She forgot how to hate, and now she’s learning how to love…
Brain-damaged Nia Beaudine can’t remember her life before The Accident. Someone intentionally ran over her and left her for dead. Now she’s living in the ‘witch’s house’ she inherited in the village of Miracle, relearning how to live on her own. Well, almost on her own – the talking cat helping her cope is a bonus. But when a hate-filled family member shows up with a gun, Nia knows she needs real help.
Former Army Sergeant and PTSD sufferer Rob Ackerman regularly covers for his identical twin, the village constable, and answers Nia’s emergency call. This strange young woman immediately sees he’s not his brother. In return, he sees that the only way she can fully live in her new life is to find out why someone in her old life tried to kill her…and might try again.
As they dig up Nia’s past, the attraction between them grows. Their brains may be damaged, but their bodies and hearts are working just fine.
Justine’s laughter battered Rob’s ears like gunshot. “She’s fooling you just like she fools all the men. I could give you a list of names to call and ask about her. Ask my mother and my father first. They’ll tell you.”
Without waiting for him to respond, she turned her glare to Nia, the muscles in her face rigid. “You know what you were like. What you’re still like. This is just another act. You’re the same brat you were when you were six and stole my Barbie dolls. And after I took them back, you beheaded them. You ruined them like you ruined everything.”
Beneath Rob’s hand, Nia trembled. He shifted his gaze to Debbie, who stared from one sister to the other with saucer eyes, no doubt storing every word in her mind, every look, so she could faithfully repeat it all as soon as she had the chance, word by ugly word.
And no doubt the gossipmongers were already gathering at Wegner’s the way vultures gathered over road kill. Smelling blood in the air.
The darkness, always so near, swirled above him. Coming closer, closer…
“Take her away,” he said to Debbie. “We’ve heard enough.”
She blinked and gave a little shake. As if waking out of a bad dream. Rob wished it were that easy.
“I’m not ready to go.” Justine lifted her chin. Her green eyes flashed hatred. “I’m just beginning.”
Rob gripped Nia’s shoulder more firmly. The darkness was so close he felt its coldness. Like evil breaths on his skin. Any second now, it would swoop down and envelope him. Smother him and anyone close to him.
Not now. Stay away. I need to help her.
He imagined the murky cloud stopped inches away, frozen in the air above him. Quickly, before it dropped again, he speared Justine with his gaze, giving her his concentrated attention as if she were an exotic snake. “Begin somewhere else.”
“What if I don’t?” She sneered. “What are you going to do? Arrest me?”
He reminded himself that he wasn’t a constable. He was a former US Army Sergeant, with a medical disability and a settlement that allowed him to heal.
But none of that mattered. As long as he inhaled and exhaled, he would always defend and protect. It was what his friends died for. He wasn’t letting T. J. and Morrisey die in vain.
And right now, this woman shivering beneath his hand like a newly hatched baby robin needed his protection.
“I’ll give you one minute to leave, and then I’ll show you what I can do.”
“Jerry!” Debbie said, her voice a gasp. But it was a gasp of delight, her face and eyes bright as she stared at his hand on Nia’s shoulder. He could practically see her storing everything in her mind so she could repeat the good stuff without having to exaggerate too much.
A movement from Justine caught Rob’s attention. Her hand dug into the purse hanging at her left hip. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said as Rob drew back from Nia. He bunched his muscles, ready to grab the sister. “No cheap village cop is going to—”
A hiss was all the warning the cat gave as she sprang straight up in the air, her claws out, small and deadly.
Debbie and Justine both screamed. Justine stepped backward and tripped over her feet in their uber-high heels. She stumbled back. Items fell out of her purse and thumped onto the wooden porch.
Given Debbie’s bulk and age, she reacted faster than Rob would’ve expected, her arm whipping out to catch Nia’s sister. As she did, the cat landed on Justine’s chest.
Bast stuck her claws into the exposed skin.
Justine’s high-pitched shriek made Rob wince, even with his bad left ear. Debbie jerked her hand back to her side. Clearly not about to get scratched just to save her relative. Justine tumbled back, shrieking louder.
Her head smacked onto the porch, cutting her voice off mid-screech. The cat growled and reached out to slash her claws at Justine’s face.
Rob lunged down, caught the cat around its belly and pulled it up just as the cat’s claws touched Justine’s cheek.
The cat mrowed, its indignant tone needing no feline interpreter. Neither did the claws that swiped the back of Rob’s hand.
Pain burned his hand, but he held onto the fighting cat, not letting go. He didn’t know what this cat might do next.
“Bast.” Nia grabbed the cat. Her hair brushed Rob’s chin as she whispered something into Bast’s ear that stopped the flailing legs and hissing mouth. Without saying another word, Nia cradled the cat against her chest, then swiveled and hurried indoors.
“I’m bleeding!” Justine cried. “I’m bleeding!”
Rob stared at the items dropped on the concrete: keys, a cell phone, tissues, and something people didn’t usually take on a visit to their kid sister.