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Authors: Kimberly Raye

In the Midnight Hour (10 page)

BOOK: In the Midnight Hour
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I am a ghost

She shook her head. “What do you want? Money? My purse is on the table. I don’t have anything of value except some antique earrings from my Aunt Mabel, but they’re really hideous.” A hysterical laugh bubbled on her lips. “But then you probably don’t care what they look like. All you want is my money—”

I do not want your money

“Then …” Panic beat at her brain, scattering the haziness of the champagne. “Oh my God, you’re here to… You’re going to…”

Relax. Alas, as beautiful as you are, I’ll not touch one hair on your head. I am not an intruder, Veronique. Not a robber or a rapist. I’m a ghost
.” As he said the words, he held up his hand against the light.

Veronica blinked. It couldn’t be … She could see the faint hint of the lightbulb through his hand.

You’re not going to swoon again, are you? I’m afraid I have used nearly all the champagne

“But I felt you. I-I felt warm skin and hard muscle and—”

It is not a body you feel, but my energy. It is strongest between midnight and three a.m., when the veil between the worlds is its thinnest

She took a deep breath and tried to keep the room from spinning. “Worlds?”

The mortal world and the spirit world. You see me clearly now,” he went on, “feel my presence at its strongest, as if I am real, but even when you can’t feel me, I’m always here. Still in your world, but not of your world. Watching you, Veronique Parrish

“My name’s Veronica.”

I know. Veronique
.” The name rumbled from deep in his throat, a rich sound tinged with the faintest accent.

“You—you’re French.” Not that his being French had anything to do with anything. The thought simply struck her out of the blue, testimony that she wasn’t thinking quite right. A strange, naked man in her bed and all she could think was that he was French.

She fought for logical thought. “H-how do you know my name?”

I know everything about you, chérie. You go to school and work two jobs and you spend most nights in that awful chair, lost in your studies. So committed and focused and in desperate need of a little relaxation. That’s what drew me to you in the antique, store. I read the desperation in your eyes, so similar to my own

“You were at the antique store?”

He stroked one mahogany bedpost. “
I am wherever this bed is. It is my link

didn’t see

You wouldn’t because I am far from mortal, my schedule opposite what it used to be. My spirit is at its weakest during the daylight hours. That is when I rest and rejuvenate, a sort of sleep. I conduct my primary activities at night
.” A wicked grin curved his sensuous lips. “Then
, chérie,
perhaps my schedule hasn’t changed so much after all

She shook her head, trying to push away the alcohol-induced fog and grasp the reality of what he was saying. A ghost. A haunted bed.

be troubled. It’s all
very simple, really. This
is my bed, my connection to this world. You purchased it and brought me into your home

“If that’s the case, then you’ve been here for days. How come I haven’t seen you before—okay, so I’ve seen you, but that was a—”

?” He shook his head. “
Guess again
, Rouquin.”

The word echoed in her head and her heart stalled in her chest. Real. Oh, no. “You, um… that was you.”

He winked. “
And you

Heat burned her cheeks. “W-why didn’t you say anything before?”

You never called my name before, though not for lack of effort on my part

She thought back to the night with the pizza box, when she’d heard the faint buzzing, like a whisper. It had been a whisper.
. He’d been whispering his name. Oh, God. His name. Her gaze swiveled to the letters. “Y-you’re Valentine Tremaine.
Valentine Tremaine from the letters. The man who used to …” Words failed her as a dozen erotic images flashed in her mind.

His smile widened. “
At your service
.” His deep voice slid into her ears to chase away the shock gripping her senses and send an altogether different sensation spiraling through her.

Lust, pure and simple.

She trembled at the force of the emotion and he smiled, as if he knew.

I do know
,” he said. “
I know all of your deepest, darkest secrets. You have a very passionate nature, Veronique
.” Her gaze locked with his and a vivid image pushed into her mind.

The sheets sliding down, her nightgown sliding up, strong hands reaching for her, a warm mouth suckling her, a man’s body pressing into hers…

Heat pooled low in her belly, spreading outward, sending a hot flush creeping over her skin. Her nipples pebbled, throbbed. Her breath came in short, frantic gasps before she managed to gather what little control she had.

I truly never thought you could be so pure,” he said. “It was quite a shock, I must admit, especially at your age

You’re a ghost
she blurted
. “
A ghost

His gaze narrowed. “
And you’re a virgin, of all the damned rotten luck

Through her shock, his words registered and a hysterical laugh burst from her mouth. “I take it you don’t like virgins?”

I prefer experienced women. But, alas, all is not lost. I can help you with your problem, chérie. I am quite skilled in the arts of love

She shook her head, a smile playing at her lips. “A ghost—a French ghost—offering me love advice. I’m drunk, right?” Tipsy, maybe, but rolling-on-the-floor drunk? “Or maybe I’ve got a brain-draining infection from where Pringles scratched me?” She glanced at the burning red welts on her leg.

Strong, tanned fingers invaded her line of sight, feathered over the raw flesh in a soothing stroke she felt clear to her toes.
, yet there was something different.…

A strange tingling that wiped away any fingering doubts that Valentine Tremaine was anything but what he said.

. The ghost of the man from the letters. A man renowned for his exploits, an expert in the art of love, according to the dozens of women who’d written to him.

You see, I am most qualified to help with your paper
.” He grinned. “
I must say, the times have certainly changed. What you consider academia nowadays was taught in the brothels back when I was a boy

“How do you know about…?” The words faded as the wheels in her brain started spinning, gathering information and piecing it together. She shook her head. “No, it can’t be.”

As she stared at him, at the sheepish expression on his face, she knew it was. Anger rolled up through her, pushing aside embarrassment and disbelief. “You,” she blurted. “It was you. You did it. You changed my topic—my nice, sane, thoroughly researchable topic—to that ridiculous fifty positions to ultimate sexual fulfillment.”

That’s fifty steps, lovely.” He winked. “There are more than fifty positions, not that I will be demonstrating any of them while your maidenhead is still intact. But I will help you with the steps if you do a little favor for me

“I…” The words stumbled into one another, causing a traffic jam in her throat. She reached for the half-empty champagne bottle. A drink. She needed a drink.

She touched the opening to her full lips, took a long swallow as champagne dribbled down her chin. Not that it mattered. She was already soaking wet courtesy of the resident poltergeist—

Not a poltergeist, love. A ghost

“A low-down, dirty, conniving, sleazy, slimy, topic-changing ghost!” Her voice rose in pitch with each word, until she was practically screeching. “You
my topic.” The truth shook her even more fiercely than his presence. She jumped off the bed, bolting to her feet. “How could you do such a thing?” she cried, anger and frustration whirling into a volatile mix. “You’ve ruined my life!”

I ruined nothing
.” He got to his feet on the opposite side of the bed and had the nerve to look completely innocent. Baffled, even. “
I thought you would be happy
At the very least, grateful. I’m offering my assistance

Why couldn’t you have kept your meddling hands to yourself?”

A wicked gleam lit his eyes. “
If memory serves, you enjoyed my meddling hands your first night in my bed

bed,” she blazed, “and I thought you were a dream. Not a…
a ghost

I’m very disappointed in you, Miss Parrish
. Guidry’s words echoed through her head, stoking her temper.

Her fingers curled around the champagne bottle and before she could stop to think that she was an all-around nonviolent person, she hurled it at him.

He groaned as the bottle passed clear through his shoulder and shattered on the wall behind him.

What was that for?
” Pain chased shock across his handsome features and guilt curled up inside her, followed by a surge of empowerment.


“For being a low-down, dirty, conniving…” She hurled a nearby textbook at him. He ducked, pages slapped the wall, and Ronnie reached for something else to throw. Her fingers curled around a nearby paperweight. “… sleezy, slimy, topic-changing …“Her arm sailed through the air.”…
You’ve screwed up eight years of hard works!”

But I’m here, ready, willing, and—Ouch!
” He rubbed at the spot on his arm where the paperweight passed through.

“Did that hurt?” She grabbed a nearby stapler.



You aren’t having your monthly, are you
—Merde!” he growled, as the stapler sailed through the hard wall of his chest, slammed into the sheetrock behind him, and spewed staples.

“What is it with men, huh? Not all women’s problems are related to PMS! We’ve got stress like everybody else.”

you not listen!
?” he bit out. “
I said I’m going to help you, do you not understand? One minute you’re
like a bébé, ‘Help,’ and the next


“How’s this for help?” She hurled another book at him. “And this, and this, and

He ducked the lamp she launched at him.

Think about it
,” he growled, face contorted with barely checked anger and a strange glimmer in his eyes. As if he fought the urge to, lunge across the bed and wrap his fingers around her throat.

Or kiss her until her toes curled.

Veronique. You need me
.” Then he put his back to her. His image shimmered and faded just as a thick notebook sailed from her hands and slapped the far wall.

You need me
, the deep voice whispered through her head.

Hadn’t she said as much not more than a few minutes ago, before he’d appeared and she’d realized she’d laid down good money for a haunted bed?

But that had been different. Just a figure of speech, farfetched hopes, a crazy fantasy.

“I don’t need anybody.” Her arm sagged, her fist still curled around a tennis shoe she’d scooped off the floor. “Least of all a meddling ghost.”

Veronica Parrish had spent the past eight years on her own, making her own way, working toward her own future. If she needed better grades, she studied harder, if she needed more money, she took on an extra job. If the oil in her car needed changing, she did it herself. She took out her own trash and fixed her own leaky faucet. Since she’d made her choice and left home, she’d grown accustomed to taking care of herself. She wasn’t used to relying on others, asking for help,

Fifty Steps to Ultimate Sexual Fulfillment
. The topic replayed in her head, batting at her defenses and making her stomach churn with dread.

need me

was an awfully strong word. Okay, so she could use his help, but damned if she was going to admit even that much right now, with her head pounding and her heart pumping and the room spinning.… Ugh, she’d definitely had too much to drink.

The only thing she needed was to crawl into bed,
bed, close her eyes, and sleep away the past ten minutes.

She dropped the tennis shoe and turned toward her dresser. Retrieving a nightgown, she started to yank her T-shirt over her head, and her hands stalled, her senses instantly alert to the slight trembling in the air. Her imagination or …

BOOK: In the Midnight Hour
8.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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