Trapped by Revenge: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
How does a mind-reader get framed for murder?
Working for a mob-boss might have something to do with it.
Join Shelby Nichols in this fast-paced, mystery thriller, where proving her innocence and catching a killer will take more than her mind-reading skills.
She'll have to rely on friends from both sides of the law to clear her name.
Even then, she finds that her quick wits might not be enough to save her from becoming entangled in a sinister plot of revenge.
Can she find her enemy before she ends up in jail for a murder she didn't commit?
Get this book and find out.
USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Colleen Helme offers a clever mix of mystery, laugh-out-loud humor, and page-turning adventure in the highly acclaimed Shelby Nichols Adventure Series.
The humor in this book made this mystery very entertaining and fun to read.~ Books-n-Kisses
This mystery is a surprisingly light read with a number of interesting twists and connections. The best yet! ~ Sharon Haddock
Trapped by Revenge was a really good story and I never would have guessed who-done-it. Well written and very fascinating. ~Leslie - StoreyBookReviews
Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Hunter, Eve Langlais, Shannon Meyer, Jana DeLeon, and Darynda Jones.
Release date: November 11, 2013
Publisher: Manetto Books
Print pages: 285
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Trapped by Revenge: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
The first day of school started with a bang. The rush to get out the door with little time to spare kept me going at a frantic pace. It wasn’t until I came home to find a strangely quiet house that it hit me, and I let out a huge sigh. I dropped into a chair at the kitchen table and relaxed for the first time in weeks. Days of having the house to myself, at least until three-thirty, stretched before me like an endless field of beautiful flowers, and a huge smile spread over my lips.
I loved my kids, and I loved summer break, but the challenges of keeping them occupied with meaningful, character-building experiences always made me grateful for the beginning of a new school year. Mostly because when it came right down to it, I pretty much failed. By the first of July, I usually gave up on keeping to a structured schedule and let my kids do whatever they wanted… within reason of course. This caused me a lot of guilt. On the other hand, because of my special ability to ‘read minds,’ they couldn’t pull anything over on me. So it mostly worked.
Now that school had started we could get back to getting up and going to bed at a decent hour. Activities and parties with friends could be limited to weekends, as school nights were sacred at our house. I didn’t have to spend all my time driving them to games, practices, and lessons, followed by a never-ending stream of plans with friends, all for which I provided taxi-service. This, and trying to keep up with the demands of my consulting agency, had been exhausting.
But the best thing about this summer was that I had found it easier to block my mind from hearing other people’s thoughts. I was getting real good at it, and it almost made my relationship with my husband seem back to normal. Like it was before I got shot in the head and this craziness began a few months ago. Reading minds had gotten me into a lot of trouble. Because of Kate, a woman who was after my husband, I’d had to reveal my secret to her Uncle Joey, the local crime boss, and then find a bargaining chip to work for him on my terms rather than his. It was always a struggle, and I’d nearly been killed a few times in the process. So I never liked it when he called me in to ask for a “favor.”
Luckily, I’d only heard from Uncle Joey once since I got back from my trip to Orlando. That had to be some kind of record. I wondered if he had backed off because he felt guilty that I’d nearly died running an errand for him, or if Ramos had something to do with it. Ramos was Uncle Joey’s personal bodyguard and hit man. He’d saved my life several times, and we shared a special bond.
I didn’t miss Uncle Joey, but I wondered how Ramos was getting along. We’d spent a lot of time together in Orlando, and I kind of missed him. He’d always come to my rescue. Only last time, I’d helped him. It felt good to be on the other end, and things had turned out okay, so it was only natural that I thought about him once in a while. Although I had to admit that Ramos had a certain magnetism that made women swoon or drool just to look at him. Me included. So it was probably a good thing for my marriage that he kept his distance.
A day full of ‘me’ time awaited, and I shivered with anticipation. I was taking the day off from everything, at least until my kids got home, and I had the minutes all planned out. First, sit at the table and eat a leisurely breakfast while reading the paper. If I felt like it, I could go to the gym, but so far, it wasn’t happening.
Once I got done with that, I’d take a nice, long, hot shower and get ready for my lunch date with my best friend, Holly. It was our way of celebrating the start of a new school year and a tradition we’d begun back when our kids had first started grade school.
After that, I might go shopping or come home and read a good book. I could even take a nap or watch a few episodes of my favorite TV shows. The list of endless possibilities lightened my heart, and just knowing I could do whatever I wanted filled me with quiet content.
As I finished the advice column, my phone rang. It was probably Holly. I checked the caller ID and my blood pressure rocketed. Thrasher Development? No! Not today! I debated so long about answering, that it went to voicemail. Oh well… at least now I could listen to the message and know what Uncle Joey wanted. That way I’d be better prepared with an answer when I called him back.
Taking a deep breath, I began to push the buttons for voicemail, but before I could finish, the phone started ringing again. Thrasher Development popped up on the screen, and I frowned in disgust. I’d just lost my advantage of knowing what he wanted before he asked. Since he’d probably just keep calling until I answered, I might as well get it over with.
“Hello?” I said.
“Shelby,” Uncle Joey spoke. “I’m glad you decided to answer the phone. For a minute there, I wasn’t sure you would.”
From his tone I could tell he wasn’t too happy with me, so I held back the sarcastic reply on the tip of my tongue and went for a more cordial sarcasm instead. “Well, that’s just silly. I know better than that. I was just too far from the phone to answer the first time you called. So, what’s up? I haven’t heard from you for a while.” The last time we’d talked had been when I’d come home from Orlando and he’d given me a ride in his limousine. I’d heard his chauffeur’s thoughts, and realized he was spying on Uncle Joey. I told him all about it and expected a call that never came.
“Yeah, it has been a while,” he agreed. “Not since the chauffeur quit, and I couldn’t have you listen to him like I wanted. After that, I figured you could use some time off to spend with your kids. But now that school’s started I’m sure you’d like something to do with all of your free time.”
“My free time?!” I exclaimed. “But this is the first day of school. I’ve already made plans for today. How about tomorrow? I’m sure I could fit you in tomorrow.”
“Shelby.” His voice dripped with disappointment, reminding me that dealing with Uncle Joey was like running from a pack of crazed zombies. I needed to stay at least one step ahead of him, or I’d get ripped apart and eaten alive.
“Oh all right. I have a few minutes after lunch if it’s important. What do you need?”
He let a moment of silence go by before he replied. “That’s good, Shelby. I want you to know I appreciate anything you can do for me, so I’ll get right down to business. Ramos found the chauffeur, and I need you to listen to him again.”
“What? Why? I already told you he was spying on you and thinking about telling a judge what he’d found out.”
“I need you to be more specific than that,” he said.
“But… what else is there? Unless… don’t tell me it’s because you don’t want to ‘off’ the wrong judge?”
“Shelby,” he growled. “What are you thinking? A real judge? Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, the why of it doesn’t concern you. Just listen to him for a few minutes and report back. You don’t need to worry about anything else. I will handle the rest. Just like I always do. His name is Sam Killpack, and he’s really a private investigator. The meeting will be at Killpack’s office, and I’ll have Jackie arrange it.”
“Okay, fine,” I agreed with resignation. What Uncle Joey wants, Uncle Joey gets, and I had to remember that.
“Good. There is one other thing,” he added cryptically, making my breath hitch. “I can’t be involved. So we’ll say the reason you’re going to see him is because you might want to hire him to help you with something. Maybe you could even say that it has something to do with me. That way he’ll be more inclined to think about me and you’ll be able to pick it up. Can you do that?”
“What?” I asked, then blurted, “You mean like give him a sob story about how I’m in the clutches of a mob boss and I need his help to get out of the mess I’m in?”
He chuckled. “Shelby… you sure have spunk, I’ll give you that. And since you put it that way, yes, go ahead and tell him that. I think that would work very well for what I want. Get him on your side. Make him think you’re a ‘damsel in distress’ and all that. Private investigators love that sort of thing. But just remember this,” he hesitated, giving weight to his next words. “He’s not a good person. If he thought he could use you for his purposes, and throw you to the dogs when he was done, he would.”
I kind of wanted to say, “like you?” But this time I kept my mouth shut.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “That I’m no better than this guy. But that’s where you’re wrong. I’d never turn my back on you. You know that. You’re like family, Shelby. That means you’re under my protection. Just to prove it to you, I’ll have Ramos take you. He can’t go to the appointment, but he can wait outside. Just in case you need him. How does that sound? He’ll pick you up at one o’clock.”
It sounded like he was using Ramos as his ‘muscle man’ to make sure I showed up. That bothered me a little, but since I really liked Ramos’ muscles, I let it go. “Actually, that won’t work,” I told him. “I’m going to lunch with a friend. Could I just meet Ramos there at about two? That would work best for me.” At least I’d show Uncle Joey I wasn’t a total pushover.
“All right,” he gave in. “I’ll arrange it for two. I’ll have Ramos meet you in front of the building.”
“But what about the fact that the chauffeur saw me when you brought me home from the airport?” I asked, hope blossoming in my heart. “When I show up, don’t you think he’ll know you sent me and think it’s a trap?”
“Very good, Shelby,” Uncle Joey said. “But you’re forgetting one little thing.” He started to chuckle, and my hopes were dashed. “It doesn’t really matter what he thinks, because you’ll know! That’s exactly why it will work.” He cleared his throat, but I could still hear the laughter in his voice. “Give him your sob story to begin with and see what happens. Either way, he’s bound to think about me and everything he knows, and you can just play along however you like.”
What could I say? None of my reasoning worked because I wasn’t a normal person. No matter how special being able to read minds made me feel, this was one of those times I wished I’d never gone to the store for some carrots and gotten shot in the head.
When I didn’t respond, he continued. “Don’t worry Shelby, you’ll be fine. Ramos will be right outside if you need him. And nothing bad is going to happen. It’s a simple task and won’t take more than fifteen or twenty minutes of your time.”
I sighed heavily and wasn’t ashamed that Uncle Joey heard it.
“Hey now,” he cajoled. “Don’t get all maudlin on me. Remember how well you played your part with Carson? You beat him out of a million dollars! It was beautiful work. This will be a lot simpler than that, I promise you.” Uncle Joey rattled off the address, and we disconnected.
I set down the phone, disgruntled that he’d ruined my day. I realized that all of the trouble, and all of the times I’d nearly gotten killed, were because of Uncle Joey. It didn’t matter that he had saved my life and sent Ramos to help me when I was in trouble. If he wasn’t in my life, none of it would have happened in the first place. These last few weeks I’d been kidding myself. Without him calling or wanting anything, I’d been lulled into complacency. And what was all that about ‘beautiful work?’ Was it his way of pulling the noose a little tighter by flattering me?
Chris was right. When I came home from Orlando, Chris wanted me to tell Uncle Joey I wouldn’t work for him anymore. That what I’d done for him in Orlando made us even. I would have told him that too, but he never called, and I had put it off so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. I figured that the next time he called, I’d tell him to get lost. So what had I just done? I’d agreed to help him! Again! What was wrong with me?
Of course, what could be so dangerous about meeting with a private investigator? Uncle Joey made it sound simple. Could it really be that easy? Maybe this time it would be fine. After I told Killpack my sob story, maybe he really could tell me something about Uncle Joey that I could use to keep him out of my life. Maybe even send him to prison. Uncle Joey’s cleverly laid plans would backfire, and I’d never have to take a phone call from him again.
Thoughts of double-crossing Uncle Joey turned my stomach into a cringing lump of goo. Nope, I didn’t think I had it in me to double-cross Uncle Joey, but I could certainly beef up my negotiating skills. I didn’t know about prison, but if there was something I could use to keep him from calling me, I could do that. Feeling better, I hurried off to take my shower, pushing away the nagging thought that where Uncle Joey was concerned, nothing ever went the way it was supposed to.
Holly and I had a great time at lunch. Talking to her was like having a therapy session, lunch included, without the huge bill. When I told her I was meeting with a private investigator after we were finished, she wanted to come along. Mostly because I’d mentioned Ramos was meeting me there, and she really wanted to meet him. I guess I shouldn’t have confided in her, but darn it, I had to tell somebody all the juicy details of our time in Orlando. That’s what best friends did. Plus, I knew she’d appreciate it.
Of course, I didn’t tell her everything about Ramos and what he really did. Or about me and my mind-reading skills. That would be bad. All she knew was that I worked with him sometimes because of my consulting agency. Still, what I did say about Ramos was just enough to make her excited at the prospect of actually seeing him in person.
But did I really want her to meet Ramos? In some ways, I just wanted to keep him to myself, but in others, it would be fun to see her eyes go all big and catch the “wowza” look she was sure to give me. Then she’d know I wasn’t making any of it up. I knew this was true because every once in a while, I picked it up from her thoughts. She actually wondered if I was telling the truth about him.
But in the end it didn’t matter, because she got a phone call from one of her kids and had to hurry to school. Not only did she not get to come with me, but it cut our lunch time a lot shorter than I’d planned. On the other hand, at least I didn’t have to feel bad about involving Holly in something that probably wasn’t good for her.
That left me with time to spare, and I got to Sam Killpack’s office a good half hour before Ramos was supposed to meet me. After waiting five minutes, and with nothing better to do, I decided I might as well go in and meet the guy. No harm in that, right? And Ramos would be right outside when I got done. I might just pick up everything I needed to know. It would be simple and easy, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it ever again. I might even get home in time to read my book and take a little snooze outside on the deck swing. With that happy thought, I hurried inside.
His office was on the second floor of an older building close to downtown. I took the elevator and wandered down the hall, not seeing anyone else on the floor. Unease crept along my spine. It looked like his office was the only one on this floor that wasn’t vacant. Most of the offices I passed were shut without any identifying markers. Wondering if I’d ever find the right office, I glanced down the hall and sighed with relief. A door at the end of the hall had a glass panel in it with the words “Sam Killpack, Private Investigator” stenciled on the glass in big block letters.
It struck me that in the P.I. business, and with a first name like Sam, he should change his last name to Spade, just for the heck of it. On the other hand, Killpack was pretty good too. I pushed open the door, expecting to find a secretary at the reception desk. No one was there, and the door to the inner office stood ajar. Maybe everyone was still at lunch?
“Hello?” I called. Hearing nothing, I proceeded toward the office door and pushed it open for a quick peek inside. A man’s body lay slumped over the desk from his chair, almost like he was taking a nap. It could have been true, except for the drops of red dripping from his dangling fingertips. My breath froze, and my knees went weak. Blood always made me queasy. “Mr. Killpack? Are you all right?”
I did not want to go over there and touch him, but what if he was only injured and still breathing? Belatedly, I glanced around the room to make sure the killer wasn’t still there and let out a relieved breath to find it empty. I knew if there was any hope at all that Killpack was still alive, I needed to get over there and check his pulse, but making my jelly legs move was another matter. Stiffening my spine, I managed to take a few faltering steps forward until I stood beside him.
With great trepidation, I placed my fingers on his neck, scrunching my eyes shut so I didn’t have to look at the blood. Not feeling a pulse, I snatched my fingers away. Yup, he was dead. My stomach turned into a queasy knot, and I swallowed uneasily. I did not want to lose my expensive lunch all over this guy, but all that blood was making it hard.
Pulling my gaze away from the body, my attention was drawn to his desk where his fingers were still curled around a pen. I bent closer to find that he had scrawled a name on a small yellow notepad. Could he have written his killer’s name before he died? The letters were barely legible, but as I studied them, the blood drained from my head. I blinked my eyes in panic, not sure what I was seeing. First an S, followed by an H, E L, B, Y with an N, and I, before it turned into a flat line? That couldn’t be right! But the more I studied it, the more I knew it was true.
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