kindred spirits ciotta & valero
What kind of paranormal prank is this, anyway?
Shoved from the tower of the haunted Van Buren mansion, 21st century chick magnet Rufus Sinclair wonders how in Hades he’s landed in Atlantic City in the Roaring Twenties. Why does he have to be the one to help wayward flapper Izzy Van Buren find redemption? Worse, why does he have to go and fall for flirtatious Izzy’s best friend, daredevil barnstormer Grace LaRue? Even in her tomboy togs and aviator goggles, needs-a-man-like-bees-need-knees Grace instantly kindles his erotic interest–then hijacks his love-proof heart. It’s almost as if he’s lived–and loved her–before.
Together, they generate enough sexual heat to melt Grace’s fear-driven defenses and his no-strings-attached armor. But his panic grows by the hour. He dreads he’ll be blown back to the future, failing to save Izzy . . . and leaving his amazing Grace–and his heart–behind.
spirits duet / book 2
imajinn books, december 2003
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Rufus opened his eyes and stared up into the clouds.
He’d always thought Isadora Van Buren would be the death of him.
He moved his eyes to the right, to the west tower framed against the blue sky.
Another victim of Laguna Vista’s infamous roof.
He wiggled his fingers then his toes. Good sign.
He must’ve knocked himself out when he hit the ground. He wondered how long he’d been lying here. The day had grown warm. Too warm. He was baking in his leather jacket.
Where the hell was Bookman?
A breeze fluttered his hair, carrying the scents of ripe roses and freshly cut grass.
He bolted upright. Heart thundering against his ribs, he stared at the outer walls of Laguna Vista. White. Pristine white stucco. What happened to the smoker-stain-yellow that left the house so unattractive and easy to despise?
Frowning, he tightened his fists around tufts of soft, lush grass. Last he remembered he was gripping the west tower windowsill. Cement crumbling beneath his fingers. Roof tiles slipping beneath his shoes. Izzy’s disturbing rage lashing him as he tried to climb through the window. Icy winds…
A whirlwind. Some sort of bizarre funnel cloud of bright colors, like an old, psychedelic Sixties cartoon. He’d felt himself falling…then…
No splat. Nothing.
He felt no pain as he prodded for head injuries, broken bones, blood. Nothing. He was one lucky sonuvabitch.
Tires screeched. A car hurtled into the driveway, racing straight for him.
He didn’t have time to react as it squealed to a halt, the steel grill two inches from his nose. The radiator belched scalding hot air into his face.
His second near-death mishap of the day.
His heightened senses reeled. December. It was December. So why did it feel and smell like a mid-summer day?
A car door slammed. “No wonder Jonas never let’s you drive.”
Where the hell was Bookman?
A second door slammed. “I was distracted. Is it my fault Raul prunes the roses shirtless?”
Rufus leaned forward to peek around the car. A broad-shouldered gardener, naked to the waist, tended the giant rosebushes at the corner of the house. In December. An eighty degree day in December. Rufus swiped his hand across his sweating brow, stopping mid-gesture when a very familiar woman stepped into his line of vision.
Isadora Van Buren.
What was she doing out of the house?
He fell back on his elbows and blinked up at the skinny-as-a rail flapper. If she turned sideways she’d disappear. “Turn sideways.”
Grinning, she whipped off her tortoise-shell sunglasses and gave him a lazy once over. “Anything for you, doll face.” She pivoted and thrust out her non-existent breasts. She didn’t disappear. “As it happens I’m free for dinner.”
“You nearly killed him, Izzy. Apologize before making eyes at him.” The passenger stepped around and offered him a hand up. He squinted against the sun as he accepted the hand. A tingling sensation shot from his fingers to his shoulder. He hoped it wasn’t an injury. Standing on shaky legs his eyes finally adjusted and he found himself face to face with Grace LaRue.
Or her twin. Everyone has a twin. So what?
A chill shivered down his spine.
She released his hand and shook out her own. Had his grip been too tight?
He stared at her in awe. Maybe he hadn’t survived the fall. Maybe this was some crazy interlude of his last thoughts as life slipped from his body. Or some funky comatose dream as he lied fallow in a hospital bed, nothing but bumps and blips beneath a sheet.
She looked exactly as she had in the photograph. Compact body straining with energy. Wild black curls tamed only by a pair of giant flight goggles atop her head. Eyes that pierced skin, bone, and marrow—and how deliciously blue. He could see that now. Those eyes tearing him down. Prying behind the pupils. Peering into the dark corners.
He shivered again. She looked twenty-three. Not one-hundred-three.
Did he die? Was he in Heaven? No, Izzy wasn’t in Heaven. That much he knew. Hell? It was hot enough. But he didn’t think so.
Grace eyed him. “You look a little green, Ace.”
“Let’s get him inside,” Izzy said. She hooked her arm through his.
Contact. Flesh and bone. Jesus.
“Why were you sitting on the lawn?” Grace asked, eyes sharp for an answer.
Izzy tugged him toward the portico. “Do you work with Raul?”
The front door swung open. A skinny, gray-haired man in formal attire stood ironing-board stiff in the threshold. His eyes remained blank with indifference. “May I be of assistance, Miss Van Buren?”
Izzy tightened her already possessive grip on Rufus. “Thank you, Lincoln. Please set out fresh soap and linens in the downstairs lavatory for our guest.”
Lincoln stepped aside, allowing them access to the grand foyer. “Certainly, Miss.”
“And tell Mrs. Potts to set another place for dinner.”
“You don’t waste time,” Grace said.
Izzy smiled. “It’s the least I can do for almost running him over.”
Lincoln didn’t raise an eyebrow. “I’ll ask Mrs. Potts to make a special dessert.” He strode ahead, disappeared around the corner.
Rufus’s temples pulsed. Lincoln? Mrs. Potts? Who were these people and what were they doing in Marc’s house? He allowed Izzy to tug him toward the living room. Bookman would be there, amidst Daisy’s god-awful furniture. He’d clear this up. He’d perform some ghostbusting ritual. Exorcise Izzy and her ghost pal, Grace. Or at the least, Rufus thought, slap him out of this insane delusion.
But Bookman wasn’t there. Neither was Daisy’s mismatched collection of vintage furnishings. Rufus stood mesmerized in the archway of the spacious living room. The eclectic décor included a scarlet velvet chaise lounge, an indigo and scarlet tapestry armchair, mahogany end tables and bureau, and a huge round table draped with gold and scarlet silks. Vases of red and yellow roses accented the room along with Tiffany table lamps. An Austrian crystal chandelier dripped like melting ice from the vaulted ceiling. An intricate Oriental rug covered most of the marble floor. Decadent. Classy. Meticulously arranged.
Grace passed her hand in front of his eyes. “Helloooo?” She frowned. “I think he’s in shock. Get a cool cloth, Izzy.”
“I’ll get something better.” Izzy eased him onto the plush chaise then hurried to the double-door bureau. Grace sat in the chair next to him.
He stared at the spiral staircase. The staircase that led to the second floor. The floor that led to the west tower. Ghosts. Angels. Reincarnation. “I suspect you’re connected. I think your relationship is rooted in the past.” Bookman had filled his head with a bunch of mystical mumbo jumbo.
He’d fallen. He’d cracked his melon. End of story.
He pinched himself. Nothing happened.
Izzy returned with a silver flask. “Drink this.”
He pinched her.
She giggled. “My kind of man.”
Grace pinched Rufus. “Hands off.”
His arm throbbed. Okay. Not dreaming. Think, man, think. He eyed the black rotary phone, the pre-deco furnishings, Izzy’s shapeless dress, turban-like hat and rolled stockings. It was as if he’d wandered onto the set of The Great Gatsby. He didn’t want to ask, cringed to voice the thought, but he had to know. “What year is this?”
Grace folded her arms, those blue eyes needling in. “You’re kidding.”
“1923,” Izzy said. She felt his head, ran her fingers through his hair. “Did I wing you with the Ford? Do you have amnesia?” She giggled. “Wouldn’t that be fun?”
“No,” Grace said.