Unless the woman had come from the future. Was that why she’d disappeared so completely? He’d been reaching out, his fingers inches from her shoulder, but they’d closed on nothing but air. Had she shot forward into her own time?
Calmer now, he poured cognac into a new glass and sipped. Too bad he hadn’t gotten a better look at her. The mist had been too thick. It always was in London, which was why he’d chosen that city for some of his best work. One way or another, he would solve the mystery. And when his path crossed hers again he would eliminate her. Problem solved.
THE MOMENT NEELY saw the man sitting on the stoop across the street, her knees went weak. It was him—the stranger who’d been in her bookstore that afternoon. She’d been trying for some time to drift into sleep, but she’d been too keyed up. She’d come to the window to close the drapes. And there he was.
He sat partially in shadow on the front steps of the brownstone directly across from Bookends. He rested the upper part of his body against the iron railing, his legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. But it was definitely him. She felt it in every pore of her body. A flood of emotions moved through her—anticipation, excitement and a primitive desire—the same ones she’d experienced when he’d almost kissed her.
As if suddenly sensing her, he leaned forward, and when he glanced up at her, she felt the impact of his eyes clear down to her toes. For a moment, she froze. She couldn’t even think because he was in her mind. In that instant, it was as if they were one. And an image filled her mind of the two of them locked together, their bodies moving as one. She could feel him inside her, filling her. Pleasure speared through Neely, so acute that she had to grab the drapes to remain upright.
How could this be happening? Who was he? And why was he there on that stoop looking up at her window? The need to find out was so strong, so urgent that without another thought, she whirled from the window, ran toward the door and down the stairs. Disengaging the alarm delayed her a precious minute, but finally she was on her stoop.
He was gone.
She ran to the sidewalk and peered up and down the street, but there was no sign of the man who’d been sitting across from her building only moments before.
A chill prickled her skin as reality surfaced. She was standing alone on the sidewalk, her front door wide open, and there was a killer who preyed on women loose in her city. She patted her pocket, reassuring herself that she had her pepper spray with her. But there was no reason to tempt fate. Turning on her heel, she raced back up the steps. Then she paused and glanced once more down the block in the direction of the small gated park.
That’s where he was. She could feel him—almost the same way she’d felt that man in Mitre Square last night. This time the sensation was more intense, and this was a different man.
How did she know that?
Rattled now, she ran into the house, slammed the door and reset the alarm.
MAX STOOD, invisible now, just inside the gate of the small park. He’d cursed himself the moment that Neely turned away from the window. She was coming. He’d read the intention in her mind as clearly as he’d felt for one instant her body beneath his, arching up to meet his thrusts. He’d felt her gripping him in a hot, wet sheath, and the pleasure had been so intense, his need so acute that for a moment he hadn’t been able to move.
When he’d broken free from the hold she seemed to have on his mind, he’d leaped off the stoop and run toward the park three houses down. And finally—too late—he’d made himself invisible. Clairvoyance was not one of his stronger psychic gifts, but there were some things he just knew, and that talent had saved his life on more than one occasion. In this case, what he knew was that he and Neely were going to make love in spite of likely repercussions.
She shouldn’t have seen him. He’d been so focused on her presence in the room above the bookstore that he’d neglected to make himself invisible. Shakespeare’s Romeo had the excuse of adolescence and rampant hormones. Max Gale could lay claim to neither of those. It was his fault that she’d run so recklessly into the street.
Worried, Max moved to the wrought-iron gate and stepped through it. He froze when she glanced in his direction. She couldn’t see him now, but he still felt her eyes on him. They had some kind of mental connection—an intimate one. For an instant, she had been in his mind and he’d been in hers. And he’d been inside of her. The sensations in his body had been very real.
No one in this time period was supposed to be that open to mind links. Sure, there were recorded cases of individuals with advanced psychic powers. But Neely Rafferty wasn’t one of those cases. He’d checked. Nor was there any documentation that anyone in her family possessed psychic abilities.
Confident that she couldn’t see him even if she looked out the window, he moved back to the stoop across from Bookends. Of course, anomalies occurred, but they were extremely rare. Still, he knew what he’d experienced. Even now, he felt a connection with her. The adrenaline rush she’d experienced when she’d dashed into the street was taking its toll. She was drifting into sleep. And he needed some himself. Climbing the stoop, he stretched out his legs, leaned his shoulders against the railing and closed his eyes.
Max was halfway between waking and sleeping when he felt the sudden pull. He had no time to react, no time to block the power of it. Without conscious volition, his body went weightless, his sight grayed, and he was sucked into a whirlpool of inky blackness.
WHEN NEELY OPENED her eyes, she was totally surrounded by fog so thick that she could barely make out the street lamp. She moved closer until she could read the street sign. Buck’s Row. A thrill moved through her. She was just where she wanted to be. The body of Mary Ann Nichols had been discovered right down this street. Then she heard the footsteps. Pressing a hand against her heart, she peered down the fog-shrouded street. Nothing. The footsteps grew louder, then paused. She backed against a hedge and waited. He was standing beneath the street lamp. She knew it even though she couldn’t see him.
The footsteps sounded again and halted just a few feet away from her.
“Who are you?”
At the sound of his deep voice, dread blocked her throat. He was so close now that she could hear his breath heaving. The murky haze cleared a little—she saw no one. But he was there. She felt his eyes on her, and she knew suddenly that this was the same man who’d chased her in Mitre Square. Was it Jack the Ripper?
Terror spiked through her. She should run, scream, imagine herself back in her bedroom. Something. Then she remembered the pepper spray. Slipping her hand into her pocket, she closed her fingers around it. Something brushed along her cheek—cold metal. She sensed the white-hot, blinding violence in him.
The muscles in her stomach clenched. Fear iced her veins, but she yanked out the pepper spray and shot it straight ahead in an upward direction. There was a sharp, guttural cry and footsteps stumbling away from her. Then silence.
He was gone.
Relief struck her like a sharp blow. The first thing she did was breathe. The oxygen burned her lungs. But she didn’t move, and she focused on the spot in front of her where he’d been only moments before. He could come back.
As seconds ticked by and he didn’t return, she straightened her shoulders and stepped away from the hedge. For a moment, she thought of going back home. But she’d come here to see if she could save one of the Ripper’s victims. She had a sickening feeling that she might be too late. He had come from Buck’s Row. Keeping a firm grip on the can of pepper spray, she started down the street. Mary Ann Nichols’s body had been found in front of a stable gate. Neely could picture it in her mind. Fifty feet ahead, she made out the soft light of another street lamp. The fog was so thick now that when she stretched her hands out in front of her she could barely see her fingers. She sensed when she’d reached the gate because she smelled horses…and something else. The same scent that she’d noticed in Mitre Square. Blood. Neely’s heart stuttered, then raced.
When the fog shifted, she saw him.
He was bending over the body of a woman. She lay spread-eagled on her back in front of the gate that Neely had burned into her memory. There was a wide gash at the woman’s throat. Blood covered her face and matted her hair. Neely bit her bottom lip and held back a scream. She was too late to save Mary Ann Nichols, and she had to run before the Ripper saw her.
He glanced up, and recognition streamed through her. It was him—the man from the stoop. Her breath trembled when he rose. She should run, but she couldn’t seem to move. The pepper spray was still clenched in her hand but she couldn’t raise her arm. As he moved toward her, his shoulders blocked her view of the woman.
What was he doing here? He wasn’t the Ripper—she was almost sure of it. He held none of that blinding violence she’d sensed in the man she’d shot with the pepper spray. But what was this stranger doing standing over the body?
Stop asking questions, her brain shouted. Run. But she couldn’t seem to pull herself loose from his eyes. They were so dark. So intense. And all the while, he moved toward her, slowly, purposefully, the way a man might approach a skittish horse. Or a woman he intended to kill.