MacMillian sighed and discreetly checked the clock above the cash register. The woman across from him had been chattering nonstop for the past ten minutes. He’d stopped paying attention after the first five, sneaking periodic glances at the doors the owner had disappeared through.
If he didn’t know better, he’d swear she was hiding from him.
She hadn’t struck him as the type to hide, though. Not from him, not from anybody. The way she’d managed to stare down her nose at him despite the six inches he had on her was a feat even his mother had yet to accomplish.
So what the hell was she doing?
He was about to get up and investigate when the doors swung open, and she reappeared. A tray was balanced on one hand, in the other she held a flowery china teapot. She made her way back to their table.
For the first time, MacMillian took stock of his surroundings. He swallowed a grimace. Though not as frill-infested as he’d expected, he was clearly in a place dominated by women. Fresh flowers, white tablecloths, candles, artsy prints on the walls. Thank god Darius wasn’t here, or he’d never hear the end of it.
The second he left, he was going for a beer.
The owner set the tray down in the middle of the table. “Sorry about the wait. You have to let it steep for a while to get the best flavor.”
MacMillian shrugged. “You’re the professional.”
Pink tinged her cheeks, but she only inclined her head and turned to the woman across from him. “Thanks, Georgia. I’ll take it from here.”
Just as he’d suspected: she’d sent her friend over to distract him. Georgia stood with a badly disguised sigh of relief. “I’ll just, uh, get back to those receipts, then.” She cast a quick glance at him, and retreated to a paper-strewn table in the far corner.
The woman started unloading the tray. “Thank you for this. Tea helps me relax.”
MacMillian eyed the antique-looking cup and saucer she placed in front of him. Lavish yellow roses emblazoned the otherwise plain white china. “I take it this means you’re willing to talk to me?”
The color in her cheeks deepened. She picked up the teapot. “I suppose so. I liked Jimmy. I want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do.”
MacMillian studied her while she filled his cup. She looked younger up close, with her rosy cheeks and wide blue eyes. Her broad face tapered into a delicately pointed chin, and her auburn hair was pulled back in a messy bun. A retro apron with a sweetheart neckline and a whimsical teapot print covered her dress.
If she noticed him watching her, she didn’t show it, her full concentration directed towards the task at hand. He had to admit, she was good. She didn’t spill so much as a drop. Aromatic steam trailed up from the dark liquid in his cup. He peered into it.
“What is this?”
She filled her own cup, and finally reclaimed her seat. “My own blend. I call it White Rabbit.”
“What’s in it?”
She grinned mischievously and took a sip. “You don’t want to know.”
It was the first he’d seen her smile. Something about it caught him square in the solar plexus. He picked up his own cup and gulped down a mouthful.
The woman’s brows drew together. “Easy. It’s not cheap tequila. You don’t shoot it, you sip it.”
MacMillian sipped it. The initial bitterness made his mouth go dry. The aftertaste, however, was surprisingly pleasant. He sipped again. “So, I believe you were about to answer my question.”
The woman nestled her cup back in its saucer. She looked him dead in the eye. “I saw his ghost.”
MacMillian coughed. Searing hot liquid surged down the wrong pipe. He set his cup down, forced himself not to succumb to a hacking fit while he waited for his spasming throat to relax. Finally, he blinked away the water in his eyes and focused back on the woman’s face. “I’m sorry. You what?”
She sighed. “I was afraid this would be your reaction. Look, you gave me a show of faith, it’s only fair I do the same.” Her fingertips traced the edge of the saucer. “I’m a medium. I see dead people. I talk to them. Sometimes they talk to me, too.”
She must have read the disbelief in his expression, because she sighed again. “I know how this sounds, but I’m telling the truth. Last night, Jimmy’s spirit found me. He said someone murdered him, only he didn’t know who.”
MacMillian couldn’t think of a thing to say. He absently picked up his cup and took another swig of tea, eyes locked on her face. It was a face that, to look at, didn’t appear to belong to a crazy person.
But she was crazy. Either that or she was a liar, and for some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to think that of her. He knew plenty of women who claimed a connection with the spirit world. He’d always assumed they were faking it for money, reading love and prosperity in the palms of desperate gaje. The woman facing him didn’t come across as a charlatan.
Of course, she didn’t come across as crazy, either.
MacMillian rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, you must have a lot on your plate, running your own business. I’m sure all that takes a toll. Especially after a long day, it must be easy to see things that aren’t really-“
“I wasn’t hallucinating.” Her voice turned icy. “Don’t patronize me, Mr. Magnum, P.I.”
“Fine.” The word came out harsher than he’d intended. “Then I’ll be blunt. Maybe you get some people with this whole Ghost Whisperer routine, but it’s not going to work with me.”
The woman didn’t answer, merely watched him. MacMillian reeled himself back before he could get lost in her hypnotic eyes. “Whether or not Jimmy’s dead, it’s still my job to find him. Thank you for your time, but if you’ll excuse me, I think we’re done here.”
He braced his hands against the seat of his chair, tightened the muscles in his stump and pushed to his feet. The crease near his groin throbbed where his leg had dug into it. He bit back a curse. He shouldn’t have stayed seated so long. He planted his cane and straightened with a wince.
The woman was still watching him. She caught his eye. “Take your time.”
MacMillian bristled. “I’m fine.” He hesitated, then nodded down at his empty cup. “Thanks for the tea.”
He thought he heard her murmur, “Don’t thank me yet,” but he was already on his way out the door.