Her gift could save a missing girl…or destroy her relationship forever.
After receiving a troubling Tarot reading, Chloe just knows something big and bad is about to happen. Her ability to communicate with animals and shape-shifters is going awry, and her growing psychic abilities are beginning to scare her. Despite her unease, she won’t let anything interrupt her trip to Scotland to spend the holidays with her shape-shifter boyfriend’s family. Jorge is everything she’s always wanted, and the fire between Chloe and the passionate panther-shifter burns hot. But meeting his family has her nerves in knots.
When Jorge’s sister goes missing, Chloe’s psychic abilities might be the only thing that can help them find her. But things don’t go as planned, and with confusing psychic visions clouding her judgment, Chloe makes a mistake and an animal is injured. And Chloe fears she might hurt Jorge as well…
“Which deck are you drawn to, Chloe?” The tarot reader lays out three decks before me and waves her hands over the decks. “Feel free to pick them up, look at the artwork.”
Her booth is toward the back of a new-age shop called The Abacus, not far from where I used to work. She wears jeans and a T-shirt that reads, “Tarot isn’t a matter of life or death. It’s more important than that.” I’d place her at about forty, wisps of gray intermingling in her near-black hair.
I look over the decks of cards. The first has Renaissance-type drawings. Boring. The second is purple and features whimsical faery creatures. It’s pretty and ethereal. The third is dark. On the back of each card, two serpents eating their own tails are entwined on a black background. I flip the deck, thumb through the cards. The pictures are raw and vivid; they suck me in.
“This one.” I hand the third deck back to her.
She nods. “Very good. What is your question? You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want.”
There is no reason for me not to tell her; she of all people should understand. “I want to know about my gift.”
There’s not an ounce of judgment or question in her eyes before she holds the cards to her chest for a moment and closes her eyes for a few deep breaths. I watch the rise and fall of her chest, trying to claim her calmness, but I remain fidgety and anxious.
She opens her eyes, looks at my hands tapping on the table. “It’s OK to be nervous, but there is nothing to fear. All is as it will be.”
Oh, platitudes. If I ever become a Zen master, hallelujah. In the meantime, I try to quell my inner cynic and smile at the card reader.
She laughs, as if she can read my mind. Perhaps she can. “I’m going to do a three-card reading for you. The first represents the past, the second the present, and the third the future.” She shuffles the deck, then lays it neatly on the table between us. “Cut the deck with your left hand.”
I do, and she lays out the first card. It’s The Devil, which can’t possibly be good. At least it’s my past card.
Her face is unhelpfully blank. “Tell me your impressions of this card. It can be the name, the artwork, whatever.”
I pick it up for a closer look. The drawing is in shades of purple. At the top, a face, featuring lazy yellow eyes and downturned lips, sprouts four horns. A web of string seems to be wound among the horns and crisscrosses to form a pentagram on the devil’s forehead. From the neck down, he appears to be submerged in water and wearing some sort of vest with intricately interlocking clasps. “It is a dark picture, but it almost appears as if the figure has an angelic halo. As though all is not lost.”
She tilts her head to the side, revealing a small black goddess tattoo under her ear. “That is interesting. The Devil represents the shadow side of things. It can be lies and illusion, but it can also remind us to focus on using our power for good—to make our fate.”
Well that certainly fits and is a whole lot better than my first impression that my past must be filled with evil. Until recently, I had repressed the little I knew of why my mother left my father and me when I was ten. Now I know she left to go back to her mother to get help. I am certain it had something to do with her having a gift, just as I can telepathically communicate with animals and shape-shifters. And that means that my gift was inherited. What I don’t know is how far back in the family tree the genes go or where these gifts come from. I’m not sure I want to know.
“Let’s move to the next card.” She flips Temperance.
It is a tiger coming right at me, bounding through turbulent water. The sky is cloudy, and birds fly in the distance. If it had been a black jaguar, I might have started laughing. Jorge, my jaguar shape-shifter boyfriend, is certainly a prominent part of my present.
“The tiger is powerful. I don’t usually think of cats as being in the water, but tigers are one of the cats that swim, aren’t they?” Like jaguars.
I look at the card again. “Even though the tiger is menacing, I don’t feel afraid. It’s as though it wants to give strength.”
She nods. “Temperance is a card of coming together, of regeneration or renewal. It is often seen as fertility restored. As a present card, it tells me that your destiny is before you now.”
Thinking of Jorge as my destiny makes me smile. But there’s more in my present that tells me I’m on the right path. Like my work with Gracie’s ghost to catch animal abusers and how far I’ve come in using my gift. I tried to rescue Gracie and four other dogs from a dogfighting ring, in part using my ability to connect with animals psychically.
“Did you have any further thoughts about the card you want to share?” She stares at me passively, as if any show of emotion would somehow change the outcome of this reading.
I blink to bring me fully back to the room. “I can see that card making sense for my present…”
She nods, then flips the third card. The Ten of Wands.
It is an archer on a white horse. He is surrounded by fire. Yet the sky behind him is brilliant blue with puffy white clouds. “It’s a contradiction: this peaceful sky and a rider engulfed in flames. He means business.”
“Wands are generally our spiritual side, our life force energy. This rider is a hero. As a future card, it tells me that you will be tried and forged into a hero yourself. You must, through all trials, rise above and focus on the bigger picture to reach your potential. You have the capacity to be a great leader.”
I’m stupefied. My inquiry for this reading was about my gift, and it looks as though I’m in for a heap of trouble with it. And don’t even get me started on being a leader. I don’t want to lead anyone, thank you very much.
I’ve had the growing suspicion that my mother was somehow losing control of her gift and that was what ultimately prompted her to leave and never come back. And I’m afraid I’m headed for the same fate. I remember seeing my mother’s distraught face while arguing with my father on the day she left. She was afraid even to touch my father to kiss him good-bye before she fled back to her family. I don’t know what I’d be walking into going to my mother’s family. She never spoke of them and told my father it was too dangerous for him to go back with her to see them. For all I know, they are all dead—my mother included.
The reader takes my hand, her voice soothing and calm. “Do not worry. Rest with the messages and take what you can from them. Let them bring you insight and add to your own wisdom. They are not meant to tell you exactly what will happen, and whatever you imagine now may not be what the cards wish for you to know.”
I stare at her delicate hand over mine and try to relax. I don’t know what to think about this reading. Panicking will do me no good, nor will griping.
I meet her steady gaze. “Thank you for the reading. I’ll think about it all.” I pull my hand away, rise to leave.
She nods at me in farewell. “Take care of yourself, Chloe.”
Fuck. I walk to my car and pull my coat tighter around me to block the cold November wind. I have had a bad feeling that something was coming for the last few weeks, but I’d been studiously ignoring it. Why I had the brilliant idea to come get this reading right before Jorge and I fly to Scotland to meet his family, I have no idea. Obviously worry is somehow attractive to me.
The most pressing problem, though, is getting my poker face firmly in place before I get home. I don’t want to worry Jorge.
I like books that are funny and fun to read (and hot!) but also make me think or look at the world in a new way.
These days you’ll find me writing, pet sitting, juggling a number of freelance gigs, and reigning as my home’s domestic goddess. I live in the Midwestern U.S. with my husband, dog and cats. Alas, I have, as of yet, been unable to teach my husband how to purr.