Dying sucks hairy monkey balls, even when you're not the stiff.
Denton Mills has a secret: he can see dead people. Or rather, how they died. It's quite a drag in a city like Chicago, teeming with the echoes of the no-longer living. Rather than whine about it, Denton has learned to live with his troublesome talent. His adaptability comes in handy when he meets his enigmatic new neighbor.
Bran Maurell catches Denton's eye right away, but unfortunately Mr. Tall, Dark, and Mysterious is as standoffish as he is alluring. However, after an unexpected introduction from Bran's cat brings the two men together, Denton discovers they have a mutual interest in the spirit world. Herbalist by day, Bran moonlights as a witch, performing house cleansings for a fee.
From Bran, Denton learns that his knack for interacting with the dead qualifies him as a necromancer. It makes good business sense for them to team up and rid Chicago of its pesky spirits one grateful client at a time. Amongst ghostly adventures the attraction between the men is impossible to ignore. They seem like perfect partners—unless Bran's not-so-little secret comes between them.
Warning: men loving men, ghosts with attitudes, and a portly feline with hidden talents.
Note: Denton also plays a small but important role in Spirit Sanguine.
The man opening the door radiated a presence more intense than a triple-chocolate fudge cake. Seeing him up close, Denton decided B. Maurell couldn’t be called traditionally handsome—all his features were too strongly drawn for it—yet it was hard not to be engrossed by his face. Sharp cheekbones and a prominent nose contrasted with sensuously full lips. The heavy brows and shoulder-length black hair lent him a somber air, but his eyes made the biggest impression on Denton. They were as dark as the deepest trenches of the ocean where the sun doesn’t penetrate and strange creatures dwell. They also seemed to accuse Denton of unspeakable crimes. Catnapping, to begin with.
Eager to prove his innocence, Denton held Murry in front of him. “I have your cat. He must have jumped from your balcony to my fire escape. I found him sitting on my feet when I woke up.”
Murry, a furry peace offering, hung between them for a beat before his owner reached out and took him. Those eyes focused on the cat for a moment, then back on Denton. “You fed him.”
For absolutely no reason, a shiver ran through Denton, but he heroically ignored it. “It seemed a polite thing to do, and it’s well before midnight. I didn’t let him get wet.”
B. Maurell either hadn’t seen Gremlins or had no sense of humor. “He’s on a diet.” The warm baritone of his voice undermined the gruffness of the words.
“What kind? If it’s Atkins, all’s fine—I only gave him tuna, no carbs.” Denton meant it as a joke and grinned like an idiot to bring the point home, but all he received in return was stony silence. Tough crowd. It was the point to turn around and leave, but he couldn’t—the other man’s eyes pulled him in with the force of magnets. He had to draw out the encounter any way he could. “I’m Denton. Denton Mills. Just moved in a few days ago. Renting the place from Miranda—she had to leave town in a hurry. Nothing to do with the mob, I’ve been assured. She said nice things about you, but not your name.”
Another tick of measured silence hovered between them; then the sensuous lips parted. “Bran. Bran Maurell.”
Such an unexpectedly normal name. Bran Maurell was a man of puzzling contradictions, and Denton loved puzzles. He wanted to know more. Murry, on the other hand, had clearly become bored with the whole affair. He twisted, and a second later, he was on the floor, trotting into the apartment, tail held high.
“Bye, Murry!” Denton shouted after him.
For the first time since the door had opened, the hint of an actual emotion, possibly surprise, registered on Bran’s face. “What did you call him?”
“Murry. Not like Bill Murray. Without the ‘A.’ I asked him his name, and he made kind of a murr sound, so I figured I’d call him Murry. Cat is too impersonal, don’t you think?”
The inner corners of Bran’s eyebrows twitched up. “His name is Murmur, but if he didn’t object to being called Murry, it’s fine.”
“He would’ve let you know.” The words were as solemn as the man uttering them.
Bran stepped forward. “Thank you, Denton, for bringing Murmur home.” He held out a hand, and Denton automatically met it with his own.
Bran Maurell had a confident grip. In Denton’s experience, hands were usually just hands, but not in this case. The fleshy pads of Bran’s palms awakened in Denton a sudden desire to feel them on other parts of his body. Sadly, Bran gave one last squeeze and let go. As he pulled back, a tendril of strange scent brushed against Denton’s face—smoke and something fragrant but not flowery. The door closed with a click.
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