There's a magic in lifeBut Ria Sterling has yet to embrace it, because she considers her ability to predict death from merely touching a photograph a curse. She yearns to use her sight to save just one life. On the other hand, tough-talking detective Carrick Jones and his partner profess not to care about saving anyone. But they do need Ria's help in solving a case. Instead, she predicts that Carrick's partner will die. Soon. And when her vision proves true, Ria goes from psychic to prime suspect.The one thing she can't predict is her instant attraction to Carrick, a man who doesn't believe in the paranormalonly what his five senses tell him. But when danger threatens, Ria finally sees how to use her gift in a unique way. And to show Carrick the inexplicable power of a love where seeing really is believing.
About the Author
Even though Kate is an Aries (the fire sign), she thinks of herself as a water baby. She can't resist the ocean; it sings to her. Every day, she spends at least a few minutes watching the water, and on goodor very baddays, you can find her walking the seawall for hours, rain or shine.
Kate Austin has worked as a legal assistant, a commercial fisher, a brewery manager, a teacher, a technical writer and a herring popper, while managing to read an average of a book a day. Go ahead, ask her anything. If she doesn't know the answer, she's more than happy to make it up because she's been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember. She's got loads of practice at making things up.
Kate blames her mother and her two grandmothers for her reading and writing obsessionall of them were avid readers and they passed the books and the obsession on to her. And she reads everything, from fantasy to mysteries to literary fiction to romance. She's addicted to books, and buying them is her biggest expense.
Kate Austin writes the same waypassion combined with a big dose of addiction. It's part of her day, every day. She loves writing, the process and the product, and is astonished and delighted that twenty years on, she's finally getting paid for it.
Read an Excerpt
"He's going to die."
I see his death in the photograph because that's what I do-it's my gift and like many gifts from the gods, it isn't a good one. I hate it. Especially on days such as today when some crying mother or wife or lover hands me a photograph and waits for me to tell her that she's right to be scared to death.
Because I can see it coming. Almost never in time to change it, but that doesn't stop them from showing up on my doorstep, eyes bright with unshed tears.
"I can't cry," they say. "Not until I know for sure."
"Please," they say. "Tell me what you see."
My gift from the gods is to see death.
James Foster. It's his death I see today and I know by the time his mother and sister get home their phone will be ringing and some jaded cop from a jurisdiction two or three time zones away will be breaking the news.
I don't know how he'll die, I only know he will. Soon. Probably before I finish turning off my computer and turning on the alarm system.
Some gift. Foresight, precognition, prescience. Doesn't matter what you call it, not really. It all boils down to the same thing.
People come to me as a last resort, asking a question to which they don't want the answer. When I was much younger, I thought I might figure out a way to avoid their pain. Lying, I thought, or silence. But they saw it in my face and over the years I discovered that the words seemed to make it easier on them. As my reputation grew, the words themselves took on power.
"He's going to die."
I never had to add that it would be soon. Anyone who knew how to find me knew that before they rang the doorbell.
I have tried, over and over, to strengthen my gift, to make it more useful, to see further into the future.
"It's a gift. You can't change it like a shirt that doesn't fit," my mother says, but she doesn't have to live with it.
I want to save someone, anyone. I want to be in time. But I have learned to stop wishing for the impossible. In the darkest hours of the night, I still want to stop the truck bearing down on them or the knife raised in anger.
But in thirty years and hundreds of photos, I have saved only two people. Or at least I choose to think I have. But perhaps my vision was wrong, skewed by the alignment of the stars or a head cold. Maybe that particular couple was not meant to die. Even including that couple in my save percentage only brings it up to less than one-tenth of one percent. Not enough to be statistically significant....
I was five and my mother had left a magazine on the kitchen table.
I looked at the man on the cover and I started to cry. My mother said later that I was inconsolable, that I wept right through the night. By the next morning, I couldn't see out my swollen eyes or breathe through my aching nose. I stopped crying when the noon news came on the radio.
"Elvis Presley has died," the announcer said.
"Last night, at his home in Memphis, the King passed away."
My tears stopped as my mother began to cry. After the death of the King, I lived a normal life- not even realizing what was missing in our house. Photographs. And the lack of them wasn't about me. None of us had figured it out then; my crying was changing the light. His streaks of gold and red in the summer. I knew he was handsome because that's what my Aunt Lucy told me.
"You'll never be pretty, girl, but you'll be handsome. Boys won't get it, but men will. So don't fret, you'll come into your own just when all those Barbie dolls are losing it. You'll be fine."
I believed her.
I don't know how people find out about me. They never tell, and I don't ask. I keep a very low profile, no advertising (what would I say? Deaths predicted, loved ones lost?), no interviews, no money. I do it because I have to.
It wasn't always this way. For many years, the gift lurked only in nightmares. I was thirteen before it happened again and this time it scared the hell out of all of us.
We were in a pizza parlour-our regular Friday night treat. It was Gran's turn to pick the songs on the jukebox so she wandered over and stood there, hands on her hips, staring at the numbers. We knew she couldn't see them and that eventually she'd press buttons at random. The results could be anything from "What's Love Got to Do With It?" to "Careless Whispers." That night it was "Money for Nothing."
Aunt Lucy and Mom swapped stories while I sat, head in hands, dreaming about the new boy in my math class. The woman at the next table-red hair, bright yellow scarf wrapped around it-pulled a magazine from her bag. I wasn't really looking at her or the magazine, but one glance was enough. The man on the front cover vanished in a storm of tears.
"Ria, honey, what's wrong?"
Sobs caught in my throat. I couldn't speak.
"Ria, come on, sweetie, tell us what's wrong." No words, only sobs. They gathered me up and took me home and I cried all night. Inconsolable yet again, and no one knew why. But this time we figured out that the crying was triggered by the photo on the magazine, and this time we figured out why it stopped.
"Rock Hudson died," Gran said in a voice shaking with unshed tears. "He died of that plague thing."
The moment his name left her lips, the tears stopped. I hiccupped for a few minutes.
"Rock Hudson? I saw his picture last night... It made me cry."
From then on i avoided photos. The TV didn't do it, nor movies, and I was safe at school. History books were full of already-dead people. We didn't get a newspaper or magazines and I never looked at catalogues.
A year passed and I began to feel safe. But of course I wasn't.
I caught a glimpse of a photograph for the year-book, not close enough to identify the people in it, but enough for my gift to kick in. I knew these kids, had seen them in the hallways, had classes with one girl's younger sister.
I went to bed and stayed there for a month. My mother had no difficulty convincing the doctor I was sick-after crying non-stop for a week I looked like a victim of a disaster. Flood. Fire. Famine. I'd fit in anywhere there were thousands lying injured or dead.
This time there was no relief. The hours of reporting on TV and radio didn't stop the tears, nor did my mother's chicken soup. I stood in the back of several different churches for the services where ministers spoke of God's will and I thought of the drunk drivers-one in their car, one in another- who'd killed them. That didn't help either.
I lost weight so fast that pretty soon I couldn't get out of bed. I'd try to eat but even soup choked me. The doctor wanted me fed intravenously but my mother refused to let me stay in the hospital.
Aunt Lucy, the only one who didn't fall apart every time she saw me, learned to administer the IV and stayed home while my mother and Gran worked.
No one knew what to do-not our family doctor, who'd known me since birth, not the psychiatrists or the child welfare workers. All they could say was, "She's a teenager, you have to expect mood swings."
I laugh at that now, but at the time it added a healthy dose of rage to my grief. It didn't stop the tears but I did get a little stronger. My weight loss slowed and I began to get a little sleep.
And then the miracle occurred.
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