I'm just the messenger. Please, don't kill me. . .
Don't hate me because I'm psychic. . .everybody else already does. My name's Clair Ivers and these days my "gift" seems more like a booby prize. It all started when this crazy woman tried to bribe me into skewing a reading to warm her future sister-in-law's cold feet. Then the prospective sister-in-law threatened to kill herself at the altar if I didn't give her a phony reading saying she should break off the engagement. Oh, and did I mention she ran out, leaving her three-carat rock of a ring right there on my table?
So what's an honest woman to do? Find the man who belongs to the ring, of course. And boy, have I found him. The minute I lay eyes on Jack Heron, I know he's the one. . .for me, that is. The problem is making him realize it once he finds out that I may be responsible for the flight of his fiancée. At least his grandmother likes me. Of course she thinks I'm someone else. And then there's the best man who keeps calling me for dates. . .and stock tips.
Between the people who think I'm someone else, the people who wish I were, and the people who just want a bead on the winning Powerball numbers, I'm seriously considering packing in my deck for good. But not until I throw caution to the wind and make a play for my very own Jack of Hearts. . .
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By MARY CARTER
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2007 Mary Carter
All rights reserved.
Your kindness will be tested.
Stand up for yourself, fish-woman!
A place mat collects silver,
while a doormat just collects dust....
Clair, please. Just do this one for me. It's just one little reading. Please, please, please, please, please."
I pulled my beaded, green purse protectively to my side where my Tarot cards were resting peacefully in their box, happy to be done for the day.
"Why won't you do it?" I said, trying to sound mature and reasonable when what I really wanted to do was jump up and down and whine, "I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home!"
"Because I know the girl. I sort of—used to date her. I just ... she's kind of ... I can't get into this right now Clair," my friend and colleague, Brian Shepard, said. He glanced over his shoulder as if someone were stalking him and then lowered his voice to a harsh whisper. "She's standing right over there. Please. Please, please, please, please."
I contemplated Brian like a lizard stares at a fly right before its slimy, red tongue shoots out and wraps it in deadly saliva. Not that I didn't sympathize with his plight. It's truly difficult to do a reading for someone you know. Family and friends hit me up all the time for free readings, but I was always worried I'd let the things I already knew about the person subconsciously influence the outcome. Like the year I was nine and my brother Tommy broke his leg in a motorcycle accident. The cards said he was entering a long period of rest and introspection, and I happily relayed this to him.
But instead of praising my astounding psychic abilities, my brother glared at me like I was a Happy Meal sans the fries and the prize and began ridiculing me. "Duh, Clair. Incredible talent you got there. Hmm ... broken leg—period of rest. What a wanker. If you're so psychic, why didn't you predict the accident, huh?" I stared at him, dumfounded. "Why'da let me break my Mother-Fudging leg in the first place, lunatic?"
But as bad as it was to give someone a "duh" reading, it paled in comparison to giving them the exact answers they wanted to hear, and then spending the next twenty-three Christmases listening to—say your sister Abby—getting smashed and shouting, "Clair, you said I'd be married with two identical, blond, extremely brilliant twin boys and living in Quebec, Canada, by now. Where are they, Clair? Where are my two twins? Where is my tall, entrepreneurial, Canadian husband and my two twins? Eh? Eh? Is Santa bringing them this year, Clair? Is he? Is he?"
It took superhuman strength on my part not to shout back at her at the top of my lungs, "Twins means two, Abby. You don't say 'two twins'; it's redundant! Obviously they must get their brilliance from their tall, entrepreneurial, Canadian father!"
Besides, I gave her that reading when I was twelve. It took me years before I could take off my psychic training wheels. Abby, on the other hand, still hadn't let it go. The above tantrum was last Christmas. I'm thirty-two and she's thirty-eight, and she still blames me for her naked ring finger and barren womb. I also told her she would lose her left eye in a freak mining accident, and you didn't see her holding me responsible for that one not panning out.
"Come on, Clair. Are you going to do this one for me or not?" Brian whined.
We both knew I was going to do it. I was a complete pushover by nature, and as my three ex-husbands could attest, I have never been able to resist a man on his knees. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to milk it a little before giving in. Especially since I had already put my Tarot cards away, taken down my sign, and packed up the yellow silk scarf I used for my ten-card Celtic spread.
"If I do this—and I'm not saying I will—what are you going to do for me?" I said. Brian sighed, folded his arms across his chest, and tried to match my intimidating gaze while I studied my reflection in the spoon hanging around his neck. It was starting to turn his Adam's apple slightly green, but Brian refused to take it off. He was determined to bend it with his mind, twist it into tiny knots using only the Power of Thought. He'd been wearing it a little over a year and a half.
"You could charge them double," Brian said, jerking his head toward his tent. "The two of them are walking advertisements for Gucci, Prada, and Coach."
"I don't care if they're carrying gold bricks," I said. "I'm not charging anybody double." Brian sighed and ran his hands through his hair. He wasn't exactly a handsome man, slightly elflike in appearance, despite his six-foot frame. His blond hair was curly and static, ears splayed out like television antennas, his nose terminally pink. On the plus side, he had sparkling emerald eyes, a full head of hair, and a charismatic aura he never failed to inflict on women. How else could you explain a tall, lanky elf-man getting so much tail?
Although, according to my best friend Karen, he had a very large package, so that could have accounted for a hefty percent of it. She unwrapped the said package in the upstairs hallway at my birthday party last year after drinking four shots of tequila off his stomach. Incidentally, all I got was a cheap crystal ball and a pair of orange-striped gym socks.
"God, you're such a Girl Scout. Fine. Do this for me and I'll fix you up with my friend Scott."
"Brian," I warned. He knew full well I wasn't going to go out with his friend Scott, or John, or Jeff, or T-Bone, or any of the other men he'd tried to push on me the past year. I was on a long, long, hiatus from men. As a bona fide recovering in-love-aholic, I was officially cut off.
"Okay, okay, calm down. Do this for me and I'll switch places with you tomorrow. "
Our booths were stationed at the Chicago Psychic Fair, in the gymnasium at the Healing Arts Community Center. We were sandwiched in between booths on acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies, yoga, and vegetarian cookies. I had the unfortunate luck of being next to a vegan fanatic whose booth was covered with pictures of bloody cows. Although I was all for the humane treatment of animals, I couldn't ignore my inner carnivore; I'd been craving a cheeseburger all day.
Brian's booth, however, was across from homemade fudge. Whereas the sugary scent drew customers to his vicinity, the bloody cows scared them away from mine. His offer was generous, but I couldn't take him up on it.
"I'm not here tomorrow," I told him.
"What do you mean you're not here tomorrow?"
"I'm going on my pilgrimage," I bragged. Every year, for the past three years, I'd taken a road trip. It was the only thing that had kept me sane—and single—since my last divorce. This year I needed it more than ever.
"Who's here instead?" Brian asked, his voice rising in pitch and cracking like he was going through puberty. He started fingering his spoon. "Don't tell me it's Dame Diaphannie. You know I can't work with 'Double D.'" Not wanting to get him started on her, I reached into my purse and touched the gold-embossed envelope I'd been carrying around the past week like a time bomb strapped to my chest, hoping Brian would pick up on it and ask me about it. Ed, my third husband, "the one that was supposed to stick," was getting married.
Alexis, his twenty-four-year-old ballerina-bride-to-be, took it upon herself to invite me to the blessed event. If I didn't get out of town, I might just show up. And at the toast, I might very well raise my glass and announce to everyone how Ed said he'd always love me. How he'd stood on our back porch one humid Friday evening, still dressed in his work clothes, and tearfully confessed that he didn't want to be married. How he hoped I'd find it in my heart to forgive him. How he had really, really, really tried because of how much he loved me—but, he just wasn't the marrying type.
Oh, yes, I needed my pilgrimage. My sanity was at stake. Brian was still ranting about Dame Diaphannie.
"That cow listens in on my readings and corrects me when I'm doing my best work."
"Last time she actually yelled over the curtain, 'It's never gonna happen, honey: he's having an affair with your sister.'"
"She's out of control," I agreed halfheartedly, as images of her colorful turbans, stick-on rubies, and sandalwood incense floated through my mind. She spoke in tongues, smoked two packs of cigarellos a day, and occasionally rolled her eyes back in her head as if she were having a full-blown epileptic fit during readings. I pulled the invitation out of my purse and waved it hypnotically in front of Brian.
"Did I mention Ed is getting married?"
"About seventeen times," Brian said, throwing a worried glance at his booth. Crushed by his lack of enthusiasm, I mentally blew black smoke over his aura, like a manic-depressive maid sprinkling the dust back on the furniture instead of polishing it off.
"Do the reading, Clair. I know you could use the money." He had me there. I had a stack of bills at home, all accruing late fees.
"Fine," I said, dropping my purse on the card table with a thud. "Let's just get it over with." I was unpacking my cards when suddenly Brian put his hands on my shoulders and turned me to face him.
"Um ... Clair?"
"Yes?" I said, startled at his intensity.
"Rachel is ... uh ... the sensitive type—you know? A little ... uh ... wound up, I guess you would say."
"I'm sure I'll survive," I said.
"It's not you I'm worried about. It's her. She's extremely...
uh ... wound up."
"Wound up, wound up. I got it. Don't worry, Brian. I won't add any of my own vibes, I'll just read the cards."
"Perfect. But—still—be careful."
"Don't give it a second thought," said I, the fool.CHAPTER 2
Cheer up, things will get worse.
My first impression of Rachel Morgan was that she was a woman in a lot of pain. She reminded me of a poodle just out of the bath, staring at you with big, pleading eyes, wagging her little stump of a tail, hoping you'll wrap her in a warm towel, shivering more for show than anything else. But despite her obvious distress, she was a stunningly beautiful woman.
She had fresh-from-the-salon blonde hair, cut in a bob, eyes the color of the Aegean Sea, and a body straight from the gym/tanning bed/Pilates/Bikram Yoga. Whereas I looked the part of a gypsy, with my voluptuous, slightly thinner-than-hourglass figure, curly brownish-gold hair, green eyes, and my favorite trait—olive skin—Rachel Morgan was pure Super Barbie. She also had the unique quality of being both beautiful and nonthreatening; I had just met her and I wanted to hold her hand, become her new best friend, and tell her everything was going to be all right.
Her friend, Susan, on the other hand, trim with dark hair and hazel eyes, would have been considered beautiful too, except for the dark aura hovering about her, and the fact that she was staring at me like a makeshift slingshot, pulled tight and poised to plunge a rusty pocketknife into my side at the slightest provocation.
"Won't you sit down," I said, gesturing to the two empty chairs across from me. My cards were out of the box and lying facedown on my grandmother's yellow silk scarf. Susan and Rachel sat down and looked at the cards as if they were a wild animal. I stifled a giggle; unnecessary laughter was a detriment to my mysterious aura.
There are seventy-eight cards in a Tarot deck, divided into the Major and Minor Arcana. "Arcana," deriving from the Latin word arcanus, means "closed" or "secret." The trump suit, or Major Arcana, is composed of twenty-two cards. Each card has a picture that shows a behavior, action, or possible future event. The cards are also named and numbered—in the Major Arcana they go from One to Twenty-One. The exception to this is The Fool, he is number Zero.
That leaves the Minor Arcana, consisting of fifty-six cards divided into four suits: Swords, Cups, Coins, and Wands. There are fourteen cards in each suit, numbering from Ace to Ten, and four face cards: Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Like playing cards (which originate from Tarot cards) there are hundreds of decks and styles, and professional readers often have quite a diverse collection at their disposal. I was no exception.
But since I had taken an immediate liking to Rachel, I had decided to use my personal favorite, a Medieval rendering of the Major and Minor Arcana, with intricate, hand-painted figures whose vibrant colors hadn't faded a bit with the passage of time.
They belonged to the first psychic in my family, my maternal grandmother, Isabella Ivars, who passed her gift on to me, along with her cards. They are hers and they are mine. This was the deck I used whenever I wanted answers to my own questions; they're my way of speaking to my grandmother, asking for her guidance. Rachel and Susan sat silently and watched me spread the cards out. "I take it this reading is for you," I said to Rachel.
She nodded but did not speak, which is how I preferred it. There was nothing worse than a chatty Querent. I finished shuffling the deck and asked Rachel to cut them from left to right into three distinct piles. Her hands trembled as she followed my directions. Once again working left to right, I had her gather the piles and place them on top of each other. As I reached for the top card, Susan's hand shot out and stopped me.
"Just a minute. I need to pay you. Rachel, this is on me, remember?"
I opened my mouth to tell her she could pay me later, but we were already in motion. Susan pulled me to the farthest corner of the tent. "There's something you should know," she said in a low whisper. I glanced at Rachel who was intently studying a large diamond ring on her right finger.
"She's getting married and she has cold feet," I said.
Susan's mouth fell open like the lid of a rusty mailbox. She glanced at Rachel who now had her hands folded in her lap, obscuring the ring. I didn't normally resort to such parlor tricks, but I had low blood sugar, was late for my pilgrimage, and didn't like this woman at all.
"Good guess," she said, composing herself. "She's marrying my brother Jack—"
"You know," I said, pulling away from her, "the less I know the better."
"You don't understand. This reading has to go well."
"I don't control what the cards say. But don't worry, even if the reading is—say, less than favorable—she has the power to change any possible outcome."
"Listen to me," Susan hissed. "Rachel is totally freaking out, okay? She had some kind of weird dream last week and suddenly she's confused. Confused," she said throwing her arms up. "We've been planning this wedding for two years. We've invited two hundred prominent guests, Chicago's best ice sculptor, and a famous Fusion caterer from the East."
"I see," I said. "But—"
"Not to mention the thirteen bridesmaids who have been dieting their asses off—literally—just to fit into their custom-made gowns. And then there's the ten-foot fountain of Dom Perignon, a cake so exquisite it should be a federal crime to slice, and a collection of flowers so exotic they're going to make the Garden of Eden look like home-grown herbs on a windowsill." Susan took another microstep toward me. Her breath smelled like cold, hard mints, and her voice poured out like wet cement. "Rachel Morgan is going to marry my brother in two weeks, and if you say one negative word to her about it, I'm going to make your life a living hell. Do you understand?"
"I understand perfectly," I said.
"Good," Susan said, holding out two crisp one hundred dollar bills for the twenty-five-dollar reading. I turned away from the cash and headed to my table where Rachel sat cross-legged on the chair, her skinny leg bouncing up and down like a jack hammer.
"I'm sorry," I said to Rachel with the most comforting smile I could muster. "But I can't do this reading." I gathered my grandmother's cards and started putting them back in the box. Rachel shot out of her chair like a rogue astronaut ejected from the space shuttle.
"Why can't you do it? It's something bad, isn't it? Oh God, you've got a bad vibe."
"No, no, no. Nothing like that," I tried to assure her. "It's late, that's all. I thought I had time for this but I—"
"What did you say to her?" Rachel turned on Susan. "What did she say to you?"
Excerpted from Accidentally Engaged by MARY CARTER. Copyright © 2007 Mary Carter. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Clair is a Tarot reader who stumbles into a rich family's drama. She is a bit stupid, and has been married three times at 32. The love triangle between Jack and Mike was interesting, but it's obvious what the ending would be, and I'm not psychic.
Psychic Clair Ivers hates her gift as people classify her as a kook, a con, or a conduit with few belonging to the last category. Her current client offers to pay Clair a sizable sum of money if she would provide a false reading to her future sister-in-law Rachel Morgan that would send the superstitious bride into the night. When Clair refuses, her extortionist vows to commit hari kari when the preacher asks the question of the audience if anyone takes exception.------------------ Her reading sends the bride away in panic with her engagement ring left behind. Clair returns the jewelry to its owner, the groom Jack Heron, who to her shock, especially after several failed marriages, is her Jack of her Hearts. Not sure what to do he provides her the time and opportunity she needs to prove they are soulmates. He surprises himself 4when he drafts her as his pretend fiancée for the sake of his grandma and some investors. However, she also fears he will never speak to her again once she tells him the truth that her reading broke his engagement.----------------------- Putting that classic TV show Occasional Wife aside, this is an amusing contemporary fantasy romance starring a likable psychic and her Jack of Hearts. The amusing story line focuses on Clair¿s pratfalls as her skill fails to warn her when she needs it most. Readers will appreciate this funny lighthearted tale of the psychic who found love.-------------- Harriet Klausner