Before writing such New York Times bestselling thrillers as Blood Dreams and Sleeping with Fear, Kay Hooper made her mark with novels uniquely blending romance and suspense. In this new edition of The Haunting of Josie, Hooper brings together the themes that have remained at the heart of all her work--passion, danger, and a touch of the paranormal--in this classic story of a woman haunted by the past and tempted by a man too irresistible to trust....
Josie Douglas came to the isolated country cottage with her research, a good alibi, and a gun. She hoped that she'd have enough time to unravel the facts behind the tragedy that years before shattered her life. Instead she found herself in a house haunted by its own dark history. A series of strange coincidences, a ghostly visitor, and a mysterious brass key provide Josie with tantalizing clues to a mystery that keeps her guessing at every turn. As does Marc Westbrook--a landlord who embodies the meaning of the term drop-dead gorgeous. Soon she'll have to trust him with the secret that drove her into seclusion--a secret that has already cost one man she loved his life.
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December 25, 2007
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Excerpt from The Haunting of Josie by Kay Hooper
"Excuse me, but-"
Josie nearly jumped out of her skin. Not only was the deep masculine voice unfamiliar, it was totally unexpected. Though there were houses scattered about the countryside, none was close enough to invite curious neighbors to stroll over, particularly on a dreary fall afternoon.
But even as she turned quickly away from her van to face him, she remembered that the owner of Westbrook was also staying "on the place" in a cottage, as the realtor had offhandedly explained. He hadn't explained a few other vital bits of information, however, and she was suddenly very conscious of her faded jeans, sloppy sweatshirt, and the disastrous state of her once-neat braid.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
Josie looked up into apologetic gray eyes, and for an instant couldn't say a word. He had a slight southern accent, which she liked, and the words were certainly sincere enough-but neither was responsible for her silence. She wasn't a woman who judged someone on first appearances and, in fact, tended to be so cautious that she made up her mind only after knowing someone for quite a while-but her initial impression of this man was so positive it was bewildering.
It had to be his looks, she thought dazedly. Now she knew what "drop-dead gorgeous" really meant. He was a couple of inches over six feet with the wide-shouldered, powerful build of a natural athlete, ruggedly set off at the moment by jeans and a mostly blue flannel shirt. No wedding ring, which might or might not mean he was single. He had black hair-not dark, not sable, and not any shade of brown, but raven black-cut in a layered, neat style of medium length with short sideburns and a natural widow's peak as rare as it was dramatic.
His eyes were such a light gray they appeared almost silver, very sharp and vibrant, and they were set beneath winged brows as dramatic and memorable as the widow's peak. The rest of his face was just as striking, gifted with high cheekbones, a perfect nose, and a mouth that was utterly masculine and filled with sensuality and humor. He had a strong jaw that showed a great deal of character and perhaps just a touch of stubbornness.
All in all, it was a remarkable face.
Josie knew she stared up at him for only a few seconds, but it seemed much longer. Clearing her throat, she managed to say, "It's all right-I'd just forgotten you were staying at the cottage. That is, if you're the owner?"
He nodded and smiled. "Marc Westbrook."
"An ancestor built the house back in the thirties," he explained. "It's been in the family, one way or another, ever since."
"I see." Gathering her scattered wits, she noticed two things then. One, that he was carrying Pendragon, and two, that his left arm-the one he was using to cradle the cat-was in a cast from elbow to knuckles. And since she had missed both those rather obvious facts while she'd stared at him like an idiot, it said a great deal about the effect he had on her.
For heaven's sake, she had noted the lack of a wedding band while completely missing the cast and the cat!
Belatedly recalling her manners, she extended a hand. "I'm Josie Douglas." She no longer expected people to react to the name; Douglas was fairly common, after all, and without the singularity of her father's name to stir memories, few knew who she was.
"Welcome to Westbrook, Josie Douglas," he replied.
His grip was firm but careful, the touch of a powerful man wary of his own physical strength. It was probably usual for him to be cautious because big men often were, she thought, but she also knew that she did look a bit fragile.
She had long considered it her curse that she frequently roused protective instincts in the men she met; she assumed it was because she was slender, small-boned, and always pale. She looked helpless, apparently. Never mind that she seldom needed help and even more rarely wanted it; few males asked, they simply tried to help her.
The handshake lasted just a bit longer than necessary, and Josie could have sworn her flesh actually tingled when the contact with his was broken. Ridiculous. Of course it's ridiculous. What on earth was wrong with her?
Conjuring up what she hoped was an impersonal smile, she said, "I met Pendragon a couple of hours ago."
"Met him? I thought he was yours," Marc Westbrook said, with a glance down at the cat in his arms.
"That's why I came over here, to return him to you."
She looked into the enigmatic china-blue eyes of the big black cat, then shook her head. "No, he just showed up a couple of hours ago. But he can't be a stray, surely?"
"I wouldn't think so, he's been too well fed-and he certainly doesn't have the beat-up, ragged appearance of a stray tomcat. But I've been out here for nearly two months, and the first I saw of him was when he rattled my screen door a few minutes ago." He set the cat on the mailbox platform, and Pendragon curled his tail around his forepaws and regarded them both placidly.