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So excited to be the featured author of this E-Zine by Matthew LeDrew! He has included an interview and a review of the first book in my Shelby Nichols Series, CARROTS! There are also some great reviews for other books as well. Check it out! It’s FREE here on Smashwords!  

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TEASER for HIDDEN DECEPTION: Copyright © 2016 by Colleen Helme

Today began like any other Monday.

The routine of getting my kids off to school was just the same as it had always been, and I found it a little disconcerting to think that I’d just had the adventure of my life in Paris, and now it seemed like I’d never been gone.

We’d gotten home on Friday, so with the weekend to get over my jet-lag, there was no excuse for not going back to my every-day life. It would have been depressing except for the fact that I had something to look forward to. Just thinking about it sent a thrill of excitement through me.

My husband, Chris, had just made partner at his law firm. With that came a few other benefits, one of which was a big raise in pay. On the plane ride home from Paris, Chris had mentioned this to me, along with the news that the house I’d always admired from afar was for sale. Now, there was a real possibility we could afford it.

I’d had my eye on that house ever since we’d moved into the area. It had a certain enchantment about it that fueled my imagi-nation. It was situated on a beautiful, stately, tree-lined street, and was built in the Old Victorian style. It even had a round turret on one side that spanned two floors, and another in the back. A wrap-around porch had recently been added, making it even more inviting.

It wasn’t a huge house, but big enough for our family, and I’d always thought it would be cool to live there. Even better, it was in our neighborhood and school district. So if we did buy it, our kids could stay in their schools and keep their friends.

The only drawback I could see? People moved in and out a lot, so it might need some fixing up, especially the yard. But that also meant the price would be lower, so it could all work out in the end. Chris had called a realtor on Saturday, and I had an appointment to meet him there this afternoon.

This fit into my plans perfectly, since I needed to visit Thrasher Development this morning and have a talk with Uncle Joey. He was the local mob-boss and my employer. And he wasn’t even my real uncle. But since he knew my secret, I was more or less coerced into working for him.

Recently, he’d sent his hit-man, Ramos, to look after me when I’d accompanied a federal agent to Paris on a routine trip. It had turned out to be a heck of a lot more than I’d bargained for. In fact, without Ramos’ help and protection, I’d be dead. The last time I’d talked with Uncle Joey, he wasn’t too happy with me. And since he’d basically saved my life by sending Ramos… again, I owed him big-time, probably for as long as I lived. Or at least until my mind-reading abilities stopped. So far, that hadn’t happened. And deep inside, I hoped it never would.

It had been a whole year since my life changed during a bank robbery at the grocery store while I was shopping for carrots. A bullet wound to my head had changed something in my brain, and now I could hear people’s thoughts. I could hardly believe how fast the time had gone since then.

In fact, reading minds had become so much a part of my identity that I didn’t think I could ever go back to the person I was before. So, even though it might get me out of helping a mob-boss, and keep me out of trouble, and even keep me from getting killed, I’d hate to lose it. How crazy was that?

On the other hand, Uncle Joey was getting older. He had to be over sixty-five. That meant he should retire at some point in the next few years. Maybe by then, he’d let me off the hook. Ha! Who was I kidding? Uncle Joey didn’t seem like the retiring type. He liked power way too much. And barring death, either his or mine, I didn’t think I’d ever be out from under his thumb.

It also worried me a little that the circle of people who actually knew my secret had just widened to include French Inspector Gabriel Dumont. But since I’d helped save a chunk of Paris, he’d readily agreed to keep it to himself.

So, including Uncle Joey, Ramos, my husband, Chris, and Detective Harris, whom I called Dimples, that still added up to only five people, so maybe it wasn’t so bad. Oh wait, there was one more… Kate.

How could I forget her? She was the main reason I got involved with Uncle Joey in the first place. As a new lawyer at Chris’ law firm, she’d set her sights on Chris, even though she knew he was happily married to me. In order to stop her, I’d threatened to expose her ties to the local mob-boss, Joe ‘The Knife’ Manetto, whom she called Uncle Joey.

That’s when it all went wrong, and I had to tell Uncle Joey my secret in order to stay alive. Kate had since been banished to run Uncle Joey’s operations in Seattle, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t pop back up in my life at any time.

Just thinking about her brought a sick feeling to my stomach, but now that she was involved with Alec Passini and his shipping company, I hoped that kept her occupied. Still, I wouldn’t put it past her to ask for my help if she needed it. So, of all the people who knew my secret, Kate was the one I worried about the most. Good thing I had Uncle Joey on my side. Everyone else thought I had ‘premonitions,’ and I needed to make sure it stayed that way.

Now that I was back in the real world, it hit me that I had a lot to worry about, so to alleviate those worries, I decided to change my focus to the possibility of purchasing my dream home. That helped revive me and, with anticipation, I jumped into the shower to get ready for my day.

An hour later, I pulled into the parking garage of Thrasher Development and gathered the special gifts I’d purchased in Paris for Uncle Joey, his secretary and wife, Jackie, and Ramos. I was excited about the gifts I’d bought for Uncle Joey and Jackie, but more than a little nervous about the one I’d bought for Ramos. I mean, what could I possibly give to the man who’d rescued me from a bunch of crazy terrorists?

Not only that, but he’d stuck by my side when he could have easily been blown up. The little Eiffel Tower I’d gotten him seemed kind of silly, but it was also personal. The first time I’d seen it sparkle was the night he’d saved my life and took me there to help settle me down. Now, when I thought of the Eiffel Tower, it was always of that moment standing there with him.

It was bad of me in so many ways, especially considering the kiss. Of course it wasn’t a personal kiss since Gabriel had kissed me too. It was kind of a French thing to celebrate not getting blown up; Joie de Vivre, and all that.

Still, I had to admit that I’d liked it, and that I didn’t feel too guilty about it. That probably made me even more of a bad person, but it’s not like I’d ever do it again. I loved my husband more than I could say, and we had two great kids together. But Ramos was special to me too, and always would be. So giving him the Eiffel Tower was an okay thing to do, right? Still, maybe I should forget about it and just give him the extra chocolates instead. Then I wouldn’t have to worry that I’d crossed some sort of line.

“Babe.”

Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t hear him approach and nearly jumped out of my skin. “Wha… what are you doing here?” I clutched the bag of goodies to my chest with a guilty flush.

***End of Teaser***

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Devious Minds

A Shelby Nichols Adventure
Volume 8
by Colleen Helme


Blurb:

It’s been almost a year since a near-fatal gunshot wound left Shelby Nichols with the ability to read minds. In that time she’s faced one problem after another. She’s been shot at, framed for murder, and targeted by a serial killer, just to name a few. Now she’s trying to help her lawyer husband win a murder trial that will enable him to become a partner in his law firm. Sounds easy, right? But nothing ever goes as planned when it comes to Shelby Nichols.

When special agent, Blake Beauchaine, shows up to collect a debt from Shelby, things get even more complicated, and Shelby is soon on her way to Paris. A routine meeting with a rogue agent reveals a sinister plot, putting Shelby into the cross-hairs of a known terrorist. Even worse, she doesn’t speak French, so it seems her mind-reading abilities won’t help her this time.

Things go from bad to downright dangerous for Shelby, especially since her usual guardians, Uncle Joey, and his hit-man, Ramos, are back in the states. Lost and on her own in the streets of Paris, can Shelby escape the cold-blooded killer in time to stop his devious plans, or will this be the end of the line for Shelby Nichols?

Available for purchase on Amazon



Excerpt

The first day of spring arrived, filling me with an overwhelming sense of freedom. Even though the temperature wasn’t real warm, it meant that winter was officially over. Even better, a ride on the motorcycle behind Ramos was now a possibility.

I’d missed that and I’d missed him. He’d been gone for two weeks helping Uncle Joey take care of some out-of-town business. I wasn’t exactly sure what that entailed and… believe me, I didn’t want to know. Jackie, Uncle Joey’s secretary and wife, told me they were both due back in the next few days, and deep down where I didn’t want to admit it, I could hardly wait to see them again.

That probably made me a bad person, since I worked for Uncle Joey, and he was a mob-boss. Ramos was his hit-man and he’d saved my life a few times. I had to admit, it was a far cry from the first time I’d met Ramos almost a year ago, when he was thinking he might have to kill me for the big boss.

I’d had to tell Uncle Joey my secret that I could read minds to stop that from happening. Since then, my skills had come in handy for Uncle Joey, and gotten me into a lot of trouble. But he’d always been there to bail me out, both literally and figuratively.

So now I helped Uncle Joey, not because I was forced into it, but because I wanted to. That was just twisted on so many levels, and he wasn’t even my real uncle. But I couldn’t seem to stop, so I did my best to keep on the right side of things.

Ramos was another part of that story. He was one hot and swoon-worthy man any woman would fall for. I had to keep reminding myself that I was happily married every time I laid eyes on him. He was the quintessential bad boy and, like a decadent chocolate dessert with whipped cream and a cherry on top, something that I might want in the worst way, but would also be very bad for me.

If I wasn’t married with kids… well, who knew what could happen, but I loved my husband and children, and Ramos respected that. Even so, there were still times when my heart seemed to have a mind of its own around him, and I’d have to rein it in or lose control, which was not an option.

Only a handful of people knew I could read minds, and I liked it that way. I told everyone else I had premonitions, and that mostly worked. I also had my own consulting agency, which included helping the police along with my own clients. Because of that, I managed to get into even more trouble, and that wasn’t counting the mob-boss part.

Like now.

My husband, Chris, had asked for my help on a hard case. He was an associate partner in the prestigious law firm of Cohen, Larsen and Pratt. This case was the single most important event of Chris’ career, mostly because the partners were looking to replace the Cohen part of the firm, and changing it to Larsen, Pratt and… Nichols.

This was a huge deal, and I wondered if the fact that Chris handled all of Uncle Joey’s accounts had something to do with it. Probably, but I wasn’t touching that with a ten foot pole. This put a lot of pressure on me. Not as much as Chris, but still… I didn’t want to screw it up for him.

That brought me to my problem. I wasn’t sure I wanted to help Chris, mostly because he was defending a woman accused of killing her husband, and ten million dollars from the life insurance policy was in the balance. To complicate matters even more, the husband’s company was one of Chris’ biggest clients.

If they won, Chris’ firm would get a nice, fat share, and also keep the company as a client. But from everything he’d told me, she sounded guilty as sin. If I listened to her thoughts, I’d know for sure, and that would just ruin everything. It made me realize that sometimes my ‘gift’ wasn’t so great. Not when I had to use it to get someone off who actually deserved some jail time.

But… wasn’t that what I did for Uncle Joey? So how was this any worse?

In fact, I’d recently made a deal with a government agent to keep Uncle Joey out of prison. In exchange for my help on one of his cases, he’d agreed to make any charges against Uncle Joey disappear. When Uncle Joey found out what I’d done, he wasn’t too happy with me. Especially since he thought I’d told Blake Beauchaine I could read minds.

Once he knew I hadn’t, and Blake just wanted me for what he thought were my mad interrogation skills, he’d calmed down. Still, Uncle Joey told me he could have handled anything Blake might have thrown at him without my deal. To be honest, it kind of hurt my feelings. Then he made me promise to involve him if Blake ever came to collect.

So now on top of everything else, I had Blake’s phone call to look forward to, and Uncle Joey to involve after that. It was enough to give me an ulcer.

“Shelby? We’re ready for you,” Chris said, poking his head out of the conference room.



The Shelby Nichols Adventure Series



Series Trailer




About The Author

As the author of the Shelby Nichols Adventure Series, Colleen is often asked if Shelby Nichols is her alter-ego. “Definitely,” she says. “Shelby is the epitome of everything I wish I dared to be.” Known for her laugh since she was a kid, Colleen has always tried to find the humor in every situation and continues to enjoy writing about Shelby’s adventures. “I love getting Shelby into trouble… I just don’t always know how to get her out of it!” Colleen lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family. Besides writing, she loves a good book, biking, hiking, and playing board and card games with family and friends. She loves to connect with readers and admits that fans of the series keep her writing.


You can find Colleen at:

                   

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Presented By:

Devious Minds Release Day Blitz

Devious Minds

A Shelby Nichols Adventure
Volume 8
by Colleen Helme


Blurb:

It’s been almost a year since a near-fatal gunshot wound left Shelby Nichols with the ability to read minds. In that time she’s faced one problem after another. She’s been shot at, framed for murder, and targeted by a serial killer, just to name a few. Now she’s trying to help her lawyer husband win a murder trial that will enable him to become a partner in his law firm. Sounds easy, right? But nothing ever goes as planned when it comes to Shelby Nichols.

When special agent, Blake Beauchaine, shows up to collect a debt from Shelby, things get even more complicated, and Shelby is soon on her way to Paris. A routine meeting with a rogue agent reveals a sinister plot, putting Shelby into the cross-hairs of a known terrorist. Even worse, she doesn’t speak French, so it seems her mind-reading abilities won’t help her this time.

Things go from bad to downright dangerous for Shelby, especially since her usual guardians, Uncle Joey, and his hit-man, Ramos, are back in the states. Lost and on her own in the streets of Paris, can Shelby escape the cold-blooded killer in time to stop his devious plans, or will this be the end of the line for Shelby Nichols?

Available for purchase on Amazon



Excerpt

The first day of spring arrived, filling me with an overwhelming sense of freedom. Even though the temperature wasn’t real warm, it meant that winter was officially over. Even better, a ride on the motorcycle behind Ramos was now a possibility.

I’d missed that and I’d missed him. He’d been gone for two weeks helping Uncle Joey take care of some out-of-town business. I wasn’t exactly sure what that entailed and… believe me, I didn’t want to know. Jackie, Uncle Joey’s secretary and wife, told me they were both due back in the next few days, and deep down where I didn’t want to admit it, I could hardly wait to see them again.

That probably made me a bad person, since I worked for Uncle Joey, and he was a mob-boss. Ramos was his hit-man and he’d saved my life a few times. I had to admit, it was a far cry from the first time I’d met Ramos almost a year ago, when he was thinking he might have to kill me for the big boss.

I’d had to tell Uncle Joey my secret that I could read minds to stop that from happening. Since then, my skills had come in handy for Uncle Joey, and gotten me into a lot of trouble. But he’d always been there to bail me out, both literally and figuratively.

So now I helped Uncle Joey, not because I was forced into it, but because I wanted to. That was just twisted on so many levels, and he wasn’t even my real uncle. But I couldn’t seem to stop, so I did my best to keep on the right side of things.

Ramos was another part of that story. He was one hot and swoon-worthy man any woman would fall for. I had to keep reminding myself that I was happily married every time I laid eyes on him. He was the quintessential bad boy and, like a decadent chocolate dessert with whipped cream and a cherry on top, something that I might want in the worst way, but would also be very bad for me.

If I wasn’t married with kids… well, who knew what could happen, but I loved my husband and children, and Ramos respected that. Even so, there were still times when my heart seemed to have a mind of its own around him, and I’d have to rein it in or lose control, which was not an option.

Only a handful of people knew I could read minds, and I liked it that way. I told everyone else I had premonitions, and that mostly worked. I also had my own consulting agency, which included helping the police along with my own clients. Because of that, I managed to get into even more trouble, and that wasn’t counting the mob-boss part.

Like now.

My husband, Chris, had asked for my help on a hard case. He was an associate partner in the prestigious law firm of Cohen, Larsen and Pratt. This case was the single most important event of Chris’ career, mostly because the partners were looking to replace the Cohen part of the firm, and changing it to Larsen, Pratt and… Nichols.

This was a huge deal, and I wondered if the fact that Chris handled all of Uncle Joey’s accounts had something to do with it. Probably, but I wasn’t touching that with a ten foot pole. This put a lot of pressure on me. Not as much as Chris, but still… I didn’t want to screw it up for him.

That brought me to my problem. I wasn’t sure I wanted to help Chris, mostly because he was defending a woman accused of killing her husband, and ten million dollars from the life insurance policy was in the balance. To complicate matters even more, the husband’s company was one of Chris’ biggest clients.

If they won, Chris’ firm would get a nice, fat share, and also keep the company as a client. But from everything he’d told me, she sounded guilty as sin. If I listened to her thoughts, I’d know for sure, and that would just ruin everything. It made me realize that sometimes my ‘gift’ wasn’t so great. Not when I had to use it to get someone off who actually deserved some jail time.

But… wasn’t that what I did for Uncle Joey? So how was this any worse?

In fact, I’d recently made a deal with a government agent to keep Uncle Joey out of prison. In exchange for my help on one of his cases, he’d agreed to make any charges against Uncle Joey disappear. When Uncle Joey found out what I’d done, he wasn’t too happy with me. Especially since he thought I’d told Blake Beauchaine I could read minds.

Once he knew I hadn’t, and Blake just wanted me for what he thought were my mad interrogation skills, he’d calmed down. Still, Uncle Joey told me he could have handled anything Blake might have thrown at him without my deal. To be honest, it kind of hurt my feelings. Then he made me promise to involve him if Blake ever came to collect.

So now on top of everything else, I had Blake’s phone call to look forward to, and Uncle Joey to involve after that. It was enough to give me an ulcer.

“Shelby? We’re ready for you,” Chris said, poking his head out of the conference room.



The Shelby Nichols Adventure Series



Series Trailer




About The Author

As the author of the Shelby Nichols Adventure Series, Colleen is often asked if Shelby Nichols is her alter-ego. “Definitely,” she says. “Shelby is the epitome of everything I wish I dared to be.” Known for her laugh since she was a kid, Colleen has always tried to find the humor in every situation and continues to enjoy writing about Shelby’s adventures. “I love getting Shelby into trouble… I just don’t always know how to get her out of it!” Colleen lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family. Besides writing, she loves a good book, biking, hiking, and playing board and card games with family and friends. She loves to connect with readers and admits that fans of the series keep her writing.


You can find Colleen at:

                   

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Presented By:

Teaser for DEVIOUS MINDS

DEVIOUS MINDS by Colleen Helme

The first day of spring arrived, filling me with an overwhelming sense of freedom. Even though the temperature wasn’t real warm, it meant that winter was officially over. Even better, a ride on the motorcycle behind Ramos was now a possibility.

I’d missed that and I’d missed him. He’d been gone for two weeks helping Uncle Joey take care of some out-of-town business. I wasn’t exactly sure what that entailed and… believe me, I didn’t want to know. Jackie, Uncle Joey’s secretary and wife, told me they were both due back in the next few days, and deep down where I didn’t want to admit it, I could hardly wait to see them again.

That probably made me a bad person, since I worked for Uncle Joey, and he was a mob-boss. Ramos was his hit-man and he’d saved my life a few times. I had to admit, it was a far cry from the first time I’d met Ramos almost a year ago, when he was thinking he might have to kill me for the big boss.

I’d had to tell Uncle Joey my secret that I could read minds to stop that from happening. Since then, my skills had come in handy for Uncle Joey, and gotten me into a lot of trouble. But he’d always been there to bail me out, both literally and figuratively.

So now I helped Uncle Joey, not because I was forced into it, but because I wanted to. That was just twisted on so many levels, and he wasn’t even my real uncle. But I couldn’t seem to stop, so I did my best to keep on the right side of things.

Ramos was another part of that story. He was one hot and swoon-worthy man any woman would fall for. I had to keep reminding myself that I was happily married every time I laid eyes on him. He was the quintessential bad boy and, like a decadent chocolate dessert with whipped cream and a cherry on top, something that I might want in the worst way, but would also be very bad for me.

If I wasn’t married with kids… well, who knew what could happen, but I loved my husband and children, and Ramos respected that. Even so, there were still times when my heart seemed to have a mind of its own around him, and I’d have to rein it in or lose control, which was not an option.

Only a handful of people knew I could read minds, and I liked it that way. I told everyone else I had premonitions, and that mostly worked. I also had my own consulting agency, which included helping the police along with my own clients. Because of that, I managed to get into even more trouble, and that wasn’t counting the mob-boss part.

Like now.

My husband, Chris, had asked for my help on a hard case. He was an associate partner in the prestigious law firm of Cohen, Larsen and Pratt. This case was the single most important event of Chris’ career, mostly because the partners were looking to replace the Cohen part of the firm, and changing it to Larsen, Pratt and… Nichols.

This was a huge deal, and I wondered if the fact that Chris handled all of Uncle Joey’s accounts had something to do with it. Probably, but I wasn’t touching that with a ten foot pole. This put a lot of pressure on me. Not as much as Chris, but still… I didn’t want to screw it up for him.

That brought me to my problem. I wasn’t sure I wanted to help Chris, mostly because he was defending a woman accused of killing her husband, and ten million dollars from the life insurance policy was in the balance. To complicate matters even more, the husband’s company was one of Chris’ biggest clients.

If they won, Chris’ firm would get a nice, fat share, and also keep the company as a client. But from everything he’d told me, she sounded guilty as sin. If I listened to her thoughts, I’d know for sure, and that would just ruin everything. It made me realize that sometimes my ‘gift’ wasn’t so great. Not when I had to use it to get someone off who actually deserved some jail time.

But… wasn’t that what I did for Uncle Joey? So how was this any worse?

In fact, I’d recently made a deal with a government agent to keep Uncle Joey out of prison. In exchange for my help on one of his cases, he’d agreed to make any charges against Uncle Joey disappear. When Uncle Joey found out what I’d done, he wasn’t too happy with me. Especially since he thought I’d told Blake Beauchaine I could read minds.

Once he knew I hadn’t, and Blake just wanted me for what he thought were my mad interrogation skills, he’d calmed down. Still, Uncle Joey told me he could have handled anything Blake might have thrown at him without my deal. To be honest, it kind of hurt my feelings. Then he made me promise to involve him if Blake ever came to collect.

So now on top of everything else, I had Blake’s phone call to look forward to, and Uncle Joey to involve after that. It was enough to give me an ulcer.

“Shelby? We’re ready for you,” Chris said, poking his head out of the conference room.

END OF TEASER.

Teaser for CROSSING DANGER!!

CROSSING DANGER by Colleen Helme

I stood inside the small women’s locker room dressed in white drawstring pants that ended several inches above my ankles, and a robe-like top that crisscrossed to close in front. Luckily, I wore a black tank top underneath, since there wasn’t anything besides a white belt to hold it together.

I tied the belt in a knot and let out a breath, hoping I’d done it right. The white training uniform was a bit stiff, and worse, felt like a poufy marshmallow around me. I let out a disgusted huff, knowing that I looked like the womanly version of the Pillsbury dough-boy.

Billie Jo waited just outside the door, but it was hard to step out there dressed like this. Did I really need to do this? Especially since I’d know what everyone was thinking about me? Reading minds often came in handy, but not in situations like this.

Of course, the fact that a serial killer had recently taken me hostage and nearly killed me certainly helped. It was time to learn some self-defense, so nothing like that could ever happen to me again.

So what if I looked silly, and that with my ‘superpower’ of reading minds I’d know what everyone thought of me. I could take it. Besides, I had to start somewhere, right?

I took a calming breath and opened the door.

Billie smiled encouragingly before glancing down at the way I’d tied my belt. Her brows drew sharply together, and she was thinking it looked like a disaster. No way did she want me out on the mat looking like that. “Here…let me help you with that. Tie it this way…” She demonstrated how to do it, then pulled it tight. “Okay. Now you’re good to go.”

“Um…thanks,” I said.

She didn’t miss the embarrassed flush creeping up my neck and was thinking I should just suck it up and be grateful she was there to keep me from looking like a dork. With an indulgent smile that contradicted her thoughts, she turned and led the way to the mat.

Swallowing my pride, I followed behind, noting that her black skirt-like pants with the waist-high belt looked ten times better than my outfit. Compared to her, I looked like I was still in my underwear and had forgotten to put my pants on.

A vision of getting out there and everyone laughing at me crossed my mind but, given how Billie made sure my belt was right, I didn’t think she’d let me embarrass her like that. Still, once we got to the mat, I let out a relieved breath to find I wasn’t the only one wearing white training pants.

Billie did a quick bow before stepping onto the mat, so I bowed as well. I followed her to stand in a line before the teacher, or Sensei, as everyone called him. He wore the same black pants as Billie but, on him, they seemed more dignified and masterful. He was also a big, tall and brawny kind of guy. With his long, gray-black hair pulled back into a ponytail, he intimidated the crap out of me.

He caught my gaze and nodded a cool greeting while I tried to hide my jittering nerves. After he introduced me to the rest of the class, we began with a few stretches and warm-ups. Then he taught us that the most important part of Aikido was learning how to fall safely and then roll around to get back up.

Besides Billie, there was only one other woman in the class. Her name was Melissa, and she was a second-degree black belt like Billie. With the two of them paying special attention to me, I began to relax and actually started to enjoy myself. Even the rolling-around part didn’t seem so bad. They showed me some basic techniques, and my confidence grew.

Near the end of class, Sensei asked if I had any questions, so I blurted out the one thing I’d been thinking about all night. “Yeah. I was just wondering…if someone was to get me in a choke hold with his elbow around my neck and start dragging me backwards, would I be able to get away?”

His gaze caught mine, and his eyes narrowed. He was thinking that, from the fear in my eyes and the tone of my voice, it probably wasn’t a rhetorical question. No. I had the look of someone who’d been there, and a spike of anger rushed over him. He’d seen it more times than he liked, and it always made him furious.

“Yes you can. I’ll show you how.” He turned his gaze to Melissa and asked her to help him demonstrate the technique. Since she was about my size, and he was huge, I was interested to see how she could possibly take him on and come out on top.

He stood behind her and clamped his elbow around her neck beneath her chin. “The first thing you do is tuck your chin down so they can’t choke you.” She did this, and Sensei proceeded to explain how she needed to pull down on his elbow and step back, then grab his wrist and forcefully push outward with his elbow still bent. “At this point, you will break his arm.”

Whoa! That sounded pretty awesome, and I couldn’t help smiling with wicked delight. He demonstrated the technique a few more times, adding different variations to the attack, and then asked me to practice with him. Him! The biggest guy in the class!

I nervously licked my lips and, as he put his arm around my neck, that feeling of helplessness washed over me. But he patiently talked me through the moves and, after breaking his hold a few times, confidence replaced my fear. I even forced him to the mat once. Who would have thought? By the end of class, I was pumped. This was the right place for me, and I could hardly wait to come back and learn more.

As I changed my clothes, I envisioned how fun it would be to take Ramos down. Since I had an appointment with Uncle Joey the next day, I could even try it then. With that happy thought, the fact that I had to see Uncle Joey didn’t seem so bad.

He was the crime boss who knew my secret that I could read minds, and Ramos was his hit man and bodyguard. We’d shared a few life-and-death situations together over the last several months, and now we had a complicated relationship… complicated because, as much as I didn’t like the whole mob-boss thing, I still liked Uncle Joey.

Ramos also held a special place in my heart, especially after what happened a few weeks ago. My breath hitched just thinking about how he’d saved me from being burned alive. In fact, he’d risked his own life to save mine, nearly dying in the process. How could I ever turn my back on either of them?

In my head, I knew it was wrong to work for a mob-boss and his hit man but, so far, that didn’t stop me from going to his office every time he called. At this point, helping him out was like second nature to me, and I didn’t even question it. Only… now it looked like I was part of his organization, and if he went down, I’d probably go down with him.

It kind of made my chest hurt, but thoughts of jail time for being in his employment still didn’t stop me. Nope. Not even a little. Somehow, Uncle Joey had gained my loyalty and trust. It was somewhat disconcerting to realize that, no matter how wrong it was, I still couldn’t bring myself to stop helping him. Whoa, was I ever in too deep, or what?

The door opened a crack, and Billie peeked in. “Hey Shelby, are you dressed?”

“Um…yeah,” I said, grateful for the interruption. “Just putting on my shoes. Why?”

“I just got done with the weirdest phone call from Addie Matern. Remember her? She’s the Attorney General’s secretary?”

“Of course,” I said.

“I’ve been trying to reach her for the last several days, and she just texted me that she was leaving town. For good. I called and convinced her to meet with me before she left. I don’t know what in the blazes has gotten into her, but with your premonitions, you might be able to figure it out. Is there any way you can come?”

“Um…well…”

“Please? If she takes off now, we might never have what we need to take down Grayson Sharp.”

“Okay…sure.”