Carrots: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (5 page)

“I’m coming into the office to help Chris so that will be perfect.” Chris didn’t know what I was talking about, but decided to stay out of it. Kate’s active mind was already churning with possibilities of how she could use this to her advantage. Maybe she could arrange to be alone with Chris in his office when I showed up.

“What time are you coming in?” she asked all innocent looking.

“I’m not sure. Does it matter?”

“No, just wondering.” She looked at Chris. “Chris and I might be in court, that’s all.”

Chris was beginning to sense that there was some underlying conflict going on and quickly intervened. “It looks like it’s time to eat.”

“Oh, you’re right,” I smiled at him like he was brilliant. “We’d better find our places.” I gave Kate a frosty smile, so she’d know I was on to her.

She blinked. “I’d better find my date, but save us a place. It would be nice to sit by the two of you.” She wasn’t about to let me intimidate her. She was a Lawyer. I was Chris’ wife, but as far as she knew, that was my only accomplishment.

She left before either of us could agree to save her a place, and I felt the same disgruntlement from Chris that I was feeling. “I don’t like her,” I said before I could stop myself.

“She’s a hard worker.” Chris was being diplomatic.

“She’s a…” I was going to say slut, but caught myself. “A very attractive woman.” Now Chris was uneasy. “Is that why you didn’t tell me about her?”

“I told you all about her two weeks ago,” he said defensively. He knew he had covered his bases, and wasn’t going to be blamed if I hadn’t been paying attention.

“I remember you talking about your new associate, but I had no idea she looked like that.”

“Oh? And it would have been better if I’d told you how she looked?”

“Of course not.” I certainly didn’t want him taking her side. I could tell she bothered him in more ways than he cared to admit. So, it was going to be up to me to take care of her. “Let’s see if there’s room for all of us at Brad and Emily’s table.”

Chris readily agreed, glad to change the subject, and anxious to let the episode pass. I made sure we were settled so that Kate had to sit by me and not Chris. When she returned, she was disgruntled that I had out-maneuvered her, but rallied by having her date sit by me so she could see Chris better from her side of the round table. She also wanted him to see as much of her cleavage as possible. She kept leaning over the table, and I had to restrain myself from dumping my ice water down her neck.

Not only was Chris struggling, but Brad was having a hard time too. Emily was grateful Kate was working with Chris, and not her husband. It made me feel better toward Emily to know that she thought Kate was a slut too. Sitting next to me, Kate’s date was enjoying the view, and hoping he’d score later.

Disgusted, I withdrew my concentration. I didn’t want to hear any more thoughts. I sat back in my chair, and tried to shut it off. The buzz in my mind started to die away until it became an annoying whisper. I could still hear loud thoughts every now and then, but it was bearable. I just wasn’t sure how long I could keep it up.

By the time dinner was over, a deep pain had started at the base of my skull, and was radiating over the skin of my head to fall behind my eyes. I had to escape, even if it was only for a few minutes. I excused myself from the table, and hurried to the ladies room. When the bathroom door shut, a wall of silence hit me so hard I nearly cried with relief.

I must have been there for a good ten minutes when Emily came in looking for me. “Oh, there you are,” she said. “Chris was wondering if you were all right. He told us about the bank robbery. How’s your head?”

“I’m fine. I just needed some time alone. Crowds sometimes get on my nerves.”

“I know what you mean.” She straightened her dress, and put on some lipstick. “I don’t want to alarm you, but I think you’d better get back out there. That new associate, Kate…well she’s…” she hesitated, looking for the right words.

“Throwing herself at Chris?” I finished for her.

“To put it bluntly, yes.” It was making her sick, and she was grateful it wasn’t Brad. Of course Brad wasn’t as drop-dead gorgeous as Chris, but for once she didn’t mind in the least.

“Thanks for the warning.” I high-tailed it out of there as fast as I could. Kate’s date was at the bar, and she had moved to his chair and was leaning over the table toward Chris. When she saw me approach, she didn’t even try to straighten up.

“There she is,” she said with fake concern. “Chris told us about the robbery. Are you sure you’re all right?”

She was thinking that it was too bad I didn’t die. She could imagine ‘consoling’ Chris in his grief, and once she had her hands on him it would be easy to seduce him. All it would take was one kiss, and she’d have him begging for more. Especially once he saw her naked. She’d worked hard to get her body to look this good, and now that she’d seen me, she knew there was no competition in that department.

I felt my hands tighten into fists. I’d never hit anyone before, but I’d always figured I could do it if I was mad enough. As I got closer, alarm tightened in her eyes, and she stopped drooling over Chris. She thought I looked kind of crazy, and shrank back into her chair. I stood over her, struggling to get my anger under control.

“Look, honey,” Chris said. “It’s your favorite. Sit down and have some. It’s really good.” He pushed the crème brûlée toward me, and I let him pull me down into my seat. He could tell that I was furious, and was trying to distract me from making a scene. He didn’t understand what was wrong with me, and it was scaring him. He was also angry with Kate, but he didn’t think she knew what she was doing.

I looked into his beautiful dark eyes and felt myself relax. “Thanks honey,” I said. “It looks really good.” I gazed into his eyes for a long moment, wanting him to know I wasn’t talking about dessert. He chuckled, suddenly thinking about kissing me right then and there. I couldn’t have been more pleased, especially since Kate was watching.

“Well, I’ll see you on Monday,” she interrupted, trying to get Chris’ attention.

“Yes,” I answered. “Don’t forget our lunch.”

“Looking forward to it,” she said sweetly, and left to find her date.

Chris knew I was upset about Kate, but it bothered him that I seemed so volatile. He’d never seen me angry enough to almost hit someone. Then it struck him that maybe the stress from the robbery had changed me. Since that incident, I had been acting strange. I wasn’t my normal self, and it worried him. He wanted to ask me if I’d made the appointment with a psychologist, but didn’t want me to think he thought I was crazy.

I ate my dessert and tried to decide what to do. Should I tell him what was really wrong with me? If I did, how would that affect our relationship? If I didn’t, would he know I wasn’t being honest with him? Maybe I could say that I was having premonitions, like I told Dimples. How would Chris react to that? Toning down the truth would probably be better than telling him I could read minds. Knowing I could read his thoughts might be too much. I knew I wouldn’t like it.

By the time we got into the car and began the drive home, I still didn’t know what to do. He didn’t either, so he focused on something else. “Kate is kind of hard to take sometimes, but she really is a good lawyer.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. He took my silence as disagreement and forged on. “She’s very professional at work, as well as organized and efficient. And she doesn’t seem to mind being the ‘go to’ person for us.” Although when he thought about it, it was probably more for him than anyone else.

“Don’t kid yourself,” I couldn’t keep silent. “She’s after you and you know it.”

“I do not.” He was offended. “Don’t make something out of this that doesn’t exist.”

“Oh? And the way she’s acting doesn’t make you uncomfortable?” I had him there.

“Yes it does, but I don’t think she knows what she’s doing. She’s so open and friendly that a lot of men take it the wrong way. She even complained about it to me. I don’t think she realizes the effect she has on men.”

“Well, that’s where you’re underestimating her. She knows exactly what she’s doing.” I couldn’t keep the edge from my voice. “She knows how to use her body and looks to get a man, and the man she’s after right now, is you.”

“What?” There was no way he was going to let me blow this out of proportion. It wasn’t fair. “How can you say that? You didn’t even talk to her for more than a few minutes. Did she just come right out and tell you?”

“Don’t patronize me. This isn’t funny.”

“I know it’s not. I just think you’re jumping to conclusions without all the evidence.” This was the lawyer in him talking, and once he got going, he was hard to stop.

“Don’t you ever have a feeling or a hunch about someone?” I asked.

He considered it. “Sure you can have a hunch about something, but unless it’s based on facts, you can be wrong just as many times as you can be right.”

“What if I told you that she wished I would have died during the robbery, because it would make it easier for her to worm her way into your life, and your bed?”

“Did she tell you that?” He couldn’t imagine Kate saying any such thing.

“Not exactly.”

“Then what did she say?”

What could I say? I wanted to tell him the truth, but I didn’t think that was wise. In the silence, he began to think that I really needed to see a shrink. He was sure I was about to hit Kate tonight for no reason, and wondered if I had bottled up my anger over nearly being killed. Or maybe the trauma of the shooting, and the aftermath was making me irrational. Maybe I had a vigilante syndrome of some kind. Something was going on, and he really wanted to know what it was. 

“I don’t need a shrink, honey. I just need you to trust me about Kate.” Oops. I held my breath as he stared at me in shock. He quickly turned his attention back to the road before we hit something. “I mean…I’m sure you’re thinking that I’m acting strange, and I really did want to hit Kate, but if you knew what she was thinking, you’d understand.” Now I was making it worse. “Not that I knew what she was thinking, but I could tell by the way she’d been throwing herself at you all night. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Emily thought so too.”

Chris took a deep breath as we pulled into the driveway. He couldn’t understand any part of my rambling explanation. He thought if I could only hear myself, I’d realize how irrational I sounded. He was more convinced than ever that I needed help. Big time. He gave me a lopsided smile because that was all he could muster under the circumstances.

“That’s interesting,” he said, hoping to placate my deranged mind. He didn’t want to alarm me with an open confrontation, at least not until we got in the house. “Well, let’s go inside, shall we?”

“Why? So you can lock me up? I’m not crazy. I mean…I know I’ve been through a traumatic experience, but it hasn’t made me irrational. My mind is working just fine.” My heart plummeted, and I was on the verge of tears. I was suddenly desperate, and desperate people sometimes seem nuts, so I knew I was making a mess of things.

“Calm down, honey.” Chris took my hand and squeezed it. “I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. It’s just that ever since the shooting you’ve been acting different, and it’s scaring me. I just want you to be all right.”

“I am all right,” I practically shouted. “Well, no, I guess that’s not exactly true. There is something, but I’m afraid you won’t like it. That’s why I haven’t told you.” My stomach clenched, but I knew I had to tell him the truth. There was no other way. Not now.

“After I got shot, and they stitched me up, something changed. I don’t know how, or why, or what happened, but suddenly I could hear people’s thoughts. It was the weirdest thing, and at first, I thought I was going crazy. But it hasn’t gone away. It’s still there. I can hear what people are thinking.”

 

 

Chapter 3

Chris thought I was joking at first, then he realized I was serious and began to panic. “That’s not possible. No one can read minds. You know, that’s not even funny.” He didn’t believe me, and his panic was turning to anger. Why was I so mad at him that I’d make up some ridiculous story? What was I trying to prove?

“I’m not trying to prove anything, and I know it sounds ridiculous, but please don’t be mad at me. Do you think I asked for this? This is the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s still hard to take in, but I’m not making this up. I swear!”

“Yeah, right.” Chris couldn’t take it. His face got that blank look, and he got out of the car and slammed the door, incredulous that I would try to pull something like this on him. He didn’t want to think that I was crazy, but he couldn’t accept that I had told him the truth either. He shook his head and stalked into the house.

I just sat there with my seatbelt on and watched him go. It felt like all the life had gone out of me, and I couldn’t move. I knew I could prove it to him pretty easily, but I didn’t really want to. Part of me didn’t want to believe it either, and telling him had made me realize how crazy it sounded.

Once I convinced him, what if he decided he couldn’t live with it? By telling him had I just made the worst mistake of my life? What if I woke up tomorrow and it was gone? Then he really would think I was nuts.

The front door opened, and Savannah stepped out onto the porch. “Are you coming in?” she yelled. I still felt drained and empty, but somehow mustered the energy to get out of the car.

“Hi sweetheart.” I tried to sound normal. “Did you get your homework done?”

She made a face and wondered if that was all I cared about. She had plenty of other stuff going on, but the only thing I ever asked about was her homework.

I almost got back in the car. I was such a failure. Chris was furious, and thought I was nuts. Savannah didn’t think I cared, and I was sure Josh was upset with me too. I’d nearly lost it at the party, and Chris was probably packing up my clothes to send me to a mental institution. All because of that stupid murdering robber. Why did this have to happen to me?

“Mom,” Savannah whined. “What are you standing there for, come on.” I didn’t want Savannah to worry, so I pushed my troubles aside, and hurried into the house. I gave her a quick hug, and then asked her what she had been doing all day. Listening to her chatter away, I found a reason to keep going. My family meant more to me than anything, and I wasn’t about to let a few problems get in the way. Somehow, things would work out. At least they couldn’t get any worse, right?

I found Chris in the study concentrating on the computer. I stood in the doorway until he flicked an annoyed glance at me. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Just looking things up on the internet.”

“Oh.” I would have told him I’d already done that, except he wasn’t looking up mind reading or ESP. He was looking up psychosis and schizophrenia. That kind of shocked me. “I’m not psychotic,” I blurted, “and I don’t have schizophrenia either, so you’re just wasting your time.”

Oh yeah?
He thought.

“Yeah,” I said.

He swallowed, and thought in his mind,
So you can just read my thoughts, huh? Well, how about this? I’m thinking about the time we were in Hawaii, and the top of your bikini came flying off when you jumped from the boat.

I grimaced and said, “Why did you have to pick my most embarrassing moment?”

Because I don’t want to believe it’s true. How can it be? It’s crazy.

“But it is true,” I pleaded. “I know it sounds crazy, and I don’t know how or why it happened. I can hardly believe it myself. All I know is that after I got shot, I could hear people’s thoughts.”

Damn!
  He looked at me. “You heard that. Right?” I nodded.
Shit!
“Did you hear that too?” I nodded again. “So you can hear everything I’m thinking?”
How am I ever going to live with this?

“Not all the time. I’ve been learning how to block out thoughts. It takes some concentration, but I can do it. And I think I’m getting better at it.”

“How does that work?” he asked.

“Well, it’s like a switch got triggered in my brain to let me hear thoughts, so if I concentrate on that switch, I can block them out. I did it during dinner tonight, but after a while, it gave me a headache and I had to leave.”

“Is that when you went to the bathroom?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” He started to feel better. “So you can control it.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Let’s try it out then. I’ll think of something, and you see if you can block it.”

“Give me a second.” I didn’t want to point out the one big flaw in his plan. That I could lie. I wanted him to trust me. “Okay, go ahead.” I concentrated really hard and waited. I thought I could hear a really bad rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.

“Did you hear that?” he asked.
You did, didn’t you? This is stupid. You could just lie and tell me it worked.

“Try it again,” I interrupted. “Only sing something different.”

He rolled his eyes, and I concentrated really hard. This time I got a low buzz, but that was all. When I opened my eyes, I smiled at him. “I didn’t hear it. What did you sing?”

“I’m not telling.” His brows furrowed together. He was serious.

“Deal. You know, I did have one other idea I haven’t tried yet. I’ll be right back.” I ran downstairs and got my bike helmet.

When Chris saw me, he started to laugh. “Is that why you had tin foil on your head the other day? You thought it would block out thoughts?”

“I thought it was worth a try.”

He laughed harder, and couldn’t seem to stop. I guess it was kind of funny, but he was getting hysterical. Then he glanced at me with my helmet on, imagining how funny I would look wearing it all the time, and laughed even harder. He was holding his stomach, and tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. Every time he looked at me, he laughed again. “Honey, you should see yourself.”

I decided I’d better take off the helmet before he died of laughter. I guess the strain was getting to him, because it took him a while to calm down. “We should probably go to bed,” I suggested. He didn’t say anything. “Okay?”

“Didn’t you hear me?”

“Nope, I’ve still got my shields up.”

“That sounds like something out of Star Trek.” He started to chuckle again. “Shields at fifty percent and holding,” he mimicked.

“Please!”

“All right,” he sighed, taking a deep breath. “I’ll stop. Just do me a favor. Keep your shields up around me. Okay? I need some time to adjust, and I need to know you’re not listening to everything I think.”

“Believe me. I don’t want to hear your thoughts.” His eyes widened. “Not that they’re bad or anything. I’d just rather not know.”

“That’s fair. I mean, I don’t think I’m thinking bad things, but if I have to watch what I’m thinking all the time, it will drive me insane.”

“I understand.” I sat on his lap, and ran my fingers through his hair. “This can’t last forever. Who knows, maybe tomorrow it will be gone.” He put his arms around me, and the tension quietly drained away. I nuzzled his neck before finding his lips. His desire washed over me like an aphrodisiac, and took my breath away. Before long, I couldn’t tell where his feelings ended, and mine began. I only knew I was suddenly flooded with throbbing passion. I couldn’t get his clothes off fast enough.

He pulled back, a little stunned.
What was going on?

I smiled. “I think this might be a fringe benefit that you won’t complain about.”

He groaned. “Oh baby, oh baby.”

***

Over the weekend I learned what most men thought about. Food, sports, and sex. Not necessarily in that order. I really tried blocking out everyone’s thoughts, but it wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped.

I’d slipped up enough that Chris was growing weary of guarding his thoughts. On Monday morning, he was actually looking forward to going to work, and getting away from me.

It hurt my feelings. “I hope you have a great day at work away from me.” I probably shouldn’t have said that.

He sucked in his breath. “Shelby…”

“It’s okay. You’re right. You need a break from me, and I need to work on blocking thoughts so we can get through this.” Now Chris felt bad.

“Go.” I tried to make it up. “I’m fine. Oh, and don’t forget that I’m coming in today. Remember? I’m going to lunch with Kate.”

“Yeah, right. You know I think it’s a bad idea.”

He actually said what he was thinking! “Yes. But don’t worry. I can control myself.” I kissed him, and then pushed him out the door before he could protest. We were both walking a fine line, and I didn’t want it to get any worse.

After I got the kids off to school, I decided to go jogging for half an hour. I’d sort of wasted the weekend, and if I was really going to diet, I’d better exercise too. I was halfway home when I ran out of energy. I noticed another jogger behind me, and I was determined to keep up the pace, but he was gaining, and my lungs were on fire.

I rounded the corner to a busy street and started walking. I expected the jogger to pass me at any minute, but when he didn’t, I glanced back to see if he was still there. He was walking about half a block behind me, and there was something familiar about him. Had I seen him before? Curious, I looked again, but he was leaning over to tie his shoe, and I couldn’t see his face.

I turned forward, and a seed of unease crept up my spine. It was probably nothing, but until they caught the robber, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit scared. I thought about running home, but just before I took off, the man suddenly jogged past me. I was so startled that I didn’t look up in time to see his face, but he was tall and muscular, and his hair was long enough to brush the collar of his t-shirt. He was thinking that it was too bad it was such a busy street, and he’d have to figure out a different route next time. Harmless thoughts. So why did that creep me out? He kept going at a steady pace, and when I turned down my street, I could barely see him. I pushed the incident from my mind, and hurried home.

There wasn’t anything in the fridge that would help me lose weight, so I decided to make a quick run to the grocery store for a case of slim-fast. It hit me when I walked in the store that the last time I was here, I got shot, and someone else was fatally wounded. I paused and took in my surroundings. The bank was open for business. There wasn’t any crime scene tape, or blood on the floor, or potato chips scattered everywhere. Everything was back to normal. Everything except me.

People were passing by me, wishing I would get out of the way. Why was I just standing there? Hadn’t I ever seen a grocery store before? I grabbed a cart, and made my way to the aisle with the slim-fast. No use thinking about the past, especially when there wasn’t much I could do about it.

There were lots of dieting aids, and I couldn’t decide which program I should go with. I finally bought several different kinds. I figured I could try them all, and then stick with the one that tasted the best.

Even though I’m not a superstitious person, I went to the check-out that was as far from the bank as possible. No need to tempt fate. The checker was thinking that I sure had a lot of food for someone on a diet. It was expensive too, but I really wanted to get those extra pounds off.

There she is.
Of all the random thoughts, that one caught my attention. Who was thinking about me? Just then a store manager came up and smiled. “How’s your head?”

“Better, thank you.” Was it his thoughts I’d heard? I couldn’t tell. I looked around but couldn’t spot anyone staring.

“Glad to hear it. That was such a terrible thing to have happen. Who would have thought that someone would rob the bank in a grocery store? We have better security now, so something like that shouldn’t happen again. Can I help you out to your car?” He’d found out my husband was a lawyer, and was hoping I wouldn’t sue the store.

“Sure, that would be great.” I knew it would help him feel better, and even though I didn’t need his help, it was nice to have company. Not that I was afraid or anything, it was just unsettling to be at the scene of the crime. I mean, the person who shot me could be here right now, and I’d never know.

The room seemed to get smaller, and it felt like everyone was looking at me. But when I listened, only one person even noticed me.
That’s her.
It gave me the creeps, but it was probably just another store employee who was here that day. Still, I was grateful to leave and get away from all those minds. I really needed to work harder at blocking thoughts if I was ever going to manage my life.

When I got home, I didn’t have a lot of time to get ready, especially if I was going to get to the office before noon. Chris wasn’t happy that I was going to lunch with Kate, but if he knew I was doing it for his sake, he’d totally understand.

There was a message on the phone to call Dimples, but that could wait until I got to Chris’ office, and it would give me something to do with my time. I quickly showered, but then ended up standing in front of my closet with no idea what to wear.

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