Priorities 3: Prior Engagement

Raven de Hart

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Old town, new flames. Patrick Bridge was never given the family's psychic gift, but he still went into the business, filling out astrology charts and reading the tarot for anyone with twenty bucks to offer. When he visits home ...
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Old town, new flames.

Patrick Bridge was never given the family's psychic gift, but he still went into the business, filling out astrology charts and reading the tarot for anyone with twenty bucks to offer. When he visits home for a job, a figure from his past steps right up to him. And at the Valentine's Fair, no less. And this man's tarot card follows Patrick from reading to reading so he can't ignore it. Is this a sign of something to be treasured, or just another headfirst fall into the cliffs of love-gone-wrong?

Morgan Woods didn't expect anything spectacular coming back home for his niece's wedding, but an old friend rekindles old desires. Those desires lead Morgan into nights of reminiscence and comfort and tangled sheets, but can he overcome his own nerves, or will this all fall apart? If it does, he knows he won't have anyone to blame but himself.

Excerpt
The day was still cold, but nice and dry. With a couple extra pairs of socks on, my feet didn’t freeze up and fall off. My hands, however, were not as lucky, and I couldn’t wear gloves and still actually work with the cards. Yay for me.

I only had to work in these deplorable conditions for three days, though. So that was something to look forward to.

I was in the middle of a reading for Missy Daniels, of all people. She was happily married and swore up and down that it wasn’t about love, but all the signs I saw pointed to a big yes. Even if they hadn’t, I would have insinuated as much just to annoy her. Okay, maybe not in reality, but it would have been really tempting. She’d been at the head of a lot of the crap aimed at my family for years. Spreading rumors, using her husband’s position in the police department to get vandalism ignored. She was not on my list of favorite people.

She wouldn’t even make eye contact with me while I spoke. “So your hopes and fears are the Tower. Everything that’s been built is falling around you and leaving only the strongest foundation. And the likely outcome is…” I paused as I flipped the card, then paused a second longer to make sure I could actually speak without laughing. It was definitely a close call, though. “The Two of Cups.”

“Which is what, exactly?”

“Two things coming together to form something stronger.”

She squirmed, and it was wonderful to watch.

I could be nice to the town as a whole…but Missy deserved whatever she got, as far as I was concerned. “Or two people. A new relationship. Business or otherwise.”

She sat up higher in the seat and brushed a curl of graying brown hair behind her ear. “Well, that was hardly enlightening.” She clicked her purse open and handed me a twenty. “But since you did come all the way up here to help out the town, I’ll still pay you.”

“What an honor.” I smiled, hopefully sincerely enough to throw her off. “You have a good day. And come back for your astrological chart, if you want it. I’m here for the rest of the fair.”

She clipped off in too-high heels. Probably shell-shocked and wondering exactly who this man was. Or woman. I could see Missy swinging the other way late in life, just to see if the sin would make her skin melt off. Whether it would stick or not? I had no idea. I wasn’t psychic, after all.

I waited another ten or fifteen seconds, just to see if anyone would actually come up, then grabbed out one of the books and set to work. I had three requests for astrology charts, and they expected them done tomorrow, so I wasn’t about to lose any precious time. This one was for…someone. Pretty sure he wasn’t living in town when I was, anyway. Jacob Mather. He was still in high school, to look at him, so maybe he hadn’t been taught “the truth” about the Bridge family yet. Didn’t matter, I guess. I was procrastinating, which wasn’t going to get me any money.

He was an Aquarius. Everybody seemed to be an Aquarius. Or maybe I just noticed them more. Maybe they were just that much more likely to buy into astrology and all that. I didn’t know. More procrastinating. Go me. At least I was good at something.

I managed to get a few lines filled out before I saw someone come up to the table. “Morning. Here to get your fortune told, right?” I tucked the book back in my bag and pulled out the three decks. “Love? Money?”

“I do have a question for you: what would possess one of you Bridge boys to come back into our town?”

Oh great. It was going to go that well, then? I looked up and I definitely recognized that face. Hadn’t changed in the four years I’d been gone. Still too skinny, with eyes too big, and hair too greasy. Like the dirty little rat he was. My stomach clenched tight as I looked at him, and I fought back the desire to hit him. That would probably lose me my table and lose Mom whatever progress she’d made with the town. “Joseph. Nice to see you.”

He dropped into the little folding chair and propped his feet up on my table. “No it’s not.”

“You’re right.” He wasn’t going to be won over any more than Missy Daniels. “You want to pay for a reading or an astrological chart?”

He snorted. “Right. I’ll get on that.” He rolled his eyes. “I want to know what makes you think coming back here and peddling your shit like a gypsy is such a good idea.”

“If you’re not willing to pay, just move on along and hope that somebody falls in love with you, finally.” I pointed to the giant plastic bowl they had on the stage. Or the chunk of plywood, really. Enough for a couple people to stand on with minimal bowing. “Put your name in for the drawing. Maybe you’ll win and you can hawk the prize for some cash.” I looked him up and down. “Meth or heroin this month?”

“You think you can just sit there and insult me, Bridge?”

“I’m pretty sure I just did, actually, so yes. I think I could manage it again, if you’d like.”

“You might want to lose that smart mouth of yours.” He stood up and leaned over the table. “I don’t see your brothers around here to protect you.”

I stood up, too, and he moved a couple steps back. “Yeah, and I went round and round with my brothers plenty of times. I can take you on, Joey.”

“Joseph.”

“Don’t care.” I shrugged. “So, you can either pay me my money and support this lovely town and its people, or you can buzz right the hell off.” Mather had made my life hell in school, but I knew full well I could handle him, now. I was bulked up, and he was still all drugged out, no matter if he wanted to answer or not. Meth was my guess. He had that destroyed look about him.

But to his credit, Joseph didn’t back down from this particular quest of insanity. He sneered at me and shook his head. “You’re all talk. I could drop you now. And I’m not convinced I shouldn’t.”

“If you could, you would have.” I glanced around me. There was a bit of a crowd forming, and none of them were looking at me with any kind of favorability. Basically, they were all snacking and drinking and pretending they weren’t just watching this happen. I’m sure all of them thought things would stay exactly the same as they had been when we were teenagers. I would greatly enjoy disappointing them.

Joseph grabbed me by the collar and pulled me around the table. “Sick of you and your family in this town.”

“Bad news, Joey. Me and my family were in this town a lot longer than yours.”

“Problem here?”

A booming voice shot across the plaza, then footsteps clapped against the bricks. Finally the source came into view. Just a gray bubble coat at first, but details cleared up the closer he got. Dark skin, like copper, and eyes of varnished teak, dark and captivating. He looked familiar. Familiar enough I could almost pull a name up. I guess he just hadn’t tormented me enough to leave a lasting impression. Good news for both of us, most likely.

Joey released me and took a step back, but he was still wearing that damned smirk. “Who’d have thought I’d see you around again?”

“That’s what happens when you never leave town. You eventually see familiar faces who bothered to do something with their lives.” The stranger nodded at me and smiled a brilliantly white smile. “Bridge. How’s your brother?”

“Which one?”

He rolled his eyes. “One black family in the entire town, you’d think I’d make more of an impression. I was Garrett’s friend. Morgan.”

“Oh hell.” Morgan Woods. That was the name I hadn’t quite managed to find. Now I wasn’t finding any other words. Morgan fucking Woods. For just a couple seconds, it felt like I was back in high school, and Garrett had left me alone with his wrestling buddies. I finally found my voice and hopefully didn’t come off sounding too shocked. “He’s good. Think he’s shacking up with some guy at long last.”

“Took him long enough.” Morgan clapped a hand on Joey’s shoulder. A large, masculine hand that made the little rat quiver. “Now, I hope that I’m not interrupting, but I heard that there was some kind of world-famous fortune-telling son of a bitch set up in the plaza. I was hoping he might make time to give me a peek at my innermost workings.” He turned Joseph around. “Not cutting in line, am I?”

“Of course not. I was just getting on my way.”

“I figured as much.” He waited for Joseph to walk off and out of sight—with the promise of a big argument off the table, the little crowd dissipated, too—then sat down in the chair across from me. “So, how’s everything really going?”

“Garrett really is with this guy. Long-distance relationship. Had to come all the way back here to actually meet someone, but apparently it worked out for him. Same with Casey, actually.” Whether we liked Pryor or not, it seemed none of us were about to escape it. Even in our love lives.

Morgan chuckled, a high sound like a tenor drum. “Well, maybe you can go three for three.”

“I wouldn’t put money on it.” I gestured to the three decks on the table. “Were you just playing rescuer, or did you actually want a reading? Twenty bucks?”

“Bargain of a lifetime.” He placed his hands flat on the tabletop and splayed his fingers out. “Guide me, wondrous mystic.”

Copyright © Raven de Hart

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