By Ann Gimpel
Destined to be surrounded by magic yet have none of her own, Cassie walks a thin line. Her mother is dying and her boyfriend has turned into something that terrifies her. By the time she wakes up to the danger she’s in, it’s nearly too late.
Her clairvoyant friend Jeremy warns her about her scumbag boyfriend, but she’s not listening. Deeply disturbing events unfold. Cassie’s life hangs in the balance. She and Jeremy join forces to battle the darkness threatening them. Meanwhile, Cassie warms to Jeremy in ways she never could have anticipated. Love was always there if she’d just opened her eyes and looked.
Cassionetta Ceobbinn sat in her old Subaru and rested her forehead against its steering wheel. Her electronic design work had ground to a halt an hour earlier and a headache pounded behind one eye. The garage of the Capitol Hill mansion rose around her, silent as a crypt. Her mother’s Aston Martin sat off to one side, gleaming white against the semi-darkness. Cassie girded herself to open her car door, grab her things, and go inside. “It’s my house, goddammit,” she muttered to boost her courage. “So what if he sent me a text message not to come home.”
The garage lights came on, blinding her. The door leading into the house crashed against the wall. Before the ringing in her ears subsided, her live-in boyfriend stomped to her car. Well, the live-in part was still accurate. The boyfriend part seemed to have evaporated like so much smoke.
“You weren’t supposed to come home tonight,” he growled. “I texted you hours ago. You can just turn that piece of shit you drive around and go stay at your mother’s office.”
Fury boiled up from her guts. She took aim and opened the car door hard into his midsection, hoping she could clip a ball for good measure.
“Oooph. You little bitch.” He jumped back rubbing his hip.
You bet I am. High heels slapping the concrete floor, she jumped out of her car and stood eyeball to eyeball with him. “This is my mother’s house, Tyler MacKenzie. I live here. Or have you forgotten?” Cassie yanked her shoulder bag and computer case off the passenger side of the front seat and stormed past him.
He grabbed her arm before she made the steps leading into the kitchen. “I have people over. It’s the full moon. I’m leading a séance. Your presence would disturb the energy.”
She twirled to face him, breaking his grip. “You mean you have mother’s clients over. Where is she, by the way?”
He shrugged. “Don’t know. Haven’t seen her.”
Cassie turned away from him. He closed his hand over her arm again, hard enough to make her squeal. “If you don’t let me go,” she snarled through clenched teeth, “I will call the police.”
His fingers loosened marginally. “But, sweetie…”
She heard compulsion beneath his words. Cassie didn’t have any magic of her own, but she recognized it in others. When Tyler wanted her to fall in love with him, he’d used honeyed words all the time. They’d only stopped once she let him move in.
“Can it.” She twisted her head so she could lock gazes with him. “Let me go. Now.” His hand fell away. “I want you out of here tomorrow—”
His eyes narrowed. He shoved long, red-gold hair out of his face and sneered at her. “Fat fucking chance of that. We’ve had this conversation one too many times for my liking. I’m here, and I intend to stay. There’s nothing you can do about it. Unless you want to meet with an unfortunate accident.” A nasty laugh bubbled past lips she’d actually thought were full and sensual. “Of course something like that could happen anyway. If I were you, sweetie, I’d watch my back.”
Cassie shuddered. She swallowed, but her mouth was dry. Maybe she’d underestimated Tyler. Once they’d stopped getting along, she’d seen him as an inconvenience, not a menace. He’d never sounded quite like this before though. There’d been threats, but they’d been subtle, veiled in double entendre.
She squared her shoulders and turned to face him. It was the kiss of death to let bullies know they were getting to you. “I’m done with your crap.” She infused as much venom as she could into her voice. “I will call the police. You threatened me.”
He snorted. “I’d just deny it. They’ll believe we had a lover’s spat. Women are so emotional.” His blue eyes gleamed with an unnatural light.
She blinked. For a moment, he looked like a demon one of her mother’s psychic friends had raised by accident. Cassie knew enough about them—interdimensional beings that traveled from world to world wreaking havoc—to scare the shit out of her.
Don’t be ridiculous. Ridiculous, ridiculous echoed in her head. I’m seeing things.
Her heartbeat sounded loud in her ears; her hands fisted at her sides. “You’d better get back to your séance. Wouldn’t want any of those high rollers to get away.”
Her face twisted into a grimace. Thank Christ he spun on his heel and trotted smartly back into the house. Tyler cut an elegant figure with his richly-embroidered gypsy cape, broad shoulders, and classically handsome Nordic features. Flowing ruby silk pants rode low on his slim hips. No wonder she’d been taken in by him.
Fuming—and scared half to death—she followed him into the house, but turned a hard left before she hit the kitchen and took what had once been the servants’ staircase. It had been stupid to fall for Tyler, one of the dumbest things she’d ever done, but there was no going back. She couldn’t unravel time and choose not to tumble into his arms and his bed. That part was a done deal. If she listened to him, his residency at chéz Eleanora was a done deal as well.
Worry for her mother filled her, obliterating her fears for her own safety. Eleanora Ceobbinn was—or had been—a well-known psychic, but she’d apparently made one too many trips to the far side of the veil. She was still alive, but she hadn’t spoken a word in nearly a year, rattling around their old house like a ghost.
Eleanora had come from money—and made plenty on her own—so at least that wasn’t a problem, but her mother was definitely fading. It was almost as if someone—Tyler?—were feeding off what little energy she had left. Unable to shake her earlier sense of foreboding, Cassie shivered. If she hadn’t been holding onto her purse and computer bag, she would have wrapped her arms around herself.
Maybe because she was thinking about her mother—and the house had a mind of its own—she wasn’t surprised to find herself beneath a full-sized oil painting of Eleanora. Lush dark hair ended at knee level and her haunting violet eyes seemed alive. People had told Cassie she looked like her mom, but she’d never thought so. Eleanora was beautiful—and ageless. Cassie had the hair and the eyes and the striking six foot height, but the effect wasn’t nearly the same.
She still had no idea what had gone wrong the day her mother checked out. She’d come home from work to find Eleanora sprawled face down on the Oriental carpet in the séance room, candles smoking black gouts of greasy flame. If there’d been clients, they were nowhere to be found.
Her mother had regained consciousness, but that had been about all. Cassie had known better than to lug her around to a bunch of other doctors with their uncomfortable questions and pained silences after the first one had asked, “Your mother does what for a living?”
Cassie dragged herself away from the portrait. When she was a little girl, she’d believed her mother’s painted eyes were the gateway to a magical world. She’d asked Eleanora and her mother had smiled shrewdly. “Stranger things have happened, child,” she’d said. “It’s best not to test this one.”
About the Author
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Several paranormal romance novellas are available in e-format. Three novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, Psyche’s Search, and Psyche's Promise are small press publications available in e-format and paperback. Look for two more urban fantasy novels coming this summer and fall: Fortune’s Scion and Earth’s Requiem.
A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)