an excerpt

Chapter One

"You look like hell," Wes announced as Alex picked at the napkin sitting beside his coffee mug.

"I haven't had a hell of a lot of sleep lately," Alex murmured, taking another sip of his coffee. He glanced at the mirrored tile wall over Wes's head as he said it and ran a hand through his black hair. It was too long and had started to curl on the collar of his pale green shirt. He noticed that his cheekbones were a little more pronounced than normal and there were smudges under his dark blue eyes.

"Is it Terrance?"

Alex looked at Wes and nodded silently. He felt guilty talking about this to him, even though Wes had been his best friend since grade school.

"I thought Terrance had those voices under control."

"He does, or rather he did, but..." Alex paused. "This time, it's different."

"Different, how?" Wes narrowed his eyes.

"I'm not really sure. It started about a week ago but...Terrance told me it's not like the regulars."

"Regulars." Wes shook his head. "Imagine having regular dead people dropping by to chat." He picked up his cup.

Alex rubbed at the stubble on his jaw. He hadn't bothered to shave today. He'd been too tired when he got out of bed. "He won't tell me much about this one."

"Alex, you know I love Terrance. Hell." Wes reached over and touched his hand. "I wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for Terrance." A shadow crossed his face as he sat back.

Alex observed the silence between them. It had been close to a year since Wes had been abducted by a serial killer. He'd almost died. It had marked him, changed him even. In some ways, Wes had come to appreciate life more, even become a better friend.

Terrance had found Wes by connecting his mind with the killer. He'd saved Wes's life as well as his. How could you ever repay someone for that? A ghost named Billy had brought Terrance into his life a little over a year ago. He'd be eternally grateful for that.

"I love him," Alex confessed. "I've never loved any man like this before, and all this talking to dead people scares the hell out of me. But I can't say too much, can't tell him how afraid I am."


"Because," he said with a sigh, "Terrance is always looking for an excuse to drive me away. He wants to prove himself right, prove I can't handle living with him."

"Can you?" Wes asked. "Handle it?"

Alex looked up at Wes sharply. "Of course. I mean..." He closed his eyes. "It's not easy sometimes. I just wish he'd confide in me instead of withdrawing from me. Last night, he never came to bed, just sat up on the sofa all night."

"Didn't the other ones keep him up at night too?"

Alex shook his head. "Not like this one and he won't talk about it. He says it's all jumbled in his head. He's suffering, Wes, and I can't stand to see him like this. I can handle the fact that Terrance talks to the dead, or rather, they talk to him. What I can't handle," Alex felt himself choking up, "is seeing his pain and not being able to do anything about it."

"Maybe some medication..."

"No, I don't want him taking those psychotic drugs again. They're no good for him. They make him groggy and well...it wreaks havoc on our sex life, which is absolutely mind-blowingly incredible." He managed to smile.

Wes shook his head again. "TMI."

"Oh you with your TMI and FYI. Talk like normal people, will ya?" Alex laughed.

"Too much info," he emphasized.

"How many times have I had to listen to your sexual adventures with some overly endowed muscle twink?"

Wes sighed. "Okay, granted."

"It's just that Terrance has a lot of talent, in more ways than one." Alex winked.

"Right," Wes scoffed.

"Never mind that."

"So, I can send a few of my guys to you for lessons."

"A few? What are you now, a pimp? I'm not giving lessons to your lovers, Wes."

They were laughing. It felt good to laugh.

Alex sobered, thinking aloud. "Terrance is not psychotic."

"I know that," Wes confirmed.

"Every once in a while, he says that...he says maybe it's true. He questions his own sanity."

"Wouldn't you, if you saw dead people?"

Alex nodded. "Probably."

"And there's nothing he can take to cut him off from this...entity who is talking to him now?"

"He doesn't really want to be cut off. He says he's cursed, but deep down, I think he knows he was given this...gift for a reason. I think what happened last year really made him think about that a lot. You know, saving both our lives, connecting with that maniac when the police couldn't. Christ, Wes, he was able to get inside the mind of a killer and save people."

"I know, but heroes don't make ideal partners. What do you think?"

"Sometimes, I wish he was like every other man, but then he wouldn't be who he is."

"But can you live like this forever?"

Alex ponderedthat for a moment. He loved Terrance more than the world. The very thought of his smile turned him on, the way he woke up in the morning with his ashy-blond hair all tousled, and his cock...God, his cock had become Alex's obsession. "Everything was going so well for a while. After the media stopped coming round, and those bloody networks ceased to hound him for interviews, he began writing a book about his experiences. My boss was very interested in publishing it. Now, he just sits around and stares at the wall. He doesn't sleep. He hardly eats. He hasn't made love to me in days."

"This will pass eventually and everything will go back to normal," Wes replied.

Normal? Is that possible with Terrance? I doubt it.

"Look, I need another coffee. Want one?"

"No," Alex said, looking at his watch. "I got to go. Thanks for meeting me so early in the morning and listening to me whine."

"Anytime," Wes said.

Alex stood. "Aren't you going into work today?" Wes was now working for a huge industrial insurance company.

"I took a day off," he said. "I had a few stored up. If I don't take them, I lose 'em. I'm going to spend the day with Wayne." He raised his eyebrows up and down.

Wayne was Wes's newest boy toy. "Lucky you." Alex felt for his keys in his pocket.

Wes came closer and clutched his arm. "It will be all right. They say love conquers all."

Alex thought about Wes's comment as he walked up the street toward Ludwig Publishing House. Love conquers all. There was no question that he loved Terrance. He was a different man since he'd met him.

Before Terrance, Alex didn't think much about the possibility of ghosts, didn't believe in that stuff. Hell, he didn't even like movies about ghosts. His sister, June, always claimed she'd seen their older brother's spirit after he was killed in a freak accident, but Alex had never believed it...until Terrance.

Even now, he wasn't sure about any of this stuff. He had to take it entirely on faith. He had no ability to see what Terrance saw, and it kind of creeped him out. He'd known nothing about spirits or about what Terrance referred to as the "severing" before he was told that a ghost had latched onto him. Billy had been severed, cut off from his young life by a vicious serial killer, the same maniac that almost killed Wes and him. Unable to let go of his life, he'd attached himself to Alex, because Alex had filled the job Billy's death had left vacant. Billy was the ghost who'd brought Terrance to him, and that's why Alex often went to visit his grave. Billy had finally been allowed to move on from limbo after his killer had been caught. Alex wondered where Billy was now. Where did the dead go? It was one of life's mysteries.

Alex couldn't help but resent whatever entity it was who was now taking Terrance away from him. He longed for peace. He wanted Terrance to be happy. He wanted Terrance, period.

He felt like Terrance was far away, and he was jealous of this voice, whoever or whatever it was.

Was this entity like Billy? Had it too been severed from life, beseeching Terrance to find its killer so it could go on to its final resting place...or was this something different?

Alex entered the building and waited for the elevator with all the other tired office workers. He glanced around. He knew they weren't alone, although he couldn't see or feel them like Terrance. They walked among them, lost, sad, stuck in limbo, able to see and feel yet unable to be seen or felt by anyone. Severed, their lives ripped away in some senseless act of violence, unaccounted for and unpunished. It seemed unfair that they would linger here, victimized twice, and forced to wait until their killer was brought to justice. Then there were others, Terrance had said, ghosts that lingered for some reason or another.

The elevator dinged, and Alex shuffled on with everyone else. "Do you really think it can last...this peace?" Terrance's words came rushing back to him suddenly. They'd been lying together in bed not so long ago, their breathing in sync, coming down again after some mind- blowing sex, and Terrance had asked him that.

Alex had been hurt, angry that Terrance dared to ruin the moment of extreme bliss. "Why can't you just--"

"Because it's coming," he said. "I feel it."

Those damn voices had been silent for months.

Even Billy's two friends, Sarah and Dale, hadn't come ‘round, perhaps out of compassion. Now this, something that wouldn't go away, something worse had intruded on them.

As Alex stepped off the elevator, his new boss, Odessa Penn, glanced up from where she stood beside the receptionist's desk, pointing out something on a calendar. "Alex!"

Six months ago, his former boss, Alice Thompson, had been replaced by Odessa Penn, a willowy Jamaican woman in her mid-thirties. Odessa's sudden takeover of the company had created a great upheaval and many of the employees had openly displayed a lack of faith in her abilities. Alex had become Odessa's only ally. He'd liked her from the start, and they'd become fast friends.

Odessa had greatly appreciated Alex's support. She'd told him how she had been brought to the United States as a young bride by a self-made millionaire who had investments in a variety of companies. Her parents had exchanged her for a large sum of money when Odessa was only sixteen. Odessa's husband had been extremely possessive of her. The only time she had ever been seen was when he entertained the rich and famous. He'd wanted to present not only an exotic beauty but also a cultured and educated trophy wife. Odessa was encouraged to obtain several degrees. Some were earned by correspondence within the confines of her husband's sixteen-room mansion, while suffering severe emotional and sometimes physical abuse. Finally, after obtaining a graduate degree in business and another in law, Odessa had sued her husband for divorce. In exchange for forfeiting a spousal allowance and agreeing not to prosecute him for unlawful confinement, she'd asked for only one thing--the publishing company. She knew he'd gladly give it to her, thinking he got off easy. During the course of her marriage, Odessa had studied all the investments her husband owned. Publishing fascinated her, and she'd read everything she could find on the ins and outs of the industry.

Ensuring that Alice Thompson got a cushy job elsewhere, Odessa had taken over the company. Since she'd been president, it had flourished under her direction. All the naysayers had come around, especially when presented with lucrative bonuses that year.

"Are you all right?" Odessa asked him as they walked together down the hallway. She still had that beautiful Jamaican accent. It sounded like music when she talked.

"Fine, just a little tired."

Alex had confided in Odessa about Terrance a few months back, and amazingly, she'd just nodded, telling him she'd heard of people with that gift. Gift. She'd called it a gift.

"And how is that handsome man of yours?"

"He's..." He paused. "Having some problems."

"I'm sorry, Alex. You want me to go and see him?"

Terrance loved Odessa. She seemed to have a calming effect on him, and she truly believed in the spirit world.

"That would be great. I'll let you know."

"Do you need a few days?"

"Thanks, no. I'll be okay."

"I hope Terrance finishes the book about his experiences last year. I know it will sell."

"I hope so too," Alex said.

"He's had other offers, hasn't he, to publish?"

"Yes, but he'll give it to you, don't worry, and it's not that."

"It's back, isn't it?" She looked at him with her big, brown eyes.

Alex nodded. "Yes."

"With someone like Terrance, it's bound to come back. I'm sorry, sweetheart." She rubbed his shoulder.

"Thanks, Odessa."

"Is it bad?"

"I think so. He says it's different this time."

She shook her head. "Terrance is a strong man. It will be all right. Sweetheart, I hate to tell you, but there is an editors' meeting at eleven," she said.

"I'll be there."

"Keep the faith," she said over her shoulder and disappeared.

Alex sighed. He looked at the pile of work on his desk, went into his office, and closed the door.