What would you do if the spirit of your dead twin brother came back?
What about if he inhabited the body of your adopted daughter?
Former drug addict, turned state prosecutor, Shane Occena has to deal with this when the little girl he rescues one night, named Shawna, declares that she’s the reincarnation of his brother Shawn, that he’d lost over eight years before. Feeling a connection to Shawna that can’t be talked away, Shane begins the adoption process and gains custody. When Shawna begins acting like Shawn, Shane takes her to see Child Psychologist, Tucker Ames. And that’s when his life really changes.
Dr. Tucker Ames spends his days talking with children helping them heal from their scars and come to grips with their gender issues and sexuality, and his nights alone, hoping for a family of his own. When he meets Shane and Shawna Occena, he finally feels as if he’s met the family that’s destined to be his. But first he has to help Shawna heal from her childhood, Shane heal from his scars, and find a way to help Shawn cross over to the other side.
But when allegations of child abuse are brought against Shane, and Tucker’s family spontaneously descends on this makeshift family in Pensacola to lend their “support”, will Tucker and Shane be able to stay together and be the parents that Shawna so desperately need? And will Shawn ever let go of his hold on Shawna and finally ascend to the afterlife? Tucker and Shane may think that they are Raising Shawna, but in the end, she may be the one to raise them all.
“Hello?” he said into the phone. Silence greeted him and Shane lowered the bottle of orange juice as his brows furrowed. “Hello?”
“Um-yes, hi, Mr. Occena? It’s Dr. Ames. Shawna’s psychologist?” the deeply, husky voice on the other line said.
Shane’s heart sped up and he swallowed thickly. “Yes, hi, Dr. Ames. What can I do for you?” he asked the handsome doctor.
“I-I-um, I was just calling to check up on Shawna. Today’s session was a little difficult for her and I just wanted to make sure that she was okay.”
Shane chuckled even as his groin tightened by the sound of the doctor’s voice in his ear. “She’s fine. As a matter of fact, she’s upstairs getting ready for a bath with her trusty sidekicks at her feet.”
Shane was aware of the sound of rustling coming through on the other end. He wondered what the other man was doing. Was the good doctor calling him from home? Perhaps Dr. Ames was undressing for a shower or maybe he was lying naked in bed and the sound of rustling was the sheets shifting around his naked form. Shane groaned silently. That line of thinking was sure to get him into trouble. He pulled his mind back to the conversation.
“Yes, Reba is a cat and Sinatra is a dog. I had them before I adopted Shawna. It was love and friendship at first sight when the three of them met.”
“Well, that is really good. It’s always good for kids who have been adopted and who have endured the trauma that Shawna has to have playmates, even if they are of the feline and canine variety,” Dr. Ames said with a small chuckle and Shane joined in his amusement.
The line grew silent then and Shane held his breath, wanting the doctor to talk to him about something other than Shawna but almost positive that it would be out of line and unethical.
“Sooo—” he hedged.
Dr. Ames sighed. “Mr. Occena, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have even called you. I normally don’t. I can’t even lie and say that it’s the uniqueness of the situation that has captured my interest. This is very unethical of me and I know I shouldn’t have called, but I couldn’t get you out of my mind and I just had to call.”
Shane sighed happily before he chuckled. “Well, I’m glad that you called me even if you shouldn’t. I admit that I couldn’t stop thinking about you either.”
He heard the sharp intake of breath from the doctor on the other end.
“This conversation could get me into a lot of trouble, Mr. Occena,” Dr. Ames cautioned him.
Shane nodded though he knew the other man couldn’t see him. “I understand. We can stop talking about this right now if you want,” he offered the psychologist a way out of the conversation.
“That’s just it,” Dr. Ames said, and Shane could hear the frustration in the other man’s tone and felt it vibrate within himself. “Even though I know that this conversation is highly inappropriate, I mean, you are the father of one of my patients, I find that I don’t really care. I want to help and treat Shawna through this new development, and at the same time, I find myself wondering what it would be like to take you out on a proper date. Dinner, dancing, and a kiss at your front door.”
Shane’s breath sped up in his chest and he pressed the bottle of orange juice against his heavy erection. “I know what you mean.”
“But this is highly inappropriate and we should probably stop talking about things that cannot be right now,” Dr. Ames said, though it sounded more like a question.
Shane didn’t know how he was supposed to respond in that moment. Was he supposed to tell the doctor that he agreed with his assessment of the situation, or should he try to fight for the obvious connection that he felt with the other man? He was so confused and confusion was definitely not good in this situation. Confusion would have him being selfish and putting his raging libido ahead of his daughter’s welfare. That wasn’t something he wanted to do. He had to think of Shawna. Shawna was the most important thing in his life at the moment, and while the possibility of being with the doctor was a definite temptation, it was one that he was going to have to let slide through his fingers. Though it pained him to do so.
“You’re right, Dr. Ames. This is definitely a conversation that we shouldn’t be having,” Shane said into the phone.
A sigh drifted through the line then, a sigh of disappointment, frustration, and resignation. Shane felt the echo of it in his heart. “Yes, well-I guess I will see you and Shawna next week.”
“Yes, you will,” Shane said.
Neither of them said goodbye nor spoke for a long minute. Shane listened to the doctor’s breathing and found himself matching the man’s breathing with his own. He didn’t know how long they sat on the phone, merely listening to the other breathe, when he heard Shawna’s voice from upstairs.
“Daddy! I’m weady!” she called.
“Coming, baby girl,” Shane called back, covering the mouthpiece of the phone. He sighed again and his eyes slid closed. He had to say goodbye to the doctor, even though it pained him to do so. “I have to go. Shawna’s ready for her bath.”
“I understand,” Dr. Ames told him and Shane could hear the sadness in the other man’s voice. “Well, as I said, I’ll see you both next week.”
“Yes. Next week. Thank you for calling, Dr. Ames,” Shane said. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Occena,” Dr. Ames stated and they both hung up the phone then.
Shane headed upstairs to help Shawna with her bath, his mind divided between his daughter and the gorgeous psychologist whose voice haunted him. And that night when he finally crawled into his own bed to sleep, a full day of work before him, the face of the man he’d been dreaming about for months finally came into focus. It was Dr. Tucker Ames and Shane had never been so disappointed to wake up than he was that next morning. It was a beautiful dream, and, for the foreseeable future, it would have to stay just that… a dream.