It figures my natural bad luck and a blind
date on Friday the 13th dumped me in the emergency room. I
should’ve shied away from the creepy combination of cursed luck and locked
myself in a closet. Lucky for me, I was okay. Unlucky for my date, Michael,
he’d suffered an allergic reaction after eating Mexican cornbread. Talk
about bonehead move. I mean, hello, he has a corn allergy. What part
of Mexican cornbread had he missed in that little tip? To top that
off, the inept artist had left his epinephrine shot at home. Zoe, my
soon-to-be ex-best-friend, swore her cousin was available and smart. No
wonder he was single. No sense in pleading the fifth on smart. Just
another craptastic date on a merry-go-round of losers.
A guilty sigh pushed out of me as I stepped onto the
elevator. I punched the fourteen button and the doors whooshed shut. The
fact that Michael had ordered dinner number thirteen and the thirteen
sombreros hanging from the ceiling had everything to do with him landing in
the hospital. My stomach became a tight fist of unease.
Too many thirteens together equaled crapstorm in my
life. Cursed at birth, I’d entered the world on Friday, January thirteen, at
one thirteen in the afternoon. Or in military terms, thirteen thirteen. The
bad luck number affected everything around me. I controlled some of it if I
caught it in time, and fate took a spin on the rest.
Had Michael become an unwitting victim in my jinxed
life or what? I certainly hadn’t known he had a corn allergy until after his
face nearly exploded. Honestly, I barely paid attention to what he was
ordering while he ogled my chest and babbled on about how he’d love to paint
me in the nude for an art class project. As if. Knowing it was Friday
the 13th, I should’ve paid more attention once I’d counted the
sombreros due to my insane need to count everything to avoid the number
thirteen. Or my not-so-insane need to use my telekinesis to thwart the
inevitable bad luck. Or I could’ve persuaded him to order dish number seven,
but he was so freaking obnoxious, he’d left my brain practicing its freedom
to terminate the date.
I sucked in my bottom lip. It was just too risky for
others to be near me. I mistrusted my ability to control the bad luck side
of my telekinesis, and I didn’t know where my so-called freaky gift
stemmed from. I wasn’t sure if I had been born with telekinesis or if it’d
developed over time. My abilities hadn’t shown up until I’d turned seven
Thank my lucky stars I’d never gotten caught. I mean,
seriously, if the government honed in on my abilities, they’d lock me up
like Hannibal Lecter, pink mask and all. For the most part, practicing any
kind of extra-sensory perception and magic, whether innate or externally
created, was illegal. People were scared of ESP abilities and magic, a
deeply rooted fear from over three hundred years ago, when Earth was overrun
with sorcerers and fairies who’d done the nasty and created a race of
powerful fairy-sorcerers. Eventually, the governments eradicated them all
and enacted permanent worldwide laws and heavy sanctions on magical use
after the Abolishment. Yet, they never defined “extrasensory perception” as
magic. That spooked me, so I lived way under the radar.
The elevator stopped on my floor, and I slipped between
the doors before they opened all the way. I slid my card key into the
security slot and pressed my thumb to the bio-reader. Automatic entry lights
flickered on, lighting my way inside the dark condo on top of the Stargazer
Casino, San Jose’s newest residential-entertainment complex. The top floor
of the residential tower was really the thirteenth floor, but marked
fourteen. Like people can’t count.
I kicked my pink pumps off and dumped my jacket on the
antique chair in the foyer. My purse clunked on the marble console, the
strap leaving tracks in a film of dust. I jiggled the potpourri bowl until a
wimpy bouquet of cloves and cinnamon drifted to my nose. Housework hadn’t
risen to the top of my To-Do list yet.
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.” I yanked my phone from my
front pants pocket and hopped the two steps down to the living room. The
floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked the glittery amber dots of downtown’s
lights. Winds had swept away the clouds, and a soothing star-blazing night
greeted me, a far cry from the doom and gloom of my date.
“Cody, Cleo.” My two Himalayans always skittered
away from the havoc they wreaked the second they heard my voice. “Where are
Creepy crawlies teased the nape of my neck. I slanted a
glance down the two empty hallways. My right pinkie twitched. Oh, hell.
If the crawlies advanced to a pinkie twitch, it was bad. Alarm dipped in and
squeezed my heart.
Slipping my hand inside the small drawer of the end
table, I gripped my stun gun. I tapped in casino security on my cell phone
without punching the send button. The wall clock tick-tocking from the
dining room eclipsed the sound of my uneven breathing in the
quiet-as-a-church space. Not even a mouse stirred.
“Where are you ding-a-ling cats?” My voice trilled
unnaturally. “You better not be leaving stinky presents in my new ficus.”
Three halls broke off from the living room. The wide
hall led to the foyer, and two narrower halls led left to the kitchen and
right to the bedrooms. I tiptoed down the right hallway. The recessed lights
automatically winked on. At the first door—the hall bathroom—a whiff of
cheap Old Spice cologne assaulted me, reminding me of the casino blackjack
dealer who marinated in it. My heart thudded in my ears, and I about
hightailed it toward the front door. Gossamer threads of something foreign
fluttered in my head. As a telekinetic, I sensed ESP, and I oddly absorbed
the intangible energy of other beings through my aura, but never to the
point where it invaded my mind. I’d never even sensed a telepath tickle my
telekinetic sensors, and I sure as shit didn’t think an intruder was reading
I gripped my focusizer, a pendant encompassing the
number thirteen. It helped me delve into deep telekinesis and concentrate my
energy. Something just clicked in my brain whenever the dang number was
present in any way, shape or form. Focusing also allowed me to deflect bad
luck…when I knew in advance I needed to deflect. The enameled leaves on the
vine and rose lucky charm dug into the flesh of my fingers, comforting and
scary at once.
When I crossed the threshold of the wide open bathroom
door, the automatic light flashed on. Stun gun held outward, I shoved aside
the purple shower curtain. Empty. My heart pounded against my ribs. No rest
for the terrified, I still had a bedroom and an office to check. Hating to
expose my back to the hallway, I spun to face the door. Where were my
useless fraidy cats? I should’ve gotten the drooling Rottweiler who ate
kitties for snacks.
A crash echoed in the office next door, followed by two
twelve-pound thuds on the hardwood floor. I nearly stunned myself as the
furballs slid down the slick hardwood in their headlong rush toward the
Feathers wavered in and out of my telekinetic
receptors. Puzzled, I concentrated on the foreign invasion, but my thoughts
muddled. More gossamer wings flapped in the corners of my mind, working
toward the middle to totally unhinge me. What the freaking hell?
My phone rang. Startled, I hurled it into the air and
it clattered onto the hallway floor. Lunging out of the bathroom, I stooped
to snag it. The second I cleared the doorway, strong hands gripped my upper
arms from behind.
A banshee scream erupted up my throat. Kicking
backward, my bare feet connected with steel beam thighs. I thrashed
side-to-side, hoping to break his death grip as his hands slid down my arms.
My heart drummed so hard I thought it would pop out of my ribcage. I lost my
grip on the stun gun and it spun across the hardwood to kiss my phone.