Seeing is Believing by Erin McCarthy
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 304 pages
Cuttersville, Ohio is full of ghosts, and they all want Piper Tucker’s help.
One guy in town just wants Piper.
Ever since Piper Tucker was young she wanted to be like everyone else, but her uncanny ability to see ghosts always put her on the other side of normal. And the apparitions are showing up now more than ever, desperately seeking help. But what can she possibly do for them? They’ve already been dead for years. Besides, she has a personal concern of her own right now. A real flesh and blood concern—named Brady.
He’s Piper’s childhood crush, and no sooner is he back in town than sparks start giving off heat. For Brady, it’s hard not to notice the sexy young woman Piper’s become, or forget the special gift she had as a girl. And right now it could come in handy, because a long-forgotten murder has been keeping a restless spirit from finding peace. All Piper and Brady have to do is solve the crime to put the specter to rest. But the passion brewing between them is just as restless, and could prove twice as dangerous.
There was a ghost reaching out for her.
Piper Tucker had heard the footsteps on the hardwood floor of the parlor and smiled. “Lilly or Emily, whichever twin you are, it is bedtime. No more glasses of water, no more backrubs, no more excuses.”
She turned, expecting to see one or both of her eight-year old cousins she was babysitting. Well, they technically weren’t her cousins, since they were the children of Piper’s father’s ex-wife and her second husband, but that was too complicated for a town like Cuttersville, Ohio. They just called each other cousins.
Only it wasn’t cousins coming into the room, biological or otherwise.
It was a ghost.
Dang it. Piper had been hoping to spend the whole weekend in the house without seeing a single dead person, and here she’d only been there for three hours and already a spectral woman was staring at her. The entity wore a poke bonnet, a dusky mauve gown with a braided pelisse, and button boots. Young, her shadowy face was free of lines or blemishes, and the eyes set in that pale, ethereal frame were deep, thick black. Funeral black. Filled with sorrow. This ghost was Rachel, a woman who had died nearly a hundred and fifty years before of an opium overdose after bludgeoning her indiscreet fiancé.
Piper knew the story about Rachel from her Aunt Shelby, her father’s ex-wife and the owner of the house. Piper knew that’s who she was seeing because she’d encountered the murderess a half dozen times or more since childhood.
“Hi, Rachel. Is there something I can do for you tonight?” Piper fought a sigh. Seeing the pain on the vision’s face, sensing her sorrow and confusion, always made Piper feel a little sick to her stomach. Guilty that she was the one ghosts came to, and yet she didn’t know what to do to help them.
Rachel didn’t move, but the sound of a foot stamping on the floor echoed around the room, ringing loudly in the quiet dark. The one lamp Piper had been using to read a gardening magazine flickered off and back on.
“What’s the matter? If you’d tell me how to help you, maybe I could.” When she was a kid, ghosts had actually talked to her, unless her memory was playing tricks on her. But she could swear she’d had whole conversations with the people who had appeared in front of her randomly and without warning. But now they never said anything, not Rachel, or the other various spirits she saw around town.
In her teens, Piper had taken to begging them to leave her alone, to go away and bug someone else, but now that she was older, she couldn’t bring herself to shoo a soul who’d been restless for more than a century. Piper still wanted to be left alone. She still wanted to be normal, to blend into the town and into her family, until no one remembered she had ever lived anywhere but Cuttersville.
Seeing ghosts was her secret. But she didn’t yell at them anymore.Arms stretched out, reaching for her. Eyes beseeched with aching intensity.
“Tell me how to help. I don’t understand what you want.” Piper gripped the back of the sofa she was sitting on, her throat closing up. She remembered what it was like to feel lonely, vulnerable. Before her father had taken her in when she was eight, she had been unwanted and unloved by her stepfather, and sometimes it didn’t take much to drag all those feelings right back up to the surface.
“She did it.” The words came from Rachel even though her lips didn’t move. Even though the sound seemed to flow and ebb and surround Piper like a cloud, misty and shifting.
A clap of thunder made Piper jump on the couch. It had been threatening to rain all day, and she figured this was appropriate timing. “Who did what?” Was she really talking to Piper or had she imagined it? Now she wanted sure.
This was why she hated being the weirdo who attracted more ghosts than a graveyard on Halloween. Most days she didn’t even do all that well with people who were still alive. She certainly had no social skills when it came to the dead. And she couldn’t exactly invite Rachel to sit down and have some iced tea and tell her all about it.
“She did it.”
Piper needed a little more to go on than that.
Before Piper could ask for clarification, a knock on the front door had her sitting straight up. “Geez, oh Pete.” Would anyone else like to startle the heck out of her? She was not a jumpy sort, but she didn’t like being caught unaware.
Clutching her chest she stood up, patting her pocket to make sure she still had her cell phone. Rachel was already dissipating. The spirit didn’t like Shelby’s husband, Boston, and made a hobby out of tossing plates at him from time to time, but as far as Piper knew, no one had actually seen the ghost but her. Rachel wouldn’t appreciate a visitor.
The clock on the wall read ten-oh-three and Piper hesitated as she headed for the door. It was awfully late for anyone to be stopping by and Boston and Shelby had gone to Cincinnati for the whole weekend.
A quick glance through the peephole showed a man’s head, too distorted for Piper to identify him. His head and shoulders looked rain soaked, which earned some sympathy. But while Piper was compassionate, she wasn’t a complete idiot.
“Can I help you?” she called through the door, hand on her cell phone button in case he axed his way through to her and a call to 911 was needed.
“Shel, it’s Brady. Let me in, damn it. I’m drowning out here.”
Brady. The name brought a rush of pleasure she wasn’t all that sure she was entitled to.
“Brady?” she said in astonishment. Glancing down at her pajama shorts and tank top, she grimaced. Not exactly what she wanted to be wearing when encountering the man of her childhood dreams, but she opened the door anyway. “What are you doing here?”
“Standing on the damn porch…” Brady Stritmeyer locked eyes with hers, his expression surprised. “Hi, uh, sorry, I thought you were Shelby. Is she or Boston here?”
He didn’t recognize her. That was a little deflating even as Piper reasoned Brady hadn’t seen her in twelve years, since she was all of eleven years old and he had been eighteen, preoccupied with getting out of Cuttersville.
“They’re in Cincinnati for the weekend and I’m babysitting the twins. I don’t think they were expecting you.” Piper moved to the side. “Come on in out of the rain.”
It had been more than a decade since she’d seen him in person, but over the years she’d seen photos of him from visits Shelby and Boston and the kids had with Brady in Chicago. She’d always had a crush on him. Always thought he was good looking. But in the flesh he had a presence that a picture couldn’t express.
A couple of heads taller than her, he had short dark brown hair and a rangy, muscular frame. Droplets of water trailed down his temple and dripped off his stern chin. She couldn’t see his eyes in the hazy darkness of the porch, but she knew they were green. Many a pubescent fantasy of hers had been built around those green eyes.
“This is really embarrassing,” he said with a half-smile. “But you obviously know who I am and I don’t recognize you.” He stepped into the house, glanced around the hallway, turned back to her and shrugged. A charming grin flashed at her. “I was thinking about faking it, but you look like you’re already onto me.”
“That’s okay. You’ve been gone a long time.” And never once in twelve years had he come back to visit. Piper wondered why he did now, without even calling his family first.
She tucked her long hair behind her ear and leaned on the door she closed. “I’m Piper Tucker.”
His eyebrow shot up. “Little Piper? Danny Tucker’s daughter?”
USA Today Bestselling author Erin McCarthy has written over forty novels in romance and YA fiction. In first grade, Erin won a Young Novelist contest with a paranormal romance story about a witch in training who used a spell to enchant her classmate, and she had been hooked on books ever since. A RITA finalist and the winner of the Reluctant Young Reader award from ALA, she is a member of RWA, Horror Writers of America, and Ohioana. Stop by http://www.erinmccarthy.net for upcoming releases.