Why I suck.
But am also awesome.
I've been more "offline" than I have been in a while. I went from my brother and his family up from Oregon for two weeks and all the fun snow-hiking, snowmachining and ice-skating we could do - TO - my granddad's 90th birthday celebration (he's still SO quick-witted and hilarious, and a huge reason I write) where a huge group of my Canadian cousins (and their kids) came to spend a few crazy days of shopping for them (they're in a smaller town than me) and lots and lots of ice skating on the lake in front of my parents' house.
And you know? I love you people, but they're my family and I love them more ;-O
And now to MANIPULATION:
On Amazon HERE
Addison Prince has almost always gotten what she wants.
Dean Courser only wants to find his brother, but it's the one thing he’s failed at... Even with his unusual ability.
Dean and Addison share the gift of Manipulation—a brief touch that forces others to do what they wish. But when they meet and realize their connection, they find more questions than answers. Suddenly Dean is seeing moving shadows, and Addison is learning her father’s mysterious group may know more about her abilities than he’s ever let on.
As Dean and Addison second-guess every decision about who they are and why they're wanted, time is running out. With shadows following their every move, they're losing hope they’ll ever get to safety—if such a thing exists.
Yes. You see more of Micah and a certain other person she may or may not end up with ;-) from Insight. But mostly this book is for you to meet Dean and Addison.
I love Dean's sort of practical nature and his aversion to both noises and small spaces was fun to play with. I love how Addison realizes she's spoiled, but isn't sure how much work she's ready to put into NOT being spoiled...
The idea that people could get other people to do things for them with touch was fascinating, and something I wanted to play with. SO I DID.
It was originally NOT going to be a sequel, but at about halfway through Manipulation, they ran into Micah and (again) maybe a guy she may or may not have ended up with in Insight, and it turned into a series...
And then with how I ended the final book, it was SO worth turning this into a series, and not just because the final book takes place in The Bahamas... Though that helped.
I don't post whole chapters often, and I don't know that I've EVER posted two, but you HAVE to meet Dean. So. Two chapters it is...
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 room. He has a mustache—yeah, a mustache 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 you.” 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 made-up 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 strong forearms and fifty-thousand-dollar watch.
“Where’s Mom?” I tighten my arms in front of me. 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 because I 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.
“Mac said that best case scenario is you’ll be taking a class and paying restitution.” He stands up, and I’m craning my neck at his well over six-foot height.
“I’ll take care of the restitution, Dad. And he has some papers for you to sign…” I reach out and touch his arm just briefly. Please don’t be mad at me.
Dad’s jaw clenches, but there’s no way for me to tell if he’s just angry or if part of him does hear my suggestion and he finds it irritating. Not that I’ve ever had any indication from him that he knows what I do.
“So you can do private therapy or something instead of the class. They’re on my desk. I’ll sign them and get them out soon. Your Uncle Mac seems to be pretty confident of the deal he can get you with the prosecutor.” He scratches his forehead in frustration.
I sigh. Touching Dad has never worked. “Don’t forget, Dad. Please?”
“You are not in a position to ask for favors right now!” His voice booms out of nowhere, echoes and begins to pierce at the relaxed façade I’ve been holding on to so well.
My body jumps in response. I don’t want to cry over this, so I suck in a breath, afraid to keep breathing.
“I was interrupted from two meetings today.” He’s pointing at me now—that’s not good. Well, that’s never good. “One of which took a long time to set up online. Senator Michaels is expecting more from me than I think I can do, and it seems he might be headed to town within the month. To top it all off, I now have a juvenile delinquent for a daughter. You are not on my good list right now.”
When am I ever? But I sit silent. Dad’s outbursts used to bother me, but he generally forgets in a day or so. “Sorry, Dad. I have an early day tomorrow and Marla hasn’t been hanging my school uniforms.” I’ll need to talk or touch her about that.
“That’s between you and Marla. I don’t need any other bullshit thing to deal with right now.” He turns and strides toward his room—on the opposite side of the house from mine and Ellie’s.
I start to shrink away. “‘Kay.”
Marla does only what my mom asks her to do, or my dad asks her to do. She won’t start doing something for me because I ask her. She probably doesn’t care I’ve almost been late to school twice because I had to press my own uniform. Marla knows just as well as Ellie and I how little our parents are home.
As I step back into the hallway, which feels bigger since we have such tall ceilings, the shadows along the darkly painted walls seem to stretch. I flip the switch, but the light is out, and something moves in the darkness by the window at the far end making my heart skip. “Ellie?” I call.
Nothing. I blink again. The lights from the window sometimes put strange patterns on the wall, but my heart’s still pounding a little louder as I squint.
Okay. I’m crazy.
I pause at Ellie’s door but look down to the end of the hallway again. The floor to ceiling window looks straight onto Park Avenue. It was such a thing of pride when we moved in. Now I think it’s ridiculous. Just something else my dad can mark on his checklist that shows how important he is. Daughters in private school, check. Gorgeous wife who is also successful, check. More cars than parking spaces, check. Don’t actually drive anywhere, check.
I can feel myself getting all agitated again. I need Ellie. “Can I come in?” I whisper. My guess is that she’s awake, especially after Dad’s outburst.
“Yeah.” Her voice barely travels through the door.
“You’re not crying are you?” I can be nothing but my vulnerable self around Ellie. Everything from her affects me. I don’t want that to change. She’s my only real connection in this house.
“Dad’s angry.” She frowns as she sits up.
“He’s mad at me, not you.” I sit on the edge of her bed.
Ellie’s room is almost as large as mine. Just more pink. She’s eleven, and I’m sure will be growing out of the pink any day.
“What did you do, Addie?” She’s the only one who calls me this, and I love it. It makes me feel more connected to her in some way, Addie and Ellie. Her straight brown hair hangs off to the side. It’s probably the color of Mom’s hair but only Mom’s hairdresser knows her real color. And maybe not even her. The fake blonde that doesn’t look fake, sort of takes over.
“I messed up, that’s all.” I try to keep my voice relaxed. Maybe if I can pretend for a few minutes in Ellie’s room, it’ll be easier to pretend life is all good when I get back to mine.
“You’re not going away, are you?” Her forehead pulls together in worry. Ellie is so good. I hope this world Mom and Dad are raising her in doesn’t destroy that about her. I’ve seen people turn from nice to snob in a week.
“I’m not going away.”
She asks because Dad threatens boarding school at least twice a month. My guess is that it has more to do with his status than what’s best for me and since I’m about to graduate, it also seems a bit silly.
She sighs, unconvinced.
“Nothing’s changing,” I promise.
“You’re sure?” Her doe eyes open wider.
“I’m sure.” We slide our pinkies together.
Relax. It’ll all be fine. I promise. Go to sleep. I send the thought to her loud and clear.
Ellie takes a deep breath in and lies back onto her pillow before her brow furrows. “Did you do that thing on me again?”
“What thing?” I ask innocently. She’s the only one who knows what I can do, but she cares a lot more about where it came from and what I plan on doing with it than I do. For me it’s simply a convenience.
She shakes her head.
“But you feel better, right?”
She closes her eyes. “I feel better,” she concedes. “I’m doing more research on you, you know.”
“Okay,” I say to appease her, even though I don’t really want to know where my little gift comes from, but Ellie loves the search for information.
She swears she’s too old for snuggles and kisses, but I give her a hug before leaving her room and wave one last time as I close her door.
I shuffle into my room but can’t imagine spending any time sleeping. Not after this day of insanity—getting arrested for the first time ever. Uncle Mac bailing me out. The disapproval seeping from my father and the anticipation of what I might or might not hear from Mom. It all depends on if she can find time to give me a good lecture over the next week or so.
I relax as I settle into the idea of being in my room and the fact that my day is over. My bedroom feels like more of an apartment than a room. My bed is on a large loft, and I have a practical living room of furniture in the purples and grays I love so much. The lights from the city come through my tall windows, but I’m not into ‘ambience’ from the city tonight. I pull the deep purple curtains closed for darkness. Feeling sad, or frustrated or scared isn’t an option for me. It makes me feel weak. I need to get myself back into Addison. Back to normal thinking.
I turn back and forth in front of my full-length mirror. Not too bad for having spent a good portion of the day under the watchful eye of the NYPD. But these clothes are so going in the trash. They would have been the first thing I took off when I got home, if Dad hadn’t interrupted. I’ve rubbed hand sanitizer up and down my arms, but still feel dirty. I slide off my size four jeans and one of my favorite Gucci tanks and drop them in the garbage. I feel better already, and it’ll give me an excuse to go shopping sometime over the next few days.
I check the mirror again. I’m grateful for my body, I really am, but I wish I’d known that 5’9” and lithe would mean I’d get almost no boobs. I’ve wished for Mom’s height since I was a kid. I got it, but probably Ellie will get her boobs. Or Mom’s chest could be as fake as her hair. It’s something I’ll never know because I know better than to ask.
The front door opens and I hear dad. Hey sweetie, and some muffled somethings. Without meaning to I lean toward my door to see if I can hear any more. I’m tempted to walk out and talk to Mom, but by the sound of things they don’t want company.
I think it’s great my parents have this close relationship, but when you never see your own kids, it seems like you could turn it off once in a while. Though, tonight I probably shouldn’t hope to see her. It’s late and she’s just walking in. This means that today was another “rough day.”
After a scalding shower and three shampoos, my body’s finally relaxing enough that I feel like I might be able to sleep tonight.
My favorite T-shirt is on the top of the stack of clean clothes that our housekeeper, Marla, didn’t see the need to fold. It’s worn on the edges, but it’s from the summer Chase and I first got together. I slide it over my head and crawl up the ladder to my bed. I hope Uncle Mac gets me in court soon. I want this whole mess over with so I can spend more time with Chase. I wonder how on earth I’ll get up to the Hamptons if I’m not riding the train for free anymore. Or at all, since they’ve banished me.
I slide the phone out of my bag to see if he’s called. He hasn’t. It’s weird because we were supposed to be together, and I was a no-show. He must’ve heard, and is trying to keep his distance, anything else would mean… Well. I push away the ache in my chest at that thought. He just must have heard. That’s all. Or maybe something’s wrong with his phone. Maybe.
It’s rare I’m caught. It’s even more rare I end up in court, pleading guilty and bargaining down my charge with whatever twenty-something NYU just turned into a public defender.
“You have quite list of convictions, Mr. Courser.” The judge is flipping though my file, his grey hair like a thinning halo around his head.
“I’m aware, your Honor.” This is when I get to explain my way out of it, again.
“Why do we continue to see you?” He drops the corner of the paper to catch my eye.
“If your Honor would look at the dates, the majority of the cases were when I was between twelve and fourteen.” When I was living with my mother and just trying to survive. But I keep that part to myself.
“I see that.” He pauses in his flipping to rest his arms over my file.
“And the past few years have only been because I continue to be denied visitation with my brother.” It hurts to just say it out loud, which flashes quickly to anger. I really should be used to it after three years, but I’m not. The “system” may have found me a good home with odd-ball hippie foster parents, but they’ve totally screwed me where my real family’s concerned. Not that I give a shit about seeing my mom, but I haven’t seen my brother, Jeremy, since the night she was arrested.
“That is not a matter to be decided by this court.” His voice is full of impatience.
“I understand.” I clench my jaw to keep from saying more. I don’t understand because somebody should be able to do something. The helplessness over the situation just fuels my frustration.
“Mr. Courser, the only reason your sentence is so light is because of your age, and because, as much as I disapprove of your actions, there is no malicious intent and you still fall under the juvenile justice system.” He glances at me over his glasses. “But just barely.”
“I understand, sir.” I nod once next to my attorney who looks more nervous than I am. He can’t leave the file alone and continually shifts in his seat. It’s making me crazy. All the noise sounds like scraping, scratching, fingernails on a chalkboard... It all grates on my spine.
“And because we haven’t seen much of you in the last couple years,” the judge continues.
“Yes, sir.” I know this is the safe thing to say. I know that if I can force myself to say yes sir, and sound actually sorry, life will be a lot easier.
“You will pay restitution in the amount of twelve hundred dollars. Forty hours of community work service and you will take and complete the life skills class. Your attorney will give you the details. These are the conditions that the attorneys have agreed upon?” He looks one last time from my attorney to the prosecutor.
“Yes, your Honor.” The prosecutor nods.
My defense attorney stammers something that sounds like a yes, your Honor before sitting back down and nearly falling off his chair. A few good ass-kickings might help him not be afraid of some pansy-ass old man in a black dress behind a huge, raised desk.
“Very well. I don’t want to see you again, Mr. Courser. Is that clear?”
“Yes, your Honor.” I nod. I sit back down next to my attorney. “So can I get out of here, now?” I whisper.
“I need you to sign a few things for me.” He starts to stand up, dropping two files in the process.
An attorney in something that looks like Armani stands at the edge of the table, waiting for us to vacate.
“Excuse us.” My PD practically bows in front of this guy who looks a little too sleek for simple changes of plea in district court.
I follow the PD onto the bench behind the Defense table and run into someone’s shoulder on my way back through the door.
“Excuse you.” Her face scowls straight into mine. She’s tall, gorgeous, and dark, thick shiny hair falls straight around her face. “What?” Her blue eyes narrow.
I ignore her scowl and sit next to my PD. Pretty girls don’t normally make me nervous, but I have to take a breath to slow down my heart. I’m a moron. Being here must have put me more on edge than I thought.
She takes the chair next to the slick attorney we just passed.
“Addison Prince?” the judge asks.
I watch as her attorney stands to talk. I gather from the back and forth between her, her attorney, and the judge, that she found a way to print off boarding passes and has been riding the train all over New York State.
I’m impressed. I sit back and rest an ankle on my knee, my T-shirt, button up and jeans look a little shabbier than they did this morning. I realize my old-school Adidas are in need of replacing. It’s all I can wear. Most shoes make weird noises when I walk. I’d bet my whole outfit didn’t cost as much as her shoes. I absently sign in the two spots my signature is needed on the public defender’s paperwork.
“So, your Honor. Because her mother’s family comprises most of the board as well as the CEO of the railroad, and Addison’s tickets would have only cost about ten dollars apiece, her total restitution comes out just under five hundred dollars. All of which she’s ready to take care of.”
“I see.” The judge’s brow is furrowed as he looks over the paperwork in front of him. “You’re lucky this is a privately run railroad, and not federal charges.”
The girl doesn’t even flinch at that. It would scare the hell out of me. I was locked up for a couple nights once at fourteen, and tight spaces and me do not get along.
“What’s the least I’m going to get?” she whispers to her attorney.
“On a good day, restitution and this life skills class he likes to send everyone to. That’s the best.”
“Ms. Prince.” His voice is coated with the same irritation he used with me.
“Yes, your Honor?” Her voice is sickeningly sweet. Surely that can’t work.
I can see as his face softens that it does. “Why, sweet girl, when you can travel for so little, would you try a scam like this?”
My thoughts exactly. I sit back, curious to see how this will play out.
“May I approach your Honor? It’s a bit...personal.” She bites her lip. It’s like the only girl move I see and understand.
It means you’re about to be played.
But I have no doubt he’ll allow it. I can tell by the way he’s watching her. The girl is some kind of genius. Annoying, probably spoiled, but a genius.
She steps behind her attorney, around the table and up to the judge. They whisper across the top of his podium. She reaches out and touches him briefly on the arm.
Come on. That can’t work. Unless... My heart starts racing. I sit up in my seat, dropping my foot to the floor. What if she…? No, no. Dean. You’re crazy. No one does what you can.
“Thank you, your Honor.” She walks back carefully and gives her attorney a huge grin.
“You will need to pay restitution in full, Ms. Prince, and you will need to show the court proof of completion of Life Skills. A new session begins next week.”
I inwardly groan. She’ll be in my class. But I look at her from behind again.
Her grey slacks accentuate a nice, tight form. Hmm. It’ll give me something to look at, at the very least.
“Good job, Bunny.” The attorney whispers in her ear.
She smiles and looks pleased to capture his attention. Maybe he’s her dad?
“Your dad will be here to pick you up in a little bit.”
Her face falls, almost imperceptibly. “I figured he’d be here.”
“We both know how often that happens,” he whispers back as they walk down the aisle and out the courtroom door.
I follow. I know it’s stupid, but I’m curious about the spoiled girl and forged train tickets. And I can’t get that itch out of my brain that the way she touched that judge had a very familiar feel to it…
* * *
I’m on the second of the two busses it’s taking me to get back home. Addison climbed into a Rolls. She rides in a chauffeured Rolls and yet felt the need to forge train tickets. Her forgery had to involve a guy. Had to.
I pull out my small sketchbook and do an exaggerated drawing of the judge. Something that’ll make Katy laugh. I add some wildness to his grey hairs, some thickness to his eyebrows, and bring them far enough up on his forehead to warp his hairline. It makes me laugh. It’s sure to get Katy.
The bus is filling up fast—just after five and people are getting off work. I stand up to give my seat to a lady with a little kid.
“Thanks.” She grasps her son tightly in her arms.
I loop my arm casually around the pole. I’m on this line a lot and the white-haired driver really likes the brakes. Even I almost slip at the next stop. An older man with a cane is standing in front of me and nearly loses his balance. I glance around. There’s a guy in a shirt and tie, maybe a few years older than me, just sitting. Relaxed. I let myself bump against him. Offer your seat. I send the suggestion and he’s up a moment later, and the man with a cane is in his place.
This works with almost everyone unless they’re really determined not to do what I tell them to. A brief touch, a directed thought, and then a very satisfying action on the part of the person I make contact with. I probably use it too much, but I never steal. That just seems like taking advantage of a cool thing. Now tardies…
At my stop I head for the door and run down the two steps to the sidewalk.
“Hey, Dean.” Katy stands up from the bench as I step down.
“What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you, stupid. How’d it go?” She tilts her head full of pink spikey hair and looks at me with wide eyes.
“About what I figured.” I shrug. “Oh, I have this for you.” I tear out the small page and hand it to her.
“Awesome.” She laughs. “Thanks.”
There’s sure to be more on her mind so I wait.
“Did they ask why your guardians weren’t there?” She starts to walk in step with me. Her boots scrape on the pavement as she shuffles and her striped tights half glow in the lamplight.
The noise pulls and stretches my spine. “Can you not shuffle in those things?”
She laughs. “You are so weird with noises, Dean.”
“It‘s like a chalkboard! How do you not hear that?” I laugh.
“Fine.” She takes a few purposeful marching steps.
“Very, funny.” I shake my head. “No, they didn’t give me any crap about that. I think they assume some things when you come in as a foster kid.”
“So, what do you have to do?”
“Restitution to the state for the money they spent arresting me, which is going to wipe my savings, and some life skills class.”
“Wow, you know you got off lucky, right?” She elbows me in the ribs.
“I know.” It was my ballsiest move yet, going into the state offices and trying to login.
“I’m sorry you didn’t find your brother.” She loops her hand through my arm.
“Me too.” I glance down at her. For a guy I’m not all that tall, but Katy’s really short. She can’t be much over five feet. “Pink now, huh?”
“Yeah. The green kept washing out. Pink stays in the longest.” She bats her eyes as she looks up at me.
The scraping starts up again. “I swear, the first thing I’m going to do when I get rich and famous, is buy you shoes.”
“Well, I won’t wear them.” She squeezes my arm. “But thanks for the thought.”
“Hey.” I gesture slightly with my chin. “Jesse’s closing up shop.” Jesse is the neighborhood music guru. His shop sells mostly CDs and vinyl, but also all sorts of random music paraphernalia from tour T-shirts to rock n’roll artifacts. He’s even sold a few of my drawings.
“I already told you, he’s not into me.” But she’s staring at his back as she speaks.
“Because he thinks I’m into you. Or you’re into me.” Like everyone else. Like somehow because we’re the opposite sex, and hang out, we must be secretly dating.
“Ew.” She drops my arm. “I mean, there’s no denying you have a certain hotness about you. You know, nice body, that dark and mysterious thing, but… eww...”
“Wow, Katy, thanks.” She knows I’m not offended. We kissed once, but it was way too weird—maybe it’s just that after spending years taking care of my brother, I needed someone else to take care of, and God knows her parents don’t do anything.
“Oh, come on! You’re just… You’re Dean.” Her tiny shoulders slump.
“Go say hi, and I’ll owe you one.” I stop.
She sighs. “One what?”
“One…” I scramble to come up with something, but don’t. “I don’t know... Just do it.” I know her well enough to know she’ll hate herself if she lets the opportunity to be with this guy go, and it’s really hard for me to snag a girl when I’ve always got Katy with me. She just needs a little distraction.
“He’s like twenty.” Her shoulders slump even further.
“And you’re eighteen.”
She gives me her best wide-eyed frowny-face to show me she’s nervous.
“Fine. Tell him I told you to take him out on a dare because I want you to lose so you’ll have to wear normal shoes.” I poke her ribs with my elbow. Go talk to him. I wonder if a poke is enough to make her do it.
She bites her lip. Definitely considering. I read people well. Always have.
Jesse’s across the street and about to turn the corner. “Just coffee. Do it.”
“Will you really make me change out of my boots if I don’t?”
“Actually, yes. I really will.” I narrow my eyes. We both know I’m joking. I touch her again, on the shoulder this time. Go, Katy.
My thought hits her. “Shit.” She drops my arm and runs across the street. “Jesse!”
Okay, I feel a little bad for “forcing” her to go but in my experience, people won’t do something that they really don’t want to do. It’s just that people don’t pay attention to much of anything, so when I can put a thought in their head—they generally follow it. Especially when it’s something they might want.
I laugh at Katy bouncing her way across the street in her boots and open the door of my building. No doorman here. I wonder where Addison Princess lives? Well, me thinking about Addison, Bunny, makes me an official loser. I jog up the narrow stairway to the third floor just hoping to get through my stupid sentence as fast as possible.
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