Authors: Jolene Perry
For Germany Jenny. A very cool chick.
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval systems, without prior written permission of the author except where permitted by law.
Next Door Books
Copyright January 2013
Cover photo by chaoss through Deposit Photo.
Cover art by B Designs.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the authors.
“Landon. I need you to tell me where you are.” Dad’s using his don’t-mess-with-me voice. It transfers over the phone pretty damn well—Seattle to Maine hasn’t slowed him down a bit.
I slump on the back of my sailboat, and look toward the ramp that leads down the dock. Micah should be here any second, which is good because I don’t have the patience for my dad today.
Micah’s curves come into view through the fence as she makes her way back. She’s just about to the top of the ramp leading down to the dock. Still pretty far away, but not so far that I can’t appreciate how well she’s built.
“Jersey, Dad. I did tell you.” But I’m sort of mumbling as Micah continues to distract me. She starts down the ramp, her legs flexing and her chest bouncing a little with each step. Her small brows are furrowed as she concentrates. I think I’m a little more in love with her every day.
“You’re not in Jersey, Landon. Not at the harbor where you said you’
d be.” He’s impatient already, which is really n
ot a good sign for how our conversation is going to go.
And I knew he’d catch on, I just hoped it would take him longer. Since I’ve left home he’s suddenly interested in my every move, and I don’t like it. Neither Micah nor I have a good feeling about him right now. I hate not trusting my dad, but it’s not like we’ve ever been close.
Micah’s got a canvas bag in each hand—both filled with groceries. She’s caught on to all the boating stuff quick, and loves the water, but the metal ramps that go down to the docks still make her nervous.
“I need to help Micah, Dad. I should probably—”
“I know what she does, Landon.” Dad’s voice has an odd, serious tone that I don’t know I’ve ever heard before. “I know how she sees things. I know she has a talent for visions.
I freeze, and swallow hard, my heart pounding. Suspicions confirmed, but until a few moments ago, they were just suspicions that my dad knew more than he let on. All I can think of to do is downplay, but since he used the word “insight” I also wonder if he knows more than we do
and if I should start asking questions
. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I know what you do, too.” Now he sounds smug. “Even if you don’t realize it yet. I watched all your brothers, but it ended up with you. I should have known given the circumstances…”
? “I…” My brain is reeling, and I can’t stop thinking about what Micah said a month ago—that I magnify what she does, and protect us both.
Micah keeps insisting that I shield her from the shadows that seem to be following us—they’re cold. She doesn’t get visions when we’re touching, and at the same time, when we’re touching she can reach her mind out and get a vision from anyone. It makes our date nights a lot of fun—or sometimes a bit bittersweet, depending on her visions of the people around us.
“Landon!” Dad barks. “You two need protection. Have you seen the shadows?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say again. But we have seen the shadows. They’re like walking people shadowed in black with smudged edges that I can see through—they freak me the hell out, but I try to shrug them off around Micah. She’s scared enough without adding my fear into the mix.
They’re not always following us, but they’re around enough to keep us always watching.
“This is no time to lie to me!” he yells. “I’m sending some business associates to where you are. You two need help before it’s too late.”
“You don’t know where I am.” And half of me is terrified that he’s telling the truth, and I’m hiding from him only to be caught by someone, or
else. After knowing Micah, I feel like anything could be real. And the fact that Dad used “insight” is still swirling in my brain.
“I’m not an idiot, Landon.” Dad’s gone back to quiet. “How hard do you think you are to find when you’re using your credit card everywhere?”
“You’ve hacked into my bank account? My trust fund?” Now I’m sorta pissed, but I should have figured.
“My name’s on it too!” Dad shouts before he pauses and exhales. I can picture him rubbing the stress from his forehead, and I drop my hand before my fingers reach mine.
Micah bumps into me as I take the canvas bags from her and her face flames.
I wag my brows in question—must be really good for her cheeks to be that red. Also, she doesn’t need to know the conversation with my dad is sliding into crazy territory.
She nods, smiles and kisses my cheek quickly before stepping past me onto the back deck of the sailboat.
Guess we’ll be having some fun together tonight. I wonder where we’ll be… The couch…our room…the back deck…
“Look, Dad. I think we’re done here.” I watch Micah’s hips as she steps inside the boat and stars sliding groceries in the small fridge. I love this setup, with the sliding glass door in back—it’s easier to talk when one of us is inside the boat, and one is outside. She smiles every time we make eye contact, and her cheeks are slightly pink again. Two weeks on the boat, and I can’t imagine it without her.
“They’ll be there tomorrow.” Dad’s business voice interrupts my thoughts. “I expect you to be waiting.”
“Who will be here tomorrow?”
“From The Middle Men. They help people like you and Micah. It’s what they do. You need them.” I can tell again by his tone this isn’t something he’ll let me say ‘no’ to.
I turn so she might not hear me in case this conversation gets weirder. “People like me and Micah?” I try to sound bored, but I’m tenser than I think I’ve ever been. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Dad.”
Micah touches my shoulder from behind, but quickly jerks it away.
I spin to face her, and she’s white as a sheet, her eyes wide.
We’re done. I hit end on the conversation, knowing Dad’ll be all kinds of pissed, also knowing I might have played this all wrong, but not giving a shit with the look on Micah’s face.
“Landon. We have to go.” Her chin trembles, and her eyes fill with liquid.
I don’t question, just drop my phone on the seat and start frantically untying our sailboat, hands shaking.
Micah jumps in to help with lines as she brushes tears from her eyes a few times. I’m scared as hell, but right now I figure the best thing we can do is put some distance between us and the marina.
I start up the engines, and we pull slowly out of the harbor. Micah has to stand on the front of the sailboat to help us navigate around the other boats. It’s not easy steering a catamaran—the large pontoons
and wide berth make the boat
’s still white, but hopefully we’ll talk in a few minutes. She’ll tell me what she saw when she’s ready, but I think she’s still processing as she stares out across the open ocean, and we leave the harbor.
Micah’s eyes are wide again as she looks over toward the rows of boats behind us, and walks to where I stand at the large wheel.
“Hey.” I reach out to touch her but stop before we make contact.
Instead of touching me carefully, she slams against me, wrapping her arms around my waist. “Whoever they are, they want to take us. There’s this huge house—” She hiccups as she tries to slow down and not cry. “We just can’t go with them.”
“I’ll keep you safe, Micah. I promise.” I kiss her hair having no idea what we’re up against, exactly what she saw, or what we’re running from.
At least we have a destination—The Bahamas.
She tightens her arms. “Thank you.”
I run my hand over her curls hoping I can keep my promise.
New York City. Close to two
Honestly, it’s a little frustrating being limited the way I am. If I could do something more real—if I didn’t have to touch people to get what I wanted, I wouldn’t be stuck here waiting for one of my parents to bail me out. I mean, really, if I’m going to have this little gift, it should have a few less limitations. I almost had his sleeve. Almost touched him again so he wouldn’t call security.
The two guys standing in line trying to be all goody-goody didn’t help, grabbing my arms—and probably just looking for an excuse to touch a pretty girl. It only took a quick little thought for them to let me go, but the train ticket agent still got away.
“Addison Prince?” A man in a sloppy, worn, brown, suit walks into the ro
om. He has a mustache—yeah, a m
ustache and a belly that hangs dangerously over his pants, threatening to break his cheap leather belt.
“You would know.” I sit back and start to cross my arms, but the handcuffs don’t allow it. They’re really scratching at my wrists, and heavier than I expected. Wait a minute… Surely if I soften him up a little, I could get these things off. Who knows how many wrists they’ve been on. I shudder as I think of the possibilities, and whatever germs might be left behind.
“Sorry.” I smile despite my situation. And I use my best flirtatious smile, too. “It’s been a rough day for me.” I reach my hand out. “I’m Addison Prince.”
He sits across the table from me without taking my hand. Crap. It’s a short enough thought from me that I’m sure it would have worked. It’s not like I could actually go anywhere. I’m in the middle of a stupid police station.
I’ve never been arrested before. To be honest it feels more claustrophobic than anything else—except maybe filthy. To know I can’t just stand up and leave puts me on edge.
“I just want to ask you a few questions.” He opens the file in front of him.
“Are you kidding me?” I laugh. “Just so you know, I’m not saying anything to you. I mean, if you want to sit in here and play cards with me that’s cool, but I don’t have to talk without my lawyer or my parents present, so I’m not going to.” I wonder how well my brave face is working.
“Fine, fine. You don’t have to talk right now. I just want you to know things will be easier for you if you did.” He looks at me over his wire-rimmed glasses.
I narrow my eyes. “No, things won’t be easier for me. They’ll be easier for
.” I lean back and cross my legs. We’re so done. Dad should be here any minute. Really, I should be out of here in no time. I hope.
I’d be lying if I said I looked forward to talking to my dad about all of this, but he’s too busy to give me grief about it for long. I toss my head to get my long, dark hair out from between my back and the chair. I use both my hands, in their stupid cuffs, to run my fingers down through my bangs, smoothing them out. Better.
My butt’s starting to hurt from the metal. I wonder who sat in it before me. The thought makes me want to stand up. What kind of diseases could people have that would be transferred? HIV? Some form of Hepatitis? Mono? Strep? Some other form of bacteria? The viral germs alone are probably enough for me to want to trash my clothes. I’m not sure if that kind of stuff would come out in the wash without ruining my jeans. There’s no way I’ll ever wear these clothes again. I really hope Dad gets down here soon to get me out. I know he doesn’t do criminal law, but surely…
“Addison?” Uncle Mac steps into the room. He’s tall, well over six feet, and walks like he owns the police station and everyone in it. Everything about him looks expensive. His haircut, his watch, his shoes. Everything. He’s in great shape, but isn’t a handsome man. Not in a classic way. He’s neat and trim, but his features are exaggerated—his nose, chin and eyes. Everything about him is a bit…overdone. Poor Mac. If his outside matched his inside, he’d be on the cover of GQ.
As thrilled as I am to see him, it means that Dad won’t be coming. The pang in my chest is a familiar one.
“Hey, Uncle Mac.”
“Would you excuse us, please?” Mac glances over at the policeman who slowly slides out of his chair.
He’s not happy about leaving, but is supposed to give us time.
Uncle Mac’s face speaks all business until the cop leaves the room. His expression changes, and his mouth pulls down into a partial frown as his kind brown eyes find mine.
“Where’s Dad?” Why did I ask? What on earth is he going to tell me that I don’t already know?
His frown deepens and turns sympathetic. “Tied up.”
“Like in chains, right?” I smirk. Smirking is better than screaming, or kicking something. That won’t do anyone any good. It’ll just make me feel like crap over something that will never change.
“Yeah, kiddo. Like in chains.” Uncle Mac leans back in the chair. “Wow, Addison.” He exhales. “I really can’t call you kiddo anymore, can I?”
“I don’t mind.” Uncle Mac and I have always been close.
“You really have yourself in a pickle here, you know that, Bunny?” His eyebrows go up.
“I guessed.” And I find it funny he doesn’t have a problem with calling me Bunny, when kiddo is suddenly out. He and Dad have always called me Bunny—since I was two and had poofy hair that stuck out like rabbit ears.
“Why on earth would you do this? Forging train tickets? Traveling under someone else’s name?” He’s wearing a smile, but I can see the disbelief in his face. I’ve never been in trouble, not like this.
Uncle Mac is the one person I can be honest with, about anything, almost all the time. But not about why I needed train tickets. “To see if I could. And I did.”
“For a while.”
“For two years.” I can’t hold in my smile at this. Chase and I have been dating for two years. Only no one’s supposed to know—hence the
name and forged tickets.
It’s news to him. His eyebrows shoot up. “They only have records for you through the past six months.”
“I switched names.” I shrug.
“Your mom’s family… Well, my family half runs the train company. You travel practically for free…” He shakes his head.
“And that’s how I had access, Uncle Mac. Because of Mom.” Even if I did explain the whole thing, he probably wouldn’t understand. And then I’d get some lecture about boys and dating people my own age and… Well, I’m just not into it.
“How is your mother?” He leans forward in his chair and rests his arms on the table between us.
“She’s your sister, you should know.” What else am I supposed to say? She’s someone I never see.
“You live with her.”
“Do I?” There’s no hiding my irritation for how little Mom is home. “Because I haven’t laid eyes on my mom in almost two weeks.”
“Whose fault is that?”
“Are you kidding me?” Irritation flashes through me. How can he be taking her side?
“Are you sometimes awake when you hear her come in?” He’s giving me his stern look—the one that requires him to look at me as if he has to see over his glasses. Only he doesn’t wear glasses.
“Sometimes.” But she’s generally nursing a headache or explaining me away with really rough day. How many rough days can one person have in a week? Every week. And as much as I’d like to say it no longer bothers me, it does. I’m just getting better and better at pretending it doesn’t.
He shakes his head. “She’s always been an obsessively hard worker.”
“That’s one way of looking at it.” The other way is to realize she cares more about work and image than anything else. She’s a walking stereotype of both rich New York wife and successful businesswoman. It’s hard to keep up when running two races. The mom thing sort of gets lost in the dust.
“How do you look at it?” His eyes are still intent on mine.
I look away. Avoid. Seriously, is he a shrink now?
“Aren’t you here to bail me out? I’m still in cuffs.” I hold my hands up for him to see.
He exhales in disgust, stands up and opens the door. “I need someone to get the cuffs off my client, please.”
A young officer walks in. Blue uniform, neat trim hair. He does a double take when I smile at him. I’m used to this. I know I’m pretty. In a city like New York, which seems full of models, I don’t always feel pretty, but I’ve never had a problem getting the attention from the opposite sex—even when I was too young for it.
“She isn’t a danger. She wasn’t arrested on a violent crime.” Uncle Mac sounds so authoritative. I love to see him at work.
“I don’t think I’m supposed to….” He hesitates in the doorway.
“Please? It’s not like I can go anywhere.” I sugar coat my voice, just a little.
“And she’ll be leaving with me in a few minutes anyway,” Mac says.
“Okay, but I’ll be in the hallway, right outside.” His eyes meet Mac’s first, then mine.
“That’s fine.” I smile sweetly at him again.
His hand touches my arm to take off the cuffs. Bow as you walk out. I think it loud and clear. I know I shouldn’t do things like this, but sometimes I can’t help it. He takes my cuffs, does a slight bow, and walks out.
I stifle a giggle. Sometimes I really love what I can do.
Uncle Mac shakes his head and sits back in his chair. “God help the man who marries you, Addison.” I can’t imagine that Uncle Mac knows about my little gift of persuading people to do things for me, but he does know I have a knack for getting what I want.
“Thanks, Uncle Mac.” I grin.
“Let’s see about getting you out of here.”
“Sounds perfect.” I take a deep breath for the first time since the ticket agent called security.
* * *
“Addison!” Dad calls from the living room just as his phone rings. He mutters under his breath, and I’m not sure if I should still follow his voice from my room, or wait for his phone call to be over.
“Senator Michaels!” Dad’s voice booms. “How the hell are you?”
I decide to walk into the living room. Dad and Senator Michaels talk a lot so I don’t think I’ll be interrupting anything major.
The pause is long enough that I try and see Dad’s face from the side to know if it’s good or bad news he’s listening for. Bad news will mean that he comes down even harder on me.
“I understand.” Dad’s voice is quiet. “We’ll start setting up here. I’m assuming there are agents on the case?”
Another long pause. I never know what Dad’s discussing. He’s an attorney, but has his hands in so many different kinds of businesses, there’s no way to keep track. I do know that Senator Michaels is one of his Middle Men business partners. Whatever that means.
“Okay, Senator. Thanks for the call. Maybe we’ll be seeing you in New York for a bit then in a few weeks?” Dad shifts in his seat. “They’re planning on leaving as soon as school finishes…? If you think it will be a problem, why not contain it there…? I understand. School runs longer here, so I’ll have more time on this end. We’ll have a couple weeks to prepare for your issue anyway. Thanks for the heads-up.”
I bite my lower lip and try to look as contrite as possible as I sit on one of the outside circle of chairs in our beige and black living room. The room is huge, nothing but windows across the front wall, but I can’t enjoy the view of New York. Not from this room. I can’t even cross my legs. I’m too tense. This is the room that is used solely for the purpose of brief conversations with Ellie or I, generally when we’re in trouble or simply need a good talking to. I hate this room. I live in mine and getting back there is all I can think about.
Dad drops his phone on the coffee table and meets my eyes with his deep, brown ones.
“I don’t get it, Bunny.” Dad looks ten years older when he sits like this—all hunched over, elbows on knees. Unlike Uncle Mac, Dad does look like he belongs on the cover of GQ—well, maybe if he was a few years younger.
Our hair is the same super dark shade of brown. His is perfectly combed back and his face is perfectly shaved. The dress shirt he wore all day is rolled in just the right way, exposing his str
ong forearms and fifty-thousand-
“Where’s Mom?” I tighten my arms in front of
. Nothing like Dad being disappointed makes me feel this crappy. I really don’t want a lecture from Dad, and another one from Mom. Though, having them in the same room, both mad at me, also doesn’t sound fun.
“The gym. She’ll be home in a bit.”
I glance toward the blackening windows. The lights from the city come in, but the black sky still takes over.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“Not really.” What am I supposed to tell him?
I’m sleeping with your best friend’s son. You know, the one who’s four years older than me? Almost 22? And it
’s the only way I can see him. And b
rarely see him,
I don’t even know who he spends his days with. What he does when I’m not around, and I really want to know those things.
I can’t imagine that going over very well.