The second book in the Fortunes Series is coming out next week (woohoo!), and it’s available right now for only 99 cents while it’s in pre-order. If you haven’t read the first book in the series, there will be a free promo next week on the same day as the new book releases. So, on July 22nd, you can not only pick up the series starter for free, but you can get the second book for under a dollar!
Most of you know I’m still a North Shore girl at heart, so one day, while wandering around Salem, MA, I started to think about a new series featuring a psychic. I wanted her to have a past – because everyone does – but my main theme is always about redemption and second chances…
Calypso Mendelsohn is the character who resulted from my musings that day.
She’s funny, smart, and totally incorrigible. She also has a mission to help others who’ve made mistakes – but Caly has an angle. Her former life as a con artist has left her with bad karma she needs to fix; helping others is her way of repenting. She also has a mystery she’s been trying to solve for years and a slew of shady characters from her past who show up unexpectedly.
Because my background is in art, there’s an art angle to these books. They’re a fun read, with tons of twists and turns and lots of snappy dialogue. For under a dollar, Caly (and I) will entertain you for a few hours – but only if you act now! Go ahead, click those links! I double dog dare you.
In case you didn’t just jump back to the top of this post and click – here’s a little preview:
Fortunes Give & Take
A moth was living on the velvet drapes of my booth, and I spent a few minutes admiring his faint spots and furry legs in the dim light from the window. My tiny space inside Foretold Psychic Parlor was the ideal spot for the little guy to spend a dreary late autumn day in his twilight hours, and I could use the company.
In Salem, Massachusetts, the November wind was coming off the Atlantic ocean, the sky was spitting rain, and the temperatures hung around freezing. The bricks that paved the pedestrian mall had an icy shine, and I was counting on some weather-related downtime and a few chuckles courtesy of the slippery bricks. I spread my tarot cards out on the sun and moon patterned velvet covering the repurposed diner table, choosing my usual Celtic Cross spread of ten cards; face down.
The electric crystal ball accent lamp cast a faint blue glow inside my enclosure. I could smell the incense and essential oils displayed near my booth. The new age music that played over the sound system underscored the chatter of the two brave customers debating the merits of various love spells. I could have solved their argument easily, but if they wanted to throw their money away, who was I to judge?
I was warm and snug in my velvet-enclosed booth to the point of feeling a tad sappy about the little career I’d built and the sparse but enjoyable life that evolved around it. I flipped the first card over and groaned—an upside-down Magician. That ended the schmaltz in a big way, but the card made sense given my present circumstances.
My boss at Foretold, Belinda, had been after me for months to schedule my Certified Divination Advisor exam. I’d been putting it off because I’m more of a people reader with a thin strip of psychic and a broad streak of a con artist that I try to rise above. Most days, at least. The Magician card most likely signified my tendency to use my gifts for less-than-honest pursuits, but it wasn’t my fault the path of rehabilitation was so twisty.
The Magician card currently mocking me could also indicate gambling, cheating, and other things, but the skeletons rattling around in my imaginary closet made it hard to concentrate. He stared at me with that smug look that indicated he knew all my dirty little secrets.
Those were precisely the reasons I had been avoiding my CDA test. The last thing I wanted was to wind up in a room of real psychics who might call me out as a fraud. I’d been called worse, but that wasn’t the point. I didn’t want to lose my job, pathetic as it was. I had a feeling that my persistence was no match for Belinda’s, so eventually, I’d wind up in front of a psychic board trying to give a decently accurate reading just to keep my new life precisely as it was.
I was surprised that I even considered stepping onto that ledge and taking the test. It wasn’t rational to be so desperate to keep a life most people would aspire to climb out of. But the truth was, I liked my job at Foretold way more than I wanted to admit. Before landing in Salem, I’d spent most of my life hopping from one place to the next, living a vagabond lifestyle. A strong survival instinct had induced my wanderlust in the past, or at least a strong desire to avoid ending up behind bars.
When I gave up my deceitful ways and decided to try my hand at a law-abiding life, the psychic gig at Foretold seemed like the perfect compromise. Not only would I be able to use the one marketable skill I had – reading tarot cards – but people would half expect me to be a charlatan. Doesn’t everyone dream of being accepted for who they really are?
I had a small apartment within walking distance, and I paid the rent every month. I knew the real names of some of my coworkers. My boss usually tolerated the fifteen-minute window that I considered synonymous with “on time.” I paid taxes (grudgingly, but who doesn’t?), received a paycheck every two weeks, and even used my real identity and social security number. I wasn’t living large, but I was living legit, and that had to count for something on the karmic balance sheet.
I flipped the next card over and peeked at the forces that would cross my path just as the velvet curtain was pulled back by a middle-aged platinum blond woman with the skinniest legs I’d ever seen. She was tall and so well put together that my first impression had been of an attractive professional woman. Her navy pencil skirt was a bad choice given those legs, but I decided to let that slide since it cost more than my entire outfit.
She slipped onto the seat of the reupholstered diner booth across from me, wringing her manicured hands. I smiled at my new client and leaned out of the booth about six inches to catch Belinda’s eye. My boss nodded that the woman had already paid the seventy-five bucks for the reading, and I closed the curtain. Showtime!
I held out my hand, and my pentacle bracelets jingled against the semi-precious stone ones stacked on my wrist. It was part of my carefully crafted persona of new-age psychic extraordinaire.
“I’m Calypso,” I said, smiling reassuringly, so the woman didn’t bolt.
“Maggie McLaughlin,” She answered, slipping her delicate hand into mine. I noted she had paired her diamond tennis bracelet with an engraved gold bangle that was just slightly wider, and her single ring was a gold band with an enormous channel-set ruby – all were genuine.
I pushed a lock of wheat-colored curls off my face and dropped my topaz-colored eyes from her moss-green ones as I slid my worn-out deck of cards into a single pile and fanned them out across the table, face down.
“Please select any card. It’s just to give me an idea of your energy.” I said reassuringly.
Maggie’s thin hand paused over the deck, and she plucked one from the end, glancing at it before turning it toward me. Four of Pentacles, upside down.
That was odd because I expected her nervous state to override everything else. “You’ve lost something important to you,” I said, feeling my intuition rise to the occasion.
“I’ll lose a lot more if you can’t help me,” Maggie said, pulling a glossy business card out of her designer handbag and laying it on the table.
My eyes took in the sleek logo of a bullseye target with faded ink on the right-hand side that morphed into a sun.
Daniel St. James, Consultant
I took a deep breath and nodded, feeling a smile settle on my face. “How is Dan?” I asked.
Maggie’s sigh of relief was so loud in the small space that it startled me a bit. “Dan’s fine. He said you could help me sort this out.”
Oh, brother! Do-Gooder-Dan would be the new bane of my existence if he sent everyone with a problem to me. He had some faith that I could continue to rise above my nature, and I admired his optimism. The monkey on my back was named Temptation, and she could talk me into almost anything.
The Bureau of Repentant Criminals, Ltd was Dan’s way of helping people with shady pasts get a second chance. People like Dan and me, and apparently like Maggie. Since I’d helped Dan once, it made sense that he’d send someone my way, but I doubted it was because he had any illusions about my altruism. Dan understood that I always appreciated an under-the-table income boost. An honest living never pays as well as the alternative.
Getting a second chance for someone could have me walking the narrow line between psychic advisor (my new profession) and con artist (my first love), but I’ve been known to tapdance on a few tightropes. I had been staying legit, but the thought of using my less savory talents still made me drool. Clearly, karma alone isn’t a great motivator. I stomped down hard on my excitement before I got carried down that slippery slope. I needed to evaluate the situation and do the complicated math of a karmic cost/benefit analysis.
“Well, let’s see what you’re up against,” I said, picking up the cards and handing them to Maggie. “Please shuffle them until it feels right.”
Her face gave away her surprise, but she reached for the deck anyway. I watched the cards slide between her thin fingers while calculating the cost of being lured into another shady situation. The risk/reward ratio wasn’t running in Maggie’s favor.
My name, Calypso Mendelsohn, was pretty well known in Salem because of the publicity Belinda needed for her business. My internet reviews were great, and I had seen my face on a poster advertising Foretold. I was fast becoming too well known to slide easily into an alias and not get caught. Fast becoming, but not quite there yet.
When Maggie handed the deck back, I laid out a ten-card spread and flipped the first card. “This is you, the questioner,” I said, pointing to the card. “This card indicates that your situation is time-sensitive. You must act now or risk losing control.”
“That’s why I’m here.” Her skeptical tone made me look up, and I smiled at her expression.
“Didn’t Dan mention the psychic thing?” I asked.
“He did. I just…” She trailed off and her brows furrowed.
“Well, despite what you expected, this is how I work. Stay with me, and you’ll see what I mean.” My words were confident because as much as I might fall back on my people skills during a challenging reading, my cards are dead-on when the client is in trouble.
I forged ahead, flipping the next card because I understood the urgency of Maggie’s situation. That wasn’t my intuition kicking it; it was the fact that nobody went to Dan unless they were out of options. I mused about what Maggie and her expensive wardrobe might have done. Lied about the paternity of an illegitimate child? Orchestrated a hasty change in a will to be the sole heir to a rich uncle’s fortune? Murdered her lover? Her lover’s lover?
There were so many possibilities because people did terrible things to preserve their relationships, reputation, or lifestyles every day. My cards would ferret out her little secret, so I settled in to enjoy the suspense.
Maggie’s jaw was set, and I could see the knots of tension that made her thin shoulders creep toward her ears. I was betting it was something juicy, so I let the anticipation build as I watched her expression change with the turn of each card. I studied her features from beneath my lowered eyes and noticed that my first impression of her had been dead wrong. Maggie McLaughlin wasn’t an attractive woman at all.
Her nose was enormous, and pressing her thin lips into a tight line made them even more noticeable. Her eyebrows had been waxed to perfection, and I suspected the arch had been tattooed on by a skilled esthetician in some swanky Boston salon. Her hair alone probably took an hour to style because there wasn’t much actual hair despite the illusion of volume. It was mainly extensions and products.
I took in her expensive clothing, chic yet understated gold jewelry, and the beautifully crafted ring on her long, perfectly manicured finger. Maggie McLaughlin was as much a fraud as I was, but she packaged it very differently.
I am also tall and slender but not rail thin like Maggie. My wheat-blond curls are rampant. My makeup is not the porcelain perfection of heavy foundation, but rather just eyeliner, mascara, and lipgloss on great bare skin. My vibe is approachable bohemian psychic; Maggie’s is of a sleek and wealthy professional you’d want to do business with.
Yet I didn’t want to do business with Maggie at all. All the veneer in the world couldn’t hide the desperation in her eyes, and that ground was usually littered with landmines.
“The man who poses such a threat to you is not one to be taken lightly,” I said, tapping the card. “He’s ruthless, and his reputation is well deserved but also carefully crafted. His identity is filled with affectations, but those hide something far more sinister.” I looked up at Maggie.
“Nicky Shades,” She said. “He’s my problem.”
I nearly scooped up my cards and dragged Maggie McLaughlin out of Foretold by the scruff of her bony neck. Nicky Shades wasn’t someone I needed to show up in my cards. Despite his eccentricities, the biggest bookie in Boston was dangerous with a capital D.
“I can’t help you,” I said, pulling the cards to me and knocking them on the table to get the deck back in neat order. “It’s probably best to just forget whatever you lost.”
“Oh, I wish I could do that,” Maggie said bitterly. “That’s the whole problem. Nicky Shades has the painting, and he’s going to auction it. The minute that painting gets appraised, he’ll know it’s a forgery, and I’m as good as dead.”
I dropped my deck of cards. “You passed a forgery to Nicky Shades?” I hissed, horrified. Of all the stupid things to do!
“I didn’t,” Maggie ground the words out, but she kept her tone as quiet as mine. “My partner passed it to him, and now that he’s dead, Nicky thinks this is the perfect time to sell his half of the lost Watanabe.” She held her hands in the air and waved them around in a mock celebration before plunking her elbows on the table and resting her forehead in her hands. Her voice sounded agonized when she continued.
“If it were real, it would go for a fortune. Since it’s a fake,” Maggie’s voice trailed out, and she physically deflated; she expelled a loud breath, her head bowed, and her shoulders curled, making her look sunken. She swiped at what I guessed were angry tears.
I flipped a card from the middle of the pile because I couldn’t help myself. Five of Swords. That wasn’t good. Humiliation, dishonor, and degradation were never positive experiences. When I saw Dan St. James, I was going to kill him.
In the meantime, I suggested an out to Maggie, “Can’t you blame the dead guy and pretend you’re shocked?” It seemed like a simple enough solution. It had worked like a charm for me on more than one occasion.
“I could if I didn’t have the other half of the diptych hanging in my gallery. If Nicky’s part is determined to be a fake, mine will be too. My gallery will go under, calling all my past sales into question. It’ll ruin me and everyone who works for me.”
I puffed out my cheeks and looked at the evident misery on Maggie’s face. “So get it out of your gallery.”
Her face shifted from misery to exasperation. “It’s been there for years, hanging right behind the sales desk. Thousands of clients have seen it. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been photographed with that damned thing for articles in newspapers and magazines. The outcome will be the same if I wear it around my neck or hide it under the floorboards.”
“Did you know it was a fake?” I whispered.
The misery was again etched into the lines around her eyes. “My partner did.”
“So, when did you find out?”
“A few months ago, I went through the records to help Lindy’s son settle the estate. I’m just grateful Lindy was stupid enough to write it all down. I might have found out too late if he’d been a little less impressed with how clever he was. He commissioned the painting years ago from some forger who’s in jail. They even paid a kid who was great with chemistry to fake the pigments so it would pass the sniff test.”
My heart stopped before restarting in a racing rhythm like a galloping horse with one missing shoe. “Pete?” I squeaked, suspecting I knew the forger too well.
“Oh yeah. Good old Pete, the thorn in my side,” Maggie said.
If Pete Argenet were the jailed forger, there was an excellent chance my missing brother Jazz was the chemist. I hated it when fate played on my weakness.
I drummed my nails on the velvet table covering, trying to swallow the words lodged in my throat. It was a hopeless attempt because they escaped anyway. Although my voice was quiet, Maggie hung on every syllable.
“I’m not saying I can help, but I know you’re in deep trouble. I’m off tomorrow, and I could come to your gallery. Maybe I can give you a few ideas about how to get out of the situation.” I offered. “No promises, but I can try to think up something that might get you clear of the mess.”
My offer wasn’t as generous as it might have appeared. If my brother worked on that forgery, there might be a clue about what happened to him on that canvas. Jazz and I had been a team until the day he headed out the door and disappeared without a trace. I couldn’t go to the police; they might find Jazz, which could be worse than him being missing. There was always the chance that Jazz had taken off because the heat was on, but it was a slim chance at best.
I’d taken it upon myself to find my brother and had followed his trail to the Boston area. My money ran out just as I came to a dead end, so I’d decided to stay in Salem and (to my dismay) eventually wound up building a life for myself. Since settling down, it seemed fate was determined to bring me clues, but they hadn’t led anywhere so far.
Now, Maggie McLaughlin was dangling another piece of the puzzle, and I was powerless to resist grasping at it with desperate fingers.
“It would be great if you’d do that,” Maggie sighed, “I could use any ideas I can get at this point.” She fished in her bag and slid another business card toward me. This one had the gallery’s name and a North Shore address that would bring me to a zip code lined with mansions and paved with old money. Fate just kept throwing rose petals in my path because it knew my mercenary heart too well. Fate also has a sick sense of humor, so I was pretty sure those petals were just to cover up the sinkholes.
“It’ll cost you a hundred bucks for a traveling consultation,” I said, lowering my voice because Belinda frowned upon such side jobs.
Maggie pulled a crispy bill out of her purse and laid it on the table without blinking.