Juliana froze in her seat, unable to move a muscle, ice and cement meeting as one. Perspiration wet her face like a balmy mist before turning into snow as blood rushed downward. “Alex?” she managed to croak out. “Alex MacKenzie?”
Her heart thumped against her ribcage and she thought it might burst through her chest. A key turned the rusty lock on the box where she’d stowed away memories of her first eighteen years.
O’Malley glanced from her to Alex, speculation dancing in his eyes. “You two know each other?”
“Yes,” Juliana whispered.
“Hardly,” Alex bit out, cold enough to freeze her skin. He pulled out the chair James had vacated earlier and sank down, back rigid and face a granite slab. A very dark and lethal granite.
Juliana let Alex’s barb slide. After all, she deserved it. In that moment, she just wanted to run back to New York, but she couldn’t tear her gaze from Alex. Never in a million years did she envision he’d become a cop.
Despite Alex’s authoritative air, he looked the same. Mature, bulked up, still undeniably gorgeous. Unforgettable azure eyes glared at her in a face darkened by the California sun. A four-inch scar along his left jaw-line marred his otherwise perfect face. The scar’s ivory ridge on his blank mask reminded her of the dangers of law enforcement. Perfect cop face. Frowning pensively, she strained to read his eyes, but they remained unfathomable.
Some things had changed. Once, she could read him as well as her own soul.
O’Malley shut the door and sat next to Alex. “Now that we have that out in the open.” He chuckled in an attempt at levity to wade through the awful tension.
Alex sat motionless, looking as menacing as the gun protruding from his shoulder holster. The earlier feeling of déjà vu expanded in Juliana’s stomach. No wonder she felt as if this case would be tricky. Alex MacKenzie? What the hell is he doing here?
His gaze traveled leisurely from Juliana’s eyes to her mouth, her pulse skittering as his perusal dipped lower. Something close to desire flickered in his eyes before quickly dimming to a glower.
Juliana pressed her hands against her stomach, trying to ward off the thoughts and emotions attacking her. Did she imagine the way he looked at her? As if time had spun backward and they were eighteen, inseparable, and in love again. No. She must have mistaken the look. After all, she deserved his hatred, and more.
Her back muscles twitched when Alex crushed the silence with a soft and level, “Hello, Juliana.” His expression mellowed, but the softening didn’t spread to his flinty eyes. “What can we do for you?” He leaned his elbows on the table, fingers steepled under his chin.
Juliana tugged together every loose strand of her being to manage the impact of seeing Alex for the first time in twelve years.
The only man she’d ever loved.
Get through the meeting and escape this hell before Alex lunges across the table and beats answers out of me. She painted on a cool veneer and straightened in her chair. “I’m here on official police business.” She felt compelled to add, “This isn’t personal.”
“Why would it be personal after all this time?”
Alex’s question squeezed her heart so hard it skipped a beat. Ignoring his dig, she reached inside her leather portfolio. She pulled out a sheet of paper and slid it across the table toward Alex. Even though he’d experienced her psychic abilities firsthand a long time ago, he would need major convincing now.
“My references.” She tapped the paper. “You should speak to Captain Jamison at NYPD first.”
Alex pushed her references aside. O’Malley lounged back in his chair and watched them, amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes.
If she weren’t honor-bound to help save an unsuspecting family a world of grief, she’d walk out and pretend that day had never happened. But the premonition refused to let go, and duty prevailed.
Juliana rushed to continue, “Have either of you worked with psychics to solve any cases?” Their reactions and receptiveness would tell all. She’d worked with enough cops to expect cynicism and derision from the best of them. Such attitudes made for a thorny working relationship. If that were the case here, she wanted to know upfront.
“We work with a couple freelancers now and then,” O’Malley replied. “Once and a while with the Guild psychics, like I said.”
“No. You work with them,” Alex corrected, his voice unyielding. “The few I’ve worked with were pain-in-the-ass nut jobs craving the limelight.”
A frisson of anger sliced through Juliana at Alex’s depiction of paranormal science, but she held her tongue. She’d heard it all before. But it still stung stemming from someone who’d once believed in her abilities. In her completely.
“Why are you just now coming out of the woodwork?” O’Malley glanced at her business card as if it offered further clues to her identity.
“I keep a low profile or use a pseudonym. Few people are aware of my particular talents.” She avoided looking directly at the sparks in Alex’s eyes and fixated on a reddish brown smudge on the wall behind the two detectives. “I was born and raised in San Jose. Twelve years ago I moved—” Her voice wavered at the recollection, and she rapidly buried the memory. “To New York. I worked with the NYPD for several years solving missing persons, rape, and homicide cases. I moved back to San Jose a few weeks ago.”
Before either man uttered a response, she gave her standard recitation. “I have ESP, which occurs as visions while I’m asleep.” Absently, she toyed with her braid, laddering her fingers in it the way Alex used to do. “Sometimes I experience premonitions first. Other times, I see the actual event as it occurs.”
She breathed in the scent of Alex’s spice and musk cologne. It drove her batty with unexpected familiarity and long ago, but not forgotten memories. She rubbed her nose, smelling her own freesia perfume, and forced herself to ignore his haunting cologne.
“Certain dreams are warm and fuzzy, others are horrible, evil.” She glanced at Alex’s face to weigh the impact of her words. A boulder boasted more expression than he did.
O’Malley nodded and flicked a hand at her to continue.
Relief flowed through her. She loved a receptive cop. They were much easier to work with. “This morning I had a premonition.” She related the details of her dream, including the presence of the illuminating full moon, giving voice to a timeframe.
O’Malley scribbled in his notepad, while Alex’s dark gaze remained riveted on her face, disconcerting in his intensity.
“I don’t believe the kidnapping has happened yet. I didn’t sense or see completion, only anticipation.” Her heart wrenched again in sympathy for the unwary child and family. In case her senses were wrong, she asked, “Has such a kidnapping been reported?”
O’Malley gave her a measured stare, tapping his pen on the table edge. “No.”
“An abduction will occur, and it will happen nearby.”
“Because you dreamed it? Do you know the girl’s identity? The kidnapper?” Alex jabbed the tabletop with his index finger after each question. “Didn’t your dream tell you that?”
She expected the grilling. The NYPD had put her through dozens of similar interrogations. But she wasn’t prepared for the niggling doubt Alex dumped in her mind. “I wouldn’t recognize either one of them if they sat next to me. I wish I could.”
Alex folded his thick, muscled arms across his chest. “Then how can you help us?”
Juliana averted her gaze from Alex’s tanned arms, exposed beneath the rolled-up sleeves of his blue heathered dress shirt. Desire surged at the thought of those strong arms around her, and she batted the insane feelings down. She brushed clammy palms on her skirt, hating her nervousness. Hating that Alex caused it.
Why Alex? Why now? Every police case she’d ever assisted with flipped her life upside down while she dreamed her way through it. She certainly didn’t need this complication or the attendant distractions.