Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

All of you know how much I love going on motorcycle rides. But after yesterday, I’ve decided that it’s mostly because of the person taking me on the ride.

Yesterday, I got a call from my friend, Holly. She told me that her husband got her a scooter for her birthday. I think it’s a Vespa. Anyway… I hurried over to see it and maybe take a ride. It was so cute … kind of a lime green color. And the thing I liked most, was that it didn’t have any gears you had to shift, and it was small enough for me to handle.

As you know, on a motorcycle, you have to do that whole gear shift thing on the handlebar and with your foot, which can be a little intimidating… at least for me. Plus, the motorcycle that I usually ride is pretty big. If I tried to take that out by myself, I’m not sure I’d be strong enough to hold it upright. Still, I’m sure they have smaller motorcycles that I could try, right? Plus it might be a good thing to learn how to ride one just in case… you know… something happened.

With that in mind, I totally jumped at the chance to try out Holly’s Vespa, just to get a feel for it in a non-threatening way. If I liked it… who knew? Maybe I’d want to get one, or try out a smaller-size motorcycle?

She drove it around first and showed me how it worked, driving it up and down the street a few times. Then it was my turn. The handlebars have a brake lever and the one on the right side is the one you pull toward you to make it go.

It seemed simple enough, and it kind of reminded me of the wave-runner I took out at the lake a few years ago. I had my two kids on it behind me, and we started out pretty slow. Then the need for speed hit me, and I twisted the handle. We took off and it was great fun, until the kids lost their grip and flew off behind me. Luckily they both had on life jackets, but I didn’t realize they were slowly losing their grip because of the speed, or I would have slowed down…

Anyway, I tested the brakes and then twisted the handle and started off. I was going pretty slow, but I veered to the left where there’s a two-foot drop-off from Holly’s driveway to the neighbor’s driveway. I was holding onto the handlebar so tight, that I forgot that I needed to let go in order to stop.

I managed to turn the wheel in time to avoid going off the edge, but it was close, and I heard some yelling going on behind me. By then, I had come to the end of the driveway. Luckily, I shifted my hand on the handle. With a deep breath of relief, I slowed in time to look both ways before pulling out and turning up the street.

I made it to the top of the street and decided to go around the block, since I wasn’t sure I could turn it around. By the time I’d made it back around the street, I was starting to get the hang of it. I’d even managed not to tip over or anything. But my legs were a little shaky from all the excitement.

With relief, I turned into the driveway and pulled to a stop in front of everyone almost like a pro. I even remembered to put my feet on the ground so the scooter wouldn’t tip over.

Holly smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She reached for the handlebar, thinking how grateful she was that I’d make it back alive, and that I’d almost killed her brand-new scooter. She also wasn’t sure she’d ever let me ride it again.

It kind of hurt my feelings. Sure I’d sort of messed up at the beginning, but I’d made it all the way around the block just fine. Still, I knew it would take a lot more practice for me to feel totally comfortable riding around on it.

That’s when I realized that maybe having a motorcycle of my own wouldn’t be such a good idea after all. I really liked riding on the back much better than driving it myself anyway. Especially when I could wrap my arms around the one person who liked to take me on those rides… yeah… I think it’s safer for everyone if I stick to that plan from now on.

 

 

As most of you know, I’m a paid consultant for the police. I help out when they have a difficult case and not much to go on. They don’t know the truth that I can read minds, and I try to keep it that way by telling them I have psychic abilities – like premonitions and such.

This works great when they are questioning suspects, mostly because I can pick it up pretty quick if the suspect is guilty. After that, it’s usually easy for me to ask the suspect leading questions that either trick them into admitting their guilt, or trick them into giving away important information that only they would know. This usually freaks them out so bad that they confess to the whole thing. In the process, it makes me look pretty awesome.

Only today didn’t go quite so well.

I was at the precinct waiting for Dimples to arrive, when the chief got the call about a double homicide. Dimples is the only detective who knows the truth about me, and we’ve become partners. But since he wasn’t there yet, the chief asked me to go with Detective Bates.

Normally, Bates would have refused to take me with him, since he doesn’t like me much. But things have changed in the last couple of months, and he’s more accepting of my psychic abilities. He’s now a believer, since he’s seen first hand how good I am at finding the guilty party.

But right then, I wished he still hated me, because I wasn’t sure how I could help at a crime scene. I couldn’t read dead people’s minds, and the killer was probably long gone. But what could I do? As I stood there with indecision, Bates smiled encouragingly, thinking I hesitated because he hadn’t been very nice to me, but he was willing to let bygones be bygones.

Great! How could I tell him to go without me after that? “Uh… I’m not too good with blood. Maybe I’d better stay here?”

At this point the chief noticed my hesitation and frowned at me, thinking that with my ability, I might pick up something his detectives would miss and they’d get a jump start on the killer. So why was I hesitating? Isn’t this what they paid me for?

“But if you really need me,” I continued. “I’ll go.”

“Good,” the chief said. “Detective Harris has been held up on another case, but I’ll send him to the house as soon as he’s available.”

I let out a relieved breath since Detective Harris is my partner, Dimples. I hoped he didn’t take took long since he could run interference for me if things got tricky. Plus, I didn’t like going out on a case without him. I knew Dimples had my back if something went wrong, and I couldn’t say that about Bates.

Before I knew it, we arrived at the house with the dead bodies, and a wave of dread washed over me. Even worse, there were a lot of police officers there, but Dimples wasn’t one of them.

Bates noticed my white face and thought I was a big wimp. He shook his head thinking it was a mistake to bring me. Sure, I’d been right a few times, but I didn’t seem to have the mojo to be a real detective.

The grudging respect he’d held for me slipped a few notches. So I offered him a quick nod, and jumped out of the car. I even led the way to the door, but a police officer stopped me from entering, and Bates had to tell her it was okay to let me in. As obnoxious as that was, it restored Bates’ good mood, so I couldn’t be too upset.

With misgiving, I took a deep breath and followed him in. The first thing I noticed were the rusty red blood spatters all over the living room wall. Then came the coppery smell of death and the sight of two women’s bodies sprawled out on the floor. I stopped in my tracks, then managed to cover my nose and avert my gaze until I found an out-of-the-way spot near the doorway to the kitchen.

I swallowed a few times to keep from throwing up. I hadn’t expected the dead people to be women. Somehow, that made this whole thing worse. I glanced into the kitchen and noticed food on the table along with three place settings. So where was the other person? Was that person still there? Was that person the killer?

My neck tingled and a sudden chill ran down my spine, as if someone’s icy breath had brushed against my skin. I hunched my shoulders and glanced behind me, catching sight of blond hair and wide eyes before it registered that my reflection looked back at me from a tall mirror at the end of the hall.

Letting out a breath of relief, my shoulders slumped and I closed my eyes. Then I heard a sound, like a woman singing. What the freak? It came from the end of the hall where two doors stood open.

I wasn’t about to go that way, but an icy tingle crept against my neck and across my shoulders, pushing me in that direction. The singing got a little louder and I followed the sound to the room on the right.

I held my breath and peeked inside, letting it out to find the room empty. As I took a step inside the singing stopped, and I caught the scent of roses. Then a picture frame on the dresser toppled over. I inhaled sharply, then squealed with alarm as a hand clamped down on my shoulder.

“Whoa! It’s just me,” Bates said, catching my arms before I hit him. “Didn’t you hear me? I called your name twice.”

“You did?” My breath came hard and fast. At his nod, I shook my head. “I didn’t hear a thing. But I think you’d better take a look at whoever’s in that picture frame on the dresser.”

“Why?”

“Because it just fell over for no reason!”

His eyes narrowed. He was thinking that maybe my imagination was working overtime. He’d seen that happen at homicides before, because of the shock of dead bodies and all that blood. But what if there was something to it? Was it part of my powers at work?

“Sure. I’ll get it.” He moved to the dresser and pulled on some rubber gloves before picking up the frame.

I glanced over his shoulder into the photo of a smiling man wearing a suit and tie. “I don’t know who that is,” I said. “But I think he might be the killer.”

Bates glanced at me, thinking that maybe it wasn’t a waste to bring me after all. “Sure. I’ll look into it.”

I closed my eyes and let out a relieved breath. “Is it okay if I go sit in the car now?”

“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I held my breath and hurried out of the house, keeping one eye closed so I wouldn’t see the dead bodies again. After pushing through the door, I stumbled down the porch steps in my haste to get out of there.

I managed to keep my balance and continued toward the car, where I stopped to plant my hands on my knees and lean over to settle my stomach. Sheesh! That was horrible!

As I opened the car door and sat down, I decided then and there, that I was never going to a crime scene again. I’d much rather sit in on a suspect’s questioning than get scared half to death by a departed spirit.

On the other hand, at least it was Bates and not Dimples who’d been there. Bates wouldn’t question my ability, but Dimples would have had questions that I didn’t want to answer. How could I tell him that sometimes I heard dead people… Of course, since he knew I could read minds, did it really matter?

Probably not. But maybe working for Uncle Joey and not helping the police so much would be better for me… even if it wasn’t exactly the right thing to do.

I know it’s rude to just drop in on people, but sometimes if you really want to know what’s going on, that’s the best way to find out.

So today, I decided to stop by Chris’ office and see how things were going. He has this gorgeous new secretary – er – executive assistant, who kind of has the hots for him. Because she sometimes forgets, I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to stop by to remind her that my husband is not up for grabs.

I exited the elevator and made my way to Chris’ office. I found Elise sitting at her desk with her head down. As I approached, she glanced up with an expression of sadness which quickly changed into a smile for my benefit. She greeted me pleasantly enough, telling me that Chris was in court, but underneath that I picked up that she was barely holding herself together.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Uh… nothing,” she said, lying through her teeth. Her mind went to the results of her LSAT and how she’d just missed getting a good enough score to go to law school. If only she could get someone to help her study. Maybe if she told Chris, he could help her, and she could take the test again. That way she could spend more one-on-one time with him, and get the help she needed. Win-win.

I wanted to say, “Hell, no!” but managed to keep my mouth shut. Instead, I asked her when Chris would be back, and if I should wait.

“You could,” she answered. “But he might be an hour or so.” She didn’t really want me around, mostly because it reminded her that Chris was off limits.

Just then, Ethan came around the corner with a stack of files. He was a junior associate at the firm and Chris was mentoring him. Ethan had a few secrets of his own, and one was a connection to the district attorney’s office. They wanted him to snitch on Chris in order to get to Uncle Joey.

“Mrs. Nichols,” Ethan said. “Nice to see you.” He knew that I’d told him several times to call me Shelby, but he just couldn’t do it. My presence also reminded him that Chris was a good guy with a great family, and guilt swamped over him that he was supposed to spy on Chris. He wished there was a way out of that.

“Hey Ethan,” I answered. “You too. Uh… how did you do on your LSATS?”

“Pretty good,” he said, thinking that he had one of the highest scores possible, and wondering why I asked.

“Great. Did you know that Elise is studying for the exam?” I caught a blast of surprise from both of them before Ethan answered.

“No, I didn’t.” He turned to Elise. “That’s great. How’s it coming?”

She stared at me, thoroughly confused at how I knew, then swallowed and glanced at Ethan. “Uh… I already took it, but I didn’t pass. I know all this stuff, but taking timed tests just freaks me out.”

Ethan nodded, thinking that he’d been trying to figure out a way to talk to Elise outside of the office. Maybe helping her would get him a date. “I could help you, if you’d like. I got a pretty good score and maybe you just need a good coach.”

Elise nodded, then smiled at him. He was cute in his own way, and spending time with him might be fun. Not as great as with Chris… but Ethan was a smart guy and knew his stuff. “That would be great.”

As they worked out the details, I told them goodbye, and left the office with a smile, knowing I’d just killed two birds with one stone.

Now Elise had someone besides Chris to focus on, and Ethan might be distracted with her enough to forget about spying on Chris for a while. I always liked it when things went right for a change. Now if only I could count on that happening all the time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheesh! After everything I’ve been through lately, you’d think I’d learn, right? I mean, I’ve been scared more than a few times in my life, but never like this!

Let me start at the beginning. My son, Josh, asked me if I’d take him and his friends to a Halloween-themed haunted house. I should have known it would be bad with the name “The Haunting House,” but I know just as well as the next person, that it’s all make-believe. Still, I don’t like people jumping out at me in the dark.

Needless to say, Josh and his friends kind of ganged up on me to go. It helped that they thought I was the coolest mom ever, and would be even cooler if I went in with them. How could I say no to that? After a lot of energetic persuasion from them, I finally gave in, and told Josh and his friends that I’d take them, as long as it wasn’t too scary.

We arrived at the house around six-thirty and got in a line that snaked around and down the street. By the time we got to the gate, I found the house wasn’t at all what I pictured. In fact, even though it was on a major street, it was basically a normal two-story old Victorian-looking mansion. There weren’t any decorations or people dressed up in costumes, so what was the draw? That’s when the kids started talking about how this house was supposed to be haunted for real.

That raised my blood pressure real fast, and I started to panic. Oh crap! In my line of work, I’d actually picked up a few voices from the great beyond, so if it was really haunted, I could be in trouble. Too bad I’d already paid a hefty entrance fee, or I might have backed out.

Just then, our group of four, plus six more people in the line were allowed through the front gate. With a sense of impending disaster, I followed the boys to the front porch and met our guide. I listened real close to his thoughts while he explained the history of the house, trying to pick up if he actually believed it, or if he was reciting from a script.

He wove a story that this home was over one hundred and fifty years old, and had been built by a wealthy merchant. One night the whole family had been murdered by the merchant’s angry partner, who was tried and hung a week later. In the aftermath, the city took possession, and turned it into an orphanage. The orphanage functioned for twenty years before it was shut down, but by then, it had earned the reputation of being haunted with all kinds of spooky happenings.

It had passed through several owners after that, all with the same stories of unexplained events. The recent owner had even invited a team of paranormal investigators who actually documented some of them.

With that auspicious beginning, our guide told us we would now be entering a real haunted house, and he assured us that anything we saw or heard was not part of an elaborate scheme to scare us. It was real.

It might have scared me to death, except I knew from his thoughts that he wasn’t telling the whole truth. Sure, the part about the murdered family was real, along with the orphanage, but the special effects we were about to experience were definitely rigged.

I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful to know I could pick up what would happen from his thoughts before it actually happened, so it wouldn’t be so bad. Still, I moved closer to Josh, just in case I needed to grab onto someone.

The first room we entered was the living room with a fireplace and furnishings circa the late 1800’s. The lights flickered, and the fireplace burst into flames, but that was all part of the scheme. The guide did a good job of acting a little scared, which built up the pretense.

From there, we followed him into the dining room where the table was set for six people. A tablecloth hung nearly to the ground, so when the table shook, rattling the plates, it wasn’t hard to guess that someone was under there. Our guide backed away like it scared him, but it was all part of the act.

Then loud footsteps pounded across the room, coming from the ceiling above us, and we all jerked in surprise. The hairs rose at the back of my neck, and I picked up that our guide hadn’t expected that, but he figured it was new, and covered well by saying the children’s rooms were above us, and that explained the latent energy.

We skipped the kitchen, thank goodness, and he led us up the stairs, telling us how the family had all been killed while sleeping in their beds. He said their rooms; especially that of the sixteen-year-old daughter, was where most of the paranormal activity had been recorded. He saved that room for last, and took us through the other bedrooms first.

The parent’s room was dark, with only two small lights coming from the bedside tables. As he spoke about the wife, a small breeze caressed my check, carrying the smell of roses. I swallowed and glanced around the room. It came again and my breath caught. “Did you smell that?” I asked. “That rose smell?”

Everyone turned my way with rounded eyes, and I did a mental head-slap. Oops. Everyone sniffed, and a girl nodded, agreeing that she could smell it too. I let out my breath with relief, and found the guide staring at me. He was wondering if I was a plant by the owner, because nothing like that had ever happened before. Had I sprayed that perfume?

Oh great! Now what?

Shaking his head, he continued the tour and took us into the children’s rooms. I held my breath, hoping nothing else crazy happened. The rocking chair in the corner began to move, but that was staged, as well as a toy that fell from a shelf. Still, it scared the crap out of me.

Our last stop was the teenager’s room, and I realized I was hanging onto Josh’s arm pretty tight, and couldn’t seem to let go. Our guide opened the door to the room, and a blast of cold air hit me in the face. Everyone felt it, and our guide explained that the cold meant there was likely a ghost inside the room. But not to worry, no one had ever been harmed by this ghost.

He led the way inside we all followed behind with fear and trembling. There was just enough room for us to crowd around the side of the small bed. The room was dimly lit, just like the rest had been, and it was freezing. Luckily, I knew that was part of the act, but it still made my heart race.

He told us about the girl, and how many of the orphans had heard her singing at night. Then he asked us to all be quiet and listen carefully, while he asked the ghost to sing for us. It reminded of the phantom saying, “sing for me,” in Phantom of the Opera. I would have laughed, but the whole thing was freaking me out.

I picked up that the guide always did this, and he waited for the singing to start, but nothing happened. Puzzled, he asked again, only more forcefully, hoping his counterpart would get the show on the road.

All at once the door slammed shut and the lights went out.

In the dark, all pandemonium broke loose. Amid the frightened screams I got pushed against the bed and fell onto the mattress, right onto a hard body. I tried to get away, but found an arm clamped tightly around my waist.

In desperation, I grabbed my stun flashlight from my purse and pushed the on-switch for the light, only I got it wrong, and pushed the stunner instead. It crackled with green light and caught the guy in the arm. He let out a strangled yelp before collapsing on the bed, pulling me down on top of him.

Just then the lights came back on and everyone froze. I pushed off the guy, recognizing him as part of our group who was there with a cute girl. I scanned the room for Josh, and found him jerking guiltily away from the same cute girl, who he’d been holding onto rather tightly.

Oops. Somehow, we’d gotten mixed up, and now the guy was lying there like he was dead.

Both the guide and the girl rushed over to the bed and I had to explain that my stun-gun had gone off in the mix-up. I assured them that the fellow would be right as rain in a few minutes, since I’d only gotten him in the arm.

Lucky for me, the guy started to blink and moan right away. Soon, he was sitting up, wondering what had happened. By then, everyone had gathered around the bed, and we all let out relieved sighs that he was all right.

That’s when we heard it; a young girl’s laughter, echoing through the air in whispered glee.

In sheer panic, everyone high-tailed it out of there. Even the kid I’d zapped lurched out like his pants were on fire. Not me. I started laughing. I just couldn’t help it. What a prank she’d pulled! Josh came back and grabbed my arm to drag me out of there. He was thinking that I’d lost it, and that sobered me up pretty quick.

On the drive home, the boys expounded in great detail about all the special effects, and how real they were, saying that was the best haunted house ever. They even laughed at me and how I’d stunned that guy by accident, thinking I was pretty awesome.

But under that, I picked up that they were mostly trying to assure themselves that none of it was real. Even telling each other that there had to be a girl hiding in the closet who set the whole thing up.

I just laughed and agreed, telling them that was the best joke ever, and keeping my mouth shut for a change. No use telling the truth and giving them all nightmares, or worse, making them think I was nuts instead of awesome, right?

Still, how do I get into these things?

So from now on, I’m swearing off haunted houses. The next time my kids want to do anything even remotely insane like that, they can find someone else to take them. I have enough on my plate without adding ghosts, even if they do have a wicked sense of humor.

My summer’s been pretty good so far, and I hope yours has too.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating getting those fake eyelashes that they glue onto your own eyelashes. Mostly because, as I mentioned in my last post, all my friends had done it, and they looked pretty great. Of course, I already have naturally long lashes, but without mascara, they’re pretty much invisible. Which brings me to wonder how much easier it would be to have the fake ones. Looking good all the time without putting on mascara sounds awesome.

The only drawback I can see is the expense and the maintenance. My friend told me that after the first application, you have to go in every two weeks to keep them filled, or at least three to four weeks or they start to fall out and look kind of weird.

That seems like a big commitment to me, but her lashes looked so amazing, that I’m really tempted. But is the cost and maintenance worth it? She absolutely loves it, so it definitely is for her.

I’d almost made up my mind to do it, but then I remembered something that happened to me not too long ago. I broke out in hives all over my neck and face from a new face cream I was using. I’d ended up at the doctor’s office, needing a shot and a few days on steroid pills because of my allergies.

Since I’d heard similar horror stories about people having an allergic reaction to the glue that was used on the lashes, it made me wonder if that would happen to me. I could just imagine how bad I’d look with swollen eyes no amount of benadryl could cure. My doctor would probably think I was pretty stupid to even try it, which would mean I couldn’t go to him for help. And I’d just have to live with it until all my eyelashes fell out. How would I look then?

Just thinking about it sent chills of terror down my spine, so… I think I’ll just stick to mascara for now. It may take a few minutes to put on, and run down my face at inopportune times, but at least I’ll avoid the trouble of something even worse. I mean, if there’s something I’ve learned lately, it’s that if anything bad might happen to me, it probably will. Knowing that, it would be irresponsible to even try it. So I think I’ll wait. Who knows what they might come up with in a few years anyway, right?

I met some of the girls I’d grown up with for dinner the other night.

As you can imagine, I’d managed to avoid dinner with them for a while, mostly to save myself from hearing thoughts that might hurt my feelings. Not that these friends are mean or anything, but there’s always that element of competitiveness that comes when a group of women get together.

The drill goes like this: We start out by getting updates on what everyone’s doing in their lives. This is accomplished by going around the table so everyone gets a chance to talk about themselves. That’s when we get to hear about the cruises, trips, new cars, houses, and what activities the children are involved in, and how smart they are. Then we usually end with the latest gossip about other people we know. Pretty standard, right?

In some ways, I really wanted to go because I’ve got some crazy stories I could tell that might just top anything anyone else had to say. I’d also know how much of the truth they told, and how much they embellished their stories just to sound good.

But on the other hand, I’d know what they really thought about each other … and what they really thought about me. I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea, even as much as it enticed me to know.

Anyway, it just so happened that I was free on the night of the scheduled dinner. And in a moment of weakness, I told them I’d be there. That’s how I ended up in the restaurant, surrounded by six other women whom I’d known since grade school, but hadn’t talked to in almost a year.

When it got to me, I decided to tell them about my consulting agency. I picked up curiosity, and a lot of astonishment, that I had the guts to do something like that. They had a ton of questions for me about what kinds of cases I’d worked on. Mostly because they didn’t quite believe I was telling the truth, or that I was totally legitimate.

In fact, there were a couple of them who thought I couldn’t possibly be a real investigator, and it was just a hobby, or something I said to impress people. Then someone asked if I’d ever worked on a murder case, but she was thinking that was the true test of my legitimacy as a consultant.

So naturally, I took the bait, and told them about the case where I’d helped a young woman find her mother who’d been missing for ten years, but whom I found out had actually been killed by a serial killer. That got their attention, and they listened with astonishment to the whole story, amazed that I got out alive. And who was this Ramos person? (I’d sort of glossed over that part, since I couldn’t exactly tell the truth. But I had to say something about him. I mean, how could I leave him out when he’d saved my life?)

By the end of our dinner, I had their grudging respect, but they also didn’t want me to think I was too high and mighty for them. So they took what I said with a grain of salt, not quite believing all of it. (Mostly the Ramos part.)

It also made me realize that if one of them had told my story, I’d probably have a hard time believing it too, so maybe it was all right.

Still, as we left, I had a strong desire for Ramos to show up on his motorcycle and take me for a ride, just to prove it was all real. That would show them, right? Plus, they’d probably all die of jealousy.

But, as satisfying as that scenario might be, all it would really prove was that I was lots more competitive than I thought. Even worse, that I’d enjoyed being the center of attention and having the best story of them all.

Dang. I hoped that didn’t make me a bad person. It might also mean that I’d better keep my mouth shut next time. With as much trouble as I seem to get into, it’s probably a good idea.

 

 

After my trip to Paris, I looked forward to going out to lunch with my best friend, Holly, and telling her all about it. She’s one of the few people who can really appreciate a certain hit-man, and all the juicy details that I always leave out with everyone else.

Naturally, I told her all about my brush with the terrorists, and how Ramos came to my rescue. I picked up that her jealousy spiked a little, mostly when I told her about the motorcycle ride with Ramos through the city. She tried to tamp it down a little, and rationalized that since I’d almost been killed a few times, she wouldn’t ever want to trade places with me.

That reasoning worked for her, especially when I told her about the bomb. Of course, it went out the window after that, because…what kind of a friend would I be if I couldn’t tell her what happened after we took care of the bomb? Her mouth dropped open, and I think she even drooled a little. After that, she was thinking that maybe all the bad stuff that happened to me wasn’t so bad after all.

In some ways, I had to agree that there was a silver lining in there somewhere, but I wasn’t sure coming so close to death made up for that. Still, I had to believe that the outcome was worth it all, or I might want to stay home and never leave my house again.

Then her thoughts turned to Chris, and the time she’d seen him with another woman while I was in Paris. It had troubled her, but after hearing about my adventure, she decided to leave it alone, thinking there had to be a reason for it.

I picked up more details, that she’d seen him at a furniture store with a pretty, younger woman. They were laughing together, and looking at a fine leather couch set and some artwork. Probably something to do with his job, although she couldn’t figure out what that might be.

Now my mouth dropped open, and my stomach tightened with dread. All those old feelings I’d had when Kate was around came to the surface, and threatened to overwhelm me with panic.

“Shelby? Is something wrong?” Holly asked.

“Oh no…nothing. This sandwich is really good. How do you like yours?” While we ate, all kinds of scenarios about what Chris might have been up to filled my head, but I decided that I’d try not to worry. I had no doubt that he loved me, and we were good, so there had to be a reasonable explanation. We’d talk and he’d think about it, and then I’d know. I was sure it was nothing, but I couldn’t help seeing the irony in the situation, either.

In the end, it kind of ruined my enjoyment of telling Holly all the juicy details about Paris, and this was one of those times I wished I couldn’t read minds.

 

 

 

 

 

My trip to Paris was quite the adventure, but once Chris arrived things settled down. Still, we had an amazing time there, and I’m so glad he came. Of course, he wasn’t too thrilled about me leaving him at home in the first place, but since he got to come and spend a few extra days with me, he couldn’t complain too much.

At least that’s what I told him when I had to explain all the little details about my crazy adventure there. Most of them I’d sort of left out when we spoke on the phone, but I couldn’t do that in person. In fact, there was hardly anything I could leave out. Although I did manage to keep a few details from him, 😉 ;).

He thought most of my story was pretty crazy, but knowing me, he had to believe it was true, especially after meeting Inspecteur Dumont, and my friend, Suzette. But it got him to thinking about my experience in the cemetery, and he wanted to go there in the worst way. Me? Not so much. Still, in the light of day, it was hard to refuse a visit there. Maybe I’d sleep better at night with a different memory of that place. It was worth a try, right?

We determined that the cemetery I’d been to had to be Père Lachaise, the most famous cemetery in Paris. My kids weren’t too thrilled about a cemetery, so we left early, telling them we’d be back in an hour or so and took the metro to the nearest stop. Exiting onto the street, Chris thoughtfully bought me a bouquet of spring flowers from a vendor to help cheer me up since I wasn’t real excited about revisiting that part of my adventure.

From there, we followed the map toward the address. Once we came to the tall wall on one side of the street, my heart picked up speed, and I knew exactly where we were. All those feelings of helpless fear came surging back, but I stoically pushed them away and held onto Chris’ hand a little tighter. “This is it. The gate should be coming up on the left.”

It was opened this time, and we followed the little cobbled street between the ornate tombs up the slope while I explained the details of where I’d walked to Chris. In the light of day this place seemed like a place of peace and tranquility.

We came to a crossroad, and I glanced down one side to find the special tomb where I’d hidden. As I pointed it out to Chris, the cracked door hardly seemed big enough to hide behind. Then I read the name carved into the stone. “Colette Marie Joubert, 1843 – 1879”

Was she the one I’d felt there? The one who’d helped me escape? Just then, a breeze carrying the fragrance of Hyacinths caressed my cheek with a gentle touch. As much as it freaked me out, it also sent a swell of serenity down my spine, leaving me a little breathless.

With a sudden idea, I took the flowers Chris had given me, and arranged them on her tombstone. A happy smile lit up my face and I turned to Chris. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to leave them here.”

“Not at all,” he said. “Are you glad you came back?”

“Yes. Thanks for bringing me.”

“Ready to go?” After I nodded he continued. “Good, because I have a surprise for you.”

I listened real close to his thoughts, but he’d shut them up tight. “Wow, how’d you do that?”

He chuckled. “Pure survival. Come on, let’s get out of here.”

A car waited outside the cemetery and Louis opened the door with a broad smile. “Bonjour Madam, Monsieur.”

I had no clue what was going on, but since surprises were rare for me, I could hardly contain my excitement for what Chris had in store. He explained that Suzette had the kids for most of the day, leaving us with a little free time. To make a long story short, we ended up spending the next few hours together doing the most romantic things and treasuring every moment. It ended up being the perfect finale to a trip I will never forget.

 

I first met Ramos not long after I got shot in the head and received my mind-reading ability. He’d just saved my life, but was thinking that he might have to kill me for the big boss. That’s why it came as a shock to ‘hear’ him singing a country song in his mind. Of course, the song was something about the Devil and The Long Road to Hell, so in a way, it made perfect sense. Back then, he was one scary dude, especially since he didn’t seem to possess any of those warm and fuzzy feelings for anyone or anything.

That changed after he met me. I seemed to make him feel guilty about things, and he hadn’t felt that way in years. I also brought out those protective instincts in him, and I knew it bothered him more than he cared to admit.

Since I’m now part of Uncle Joey’s organization, Ramos has had his hands full keeping me alive, and I will be eternally grateful to him for that. But it’s also opened a crack in his heart that kind of ruins his tough-guy image. At least where I’m concerned. That’s how I was able to find out the one thing that always puzzled me about him. How he got his affinity for country music.

He told me that before he worked for Uncle Joey, he started out as a security guard/bouncer at a club in Nashville that featured new artists. There was an amazing singer who got her start in that club. He told me she sang country like it came from somewhere deep inside her soul, and it woke something up inside of Ramos.

Of course being the sexy stud that he is, she was drawn to him, and he told me there were nights when it seemed like she sang to him and him alone. He didn’t tell me any specifics, but said that not long after that, he got in a fight and had to leave town in a hurry, but he never forgot her or her music. Then he told me she was a big star now, and he liked to think that he may have been the cause of her rise to fame.

Puzzled, I asked him why he would think that, and he just laughed. Then he admitted that her breakout album was obviously all about him. I thought that maybe he was a little too full of himself, so I bought the album, just to see what he was talking about. Now, after listening to it a few times, I’m convinced it must be true, and his reputation as a heart-breaker came through loud and clear. Poor girl.

I’d tell you who the singer is, but I promised I wouldn’t. Still, maybe if you listen to that album, you’ll know who I’m talking about. So now you know why Ramos loves country music. He may have broken her heart, but I think it may have broken his a little bit too.

 

I heaved a sigh and tried not to get discouraged. Having mind-reading abilities was helpful for my business as a private investigator, but not so good at Christmas. As much as I tried to block people’s thoughts, it was still hard not to pick up what they were getting me and everyone else for Christmas, and I hated it.

It reminded me of the time I was snooping around in my parent’s bedroom one year and found the mother-lode of unwrapped presents in the closet. I knew I shouldn’t, but the temptation was too great and I looked. I don’t even remember what was in there for me, but it ruined my whole Christmas. It just took all the fun and excitement out of ripping off the paper and opening the box.

Kind of like this year, when I knew there was a crock-pot waiting under the tree for me. Not that I wasn’t grateful, since mine had cracked and I needed a new one…but it wasn’t really anything to look forward to.

At least I was excited about the present I had for Chris. Not long ago, a retired detective had nearly died helping me with a case, and we shared a special bond. He also had a talent for crafting fine watches. Chris had an old watch, but nothing compared to what I could get from Geoff, and I’d spent a few happy hours with him designing the perfect watch for Chris.

When he called to say it was ready, I couldn’t wait to see how it turned out. Geoff seemed pretty happy with it as well, since he had an extra sparkle in his eyes. Once I saw it, I understood that sparkle and my lips spread into a big grin. He explained that it was a gold Swiss watch in a stainless steel case with an exhibition back in sapphire crystal, making the inside visible, and had a twenty-five jewel movement.

Even though none of that really made sense to me, I knew from the way he explained the workings of the watch that it was the highest quality possible…and a Geoff Parker original to boot…which meant a lot to me. It was a beautiful watch and I knew Chris would love it!

I took it home and wrapped it up in a big box so he wouldn’t know what it was and put it under the tree right next to the crock-pot. I grinned, realizing that it didn’t even bother me anymore that I knew about the crock-pot, and I couldn’t wait to see Chris’ face when he opened it.

Christmas morning came and I couldn’t believe how hard it was to open presents. Just before the wrapping paper came off, the person it was from always thought about what was inside and spoiled it for me. I put up my shields, but in the excitement, I failed more often than I liked. At least I had Chris’ present to look forward to, and I couldn’t wait to see his expression when he saw the watch.

After the kids were done, Chris and I opened our presents from each other. I grabbed the present with the crock-pot in it first, just to get it over with. Once the wrapping paper came off, my breath caught in astonishment. It wasn’t a crock-pot box. I glanced at Chris and he smirked.

“This isn’t a crock-pot?” I asked.

This time he chuckled. “What made you think that?”

My lips twisted in consternation. He’d played me! My heart hammered with excitement and I opened the box. Lots of tissue paper blocked my view, so I dug through it until my fingers touched a box. Black and small, it resembled the kind of box that held jewelry, and visions of sparkly diamonds clouded my head.

I glanced at Chris. His thoughts were locked up tight, but his eyes held quiet excitement. Taking a deep breath, I opened the box, then gasped in surprise to find a beautiful watch. I barely heard Chris talking about my detective friend, Geoff, and how he’d made it for me.

As Chris helped fasten it around my wrist, I couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled out…and the tears that clouded my vision. I blinked them back and playfully hit him. “You tricked me,” I said. “And I love it!” I pulled him into a hug. “Thanks for the surprise.” He gave me that special grin that always made me warm inside. I sniffed and got under control, then hugged him again before pulling away. “Now it’s your turn.”

I found the big box I’d wrapped and set it on his lap.

“Is this what I think it is?” he asked.

“You mean a crock-pot?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I’m afraid so,” I responded.

With a bark of laughter, he ripped off the paper and opened the box. Of course, he had no idea what was inside, so when he pawed through the tissue paper and found a little black box just like mine, he froze, glancing at me in complete shock. “Is this…?” He hesitated before pulling it open and I felt his surprise and pleasure as soon as he saw the watch inside. He shook his head in disbelief, and we both started laughing.

“This is crazy,” Chris said. “Who would have thought?”

“I know!” I agreed. “I just picked that up from Geoff a couple of days ago, and I had no idea. Of course, come to think of it, he did have an extra sparkle in his eyes.”

Chris heaved a huge sigh of relief. “I’m so glad you didn’t know, especially since I’ve been thinking about a crock-pot all this time.”

He slipped on the watch, and we sat side-by-side admiring our wrists, both of us in a happy daze and surprised by how perfectly everything had turned out. As I nestled closer to Chris I sighed with contentment, knowing this was going to be a special Christmas I would hold close to my heart for a long time to come.