“You might want to look at it first.” The male voice is familiar.
Can’t be him.
I set the notepad and pen down and walk out of the back room. As I round the corner, I see him. The years have definitely been good. Gone are the hideous plaid shirts and boxy pants. He’s traded the glasses for contacts. Even the dark buzz cut is a thing of the past.
He spreads his muscular arms wide, and I jump into them. “Hey, Twyla. It’s good to see you too.”
I hug him tightly. It’s been two years since we last saw each other. Every time I asked Preston when he was coming home, he gave me an excuse—exams, job, fatigue, etcetera. I offered to come to Baton Rouge, but he wouldn’t dream of me closing up the shop just to see him.
“When did you get in?”
“Late last night,” he says and steps back. His gaze sweeps over my floor-length black lace dress worn over leggings. “You’re looking real good.”
My cheeks warm as a smile dances across my full crimson lips. “Back at cha. Where are you staying? Your parents’ house?”
Preston shakes his head vehemently. “No. I have a place near Tulane.”
“Nice. We need to hang out tonight,” I say and unlock the register. “I’m usually done around eight.”
His shoulders slump forward. The posture reminds me of the geeky version of my best friend. “Twyla, can’t you just shut it down today? We haven’t seen each other in a long time. I was hoping we’d have brunch and catch up.”
Strange. Preston has never wanted me to close the shop. “I wish I could, but I have a big sale going on today.”
Preston sags against the counter, frowning.
When I reach across the glass-covered surface to touch his arm, I notice the plywood box addressed to the shop. The return label is missing. Odd. “Did you bring this in with you?”
“Nope. It was here when I walked in.”
I don’t recall hearing the door chime before Preston showed up. I pick up a pair of scissors, pull the box closer, and pry off the lid. The scent of Aspen wood tickles my nose as I push my hands into the mound of excelsior. My fingers stop on a slick, cold object. Carefully, I lift out a black mirror encased in a wooden stand. Vanpeer’s is notorious for getting all sorts of weird items—so-called vampire boxes, fairy ornaments, and even vampire elixir—so this item shouldn’t trouble me, but it does. I swear it has a pulse. A shiver snakes down my spine, and I place the mirror on the counter.
The new item mesmerizes me, taking over my focus, and I forget about the store. Foreign images—pyramids of stone, a plumed headdress made of bright green-gold feathers, and strange statues—flood my mind. I try to look away, but I can’t tear my eyes from the glass. Then, the faint image of a man’s face appears. He has long, golden hair and blue eyes so dark they look like a midnight sky.
The sound of someone shouting my name grabs my attention. “Huh?”
“You realize I’ve been calling you for like a minute?” Preston reaches across the counter for the mirror. “Want me to put it on a display?”
“No! Put it down!” I snap as my eyes are drawn toward the item. On some odd level, the images I saw feel familiar, but I can’t explain it. Instead, I move the mirror out of Preston’s reach and return it to the box.
He leans over the counter and asks, “You okay, Twyla?”
I close the lid and tuck the small crate beneath my arm. “I’m fine. Watch things for me while I put this in the back. If you want to, you can hang out here, and then we’ll grab lunch.”
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