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No Sunshine When She's Gone, Barefoot William 3


“This Psychic Fair is amazing,” Lila Sims said to Aidan Cates as they strolled along the Barefoot William boardwalk. She rubbed her hands together. “I want to get a reading.”

Aidan’s gut clenched. He had his own sixth sense, and was pretty damn certain what Lila had on her mind. It involved him, unfortunately, and a walk down the aisle. She was one determined woman. He planned to dodge her bullet.

“What kind of reading?” he asked her, looking around at the numerous booths set up before the multicolored storefronts. Sufficient space separated the umbrella tables so no one felt crowded. He studied a few of the signs, “There’s tarot cards, astrology, numerology, palmistry, crystal ball, channeling, clairvoyants, dream interpretation, and animal communication.”

The psychic list went on and on, and the lines were long. He figured the wait would be an hour. Time he’d never get back.

He knew Lila well; she wouldn’t stop with one reading. If the first psychic didn’t tell her what she hoped to hear, she’d find someone who would. Her beauty couldn’t mask her stubbornness. She wanted to know her future, and needed validation.

His sister Shaye had organized the event. There was no exam to be a reader at the fair. Their aunt was a renowned intuitive with an international following. Madam Aleta was presently in New York City filming a documentary on psychic detectives. She had solved many crimes in her lifetime.

Aleta had recommended several of her colleagues; people with credible and stellar reputations. Twenty psychics were presently in attendance. They’d arrived from the metaphysical heartlands of Sedona, Arizona, Lily Dale, New York, and Cassadaga, Florida. Each had a different talent. The metaphysical vibration was strong. The air was alive with excitement and expectation.

Aidan wanted only to escape. It was the first Sunday in March, and the Florida sun beat across his shoulders. He was feeling the heat. He’d turned his baseball cap backward to protect his neck from sunburn. He would’ve worn a T-shirt and athletic shorts instead of a long-sleeve white button-down and jeans had he known Lila planned to check out every gift table and booth.

The crystals and gemstones, the New Age books, and the silver symbolic jewelry all fascinated her. She was presently flipping through a pamphlet on being her own psychic. Perhaps she was seeking a career change, although she was well suited for her present position as a society columnist for Sleek, a glossy women’s magazine.
She attended major events from the Kentucky Derby, yacht races, designer fashion shows, to pedigreed weddings. Her column reported on American royalty, who wore what and who was seen with whom.

But today was all about Lila, Aidan thought. She was on a mission for a reading. And what Lila wanted, Lila got. The woman knew no compromise.

“Sorry--” A lady bumped Aidan from behind and was quick to apologize. A moment later a man elbowed him in the ribs. No apology there.

Enough was enough, Aidan decided. He moved beyond the crush of the crowd, finding a spot against the blue metallic railing that separated the boardwalk from the sugar sand. Wide wooden steps led down to the beach. Facing the Gulf, he breathed deeply. The scents of suntan lotion, cinnamon incense, and salt air surrounded him. A seagull squawked to get his attention.

He was so damn glad to be home. He’d been away too long. He could understand the tourists’ fascination with his town. Here was a vacation spot where everyone exhaled. No one wore a watch. Laughter was plentiful and clothes were minimal.

The aqua water rippled along the shore. Beachgoers sought space then spread their towels. Those wanting to cool off floated on their air mattresses between the shoreline and the sand bar. The water sports shack was near the pier. Tourists could rent everything from surfboards to snorkel gear, air mattresses to paddle boats. Powerboats cruised offshore, and sailboats drifted with the wind.

William Cates had founded Barefoot William in 1906, and generations of Cates had lived and worked their inheritance. The northern cement boardwalk linked to a wooden pier. Amusement arcades and carnival rides drew a large crowd. The specialty shops sold everything from Florida T-shirts to ice cream and penny candy, sunglasses to shark’s teeth, and shells to Hula Hoops.

A century-old carousel spun within a weatherproof enclosure. Its walls of windows overlooked the Gulf. The whir of the Ferris wheel was soothing while the swing ride that whipped out and over the waves sent pulses racing.

Neon lights flashed at night and music poured from many of the shops. People danced down the boardwalk, free and uninhibited. Many played blacklight volleyball on the beach. Glow-in-the-dark Frisbees were thrown along the shoreline. A few daring souls skinny-dipped near the pier after midnight. Kisses were stolen at high tide. Barefoot William was as honky-tonk as its sister city was high-profile.

Waterfront mansions welcomed the rich and retired to Saunders Shores. Yachts the size of cruise ships lined the waterways. Private airstrips replaced commercial travel. Forbes listed Saunders Shores as the wealthiest resort community in the country.

Despite the hundred-year-old feud between the Cates and Saunders families, Aidan’s sister Shaye had married Trace Saunders. Aidan’s older brother Dune had married Trace’s younger sister Sophie. The controversy had been resolved and peace restored between the families. Life was good. The southern paradise thrived.

Aidan caught a glimpse of platinum blond hair and a red tunic top from the corner of his eye, and realized Lila was headed his way. “Hey, handsome, you hiding from me?” she asked, running her finger down the front of his shirt. Her nails were long and painted navy. There were times she wasn’t as careful as he’d have liked when she touched him, especially when they were naked. Nails could scrape, score, and leave a man soft. She often scratched more than his ass.

“Not hiding, just needing some space,” he told her.

“It’s crowded,” she agreed.

A successful psychic fair would keep the boardwalk in the black. That was his sister’s goal. Shaye ran Barefoot William Enterprises while her husband Trace was CEO of Saunders South. The couple worked together on many building projects and land renovations. Both towns were flourishing.

Lila curved her hand about his neck and leaned closer,
asking, “Do you want to have your aura cleansed?”

He shook his head. He’d taken a shower that morning, which was good enough for him.

“You could have your past lives unearthed.”

“No thanks.” He was happy with the present.

“Your runes cast?”

“I have no Viking blood.”

“There’s a psychic painter who can identify and draw you and your spirit guides,” she suggested.

He didn’t want to be pictured with metaphysical beings looking over his shoulder. It was too damn spooky. “I’ll pass,” he said.

She pressed a light kiss to his lips; her coral-cream lipstick was non-smear. “There are other choices. What would you like, Aidan?”

He eased back slightly and patted his stomach. “Lunch,” he admitted. At least he was honest. The Blue Parrot was four blocks north. The peanut bar catered to a casual crowd. The beer was cold; the foam was as top heavy as the waitresses. There were baskets of peanuts in the shell on each table. The shells were shucked and tossed on the floor. A jukebox played in one corner, and a life-size, neon Elvis statue leaned his elbow on one end of the bar. Dart boards and pool tables drew customers to the back room.
The bar’s menu was limited; the owner served three kinds of sandwiches: pastrami, roast beef, and turkey. All came with potato chips and a jumbo dill pickle. A roast beef on rye sounded good to him now.

Lila sighed, pouting. “How can you think about food while world renowned psychics are tapping into their powers on your boardwalk? Can’t you feel their cosmic vibe? It’s
calling to me.”

Better calling to her than to him, Aidan thought. “We’ll get your reading first and then I’ll take you to lunch,” he conceded. “Which psychic have you chosen?”

She looked over her shoulder and scanned the tables.

“The lines are lengthy-” she paused, went on to squeeze his arm. “There’s a reader available two tables to our left. No one’s around her.”

No one? That didn’t sound good. Perhaps she wasn’t a competent psychic. Aidan hated to waste his money on a scam artist, even if his aunt had recommended the woman.

“Hurry, Aidan.” Lila took off ahead of him.

He trailed more slowly, focusing on the reader as he approached her. She sat in profile to him, a small woman with long chestnut brown hair wrapped in a green and gold paisley bandana. She was casually dressed in a yellow crop top and khaki shorts. She looked like a gypsy with her large hoop earrings and gold stacking bracelets on each arm. She was barefoot with toe rings.

Lila was quick to introduce herself to the psychic. She then motioned Aidan forward. He stepped up. He was a man who lived by first impressions. The reader touched him in a way that left him uneasy. He felt strangely drawn to her. His breathing deepened. He drew air from his gut not his lungs. He found her sexy.

She was younger than he’d expected. He placed her close to thirty, whereas the other readers were in their fifties and sixties. Her eyes were hazel. She had fine features and beautiful skin. Her mouth was full and her lips were parted, as if Lila had taken her by surprise.

Aidan read the printed sign on her table. Aries Martine was clairvoyant. She had the capability to see the past, present, and future. A ten minute reading cost twenty dollars.
Such a short time wouldn’t satisfy Lila, Aidan knew. He’d bet she’d take a half hour. Maybe even an hour. The way he saw it, that was money tossed to the cosmos with no honest return.

Lila settled onto one of the two wooden folding chairs, facing the psychic. She patted the seat on the second chair, requesting Aidan join her. He sat down slowly, stiffly. He sensed his life was about to change, and not for the better.

Aries had yet to speak; had yet to fully close her mouth. He noticed the slight gap between her front teeth, which he found hot. A tiny crescent scar curved at the corner of one eye. He liked a woman who wasn’t perfect; she seemed more natural, more real. More approachable.

Unfortunately for him, Aries appeared unsure of herself, which made Aidan uncertain of her. Not a good way to start a reading. Not good at all. Where was her confidence? Her positive energy? Her cosmic reception?

“This is Aidan.” Lila was brief. “I’m the one seeking information. He’s a skeptic.”

“Ah, so you are not a believer,” the psychic said to him.

“There’s always room for doubt.”

She shrugged a slender shoulder. “An open mind allows for new opportunities.”

He was open to change, but on his terms.

Lila grew impatient; her future waited. “We’re ready whenever you are,” she told Aries.

“Very well,” Aries agreed. “Allow me to center myself before we get started.” She closed her eyes and drew in consecutive breaths, releasing them slowly.

Aidan stared, appreciating the rise and fall of her chest. Her breasts were full, firm, and held by a sports bra; the outline was visible beneath the cotton of her shirt. The depth of her breathing pulled the hem of her crop top high on her stomach. Her skin was pale. Sunshine had yet to kiss her belly. He liked her gold navel ring.

There was something about the gypsy psychic that held his interest, for the moment anyway. Beside him, Lila anxiously tapped her fingertips on the table top. The noise was annoying. Distracting. Inconsiderate.

He glanced at his watch and wondered if Aries charged her clients for the time it took her to get focused. If so, she’d racked up a quick four bucks at two dollars a minute.

Blinking her eyes, Aries gazed at Lila. “How can I help you?” she asked. “Are you looking for an overall general reading or something more specific?”

Lila didn’t hesitate. “Specific, please. Aidan and I have dated for six months now and I’d like to know where our relationship is headed.”

Cosmic hell. He’d known this was coming, but had no way of stopping her, other than making a scene. He turned to Lila, keeping his voice low and even. “This is a personal matter, and not for the universe to decide. We’ve already discussed-”

Lila waved her hand dismissively. “Our conversations are one-sided. They satisfy you, but not me. I want to know our future.”

He clamped his jaw. “You think Aries knows better than me?”

“She has powers.”

Lila’s persistence was not attractive. He was stuck at a table with a marriage-minded woman and a clairvoyant who could make his life miserable. Living for today worked for him, yet Lila wanted his tomorrows. They’d found no middle ground. He hoped that Aries wouldn’t announce their engagement to the entire boardwalk. Perhaps if he left now—

“Sit down,” Aries said in a calm but firm voice when he started to rise. “Skeptic or not, you may be interested
in what I have to say.”

He could leave, but something in her tone stopped him. Her voice hinted of a secret. He was suddenly curious.

He dropped back onto the folding chair, and it creaked. The chair wasn’t made for a big man. Aidan was six-four and weighed two-twenty. He was surprised the wood hadn’t split.

“Fine, I’m listening.” He forced himself to be polite.

“Your hand, please,” Aries requested of Lila, extending her own. Lila was quick to grasp it. “Now yours.” She wiggled her fingers at Aidan, encouraging him to take hold.

“Why do you need my hand?” he wanted to know.

“I want to feel the heat of your aura and see how it affects Lila. I can sense if you’re her soul mate.”

Heat of his aura? He didn’t believe her for a second. He was a warm-blooded male. Her touching him would prove nothing. Lila wasn’t the love of his life. His heart told him so.
Glancing down on her hand, he noticed she wore several hammered gold rings. She had a small half-heart tattoo on her wedding band finger. Her nails were short and rounded with clear polish. The inside of her wrist had pale blue veins.

“Aidan--” Lila’s whisper was sharp. “Do as she says.”

He felt very uncooperative at the moment. He wasn’t willing to twine his fingers with the psychic’s, so instead he laid his palm flat on the table. Aries covered the back of his hand with hers. Her touch was light and warm. Her skin was soft.

His attention was riveted on her; on the shimmer of sunlight at her back that gave her an ethereal glow. She appeared otherworldly. He hated the fact he was being drawn into a reading that would give Lila false hope for their future. He’d never led a woman on; he refused to do so now.

“Look,” he stalled once again. “I value my privacy-”

“Yet you’re getting a public reading,” said Aries.

“Not by choice.”

“Life is as you choose to make it.”

She rode his last nerve. Several of his relatives passed by his table and slapped him on the back. His older brother Dune, a retired professional beach volleyball player, stood off to the side and smirked. His sweet wife Sophie was wide-eyed beside him. This was not good. The Cates had a grapevine for news. Word would quickly spread that he’d gotten a reading. He felt silly taking part, even though the psychic fair was a major fundraiser for his family.

Aidan glared at Dune until his brother and Sophie moved on. He didn’t need them overhearing every word Aries said; especially if the psychic started humming the wedding march.

Aries dramatically cleared her throat. “Let me get a sense of each of you first,” she said. “You mentioned dating for six months, but it does not appear that you know
each other well. You spend more time apart than together. Is this a long distance relationship?”

Lila’s eyes rounded, and Aidan’s narrowed. “You are correct,” Lila said in awe. “We met at a black tie Paws and Claws Fundraiser last fall. The event benefited the humane society. I own a house in Tallahassee and Aidan rents a condo. Sadly our work separates us often.”

Aries nodded, looking sage and solemn. Serious. “Lila,” she continued, “I see you attending parties and galas alongside a photographer. You mingle with the guests, taking mental notes.” She paused, and her brow creased in concentration. “Are you by chance employed by a magazine or newspaper?”

Lila covered her heart with her free hand. “You are amazing! I’m a columnist for Sleek.”

Aries pursed her lips. “You have the opportunity to travel.”

“My editor sends me to Europe several times a year,” Lila confirmed.

“You’ve mingled with the rich and the royal, and-” Aries bowed her head, appearing deep in thought, “you’ve wished since you were a little girl that you could live in their world.”

Heat crept into Lila’s cheeks. “Spoiled is a nice lifestyle,” she disclosed. “There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of money.”

Aidan stared at his date. Her aspirations were high. While he was well off, he didn’t live in a castle or wear a crown. Everything about Lila was first class. She wore designer clothing and platinum jewelry. She loved being seen with people who could advance her status. Why she dated him was beyond Aidan, although his family did own a town. But Barefoot William was all about sunshine, swim suits, and going shoeless. There was no one to impress here.

He wasn’t a man to stress, but tension rose in him now. He leaned back slightly, and studied Aries. She’d pinned Lila down in a few short sentences. She was, however, reading the present, not the future.

Aries took a moment then, and tilted her head left then right, as if working a kink from her neck. Her hair swept over her shoulders, sleek and shiny. The ends tipped her breasts. She brushed her bangs out of her eyes. Focusing once again, she gently touched the back of his hand with her fingertips. The hairs on his forearm prickled. His thumb spasmed. “Feeling me?” he couldn’t help but ask.

A hint of smile curved her lips, as if she were amused. “You, Aidan, are a force to reckon with.” She looked more through him than at him. “You-” she hesitated -- “build. Are you a carpenter or crafter?”

What the hell, how had she known? He grew more and more suspicious of her. His hands had known hard work; his body physical labor. He owned his own construction company. He worked the job sites along with his crew. He never minded the dust, dirt, and sweat that went into an honest day’s work. He wasn’t a pencil-pusher.

“Lucky guess,” he muttered, more to himself than to her. She seemed to have the upper hand with her knowledge of him, when he knew so little about her. He didn’t like anyone having that advantage over him, clairvoyant or not.

“You’re involved in a big project, one that relates to-” she contemplated for several seconds before saying, “a sport.”

Baseball, but that was common knowledge. It had been the talk of the boardwalk for many months now. Aries could have overhead any number of conversations. Cates Construction had been contracted to build the Richmond Rogues Spring Training Facility. Trace Saunders had fought to bring major league baseball to the Gulf Coast. Once the county commissioners unanimously voted to build the park, Trace had courted the team, as did the bigger cities of Tallahassee and Jacksonville. After several months of negotiation, Trace won over James Lawless and his executive board. The Rogues were coming to town.

It would be a huge economic boost for the adjoining cities of Barefoot William and Saunders Shores to have a major league club start their season in southwest Florida. The training park would be similar to James River Stadium in Richmond. Aidan had gone over the architectural plans so many times, he knew them by heart. The modern facility would accommodate ten thousand fans. His adrenalin pumped; he couldn’t wait to break ground.

Lila tugged on Aires’s hand. “We’re aware of what’s happening in the present,” she stated. “I’m more interested in our future.”

“It may not be what you wish or expect,” Aries said. She released both their hands, sat still and meditative, and awaited their nod of acceptance.

Lila did not respond, instead she grew fidgety. She twisted one of the gold buttons on the front of her tunic until the thread came loose. This surprised Aidan, as she was not one to mess up her clothes. Ever. She then crossed her legs, and flicked one foot. He could feel her nervous energy; it came off her in waves. She appeared almost frightened.

Resting his elbows on the table top, he steepled his fingers, and said, “We’re waiting.”

Still Aries held back. “Be certain you are ready for what I have to say.” Her words were meant for Lila.

Was she building anticipation? Or assembling a line of bullshit? He wondered.

“I think so…” His date sounded reluctant.

Aries peered intently at Lila. Her voice was no more than a whisper when she spoke, as if she were sharing a secret. “I see two men in your life: Aidan and someone with dark blond hair.”

Another man? Aidan didn’t have to be a psychic to read Lila’s expression. She flushed so quickly, so deeply, that he knew what Aries said was true. He exhaled sharply.

Lila jerked to her feet, her legs unsteady. “You’re mistaken, there’s no second man.” She tugged on Aidan’s arm. “We should leave. Who believes in psychics, anyway?”

“You believe in them,” he responded. “This was all your idea, remember? I wanted to have lunch.” He nodded to Aries. “Things are just getting interesting. Let’s see this through. You have our undivided attention.”

Aries waited for Lila to return to her seat. She did so with reservation. Aries then rubbed her brow; palmed her eyes. “The man’s name begins with the letter ‘R’, perhaps Robert or Roger. He’s of medium height, wears black-rimmed glasses and business suits. Do you know such a person? He’s here in Barefoot William as we speak.”

All color drained from Lila’s face. She slumped over, and nearly slid off her chair. Aidan caught her. She was slow to pull herself together.

He had an idea who the man might be. “Could it be Roger Gardner?” he mulled over.

Aries shrugged. “Possibly, you would know better than me.”

“The man owns Sleek magazine,” he added. “Roger and Lila work closely together.”

“Very closely, it seems,” said Aries. “He may be her boss, but he’s also her lover.”

Shock dropped Aidan’s jaw.

Lila looked horrified. He heard her moan “Oh, no.”

Aidan was taken back. What the hell was going on?

Lila clutched the edge of the table so tightly, her fingernails scratched the paint. She hadn’t expected Aries to be so precise. But then neither had he. He’d been afraid to lead Lila on, yet, according to the clairvoyant, Lila had slept around behind his back. He’d been duped, and that irritated the living hell out of him.

Lila recovered quickly. She turned on Aries, and her voice rose, that of a woman riled. “You’re wrong!” she accused. “You’re a fake. You can no more tell the future than you can fly.”

Aries didn’t take offense, she remained patient and calm. “You asked me a question, and I gave you an answer,” she said evenly. “I’m sorry if my reading displeased you.”

Lila was so upset she was close to hyperventilating.

“Deep breaths,” Aidan told her. She was drawing a lot of attention to their table. He didn’t want her passing out on the boardwalk.

“Water might help.” Aries passed Lila an unopened bottle of FIJI.

Aidan twisted off the bottle cap and Lila took several slow sips. He glanced back at Aries, and couldn’t help but ask, “Enlighten me further on Lila and Roger,” he

“There’s nothing between us,” Lila choked out. “Don’t you believe me?”

Aidan was silent.

Lila’s face contorted. “You’d take Aries’s word over mine?” she hissed.

“She has powers,” he said, repeating what Lila had said to him earlier.

“I refuse to pay for additional minutes,” Lila stated. “I’m done here.”

“My time, my dime,” he told Aries. “I want details.”

Aries gave it to him straight. “You are not Lila’s first choice for a husband; she desires another,” she stated. “She’s using you to make another man jealous. That is all I can tell you at this time.”

Aidan rocked back on his chair, crossed his arms over his chest, and took it all in. Relief replaced his anger. He’d known Lila wasn’t the woman he wanted to spend his life with, yet he hadn’t taken her for a liar. He hated liars.

Silence settled around them, thick and oppressive. An invisible finger pointed at Lila. Aidan saw through her now, even as she tried to make amends. “This is my fault, and I take full responsibility,” she rushed to say. “I should never have insisted we see a psychic. I love you, Aidan. Trust me, Aries can’t be believed.”

He tuned her out. Laughter from a nearby table drew him from the reading and back to the boardwalk. He scrubbed his knuckles along his jaw, debating his next move. His gut told him Aries was on the money. He owed her big time.

He mentally calculated her fee. They’d spent twenty eye-opening minutes at her table. He doubted Lila would pay her the forty dollars. His date still fumed. It was up to him now, and he would make it worth Aries while. He slipped his wallet from his back pocket and withdrew two twenties and a ten. She deserved a tip. She was gifted. He slid the bills across the table with his fingers. “Thanks, it’s been real,” he said.

Aries refused his money. Instead she grabbed her shoulder bag and stood, seemingly done for the day. “Keep it,” she said. “Have a drink on me later. Celebrate your freedom.” She then eased around the table and slipped into the crowd, disappearing like an apparition.

Aidan felt her departure. She’d left, and so had the sunshine. It fled behind a cloud. He doubted he would ever see her again, there was no reason to. Psychic readings weren’t his thing. Still, he felt an odd sense of loss.

Next to him, Lila stared entreatingly. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “Forgive me?”

Her apology mattered little. He could forgive her, but he wouldn’t forget what she’d done. Their relationship was over. He doubted they’d ever be friends. She’d kicked him in the nuts.

“How long have you been seeing Roger?” he asked her, wanting closure.

Lila sighed, came clean. “Roger’s been in my life since the day he hired me. We’re together as much as we’re apart. Our arrangement is complicated and has never run smooth. He’s a confirmed bachelor, whereas my biological clock is ticking. I thought if I dated someone equally as wealthy and handsome as Roger that I’d get his attention. I did to an extent. He came to Barefoot William when I told him that you were about to propose. I saw him last night, and-” she frowned -- “he wished us good luck.”

“He didn’t fight for you then?” Aidan figured he knew the answer but he wanted to hear it from her.

She looked very sad. “Roger left me flat.”

“But you still care for him?”

“Not as much as I love you.”

His bark of laughter turned heads. “Get real, Lila, we’re done.”

“I’m planning to stay in town for a few days; maybe I can change your mind.”

“You’d be wasting your time.”

“What should I do, Aidan?” she asked, sounding lost.

“Book a flight home.”

“I have no one waiting for me in Tallahassee.”

He took pity on her. “Roger’s a good guy,” he said. He’d met the man on several social occasions. “Do your job, but don’t be available to him. Maybe he’ll come around.”

“You think?” Her voice cracked.

How could he possibly know? She had played him, and he
wasn’t happy about it. Let Roger deal with her now. “I’m not psychic, I can’t foresee the future.”

“Aries Martine could see all.” Lila shivered. “She scared the truth out of me.”

Aidan hadn’t been a believer going into the reading, but the clairvoyant had turned his way of thinking. He just might have to track her down. His sister Shaye would know where to find her. Most of the psychics were staying in town the entire weekend. The luxurious Sandcastle Hotel in Saunders Shores had offered free suites to those participating in the fair. An open bar and the beach buffet were also complimentary.

The scent of lavender preceded an older woman as she hustled toward them. “Were you waiting for me?” she asked, out of breath.

Aidan looked up, the lady was plump and wore a bright blue caftan. She sat down with a flourish, and the wooden chair groaned. A pair of purple-framed eyeglasses rested on the top of her head. Her crystal prism earrings dangled nearly to her shoulders. She fanned her face with her hand, and said, “I apologize for taking such a long break. I was
in need of a cold drink. Are you here for a reading?”

“Thanks, but we just had one,” said Aidan.

The woman smiled warmly. “I hope it was good for you.”

“Aries is a wonder,” Lila said half-heartedly.

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Aries, you say?”

“This is her table,” said Lila. “We spent twenty minutes with her.”

The woman shook her head. “That’s impossible,” she said, pushing up the sleeve on her caftan. She showed them the tattoo at her wrist: a ram depicted her astrological birth sign, and her name was scrolled between its horns. “I’m Aries Martine.”

The tat didn’t lie.

Then who the hell was the brunette? Aidan wondered.

He was about to find out.

He rose so fast he knocked into the table. His strides were long and purposeful as he took off after the psychic imposter. Being deceived twice in one day did not sit well with him. Not well at all.