Authors: Jacki Delecki
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Romantic Comedy, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense, #Psychics
An Inner Fire
Grayce Walters, animal acupuncturist, harbors a secret. She hides her intuitive gifts from the world until she becomes embroiled in arson on Seattle’s waterfront.
As a key crime witness, Grayce must convince the attractive, logical, by-the-numbers fire investigator, Ewan Davis, that the fire she witnessed is part of a larger criminal conspiracy. Grayce embarks upon a mission to gather proof of the dangerous threat. She enlists the help of her cross-dressing best friend, her street-wise assistant, and Davis’ poodle, to conduct her own investigation.
As her feelings for Davis shift between white hot passion and cold fear, Grayce must risk exposing her secrets to save Davis’ life. Davis must accept things, he can neither see, nor understand to solve the mystery and finally find the love he has stopped believing in.
With nudges from the protective poodle, Grayce and Davis confront shocking betrayal and international crime on the rain soaked streets of Seattle.
To my Mom—the best story teller of all.
And to my Dad—the best listener.
Grayce Walters’ left hand twitched. Her universe spun on an altered axis. Her instincts swirled. Her intuition flared.
Earlier today, a cranky feline had gouged her, a sneaky dog had nipped her, and now, late for dinner with friends, the parking gods were messing with her. Something was coming. Something strange.
Her headlights probed the mist, dissolving in the murk of Puget Sound fog. Her intuition acted like an inner GPS, directing her to the far side of Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal. The beams shone on a yellow heap between stacks of crab traps. A dog lay on its side, barely visible in the shadow of a fishing shed.
Stepping out of her car, she inhaled the musky smell of salt water. A horn blared from the Ballard Bridge. Grayce jumped at the sudden sound. She grabbed a flashlight and moved into the mist toward the large canine.
She knelt on the damp cement next to the golden retriever. Relieved to observe the dog’s shallow respirations, she released a slow breath
was written in bold script on the dog’s red leather collar.
She gently ran her hand along Baxter’s inert body. Her cold fingers probed the crown of his head, locating an egg-sized lump on the back of his skull.
“Your head hurting, Baxter?”
The large retriever wagged his tail ever so slightly and then stilled.
Grayce scanned the cluster of corrugated fishing sheds. A deep foreboding flooded her senses. “Baxter, I need to get us away from here.”
She searched the waterfront, looking for the perpetrator of Baxter’s injury. The overhead lights on the docks cast an eerie halo on the boats bobbing in the black water.
Screeching hinges broke the silence. The sound raked her skin like dogs’ nails skittering across the metal exam tables in vet school. Her nervous system ratcheted into high alert.
The sound of a door opening in the next row of sheds echoed in the night’s silence. Then she heard footsteps on the cement, moving toward the water. The sound of the footsteps grew distant, swallowed in the darkness.
Under the dock lights she spotted him, a beefy man with a satchel slung over his shoulder. Wearing the slicker and boots of a commercial fisherman, he moved with an energized self-assurance toward the boats. Rage and elation radiated from him. Grayce was sucked into his dark violent energy. She fought the temptation to absorb his malevolence.
The footsteps stopped. He looked back in her direction. A raw chill penetrated Grayce’s body. She bent forward to shield the dog and tightened her hold on the flashlight, ready to protect Baxter.
Moving in and out of the shadows on the wharf, the overhead beams caught the top of his head. His hair shone a fiery red. He walked into the fog.
Baxter whined, breaking the tense silence. She ran her hands along the damp dog searching for further injuries. “You’re going to be all right, big guy.”
Nerves stretched taut, she twisted to look for the man. She studied the entire area searching for him. Every sound boomed in her ears.
She fumbled in her jeans pocket for her phone, then hesitated. Grayce hit favorites for James, her best friend.
Peeling off her coat, she covered the dog.
“Baxter!” A woman’s voice, then a whistle.
The dog’s ears shot up as he bolted upright. He gave a high-pitched yelp, shook several times, and loped in the direction of his owner’s voice. Twenty feet away, a middle aged woman stood next to her Volvo station wagon with the hatch-back door open. Baxter jumped effortlessly into the car. The dog’s large head was silhouetted in the rear window as they sped away.
She bent to pick up her rain jacket when a massive blast shook the wharf causing the cement to sway beneath her. The harsh sound reverberated in her ears as the tremor traveled through her legs.
She whirled around, trying to locate the source of the explosion. Shock waves continued to pulsate throughout her body.
She heard the fire before she saw it, a slow hiss followed by a roar. Twenty-foot-high flames shot out of a shed less than a few car lengths away. Heat blazed across her face, hot enough to singe her eyebrows and eyelashes.
Primitive fear imploded in her chest. She ran, ran as if the flames chased her.
The fire’s heat penetrated her sweater to her skin. She sprinted, her feet and heart pounding.
When she reached the far side of the wharf and the far side of the inferno, she dialed 911.
The wail of sirens filled the night’s silence.
In the frenzy of noise and flashing lights, she spotted the red-haired man lurking in the shadows. He was crouched, half hidden by an industrial dumpster. As if he sensed her watching him, he turned and vanished into the darkness.
Grayce sat upright, uncomfortable on the cold metal chair in the fire investigator’s waiting room. The chair creaked each time she shifted her weight.
Today was about facts and only facts.
Lieutenant Davis had been clear on the phone. “I’ll take your statement. Nothing to worry about. Just routine.”
Routine. There was nothing routine about last night’s explosion and plenty for Grayce to worry about. She came to the lieutenant’s office because she didn’t want last night’s violence to disrupt her animal patients. She refused to allow that stress into her healing space.
“Ma’am? Lieutenant Davis will see you now, third door on the right.”
With the help of three inches from her Jimmy Choos, a birthday present from her best friend, Grayce pulled herself up to a full five feet three.
Why was she worried?
She was doing a public service, acting as a witness who had seen a suspect on the wharf just before the blaze. Her certainty that this man had assaulted Baxter and started the shed fire wouldn’t be mentioned.
She walked down a long white corridor. There was nothing creative about this workplace, although located above an eminent art gallery in Pioneer Square. The energy in the building was contained and functional, just like the lieutenant. From his efficient manner on the phone, she suspected that Lieutenant Davis would have no tolerance for her intuition. Though, who was she kidding, few people would. Her ability to read and heal energy states was hard to explain.
The historic building smelled of years of rain and mold. With each step on the uneven floor, her pantyhose began to slip and sag. She resisted the urge to pull on the damn things—they’d likely be puddled at her knees and feet by the time she got to the lieutenant’s office. She hadn’t worn tights since last year. She hated dressing up. She felt constricted, contained, and crabby.
A mass of black fur, nails clicking, bounded toward her. Shocked to see a dog running free in the fire station, she didn’t notice a gap in the floorboards. Her heel wedged into a crack. The black lab tried to stop, but unable to get traction on the wood floor, slid straight into Grayce’s legs. Grayce teetered then tumbled backward. She looked up into a pair of warm dark eyes. Doggie breath wafted across her face.
“Henny!” A loud voice reverberated in the narrow hallway.
“Oh, you’re in trouble now.” Grayce rubbed the dog’s head, smiling into the soft eyes; then she tried to stand.
The dog placed one of her enormous paws on Grayce’s shoulder and began to lick her face.
“My God, get off,” a man shouted as he strode toward them. From her position on the floor, he looked to be at least seven feet tall. His white shirt pulled tautly across his broad chest and muscular arms, he was a man capable of carrying victims out of a burning building.
Grayce locked eyes with the man who towered over her. His face was all angles and planes, like a model out of one of those edgy photo shoots in Nordstrom’s catalogue. An electrifying shiver coursed through her. This man exuded the same controlled power as Samba, the Bengal tiger she had treated at the zoo.
Both Henny and Grayce stiffened.
He pulled the dog by her collar. “I’m sorry. She never disobeys.”
“I seem to have that effect on dogs.” Grayce smiled and straightened her skirt that had hiked up to mid-thigh. She couldn’t help noticing how his eyes trailed over her legs.
“I apologize, ma’am. I’m Lieutenant Ewan Davis, the fire investigator you spoke with on the phone. And now you’ve met Henny, usually a well-behaved part of our crew and our accelerant dog.”
He grasped Grayce’s hand to help her up. His giant hand enveloped hers, sending an elemental surge through to her toes. His heat radiated in her palm while she brushed off her skirt.
“It wasn’t Henny. She’s great. It was my darn heels.”
Lieutenant Davis’ gaze dropped to her shoes, then moved back up her legs.
Grayce felt fully exposed as if he saw her as a woman, not a witness. It wasn’t just her Jimmy Choos knocking her off balance.
“Are you okay?” He stepped closer to her as if he meant to touch her, his professional demeanor transformed to concern.
Her heart skipped a beat. It was in no way related to the lieutenant’s closeness. Her anxiety about the interview was causing her heart to palpitate. “Just proves why veterinarians shouldn’t wear high heels to work.”
Henny sat on alert next to Grayce.
“Get on your bed.” The lieutenant pointed his finger down the hall.
The dog ignored the command.
“I’m not her handler, but she usually obeys me,” he shrugged his broad shoulders.
Henny nudged Grayce’s leg.
Grayce put one hand on the dog’s head and the other on the lieutenant’s muscled arm. “She just wants to help.”
“She’s just trying to make me feel welcome. She senses I’m nervous. I’ve never been a witness before.”
“Knocking you down is a strange way to help.”
Henny’s tail thumped on the wood floor.
Lieutenant Davis’ hard angles softened with a slow grin. She usually wasn’t distracted by outward appearances, but this man was more than the sum of his attractive parts with his black, closely-cropped hair, broad shoulders, and bright eyes. His energy was vital, forceful, not what she had expected.
“Guess you must like your job. You’re the only person I’ve met who would laugh after being knocked down.”
Grayce hoped the heat moving up her neck into her face wasn’t noticeable.
While they moved down the corridor to the lieutenant’s office, she kept a lookout for sneaky cracks in the floor and exuberant dogs.
“Please come in, Dr. Walters.” He gestured to a nondescript white space.
The office was empty except for his metal desk, two chairs and a cabinet. Boxes were stacked against white walls.
She sat on another cold metal chair, pulling her skirt to cover her knees. Henny curled up in a ball next to her feet. Grayce scanned the sparse office. One lonely picture hung on the blank walls, an official photograph of the lieutenant dressed in full regalia, holding a plaque. An older man with the same penetrating blue eyes and same angled cheekbones as the lieutenant stood beaming next to him.