Read In the Midnight Hour Online
Authors: Kimberly Raye
“I’m in deep doo-doo, Pringles.” She stroked the ailing cat and took another drink of champagne. She was a doer, but even doers deserved to wallow once in a while. “I should just go ahead and let Guidry fail me. My life is over anyway. There’s no way I can write that ridiculous paper.”
Ridiculous. Crazy. Insane. Yes, she had to have been insane when she wrote down that silly topic, and she
written it. It was her handwriting, all right. She’d analyzed the paper over and over during her boring shift at the library. The trouble was, she couldn’t remember writing anything so ludicrous. She’d finished writing up her nice, sane, rational topic on kids, then fallen asleep and had the dream—
That was it. It had to be. That had been the night she’d had the somewhat erotic dream—okay, very erotic. Somehow, someway, she’d transferred what she’d been feeling to her paper topic. She’d written the ridiculous topic in the heat of the moment.
. Unfortunately the defense wouldn’t work with Guidry. He was dead set on punishing her. Nailing her to the wall.
“What am I going to do?” She downed another long swallow of champagne and hiccupped. “I need a fresh, authentic paper with fresh and authentic sources. I need …”
A man, some experience of her own, then she’d know more than one step toward sexual fulfillment. As it was, she’d be turning in a paragraph.
“Why me?” she cried, the word ending on another hiccup. The cat half-purred, half-moaned and Ronnie stroked the animal’s orange fur. “I’m a good person. I give to the Salvation Army at Christmas, I brake for animals, I baby-sit the Hades twins every time Suzanne asks.” She hiccupped again. “I hold the door open for people. Why, just the other day I let this kid cut the line in front of me at the grocery store and he even had more items than me.” Another hiccup. “I don’t deserve this. Do I, Pringles?”
The cat gave another half-purr, half-moan and rested her head on Ronnie’s knee.
“I’m a good smartian.” She licked her lips and tried the word again. “Sa-ma-ri-tan. Yeah, that’s what I am. This stuff shouldn’t happen to me.” She leaned over and gazed into Pringles’s glittering eyes. “What do you think, Pringles? You think Aunt Ronnie deserves all of this?”
The cat batted a paw at Ronnie’s face. Claws scratched across her cheek and she jerked back. “Thanks a lot, Pringles. Just wait until you’re feeling better. You can go beg at Suzanne’s door for a saucer of milk, because my carton is closed to you, mister—Oops.” The champagne bottle slipped from her fingers. Golden liquid spilled out over the hardwood floor while the bottle clattered and rolled beneath the bed. She threw up her hands. “What else could happen?”
“The damned thing could get stuck,” she muttered two minutes later as she crawled beneath the bed, her arm stretching for the bottle, which had rolled several feet deep. “That’s what else could happen.”
The cat half-purred, half-moaned again, obviously upset at being pushed off Ronnie’s lap so she could chase a champagne bottle. A soft thud echoed and Ronnie peered over her shoulder to see four carrot-red paws poised on the floor near her leg. Pringles ducked her head and green eyes gleamed in the darkness.
“Hold your horses. I’m almost done,” she grumbled to the cat as she stretched her arm. Her fingertips brushed smooth glass. “Almost… Ouch!”
Claws sizzled across her bare leg; Ronnie jumped and her head banged against the bedframe. Wood creaked, paper rustled, and something gave way above her.
“What the …?”
She scrambled from under the bed, slapping at her face as if a dozen creepy crawlers had rained down on her. After a frantic look at her hands and legs, she took a deep calming breath. Okay, no spiders. At least not on her. But she’d definitely felt something. Retrieving a flashlight, she peered back under the bed.
No spiders under there either. Just a mountain of what looked like letters. Letters? Raising the flashlight beam, she saw the spot beneath the bed where her head had hit. A piece of wood had slid to the side to reveal a now empty compartment. Curiosity chased away her fear and she crept back beneath the bed and gathered up the papers.
A few minutes later, after sopping up the spilled champagne, she settled herself on the bed, her newfound treasures in hand. Her thigh burned where Pringles had scratched four nasty red welts, and she glared at the cat.
Pringles, now curled up on Ronnie’s pillow, didn’t so much as bat an eye. Obviously, the cat felt she’d done her duty in getting Ronnie back up on the bed with her.
Ronnie picked up one of the letters and studied its yellowed edges.
It was obviously very old. Carefully, she unfolded the ends and spread the sheets open. Her gaze snagged on the top corner of the first page and shock bolted through her.
August 9, 1842
It couldn’t be.
She was no expert, but as she stared at the deteriorating edges, the fading script, her gut instinct told her she’d made a prize find. A letter over one hundred and fifty years old! Make that several letters, she decided as she set about opening each one. The dates spanned a sixteen-year period, from 1832 to 1848.
But it wasn’t the dates that drew Ronnie’s attention. It was the salutation. The authors were all different, but the letters were written to the same man, about the same man.
And what a man!
Valentino had nothing on this guy. He was legendary. A lover of gigantic proportions, in technique and in stature, she quickly realized as she drank in the letters.
Her face heated. Her body throbbed. Thankfully, she had to pause after the first few letters to hand Pringles over to Mr. Weatherby.
Bolting the door behind them, she retrieved a cold soda and downed half the can before settling herself cross-legged on the bed. She took several deep breaths, then reached for another letter.
way you touched me last night. I’ve never known a man with such strong, shameless hands. And then when you kissed my
… The letters went on and on in graphic detail, each one written by a different woman.
Now here was a guy who knew fifty steps to ultimate sexual fulfillment. He probably knew a hundred!
She leaned back against the pillow, a letter clutched in her hand as she stared dreamily into space, doing her best to picture what this lover of all lovers would look like.
Handsome, definitely. But black hair or brown? Green- or blue- or brown-eyed? Short or tall?
Not that it mattered. She didn’t want him for his body. She wanted his experience. His expertise.
“If I only had you here, my sweet Valentine,” she mused, using the salutation each letter started with, “this paper would be a piece of cake. My troubles would be over.”
My thoughts exactly
,” a deep male voice grumbled beside her.
Ronnie’s eyes snapped open and her gaze swiveled to the right. Shock bolted through her when she saw the man stretched out on the sheets not six inches away from her.
Long, thick hair the color of summer wheat framed a chiseled face with high cheekbones and a sculpted nose. A sensuous mouth slanted at the corners in a sexy grin that said this man knew all her secrets. Bluer than blue eyes clashed with hers for a long moment and Ronnie felt her self-defenses stripped away, along with her clothing and her common sense. He didn’t just know all her secrets. He
The man from her dream.
Her gaze dropped, drinking in tanned, tight, muscled flesh that went on and on and …
Make that the very
man from her dream.
“What …” she swallowed, searching for words that couldn’t quite make it past the shock gripping her senses. “What—what are you doing in my bed?”
Deep laughter sent a wave of shivers through her. “
You’ve got that wrong
, chérie.” He leaned toward her, closing the scant distance that separated them. “
What, pray tell, are you doing in my bed
So much for being hospitable, Val thought as he stared at the woman who’d fainted dead away—and just when things were starting to get interesting.
Tonight she wore a T-shirt and a pair of bloomers—shorts, he’d heard her call them—that were very short, indeed. Another delight of modern times. His gaze swept the delicious length of her long, long legs before moving back to her face, to her closed eyelids, her flushed cheeks, her pink lips parted just enough to make his groin tighten.
he murmured. His fingers were clenched at his sides to keep from touching her
One touch and Val would want another. And another, and touching was not part of his plan
Rise and shine, Veronique
!” His voice grew in strength, a deep baritone that thundered off the walls. She didn’t so much as budge, even when he launched into a chorus of the outlandish song drifting from the television. A blonde-haired woman dressed as a cross between a stable boy and a voodoo queen, with too much makeup and not enough meat on her bones, danced across the screen as she sang about virgins and being touched for the very first time.
Not this virgin, he vowed, and not by him.
His efforts to wake her failed and he moved on to a more active course of action. He reached for the nearly empty champagne bottle.
Not for himself, of course. Val was beyond the effects of alcohol. The champagne was for the lovely Veronique. A wake-up call, so to speak.
He leaned over her and tipped the bottle. He watched as a trickle of champagne splashed over her chin, dribbled down her throat, to dampen the material of her shirt.
Her nipples pebbled, responding to the sensation, begging for more. Val, never a man to refuse a lady’s request, gladly obliged. He drip-dropped the champagne over her breasts, watching the material dampen to a deep golden hue and cling to her rosy nipples. His mouth went dry and it was all he could do not to lean down and suckle her through the soaked fabric.
Ah, but he’d resigned himself not to touch, and so he let the champagne do his touching for him.
He lifted the edge of her shirt and drizzled more champagne on her bare stomach. The golden liquid pooled in her navel, slid decadently toward the waistband of her shorts …
She moaned and wiggled and he knew she was on her way back to consciousness. A few more drops of champagne and she lifted her pelvis just enough to bring other things to mind and make him lick his lips.
Desire warred with determination, wreaking havoc on his spirit. But ultimately, the latter had to win, for Val couldn’t,
touch one so pure.
Soon, he promised himself. His meddling the other night was the rainbow on the horizon, the relief calling to him. If all went as expected, Val would have the answer he so desperately sought, and the sweet Veronica would have her education. Then he would have a very willing woman in his bed, a bon voyage present to send him over to the Afterlife.
, chérie,” he sang again, coaxing her back to the here and now. He trailed the cool bottle down the outside of one bare leg, up the inside of her knee, her thigh, her—
“Yikes!” She bolted upright and scrambled backward. Her gaze darted frantically, from the champagne bottle resting on the bed between her parted legs, to him.
He winked. “
Did you have a nice nap
“Ohmigod! Y-you can’t be …,” she stammered. “Y-you aren’t what I think … No way are y-you … I-I’m dead, aren’t I?”
He breathed a deep sigh and leaned away from her. “
Alas, I am the one who is dead. One hundred and fifty years, to be exact
?” She seemed to grapple for words, for understanding, and he couldn’t blame her. Before he’d become one, he’d never believed in ghosts either. “B-but if you’re dead and you’re here, that… that means you’re a… a…”
He arched one eyebrow. “
He glanced down, a smile curving his lips. Strong fingers grabbed the edge of the sheet. White cotton slithered over his tanned legs to settle at his waist. “
, mais oui?”
“Yes. I mean, no.” Ronnie shook her head and blinked, as if that would be enough to make him disappear. “This can’t be happening. I—I don’t believe in ghosts.”
Do you not? You’re talking to me, seeing me, feeling me, Veronique. Grounds enough for belief
She clamped her eyes shut and shook her head. Get
a grip. You know this can’t be happening. He can’t be a ghost, so he must be
Her eyes flew open and before she could think better of it, she reached out. Trembling fingertips feathered over a rock-hard abdomen. His muscles tightened, contracted. A soft groan passed his lips and she snatched her hand away and scrambled backward as if she’d touched the Devil himself. “How did you get in here?”
You brought me here
“Like hell.” Her gaze darted past him, gauging the distance to the door. “If you get up and leave right now, I won’t press charges. We’ll just pretend this never happened—”