Posts Tagged ‘Shelby Nichols Adventure’

As most of you know, I began my consulting agency nearly a year ago. So much has happened in that time that it kind of blows my mind. To say the least, it has been one adventure after another! I always seem to have my hands full, and right now is no exception.

I’m helping a police detective, whom I call Dimples, with a murder investigation. He found out my secret that I can read minds a few months ago, but he is the only one on the police force who knows the truth. Naturally, he wants my help when he’s assigned a hard case. I usually don’t have too many problems finding the guilty party, since all I have to do is talk to the major suspects and listen to their thoughts. The guilty person always thinks about how they did it, and I can usually wrap it up pretty quick.

But not this time.

So far, every single suspect I’ve talked to is innocent, and my ability isn’t as helpful as I’d like. The police chief is even getting a little upset with me and wondering what happened to my ‘premonitions.’ (This is what I call my ability to keep my secret safe). So now Dimples and I are scrambling to find the guilty party, and I’m finally learning what it’s like to do real detective work.

But after this morning, I’m ready to quit. Some evidence Dimples gathered yesterday makes it look like organized crime might be involved. Dimples actually had the gall to ask me to spy on Uncle Joey. He knows I used to work for Uncle Joey, but what he doesn’t know is that Uncle Joey knows my secret and I still work for him.

I can’t very well spy on Uncle Joey for the police, can I? So what am I supposed to do? If Uncle Joey is involved, does that mean I should warn him about the investigation? Maybe if I did, he could do something to cover up his involvement. But isn’t that aiding and abetting? I could go to jail for something like that.

On the other hand, if I find he’s not involved, that would be a good thing, too. My only way out, is to find the real killer and hope he’s not tied to Uncle Joey. Still, I think I might mention the investigation to Uncle Joey, just in passing, so it’s not like I’m actually warning him about anything. Then he’d be prepared, right?

Besides, I think if Uncle Joey had the guy killed, the body wouldn’t have been at the crime scene. From what I’ve picked up about how he does things, there probably wouldn’t have been a body to find in the first place. So in that respect, it couldn’t have been Uncle Joey, and all my worry is for nothing.

Ugh! See what I mean about quitting? As much as I enjoy having my own consulting agency, it’s not an easy thing to work on both sides of the law. In fact, it’s downright stressful. If I don’t quit the agency altogether, I should probably make a decision to either help the police, or work for Uncle Joey.

Or maybe I’ll just take some time off and quit working for both of them. That way, I’ll only have personal cases to work on, and I won’t end up in such dangerous situations all the time.

Of course, that’s not always true either. I’ve had a few of my own cases that nearly got me killed anyway. See my dilemma? If I had to choose between Uncle Joey and Dimples, I don’t think I could do it. I owe Uncle Joey too much to ever break ties with him, and Dimples is my friend and knows my secret.

So… I guess I’ll just keep going with what I’m doing and hope for the best. As long as I have plenty of Mylanta handy, I should be able to handle it, right? Especially if Ramos is around to save my bacon…and maybe take me on a motorcycle ride or two. But see what I mean about being between a rock and a hard place?


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?”


“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.

I usually like sleeping. After a hard day it’s nice to go to bed and let it all go, especially after a relaxing bubble bath. But I’ve found that when I’m stressed, I can’t even get away from it in my sleep. We’ve all had those dreams where we fall off a cliff, or someone’s chasing us and we can’t run…at all, or we go to school or work, and realize we forgot to get dressed and we’re standing there in our undies, or worse, naked!

So, after Uncle Joey told me we were taking a little trip to Las Vegas for a couple of nights, you can imagine the stress levels going through me. It was supposed to be for fun, and he was hoping I could win some money playing poker. Reading minds comes in handy for that, and I’d already proven I knew how to play the game…as long as I had my cheat sheet handy. There is also someone there he has dealings with. What kind, I don’t know for sure…but I have a pretty good guess. He needs to meet with them and that means I need to be there for that too.

We’re leaving this morning. As you can imagine, I’m a little nervous, and I was plagued by all sorts of dreams last night, but the weirdest came just before my alarm went off. I dreamed I was going on a cruise. It was to the Caribbean, and was supposed to be really fun with sandy beaches and blue, pristine waters. I was looking forward to it…a lot. Then came the day to leave, and I was at the dock ready to board. The excitement rushing through me turned to shock as I discovered that my cruise ship was actually a submarine!

As they forced me toward the plank, I told them I didn’t want to go on a cruise in a submarine. There must be some mistake and I wanted my money back…and they couldn’t make me go. But did anyone listen to me? Nope. They told me I’d get to do all sorts of fun things. Like put on one of those suits and walk along the top of the submarine. Seriously? That was supposed to be fun? I woke up right after they pushed me inside and closed the lid.

I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something, don’t you? Maybe going to Las Vegas sounds like fun, but with my luck, who knows what could happen? Still, dreams are always the worst case scenario, right? And whoever heard of a cruise on a submarine, that’s just nuts!

Uh oh, the limo just pulled up. I suddenly feel exactly how I did in my dream when they closed the lid to the submarine. Maybe I really do get premonitions. Here comes Ramos, I guess I can’t get out of it now, so wish me luck… and I really hope I get to talk to you again soon.

It was my mom and dad’s anniversary the other day and they invited my family along with my brother’s family over to celebrate. It was a big crowd, and we had a fun time together…until Savannah asked my parents how they met. I’d heard the story lots of times, but that was before I got my mind-reading abilities, and let me say…the truth came as something of a shock.

My mom started to tell her how they met at a diner where she was a waitress, but in her mind I heard it was a bar and not a diner at all, and she served drinks wearing a short skirt and halter top. That kind of surprised me since she’s such a prim and proper lady now, but it certainly made the story more interesting.

She continued, saying how my dad saw her and was immediately smitten. After coming in a few times just to see her, he asked for her number. Now my mom was was quite the babe back then, and she still looks pretty great, but she got asked for her number a lot, and made it a rule not to give it out.

So the first time he asked, she wouldn’t give it to him, a fact she relished telling us. But here’s where the story got interesting. My dad was thinking that it wasn’t quite like that. Sure, she had turned him down and he was heart-broken, but after one of the other girls thought she was nuts and offered him her own number, my mom had a change of heart and wrote her number down on the back of his receipt.

It was kind of nice to hear his version, but that still didn’t prepare me for the truth I’d never heard. They were talking about how they hadn’t been back to that diner for a long time, and I picked up that there was something about that diner my mom didn’t want me to know. So when Savannah suggested that we all go there for dinner sometime, I was right there with her.

My mom hedged a bit, but my dad started laughing and she swatted him to shut up. I guessed she didn’t want us to know the truth about the bar part and her being a waitress with the skimpy clothes and all, but then I heard my dad thinking it was called, “Shelby’s Bar & Grill,” and maybe it wasn’t so bad to tell me they’d named me after the place they’d met.

My breath caught, and I nearly spilled the beans right then and there. They named me after a bar? And I didn’t know? “Where is this place?” I practically shouted. “I want to see it.”

“It’s in Denver,” my dad said. “A little too far to go for dinner.”

“Oh, yeah,” I agreed. It was a long drive from home, but I was determined that the next time I was in Denver I was going there. I mean, what’s the point of being named after something if you never visit? “Well…next time I’m in Denver, I’m going to stop by. So Mom, what’s the name of this place?”

My dad grinned, but my mom’s brows rose in alarm. She really didn’t want to tell me, but I wasn’t going to let her off the hook. “You know I have premonitions, right?” I continued. “So I’m getting a premonition that it has something to do with my name… so what’s that about?”

It was worth it to see my mother’s eyes bulge a bit, and finally my dad told us the truth. After the shock had worn off, we all had a good laugh, and it hit me how I could have gone through my whole life without knowing something important like that.

“So…mom,” Savannah said. “Is there anything you’d like to tell me about my name?”


There are times when I can’t help being a little bit bad. Like the other day. First of all, it was a beautiful autumn day with the bright blue sky and orange & yellow leaves falling to the earth like feathers. The air had a chill to it, but the sun was still warm enough to take most of the chill away. I was leaving Thrasher Development and something just pulled me over to the corner of the parking garage where Ramos kept his motorcycle. I stopped and stared at it, feeling a rush of longing to go for a ride.

With a sigh, I turned to leave and found Ramos standing behind me with a lopsided grin on his face. “Babe,” he said. “Looks like you’re drooling just a little. Want to go for a ride?”

My breath caught and, even though I knew I shouldn’t, I nodded my head, grinning like a fool. See what I mean about being a little bit bad? I didn’t have any control when it came to Ramos and going for a ride on his motorcycle. What was worse, Ramos knew it. “I have to take a message to someone for Manetto,” he said. “But it shouldn’t take long.”


He popped the trunk of his car and got out the gear I’d need, and I quickly put on the helmet and leather jacket. Before I knew it, I was on the bike behind him with my arms wrapped around his waist. As we pulled out of the garage a thrill went down my spine and my stomach churned with butterflies. We didn’t go far before stopping, and I was a little disappointed. But I shouldn’t have worried. After Ramos delivered his message, we got back on the bike and he said over his shoulder. “We’ll take the long way back.”

“Woohoo!” I shouted, and felt his stomach muscles wiggle with laughter. We left the city behind and took a loop around the University past some big homes with huge trees lining the residential streets. The leaves kicked up as we drove through them and rained down from above as well. It was a timeless moment, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Then we hit the main road and traveled back to the city.

Parking in the garage, I got off the bike like an expert, and stowed the helmet and jacket back in Ramos’ trunk. “That was awesome!” I said, grinning widely. “Thanks.”

“Sure,” he said, thinking it was the best part of his day.

“Me too,” I agreed. “So tell me… if you were going to a Halloween party, what would you dress up as? I think I’d want to go as a biker chick.”

“Babe,” he said. “I’d just go as a hit-man, then I could wear whatever I wanted.”

We both laughed and I was still chuckling in the car on my way home. Then it hit me that not too many people could say that, and here I was, a normal soccer-mom housewife…who’d just taken a ride with a real live hit-man. See what I mean about taking a ride on the wild side?

I recently attended a bridal shower for my cousin’s daughter. I don’t normally like showers where they play silly games and all that stuff. I prefer the drop-in, open the gift, give a hug, eat the goodies, and get the heck-out-of-dodge-kind. Not very sociable, but there it is. I would have skipped this shower all together if it hadn’t been for my mom. According to her, this was one shower I couldn’t miss, or I would get blacklisted on that side of the family. So, of course, I sucked it up and went.

Interestingly enough, there was some tension between the mother of the bride and mother of the groom. Turns out, they knew each other in high school, and the mother of the groom blamed the bride’s mom, my cousin, for something bad, but I couldn’t pick up what. On the outside they were acting all happy and nice, with big smiles that showed lots of pearly white teeth. But inside neither of them wanted this marriage to take place. Especially considering their thoughts that sharing grandchildren was making them both sick. YIKES!

I checked out the bride and groom and, after listening in on their thoughts, there was no question they were in love, so I just had to hope things would work out. But it really bothered me that these two women held so much animosity toward each other. Maybe I could help? Who knew? Maybe it was just a misunderstanding?

“That’s really something that you two knew each other in high school,” I said. “Weren’t you guys like best friends or something?”

Their surprised gazes turned to me, and the whole room got quiet. Then my cousin narrowed her eyes and took a breath to ask me how the hell I knew that. Oops. Before she could utter a word her daughter gasped with surprise.

“You guys knew each other? You went to high school together?” she asked. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

My cousin’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. As she took in the curious glances of everyone there, she turned toward the groom’s mother with a tentative smile curling her lips. “We had a falling out,” she admitted. “It involved a boy, as I recall.”

The other woman raised her brows, and was thinking that if my cousin was going to spill the beans, she’d better make sure her side of the story got told first. “He was my boyfriend,” she stated. “You knew how much I liked him, but you got him to go out with you while I was away on a trip. He broke up with me because of you. That was pretty low for someone I considered one of my best friends.”

“Is that what you thought?” my cousin asked. “I didn’t go after him. He asked me out. I admit I shouldn’t have gone, but he was really persistent, and I didn’t think you’d ever find out. It was just supposed to be one date.”

The other woman huffed out a breath. “Yeah, right. As if that makes a difference.”

My cousin dropped her gaze. “I know. I was a bad friend, and I felt horrible about it. I really did. I wanted to explain, but you wouldn’t talk to me after that. If it helps, he dumped me pretty quick and moved on to someone else.”

“But we were friends. You shouldn’t have done that.”

“I know, and I’ve regretted it ever since. Dating him wasn’t worth losing your friendship. But you never gave me a chance to tell you I was sorry. I tried hundreds of times, but you always blew me off.”

The groom’s mother licked her lips, realizing that for the sake of their children, and with everyone looking on, it was time to get over it. “You’re right. It was a long time ago, and really…it doesn’t even matter anymore.”

My cousin smiled, then asked. “Whatever happened to him anyway?”

After that it was hard to pry those two apart. Not only did they have a lot to catch up on, but their children were getting married and now they could finally be excited about it.

I left that shower with a grin on my face, knowing I’d done something good. It was one of the few times my mind-reading skills had really paid off, and was just what I needed. Especially since right after the shower, I had to stop by Uncle Joey’s office. It was after eight-thirty at night and I really didn’t want to go, but he was meeting with someone from his past, and after this experience, I knew it could get tricky. But on the bright side, since I’d helped my cousin resolve a sticky issue, I was sure I could help Uncle Joey. I’d just have to make sure I stood out of the way in case they pulled their guns.


Chapter One
When I was a kid, the best part of my trip to Disneyland wasn’t the park, the rides, or the entertainment. It was the swimming pool at my cousin’s house where we stayed. I loved going to their house after a long hot day, and gazing into the pool’s clear blue water. With the pool light turned on, there was just something about that water that made me want to jump in. With the dark starry night overhead, it was soothing and magical.
That’s why, on the last day of our vacation to Orlando, I found myself sitting beside the pool. It was late, and most everyone had gone to bed, so I was there by myself. If I could have gone swimming, I would have, but the pool had just closed for the night. So I sat back in a chair and gazed into the water, smelling the slight odor of chlorine, and feeling the tension ease out of my body.
It felt so good to have my thoughts to myself that I almost cried. Hearing people’s thoughts in all the crowds these last two weeks had been murder on my poor brain. I had put up my shields as much as I could, but it left a constant tension between my eyes, and worse, I was sure I had new wrinkles to show for it.
I had no idea there were so many different theme parks and attractions in Orlando. We had visited at least five parks, with several other attractions thrown in. Although we’d taken a couple of days off in-between to recover, mostly for my benefit, the constant barrage of thoughts had gotten on my nerves, making me irritable and short-tempered. I’d done my best, but I knew that Chris and the kids were happy to leave me at the pool and go inside for bed. Chris tried to understand, but I knew it bothered him.
It bothered me too, but for different reasons. Sure, I had the ‘super-power’ of reading people’s minds, but this vacation had proven that even I had my limits. I might have handled one week, but two was over-kill. Today had proven that. I cringed to remember how I’d yelled at the father who was only ‘thinking’ his cute daughter was a pain in the butt, and today was one of those days he wished she’d never been born. I’d told him to quit being so selfish and enjoy this time with her. That she’d grow up before he knew it, and he’d be sorry and full of regret for his poor attitude.
The problem was, she was just a baby, and had thrown up all over him. So I had probably over-reacted. His first thought in reaction was guilt that I was right. But his second impulse quickly over-rode the first, and hot anger turned his face red. How dare I chastise him in front of all these people when he hadn’t done anything wrong?
Acting fast, Chris wisely pulled me away and apologized over his shoulder, telling the guy I had forgotten to take my medication. My outrage at Chris quickly changed to embarrassment and then self-loathing. Chris couldn’t believe I could be so callous and mean. What was wrong with me? Where were my shields? My behavior was totally unacceptable. Not only that, but he was so embarrassed he could hardly stand it.
But he only thought all of those things, so I couldn’t be too angry. Especially when he also thought being privy to everyone’s thoughts had to be rough on me, so he needed to cut me some slack. Still…
Shame and regret flowed over me, so I shoved the memory away and glanced up at the stars. Our flight tomorrow didn’t leave until three o’clock in the afternoon, so we still had some time in the morning to relax. Or at least Chris and the kids did. I had an errand to run for Uncle Joey. He was the mob-boss I had to work for since he knew my secret.
Although he compensated me for my time, we had a tenuous relationship. It had evolved over the last few months, and I liked to think it was now based on mutual respect rather than fear that he would kill me. Still, it was a balancing act to work for him on my terms rather than his.
When he found out I was coming to Orlando, he’d asked me to deliver a letter for him. Not a big deal, right? So I’d saved his errand until the last moment, hoping it wouldn’t ruin my vacation. That was a big mistake, since thinking about delivering the letter everyday had done exactly that. I should have just delivered it the first day we’d gotten here instead of dragging out the torment. That was just plain stupid.
First thing in the morning, I’d take care of it. Then we could go home. Our vacation was over. With the exception of that embarrassing incident today, we’d had a fun time here, and I was grateful we’d come, but now I was eager to go home and get back to normal. Plus the extra space from all the people wouldn’t hurt.
Ha! Who was I kidding? I could hardly wait to be alone in my own house. Just thinking about it brought such a profound sense of relief that I was a bit giddy. Did that mean I was losing it? Had the stress finally gotten to me? Maybe I did need some kind of medication. What I’d done today was…I shook my head and sighed. A cool breeze brushed my skin, making me shiver. It was time to put a stop to these gloomy thoughts and go to bed.
Chris checked the address one more time. “Are you sure you’ll be all right delivering this by yourself?” He was thinking how worried he was about me, and wishing I hadn’t waited until the last moment to do this. He could have come with me if I’d gone earlier. What was I thinking?
“Yeah. It’s no big deal. I’ll be fine.” I gave Chris a reassuring hug and kiss, wanting to ease his worry and escape his censure. “See you at the airport. Bye kids.” Engrossed in their packing, they absently waved.
I took the elevator to the lobby and hurried out the door. A cab was waiting for me, and I got in, giving the driver the address. “How long will it take to get there?” I asked.
“About twenty-five minutes,” he replied.
“Okay,” I answered. It was a little before ten a.m. and I didn’t have to be to the airport until one, so I had plenty of time. I would probably get to the airport long before Chris and the kids, but I wanted to play it safe and not miss my flight.
“How far is it from this address to the airport?” I asked the driver. I probably should have checked a map since I was basically clueless as to where I was going.
“Um…probably about twenty minutes,” he said.
“So do you think I’ll make it by one?” I asked, mostly for his benefit so he’d know I was on a schedule.
“Of course,” he said. “Unless you plan on staying for more than a few minutes, you should be to the airport by…eleven-thirty or so.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks.” Maybe I shouldn’t have left so early, but with my luck it was probably better to plan for extra time.
I spent the drive making sure I had everything in my carry-on bag that I needed for the flight. Chris was in charge of my luggage, so I didn’t have to drag it around with me, but I still felt loaded down with both my carry-on and my purse. Luckily, my carry-on was just a big bag so I could carry it over my shoulder. In fact, if I moved things around, there was probably enough room to stuff my purse inside as well.
That accomplished, I heaved a sigh of relief, grateful I wouldn’t have to worry about lugging two bags around. Before zipping it all up, I found the letter from Uncle Joey that I’d put in a special compartment, and pulled it out.
It was addressed to Warren Peace, which I knew had to be a fake name, or maybe even a code of some sort, and held it gingerly. Getting rid of this couldn’t come fast enough for me. I’d tried to tell Uncle Joey to mail it, but he wouldn’t, saying he needed my ‘special touch’ so I could tell him what Warren was thinking. That worked fine as long as Warren didn’t take it out on me. Especially since I had a feeling that the message it contained couldn’t be good.
The cab pulled to the curb and came to a stop. I glanced up at an apartment complex, and realized I was in trouble if he wasn’t home. What was I going to do then? I didn’t even have a phone number.
“I’ll only be a minute, if you don’t mind waiting,” I told the cab driver.
“No problem, as long as you know the meter’s still running.” He sent me a friendly smile and settled back in his seat to wait. He hoped I’d take my time and pulled out a book to read.
I got out, taking my bag with me, and scanned the apartment numbers. I found the one I was looking for on the bottom level, which was basically in the basement. The outside light was on, and for some reason that made me nervous. Did that mean he wasn’t home? What would I do then?
Taking a deep breath and letting it out, I started down the stairs and rang the bell. I heard some rustling inside before the curtain parted and someone glanced out at me. I caught sight of a bearded face and glasses, before the door opened a crack.
“I’m not interested,” he said, and began to close the door.
“Wait,” I said, pushing against the door to keep it open. “Are you Warren Peace? I have a letter for you. Then I’ll go. Here…” I held it out, “Just take it.”
His eyes widened, and he glanced behind me, then stuck his head out the door to look up the stairs. “Are you alone?” he asked, frowning.
“Yes. I’m only here to deliver this letter and take your response back to Uncle Joey.”
He hesitated, then his thoughts filled with about every swear word imaginable repeated several times. I would have held my hands to my ears if it had done any good. “All right,” he finally said, still not taking the letter. “You’d better come in.”
I hurried inside and he closed and bolted the door behind me. “Did anyone see you come here?” he asked.
“Well, no…just the cab driver. He’s waiting outside for me.”
This time he cursed out loud. “You’ve got to get rid of him! A yellow cab like that will draw attention. Quick, before someone notices.”
“I can’t,” I said, alarmed that he was freaking out. “He’s taking me to the airport. Just read the damn letter and tell me your answer!” I tried to shove the letter into his hands, but he held them up.
“I don’t have to read it. I know what he wants, and I just can’t do it.” He sent a searching glance at me, desperation filling his eyes. “You’ll have to do it for me, or I’m a dead man. Please…I just need you to take what Manetto wants back with you. You can give it to him for me. If you don’t, I swear I’ll be dead by morning.” He grabbed a wad of bills from his pocket. “Pay off the cabbie and I’ll take you to the airport. It’s not safe for you or me with him sitting out there like a yellow beacon. Manetto has no idea what he’s gotten you into here…Hurry! Go!”
I took the cash and hurried out the door. He wasn’t lying about my safety, or anything else he’d said, and that scared me. I paid the cabbie, giving him an extra twenty for a tip, and hustled back to the apartment. Warren waited at the top of the stairs, watching up and down the street until I came back. He ushered me into the apartment, locking and bolting the door behind us.
“Hopefully, we have a little time,” he said. “At least I’ve prepared for this moment. I just didn’t know Manetto would make his move so soon.” He was thinking about everything he needed to get before we left. He had stashed all his cash along with his passport and ID in the freezer.
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Read the letter first, and then tell me what’s going on.” I shoved the letter into his hands, and planted my feet in front of the doorway to the kitchen.
With great reluctance, he tore open the envelope and pulled out the letter. As he read, I heard the words in his mind.
Warren…I need the information you’ve obtained for me. I know it might put you in danger, but I’ve discovered through my sources that it’s time you moved on anyway. Bring it to me without delay, and I’ll help you disappear. The lovely woman delivering this letter is Shelby Nichols. Tell her you’ll bring the item to me, and then send her on her way. If anything happens to her because of you, you’re A Dead Man. Don’t keep me waiting. Yours…etc…Joe E. Manetto.
Warren glanced at me and licked his lips. Maybe he’d been too hasty in sending the cab driver off and enlisting my help. Manetto didn’t make threats he wasn’t ready to keep. “What time does your flight leave?” he asked.
“Three o’clock,” I answered.
“Oh good,” he said, checking his watch. “We’ve got plenty of time. Should be a piece of cake.” He was thinking it would be close, but it could still work. As long as I hadn’t been spotted by Carson’s goons. “I’ll get my stuff, and we can leave in a few minutes.”