Authors: Heather Webber
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #chick lit, #Heather Webber, #Lucy Valentine
My thoughts of a destination wedding reminded me of a vision I’d had back in the wintertime of me and Sean. In the vision, I’d been wearing a fancy long white sheath, and he’d been in a dark suit. We’d been somewhere tropical, and love had definitely been in the air. I thought for sure the vision meant we would elope while on the impromptu trip we made to join Em and Aiden in
for a quickie vacation, but I should have known better. Sometimes my visions were misleading. As they had been in this case.
been in the air—but the fancy clothes were to celebrate Em and Aiden’s
, not any kind of elopement. Since I hadn’t packed anything remotely formal, I’d gone shopping. The white sheath dress had been hanging in the window of a little boutique in the hotel lobby. I’d fallen in love with it at first sight.
Just like I had with Sean.
And just like that, the Twinkies felt like lead in my stomach, and I was back to worrying about him and his state of mind.
“Not yet,” Em said. “We just want to let things be for now. See where this crazy thing called love takes us.” She glanced at her phone and frowned at the blank screen. “Actually, he’s been really quiet these past few days. Not returning my texts or calls for hours. It’s not like him.”
“Not that I know of.” She wrinkled her nose. “I’m probably just reading too much into it.”
“He could be working on something undercover, that he can’t tell you about.”
“Maybe.” She set what was left of her muffin on the beat-up coffee table and peered into the mesh side panel of the animal carrier. “She’s a cute little thing.”
Ebbie was indeed cute. I still couldn’t believe that Jeremy had left her with me and disappeared.
“What are you going to do with her? Give her to Marisol?”
Marisol Valerius, Em, and I had been best friends since we were five years old. We’d actually met when we were three, but couldn’t stand each other until a braid-cutting incident in kindergarten cemented our friendship.
Giving Ebbie to Marisol would be fitting since Marisol had a habit of giving me pets-usually an “unadoptable” from one of the veterinary clinics where she worked. She was why I had my three-legged cat, Grendel, and my one-eyed hamster, Odysseus. “I don’t think I should. After all, Ebbie told Jeremy she wanted to stay with me. I can only assume there’s a reason why.”
Em kicked off her sandals, tucked her legs underneath her, and then leveled an inquisitive gaze on me. “Do you ever find any of this strange?”
“Any of what?”
She waved toward the cat. “ESP, mediums...talking cats.”
I smiled. For most of my life, I’d kept my abilities secret from my friends. It was the Valentine way. For centuries, we guarded our gift from unbelievers by maintaining silence on the matter. Only a few trusted souls knew the truth of what we could do. Even now, very few outsiders knew about the auras; however, the whole world knew (thanks to
) that I could find lost objects.
My friends had been more supportive than I could ever ask, but I could see skepticism in Em’s eyes as she stared at the cat carrier.
talk,” I said lightly.
Em whacked my arm playfully. “You know what I mean.”
I did. And truth be told, it
“Can you hear her?” Em asked, placing a finger on the mesh.
Ebbie stared at it as if wondering how she was supposed to react. She settled for turning her head disdainfully.
Em knew I’d been taking psychic lessons, so her question wasn’t out of the ordinary—except maybe to someone eavesdropping. I glanced around. Remarkably, we were alone.
“No.” Not yet at least, but I kept that part to myself.
“Do you really think this guy Jeremy can communicate with animals?”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “Part of being in my line of work is to trust that people are who they say they are.”
“Isn’t that a little dangerous, too, though?” she asked. “How do you know if someone is really
psychic—or if they’re full of ba
loney?” I smiled.
“I’m hungry.” She scrunched her nose. “That bran muffin...blah.”
I offered her one of my Twinkies. I’d bought a whole carton on the way over. She eyed it with contempt. “Not on your life.”
Waving the box under her nose, I said, “You sure?”
“I’d rather eat another bran muffin.”
Laughing, I set the Twinkies on the table. “Suit yourself.”
“So, really, how do you know if someone is psychic?” she asked.
Inwardly, I sighed. I’d hoped she wouldn’t pick up the conversation. I wasn’t comfortable talking about things I couldn’t explain—but could only feel. “There is no definite way. Jeremy has Orlinda’s stamp of approval, though, and that’s good enough for me.”
Her reddish eyebrows rose. “Well, then, that makes it all right.”
Em didn’t care for Orlinda. I figured the dislike stemmed more from not being able to figure out the woman than anything. Em’s scientific mind wanted tangible answers as to how Orlinda knew the things she knew; how she could do the things she did. There were no answers—and that frustrated Em beyond belief.
Before she could dig deeper, I blurted out, “So, Sean’s brother Sam thinks the Beantown Burner is after him.”
She blinked pretty blue eyes, opened her mouth, and then closed it again. I could practically hear her brain spinning as she calmly evaluated and processed what I’d just said. “Is there any merit to his thinking such a thing?”
Em was exactly who I needed right now. She provided a cool, calm, collected viewpoint. I explained about the location of the fires.
Tapping her chin, she stared at me, blinked again, and said, “Well, shit.”
Groaning, I flopped against the back of the couch. What happened to cool and calm?
“Does he have any idea who it might be?” she asked.
“Not yet. When I left, he was meeting with a detective on the case. And Sean was getting together with a former fire colleague to get any information that may have been withheld from the public.”
Her brows dipped. “Let me put on my psychologist’s hat for a moment.”
The fact that she wasn’t a psychologist needn’t be pointed out. She had, however, taken a few psych classes, and that was also good enough for me. “Go on.”
“The fact that the arsonist targeted locations from Sam’s childhood, i.e. his grandparents’ store and his high school, reveals a deep-seated hatred that dates back decades.”
I narrowed my eyes on her. “Did you just make that up?”
She twisted the cap off a stainless steel water bottle and gave me a little grin. “A little, but you get the gist.”
I did, and it made sense. Why target places from Sam’s childhood if the arsonist hadn’t known Sam back then? There was a familiarity to these fires. Burning down his grandparents’ former shop was intensely personal.
She took a sip of water and then said, “I’m sure the detective in charge of the case as well, as the arson investigators, are already thinking along the same lines. It will be a tough investigation, especially if Sam doesn’t keep in close contact with people from back then.”
“I don’t know if he does or doesn’t. Having been a foster kid might make it a bit difficult.” I gestured to her water bottle. “Can I have some of that?”
She passed it over. “I’d forgotten he and Sean were in the system. That adds a new spin on things.”
“How so?” I removed the cap, set it on the table
, then poured water to its rim.
“Have there been any fires related to places Sam lived before the Donahues adopted him?” She eyed me as I set the cap inside the cat carrier. “What are you doing?”
“Ebbie might be thirsty.” I smiled innocently at her. “You wouldn’t want her getting dehydrated, would you?”
She sighed. “My God, it’s a good thing I love you.”
“I know,” I said as Ebbie sniffed the cap. “As for Sam, I’m not sure. I don’t really know enough of his history. Are you thinking it could be someone from the time he was on the streets?”
“Could be,” Em said, peeking in at Ebbie, who was delicately lapping the water. “It makes sense. If one of those kids didn’t get adopted like Sam, didn’t do something with his or her life... That could certainly breed hatred, especially if the arsonist has been watching Sam all these years. Beautiful family, successful business. It may have come to a breaking point. The arsonist might want to take all that away, starting with places from Sam’s childhood.”
Sunlight flooded through the tall floor-to-ceiling windows, but I could see clouds on the horizon. “How many psych classes did you take?”
Glancing at her thin gold watch, she gathered up the remnants of her bran muffin. She had class in ten minutes. “It was my minor, remember?”
“Right.” I didn’t want to believe her theory was the truth. Not only because I couldn’t fathom a lifetime of loathing, but because I hated the thought of any child suffering, of not having the opportunity at a good future.
Yet, I knew it happened. All the time. I had a Lost Loves case not too long ago that drove home exactly that point.
Along with her muffin debris, Em grabbed my Twinkie wrappers and walked over to the trash can. “If I’m right, and I think I am, because I always am, then Sam is in very real danger.”
“Always right?” I asked, eyebrow raised.
“No time to go into that,” she said dismissively, sitting on the arm of the sofa. “Sam. Danger. Don’t get sidetracked.”
It was impossible to get sidetracked. My stomach was churning. My mind was ticking off math problems like it was going through a stack of flashcards.
“My point is,” Em continued, “that it’s not only Sam in danger.”
“He already sent his wife and girls to stay with relatives in
. And I’m going to talk to my dad about closing down the building for a few days, in case the arsonist targets SD Investigations.”
“What about Sam himself?” Em asked. “Where’s he staying for the time being?”
He hadn’t said anything about that. “I don’t know.”
“And Sean?” Em asked, gathering up her backpack.
“What about Sean?” I asked, feeling my stomach freefall.
“Lucy,” Em said softly, “
associated with Sam is in danger, including Sean.”
“Who thought this was a good idea?”
whispered. Her agitation, however, was coming through my cell phone loud and clear.
“You did,” I reminded her as I adjusted my cell to my ear and held it in place with my shoulder.
It had been two hours since I met with Em, and I was back at the office. The only way I was getting through the rest of this afternoon was by going into complete denial about any potential danger Sean might be in. I’d been keeping busy by trying to get another reading from
’s pink bear, but h
adn’t had any luck whatsoever.
I’d also tried calling the phone number for Jeremy again, with the same results, and Orlinda’s phone kept going to voicemail. For now, Ebbie was mine.
I had thought Sean would be done visiting with Curt by now, but apparently they’d taken a field trip and Sean hadn’t yet returned.
had called while I’d been packing up my office, awaiting my father’s return from a lunch date with my mother.
Their relationship never ceased to amaze—and slightly traumatize—me.
Technically they’d been married for almost thirty years. However, for a good twenty-five of those years they had lived happily-separate lives. They hadn’t divorced because of the stigma it would have caused the family business (aka the bread and butter)—because there was nothing worse than the world’s most famous matchmaker being unable to make his own relationship work.
However, a few months ago, they’d started dating again, then moved in together at my mother’s place... The fact that the two of them were still together almost four months later surprised the hell out of me. I was actually starting to believe that they might make a go of it this time around.
Yet, I knew better than to count those chickens...
“This place is creepy,”
She was still tagging along with Dr. Paul at the hospital where he worked. “What’s so creepy about him?” I asked as I shoved files into a moving box. I didn’t ask what was so creepy about the hospital. It was a hospital
. Enough said.
“Did you know he’s a gerontologist?” she said.
“Nope.” I had only known he was a doctor—not what kind. Honestly, with the unfriendly vibes I’d received from my whole soothsaying group, I really hadn’t gone out of my way to get to know any of them.