If anyone knew how to do research, it was her sister Colleen. The woman thrived off of questions and answers and read everything she could get her hands on.
So it was only fitting that Sam go to her sister for help. Only a year and a half younger than Sam, Colleen often acted the elder of the two.
Stepping through the doors to the grand and very elegant Book Nook bookstore, Sam thought, as she always did, just how suited for this place her sister was. Though Sam still didn’t understand why Colleen had chosen to work at this particular bookstore when she could have just as easily worked for their grandfather at one of his many bookstores like their brother Andrew did.
Her choice, Sam thought with a shrug.
As always, when Sam entered the place, she felt battered by the spirits of the dead. Today was no different. Each time she stepped through the doors she was taking a risk.
“They won’t let me in the adult section.”
Letting out a huge breath, Sam tuned to the ghostly apparition to her left. She hadn’t seen him before. “Really,” she replied casually and kept walking.
“It’s not fair.”
“Tell someone who cares.” She didn’t gasp when he jumped in front of her, but instead shot him an indignant look. “Walking here!”
“Make them let me in,” he persisted.
“In where?” Oh great Sam, encourage the entity.
“The adult section.”
Scanning the short, dark haired pudgy boy, maybe in his early teens, Sam laughed. His aura was screaming, pervert. “Honey, you haven’t even reached puberty yet.”
The ghostly image before her shimmered with rage. “I will have you know, miss smart-ass, that I am twenty-five years old. Just because I am vertically impaired does not mean I am a child.”
“Vertically impaired?” She burst into laughter, then bit it off when the ghost glared at her. “Who won’t let you in?”
“The other spirits. They said I was making them all look bad.”
Go figure, Sam thought as she began to walk away. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“You had better.”
She stopped now, and stood directly in front of him. “What does a ghost need in the adult section anyway?” Sam noticed her sister moving her way, and she didn’t look pleased.
“We have urges too you know.” He smoothed out his hair, trying to look sophisticated.
“For real? Tell me…” She leaned in a little closer. “Can you, like, do another dead person?” She had no idea how these things worked, had never asked anyone before now. That sort of thing wasn’t a topic she cared to bring up with her father.
“Oh honey…” He looked her up and down, while his eyes turned dreamy and his voice dropped into a soft, seductive tone. “Now why would I waste my time on flighty apparitions when there are so many luscious humans for the taking? Ever see the Entity?”
Sam felt nauseous. “Oh, Jesus, that’s sick.”
“Sam, I wish you wouldn’t do that.” Obviously embarrassed, Colleen took hold of her sister’s arm and rushed her off to a less crowded area.
“You will not believe who I just talked with, Colleen. You have a pervert roaming these fair halls.” Sam laughed boldly. “And he’s a frigin’ midget to boot.”
“Vertically impaired.” he corrected, startling Sam. She hadn’t realized he’d followed her.
“Sorry, vertically impaired.” Sam laughed again, catching the mortified look on her sister’s delicate face.
“Jeepers, Sam, people are looking at you.” Grabbing her sister’s arm, Colleen dragged her to one of the main floor offices. “Why do you have to come here and embarrass me like this?”
“Because it’s fun.” But Sam saw her sister meant it. “Oh, Colleen, relax. Just tell people your sister has mental problems.”
Sam narrowed her eyes. She wasn't sure if Colleen was joking or not. “I need your help.”
“Oh how long have I waited for you to say that. I know this really great shrink —”
“Why aren’t I surprised? Let me guess, he’s just your doctor and nothing more?”
Colleen snarled. “He is a she and yes, I do see her from time to time. Who wouldn’t, given the fact that my sister drives me nuts? If it isn’t mental help you need, then what?”
Sam frowned at her sister. She had no idea Colleen was seeing a therapist. For what? Her life wasn't that bad. “I need help researching a missing little girl.”
Colleen’s face simply lit up with the word. “Research, I can do that.” Grabbing a pen and paper, Colleen paused. “Shoot.”
“You really do need a life, sis. Okay, I don’t have much to go on, I’m afraid. She’s maybe six, seven, at best. Her hair is long, maybe mid waist, blonde and a little wavy. Her face is round, a little chubby, and her eyes are blue.” Sam thought it best to leave out the gory details. Her sister wasn't good with blood and gore. “Don’t go back too far. Maybe a year. I don’t think it’s been very long.” She just had a feeling it was a recent case.
“Okay. Describe what she’s wearing.”
Sam didn’t have to think hard, it was planted in her memory like steel. “She’s wearing a cute red fuzzy shirt, short cap sleeves, and there’s a fuzzy white cat on the front. Blue jeans with pockets on the side and gems along the seams. She’s wearing running shoes, her laces are untied. She has a clip in her hair, the shape of a butterfly, on the left side.” Sam touched the side of her hair, thinking of the little girl and what her life might have been like if she’d been given a chance to live.
Colleen glanced up, giving Sam a looked filled with sorrow. “She really got to you, huh? Anything else?”
Sam shook her head, trying to disguise her emotions. Dealing with children after death was always tough. Especially when the death was so violent. “That’s all.”
“Then I’ll get right on it.” Stepping out of the office, Colleen jumped. “Oh, Mr. Montgomery, I didn’t hear you there. I was just…we were…sorry.”
“That’s all right, Colleen, no need to apologize.”
Sam shifted around her sister to see who it was that was speaking. He had such a deep almost seductive voice and when she finally managed to see who it was, she nearly swallowed her tongue. Before her stood a tall dark-haired god of a man dressed in a tailored two-piece navy blue suit. But it wasn’t the smart way he dressed or held himself, or even the dark black hair cut short and styled back from a ruggedly handsome face that had her pausing, breath lost. It was much more.
Here was a man with a face that could match a masterpiece chiseled in art; a face Sam could imagine carving into stone. He had a strong chin, sharp cheekbones, and a fine aristocratic nose. His lips were full, thick, and bowed up at the corners with a smile that produced heart-stopping dimples. When she looked up to meet his eyes, so blue they reminded her of a cool calm ocean, she felt a jolt ricochet throughout her body.
“I didn’t want to disturb your work,” he said as his eyes stayed locked on hers.
“Oh, no, this isn’t work. This is my sister, Sam—Samantha,” she corrected, stuttering. “She was just leaving.” Colleen took Sam by the arm and tugged hard. “Weren’t you?”
Sam said nothing, but continued to stare.
His smile widened, sinking those dimples deeper into his cheeks. “Pleased to meet you, Samantha.”
Swallowing hard, Sam found her voice. “Pleasure is all mine, Mr. Montgomery.”
“Please, call me Ethan.” He took Sam’s hand, and gave it a slow shake.
“You’d better get going, Sam.” Hauling her from the office, Colleen spoke beneath her breath. “Put your eyes back in your sockets. He’s a married man for heaven’s sake.”
“Why is it all the good looking ones are always taken?” She could still smell his cologne. A soft citrusy, yet spicy scent.
“Because they’re good looking. Now get out of here before you get me fired.”
“But my research.” Sam glanced back only to see Ethan walking away. The man was a god and she would love to sculpt him in clay.
“I’ll take care of it.” Colleen continued to push Sam along. “Now get out of here before you get me in trouble.”
“They still won’t let me in.”
Sam let out a breath and looked over at the ghost. “And this is my problem, why?”
Colleen paused, her brow curled in confusion. “Hey, I’m doing you a favor. You could try to be nice to me.”
Sam shook her head. “I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to…what is your name anyway?”
Sam frowned. “Ed? It doesn’t suit you. Whatever. Maybe the reason they won’t let you into the adult section, Ed, is because you are a perverted man, and if you start reading porn you’ll get all hot and bothered then try to relieve yourself on some innocent victim.”
“Good God, Sam! Keep your voice down,” Colleen chastised while glancing about the room.
He slithered up real close to Sam and she shivered as his cold entity cascaded over her. “You don’t look innocent.”
“Oh, ick.” Sam bolted away, shaking him from her skin. “Touch me again, pervert, and I’ll make sure you cross over into some ungodly place where sex is reason enough to mutilate a person.”
“Jeepers, Sam, people are looking at us.” Colleen covered her face with her hands.
“So, they’ll just assume I’m talking to you.”
Colleen’s head came up, eyes wide as she gasped.
“Go get your jollies off in the magazine section and keep your hands, and every other body part, away from humans,” she ordered Ed quite sternly.
“Party pooper,” he sulked.
“I hate when you do this.” Colleen shook her head. “I never know if you’re talking to me or to some ghostly freak.”
“Unless you’re a perverted entity, I’m not talking about you.”
“Go away, Sam. I need a break from you.”
“Fine, call me if you find out anything.”
“Yes, great, I’ll call. Now go, people are watching you.”
Sam looked around. “No one’s watching me.” But to satisfy her sister, Sam left the store.