Deadly Intentionsby Candice Poarch
She's Hot On The Trail Of A Thief. . .
When Lisa Claxton starts her own cleaning business on Paradise Island, she may finally profit from her talent for whipping a house into shapein more ways than one. A valuable Claxton heirloom, a golden bowl, is missing, and Lisa has tracked it down to a local home, which she quickly gets herself hired to clean./b>… See more details below
She's Hot On The Trail Of A Thief. . .
When Lisa Claxton starts her own cleaning business on Paradise Island, she may finally profit from her talent for whipping a house into shapein more ways than one. A valuable Claxton heirloom, a golden bowl, is missing, and Lisa has tracked it down to a local home, which she quickly gets herself hired to clean. But when she arrives she finds a dead bodyand flees right into the safe arms of an irresistibly handsome man. . .
But She's About To Find So Much More. . .
Injured Navy SEAL Brian Knight came to his grandfather's house to recuperate. He didn't expect to be greeted by a frightened beautyor to get mixed up in her scheme. But Brian has to pursue the killer who invaded the houseand he's determined to pursue Lisa as well. Soon, the two are up against ruthless thieves whose intentions are more than deadly. . .
"A hard-hitting romance that adds a twist of mysterious flavor. The reader will breeze through this refreshing tale." RT Book Reviews on Long, Hot Nights
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By CANDICE POARCH
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Candice Poarch Baines
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAs far as Lisa Claxton was concerned, there was nothing worse than shopping while broke. Not that long ago, she would have spent the week's grocery money on clothes and mooched off her grandmother and mother for food until the next paycheck. Maybe even hit her dad up for gas money.
Window shopping and wishing for items she couldn't afford was no fun either. She should never have let her cousin Jackie talk her into shopping. Nothing but temptation. But so far she'd resisted the urge to buy anything.
"What else do you have to get?" Lisa asked, desperate to leave the mall.
In lieu of an answer, Jackie Claxton quickened her pace down the spacious concourse dotted with kiosks in the center. With the recession, the mall wasn't nearly as crowded as it used to be.
"There she is." Jackie had obviously spotted someone.
"Who?" Lisa asked.
"The woman over there. I found this new fortuneteller. She's really good, Lisa. You're gonna like her."
Lisa dragged Jackie to a stop. "I'm not wasting money on that junk. She doesn't know any more than you or I do."
"That's not true. I've gotta see her today. The jackpot's so huge it'll take care of me for the rest of my life. Over fifty mil. I've got your back, too. All I've got to do is play the right numbers."
That's all anybody had to do. "If that woman knew the right numbers, she'd play them herself. Psychics would be the only ones winning. Why would she give them to you?"
"You don't understand," Jackie said impatiently. "It doesn't work that way for them."
"Listen to yourself ..."
"Besides, I've gotta make myself some luck. I don't have a rich sister to give me everything I want."
"Jackie, I'm sick of you saying that. I work my tail off. My sister doesn't ..."
"The girls are leaving. Let's go." Jackie raised a hand. "Magdelena, we're here."
Two teens left Magdelena's side and she turned toward Jackie and smiled. Everything about Magdelena resembled a psychic. She was in her late thirties or early forties and wore a long flowing skirt with a colorful orange, turquoise, and black jacket. Black hair peeked beneath the turquoise turban. She reminded Lisa of the artsy type. But her smile was warm, serene, and inviting—maybe even trusting. No wonder Jackie was hooked.
"She shouldn't be harassing clueless kids," Lisa whispered. Lord knew she herself wasn't any paragon of virtue, but she drew the line at messing with teens' heads. They were screwed up enough as it was.
"She's giving them good advice. Helping them to stay out of trouble."
"Pu-lease," Lisa scoffed. "She's conning them. They'd be a lot better off listening to their mamas."
"Like you ever listened to yours."
Jackie did have a point. Besides, the woman probably took a few dollars the kids would have spent on an extra pair of shoes to clutter their rooms. What harm was there in a little useless information?
Everybody had an angle.
The striking, light-complexioned woman's skin was flawless and she wore a motherly smile on her heart-shaped face. Like someone's mother or trusted aunt. Her experience seemed older than her years.
Jackie dug out some bills from her purse and pushed them into Magdelena's hand.
"Sit, sit, ladies," she said, stuffing her booty into her small purse and glancing around, obviously looking out for the security guards. Mall management frowned on psychics combing the hallways for customers.
The two of them sat on the bench. Lisa was glad to sit. She'd cleaned a house that morning.
"This is my cousin, Lisa. I told you about her," Jackie said, stuffing two loaded bags between Lisa and herself.
"Hi, Lisa. What a beautiful purse," Magdelena said.
Jackie scoffed. "Her rich sister gave it to her for Christmas."
Magdelena nodded, but quickly got down to business. "You understand there's too much interference here to get a good reading. I can only reach the fringes. You should come by my home. The readings would be more detailed there," she assured them.
"You can pick up something though, can't you?" Jackie asked.
"I'll try," she said, extending her hands palms up. "Give me your hands, Jackie."
Eagerly, Jackie inhaled a deep breath and placed her hands on top of Magdelena's.
Lisa smoothed the skirt of her black designer suit—another gift from her sister. A power suit, she'd said, so you'll look like a businesswoman when you meet your clients.
Lisa wished Jackie would stop leading every reference to her things with "your rich sister." Yes, Vanetta was rich. And she was generous. She tried to give Lisa advice about her new business. But Lisa didn't take advantage of her. At least she hoped people didn't think of her that way.
She knew Jackie was jealous, but things weren't as easy or cut and dried as Jackie thought. Lisa was under a lot of pressure because she didn't want people to get the impression she was freeloading.
She sighed. Wasn't a thing she could do about what people thought. She began to itemize the chores she had to do after her meeting with the bartender later on. She glanced at Jackie and the psychic. The woman's eyes were closed, as if she were concentrating hard.
Boy, she sure had her act together. They weren't gullible teens anymore.
She should be home getting some of that work done right now instead of waiting for some charlatan to give her spiel.
"I can feel the two of you going in separate directions, but unwilling to acknowledge it yet," Magdelena finally said. "You aren't as close as you used to be and don't have the same goals. You aren't ready to acknowledge it yet."
Lisa barely stifled an eye roll. What a revelation. Listening to Jackie's outbursts about their friendship would tell her that much. Maybe Lisa should set up a weekend tent on a corner. She could pretend to be psychic, too. Bring in a few extra bucks.
Jackie smiled back at Lisa. "We've been friends forever and we'll stay best friends." She focused on Magdelena again. "You sure you're reading us right?"
Magdelena smiled sadly. "The truth is hard to accept sometimes. But change is inevitable, dear."
The woman was making sense, Lisa thought uneasily. Her list of "things to do" flew to the back of her mind. Maybe Magdelena had a little insight or she was picking up vibes from earlier sessions with Jackie. At least she wasn't trying to con Jackie so far. But Lisa was going to reserve judgment.
"You have a few trials to go through before you get to the positive side of your aura, Jackie. But in time it will happen. I sense some positive changes not too far in your future. You do have a friend and that friend will help you."
Jackie's eyes lit up. "What about the jackpot? Am I going to win the big one this time? 'Cause that's the real reason I came here. I've got a hunch about some numbers. I want to make sure they're the right ones to play."
Jackie had completely ignored the bit about the friend. What would Jackie need help with anyway, except money? She wasn't on drugs or anything. She just hated to work.
"Come on, Jackie." Lisa touched her arm.
Magdelena jerked and so did Lisa and Jackie in reaction. Her eyes closed and she moaned a keening sound that drew the gazes of passersby.
What the hell was going on? Lisa wondered.
"I'm getting a reading," Magdelena said.
"What is it?" Jackie asked, leaning forward. "What do you see? Lord, let it be the jackpot. Come on. Let's see if you're reading the same numbers I'm reading. How about a twenty-six?"
"Things are changing in your life. You've already taken the beginning steps, but you're afraid. I see a man. A tall man. Very soon, he'll play a significant role in your life."
"Is he rich?" Jackie asked. "I've had it with broke ones. I need myself a rich man." "Lisa. This is about Lisa." Magdelena smiled. "He's quite handsome and you can trust him. He has your best interest at heart." She was silent for thirty seconds before she continued. "You won't trust him in the beginning. But he's different from the other men in your acquaintance. And he's never met anyone like you. Both of you will be moved by your experience together."
Lisa scoffed. Now she knew it was a bunch of hocus-pocus. Since when did a man ever do anything good for her? She touched Jackie's arm. "Let's go."
"Wait. I paid for my reading. What about me, Magdelena? Is there a man in my future? Is something good going to happen to me?" Jackie asked. "What about my lottery number? Tell me if my numbers are going to hit the jackpot."
"Good things will come to you if you're patient. It won't happen immediately. Be careful who you trust. Let your heart guide you to make wise decisions." She gazed at Jackie sadly. "I'm afraid the lottery isn't in the cards for you right now. Don't despair. There was a divine purpose here today. Things don't just happen. I believe you brought your cousin here for a purpose." Magdelena patted Jackie's hand. "I'm sorry there isn't anything for you, dear. Maybe next time you'll be receptive to the reading and it'll come smoother."
Weren't psychics supposed to tell you what you wanted to hear and come up with an excuse about why it didn't work out when you complained about it later? They weren't supposed to leave you on the hook like this. Or was this a ploy? This would surely bring Jackie back.
"Lisa?" Magdelena entreated, capturing her gaze.
Lisa glanced at her.
"Jackie mentions you often. She says you're on a quest. Be careful, please. And come with Jackie to my home so that I can give you a clearer reading. I'm thrilled to meet you finally."
"What about me?" Jackie asked.
"I'll have a clearer reading for you, too. Remember, the easy path isn't necessarily the right one."
More than a little spooked, Lisa grabbed Jackie's arm.
Lisa had begun to make changes in her life. And she was afraid of failure.
"Let's go," Lisa said, piqued. Jackie must have revealed her secret.
Jackie snatched her arm away, grabbed her bags, and angrily marched ahead of Lisa all the way to the car. Lisa didn't open the door right away. They glared at each other over the roof, that same obstinate look on Jackie's face that Lisa had worn when life had beaten her and she had nothing to look forward to.
It was a comfortable spring day. Lisa loved the springtime most of all. The weather was good. She could grill on her deck. But she had to do something about her yard.
And then, too, springtime meant summer was close by. Now that she owned her own place, she could go out for a swim in the ocean some afternoons. Even invite Jackie to go with her. But Jackie was too angry now to give her the time of day.
"Can't you see through her ruse?" Lisa asked.
"What's wrong with you? You used to go to psychics with me. We used to have fun together. I used to be able to talk to you. But you've changed, Lisa."
"I haven't changed."
Jackie nodded her head stubbornly. "All that money has changed you."
"All what money, Jackie? I don't have any money. I live paycheck to paycheck. I have to clean houses to pay the bills. Even though I work fifteen-hour days, I don't make enough off the business yet to earn a living."
Jackie scoffed. "Like your sister is gonna throw you out of your house if you miss a mortgage payment."
"I'm not missing one. I can't. This is ..." Lisa swallowed hard around the lump in her throat and took a deep breath. She wanted her cousin and closest friend to understand. She'd made this change, this decision because she was tired of going through the motions, feeling like the world was passing her by and she was just a bystander waving it on while others got all the blessings. She wanted to live her life, not wish for it.
"This is my chance to prove to myself and everybody else that I can be more than a screwup," Lisa said finally. "I get tired of folks looking down on me all the time, don't you?"
"I don't give a damn what people think. They gonna think what they want no matter what. I ain't sucking up to nobody," Jackie said. "You're just like one of those church women who suddenly find God and get on their bandwagon."
"I'm not preaching to you. Just ..." Lisa stopped. She started to say it wasn't about sucking up or being on some bandwagon, but reaching for something better—something different than the same old thing that never worked out. But that's when she realized this was all about her and not about Jackie, and her dreams didn't make a lick of sense to anybody but her. Jackie couldn't understand. She was at another place in her life. Not that Lisa's was any better, just different. Her sister had warned her about people's reactions, especially relatives'.
Lisa changed tactics. "I'm still your friend, Jackie. We can still do things together. Have some fun. But I'm not taking any more crap about my rich sister. When she's giving away her wardrobe, your hands reach out to grab anything you can get."
"Fine. But she didn't give me a house."
"She didn't give me one either. I have to pay a mortgage on that house every single month and you know it."
"All right. Get offa your high horse. You're no saint, you know. I knew you before this big change." Jackie waved her arms, the bags rustling with the movement.
"I'm not trying to be a saint, just me."
Jackie rolled her eyes. "At least we know Magdelena was right. You have changed."
Lisa sighed. "We never took psychics seriously before. It was something fun to do."
"But this one is good, Lisa, the real deal. I trust Magdelena. You should, too.
"I told her all about you, about how you want to find the bowl for Grandma, but Jordan thinks he can hunt down the thief."
"I told you that in confidence. I asked you to keep it to yourself," Lisa said, stunned at Jackie's lack of good sense. "You keep family business in the family. I don't even want the family to know I'm searching for the bowl."
"Magdelena wouldn't tell anybody. She's like a priest."
Lisa glanced at her cousin skeptically.
"I told her how close we are and she wanted to meet you." Jackie smiled. "You got a free reading, better than mine. I'll forgive you this time."
Finally Jackie smiled and got in the car and Lisa followed suit. But there was one more subject that Lisa needed to mention. She started the motor.
"Don't tell anyone else I'm looking for the bowl," Lisa warned her.
There were other things Lisa was doing that no one would understand any more than Jackie understood this. Would even disapprove of if they knew. But she knew better than to mention it to anyone, even her sister, who believed in her when no one else did. And her grandma. Lisa smiled. Grandma always believed in her. But this was her secret, one that would make Grandma proud of her.
Chapter TwoLisa dropped Jackie off, but she desperately needed a strong drink. She headed in the opposite direction from her house toward the bar.
There was something refreshing about being on the island. It was more laid back than Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Winter had wanted to hang on longer than usual this year. But spring was finally bursting forth.
Lisa was still shaken by the psychic's reading when she strolled into the bar a few minutes later. She spent a lot of time there. The place had always been her refuge when things were getting on her nerves, but tonight she had a purpose that had nothing to do with escape.
She slid into an empty booth and put her feet up in the opposite seat. If anyone had told her owning her own cleaning service was going to be this hard, she would have thought twice before starting it.
As it was, she was knee deep into it—and she couldn't fail. She'd failed at everything she'd ever done. She had to be a success at this one thing.
"Hey, baby." Ben Storey, the bartender, slid into the seat across from her. His hip purposely bumped into her feet.
Lisa shifted her feet to the floor so she wasn't touching him. No sense in him getting ideas about her just because she'd asked for a little information.
"No need to move 'em, sugar."
Ben was attractive. Skin like velvet bittersweet chocolate and dark brown eyes turned a lot of women's heads. Females gave him great tips, too. He wasn't tall—around five foot eight. Only problem was his major ambition in life was chasing women. Was he the man the psychic referred to? Oh, heck no.
"You already know the score," she said. She wasn't even marginally attracted to this ladies' man.
"I've got some news for you, baby. What's it worth?"
Lisa barely stopped an eye roll. "A drink."
"Come on. You gotta get up offa more than that."
"The drink is all I'm giving." She was too broke to pay a bribe and he certainly wasn't getting anything else. "So if you want to keep your information to yourself, be my guest."
Excerpted from DEADLY INTENTIONS by CANDICE POARCH Copyright © 2011 by Candice Poarch Baines. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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