a Superhero Romance novella
from Champagne Books
When Rachel Connolly -- a Reverse Empath -- and Franklin Luke Delano (Fluke)
-- a Probability Talent -- meet in the course of capturing a would-be bomber,
she knows that he knows she's attracted to him. He can't help it -- no one in
Rachel's vicinity can help knowing everything she feels. Fluke can disarm a
bomb because he's just that lucky, but he's never met another woman who makes
him feel the way Rachel does.
They have little time to explore their powerful connection before they must draw a mad Puppet Master into the open. Mesmero can use others as his mindless puppets and before all is over, Rachel, Fluke, and the rest of Team Guardian must work tirelessly to stop the villain from carrying out his deadly plans to wreak revenge on those he imagines have wronged him.
available from Champagne Books
When a probability bomb exploded in the heartlands of the US, no one could have predicted the results. Spreading chaos was the point of using a probability bomb. Everything and anything occurred that day, from rains of frogs to Red Sea-partings of local swimming pools to animals speaking in human tongues and some people turning to pillars of salt or fudge while others were gifted with strange powers. Thousands died. Scientists later speculated that, in keeping with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the observers influenced the effects. Ten years later the world had become a different place.
Rachel Connolly tried burying her head under her pillows, butit did no good.
The beeping tone—the same made by trucks backingup—still pierced
her skull from ear-to-ear—David’s ringtone. Why hadn’t she
put the damn phone on vibrate before falling intobed so late last night?
She swung her feet around, sat up on the edge of her bed, ran one hand throughthe tousled curls falling past her shoulders and grabbed her phone with theother, just in time to catch it before it rolled over to voice mail.
“What is it?” she growled. Mornings sucked.Even when they arrived after noon she found it hard enough to maintain serenitybefore she’d had a chance to meditate and run through her yoga routine.She hoped no one else was home to be caught in her blast of grumpiness.
“The team needs you.” Her brother, the oneperson she could trust to stay impervious to her moods, acted as coordinatorfor Team Guardian.
“What’s up?” She stood, phone pressed toher ear while gathering clean underwear, loose slacks and a black top on herway to the bathroom.
“Hostage situation.” David rattled off thepertinent points. “Bomber, main offices of Capital Financing Company inEdina. Beaming the address to your specs. Why aren’t you wearing them? Ihad to wait for you to answer your goddammed phone.”
“Who wears their specs to bed?” Switching herphone to speaker, Rachel splashed water on her face, quickly washed up.
“What are you doing? We need you here now.”
“I won’t be effective if I don’t have achance to center myself. And coffee—you’d better have a big oneready for me when I get there, and that means tons of cream and sugar. Nowleave me alone so I can get some clothes on.”
“Fine, Sis. Don’t waste time. Lives depend onit.”
“Right.” He’d already rung off.
It took her less than five minutes to pull on her clothes andshoes, grab her specs, drag her hair into a sloppy ponytail, and dash out thedoor. She must look like crap. Until she donned the specs. Their cool factormade up for a lot. To heck with flashy costumes. Team Guardian woreinconspicuous street clothes and the virtual-reality computer-communicationssystems that looked like sunglasses. In addition to their other virtues theyeven protected her eyes from UV rays. It seemed like the whole city sportedshades these days, gloom or shine, the Team’s specs having revived afashion trend that had never really died.
She encountered no one on her way out. Good. Tamara wouldhave given her a more-disappointed-than-angry look, at the very least, forbroadcasting her peevishness at the phone earlier.
She picked up David’s transmission and blinked at theflashing red icon to open the message. It included the address of CapitalFinancing’s office out in the burbs. If he wanted her there so fast, whyhadn’t he sent transporta—
Before she could open a channel to ask, Tom Stanton appearedat her side on the front steps of the huge old three-story house/ashram inSouth Minneapolis.
He grinned, face boyish despite the gray showing at thetemples of otherwise sandy hair. “Need a lift?” He opened hisarms, spreading the wings of his gray trench coat wide to reveal the trim,gray-clad shape beneath.
She returned the grin. “Hey. I guess they do needme—sending the world’s best teleporter.” Not only could he“lift” twice his own weight, but he also smelled nice. He mustroll that coat of his in cinnamon toast, she thought, moving into his arms andclenching her eyes tight against the disorienting lurch of reality that sentthem both miles across town in an instant. Lucky she hadn’t had time forbreakfast—or lunch.
Too bad they hadn’t found a teleporter yet who couldmove through walls. Be nice if they could just appear behind the frickingbomber and knock him on the head. The scientists who studied such things saidtheir teleporters didn’t actually bypass distance, but crossed it atnear light speed in some frictionless state. They didn’t understand thephenomenon yet, or how the travelers could avoid collisions with solid objectsin their path but not be able to enter or exit closed spaces—except bythe same means as anyone else.
Arriving outside a glass-and-steel building in a suburbanoffice park, Rachel left Tom with a smile and wave. She spotted her tall, blondbrother in his brown sports jacket, standing like a golden eagle among crows inthe middle of a small group of police and SWAT members on the, presumably, safeside of a barricade of police cars.
David handed her a large to-go cup of coffee as soon as shemade it to his side. “Mmm.” She took a deep swig while he turnedher to face the main entrance of the building. He pointed.
“He’s got about a dozen people in there. Thepolice are giving us this chance to go in before the SWAT. They’vealready had a negotiator on the phone with him. No luck.”
Rachel took a long deep breath, releasing it slowly.“Okay. Give me a minute here.”
“First, let me introduce your partner. He’ll begoing in with you.”
I work alone.” Rachel’s attention stayed on herbreathing, keeping any annoyance, any emotional reactions under control inaccordance with her well-practiced routine for inducing a state of innerpeace.
“Not this time.” David understood her state.“Trust me. This guy will deal with the bomb—you deal with thebomber. This is Fluke. He’s a Probabilities Talent—just movedhere from Chicago.”
The tall, well-built guy at David’s elbow raised oneeyebrow
quizzically. He looked more accustomed to aggravation and confrontationthan to
the feelings of serene compassion Rachel currently generated andprojected
around herself. Not a bad face that… She tamped down thestirring of her
interest in his chiseled features, the finely turned lipssurrounded by five
o’clock shadow, and the dark eyes under shaggy darkhair. He wore his
specs shoved back on his head.
Rachel extended a hand and let her benevolent smile encompass him.
“A pleasure.” As usual in this state, shesounded abstracted, only half in the world of the others, the bulk of herattention turned to generating a state of peaceful serenity, building it up toproject outward in an increasingly wider sphere.
Faced with this… interesting… man, it took someeffort to stay
focused on projecting waves of placidity like the laziest of allsleepy summer
days wrapped in a dose ofbaby-curled-at-a-loving-mama’s-breast. She
caught the spark of interestin the man’s eyes before David drew him
“You feel it?” David, immune, asked Fluke. “That’swhat’ll get you close. She’s a reverse empath, projects herfeelings. She’ll shut down the bomber’s fear response, and thehostages’ too. No one will panic or do anything rash. You’ll beable to get access to the bomb to defuse it.”
~ * ~
Fluke—Franklin Luke Delano to his parents—stoodpole-axed. He’d never experienced anything like this before. A man ofintense passions—and he’d known everything from lust to fury todespair—he’d never known this. He felt perfectly at peace withhimself for the first time in his life.
He studied her face in wonder. The serene angel with the darkred curls cascading from an off-center ponytail. Could he have been mistakenabout that momentary flash of interest he’d picked up from her? Eyeshidden behind her specs revealed nothing now.
“Okay.” David spoke. “Time tomove.”
Fluke nearly jumped. He’d forgotten the man besidehim. He’d forgotten the entire situation for a moment there. But,apparently, he wasn’t the only one. Even the SWAT personnel, whilemaintaining their positions, had taken more relaxed stances.
Rachel stepped forward, ambling like a woman taking a relaxedevening stroll, out to enjoy the scenery—although in this case, thescenery consisted of a stretch of sidewalk, some square-pruned shrubbery andthe narrow parking lot fronting the building’s main entrance.
Fluke stayed at her side. “You handle a lot of thesecalls?” he asked.
“I need to focus,” she told him, in tones ofinfinite compassion. “Talk later.”
“Right.” Of course. Reverse empath, David hadsaid. She needed to keep tight control over what she projected. Took a lot ofconcentration. What would it feel like to be with her when she wasn’tkeeping it all under such tight control? Unbidden images rose.
He was lucky, in more ways than one. He didn’t have todo anything particular to activate his power. It was as autonomic as thepumping of blood through his veins.
They reached the main door without incident. David spokethrough the specs. “I’m patching Rachel into the phone linewe’ve been using to try to negotiate with the guy. We’ve peggedhim as one Rick Longo. He’s been unresponsive, sounded agitated untilRachel got started, but still insists he’ll blow the place up, alongwith the hostages unless we meet his demands.”
“What’s he want?” Fluke asked.
“The CEO and other board members of the company inthere with him.”
He wouldn’t get that. The authorities saw no sense inexchanging one group of hostages for another.
“Hello?” Rachel spoke. Fluke picked it upthrough the specs as well as first hand. “Will you let us in,please?”
“I don’t know.” A man’svoice—must be Longo’s—sounded hesitant. “The policearen’t supposed to come in.”
“We’re not police. It’s okay for me andmy friend to come in,” she said, tones soothing as a balm on heat rash.“We just want to talk.”
Good tack. Longo sounded like someone stumped by anythingunexpected, the sort who didn’t know how to come up with alternate planson his own. Good for her to reassure him about a new option.
“What do we need to know about this guy?” Fluke sub-vocalized, using the specs to open a private channel to David. The reply came through the same channel.
“He’s got some priors for breaking and entering, petty theft. Nothing violent, no known connection to Capital Financing Company—not even as a dissatisfied customer. No one can figure him for doing the mad bomber bit.”
Rachel, meanwhile, made more encouraging and reassuring noises to the
bomber. Her words accompanied the growing wash of peace and serenity, soothing
all the hearts in her vicinity.
Motion alerted Fluke to the figure approaching the glass door from within the building, a stocky young guy with a blond buzz-cut, dressed in baggy slacks, t-shirt, and a vest of dynamite sticks. Though young, his face showed lines of a habitual sullenness presently softened into a bemused wonder. Fluke could sympathize with that state. One hand clutched what must be the trigger device for the bomb.
“Uh-oh. Dead man’s switch,” Fluke whispered to Rachel. “Don’t let him get too relaxed.”
“Thank you.” Rachel beamed at Longo as he opened the door, stepping back to let them in.
“You lock it now.” Longo handed her the key, stepping back, keeping Rachel and Fluke between him and any potential snipers.
“Can my friend do it? I want to talk to you.” Rachel smiled at Longo—beaming the gentle regardof a Madonna on the lucky creep.
What would he give to have her look at him that way? Probablynot strap a bomb to his chest, Fluke speculated. Probably.
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