(pendragon) Book birthday!

 

PC1-ITA-350

It’s finally here!  Into Thin Air is finally available on Kindle!  And you can get it here!

But maybe you’re not sure.  Maybe you don’t know if you’ll be interested in an odd ghost story.  Maybe you’d like to try it out.

Sure.  Have Chapter One.  On me:

Chapter One

Beginnings

“But Detective!” The young girl’s voice rose to a pitch that made Detective David “Mac” McIntyre flinch back from the phone receiver. He could face bullets without much fear, but teenage girls gave him nightmares. “Why did this happen? What are you going to DO?”

Her last words were more sob than question.

“We’re going to investigate it,” Mac promised her, making more notes in his notebook. “Save the message and have your mother or father bring you into the station tomorrow, so our techs can get a copy of it. Okay?”

“Okay.” She hiccuped a few times, but she wasn’t screeching anymore, which his eardrums were thankful for. “Detective?”

“Yes?”

“Do you think she’s still alive?”

The question, asked almost in a whisper, tore at his heart more than her tears had. “I hope so,” he said finally. “I hope so.”

He hung up and looked over at his partner. “What the hell is going on, Javy?” he asked. “That’s the third phone call we’ve had in the past two days about these random messages from a missing girl. Is there a full moon or something?”

Detective Javier “Javy” Spenser shook his head. “Fourth, actually,” he corrected, handing over a piece of paper. “While you were talking to that one, someone else called in.”

“Same girl leaving the message?” Mac asked, taking the paper and scanning through Javy’s notes. The words all but leapt out at him, nearly identical to the notes in his notebook, and he leaned back in his chair, shaking his head. “How is this happening?”

“I dunno,” Javy said. “But I’ve got something else for you too.”

“More bad news?”

“Depends on what you consider bad news.” Javy handed over a dusty file. “I found Terri Reynolds.”

Terri Reynolds. The mystery girl leaving messages on her friends’ cellphones. Mac was intrigued despite himself.

“Did you, now?” Mac flipped open the file and sneezed. “Well, let’s see what you found.” The case had gone cold before he’d transferred into the Major Crimes unit, so this was all new to him.

Javy leaned back and recited, “Terri Reynolds. Three years ago, she was twelve and heading home from school after cheerleading practice. She and her best friend walked to her best friend’s house, where Terri had a snack with her, then she started to walk home. Never made it to her own house. Her mother went out looking for her approximately two hours after Terri left her best friend’s house, and found her backpack and one shoe on the side of the road.”

“Never seen since,” Mac completed, still reading. “In the backpack was her cellphone, her school notes and her wallet, minus the twenty dollars her mother had given her that morning.” He flipped up a page. “No blood or fluids on the shoe. No other sign of her.”

“Until now,” Javy said. “When four of her friends had made calls to us, claiming to have received a cellphone message from her in the last three days.”

“Do you think it’s a joke?” Mac said, closing the folder and looking over at his partner. “Someone with a similar phone could have hacked her number and left these messages.”

Javy leaned back in his chair, obviously considering that idea as he watched the other state police officers currently on shift work. Glassdon, New Hampshire wasn’t a big town, but the disappearance of Terri Reynolds had caused enough hue and cry that the local police had shunted the case to the Major Crimes Unit of the state police, where it had promptly died for that very lack of evidence that Mac had noted – not closed, never closed, but without any evidence, what more could the police do?

And now we have evidence, sort of, Mac thought sourly, setting the folder down and eying it as if it were going to move on its own. If you can call weird phone messages evidence.

“Well, we have the phone down in the evidence room, according to the file,” Javy said, bringing Mac back to the present. “If it isn’t there, we know someone’s being a jackass. If it is, then we can have the techs look at it and see if they can figure out what’s going on.”

“It’s worth a shot,” Mac said, starting to get up. Then his phone rang again. He sighed and picked up the receiver, settling back down in his chair. “Detective McIntyre.”

“Mac, I’ve got a Mrs. Carmen Reynolds here to see you,” the receptionist said. “In connection with a missing persons case, she said. I think you and Javy are the only detectives here right now – can you talk to her?”

“Sure, send her up,” Mac said, gesturing to Javy to stay. “We’ll be happy to talk to her.”

“Talk to who?” Javy said, as Mac hung up the phone again.

“Someone about a missing persons case,” Mac told him. “We’re the only two detectives in now.”

Javy sighed and got up. “I’ll go get us coffee.”

Mrs. Carmen Reynolds turned out to be a small woman, prematurely old and frail. Her hair had once been dark; now it was colorless, not white, not silver, but a kind of grey that leached the life from her wrinkled skin and made her pale blue eyes the only color in her face. Despite her aged appearance, she moved with the slow grace that said she’d once been a dancer, sinking into the chair Mac offered her like a ballerina curtsying, every move precise.

“Thank you for seeing me, Detective.” Her voice was low, but richer and steadier than Mac had expected. “I know I should have waited, but when I heard about the calls, I had to come down and find out.” She reached out and laid an unusually strong hand on his arm as he sat back down in his chair. “Is it true? Have there really been calls from my Terri?”

Mac blinked, suddenly making the connection. “Your missing person is Terri Reynolds? Your daughter?”

“Yes.” Her pale lips trembled. “Is it true?”

Javy had come back with three coffee mugs as she asked, and he raised a dark eyebrow at his partner behind Mrs. Reynolds’ back. Mac gave a short nod as he answered her.

“It’s true that we’ve been contacted by several people regarding some phone messages,” he said gently, laying his hand over hers. “We’re definitely looking into it, but we don’t have anything substantive yet.” He hesitated, wondering if she were strong enough to hear the rest of it, then decided to take a chance and added, “We’re not sure it’s not a prank yet, so we didn’t want to say anything to you yet.” And we didn’t really know there was a case until today.

Tears welled in her eyes. “A prank? Do you really think that’s what it might be?”

“We don’t know yet,” Mac repeated. “We’re still investigating, Mrs. Reynolds.”

“You will tell me, though, won’t you?” she begged him, clutching at his arm. “Please?”

“Of course we will,” Javy said, startling her a bit. The big man could move silently when he wanted, something Mac envied. “You haven’t changed any of your contact information, have you?”

“No, the other detectives told me not to,” Mrs. Reynolds said, turning to him. “I wanted to talk to them, but the receptionist said they weren’t here.” Mac made a mental note to look back in the file and see who the detectives assigned to the case were. “I’ve kept everything the same.” The threatened tears started to leak a bit as she asked, “If it is her calling, why hasn’t she called me?”

Considering the messages were “I think I’m dead,” it’s probably a blessing, Mac thought, but he said, “You haven’t gotten any calls, then, Mrs. Reynolds?”

“No, nothing.” Mrs. Reynolds drew in a ragged breath, obviously trying to bring herself under control, and accepted a mug of coffee from Javy, who sat down at his own desk. “Which means it probably isn’t her, doesn’t it?”

“We don’t know what it means yet,” Javy said, passing the third mug to Mac. “Like Detective McIntyre said, we’re still investigating. Once we have copies of the calls, we’re going to be chasing down where they came from.”

“You can do that?” she said.

Mac said, “We can try. If Terri is still alive out there, we will do everything in our power to get her home.”

“And if she isn’t alive?” Mrs. Reynolds whispered, almost to herself.

“Then we bring her killers to justice,” Mac said firmly. “That’s what we do.”

Bold words, but two days later, he was feeling a lot less optimistic about the whole affair. Mac scowled at the report in front of him, wondering what the hell he was supposed to do with the information contained within.

The techs had taken copies of all four messages off the various cell phones and analyzed them. They hadn’t been able to trace the calls, but they had confirmed that the voice on the messages matched the voice on the message the cell phone company had forwarded over from Terri Reynolds’ old phone.

“That’s a heavy look,” Javy said, putting a cup of coffee in front of his partner. “What did that paper ever do to you?”

“Made our lives a whole hell of a lot more difficult,” Mac told him, tossing the offending file to Javy. “Somehow, Terri Reynolds is calling her friends and leaving voicemail messages. And this is now our case, because both of the detectives who were investigating it have moved on.”

Javy slid into his chair, sipping his coffee and reading the report. “I think I’m dead?” he said. “What kind of message is that?”

“I have no idea,” Mac said. “A pretty sick one, if it’s a joke.”

“If?” Javy flipped the edge of the paper down to look over at his partner. “It has to be a joke.” He faltered a little at the look on Mac’s face. “It does have to be a joke, right? I mean, what else could it be? A ghost? Come on. What else could it be?”

“I don’t know, Javy,” Mac said, picking up his own cup of coffee. “And I don’t know if I want to find out.”

<><>

They aren’t going to call.

Carmen Reynolds sat on the couch in her living room, pretending to watch the television. The phone lay on the cushion next to her, silent, accusing.

Just like it had that night.

The television droned on, some stupid sitcom with a stupid family who had stupid problems. She couldn’t watch anything but these now – Terri had loved the crime dramas, had wanted to be a lawyer, and they had enjoyed watching them together every night. Now, the crime dramas were horrific reminders of her own situation. The laugh tracks on the comedies hurt, of course, but not as much as the bodies.

She couldn’t handle even thinking of bodies.

When the phone rang, breaking through the laugh track on the television, Carmen jumped. She stared at the receiver next to her as it rang again.

On the third ring, she managed to pick it up.

“Hello?” she said, the word sticking in her throat, a whisper she barely heard herself. She tried again, louder. “Hello?”

The line was full of static, audio snow that filled her ears.

“Hello?” Carmen repeated. “Is anyone there?”

“Mom?”

That single word, breaking through the static, made her clutch at the phone. “Terri? Terri, baby, where are you?”

“Mom?”

Carmen wept into the phone as she heard the familiar voice. “Yes, baby, it’s me, it’s Mom. Where are you, baby?”

“I think I’m dead, Mom!”

And then the static surged back, drowning out Terri’s voice, forcing Carmen to hold the receiver away from her head. When she was able to put the phone back to her ear, all she heard was a dial tone.

<><>

One week later…

“No. More. Bars.”

Lance Robinett stomped back down the driveway to the now-empty van, wishing for boots rather than the soft shoes he currently wore. Soft soles were great for ghost hunting, but they just didn’t have the same satisfying sound slapping against the asphalt.

The van doors, however, slammed quite nicely. Lance took out the rest of his frustration over how the evening had turned out by slamming the doors a few more times than necessary before he stomped back into the house.

Luckily, neither of his roommates were home: it was Saturday night, after all, and they were probably out partying. For once, he wished he was with them.

He decided to leave the pile of equipment where it was until the next morning. None of them actually ate at the dining room table anyways. It was the community dump site, and neither of his roommates would care if it was covered with tripods, digital recorders and large black cases. What was more, they also wouldn’t touch them.

I’ll clean it up tomorrow, he promised himself. It’s not like we have any actual evidence to analyze. Stupid bar.

And that was the worst, most aggravating part of the whole damn debacle. According to the case file, the building was bordered by a graveyard, and it had once been a funeral home. The evidence could have been amazing. Lance and the rest of the team had been eager to investigate.

Until they got there, and realized that the owner had basically set up a party to publicize the bar. With Lance and his team as the entertainment.

Just remembering that brought his anger back up to the surface. Turning away from the pile of equipment, Lance stalked to the fridge, grabbed a random bottle of beer and headed to his own bedroom. The best way to wipe the taste of a bad investigation, he’d found, was to start planning the next one.

And there was always a next one.

“But no more bars,” he reminded himself, as he waited for the computer to boot up. “No more bars, ever.”

There were a couple of new cases in the group email box, and he flipped through them, mentally classifying them in regards to their seriousness and adding notes before he sent them off to the group’s case manager, Amari. Two of them he flagged as serious, as they were households with kids. Cases involving kids always jumped to the top of their list – no one wanted kids to be bothered by ghosts. Besides, kids often meant really good evidence.

One got a “Seriously?” put on top of it, and he knew Amari would know why. It was pathetically obvious that the guy had been watching all the stupid ghost story shows on TV – Lance could almost quote all the shows he had drawn his “experiences” from. Amari would know how to let the guy down the right way.

The other two were businesses – neither one a bar, he was happy to note – and he sent them along with his suggestions to her. One was a theater, which intrigued him. They had never investigated a theater before. The other was a hair salon. Those were always fun – mirrors everywhere.

Once he’d sent everything to Amari, Lance checked the calendar, and then signed off the computer. The beer was gone, and he was tired.

The phone woke him the next morning. He groaned and decided to let the answering machine take it. What the hell time is it anyways? He squinted at the clock, which refused to come into focus. It’s too damn early for anything good. It’s probably one of Keith’s exes calling up to give him hell, he thought. It never failed to amaze him how…prolific his roommate was. And how clueless the man was about what a woman really wanted.

The answering machine finally picked up on the fourth ring. “Hi, you’ve reached 856-9925. Please leave a message and we’ll get back to you.”

“Hello?” The voice that came out of the machine made Lance raise his head from the pillow. It was an older woman. An older woman who was in a lot of pain. “My name is Carmen Reynolds. I was told someone at this number could help me. I think my house is haunted.”

Lance reached out and grabbed the phone before she hung up. “Mrs. Reynolds? This is Lance Robinett, I’m the head of Lake Knight Paranormal. We do investigate haunted houses. What’s going on?”

“Oh, Mr. Robinett, please, can you help me?” She was all but sobbing into the phone.

“We can, Mrs. Reynolds, we definitely can help you.” Lance slid out of his bed and into the desk chair in one smooth motion, pulling a notepad towards him. “Tell me what’s going on.”

And as she told him, spilling out the story between breaths that caught in her throat, Lance’s pen flew across the page. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and yet there was no way the crying woman on the phone was lying.

When she was done, reduced to a few sniffling tears, he stared at the page in wonder.

“Are you sure you can help me, Mr. Robinett?” Her question was barely audible.

“We’re going to do our best,” Lance said to her. “Let me get my team together, and we’ll see how quickly we can come out there.”

“Thank you.” She sniffed. “Can you come out today? I don’t know if I can take another night with the activity that has been going on here.”

“Let me see what I can do.”

Once he had hung up the phone, Lance sat back and reread his notes. Then he picked up the phone again, and dialed a number.

“This had better be good.” Her voice was thick with sleep.

“Oh, Amari, my love, this is quite the best I have ever seen.”

“Tell me.” The sleep was gone, replaced with interest.

He read her the notes, his excitement growing as he did so. “This is big, Amari,” he said at the end of the recital. “If this woman is for real, and trust me, I think she is, then this house is a gold mine.”

“It sounds too good to be true, Lance,” Amari said. “Are you sure you just aren’t trying to wash last night’s experience out?”

“No, I promise,” Lance said. “She’s not that far away.” He hesitated. “She wants us to come out today. What are your plans?”

Amari sighed. “Nothing,” she admitted. “Give me enough time to shower.”

<><>

“What’s on the schedule for tonight?”

Sapphire Pendragon didn’t open her eyes as she waited for the answer; the cool glass of the limo’s window felt heavenly against her pounding head. It had been another long day of meetings, so very many meetings, and she hoped that the only thing she had left to do tonight was sink into a bathtub, preferably with a stiff drink. From how long her personal assistant was taking to respond, however, that was probably not the case.

“Spill it,” she said finally. “What other torture do you have planned for me, Danielle?”

“I hadn’t, actually,” Danielle admitted. “But your grandfather’s secretary called while you were in your last meeting, and said he is in town with your mother.”

“Of course he is.” Sapph’s hand dropped down to caress the head of the small dog currently sleeping in her lap. Bear rumbled a little but didn’t move much. “God forbid he let me actually do the job he sent me to do on my own. What does he want? And why my mother?” She had an idea, but hoped she was wrong.

“Dinner at 7 pm at the Renaissance Room,” Danielle said.

Sapph squinted at her wristwatch. “Family dinner. Lovely. Did you pack me—”

“Simple black cocktail dress and wrap have been pressed and are hanging in your hotel room.”

“Remind me to give you a raise,” Sapph said gratefully. She looked over at her bodyguard. “Did you bring your tux, Scottie?”

He nodded.

“Good. Then he can’t carp about our appearance.” She settled back against the seat, relieved. “Were there any other dictates, Danielle?”

“No, just to be there.”

“Thank god,” Sapph muttered. “Talk to you later, Danielle.” She hung up the call and sighed. “What did I do to deserve this?”

“He’s your grandfather.” Scottie’s warm voice didn’t soothe her temper. “It’s not like he doesn’t drop in regularly. That’s why Danielle knew to send your clothes to be pressed.”

“Bah.” The fact that the big black man was right didn’t make it any less palatable. “Wake me when we get to the hotel.”

At 7:05 pm, she walked into the private dining room at the Renaissance Room, Scottie trailing respectfully behind her. Her black sheath cocktail dress clung to her slender frame, but didn’t keep the air conditioning from going right through her, so she pulled the matching wrap tighter around her shoulders.

“You’re late.”

The words were delivered in the flat, spare tone she heard every day of her life. Her grandfather didn’t even look up from the soup bowl in front of him.

“There was traffic,” Sapph said, moving towards the seat left for her, nodding to her mother, who smiled at her but didn’t say anything. “I apologize.”

“If you hadn’t stopped along the way, you wouldn’t have been late.”

She bit the inside of her cheek before she responded. “You’re right, Grandfather. I shouldn’t have had the limo pull over to let the ambulance go by after the car accident in front of us. I’ll reprimand the driver when I get downstairs.”

“Don’t be impertinent.” Thomas Pendragon finally looked up at her. “You’ve lost more weight.”

“You’ve kept me busy.” She continued to stand in front of the chair, waiting. One did not sit at a Pendragon table until the patriarch said so, especially if one was late.

“Sit.”

She dropped gracefully into the chair, and handed Bear to Scottie. A silent waiter came in with her soup bowl – rather than the clear broth she could see her mother and grandfather eating, her bowl was filled with baked potato soup, and she scowled down at it.

“Don’t do that,” her grandfather said sharply. “I won’t have the papers saying you’re having eating issues.”

“As if they would,” Sapph said, stung. “Other than the tabloids, and who cares what they say? I just have no time to eat anymore.”

“Andrew did, obviously.”

Her spoon clattered against the side of her dish. “The tabloids had nothing to do with our break-up.”

Thomas sniffed. “You can continue to believe that, if you want, but we all know the truth.”

Yes, that he couldn’t stand the thought of living under your thumb, Sapph thought rebelliously. The memories of her final conversation with the handsome young lawyer everyone had thought she would marry had been shoved into a dark hole in her mind, and she refused to let the door open now. It was just too humiliating.

Mostly because everything Andrew had said was true. Up to and including the way her grandfather ran her life.

So she turned to her mother instead. “How’s the new movie going, Mom?”

Marlo Pendragon smiled at her. The actress was an older, more sophisticated version of her daughter: her dark blonde hair long instead of short, held back by a simple gold clip to fall into waves down her back, glowing against the dark blue silk dress she wore. “Well! Leo’s still looking for the perfect place to shoot some of the scenes, but he’s optimistic he’ll find it soon.”

Thomas snorted. “Directors. I don’t understand why he didn’t want to use the beach house I offered him.”

“Because it wasn’t the right venue, Father.” Marlo winked at Sapph, who trained her eyes back on her soup bowl.

A strident beeping interrupted them, and Thomas turned to his own bodyguard, who handed over a black phone. He frowned at the screen and then answered, “This had better be important, Sam.”

Sapph sighed and pushed her bowl away, half-trying to remember which office had a Sam in charge of it. There were so many offices, she couldn’t keep them straight most of the time. Korea? No, too late for that. Seattle, maybe? Not that it mattered. There was a list somewhere.

Thomas said, “No, Sam, I don’t think you needed to call me to ask that. If you can’t be trusted to make simple decisions on your own, perhaps this job is a bit too much for you.” Silence for a few moments, and then he said, “That sounds like an excellent idea. I look forward to having that on my desk in two hours.” He clicked the phone off and handed it to the bodyguard, who handed him another phone. He dialed a number and said, “Christine, I need you to run surveillance on Sam Cantor for the next few days. I don’t know that I trust him right now.” Another pause. “I don’t care about stress. This is a stressful life. I need him to do his job.”

Sapph rolled her eyes. That’s my grandfather, all heart.

“I don’t care, Christine. Take care of it.” Thomas snapped the phone off and handed it back to the silent man behind him, and then scowled at his granddaughter. “You didn’t finish your soup.”

“I’m not fond of baked potato soup,” Sapph said. “Besides, I’m sure you ordered me filet mignon or something. I’ll eat that.”

Their eyes met, and Sapph steeled herself not to look away first. The way she always did.

The way she did now, after about a minute.

Thomas snorted and waved the waiter in. “Take these. We’ll have the main course now.”

The filet mignon, bathed in a rich mushroom sauce, was wonderful, as were the honey-glazed carrots and baked potato that came with it. Sapph didn’t have to force herself to eat it all. Despite the current wave of tabloid accusations, she had no eating problems – she was just usually so busy putting out fires for her grandfather that she didn’t eat on a regular schedule. Once again, she made herself a mental note to start eating regularly.

For about twenty minutes, the only sounds in the room were the clink of silverware on plates. Her grandfather demanded silence as he enjoyed his meals, and Sapph found it preferable to listening to him harp over the business or her image or whatever. There were no “conversations” held in her grandfather’s presence that he didn’t dominate.

Then the faint strains of a single violin drifted through the room, and she stiffened. Scottie pulled her phone out as she turned around, very aware of her grandfather’s eyes on her.

“No business at the dinner table,” Thomas snapped.

“It’s Malcolm,” Scottie said at the same time. He looked at Sapph, who raised her chin and extended her hand for the phone. “It won’t take long,” she said. “Besides, he doesn’t often call this late at night. It must be important.”

“We are eating,” Thomas said. “You can call him later.”

“We were eating when your call came through too,” Sapph snapped back, standing up and putting her napkin on the table. “I am taking this now.” And she turned and walked to the back of the room, wondering where that had come from. “Hello, Malcolm. How can I help you?”

“Ah, Sapph, so good to hear from you!” Dr. Malcolm Robinett’s voice bubbled from the phone, warming her against the icy glare from her grandfather. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“No, not at all,” Sapph said, turning back around so she could see her grandfather’s face. “Dinner with the family.” Marlo waved. “Mom says hi.”

“Tell her I send my love!” Malcolm said, and Sapph dutifully repeated that. “It’s been too long since I’ve seen her.”

“Would you like me to hand over the phone, so you can continue to flirt with her?” Sapph asked, watching her mother blush and her grandfather fume. Dangerous ground, but she was somehow enjoying it.

“No, I’ll call her later to do that. I need to talk to you.”

The switch in his voice, from jovial to serious, intrigued her. “About what? Do you have another experiment you want to try?” She enjoyed his experiments. Among other things, it got her time away from her grandfather’s jobs.

“Not exactly.” Malcolm hesitated, and Sapph’s eyebrows went up. “Have I ever mentioned my nephew to you?”

“Your nephew?” Sapph frowned, trying to remember. “No, I don’t think so.”

“He called me today,” Malcolm said. “He doesn’t usually call when it isn’t a holiday, so that was the first odd part. And he asked me if there was a reliable psychic I knew that I could recommend to help him.”

“Your nephew needs a psychic?”

“Apparently. He’s a ghost hunter, but he doesn’t usually use psychics.” Malcolm paused again. “In fact, he spent all of last Christmas trying to convince me psychics were fakes.”

“So why did he call you about a psychic?” Sapph’s head was beginning to ache again, and it wasn’t just her grandfather’s scowl.

“I don’t know. He said something about this being a special case. Something very odd must have happened to him – he said he needed help. He’s never asked for help before.” Malcolm took a deep breath. “I think you have the talent to help him, Sapph. Do you have the time?”

“That depends,” she hedged. “What is he looking for?”

“He said it’s a mother with a missing daughter, who seems to be haunting her. It’s a small town in New Hampshire – Glassdon. It shouldn’t take more than two or three days tops.” Malcolm took another deep breath, and Sapph wondered if he was going to hyperventilate on her. “This could be what we were talking about after the last experiment, Sapph. You were wanting to know what your gift could be used for. From what Lance is saying, this woman is desperate, and worried. You could help settle her mind, get her in touch with her lost daughter. Give her peace.”

Give her peace. Those words resonated through her, cutting off her breath for a moment, and the entire world changed. Give her peace.

“Give me his number,” she said, holding out a hand to Scottie. He handed her a small notepad and a pen, and she scribbled down the number Malcolm gave her. “I’ll call him as soon as I get back to the hotel.” Then she paused. “You didn’t give him any information on me, did you?”

“No, not yet.” Malcolm chuckled. “I wasn’t sure you’d be able to get away.”

Give her peace. Sapph turned back and met her grandfather’s furious eyes. “I’m done with what my grandfather needed, and I’ve got some time off coming up. I’d love to meet your ghost hunter nephew, Malcolm. I think it will be good for me.” She smiled sweetly. “Give me something to take my mind off…things.”

Thomas’ face was the color of his steak, and his fingers clenched his fork like a crucifix.

Sapph said goodbye to Malcolm and handed the phone, notebook and pen back to Scottie, then retook her seat. “Yes, Grandfather?” she said, looking at him. “Was there something else?”

“You know how I feel about business calls at dinner,” he said, finally nodding at the waiter. He didn’t put the fork down, though.

“Then maybe you should have told Sam to call later,” Sapph said coolly. “And I’m sure you could have called Christine afterwards.”

“Are you telling me how to act, young woman?” Thomas said, in a tone of voice that normally made her quail. Malcolm’s words were still reverberating within her, though, and Sapph, instead of shrinking back, raised her chin.

“I’m telling you that I’m tired of being held to a double standard.”

Thomas drew in a deep breath, and Sapph, knowing what was coming next, decided to head it off at the pass. She stood up and tossed her napkin on the table. “I’m tired, and I’m going back to the hotel,” she announced, and turned to her mother. Giving her a quick hug and a peck on the cheek, she murmured, “Sorry to leave you with this.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Marlo murmured back, squeezing her. “I’m used to it. Go. And good for you for standing up to him.”

“Sit down,” Thomas ordered. “We aren’t done with dinner.”

“I am,” Sapph said. “And I’m taking the next week off.” She looked at him. “I have the time.” And then, before he could say anything else, she turned on her heel and walked slowly out of the room.

“Come back here! We aren’t finished!” he shouted.

She didn’t answer. Nor did she stop.

 

<><>

Intrigued?  Check out the remainder on Kindle – more formats coming soon!

2 thoughts on “(pendragon) Book birthday!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *