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KND Freebies: Deeply compelling urban fantasy DARK PROPHECY is today’s Free Kindle Nation Shorts excerpt

Brand-new from the always surprising Ann Gimpel comes this smartly written, intriguing blend of sexy urban fantasy and psychological thriller that is captivating readers…

“Such a wonderful read! I totally fell in love with the characters and their story.”

Discover Book 1 of this gripping trilogy for only 99 cents!

Dark Prophecy (Soul Storm Book 1)

by Ann Gimpel

Dark Prophecy (Soul Storm Book 1)
4.4 stars – 7 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

When the dream world spills its murky contents, everyone’s worst nightmares run free.

Dr. Lara McInnis reads auras and flirts with an elusive ability to foretell the future. Ambivalent about the magic within her, she’s done a fine job ignoring other aspects of her power—until now. After several patients—and a student or two—describe the same cataclysmic dream, she uncovers ancient evil intent on draining her power. Lara knows next to nothing about her psychic side, but it will destroy her if she can’t come to terms with it.

Trevor Denoble has secrets, but he shields them well with a stunning body and a boatload of British charm. The airline he works for folds because there’s no fuel for the planes, and Lara’s changing into someone he barely recognizes. Though he doesn’t know it yet, the rest of his carefully crafted life is about to come crashing down too.

Living in a world teetering on the edge of anarchy, Trevor and Lara are faced with a series of painful decisions. Is the love between them enough for Trevor to swallow his distrust of Lara’s burgeoning paranormal ability? Will their personal demons tear them apart in a world gone mad, as shortages of everything from electricity to food escalate?

5-star praise for Dark Prophecy:

“…eerily real. It has magic—and evil—but the kind you could find lurking next door…”

“…You are pulled into the vortex of the author’s imagination…Forget the other stuff you’re supposed to be doing…You have to know what’s going to happen next…”

an excerpt from

Dark Prophecy
(Soul Storm, Book 1)

by Ann Gimpel

Copyright © 2014 by Ann Gimpel and published here with her permission

Chapter One

Lara McInnis uncrossed her legs and sat straighter in the ginger-colored, overstuffed chair taking up most of one corner of her cozy psychotherapy office. Long years as a therapist made it easy to hold a neutral expression. Less easy was latching onto enough energy to support her quarreling clients. What she really wanted to do was tell Bethany Beauchamp to dump her bastard of a husband and get on with her life.

Lara nodded encouragingly at Bethany, but the woman ducked her head and lapsed into silence. Big surprise since her husband never shut up, cataloguing her faults as if they pleased him and clicking them off one by one on his fat fingers. Lara searched for an opportunity to intervene before things got any worse.

“Mr. Beauchamp,” she murmured, voice pitched purposefully low so he’d have to stop talking in order to hear her.

“What?” He sounded irritated, his tone scratchy from too many cigarettes and a sour disposition. “You interrupted me.”

“Sorry, but I was interested in what you were saying, and I didn’t quite catch that last part before I interrupted. Might you be so kind as to repeat it for me?”

Ken Beauchamp tossed his shoulders back and rearranged mouse-brown hairs that had fallen out of place in his too-careful comb over. He patted his short, chubby legs encased in expensive suiting, turned, and looked right at her with close-set blue eyes. Broken blood vessels along the sides of his nose suggested an intimate relationship with alcoholic beverages.

“We pay you quite well. The least you could do is be attentive,” he complained, an unpleasant whiny note in his voice.

She nodded, offering a silent invitation to speak to her rather than to his wife, who looked exhausted. Bethany’s eight-month pregnancy dragged at her tall, slender frame, and dark smudges under her hazel eyes detracted from her showgirl beauty. Light auburn hair fell in limp curls to her shoulders. Though only in her early thirties, today she looked ten years older.

After a short pause Ken took the bait. Rather than repeating his last statement as requested, he started in on Lara. “Well, Doctor, you’ve been late for our appointments twice out of the ten we’ve scheduled. None of the things you’ve suggested work, and our marriage isn’t any better than it was the day we walked in here.” He sat back in his chair, a smug smile on his florid face.

“Which things have you tried?” It became more and more difficult to keep her features pleasant. She detested Ken Beauchamp and suspected his wife felt much the same. Stealing a glance at her other patient, Lara noticed Bethany had begun to cry, her face contorted in silent grief. Lara handed her the box of tissues she always kept next to her chair. “Mr. Beauchamp?” she urged. “What things have you tried? I need to know so I can work with you to figure out what might be more effective.”

Or so I can find an excuse to refer you to another therapist.

Ken’s face reddened even more. “I’m sure we’ve tried some of them,” he said defensively. Shifting his bulky body around in his chair, he shot his wife an intimidating look. “Beth, the good doctor here is asking what we’ve tried.”

Bethany withered under her husband’s knife-like stare. Her crying escalated, and she choked on the word, “N-nothing,” as she buried her face in her hands. Outside of her strangled sobbing, the corner office, morning sun streaming through leaded-glass window panes, was absolutely silent.

Lara leaned forward, her gaze shifting from Ken to Bethany. “It’s like I told both of you when you first came here, I can’t fix your marriage. Only you can do that. For there to be any improvement, you have to be willing to listen to one another. We’re nearly at the end of today’s hour, but frankly there’s not much reason for you to spend your money coming week after week, just so I can listen to you argue and try to referee. Go home and have an honest discussion this morning while everything’s still fresh. Figure out if you really want to continue seeing me. If the answer is yes, call me and come on back next week. Otherwise…” She let her last words hang in the air, realizing she hoped she never had to lay eyes on Ken Beauchamp again.

“Uh, here.” Ken rustled around in an inner jacket pocket and came up with a well-creased piece of paper that he shoved her way. “Sign this.”

Lara flipped it open, scanning the few lines. Damn the man. He’d been court-ordered to attend marriage counseling and hadn’t told her. Neither of them had. Fuming, she hastily checked the box verifying attendance at ten sessions, signed the document, and handed it back.

“You should have told me, Mr. Beauchamp. We might have done things a bit differently.” We sure would have, since I never accept court-referred clients. He just looked at her as he snatched the paper, a feral smile adding a malevolent note to his already-unattractive face.

“Thank you, Dr. McInnis.” Bethany’s voice was still clotted with tears as she planted her feet beneath her ample belly and then struggled to her feet. Lara stood and held out her hand; Bethany latched onto it like a lifeline. The two women looked at Ken, who hadn’t made the slightest effort to leave his chair. He was chewing on his lower lip, his face the color of a boiled lobster.

Acting on impulse, Lara let go of Bethany’s hand and gestured to her. “I’ll just walk your wife to the ladies’ room, Mr. Beauchamp, so she can put some cold water on her face. She’ll meet you at the car.”

Pulling the office door open, she exchanged a meaningful glance with her receptionist. “Arabel, could you please see Mr. Beauchamp out?”

Without waiting for a reply, she took Bethany’s elbow and pushed her into the hallway. As soon as they were safely out of the office, Lara turned to her client and murmured, “He hurts you, doesn’t he?” Her voice was the barest of whispers as she remembered the little she’d been able to drag out of Ken about his obscenely violent childhood.

Another tear leaked from one of Bethany’s eyes as she mumbled, “I, uh, can’t, um, shouldn’t…”

They’d reached the bathroom and were both inside the tiny enclosure. Lara regarded her patient intently, with well-honed inner senses. Bethany maintained an edgy silence, the ragged, darkened edges of her aura radiating a gloomy melancholy. Probing with her psychic side, Lara suddenly knew much of what the woman was unwilling to divulge. And then—as was often the case when she used her gift—she wished she’d left well enough alone.

Reaching into a pocket of her plaid wool skirt, Lara pulled out a pen and one of her cards, scribbling a number on the back. “If things get bad, make an excuse, any excuse. Tell him you’re going for a walk. Bring your cell phone and call this number. They help women like you.”

Bethany’s hand snaked out and she took the card. A frantic look washed over her. “But what if he finds the number?” she whimpered and tried to stuff the card back into Lara’s hand.

“It doesn’t matter. They won’t talk to him.” Lara laid a hand on Bethany’s arm. “Keep the card. You need to get to your car, so he doesn’t react further. Maybe you could come in and talk to me by yourself.”

“He’d never let me.” Dull voice matching her dead eyes, Bethany let herself out into the corridor and walked toward the stairs with the awkward gait of the very-pregnant.

Back in her office, Lara stopped at Arabel’s desk. “Who else do I have today?”

Hooking her thumb out the door, Arabel asked, “What’s up with them? The mister, he seemed pretty put out. For a minute there I didn’t think I was gonna git him out of the office.”

“You know I can’t discuss patients with you, dear. At least we have to pretend we don’t talk about them.” Lara smiled fondly at the elderly African-American woman who’d been her sole office help for over twenty years. Arabel was dressed in her usual white blouse, navy gabardine skirt, and black flats. An ancient maroon sweater hung over the back of her secretarial chair. Hair in a modified mostly-gray afro, she had a piquant sense of humor. Quick temper sparked from her nearly black eyes.

“Humph…” Arabel bristled, her mouth twisted into a frown. “You know I got nobody I’d be tellin’ anything to. Never have.”

“Sorry, sorry. Didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” Lara held out a conciliatory hand. “Truce?”

Arabel cocked her head to one side, and the corners of her mouth twitched as she clasped Lara’s hand. “Truce. Never could stay mad at you. Not for long, anyway.” Turning back to the computer, she brought up the day’s schedule on the monitor. “David Roth cancelled, so you’re free till one thirty. Then you got folk packed in here till close to eight.”

Lara walked around the desk so she could look at the screen. She loved what she did, but today’s schedule was too jam-packed even for her. She glanced at her watch. “I’m going to swing by the gym and then grab some lunch. Call me if anything comes up.”

“You got it.” Arabel’s voice followed Lara into her office where she grabbed her purse and her cell phone, locked her client file drawers, and let herself out the back door.

Her office was in an old, pale blue Victorian on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. She’d bought the building for a song ten years before because someone thought there were problems with the foundation. There’d been some structural deficiencies, but they’d proven relatively trivial to fix. Split into four offices, her building was home to an architect and a CPA on the first floor, and herself and a psychiatrist on the second. She walked through a carpet of leaves that had fallen off the Madrona trees lining East Avenue, heading for her nearby BMW.

As she drove, Lara thought about the Beauchamps. She’d spent an unusually long time—at least the first five sessions—gathering a history from them. One problem was Ken’s reticence to disclose much of anything. Persistence and caginess had paid off, though, and he’d told her far more than he meant to about the French-Irish gang-affiliated father who’d turned him out as a child prostitute at the age of eight. His mother had abandoned the family when he was so young he had no memories of her at all, just oodles of anger that Lara suspected he generalized to all women—including her. By contrast, Bethany’s meager life story tumbled out with very little prodding. Not that hers read much better than her husband’s.

Fears for Bethany nagged her. “What if they want to come back?” she asked herself softly. “Should I see them?” Pulling into the parking lot for her fitness center, Lara knew she’d turn that question over in her mind as she moved through her workout. Once she lost her objectivity—and any empathy she’d tried to develop for Ken had long since evaporated—it became progressively more difficult to work with clients. She’d learned some hard lessons over the years, including that it was usually better to cut the cord sooner rather than later.

“Hi, Tony!” Lara dropped her membership card onto the glass countertop, snagged both key and towel from the tall, well-sculpted front desk attendant, and headed down lushly carpeted stairs.

“Have a good workout, Doc! Power’s on today, so all the machines are available.” Tony’s throaty voice trailed after her.

Lara gathered her longish coppery hair into a snug ponytail. She was just pocketing her locker key when her phone trilled a Bach Etude. Wrinkling her forehead in irritation, she stuffed the key back into its hole, retrieved the phone, and barked, “Dr. McInnis,” without bothering to look at the screen.

“Hey there, Lara. It’s me.” Trevor’s clipped British accent was like a balm. Her long time, live-in lover rarely called during the day, and a prickle of concern moved down her spine.

“Sorry to bother you, love,” he went on, “but the power’s off again, at least on Queen Anne Hill.” He paused a beat. “Thought you’d want to know.”

She gripped her phone hard enough it cut into her hand. “Again? But that’s the third time since, let’s see, last Wednesday. How long did they say this time? Or did they? Or did you even call? What about the food in the freezer?” She stopped abruptly because her voice had become unnecessarily shrill. “Sorry,” she muttered. “I’m just worried, that’s all.”

“I know, I know. That’s why I called you.” Another hesitation. “Guess I’m worried too, and I just wanted someone to talk to.”

She closed her eyes, summoning an image of him with his Nordic features and summer-blue eyes. He was a flight attendant for KLM airlines, which meant he only worked about fifteen days each month. She’d met him ages ago on a return flight from Europe where she’d been completing the last leg of her analytic training at the Jung Institute in Zurich. Exhausted from a grueling six weeks of seeing patients, she’d been half-asleep in her narrow airline seat, and he’d brought her tea and cookies. Lara wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but he’d come home with her that night and they’d been together ever since. Those first few years were more than a bit rocky. She’d run screaming from their home a time or two, so she wouldn’t kill him on the spot. But something indefinable—she still didn’t truly understand what it was—always drew her back.

Lara sank into one of the wicker chairs in a corner of the locker room with apprehension tugging at her. “What do you think it means? Have you any idea?” There was a very long silence, so long she finally asked, “Trev, you still there?”

“Yeah, Lara, I am.” His accent was more pronounced, so she knew he was debating whether or not to give voice to his thoughts. Finally, he blurted, “I think we’re really running out of oil this time. Not like all those other times when the government stock-piled it and then released it after the price sky-rocketed. You wouldn’t know about this, since you’re such a news-phobe and I gas up the cars, but it was really hard to find petrol last month. Damned near impossible, actually.

“If what I suspect is true, everything that takes oil to run will eventually go tits-up.” He paused to draw a frazzled breath before adding, “We might have been all right here in the northwest with all our hydroelectric power, except the rest of the country’s been draining juice off our grid to compensate for their shortages. Our state lawmakers have been kicking up a fuss in D.C. Anyway,” his voice was brusque, “I’m cooking what I can from the freezer. We’ll talk more about this when you come home. If you get any breaks today, consider the pros and cons of moving away from the city. Whoops, my cell’s ringing, love. See you tonight.”

She slipped her phone back into her locker, walked toward the aerobics room, and jumped on one of the elliptical trainers. She wanted to come to some decision about Bethany and her husband, but the conversation with Trevor kept intruding.

Damn it. He hung up before I could react to that whole doomsday scenario he laid out. Humph! Probably didn’t want to give me a chance to talk him out of it. Meantime, I’m supposed to think about leaving the city? Where the hell would we go?

She used her towel to mop sweat trickling down her face and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirrors covering every wall. Staring back was a tall, too-thin redhead with freckles dotting every inch of exposed skin. Her angular face, with its prominent nose and chin, glistened in the reflected light, and her dark brown eyes were pinched with worry.

Moving to the treadmill, she set it for six-and-a-half miles an hour and ran hard for ten minutes. Gasping, she backed off the speed, while increasing the angle. Ten more minutes and she abandoned the machine in favor of water from the drinking fountain. Three sets at the squat rock and twenty pull-ups completed her workout, and she trotted toward the locker room and showers.

As she toweled off, she felt animated and dynamic, her problems with power outages and the Ken Beauchamps of the world temporarily pushed to a back burner. Nothing like a few endorphins, she told herself, inhaling deeply. As she made plans to get a smoothie-to-go with extra protein powder from the small on-site restaurant, she contemplated the afternoon’s lineup of patients.

Out of the six who were scheduled, there was one analytic client, two angry teenagers: a cutter and a bulimic, another couple, and two lonely, middle-aged women, one depressed, the other anxious.

Too bad it’s unethical to introduce patients to one another…outside of a therapy group that is. Lara chuckled softly. She loved doing analytic work, but there weren’t many who really wanted to delve that deeply into themselves. Not to mention the cost. She picked up her smoothie, a tofu bar, and some green tea before heading for her car. The sun, an elusive phenomenon in Seattle, was nowhere in sight, and it was raining lightly. While not cold, the day held some of the crispness typical of mid-October. Her phone chimed again but she ignored it, figuring she’d be back at her office in less than five minutes.

* * * *

“Tell me what goes on inside you before you start cutting?” Lara took in the overweight seventeen-year-old sitting catty-corner from her, arms and legs covered with a network of fine, white scars from years of self-mutilation. Caren would have been attractive, with her silky black hair and porcelain skin, were it not for the miasma of absolute misery emanating from her like a spider’s web set to trap the unwary. The girl had been coming to therapy for a month, but was steadfastly unwilling to divulge anything.

“I suppose I could tell you, but I don’t really want to,” the teenager grumbled. “You don’t care about me. You see me because my stepmother pays you. This is nothing but a fucking waste of time.” Folding her arms across her chest, she stared defiantly at Lara.

Lara watched Caren intently. She squirmed in her chair, before gluing her gaze to the floor.

“Caren, would you look at me, please?” Lara made her tone as non-confrontational as possible.

“Why?” The girl sounded sullen.

“Because I want you to see I’m telling you the truth when I say I do care about you. You’ve had a perfectly rotten life, and you have every right not to trust anybody.”

Caren risked a sidelong glance at her. “How do you know anything about my life? I haven’t told you very much.”

Lara was silent for several seconds. Even without her ability to read auras, she’d have been able to figure out a likely script for Caren’s early life: molested, physically abused, and emotionally neglected. “What we really need to talk about is a plan so you have something to do besides carving on yourself when you feel bad. Once we come up with that, we can talk about anything you’d like.”

“Can I take a bathroom break?”

Lara nodded. “Second door on the left outside of my office.” Watching the teenager leave, she wondered if she’d made a mistake. What if she has razors with her and cuts herself in my bathroom? How do I explain that to her parents? Lara made a conscientious effort to breathe. She glanced at her watch and decided to give Caren five minutes before going after her.

While Lara waited, she summoned her elusive ability to predict future events, but came up dry. Damn, but it would be convenient to find a shaman who could teach her about her psychic abilities. “Yes, but first I have to be willing to tell people I can do those things,” she muttered. “I’ve always been afraid they’d cart me off to the loony bin.”

With just ten seconds to spare, Caren sidled back through the door. She had a mulish look on her face, and Lara knew her young patient would bolt if given the slightest excuse.

“Thanks for coming back,” Lara offered, attempting to soothe the alienated girl.

“Thanks for trusting me to leave.” Caren resettled herself in one of the comfortable chairs across from Lara. The barest of smiles ghosted across her face and she took a deep breath. “This is really hard to talk about.”

“I know, but nothing you say leaves here.”

“That’s almost not the point,” the teenager mumbled, twisting in her chair. “Talking makes it hurt more.”

Lara nodded. As she looked at Caren, scenes flashed quickly, one after the other: a woman holding a small screaming girl and doing unspeakable things, brutal beatings, cigarettes pressed into tender flesh. Lara closed her eyes and sucked down a surreptitious, ragged breath.

“Yes, it does hurt to talk about it,” she agreed. “But that’s the only way out. If you keep everything bottled up inside, you’ll just keep cutting. The first part is always hardest. After that it won’t be quite so bad.”

“How can you know?” Caren risked a sidelong glance at her.

“Because I’ve done this for a long time.” Lara paused. “And I’ve got no reason to lie to you.”

Caren raised crystalline-blue eyes. Lara saw a scared little girl, living behind teenaged bravado, desperately wanting to trust someone, anyone, but frightened half out of her mind at taking that first, small step. After a very long time, Caren began hesitantly, in a voice so low Lara had to strain to hear. “It feels like I have to cut, or something terrible will happen. I fight it, but I always lose.”

“What do the voices that live in your head tell you?”

“How do you know about them?” Caren sounded rattled. Fear flitted across her face, and she folded her arms protectively across her chest. “I didn’t tell you.”

“Because everybody who cuts has voices that tell them things, before they tell them to cut. It’s okay to talk to me about them. The voices don’t mean you’re crazy.”

Caren closed her eyes and dropped her head back against the chair. One tear escaped, rolling down the girl’s pale face.

Time dripped past. It was impossible to force anyone to reveal their secrets. Clients had to come to an inner juncture where they believed the pain of disclosure would be worth the risk. Fleetingly, Lara thought about how lonely and isolated the teenager was. Just like me when I was her age.

“Dr. McInnis?” Caren’s voice was thready, almost not there at all.

“Yes, dear.”

“You said everybody who cuts has voices telling them things. Have you helped other people like me?”

Lara nodded, then realized Caren couldn’t see her because her eyes were still closed. “Yes,” she said simply. “I have.”

“Did they stop cutting?”

“Some of them did.”

The girl seemed to consider this. She opened her eyes, shiny with unshed tears, and looked pleadingly at Lara. “You must be telling me the truth,” she said in a choked voice.

“How can you tell?” Lara smiled gently and she hoped, encouragingly.

“Otherwise, you’d have told me all your other stupid, fucked-up cutter patients got well.”

“You’re not stupid or fucked-up.”

“Yes, I am. Fat and ugly too.” Caren was struggling not to cry.

“That’s what the voices tell you, isn’t it?”

Caren nodded miserably and gave in to a flood of emotion.

“It’s all right,” Lara murmured. “Cry. This is a good place for your tears. Here’re more tissues. I think you’re courageous. Maybe we can re-program those voices to say good things.”

Caren shook her head vehemently. “Nothing good. Never.” She choked out the words between sobs.

“Take a few deep breaths,” Lara urged and waited for the girl’s emotional storm to subside. “Now I want you to listen, just listen. None of what happened to you was your fault. And it doesn’t matter how I know.” Lara held up a hand to still Caren’s protests. “You were a child. None of those things happened because you were fat or ugly or stupid. They happened because your caregivers were sadly damaged…”

Chapter Two

Hours later, Lara let herself out of her office, reached back in to activate the alarm, and then locked the door behind her. Arabel had gone home at six. Normally her receptionist left a note if there was something she needed to communicate. Tonight there hadn’t been any notes because there weren’t any patients she needed to call. But there had been a few zucchinis from Arabel’s lovingly-tended garden. Lara was grateful, both for the organic produce and for the lack of patient-related affairs to attend to. She was tired and hoped nobody had a crisis that evening.

She double-checked the pager that lived clipped to her belt. As she moved away from the front door of her building, she stumbled. The outside light was out—when had that happened?—and it was very dark in the shadows of the cavernous front porch. She made a grab for the railing to steady herself and took a tentative step toward the street.

“Stop right there,” a familiar harsh voice boomed from behind her.

“Mr. Beauchamp. That is you, isn’t it?” Alarm ricocheted through her, but she knew intuitively it was important to hide her fear. “What do you want?” Though she aimed for nonchalance, her voice sounded thin and shaky. Is it Ken? Aw, Jesus, who else could it be? She closed her eyes, gathering data from an unseen realm she knew well. Once her energies were focused, she discerned his twisted energy field throbbing against the darkness. Better the devil you know flashed through her mind. Not necessarily came close on its heels, as she realized, with a sinking feeling, that Ken Beauchamp really was dangerous. She’d known it the first time he walked into her office, but drawn in by his wife’s soft helplessness, she’d ignored her concerns, compassion overriding common sense.

“I want to talk. No, don’t turn around.” The man’s voice held menace as it sliced into her tumbling thoughts.

“What do you want to talk about, Mr. Beauchamp?” With effort, she kept her voice steady. “Surely whatever it is can wait until tomorrow. You really do need to call my office and make an appointment.” There, that seems like about the right amount of bravado.

“What did you tell my wife today? When you were in the bathroom. You’d better tell me the truth.”

“Are you threatening me? Because if you are, I’ll call the cops and have you thrown off my property.” Anger was rapidly displacing her fear—or at least coexisting with it. She reached a hand into her bag in search of her phone.

“That wouldn’t be smart, Doc, not very smart at all. Take your hand out of that purse.”

Ken Beauchamp’s voice was mild, but an ominous undertone chilled her. Sweat gathered in her armpits and dripped down her sides. Think! she commanded herself. There’s got to be a way out of this.

“Well, Doctor?” Ken’s voice oozed sarcasm, with undercurrents of something darker and far more primal. “I asked you a simple question. Answer it and we can both go home.”

What was he doing? Lara dug deeper with her hyper-honed senses. His breathing seemed…uneven. Was he getting off by intimidating her?

Something clicked ominously. The snick of a gun’s safety mechanism? What else could that cold metallic snapping sound possibly be? Fighting fear that threatened to paralyze her, Lara asked, “How’s Bethany, Mr. Beauchamp? She’s all right isn’t she?” Despite her concerns for herself, Lara was suddenly frantic about Bethany.

“That’s none of your business anymore. We won’t be back. I just want to know what you told her today.”

“Why is that important to you?”

“I ask the questions around here.” Yes, Lara thought as she listened intently, he was practically panting. Oh shit, this guy’s a pervert on top of all his other less-than-stellar attributes. She flirted with flying down the porch steps and trying to outrun him, except she had dress shoes on and her heavy shoulder bag. What if he really did have a gun? She hadn’t heard the metal click again.

A car pulled to the curb in front of her building and she started, heart beating like a mad thing. Christ, is it one of his henchmen come to help out? Practically moaning aloud, she wondered what Ken Beauchamp had in mind for her.

Lara choreographed pulling her phone and wallet out of her bag and making a run for the small business district several blocks away, dress shoes and all. Then the car door opened and she saw Pete Schneider, the psychiatrist who shared the second floor of the building with her.

“Dr. Schneider,” she screamed. “Over here.”

“Lara, what is it?” Pete slammed his car door and rushed toward her, apprehension stamped on his familiar face.

Lara stumbled as Ken Beauchamp pushed past her, loped down the steps, and launched himself into the darkness between the street lamps. She caught the glint of something shiny clutched in one of his hands and heard a zipper close as he rushed away.

I was right. That bastard was actually working on himself while he interrogated me. And there had been a gun. What else could that sparkly thing have been? Nausea rushed through her, and she was afraid she might vomit.

“Who was he?” Pete held out his arms to steady her. “What was all that about? My god, Lara, you’re shaking. What happened?”

Her legs buckled under her, and she slumped to the painted porch floorboards, gasping for air, her stomach roiling. Pete sank down next to her, still offering the comfort of his arms.

“One of my patients.” She forced words out with a tongue that didn’t want to work anymore. “Threatening me. Getting off on it. Thank fucking God you showed up here, or I—I’m not sure what he might have done to me.” She had a hard time talking around the golf ball-sized lump blocking her throat. Pete sat with her, rubbing the back of her shoulders and making soft, soothing sounds.

“Can’t swallow,” she managed breathlessly.

“Relax, Lara. It’s just globus hystericus. It’ll get better once the adrenaline backs off. Here.” He pushed her away from him so he could look at her face. Securing her wrist, he took her pulse. “Do you want me to call Trevor? Would you like me to follow you home? Or do you want to go inside and call the cops? Not that those choices are mutually exclusive, mind you.”

“No cops. Client confidentiality.” Lara’s voice sounded garbled to her. “I always wondered what that man did for a living. He left that part blank on my patient registration form. Pah! He’s got to be involved in something illegal. It was just so…casual, the way he accosted and threatened me. Normal people can’t do that.” She shuddered. “I want to go home.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea? If he is some sort of criminal, aren’t you worried he’s lurking out there somewhere, and he’ll just follow us?”

She considered, and then discarded, the possibility. “I’m not sure why, but I don’t think he’d do that.” An uncontrollable laugh bubbled up, shrill with a crazed edge. “I feel really weird, Pete. Please, just help me get home to Trevor.”

Her phone jangled in her purse. Rooting through her bag, she drew it out, looked at the caller ID screen, and touched the answer key. “Hello, Trev. Yes, I know I’m late. Something unexpected happened. Tell you about it when I get there.” Because I can’t stand to talk about it now. “Don’t worry, I’m with Pete. He’s going to follow me home.” She listened for a few moments. “No, you don’t need to come. Be there in twenty minutes.”

“That might have been an over-ambitious time estimate.” Pete’s voice was subdued. “Let’s see if you can stand, first.” Grasping the porch railing, he hauled himself upright a bit awkwardly, and then extended a hand. Gripping it, she stumbled to her feet. They were close to the same height, but his body, thickened by chronic inactivity, had lost much of its once-youthful flexibility.

“I’m not feeling quite so shaky anymore,” she said, breathing in the damp night air as she met his worried gaze.

Pete nodded. “I need to run upstairs for a second. The reason I came back here is I’d forgotten a patient’s file. There’s a court hearing tomorrow, and I don’t feel very prepared. Will you be okay, or do you want to walk back upstairs with me?”

She scanned the night. Nope, nothing there. Why wasn’t I this vigilant before I walked outside my building in the first place? If I had been …

“Lara?” Pete was looking solicitously at her. Worry crinkled the corners of his green eyes, and his silver hair was mussed where he’d raked his fingers through it.

“I’ll be fine here,” she answered. “Just fine. He’s gone—at least for now.”

Pete eyed Lara, opened his mouth to ask how she could possibly know that, and then shut it again. Turning, he unlocked the ornate front door, killed the alarm, and flicked on a switch. The tiny lights of the entryway chandelier mimicked a medieval candelabrum as he trod heavily up the stairs.

“I still think we should put in an elevator,” floated down to her.

Lara took three more deep breaths. Yes, that really was better. Pete had been on the verge of asking her how she could possibly have known Beauchamp wasn’t still out there when she’d sent a mental obfuscation designed to silence him. She didn’t want to lie to her colleague about the psychic ability she’d been born with. The skill, or gift, or whatever it was, worked better when she was paying attention.

She’d been lost in thought while closing up her office for the night. In particular, she’d been thinking about an analytic client and a dream she’d shared with strong archetypal elements. Most disturbing was that the patient’s dream was very similar to one of her own.

“Ready?” Pete’s voice interrupted her reverie.

“Yes, maybe you could drive me to my car and then follow me?”

“Sure. Get in.” Pete loped ahead and pulled the passenger door of his car open. He drove a BMW that could have been a twin to hers, except it was a slightly darker silver.

Driving the familiar route from Capitol Hill to Queen Anne where she lived, Lara thought about the strange withdrawn aunt who’d raised her. Mary Tyler knew what people were thinking and was able to read both auras and the future, at least some of the time. About all Aunt Mary had told her—once she figured out Lara could do the same things—was to not tell people she had the sight. “They just might lock you up,” she’d cautioned, and Lara took her seriously.

She drove automatically, lost in thought. As she pulled up in front of the rustic, twisting, twenty-five steps leading to her home, she scanned the street for a parking spot and maneuvered the BMW into the closest one half a block away. Should have bought a house with a garage, she thought for the thousandth time.

Lara stepped out of the car, feeling bruised and vulnerable. Pete drove past her and pulled into a red zone half a block away. He strode back to where she stood, not wasting any time.

“You’ll get a ticket,” she protested. “They’re death on illegal parking around here.”

“I’ll chance it.” Pete smiled. “If I have to I can always tell them I had a patient near here with an emergency.”

She hit her clicker one more time, just to be sure her car was locked, then hoisted her bag over her shoulder and trudged up the street to her front steps.

“I really do love your house,” Pete stopped to catch his breath halfway up the stairs, “but I’ve often wondered why you picked one that’s so hard to get to. What happens after you’re old? You two won’t be able to live here anymore.”

Lara stopped climbing and inclined her head over one shoulder. “Talk to Trevor. He thinks we’re running out of oil, and we’re all done for anyway.” Three more risers and she stepped onto her front porch. The elaborate wrought-iron porch light blazed, so the power must have resurrected itself at some point. “Come on in for a few minutes, Pete. I’m sure Trev has something made for dinner.”

“Nah, I’ll just say hi, and then I’ve got to go. I still need to review that case before tomorrow.” The front door swung inward, framing Trevor in lamplight from the interior of the entry hall. Shadows played over his worn green woolen shirt, faded jeans, and sheepskin slippers. His perfect features were a study in concern as he pulled Lara into his arms.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” he demanded while motioning to Pete from behind Lara’s back. “Come on in, old man. Good to see you. Thanks, oh bloody hell, more than thanks for rescuing Lara from whatever happened. She didn’t tell me much, but I know something went on. Heard it in her voice. Wish I’d been there,” Trevor said wistfully, but with steel beneath his words.

“Miss your old street fighting days in Amsterdam, eh?” Pete laughed indulgently.

“It was actually Carlisle.” Trevor laughed too, but he didn’t seem amused. “I just work out of Amsterdam.”

“But you have a Dutch surname.” Pete sounded puzzled.

“That’s simple enough.” Trevor kissed the top of Lara’s head and let her go. “My family was Dutch. They migrated to farm country in northern England during the early eighteen hundreds. Enough of this. How about a bite of supper?”

Pete shook his head. “No. Like I told Lara, I have work to do yet tonight. Thanks for the invite, though. Assuming I don’t break my neck getting back down those stairs of yours, I’ll see you both another time.” With a smile and a wave, he disappeared into a night that had turned foggy and damp.

Pulling the door shut behind them, Trevor held Lara at arm’s length and examined her closely. “Are you sure you’re all right? Come on in here where I can get a good look at you. You have to tell me exactly what happened over supper.”

The last thing she wanted was to relieve the tense moments outside her office, but she didn’t see any way around it. Dropping her heavy bag in its customary spot next to an antique armoire, she followed Trevor into the interior of their Craftsman home, her low heels clicking on the hardwood floor.

* * * *

Much later that night, Lara lay in Trevor’s arms. Drowsiness pulled at her, and she thought she might actually find respite in sleep, something that often eluded her when she was upset.

“I really think you should tell the police.” Trevor’s voice jarred her.

“We’ve been through that,” she protested sleepily. “I won’t see the Beauchamps anymore, and that will be the end of it. I’ll send them a referral letter tomorrow.”

“You don’t know you won’t see them again. Or do you? Is that sixth sense thing of yours working here? If it is, why didn’t it tell you someone was lying in wait to ambush you?”

She rolled over to face him and propped her head a bit higher on the down pillows. “Don’t you think I’ve asked myself that over and over? What’s the point of having psychic ability—or whatever it is I’ve got—if it doesn’t even alert me to danger?”

“Good question.” He drew her close, his voice rumbling against her hair. “I’m sorry. You’re knackered, and I’m keeping you awake. Do you have patients tomorrow? I never can keep your bloody schedule straight.”

“No patients tomorrow. Wednesday’s my class at the University.”

“Sleep, love.” Trevor didn’t sound the least bit sleepy. “We can talk more in the morning. I’m going to get up and read for a bit.” He kissed her tenderly, stroking her back and neck affectionately. “See you in the morning.”

“Love you,” she whispered. Sleep claimed her before he even left their bedroom.

* * * *

“Lara, Lara.” Trevor shook her gently. “Your pager’s going off. You left it in the front hall with your bag. I wouldn’t have heard it, but I’d snuck down to the kitchen for a bit of a snack.”

“Mmph…” She had a hard time resurfacing from sleep. “What time is it, anyway?” She opened one eye the barest of slits.

“Around three.”

“And you’re still up?”

He shrugged helplessly. “I’ve buggered my sleep cycles permanently from all those trans-Atlantic jaunts. You know that. Anyway, here’s your pager. Wait just a minute and I’ll get your phone. Guess I wasn’t thinking or I’d have brought it along.” Rising from where he’d been seated on the edge of their king-sized bed, Trevor disappeared out the bedroom door. His slippers slapped against the risers as he descended two flights of stairs.

Their house was an architectural delight with five floors, each offset slightly from the one below. Their bedroom was in the middle, on the third floor. The fourth and fifth floors held their studies, her sewing room, and Trevor’s wood shop. The first and second floors were designed like a split-level, and contained the kitchen, living area, dining room, library, and a laundry. The majority of the walls, and some of the ceilings, were glass. Those that weren’t were either natural wood or stone. That was why they’d been willing to deal with the reality of the twenty-five stairs—and no garage.

Lara reached behind her and switched on a muted light in the headboard, pushing several books out of the way in the process. She peered at the small number flashing on the front of her pager. Recognition was instantaneous. Her eyes flew open, and the last vestiges of sleep departed about the same time Trevor reappeared holding her cell phone.

He looked closely at Lara and frowned. “What is it? Or who is it? Guess you know the number.”

“It’s the back line to the King County Sheriff’s office,” she said holding out her hand for her cell phone. “I hope to hell it’s not as bad as I figure it must be for them to call me at this hour. Jesus, maybe one of my patients committed suicide.” And left a note blaming me. She punched numbers into her phone as she spoke. After a momentary pause for someone to pick up at the other end, she announced herself. “This is Dr. McInnis. You paged me.”

“Sorry for the late call, Doctor. I’m Sergeant Nelson.” The hollowness in the phone line indicated the call was being recorded, just like all calls in and out of every law enforcement office in the country.

“Yes, Sergeant. What can I do for you?”

“Dr. McInnis, we got a call tonight from Lakeshore Terrace. A neighbor reported the couple next door was making a lot of noise—none of it good. We dispatched officers to the scene, and they interrupted quite the domestic violence squabble. Aw hell, it was more like a knock-down, drag-out fight.”

The sergeant sighed heavily, breath whistling through his teeth. “Bottom line, Doctor, the woman was very pregnant and pretty banged up. The officer who intervened called an ambulance to take her to University Hospital. When one of the nurses in the Emergency Room went through the woman’s clothes, your card was in her pocket. So I figured she was one of yours, and you ought to know.”

Lara took a deep breath. “Are you going to tell me her name, Sergeant Nelson? You know I can’t tell you anything about any of my patients. And I don’t understand why you woke me up just yet. Maybe you could clarify that part for me too.” Silence stretched between them. She envisioned the beleaguered law enforcement officer considering how to phrase his request to maximize the possibility of securing her cooperation.

“The woman is one Bethany Beauchamp. She says she wants to go home, and she’s refusing to press charges against her husband. We can’t do much if we don’t have a victim complaint. Worse, she claims she fell down their stairs, started screaming because she was worried about her baby, and her husband never laid a hand on her. Supposedly, he rescued her by breaking her fall.”

Lara understood exactly what he wanted. “You were hoping I’d get up, get dressed, jump in my car, and talk some sense into her,” she muttered dryly, with an incredulous snort. “Look, Sergeant, you understand domestic violence as well as I do. If she’s that frightened of him, she’s got good reason to be, and there won’t be much I can do to convince her to file a complaint. Not if she thinks she’ll end up dead next time.”

Another lengthy silence. “Dr. McInnis, you didn’t see her. I have. The woman has four broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a broken nose. Both of her eyes are black and someone pulled out big hanks of her hair. No way in hell she did that falling down some stairs. The doctor who examined her says there’s evidence of other physical abuse, some of it years old.”

Lara felt ill. She debated whether to tell the officer about her earlier run-in with the likely attacker. In the meantime Trevor, who was once again perched on the edge of the bed, mouthed something at her.

Glancing his way, she recognized the words, “…tell him what that sodding bastard did to you.”

She pinched the bridge of her nose between thumb and index finger and squeezed her eyes shut. “Okay, Sergeant, I’ll consider going in to see her, but not until morning. With all those injuries, they’ll be keeping her for a while. Did you say University Hospital?”

“Yes, ma’am, I did. Sorry again for waking you.” The line went dead.

“You are not going, and that’s final.” Trevor took the phone out of her hand. “Look at me, Lara.”

Wearily, she opened her eyes and locked gazes with Trevor, fielding the heat in his burning blue eyes with irritation of her own. “But I can’t just ignore her,” she protested. “She’s my patient.”

“She didn’t call you,” he pointed out. “She’s not asking for help.”

“That’s a technicality.” The corners of her mouth twitched in spite of how ravaged she felt.

“Well, what about that Tarasoff thing?” Trevor looked determined, his jaw set in a hard line.

“That was a California law.”

“Yes, but isn’t there something like that here?”

“Sort of… But I’d need an actual threat to a reasonably identifiable victim so I could warn the victim and the police. I don’t have any of that.”

“Yes, you do. He threatened you. Bollocks, Lara, didn’t you tell me you thought he was wanking off whilst he was interrogating you? What kind of sick fuck does things like that?”

She nodded bleakly and drew her brows together into a frown. “Yes, I certainly agree he’s pretty disturbed. And I am sure that’s what he was doing, but I didn’t actually see anything. It was dark, so at least that part would never stand up in court. Besides, it would be my word against his. Pete didn’t actually see or hear anything. Ken split as soon as he pulled up. Look dear, let’s not do this. Why don’t you come to bed and we can try to sleep for what’s left of the night?”

Trevor walked to the bedroom door and doused the hall light. Discarding his robe and slippers, he pulled his nightshirt off its hook, slipped it over his head—tousling his blond hair in the process—and got into his side of their large bed. Meeting in the middle, they hugged each other. “I’m sorry, love,” he murmured. “There’re just so many things I’m worried about right now. The world seems all pear-shaped. I really do think this oil thing is going to bugger us, and now there’s a demented creep threatening you. I don’t like any of it. The worst part is there’s nothing I can do but stand by and watch, whilst everything goes tits-up.”

“Nobody likes feeling helpless,” she agreed a bit prosaically.

“Oh for chrissakes, Lara, stop being a therapist. I don’t need you to interpret my feelings.”

She winced. Of course he was right. “Sorry,” she mumbled, her face buried in his shoulder. “Sometimes it’s hard to turn it on and off. At least I didn’t ask if you’d had any dreams,” she added in a small attempt at humor.

Lara pushed back enough to look at him in the cloud-shrouded moonlight streaming through the windows. Without quite understanding why, she asked abruptly, “When do you leave for work again?”

He cocked his head to one side as he thought. “Not until Tuesday, next. And then I’ll be gone for about a week or ten days.”

“Maybe I’ll go with you. There are some of my old instructors at the Jung Institute I’d like to talk with. I haven’t been back there for close to five years. I could stay at the flat in Amsterdam for a couple days and then catch a train to Zurich.”

“That would be nice.” Trevor pulled her body back against his. His warmth relaxed her, and her eyes shut of their own accord.

“Yes, it would,” she murmured before sleep claimed her once again.

Chapter Three

“More coffee?” Trevor stood over her, pot in hand. Glancing up, she wondered if he took Peter Pan pills. At times, particularly in the morning, he still looked heartbreakingly young, hair slightly awry, dimples aglow and the lightest dusting of freckles on his fair skin. Perfect teeth nested between the strong line of his cheekbones and jaw. It took a far closer look to pick out the network of fine lines starting around his blue eyes and the strands of gray intermingled with his blond curls.

“Actually, what I’d like is more of you. Think we could manage that sometime later today?” She smiled in what she hoped was a come-hither way.

“Ah, my mum warned me about wenches like you!” Trevor’s broad smile got even wider, and he ran his tongue suggestively over his upper lip. “Wanton hussy!”

“All the better to rob you of what meager virtue you still have left.” She laughed. “I do love you, Trevor. Artemis—or maybe Aphrodite—truly was looking out for me when she put me on your plane twenty-two years ago. Pour me more coffee so you can sit back down.”

After Trevor settled into his chair at the glass-and-chrome table in their kitchen, he reached across it and lifted Lara’s chin, forcing her to look at him. “Are you going to visit Bethany?” he demanded.

“Haven’t decided yet. I’ve been waiting to see if anything comes to me when I try to look into the future, but the mirror’s a bit cloudy this morning. Maybe I pissed off some goddess.”

She grimaced ruefully. “Honestly, Trev, I don’t understand it. I’ve never had this much trouble using my gift. It’s fickle and stubborn, but it generally gives me what I need. Then there’s an odd dream of mine that’s almost the same as one a patient had.” Taking a couple measured breaths, she cleared her jumbled thoughts. “That’s why I want to go to Zurich.”

“Did you tell them about the sight?”

She nodded. “Sure, Jungians are nothing if not mystics at heart. They believe in astrology and precognitive dreams and all that mumbo-jumbo. It’s what attracted me to depth psychology in the first place.” She sipped her coffee, and scenes from her years at the Institute played through her mind.

“I think I will drop by the hospital. No, let me finish.” Lara held up her hand to still the protests rushing to his lips. “You’re welcome to drive with me if you’d like and wait in the visitors’ lounge. That way you’ll be close by. Afterward, you can drop me in front of Denny Hall and I’ll teach my class. Maybe after that, we can go out for a nice dinner.”

When he looked at her, relief was written all over his face. “Give me ten minutes, and I’ll be ready to go. After last night, I wonder if I’ll ever be comfortable again if you’re not where I can see you.”

While she waited for him, her thoughts turned to her class. She’d been quietly pleased when the Dean of Psychology—an old friend of hers from her own graduate school days—called a few years before asking if she could offer a graduate seminar in depth psychology. As he’d explained it, the University of Washington Psychology Department was heavily research oriented. He thought it would be a plus to offer at least a taste of analytic training to those graduate students planning degrees in clinical psychology. Over time, the seminar had morphed into six different classes spread over a two-year curriculum.

Better get my notes. Lara carried her dishes to the sink and flew up the stairs to her top floor study. Rummaging through a filing cabinet, she pulled out her material on dreams and archetypes and pawed through it, selecting the fifth lecture in the series.

Two floors down, she brushed her teeth and pulled a multi-colored sweater out of her closet. A quick glance out the window made her wrinkle her nose at the gray rainy day. In deference to the weather, she donned a pair of green-striped socks. Wriggling her toes into the soft wool, she luxuriated in the feel of the fuzzy fibers, before stepping into a pair of soft leather boots.

“Lara? I’m outside.” Trevor’s voice drifted up the circular staircase. “I’ll prune a few of the flowers whilst I’m waiting.”

“Be there in a second.” She stopped in the front hall long enough to stuff her lecture notes into her over-sized shoulder bag so they wouldn’t get wet. Halfway out the door, she stopped.

Damn it!

“Sorry, Trev. I forgot a couple things.”

She ran back to the bedroom to retrieve her phone and pager. The phone’s message light blinked reproachfully. “What’s wrong with me?” she sputtered. “I’m usually not this irresponsible.” She trotted back down the stairs, while she scrolled rapidly through her messages.

“Finally.” Trevor furled his brows and set a pair of garden shears on a low table.

‘No kidding, huh?” She waited on their front porch, crowded with potted herbs and buckets of pink and red rhododendrons, while Trevor locked the house and set the burglar alarm. “Let’s take my car,” she suggested and gave him a quick kiss before starting down the steps to the street.

“I’ll drive,” he offered.

Nodding, she hit the clicker twice, opened the passenger door and got in, handing the keys across to him once he was in the driver’s seat. It was a small luxury to have someone else deal with the Seattle traffic, which had been getting worse for years.

If gas is as hard to get as Trev says, why aren’t fewer cars out and about?

She leaned against the soft leather of her seat and let her eyes close. She hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep last night, and it was bound to catch up to her sometime.

The edges of her vision grayed out. Recognizing the onset of a psychic event, she emptied her mind. A jarring scene pummeled her senses, and her hands balled themselves into tight fists with a will of their own. Her nails dug uncomfortably into her palms, but she couldn’t uncrook her fingers.

The scene grabbed her with such shocking immediacy, she forgot about the pain in her hands. Bethany lay before her in a narrow hospital bed, her face bruised almost beyond recognition. The lump of her stomach tented the bed covers, and the sheets fluttered when the infant kicked his comatose mother.

A shadow fell across Bethany’s form. Though Lara tried, she couldn’t identify its source. Bethany’s awkwardly-pregnant body began to buck, almost as if she were in the throes of an epileptic fit. A red stain spread through the sheet stretched across her swollen abdomen. Crimson liquid—blood?—dripped onto the floor, creating a rapidly growing rivulet. One of the bedside electronic instruments wailed like a stricken banshee, and a nurse rushed into the room, impeding Lara’s field of view.

Then, like it always was with her sendings, someone—or something—decided she’d seen enough, and her vision faded back to the interior of her car.

“What did you see?” Trevor asked tightly, his fingers clenched around the steering wheel as he drove. Her link to the unseen world unnerved him—badly.

Lara opened her eyes and shook her head to clear it. “I’m not sure,” she managed after a pause, while she sorted through her vision. “Bethany’s in serious trouble, though. She may be dead by the time we actually get there, or in such bad shape, they’ll never let me see her.”

Lara felt the hot prick of tears just behind her lids. Why hadn’t she realized what Ken Beauchamp was capable of? If she had, maybe his wife could have escaped his ire last night, and then… Stop it. This is not my fault. I offered appropriate support to a distraught client. Don’t make more of this than it is.

Yes but a different inner voice was implacable. I’m supposed to be able to spot the crazies. Why was I so blind to this one? Dragging Bethany into that bathroom was really stupid. All it did was drive Ken into a jealous rage. Her thoughts shifted focus. That poor baby if it even survives. What rotten luck to be born into that wretched home.

“We’re not far,” Trevor took Lara’s hand. “Look, dearie, I may not have the sight, but you’re beating yourself up over this thing, and I think you should stop.” She nodded wordlessly, still fighting for control.

“Here we are then,” he announced as he crimped the wheel and pulled smartly into a space labeled Physician Parking.

She was out of the car before he even had the key out of the ignition. Pulling her bag from the back seat, she stuffed her phone and pager into it and set off at a jog for the emergency entrance with Trevor close behind. Lara yanked the plasticized card that identified her as University teaching faculty with hospital privileges out of her pocketbook. She stopped at the admitting desk and flashed her ID badge at the ward clerk.

“I’m Dr. McInnis,” she said breathlessly. “A patient of mine, Bethany Beauchamp, was brought in here last night. I’d like to see her, please.”

“One moment, Doctor.” The haggard looking clerk manipulated the mouse and brought up something on her computer screen. With practiced eyes, she scanned the list of occupants in the ER. “We seem to have moved her to the ICU, Doctor. Do you know where that is?” Lara nodded and turned away, ready to head down the long passageway that would take her to intensive care, when the clerk added, “She’s critical, Doctor. They may not let you see her.”

Lara walked over to Trevor, who’d been hovering near the double glass doors that marked the entrance to the Emergency Department. “She’s in ICU,” Lara said softly. “Follow me. It’s quite a way from here down that corridor to our right.”

Trevor captured her hand, and the two of them moved rapidly in the direction she’d indicated. Rounding a corner, she tugged at his hand and said, “This way.”

She presented her identification at the nurses’ station for Intensive Care and repeated her request. A young blonde nurse glanced at her, empathy in her greenish eyes. “I don’t think Mrs. Beauchamp is up to any visitors just now.”

A harried looking house officer ran past and shoved his way into the open-architecture ICU behind the nurses’ station. “Which one?” He was breathing hard as he looked back over his shoulder.

“Bed E, Doctor.” The nurse turned back to Lara. “It was good of you to stop by to see your patient, but we’re fairly busy here this morning. If you want to wait, you’ll need to go to the visitors’ room just down that hallway.” She pointed with one well-manicured, pink-polished nail. Her voice held a note of finality. Arguing with her would be pointless.

“Can you at least save her baby?” Lara held the nurse’s eyes until the younger woman looked away, uncomfortable—and unwilling—to discuss patient issues.

“Um, I don’t know, Dr. McInnis. I still hope we can save them both. Now you really do need to leave. There’s just not room for you to stand right next to the nurses’ station.”

Lara had been trying to peer around the young woman to see into the ICU, but the way things were arranged, it wasn’t possible. Recognizing defeat, she turned and walked slowly back to Trevor.

* * * *

“Would you like another cup of coffee?” Trevor opened the car door for her. Lara h