KAREN SUE BURNS
Mystery ~ Romance ~ Adventure
THE LIBERATION OF MR. DELANEY
Chapter One

“Boo.”

“Boo, yourself.”

Hands on her hips, Zoe Miller surveyed the figure standing at the attic window. The dusty glass muted the outside light. He appeared almost normal. Yet, something about him seemed strange—his stance, casual yet alert, was more common to someone her own age than a decades-old ghost.

His black eyes boldly returned her look, and a bumpy chill crept along her arms.

“You finally caught me,” he said.

“That’s the way it looks to me.” She lobbed a tight smile in his direction and then swung around to scope out the attic’s cast-off junk. Battered boxes and ancient packing barrels were scattered over the scratched oak floor.

“You’re not afraid?”

Zoe rolled her eyes. “Give me a break.” She turned back to him. He stood next to an old rocking chair near the window. “Great, you’re finally talking.” She shrugged and spied the object of her search thrown in a corner. “Big deal. Why did it take you decades to get up the courage?”

“I have my reasons,” he replied, one corner of his mouth hitching upwards. “Sure you’re okay with me hanging around your house?”

“Oh, please,” Zoe snapped. “You’ve been here so long you’re almost part of the furniture. What can you do to me?”

“I might surprise you.”

“Whatever!” The damned ghost had the nerve to wink at her before lowering himself to the chair and setting it in motion.

Zoe threw him a final squinty glance, shook her head, and grabbed a wicker basket off a pile of cardboard boxes. She slammed the door behind her and clomped down the narrow wooden stairs to the second-floor hallway. Why, after decades in the house, had the ghost decided to make his presence known? Even though he was irritating, his company in the attic wasn’t frightening. Nana had told Zoe plenty of stories about the spirit who cried at midnight. How scary could a crying man-ghost be?

In the newly remodeled kitchen of her small but evolving house in the Montrose area of Houston, Zoe arranged three African violets in the basket. It was a belated birthday gift for Tina, her mother’s twin sister and her favorite aunt. Zoe was late for their monthly gabfest lunch and turned to snatch a pair of scissors from a side drawer. Out of the corner of her eye she caught the outline of a body appearing across the kitchen. She grabbed the scissors, holding them poised for battle.

Stepping backward and turning her head, she feared the worst. Her heart skidded to a stop. The spirit from the attic lounged casually against the refrigerator door.
“Damn it.” Zoe waved the scissors at him. Her pulse kicked in while her irritation escalated. “Is it necessary for you to sneak up on me like that? Can’t you announce your arrival with clanging chains or woo-hoo noises?” She didn’t have time to deal with him right then. Aunt Tina would be on time and pacing in front of the restaurant.

“Sorry. I realized we hadn’t been formally introduced.” He underlined his message with a charming smile.

Zoe glared at him and snapped her fingers. “What’s with you? I know you’re the ghost who’s lived in this house even before my grandparents bought it back in the forties. And, by the way, why can’t we get rid of you? I remember Nana called you Charlie cause she didn’t know your name.” She used the edge of a scissor blade to curl the ribbon she had tied around the handle of the basket. “How come you’re just now coming out of the closet?”

“Guess it felt right,” he said. “Why aren’t you afraid of me? Don’t you find me scary?”

She stepped back from the basket and gave it a good once-over. It would please Aunt Tina. She then gave the ghost a full three seconds of ever-so-careful scrutiny.

He looked human. With longish blond hair combed straight back from his forehead, dark brown eyes, a clean-shaven jaw, and over six feet of a trim, athletic body, he could have passed for the man living next door. And he couldn’t be much over thirty years old, in living years that is. His looks were pleasing to the female eye, including Zoe’s. His clothes were on the antique side, though, brown knickers and a white pleated shirt.

“Seriously, you think you’re scary?” She swallowed a giggle, doing her best to focus on something other than his sexy image. “I’ve heard about you my entire life. According to my grandmother, you’ve never once appeared ghostly except to float around a bit and snore at night. Big deal, dogs snore.”

“Okay, okay.” He raised his hands in mock surrender. “I admit it. I’m not the average spook in the attic. Of course, what is average today?” He chuckled to himself and raised worried eyes. “But still, we might as well try to get along since we both live here.”

“No, I live here, and you, uh . . .” She couldn’t produce the proper word to describe the living arrangement. It didn’t matter that her grandmother had approved of him, doted on him even. Zoe would simply ignore him. “Okay, Charlie or whoever, I’ve put up with your noise for the past two months and—”

“Why are you living here?”

“I inherited the house from Nana. Anyway, it seems I can’t get rid of you, at least for today. Keep yourself to the attic, and use a nose plug or something. I hate hearing a man snore.”

“Oh.” He raised his eyebrows. “You’ve had experience with men?”

“I’d love to share juicy slumber party stories with you, but I’m late.” Zoe slung her purse over her shoulder and placed the basket in a shopping bag. She hurried to the front door.

He called out behind her. “My name is Ansel J. Delaney III . . . in case you’re interested.”

After opening the door, she looked back at him. He stood in the doorway to the kitchen with light from the window illuminating his ghostly body. He was too attractive for his own good. Now, that was a scary thought. “I’d introduce myself as well, but I’m sure you already know my name.” She winked at him and walked out of the house.
















Zoe Miller is intent on securing her future with the purchase of Merlin’s Favorite Bookstore while she continues to remodel the Houston, Texas house she inherited from her grandmother. Both are her focus as she’s on a break from men after the unexpected breakup of a long term relationship. And the ghost in her attic does keep her entertained at night.
 
Ansel Delaney has resided in the attic of Zoe’s house for over seventy years—it’s the site of his murder. A curse forces him to stay put rather than pass on to the hereafter. He’s watched Zoe visiting her grandmother since she was a little girl and admires the woman she’s grown into. If only he weren’t dead, but his magical ghost powers do have their limits.
 
Zoe and Ansel join forces to discover the identity of his murderer and to resolve the curse holding him to her house—neither expected to fall in love along the way. How can a human and a ghost have a future together?