Get a Clue(7)

By: Jill Shalvis

But today was a whole new kind of cold. And this fluffy, powdered-sugar kind of snow, thick and currently up to her crotch . . . she’d never seen anything like it. Too bad she’d dressed for a chilly day looking at the snow from the inside.

Torn between sinking into the snow, never to be heard from again, or facing the dark, terrifying house, Breanne stood there in rare indecision for exactly one second, during which time another gust of wind hit her, sending her backwards a step, onto her butt in the doorway. More wet cold seeped through her denim.

Quickly scrambling to her feet, she fought the wind and slammed the door shut, then whirled around and flattened herself to it, blinking furiously, trying to adapt to the dark.

But there was no adapting, especially when out of that inky blackness came a low, almost rough masculine voice. “Hello?”

Oh, God. That didn’t sound like Gorgeous Naked Guy. Biting her lip to keep quiet, hands out in front of her, she tiptoed toward the reception desk where she’d first seen the note about the honeymoon suite. There’d been a phone there . . . Her fingers closed over it.

Teeth chattering in earnest now, she lifted the receiver to her ear, ready to call . . . she had no idea. It didn’t matter; she’d take the Abominable Snowman, for God’s sake.

No dial tone.

Okay, this wasn’t happening. This couldn’t really be happening. She’d stepped into some alternate universe—

She heard a click, and then a small flare of light appeared, and a face, floating in the air.

Breanne clapped her hands over her mouth to hold in her startled scream and pressed back against the wall as if she could vanish into it.

Once for Halloween she’d gone into a haunted house with a group of friends, smug and secure in the fact that having grown up with brothers, she couldn’t be frightened. And indeed, her friends had all screamed their lungs out while she calmly walked through, her mind rationally dismissing each scare. Oh, that was just a CD of scary sounds. And there . . . just a skeleton—fake, of course. And that dead body swinging overhead? With all the blood? Just ketchup.

But this was real. Her hollow stomach and slipping grip on her sanity told her that. And while she really wanted to remain cool, calm, and collected, her heart threatened to burst right out of her chest, even as she registered the truth.

The floating face wasn’t really a floating face at all, but a man holding a flashlight up beneath his chin.

Not Gorgeous Naked Guy.

No, this man was the same height but stockier, and in his twenties. He wore a hoodie sweatshirt over a baseball cap low on his forehead so she could only see a little of his face, but what she could see was overexaggerated by the beam of the flashlight, giving him a dark, almost Frankenstein-like glow that had her breath backing up in her throat.

“It’s okay,” Frankenstein said to her. “The phones go out all the time.”

Oh, okay then. She’d just forget about the panic barreling through her at the speed of light. Her plan was to at least look calm. Get what info she could. “What about the electricity?” she managed, as if asking the time that tea would be served.

After that, she hadn’t a clue.

“Yeah, that’s new,” he admitted, and shrugged as if to say he had no idea.

“Are you . . . the manager?” she asked, hoping the answer was “Yes” and not “No, I’m your murderer.”

“No. The manager is . . . temporarily indisposed.”

He didn’t look so much like Frankenstein at all, she saw when he lowered the flashlight and his hood slipped back, revealing straight black hair to his shoulders, dark skin suggesting a Cuban descent, black eyes, and a long scar down one side of his jaw. “So who are you?” she asked.

But he’d already turned his back on her and was shining his light into the vast cavern that had been the great room before the lights had gone out. “I’ll start a fire,” he said, moving in that direction. “You should change your wet clothes.”

She’d happily strip out of the sweater and jeans that had turned to sheets of ice on her body, but the two sexy nighties in her carry-on didn’t have enough material combined to warm a gnat. “Are you going to tell me who you are?”

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