Authors: L. j. Charles
What they’re saying…
"A TOUCH OF ICE is a suspense-filled romance that will keep you up late turning the pages. Everly and Violet make perfect partners in their sleuthing, complementing one another perfectly. The romance between Mitch and Everly is sweet and blossoms into something spicy and wonderful. The mystery twists and turns, keeping this reader thoroughly entertained, trying to figure out the clues. Romantic suspense readers won't want to miss this one!"
~ Romance Junkies
"A fun adventure with characters who sizzle."
~ Adrienne Giordano, author of the Private Protector series
A TOUCH OF TNT…
"The story exploded through the pages, keeping me enthralled with suspense, romance and humor until the very end when I breathed a deep, satisfied sigh...and went to find the other Everly Gray books."
~ Sally Berneathy, mystery writer
A TOUCH OF THE PAST
An Everly Gray Adventure
L. j. Charles
a TOUCH OF THE PAST
Everly Gray’s past would have been laid to rest with her parents…if only she hadn’t opened an old letter and unleashed long-hidden secrets.
Now everything she believes in, everything she trusts, is gone. Except her genetic link to the secrets of an ancient toxin—lethal, unless she finds the antidote.
When those close to her are poisoned, and traditional medicine has run out of options, Everly’s one hope is to learn the magic of Hawaiian shamanism, and to accept her gifts as a Kahuna healer.
Free fall. No parachute. Until she learns to trust in the strength of who she is, and in the universal power of love.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
A Touch of the Past
Copyright © 2012 by L. j. Charles
Cover Design by Lucie Charles
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without written permission.
For more information: [email protected]
For my critique partners, Adrienne and Rashda,
with my gratitude
"Hey, Belisama. About those numbers." Pierce’s rich brogue came over the phone line and sent a shiver up my spine.
He knew something. And it wasn’t good. "What? Just tell me."
"Chaos ensued. Don’t have the deets yet."
"Huh? That letter was sitting around for ten years. How could the numbers possibly be of enough concern to you secret agent types to be chaotic?" Dread clenched in my belly.
"There’s something else." Pierce’s words came out way too slow. I braced my hand on the kitchen table and sat.
"You have a security clearance."
"Not possible." Had his twisty mind flipped to all-out crazy?
"Listen up. You don’t need to apply for anything."
"What? Of course I do. They’ll want background checks. Probably psychological testing…" My voice faded into the fear of exposing my sense of touch to the government.
"It's high level. Current." Impatience threaded through his words.
"From the government?"
"The United States Government?"
"Saw it. You’ve had it for twenty-six years."
"So all this time it would have been okay for me to know—"
"Just about anything you wanted to know." He was grinning. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was grinning.
"Something isn’t right. Can you send me a copy?" Maybe if I hold it in my hands, I’ll believe it.
"No can do. And we didn’t have this conversation."
The line went dead
I’d tumbled from
the edge of my reality into the vast unknown of truth. Or maybe it was lies. All lies.
I twisted in my seat and leaned close to the airplane window. Wind whipped over the silver wings, leaving a streaming trail of vapor that blended into the foggy gray of predawn. I squeezed my hands into fists, nails biting the soft flesh of my palms.
It didn’t help. My fingers clung to old beliefs, and clawed for purchase in this new world of truth. But it was like I’d slipped off the edge of the Boeing seven-sixty-seven wingtip as surely as the letter in my pocket had ripped a hole in my childish beliefs.
The envelope resting innocently under my fingertips was postmarked Waimea, Hawaii. The name on my ticket read Everly Gray, seat 3A, and the plane occupied airspace somewhere over the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I’d followed my curiosity. Again.
Free fall. No parachute.
Facts, testaments to the lie I’d been living tore at my sanity, and my mind spun, diving through the stratosphere with no direction. Truth held me suspended, a reluctant captive between the past and the present.
Or maybe it was the lies that had caught me in their web.
The envelope had turned soft with age, was beginning to yellow around the edges, and the postmark had faded to a long-ago memory. My ESP fingertips skimmed the surface of the paper, showing me what was inside almost as clearly as if my eyes were reading it. The exact words were fuzzy, but the loneliness in my grandmother’s soul when she wrote them matched the emptiness in my heart.
The flap on the envelope had loosened, and with the slightest pressure from my finger the seal would break. I closed my eyes, and folded my hands in my lap. Not yet. Not quite yet.
There’d been other correspondence. Information I’d successfully ignored in the ten years since my parents’ fatal accident. But nothing had interrupted my regularly scheduled life like this letter.
Bottles clicked against metal, and the sound of the squeaky wheel on the beverage cart sliced through the hum of background noise. "Something to drink, Ms. Gray?"
I opened my eyes and gazed straight into a pair of enhanced blue irises that were surrounded by heavy false lashes. There's nothing like colored contacts and purchased fringe to liven up a girl's bored stare.
"Diet Coke with lemon, please."
As the flight attendant handed me a cupful of ice and a can, a ray of sunlight escaped from the fuchsia and orange sunrise outside the airplane window and splashed over the surface of the tray table. I poured the soda, watching the fizz dance in the beam of light—bright motes of hopeful happiness.
Maybe I was about to meet my only living relative.
My attention wandered back to the envelope. I turned it over and slid my index finger under the flap, pulled my hand away, and took a swallow of soda. It slipped down my throat, leaving a cool trail all the way to my belly.
The plane bounced, and my stomach didn't catch up until about a million feet later. I grabbed the envelope, crushing it slightly, holding on too tight. It was my lifeline and only connection to the truth. I slid my finger under the flap, nudging the edge until it separated from the envelope, then pushed it back so I could see the paper inside—thin and too fragile to be only ten years old.
I jerked my hand back. Was I ready to accept the proof that my parents had kept her from me, had pretended she didn't exist?
What had possessed me to head for the airport and take the first standby seat headed for Hawaii without telling anyone? Not Annie (my best friend and next door neighbor), not Detective Adam Stone (Annie’s brother and my sometimes boss-slash-mentor), and especially not Mitchell Hunt.
I smiled. Mitch brought out the happy in me almost all the time, but for a while his work as a freelance photographer, mostly for the government, had interfered with our relationship. No. Truth:
fingertips had caused the problem. His work was confidential, and my ESP fingers didn't come with a censoring system.
But we’d moved past that since we found out I had a security clearance. Well, mostly past it. Sometimes it still bothered him that I got pictures of where he'd been and what he'd been doing. Not that I could stop the images, but I'd learned to deliberately fade most of the input from my fingers so as not to trespass beyond anyone's personal boundaries, Mitch included. Unfortunately, I wasn't always successful.
I couldn’t put if off any longer. I shot a glance at my seatmate—out cold, her sleep mask in place, so I tentatively brushed my fingers over the envelope. Images of an older woman flew across my mind like wisps of dry wind.
My grandmother. But I’d known the letter was from her since I first touched the envelope and my fingertips had picked up an image that matched an early childhood memory.
Her photograph had once sat on my mother’s dresser, but that had been almost thirty years ago. I must have been three or four years old at the time, because I couldn’t reach the picture. Not even on tiptoes. I couldn't remember when all the photographs disappeared, but last month, when I finally got around to sorting my parents’ things, there wasn't a single one left in the house. Not of my parents. Not of me. It gave me shivers.
My seatmate snorted, bringing me back to the thin sheet of paper under my fingertips. A single fold still kept the writing from my view. Opening the letter, I flattened it against the tray table. Blurry writing, faded and brown filled the page.
To have missed the birth of my mo’opuna wahine is of the deepest pain.
I write this to fulfill my role as tutu. In our family, it is always the responsibility of the hulu kupuna to bestow the traditional name. It came as inoa po, a dream in the night.
She will be known as ‘Eleu Niele. She is a child full of life and curiosity.
I smile as I bestow the name Niele, for her nosiness will create a great deal of work for you, my kaikamahine.