When a beautiful woman claiming to be a ghost from 1912 appears in Nick Marshal’s new office and begs for help in solving her murder, he’s intrigued enough to consider her plea. A scandal that rocked Hollywood almost destroyed his law practice, so taking on a client who insists she’s dead seems a good way to refresh his career. The more history he uncovers, the deeper he falls for the ghost. Abigail Carlisle believes Nick is her heart’s true desire, but how can happily ever after happen when she’s already dead?
Vanessa gave him a practiced pout again. “What’s happened to you, Nicky? You used to be so spontaneous and fun.”
“Life’s cruel lessons have changed me.”
She leaned her head on his arm. “Yeah, I read about your entanglement with Leslie Blake after you represented her Hollywood producer husband in their divorce.” She shook her head. “I don’t think there was a single person in the United States that hasn’t heard about that scandal.”
Nick shrugged off her arm and stuffed fisted his hands into his pockets. Thanks for reminding me. Vanessa certainly knew how to rub vinegar in his open wound. “Don’t believe everything you read in the tabloids.”
She walked ahead of him into his office. The moment he stepped in behind her, she pressed him against the wall and kicked the door closed with her black, stilettos. She wrapped her fingers around his tie to hold him in place. “Nicky, do you know how much I’ve missed you?”
She leaned up to plant a kiss on his lips, but this time he refused to accept it. “Nessa, no. I’ve got to get to work.”
A deep frown marred her face. “Dinner tonight, then?”
“Can’t. I’m busy.”
“No, you’re not.” She scowled. “You’re trying to avoid me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Do I need to remind you that my father owns this building?”
He arched a brow. “Vanessa, dear, that almost sounds like a threat, and I don’t surrender to them.”
“I’m not issuing a threat. But whether you know this or not, I was the one who made it possible for you to get an office in my father’s building.”
“What are you talking about?”
“My father was going to refuse your lease application because of your public fall from grace. He wasn’t sure he wanted someone with a scandalous reputation renting from him, but I convinced him to give you a second chance.”
Bunching his hands into fists, Nick held in his frustration. Irritation flowed through him like acid, burning him inside. Why couldn’t people forget the past? Maybe he should take her out. He at least owed her a dinner, but nothing more. “Okay, we’ll go out, but not tonight. How about tomorrow night? I’ll pick you up at seven o’clock.”
She lifted on tiptoes to kiss him again, but he turned his face so her lips could graze his cheek. She pulled back and glared.
“I hope you’re in a better mood then,” she snapped before walking out the door and slamming it behind her. Her high heels pounded on the hardwood floor of the hall, echoing loudly.
Exhaling a relieved sigh, he closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. Leave it to Vanessa to make the dead aware of her departure. Thankfully he didn’t have close neighbors in the building.
“Excuse me if I’m intruding.”
Another feminine voice broke his concentration. He spun around and faced his unknown visitor. A woman rose from the brown leather chair in front of his desk. Confused, Nick glanced from the woman to the closed office door and back again. When had she arrived? Embarrassment poured over him as he realized she must have been in the office waiting for him when he’d arrived with Vanessa. Yet … why hadn’t he seen her until now?
Nick did a double take at the strange woman as his gaze slid over her length. She definitely wasn’t someone displayed in a style magazine like Vanessa. Instead it looked as though this woman had stepped off the set of an early 1900’s motion picture.
His visitor smoothed a hand down the side of her ankle-length cream-colored dress decorated with entirely too much lace. It contoured her body nicely, yet beyond the point of modesty – especially in this day and age. Her blonde hair was swept up beneath a flat hat decorated with three outlandish pink flowers, and white-laced gloves encased her hands. Even her proper posture spoke of an old-time society dame. Yet her smooth, young face told him she wasn’t old at all. Probably somewhere in her mid twenties.
The oddly dressed lady cleared her throat and stepped closer. “Forgive me for interrupting.”
Despite the musical lilt to her voice, the trace of British intonation brought to mind the high-and-mighty aristocrats he’d rubbed elbows with at his last firm. With quick fingers, he straightened his tie and came forward. “Uh, no, Ma’am. You didn’t interrupt anything important. I’m sorry you had to witness that ... umm, display just now.”
Her lips remained stretched in a thin line, color darkening her cheeks. “Are you Mr. Nicholas Marshal?”
He maintained a professional smile, but after what she’d caught him doing, it was hard to keep embarrassment from burning through his body. Maybe Vanessa had set out to sabotage his first day in a new town after all.
“Yes, I’m Nick.”
Solicitor? Who used that term anymore? Nick wondered. “I’m a lawyer, yes. And you are...”
She took another step toward him. “I’m Abigail Carlisle.”
He sauntered closer, but when her eyes widened and face paled, he stopped. Maybe she was claustrophobic or had a fear of getting too close to people. “Nice to meet you, Miss Carlisle. Are you seeking my services?”
Her brilliant green eyes flashed, and color crept into her face as a blush dotted her cheeks. “I’m seeking your professional ... I ... I mean, your services as a solicitor.”
He tried not to grin over what he supposed she’d misinterpreted. Curse Vanessa’s hide for making me look this bad!
Nick motioned toward the chair. “Please, then, have a seat.” Straightening his suit jacket, he walked around the desk to his chair. “I want to apologize again for that scene a few minutes ago. She was an unexpected visitor.”
“No need to explain, Mr. Marshal.” The woman arched an eyebrow. “I understand perfectly.”
As she sat, he slid his chair closer to the desk. “I’m surprised I didn’t see you,” he said. “I can’t remember passing you in the hall.”
Her expression remained solemn, and he dropped his gaze to the delicate shape of her mouth. This woman was definitely a looker – although so different than Vanessa. Beautiful women had always interested him...
Mind out of the gutter, Nick. He looked back to her eyes. They were an intoxicating green – a forest green, that he could stare into without wanting to look away.
Back to reality, Nick. Clients are off limits!
She cleared her throat. “You didn’t see me because going unnoticed is something I have become accustomed to as of late, sir.”
Unnoticed? Not dressed like that. Once more he took in Miss Carlisle’s garb. The woman would definitely stand out in any crowd.
He opened the drawer, took out his mini voice-recorder and pressed the on button. “I hope you don’t mind, but I always record my sessions.”
“That is permissible.”
“What can I do for you, Miss ... or is it Mrs. Carlisle?”
“I’m not married.”
“Then Miss Carlisle it is.” Her stiff, aloof behavior pricked his curiosity. In an attempt to draw her out, he flashed his most charming smile. She did not so much as bat an eyelash in return. It stung his ego just a bit, since women usually melted beneath that smile. Nonetheless, he wasn’t here to make her weak in the knees but to gain her trust and represent her.
She repositioned herself on her seat, pulling her shoulders back primly as she faced him. “I have searched for you for a long time. You are the only person who can help me.”
The urgency in her tone made him pause. It was in total contradiction to her outward, ice queen, appearance. Just the same, what an odd thing to say… “Really?” he asked. “Why do you think I’m the only person who can help?”
“I don’t think, Mr. Marshal. I know.”
Nick cocked a skeptical brow. “How do you know?”
A flash of hesitation, or perhaps embarrassment, skirted across her face in a subtle gesture. “My maternal grandmother—” Miss Carlisle paused to draw a short breath. “Told me one day I would find the man who could help me.”
Nick should have been amused at the absurdity of her story, but just the same he was intrigued. “And she actually said my name?”
“Well, not exactly,” Miss Carlisle replied, “but it was close enough. She gave the initials N.M., and she said you would be a solicitor.”
“Solicitor? When you use that word, you are referring to an attorney?”
She shrugged, her head bobbing to the right. “They mean the same thing, do they not?”
Disturbing tingles crawled up his back, the sort of sixth sense sensation one experienced while walking through a cemetery in the pitch dark of night or after a scary movie. Nick shook off the feeling. Was her grandmother some kind of fortune-teller? “So how do you know N. M. is me?”
Finally, a timid smile touched her mouth. “Because you are speaking to me right now.”
He shook his head in overt confusion. “I’m afraid I don’t quite understand, Miss Carlisle.”
She closed her eyes as though in pain. “I knew explaining my situation,” she spoke the words carefully, as though testing its meaning, “would be difficult, but I’m at quite a loss for how to clarify myself.”
“Please try, Miss Carlisle, because you have me confused. Why exactly do you need an attorn—er, a solicitor? And why do you believe I’m the man your grandmother spoke of?” More to the point, why are you dressed like someone aboard the Titanic? The last question would have to wait until he ascertained her reason for seeking him out.
The pattern of her breathing quickened as a touch of trepidation touched her stony expression. “Mr. Marshal, the reason I know you’re the man who can help is because you ... can...” She cleared her throat. “You can actually see me.”
Nick held in a laugh at the absurdly obvious statement. “Of course I can see you. You’re sitting right in front of me.”
“True, but your lady friend could not.”
He chuckled, and in silence cursed Vanessa again. “I don’t think my friend was paying much attention at the time.”
“When she walked into the room first, she looked my way, but she didn’t see me.”
He flipped his hand. “I do apologize for that. Vanessa can be a little self-absorbed at times.”
“No, you don’t understand. The reason she couldn’t see me is because … well…” Huge green eyes locked on his with something akin to fear shadowing their depths. It brought about a surge of protectiveness he was not entirely used to experiencing.
“I’m a ghost,” she ended in a whisper.
Nick’s jaw dropped all thoughts of male protectiveness gone. “Did you say a ... ghost?”
Call the psych ward—we have a live one.