Excerpt from The Truth of Yesterday
We like to think of life as a story, complete with a nice, neat
beginning, middle, and end. Real life is seldom that orderly. We often forget just how powerful the past can be.
After all, it’s over and done with, so how can it affect the present? The truth is, while the past may be over,
it is seldom done — especially in matters not properly dealt with. It has a way of twisting our perceptions, our
feelings, and even our reality. Things we thought long behind us can suddenly be very much before
influences every waking minute. It defines who we are today, whether for good or for bad. It has the power to
affect the future in ways we can’t begin to understand. Like echoes returning from a great distance or ripples
in a pond, the past can come back to haunt us: torturing us with what might have been, taunting us with
unrealized potential, terrorizing us with truths we tried to ignore, tormenting us with losses too great to
We each, in
our own ways, try to move on from the past. Some of us attempt to do so by closing our eyes in the ostrich
approach: if I can’t see you, then you can’t see me. Others try to outrun it. Some of us manage to convince
ourselves it never happened. There are as many methods of avoidance as there are pasts to avoid. In the end,
however, if we live long enough, the past will catch up to us. If we aren’t careful, we may live just long
enough for it to do so...and no longer.
slumped in my chair, eyes on the clock, counting the seconds until I was free. While the professor droned in the
background, I’d stopped listening half an hour earlier. Luckily for me, he wasn’t saying anything of real
importance. This class was a waste of time. The professor had a love affair with the sound of his own voice, and
we students were mere voyeurs. I could have simply read the book, showed up for the tests, and done just as
well. Unfortunately, attendance counted as much as test scores for this professor, so I had to make an
class ended, and I was the first person out the door. I was supposed to meet Micah, my boyfriend, on the other
side of town. He’d told me he had something he wanted us to talk about. I had no idea what he had in mind, but
that phrase alone was enough to strike fear in my heart.
Or maybe I
was just overreacting. It didn’t have to be anything serious.
I started my
car and checked the dashboard clock. If I hurried, I could swing by my office, check my messages, and still have
no problem meeting Micah on time, as long as the roads weren’t too congested. Despite being only a small city on
the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Salisbury did have its share of traffic woes.
I made it to
the office with no great delays. I parked my car in the small lot next to the building and I ran up the stairs
to Novak Investigations. Shane Novak, the private investigator I worked for, was out on business for the
afternoon. As his assistant, I mainly did a lot of paperwork, but I also got to help out on some of his cases.
I’d even been assigned one of my own recently, which was why I’d wanted to stop by the office.
I sat down
at my desk and jiggled the mouse to wake up my computer. I left it on during the week in case Novak needed to
look something up. The first thing I did was turn on some music. I hated being in the office when it was empty
and silent as a tomb.
think you were coming in this afternoon,” someone said behind me a few moments later.
I jumped and
spun around. “Oh, hey!” It was Novak. “I didn’t think you’d be here, either. I just wanted to check my
up early, so I decided to get some work done while it was quiet.” He gave me a meaningful look.
I made a
face at him and turned off the music. “Don’t worry, I’m not staying long. I wouldn’t have even known you were in
if you hadn’t snuck up on me.”
chuckled. “I didn’t sneak up on anybody, and you’re fine. I’m just giving you a hard time. Since you’re here,
why don’t you give me a quick update on the Knox case?”
was referring to my first official solo job. He was keeping close tabs on my progress, but I wasn’t complaining.
I was a little nervous about being out on my own, even though it was a fairly run-of-the-mill, cheating-spouse
case. A woman came into the office the week before and asked to speak to Novak. When I wanted to know what
about, she replied, “I think my rat-bastard of a husband is cheating on me. If he is, I want proof so I can file
for divorce and sue him for every damned penny he has.”
surprised how often we hear variations of that statement. Or maybe you wouldn’t.
been doing surveillance on Mr. Knox. As you know, his wife thinks that if he’s having an affair, then it’s
happening either at work or when he goes away on business trips. I’ve been following him back and forth to work
every day, and so far he’s been a good boy. He hasn’t taken any side trips, unless you count the grocery store
one night and the liquor store another.”
when he’s at work? Or when you’re at school? How can you be sure he isn’t cheating then?”
of that. I’m paying the receptionist to alert me if any women come to see him regularly or if he leaves
one eyebrow. “Nice thinking, but how do you know you can trust her? What if she’s the one having the affair with
seem to like Mr. Knox very much. That’s what gave me the idea of making the offer to her in the first place. I
was asking questions about him, and I could tell she didn’t care for the guy. Every time I said his name, you’d
have thought she smelled something bad. When I asked her what she thought of him, she told me he was smarmy and
had a reputation for being a ladies’ man. I asked her if she’d like to make a little extra cash, and she jumped
at the chance. Actually, she seemed sort of excited to help.”
the deal? She calls you if he does something suspect?”
me, whichever is easier. She might not always be able to call if there are people around.”
his head. “You young’uns and your texting.” He turned to go back into his office. “Keep up the good work,
His praise didn’t come often, so when it did, I tried to soak it in.
open my phone to check the time and almost fell off my desk chair. If I didn’t hurry, I’d be late for my date
with Micah. I’d check my messages tomorrow when I came in to work. They could wait.
smiled upon me, and traffic was light on my way to the diner where I’d agreed to meet Micah. So light, in fact,
that with my rushing I managed to arrive a few minutes early. I didn’t see Micah’s car in the parking lot, so I
went in, got a booth, and ordered a soda while I waited.
joining ya, or you ready to order?” The waitress, a middle-aged woman with a chipped front tooth and greasy
grayish-brown hair falling out of a half-hearted ponytail, stared at me with a blank expression. Maybe she’d had
a rough day. Or a rough life.
for someone.” I gave her a small smile so she wouldn’t hurt me. She didn’t return the gesture as she stalked
away without another word. She wouldn’t be winning any personality contests in the near future.
I was just
beginning to get a little concerned that Micah wasn’t going to show up when I saw his silver Civic pull into the
lot. I watched him unfold himself from behind the steering wheel and turn to face the restaurant. He stood by
the car for a minute, just staring into the windows, almost as if he was posing. I waved, but was pretty sure he
didn’t see me.
He shook his
head as if to clear his thoughts and moved quickly across the parking lot, where I lost sight of him. He
reappeared inside a few seconds later and quickly spotted me.
Killian,” he said, sliding into the booth across from me. He brushed his floppy brown hair out of his dark eyes
skipped a beat. He was so gorgeous. “Hey, I was beginning to think you were standing me up.” I grinned to let
him know I was only teasing.
about that,” he said distractedly. “I got hung up with the story I’m working on right now. I told you they
finally gave me one with some real weight, right?”
town-council thing.” Micah was a reporter for the local newspaper. “It’s about time you got a real story,
especially after all the attention you attracted with your piece about Amalie’s House.”
Amalie’s House was a pre-Civil War mansion turned bed and breakfast, run by my surrogate father, Adam, and his
partner, Steve. The place came complete with its very own ghost. When the inn had opened, Micah wrote an account
of the haunting. The article received a huge response — almost all positive — leading Micah to start a weekly
series on local haunted hot spots. As a result, he was also getting more respect around the paper. He’d told me
the day before about being assigned his first big story, the possibility of major corruption and payoffs in the
county council. He was as excited as I’d ever seen him about his work.
across from me in the diner, though, he seemed withdrawn and preoccupied. I wondered if something had gone
wrong. I hoped the newspaper hadn’t taken the assignment away already and given it to their star reporter, a
jerk named Walters. “Is everything okay at work?”
things are going great. That’s why I was late. The council member who we think is up to his eyeballs in graft
made the mistake of firing his secretary last week. She’s just dying to blow him out of the water. I was on the
phone with her, and she was talking so fast I could barely write it down quickly enough. Of course, everything
will have to be verified. I’ve really got my work cut out for me on this one, but it could be
great.” So it wasn’t the story he was upset about. While I figured he’d tell me in his own time, I was not known
for my patience. “What are you ordering?”
I’ll just get a burger.” He hadn’t even glanced at the menu.
was once more approaching our table. “Ready to order?” Her tone suggested she was half hoping we’d change our
minds and leave.
“I’ll have a
hamburger — lettuce, tomato, and ketchup, no pickle,” Micah said.
tension I was sensing from Micah and our waitress’s dour mood, I suddenly didn’t have much appetite. “I’ll just
have a house salad.”
fine with me,” Micah said.
I held up my
still-full glass. “I’m good.”
She made the
proper notes on her little pad and moseyed off toward the kitchen.
left, an awkward silence fell between us. Micah sat looking down at his hands twisting nervously in his lap. I
found myself getting more and more worried since that sort of behavior was so out of character. Finally, I
couldn’t take it anymore. “So, what’s wrong? What did you want to talk about?”
it’ll wait until the food gets here.”
afraid I’ll lose my appetite if you tell me now?” I tried to keep my voice light, but inside I was tensing up
that.” He looked away, suddenly entranced by the giant fish tank near the door.
what’s going on? Are you breaking up with me?”
back to face me, his eyes wide. “No! At least...I hope not.” He sighed. “Killian, where are we
do you mean?”
relationship. Where is it going?”
understand what you’re asking.”
we’ve been dating now for several months, but I feel like we’re not getting anywhere. I’ve tried to be patient,
but how much can a guy take?”
about...sex?” I was eighteen and, for all intents and purposes, a virgin. I’d only had one other boyfriend, with
whom I had never gone all the way. Micah had said from day one he didn’t want our relationship to be about sex,
and, to his credit, he’d never pushed me.
isn’t about sex.” He sighed. “You know it’s not about sex. And you know what this is really about. I need more
from you than mere companionship, someone to go to dinner with or to the movies or out dancing. I want intimacy,
and I’m not just talking about sexual intimacy. I feel like you’re constantly holding me at arms’ length. I want
to be closer to you. No, I need to be closer to you. I need you to let me in.”
“I told you
it should have waited.”
“No, I...” I
paused and took a deep breath. “Look, Micah, I don’t know what to say. I thought we were doing
We’re doing just fine. But that’s the problem. I don’t want to just do fine. I want to do great. I want to be
completely satisfied in our relationship.”
not. I feel like there’s a part of you — a big part — that I’ve never even seen. Although I’ve caught hints and
brief glimpses, and those are what have kept me around, I rarely get to see the real Killian. I want to know you
completely and totally, but you have to trust me and let me in.”
“I thought I
could answer, our charming waitress appeared at the table with my salad and Micah’s burger. “Enjoy.” She plopped
the platters down in front of us unceremoniously and stomped away.
I looked at
the limp, dreary salad and realized I’d completely lost my appetite after all. Micah was apparently experiencing
a similar predicament. I pushed the salad to one side.
he started again, “I care about you. I really do. I even...I would even say I love you. I’ve never known anyone
like you. You’re so smart and funny. I enjoy being with you, and God knows you’re never boring.” He worked up a
weak smile. “And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that you’re one of the cutest guys I’ve ever met.” The smile slowly
disappeared. “But I can’t live like this. I can’t keep going on in this limbo unless I know there’s a reason to
hope for something more.”
down at the table. “I care about you too. I’ve loved spending time with you and getting to know
are you saying? You’ll let me in?”
know what you mean.”
and ran his hand through his hair. “Sometimes—”
feel there’s something coming between us still. Or someone.”
“What do you
here, between us, almost like he’d never left.”
That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? You can’t let go, can’t move on.”
“Asher? How’d he get into this?” Asher was my ex-boyfriend. We’d broken up months ago, and he’d moved away when
school started. I didn’t understand why Micah would bring him up after all that time.
“I think you
still have feelings for him.”
not...” I stopped with the word ‘true’ still on my tongue. Was he right? If I was honest with myself, I had to
admit Asher was at least part of the reason I hadn’t been moving faster with Micah. I’d been hurt pretty badly
after our breakup, and wasn’t at all eager to rush into another situation where I’d be that vulnerable again.
Micah was right when he said Asher was coming between us, just not in the way he thought. “I’m
Sorry won’t fix this, though.”
what I meant. Look, I don’t have feelings for Asher. Trust me. I’m definitely over him. The thing is...he hurt
me. A lot. He was my first love, and he broke my heart when he dumped me for somebody else. I
afraid I’ll hurt you?”
promise I won’t. I wish I could, but nobody can make a promise like that. All I can tell you is that hurting you
is the last thing in the world I’d ever want to do.”
I fix this? How do we fix it?”
“You have to
move on, Killian. You have to be willing to take a risk with me.”
“What do you
mean by risk?”
the next level is going to require a certain amount of risk for both of us. We both risk getting hurt, risk
losing what we have. All love involves risk. You have to decide if what we have, or what we could have, is worth
that risk. Do the benefits outweigh the potential costs? I’ve decided that for me they do, but only if you’re
willing to commit to this just as much as I am.”
stopped, at a loss for words. My brain was going a mile a minute trying to keep up, but I was starting to feel
overwhelmed. What if I didn’t have an answer for him right that moment? Would he walk away and never look back?
Micah responded to my unspoken question before I could launch into a full-fledged panic. “You don’t have to tell
me right now. That wouldn’t be fair. I don’t want to put you on the spot.” He pulled out his wallet, selected a
twenty, and tossed it on the table. “Take your time and think about it. Be sure you know what you want, and then
call me. I won’t call you. If I don’t hear from you in a reasonable amount of time, I’ll know you decided it
wasn’t worth the risk, and I’ll try to understand.” He stood up and looked down at me sitting with what I’m sure
must have been a stupefied expression.
reasonable amount of time?”
another smile. “I want you to have time to think about this, about what I’m asking of you. There’s no real
timetable. I’m not giving you a deadline or anything. I hope I’ll be talking to you soon, but if not, no hard
feelings. I’ll always love you.” He turned and walked out the door.
him through the plate-glass window as he crossed the lot once more, climbed into his car, and drove away without
ever once looking back. I was still sitting there several minutes later when the waitress came
getcha anything else?” she asked disinterestedly, as if our food wasn’t still sitting completely untouched on
the table and my dinner partner hadn’t just walked out on me.
think we’re done here.” I slid out from the booth. “Keep the change.”
“Do you want
a doggie bag?” she called after me.
I said. Whether she heard me or not I didn’t know and didn’t particularly care.
sitting in my room that night with a school book open in front of me on my desk, ostensibly studying. In
reality, I can’t begin to tell you the first thing about the chapter I was supposed to be reading. My
conversation with Micah kept replaying over and over in my mind. I wondered what I could’ve said differently,
and what I was going to do about what he’d said.
Micah. I really did. It wasn’t entirely out of the question that I could fall in love with him...if I let
myself. And that was the problem. Micah was right. I had been holding a part of myself back from him. The more I
thought about it, the more I wondered if he was also right about the reason. Maybe I wasn’t as over Asher as I’d
led Micah — and myself — to believe. I still missed him. If I was honest, I knew I did. It had been months since
we were a couple, and we hadn’t been happy even before that. Still, he had been my first boyfriend, and I’d
loved him. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I always thought we’d get back together. I had been thrown
for a loop when he announced he was moving away.
sure I was ready to do what Micah asked. Could I take the next step and put myself at risk? It hurt so much when
Asher left, more even than when we’d broken up. I’d lost so many people in my life I guess in some ways it was
only natural for me to eventually begin building up defenses to keep others away. It wasn’t entirely intentional
either. I knew it wasn’t fair for me to expect Micah to keep coasting along uncertainly, but I wasn’t sure if I
was prepared to open myself up the way he wanted. I was afraid to allow him in for fear I’d lose him; however,
it looked like I was about to lose him anyway.
the book shut and let my head drop onto the desk with a thud. “What am I going to do?” I moaned out
“Why do you
always have to make everything so hard?” a familiar voice asked from behind me. I snapped my head up and around
so quickly I felt something crack in my neck.
yelped. “Damn it, Seth. You scared the crap out of me.”
friend reclined on the bed, arms behind his head, and feet crossed at the ankles. He wore what I was beginning
to think of as his uniform: faded jeans, heavy black shoes, and a clingy black shirt. His expression was one of
Unfortunately, it was not uncommon for me to see dead people, especially
Seth. I had been his friend before he was brutally murdered. Actually, I’d been his one and only friend. He was
the only openly gay kid in our school at the time, a fact that made him terribly unpopular with the in-crowd. He
was the one who started me on my own coming-out journey.
death, when my biological father found out I was gay and kicked me out, Seth’s dad Adam, who was also gay, was
the only person I’d known to turn to. He’d taken me in without a second thought and become more like a father to
me than my real one ever had. Of course, Adam didn’t know his dead son had a bad habit of showing up in my
hello?” Seth grinned at me from his perch on my pillow. “No ‘Gee, Seth, it’s been a long time, how’ve you
dead. I don’t have to ask how you’ve been. I wish you wouldn’t just appear like that. And what is it with people
sneaking up on me today?”
He sat up
and pulled his long limbs into a cross-legged position. “Oh, quit being such a drama queen. I didn’t sneak up on
you. I was just lying here. For God’s sake, you’re never happy unless you have some sort of crisis going
true.” My protest came out whinier than I had intended.
maybe it was a little harsh, but you do make mountains out of molehills. Shall I list
and grinned, satisfied he’d made his point.
have you been the last few months? I’d pretty much convinced myself you were just a stress-induced
hallucination. When was the last time I saw you? At the barn?”
“Yes, at the
barn. I got in a little trouble over that, broke a few rules. I guess you could say I’m on
you there are certain rules I have to obey if I’m to be allowed to come here.”
yeah. I meant what rules did you break?”
that’s another rule. I can’t tell you what the rules are, remember?”
like being mysterious.”
He stuck his
tongue out at me. “No, there really are rules. Although I have to admit, this whole mystical-entity thing does
appeal to me. Look, we’re supposed to help out by dropping enigmatic hints, no direct advice. And we’re never
allowed to interfere with the Pattern. When I gave you the strength you needed to escape from those ropes, I
crossed the line.”
me...what? The Pattern? What are you talking about?”
didn’t mention that, okay? If I keep this up, you’ll never see me again. Anyway, I didn’t come here to enlighten
you about how this all works.”
“Why did you
“I’m here to
help you figure out what to do about Micah.”
I rolled my
eyes. “It’s like having my very own fairy godmother.”
as usual, you’ve gotten yourself into a quandary over something that should be simple.”
be simple for you. Do you like Micah?”
“Do you care
“Do you love
stopped me cold.
you love Micah?”
do. Quit hiding and face the truth. If you don’t stop being an idiot you’re going to lose him
words so closely echo my thoughts from earlier caused my stomach to lurch. I didn’t want to lose
“I do love
him so, and then let him help you get past your fears and insecurities. He’ll work with you if he knows there’s
something to work for. If you don’t give him anything, though, what reason does he have to
I stood up
and started pacing. “I don’t even know why he’d want to stay with me. I mean, I’m a freaking mess. I’m scared to
let someone I care about love me, I’m hung up on my old boyfriend, and I’m sitting in my bedroom talking to a
the dead guy out of this. Micah wants to be with you because he loves you. Asher is a part of your past now.
He’ll always be a part of you, but you have to let him go.”
pacing and faced Seth. “What if I can’t?”
Let Asher go? You can.”
because I am sure. I know you, Killian. I know you can do this. Deep down you know you can too. You’re scared,
and it’s okay to be scared. Just don’t let the fear control your life.”
I sighed and
sat on the edge of the bed, near Seth but not too close. He looked as if he’d be as solid as I was, yet I was
always afraid if I touched him I’d go straight through him. “You’re right. I have to stop being an emotional
cripple. It’s time to move on. I’ll call Micah now.” I jumped back up and reached for my cell
“That’s the spirit. No wait, that’s me.” He cackled at his own awful pun.
“Are we finished here?” I flipped open my phone and hit Micah’s speed-dial button.
Just one more thing. Since you’re confronting your fears about Micah, don’t you think it’s also time you
confronted your fears about your Gifts?”
I froze with
my finger on the Send button. “What?”
You haven’t forgotten them, have you?”
the fact that I’ve been valiantly trying.”
was what my friend Judy called my unwanted abilities to see spirits and sometimes catch glimpses of the past. I
called them a curse.
“Why are you
so scared of them, Kill? You have them for a reason.”
the phone shut and set it back on the desk. “Yeah, well, I didn’t ask for them.”
ask to be blond either. Or have blue eyes. Or to be gay.”
just another facet of who you are, and the sooner you deal with it, the better.”
just fine without them, thanks.”
supposed to mean?”
He stood up
and stretched, his body twisting in an almost feline manner. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about
just say something like that and not explain.”
“Sure I can.
I’m enigmatic, remember?” He seemed to be taking entirely too much pleasure in my squirming. “Now, as much I’d
love to, I can’t sit here and argue with you about your Gifts all night. I have to go.”
“Seth...please.” I frowned. “There. I’m begging. Are you happy
grin faded. “I’m sorry. Really. I’m not just being a jerk. I can’t tell you what I meant, but you’ll find out
soon enough. Just believe me when I say you’re going to need to deal with your Gifts sooner or later...and the
sooner the better.”
into a smile again. “Don’t be scared. Just deal with them already. I’m going to leave now and let you call
will I see you again?”
“Who knows? When you need me.”
Sorry.” He flashed me one more goofy smile, and then he was gone.
disconcerting to have someone simply vanish right before your eyes.
home when I called, so I left a message on his machine saying I wanted to talk to him. I thought about being
somewhat more informative, then decided that news of the sort I had to share would be better delivered in
return my call until the next day. That morning, I’d tailed Mr. Knox, the allegedly unfaithful husband, to his
job as a salesman for a seafood-distributing company, checked in with my friend at the receptionist desk, and
finally gone to the office to finish a little paperwork before my first class at 11. Micah agreed to meet me at
my house that evening so we could talk.
The rest of
the day went by in a blur. I barely paid attention in class, and I almost forgot to follow Mr. Knox back to his
house. All I could think about was Micah. I was so excited to give him my decision I couldn’t focus on anything
After I got
home, I changed my clothes twice while waiting for him to show up. I finally settled on a dark-blue,
form-fitting, long-sleeved shirt that I knew Micah loved because he said it brought out my eyes. I completed my
outfit with a pair of jeans he always claimed made my butt look nice.
acting like it’s your first date,” Kane commented from his place in front of the computer as I gave myself a
last once-over in the mirror.
little brother was quite the expert on dating. He’d had more girlfriends at sixteen than most people had in
their entire lives. He’d recently broken up with the girl he’d gone out with all summer, saying he had to keep
his options open now that school was back in session. Attracting girls was not a problem for him. He had bright
green eyes and shaggy blond hair that he wore in a disheveled fashion, which seemed to drive the girls
nervous as if it were,” I said.
nervous? Anyone with half a brain can tell he’s crazy about you.”
“Is that how
you were able to tell?”
clutched his hands over his heart. “Oh, that hurt...right here.”
mature older brother I am, I stuck my tongue out at him and left to wait downstairs.
Micah chose to arrive the moment I had to use the bathroom. The doorbell rang, and seconds later I heard Kane
clattering down the stairs.
it,” I yelled, knowing from experience that if Kane answered, it would only lead to embarrassment for all
involved, but mostly for me.
bathroom? Don’t be stupid. I’ve got it.”
I heard the
door open and swore under my breath.
Micah,” Kane said. “Good thing you got here when you did or Killian would have tried on everything he
howled. I washed my hands and burst from the bathroom to find Micah standing on the front steps. He looked
fantastic in a dark-gray, ribbed turtleneck sweater and black pants.
have at least invited him in,” I said.
gave me time. Anyway, I’m going out. Tell Dad I’ll be home by ten o’clock.”
careful.” For all our bickering, we were actually pretty close, and I often caught myself being protective of
him. He threw me a look and loped off toward the old truck Adam had bought to use at the B&B. He let Kane
drive it when they didn’t need it.
back to Micah, who was still standing just outside the door.
“Um, come on
into the hall where we stood awkwardly for a few seconds, neither of us quite sure what to say.
“Do you want
to go to my room so we can talk?” I finally asked.
me upstairs and into the room Kane and I shared, where the uncomfortable silence returned.
about...” I started at the same time Micah began, “You said you wanted...”
and Micah smiled. It was what we needed to break the tension.
again. “I thought about what you said, and I realized you were right. I wasn’t giving you all of myself, partly
because I wasn’t completely over Asher. And it was also because I was afraid of being hurt again. Then I
remembered what you said about risk.” I took a deep breath. “Micah, I love you.”
his face intently for his reaction. I saw something flash in his eyes, but I couldn’t identify it before it was
that mean?” he asked guardedly.
I’ve decided to take the risk and try to make this work. It means you’ll have to help me if you want to make it
work too, but I’m willing to try.”
am I over him? Not completely. Not yet, anyway. Who knows? Maybe I never will be, but he’s a part of my past
now. I have to move on, and I’d like to move on with you. I do love you. I realized that last night. I was
scared to death at the thought of losing you.”
you more than the possibility of getting hurt?”
I nodded. “I
was afraid to let you in because I was afraid I’d lose you and I’d just get hurt again. Then I realized I was
going to lose you by not letting you in. That would have hurt just as much...because I was already in love with
really in love with me, Killian?”
barely long enough to see the vulnerability in his eyes. “Yes, I am.”
He drew in a
shaky breath and slowly released it. “Good, because yesterday when I said I could fall in love with you, that
wasn’t exactly the truth. The truth is I already have.”
myself into his arms, and we tumbled backwards onto the bed. I kissed him firmly on the lips, and without
hesitation he started kissing me back. He rolled us over so he was on top. After a few minutes, he gently pulled
away and lifted himself up onto his elbows so he could look me in the face.
so beautiful, Killian. I could just stare at you all night. You know, this is exactly the way I hoped it would
happen, but I was too afraid to believe it actually would.”
“Oh, ye of
little faith,” I teased.
going to be an easy road, though. You know that, right?”
thought it would be. You’re going to have to be patient with me. I doubt I can drop all the walls at once. I
might need your help.”
on it together. You know you’re not the only one with walls though, right?”
his weight off me and onto the bed. I cuddled into his side, my head on his shoulder. His fingers played with my
hair. I didn’t think he was going to answer at first, but finally he took a deep breath. “I think everybody has
walls to some degree — if they’ve lived at all, anyway. Some are worse than others. From my experience, it seems
gay guys have more walls than most. I guess we have to start building our defenses sooner than other
around so I could see his face better. “You’ve told me about being abused by your neighbor and how you reacted
by having sex with a lot of people, but you’ve never mentioned falling in love. Am I the first person you’ve
stroked the side of my face. “No, I fell in love once before, when I lived in DC. We lived together for a
news to me. “Why’d you break up?”
here, he stayed in DC. Neither of us wanted to do the long-distance thing. We made a mutual decision to just
call it quits. We both agreed we’d run our course and there was no sense in waiting to break up until things got
ugly. At least that way we could stay friends.”
while. Then the phone calls and emails got further and further apart. Eventually, we just stopped talking. About
the same time I met you, actually.”
still love him?”
love him, but I’m not in love with him anymore.”
for a moment. “Yes. I don’t think I really was before I met you, but I know I am now. I never expected my
relationship with him to be a forever thing.”
us? Are we a forever thing?”
into my eyes for several seconds before answering. “I don’t know. I guess that remains to be seen. Any other
know everything about my past. I’m just trying to learn more about yours.”
everything that’s important. You know I love you. You know I want to be with you. What more do you
about a written guarantee? Completely satisfied or my money back.”
He threw his
head back and laughed. “I’ll satisfy you, you little brat.” He jumped up, straddled my waist, and began to
wiggled, and writhed under him as I gasped for breath. “Stop!” I finally managed to shout. “Stop! I’m gonna
on top of me where we both panted and giggled.
walked in right now they’d never believe you were only tickling me.”
fully clothed. I realize you’re a little inexperienced, but you do know you start by getting naked,
I shoved him
off and punched him in the arm. “Not funny.”
He sat up
and reached into his pocket. “I have something for you.”
my attention. “What is it?”
out a small, gray jewelry box.
“Oh, is that
what I felt? You mean you weren’t just happy to be lying on top of me?” I didn’t take my eyes off the
“Oh, I was
quite happy to be there. I’m sure what you felt was the real thing. I bought this to give you no matter what you
decided. If we broke up, it was something to remember me by. If we didn’t, then...well, here.”
I took the
box gingerly and held it in my lap, half afraid to open it. “Always prepared. You’d make a good boy
the fact that I’m gay. Open it, please.”
down apprehensively at the box. What if it was a ring? I wasn’t ready for that. I tentatively pried open the lid
and felt all my anxiety drain away. Nestled against the plush cream lining was a beautiful rainbow pendant on a
delicate silver chain. The pendant was an inverted, stained-glass triangle framed in silver.
“I went with
silver because you don’t seem like the gold type,” Micah said softly. “It’s a pride necklace.”
“I hope you
like it. I’ve never seen you wear much jewelry, but I noticed it in the store and...”
“I love it.”
I leaned forward and kissed him on the lips.
“Want me to
put it on you?”
He took the
box from my hands and freed the necklace. After fiddling with the clasp until it opened, he moved behind me on
the bed and put the chain around my neck. The pendent lay perfectly in the hollow at the base of my
“Stand up so
I can see,” he whispered in my ear.
little shiver, I did as he asked.
incredible.” He gave me a seductive smile.
I draped my
arms around his shoulders. “So do you.”
shame to waste all this sexy. What do you think about hitting the Inferno?”
was a gay dance club located on a back road in the last place you’d expect to find a club of any sort, let alone
a gay one. We’d been there a few times, and I’d been delighted to discover that I loved to dance and was
actually pretty good. While I was technically underage, Micah knew the bouncer, a bulldog of a drag queen named
Carmen, who allowed me entrance without a word.
I jumped at
the chance to go dancing. I left a note for Adam telling him where Kane and I were so he wouldn’t
didn’t know what you were looking for, you’d never suspect the Inferno was anything other than a warehouse. From
the outside, it was quite unremarkable: an unassuming, two-story, cinder-block building with no paint on the
walls, no windows to speak of, and surrounded by a few straggly pine trees and acres of fields. A small,
inconspicuous sign above the large black metal door was the only indication you’d arrived at the right place.
Well, that and the gravel parking lot full of cars. It was a Friday night and the joint was
On one side
of the door stood a tall, broad-shouldered, bald man who appeared to be looking for an excuse to bash in
someone’s face. I’d never heard him utter a word in all the times I’d been to the club. On the other side, under
an overhang, was a podium with a high barstool behind it. On the stool sat Carmen.
No one who
had ever met Carmen was likely to forget her. She was very large, for one thing, easily topping out at six-feet
six without her heels — which must have added at least another three inches — and built like a tank. Her square
face would never be described as pretty, or even attractive. She compensated for her lack of looks with an
abundance of makeup and hair big enough to have its own zip code. That night, the wild wig she had chosen was
approximately the same shade of pink as Pepto-Bismol. Her silver-sequined, ankle-length dress was a few sizes
too small. Her trademark mirror-ball earrings dangled from her ears. Although I couldn’t see her shoes, I knew
from previous visits that I could have used them as skis. The ensemble was pulled together by a pink feather boa
draped around her broad shoulders.
Eastern Shore wasn’t the most liberal part of the state — rednecks and country bumpkins abounded — no one ever
feared any trouble with Carmen and her silent sidekick on duty. I’d heard she kept a large pistol somewhere on
her person and she knew how to use it. I didn’t doubt the rumors for a second, not that she’d ever need the
weapon with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Ugly on the scene.
well, if it isn’t my favorite boys,” she said, waving a large, red lollipop around.
that to all the boys,” Micah replied with a grin.
it, honey. So Micah, darling, are you still running around with this baby?”
“He has a
“I know your
name, don’t I, Killian baby?” She waved the lollipop under my nose. I noticed it was shaped like a
speaks. He’s a pretty one, Micah. I have to give you that. Just be sure you hide him if the big bad police ever
happen to show up.”
Micah held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor.” He slipped his arm around my waist and pulled me into the Inferno,
where the sound of Carmen’s laughter was quickly drowned out by the cacophony of sound.
name was quite fitting. The noise may have been the first thing to hit you as you entered, but the heat was
close behind. For some reason, it was always hot as Hades inside the building. I suspected it was meant to
encourage guys to take their shirts off...as if they needed any encouragement.
eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, a smorgasbord of sights and sounds awaited us. Multicolored strobes flashed,
laser beams sliced through the haze like lightsabers, and fog machines created such a miasma we almost had to
feel our way along the dance floor. A mass of male bodies was gyrating, bumping, and grinding to the heavy beat
of the dance music blasting from every angle. Sweat and glitter sparkling on the dancers’ skin created a
dizzying and mesmerizing effect.
was simple: an industrial look with lots of concrete and shiny black metal. Chimney-like columns spaced at
regular intervals around the room spouted flames — not real ones, but a gauzy material illuminated with red and
orange lights from below and blown upward by fans. Spiral staircases led to a wide, metal-grid catwalk that went
around the whole room and overlooked the dance floor. Tiny pedestal tables sat near the walls, each with four
stools bolted down around it.
I was in awe
of this place. It was so foreign to anything I’d ever seen before. Everywhere I looked there were guys kissing,
touching, dancing, and laughing. It was euphoria.
dance?” Micah yelled into my ear, the only way I could possibly hear him over the din.
A few hours
later, we slipped out the door into the fresh, cool air. Although the party was still going strong inside, I was
completely exhausted. Dancing is strenuous exercise.
that heavy breathing you two should at least be naked,” Carmen said lazily.
ever want to be inside?” I think it was the first thing I’d ever said to her besides hello.
Are you kidding?” She snorted. “Honey, I’m way too old for all that foolishness. I’d throw out a hip or
something. No, I’m content to just sit here and breathe in the ambiance of youth and beauty.”
on.” Micah scoffed. “We both know you could dance circles around most of those guys in there. You’re healthy as
“And just as
big.” She produced a cigarette from her cleavage and lit up. “Now you boys run along. It must be past the baby’s
mother.” I shot her a grin and started for the car.
isn’t he?” Carmen yelled. “Keep an eye on him, Micah.”
chuckled as he trotted to catch up to me. “Did you sneak one of my drinks again tonight?” He was referring to
the first time he’d brought me to the Inferno, when I’d been so nervous I’d fortified myself with his alcoholic
beverage before hitting the dance floor. “I’ve never seen you so playful with Carmen.”
“Nope, all I
drank was the bottled water you got me. I just figured if she was going to dish it, she could take it. Hey,
remember our first date when you promised me if I went out with you again you’d tell me who Carmen really
detective. You figure it out.”
“I hate it
when people tell me that.”
I was at the
office again the next day, plugging away at the stack of paperwork that kept building up on my desk, when Judy
swept in as only she could. Judy Davis was a slender, attractive woman with a deceptively ordinary appearance.
She wore her straight, blonde hair cut off bluntly just above her shoulders and tucked behind her ears. She
looked as if she’d come from working in her garden, which she probably had. She took a great deal of deserved
pride in the tiny, but exquisite, flower gardens she had created in just the few short months she and her nephew
Jake had been living in their small house.
I said. “Novak is out on his case.” She and Novak, a widower, had been dating for a few months, and she
occasionally dropped in unexpectedly to see him.
Actually, I’m not here to see Shane. I’m here to see you.”
“Yes, you. I
need to talk to you about Jake.”
For a brief
time, back before Asher and I had started dating, Jake and I had almost become boyfriends. I’d ended up choosing
Asher, while Jake and I remained just friends. We were barely even that these days, though, so I couldn’t
imagine why Judy was there to see me about him. After his entire family had been killed, he’d gone to live in
California with Judy. They’d only recently moved back to Maryland.
on.” She grabbed one of the chairs that sat against the wall and dragged it over to my desk. She settled into it
and took a deep breath. “I’m worried about him. I think he may be doing drugs.”
“Oh, well, I
really wouldn’t know. We don’t talk that much anymore.”
expect you to know. That’s why I’m here. I want you to find out.”
“I want to
hire you to find out what’s going on in Jake’s life.”
talk to me. I’ve asked him, but he won’t say a word. I know things have been hard for him since Tom and Janice
died, but we’ve always been able to talk — at least we could before we came back here. I’m beginning to think
moving was a mistake.”
Janice were Jake’s parents. Janice was Judy’s sister.
minute.” I was still confused. “What about Novak? Why don’t you just hire him?”
that would make things just a little too awkward. I mean, I’m seeing Shane, and there’s already enough tension
between the two of them as it is. Shane thinks I let Jake get away with too much. He’s almost eighteen, though,
so I can’t baby him anymore.”
“But you can
hire me to follow him around?”
sound so judgmental, Killian. If he’d talk to me, I wouldn’t have to do this. He’s my responsibility now. I’m
worried sick about him. I’ve been having...feelings...premonitions — whatever you want to call them — that he’s
in danger. I don’t know what sort of danger and I need to find out. Please, will you do this for me? As a favor?
Not that I won’t pay you.”
Judy was the
one who first insisted I had Gifts. She was a psychic of sorts. While she didn’t have a crystal ball or read tea
leaves — at least as far as I knew — she did occasionally get “feelings” about things, and she was almost always
right. She also had premonitions sometimes: little glimpses of the future — rarely enough to actually be
helpful, but creepy nonetheless. While I had no problem with Judy’s Gifts, I would have appreciated her keeping
them to herself. I had some serious doubts when it came to my own.
I also had
doubts about investigating Jake. “I don’t know...”
Killian. It would mean a lot to me.”
don’t feel comfortable following my friend around. I mean, I’m not even that good at this. I’m still
Shane says you’re a natural, the best he’s ever seen even without training. I know you can do this, and I know
you’ll do it well, because you care for Jake, too. If he’s involved with drugs or something else illegal, his
life could be in danger. If you refused to help me and something happened to him, how would you
was a guilt trip too. Could her visit get any better? She was right, though. I knew if anything happened to Jake
after I’d turned her down, I’d never forgive myself.
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
Killian. But there’s one more thing.”
“I want you
to keep this quiet.”
want me to tell Novak?”
yet. Let’s see what’s going on first.”
good to keep things from the person you’re dating.” Or from your boss, I thought, but didn’t add. I didn’t like
the idea of trying to hide an investigation from Novak.
darling, as much as I appreciate your concern, I don’t need relationship advice. I mean that in the kindest
possible way. I know you don’t like keeping things from Shane, but you’ll have to trust me that it’s best for
least I understood why’d she’d come in to talk to me while she knew Novak would be out.
don’t be upset with me. You’ll understand later.”
How do you want me to start? Stalk him?”
“He gets out of school at two-thirty. I don’t know where he goes afterwards. He doesn’t come home some nights
until eight or later. There’ve been a few nights he didn’t come home at all. When I ask him where he was, he
just tells me not to worry about it. If I get angry, he tells me to mind my own business. I grounded him, but it
didn’t faze him in the least.”
take his car away from him?”
but he’d just find another ride. At least this way I know he’s doing the driving. If he is into drugs, I have to
say I’ve never seen him high or out of control when he gets home.”
makes you think drugs? You said earlier that it could be something else illegal. Like what?”
even know. I simply had a feeling it involves drugs. I have no real evidence besides his erratic behavior, which
could, I guess, be nothing more than typical teenage rebellion.”
makes you think it’s not just that? Is there anything besides coming home late?”
buying a lot of stuff recently and I have no idea where he’s getting the money from — certainly not from
“Electronics. Clothes. I don’t know what else. That’s just what I’ve
gut feelings I mentioned. You know, I’ve come to trust my Gifts, Killian. Speaking of which, how are you coming
“I’m not. Back to Jake…”
you know you really should learn more about your Gifts. I think they’re very strong.”
have to be. They can be dangerous if left untrained, or they can be a marvelous tool if you know how to use
them. You were given them for a reason, you know.”
like Seth,” I said crossly.
“Is he still
coming to visit you?”
seen him for a few months, but he showed up the other night.”
yeah. But he also said I should deal with my Gifts. As I told him, though, I’m doing just fine without
“Yes. I am.
Now, is there anything else I need to know about Jake?”
but gave in. “You know what he drives, right?”
all I can think of right now.” She stood up and pushed the chair back to its original position. “You’ll let me
know as soon as you have something?”
into her eyes and recognized the pain and fear that she was making an effort to hide. I nodded. “Yeah, I’ll keep
She bit her
lip in a most un-Judy-like fashion. “Thank you.”
When I woke
up the next morning, I was still uncomfortable with the idea of investigating Jake. I had slept fitfully,
perhaps because my conscience wouldn’t allow me a peaceful night’s rest. I tumbled out of bed and sleepwalked
through my morning routine of shower, dressing, and a quick breakfast. Arriving at Mr. Knox’s a little early, I
parked across the street and a couple of doors past his house, then slumped down behind the wheel of my car to
wait for him to leave.
I was having
a hard time holding my eyes open. I turned on the car radio, but even a high-energy dance song couldn’t keep me
awake. At some point, I must have dozed off, because I was roused suddenly by the sound of a car door slamming.
I jerked upright, blinking in the bright sunlight like a startled owl. For a moment I couldn’t remember where I
was; then I recalled what I was doing. Knox started his Ford Ranger with a roar and backed out of his driveway.
I waited a few seconds for him to put some distance between us before I pulled out after him.
Novak had given me a few lessons in tailing someone, he said it was mostly common sense. You stayed far enough
back that the average Joe would never realize you were following him, but not so far that you could easily lose
him. He had also suggested I should trade in my brand-new, black Mustang for something a little more
inconspicuous, like his beat up old Buick, Bessie. That was about as likely as my getting a sex-change
operation, and let’s just say I’m a little too attached to a certain something for that to ever
Knox took the same route every day directly from his house to his office building. This time he surprised me by
making an unexpected turn. In my sleep-deprived state, I almost drove past him. At the last second I swung
widely onto the street behind him, going a bit too fast. I could only hope my reckless tactics hadn’t attracted
his attention. I breathed a sigh of relief as he continued on at the same speed, seemingly
pulled into the parking lot for a small strip mall, I didn’t follow immediately but sped on by and turned around
at a gas station farther up the street. I drove slowly back past the strip mall in time to see him entering one
of the storefronts. I parked at the far end of the lot from where he left his car and flipped down the mirror on
my sun visor so I could watch the door of what I now saw was a travel agency. Were Mr. and Mrs. Knox planning a
trip? She hadn’t mentioned anything of the sort.
he came out carrying a large manila envelope. He climbed back into his car and drove right to his office
building. I noticed that, unless he had stuck the envelope in his briefcase — which was of course very possible
— he didn’t have it with him when he went inside. I parked and waited a few minutes before going in
I made a
beeline for my receptionist-spy. “Sharla,” I said softly.
sitting with her back to me, working on a computer. She swung around, and a bright smile lit up her face. Sharla
was a young, black girl, not much older than I was. She wore her hair in a sort of shag cut with blonde tips and
was liberal with her makeup application — though she still had a long way to go if she wanted to catch up with
Carmen. She was dressed in a businesslike gray skirt and matching jacket. She’d added her own flair to the
outfit by hiking the skirt up a few inches and not wearing a blouse under the jacket. The edges of her lacy
black bra showed just a little.
Mr. Detective Boy!” Sharla seemed to think of my investigation as a wonderfully fun game, which worked to my
advantage most of the time, but occasionally grew a bit grating.
our secret, remember?” I winked at her, making her giggle.
up? Is this a rendezvous? Do you have a new assignment for me?” Her eyes grew large and round. “You want to
sneak into his office to look around?”
“No, nothing like that — at least, not yet. I have a question, though. Mr. Knox stopped at a travel agency on
his way to work this morning. Do you know anything about it?”
He was probably just picking up his plane tickets.”
tickets? To where? And is it business or pleasure?”
to DC this weekend for a business trip, but knowing Mr. Knox, he’ll mix in a little pleasure too.” She giggled
“What do you
looked up and down the hall conspiratorially before leaning in and whispering to me, “I’ve heard he isn’t always
alone on these trips, if you catch my meaning.”
first time I began to think Mrs. Knox might perhaps have some basis for her fear. “What makes you say that? Have
you seen anything to suggest he’s having an affair?”
her head, which set her oversized hoop earrings to swinging. “No, I’ve not been around long enough to see
anything, really, but I’ve heard stuff from some of the other girls here in the office. Nothing direct, you
know? Just little comments here and there.”
this DC trip? Do you know where he’s staying?”
Holding up one long finger capped by a curving nail painted fire-engine red, she began to riffle through a pile
of folders. Finding the one she was looking for, she flipped through it, finally producing a sheet of paper
triumphantly. “You should hire me.” She made it sound as if finding something she’d filed herself on her own
desk was a major accomplishment.
will.” I laughed, but it got me thinking what a good idea it would be to hire somebody as our secretary or
receptionist, since it would free me up a lot.
rang just then. Before answering it, she handed me what turned out to be a fax from a hotel in Washington, DC,
confirming Knox’s reservations for that Friday night through Sunday morning. I pulled out my notepad to jot down
the pertinent information.
up just as I finished. “Thanks,” I said, giving the fax back to her. “Now, if he leaves unexpectedly during the
day or if you suspect something fishy, you remember what to do, right?”
broadly. This was her favorite part. “Sure do. I send you a text saying he’s left.” She made a face. “I still
wish you’d let me be a little more creative. Can’t I say something like, ‘The chicken has flown the
again. “You watch too much TV, Sharla. If you really want to say ‘the chicken has flown the coop’, go ahead.
I’ll know what you mean.” She clapped excitedly.
I pulled a
twenty out of my wallet and slid it across the counter.
it right back at me. “Keep it this time. I’m having too much fun to get paid. I feel like I’m one of Charlie’s
you’re cuter than any of them.”
“And it’s about damn time they had a black one.”
leaving my last class of the day later that afternoon when I remembered that I needed a particular program for
one of the courses I was taking. Knowing I didn’t have it on my computer at home, I made a side trip to look for
it at the campus bookstore, where it would be much cheaper with my student discount.
I found the
disc and went to the checkout area, choosing the shorter of the two lines. When I noticed my clerk, I was doubly
glad for my selection. He was cute in a slightly awkward sort of way. He had full, red lips and short,
light-brown hair. Behind his small, wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes were an indeterminate color. I studied them
while he waited on the person in front of me, trying to figure out what color they were exactly. I had just
decided they were hazel when I realized he was staring back and had said something I’d missed.
tried not to blush.
‘Can I help you?’” He seemed to be fighting back a smile.
I handed him
the disc and gave in to the blush.
As he rang
me up, I noticed his gaze kept straying to the rainbow pendant around my throat. “Nice necklace,” he said after
giving me my total.
was a gift.” I started to add that it was from my boyfriend, but for some reason the words wouldn’t come
heard of Haven?”
really.” It sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.
gay/straight alliance here on campus. We meet on Thursday nights. You should come sometime.”
I felt my
blush deepen and wondered why. I wasn’t ashamed of being gay. I’d been out for several years and had actually
helped Asher start a GSA at our high school. Maybe I just wasn’t used to being so easily identified as gay by a
smiled. “My name’s Noah. I’m the vice-president. The meetings start around eight in the student lounge in
Wicomico Hall. It’s really informal. We usually have between twenty and thirty people show up. We’d love to have
maybe I will.” My inexplicable awkwardness was fading, and I found myself a little intrigued. With nobody
waiting behind me, I decided to ask him more about the group. “So what does Haven do?”
partly a support group, but we also sponsor a lot of educational and awareness stuff on campus. We put on events
a couple of times a year — during Gay and Lesbian History Month and for National Coming Out Day in
last week, right? I really didn’t pay much attention, because I had some other stuff going on.”
that’s over for this year.” Someone came up behind me, and Noah greeted the customer before turning back to me.
“Hey, I’d like to talk to you more about this if you’re interested.” He grabbed a piece of scrap paper,
scribbled something on it, and handed it to me. “This is my dorm room and cell phone number. Call me
I took the
slip with a promise to give him a ring and started walking away.
he called. I turned around to find him holding out the disc I’d just bought. “You forgot this.”
sheepishly and took it from him. “Thanks.”
what’s your name?”
and focused on his next customer.
Micah,” I told myself firmly. I chanted it like a mantra all the way back to my car.
cutting things close getting to Jake’s high school before it let out for the day, but I arrived just in time. I
parked in a visitors’ space at an angle with a good view of the student lot. While Jake and I were the same age,
he’d taken so much time off from school to recover from injuries — both mental and physical — received when his
family died, he’d fallen behind and had to be held back a year. He was a senior, which put him one grade ahead
I was once
again trying to justify following someone who was supposed to be my friend when I spotted his Jeep leaving the
lot. Quickly pulling out a few cars behind him, I made sure to keep at least one vehicle between us at all
times. Unlike Knox, Jake did know what I drove, so it was even more important than usual to make sure I was
Jake to a mall on the far side of town. Maybe he was just doing a little shopping. I followed him inside, making
up an excuse as I went, in case he spotted me. That was another lesson from Novak: always have a cover story
prepared. Unless they are pathological liars, most people have trouble coming up with a convincingly innocuous
explanation on the spur of the moment. If Jake did see me, I’d tell him I was looking for a new jacket now that
it was starting to get cooler.
him around for about an hour, somehow managing to avoid being noticed. The only things I learned were that he
had an affinity for tight clothing, shopped for lotion at Bath & Body, and knew practically every kid in the
I was just
about ready to give up when I noticed a sudden shift. He began to behave in a very suspicious manner, throwing
quick glances over his shoulder and generally acting extremely guilty. Although I was able to stay hidden by
ducking into stores and jumping behind racks of clothes, my spy tactics were drawing attention and making it
rather hard to keep a good eye on my quarry. At first, I thought maybe he had sensed me following him, but
quickly realized he was up to something.
behind one of the large potted palms in the middle of the mall and watched him through the fronds as he took one
final glance around, then turned suddenly down the hall leading to the restrooms. I cursed under my breath.
There was no way I could follow him in there without his seeing me. I watched from my tropical hiding place
while several other guys came and went, all different ages and types, until Jake finally reappeared after about
fifteen minutes. My curiosity raging, I trailed him as he made directly for the exit. Part of me wanted to take
a look around the men’s room, but I knew that was probably useless. Following Jake made more
Back out on
the road, I soon realized he was heading for home. I glanced at the clock and remembered I had to get over to
Knox’s building soon so I could trail him home as well. What an exciting job I had, following people around
while they shopped and drove home. I tailed Jake until he turned into his driveway. As I went by, I hoped and
prayed he wouldn’t glance up at his rearview mirror and see me pass, or if he did, that he wouldn’t recognize my
missed Knox. A few seconds longer and he would have been gone. He was leaving a little early, but I arrived just
in time to fall in behind him. Traffic was light, letting us make good time back to his house. I parked and
watched him walk up to the side door.
Since he was
going to DC that weekend, I would be as well. I’d have to call Mrs. Knox the next day to see what she knew of
the business trip, then speak to Novak about making the arrangements. He would have to approve any trips. I
wished I could talk to him about Jake, but I had made that promise to Judy. With a sigh, I started the car and
“I think you
should go,” Adam was saying as he washed and rinsed the dinner dishes while I dried and put them
discussing the GSA on campus. “I won’t even know anyone there,” I said, still not completely over my adolescent
He handed me
a plate. “You’ll know that guy Noah.”
“No, I met
him once in the bookstore. That does not equate to knowing someone.”
“You said he
that have to do with anything? I’m dating Micah.”
mean you’re blind. It was just a question, Kill. From your response I take it he was cute though,
“Yes, he definitely was. Why do you think I should go? I mean, what’s the point?”
off, it never hurts to have more friends. Secondly, you probably have something to offer. Some of these kids may
be struggling with issues you’ve already dealt with, like figuring out whether they’re gay and coming out. Plus,
you know how I like to support these sorts of things. If Haven is involved with education on campus and in the
community, it’s a great cause.”
I had to
admit he was right. I had been interested when Noah was telling me about it. I just needed a little nudging. I
knew I’d probably call Noah later that night or the next day.
over at Adam and wondered if he missed his partner on nights when Steve was at the B&B. It had to be hard
living in two different places. If they had guests, one of them always stayed at Amalie’s House while the other
stayed with me and Kane. Technically, we were old enough to take care of ourselves, but Adam liked to keep the
family together as much as possible.
still a little slow, so some nights, we were all together at the beach house. Kane occasionally stayed over at
the inn. I had only spent the night there once and didn’t plan to do so ever again. During renovations, we’d
discovered the house was haunted. Although we’d thought the problem was settled, we were apparently wrong. There
had been a few incidents since the grand opening.
Adam and I
were just finishing up when someone rang the doorbell. Kane came thundering down the stairs, sounding more like
a herd of stampeding wildebeests than a teenage boy.
chuckled and shook his head.
minutes later, Judy appeared in the kitchen door.
hello,” Adam said warmly. He dried his hands and gave her a hug.
Adam, Killian. I think Kane was a little disappointed to find me on the doorstep. Was he expecting one of his
always expecting a girlfriend,” I said dryly.
something to drink?” Adam offered. “We just finished dinner, but if you’re hungry, we can whip up the leftovers.
“No, no. I’m
fine. I had an early dinner with Shane. Actually, I came by to talk to you about Amalie.”
or the woman?” Adam asked.
since they seem to be inextricably intertwined.”
upstairs,” I said, anxious to leave before I got suckered into the conversation.
me with a meaningful stare. “Actually, I’d like you to stay.”
wasn’t quick enough. “Why?” I said before I could stop myself.
She gave me
an appraising look. “Because I think you have something to offer...or you would if you’d just quit fighting
don’t want to.” I knew I sounded like a petulant preschooler, but I couldn’t help myself.
is obvious. Like it or not, you’re involved. You’re one of the threads of this tapestry. Amalie has shown in the
past, for reasons of her own, that she’s drawn to you. I think if we’re going to get to the bottom of this,
it’ll take all of us working together.”
of what? She’s dead. And either she hasn’t figured it out yet or she just doesn’t give a damn. She seems quite
content to keep on haunting the place forever.”
you’re wrong. I believe she’s very aware that she’s dead. She’s still upset about something. Originally, we
conjectured her discontent had to do with the baby, but now I think that was only a marginal issue, or at least
only part of a much larger whole.”
Adam said, “what can it hurt to just sit down and talk with us? As exciting as Steve found all this at first,
the thrill has long since worn off and reality has set in. You know how slow things have been. He’s awfully
stressed right now with the possibility that the business could go south very quickly and leave him pretty much
penniless. He has an awful lot invested in this house. Amalie is not helping things.”
“I thought a
friendly ghost was a draw.”
ghost hunters have never seen a real ghost and wouldn’t know what to do with one if it bit them on the nose.
Besides, even people who are interested in ghosts don’t necessarily want to spend the night with one. Amalie
hasn’t chased anyone off, yet, but then there’s hardly been anyone to chase off. Just to be on the safe side, so
far we’ve kept the guests on the second floor, since she seems to favor the third. Eventually, though, if all
goes well, we’ll have to put people on the top floor and then there’s no telling what could happen. Please,
Killian. What could it hurt to sit down and talk with us about this?”
you all just accept that I don’t want to do this? I don’t care if I have Gifts or not. If they’re a gift, then I
get to decide what to do with them, right? If you give me a butt-ugly sweater, I can choose not to wear it.
Well, I choose not to use these so-called Gifts. I’ll be up in my room. Don’t call if you need
around and stormed off.
Kane was in
the bedroom when I slammed through the door. He looked up from the computer screen long enough to gauge my
“I take it
Judy asked you to help out with Amalie again,” he said idly.
and Dad have been plotting the best way to ask you.”
they planned that? I can’t believe this.”
have to admit, you’ve not exactly been open to the idea.”
“I don’t see
you jumping at the chance to go over there.”
“I’m not the
one with the Gifts.”
I let out a
wordless roar that made Kane wince. “I’m so sick and tired of hearing about these damned Gifts,” I said. “I
didn’t ask for them, and I don’t want them. That’s my choice, and I wish everyone would just leave me the hell
You don’t have to bite my head off. I didn’t mean anything by it. If you’re going to be all bitchy, I’m going
downstairs to watch TV.” He signed off the Internet and pushed away from the desk.
Kane.” I dropped onto my bed with a sigh.
him leave, a hurt expression on his face. I hadn’t taken the time to look at Judy and Adam when I’d left in my
little huff, but I imagine they hadn’t been all that happy, either. Damn it, why couldn’t everyone just leave me
alone about this? And why was I so scared of it all? Not being in the mood for deep self-examination, I grabbed
my backpack and pulled out my books. I lost myself in studying for a while and eventually drifted into another
night of restless sleep.
Mrs. Knox the next day between classes and learned that she knew all about the business trip. She wanted me to
follow him. An all-expense-paid trip to DC sounded great to me, especially since it was only a three-hour drive.
I wondered why Mr. Knox was taking the commuter plane, but I guess if your company is willing to spring for the
tickets, it’s better than driving.
was over for the day, I went to the office to talk to Novak. I found him at his desk typing away on a report. He
stopped when I stuck my head in.
kiddo?” Novak was a retired police detective, and he looked the part. You could tell at a glance that he used to
be in law enforcement or the military. He wore his iron-gray hair in a buzz cut and kept his body fit and lean,
but it was more than that. There was something in the way he carried himself. Although his age was hard to
guess, I knew he had to at least be in his late fifties, and it wasn’t impossible that he was even older. When
his wife died soon after he retired, it hadn’t taken him long to realize he wasn’t cut out for sitting around
the house. That was the beginning of Novak Investigations.
new development in the Knox case,” I said, still in the doorway.
and fill me in.” He swiveled his executive desk chair around to face me. Novak’s office was a comfortably
eclectic space. The first things you couldn’t help noticing were the bookcases, which took up one whole wall.
Made in all different heights and woods, they were filled to overflowing with books. There were law books, phone
books, atlases, maps, and a set of encyclopedias that was easily older than I was. One case was reserved for his
collection of hardcover detective novels, many of which were signed and/or first editions.
center of the room sat his desk, a huge expanse of scarred golden oak. I always figured the office must have
been built around it, since there was no way that mother could have fit through the door. Its top was usually
completely clear, unless he’s working on a case. Then it was apt to be quite cluttered with files, papers,
photos, and more. Behind the oak behemoth stood a daunting procession of battleship-gray filing cabinets, each
one meticulously labeled and locked. Two large leather armchairs faced his desk.
For the most
part, I liked the room. There was one exception, however: the odd, ugly, humpbacked sofa he kept on the wall
opposite the bookcases and under the room’s lone window. I know furniture is incapable of harboring ill will,
but I’d swear that sofa is evil. It seemed to crouch malevolently off to one side, its carved claw feet gripping
the floor for traction, waiting for some poor, unsuspecting soul to make the fatal mistake of sitting on it.
Then, moving with a swiftness that belied its ungainly size, it would devour the hapless victim whole, before
perhaps spitting out a shoe.
quickly toward an armchair while carefully avoiding looking at the sofa. Luckily, I reached my chair
filled Novak in on what little progress I’d made with the Knox case thus far. I ended by mentioning the proposed
interfere with your school work?”
isn’t checking in until late afternoon, and his flight leaves him just enough time to get there. I only have
morning classes on Fridays, so I should have no trouble driving up there before he arrives.”
been to DC much?”
go with you if my case weren’t so close to busting wide open. I can’t afford to leave. Do you know anyone who’s
familiar with the city?”
to live there.”
think he’d be willing to go along with you? We can hire him as a consultant if we need to.”
I smiled. “I
bet he’ll be willing to go without the monetary incentive.”
chuckled. “I’d imagine you’re right, there. Ask him, and let me know what he says. If he can’t go, I don’t want
you going. You don’t know the city well enough to be running around on your own.”
As much as I
liked the idea of having Micah along, I felt I had to defend myself. “I don’t need a
say you did. I just believe you should have a guide who’s familiar with the city. That is, if you think you can
work with your boyfriend along and not get too, ahem, shall we say...distracted?”
Novak didn’t have any problems with my being gay — in fact, he’d told me that his grandson was gay — but it
still seemed odd to hear him make comments like that. “I think I’m professional enough to not get
out a guffaw. “Kid, there’s never been a man born yet who was professional enough to not get distracted by sex.
Tell you what, though, you do your job well enough, and maybe we’ll work something out so you have some free
“Deal,” I said, my face