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A Stranger's Touch
Twenty-two years later
"Bingo. . . . maybe. If I hold that brooch in my hands, I'll know if it's the original."
Tempest Storm tapped her finger on the antiquities' magazine photograph. The Viking brooch seemed definitely larger, weightier, and more masculine than the wolf's-head design she had created from her mother's and sister's description. The replicas she'd created for her sisters held softer, curving Celtic designs around the central piece. In the photograph, the original's ornate, interwoven designs bordered barely visible angular lines that spoke more to Viking characters.
If read correctly, the original's marred inscription could lead to understanding the dreams circling her clairvoyant family.
Tempest traced the photograph's brooch, lying upon black velvet. At a hefty-looking six inches across and four inches at the widest, the brooch was worn and pitted, imperfectly cast and reflective of the ninth-century craft. The evenly-spaced round indentations circling the brooch probably had held semiprecious stones. In the center, the semiraised wolf's head, fitting her family's description, stared back at her. The back's photograph showed the typical sturdy, curved pin used to secure the brooch to garments.
Inside her large New Mexico studio, the air-conditioning keeping the desert's heat at bay seemed to still. Tempest's senses locked onto that photograph; she held a magnifying glass to it and read the small print aloud: "For Display Only. Not for sale by the anonymous owner, but an excellent representation of ninth-century Norseman craftsmanship. While bronze was the usualduring this period, this piece is of debased silver. Characters circling the brooch are too worn and marred to read. Owner is seeking like pieces of the period, and may be contacted via e-mail."
Her heart racing with excitement, Tempest hurried to circle the e-mail address. She took a moment to steady herself and breathed deeply as she looked out her window. Everything seemed the same in her remote studio-home near Santa Fe: The saguaro cactus cast late-afternoon shadows on the sweeping dry landscape, and clumps of creosote brush periodically offered a touch of greenery. The first of July's heat shimmered beyond Tempest's cool mauve stucco home and studio. In a few hours, sunset would lay a pink cast over the sand.
In a few hours, she could be headed to wherever the original brooch was, and she could actually hold it.
In a few hours, she could hold the brooch in her naked hands and know everything—use every drop of her intuitive sixth sense to absorb what her family needed to know.
Because something connected to that brooch was definitely after her family, and it wasn't sweet.
She had to be very careful now, not an easy task considering her excitement; one wrong move, and she could lose the chance to hold the brooch, to know its past.
Tempest turned her back on the desert scenery and studied the latest sculpture for her next showing. Small, gently priced, and stylized, the piece was something for her favorite Santa Fe gallery. Tempest ran her bare fingertip over the leggy woman who stood poised, one foot on a round stonelike base, the other lifted to the next step. In a dress pressed against her body, she looked over her shoulder as if afraid, her hair flowing behind her, depicting flight. The idea for the sculpture, cast in bronze, had come from Tempest's own emotions-, ones that had haunted her every minute since she could remember.
But then, there were certain things she could never escape—like who she really was—a psychic "freak" who could hold an object in her hands and feel its past.
She studied her bare hands, extending them into the sunlight from the studio window. Here, in the privacy of her studio, where she had been very careful to choose her materials and suppliers, was the only place she allowed her hands to touch anything—without protective gloves. They were ordinary hands, strong and practical for a sculptor. But without her protective gloves, Tempest was at the mercy of the evil and the past of those who had touched the object before her.
Tempest flexed her fingers, studying the short, practical nails, and a fresh wave of guilt hit her. "I never should have done what he wanted. I fell for his lies. I thought I loved Brice, but he was using me—rather my naked hands—to scam money, then calling me a 'freak' to his friends. And now he wants me back? I don't think so."
Those two years had been the darkest of her life; she'd always hated and denied her psychic ability. But for him—because she was only twenty and thought she'd loved him, she'd acted the fool.
Tempest held her breath, rocked on her heels, and tucked her shamed past behind her. She had a job to do.
Her initial contact with the brooch's owner must be casual, not too eager. Antiquity collectors could be paranoid, eccentric, and unwilling to share; some of them hoarded their collections away from the world. Some of them were like worms. One wrong word, and this one could slip underground, hoarding the brooch in a private, thermal-controlled room—it could take forever to dig him out and get the brooch.
"And get that brooch," she whispered firmly, a promise she'd made a year and a half ago.
Tempest's hunting experience told her that she was locked on to the right trail and, bracing herself to be cautious with her approach, she murmured, "Okay, Mr. Anonymous, let's do this. I've been hunting for this same brooch—if it is the real one—for over a year and a half, since my mother and sister started dreaming about it. It looks a little different than their descriptions, but then psychics can only come so close to the real thing, and then it can dodge anywhere."A Stranger's Touch. Copyright © by Cait London. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.