All of Cate’s problems are in her head. That may be her greatest strength.
Cate Duncan is a promising young therapist, dedicated to her work. But after her mother’s suicide, she is seized by a paralyzing depression. To save her job, Cate agrees to enter a treatment program run by the mysterious Ben MacGregor and his mother.
Housed in a repurposed church, the MacGregor Group is a collection of alternative healers whose unconventional approaches include crystals, aura readings, and psychics, but they need Cate’s unique powers. As her emotional struggles bring her ever closer to her own abyss, Ben will do everything in his power to protect Cate from those who wish her harm—including herself.
A powerful novel of suspense and a wildly inventive start to this paranormal romance series, All the Broken Places engages readers with its striking blend of the supernatural and the psychological.
“Those with an interest in parapsychology will be fascinated by this artfully written series starter.” —Publishers Weekly
“With the introduction of a charismatic group of alternative healers, Eden creates a unique world that readers will find fascinating.” —RT Book Reviews
“All the Broken Places is not simply an engaging paranormal romance. Peopled with broken characters the reader wants to see mended, it tackles the subjects of mental health and suicide with empathy and grace.” —Rosanna Leo, author of Covet
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In my dream, there was no thought of suicide. We were simply potting begonias on the back porch, getting our hands dirty and inhaling the dueling scents of spicy flowers and sweet earth.
My mother tried — and failed — to sound light and casual. "So, Catie, have you met anyone interesting lately?"
A man, she meant. Without looking up to meet her probing gaze, I said, "Come on, you already know the answer to that question."
"Okay, okay. I can't help it, though. I have to keep asking." She smiled as though she knew something I didn't. "Maybe soon."
In one of my typical clumsy moves, I dropped a large clump of potting soil on the floor.
"You don't have to get it absolutely everywhere, you know," she teased.
I slid my hand down her forearm, leaving behind a dark streak. "Like that, you mean?"
"No, like this," she replied, dabbing a glob of wet dirt onto my nose. At once, the dirt-smearing competition was on.
In the midst of our squeals and contortions, I noticed a black pen mark peeking out from beneath the neck of her t-shirt. "What's that?"
"That mark." I pointed.
She looked down, puzzled, and stretched her collar out until we could both read the words that had been written across her collarbones: "Do Not Resuscitate."
My dirt-streaked palms flew up to cover my mouth. Mom gazed at me, her eyes heavy with unshed tears. "You'd better go now."
"No," I begged. But in an instant, I was levitating. I floated up above the clouds and flew southwest toward the city.
The next thing I knew, I was back in my bed, cotton sheets damp with perspiration. The thunder outside was so loud that it shook the windows. Grey light filtering through the storm clouds told me that morning had arrived. I pulled the bedspread over my head. Inside of my mind waged the usual battle: should I wake up and admit that the day had started, or go back to sleep in the hopes of finding my mother again, even for a few more moments?
You can't find her again, the realistic part of my brain chimed in. She's gone, remember? And she's not coming back. It was just a dream. Get a grip.
I dried my cheeks on the pillow, threw off the bedspread, and groped around on the bedside table for my cell phone. The screen read nine-thirty a.m. and showed a calendar reminder of my eleven a.m. appointment. I reproached myself for having fallen out of the habit of setting an alarm. If I hurried, I'd have just enough time to check in on my clients, call the office, and get ready for my doctor's appointment — and I couldn't be late to see Dr. MacGregor. While I had never been to a psychiatrist before, I was fairly certain that lateness would be interpreted as some sort of Freudian pathology, or at least make a bad impression — and I needed to make a good impression. My job — the only real thing I had left — depended on it.
It was time to get started. I put down the phone and lay flat on my back, closing my eyes and stretching my arms out to the sides. Slowly, steadily, I inhaled and exhaled, concentrating on my breath. I visualized the filaments in my heart: tiny strands of light rooted in my chest and branching outward in all directions, connecting me to the people I cared about. I narrowed the focus to my psychotherapy clients. One by one, I visited each of them, probing their emotions.
First, I checked in on Mack, a longshoreman who had become depressed after an injury put him out of work. A few days before, I had sensed that he was in crisis, so I had called Simone, my supervisor and best friend. She found out that Mack's disability check was late and he was facing eviction. But as I reconnected with him that morning, I felt that he was calm, stable. Simone must have found a way to help him. As a Baltimore native who had been working at the clinic for years, she always seemed to know the right people to call and strings to pull to make things happen.
After Mack, I moved on to the next person. Then the next. Fortunately, everyone seemed to be doing all right — until I reached my last client, Elana. When I focused on her, a river of anger and bitterness flowed into my chest.
With her limpid blue eyes and tiny, sparrow-like frame, Elana had always reminded me of a fairytale nymph mistakenly dropped into a harsh urban landscape. I sensed that she had suffered some kind of betrayal — probably something to do with Don. Her on-again, off-again boyfriend worked as a drug dealer and was one of a series of men to whom she had attached herself, mistaking their aggression for strength.
In spite of the intense feelings I was sensing from her, I could tell Elana's crisis was not acute, nor was she having any dangerous impulses. Still, anger was such a volatile and energizing emotion that anything could happen. I pulled out of my meditative state and reached for the phone.
Simone was the only person I'd ever told about my "intuitions." Over time, she had come to trust them as I did, so I knew I could count on her to check in on Elana. I dialed her office number and said a silent prayer of gratitude: as pathetic as my life had become, at least Simone hadn't given up on me yet.
* * *
The Clash roared, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" over the radio as I drove through the sheeting rain and pulled up to the gate. I rolled down the window, getting half-drenched as I punched the code I'd been given into the security panel. The gate swung open, and I pulled my beat-up red hatchback into the fenced-in parking lot.
I dug my fingernails into the steering wheel. What kind of psychiatrist worked out of a boarded-up church on a block of abandoned row houses? What exactly was I getting myself into?
The old granite church looked as though it had once been majestic. It took up a quarter of a city block and rose several stories high. The windows were almost entirely covered with plywood, but sections of ornate stained glass were still visible near the top of the building, high enough to be safe from robbers or stray bullets.
Baltimore was a city of extremes. Every day on the way to the Waverly clinic where I worked, I drove north past the aspirational, cutting-edge buildings of the prestigious Washington Hill Hospital. But where the hospital campus ended, a very different neighborhood began — block after block of long-empty homes, skeletons waiting for a wrecking ball to crush their bones into dust. My clients had told me plenty of horror stories about what went on inside some of those shells. I usually drove through the blighted areas of town as quickly as possible while trying to ignore the chill running down my spine. Not this morning, however.
There were three other cars in the lot: a silver SUV with tinted windows, an enormous black Land Rover, and what appeared to be a convertible beneath a canvas cover. Clearly, Dr. MacGregor's practice was doing well.
So I'd made it there. But I hadn't gone inside yet. I could still turn around and go home.
One thought of my boss, however, killed the idea of turning tail and running. Dr. Nelson was the medical director of our clinic. With his shock of white hair and black-rimmed glasses, he looked like Colonel Sanders and had the grandfatherly charm to match. But I knew after working closely with him for over two years that his suggestions were actually orders, and that his charm disappeared quickly when they weren't taken seriously.
In my case, his suggestion had been that I go see Dr. Angeline MacGregor, his fellow psychiatrist and colleague from medical school. Dr. Nelson was certain she could cure whatever ailed me. I'd been off of work for ten weeks, using up almost all of my sick and vacation days, and I could still barely leave my house, let alone return to the office. Therefore, it had been more of an ultimatum than a suggestion — keep this appointment, or my job would be in jeopardy.
Although a shamefully large part of me would have been happy to remain a recluse, there was no way I could risk losing my job, because that would mean losing my clients — and they were my reasons for getting up every morning. Well, that settled that. I shut off the radio and turned to gather my purse and half-broken umbrella from the passenger seat.
I gasped as three sharp raps on the driver's side window sent my body into a panicked leap. I twisted around, but all I could make out through the dripping, fogged-up window was a dark suit with a man in it.
"Cathryn Duncan?" a deep, no-nonsense voice demanded.
My heart pounded so loudly that it drowned out the rain. Cautiously, I rolled the window down halfway. "Yes?"
"I'm Ben, the clinic manager. Is everything okay?"
The clinic manager? What was he doing knocking on my car window? "Yes, everything's okay. Why?"
He leaned down and looked inside. As our eyes met, we froze, like two stunned animals stumbling across one another in the forest. Neither of us moved or spoke, just stared. There was something familiar ... had we met before? I figured he must have been wondering the same thing because he looked as surprised as I felt.
After several moments, Ben broke the silence. "You," he began, but there was a catch in his voice. He cleared his throat. "You arrived late, and you've been sitting out here with your car running for ten minutes. I wanted to make sure you were all right."
My stomach clenched. He had been watching me? Even more embarrassing, had I really spent ten minutes vacillating? "How do you know how long I've been out here?"
"Security cameras," he said matter-of-factly, as though I should have expected as much. Then he added a bit more softly, "I'm sorry if I startled you."
A flash fever heated my face — whether due to shock or irritation, I wasn't sure. I hoped that the grey day would hide my blush. "I'm fine," I bit out the words. "Everything's fine."
"Glad to hear it."
I tried to compose myself by closing my eyes and taking a slow, deep breath — but that just provoked another question from Ben. "Are you coming in?"
"Yes, yes," I snapped, once again flustered. "I'll be right there."
He took two steps back as I rolled the window up. I turned off the engine, grabbed my things, and stepped out of the car.
Ben immediately moved in to cover me with his enormous black umbrella. Up close, I could see that if I'd met him before, I would have remembered. He appeared to be about my age, maybe a bit older, and was tall enough that I had to look up to meet his eyes. Everything about him was squared off — the shape of his face, his hairline, the way he held his shoulders. Although his collar was unbuttoned and he wasn't wearing a tie, he still gave an impression of formality. Even the seams and folds of his suit seemed to stand at attention.
Ben pointed to a door at the top of a short staircase. "This way," he said, then waited for me to go first.
As I headed toward the stairs, Ben shadowed me, holding his umbrella over us both. I couldn't help breathing in his scent; it was a pleasant mixture of old leather, crisp cotton, and fine wool. I was certain that I, on the other hand, smelled like a wet dog. My broken umbrella had offered me little protection as I'd darted from my house to the car earlier.
When we reached the top stair, Ben opened the door and followed me inside. He shook out his umbrella and leaned it against the wall. "May I take your jacket?"
I blinked, then blinked again. Was he actually offering to touch my manky windbreaker? But his expression was perfectly serious. He held his hands out expectantly.
"Um, okay. It's kind of wet." Unsure what else to do, I allowed him to peel it off of me.
He hung my jacket on the coat rack as carefully as if it had been a fine fur. "Don't worry," he said, "it'll dry in no time."
With my outer layer of clothing gone, I became acutely aware that I wasn't exactly dressed to impress in my pair of wellworn yoga pants and decidedly wrinkled, decade-old t-shirt from art camp. I'd grabbed the first clean clothes I could find after my call to Simone had taken longer than expected. She had told me all about the great caseworker she'd found to help Mack, and we'd discussed Elana ... My hands flew up to check on the state of my hair. My French braid was crooked and I could feel wavy bits of my dark brown hair sticking out. Just perfect.
But Ben had shifted his facial expression into neutral. If he had any reaction to my appearance, he wasn't showing it. "This way," he said, turning on his heel. I followed him down the hallway, unable to shake the impression that I was being taken to the principal's office.
He led me into a small, slightly dusty office with arched ceilings and high windows, the bottom two-thirds of which were covered with plywood. What light there was outside entered near the ceiling, bathing the room in a soft fog. The walls were lined floor-to-ceiling with shelves overflowing with books. The antique desk was heavily burdened with papers, creating an atmosphere of academic disorganization.
Behind the desk sat a woman I presumed to be Dr. MacGregor. She was a petite white woman in her sixties, but wiry-looking. Her eyes were inquisitive as she peered at me over the rims of her red-framed glasses. She wore a fitted Jackie Ostyle suit and had gathered her silver hair in a bun at the nape of her neck.
"Cathryn Duncan, I presume." Dr. MacGregor gave me a once-over that made me feel as though I was being evaluated for admission to school. "You're late."
Good God, I thought, these two don't miss a thing. "I'm sorry. And please, it's Cate."
"Have a seat, Cate. I'm Dr. MacGregor."
Her voice was crisp with the echo of an accent — Scottish or English maybe, I couldn't be sure. As I sat down across from her, Ben leaned back against a bookshelf. Now they were both scrutinizing me. I felt like an ant under a magnifying glass.
Fortunately, my auto-manners kicked in. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Dr. MacGregor. And Ben." I wondered if he was going to stick around for my appointment.
Dr. MacGregor seemed to read my mind. "Benjamin manages our clinic and its various programs," she explained. "I trust you don't mind if he sits in on this meeting."
I did mind, but it was clear that she wasn't really asking my permission. I just bit my lip and nodded.
"Let's get right to it," Dr. MacGregor began. "Dr. Nelson tells me you're a very promising therapist with special talents, but that he's been worried about you for some time. He also said you haven't been back to work since your mother's death. Is this correct?"
"Yes, that's right," I said, although I hadn't known that Dr. Nelson had been worried about me "for some time." It had only been a couple of days since he'd not so gently suggested that I get professional help. I tugged on the collar of my T-shirt to create more breathing room.
"I see." She cocked her head to one side. "Why don't you start by telling us what's been going on with you?"
What had been going on with me? That left it a bit wide open. I had no idea where to begin. Should I start with the fact that I desperately wanted to get back to work, but it felt as though a huge, leaden hand was pressing me into my house, the only place where I truly felt safe? Since my mother's funeral, I'd become a virtual shut-in. Sid had dropped in to pay his respects, but then he'd left town on an extended business trip. If Simone hadn't come over for lunch once or twice a week, I would have turned into a complete hermit.
Ben leaned down and whispered something in Dr. MacGregor's ear. She nodded. "Perhaps we should start with the loss of your mother — three months ago, was it?"
"Ten weeks." I hated the phrase "loss of your mother." It made it sound like I had misplaced her out of carelessness. Of course, that might not have been so far from the truth. An emotion tried to work its way into my throat, but I swallowed it down.
"I'm sorry," Dr. MacGregor said, her tone softer. "Would you like to talk about it?"
The lump in my throat returned. I'd have to change the subject or risk losing control. "No, not really. I'm dealing with it. I'm not here for that."
"All right, what are you here for, then?"
"Well ..." My face began to burn again. I was a therapist, for God's sake. I was supposed to treat these kinds of problems, not have them. "The reason I can't go to work or do anything else, really, is that lately I'm afraid to be around people. Not people I'm close to, I mean. I'm fine around them for some reason. But with other people, including clients ... I'm afraid this is going to sound weird."
"Go ahead." She waved her hand.
Apparently "weird" was fine with her. "It just feels like I've become hyper-sensitized to people's emotions, almost like I'm allergic to them. Whenever I'm around someone who is in emotional distress, I can feel it slamming into me like a wave. It throws me completely off-balance. I don't leave the house most of the time because of it."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "All The Broken Places"
Copyright © 2016 Anise Eden.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion 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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