Authors: Elicia Hyder
I groaned and dropped my face into my hands. "I know."
An arm came to rest behind my back, and Luke appeared between our seats with a tantalizing grin that would normally make me swoon. "Did you miss me that much?" he asked.
Adrianne pointed a well-manicured fingernail at him. "Not now, Elvis," she said without taking her eyes off me.
Stunned, Luke took a few steps back.
I offered him an apologetic wink. "We need just a minute."
He nodded awkwardly, stuffed his hands into his pockets, and left us alone.
When he was gone, I turned back to Adrianne. "I don't suppose you could be convinced that this was all just a really big coincidence?"
"Sloan, when we ran into my Gran after you said you needed to pick up some canned green beans from her, that was a coincidence. When we were talking about going to Matt Sheridan's keg party and we ran into him at the beer store, that was a coincidence. When you said you hoped Shannon Green would get syphilis and we saw her walking out of the Health Department,
maybe even that was a coincidence
." We both laughed.
She tapped her nails against the bar top. "Billy Stewart is supposed to be working on the backside of a mountain right now, Sloan. He shouldn't be anywhere near the city. I was joking and trying to get you to make him magically appear… and then
That's not a coincidence."
She lowered her voice and leaned into me. "What are you not telling me? Did you make that happen or not?"
It was too late to try and recover with a lie. I had no other choice but to tell her the truth. My legs were shaking under the table and a trickle of sweat ran down my spine. "I'm not a hundred percent certain, but yes. I think so."
She sucked in a deep breath and blew it out slowly. Her eyes were wide and looking everywhere but into mine. "I'm going to be honest. You're kinda freaking me out a little bit right now."
I nodded and pinched the bridge of my nose. "I know. I wish I had a grand explanation, but I've never had anyone explain it to me either."
I felt her hand squeeze mine. "I love you, so let me have it. Tell me everything."
My stomach felt like an elevator free-falling through the shaft. "You're going to think I'm crazy."
"Sloan, I think we bypassed crazy about twenty minutes ago," she said with a genuine chuckle.
The bartender placed our drinks in front of us, and I wrapped my fingers around the short tumbler. Adrianne drained half of her whiskey in one swallow.
I took a deep breath. I let my thoughts roll around for a moment in my head, and I tried to choose my words carefully so I didn't sound as nuts as I felt. Finally, I looked at her and lowered my voice. "You know when you're out and you see someone you really feel like you know, but you can't remember how or who they are?"
She nodded. "Sure."
I paused for a moment. "I feel that way around
. Like I already know them."
Her face contorted with confusion. She tried to laugh it off without success. "Well, I've always said you've never met a stranger."
I looked at her seriously. "I haven't
met a stranger, Adrianne."
She cleared her throat. "I really don't understand what you're talking about."
Sadly, I didn't understand what I was talking about either.
"I see people I've never met and feel like I've known them forever. I can even just see a picture of someone and know if they are alive or dead and what kind of person they are. I don't know their names or anything specific, but I have a weird sense about them before ever talking to them. It's like I recognize their soul."
She let my words sink in for a moment. "Like the time you told me not to go out with the exchange student in the eleventh grade, and then he date-raped that cheerleader?"
"Yes. I just knew he had a lot of evil in him," I said.
"And you get these 'vibes' from everyone?" she asked.
I nodded. "Absolutely everyone."
"So, that's why you're so good with people… why you can talk to anyone and everyone at any time?"
I nodded again. "It's easy to befriend people when it feels like you've known them for years. And, I seem to be somewhat of a people-magnet."
She interrupted me. "But what does that have to do with Billy Stewart showing up here tonight?"
She sat back, exasperated. "Of course there is."
"I think it's somehow related. People are naturally drawn to me, and somehow I can manipulate that."
Her eyes widened. "So, you can control people?" Her voice was almost a whisper.
"I don't think I would call it
people…" My voice trailed off as I sorted through my thoughts. "I just know things about people, and sometimes when I talk about someone, it's like I can summon them to me."
She laughed, but it was clear that she didn't think it was funny. "Come on, Sloan. Really?"
"Just think about it." I looked at her over the rim of my tumbler and sipped my drink.
She was quiet for a while. There were a thousand odd events she could have been replaying in her mind. Like, the time I said I wanted Jason Ward to ask me to the homecoming dance, and he was waiting by my locker after class. Or, when I told her I had a bad feeling about our gym teacher, and we found out on Monday he had died of a heart attack over the weekend. Finally, she looked at me again. "You know I wouldn't believe a word of this if I hadn't known you for so long."
I nodded. "I don't believe it most of the time myself."
"So, when you say you 'know' people. What do you know? Like, do you know that guy?" She pointed at the bartender.
I laughed. "No. It's just a sense that I get. I can tell you he's an OK guy, but I'm not a mind reader."
She drummed her long nails on the countertop. "So, you're psychic?"
"No, I don't think so. I just seem to be able to read people really well."
She leaned toward me and dramatically fanned her fingers like a magician. "And make people suddenly appear!"
"Shhhh!" I looked cautiously around.
Luke, who was waiting nearby, caught my eye and started in our direction.
Adrianne extended her long arm to stop him. "Not so fast, you little eager beaver."
I laughed, and the tension finally started to drain from my shoulders. After a moment, I gripped her arm. "You're not gonna get all freaked out on me now, are you? I haven't told anyone about this since I was old enough to know better."
Her head snapped back with surprise. "Old enough to know better?"
I ran my fingers across the faint scar just above my right eyebrow. "Kids can be pretty cruel when they find out you're different. When I was eight and we still lived in Atlanta, one of them threw a big rock at me during recess."
She gasped. "That's horrible!"
I nodded. "After that, Mom and Dad decided it would be best to move."
"So they know about what you can do?" she asked.
I shook my head. "Not exactly. Whatever is wrong with me can't be explained by science, so I think it scares them to talk about it. They haven't brought it up once since we moved here." I touched my scar again. "And seven stitches in the face taught me to keep my mouth shut."
She squeezed my hand, her eyes no longer judgmental. "Well, I'm not going to freak out. And I'm not going to tell anyone."
I sighed. "Thank you."
She grinned over the top of her glass. "No one would believe me anyway."
Suddenly, she perked up with a wild smile. "What about Brad Pitt?"
I raised my eyebrows. "What about him?"
"Can you get him here?"
I laughed. "That's not the way it works!"
She crossed her arms over her chest. "How do you know?"
I smiled. "Because I've already tried."
IT HAD BEEN several years since that night when I finally told Adrianne the truth about me. She had spent that entire weekend hounding me with ridiculous questions:
Can you read people's minds?
If you can sense bad people, why did you let me date Bobby?
How do you get people to come when you call their name?
ARE YOU a witch??
I couldn't blame her. Adrianne knew about as much as I did about whatever powers or abilities I possessed. After that weekend, however, she calmed down, and our friendship returned to being as it had been before I told her—maybe even better.
I finished college that year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with a degree in public relations much to the dismay of my father. He was a geriatrics physician who had wanted me to follow in the family footsteps of a long line of doctors in the Jordan family history. Specifically he wanted me to become an obstetrician so we could, as he would like to joke, 'bookend the family practice with one doctor to bring 'em into this world and another doctor to take 'em out!' He was a funny man, my dad.
It had been my mother's idea for me to put my impeccable people skills to use and pursue a career in public relations. I had interned with the Buncombe County media department during college, and when I graduated they offered me a full-time job in the communications office. After two years, I had been promoted to Public Information Officer, which was a fancy title for a publicist. It hadn't proven to be the most glamorous job in the world, but it was fairly easy, close to home, and it paid really well.
Settling back in Asheville after college made sense. Most of my life had been centered around that weird little town. Asheville had somehow slid straight from the 70's into the new millennium, pausing in the time shift only long enough to pick up a few Goth kids from the 90's. It was the only city I knew of where one could pay homage to a war memorial, open an investment account, befriend a vampire, visit a fine art gallery, and pick up a new bong—all on the same street. In 2000, Rolling Stone magazine christened Asheville as 'America's New Freak Capital' which reaffirmed my decision to put down permanent roots there.
Over the years, I got better at using my ability and at hiding it. Talking about someone and having them make an appearance had almost become routine. I still couldn't summon just anyone at will, but I had noticed that if I was talking about someone and picturing them in my mind at the same time, they were much more likely to show up. It still hadn't proven true with Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt, however.
The leaves had just begun their colorful transformation in the fall when my workday began at the sheriff's office rather than at my office in the county building. I was to attend the swearing in of two new deputies at nine in the morning and prepare a press release. Before I left my house, I checked my purse to make sure I had remembered to bring my Xanax. I took a half of one as a preemptive strike against the anxiety attack I knew was coming. The sheriff was headquartered at the county jail; I hated going to the jail. A place packed with that many bad people was a panic incubator for a girl like me.
I arrived on time and checked my reflection in the glass doors as I approached the sheriff's office entrance. My white blouse was tucked in all the way around, and my black slacks weren't showing any panty lines. I reached for the door handle, but before I could pull on it, the sheriff himself swung it open and stepped aside for me to enter.
The lobby was full, and I suspected the entire bunch had just watched me check out my own ass in the mirrored glass. "Wonderful," I muttered.
"Nice to see you, Ms. Jordan," Sheriff Davis said with a grin.
I shook his extended hand. "You too, sir."
"We were just about to head back to my conference room," he said.
I nodded and fell in line with the group.
As we shuffled through the lobby, the nerve endings at the base of my neck began to tingle. I sucked in a sharp breath and held it. On the count of three, I blew it out slowly and reminded myself that the walls weren't really humming with evil; it was only my imagination. I needed to think about something else. Anything else.
My eyes scanned the room of county officials before landing on the two new officers who were being deputized. One, in particular, was certainly an adequate distraction. He was a little taller than me in the heels I was wearing, and he had short blonde hair that suggested he might be in the military. His black police uniform fit so well over his sculpted torso that I would've believed it had been custom made for him if I hadn't known that the county was too cheap for such a luxury. A polished brass name tag was pinned to his chest. 'N. McNamara' could have been Mr. January on the Buncombe County Hot Cop Calendar if there was such a thing.
"Good morning, Sloan," a familiar, squeaky voice said behind me, snapping me out of my hormone infused daze.
Mary Travers, a petite woman with mousy brown hair and a face smushed like a Pug's, was shuffling to match my stride. I smiled down at her. I liked Mary a lot. She was old enough to be my mother and was one of the most genuinely kind people I'd ever encountered. As the county manager, Mary was also my boss.
"Hey, Mary. How are you today?" I asked.
She pushed her bifocals up the bridge of her stubby nose. "Busy as a bee." She looked up at me. "Are we going to be ready to have the newsletter out by Friday?"
"I'm confident I will have it done by Thursday," I answered with a smile.
She hugged the armload of file folders she was carrying. "And you'll take the pictures today and get the statement posted on the website and on the Facebook and the Twitter thing?"
"Yes ma'am. I've got it all under control."
She patted my arm, like a grandmother praising a child. "Good girl."
The whole group was coming to a slow stop at the locked, heavy metal door to get inside the heart of the facility. All of the doors were secured electronically and were only able to be opened by whoever was running the master control desk. I suspected, given our halted status, that Virginia Claybrooks was working master control.