Posting a Teaser Tuesday way early, mostly because the last couple weeks I totally forgot.
This one is a snippet from the first chapter (the only chapter, really) of what I was calling Project 4, tentatively titled Tactile. What would your world be like, if every touch told you the story of a thousand lives?
I was in the middle of eating lunch, and halfway through the Lady Cassandra’s forced wedding to the Duke Debarge, when Raleigh raised his head from his dish with a curious whuff.
“Rowl,” he said, quite firmly, and walked to the door.
I frowned but let him out, trying to peer down the winding drive to see who was intruding on my solitude. I couldn’t hear the diesel rumble of the McGoverns’ old truck, so I knew it wasn’t my neighbors.
Raleigh went bounding down the hill to vanish around the curve in a flurry of white and gray fur. I heard no screams of terror, so I assumed whoever it was would be walking up the hill shortly. With a heavy sigh, I started packing my pizza away in neat plastic bags.
It was ten full minutes before the quiet knock came at the door, and I wondered if Raleigh had given the unknown visitor a hard time. “Who is it?”
“Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ma’am.” A woman’s voice, young, hesitant. When I opened the door, my impression was confirmed. She was shorter than me, by a good deal, with a cute pageboy haircut and freckles across her pert little nose. Freckles! Her dark uniform gave her nothing at all in the way of authority. She looked like a kid playing dress up.
Her face lit up upon seeing me, as if she’d been afraid I wouldn’t open the door at all. “I’m Constable Sikes. May I come in?” She stuck her hand out at me.
You don’t offer to shake hands with a tactile psychic. It’s like offering to greet the queen by sniffing her crotch. I eyed the offending appendage until she blushed and withdrew her hand.
“Beg your pardon. I wasn’t thinking.”
I thought the girl might weep if I kept her on the doorstep any longer. “Come in, Constable.” I stepped away, keeping a very clear distance between the two of us.
She hovered just inside the door, and I went on about cleaning up the kitchen, plunging my hands under running water to wash my dishes. The water was soothing, easing away the tension that had sprung up between my shoulders. I didn’t like strangers in my house. I didn’t like familiar people there either. Who knew what kind of psychic bile they’d dribble all over the place?
Behind me, Constable Sikes attempted small talk. “You have a lovely home, ma’am.”
I turned in time to see her reach to pick up the little wolf figurine from the shelf by the door. “Don’t touch that!” It came out a bit harsher than I’d intended, and she jumped, snatching her hand back. “Dear God, what are they teaching you at Depot these days? Why would they send you here to meet with me, and not even tell you how to behave?” I dried my hands on the towel, scowling at the world in general now.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m nervous.” I watched her gather herself, drawing up to stand straighter. “You’re right. I should be thinking.”
“What is so important that they sent you here all by yourself?” I stopped myself from adding “little girl” to the end of that.
“I’m not by myself. My superior is in the car, ma’am.”
“And why is your superior not coming to talk to me?”
She blinked at me, as if I should have already known. “Your dog, ma’am. He won’t let him out of the car.”
I groaned, and my stomach tied itself into three or four intricate knots. There was only one person Raleigh reacted that strongly to. I gestured for the little Constable to move away from the door, then poked my head outside.
“Raleigh, let him go!” My voice echoed off the hills around the cabin, mockingly. Let him go, let him go! A moment later, Raleigh came bounding up the hill, tongue lolling happily. As far as he was concerned, he’d done a good deed. “Go lay down, trickster.” I ruffled his fur as he muscled through the door past me, getting only feelings of playfulness and contentment from him. That’s why I love animals. They’re such uncomplicated creatures.
Unlike the man now marching up my driveway. His dark coat flapped around his legs, taking the gravel road in strides twice as long as my own. He’d cut his hair since I’d seen him last, the tiny fringe of dark curls at the back of his neck now gone. It looked good on him. Not that I’d ever tell him that.
“Corporal Redfield. To what do I owe the distinct displeasure?”