midnight, and the fog is quite thick. No one will notice you once we are outside.”

“Midnight?” She reached down to the small chatelaine watch pinned to the waist of her gown. When she saw that he was right about the time, she shuddered. “I arrived at eight, as instructed. Dear heaven, I have lost four hours.”

“I apologize for the delay in my own arrival. I did not get word that you were missing until an hour ago.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Later. Put your shoes on. We have an unpleasant walk ahead of us before we are free of this place.”

She did not argue. She lifted her skirts and petticoats and shoved one stocking-clad foot into a boot. She did not bother with the laces.

Owen contemplated the body on the bed while he waited. “You’re sure you are unhurt?”

She blinked, trying to comprehend the lethal edge on his words.

“He did not rape me, if that is what you are wondering,” she said crisply. “You will have noticed that he is still fully clothed.”

“Yes, of course,” Owen said. He turned back to her, his odd eyes even colder than usual. “Sorry. It is just that for the past few hours I have been consumed with the sensation that something was wrong. When I came through the door a moment ago, I discovered that I was right.”

“You were too late to save his lordship, do you mean, sir?”

“No, Miss Dean, too late to save you. Fortunately, you were able to save yourself.”

She got her other foot into the second boot. “I certainly do not mourn Hollister. I believe he was a monster. But I cannot take the credit for his current condition.”

“Yes, I can see that now,” Owen said with a chilling calmness.

“Do not pretend to humor me, sir.” She leaned down to scoop up her heavy cloak. “I want to make it quite clear that I did not murder his lordship.”

“Frankly, it does not matter to me. Hollister’s death is a benefit to the world.”

“I could not agree with you more, however—” The sound of sighing hinges stopped her.

“The door,” she said. “It’s closing.”

“So it is.”

They both rushed for the door. Owen reached it first, but the mirrored panel swung back into place just before he could get his booted foot into the opening. Virginia heard an ominous click.

“It’s locked,” she said.

“It’s all of a piece,” Owen said. “This entire affair has been a source of great annoyance to me from the start.”

“My condolences,” she murmured.

Ignoring the sarcasm, he went back to the bed and picked up the bloody knife. He crossed the room again and smashed the heavy hilt of the weapon against the door panel. There was a sharp, splintering crack. A large fissure appeared in the mirror. He struck again. This time several jagged shards fell to the floor, revealing a portion of a wooden door.

She studied the new lock that had been installed in the ancient door. “I don’t suppose you’re any good at picking locks, Mr. Sweetwater?”

“How do you think I got in here tonight?”

He took a thin length of metal out of the pocket of his coat, crouched and went to work. He got the door open in seconds.

“You amaze me, sir,” Virginia said. “Since when do gentlemen learn the fine art of lock-picking?”

“The skill comes in quite handy in the course of my investigations.”

“You mean in the course of your unfortunate campaign to destroy the careers of hardworking people such as myself who are guilty of nothing more than trying to make a living.”

“I believe you refer to my efforts to expose those who earn their livings by deceiving the gullible. Yes, Miss Dean, that is precisely the sort of research that has intrigued me of late.”

“Those of us who are practitioners of the paranormal can only hope that you will find a new hobby soon, before you destroy our business entirely,” she said.

“Come now, Miss Dean. Are you not at least somewhat relieved to see me tonight? If I hadn’t arrived when I did, you would still be trapped in this room with the body.”

“Your point is well taken,” she admitted.

“You can thank me later.”

“I’ll try to remember to do that.”

He tossed the knife aside, wrapped his gloved hand around her wrist and drew her toward the door. She did not trust Owen Sweetwater. She could not afford to trust him. In the past few weeks it had become clear that he was engaged in a personal quest to expose practitioners of the paranormal as charlatans.

He was not the first so-called investigator to attempt to label all practitioners as frauds. But she had privately begun to wonder if, in his zeal, Sweetwater had decided to take matters a step further. Two glass-readers — women with talents similar to her own — had died under mysterious circumstances in the past two months. The authorities had declared the deaths accidental, but she had her doubts.

Perhaps Owen Sweetwater had taken it upon himself to do more than try to destroy careers. Perhaps, in addition to acting as judge and jury, he had assumed the role of executioner. There was something in his eyes, in the energy around him, that told her his nature was that of the hunter and that his chosen prey would be human.

Sweetwater was certainly no friend or ally, but all indications were that he did not intend to kill her, at least not here and now. Going with him seemed a wiser choice than attempting to find a route to safety on her own. She did not even know where she was.

They went through the doorway. Owen paused long enough to light a lantern that he had evidently left on the other side of the entrance. The flaring light illuminated an ancient corridor fashioned of stone.

“Where are we?” she whispered.

“In a basement below the grounds of the Hollister mansion,” Owen said. “The house was built on the ruins of a medieval abbey. There is a warren of tunnels and cells down here. The place is a maze.”

“How did you find me?”

“You probably don’t want to know the answer to that question.”

“I insist on knowing how you found me, sir.”

“I have had two people watching your house from an empty house across the street for the past few nights.”

For a moment she was too stunned to speak.

“How dare you,” she finally managed.

“I told you that you would not like the answer. When you set off tonight for a reading, my watchers thought nothing of it. You go out several nights a week to practice your art. But when you did not return in a reasonable length of time, the watchers sent word to me. I went to your town house and asked your housekeeper for the address of your client.”

“Mrs. Crofton told you that I came here to do a reading?”

“She was concerned that you had not returned. When I arrived on the grounds of the Hollister estate I knew at once that something was very wrong.”

“Your talent told you as much?” she asked, deeply wary.

“I’m afraid so.”


“Let’s just say that you are not the first woman to disappear into these tunnels. The difference between you and the rest of Hollister’s victims is that you are alive.”

“Dear heaven.” She took a moment to grasp the meaning of what he had said. “You detect violent death?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Explain yourself, sir.”

“Trust me, you are better off not knowing.”

“It’s a bit late to concern yourself with my delicate sensibilities,” she snapped. “I just woke up in a bed with a

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