Author Erin Richards 

Adventure into the darkness . . . and let the sparks fly!

 
  • Romance
  • Young Adult
stealing twilight

Stealing Twilight

Psychic Justice Book 3

 

Tragedies. Lies. Deception. A world she cannot escape.

Repressed and defeated clairvoyant, Lily Falbrooke, returns home after yet another tragedy hits too close to home. Digging into her family's affairs to uncover her father's mysterious death, Lily discovers what she’s felt all along: her life is not her own. Now it’s up to her to channel her dormant psychic powers to uncover the truth about her herself. But the deeper she delves, the more secrets and lies she exposes while danger unfolds around her.

A guardian. A telepath. An undeniable attraction. His ultimate betrayal.

Sexy private investigator, Jake McAllister, sets out to aide Lily in her quest for answers and salvation. Neither can resist the invisible bonds forcing them together as they stumble into love. But with her guard up and fearing her history, Lily worries the past will come back to haunt her. As the two piece together the puzzle of her mysterious background, Jake commits the ultimate betrayal—a betrayal that endangers his life and just might leave Lily broken . . . for good.

Excerpt

 

Chapter 1

 

Lily’s hand jerked, scattering a fistful of soil onto the casket awaiting its final blanket. The deep rumble of a Harley Davidson shattered her illusion of serenity. She sighed, hiccupped. The splintered silence lent a momentary respite from the day’s somberness. Bleary-eyed, she glanced up at a tall, black-clad intruder sauntering with a slight limp across the wet lawn toward the grave, peeling off his black helmet.

Vivid blue eyes stared at her from a sun-drenched face framed by dark, almost black hair. Rocker hair. It flowed back from a strong, smooth forehead, tied at the nape of his neck. Underneath the leather jacket and pants, immense power radiated off his muscled body in waves. He towered over her. An unexplainable potent charisma and an unknown promise transfixed her as they stared. Dumbfounded, she blinked rapidly as if to dispel a hallucination. Nope. Grief overload. He was as real as the humid air dampening her last happy vibe forever.

The stranger perused her for a long brazen moment before she mustered words in her desert-dry mouth. “Can I help you?”

He swept his gaze over the headstones peppering the lawn, some embedded flat in the grass, others rising out of the earth. “Sorry I’m a bit late, darlin’.”

His southern drawl tingled across her shoulders. A bit? The funeral ended hours ago! And who does he think he is, calling me “darlin’”? Lily swiveled away on her sensible blunt heels. She studied the stargazer lilies covering the grave—her father’s favorite flower—and counted to ten slowly. The heady scent wafted up and the tranquility of the cemetery blossomed into her senses.

Another unsettling change in the air stroked her bare arms in warmth, despite the damp pre-autumn chill. She chose to ignore the man and the inexplicable reasons why he suddenly exasperated her, captivated her. Arms folded tight over her chest, she wrapped herself in a cocoon while despair beat down the door to her heart.

Hundreds of her father’s friends and acquaintances had long departed. After a brief appearance at the wake, she’d returned to the cemetery to view her father’s remains in their eternal resting place. The cemetery landscapers would flatten the mound and add sod later, but she couldn’t witness the final act of her father’s internment. She’d already shed enough tears to overflow a river.

Yet, she had a rough time leaving and allowing the earth to claim her father after already devouring her mother and younger brother. She shot a glimpse at the twin headstones next to the new grave. Tears welled and fed that damn river again. Another stab of grief pierced her heart, a new forever ache. Quiet sobs racked her, and she sank to her knees onto the damp ground. A lump in her throat threatened to obstruct her airflow. Get a grip, Falbrooke.

“Lily,” a husky voice whispered behind her. A heavy hand alighted on her shoulder and squeezed gently. Another large, tan hand proffered a cotton handkerchief. She accepted the square cloth to replace the sodden wad of tissues in her fist.

“Can I give you a ride home?”

She twisted around and pinned a glare on him. Tears glistened in his odd aquamarine eyes, and she sucked in a breath. “No…I—” she stuttered. “Who are you?”

He held out a hand and she grasped it, lifting herself up with his aid. She brushed loose dirt off her bare knees, and kicked a clod of grass off her right pump. Unable to prevent dusk’s cool damp from reaching into her barren soul, she shivered violently.

He shrugged off his jacket and draped the leather over her shoulders. She melted into the warm weighty material, a welcome shield against her miserable life. A pleasant mixture of leather and spicy cologne teased her nose. Her grief shut down the wild thoughts threatening to unhinge her further, warming places within her body that had no right to thaw.

“I’m Jake McAllister.”

McAllister? Numbness refused to allow her mind to stretch her memory. “Friend of my father’s?”

“Something like that.”

“I see.” She wiped the handkerchief under her sore nose, fearing she resembled Rudolph. “Well, thanks for coming.”

“Sorry I’m late. I was…on another assignment.”

“I’m sure my father appreciated it, no matter what time you came.” Idiot, much? Dad would never appreciate anything again. Reluctantly, Lily shook the jacket off. He stopped her and tugged it back over her shoulders.

“Keep it for now. It looks good on you.” A smile splashed his sun-darkened face, and she realized how incredibly handsome he was, with his days’ old stubble and rugged good looks.

Lily buried her asinine meanderings. Not the time, not the place. “I really must be leaving.”

“Let me take you home,” he blurted out.

She eyed the behemoth two-wheel cause of his unwelcome interruption. “On that?” she asked with as much scorn in her tone as she could drum up. “No thanks. I have a car and driver waiting.” Legs listless, she plodded through the wet grass toward the parking lot.

The clomping of his boots followed at a discreet distance. When she reached the limo, she slipped off his jacket and held it out to him. “Thanks. My jacket’s in the car.”

As if he’d read her mind, the limo driver handed her a long black duster to match her silk sheath. Her crystal and emerald shamrock pin broke her head-to-toe black. So much for four-leaf clover luck. She may as well toss her pin in the hole with her father. Worms might get lucky.

“I’m truly sorry about your father.” Jake McAllister shouldered his jacket. “See you soon, Lily.”

She stepped into the limo and sank onto the plush leather seat. “Goodbye, Jake,” she said into the air of graveyard loneliness.

It wasn’t until the limo was on the road when she noticed she still carried the borrowed hanky. She unfurled the damp piece of rich cotton and smoothed her fingers over the silk-embroidered initials. JRM.

Why did a rocker-looking, hawg-riding man in black leather own elegant handkerchiefs? Who was Jake McAllister and how did he know her father?

 The unseasonal rain had held off from dampening the earlier funeral, but had unleashed after the mourners departed for the wake, a fitting tribute to her father who loved the rain. Drizzle dripped again, increasing the jackhammer digging a trench through her head. Closing her eyes and mind, she shut out the world and leaned against the cool leather seat.

~*~

Jake gazed longingly at the sleek limo until the vehicle turned the corner and absconded with the most enchanting women he’d ever met. He’d watched her from a distance all day and sensed something raw and engaging about her. When he’d neared her, she stole his breath away.

Lily Falbrooke wasn’t beautiful in the classical sense. She was petite, elegant, poised, and underneath the glossy, fiery hair flowing halfway down her back was a pale, heart-shaped face and rosebud lips. An angel. Certainly not the type he usually went for—wild, voluptuous, leggy, tan. Pictures hadn’t done her justice.

Desire so pure swept away the desolation destroying him since hearing the hellish news about Michael’s accident. His hands wanted to caress her, his arms wanted to lend comfort and chase off her sadness. His lips wanted to kiss away her pain.

Heat slammed him, and he was thunderstruck by the depth of his emotions, especially when their origins escaped perception. Never in his life had he experienced such intense feelings at the mere sight of a woman. One who wanted nothing from him.

“What the hell? I’m losing my grip.” Insanity didn’t run in his family, yet who was he to forestall it from running amok within him?

Drizzle magnified the day’s dreariness, dispelling the unnerving thoughts chasing through Jake’s head. He slipped on his jacket, inhaling Lily’s perfume—a dominance of honeysuckle—and zipped it up to preserve the bouquet close to his heart.

With heavy footsteps, he trudged to the grave to pay his final respects. Words from the Lord’s Prayer from his Catholic school days resurfaced in his memory and he recited them. Time lost all meaning as he hunched down and grabbed a handful of moist dirt from the mound, bringing finality to the existence Jake had only recently embraced.

“Ashes to ashes.” He tossed the dirt on the grave. “Dust to dust.” Another sprinkle of earth followed the first. His broad shoulders heaved, his stomach knotted. He made the sign of the cross, leaving dirt trails on the black leather. Jake wiped his hands on his pants and reached into his rear pocket for the hanky he’d brought for the occasion. Empty.

Lily.

“Damn, Michael, what happened?” His throat constricted, and he swiped the back of his hand over his wet cheeks. One final look at the pile of dirt covering the body of Michael Falbrooke, and he strode toward his motorcycle, cursing the rain he’d have to slog through to reach home. Cursing the bastards who’d taken his friend, and the darkness that had set the invisible wheels in motion coercing his every move from that point forward.

“I will keep my promises, Michael. I’ll keep her safe.” A breeze floated his whispered words toward the grave. No matter what the future entailed, he’d not let his friend down.

The motorcycle growled to life. The engine’s steady vibrations soothed him, dipped deep into his soul to assuage the deep-seated bleakness. He yanked on his helmet, steered the hulking bike out of the parking spot, born a part of it like a Centaur, and shadowed the long black limousine tugging on his heartstrings.

~*~

The heady aroma of coffee filtered into Lily’s fogged brain. Dad always had coffee ready in the mornings, black and sweet. She smiled and cleared the last vestiges of sleep from her head. As she lifted on her elbows, her neck creaked and stiffened. She’d fallen asleep on the couch in Dad’s den. What the what?

The sudden vivid memory of yesterday dug a new hole in her chest, and she collapsed onto her back. Dad had always been there for her, through all her life’s upheavals, including the summer that had haunted her for a decade. She had no one left now.

By the time she’d returned to the house where she’d spent her childhood after visiting the cemetery, another early autumn rain hammered the San Jose foothills in the final act showcasing the worst day of Lily’s life. Instead of facing the reality that her entire family was gone forever, she’d downed a sleeping pill and passed out.

Hauling her mother’s afghan up to her chin, she tossed around the idea of not getting up at all. But the heavenly aroma of caffeine continued to lure her out of her funk. Elizabeth must’ve let herself in. Lily wanted to thank her for making all the funeral arrangements, for caring for her father after Lily left town three years ago. She couldn’t have crawled through the funeral and wake without her surrogate mother.

Rising, she dragged her fingers through her tousled hair. Her neck twinged again, and she crooked it from side-to-side to stretch the tight, aching muscles. Reining in her interminable grief, she slogged into the living room and pushed open the swing door to the kitchen.

“Elizabeth?” Dead still, she stood on the threshold. The loose raven-dark hair and wide-shouldered back of a tall muscular man threatened to disturb her temporary pocket of equilibrium. Fear raced down her spine. Lily eyeballed the butcher block of knives on the far side of the kitchen. Too freaking far.

The man spun around. A network of scars marred his thick-muscled left arm. The gorgeous motorcycle man from the cemetery.

Alarm seized her intestines. She snatched up a pair of scissors sitting on the black granite counter next to the door. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Wry amusement veiled the darkness of his eyes, adding anger to her alarm. She held the scissors aloft to plunge them into his heart at the slightest provocation.

“Well?” she demanded, edging closer to the cordless phone on the wall inside the door.

“Whoa there, darlin’,” he drawled in that sensuous voice which served to irritate her more. “Put the scissors down.” He paused a beat. “I live here.”

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