Authors: Amanda Richardson
Charlotte Bloom Book #1
Published by Amanda Richardson
© Copyright 2015 Amanda Richardson.
Cover Design by Amanda Richardson
Cover Photography obtained legally via http://www.123rf.com/profile_massonforstock
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
I dedicate this book to Peter, who made me believe in second chances. The idea for this book came about five years ago, on an April day in 2010. I’ll let you guess which one.
"A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life."
I’d never felt such delight. Alec took his thumb and stroked my cheek, his dark eyes lingering a little too long on my lips. I couldn’t believe I was sitting here, in Wales, with a handsome Irishman, who looked to be about four seconds away from kissing me. My body was hungry with longing, and I could feel a pit of fire gnawing at my insides.
Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me
my heart whispered with every beat. I felt myself lean forward just a tiny bit, and then it happened. His lips touched mine, and suddenly, everything was transformed. Everything was magical. Everything made sense.
I’d come alive in the matter of a millisecond. My whole body exploded, and I felt time and destiny align for the first time in my life. I belonged here. Alec’s unruly dark hair fell into his eyes as he pulled away, and he was looking at me with surprise. It was almost as if neither of us had expected this. I certainly hadn’t seen this coming on the day I'd showed up in Wales six weeks ago. But it had happened. Love had a way of colliding into us, whether we expected it or not. I’d never believed in soulmates before, but this was real. This was everything. As I sat under the moonlight with Alec, I’d forgotten most of what my life what like before him. I was here now, and this was my life. My life in Los Angeles was merely an afterthought.
The thing with second chances is, you have to take them. Otherwise, it’s not a second chance. I was getting my second chance. Only… a second chance doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t learned from your first mistake. That thought wore away at me as Alec continued on, listing the reasons why I should stay in Wales. I nodded, agreeing, half-listening. He made some exceedingly good points. Don’t get me wrong. I did want to stay. I wanted to kiss Alec every day. I wanted to do dirty, dirty things to Alec every night. There was only one problem.
I was married.
It was raining as Amara and I ducked into Starlight Psychic on Laurel Canyon. The front door was heavy so I gave it a hefty shove and heard a clanging of bells greet me on the other side. A blast of warm air hit my face as I held the door for Amara. We stepped into a dimly lit room, and I shrugged my coat off, hanging it on a wooden rack next to the door. Amara sat down in a plush waiting room chair, clinging to her purse. She looked terrified.
My eyes slowly adjusted to the dark room and I spotted a woman in the corner, swaying to unheard music. The white coil of headphones hung down around her neck so I knew she couldn’t hear us. She lifted her hands up into the air and began to spin around. I called out to her, waving my hands frantically, but her eyes were closed. I heard a faint melody coming from the headphones. I studied her for a moment before deciding to interrupt her.
Her curly, dark brown hair hung down to her waist. She had a hooked nose and olive skin. She was surprisingly young, and I shyly studied her curvy body and shapeless outfit before moving towards her. It felt weird walking towards someone when they were unaware that you were there. I didn’t want to startle her.
"Maybe we should just go," Amara whispered. She’d crossed her legs and arms, and her purse was still in her lap. I turned to her and put my hands on my hips.
"No way, Mar. This was
idea and now we're here and I only plan on doing this once." I tapped the woman’s shoulder and, as expected, she jumped back.
Her eyes widened and she studied me as she took her headphones out. Her eyes were a warm, honey brown and they crinkled as she smiled. I backed away and gave her an awkward wave.
"Hello. We have an appointment for 12:30. Amara Azavedo and Charlotte Bloom."
"Yes. I know who you are. I am psychic, after all." She smiled furtively and motioned towards Amara, studying her face for a second. "It was her idea to come here and now she's regretting her decision. So, let me do her reading first."
I smiled half-heartedly. She could've easily heard our short conversation just a moment ago so I wasn't giving her any undue credit just yet. I walked over to Amara.
"Thank you. Amara, you ready for this?" I sat down next to my best friend and took her hand. "No matter what happens, please know I am here for you. Whatever she says." At this, I glanced at the psychic whose name I still did not know. "Everything is going to be OK. After this, we'll get some donuts. Sound good?"
Her face perked up at this. She was a sucker for donuts, especially the cheap, donut-shop-style ones. She squeezed my hand softly and nodded.
"Let's do this." She uncrossed her legs slowly and stood up, holding her hand out to the psychic. "I'm Amara." To this, the psychic nodded.
"Lainey. Now, please follow me. Oh, and you can leave your purse with Charlotte." Amara reluctantly held out her gigantic tote bag to me and I set it down between my legs.
"Love you, Char." Amara said this with so much dread it was as if she was going to her execution.
"Love you, Mar." I winked at her as they entered a separate room.
Amara's reading took a little over an hour. I was antsy and I spent the majority of the hour impatiently checking the time and checking my email on my phone. I had my legs crossed and I repeatedly bobbed my stiletto against the seat leg. Technically, I was on my lunch break, so I hoped my reading wouldn't be as long as Amara's, although I knew it wouldn't be. Amara had a lot of things she needed to work through. I was only here to support her, and because Amara insisted I do a reading, too. It was the only way she had the guts to go through with it.
I was just about to email my boss that I was running late when I heard the reading door open. Laughter echoed from inside. I recognized Amara’s deep, throaty laugh.
Thank God. It went well. Everything was fine.
I stood up and held Amara's purse out to her. Lainey and Amara had their arms around each other as they walked over to me, and Amara was grinning more widely than I'd seen in days.
"How'd it go?" I asked tentatively, hoping for a happy answer. She took the purse from me and gave me a giant hug. I felt her relax as she sighed, obviously pleased.
"Sam isn't cheating on me. He's proposing this weekend!" she squealed in my ear as she kissed my forehead. "I'm so happy I could fly away into dreamland this very instant."
My heart sank. I pulled away and forced a smile. She'd been an absolute wreck for a solid week, and I had to admit, it was nice to see her so happy. But... Sam was proposing? I hoped it was true, sure, but I didn't want her to get her hopes up. It'd kill her.
Let me explain: I wasn’t
Sam was cheating. I had no evidence. But from what she’d told me periodically over the past week, it didn’t sound good for Sam. He’d been "working late" all week, and when he left his credit card bill sitting on top of his desk, she’d seen a couple of large, suspicious purchases. I didn’t know him very well (we never
, you know?) so I wasn’t ruling anything out. Amara had been my best friend for twenty years. I had to protect her.
"That's great, Mar. I am so happy for you!" I grinned and squeezed her arms.
They'd gotten so bony because Amara had barely eaten due to the stress. I'd always been jealous of her because of this. I always ate my feelings away with lots of pasta and cake.
"OK, Charlotte, your turn. Please leave your purse with Amara and come with me."
I gave Amara one last hug and handed her my purse.
"I'll be back in ten minutes, if that," I whispered in her ear.
She nodded, and sat down. Her dark skin was radiating happiness. As I walked in to the reading room, I sincerely hoped this psychic wasn't full of complete shit. I hated seeing Amara miserable. She was usually so blissful and perky. I secretly hated Sam for putting her through this, for whatever reason. I hoped it actually
a proposal, for Amara’s sake.
The waiting room had been very plain, dark and small. The maroon walls only had a counter with a cash register, a small bookshelf, a coat rack and some sitting chairs. It was dim: lit only by one small desk light on the counter. The reading room, I realized as we walked in, was white and very bright. I expected it to match the waiting room: you know, things you’d expect to see in a psychic reading room, like old lamps, candles, and large, puffy arm chairs. I even searched for a crystal ball, to no avail, much to my disappointment. Instead, I was greeted by a simple white room that contained a white couch, a small kitchenette, a small white table, and two lucite chairs. Nothing hung on the walls, and the carpet was a white, fluffy material. I instinctively took my ballet flats off and let my feet walk on the softest carpet I'd ever felt.
"It's flokati wool. I imported it from Scotland. Isn't it wonderful?" Lainey copied me and took her ankle boots off, letting her feet feel the carpet. "It gives this room such good energy. I feel a much deeper sense of connection to my Self and the Universe when using sheep skin to ground me."
I didn't normally believe in "energy", but I agreed. Oddly, I felt very tranquil here, considering the circumstances. I couldn't explain it.
"Please," she motioned to one of the lucite chairs, "take a seat, Charlotte."
I nodded and sat down on the clear, hard chair. It was surprisingly comfortable. I found myself relaxing more with every second, and a sleepy calmness started to come over me. Lainey probably had some sort of drug or pheromone-inducing scent going on in here: it was the only explanation. She sat down across from me and I held my hands out for her. That's what I'd seen people do in movies. But Lainey ignored my hands and studied my face. A minute or two passed. She closed her eyes, and I began to get nervous.
"You've been married six years. How's that going?" After she said that, I expected her to open her eyes. She didn’t.
I'd heard about how psychics are masters at reading people's faces. I tried not to make a sound. Maybe she went on sounds. I kept myself as calm and as stiff as possible.
"It's great. I love him so much. We want to start having children soon." I studied her face now, since her eyes were closed, and noticed she had started nodding. I laughed silently at the silliness of all of this. I wasn’t the type of person to believe in psychics. I was much too skeptical. Yet, here I was. "To be quite honest, I'm not really here looking for answers or anything. I came to support Amara. You can just do a courtesy reading, five minutes tops. Hell, we can talk about music or something, if you want. I am quite content and very happy in my life right now." I said this last part with a lot of smug satisfaction, mostly because I knew a lot of people couldn't say that. I wasn’t trying to come off as conceited or rude, but I wasn't lying. I wasn't even exaggerating. My marriage wasn't perfect, but it was as close to perfect as a marriage could get.
She kept nodding, not saying anything. I wiped my clammy hands on my jeans. Did I give too much away? Could she use this against me? I felt weird laying it all out there for her. She could grab on to any of that information and misconstrue it somehow. I didn’t trust her just yet.
"You mentioned having children. Your idea or Harry's?"
I hesitated. She knew his name. But that was easy to deduce nowadays with the Internet. I was sure she did research or even some light Google stalking before her clients came in. It was probably the only way to stay in business.
decided to start trying soon. He's getting promoted soon and––" I stopped myself mid-sentence. That was definitely something she could use.
"OK. OK..." Her eyes opened and she reached for my hands. I reluctantly held them out and she grasped them tightly and closed her eyes again. "You're very hard to read. I don't encounter people like you very often. Normally when I get a new client, they sit down and within five seconds, I can read their future. But... you're quite hard to pick apart. I just want to be sure I'm reading this correctly." She clamped my hands tighter and started nodding again. Maybe it was because I wasn't giving her enough bait. Suddenly she stopped and looked at me with worry. "What I'm seeing isn't lining up with what you're telling me."
I pulled my hands away at this.
"What I mean..." she said slowly, annunciating every word, "is that what you are saying, and what I am seeing... they aren't the same. I can
that you're happy. Because you are. I see that. You are with your current partner and he makes you very happy right now. But… you are not with your forever partner. Your soulmate."
" My voice had gone up three octaves. I was screeching. "I
my husband, and how dare you say we are not meant to be together." That was it. I was leaving. My marriage was the one thing I was not going to let her muck up in some pseudo-psychic reading. She could bash my job, my childhood, or even my financial future, but
"Charlotte, please don't be mad. This is not my fault. Nor is it yours. It's the universe, and right now you're connecting with someone who can guide you to your future. This is fate. This is not a coincidence. You met him for a reason. You met me for a reason. Please, do not bring children into this world with your husband. I promise you, in three years, you will thank me. You will welcome twins with your future husband. That is all I can see."
I got up, aggressively slipped on my shoes, and didn’t say anything as I walked towards the door. My hands were shaking. I was just pulling the door open to leave when I heard her mutter something I would never forget.
"Around Amara's wedding in June, things will start to unravel. It may seem hopeless for a while. But there is much happiness in your future. Just follow your heart."
I ran out of the room and glanced at Amara, who was smiling out into thin air. Her mind was preoccupied, so she didn't notice how distraught I looked. Seeing her so happy earlier made me realize I couldn't tell her. If I did, she would lose faith in her reading. That was the last thing I wanted. Even if she didn't end up getting engaged, at least she believed Sam wasn't cheating. I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure, but of course I couldn't tell her that.
I suddenly remembered I’d removed my wedding ring right before entering the building. I slipped it back on before I forgot or before Amara noticed. I didn’t want her to be suspicious. Lainey had known I was married, what my husband’s name was, and with this information, she’d predicted that in three years I’d be with someone else entirely, having twins no less. I couldn’t even
that concept. I had to put on a brave face, both for her and for myself. I was unwittingly spooked. I was
going to fall into her trap. Harry and I were perfectly happy together, and we would always be perfectly happy together.
Amara looked up, surprised to see me, and I quickly faked a smile.
"That was fast!" she said, and went over to the reading room to pay Lainey.
Still in shock, I let her pay, even though she didn't have a particularly steady job at the moment. Before Lainey inevitably came out of the reading room and told me more horrible things about my future, I ran out of the front door and stood under the rare downpour until Amara finally joined me. We both looked up at the sky, both for different reasons. I couldn't explain it, but something had changed inside of me. I felt dizzy. I needed food.