid!” she said, angry with herself then. “I’ve had nightmares before—we all have them. I’ve never screamed like that—I’m not a screamer, really.”

She was drawing on anger, trying to shake off the trembling that still had a hold on her.

“What was it?” he asked her.

“A nightmare, that’s all,” she said.

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It wasn’t all.

But before he could question her, he heard footfalls as the others came running down the hallway, then Jake burst in first, followed by Will, Jenna and then Whitney.

“What’s happened?” Jake demanded.

“Oh, Lord! I am so sorry,” Angela said.

Jackson knew he had to be grateful for the arrival of the others. He leaned back; the moment of longing to just drag her into his arms—comfort her—and then turn it all into something else entirely wasn’t quite tamped, but he was under control.

“Angela had a nightmare,” he said.

“A nightmare?” Will asked, puzzled and curious.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, really,” Angela apologized.

“Oh, Angela! Please, you don’t need to apologize!” Whitney said, coming to sit by her on the other side of the bed. “I was in a bed-and-breakfast once in England, and I dreamed that the neon lights flashing out on the street were alien ships making a landing. I screamed my fool head off—and nearly got my boyfriend arrested for assault. It was a small place, and everyone heard me…at breakfast the next day, you should have seen the way everyone looked at us!”

“So everything is all right?” Jake asked, clearly concerned about Angela.

“Fine. Honestly. I’m just humiliated that I’ve woken everyone up.”

“I wasn’t actually sleeping,” Whitney said.

“I was,” Jenna said, but she smiled. “It’s okay, I worked E.R.s at all odd hours—I can get back to sleep. I hope you can, too. Want me to come in here and stay with you?” she asked Angela.

Angela shook her head. “No, I’m fine. Humiliated. Mortified. Besides that, I swear, I’m fine.”

“Well, good night then. I’m heading back to bed,” Will said, yawning. “And feel free to scream anytime, seriously, anytime you need us!”

“Absolutely. Preferably not tonight, but absolutely,” Jake teased.

“You’re sure you don’t want me to stay?” Jenna asked.

“I’m positive. Everyone, please, get what sleep you can before tomorrow. Go, shoo, go back to bed—and thank you!” Angela said.

The four left, heading back down the hall. Jackson heard Jenna and Will saying good-night to Whitney and Jake as they continued to the front; he didn’t know if they’d whispered anything else to one another.

Angela looked at Jackson again. They were still nearly touching. Nearly. Not quite.

“So what really went on in your dream?” he asked her.

She looked away from him, evading his eyes. “You know how dreams are, they’re fresh the minute you wake, then they fade.”

“Not a nightmare that makes someone scream like that. I don’t think you should be in this room,” he said.

“I’m not leaving,” she said stubbornly. “There’s something here that I’m going to be able to feel, to sense… It’s important that I’m in here.”

He sat back, folding his arms over his chest. “Remember what I said earlier? Didn’t you ever read the Shirley Jackson book or see the movie? Eleanor goes quite crazy and kills herself to get to stay in the house,” he said flatly.

“Stop using that reference!” she told him angrily. “I’m a together person. I hunted down the bad guys, remember? I’m not going to go crazy. Of course, sometimes I get the impression that you do think I’m crazy already,” she said, grimacing.

He laughed. “I don’t think you’re crazy. All right, a little crazy. But I guess we all are. And the thing about that movie—the idea was to find out if anything paranormal existed. So, if ghosts are playing some kind of dangerous game with you—even if those ghosts are in your mind, or your dreams—this could be dangerous for you.”

“Like I said, I need to be in this room. And, yes, it was really terrible, and I screamed, but I can take care of myself, you know.”

“I wouldn’t say that you have to vacate this room—except for tonight. We really have to get started tomorrow, and you need sound sleep, real sleep—without dreams.”

“I don’t feel like picking up and moving right now—”

“Just go over to my room. I’ll finish out the night here,” he said firmly.

“No, really, I don’t want to put you out like that!” she told him. She jumped up suddenly. There was enough moonlight to filter through cotton. He could see her far too clearly, and the mystery of what he couldn’t see was beyond compelling.

“You wouldn’t be putting me out,” he said, frowning. “What are you doing?” She had begun to tug at the large, antique dresser that stood against the wall.

“Help me,” she said.

“Okay, now I am starting to think you’re crazy,” he told her.

She turned to him, laughing. “That’s a door behind it—see the outline in the wallpaper? The door has to connect to your room. We’ll just open the door—and then we’ll be no more than a few feet away from each other.”

He frowned, studying the paper behind the dresser. She was right. It was cleverly aligned, and it looked as if it was just the place where two wallpaper sheets met, but it was a door.

He quickly went to her side, curious that the dresser had been put there. He pushed with Angela, and the dresser slid across the hardwood floor.

There was a doorknob; it had been hidden by the dresser.

He turned the knob and opened the door; it opened an inch before crashing into the dresser that leaned against the wall in his room.

“I’ll be damned,” he said.

“Come on. We’ll move the dresser in your room,” she said.

She was already out in the hall, heading into his room. She flicked on the overhead light and the sudden illumination was brilliant. She was already shoving at the dresser in his room. She might be a crack shot, but she needed his help. He supplied it. She threw open the door, and he realized he could actually see her right from his bed.

For joy.

Nothing like seeing the vision that was already starting to slip into his mind and libido like the sweet scent of honeysuckle on the air.

“See?” Angela said, delighted.


She ran over to him, clutched his wrists and rose on her toes to plant a quick kiss on his cheek. She slid against the naked flesh of his chest as she went down on flat feet, and for a moment, she paused, her gaze connecting with his.

And he knew that she felt it. Whatever it was exactly. The strange force that was simply nature, that drew one person to another. Older than the hills.

She stepped back, awkward, and, in his mind, more charming. “Thank you,” she said. “I mean, this way, I stay in the room, I’m all safe and sound, anything I hear, you’ll hear, anything that happens, you’ll know. You can even see me breathe,” she said.

“I know.”

She stepped back again. Almost as if she didn’t trust herself.

“Good night and thank you. Thank you. Really.”

He smiled at last, amused at them both, even if he had just cast himself into an hour of torture. She had endured nightmares. The sweetness of his dreams and the events taking place in his imagination would be no less agonizing.

But he managed to remain where he was. Despite everything that begged him to forget that they were colleagues, a team. He’d spent his life being completely professional. He’d often made work his life.

A woman had died—it might be the same as if they were on a case in which a madman was terrorizing a community or crisscrossing the country in the midst of a killing spree.

But he wasn’t on vacation, and he wasn’t on leave anymore. They were here for a reason.

The only reason at this moment seemed to be the one that begged him to step forward and grab her and drag her back with him to his bed, and to forget the world as they went at it like a pair of rabbits.

But she turned then, racing back to her bed and plowing into it, pulling the sheets around her. “Sleep well!” she called. “Thank you. Thank you, really.”

“Think nothing of it,” he said dryly.

He walked over to turn off the light, and then went back to crawl into his own bed. If he closed his eyes, maybe…

No. If he closed his eyes, he’d start the dreaming while he was awake, and that wasn’t going to be a good thing at all.

And so, he watched her.

He just watched her breathe.

“Gran-Mama!” Whitney said enthusiastically, greeting the woman who was not behind the counter in the store, but who had been helping a group of tourists as they perused the shop.

“Whitney, child!” the woman said happily, stepping forward to greet Whitney. Angela loved Mama Matisse’s look. There was something special about her appearance. Her hair was graying, but there were still strands with dark glossy pigment. She had one of the most arresting and fascinating faces Angela had ever seen, with high structured cheekbones, emphasized by her lean physique, a straight nose, generous lips and brilliant dark eyes. Her hair was in a neat queue, and she wore a flowing cotton dress in a multitude of colors.

“You met my friend Angela Hawkins yesterday,” Whitney reminded her.

“Of course, I remember. I’m not daft, child!” Mama Matisse said, taking Angela’s hand. “I like what Whitney has said. She just called you her friend, and not her coworker. Whitney has no friends who are not good people.”

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