I got a call yesterday from someone who was desperate. I don’t like calls from desperate people because it doesn’t usually end well, but she seemed so excited to hire me, that I couldn’t say no.

We met at a coffee shop, since I don’t really have a bona fide office for my business. Because we’d never met, I didn’t know what she looked like, but I shouldn’t have worried. With the exposure I’d recently acquired in the news, she spotted me quickly, and waved me over.

“Shelby! It’s so nice to meet you,” she gushed.

“You must be Monique DeClare,” I said, offering my hand. She was lots younger than I thought, probably in her early twenties. After a polite handshake, I settled into the seat across from her and smiled. “How can I help you?” I picked up a great deal of anticipation from her, and cringed inside.

“I bought a lottery ticket last week, and I just have a wonderful feeling about it. I thought that maybe you could take a look at the numbers and tell me if I’m going to win.”

My mouth dropped open. Was she serious?

“If it is the winning ticket, I’m completely willing to share the money with you. But I just wondered if you’d take a look, because the last number has been bothering me. If you think it’s a different number, I can buy another one.”

She pulled the ticket out for me to see, and went into great detail about why she’d chosen each number. I just let her talk, not even sure how to respond to her request. She finally wound down and glanced at me expectantly. “So, what’s your verdict?”

I smiled before I replied, “Honestly, I have no idea. My premonitions don’t exactly work like that. I mean, if they did, don’t you think I’d try it? I’d be happy to win the money myself but, I’m just like most people when it comes to the lottery. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s the truth.”

She sighed, thinking that she’d half expected me to say that. I could have won every lottery by now if I was a real psychic. But she’d thought for sure I’d get the same vibe about the numbers she had, and disappointment washed over her.

“But hey,” I continued. “Don’t give up. Sure, the odds of winning the lottery are about one in a million, but you never know. Those feelings you’re having might mean something.”

“That’s true,” she agreed. But I’d put her dreams into perspective, and she didn’t have much hope anymore. She’d wanted a piece of that money to begin a start-up business, but now she didn’t know where she’d get it.

“Monique,” I said. “I do know one thing. If you want to succeed, you have to put in the work. Say…if you wanted to start a business…like selling meal kits and delivering them to people, there’s no reason it wouldn’t work as long as you put in the hours and resources to make it successful. What do you know about that?”

“Oh my gosh!” she said. “I’ve been thinking about that. Did you know it’s one of the biggest growing markets for small businesses?” She’d taken a small business class and knew a lot about start-ups. She just didn’t have the resources to make it happen.

“No, but it makes sense. Lots of young professionals don’t have time to cook and would love the ability to make fresh meals without all the work and wasted food involved.”

Monique stared at me, wondering if this was the answer she was looking for after all. She had enough enthusiasm to make it work, she just didn’t know how to get started.

“I have some friends who own a bakery and catering business. They might be interested in your ideas. Let me talk with the owner and I’ll get back with you.”

“That would be amazing. Thank you so much.”

“Sure. Just remember that if they’re not interested, I still think you’ve got a good idea. It might turn out different than you think, but you should still look into it.”

She thanked me again and we said our goodbyes. As I left, I wondered if I’d done the right thing. Starting a new business is a risk some people are willing to take, and who knew? She might be highly successful.

Plus, I did know something she didn’t. I’d spoken with Shannon recently, and she’d mentioned wanting to expand her business, but she wasn’t sure which direction to go. This might just be the start of something great for both of them!

Who knew? Maybe I have premonitions after all.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Fall Halloween Festival is a major fundraiser for the school, and I was asked to help out. Savannah thought I should run a fortune teller’s booth for the event, with me as the gypsy with the crystal ball.

Since I had to help out anyway, this seemed like a fun idea, so I agreed. Most people know I have my own P.I. business, but they don’t know that I can read minds. I tell people I have ‘premonitions’ instead.

In the guise of a fortune teller, I could put my skills to good use without giving away my secret. Not only would it be fun, but I could raise a lot of money for the school.

I had to splurge on a great gypsy costume, but it was totally worth it, since it came with a black wig and a scarf with some cool coin tassels. Next, I needed a crystal ball, and I ended up buying the one that had electric-like lightning on the inside that was touch activated, because… well… it was the coolest.

On the night of the event, Chris and Josh helped me set up a little tent in the corner of the gymnasium. With Savannah’s help, we draped some brightly colored material around the inside for atmosphere. With a covered card table, pillows for people to sit on, and little lights strung up along the top, I may have gone a little crazy with the decor, but I wanted it to look authentic.

In the end, I probably could have donated the money I spent on getting the booth all fixed up, and come out ahead.

Then I had to figure out how much to charge the participants. With all the money I’d spent, I thought five dollars for the adults was a steal, with two for the students. The person in charge agreed on the price, but she didn’t think I’d have many takers. That didn’t bother me too much, since I was pretty sure it would be a hit.

Savannah volunteered to sit outside the tent and take the money. This meant she had to have a gypsy costume as well, which didn’t bother her in the least. Once we were all set up, she let the first people in. Soon, quite a crowd had gathered.

To make it more time-efficient, I told the participants they could ask me just one question and if they wanted more, they’d have to get back in line and pay again.

It was easy to pick up the answers they wanted me to give them, so I just decided to tell them what they wanted to hear. I mean…positive feedback is a powerful motivator, so it could happen, right?

Pretty soon, the questions started getting personal. One girl wanted to know who was going to ask her to senior prom. She was hoping it was Mason, so I told her if she wanted Mason to ask her, she’d better let him know with a few subtle hints. That wasn’t exactly predicting the future, but it was close enough.

By the end of the evening, I was ready to be done. Just before I closed up, a group of three teenage boys begged me to stay, saying they would come in together. They were joking around and laughing, but I caught an underlying thread of a mischievous intent to hassle me a bit, mostly because people were saying that I was the real deal, and the boys wanted to prove them wrong.

“You each get one question,” I said. “So make it count.”

“What college will I go to?” The first one asked. He was thinking this was a trick question, since he wasn’t planning on going to college. He’d decided on going straight to an underwater welding school, which wasn’t something most kids did, but which he was totally excited about.

I stroked my crystal ball, making it jump and hum with little sparks of lightning, and then I looked deeply into his eyes before answering. “You’re not going to college. You’ll do something unusual, and it involves… water and fire.”

The other boys laughed, but this kid’s eyes got huge. He hadn’t told them his plans yet. In fact, he’d only talked to his dad about it. so how did I know? One of them smacked him on the arm, so he halfheartedly laughed with them, but inside he was freaking out.

Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have done that. Oh well.

The next boy asked if he’d pass the test and get his driver’s license, which was a trick question since he already had it. He got a little quiet when I told him he already had it. Then he shrugged it off, thinking it was a lucky guess.

The final boy asked me if he’d get a football scholarship to college. He was hoping it could happen, but deep down, he knew he wasn’t quite good enough, although I didn’t know that.

“I get the feeling you’re a good player,” I said. “But to be on the safe side, you’d better look at other ways to get a scholarship. That, or start saving your money.”

Since that was a safe answer, he dismissed it. “Well, thanks,” he said, but he was thinking – thanks for nothing – and sent me a fake smile.

He stood to leave, glancing at the other two, and thinking about their plans for the night. He always enjoyed the rush of stealing pumpkins off people’s porches and smashing them in the street without getting caught, and tonight was the night.

“Uh…guys, before you go, there’s something you need to know,” I said, effectively stopping them. They all turned to stare at me with raised brows.

“You have something planned for tonight that’s not good. Whatever it is, I feel the need to warn you…don’t do it. If you do, it will change the course of your lives, and you’ll never be the same.”

All pretense of smug coolness dropped from their faces, quickly morphing into jaw-dropping astonishment. What did I know? Was one of them going to get hurt? Would they get caught, or worse, would someone shoot them by mistake?

“Thanks for stopping by,” I said, smiling.

They fled the tent and I stood, grateful the night was over, and needing to get some fresh air. As I stepped out of the tent, Savannah glanced my way with big eyes. “What did you say to them?” she asked, thinking those guys had looked scared out of their minds.

I shrugged. “I just told them to stay out of trouble, or something bad might happen to them. I guess it was good advice.”

She laughed, thinking that those three were known to be troublemakers. “Good job.” She leaned over and gave me a high five.

At the end of the night, we’d brought in enough money that the lady in charge was thrilled, and ready to book me for next year’s event. Now that I had all the props, I readily agreed. I mean…I’d had a blast. How could I pass it up?

On one hand, I could think of some worse-case scenarios, where this might come back to bite me, but nothing like that would happen, right? And I’d saved a few pumpkins in the process, so it was all good.

And who knew? Maybe I’d even get a new client or two out of it?

 

 

As some of you might know, I just got a new office at Thrasher Development. I’m pretty excited about it, but there’s not a lot for me to do there.

Mostly, I go to Thrasher when Uncle Joey needs me for something. I sit in on his meetings and stop by my office to leave my purse in the desk drawer. Sure, I can sit at my desk for a minute or so, but there’s nothing there for me to do besides look at the fabulous painting on the wall.

Since I hated to let the space go to waste, I decided I might as well make good use of it, and meet there with a client from my consulting business. Uncle Joey hadn’t said I couldn’t, but he hadn’t said I could, either. And, knowing he liked people with initiative, I decided to go ahead with my plans. If needed, I’d ask for forgiveness later.

I’d received a phone call from a guy who sounded a little desperate for my help, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to use my office. I also made sure to schedule our meeting at a time that I knew Uncle Joey wouldn’t be there, just in case.

I arrived at the office a little early, surprising Jackie. “Shelby? What are you doing here? Joe’s at a meeting, so he’s not here.”

“Oh…this is something else. I’m meeting with someone in my office. He should be here in about ten minutes. I’ll watch for him so you don’t have to do anything.”

She nodded, but her eyes narrowed, and she wondered what I was up to. It wasn’t something for Joe, so what could it be? Then she remembered Joe complaining that I had my own consulting business and he didn’t like it much. Was that what this was about?

If I was meeting with clients from my business, she’d definitely let Joe know, because she wasn’t sure he’d like that. Still, it wasn’t really hurting anything, and my office mostly sat there empty and unused. She just wished I’d okay-ed it with Joe first.

“Uh…just so you know, it’s okay with Uncle Joey,” I added, wanting to calm her down and hoping it was true.

“Oh…good.” She smiled and her shoulders relaxed. Then she glanced at me with raised brows. “Is it about something juicy, like an affair?”

I gave her an indulgent smile. “I don’t know. But I guess I’ll find out soon enough.” I hurried down the hall so I wouldn’t have to answer any more of her questions, and propped the door open. That way, I could hear my client when he came in, and I could meet him before Jackie had to do anything.

Sure enough, I heard a man’s voice asking for me. “I’m looking for Shelby Nichols?”

While Jackie answered, I jumped out of my chair and hurried down the hall to greet him, excited that I looked totally professional with an office and everything. “Hi David. I’m Shelby.” We shook hands and I told him to follow me to my office.

He came inside and took the seat in front of my desk, thinking I must do really well for myself. He’d heard of Thrasher Development, but couldn’t place the company. Was it in real estate? He glanced at me and wondered why my office was here. It didn’t make sense, unless I worked for Thrasher and did this on the side.

Since that was exactly the case, I sent him a smile. “How can I help you?”

“Well…” he began, then paused. His eyes widened and he caught my gaze, realizing all at once where he’d heard of Thrasher Development. The company was owned by Joe Manetto, and there were rumors that he was a mob-boss.

“Um…I’ve changed my mind,” he said, standing abruptly. There was no way he was telling me his troubles just so I could use them against him. Was that what I did? How could I call myself a legitimate consultant?

“Wait! My business has nothing to do with Thrasher Development. It’s totally separate, I promise.” He was thinking that it sure didn’t look that way, so I continued. “I know it doesn’t look that way, but everything we say and agree to here in this office is totally confidential.”

That calmed him down a little, but he knew his problem could be exploited, and he didn’t want to take a chance on me. “Sure. But I’ll pass. Thanks anyway.”

He left in a flash. By the time I got to Jackie’s desk, he was long gone. I hadn’t even picked up what he’d needed me for. Wow. What a bummer.

I glanced at Jackie, and she gave me a rueful smile. “That was quick.” She knew something had scared him off, and she was pretty sure what it was.

“Yeah. I guess I won’t be meeting with clients here after all.”

She shrugged. “Some people might think it’s a good thing. I guess he wasn’t one of them.”

“True. Well…uh…I guess I’ll go home now.”

She nodded, thinking she couldn’t wait to tell Joe. He’d certainly get a kick out of it. But she felt a little sorry for me just the same. It was a nice office, and she didn’t blame me for wanting to use it. “Maybe next time you can mention that your office is in Thrasher Development and ask if they have a problem with it. That way you can weed them out before they get here.”

“Yeah. That’s a good idea. I’ll think about it.” I wanted to ask her to keep this little mistake between the two of us, but her loyalty was to Uncle Joey, so I knew that wasn’t going to happen. “I guess I’ll see you later.”

I gathered my things and left, discouraged that it hadn’t worked out the way I’d hoped. Maybe it was a good thing? At least I didn’t have to worry about upsetting Uncle Joey.

So…as much as I like my office, I guess using it for my consulting agency is probably not a good idea.

 

 

I don’t know about you, but it’s been HOT this summer.

So when Savannah asked if we could go swimming at the country club where Josh is working as a lifeguard, I couldn’t say no. We’re not members of the swanky country club but, because Josh is working there, we’ve been given special dispensation to use the swimming pool.

Of course, that might have something to do with Uncle Joey, my ‘adopted’ uncle who happens to be a mob-boss, and for whom I also work (mostly under duress). In fact, he helped Josh get the job. Needless to say, he has a lot of clout…and not just at the country club. He’s even talked about sponsoring me and my husband so we can join up, but after taking a look at the monthly fees…let’s just say they were a little on the ‘way-out-of-our-league’ side.

Even though we could use the pool, we hadn’t yet because I was uncomfortable since we weren’t actual members. But with Savannah’s incessant whining, and Josh’s encouragement, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and try it out.

In retrospect, I think the heat had something to do with it. Or maybe it was temporary insanity. Either way, I gave in and got ready to go.

Josh said there were great changing rooms, but I decided Savannah and I would wear our suits there, since I didn’t want us to intrude where we didn’t belong. He didn’t understand what the big deal was, but he also didn’t read minds like me, and didn’t know how much that affected my decisions.

The bathing suit I chose to wear was one I’d bought in Orlando last summer. I hadn’t worn it since and, even though it was on the cheap side, I really wanted to wear it, mostly because it reminded me of Ramos and the time we’d spent there.

So against my better judgement, I pulled it on. Then I slipped a gauzy, light blue cover-up over it, and grabbed my beach towel. I loaded a bag with my sunglasses, a book, and plenty of sunscreen, and was ready enjoy the afternoon.

We arrived before Josh’s shift and hurried inside together. Josh led the way to the pool, and we soon claimed a couple of lounge chairs in the corner under a big umbrella. There weren’t many people there, and I began to relax, hoping that no one would notice us.

As we got settled, Josh came back out and made his way to the lifeguard chair. The current lifeguard spoke to Josh for a few moments, then Josh motioned to us, and led him over to introduce us.

His name was Liam, and he was a lot older than Josh. In fact, he’d just graduated from High School and knew Miguel. This drew Savannah’s interest, and she was thinking that he was really cute, and she admired his toned abs and muscled arms.

I tried not to roll my eyes and wondered if he was interested in Savannah. I was ready to tell him she was only thirteen, but as he walked away, he was thinking that I was a babe and I must be Josh’s step-mom or something, because I looked way too young to be Josh’s mother.

I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face, since that kind of surprised and pleased me at the same time. Then I caught that he thought Savannah had potential, and he’d have to remember to look her up in a couple of years.

I huffed out a breath at that, but a sliver of unease gripped my chest. Sure, she was thirteen now, but in only three years, she’d be sixteen. Yikes! What would I do when I heard thoughts like that about her then? A vision of me smacking boys upside the head didn’t help.

Before I got carried away, I shoved those unhelpful thoughts out of my head, and got busy applying sunscreen to her back. After she’d done the same for me, she jumped into the pool and I soon followed after her. The water felt amazing, and I was so happy we’d come.

A little later, I got out, eager to relax on my chair and start reading a good book.

It wasn’t long before a few more people showed up, and a stick-thin woman wearing makeup, and her hair perfectly styled, took possession of the chairs beside mine. I knew she wasn’t about to get in the water and mess up her face. I smiled a greeting, and went back to my book, hoping she’d get the idea and leave me alone.

Unfortunately, she had other plans, mostly because she’d never seen me before and wanted to know who I was. She also thought my swimming suit looked a little tacky, but at least I wasn’t fat.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Crystal Davenport. I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Shelby Nichols. Nice to meet you.”

She waited for me to continue, but since I didn’t she began to question me like a pro. “Nice to meet you too. I come almost everyday, and I’ve never seen you here before. Are you new members?”

“Uh… my son is one of the lifeguards, so we thought we’d spend a few hours here.”

“Oh. I see. That’s nice.” She was lying. She didn’t think it was nice at all, mostly because her son had wanted the job, and he’d been passed over for someone else. It must have been because of my son.

Then she realized I’d never said we were members. “So you’re not members of the club?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Oh.” She nodded, but her eyes glazed over with anger. She thought being a member was a requirement. But even if it wasn’t, those who were members should be considered for the lifeguard job before those who weren’t. This was totally wrong, and she wasn’t going to stand for it. Her son should have gotten the job, not mine.

“Excuse me.” She smiled politely, then headed toward a group of women on the other side of the pool and began talking to them about me.

Oh great! She was going to get Josh fired! All because of me.

I picked up what I could from the other women. They hissed their disapproval, but deep down, most of them could care less. Still, they glared at me for her sake. All but one of them, who looked my way with a puzzled frown. Didn’t she know me from somewhere?

Crystal glanced my way with a triumphant gleam in her eyes. She was going to make a formal complaint and get me kicked out. With her head held high, she left the pool area to find the person in charge.

I sucked in a breath and sat up, ready to gather my things and leave. I glanced at Savannah. She’d been having a great time. To be honest, so had I. Should I allow this woman to ruin my day? It wasn’t my fault that her son didn’t get the job. This wasn’t my fight, even if she made it look that way.

With a determined sigh, I lay back down and picked up my book. She was not going to get the best of me. It took a while to get back into the story, but once I did, I completely forgot about her until I realized she stood directly over me.

With her arms crossed and her lips flattened into a grim line, she began to speak. “I don’t know how you did it, but you don’t belong here. I think you should leave.”

Whoa. Now that was going too far. “You first,” I said.

“I’m a member, you’re not. So get out.”

“No.” Her mouth dropped open. Before she could say a word, I continued. “What did you say your name was?”

“Crystal Davenport. My husband owns Davenport Security. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.” She was thinking that she had a lot of clout, and I shouldn’t mess with her or my son would be out of a job by the end of the day.

“Yes, of course I’ve heard of him. Now, if you want to make a formal complaint, go ahead, but I’m not leaving, and you’re blocking my light.”

She inhaled sharply and opened her mouth to let me have it, but one of the ladies from the other side of the pool grabbed her arm. “Crystal, my dear. What are you doing?” The woman asked. “You need to calm down and apologize.”

The woman glanced at me. “I’m Rosalyn Fairbanks. We met at the Museum Gala. My husband introduced us.” She hoped I put it together that her husband was the mayor, and he’d presented me with the honorary plaque that was now hanging on a wall of the museum.

“Of course,” I said and smiled. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“It’s an honor to have you here.” She turned to Crystal. “Shelby is a major contributor to the arts. Just last year, she found the man responsible for the stolen Monet and the other paintings. She recovered them for us.” She glanced at me. “And didn’t you help capture that escaped convict that was terrorizing the community a few weeks ago?”

“Uh…yes. I did.”

“You lead such an exciting life. Maybe someday you can share some of your most interesting cases with us. I’m sure we’d all love to hear some of the more intimate details.”

My brows rose into my forehead and my mouth dropped open. “Uh…maybe.”

“Don’t worry, my dear. I don’t mean now. We’ll let you get back to your book. Oh…how’s your Uncle doing?”

“Uncle Joey? Uh…great.”

“Good.” She glanced at Crystal. “Joe Manetto is her uncle.” She turned back to me. “Tell him hello from me, won’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” She nudged Crystal, who glanced at me with widened eyes.

“Uh… Sorry for earlier. Uh…can I get you anything? A drink or something?”

“Oh…no. I’m good.”

She nodded. “Maybe next time, then?”

“Yeah, sure.”

With that, the women left, and I tried not to smile too big. It had surprised me that the mayor’s wife remembered me, but I couldn’t complain since she’d come to my rescue. Of course, she also knew Uncle Joey, and I gathered that had more to do with it.

Now it looked like I could come to this pool anytime I wanted. Like I was a big-shot celebrity or something. I sighed. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, but relaxing here by the pool… I had to believe that, every once in a while, there had to be some perks for all the times I’d put my life on the line.

So I might as well enjoy it, right?

Not long ago, I tried to drive Ramos’s Harley. It was in a parking lot, but I had a crazy person behind me at the time, and I almost crashed into the back of a building. Luckily I was able to turn the bike, but I ended up underneath it because it was too heavy for me to hold up. The only good thing about it was that I just got a few bruises on my ankle. The bike didn’t fair so well, and Ramos had to take it into the shop and get it fixed.

After that, he suggested I learn how to drive a motorcycle in case that ever happened again, and he would teach me. How could I pass that up?

To be honest, I like riding behind Ramos better than almost anything, so driving a motorcycle myself kind of defeats that purpose. Still, I told him that was a good idea, even though I doubted it would ever happen.

Then just this morning after we’d finished up a meeting at Thrasher Development, Ramos and I left the office at the same time. In the parking garage, I glanced toward Ramos’s normal parking place and found a different bike parked there.

“Where’s the Harley?” I asked.

“At home,” he answered. “I just got this one restored and wanted to ride it today.” He wandered over to it, and ran his hand over the polished chrome with a soft caress. “This bike is a vintage classic. It’s a 1959 Bonneville Triumph. I found it when I was in Mexico, and managed to bring it home.”

“Wow. That’s great. It looks like an awesome bike,” I said, even though I had no idea what a vintage classic meant, except that it was probably worth a lot of money.

“Hey, this would be the perfect bike for you to learn on. It’s not as big as the Harley, so you’d probably be able to handle it. Want to try it out?”

“You mean…all by myself?”

“Sure. Now that school’s out, we could go to an empty school parking lot, and you could try her out.”

“Uh…are you sure? I mean, it’s a vintage classic, right?”

“You’ll be fine.”

“Okay.” Just the thought of trying to drive that bike sent shards of ice down my spine, but how could I say no to Ramos?

“Good.” He popped the trunk to his car and produced both our helmets and handed the smaller one to me.

As I strapped it on, I wished I would have been more prepared and worn different clothes. Since it was summer, I’d worn a pink tank top under a white linen shirt and my denim capri pants with sparkles on the back pockets. On my feet, I’d slipped on my denim sandals that totally matched. At least they were flat, and the top of my foot was covered, so that would help with the shifting part.

I climbed on behind Ramos, and slipped my arms around him, willing to try anything for a ride with him, and hoped for the best.

This bike was smaller, but I fit behind Ramos just fine. He took us to the nearest high school parking lot and pulled inside. We both got off, and he began to explain how to shift the gears to me, most of which I already knew from riding with him.

He took me through the brake lever and the shift lever, along with how to pull the handle to give it some gas. By the time he was done, I had a pretty good idea how to drive it, but that didn’t stop my stomach from fluttering with trepidation.

“Ready to try it out?” he asked.

“Uh…I guess.”

He took in my widened eyes and pale face, and his lips tilted up in a smile. “Want me to ride behind you until you get the hang of it?”

I let out a relieved breath. “You can do that?” At his nod, I continued. “I would feel lots better if you did.”

“Okay, get on.”

I straddled the bike and scooted forward so there was plenty of room for Ramos behind me. He helped me get it started, and told me how to shift into first, and let out the clutch while giving it some gas.

I did everything like he said, and we inched forward before it sputtered out and died. He told me I needed to give it a little more gas and try again. This time, I managed to do it right, and we started off across the parking lot at a slow pace.

He continued to tell me when to shift, and I got all the way up to third gear before we began to run out of space and had to turn around. I turned slowly, grateful that Ramos could keep the bike from tipping over, and then began to head back.

After a couple of times, I was getting the hang of it, and Ramos settled back into the seat, leaving me to use the handle bars by myself. We turned around to head back to the other side of the parking lot, and all that open space beckoned me, so I gave it a little extra gas and went a little faster than before.

Ramos grabbed me around the waist, and I laughed as we picked up speed. I even managed to get all the way to fourth gear. Since we were nearing the end of the parking lot, I let go of the gas to pull on the brake lever, causing us to slow more abruptly than I wanted.

The momentum caused Ramos to plow into my back, pushing me forward. That’s when I panicked and pulled on the brake, causing us both to fly forward even more. Ramos expertly reached around me, and took control of the bike. With relief, I pulled my fingers away and leaned back against him until we came to a complete stop.

He put his feet on the ground so the bike didn’t tip over, and swung his leg off the bike, leaving me on it alone. “What did you think?” he asked.

“It was great…until the end. I guess I lost it a little.”

He smiled. “You did great. Want to try it on your own?”

My eyes widened. “Uh…nope…not really. But I think I got the basics, so this was a good start. Besides, I don’t want to risk wrecking this classic bike, you know?”

He chuckled, knowing I was scared out of my mind, but he also thought it had been worth it to have his arms around me for a change. “Yeah. I appreciate that. Ready to head back?”

Now that it was over, I wasn’t sure I wanted it to end, but changing places with Ramos made it a lot easier. “Yes.”

Soon, I was back where I felt most comfortable. Still, there was a moment with Ramos’s arms around me that I’d felt a real thrill. It was great fun, and I wouldn’t mind feeling that again sometime. But, for now, riding behind him was even better.

So that was my first bike driving lesson. I thought it went pretty well, and if I ever get the chance again, I’ll take it…as long as Ramos is sitting behind me.

School Play

Posted: April 24, 2018 in Advice, Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

Some of you may know that I work for a mob-boss and he has an 18 year-old son who recently played the lead in his high school play of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Needless to say, my daughter Savannah, who just turned 13, has a huge crush on Miguel.

After seeing him playing the lead, I can’t blame her. In fact, most of the girls in the auditorium were practically swooning, and the sighs…oh my gosh…they came from every female no matter what their ages.

Of course, a lot of those sighs were in their minds where only I could hear them, so maybe that’s why they seemed so loud. Still…you get the picture.

Anyway, Miguel’s sudden rise to stardom inspired Savannah to try out for her Jr. High School play. They’re doing a watered down version of Beauty and the Beast. It should be a lot of fun for Savannah, but she’s hoping for the lead. The only problem with that is…she hasn’t got the chops for it.

Don’t get me wrong, her singing voice is great. It’s just not lead singer material. I hope she’s not too disappointed if she doesn’t get the main part. She’s been taking dance lessons forever, so she should get into that dance scene during the dinner and I hope she’ll be happy with that.

But it has given her a chance to talk to Miguel about trying out for the play, which he is totally encouraging her to do. So in her estimation, it’s a win no matter what, especially because it’s an excuse to call him for advice.

So what’s a mother to do? I don’t think she’ll get the part she wants, but I’m not about to tell her she’s not good enough either. That’s the hard part of being a mom. There are some days when you just have to know your kids will get disappointed. But I guess that’s just part of life. We all get disappointed, but it’s how we respond that builds our character.

I just hope I don’t have to worry too much about her crush on Miguel. I mean…they’d never end up together, right? Can you imagine having a mob-boss as my daughters’ father-in-law? Yikes! It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

She’s bound to get over her crush with him at some point, especially with Miguel heading off to New York. They’ll hardly see each other after that. Although my family is planning on going to his opening night performance of Aladdin this summer.

That’s another thing I have to worry about. Not the part about going to Aladdin, but how I’m going to explain that my kids have a grandmother they’ve never met who lives there. She’s not really their grandmother, but I had to go along with Uncle Joey’s story that his sister is my mother for Miguel’s sake, since he thinks we’re cousins.

Why did I ever agree to do that? Well…it might have something to do with him being a mob-boss, but still…how am I going to explain all that to my kids? Just thinking about it gives me a headache.

I think for now I’m going to put it from my mind. No use worrying over something that hasn’t happened yet, right? Besides, Savannah will be coming home soon with the verdict of whether or not she made the school play. I sure hope she did, but I’d better have a alternate plan just in case. Like a consolation prize of some sort. But what should I do?

Wish me luck!

 

I work for a mob-boss. Doesn’t that sound nuts? There are some days I can’t believe it either. But, I have to say that he’s not your typical mob-boss, mostly because he runs several legitimate businesses, and he’s never been arrested…not even once.

Before you start thinking that I’m rationalizing about working for such a person, let me just clarify that I do it under duress. He found out my secret that I can read minds, and threatened harm to my family if I didn’t cooperate.

Sure, it may seem like I enjoy it, and sometimes I really do, but since I’ve nearly died a few times because of it, I know I should work harder at getting out from under him.

Still, if I’m honest, I do like being an indispensable part of his organization. That feeling of importance is pretty amazing. He’s also made sure I have someone to watch my back when I get in trouble, and I’ve grown quite fond of that person…and his motorcycle. Uncle Joey’s also deposited copious amounts of money into my checking account, and given me bonuses. I’ve even gone on his private jet to some great cities a few times.

So…what I’m trying to tell you is that I guess I’m in too deep to get out now. That should bother me a whole lot, but what can I say? I passed that point a while ago. Which brings me to my next conundrum. I also help the police. My partner, Detective Harris, aka Dimples, knows that I sometimes help Uncle Joey, he just doesn’t know how much.

So far, he hasn’t made a big deal out of it, but I just found out that he’s looking into it. What am I supposed to say when he tells me that he has a plan to take Uncle Joey down, and he wants my help to do it, especially when I know he’s doing it for my sake?

To top it all off, my husband also works for Uncle Joey as his lawyer. Could this get any worse? Actually, yes, because now my kids think Uncle Joey is my uncle and therefore related to them. In fact, our whole family had a chance encounter with his. I had to introduce my kids to his wife and son. Since then, he’s claimed us as part of The Family.

My thirteen-year-old daughter, Savannah, has a huge crush on Uncle Joey’s eighteen-year-old son. She thinks he’s not blood-related because of a story I made up about how Uncle Joey was first married to my aunt but they got a divorce and his son is from a different relationship. Complicated, right?

It’s no wonder that when taking a good look at my life, and all the complications involved in it, that I start to get a little stressed out. Which brings me to my next conundrum. You see, I’m meeting with Dimples this afternoon, and Uncle Joey just asked me to spy on the police department about a special case that could have repercussions for him.

He’s never really asked me to do that before, although it’s been implied, and it’s stressing me out. Can a good person work for people on both sides of the law? How long can I sit on the fence between the good guys and the bad guys without getting caught, hurt, or killed?

Honestly, I don’t want to find out, because I know one thing for sure…I could never betray Uncle Joey. But just as important, I don’t want to end up in jail either. So I guess for now, I’ll just have to keep balancing on that tightrope, and hope I don’t fall off.

It’s what you’d do, right?

Wish me luck – I’m going to need it!

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m not someone who likes to make new year’s resolutions. Not that I don’t want to accomplish things or set goals. But it seems like most of the time, resolutions are for stopping a bad habit, or changing something about yourself to make you a better person.

I’m totally aware of my shortcomings, because as a mind-reader, I’m always hearing what people think of me. While some of it’s nice, a lot of it isn’t, and trying not to take it the wrong way is hard, but since none of them would ever say such things to my face, I have to try and get over it.

So you can see why I’d rather not concentrate on my shortcomings. But what else is there? Glancing through my Facebook feed (which is probably something I should make a resolution to change because it’s a huge time drain) I found a post about a resolution that I could really get behind. The first thing it said to do was plan a vacation.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? I thought so too, and I started thinking about where I’d like to go. Italy came to mind. One of my favorite shows from a long time ago was Only You, with Robert Downey Jr. and, after seeing that, I’d always dreamed of going there someday. Now I could go with Chris, and it would be so romantic.

That’s when things got strange. Not too long ago, I’d mentioned to Uncle Joey that Jackie was thinking about how much she’d like to go to Italy. He hadn’t seemed too excited about that, and I picked up that he’d been there a few times, and he wouldn’t be able to go back without paying his respects to the “family.” It didn’t seem like it was something he wanted to do again. Now why was that? Was there bad blood between them?

Still, that didn’t have anything to do with me. If I went to Italy, I’d be safe from them because I’m not really part of the family. But since there was a part of me that had some misgivings, I decided to test the waters and mention it to Uncle Joey, just to see what he thought.

If you’re thinking that was a bad idea, you’d be right. I should have just planned my trip and told him I was going to Canada. I would have been better off, even if I lied.

As soon as I mentioned that I was thinking about planning a trip to Italy, he got that calculating look in his eyes, and his thoughts turned to how I could solve one of his biggest headaches. He’d avoided going back because of what had happened the last time, but if he sent me as his emissary, I’d know if they were still upset with him, or if he’d done enough to earn their forgiveness.

Then if the way was cleared, he could take Jackie for a visit like she’d wanted and he wouldn’t have to worry about his reception. It was a win-win.

He caught my widened eyes and knew I’d picked up everything. His lips turned into a frown, but he patted my shoulder. “Don’t worry, Shelby. I’d never send you to see them if I thought it was dangerous. It would just mean taking a moment to stop by, say hello, and give them my regards, then you could leave. You’d know right away if they still held any animosity toward me.”

“But I can’t speak Italian,” I blurted. “So it wouldn’t work.”

“That’s true,” he agreed with a slight twist to his lips. “But it wouldn’t take a mind-reader to know how they felt. And it seems like you can pick up feelings almost as well as you can hear people’s thoughts.”

He had me there. I did pick up strong feelings of anger or revenge along with the thoughts that accompanied them. But I wasn’t sure if that was because of the way they said the words in their minds, or if it was how they really felt.

His stern gaze sent my heart into palpitations, so I quickly agreed. “Uh…yeah, that’s right. I guess I forgot that part.” At his satisfied smile, I continued. “Well, I’ll be sure to let you know if Chris and I decide to go. There’s a few other places we’re also thinking about, so it may not happen this year. In fact, Canada might be nice too.”

Uncle Joey wasn’t fooled. Canada might be nice, but it certainly wasn’t Italy. “If you decide to go, I have some connections that would save you a lot of money. I’m on good terms with a second cousin who owns a beautiful villa right on the coast of Tuscany. He’s turned it into a bed and breakfast and he hosts guided tours and amazing dinners. You’d love it.”

“Yeah, I’m sure I would. That sounds great. Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Uncle Joey had me over a barrel, just how he liked it. Now if I wanted to go to Italy, I’d have to tell him. On the other hand, it was always nice to have connections. I mean, that villa sure sounded amazing. Still, I wasn’t sure it was worth it. Sure, he’d said it wouldn’t be dangerous, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t get into some sort of trouble.

It made me realize that even a simple task of making a fun new year’s resolution could backfire. So… I think I’m not ever going to make resolutions again. I’m also going to check on some vacation spots in Canada. It may not be as fun, but it would be safer, and they speak English.

But I really want to go to Italy. So, if you were in my place, what would you do?

 

Christmas Gifts

Posted: December 5, 2017 in Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

It’s been a while since my visit to the grocery store on that fateful day in April. That’s when the bank inside the store was robbed and I got shot, leaving me with the ability to read minds. If you want to know the truth, it’s been a mixed blessing. Sure, I’m mostly glad to have this ‘extra’ sense, but there are times when it’s gotten me in a lot of trouble. Like working for a mob-boss.

Of course, I’ve been able to help the police and solve a lot of cases, as well as start my own consulting agency. So I can’t complain. But as much as I like knowing things I probably shouldn’t, there are times I’m not real happy about it.

One of those times is Christmas. Even though I do my best to block my mind from hearing thoughts, I’m not always successful. As you can imagine, it takes a little of the enjoyment out of opening Christmas presents, since I usually know what I’m getting ahead of time.

Like this year. I accidentally heard my husband, Chris, thinking about this great present he was getting me. Mostly he was thinking how much money it would cost, but that I would love it. That got me real excited, and I tried not to listen to anything else he was thinking.

Since he knows I can hear his thoughts, he does his best to guard them as well, so that helps. Still, I feel bad about that, because it’s a lot of work for him, and he’s not always successful. It also leaves me in the position of sometimes lying so I won’t hurt his feelings. It’s a fine line.

But today, all my good intentions went out right the window because I heard him thinking about the toilet seat he was getting me for Christmas. I tried really hard not to react, but seriously? A toilet seat? For Christmas? And it cost a lot of money? Was it made out of gold or something?

“You’re joking, right?” I blurted.

“What?” Then it hit him that I’d heard all about the toilet seat. He took a deep breath and swore in his mind. Which I also heard. So this time, he said it out loud. “Dammit.”

“Sorry, but… are you serious?”

Chris shook his head, thinking that having a mind-reading wife was going to drive him… “Uh…yes, but it’s not what you think. They’ve got these great toilet seats that do all kinds of things. And it’s heated!”

“Oh, right. I didn’t think about that.” Then I glanced at him and smiled. “Okay. Maybe that is something I’d like.”

Chris groaned a little and closed his eyes, but managed to block his thoughts so I wouldn’t hear that he thought I was driving him crazy, but it didn’t take a mind-reader to figure that out.

I also felt bad that I’d ruined his surprise, so I quickly pulled him into a hug. “I’m sure I’ll love it.”

“I don’t have to get it for you. I can figure out something else.”

“No. Now that I know more about it, I think it’s great.”

He pulled away and narrowed his eyes, clearly not buying it.

“I do. Really. I mean…now that I know, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t get it. A warm toilet seat! That’s pretty sweet.”

“Shelby…” He shook his head, exasperated. Was I mocking him? He wasn’t sure if I was just saying that, or if I really wanted it. “You won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want it.”

I smiled. Poor Chris. “I do want it. It sounds lovely.” Oops, maybe that did sound a little patronizing.

He smiled back, thinking that at least I hadn’t picked up the other thing he was getting me…he caught my gaze and widened his eyes.

“I didn’t hear a thing about that.”

“Good.”

He left right after that for work. Kind of like he was eager to get away from his mind-reading wife. It would have hurt my feelings, but I couldn’t blame him, since I’d ruined his surprise.

Now I’ve been wondering all day if he’s really getting me something else, or if he just said that to throw me off. Oh well. Whatever happens, I’m really looking forward to my new toilet seat, but I’ve decided that, if I pick up the other thing he hinted at giving me, I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear about it. Even if I have to lie.

 

Last Monday around four-thirty in the afternoon, I got a phone call from Ramos. That wasn’t unusual, but what surprised me was the desperation in his voice. If you know Ramos at all, you know how crazy that sounds. He is the King of Cool.

Then he explained the situation, and I couldn’t help blurting out my surprise. “What? You’re babysitting? Are you kidding me?”

That might not have been the best thing to say to someone who’s sounding desperate, especially when that someone is a renowned hit-man for a mob-boss.

“No. I’m not kidding.” His voice sounded a little menacing, so I quickly changed my tone.

“Oh, okay. What do you need?”

He explained that his neighbor had taken his wife to the hospital because she was in labor, and the guy’s mother-in-law couldn’t get there for a while. For some reason, they asked Ramos to watch their five and two-year-old kids until she got there.

“Wow. How did you get roped into that?”

“I was in the yard raking leaves, and I guess they were desperate. What could I say? I mean, she was moaning and crying with pain, and I thought that baby might just be born right there in the driveway.”

As he spoke I heard a child yelling in the background. Then came a high-pitched scream and something clattered to the floor. “Can you come over?” he asked.

“Sure.” He gave me his address, and I jumped in my car. As I drove to the house, it hit me that now I’d finally get to see where he lived. That was something I’d wondered about for a long time.

He spent a lot of time at the apartment at Thrasher Development, but I’d always known he had a house somewhere. Now I’d see it and maybe uncover a little more about the hit-man that I didn’t know.

The neighborhood in which he lived wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. He didn’t live in a ritzy part of town, and the houses were nice, but not huge. Still, they were well-kept and the neighborhood had a feeling of community about it.

I recognized his black car in the driveway of an older, red-brick home. Large maple trees lined the street with golden color, and piles of leaves rested in many of the front yards. The leaves in Ramos’s yard were heaped in a pile, with a rake lying haphazardly across the top of them.

I parked my car in the driveway behind his, and got out. Ramos must have been watching for me, because he opened the door in the house on the right and called my name.

I started toward him and paused in mid-stride with my jaw dropping open. He stood there holding a two-year-old girl on his hip like a regular person. It was a picture of Ramos that I never thought I’d see in a million years. It was so jarring that I really wanted to take out my camera to record the moment, but his frown was enough to dissuade me from doing anything of the sort.

Putting a happy smile on my face, I continued to the house. The five-year-old boy was adorable and talked a mile-a-minute, but he was a little upset that his parents had left him in the care of a virtual stranger.

My presence calmed him down, and once he was settled, his little sister wanted to get down to play. He showed us his favorite toys and explained what they did and how they worked.

Soon, we were all sitting on the floor, playing with a hot wheels play set where the little cars could race down a spiraling track. He got Ramos to pick a car and have a race with him, and it was something he wanted to do over and over again. It reminded me of how Josh was at that age, and I got a little nostalgic.

I tried to coax the little girl over to sit by me, but instead, she walked right over to Ramos and sat down in his lap. Ramos’s eyes widened and I knew it made him uncomfortable, but then he glanced at me and shrugged. He was thinking that all the girls liked sitting in his lap, so he shouldn’t be too surprised.

I laughed, glad that he was relaxed enough to joke about the situation.

Half an hour later, their grandmother showed up. She thanked us profusely and we got up to leave. The little boy told Ramos that he needed to come back and play some more. Ramos’s brows rose, but he smiled and told him that he’d see him around.

Then we left. The outside air cooled my face, and I glanced at Ramos, noting the relief in the deep breaths he took.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I said. “Right?”

He shook his head. “I had no idea what to do with those kids. Thanks for coming.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I just have one request,” he said, catching my gaze.

Of course I picked it up from his mind. He didn’t want me to tell anyone, because it would ruin his reputation. “Not even Uncle Joey?”

His lips thinned, so I relented. “Okay. I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

“Good. Thanks.” He walked back over to the pile of leaves and picked up his rake. “You want to help with this, too?”

I chuckled. “I think you can handle that just fine. I’ve got to go, but I’ll see you later.”

He gave me that chin lift thing, and I got in my car, grateful that I could come to his rescue for a change. As I waved, I noticed the little boy watching Ramos from the window of his living room. I backed out of the driveway, and started down the street.

Glancing back at Ramos, I had to chuckle. The boy had escaped his house and stood at Ramos’s side, talking up a storm. Then he jumped into the leaves and scattered them all over the place.

Whether he liked it or not, it looked like Ramos had a new friend. Ramos might not like it much, but it sure warmed my heart. Plus, I knew I’d have fun giving him a hard time about it. What could be better than that?