Authors: Derrolyn Anderson
THE CALEDONIAN INHERITANCE
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions of it.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
“You mind telling me what you want her for?” The private investigator looked around the plush office, thinking he’d finally hit the jackpot.
enator Blackwell poured himself another finger of bourbon, swirling it in the glass before raising it to his lips to take a sip with his eyes closed. “We have unfinished business.”
“What kind of business?” the man asked, even th
ough he had a pretty good idea. There were plenty of rumors swirling around his circles about the senator’s strange predilections. The private eye leaned forward in his seat, straightening out the lapels of his worn coat.
Senator Blackwell opened his eyes to look coldly at him, “That’s none of your concern. I was led to believe that you were the sort of man who worked with no questions asked.”
The investigator leaned back in his chair with a blandly reassuring smile, “Of course, I’m a true professional. You have full client confidentiality. But it might help if you filled me in on what sort of
you had with the girl.”
“All I need to know is her whereabouts,” the senator replied icily.
“I’d like to know what kind of trouble she was caught up in… If she was at that house when all those guys were offed, she might know something. Word on the street is that it was a gangland style hit, and the girl might have more than one person looking for her.”
The senator cast him a baleful glare, “Do you want the job or not?”
The man looked at the envelope of cash sitting on the desk between them, licking his lips. “Half now, and half when I find her?”
“That is the arrangement.”
The investigator stood, offering his hand across the desk. Senator Blackwell took another sip of his drink, sliding the envelope across the table with contempt. The man took it without hesitation, choosing to ignore the obvious slight.
s their price, Blackwell thought, a scowl curling back his lips. He watched the man leave, hoping that he wasn’t yet another incompetent fool. The senator found everyone around him increasingly disgusting, and it was getting harder and harder for him to find any relief. His business partners might not see the need to track down and punish the girl, but the idea that she had gotten away scot-free consumed him, and he was determined have his satisfaction.
His handlers had been keeping much too
close a watch on him lately, and he knew that he needed to remain cautious. He’d happened upon this private investigator through a fellow lawmaker who’d used him to handle a temperamental mistress, and the congressman swore the man could be trusted to be discreet. If need be, the senator could explain away this meeting up as a favor for a friend. It made the perfect cover.
He remembered his humiliation on the night of the shootings with a surge of
vicious anger. That stupid pimp had gotten what he deserved, thinking he could blackmail a state senator, of all people. As innocent as she looked, the girl had been in on the whole set-up, and the thought made him even more determined to find her. He would play it safe, and be extra careful not to alert anyone this time. She would pay for her mistake.
He closed his eyes again, imagining
her screams echoing off bare walls.
“What about this one?” Layla asked, holding up a silky nightgown with a delicate floral print.
Caledonia glanced down at the price tag and shook her head. “No thanks. I don’t really need it.”
Layla huffed, returning to the rack to pick a lace trimmed satin camisole, waving it in her cousin’s face. “I bet Calvin would rather see you in
than those baggy old T-shirts you always sleep in.”
Caledonia nearly blurted out that Calvin preferred that she come to bed in nothing at all, but she thought better of it.
Despite complaining about never having been on a date, Layla had been shying away from every opportunity to interact with eligible men. The formerly flirtatious girl had grown withdrawn, and Caledonia suspected that her cousin had been a lot more traumatized by recent events than she cared to admit. Layla refused to discuss anything that had happened, stubbornly shrugging off Cali’s gentle prodding.
Okay, are you finished torturing me yet? Can we go home now?” Caledonia hated shopping, but she humored her cousin, figuring that anything that got her out of the house was a step in the right direction.
“Not until I find some new shoes,” Layla replied, taking her by the arm to steer her through the store. “You need to learn to enjoy the hunt,” she added, completely missing the irony
. Caledonia was a master huntress, only she preferred to stalk her prey in a wilder landscape than the carpeted aisles Layla prowled.
Shopping had always been one of the
few pleasures of Layla’s life, because aside from reading, it was her only diversion from the strange reality of her cloistered upbringing. For most of her twenty-one years Layla had been the pawn of a vile man who used her powers to further his own evil plans. It wasn’t until Caledonia had come along that Layla even became aware that what she’d been doing was wrong.
Terribly, horribly wrong.
Now that she was free everything had changed. Layla and Cali decided they should stick together while they figured out what to do with the massive amount of land they’d inherited, so along with Michael and Calvin, the girls settled into a rented house in a small town near their property. The four of them had gotten to know and like each other during a winter spent in the Caribbean, and their living arrangement was working out far better than any of them imagined.
Not that there wasn’t some adjusting to do. The twins had been raised with servants, and had never
learned to do anything for themselves. In an odd echo of Caledonia’s first days away from her secluded cabin, she found herself demonstrating the simplest of household chores. Layla and Michael had to learn to do their own laundry, prepare food and clean up after themselves. Caledonia constantly reminded them that there were no servants in their house, and that they both needed to pitch in if they wanted it to run smoothly.
Layla had a few things to teach Cali as well, continually surprising her cousin with her refined use of their shared ability. Layla had been groomed to manipulate people her entire life, so she applied her synesthesia in measured doses, demonstrating a deft touch and the masterful ability to smooth over problems easily. She managed to breeze through the process of renting a suitable house singlehandedly, adroitly sidestepping issues like their lack of references and skillfully deflecting sticky questions about their work experience.
As handy as her manipulative powers could be, Layla needed to rein in
the impulse to abuse them. Caledonia continually pointed out the times where they could get what they wanted with simple good manners, shocked by her cousin’s lack of restraint.
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Cali asked, when Layla managed to wait patiently for the salesgirl to bring the shoes she wanted to try on.
“I guess not,” Layla replied, trying to understand why giving the girl a little extra sense of urgency would be so wrong. Layla had seen plenty of
wrongdoing, and it looked very different to her. Completely different.
Layla was amazed at the way Cali refused to use her power to manipulate Calvin, watching the dynamic between the pair carefully. The two Cals actually
about their differences, and sometimes even agreed to disagree. As perplexing as she found it, Layla had to admit that she’d never seen two people more in love.
Neither Layla nor Caledonia had been brought up to be superstitious, but they shared a common fear that their ability was somehow cursed, and a belief that they needed to atone in
some way in order to avoid repeating their family’s tragic past. Much had happened to make them question the true nature of their powers, and each girl found herself on an individual quest to find meaning and purpose in life.
Layla started out by looking to the past. She was overcome with an insatiable desire to know about her origins, clutching at any straw of information. She searched for clues, longing for a glimpse of the happy childhood that
might have been hers if things had only been different. She couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if her mother had been strong enough to overcome the demons planted in her mind by Professor Reed.
hunted down every little detail, searching desperately for a clue as to her and Michael’s unnamed father. She sought out the archives from her mother’s former orphanage in nearby Ukiah, combing through adoption, marriage and birth records. Even with her extraordinary powers of persuasion, she was met with one frustrating dead end after another.
considered the possibility of questioning Teddy about her father, but when she mentioned it to Cali she was met with such horrified opposition that she dared never bring it up again. Michael and Calvin felt the same way, so filled with burning hatred and bitterness that they never wanted to lay eyes on the old man ever again. She couldn’t really blame them.
For some reason,
Layla latched onto the idea of rebuilding the family’s former estate and living there, much to everyone’s surprise. Michael pointed out that it would make more sense to skip the hilltop site in favor of building closer to the main road, but Layla was adamant. Normally, Michael would argue against such an impractical plan, but he was still feeling guilty about how blind he’d been to Max’s true nature. If anyone should spend the money Michael had embezzled from Max it might as well be his sister.
Like Layla, Caledonia was also determined to put the land to good use, only she put thoughts of the past far behind her. She look
ed ahead, with dreams of opening an animal sanctuary one day, and maybe even a wildlife rehabilitation center. She’d already had a surveyor draw up a detailed map of the land, with an eye towards suitable areas for pastures, barns and kennels. Layla was set to start taking bids on the roadwork that would be required to get construction crews to the remote site of their ancestral ruins.
Eager to be useful, Caledonia took a job at a local country veterinarian’s practice where she’d quickly made he
rself indispensable. The doctor couldn’t get over how well she handled large animals, and within just a few short weeks all of their regular customers were seeking her out, insisting that she come along on house calls.
She was a soft touch, and
had already brought home a three-legged terrier mix that had been abandoned at the clinic. Layla was not experienced with animals, and had a hard time warming up to the scruffy mongrel, but Calvin and Michael quickly made him the house mascot, calling him Tripod and teaching him all kinds of funny little tricks. The little dog made the house feel like a home, and he amused everyone but Layla with all the mischief he got into.
The sun was low in the sky when
the girl’s shopping day finally came to an end, and Caledonia helped pile her cousin’s bags into the back of Layla’s new powder blue convertible. It was dark by the time they pulled into the driveway of their house, finding Calvin and Michael standing inside the illuminated garage, inspecting three gleaming new dirt bikes. Calvin stooped down to point something out on the engine, and both of the girls could see the cloud of turquoise that engulfed Michael as he listened raptly. Layla’s twin had transferred his hero worship of Max directly onto Calvin, hanging on his every word with fascination, determined to learn everything he could about motorcycles.
irt bikes had proven to be the best way to access the unexplored depths of their remote acreage. Calvin taught Michael and Cali how to ride, and the three of them started making regular forays into the woods. Layla wanted nothing to do with the noisy machines, preferring to work on the planning and organizing end. Everyone was more than happy to turn over all the detailed paperwork to her.