Now You See Her by Linda Howard




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  PRAISE FOR THE SENSATIONAL

  NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERS OF

  Linda Howard

  NOW YOU SEE HER

  “Steamy romance morphs into murder mystery....”

  —People

  “An eerie, passionate, and thrilling tale of murder and the paranormal.... NOW YOU SEE HER is bound to catapult the phenomenal Linda Howard to a whole new level.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Sensual page-turning. . . . Linda Howard brings psychic phenomena, hot sex, and deadly danger into the life of an appealing young artist. . . . Howard keeps the suspense streamlined and straightforward.”

  —Amazon.com

  KILL AND TELL

  “Linda Howard meshes hot sex, emotional impact, and gripping tension in this perfect example of what romantic suspense ought to be.”

  —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  “A riveting masterpiece of suspense. Linda Howard is a superbly original storyteller.”

  —Iris Johansen, New York Times bestselling author of And Then You Die

  “An explosive conclusion to a clever, smoothly-crafted tale of adventure, romance, and intrigue.”

  —Lansing State Journal (MI)

  “Ms. Howard has always been a riveting storyteller, and every time I think she can’t do better, she does. The pages turn themselves.... A must-read.

  —Rendezvous

  SON OF THE MORNING

  “Linda Howard offers a romantic time-travel thriller with a fascinating premise ... gripping passages, and steamy sex.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “A complex tale that’s rich with detail, powerful characters and stunning sensuality. This is a story you won’t be able to put down until you reach the explosive conclusion. It’s no wonder that Linda Howard is the best of the best.”

  —CompuServe Romance Reviews

  “Son of the Morning is an incredible blending of romantic suspense, supernatural, medieval, and time-travel genres in what will be claimed as one of the top action novels of the year.”

  —Painted Rock (online review)

  SHADES OF TWILIGHT

  “Wow! This powerful saga about a wealthy dynasty that is torn apart by a vicious murder will chill, thrill, and excite you.... [A] tale of lust, greed, and revenge ... that will leave you staggered and extremely satisfied. Linda Howard never fails to create a story that will shock, amaze, and warm you with its gifted touch. This is a passion-filled masterpiece.”

  —Rendezvous

  “Family, loyalty, love, sex and revenge steam up the pages.... Howard . . . maintain[s] tension through a twist-filled plot.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  AFTER THE NIGHT

  “Small towns are the perfect background for mysterious secrets, and Ms. Howard pens a tale loaded with them. Her sensuous style of writing makes the reader aware of the all-consuming desire between the hero and heroine. Add to this the dramatic climax, and you get extraordinary pleasure from this novel.”

  —Rendezvous

  “A real southern scorcher. . . . Howard is a master of sexual tension.”

  —Gothic Journal

  DREAM MAN

  “A contemporary thriller/romance.... Sexy, very hard to put down.”

  —The Newport Daily News (RI)

  “The incomparable Linda Howard brings high-voltage power and hard-edged sensuality to this emotional roller coaster of a novel, which is sure to keep readers riveted until the final nail-biting conclusion. They don’t get much better than this.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Ms. Howard has wonderful pacing, a good ear for dialogue, and knows how to turn on the steam. DREAM MAN’s mix of drama, violence, paranormal ability and sex makes it a perfect candidate for a USA Original Picture.”

  —Birmingham Post-Herald (AL)

  “Linda Howard never fails to entertain with a powerful and passionate story. . . . One of the best.”

  —Rendezvous

  Books by Linda Howard

  A Lady of the West

  Angel Creek

  The Touch of Fire

  Heart of Fire

  Dream Man

  After the Night

  Shades of Twilight

  Son of the Morning

  Kill and Tell

  Now You See Her

  All the Queen’s Men

  Mr. Perfect

  Open Season

  Published by POCKET BOOKS

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  www.SimonandSchuster.com

  Copyright © 1998 by Linda Howington

  Originally published in hardcover in 1998 by Pocket Books

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  ISBN: 0-671-56882-5

  0-7434-8289-1 (pbk)

  ISBN-13:978-1-4165-0380-4

  eISBN-13: 978-1-4391-4087-1

  First Pocket Books trade paperback edition July 2003

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Epilogue

  PROLOGUE

  Clayton, New York

  It was the third of September, one of those cloudless, perfect days nestled between the heat of summer and the approaching winter chill. The sky was so blue that Sweeney, getting out of her car in the supermarket parking lot, went stock-still and gawked upward at that amazing blue bowl as if she had never seen sky before. She hadn’t—not like this.

  If there was one thing in life she knew, it was colors, and she had never before seen that particular shade of blue. It was incredible, deeper and darker, richer than any sky had the right to be. Just for today, this perfect day, the haze of atmosphere between heaven and earth had thinned, and she stood closer to the edge of the universe than she ever had before, so close that she felt almost as if she might be sucked into that blue, right away from earth.

  Could she reproduce it? Mentally she mixed the pigments, automatically discarding some as her internal eye judged the results. No, that touch of white would make the shade too babyish. This wasn’t a wimpy blue—it was the most kick-ass blue she had ever seen. This was pure and dramatic, pulling her in and overwhelming her with the richness of its beauty. She
stood with her face upturned, errand forgotten, and felt exalted by color, filled to overflowing, her heart swollen and aching with ecstasy.

  When she finally remembered to drag her gaze back to earth, her eyes were dazzled. She saw a flash of . . . something, and though she hadn’t been looking at the sun, she thought the sky must be brighter than she’d thought, because her eyes needed to adjust. She blinked, then squinted. It was something solid, and yet not quite. ... It was a child, oddly two-dimensional.

  She looked at the child, blinked, then looked again. Shock hit her like a sledgehammer, congealing her blood, numbing her fingertips.

  The child was dead. She had attended his funeral a month before. But on this perfect day, while performing a perfectly ordinary errand, she saw a dead child walking across the parking lot.

  Speechless, Sweeney darted her gaze to the woman the boy was following: his mother. Sue Beresford was carrying a bag of groceries in one arm, her other hand clutching the little paw of her rambunctious four-year-old, Corbin. Her face was drawn, her eyes shadowed with the sharp grief of a mother who had lost her older son to leukemia only a month before.

  But there was little Sam, dead a month, following along behind her.

  Sweeney’s feet were frozen to the pavement, her entire body numb and incapable of movement as she watched the little boy desperately trailing behind his mother, trying to get her attention. “Mom,” ten-year-old Samuel Beresford kept saying, his voice thin with anxiety. “Mom!” But Sue didn’t respond, just kept walking, towing little Corbin behind her. Sam tried to catch her shirt, but the fabric slipped through his insubstantial grasp. He looked at Sweeney and she plainly saw his frustration, his bewilderment and fear. “She can’t hear me,” he said, the words wavering as if she heard them through an imperfect sound system. He hurried to catch up, his thin legs flashing under the loud plaid of his baggy shorts.

  Sweeney swayed with shock and put her hand on the hood of the car to brace herself. The sun-warmed metal felt slightly gritty under her fingers. The blue bowl of the sky pressed down as if it would swallow her, and she stared mutely after the dead child.

  The thin figure clambered into the backseat beside Corbin, moving quickly before his mother could shut the door. Sue got behind the steering wheel and drove out of the parking lot. Sam’s pale, translucent face shone briefly in the rear window as he looked back at Sweeney; his hand lifted in a forlorn little wave. Automatically she waved back.

  Her mind formed one word:

  Ghost

  CHAPTER

  ONE

  New York City

  One Year Later

  It was one thing to believe in ghosts, another to actually see them. Sweeney had discovered, though, that the kicker was whether or not she knew the ghost. In the small village of Clayton, New York, where she had lived until almost a year ago, she’d had at least a nodding acquaintance with most of the inhabitants, including the dead ones. In New York City, she didn’t know any of them, so she could look past the translucent faces in the crowd and pretend not to see them. Back in Clayton, after she had seen the ghost of Sam Beresford, she had never known when another ghost would stop and speak, and she had never been sharp enough to play it cool and pretend nothing had happened. No, she’d just had to react, and before long people were giving her those looks that said they suspected she was losing her marbles. She had packed up and moved before they began pointing at her on the street.

  Yeah, the city was better. Warmer, too. About the time she began seeing the ghosts, her internal heat regulator seemed to go on the fritz, too. She always felt chilled these days, had for the past year. Maybe the cold had started even before she saw little Sam Beresford; she couldn’t remember, because who paid attention to things like that? It wasn’t exactly something anyone would mark on their calendars: August 29: Felt cold. Yeah, sure.

  Sweeney didn’t know what had brought the ghosts to mind this bright September morning, but they were the first things she thought of when she woke. That, and the cold, which seemed worse. She got out of bed, hurriedly changed her pajamas for sweats, and went into the kitchen to get that first cup of coffee, thanking God for automatic timers as she went. It was so nice to have the coffee waiting for her when she got up, because she thought she’d probably freeze to death if she had to wait for it to brew.

  The first sip warmed her insides on the way down, and she sighed with relief. She actually tasted the second sip, and was going back for the third when the phone rang.

  Phones were a necessary nuisance, but a nuisance still. Who the hell would be calling her at—she checked the clock—seven-forty-three in the morning? Irritably, she set her cup down and walked over to snag the receiver off the wall.

  “Candra here,” a warm voice replied to her cautious greeting. “I’m sorry to call you so early, but I don’t know your schedule and wanted to be certain I caught you.”

  “You got me on the first cast,” Sweeney replied, her irritation fading. Candra Worth owned the gallery where Sweeney sold her work.

  “Beg pardon?”

  “Never mind. It’s a fishing term. I don’t suppose you’ve ever been fishing?”

  “God, no.” Like her voice, Candra’s laugh was warm and intimate. “The reason I called was to ask if you could be here at about one to meet some potential clients. We were talking at a party last night and they mentioned they’re thinking of having their portraits done. I immediately thought of you, of course. Mrs. McMillan wanted to come by the gallery to look at a particular piece I’ve just gotten in, so I thought it would be convenient for them to meet you while they’re here.”

  “I’ll be there,” Sweeney promised, though she had looked forward to a day of uninterrupted work.

  “Good. See you then.”

  Sweeney shivered as she hung up and hurried back to her coffee. She didn’t like meeting prospective clients, but she did like doing portraits—and she needed the work. About the time she had started seeing ghosts, her work had gone to hell in a handbasket. The trademark delicacy of her landscapes and still-life studies had given way to an uncharacteristic boisterousness, and she didn’t like it. Her colors had always been transparent, as if they were watercolors instead of oils, but now, no matter how hard she tried, she found herself gravitating toward deep, passionate, unrealistic shades. She hadn’t carried anything to Candra’s gallery in months, and though her old pieces were still selling, there couldn’t be many left.

  She owed it to Candra to take the job, if the couple liked her work. Sweeney was aware that she was not now and probably would never be a hot commodity, because her art was considered too traditional, but nevertheless Candra had always steered her way those customers who preferred the traditional approach, thereby providing Sweeney with a fairly steady, moderately lucrative income. Above that, last year when Sweeney had announced her intention of leaving Clayton, it was Candra who had scouted out this apartment for her.

  Not that New York City would have been Sweeney’s first choice; she had been thinking of someplace warmer. Of course, New York was warmer than Clayton, which sat on the St. Lawrence River, just east of Lake Ontario, and every winter was the recipient of lake-effect snows. New York City was coastal; it snowed during the winter, but not as often and not as much, and the temperatures were more moderate. Not moderate enough; Sweeney had been thinking more along the lines of Miami, but Candra had talked her into coming to the city and Sweeney didn’t regret it. There was always something going on, which provided her with plenty of distraction whenever she thought she was going to scream from frustration.

  Above all, New York was big enough that she didn’t know any of the dead people, didn’t feel compelled by good manners to acknowledge them. The city also provided a steady supply of faces—live ones. She loved faces, loved studying them, which was why her portrait work was steadily increasing—thank God, because otherwise her bank account would have been in serious trouble, instead of just in trouble.

  The city suited her, for now, and b
y New York standards the rent was reasonable. Candra had known about the apartment because her husband, Richard Worth, owned the building. He was some sort of Wall Street whiz, a self-made market millionaire; Sweeney had met him a couple of times, and tried to stay as far away from him as possible. He had an interesting but intimidating face, and she thought he must be the type of man who steamrollered over everyone in his path. She made it a point not to be in his way.

  The neighborhood wasn’t the best, nor was the building, but the apartment was a corner one, with huge windows. She could happily have lived in a barn, if it had as good a light—and central heat.

  The coffee had stopped her shivering. She always felt a little chilled now, but mornings were the worst. She would have gone to a doctor, but whenever she imagined talking to someone about what was going on, her common sense stopped her. “About a year ago I started seeing ghosts, Doctor, and that’s when I got cold. Oh, by the way, traffic signals turn green whenever I approach, too. And my plants bloom out of season. So what’s wrong with me?” Sure. Not in this lifetime. She’d been pointed at enough when she was a kid. Being an artist was uncommon enough; she wasn’t about to let herself be labeled as wacko, too.

  The past year had been trying for more reasons than just seeing ghosts. Sweeney resisted change with a stubborn determination that was no less unyielding for its lack of ferocity. She wasn’t ferocious about anything but painting. Still, over the years those who knew her well had learned how tenacious she was. She liked routine, liked her life to have an even tenor. She could get along just fine without drama, despair, and excitement, having had a surfeit of it in her childhood. For her, sameness and normality equaled security. But how could she feel secure when she had changed, when she knew she was no longer normal, even if she had managed to hide it from the rest of the world? And now she seemed to have lost her direction, if not her talent; but what good was talent if she didn’t know what she was doing with it?

 
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