Title: Taken by the Imp
Author: Sharon Buchbinder
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Psychic Romance, Witches & Warlocks, Myths & Legends
Dexter Graham has no trouble making money as a financial wizard—as long as he doesn’t leave his home. He finds it nearly impossible to be with other people, because he’s a telepath who gets swamped by their thoughts. Prompted by an unexpected visitor from the past who reveals shocking family secrets, he takes a risk and visits his brother in Cat’s Paw Cove. Will the trip make things better or worse?
Ynez Saghira is a gifted chef at the Feline Fine Retirement Home who yearns to be financially independent and open her own café. She has lots of talent and creative ideas but lacks the capital to start her own business. What’s a poor imp to do?
Dexter and Ynez join forces to quiet the voices in his head, build her business, and ferret out family mysteries. Will the secrets draw them closer together or push them apart?
Dexter Graham rattled the bag and called Brutus for the third time. Odd. It wasn’t like him to miss a meal. Unlike finicky felines, the fifteen-year-old black Maine Coon cat lived to eat, racing to Dexter if he unwrapped a cough drop.
Something’s wrong. His heart kicked up a notch and his stomach roiled. He always comes when I call him with food.
The sun shone on his grandmother’s well-tended flower and herb garden, which now belonged to him. Butterflies hovered over luxuriant stands of royal red, purple, and yellow. Bees sipped at the open mouths of petunias, ragweed, and clover—the weeds their favorites. A large balm bush, its lush purple color soothing to the eyes, embraced both pollinators. All the little insect people anticipated the cold weather en route and the garden shimmered with activity in the late September sun.
Still shaking the treats, Dexter sought out the intrepid hunter’s favorite napping spot. Not there. Wait. Was that—
“I hear you, Brutus.” He circled around the apple tree. No sign of him.
The sound was coming from beneath him.
He groaned. Loping around to the front of his grandmother’s root cellar, he leaned forward and pulled on a squeaking wooden door. Sitting on the top step, a live mouse dangling from his mouth, the yellow-eyed twenty-five-pound feline blinked and glared at him as if to say, “Took you long enough.”
“How did you get in there?”
The cat strutted out. Dexter snapped his fingers and the cat placed the stunned rodent at his feet.
“Well, it is a lovely gift. I know you worked hard to bring it to me, but I have to tell you, I just ate.”
“Thanks for the scare.” Dexter bent down and rubbed the cat’s ears. He was safe. Brutus had not crossed the rainbow bridge to enjoy an all-you-can-eat-tuna buffet. “It gets pretty lonely here. Sure, I have Ace, my companion computer, but he’s not much company when he’s powered down. If anything happened to you, my friend, I’m not sure what I’d do.”
“Go to your brother.”
“Grandmama?” Feeling like a little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he searched for the source of the woman’s voice. “It can’t be you. You’re—”
“Dead?” She chuckled. “That’s old news.”
“I don’t see you?”
“Buckle up, Buttercup—and look up.”
A gray-haired woman in a brimmed hat, gardening clogs and gloves perched on a large branch of an apple tree. He’d spent many sunny days roped to the trunk while his grandmother tended to her large backyard. Despite her best efforts, he had untied the knots and wandered the surrounding area, nibbling at windfalls and creating stories starring him as a fearless adventurer. Grandmama’s thoughts had broadcasted to him like a megaphone, loud and clear. When she had called, he returned home.
“You look good.” He didn’t know what else to say.
Tilting her head, she said, “Ah, poor baby. You don’t think I’m real.”
“You’re a figment of my imagination. Brutus was missing. I was worried about him” He was familiar with the signs of grief, had worked through them many times. His parents died when he was four. He couldn’t go to school. His brother moved away. His grandmother died. And, now, Brutus had scared the crap out of him.
“Dexter,” she placed a fist on her hip. “Remember that story, A Christmas Carol?”
“Think of me as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Our family made wonderful memories here in this special place. Now it’s time for you to go out in the world and to make new ones. You can’t be a reclusive multi-millionaire forever, honey.”
“Kept you tucked away, safe from people who wanted to lock you up with a diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia.” She shook her head. “Had I allowed the doctors to treat you back then, you would not be who you are now. You are a brilliant, creative, handsome man with extraordinary abilities, who also happens to be a powerful telepath. It’s time for you to leave the nest, get out into the world.”
For a figment of his imagination, she was awfully talkative.
“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, the bumper sticker, and the pins. Remember that disastrous summer abroad trip I took? That was more than enough of the world for me.”
“You were sixteen. That’s ages ago.”
“Not to me.” The pain of being led on by a flirtatious college co-ed, only to discover her real opinions of him when she huddled with her girlfriends was as fresh today as it was eleven years ago. “I tried again when I graduated with my master’s degree. A real date, face to face, with a woman I met in my online classes. By the time the evening was over, I was done with her and her gold-digging ideas.”
“Dexter, not everyone is after your wealth. There are decent women out there—some even have their own money.”
“For argument’s sake, let’s pretend I say yes. Where would I go?”
“Your brother would love to see you. Dylan’s girlfriend and I have been chatting for quite a while now. Charlotte thinks it’s time for you to visit them. I agree.”
Dexter bit his lower lip and mulled over her words—his thoughts? Personified by his beloved grandmother? “I do owe him a debt—a big one. Fifty-thousand dollars.”
“Pfft.” She waved her hand. “It’s not about the money. It’s about family secrets that might shock you—and what the past means to your present and future.”
“Why are you telling me this now—why not before?”
“Don’t be sassy.” She fixed him with the look, the one that made him freeze as a child. “I was waiting for everyone to be in the right place at the same time. Your brother holds the key. This cannot be done over the Internet, it must be face to face in real time.”
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Sharon Buchbinder has been writing fiction since middle school and has the rejection slips to prove it. An RN, she provided health care delivery, became a researcher, association executive, and obtained a PhD in Public Health. She is the author of the Hotel LaBelle Series, the Jinni Hunter Series, and the Obsession Series. When not attempting to make students and colleagues laugh or writing, she can be found fishing, walking her dogs, herding cats, or breaking bread and laughing with family and friends in Baltimore, MD and Punta Gorda, FL.
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