"How much more does she have in" He stopped speaking and hustled toward the porch, where Monique was attempting to carry a box twice her size down the stairs.
"Woman, you're going to be the death of me," Ryan groaned, taking the heavy box.
"You already died once," Dax reminded him, smirking, then turned to Monique. "You better go easy on him this time, sis. He's not ready for the light again yet."
Monique gladly let go of her end of the box and let her husband take over. She wiped her damp forehead with her palm, pushing thick blond curls away from her face. "He doesn't want me going easy on him, regarding anything," she said. "Isn't that right, dear? He likes things hard, and so do I."
Ryan's smile said way more than any words could have managed, and Dax didn't really want to hear about it anyway.
"Too much information," Dax grumbled, heading back in for another load. He paused momentarily when an echo of laughter invaded his thoughts, a little girl's laughter. He'd heard it a few times today and knew what it meant: a ghost was on the way. Probably before the day ended, he'd have a young spirit to help. Another one to help, but no one on the other side was willing to help him.
He frowned. Sure, he was mad at the powers that be for not seeming to care that he'd lost his heart to a ghost that was gone, but the little girl who'd be visiting him soon wasn't to blame. He'd have to suck it up and put on a smile, for her sake. She'd already died young; she didn't need to be faced with a pissed-off medium, too. So Dax would cheer up before she got here. Right now, however, he was going to wallow in being jealous of all the love currently surrounding him, courtesy of Monique and Ryan.
Truthfully, he wasn't bothered that his sister was so blissfully happy in marriage, or even that she was moving out of the plantation and into a home in Ormond, near her beauty salon and Ryan's new roofing job; he was bothered because he wanted a little bliss, too.
Then again, his foul mood didn't seem to dampen spirits around here. Monique and Ryan were in full newlywed mode, only a month since they tied the knot in Vegas, and Gage, Dax's older brother, had recently become engaged and was also perpetually smiling lately with his fiancée, Kayla, by his side. In short, they were all way too happy for someone who was currently in a don't-piss-me-off mood. Misery truly loves company, and so far, Dax hadn't found anyone else as
"Listen, if you two are done with Dax, I could use his help, and I'm talking about his brain, not his brawn," Nanette said from the front door. Her arms were crossed against her chest, one foot tapped the threshold impatiently and dark brows drew together in a scowl. Clothed in a black blouse and black skinny pants, she resembled a prison guard waiting for him to enter his cell.
Dax grinned. Leave it to Nan to bring the atmosphere back down to his level. Nanette was always in semibitch mode. She tried to act like that was just the way she was, but Dax knew better. She was scared to death that the Vicknair family was about to lose their beloved plantation and perhaps therefore lose their ability to help the spirits, something she deemed part of the "Vicknair legacy." The home had taken a big hit from Hurricane Katrina, and the parish president, Charles Roussel, had been trying to put it on the top line of the demolition list ever since the storm. So far, they'd fought him every time, and won, every time.
Right now, however, the problem wasn't with Charles Roussel and the locals. Oh, noin an effort to bypass Roussel's authority entirely, Nanette had decided to try to get the Vicknair plantation added to the National Register of Historic Places.
There were tons of steps involved, but Nanette thought the potential results would be worth the effort. Dax did too; he just wasn't sure what kind of chance they stood.
Truthfully, he agreed with Nan that the two of them seemed to care more about saving the house than the other Vicknair cousins. Maybe it was because she was the oldest and he was the youngest male; she felt responsible for maintaining the Vicknair legacy, and he was the last with the Vicknair name. Or maybe it was because they were the only two cousins currently residing in the plantation. Even though Nanette had told all of them that she believed they'd have a better chance of saving the place if they were all living there, the others hadn't thought it necessary and had moved on to their independence.
Jenee, the only cousin younger than Dax, actually cited the plantation as her permanent residence, but she rarely stayed there anymore. Helping to renovate the Seven Sisters Shelter in Chalmette, she tended to stay there fulltime and only came back to the plantation for their traditional Saturday workdays. So basically, while the remainder of the cousins went about living their lives as usual, Nan and Dax were left to save their family home. Everyone else put in a hard day's work once a week, but as far as pulling a rabbit out of the hat with the National Historic Register, that was up to Dax and Nanette.
If they did make the cut, Roussel couldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole, which, naturally, was the goal. Problem was, Nanette had also learned that the home would stand a much better chance of making the list if it had been inhabited during the Civil War.
So far, neither Nanette, nor anyone who lived in St. Charles parish, had any proof whatsoever that the Vicknair plantation had been inhabited during the Civil War. In fact, all indications pointed to the entire family leaving to fight in the war. There weren't even references to women and children at the place in the papers on file at the parish courthouse.
But Nanette wouldn't believe that the Vicknairs had all leftwho would have tended to the visiting spirits if they had? Not that she could tell the folks in charge that that was the reason for her doubtand she expected Dax, known for his fascination for figuring things out, to help her prove it.
Dax had always had a knack for putting pieces of a puzzle together. When he was younger, he'd used that skill at crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Now that he was older, his primary challenges involved figuring out which prescriptions worked best for the young patients on his pediatric-pharmaceuticals route. But regardless of his puzzle-solving talents, he hadn't figured out the answer regarding the Vicknair plantation and where the family had gone during the Civil War yet.
"I haven't found a thing on the Internet about Vicknairs living here then. And we've already checked everything at the courthouse," he said, following her through the swinging door that led to the kitchen. "The Vicknairs all headed out to support their country. Well, the Southern half of it, anyway. We're going to have to look somewhere else to find the answers."
"I know, but I have no idea where to look. There's got to be something we're missing," she said, grabbing a tall green thermos from beneath the sink. Twisting the cap off, she took the full coffeepot and poured the entire contents in.
Dax frowned. "Going somewhere?" They typically searched for information together.
"I've got parent-teacher conferences tonight. Starting in an hour. No telling how long they'll take, since we've got more ninth-graders this year than ever before, and since the majority of them feel that my first assigned essay is beyond the realm of ninthgrade history."
"I'm asking them to write about their family lineage," she said. "Their Acadian ancestry in particular, if that's their history."
"In case you're wondering, I'm betting none of your students know anything about our ancestors living in this place during the Civil War."
"That's not the reason I" She rolled her eyes. "Oh, all right, our current dilemma did make me wish we had better records of our family history, and I decided to help them learn their own histories too." She shrugged.
"Nothing wrong with that."
"Poor kids." He dropped into a chair at the table.
"And do you need the entire pot of coffee?"
She huffed out a breath, but grabbed a ceramic mug from the dish rack and poured one cup of coffee from her thermos. "Because you're helping me, I'll sacrifice a cup. And because you've been a literal pain in the ass lately." She hesitated, then added, "Listen, I know it was tough when she crossed, but brooding isn't going to during the Civil War, however, just might."
"Okay, I'll bite. How exactly is that helping me, again?"
"We both know the Vicknairs wouldn't have left this place empty. And you know that you can figure out who was here. I haven't seen a puzzle yet that you couldn't solve."
He nodded. "Right, but what has that got to do with helping me with my current situation?"
"You know, for someone so smart, sometimes it takes you a while to catch on." She took a sip from the thermos, then put the lid back on. "I'm keeping you busy, and when you're busy, you don't think about it."
"About her, you mean," he corrected. "I don't think about her. And you're wrong. I still think about her." He took a deep breath, exhaled.
Dax shook his head. "Hell, you're right, to a point. Working on this house stuff is keeping my mind off of my situation, somewhat." He looked up at Nan, leaning against the counter with her thermos now tucked under one arm.
"But my mind's never completely off of it, Celeste."
She frowned. "You mean Nanette." "Right."
like." She laughed, but Dax didn't. How was he supposed to live the rest of his life without seeing Celeste again? And hell, he never even told her how he felt.
"I really do appreciate you helping me with this."
"I know you do, and I appreciate your reason for trying to keep me busy. But I still think this shouldn't be a two-person show. This is their heritage too, you know." Dax knew he and Nanette were the two best suited for finding the information they needed; he simply felt like complaining about the other cousins. It was a much-needed break from brooding.
"Monique and Ryan are getting set up in their new house, and Ryan's starting his new roofing job, so they're busy. Tristan is working at the firehouse. Between her college classes and trying to raise money for the Seven Sisters Shelter, Jenee doesn't have time to help. And "
"And they aren't really your problem. You've got to get over itget over heron your own. Get your mind on something else. Sure, working on finding our house's history will help, but why don't you go out, too. Before this summer, you were out with someone different all the time. You haven't even been on a date since she left, have you?" "Your point?"
"Half the women in the parish would jump at the chance to go out with you, and you're sitting around in an eternal stag mode, pining over a woman you can never have. I think it's about time you got out of that self-induced funk."
"I sure hope you're kinder to your students." He took a big sip of coffee and enjoyed the strong taste of chicory on his tongue.
"Nope, I pretty much lay it all on the line." She smiled, and Dax couldn't help but reciprocate. Nanette had one of those killer grins that just made him feel better, even if he really wasn't in the mood to feel all that much better now.
He took another sip of coffee and could already feel the strong surge of caffeine giving him a jolt.
"You know, you could go out tonight, and then search for more information later," she said. "There are a couple of teachers at the high school who have asked if you're still avail"
Dax held up a hand. He didn't want to be fixed up, especially not with Nanette's coworkers. It'd be way too easy for her to get the sordid details, and he wasn't about to be high-school teacher lounge fodder. More than that, he could have a date every night of the week, with a different female every night, and could damn well get lucky each and every time and it wouldn't help. That was another reason for his current state of frustration. He needed a good all-night bout of hot and heated, wild and wicked, no-holds-barred sex, but he didn't want it with anyone except Celeste.And he'd never even touched her.
But he'd sure dreamed about touching her, and doing a lot of other things to her, too. How was he supposed to move on to breathing females, when he had it so bad for a ghost? And a crossed-over one at that?
Excerpted from Shiver And Spice by Kelley St. John Copyright © 2007 by Kelley St. John. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.