Psychotherapist Cate Duncan is done with danger. Her whirlwind weeks of training at the MacGregor Group’s parapsychology clinic, while exhilarating, have also brought one crisis after another. So when their research colleague Skeet offers Cate and her boss-turned-boyfriend Ben some time away at his secluded hunting lodge, even though it’ll be a working vacation, they jump at the chance.
But the idyllic Mercier Lodge is teeming with secrets. An aura reader and a telepath who work with Skeet reveal his unorthodox research methods, triggering the MacGregor Group’s suspicions. Then there’s the matter of a tragic death that occurred at the lodge over a year ago, and how it connects to unsolved mysteries from Cate’s past―mysteries she may not be ready to confront.
As they delve into Mercier’s unsavory history, Ben and Cate stick close together, trusting in their love for each other to keep them safe. But when a plot separates them, Cate must rely on the MacGregor Group’s paranormal abilities, some surprise allies, and her own determination to track Ben down and crack Mercier’s mysteries before the strange place claims any more victims.
~ Bewitching BT
It’s just a meeting. Nothing to be nervous about. I wiped my damp palms on my skirt and ordered my brain to focus on something else. Like the Jag, I thought. Focus on the fact that you’re finally getting a ride in the Jag.
And not just any Jag—the British 1936 Jaguar SS100 Ben had restored. He’d found the car in a barn in Pennsylvania, sitting on blocks and covered in hay bales. Now, it looked like it had just left the showroom. My fingertips roamed across the soft leather seat as I admired each piece of shining chrome and the deep glow of the wood on the dash. The car’s transformation was a testament to Ben’s workmanship—not to mention to his patience and tenacity when it came to the things he loved.
The things—and the people, I thought, smiling down at my ring. I hadn’t exactly made things easy for Ben, but now, two gold birds were wrapped around my finger, holding a lustrous piece of Scottish agate between their wings. He’d wanted to give me a tangible reminder of how he felt, a talisman to guard against anxiety and doubt.
I stole a glance at Ben. He was completely in his element, left hand loosely holding the steering wheel, right elbow propped up on the door. Everything about him was solid and squared-off, from the angle of his jaw to the way he carried his shoulders. These qualities were augmented by his charcoal gray suit and crisp white shirt—worn sans tie, as usual. I marveled that no matter what internal battles he might be fighting, Ben always exuded a quiet confidence.
“Enjoying yourself?” he asked.
“Completely.” I closed my eyes and inhaled my new favorite scent—a mixture of fine wool, cotton, and vintage leather that clung to Ben like an olfactory tattoo. “My mom would have loved this, you know.”
His light brown eyes softened. “You think so?”
“Absolutely.” Every summer when I was a kid, she had taken me to the local car shows. Back then, we could only look, never touch. Riding along with Ben, I felt like a glamorous movie star. I struck my best Hollywood pose, and he smiled.
It was such a pleasure—not to mention a relief—to see Ben relax after the nonstop drama of the past two weeks. There had been too many life-and-death situations, too much tension. And more than anyone, Ben had earned a vacation. With that in mind, after our meeting at the Smithsonian, we planned to spend the rest of the weekend on the Eastern Shore. That evening, we had a dinner date with my mother’s cousin, Ardis, and a reservation at a nice bed-and-breakfast. Sunday’s schedule was still open. I thought we might head to the ocean; I loved the beach in the fall. Or we could take the ferry to Smith Island; wander around St. Michaels, go sailing…. As I considered the possibilities, I nearly forgot to be nervous.
Then we entered downtown D.C. I sobered as stately suburban homes gave way to modern office buildings and massive structures of chiseled granite. Before long, the Smithsonian office building came into view—ten stories of tinted glass reflecting the cloudless blue sky like a darkened mirror. It took up half a city block.
Ben caught me biting my lip. “You know there’s nothing to be nervous about, right?”
“I know,” I lied. The truth was, I couldn’t believe we were actually there. It had been less than twenty-four hours since Ben told his mother, Dr. MacGregor, about our group’s experience with the double kheir ritual. Now we were on our way to meet with her world-class paranormal research team—and not just to exchange information. We’d been asked to give a demonstration, as well.
I had dressed up for the occasion, wearing a dove gray pencil skirt and a wine-colored cashmere sweater my mother had given me one Christmas. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong at the Smithsonian—not as anything more than a tourist, anyway.
“Well, just in case,” he said, “let me remind you that you have nothing to prove here. None of us do. My mother already told her colleagues what happened with our ritual, and they’re keen to know more. But they don’t have any definite expectations; after all, half of them still think the double kheir is just a myth.” In a conspiratorial tone, he added, “Think of it this way. I know you have a lot of questions. Today, you can ask anything you like.”
“Hmm.” I bit the tip of my finger. “Anything?”
“Like whether The Da Vinci Code was based in fact? And whether they’re all members of the Illuminati?”
He chuckled as we pulled into the underground parking garage. “If you ask them those questions, I’ll make sure you get a substantial year-end bonus.”
“Deal,” I said, smiling tentatively. I was still getting used to the idea that my new boyfriend was also my new boss.
Ben was the manager of the MacGregor Group, an alternative healing clinic founded by his mother and housed in a repurposed church. I first met him when my former employer, Dr. Nelson, sent me to the MacGregor Group for treatment. My mother’s recent suicide had left me in pieces, unable to function. As close as she and I had been, somehow I hadn’t seen that my mother was in crisis. Her shocking loss had debilitated me, and I could barely leave my house, let alone return to my job as a psychotherapist. What Dr. Nelson hadn’t told me was that Dr. MacGregor was a psychiatrist who specialized in paranormal gifts, and that instead of “treating” me, she and Ben were enrolling me in ParaTrain, a paranormal skills training program. My first lesson had been to learn the definition of an empath—and that I was one.
Since then, my life had changed so dramatically that it was unrecognizable. Dr. Nelson, Dr. MacGregor, and Ben had all worked hard to convince me that because I was an empath, the key to maintaining my mental health was to leave my job as a therapist and go to work for the MacGregor Group. The idea of leaving my beloved therapy clients was nothing short of heartrending. But after due consideration and several persuasive paranormal experiences, I had agreed to take their advice. Before I could officially start my new job, though, I had to complete a three-week training program: one week of preparation, followed by a two-week internship.
My time in ParaTrain had flown by. Although I was starting my final week of the internship, I still didn’t feel anywhere near ready to take on my new role as an empath healer. Before I met the MacGregors, I hadn’t even known that empaths existed, so I was still struggling to find my bearings. And the unexpected romance between Ben and me was keeping me permanently off-balance. Add in the mind-blowing experience we’d had with the double kheir the previous week, and…. Well, I didn’t even know what had happened there, so I was fairly certain that I’d make a fool of myself trying to describe it to the Smithsonian research team.
That thought had me wiping my palms on my skirt again. “I am nervous, though, about this demonstration we’re supposed to give. The researchers may not have any definite expectations, but surely they’re hoping to see something. And unlike the rest of you, I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“You’ll be fine, Cate,” Ben reassured me as we pulled into a parking space. “Kai’s got it all figured out. He said he has something simple and easy planned, so just follow his instructions. Even if nothing interesting happens, that’s still useful information for my mother’s team. They’re scientists, remember? In an experiment, even a negative result is valuable.”
I had no reason to doubt Kai. He was a highly capable expert in ancient rituals, among other things. But when it came to the paranormal, I had a track record of unintentionally messing things up. “What if I forget our instructions and start reading people’s emotions?”
Dr. MacGregor had passed on a request from her project director that we refrain from using our paranormal gifts on the members of the research team without their specific permission. Apparently, they were much more comfortable observing others than being observed themselves.
“The fact that you’re already worrying about that means it’s highly unlikely you’ll forget,” he said. “And even if you do, who’s going to know?”
Only everyone, I thought. My poker face was nonexistent. I buried my face in my hands. “I’m just afraid that I’m going to embarrass myself. And you. And your mother. And disappoint everyone.”
Ben turned off the ignition. I felt him lean towards me and gently tuck an escaped strand of hair into my braid. “That’s not possible.”
His optimism was endearing, if ill-founded. “Oh, I assure you, it’s possible.”
About the Author & Links:
Author Anise Eden writes The Healing Edge paranormal romantic suspense series for Diversion Books. She spends most of her time tucked away in her writing nook imagining things that aren’t there. On those rare occasions when she emerges from seclusion, Anise may be spotted in coffee shops, staring at her laptop screen and silently moving her lips as she reviews bits of dialogue. Although Anise claims that she’s the one in charge, the characters in her head do sometimes make her laugh out loud at inappropriate moments.
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