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Authors: Roxanne St. Claire

Tags: #Police, #Psychics, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Bodyguards, #Suspense, #Sheriffs, #Traffic accident victims, #Fiction, #Short Stories, #Demonology, #Paranormal

Reason To Believe

BOOK: Reason To Believe
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Reason to Believe
Roxanne St. Claire

 

 

Allison Brennan
New York Times
bestselling author

“[Allison Brennan] is making a name for herself by producing not only memorable heroes but also unforgettable villains. This journey into terror is fast paced and pulse pounding.”


Romantic Times

“A chilling story that will do for online social groups what
Psycho
did for showers.”


Parkersburg News and Sentinel
about
Speak No Evil

ROXANNE ST. CLAIRE

“St. Claire’s ability to evenly match sultry romance with enticing suspense makes this novel a superior entry into the romantic suspense game.”


Publishers Weekly

KARIN TABKE

“Tabke masterfully creates sexual tension…. The main plot is intricate and engaging…just when [readers] think they have it all figured out, the ending hits with a big surprise.”


Romantic Times

Don’t miss her sexy full-length novels,
Skin
and
Good Girl Gone Bad,
available from Pocket Books

Pocket Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Deliver Us From Evil
copyright © 2008 by Allison Brennan

Reason to Believe
copyright © 2008 by Roxanne St. Claire

Redemption
copyright © 2008 by Karin Tabke

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

ISBN-10: 1-4165-5312-6

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-5312-0

Visit us on the World Wide Web:

http://www.SimonSays.com

Reason
to Believe

Roxanne St. Claire

Prologue

FROM: [email protected]

SUBJ: you don’t fool me

DATE: 01.19

great show tonight, ari. you did it all, sweetheart. you out bait and reeled in fish like the pro we both know you aren’t. you even got that bald fool to cry over his dead cousin. fucking amazing, that’s what you are. all sparkles and smiles, TV’s darling. you might get a raise. then you can move out of that little house and get a big mansion like all the other phony deadtalkers who hit the big time. oh, yeah, i know where your house is, ari. i’ve been there. 9302 hillside avenue. right above the place where john belushi died. but you know that. you probably talk to him all the time don’t you? ha ha

it’s a fake. how long can you fool everyone? not much longer. your days are numbered. then the truth will be out and you will be finished.

Chapter One

H
OW COME SCIENTISTS
could build a fully functioning laboratory eighty miles above the earth, but couldn’t figure out a way to fix the L.A. freeway system? Chase Ryker had been on both, and the space station ran smoother than the 405—whose bumper-to-bumper congestion extended onto another freeway and all the way into Burbank.

He finally whipped the Porsche into the studio lot and announced himself to the guard, though he wasn’t scheduled to arrive until the next day.

“You’re on the list,” the young man said. “Tomorrow’s list.”

“I’ll wait at Ms. Killian’s trailer,” Chase said with the authoritative tone he’d perfected in the military.

The guard looked dubious, checking Chase’s ID a second time as if this had never occurred at his gate before. “Listen, I can’t let you go to her trailer, but this’ll get you into sound stage four and you can sit in the audience.” He held out a bright red pass.

Good man. He
shouldn’t
let anyone go to Arianna Killian’s dressing trailer, especially after dark. Security like this made his job easier. But could he push the kid? “I’m not that interested in the show, and I have an appointment.”

“For tomorrow,” the guard said. “Anyway, her show is great. People wait eighteen months to get tickets. You won’t believe it.”

No, he wouldn’t—that was certain. “All right. Thanks.” He took the map of the lot the guard offered and waited for the mesh gate to open.

Chase slid the map behind the visor, not needing it. He’d memorized the layout of the MetroNet studios, along with the roads in and out of the hillside neighborhood where Arianna Killian lived, the gym where she did Jnana Yoga, the natural-food restaurants she frequented, and the Santa Monica home of her widowed father that she visited almost every week. There wasn’t much he didn’t know logistically about the TV psychic, and he’d learned all of it on the plane down from San Francisco that morning. A photographic memory helped a lot in his job.

Another guard let him into the sound stage where the black and red logo for the show
Closure
hung over the door. Chase declined to sign a taping release, which the guard noted but didn’t question. Good thing. He had no intention of being on camera.

When a perky college-aged page took him to the audience seating area, he made a mental note that there was no metal detector to spot the Glock 19 that rested on his hip, hidden by a sports jacket. How many other people in this room packed? He scouted the crowd as the young lady escorted him to an empty seat at the end of the third row.

“There’s nothing in the back?” he asked.

“Oh, you’ll like it up here,” she assured him. “You have a better chance of getting her attention. Who are you here to talk to?”

“The host.”

“I mean, who have you lost? Who do you want Arianna to talk to?”

“No one.”

That earned him a surprised look. When she walked away, he covertly checked out the audience. These weren’t the celebrity-starved tourists who waited to see Jay Leno down the road. All around him, the audience wore expressions that ranged from expectation to raw pain. Many held hands, a few mumbled prayers.

All of them were there because they actually believed in the chance to have that final chat with someone on the other side. They all wanted
closure
. Talk about exploiting a ripe market.

Suddenly the stage blackened and a lonesome piano hit a few slow notes. When the lights came back up and the New Age music died down, the sound stage had two occupants—one, he had to admit, quite riveting.

No doubt about it, the woo-woo girl was pretty.

Not stunning by the extreme standards of Los Angeles, where even the garbage collectors harbored dreams of stardom. But she had an earthy, wild beauty that came as much from the playful glimmer in her emerald green eyes as the cascades of copper waves that fell over her shoulders.

“David,” she said, leaning toward the young man sitting across from her. “Don’t look so serious. This is supposed to be totally fun.” She trilled the
totally
and added a saucy wink. “I promise.”

David damn near melted.

She wore a wireless mic clipped to the V-neck of a buttercream-colored sweater that amplified her soft, feminine voice, and soft, feminine cleavage. All part of the carefully crafted package that had made her a media favorite. Charming, witty, adorable Arianna the TV psychic. But underneath the clingy clothes and sweet curves, despite the whimsical curls and the musical laugh, he’d bet there was a very shrewd businesswoman who knew exactly how to exploit human frailty.

The male guest on the set nodded, leaving his hand-print impressions on the leather armrest when he released his grip and wiped his palms on his trousers.

“Are you ready, David?”

“Oh, I’m ready,” he said. “I’ve been ready for two years.”

“Okay, then.” Arianna closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “Let’s talk to Mary Jo.” A long moment of silence passed before she opened her eyes, a hint of a smile so sweet and subtle it had to be practiced a zillion times in front of a mirror. A smile that could sell anything. Even the idea of talking to the dead.

“She wants you to know that she appreciates what you’ve done for her dog.”

Oh, brother.
For this, he left the side of a Nobel scientist doing top-secret research on particle physics? But that was the nature of his job. And he’d do this one exactly like he’d done every other assignment: thoroughly.

She clasped her hands, twirling a ring on the left middle finger, her face serene and trancelike. “I’m getting something…with food. In the kitchen. Did Mary Jo like to cook?”

“God, yes. She was an amazing cook.”

Arianna held up her hand as though to silence him, but of course that just made it look like she was getting all her info from poor dead Mary Jo, when all she was doing was playing an elaborate game of Twenty Questions that would lead her exactly where she wanted to go.

Did Mary Jo like to cook?
That basically covered half the female population. Talking to the dead, according to the quick research he’d done this morning, was little more than a sophisticated form of Q&A and black magic.

He’d also learned that
Closure
had been running on MetroNet for eight months, and judging by the cost of a minute’s worth of advertising, plenty of people were tuning in to witness strangers have those last few words with the dearly departed. Of course, who wouldn’t pay big bucks for that last conversation? Even he could think of a few things he’d like to say to someone now gone.

The thought hit him hard, and he forced himself to concentrate on the woman he’d come to watch.

“Mary Jo wants you to know that…” She tilted her head up, no doubt to look like she was hearing voices from the grave, but it gave the camera a nice view of her face, oval and symmetrical, with a slightly upturned nose and a little cleft in her chin. A television face, smoothed by the hand of a makeup artist. She wore the creamy color from head to designer toe, no doubt to give her an angelic, ethereal look. It worked.

“There’s definitely something about the dog…”

“Skippy. Our spaniel. She adored him.”

“Skippy.” She cooed the name, as if the animal were right there begging for a treat. Then her expression turned compassionate and she leaned closer to David. “Was Skippy with her when she passed?”

David looked down, nodded, fighting tears. She reached over and touched his hand. “She wants you to be happy.”

The reading took fifteen excruciating minutes, but by the time she was done, David was persuaded that his dead wife condoned, even supported, his next marriage.

Arianna Killian was a fraud, no doubt about it. Charismatic, infectious, and really, really good at her game. But as fake as her cinnamon hair and long eyelashes.

When David joined his family, who all shared tearful, happy hugs, Arianna stood. The lighting changed, the atmosphere grew charged. All around him, people leaned forward, stared at her, silently mouthed words.

They all wanted to get picked. They all wanted their chance at
closure
.

Psychics who claimed to talk to the dead had been around for centuries, but few had turned the parlor game into a business this big. And very few, Chase thought as he watched the silk of her slacks slide over narrow hips and slender legs with every step, made it look so good.

Or fun. She bantered with an audience member. She made a joke to the cameraman following her. She teased, winked, giggled, and then, without warning, she stopped.

Not far from his section, her body language changed from lighthearted to serious. She began to scan the seats, giving him a chance to notice that under all that makeup, she probably had a dusting of freckles. And her curls had thin strands of gold woven into the red, just enough to look like she’d been sprinkled with glittery bronze.

She placed her hands on her hips and bit gently on a full lower lip. “Is there a…” She frowned, searching for a word. “A pilot here?”

He fought the urge to draw back in surprise at the bizarre, but lucky, guess.

A man one row in front of him sat up straighter. “I have a pilot’s license,” he said eagerly. “You must want me.”

Thank God there was a sucker in every crowd. Or in this case, in every seat.

She regarded the man for a moment, her eyes narrowed in thought, her index finger tapping the dip in her chin. “I don’t think so. It’s over here.” Her gaze moved to Chase’s section. “Something like a pilot? I’m getting…” She played with her ring again, as into the part as any method actor. “Someone inside a missile? A rocket? Is that possible?”

Years of training response control allowed him to maintain an absolutely blank expression. Someone had gotten to her first. They had to have.

“I see a person sitting at what looks like the controls of a plane…but he’s on his back.” She looked his way, massaging her temple, shaking her head as though nothing made sense.

And son of a bitch, it didn’t.

“He’s wearing a helmet, a visor.” She shot a demanding look at the crowd. “And I’m seeing something…military or quasi-military.”

A young lady in the other side of the audience stood. “Ari, my sister was killed when her helicopter went down in Iraq.”

She glanced toward the slightly desperate voice, but gave her head a definitive shake and returned to a study of the people around Chase.

“No, it’s not a woman. And it’s not a helicopter.” She raked a hand through her curls, messing the stylist’s careful work, but her practiced expression said she didn’t care. “Is it a rocket ship?”

That elicited a light, surprised laugh from everyone.

Everyone except Chase.

“Something’s definitely wrong,” she continued.

Yes, it was. Very wrong. Who told her he was coming? Who briefed her? There was no other explanation.

“There’s an explosion. A fire. It’s so hot. Hotter than—things are actually
melting
.” She burned the crowd with a frustrated look. “Surely this is coming from one of you.”

Chase mentally swore, running through every possible paradigm for how she could have gotten this information. There were a few ways—none of them feasible. Or appealing. Or possible.

She had no way of knowing he’d be in the audience, or who he was.

Their gazes locked and for a minute, he thought he’d sworn out loud. The man next to him turned, and the licensed pilot a row down swiveled to get a look. He could feel the power of numerous stares, but none as direct or unwavering as Arianna Killian’s.

“Sir? Have you lost someone in a fire? Someone in the military, perhaps?”

She wanted a nod, some simple assent, and then she’d make a few more educated guesses, ask an open-ended question, redirect the information if she didn’t like what she heard. She would hunt and peck, blinding any skeptic with a dazzling smile and pretty green eyes, until she hit a mark. She already knew way more than was possible.

“No,” he answered, emotionless.

“I’m getting three initials. STS,” she said, as though she didn’t hear the denial. “Someone you lost? Someone you cared about?”

Could she know his name? His face? Could she know that every space shuttle mission started with the same three letters?
Highly improbable,
screamed the pragmatic scientist who resided firmly inside him. But possible.

“These initials mean something to you, don’t they?”

Blood roared like an afterburner in his head. Still, he said nothing. It was not the time or place to reveal himself to her, and he’d obviously made a strategic error in coming here.

“I’m getting a lot of blue,” she told him, taking slow, deliberate steps closer. “But not sky blue. A dark royal blue. Is that a uniform?”

He didn’t nod, didn’t move. But he could tell she was reading a response in his eyes. Yeah, she was way past good at this.

“This is someone sitting…where you should have been, isn’t it?”

Chase felt his fingers tighten around the armrest of his seat. Just like the poor bastard who’d started the show twenty minutes earlier.

Yes, someone had been sitting, launching, and dying…where he should have. Gone because Chase was doing something so…trivial.

“You can tell me.” Her eyes were warm and inviting. He imagined most men did exactly what this woman wanted. But he wasn’t most men.

“Save yourself the trouble, Ms. Killian,” he said softly, and cocked his head toward the anxious pilot in the row below him. “Try someone who believes.”

“He wants to tell you something,” she continued, undeterred by his suggestion. “About the…incident.”

Incident
. She even used the right euphemism, as NASA did. He maintained a blank expression as she climbed the two steps to his row, vaguely aware of the red light of the camera over her shoulder, the black lens pointed at his face. Her wide green eyes speared him with a look so intense, it felt like she was peering right into his soul. Which, damn it, she was.

“I didn’t sign a release,” he said quietly.

A smile tipped her lips. “He doesn’t care. He’s here.”

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