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Dead Man's Party

By Stephanie Vaughan


When developer Rick Eriksson's company buys a rundown Victorian mansion--the 19th-century site of the infamous Swann Mansion bordello--he's not expecting either ghosts or a fight with the local historical society. Catherine Thompson is prepared to fight Rick with everything she's got to preserve the former bawdy house--except, suddenly, fighting is the last thing on her mind.

While two strong-willed people clash over the fate of the former bawdy house, two forbidden lovers separated in death use the unsuspecting pair to rekindle a passion that not even death could kill. Is what Rick and Catherine feel real, or the echo of another life and time?

Rick and Catherine. Thomas and Cat. It's a dead man's party--no invitation required.



The first thing she noticed about him was his fine ass. It filled out what looked to her to be a pair of classic Levi's 501's in a way she hadn't seen outside of a fashion magazine. No, take that back--one didn't see backsides like that in GQ or Vogue. Fashion today called for willowy young men with the lean, immature flanks of a yearling colt, and there was not a thing willowy about that figure.

Two thighs like tree trunks supported a strong, V-shaped torso that broadened smoothly into a pair of powerful shoulders. Powerful, naked shoulders. The afternoon sun slanted long rays into the room through ancient windows, warming the air inside to a level Catherine already found stifling.

Her Caslon business suit was made of a lightweight micro fiber yet, in just the few moments she had stood in the doorway observing, she was sweltering. The plaid flannel shirt hanging from the doorknob had no doubt been peeled from the sweating back of the man wielding the crowbar so expertly before her as he worked to pry loose a length of the ruined bar before him.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist you stop what you're doing." She spoke the words almost absently, so lost was she in admiration of the amazing physical specimen before her. The bunch and shift of muscles working under smooth skin drew and held her eye, while the light sprinkling of freckles across those attractively bulky shoulders actually had her mouth watering. Catherine shocked herself when an image of playing connect-the-dots with her tongue appeared fully formed in her mind. "I don't know who you are, but you're wrecking my bar."

The giant caught himself in the midst of shoving the iron bar between the supporting structure and a six-foot top section of what had once been beautifully polished wood. He rotated slowly on his heels until Catherine could at last see his face, betraying not the least bit of surprise that he was no longer alone. The man's slow, measured response reminded her unpleasantly of a warship turning its guns on an enemy craft.

One red-gold brow arched slowly over an eye that should have been blue but was, instead, hazel. High cheekbones slashed dramatically down a face that wore its Scandinavian heritage openly. They hadn't even introduced themselves yet, but Catherine knew instinctively there was nothing hidden about this man. His agenda was easily read by any who cared to look. What he felt was written plainly on his face. And what he felt right now was obviously annoyance.

The crowbar settled easily on the big man's shoulder, held as lightly as she might hold her jacket, were she to take it off. His voice was low and smooth, his control over it as absolute as the control he had displayed at her unexpected interruption.

"Your bar?"

His eyes locked on hers and she was suddenly in another room, another time. She wore a high-necked blouse with a dozen buttons down the front. Eyelids drooped slightly over those wicked hazel eyes and a low, whiskey-smooth voice--his voice--told her, "Take it off, Cat." Her hand went to her throat, reaching automatically for the topmost button.

Where it encountered only the faux pearl necklace she wore over her black silk scoop-necked blouse.

Something shifted back and Catherine was herself again. What the..." What had come over her? Where had that little fantasy come from? He hadn't really spoken. Had he? He couldn't possibly know her name. Catherine shook herself, forcing an authoritativeness she was far from feeling.

"Damn straight, my bar."