Dancing With The Devilv

Nikki and Michael - 1


Keri Arthur

Chapter One

Someone followed her.

Someone she couldn't see or hear through any normal means, but whose presence fairly vibrated across her psychic senses.

Someone whose mission was death.

The wind stirred, running chill fingers across the back of her neck. Nikki shivered and eyed the surrounding shadows uneasily. She'd never been afraid of the dark before—had, in fact, found it something of an ally, especially in the wilder days of her youth. But tonight there was an edge to the silence, a hint of menace in the slowly swirling fog.

People disappeared on nights like this. At least they did here in Lyndhurst.

She returned her gaze to the slender figure just ahead. This was the fourth night in a row Monica Trevgard had come to the park after midnight. So far, it was to do nothing more than sit on a bench for an hour before slowly returning home.

Nikki had no idea why. If the teenager had a reason for coming here, she sure as hell hadn't found any evidence of it. Her actions to date made very little sense. The only child of one of Lyndhurst's—and possibly America's—richest men, Monica had spent most of her life rebelling against her family and their wealth. And yet, ironically, it was only thanks to her father's money that she was free to walk the streets tonight. Though nothing had ever been proven, it was a generally conceded fact that John Trevgard had at least one judge and several police officers on his payroll.

Nikki smiled grimly. Trevgard would probably have been better off keeping his hand in his pocket and letting his only child spend some time in jail. Maybe a day or so locked behind uncompromising concrete walls would shock some sense into the girl.

It sure as hell had with her.

Shoving cold hands into the pockets of her old leather jacket, Nikki let her gaze roam across the fog- shrouded trees to her left.

He was still there, still following her. The man with darkness in his heart and murder on his mind. Not her murder, not even Monica's. Someone else's entirely.

She bit her lip. With two knives strapped to her wrists and her psychic abilities to fall back on, she was well enough protected. At least under normal circumstances. But the man out there in the darkness was far from normal, and something told her none of her weapons would be good enough if he chose to attack.

Maybe she was as mad as Monica. Four women had already disappeared from this particular area. She should play it safe and go home, let Jake take over the case. A teenager looking for trouble was going to find it, no matter how many people her father hired to follow and protect her.

Only Jake had enough on his plate already, and his night sight wasn't particularly good, anyway.

The sound of running water broke through the heavy silence. Though the fog half-hid the old fountain from sight, Nikki knew it well enough to describe every chipped detail, from the wickedly grinning cherub at the top to the embracing lovers near the bottom. It was amazing what became interesting when you had nothing else to do but watch a teenager watch the water.

Only Monica didn't stop at the fountain.

Didn't even look at it. Instead, she glanced quickly over her shoulder, a casual move that raised the hairs on the back of Nikki's neck.

Monica knew she was being followed. Tonight, she didn't just wander. Tonight she was the bait to catch the watcher.

The bitter breeze stirred, seeming to blow right through her soul. Nikki swore softly and ran a hand through her hair. It was nights like this, when she was caught between common sense and past promises, that she really hated being psychic. Had it not been for the gifts warning that death would claim Monika's soul if she weren't protected tonight, Nikki would have run a mile away from here.

But she couldn't stand the weight of another death on her conscience and had no real choice but to follow.

They neared the far edge of the park. Streetlights glimmered, forlorn wisps of brightness barely visible through the trees and the fog. Nikki's unease increased. Monica wasn't heading for the street or the lights, but rather toward the old mansion on the far edge of the park. The place had a reputation for being haunted, and though she didn't particularly believe in ghosts, the one night she'd spent there as a kid had sent her running from the place. Ghosts may not exist, but evil sure as hell did.

The mansion was steeped in it.

Monica squeezed through a small gap in the fence and cast another quick look over her shoulder. There was no doubt about it—the kid definitely wanted to be followed.

Nikki stopped and watched her walk up the steps to the back door. Common sense told her not to follow. Psychic sense told her danger waited inside. She clenched her fists. She could do this. Had to do this.

She stepped forward, then froze. No sound had disturbed the dark silence. Even the breeze had faded, and the fog sat still and heavy on the ground. Yet something had moved behind her. Something not quite human.

Throat dry, Nikki turned. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a hint of movement—a hand, emerging from darkness, reaching out to touch her…

Yelping in fright, she jumped back and lashed out with kinetic energy. Something heavy hit a nearby oak, accompanied by a grunt of pain. She stared at the tree. Despite the sound, there was nothing or nobody at its base.

Something had to be there.It didn't make any sense—bodies just didn't disappear like that. She swallowed and ran trembling fingers through her hair. Disembodied hands couldn't emerge from the darkness, either.

Had it just been her imagination, finally reacting to the overwhelming sensation of being followed? No.

Something had been there. Was still there, even if she couldn't see it.

Not that that made a whole lot of sense. She turned and studied the dark house. Trouble waited inside that place. But so did Monica.

She climbed through the fence and ran across the shadowed yard. Edging up the steps, she slipped a small flashlight from her pocket and shone the light through the open doorway.

The entrance hall was small, laden with dust and cobwebs that shimmered like ice in the beam of light.

Faded crimson and gold wallpaper hung in eerie strips from the walls, rustling lightly in the breeze that drifted past her legs. The house really hadn't changed much in the ten years since she'd last been there.

Motes of dust danced across the light, stirred to life in the wake of Monica's passing. She directed the beam towards the stairs. Monica appeared to have gone upwards. Up to where the evil lived.

Gripping the flashlight tightly, Nikki walked through the dust towards the stairs. The air smelled of decay and unwashed bodies. Obviously, it was still a haunt for those forced to scratch a living off the streets. It was odd, though, that there was no one here now—no one but Monica and whoever it was she'd come here for.

A floorboard creaked beneath Nikki's weight, the sound as loud as thunder in the silence. She winced and hesitated. After several heartbeats, someone moved on the floor above.

It wasn't Monica. The footfalls were too heavy.

Reaching into her pocket, she turned on her mobile. If things started to go bad, she'd call for help.

Trevgard might not like the publicity a call to the cops would raise, but if it meant the difference between life or death— herlife or death—he could go to hell.

The staircase loomed out of the shadows. Nikki shone the light upwards. Something growled; a low sound

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