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A Caitlyn O’Connell
Novel, Book 1
Format: Paperback &
On Sale: January 29, 2013
When her mentor is brutally murdered by a supernatural force, an alcoholic former cop turns to her past lovers—her ex-partner and a powerful sorcerer—to help her hunt down a demon terrorizing Memphis.
Caitlyn O’Connell had it all: a career with the Memphis PD, a passionate marriage, and the satisfaction that her work made a difference in the world. But she also had a secret, a supernatural “gift” that cost her everything. Now she scrapes by as a private investigator, taking cases the cops won’t touch and counting down the minutes until happy hour. But when Sam Pierce, her former partner and estranged ex-husband, comes to her for help with a bizarre murder case, Cait can’t say no. And not just because Sam is still as irresistibly sexy as he was on the day they met. Something sinister—and demonic—is terrorizing Memphis, leaving a bloody trail of bodies and clues only Cait can read. Together she and Sam will venture into a dark world of magic and unholy terror, hunting a killer who will lead them to the brink of reality as they know it—and back into the thrall of their stormy past. Steamy and suspenseful, Shattered Souls is the pulse-quickening new offering from romance author Delilah Devlin.
Mama was making a spell again.
The little girl squirmed on her chair at the kitchen table and tried not to think about needing to pee. Mama wanted her to be quiet so she wouldn’t lose her train. Though what trains had to do with spells, the girl didn’t have a clue. Mama always said things that didn’t make sense. Must be because she was a jip-see. Daddy blamed all the strange things that happened in their house on account of her being jip-see.
Pink blossoms dropped into the heart-shaped flannel pouch, one by one.
Her mama’s eyebrows straightened, and her eyes got the faraway look. “One to silence darksome words. Let only gladsome thoughts be heard. Two to bring peace to this child’s mind —”
“That’s me, right, Mama?”
Dark brows wrinkled. “Yes, Caitydid, pay attention now. This is important.”
Another pretty pink blossom floated into the bag.
“Is it really from a dragon?” The little girl bit her lip because she’d done it again. Spoken when she was supposed to be dreaming about what it would be like if the spell worked.
Her mother plucked a blossom from the bowl in front of her. “The flower is a snapdragon, but only because it looks like a dragon’s head, sweetheart. See?” She held up another furled flower for the girl to study.
The little girl stared at the blossom, disappointment tugging her mouth downward. The curled bloom did indeed form a shape. But looking at the flower was a lot like lying in the grass with her mama watching the clouds float across the sky and trying to imagine animals and things when all she saw were white puffy clouds.
A flower was just a flower. How were pretty petals going to help her sleep?
“Now, are you done interrupting me?”
The little girl nodded, summoning a smile to please her mother. Then something shrieked behind her and she jumped. She clamped together her thighs and swung her feet, trying to ease the urgency. “Make them go away,” she wailed, slamming both hands over her ears—even though she knew that never worked.
Her mother’s sad, brown gaze settled on the girl for a long, unblinking moment. Then she pulled down the girl’s small hands and placed them in her lap. She leaned close, bracketing her cheeks between warm palms. “Don’t be afraid, baby. The bad voices will disappear. Only the good will remain.”
The little girl licked a tear from the side of her mouth. “But I want them all to go away, Mama.”
“Sweetheart, I can’t steal away a gift. I can only give you protection, for a time. Do you remember the words?”
The little girl nodded.
“Say them with me.” Mama’s warm hands fell away, and she dropped another blossom into the bag.
The little girl picked up the chant, closing her eyes and thinking as hard as she could about a time when she wouldn’t hear the eerie cries.
“One to silence darksome words.
Let only gladsome thoughts be heard.
Two to bring peace to this child’s mind,
Until her own strengths, she doth find.
Three to banish Wraith’s cruel rage.
Spirits harmless by thy wisdom sage.
Four to balance and turn the Wheel.
Rightful Change shall soothe and heal.
I call to thee, O dragon bright.
Lend us now your ancient might—”
Hands gripped Caitlin O’Connell’s shoulders and shook her. “Get up, dammit.”
The gruff voice was familiar. Felt right, hearing it in her bedroom—for all of two seconds. Then she pried open her eyes, wincing at the overhead light, and stared at Samuel Pierce.
Same taut expression, same hard body. Brown hair cut short, freshly shaved, and not a crease in his pale dress shirt or dark trousers. A silk tie ringed his strong neck. Strong lines bracketed his mouth, the corners turned down.
He didn’t seem particularly happy to be here. Which was sort of sad. Once upon a time, he’d sworn there was nowhere else he wanted to be more.
“How’d you get in?” she muttered. Was he aware his thumbs caressed her shoulders? She glanced down, then back up again.
Sam looked down at his hands, let go of her shoulders, and straightened. With his gaze still on hers, he raked a hand through his hair and sighed.
Now all six-foot-two inches of his sturdy frame loomed, bristling with ill-concealed impatience.
“Damn, Caitlyn, you still have a spare key on top of the door frame. I told you it wasn’t a good idea a long time ago. Anyone can let himself in.”
“Only person ever used it was you,” she grumbled, rubbing a hand over her eyes. “What time’s it?”
“Time to get your ass out of bed.”
“I don’t work on your schedule anymore.” She glanced at the clock on her nightstand and pulled on a scowl that would have had a lesser man backing up. “It’s eight-fucking-o’clock. Whatever it is can wait.”
“Sweetheart, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Your choice.”
“Always preferred it hard,” she purred, but the sound was a little too raspy for sexy.
“Cut the crap, Cait.” His gaze lifted to the ceiling and his jaw tightened, a muscle flexing along the hard line.
When his eyes locked on her again, for just a moment, something warm but haunted shone in the blue depths.
She stared back, wishing he still loved her. But hey, wishes were like elbows, everybody had ’em. Cait hoped she hadn’t drooled, but knew she had bed-head, and dark mascara likely rimmed her lower lids. Just great. First time she’d seen Sam alone in months and he had the advantage.
“How much did you have to drink last night?” he asked quietly.
“What do you care?” she said thickly, hiding her face with her arm. “Enough. Slept good.” A faint staticky whisper sounded inside her head, and her hand shot out for the glass on her nightstand.
The glass slid out of her fingers before she had a chance to grab tight. “No way, babe. I need you sober.”
Now she was pissed. Her head began to pound. She came up on her elbows. “I’m not your partner anymore. Not a cop. And I don’t get out of bed before noon.”
With a quick move, he peeled away the sheet covering her.
“Agh.” She fell back to free an arm to stop him, not sure what he’d see, but hoping that at least her underwear was clean.
But he was fast, and the room spun.
She opened her mouth to deliver another complaint when she was yanked upright by a grip on her upper arm. “Sam, what the hell do you—”
A grunt sounded as he pulled her over his shoulder and stomped toward the bathroom.
Upside down, her stomach lurched. “Stop moving. I’m gonna throw up.”
He came to a halt at her shower, rustled the curtain, and turned on the faucets. Then he dumped her on the tiled floor under a spray of cold water.
The water made her jump. She sputtered, cursing, and pushed back her hair to scowl up at him. “Why are you doing this?”
“Get washed up.” Sam’s lips twisted in disgust. “You’re coming downtown with me.”
Sitting in the bottom of the stall, she firmed her lips, ready to tell him to go to hell.
His stark, angry expression halted her.
“I need you.”
Just those three words were all it took. She sighed, put her face into the water, and let it sluice over her before gathering her armor around her and giving him a glare. “Do you mind?”
A look came over his face, but before she had a chance to put a name to it, he turned away and stalked back to the bedroom. The sounds of drawers slamming told her he wasn’t letting her off.
“What’s this about?” she shouted, beginning to shiver. With a jerk, she pulled her sodden t-shirt over her head and tossed it outside the stall. Her underwear followed, and she slid up the tiled wall to turn on the hot water.
“Just hurry it up. I don’t have all day to wait on you to get your head straight.”
Cait turned her face into the spray again, closing her eyes as the water warmed, and she swayed. Her legs stiffened, catching her before she slid to the floor again. If she passed out now, he’d just shove her into her clothes wet.
She’d seen him this mad a time or two. Quiet fury made his movements jerk. His face became a tight, scary mask. She loved that look… when it wasn’t directed at her.
Must be something big for him to be in such a foul mood, but what did he want with her? The way he acted, she wondered why he hadn’t slapped on cuffs. He treated her the same way he did scumbag suspects.
Still, he hadn’t Mirandized her. Maybe he just needed her expert opinion, which set her stomach roiling even more. The only area of police work where she’d had a specialized skill set was the “full moon” cases.
Trying to remedy the dehydration that would keep her head muzzy for hours, she opened her mouth and drank down the warm water. She’d really needed that gulp of scotch before she got out of bed, but she didn’t think he’d buy that she needed it to think.
The curtain flew back. Sam reached in, turned off the faucets, and tossed her a towel, his frowning gaze sweeping her body only briefly. “Five minutes. Your clothes are on the bed. I’ll be in the car. Don’t make me come back in here.”
She watched the stiff set of his shoulders and wondered if seeing her naked again after all this time had bothered him. Seeing him fully clothed set all her dormant hormones firing, even if they were swimming in alcohol.
Cait sighed and blotted her body with the towel. If he’d been even the least bit nicer, she might have asked him to join her for old times’ sake. However, she guessed they both needed to hold on tight to their anger or they’d never get through the day.
Anger was the deepest emotion either one of them could risk. Anything else would hurt too damn much.
* * *
Exactly four minutes later, Cait slid her shades over her eyes to cut the glare of the sun shining through the sedan’s windshield.
Another hot, muggy day in Memphis—surprise, surprise. She turned the vent in the dashboard to blow cool air over her face. Nausea still rumbled in her stomach. They made a turn, and she straightened in her seat. “Not heading for the station house?”
His jaw tightened. His lips thinned.
“You gonna tell me what’s up? The way you’re acting, I’m wondering why you didn’t just cuff me.”
“Don’t think I wasn’t tempted,” he bit out.
The next turn took them to a row of rundown apartments and seedy hotels blocks away from Beale Street. They pulled into the Blue Suede Inn and halted at the front doors of the hotel. The curving drive-thru was filled nose-to-tail with white blue-and-gold striped squad cars.
“Got an active crime scene?” She perked up and scanned the area. Her instincts had been right, something big had happened, but she still didn’t have a clue why she was here.
He slammed the gearshift into park without responding, turned his head, and glared.
Curious now, she didn’t wait for him to tell her to get out and follow him while he shrugged into his sports jacket and straightened his tie. Still, he passed through the sliding doors before she caught up. The hotel lobby teemed with cops talking to the staff and guests. Sam and Cait passed the front desk and hooked a right toward the elevators.
Once the doors slid closed, she glanced his way. “Are you gonna tell me why I’m here?” she asked, a chill beginning to work its way down her spine.
“Where were you last night, Cait?” he asked quietly, not looking her way.
Damn, did she need an alibi? Her gaze riveted on the seam of the doors. “I started at O’Malley’s.”
“And after that?”
She shrugged. They both knew she didn’t have a clue. Her drinking had been just one of the problems that had ended their partnership—and their marriage.
The bell chimed on the sixth floor and the doors slid open. Faint staticky whispers that usually blended like white noise in her head grew louder.
Cait firmed her jaw and followed Sam through a line of dark navy uniforms. Heads turned her way. She recognized several of the officers. A couple of them nodded, but none offered a greeting. Something in their grim expressions added to her misgivings.
At the end of the line of uniforms stood Lieutenant Leland Hughes—same pit bull face, a wide crooked nose, steely gray eyes, deadpan expression, and the beginnings of a comb-over to mask his dark, receding hairline. Both arms were folded over his chest, and his tall, burly body seethed with irritation as he stared.
Girding herself for what was coming, she clamped her jaw tight and raised her chin. She had butted heads with Leland when she’d been one of his detectives in the Homicide Bureau, and he’d nearly drummed her out in disgrace.
His gaze raked her, then he turned his body toward Sam, dismissing her. “What’s she doin’ here?” he bit out. “You know civilians aren’t allowed at an active crime scene.”
“Lieutenant, I think you know what I want her to hear.”
Leland’s mouth firmed into a thin straight line. “She causes any problems, it’ll be your ass.”
The lieutenant gave her one more warning glare then lifted his chin to the officer guarding the door marked “612.” The officer turned the knob and pushed it open.
“I need everyone to clear out,” Sam said as he entered.
Forensics techs were still at work. The smell of alcohol and graphite powder filled the air. Every surface was layered with fingerprint dust. Evidence bags lay stacked in an over-filled carton.
She gave a quick glance around. Spattered blood dotted the wall behind the headboard and across the sheets, but there was no body or taped outline on the floor. A splintered desk chair lay on its side in front of the dresser. The dresser itself sat at an angle, pulled out from the wall and facing away from the door. Drawers and men’s clothing littered the carpet.
When the last tech left the room, taking the carton with him, Sam pulled shut the door, closing them in alone. Once again, his stiff posture and curled fists betrayed his agitation.
Cait drew in a deep breath. “Sam, what’s going on? Why am I here?”
Without responding, he walked to the telephone still sitting on the nightstand, pulled a pen from his pocket, and pressed the button marked MESSAGES.
“Henry, just got your message.”
Henry was in Memphis? Caitlin’s eyes widened, and the blood drained from her face. She shot Sam a glance.
His expression didn’t give away a thing, but his cold blue stare said he wanted answers.
Caitlin shivered as she stepped closer to the phone, listening to her own brisk and only slightly slurred voice, agreeing to meet Henry Prudoe in this very room.