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Love Me If You Must: Patricia Amble Mystery Series, Book One

I stepped over the threshold of my new home into gloom and silence. The storm door slammed behind me, shaking the four-by-four entryway with its clattering crash. I jumped, nearly donating my turkey croissant and side salad to the ever-greedy rug bugs. I clenched the paper bag containing my only calories ’til morning to my chest and took a few deep breaths to steady my heart. If I were going to survive alone in this creepy place, I’d have to change my reading material from gothic nightmare à la the Brontë sisters, to something a little less terrifying.

“Hello,” came a deep voice from behind me.

I whirled and screamed at the sight of a man’s face pressed close to the glass of the storm door. My supper went flying, landing in a heap against the baseboard.

I flung a hand to my chest. Good grief, I had nearly pelted my first visitor with chunks of lettuce. After a moment, the pounding of my heart calmed to a dull thud in my ears. For lack of words, I bent down to retrieve the salad greens and salvage what remained of my sandwich.

“Sorry. Could I help?” the man asked.

A British accent. How quaint.

I blew the bangs out of my eyes and looked up through the murky glass. If I lived closer to Detroit, there was no way I’d let a stranger in the door. But this was Rawlings. Even through the buildup of water spots and dirt, I could see he looked nice enough. Handsome, too, with a proud, straight nose and squarish jaw. Judging by his clothes, he was only here to drop off an end-of-the-world tract, anyway.

Besides, I’d learned a thing or two about self-defense in my thirty-two years. He’d never get past the inner door of the vestibule without a fight.

“Sure. Come on in.” I resumed my task.

The storm door squeaked and his oxfords came into view, bringing with them the smell of new leather. His long-fingered hands fumbled along with mine at the tiny pieces of carrot and cucumber embedded in the inch-high shag.

He grabbed for the cherry tomato at the same time I did. Our skin touched, and I felt my face flush as red as the fruit caught between us. I heard a high-pitched teen-aged titter.

Was that me? I gasped and stood up, banging my forehead against his in my rush to put a safe distance between us—an impossible task in the tiny entry.

“I am so sorry.” Somehow, my hand ended up in his light brown hair, rubbing his scalp like he was a three-year-old with a boo-boo.

Oh, my. I jerked back and stuck my fingers in my own protein-deprived disaster.

Get a grip, Tish. Tish was the name my mother had called me. I’d always preferred it to the usual variations of my name.

“Do you always greet the neighbors with a pat on the head?” the stranger asked, rising. His blue eyes smiled at me, and suddenly I felt less like a complete idiot.

“Neighbor?” The gloom of my two-year sentence in Rawlings lifted.

“David Ramsey. Two doors over in the Greek Revival.”

His house was my favorite in Rawlings. The thing had been restored to its former grandeur. It stuck out in the neighborhood like a diamond among lumps of coal. From my perspective as an investor, the renovation had gone over and beyond what Mr. Ramsey would ever recover upon sale. The rest of the homes in the area just didn’t support the extravagance of the project. But once my Victorian jumped on the restoration bandwagon, every home on the three-block historic stretch would gain value.
I weighed the idea of asking David Ramsey in beyond the vestibule. It would be neighborly of me, and it couldn’t hurt to get off to a good start. The guy didn’t have fangs, after all.

“Would you like to come in a minute?” The words rushed out before I could stop them.

He gave a nod. “I haven’t been inside this house for some time. I’m curious to know what you have planned for the place.”

That accent again. I refused to swoon.

I opened the inner door and led him through the parlor, past the tiger-oak fireplace. I couldn’t wait to take a bottle of wood restorer to its carved pillars. The front stairs twirling off to one side would get the same treatment.

I trekked through the dining room, doing my best to be hospitable. “I’d offer you something to eat, but I’m afraid you’d remember where it’s been. And the only thing to drink is water from the faucet. Are you up for a little arsenic poisoning?”

I set the paper bag on the kitchen counter and turned to face my guest.

“You’re thinking of the township wells,” he said, leaning against the refrigerator as if he belonged there. “The village water tests pretty good, actually.”

“I’m not taking any chances. I think I’ll stick to my Evian.”

I pulled a bottle out of the bag and twisted off the cap. I’d already ordered the oversize jugs of water and accompanying dispenser that would help cut down on throwaways. I didn’t splurge too many places, but fresh water was nonnegotiable.

I offered my guest the first sip.

“No, no. Really. I just came over to introduce myself.”

His accent had me captivated. As did his khaki slacks and burgundy sweater. I wondered if the cashmere was as soft as it looked. My palm itched, but I controlled the urge to find out.

I sighed. Here was the kind of distinguished guy I’d pegged for myself lo those many years ago when life had been ahead of me instead of down the drain. The kind of guy I’d hoped to meet in college and one day marry.

“Don’t tell me,” I ventured, “you’re an engineer.”

He smiled and scratched the back of his head, seemingly shy. “Close. Computers, actually.”

I set my water on the counter and reached for his hand. “Tish Amble.”

“Nice to meet you.” He glanced around. “Will your moving van be arriving soon?”

“Moving van? No. I always rent my furniture. Never made sense to buy a set and then not have it match the next house.”

At his look of puzzlement, I explained. “Houses are my living. I fix them up and sell them. There’s usually enough money left after I pay off the contractors to put a little food on the table, then do the whole thing over again.”

His eyes roved the kitchen. I followed his gaze to the bank of floor-to-ceiling cupboards against one wall. The built-ins were one of my favorite features, though they made the room too small for today’s families.

“So, what are your plans?” David asked, turning to look at me.

I forced myself not to stare at the fullness of those British lips. “Well, I’d like to put a rec room in the basement, I’m thinking about bumping this wall out to make more space in the kitchen, I want to link the library and drawing room to make a master bedroom suite, and upstairs there’s just a whole lot of ugly that needs a facelift.”

He broke into a charming grin. “Well, watch you don’t disturb the ghosts.”

Ghosts? Was he serious?

I’d hoped to get a good night’s sleep after my grueling day, and probably would have before he mentioned ghosts.

I chewed my lip. I couldn’t blame any loss of sleep on David. I’d always known it was only a matter of time before the ghouls that lay in wait came to do their haunting.

Excerpted from LOVE ME IF YOU MUST © Copyright 2011 by Nicole Young. Reprinted with permission by Revell Books. All rights reserved.

Love Me If You Must: Patricia Amble Mystery Series, Book One
by by Nicole Young

  • Genres: Christian
  • paperback: 379 pages
  • Publisher: Revell
  • ISBN-10: 0800731573
  • ISBN-13: 9780800731571