Here’s the end of Closure. Hope you enjoy it. Next week I’m starting you off with Trapped, a firefighter romance. Stay tuned for a blurb of Trapped on Thursday.
“Yes. What happened here was more than one man’s madness and the fire. When I came here, I wanted to feel the place. I was always a skeptic during paranormal investigations. That night I stopped being a skeptic. But I figured if I came here I’d know if this ground was still evil. I know how crazy it sounds.”
“You’re right it does sound crazy … or it would to someone without an open mind.” He released her shoulder, but his gaze was still gentle and concerned. “You think the place is still haunted?”
She glanced around, trying to listen with all her senses. “It feels uncomfortable, but I don’t know if that’s the PTSD talking to me.” Silence fell on them for a short while before she asked, “You followed me up here?”
“I had a feeling you’d come up here at some point and took the chance it would be sooner rather than later.”
She jumped into another topic out of curiosity. “Why hasn’t Steele Company torn down the place?”
“They were talking about rebuilding it.”
“No.” She hated the idea. “No.”
“Afraid so. But they can’t get anyone to buy it. My guess is they’ll have to clean the property off before anyone will think about it.”
“It’s insane to even consider rebuilding the place or selling it.”
“They can’t leave it fenced up and useless.”
She grunted. “Practically speaking I don’t suppose they can.”
“Pippa, now that you’ve been here, why don’t you do that shopping you promised yourself. Forget this damned place before it takes over the rest of your life.”
Maybe he did understand more than she’d originally believed. “Do you … feel anything off when you’re here?”
Oh, yeah, she was taking a huge chance asking that question.
He pivoted until his broad back was to her and he could survey the ruins, but he turned back a moment later. “I’ve been here by myself quite a few times and felt … something. I grew up in the next county, but as kids we heard ghost stories about this place. I’ve never seen a ghost or heard one, but I can’t deny something bizarre happened that night.”
A new respect grew inside her. “I don’t know many cops who’d admit that.”
He smiled and this time it was a full-blown grin that made him impossibly handsome. “Neither do I.” Another silence penetrated until he asked, “How are you? How’s work and life in Denver? Still doing paranormal investigations?”
Pippa cleared her throat. “No. Our leader got really sick right after the fire. They still don’t know what’s wrong with her. Some mysterious illness. The team broke up. I’m not sure if I ever want to join another team, but time will tell. A great team like ours isn’t easy to find. What about you? How’s life here as a deputy?”
“Quiet most of the time. Weekends I sometimes head out to Denver and visit my parents. Last month I went to Wyoming where my sister lives on a ranch with her husband. But I’m moving soon.”
“Where?” Part of her hoped he didn’t say out of state.
“I applied to the Denver police department, and I was hired. I’m moving in three weeks.”
Surprised, she allowed the pleasure to run through her. Jason might come to Denver? Whoa, girl. That doesn’t mean he wants to have a relationship or date you.
“That’s wonderful,” she said. “Congratulations on the new job.”
A sound came from somewhere nearby, and she jerked toward the ruins. The wind rustled the forest around them and spoke of mysteries she didn’t want to explore.
“What is it?” he asked.
“It’s … this place is still alive. I thought maybe the fire would have cleansed the place, but I don’t think it did.”
He slipped his arm around her shoulders. His size and strength made her feel safe, and the tension in her body eased.
“It’s all right. I won’t let anything hurt you.”
She looked up at Jason and his sincerity convinced her that he meant it. “I know. Listen, I never really thanked you for what you did that night. I’m ashamed that I didn’t send you a card or call you and thank you.”
“I was doing my job. You didn’t need to thank me.”
He’d gone above and beyond. He’d taken care of everyone that night as one of the first responders to the scene, his professionalism obvious. Yet when she’d broken down in tears as the fire raged, he’d pulled her into his arms for a minute to comfort her. In just those few moments he’d loaned his strength. Some of the team had suffered smoke inhalation and had gone to the hospital. He’d driven her to the hospital to check on her friends, then taken her to the hotel to sleep.
She could see in his eyes that he remembered what had happened next—the way he’d walked her to her hotel door, and what she’d done. Heat burned her face with embarrassment. She also knew her recovery would go a long way if she owned up to her mistake.
“I also didn’t apologize for kissing you,” she said, daring to meet his gaze. “It was idiotic to simply grab you and kiss you.” She rubbed her chilled hands over her face to try and remove the heat. “I’ve never done anything that ridiculous before.”
She’d thought he might appear uncomfortable, but instead she saw an answering heat in his eyes. A smoldering acknowledgement of the fierce attraction she’d felt that horrible night. He cupped her shoulders, his big hands warm. “Hey, it’s all right. I sure as hell don’t regret it. If anyone had seen me kissing you I might have gotten reported for unprofessional behavior. But while we were kissing, I wasn’t thinking about that.”
“Neither was I.”
Oh, it had been impossible for her to think straight during the kiss. She’d reached up to pull his face down to hers and within seconds of her lips meeting his, his arms had gone around her waist. He’d responded with full, ravenous need, his body hard and wanting against hers. The kiss hadn’t lasted long, but she’d never forget it. He’d released her quickly and bid her goodnight. She hadn’t heard from him or seen him again until today.
His palms caressed her shoulders. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you after that. For a while I told myself it wasn’t a good idea to have anything to do with someone I’d met under those circumstances. I forced myself not to contact you. But I’ve thought about that kiss every damned day.”
Her heart warmed. Good. This attraction wasn’t one sided, and that pleased her more than anything right now.
She wouldn’t let an opportunity pass her by. “I’m glad you’re coming to Denver. I’d like it if I could see you again.”
“I’d like that, too. We can start fresh in a new place.”
He smiled widely, and slowly drew her against him. “Here I go being unprofessional again.”
Her heart felt light, and her body hummed with arousal. His hand cupped the back of her neck, and she closed her eyes as he leaned in for a kiss. His kiss started tenderly; he treated her like spun glass. She slipped her hands into his thick hair, and the kiss exploded. Their mouths mated, and when his tongue caressed hers, she wanted to get closer.
When they came up for air, he released her slowly. “Damn. You’re addictive.”
She laughed softly.
“You’re in town for how much longer?” he asked.
“Good. Let’s spend some of it together.” He headed toward his car. “Come on. Let’s get out of this place. I think it’s had a hold of you for too long.”
She started to walk away, but then heard it. A long, drawn out sigh. She turned around quickly as her attention swept over the ruins and the forlorn graveyard beyond. Wind moved the trees again.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
She turned back to him, determined to start a new life and forget Tranquil View. She had her closure now.
“Nothing.” She had a feeling happiness might win over this dark place after all.
He got into the cruiser and they left Tranquil View behind. As she followed him in her SUV, she didn’t even look back at the ruins in her rear view mirror.