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“So you think the ghost wrote it then erased it?” He held out a canned drink for her.
“I … I don’t know.” She accepted the cold soda. It wasn’t diet, but she took it anyway. The icy cold against her palm reminded her of what it felt like when a spirit came for a visit—when they felt too close. She popped the top open. The fizzy sound triggered her need to be with Kylie and Miranda at one of their round-table meetings—to have them help her make sense of this, because it certainly wasn’t making sense to her right now.
Then again, why should it? Nothing made sense. Ghosts, visions, being bonded—feeling emotionally tied to a practical stranger. It all sounded insane. And that became her arguing point.
“I know it doesn’t sound logical, but does any of this shit sound logical to you? We’re dealing with some dead woman, and having visions where we’re different people. Tell me that makes any more sense than this, and I’ll accept I’m imagining things and find some shrink’s sofa to pass out on.”
“I didn’t say you were imagining it, I just think it sounds … messed up.”
“All of this is a hot mess!”
“Yeah, it is.” He opened his drink.
They both took a few carbonated sips, then she told him about the box vibrating in the empty casket and how the lid had fallen open and the picture had fluttered out.
Frowning, he stared at the picture as if half afraid. “Okay, so let’s say that is Natasha. How is knowing her last name really going to help us find them?” He dropped back into the chair.
“I don’t know. But it must be important. The ghost wanted me to see this.”
He leaned in. His solid forearm pressed against hers. The zing of pleasure sent her heart racing and she scooted over.
He cut his eyes up as if he thought she was silly. But it didn’t seem silly to her. No zings were allowed.
She reached for the second Natasha file again. She found the mom’s name and let out a frustrated puff of air.
“And?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Kathy … not Asian. I mean, the mother could have changed her name, but…”
“But it means we still don’t know which Natasha is our Natasha.”
The room went silent. Baxter rubbed against his owner’s leg seeking affection. Chase dropped his hand to pet the animal, but kept his focus on her. “And you really feel it’s important to get this information?”
She considered his question. “Yeah, I do.”
“Okay, then let’s go find out Natasha’s last name.” He stood up.
She rose as well, ready and willing to get this show on the road. “What are we going to do? Go see both sets of parents and see if any of them are Asian?”
“No, we do it the easy way.”
“Easy way?”
“We go talk to your aunt, Chan’s mom.”
She dropped back down in her chair. “Let’s don’t and say we did.”
“We don’t tell her the truth. Make up some story about how you ran across the photo and see what she knows.”
“No,” Della said again. “Let’s go see if we can find Natasha’s parents.” She pulled the files over and checked. Both girls had lived outside of Houston, not that their families couldn’t have moved since their daughters went missing. Who knew how long these girls had been enslaved?
When she looked up, Chase studied her. “Why are you afraid to see your aunt?”
“I’m not.” Her phone gave off a short buzz, telling her she had a text, giving her the perfect reason not to answer.
Not to think about it.
She dug her cell out of her pocket.
Where are u? Don’t pull this shit! Answer me. Burnett.
Suddenly, coming here behind the camp leader’s back didn’t seem like the best idea. Pissing Burnett off wasn’t going to get her anywhere except smack-dab in the middle of an ass-chewing.
She and Chase needed to get this case approved by the FRU and the Vampire Council. While she liked to think they could do this alone, she wasn’t stupid.
She looked up. “It’s Burnett again.” She exhaled. “We should go. We’ll tell him we want to visit the parents of both the Natashas.”
“Maybe I should just go by myself and get the answers now,” he said. “You go back to Shadow Falls.”
Was he dreading the ass-chewing he had coming for going to the graveyard? Probably. She didn’t blame him. Burnett’s ass-chewings weren’t a walk in the park. Though she still thought it was funny that Chase, who didn’t seem to fear much of anything, was afraid of the camp leader. Then again, she’d come here without letting Burnett know. Chase wasn’t the only one in trouble.
And her chewing would be worse. When you cared about someone, it was always worse.
“No,” Della said. “The ghost gave the picture to me. I think I should be there. Besides…” She studied the discomfort in his expression. “… you’re going to have to face him sooner or later.”
“Yeah, but I’ve always been a ‘later’ person.”
“So, a coward, huh?” she asked, lifting one brow to add some sass to her comment.
He glared at her.
“You’ve got to learn to work with Burnett if we’re going to team up on this case.” And they were going to team up, because some dad-blasted higher power had apparently ordained it.