'So you want me to have a go at finding her?'

Jake nodded. 'It may be Dale's only chance.'

If they were this woman's only chance, she could be in big trouble. 'My gifts have taken some strange turns lately, Jake. I can't guarantee anything.'

He shrugged. 'If the unconventional doesn't work, we'll go back to the conventional. We're a pretty good team, you know, and we solved an awful lot of cases without the benefit of your abilities.'

And even more with them. They relied on her gifts far more often than he seemed to think. 'So what does Mary think about you getting involved in this case?'

After all, Mary had dragged him to San Francisco not so much to recover from his injuries, but to get him interested in the security job here at her family's hotel—hoping, of course, that he'd give up his investigating days and settle down in a position she considered far less dangerous. And far more respectable.

He sighed. 'She's angry with me. Says I have no right to get involved with a police investigation.'

'Never stopped us before,' Nikki commented, smiling. 'And I thought Dale was one of her friends?'

He shook his head. 'They barely know each other. I went to college with Mark. We studied law together.'

Nikki stared at him in surprise. 'You never told me you were a lawyer.'

'That's because I'm not. I failed the bar.' He shrugged. 'I didn't really care, because by that time I'd realized I just wasn't cut out for the courtroom scene.'

In all the years she'd known him, he'd never mentioned how close he'd come to being a lawyer—though maybe it did explain his somewhat cynical opinion of them. And if Mary had known him from college, or at least had known how close he'd come to being a lawyer, maybe that was the reason for the often disappointed note in her voice whenever she spoke about him.

'So you became a private investigator instead? Why?'

'It's something I fell into, thanks to Mark. I was bumming around, looking for something to do, and he asked me if I'd track down a witness for this case he was defending. The rest, as they say, is history.'

Then she owed Mark a note of thanks, because if Jake had become a lawyer instead of a private investigator, she probably would never have met him. And beyond Michael, Jake was the one truly good thing that had happened in her life. 'Is Mark waiting for us at the hotel?'

Jake glanced at his watch. 'Yes. I told him to hunt up some of Dale's things.'

Her stomach stirred. She hadn't used her psychometry skills for a good four months—not since she'd tried to find Matthew Kincaid and had become one with him instead, sharing his pain, his fear. Goose bumps trailed across her skin, and she rubbed her arms. What if it happened again? What if she became a part of whatever was happening to this Dale and couldn't escape?

She took a deep breath and pushed the fear away. She had to try, for Jake's sake. He never asked much of her, and this was important to him. 'Has he told the police he's asked us to investigate?'

Jake shook his head. 'It's not just the police, now, but the Feds as well.'

'And won't they be pleased to have a couple of amateurs bumbling about,' she said, voice dry.

He shrugged. 'Won't be the first time we've crossed swords with the police, and I doubt it will be the last.'

She raised her eyebrows. 'Then you have no intention of becoming the Diamond Grand's next chief of security?'

'Hell, no.' He shuddered and scrubbed a hand through his thinning blond hair. 'I'd rather die in the field than die of boredom.'

She couldn't hide the surge of relief, and yet in many ways, she knew she was being selfish. Jake had been badly hurt in their last two cases. The next time he just might get his wish. 'Mary is making some sense, you know. It would certainly be a lot safer, health-wise at least, if you took the security job.'

'Nik, if I wanted safe, I would have become a lawyer.' He leaned forward and opened the door as the limousine came to a halt. 'And here we are.'

She climbed out. The wind whistled around her, damp and cold. She zipped up her jacket and studied the Diamond Grand Hotel. It was smaller than she'd expected, being only nine or ten floors high. It was also a lot older. Ivy climbed randomly over the red-brown brickwork, gently framing the white wooden windows and Juliett balconies. The entrance was a huge, white stone arch, intricately carved with wreaths of flowers and ivy. Two old-fashioned gas lamps sat on the wall either side of the arch, and a canopy curved over the sidewalk, protecting guests from the worst of the weather. Christmas lights climbed around it, twinkling like stars in the fading night.

'It's pretty,' she said.

Jake joined her on the sidewalk, her bag slung over his shoulder. 'It's that, if nothing else,' he said and motioned her forward. 'I would still rather be stuck in our paint peeling office than here for the rest of my life.'

She glanced back at him as she climbed the steps. 'Have you told Mary this?'

The doorman nodded a greeting at them both and opened the door. The warmth of the lobby swirled around her, rich with the scents of freshly-baked bread and strawberries. Her stomach rumbled a reminder that she hadn't eaten since lunch yesterday.

Jake touched her back, guiding her through the doors. 'Yes. She's just not listening—as usual.'

The lobby was pale yellow and cream and dominated by a huge chandelier that hung in the center of the room. The delicate chains of crystal glittered like gold in the warm yellow light and spun fingers of light through the entire lobby. Under this, on a carved mahogany table, sat the biggest bunch of flowers she'd ever seen. But their pale pinks and greens offset the golden glow of the room and counterbalanced the fiery red cushions that were scattered about on the various chairs.

'This is nice,' she murmured, running her fingers across the top of one of the plush velvet chairs.

'This is expensive,' Jake replied. 'And I've put you in our top room.'

'You can't—' 'I can,' he interrupted. 'And I have. No arguments. Consider this little slice of luxury a Christmas gift.

I've booked you in for a couple of weeks, so if you want to stay and do some touristy stuff after we solve this case, you're quite welcome to.'

He sounded awfully confident that they would solve it, even though past experience had taught them both nothing was ever as simple as it seemed. She leaned forward and planted a kiss on his leathery cheek. 'You don't have to bribe me to get me to stay, you know. All you have to do is ask.'

He smiled. 'I thought you might have wanted to spend your first Christmas alone with Michael.'

'He wasn't sure whether he was going to make it home in time or not.' She shrugged and tried to hide the familiar sense of disappointment. 'Besides, Christmas is a time for families—and you and Mary are all the family I have. I was planning to come out here, anyway.'

'Good.' He stopped at the desk and signed her in.

'There's a message for you, Mr. Morgan.' The receptionist handed him a slip of paper along with the room keys.

Jake scanned the note quickly and grinned as he handed it across. 'Looks like you might be celebrating Christmas with Michael after all.'

Her hands were actually trembling as she took the paper and read it.

I'll be there by ten,it said. Tell Nikki not to do anything until I arrive.

Disappointment, and just a little anger, shot through her. She crushed the paper into a ball and tossed it into the nearby waste basket. Why hadn't he left something for her? He knew she was here—even a 'can't wait to see you again' would have been nice.

She forced a smile and glanced up at Jake. 'Let's go up and meet your friend.'

He frowned, blue eyes concerned. 'You sure you don't want to wait for Michael?'

'Do you think we can afford to?'

'Well, no, but—' 'No buts,' she said with a smile. 'Besides, all I'm going to do is see if I can trace her through her possessions. It won't make a difference if he's here or not.'

Which was not exactly the truth, especially if her abilities took her into this woman's mind and made her share her experiences. Michael had once warned her she could lose herself if she wasn't very careful. So doing

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