Benedicte Lavelle is a single father raising two small daughters. When his neighbors put him in charge of handling the haunting that plagues their neighborhood, he has no choice but to use disreputable means in order to bring in a Conditioned ghost hunter to help with their problem. He doesn’t expect to be drawn to the young woman who arrives at his house in chains. He doesn’t expect to have his entire life thrown into upheaval when she is snatched away. Conditioned prisoner Seven-Two-Four has never had a name. She cannot read, and is scheduled to die as soon as she is returned to the Institution. The Conditioned are not considered human, but Seven can see ghost energy and she can love Ben like no one ever has before. When fate takes Seven from Ben’s arms, can he move on and find a new purpose in life or will he be forever trapped by the need to rescue those like his lost love?
“Does it take this much out of you every time you do it?”
“No.” She raised a dainty hand to rub at her eyes. “I was already tired. I shouldn’t have attempted it. I wanted to give you the services you’re entitled to. I don’t want to fail at this job. Not right before my death.”
His stomach turned at the thought. She didn’t know how old she was, but in his mind she couldn’t be more than thirty, and maybe she was even younger.
“I don’t want you doing anything that might cause you pain. I’m responsible for your welfare.”
She nodded, her blue eyes sad as they looked at him. “Okay, sir.”
“Ben. Please call me Ben.”
“I can’t do that.”
He rubbed her hair out of her eyes. “You can. What can I get you? Water? Food?”
“I know it’s very early but I really need some sleep. I’d rather save my meal for tomorrow, if that’s okay?”
His heart broke every time she spoke about her expectations. “Seven, listen to me. While you’re here I’m going to feed you three meals a day. Maybe a snack too, if you want one. I’m in charge, right? You have to do what I tell you, and I’m informing you that despite what Madame says, you will eat a lot here.”
The smallest smile formed on her lips. “Really? I don’t want you to get into trouble.”
He helped her sit up, feeling sorry he had to let her go at all. She was a young woman—and he didn’t care who disagreed, she was, in fact a woman and not an it—and she was in his home. Ben was responsible for her well-being. God help anyone who told him how he was going to care for someone who lived within his walls. No one would abuse her here.
“I won’t get into trouble. I’m a lawyer. You can trust me to know what I can do within the law.” He stood up. “You’re welcome to go to bed. I’d also be glad to feed you.”
“Where should I sleep?” She looked down on the floor and he followed her gaze. Suddenly, he understood what she thought.
“Not on the floor. No way.” He extended his hand and was relieved when she took it. “We have beds in this house. You’ll use one.”
The simplicity of her gratefulness made him stop in his tracks. Who might this woman have been if she’d not been Conditioned?