Beauty is in the eye of the master ...
Gideon Keel and Jesse Madding have seen dozens of gruesome crime scenes over the years, but nothing compares to the latest discovery -- a body put on horrific display. Clues in the apartment indicate that while the woman expired, party guests enjoyed rich caviar and expensive champagne. But there are no other clues about the victim or the culprits.
Empath Emma Coolidge is determined to save her sister from the same monsters Gideon and Jesse are hunting. And she’ll do anything for the two men who rescued her from a similar fate. The three plan a sting operation to infiltrate the small group of "art connoisseurs" by sadistically turning Jesse into a living work of art, but will it be enough to save Chicago from more vicious murders in the name of beauty?
"Yeah, she is." He shifted slightly, letting his hand rest on her back. "She told me she only projects when she wants to, but I think I can feel a little bit of what she's dreaming. I wonder if she can pick up on feelings in her sleep."
What Jesse suggested was fascinating. The questions tumbled out. "You got her to talk about it while I was gone? What is it you think you can feel?"
"She told me a bit, yes. She said she mainly picks up on emotions through touch, though touch isn't always necessary. She also told me she can share her emotions if she chooses to, but she can shield them, as well. Oh, and, big surprise here, vampires are hard for her to read." He paused for several seconds before answering Gideon's second question. "It's hard to explain. I couldn't feel anything until she fell asleep, and now I'm getting a little bit of anxiety and confusion, but no fear."
"Of course not. She trusts you." His smile faded. "I'm the one she's afraid of."
"I don't think she's afraid of you," Jess said. "I think, like most people, she has good reason not to trust vampires. But she trusts you."
"Did you get her to talk any more about her sister?"
"A little bit. Apparently, she was always into the weird and abnormal, and that's how she met the man who kidnapped her. I was trying to keep her here and relaxed, so I didn't push too far on that point."
As if she knew they were talking about her, Emma shifted in her sleep, halting all conversation as they watched her snuggle into Jesse's chest. Her dark blonde hair fell across her cheek, and her small hand curled into his stomach. Gideon smiled. There was no hope of Jesse getting untrapped any time soon.
"Well, I think you succeeded." He paused. "I suppose it would be rude to ask if I could touch her, too."
"I think you probably could," he said softly. "I don't think it'll bother her. Maybe you'll be able to pick up a little bit on what she's feeling, too. I don't know if she's shifted into a new dream, but the anxiety is gone. She's just very ... serene."
Carefully, Gideon slid off the desk and crossed the few feet to crouch in front of the couch. Tilting his head, he extended a hand to push back the hair hiding her face, being careful not to make contact with her skin. "Let's hope we can keep it like this for a while," he murmured. "There's no telling what she's going to feel if it turns out her sister's part of what we saw the other night."
"Do you think she is?" Jess frowned. "I have to admit it seems likely, but ... I don't think I would have necessarily made the connection to art."
"I think the similarities are too close for us to ignore," he said without raising his voice. "Maybe you wouldn't call it art, but what we saw was definitely a display. Plus, all that money? And the invitation? It's got all the earmarks of a real showing. There are some vampires out there who consider their kills as art, you know."
Jesse looked at him from the corner of his eye. "Yeah, I know. And you're right, it does make sense. And I bet the guy who gave Emma to Slater is the same psycho behind the display. Hopefully she'll feel like talking when she wakes up."
For some reason, in spite of his earlier excitement about experiencing Emma's emotions again, Gideon couldn't bring himself to close the contact. Instead, he brushed his fingers across Jesse's chest, stealing some of the heat that flushed his body.
"You smell like her now."
Jesse took his hand. "Come here, I want to try something." He pulled Gideon down, seeking him out with his mouth. The kiss started as a teasing caress, but Jess deepened it gradually, like he wasn't in any great hurry. When he broke away, he glanced down at her with a smile. "Do you think she's picking up on what I'm feeling?"
With an amused chuckle, Gideon shook his head, ready to joke about Jesse's motivations. But when he glanced down at Emma, the words disappeared. Her breathing had quickened, and a definite flush had risen in her skin. It even looked like she might be smiling.
"So what you're saying is, the way to keep her calm and happy, is for you to be holding her while we make out?" Gideon teased.
"Well, making out keeps you calm and happy, so that sounds reasonable," Jess returned. "She can also ... broadcast things she picked up from others. She told me when she was trying to get through to you, you were open to her for a second."
He stiffened. "I was?" His mind raced, wondering if she'd picked up on how arousing he'd found the shock of her emotions. "Did she ... what did she tell you?"
"She didn't tell me anything. She touched me, and I felt what she picked up on." Jess watched him, like he was waiting for a certain reaction. "I didn't know that was the way you felt. The guilt ... and the rage ... is that how you always feel?"