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Authors: Dara Joy

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BOOK: High Intensity
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A topiary dragon winked at them as they rolled over the cobblestone drive that snaked through the woods. The dragon was followed by other mythological creatures, all ensconced in the tree-lined glade that opened before them. Gnomes, winged cats, dragons galore, a three-headed beastie, and a mysterious wizard who seemed to be presiding over them all.

For some unknown reason, Tyber had claimed the wizard's name was Yaniff. Zanita had shrugged her shoulders. It would not be the first odd thing associated with this man.

After they passed the mazes, the gardens came into view. Though not in bloom during the dead of winter, they still echoed the magnificence that would be theirs in a few months.

The smaller ponds were frozen over.

Zanita grinned as she remembered that she had looked out of an upstairs window a few days ago and caught the cat, Hambone, sliding across the surface on his ample belly. The one-eyed pirate cat seemed to be enjoying it tremendously, for he repeated the antic countless times while she watched.

Tyber had heard her laughing and had come over to the window behind her. His strong arms had embraced her as he pulled her back to him and nuzzled her short curls. "Mmmm, what's so funny out there?"

"Hambone. He's belly flopping across the ice."

She could feel his smile against her hair. "He does that every winter, the bandit."

Now, at night, the ponds were empty of gleefully sinister belly-surfing cats.

A gaggle of Canada-geese flew overhead, honking in syncopated gripe as the house came into view. Zanita always wondered why they bothered to fly anywhere if all they did was continually bitch about it. Geesh.

They passed the white gazebo. Once, before the snows had come, Tyber had made love to her there. She shivered at the luscious memory. He had been so incredibly passionate that day. So unbound.

Whatever his state, her physicist lover was always a force to be reckoned with. In the beginning, Tyber had made it his personal mission to "instruct" her on the mystery of physics; or more specifically, the practical applications.

And, oh, what practical applications he invented!

His technique seemed to be working, for damned if she wasn't learning the eggheaded subject. Although she seriously doubted that
Newton
or Einstein had been referring to what Tyber did when he "illustrated" the principles.

One thing she knew for certain: when Tyber got that special gleam in his eye, he was preparing to give her one of his "exclusive" lessons. Torrid. Shameless. And with a concept, too. What girl could ask for anything more?

As they rounded the last bend in the cobblestone drive, the house came into view. Like the man, it was unique in every way. A Victorian mansion with seven turrets, it was decorated like a true painted lady in multiple shades of pastel colors.

Gingerbread trim bedecked the framework along with intricately carved original woodwork of flowers, ropes, and bows. Decorated garlands, which had been lovingly carved over a century ago, had been lovingly restored by the present owner.

For all his wildness, there was something about Tyber that conveyed a sense of permanence. Even with his maverick ways, the man was someone you could depend on. He had proved that to her during their investigation of Xavier LaLeche. The slick con man had proved no match for Dr. Evans. Tyber had outmatched him both in brains and brawn.

The wraparound porch had been decorated for the winter season with tiny lights strung through the intricate fretwork banisters. Ambient light shone through the beautiful stained-glass windows to dance across the snow-covered ground. It looked charming and warm.

It looked like home.

The car had not even come to a complete stop before the wide wooden front doors were thrown open and an incensed Blooey glared at Tyber from the doorway.

Tyber did not even bat an eye. "Something bothering you, seaman?"

Tyber always took great care to address Blooey in the language he preferred. Namely, pirate-speak. That Tyber enjoyed their idiosyncratic exchanges was a moot point. Sometimes lately, Zanita suspected that the strange gleam in the little ex-mathematician's eye was delighted whimsy.

Yep, she was living in a nuthouse.

"We got to do something about that scurvy Hambone, Captain! He being nothing but a common brethren, not like meself, who has been elevated in importance by way of me fine cookin—"

"Excellent cooking," Tyber agreed amiably as he helped Zanita from the truck and winked at her.

"Just so, sir." Blooey nodded, causing his cap to list over his right ear. "What are ye going to do wit him, Captain?"

"Do?" They all walked into the hallway. Zanita removed her coat and hung it on the hall tree, her glance going to the inviting fire Blooey had lit in the parlor. Tyber strode over to the hall table to check the mail.

"Aye! Do. The bilge rat needs to be brought to heel, Captain."

Tyber's lips curled slightly at the corners as he continued to peruse his mail, throwing the letters into different to-do stacks. Zanita glanced over at the table and wondered how the man stayed so organized. She had one-hundredth of the correspondence he did, and her desk was the leaning
tower
of
Pisa
.

"What did he do this time, Blooey, besides belly flop across the just-washed floor?"

Blooey closed one eye and glared at him with the other. It was an expression the little pirate had perfected. Zanita admitted it did make him look as if he were ready to swing a grappling hook, knife clutched between his differentially equationed teeth as he prepared to attack.

"Why, the varmint snatched me potted balls!"

Tyber almost choked. "Your what?"

"Me potted balls, Captain. And right big ones they are, too."

"No doubt," Tyber agreed warily, giving his cook an odd look.

Zanita snickered as she stretched her hands out to the fire, letting the flames warm the chill out of them.

"Not a right thing for a fellow member of the brotherhood to do. What do the articles say about such things, Captain?"

"Hmmm, the articles…"

The only articles Tyber was aware that the former Arthur Bloomberg read were the ones that appeared in scientific journals. Then he saw that Blooey was referring to the articles of the Brethren, which all self-respecting pirates and marauders abided by.

Tyber stroked his jaw. "The articles say that if he's quick enough to get away with it, then the booty is his."

Blooey glowered darkly, almost looking as if he were about to pull out a cutlass.

His captain stared him down. "The key phrase is: if he's quick enough. Are you saying you are not fast enough to stop him?"

Blooey's mouth pursed. "But, Captain, he ain't no ordinary seaman! He's a sneaky bilge rat when he's in a certain mood!"

"Show him the error of his ways. I'll warrant that'll cure the problem."

Blooey narrowed his eyes. "And how am I to do that?"

Tyber gave the cook a knowing smirk as he reached over to the mail table and opened a small drawer. He pulled out a large pistol.

Blooey's eyes gleamed. "A pistol, Captain?"

"Aye. Shoot the bugger if he gets near the countertops. Like so…" Tyber demonstrated by pulling the trigger. A spray of water spewed across the room, hitting Zanita squarely on the back of the neck.

"Hey!"

Zanita glared at them over her shoulder. Blooey and Tyber chuckled, looking like co-conspirators in some nefarious plot.

She stuck her tongue out at them and gave them her back.

Tyber shook his head, his focus now on the nicely curved backside presented to him. And when Tyberius Augustus Evans was focused, he was focused.

"Almost forgot to tell you, Captain, there is a message for ye."

"Hmmm?" Tyber slanted his head to the side to observe Zanita's derriere as it wiggled in front of the flames. She had always been a sucker for a roaring fire.

Which was why he had instructed Blooey to always make sure one was lit in the parlor and their bedroom during the fall and winter.

He smiled. Aye, he was a dastardly rogue. The derriere wiggled some more.

"A man by the name of Hubble called. Said that there is one other investigator besides him coming to the tavern this weekend and he just wanted to let you know. Mentioned something about the other side; didn't get that one, Captain."

"That's okay, Blooey. I think I know what he meant."

Zanita looked up from the flames and blinked. "A man named Hubble is investigating the ghost, too? Hubble like the astronomer? That is too funny."

"I suppose that sums up the whole tone of the investigation right there, baby, doesn't it?" Tyber grinned.

Her shoulders scrunched. "Tyber, you promised to be objective!"

"And so I shall."

Zanita crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't mean physicist objective—that's not the same."

His blue eyes twinkled. "Would you care to explain that?"

"Not just yet."

"Mmmm."

"Who is this Hubble anyway?"

"He's a skeptical observer. Comes from the Society for Cognitive Reasoning. They have some kind of catchy nickname, but I can't think of it right now."

"Why is he getting involved? Did you call him?"

"Of course I did," he said evenly. "I want everyone to know I'm investigating a ghost. So just to be sure, I also called
Princeton
, Omni magazine, and the National Science Foundation."

She decided to call that one dry wit. "So who called him?"

"The inn's owner. Guess he wanted to cover all the bases. I don't even want to know who the other investigator is; it might be someone with snakes and rattles."

Zanita was not happy with the Hubble addition. "Great. This is just what we need! The Grand Inquisitor breathing down our necks."

Tyber crossed his arms languidly over his chest. "He won't get near your neck, baby. I promise."

"Hmf."

"Or any other of your pretty parts."

"Hmf."

"Especially this chilly little…" He ran his palm over her backside.

"Tyber!"

 

Chapter Two

"Synthetic flesh! Synthetic flesh!"

Tyber and Zanita were sitting in the den, watching a really bad horror flick. They both sighed in bliss.

Each had assumed his or her usual favorite position. Zanita was stretched across the couch and Tyber was sitting on the floor in front of her, using the couch as a backrest. The position afforded the physicist the perfect vantage point to tickle Zanita whenever the mood struck him. Which was often. Yet in a random, unpredictable pattern.

Zanita would then retaliate by lifting the heavy fall of his gold-streaked chestnut hair to blow lightly on the back of his neck. Even though she was not a physicist, she knew the exact pressure and force to use to cause tingles to skitter down his back.

He was still shivering from the last "attack" and trying to hide it.

Each took great delight in torturing the other with this game of hit-and-run seduction. It was a subtle yet devastating way to drive each other crazy.

During the next commercial, Tyber reached back over his head and lightly brushed the side of her left breast, then pretended he was reaching for the TV Guide to see what else was on.

He grinned when he heard her low gasp.

"What have you uncovered so far about this 'ghost,' Curls? And I hope you realize how much I love you. Hunting ghosts is not exactly a proper pastime for a respected physicist."

Zanita looked down at the top of his head, incredulous. "Tyber, everyone knows you're a kook."

Tyber threw her a look over his shoulder. Which was wasted, because Zanita was thinking about their investigation and her agile mind was already working on possibilities.

"Perhaps, but I am a respected kook," he grumbled to the TV picture. "I mean, eccentric."

Zanita ignored that. "The problem is that the spirit seems to be munching on the guests food—top gourmet kind only. He leaves the meat-and-potatoes fare behind for the plebeians. This spook is strictly after the gateaus and the ganaches."

For the second time that evening, Tyber almost choked. He turned and spaced his words with precision. "Tell me you are joking?"

He frowned at her when she smiled sweetly at him. "I don't suppose anyone has bothered to check for mice?" he added.

"Don't be silly, Tyber, of course they did, and everything else as well. You asked me what the spirit did, and that's what he does. Along with the usual spooky stuff… objects flying through the air, things going bump in the night, fog rolling in the living room…"

"Fog rolling in the living room." He stared at her silently through spiky lashes. The picture of disbelief.

"I'm surprised you don't know more about the case, since you were the one who suggested it."

BOOK: High Intensity
13.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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