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Authors: Wren Emerson

I Wish...

BOOK: I Wish...
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Copyright

This is a work of fiction. The events described are imaginary and the characters are fictitious and are not meant to represent any person living or dead.

I Wish…

All rights reserved.

Copyright 2011© by Wren Emerson

This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means without the express written permission of the author. For contact information please visit
wrenemerson.wordpress.com

Dedication

This book is dedicated to My Love.

His unwavering support made my wish come true.

Chapter 1

When a two hundred and fifty pound man takes a swing at your face, the last thing you want is to be blind. But that's exactly the predicament I found myself in while fighting Shep Claphan one September afternoon. I could hear voices murmuring around us, but I couldn't hear him. I knew less about Shep's past than I did about my own, but I always imagined him as a soldier or a stunt man or a martial arts expert. And he was attempting to kick my ass. Not exactly a challenge when you consider that I was 5'7" to his 6'4" and weighed half as much.

I didn't hear his foot lash out until it caught me in the stomach. It stung, but it was obvious since I was still standing that he pulled most of the power of that kick. What I did hear was the gasps of the people that surrounding us. I swung in the direction the kick had come from, but I didn't hit anything. Chuckles from the peanut gallery.

He kicked the back of my leg, forcing me to take a knee.
Behind me.
I swept my leg along the ground, hoping to knock his feet out from under him, but he was too fast. I followed the movement into a standing position and punched in short efficient jabs. I was gratified to feel one land somewhere soft. It wasn't a solid connection and judging by the way it slid off his body, it was most likely his shoulder. At least now I had an idea of what his position was. I swung at him again, but missed by a mile, judging from the reactions of the people watching.

"I can see you. I can dodge you if I can see it coming. You can't see me so you don't have that advantage. You need to use whatever other information you can gather. Listen for my breathing. Hear the leaves and sticks being crushed under my feet. Smell me sweating if you have to. When I move in close your body knows it, it feels my heat and the air I disturb around you. Listen to what your body is telling you."

Shep's voice was normally a sound I enjoyed, the deep bass mellow and soothing and a perfect match to his barrel chested body, but right then I just wanted to slap him. He wouldn't end practice until I managed at least a couple of good hits, but my past experiences with this had been less than impressive. I didn't expect much more from this one.

I tried to push back my irritation. His advice was sound even if the last thing I wanted to do right now was admit he was right. I took a deep breath and tried to narrow my focus. Shut out the whispers and giggles from the people around us. Shut out the aches from my muscles and the deep throbbing of forming bruises.
Ignore it, it doesn't help me.

I didn't hear him move so much as I felt the way his shifting body crossed the sunlight on my face. When he swung at my face I was ready. I knew the direction he was coming from and I grabbed his arm and used it for balance as I kicked him twice in his ribs under the arm I held immobilized. Hearing his breath exhale with a sharp woofing sound was gratifying, but I didn't pause to celebrate the minor victory. I dropped his arm and danced backwards out of reach before he could grab me. I've been flipped by Shep before and it ranks high up on my list of things I'd rather avoid.

An advantage to my attack I hadn't anticipated was that his breathing was now audible to me. My next punch was a thing of beauty, connecting solidly with his jaw. I wasn't using full power either, but it had to have hurt him at least half as much as it killed my hand.

"Shep, your head feels like it's filled with rocks."

"You know, I've heard that from every woman in my life."

By now I was really in the moment. There's just no other excuse for the stupidity of my next idea. I ran towards Shep, jumping while still a few feet from him, planning to plant a foot in his chest and execute a neat back flip and while he was still awed by my finesse, I'd land a killing blow. If life were an action movie I would have been able to execute it flawlessly- probably in Matrix style slow motion. Real life rarely comes with slow-mo though and so this is how it really happened:

I ran at him and leaped, all according to plan. When I planted my foot in his chest, however, he grabbed it and gave it a vicious little twist. I landed face down in the dirt and breathing was suddenly a skill that needed relearning in a hurry. The only blessing was that the hilarity of the crowd watching us was somewhat muffled by my gasping.

Shep gave me a hand up and pulled off my blindfold. I still couldn't take a full breath so he waited patiently while I stood there, squinty eyed and wheezing.

Finally he said, "You shouldn't showboat. You could have finished me, I was hurting and you had the edge."

"You- are a-
really
- bad winner."

The friendly backrub eased my wounded pride a little. As he worked the knots from my tense shoulders I took a moment to check out the people who'd just watched my humiliating defeat. I could only hope that there weren't any cute boys around to witness my literal fall from grace. Lucky for me, it seemed that the only people at the Sunnydale Motor Court on a weekday afternoon in the fall were all either elderly or families with young children. So unless I was willing to date a man who needed regular diaper changes, I didn't have to worry about having blown my chances with the potential love of my life.

"Come on, I think Ramona wanted to leave as soon as we were done here. You know how she is about having plenty of time to check into a hotel before a book signing. If she doesn't have enough time to get beautiful she'll cancel the signing and then her publicist is going to give her sh- crap."

"And crap rolls downhill. I get it." I gave Shep an affectionate punch in the arm and started back to the RV without argument. I wanted to grab a quick shower at the facilities here before we hit the road and I knew he wasn't kidding about my grandmother's desire to greet her public looking fantastic.

Every life hinges on a series of days that change everything. The thing about days like that is that you never see them coming. Looking back, that shower marked the last time that everything in my life was normal. If I knew then what was in store for me, I think I might have just kept walking past the showers and down the road. I guess that's why change takes you by surprise. I doubt anyone would seek out life altering transformations willingly.

But I didn't know and so it was with visions of cute boys and clean hair dancing in my head that I went from my old life and headlong into the insanity.

Later that day I lounged inside the RV staring at nothing in particular as the countryside rolled past. My laptop sat with a half written report about ancient Greece on the table in front of me, but I didn't feel like working on it just yet. I was content with my day dreams as I played with one of my long brown braids.

"Thistle, if you don't stop pulling on your hair you're going to end up snatching yourself bald." My grandmother frowned at me.

"Yes, ma'am." I called myself all sorts of stupid for letting her catch me unaware. I should have been listening for her approach. If I had looked busy, she would have swept past me from her bedroom at the back of the RV, but if there's one thing that annoyed Ramona Nettlebottom it was an idle child. Or in my case, an idle seventeen year old.

Although Ramona was a firm believer in having the very best that her extensive fortune could buy, certainly nobody could accuse her of being lazy. Ramona wrote the first of dozens of best-selling novels when I was still a little kid. That first one was a fantasy story filled with elves and dragons and all the other things you expect a fantasy novel to be full of. Her success for a first book was unheard of. As part of her promotion for that book she changed her name (and my mother changed both hers and mine as well) to the last name of the main protagonist. I didn't know what our last name was before that, I was too young to remember and neither Ramona nor my mother would tell me. I was equally clueless about what inspired them to buy a custom built RV that was lavishly appointed on the inside and Barbie pink on the outside, but for almost 15 years my entire life consisted of traveling around the country to book signings, interviews, and research opportunities in that rolling eyesore. After her first book she'd switched genres to fluffy romantic comedies, although she never bothered to change her name to something less... hobbit-like.

"How was your training with Shep?"

"It was a little slow at first, but I got some good hits in." If I was lucky, maybe she'd been writing instead of watching us.

She nodded curtly and headed towards the front of the vehicle where Shep and my mother, Vanna, sat talking quietly to each other. I sighed inwardly with relief, but without looking at me she said, "Next time you should save the antics until
after
the victory is certain."

Crap.

And so went my life as I knew it. My past was peppered with hundreds of unique opportunities growing up that I'm positive wouldn't have existed if Ramona weren't such a stickler for making sure I was always learning new and interesting skills. She wrote about kickass heroines and heroes that sometimes were just barely on this side of the law. In the name of research she was always interviewing people who could teach her questionable talents. I'm not sure how she arranged it, but nearly every time she had one of these appointments I could count on an extended lesson of my own. While other girls my age were sitting in school learning about the history of World War II, I was learning the history of stun guns and how to use one. I knew 20 different ways to kill a boy, but I didn't have the first clue about how to talk to one.

My social circle consisted of Ramona, my mother, and Shep. Of the three, I considered Shep to be the least distant. There’s something about getting your butt kicked repeatedly by a guy that makes you feel like he's something more than an acquaintance, but he was just as close mouthed about the past and his personal history as the other two. I didn't dare question Ramona too carefully. Truth be told she intimidated me. And my mother, tall, blond, and gorgeous always seemed so disconnected. I consider the fact that I'm able to hold up my end of a conversation to be a testament to my personal fortitude. No lie. Living with those people was just short of trauma inducing.

There was nothing ominous when Ramona's cell phone started ringing. I assumed it was probably her agent or publicist since we were on our way to a fairly major book signing. That's probably what she thought too since her body was relaxed as she went to answer the phone where it lay on the counter of the kitchenette. I've never considered myself to be a student of body language, although Ramona had put me in a few sessions with experts over the years, but even I could see the way her body tensed up as she heard the voice on the other end of the line. She made her way to the bedroom at a speed just short of a jog. Even in a crises, Ramona did not jog. Mom's brow was furrowed as she looked on from her seat next to Shep.

After a few minutes with no sign that Ramona was coming back, I lost interest and worked on my report. Homeschooled or not, like any other kid my age, I wasn't a big fan of 10 page research projects. Unlike the rest of them, it's a lot harder to make excuses when your teacher lives with you. My peaceful contemplation of the culture of the ancient Greeks was shattered when Ramona came stalking through the RV. I suspected that I could have been doing just about anything right then and she wouldn't have stopped to lecture me. Still, I was glad to be hard at work because she always saw more than I thought she did and that woman could hold a grudge like nobody I'd ever met.

My mom immediately offered her the copilot’s chair and then gracefully kneeled between Ramona and Shep as the three conferred with each other in whispers.
Left out of the loop again. Imagine that.

BOOK: I Wish...
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