[BookStrand Paranormal Romance]
When Mike Malone met Melanie Hughes he asked her exactly what he thought he needed to know before he began courting her. There was one question, however, he hadn't considered. One that would have had him quickly rethinking pursuing the dark haired woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere and found a place in his heart.
When Melanie Hughes looked into Mike Malone's eyes, she was sure she saw someone else in those emerald green orbs, someone she loved and lost so very long ago.
Can two souls born in different lifetimes find their way together in yet another?
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
4 STARS: "Beautifully written with rich detail enhancing this suspenseful tale, Melanie’s haunting story from the past grips the reader from the first few pages until the suspenseful end. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to read what happened next." -- Emily, Single Titles
“You look beautiful,” Mike Malone all but gushed to the petite woman standing before him. Curls of auburn hair flowed like a halo around Claudia White’s head mirroring her inner radiance. Somewhere along the way, Mike had heard all brides were beautiful. Well, Claudia was more than that. She glowed from within. A pang of need gripped his chest making it hard for him to breathe. It was a sharp reminder of his loneliness. His gut ached like he’d been punched just before a sudden, strange sense of peace settled over him. Expectation had long escaped him, yet suddenly he felt as if something big and wonderful loomed just around the corner.
Earlier, he’d wished that he’d gotten someone else to take his shift today because, for so long, he’d wanted to be the man Claudia would spend her life with. Walking through the reception hall festively lined with lilies and ribbons, excitement whirled around him. A few women, friends of the bride, stood off to the side dabbing their eyes with tissue, but Mike couldn’t take his eyes off Claudia.
“You make a perfect bride, Claudia,” he heard one friend tell her. In her white lace dress, Claudia stood there smiling, her eyes moist with tears of joy. She radiated with the happiness Mike wished for her.
Mike approached and shook Frank White’s hand. “You and Claudia belong together. I’m glad everything worked out.” He gave one last wistful glance at Claudia. “I really am happy for you.”
Deep down, where anticipation resided, he was. He really was.
Mike moved down the receiving line, leaving the happy bride and groom to greet their other guests, absently nodding to a few folks he knew as he passed. He stepped out to the garden of the Royal Oaks Country Club to catch a breath of air. At least that was what he told himself. Out there, though, anticipation, the slight quiver in his gut, grew stronger, as if the answer to all his dreams lay around the next corner. While only late afternoon, the scent of evening jasmine wove a seductive scent, perfuming the air.
Everything had turned out for the best. He’d made his peace with Claudia in the hospital while waiting for Frank to recover from a gunshot wound. She had told him a wild story about being in someone else’s body, something his logical “facts only” mind couldn’t comprehend. He attributed her tale of battling what had been the spirit of Catherine White for the other woman’s body to a reaction to the stress of almost being killed. She spoke of loving Frank as another person and how that love transcended time and space to bring them together again. Despite his belief in the here and now, something about Claudia’s story rang true. Knowing he hadn’t lost Claudia to just any other man, but one she felt a connection to from another time and place, made him feel better.
“Hi, there. I guess you couldn’t stand the crowd in there either.”
Mike looked around for the smoky bedroom voice to find a stunning dark haired woman. She wore a slinky, ankle-length satin dress in an amazing shade of royal blue. A single rhinestone-encrusted shoulder strap matched the glinting jewels along the slit up the side, which showed a tantalizing bit of thigh and pink toenail polish. To top it off, she looked like she had poured herself into a second skin called a gown.
She was, in a word, breathtaking.
Dark brown hair rolled into what his mother had called a French twist was softened by a few tendrils, that framed her gently rounded face. Clear brown eyes twinkled as if a fairy imp lurked behind them and her all-encompassing smile struck his heart. He forgot to breathe. A strange fluttering started in his stomach. Did he hear violins in the air? He shook his head. Of course not. It was music from the reception hall.
“Hi…ahhhh, hi, I’m Mike. Mike Malone. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Well, hello, Mike Malone, I’m Melanie, friend of the groom. And you?”
“Friend of the bride. So tell me, Melanie, friend of the groom, are you enjoying the reception?
“I am at that. The Whites certainly deserve all this and more.”
“That’s a fact.” There was something indefinably alluring about the woman, almost a sense he knew her from somewhere, but he couldn’t quite place it. He told himself she’d probably been to the police station to make a report, prompting him to open his mouth to ask if they’d met before. What came out of his mouth, though, totally stunned him. “You haven’t had amnesia or any bad accidents lately? No head trauma or dreams of a past life?” He mentally shook himself. What an idiotic thing to ask.
She stared at him for a beat with the same kind of incredulous awe rookies wore the first time a suspect caught red-handed tells them they’ve got the wrong guy. “No and I have to tell you, that has to be the oddest opening line a man’s ever given me.”
Without another word, Melanie spun on her silver heels and started to walk away, but not before she shot him a sideways glance and looked around as if searching for a safe place far away from him. He couldn’t blame her. She was right. That wasn’t exactly the best opening line a guy could give. He hurried after her, careful to keep his arms down so he didn’t appear threatening. For some reason, he had to talk to this woman and find out more about her. There was something so familiar about her. The soft tendril of a memory tickled at him. Was it her eyes? Her hair? Her face? Or something more?
“Forgive me. Please, Melanie. Look, I’m a police detective, not a weirdo off the street. Really. I’ve run into too many odd people lately. I prefer to ask some off-the-wall questions before I meet another one, rather than suffer the consequences and be blindsided.”
He wasn’t about to divulge Frank and Claudia’s secrets, but just the same, he didn’t want to open up the door to someone who was less than stable.
Melanie stopped in her tracks, took a breath and spun around, chuckling. The sound was like music. Her eyes sparkled, deep brown, like melted chocolate. Her expression turned forgiving. For some unfathomable reason, he hoped that he had a chance.
“Forgiven. Just don’t pull out any foil hats or start looking for UFOs, or I’m out of here.”
“Scout’s honor. No foil hats. So, Melanie, would you like to take a walk? Check out the gardens?” He offered her his arm. “I promise to behave and stop acting so nutty.”
“I would love to.”
She slid her hand onto his arm. It felt good there. It felt right. Mike wasn’t sure if he believed in past lives, ghosts, or anything Claudia had tried to explain to him after the hotel incident. In the past few minutes, he had started thinking he believed in love at first sight, though.
He had fallen for Claudia, hard. Who wouldn’t have? There she was, pulled out of the water, unconscious, no identification and barely alive. He’d stayed by her side day after day for weeks until she woke. With no one else to turn to, she relied on him.
Melanie? She was something different. Just how different, he would soon learn.