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Authors: Michele Barrow-Belisle

Fire and Ice

BOOK: Fire and Ice
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Fire and Ice

by Michelle Barrow-Belisle

Published by Astraea Press

www.astraeapress.com

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.

FIRE AND ICE

Copyright © 2013 MICHELLE BARROW-BELISLE

ISBN 978-1-62135-181-8

Cover Art Designed by AM Designs Studio

For my son Ryan and husband Michel who heard my idea first and insisted I write it. For Mom and Dad and my brother Andrew who cheered me on. And for my sister-in-law Tami who loved the story as much as I did. Your enthusiasm and support have kept me writing.
Thank you all. xo

Chapter One

“You look exhausted, Mrs. Johnston.”

I stared into her sunken eyes, rimmed with dark circles. My joints ached for a split second and then subsided. I saw the redness and swelling… the stiffness… They flashed like snapshots in my mind. Instantly I knew her fingers ached when she played the piano, and I knew her stomach ulcer kept her up at night.
One
touch could take it all away.
But Gran had enforced the keep-your-hands-to-yourself rule at an early age.

“Oh, Lorelei, you know… story of my life, hon.” She glanced up at the oversized, walnut-framed blackboard with the specials scrawled in chalk, and handed me her menu. “Bring me the usual, will you? And a slice of that famous lemon pie?”

“You got it.”

The café was swamped tonight, the sudden cold snap meant lots of aches and flu bugs. People flocked to the Lemon Balm Café and Tea House for the ambiance as much as they did for the herbal tea.

I poured steaming water into the clear glass teapot. This wasn't your typical English breakfast blend. Well, it was… but with a few extras added in. Then again, this wasn't your typical tea house, and I wasn't your typical teen. Not even close.

The
freak
label got smacked on my forehead long before I understood what it meant to be a clairsentient empathic healer. Basically, I can see when people are in pain, and well…
heal
them. Being gifted might
sound
great; but it's meant a lifetime of trying to hide
what
I can do, and
why
, just to blend. In a town the size of Drearyton Cove, population sixty-three hundred, blending, was nearly impossible. After the quote-unquote
incident
, it was safer to leave the healing to Gran's secret blend of teas. “
Witnessing a child who could heal with the touch of a hand would be too much for people around here,"
she'd said. And so I listened — mostly — keeping my hands to myself, and staying far away from sports, parties, and people, which were no more than accidents waiting to happen. Not only for the obvious reasons: accidents meant injuries, injuries meant blood. Nothing made me hit the floor faster than that bitter, metallic stench of blood.

“Where's the hawthorn and chamomile blend, Neil? Never mind, found it.”

“Mrs. J's arthritis flaring up again?” he asked, leaning across the chrome counter.

“She didn't mention it, but I can tell.”

Neil's face folded into a grin, and we exchanged a secretive look. At sixty-something, Neil was our town's resident hippy. He was as laid back as they come and wore his long grey hair pulled back into a perfect ponytail. Gran opened Lemon Balm twenty years ago, and Neil's been here since day one, running things after Gran died and mom refused to help out. Pretty much since then, the whole town switched from coffee to tea. He's one of the privileged few who knew why.

“Here you go. Enjoy.” I set the tea and pie in front of her, feeling somehow better about myself knowing in an hour or so she'd be back to normal and pain-free. It was Gran's little secret. My little secrets were far more bizarre.

“So Monday's the big solo?” Mrs. Johnston poured the amber liquid into her mug.

I forced a stiff smile, fiddling with the pencil tucked behind my ear.

“Yep.”

“And on your birthday no less. Well, good luck, honey.” Her blue-veined hand patted mine. “Julliard will be lucky to have you. Although why you'd settle for composing with an amazing voice like yours…” She shook her head. “But you'll do well. I'm sure if it.”

Funny… I wasn't. It really wasn't up to me. How I performed was up to the Faerie who gave me my singing voice; the one who had appeared in my room one night and promised to keep my dad alive if I sang for him and only him. People insisted it was dream, but the ice shard he used to pierce my throat was agonizingly real. Turned out to be a bogus deal, since my dad has been dead for over a decade. Yet somehow that Faerie still controls my ability to sing. It's made every performance, and my hopes of getting into Julliard, infinitely more complicated. If my Faerie muse was in a good mood, and if Jupiter aligned with Mars, I had a shot. If not… well…

The door swung open, sending in a gust of cold damp air. Brianne and her steroid-pumped entourage strode in, filling the far corner booth.
Jocks and cheerleaders.
In my section… Great
… I sighed.

“Enjoy your pie, Mrs. Johnston.”

Grabbing some menus, I approached their table and smiled. It was for Gran's sake. She always insisted once someone walked through the door, they were customers who deserved courtesy and respect. It was hard to see the morons, already busy chugging sugar packets and playing table hockey with the salt shaker, as worthy of my respect. I'm not one for stereotypes, but they worked so hard at living up to them, it seemed a shame not to label.

“Welcome to Lemon Balm. Our dessert specials are rhubarb tart, chai green tea ice cream, and lemon pie.” I placed the stack of menus in the middle of center ice.

“What can I get for you?” I said and folded my arms, trying not to notice the picture of Brianne's sore ankle that flashed in my mind.

Brianne looked up at me from bored, overly-mascaraed eyes. “Lorelei? Seriously, you're working? Tonight of all nights?”

I didn't reply to what seemed a pretty rhetorical question…
Duh
.

“Don't you know what night it is?”

I nodded, confused at where she was going.

“It's
Saturday
night,” she said, as if I was the brain dead one.

Then she put her hand on my arm.

Oh man, I expected bad, but this was going to be worse.
Is she attempting to embarrass me about my lack of dates? It's an easy number to keep track of. Counting tonight, it made zero.
I wasn't exactly what you'd call social. Most of the time, I didn't really consider that a bad thing. I had little in common with the people here. And not only because I was different, though it didn't help. I didn't see the world like most people did. And I was fine with that. It was just that, sometimes, I wished someone other than an invisible Faerie and my dead grandmother knew how different I was.

“The weekend before the competition… Shouldn't you, oh, I don't know, be face first in a toilet barfing your brains out by now? Or did you actually get a clue and drop out?”

Snickers erupted from the rest of Brianne's groupies and a surge of heat rose in my face.

She leaned toward me, her head cocked to one side. “I mean, between you and me, you have zero chance of winning. But hey, if you puke on Professor Higgins's toupee again, it might make you more memorable.”

Amazingly enough, as much as I hated performing in public, I'd take it right now over listening to another word from her
.
Brianne was not only head cheerleader, but also lead vocalist in music class. I had the superior singing voice, but she was given all the leads, because her voice was at least consistent. It helped she could make it through a performance without puking on the judges. Apparently they frown on that kind of thing. She was also blonde, pretty — in a miniature Shih Tzu sort of way — wildly popular, and dating my temporarily insane best friend Davin Blake. He wants us to get along. I don't see it happening, but for his sake and Gran's I ignored her comment.

“So do you need more time to decide?”

“We know what we want.” Jake, the one who looked most likely to wind up behind bars, draped his sausage arm around Brianne's shoulder. “Bring us eight slices of Chocolate Cherry Decadence, four coffees, and some cobblers.” He winked at me and I had to tighten my grip on the pencil I held to keep from whipping it at his forehead like a dart.

“No pie for me,” Brianne added. “Some of us actually care what we look like. And Davin loves my flat stomach.”

I rolled my eyes but subconsciously sucked in my stomach.

She smiled. “It's sad really. You're like, always here. Don't you miss having fun? You know… parties, dates, guys…
any
of it sound familiar? Or don't you like having a life?”

“I'm good, thanks,” I said flatly, fingers clenched around my pencil so tightly my nails dug into my palms.

“Can't miss what you've never had,” jeered Josh, the spiky haired guy still wearing his football uniform.

My brows tightened. “So where is Davin tonight?” I pointedly glared at the quarterback whose fingers were teasing Brianne's hair.

Brianne's gray eyes flashed. “He's got a basketball game tonight, didn't he tell you?” She smirked. “We're hooking up later.”

“Hope he's not too tired.”

“He's
never
too tired,” she said tossing her hair, and the redhead across from her giggled.

I didn't want to heal her sore ankle; I wanted to break the other one. It was common knowledge Brianne was an easy score, but the thought of her with my best friend was one mental picture I didn't need.

“Anything else?” I bristled.

“If I see something else I want, I'll let you know,” Jake, her arm candy, replied, raking his beefy eyes over me.

“Perfect.”
Deep breaths
.
Remember, courtesy and respect
. I gave a smile I hoped looked as fake as it was. Spinning on my heels, I stormed into the kitchen.

“Hey, Neil, I need some cobblers heated.” I could feel my blood pressure rising. Maybe Brianne needed to be
too tired
tonight.

I reached for the chamomile sleep blend we saved for the worst insomniacs. One cup and she'd be passed out in an hour.

“Now that's an interesting choice… Sleepy-Thyme Blend?” Neil quipped. “Care to explain why the sixteen-year-old cheerleader needs a sleep-inducer on a Saturday night?”

“She wants to get to bed early,” I muttered under my breath.

Neil frowned. “Lorelei?”

I pulled my hand away from the canister and stared at the ground.
What am I thinking? This isn't me.
I never abused the medicinal herbs or my gifts. It was part of what made me special. I wasn't about to let them take that away from me.

“I wasn't really going to,” I mumbled, my face growing hot. This was childish. I would go back out there and show her I was the bigger person. Maybe, if I helped her with the strained ankle she was dealing with, we could finally strike a truce. Perhaps become friends. Davin would love that. “Where's the Vervain?” It was useful in healing all sorts of things.

“We're all out.” Neil looked at me with his usual grandfatherly concern, wiping his hands on the pristine apron he wore mostly for show. “What's going on with you tonight? You don't usually let those kids get to you.”

“I know.” I sighed. “Must be nerves, I guess.”
Why did I agree to perform in the competition in the first place?
I hated performing live as much as I hated competing, even if it did bring me closer to getting into Julliard and away from here. Plus, a taste of actually beating Brianne would be delicious, but no one knew as well as I did how much of a long shot that was. I had no idea how I'd got myself into this, and it was too late to get out of it. The programs were printed and if I made it on stage without slipping in a puddle of my own puke, hitting my head, and knocking myself unconscious, I'd be singing. Maybe.
Always
maybe.

Neil placed a tray in front of me laden with sticky cherry cobbler, smothered with chocolate ganache and whipped cream. Just looking at it gave me indigestion. I wasn't much for desserts, except for lemon pie. After pouring four herb-free coffees, I returned to the back booth.

BOOK: Fire and Ice
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