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Title: A Touch of Ice
Series: Everly Gray Adventure series
Author: L.J. Charles
Genre: Light paranormal romantic mystery
Ratings: 4.8 stars on 16 reviews
Price: FREE for a limited time only!
Everly Gray’s fingers are a magnet for trouble.
When she touches photographer Mitchell Hunt and sees the image of a dead body, she dives into the murder fingertips first. Life takes a turn for the dangerous when she discovers the body is related to a small-time crime family that accidentally stepped on the toes of notorious criminal, Delano West. Caught in a web of intrigue where nothing is as it seems, El discovers an aptitude for breaking and entering, the pain of an up close and personal meeting with a bullet, and the terror of facing a cold blooded killer. What she doesn’t learn—to keep her fingers to herself.
Excerpt from A Touch of Ice
Bone cold and heart warm.
Me, I live in the middle. No extremes allowed in my life.
Not so for Shelly Summers. She’s the only client I have who regularly leads me on a wild ride through the twenty-somethings, a decade I stumbled through without taking notes.
“Everly!” Shelly’s squeal shattered the quiet of my Zen-like office. “You won’t be-lieve what happened.”
I wrapped her in the barest minimum of hug, experience telling me it would be enough. My fingertips brushed against her back for a fraction of a second. Fragments of her desperation slammed through my body, leaving behind fractured images of her latest internet dating disaster.
My mind and body struggled, reached for the comfort of balance, for the safety between the extremes that ruled Shelly’s life. I stepped away from her with my best professional smile firmly in place and my inner dialogue running at top speed. You can do this, Everly. Personal coaching is your thing, and Shelly’s issues are nothing like your nightmares.
The wispy notes of her floral perfume tickled my nose, and I stifled a sneeze as I bent to snag two bottles of water from the mini-fridge. I’d been working with Shelly for a couple months and wasn’t about to give up, no matter how hard she clung to her desperation. But oh, how much easier this session would be if I didn’t have a lack-of-sleep hangover.
I turned to face her. “Fill me in on what I won’t believe.”
She perched on the edge of one of my overstuffed chairs—mahogany leather—and tapped the bottle of water against the palm of her hand. I counted three seconds before she tossed the bottle on the seat and popped up to pace my office, stopping every so often to smooth her miniscule denim skirt over the top of her thighs.
“I stood outside the restaurant, Everly. Just stood there like a dork. Couldn’t make myself go in like you wanted me to. Not without a date. Everyone would have stared at me and felt sorry for the loser, and that’s no way to get a guy to notice me. Relationships are such a pain. Well, except for having sex. Orgasms are easy. It’s relationships that are a problem.”
“The assignment wasn’t to help you get a date. We’ve discussed the importance of knowing yourself before you attempt a relationship.” I pointed to the client chair, a not so subtle suggestion.
Shelly controlled her agitation long enough to squirm onto the edge of the seat. “Okay, I’m ready. Tell me what you think.” Her voice held a hint of demand as she tugged on the hot pink strands of her spiky ’do.
“If you’re going to get past this relationship issue, you need to start listening to your internal wisdom. What makes you smile? What do you look forward to when you get out of bed in the morning? Make a list of those things, a written list that we can talk about.”
“Yeah. Okay, I can do that. Like last night I had dinner with Keith and he took me to—”
I held up my hand. “The rule is: nothing you put on the list can involve a man. Everything you write down has to reflect what brings you, alone, joy.”
“Just you. I also want you to gather pictures from magazines that make you happy, and Shelly, no pictures of men. Arrange them in a collage, what I call a storyboard. Bring it to your next appointment along with the list of what makes you happy, and we’ll decide where to go from there.”
“You can’t be serious. I’m twenty-five years old, and there are new wrinkles popping out on my face every day. I don’t have time to be screwing around with pretty pictures. Look at me.” She pointed to her face, stood, and started pacing again. “I don’t make enough money for a lot of plastic surgery. Maybe a tuck here and there, but… Don’t you think I’ll be more successful if I continue hitting the best singles bars in town? Oh, and maybe add a new internet service to my subscription list?”
“Let me just ask—how’s that been working for you?”
“Okay. You have a point. Not so well.” She huffed, watching me through confused eyes as her ring-laden fingers rubbed circles on her temples. A shaft of sunlight glittered against the sparkling stones, sending rainbows of color around my office.
Chills tingled over my skin, and Shelly dissipated into a blinding white haze of fog. What the hell was happening? Fear caught the edge of my last conscious thought and clung with the tenacity of steel manacles. Bone cold.
The old woman’s bare toes pushed against the floor, keeping the rhythm of the rocking chair smooth and even. Her body taut, she struggled for every breath.
The motion, and the ragged sound of her breathing, pulled me deeper into her pain.
Her left hand clutched the arm of the chair. Her right hand was extended; a cube of ice rested on her palm, melting. She didn’t feel the cold. It was too late.
Slowly, continuously, disappearing.
Her midnight blue eyes glistened with tears, but still held the clarity of youth. She focused on the window in front of her, not seeing the scene on the street below, but on a memory.
The crumpled body of a man loomed in the distance. She paused and then turned her back on the scene. The opportunity for her to accept her destiny was lost forever.
The internal movie played on, the story of all the things she’d missed in life. All the things she could have done, but didn’t.
The darkness outside provided a clear reflection in the window.
My face looked back at me.
Old. Wizened. Every wrinkle etched with regret for what might have been.
Cold, bony fingers dug into my shoulders, shaking me. “Everly? Everly Gray?”
The old woman? Panic zinged through me and my eyes popped open. Shelly Summers. Client. Young. Coaching appointment. “What the hell—?”
Shelly’s breath whooshed out, drowning me in the scent of peppermint and apprehension. “You’re okay, right? It was just a spell of some kind, like an epileptic thing? You should have told me this could happen, that you flipped out sometimes. A girl likes to be prepared for something like this, you know.”
I’d reduced my client to a babbling heap of nerves. And then there was me. No telling how long it would take me to recuperate from…whatever the hell that was. I reached for my bottle of water, the trembling in my fingers visible. Client session. Professional. Get. It. Together, Everly. I chugged several gulps of the life-giving liquid, knowing I had to act normal and complete Shelly’s session. “I’m fine, Shelly. Honestly, it was just one of those déjà vu moments. We were discussing your—”
“Lack of a permanent life partner. But I really need to know you’re not gonna flip out again.”
“You have my complete attention. It was nothing more than a brain blip.”
She bobbed her head up and down. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Only I usually have them after spending an evening in a club. So, about your not-so-brilliant idea to have me create some kind of art project.” Impatience lurked behind her words. Immediate scare about my mental stability over, Shelly was completely back to normal. Her eyes snapped with annoyance and a rosy pink glow had pushed the pale from her cheeks.
Relief left my knees wobbly. Later, Everly. You can deal with…whatever that was…later.
I sucked in a breath. “You’re not letting potential life partners get to know you. The purpose of this—” I gave Shelly another glimpse of my professional smile— “art project is to move beyond orgasms and into the heart of a relationship.”
Silence hung between us.
“With this kind of assignment, you should give me a guarantee. After all it’s going to take me off the market for—” Shelly’s hazel eyes dilated “—maybe hours. Hours of prime time spent on self-reflection?” She collapsed back into the chair, tugged the bottle of water from under her, and blew out a sigh that ruffled her bangs. “What if I can’t do this?”
“You can do it. I’m not saying you should stop the activities you’re comfortable with, only that these assignments may improve your chances of finding the right mate.”
“All right.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “No, it’s not all right. This self-reflection idea makes me kind of crazy, actually.”
“Take it in small doses. Work your way into the assignment.”
“Maybe I should consider a lesbian relationship instead. That would change the way I look at things for sure.”
“Yes, I expect it would, but I don’t think your sexual orientation is…optional. Start with creating the storyboard. And I’d like you to make another attempt at eating a meal in a restaurant by yourself.”
“How about if you try lunch instead of dinner? More single people are out at lunch time.”
“I’ll try. But I’m going to give the lesbian idea some more thought. It works for a lot of people.”
I shifted in my seat and contemplated the best way to approach this. “Take a minute to imagine a day-in-the-life of being lesbian. Do you honestly think you’re going to be happy with a woman as your life partner?”
“What? No. Oh, no of course not.” She dug a tube of pink lipstick from her pocket and smoothed it over cosmetically plump lips. “The idea is to broaden my horizons, make me more interesting to potential husband material.”
“How about you put that idea on hold until after you try the new assignments. Let’s see how they work before you move on to anything too life-altering.” Bloody whacko twenty-somethings. Shelly pushed every nerve in my body to the breaking point.
She slid her gaze in my direction. “To my way of thinking, self-refection is way more life-altering than spending a few hours as a lesbian.”
Not much I could say to that.
She stood, tugged at her skirt, and pulled on some attitude. “Okay. I’ll give it a try.”
I kept my fingertips to myself as we hugged goodbye. No way could I chance being tossed into another Shelly image. Not after…whatever that…vision thing was.
I shrugged out of my work clothes on the way upstairs and replaced them with my most comfy sweats. I stopped, drinking in the serenity of my sleeping space. I’d done all the floors of my townhouse in bamboo before I moved in and still loved the natural beauty of the pattern. The walls were white with a faint purple undertone that blended with the gray and violet accents of the bedding and loveseat. A perfect room for peaceful sleep. So why was the universe sending me nightmares?
I padded barefoot down the hall and gathered the supplies I needed, dumped them on the white lacquer kitchen table. Kitchens, my kitchen anyway, had to be pristine white. The perfect background for creating any number of colorful recipes, only this one was for my psyche, not my taste buds. I’ve always believed that client assignments are gifts from my subconscious wisdom, meant to be applied to my life as well as theirs. Helps me connect with them.
Except this time I had the…vision to decipher.
Damn it, I hate when the universe gives me crap like this to deal with. Wasn’t it enough being born with the hinky touch thing? Now I was going to have to cope with visions as well? I blew out a frustrated sigh but dutifully sat down with a stack of magazines and a pair of scissors.
I started flipping pages, the colors, shapes, and words blurring as an odd pressure built in my head. It was disorienting and more than a little scary. I tried to slow things down, to make my brain catalogue details and select a logical sequence of pictures. But no. My brain had a totally different agenda and kept sending “rip” commands to my fingers.
The pressure in my head eased the faster I ripped, so I went with it. Tossed the scissors aside and focused on tearing out whatever sent shivers through my fingertips. It didn’t take long, maybe fifteen minutes of clock time, but I was shaking and a thin film of sweat covered my body.
What the hell? I stumbled to the sink and slurped handfuls of water until my breathing slowed to normal. And then I faced the pile of shredded magazines and a haphazard arrangement of glossy pictures.
The images had nothing to do with my life at all. Nope. Not a chance in hell they were about my life.
They were about someone’s murder.
About L.J. Charles
I have worked with energy, both as a yoga instructor and as a body worker for many years. When I left that profession, I was driven to write about energy and the paranormal. Many of the situations my heroines experience are created from my own encounters with energy, its power and possibilities.
As to the "writing," well, that started when I was eight and penned my first book on pink construction paper with a purple crayon. It was a romance that involved a princess, and although I remember very few details about the plot, I do remember that it was illustrated and there was music and dancing involved.
At about the same time I created my first story, I discovered Nancy Drew and my love for reading was born. It has only grown over the years, and I am rarely without a huge to-be-read stack, and a book within easy reach.
Now days I write award winning women's fiction and young adult novels. All of my stories combine romance, mystery, and paranormal elements. The paranormal, because it's a huge part of my life, the adventure and romance because I haven't ever outgrown my early reading adventures with Nancy, Ned, Bess and George.
I live in the frozen north with my husband, whose TBR stack is taller than mine, and two felines who have been known to add entire pages to a manuscript without telling me.
Get the Book!
Now that you've read the excerpt and met the author, it's time to get the book :) Download it for free on Amazon. At the time of writing this blog, A Touch of Ice ranked:
#184 Kindle Free Store
#15 in Contemporary Fiction
L.J. and I have a question for you: what aspect of paranormal do you love most?
P.S. Deadly Addiction (my new release) is coming out next week. Be sure to check back Monday for details. In the meantime, you can learn more about it on Goodreads.