What Hides Inside (Bay City Paranormal Investigations series book 2) is now available for purchase from all the usual vendors.
Facing an alternate-reality horror: potentially deadly. Facing their own secrets and lies? Much worse.
In his first fateful week with Bay City Paranormal Investigations, Sam Raintree learned he’s psychic and possesses the power to open interdimensional portals, and accidentally set loose an unimaginable horror. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, he also began a relationship with his boss, the firmly closeted Dr. Bo Broussard.
Three months later, Bo’s wedding ring is off, but he isn’t ready to come out. Sam, tired of hiding, can hear their fragile new relationship creaking under the burden of secrets. Cracks appear when Bo hires Dean, a new investigator who’s bisexual, out, and openly interested in Sam. During an intense investigation into the mysterious disappearance of three students from South Bay High School, Bo’s stubbornly cold shoulder leaves Sam hurt, confused, and questioning whether they have any real chance of a future together. Especially when Dean presents a tempting option.
As he wonders if he should continue the fight for Bo’s love, the team discovers disturbing parallels between South Bay High and Oleander House. Sam pushes his newfound psychic abilities to the limit—until an eruption of nightmarish proportions threatens to take the decision out of his hands. Permanently.
Copyright 1st edition © 2007 Ally Blue
Copyright 2nd edition © 2017 Ally Blue
Bo led the way down the steps, the rest of the team trooping single file behind him. Sam brought up the rear, with Dean right in front of him. It disturbed Sam immensely that he couldn’t seem to stop staring at the strip of creamy skin showing between Dean’s low-slung jeans and snug sweater.
It’s just physical, he told himself. It doesn’t mean anything, except you desperately need a good fuck.
The tension in Sam’s shoulders relaxed somewhat when they reached the bottom of the steps and Dean moved away to talk to David. Sam didn’t like the attraction he felt for the newest member of the BCPI team. Even though he had no intention of acting on it, his body’s reaction still seemed like a betrayal of his feelings for Bo.
Setting his bag on the floor, Sam crouched down and rifled through it. “Bo, what do you want me to do?”
“I’d like you to handle notes and the audio recorder, if you don’t mind.” Bo strolled over and stood close enough to make Sam’s pulse speed up. “That way you’ll be better able to concentrate on feeling the place out psychically speaking.”
Sam rose slowly to his feet, slinging his bag over his shoulder again. “You want me to see if I feel what I felt in Oleander House, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Bo held Sam’s gaze, his expression full of concern. “Can you?”
Savagely suppressing the part of him that wanted to scream no, Sam nodded. “Sure, no problem.”
“I’ll take the video,” Cecile said.
With one last half-worried, half-grateful glance at Sam, Bo turned to Cecile. “You don’t have to do video all the time, you know. You’ve become very proficient with the EMF detector.”
“I know. But I was thinking I could let my psychic senses guide how I take video. Like if I get a sudden sense of presence from a certain spot, I can quickly turn the camera to that area. Seconds count when we’re talking about paranormal phenomena, right?”
“Absolutely.” Grinning, Bo squeezed Cecile’s shoulder. “This is one reason I was so glad you decided to accept my offer to work with BCPI permanently. You come up with some fantastic ideas.”
Cecile’s cheeks went pink. “Thanks. I had lots of good reasons to accept.” She smiled fondly at David’s back, where he stood talking animatedly with Dean and Andre.
As if he felt her watching him, David turned around and winked at her. “So, do we have a time limit here or what?”
“No, take whatever time you feel is necessary.” Bo switched on the EMF detector and thermometer, holding one in each hand. “Cecile, go on and start the video.”
Sam heard the soft chime of the camera switching on. Glancing at his watch, he wrote the date and time at the top of a clean notebook page. He turned on the audio recorder and hung it on his belt.
“Saturday, November twentieth, two thousand and four, ten-forty-five a.m.,” Cecile said, for the benefit of the recordings. “South Bay High School underground tunnel, South leg.”
“EMF’s steady at two point three. Temp, eighty-four degrees.” Bo glanced over at Andre, who was doing baseline measurements of his own. “What’ve you got?”
“Same,” Andre answered without looking away from his instruments.
“Are you feeling anything here?” Cecile asked.
“No.” Andre frowned and looked up. “Wait, yes. Kind of. I don’t know, it’s very strange. Just this vague sense of…wrongness, for lack of a better word.”
Cecile was silent, and Sam knew that she was stretching out her own psychic senses, seeing if she could pick up what Andre had. Closing his eyes, Sam did the same. And after a groping moment, he felt it. A jarring sense of something out of place. Similar to what he’d felt in Oleander House, but not exactly the same.
“It’s more focused, isn’t it?” Cecile whispered. “At Oleander House, you got that weird feeling everywhere. I didn’t sense this upstairs. Only here. And it’s very faint.”
“I agree.” Opening his eyes, Sam jotted down Cecile’s impressions and his own. A few feet away, Dean scribbled on the extra notepad Sam had given him, presumably writing down what Andre had said. “Let’s try to see if we can pinpoint where this unsettled energy is coming from, okay?”
“Yeah, good idea.” Andre gave him a worried look. “I didn’t feel that intelligence like we felt at Oleander House. Did you?”
“No, not really.” Sam figured it wasn’t really a lie. He didn’t feel that sinister presence here, though he sensed something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. An elusive and uncomfortably familiar vibration in the back of his skull, subsiding as soon as he tried to focus on it.
Don’t jump to conclusions, he reminded himself. Observe, record, and analyze later.
Easier said than done.
Bo started moving slowly down the hallway, sweeping the EMF detector back and forth in a smooth, steady motion as he went. Cecile followed with the camera. Pushing his uneasiness aside and concentrating on keeping his senses open, Sam trailed after them.
It took about forty minutes to cover every inch of the South tunnel between the stairs and the other end. The EMF reading remained steady at a mildly elevated level, but the temperature rose as they went. By the time they reached the cracked and stained stone wall at the far end, Bo’s thermometer read ninety-two degrees.
“I wondered if I’d imagined it getting hotter before as we got near the end of the tunnel,” Sam said as he jotted down the unbelievable reading. “Guess not.”
Bo frowned at the irregular rectangle of rough brick on the wall to his left. “Do either of you remember Mr. Innes saying anything about any electrical equipment in this blocked-up side tunnel?”
Cecile glanced at Sam, who shrugged and shook his head. “No,” she answered. “Why, what are you getting?”
“The EMF goes up a bit right next to the bricks.” Holding the detector with the display outward so they could see it, Bo swung the instrument away from the bricked-up entrance, then back again. The reading went from two point five to three point seven. “See?”
Sam laid a palm against the bricks. They felt warm and clammy, almost like flesh. He pulled his hand away, fighting the urge to shudder. “If it’s electrical, the source is either a little ways off or pretty weak.”
“Let’s ask Mr. Innes for a blueprint of the school’s electrical system,” Cecile suggested. “And a list of any electrical equipment on, what, the first floor of this building?”
Bo nodded. “That’ll be good. We shouldn’t be picking up anything on the second floor.”
“We need to find out more about these side tunnels, too,” Sam added. “They weren’t on the map he sent me, just this main tunnel was.”
“Right.” Bo’s sharp gaze flicked between Sam and Cecile. “Do either of you feel anything different here?”
Drawing a deep breath, Sam let his mind float the way Cecile had taught him, detaching himself from the physical world just enough to let himself sense what lay beyond. What he felt was a palpable wave of menace that knocked the wind from him.
“Oh, shit,” Cecile gasped. “Sam, did you feel that?”
Sam nodded, leaning against the wall and waiting for the world to right itself. “Yeah. Fuck.”
Moving closer, Bo brushed a hand down Sam’s arm. Sparks crackled in the wake of his fingers, drawing Sam back to solid reality. He was grateful that Bo’s touch grounded him this time instead of throwing his mind and body into turmoil like it usually did.
“Are you all right?” Bo’s question was directed at them both, Sam knew, but those deep brown eyes were only for him. Slipping a hand into Bo’s, Sam gave his fingers a quick squeeze that said everything he couldn’t voice right then. Bo smiled, looking relieved.
“We’re okay. Just kind of shaken up.” Cecile’s voice quavered a little.
“What was it?” Bo asked, resting his back against the wall next to Sam. His position effectively hid the fact that his hand still clutched Sam’s.
Sam glanced at Cecile. She looked as puzzled as he felt. “I don’t know,” he answered. “It had the same sort of underlying feel as what I sensed in Oleander House, but it was different somehow. I can’t really explain it.”
Bo stared into space, teeth worrying his bottom lip. His thumb rubbed tiny circles on the back of Sam’s hand. It took every ounce of control Sam had to resist the urge to pull Bo into his arms and hang on. He settled for sliding infinitesimally closer to Bo, until only a breath separated them.
“Is there anything else we need to do right now, Bo?” Cecile peered at them with wide, nervous eyes. “I feel very uncomfortable here. I’d like to get outside for a while.”
Shooting Sam a brief, sidelong glance, Bo let go of Sam’s hand and pushed away from the wall. “That’s a good idea. Let’s meet up with the rest of the group, then we’ll head back upstairs and work out a plan for the rest of the day.”
“We’re not leaving?” Cecile’s expression didn’t change, but Sam heard the plaintive note in her voice. He understood perfectly.
“It’s kind of freaking me out, too,” Sam said. “But I guess we need to set up cameras, which means we’ll have to stay. Right?”
“I suppose we could leave the equipment here,” Bo mused, sounding apologetic, “but I’d rather not. We can’t afford to replace any of it right now, and I feel like we’re too vulnerable to theft if we leave the cameras unguarded down here.”
“Yes, that makes sense.” Cecile sighed. “Well, if I need to stay down here, I will. Just don’t make me stay alone.”
Sam stepped forward and kissed the top of Cecile’s head. “Don’t worry. You’ll have me for company, at least.”
Cecile laughed and hugged him. “Thanks, Sam.”
“Why is it,” David called from somewhere behind them, “that everyone’s always hitting on my girl? Even the gay guy, for Christ’s sake.”
“It’s a secret woman-power,” Cecile answered dryly. “What are you guys doing here? Shouldn’t you be investigating the North leg of the tunnel?”
“Yeah, well, we’re done.” David glanced at Andre, who looked tense and shaken. “We didn’t find anything as far as EMF or seeing anything, but Andre had one of his feelings. Y’all weren’t back at the stairs yet, so we figured we’d come find you.”
Cecile trembled against Sam’s side, her arm tightening around his waist. “Sam and I felt something too. What did you experience, Andre?”
The big man pressed his lips together for a moment before answering. He seemed almost angry. “It was kind of like Oleander House, but not as strong. Just a feeling of some sort of intelligence nearby.”
Sam and Cecile glanced at each other. “That’s exactly what Cecile and I felt. Only I had to concentrate and put effort into picking it up this time, rather than it just hitting me out of the blue.”
“Like it was more focused this time. More controlled.” Andre’s brown eyes burned with the light of discovery. “Y’all, we need to go more in-depth here. Set up cameras, do some concentrated research. And frankly, I’d like to open up these side tunnels and check ‘em out. What I felt seems to have its origin in there.”
“I agree.” Bo twirled the end of his braid, his expression thoughtful. “I have no idea if we’ll be allowed to open the side tunnels, but we can try. I’ll speak with Mr. Innes while y’all set up the cameras.”
“Find out if he’s got the names of students we can talk to,” Sam added. “We need to find out what, if anything, the students have seen down here.”
“Are we staying here in the tunnels for the rest of the day?” Dean asked. The idea didn’t seem to make him nervous. Probably because he’d been here before, Sam figured.
“No,” Bo said after a moment’s thought. “I think we need to film the tunnels without our presence disturbing things. We’ll take shifts guarding the door.”
“I’ll go get us all some lunch,” David offered.
Andre chuckled. “That’s smooth, man.”
David widened his eyes in an utterly ineffective attempt at looking innocent. “What’re you talking about?”
“Getting out of first shift guard duty.” Letting go of Sam, Cecile slipped her arms around her boyfriend’s neck and kissed him. “Don’t worry, dear, you’ll get your turn.”
“I’ll take the first shift,” Sam volunteered. “I don’t mind.”
Dean flashed a flirtatious grin. “Want some company?”
Sam’s mouth went dry. He was saved from having to answer by Bo.
“I’ll take the first shift with Sam. I have some things I need to discuss with him anyway.” Bo’s voice was firm. “Okay, here’s the plan. We’ll go get the equipment, and I’ll talk to Mr. Innes while y’all set everything up. David and whoever wants to go help him can grab lunch and we’ll all eat, then Sam and I will pull guard duty for a while. Say we run the cameras until midnight, that’ll be about twelve hours, and there’s six of us, so that’s four hour shifts. So Sam and I will stay until four, then Cecile and Andre until eight, then David and Dean until midnight. Sound good?”
Everyone nodded, though no one looked particularly enthusiastic.
“Great,” Bo said. “Anyone who’s not on guard duty is free to leave or stay, whatever you want to do. We’ll all keep our cell phones and radios on, just in case.”
“Gotcha.” David kissed Cecile’s forehead, then drew away and put his video camera in his bag. “Let’s get out of here, it’s fucking hot.”
“You got that right.” Switching off his EMF detector and thermometer, Andre started down the hall toward the steps.
The rest of the group followed. Dean, Cecile and David had their heads together, all talking at once. Bo lagged behind, and Sam found himself slowing his own pace to match.
“I hope you don’t mind me taking watch with you,” Bo murmured. “I really do want to talk to you.”
“Of course I don’t mind.” Sam glanced at Bo, who was looking straight ahead as they walked. “Why do I get the feeling it’s not about work?”
“Because you know me so well it’s scary.”
They traveled the remainder of the tunnel and up the stairs in silence. As their coworkers emerged into the relative brightness of the first floor hallway, Bo grabbed Sam’s wrist, holding him back. Sam started to ask what was wrong, but his words were cut off by Bo’s lips on his.
The kiss went deep, Bo’s arms clutching Sam close, one leg bending to slide their thighs together. Surprised, Sam could do nothing but answer Bo’s passion with his own. Not that there was anything else he wanted to do. As always, Bo’s kiss brought Sam’s world to a screeching halt. Nothing existed at that moment but Bo’s mouth hot and hungry against his, their bodies wound together.
It felt like ages before they finally pulled apart, though Sam knew it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds. He could still hear the rest of the team talking, their footsteps echoing in the hall. “What was that for?” Sam whispered, leaning his forehead against Bo’s. “Not that I’m complaining, of course.”
The corners of Bo’s mouth turned up in a sweet, sexy little smile. “Just because I felt like it. Sometimes I want you so much I can’t stand it.”
Sam’s throat went tight. He wished it meant more than lust, but he wouldn’t count on it. Couldn’t. Pressing a light kiss to Bo’s lips, Sam forced himself to let go. “We should catch up. They’ll wonder what happened to us.”
“I don’t—” Bo broke off, biting his lip. He whirled around and strode out into the hall before Sam could utter a word.
Sam trailed behind, his mind in turmoil. For one white-hot moment, he’d been sure Bo was going to say “I don’t care.” The desperation in those dark eyes spoke volumes.
But he didn’t say it, Sam thought bitterly. He never will. He’ll never stop being afraid.
The thought was too depressing. Angry at himself for being so morose—and for letting himself fall foolishly in love—Sam shoved his fears and doubts to the back of his mind and tried to concentrate on the job at hand.