Here's a sneak peek from the book:
It was almost time to open, and R.J. hadn’t shown up yet. Tricia leaned on the bar and shut down the string of curse words she had been about to utter. She straightened and rubbed the back of her aching neck. The bed in the spare bedroom was uncomfortable, and she had woke up with a crick in her neck.
She considered her options. If she didn’t open on time, the only people she’d be pissing off where the regulars who showed up right at four come rain or come shine.
Nope. R.J. wasn’t going to do her like this. She grabbed her cell phone out of her bag, intending to call him, but the call wouldn’t go through. She glared at the phone as if it could feel the mean thoughts she was hurling at an inanimate object. Hadn’t she charged the thing before she’d left the house? Why was the battery already drained again? Was she going to have to get a new phone?
Aggravation. That’s all it was. Just another freaking aggravation to deal with.
The overhead lights blinked. She listened for the rumble of distant thunder. The lights went out every time it stormed. But as she had come into work, it had been a clear day. No sound of thunder. She went into the back office to use the house phone, but strangely enough, the line was dead. What the hell was going on?
As she turned to leave the office, the clank and rattle of metal on metal came from the storage room. She eased along the bar and grabbed the baseball bat from under the counter. With it over her shoulder, she inched toward the open door of the storage room. She flipped the light on.
No one. The room was empty of humans. Plenty of cases of liquor and bottled beer. But no humans.
“Must have been something shifting.” She reasoned with herself, but she wasn’t convinced.
Behind her, something crashed. She twisted on her heel. A stack of glasses had tumbled off the back bar and landed on the floor.
The dead phones. The strange noises. The flickering lights. The crashing glassware. Everything was combining into one massive case of freak out.
She shook off her paranoia. “It’s all just a coincidence. Get a grip.”
Tricia leaned the bat in the corner, pulled the broom and dustpan out of the storage room, and began to sweep up the broken glass. That’s when the house phone and her cell phone started ringing in unison. She froze with the dustpan in her hand. A crash came from the storage room.The broom and the pan fell out of her grip. She rushed through the back room and flung the back door open. R.J. had his key out to let himself in.
“Whoa. What’s wrong?” He glanced over her shoulder. “Is he here?”
She shook her head, but she couldn’t make any words come out of her mouth.
“Tricia, talk to me. What’s going on?”
She stared at the barroom behind her. “The lights... and the phones... and the glasses... Something really strange is going on in there.”
When she turned to face R.J. again, he had a skeptical expression on his face. His eyes reflected a bit of amusement but mostly concern.
“It’s probably just you’re imagination, Tricia. You’ve got to be exhausted. I’m sure you didn’t get much sleep. I didn’t.”
“I’m telling you that the lights flickered and... and...” She grabbed his hand. “Come and see for yourself.”
She dragged him behind the bar. The glassware was still shattered on the floor. Then, she pulled him into the storage room. A shelving unit had toppled over and broken liquor bottles littered the floor. The stench of spilled alcohol filled her nose, and she pulled the tail of her shirt over her face.
R.J pulled her out of the storage room. She stalled outside the door, immobile.
He nudged her upper arm. “Are you okay?”
Of course, she wasn’t okay.
She allowed herself a moment to force a bit of calm. “First, I couldn’t get my cell phone to work. It was like the battery had run down, but I charged it this morning. Then, I tried the landline because I was pissed at you for not showing up on time again—”
“So really this is just you being pissed at me?”
“No. Listen to me. The landline was dead. It was dead, R.J. Just like my cell phone. Then, I heard some strange noises in the storage room, but when I turned on the light in there, nothing was out of place. No one was there. But while I was in there, that stack of glasses on the back bar fell off and broke. I got the broom and the dustpan to clean it up, but the house phone and my cell phone started ringing at the same time. Then I heard a crash in the storage room. It freaked me out.” She grabbed him by the shirt collar. “This is not my imagination.”
He studied her face a long time. “Do you believe in ghosts, Tricia?”
She cackled. Yeah, that’s exactly what her derisive laughter sounded like. “Ghosts? Are you freaking kidding me? No.” She leaned into him. “Someone is playing tricks on me. Is it you?”
“Me?” He croaked a bit. “Why would I do something like that to you? I’m trying to help you.”
She released his collar and backed away from him. “Right? That’s what you say.”
R.J. held her gaze, steady and calm. “Yeah. That’s what I’m trying to do. Actually... I talked to a friend of mine about putting an alarm system in your house.”
“Really?” Why would he do that for her? “I can’t afford an alarm system.”
“I didn’t think so, but Craig said he’d install the system for free. It won’t be monitored, so there won’t be a monthly fee. But maybe an alarm going off would be enough to discourage an intruder from coming inside.”
“Why are you doing this for me?”
Her question seemed to stump him. A puzzled frown formed on his mouth. “I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t want you to be afraid.”
“It’s not your concern whether I’m not afraid or not.” She wasn’t trying to be harsh.
“Maybe there’s enough cop left in me... I don’t know.”
He wasn’t telling her the whole truth. She could see the flickers of guilt in his eyes.
“There’s another reason you’re trying to help me, isn’t there?”
He leaned on the bar and released a long sigh. “I don’t want you to leave.”
As if someone had shoved her in the back, she fell forward against him. Her head popped up to look him in the eyes. She tried to push off him, but his arms wrapped around her.
“I didn’t do that on purpose, R.J.”
“I know. I saw. It was like someone pushed you.” He smiled. “I think I like this ghost.”
She shoved and stepped back from him. “That...” She waved her hand between them. “That ain’t happening.”
The pounding of a pissed off customer at the door to the parking lot interrupted them. She rushed to unlock the door, thankful that she didn’t have to finish the conversation they’d started.
For the rest of the evening, every time she glanced toward R.J., he was staring at her with a strange expression on his face. If she didn’t know better, she would have called the look mushy.
Maybe he didn’t want her to leave, but she wasn’t sure she should stay. Pulling him into her mess wasn’t fair to him. She didn’t want to lead him on just to run away. Running again was inevitable.