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BOOK: The Grey Tier
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“I am so sorry, everyone. That guy is a lunatic. I think Evie expressed what we all know and feel about Nick. Let’s grab a drink and toast our friend!”

He kindly escorted me down from the tiny stage as I was still pretty shaky. “Thank you,” I whispered.

He patted my hand sympathetically. “I am so sorry about that. You seem like such a nice young woman. Nick mentioned how much he believed in your talent.”

“Really?”

Bradley nodded. “Yes. He was really fond of you. Here, let me get you a drink and introduce you to my wife.”

“Thank you . . . hey, who was that guy?”

Bradley grimaced and rolled his eyes. “That was George Hernandez, Nick’s former partner. He’s a jerk. I don’t even know how he got in here today. Nick washed his hands of George about a year ago. Don’t worry about him. He’s loud, but he’s harmless.” Bradley went up to the bar and ordered drinks. He came back, handed me a glass, and then escorted me over to where his wife stood, handing her a drink as well.

Close up, I could see she had been nipped and tucked—tastefully—within an inch of her life. She had short, dark hair, clear blue eyes, and a killer body I am certain she paid a lot of money for. Her lips were large, but not obnoxious, and she smiled sincerely at me, her white teeth gleaming brightly in the dim lights of the bar.

She reached a free hand out. “Hi. I’m Raquela Verne. That was very nice of you, what you said, and I am so sorry about that a-hole, George.”

“I’m grateful your husband stepped in when he did.” I shook her hand, my gloves still on. “Nice to meet you. I’m Evie Preston.”

Bradley smiled, placing an arm around his wife’s tiny waist. “Raquela is my rock. She is always here for me, and with Nick being gone . . .” He started to cry again. Poor guy.

“Honey, you loved him. It’s okay to be emotional.” There were tears in her eyes as well. Real ones. “Come on why don’t we toast Nick?”

Bradley dabbed at his eyes again and cleared his throat, in an effort to get the attention of the bar.

“Before we toast,” Bradley called out, “I want to let all of you know I will be doing what I can to keep the bar open.” He turned to me in an aside. “I’m hoping you will stay on.”

I nodded, surprised and pleased.

“Great! Well then, here’s to Nick.”

Everyone raised their drinks. “To Nick!”

I said the words and I meant them, too. But my mind kept wandering. Was Nick’s killer in the room? Or maybe George Hernandez was crazy enough to have murdered Nick? Didn’t they say killers sometimes come back to the scene of the crime? I took a sip from my drink, looking around the room at all the people. Which, if any, of these folks had come back to gloat?

Chapter Thirteen

ONCE HOME, I MADE a determined effort to go online. It took some time, but finally, the service provider came through and I was able to Google Nick’s name. Of course, there were articles about his murder. They all said the same thing: that the former child star had been killed in his bar on Monday morning.

But eventually, I found what I was looking for. It was an archived article from the 1985 edition of
The Los Angeles Times
. It showed a photo of a much younger Nick with Roger Hawks, and a photo of Warren Verne, Bradley’s dad. The article read:

Last night at the estate of producer/director Warren Verne, actor Roger Hawks was found drowned in the swimming pool, just after 3:00 a.m. The evening before, actor Nick Gordin hosted a party for Hawks to celebrate Hawks’ upcoming new role as the next James Bond. Verne, in Europe on location, was reported as saying, “I am devastated at the loss of such a talented young actor,” upon receiving the news of Hawks death.

Sources say Hawks was inebriated and some speculate drugs may have been involved. So far, there has been no comment from Nick Gordin.

As I delved deeper, the story got more interesting . . . and troubling. There had been an investigation, because, as it turned out, Nick and Hawks argued that night. No one ever claimed to know what the argument was about. But my eyes popped when I read,
Nick Gordin’s fiancée, Barbara Dennison, claims Nick was with her when Hawks likely drowned.

“Oh boy!” Nick had been engaged? Had he also been married? Then divorced? What if they were still married? Barbara Dennison. I looked back at the screen. There was a photo of Nick and a pretty blonde woman. Something about her eyes reminded me of . . .

“No way! Candace!” Cass and Mac glanced over at me from the bed. I smacked my forehead lightly, “Of course! Candace told me her real name was Barbara.”

“The plot thickens,” said a voice from behind me.

Startled, I spun around in the desk chair. And there he was.

“Lucas.” My voice cracked a little, not quite the come hither tone I was going for. Then again, how did one behave when a sexy ghost pops unannounced into your bedroom?

He grinned, “Ah, you know my name.”

I nodded. He was even more gorgeous than I recalled. Lucas placed his hands on either side of my chair and drifted an inch closer. I could feel my heart racing, and hear the blood rushing through my ears. “What . . .” I shook my head. “How . . .”

He smiled. “You ask a lot of questions, Evie.”

“You know my name.” He knew my name!

“Yes, Cass told me.”

“My dog
spoke
to you?” Curiouser and curiouser.

He shrugged, tilting his head to the side. “Not usually. I’ve been able to communicate with animals before, but they typically don’t talk in words. Or at least, I haven’t found one yet, until I met her.” He pointed down at Cass. “She’s a smart cookie . . . she can carry on quite a conversation.”

“Huh.” I glanced down at Cass who looked back up at me innocently. “Who knew?” I shook my head. This was sounding more and more ridiculous.

He nodded, “But your cat, well . . . he’s no genius.”

“He’s not technically my cat.”

“Try and tell him that. He’s opinionated as hell.”

“I think opinionated is a prerequisite for most felines. At least in my experience,” I replied. And then I remembered I was chatting with a ghost. “Um, what are you exactly?”

“Exactly?” He gazed upwards and rubbed his chin. “Some would say I’m a ghost. Some might call me a soul, or a spirit, or even an energy or entity. I say I’m simply dead, but that’s not technically true either. You can just call me Lucas.” He grinned.

“Yeah, okay . . . so what was up with Bob Marley in my kitchen yesterday? I mean, that was him, wasn’t it? Or . . . his spirit?”

“Sure was.”

“This is insane. I mean, I think I saw a ghost once before. A little girl. She didn’t look like you though, with the, the . . .” My hands fluttered in the air “The glow.”

“The girl you saw was a ghost, but I’m not. Children don’t typically return as spirits. They don’t need to. A ghost is simply an energy imprint left behind . . . like an echo of the person who used to be there. The soul or spirit of the child moved on. But I bet you’ve spent a long time after pretending you never saw her in the first place.”

I nodded, thinking about my uber-religious family. “My father would have been horrified if I said I’d seen a ghost.”

“He would have said you were making up stories.”

“Or worse.”

“You weren’t. You saw what you saw. And then you closed yourself off to it. But looks like the timing is right for you to start seeing us again.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He sat down at the edge of the bed. Cass wandered over and sat next to him. Mac followed Cass and soon they were both curled up next to Lucas. He frowned at Mac. “I’m not really a cat guy.”

Um . . . okay. “You were going to tell me what you meant about timing . . .”

“Right. You’ve heard of people who’ve seen spirits, right?” He patted the space next to him on the bed. “Come, sit.”

I moved from the desk that also served as a vanity, and tentatively placed myself next to him on the bed.

“I can assure you I am very real, and,” he flashed that sexy smile again, “I can teach you everything I know about being a spirit.” He winked, and my toes curled.

Whoa, Nelly. Was I seriously
lusting
after a dead guy? My head was beginning to throb. Then I got a bright idea. “Can you tell me who murdered Nick?”

He shook his head sadly, “No.”

“But why not? You’re a spirit. You live on the
other
side. Don’t you know things?”

“Yes and no, but we’ll get to that. One thing at a time.” He tilted his head and looked at me speculatively. “Aren’t you at all interested to know why you can see me and other spirits now?”

“Wait, there are others?”

“You saw Bob.”

“Yeah, okay. So I can see ghosts now? All the time?” I immediately wondered if I would be able to see Nick at the bar.

“Not all of us. Ghosts, as I said, are pure energy, an imprint that got left behind. They technically aren’t here with you. Just an image . . . like a photo or video. When someone is emotionally connected to a person or place, the imprint might remain, but the spirit moves on. A ghost can’t communicate with you or affect you in any way. A spirit can.”

“I’m confused.”

“Welcome to Spirit World 101, Beautiful.”

I know I should have been weirded out by all of this, but the only thing I could focus on was that he’d called me beautiful. I seriously needed to get my priorities in order.

“I’ve been watching you,” he said.

“You have?” I guess I should have been mildly disturbed but instead, I felt warm all over.

“Ever since you moved in. I’ve watched you play with Cass, scratch Mac behind the ears, make tuna sandwiches, watch old movies, cry . . . lately you have been doing that a lot.”

I shrugged. “Given the circumstances.”

“I know. My favorite is when you play your guitar and sing.”

I felt heat rise to my cheeks. “You’ve listened to me? You’ve heard me sing?”

“You’re very good. More than good.”

I couldn’t respond for a few seconds. I have had people tell me I can sing and play guitar well, that I’m talented, but when Lucas said it . . . it really meant something to me. For the very first time in over sixteen years, I felt
truly
recognized by another, uh, being.

“Thank you. That means a lot to me.” I reached out to pet Cass. “Are you always here, then?”

“No. Not always.”

“Where do you go?”

“I can’t discuss that with you yet. Baby steps.”

“Huh?”

“Things are, well, kind of complex on the other side. It can be a little overwhelming to people like you.”

“People like me? You mean the living?”

He nodded.

“Jeez, I thought being alive was complicated enough. Now I get to look forward to a complicated afterlife too?”

Lucas laughed. “Well, when you put it that way . . . but seriously, the reason you can see me and others
like
me is a part of you has opened up. It’s your music. You have finally been able to begin truly exploring who you are as an artist and a musician, and that creative aspect has allowed you to see things you normally wouldn’t.”

“You’re saying because I am exploring and pursuing my music at a different level than before, like when I was home . . . which, by the way, were you watching me back at home, in Texas?”

He laughed again. “No. I couldn’t have gone to you. You had to come to me. To be honest, I didn’t know you even existed until you walked through the front door. And I am so happy you did.”

Well now, what did one say to that?

“It’s the music, Evie.” He stood and came closer. His nearness put me on edge, in a good way.

“My music . . .” I stared into his eyes, my brain completely unable to recall what we’d just been speaking about.

“Earth to Evie . . .”

Now there was some irony. He reached out and his hands skimmed my face, fingers tracing my cheeks and sending little darts of electricity through my body. The color in his eyes deepened and I began to get an “incoming kiss” vibe. I closed my eyes . . .

And then, my stupid phone rang. I opened my eyes. Just me and two pairs of animal eyes staring at me. There wasn’t even a dent in the spot on the mattress next to me to show anyone had been sitting there.

“Lucas?” I called out.

The phone rang again.

“Dammit.” I stood and grabbed it off of the desk. It was Simone. Of course.

“Yes?!” I shouted into the phone, surprising even myself.

Simone, oblivious as ever, didn’t miss a beat.

“Evie, get your ass over to my house, pronto. Some fucking cop just came to talk to me

about Nick Gordin again and I need you here! Now!”

BOOK: The Grey Tier
11.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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