So I finished this…it’s another FBI short… well, not super short, it’s about category length, but hey.  FYI, it was just finished, typos are probably there.  They’ll get caught in editing/revising.

Dunno what will come of it. Sent it to Samhain but we’ll see what they say.

Jay Roberts never expected to fall in love with a man from Hell.

But she had.

And now he’d up and cut her off.  Out of the blue.

She’d met Lincoln Dawson online and it hadn’t been at one of those hokey, online dating sites.  She didn’t mess with those.

What was she supposed to put down?

Hello… I’m a security specialist who works for a think tank/security group/troubleshooter group known as the Oswald Group and I’m psychometric.  It causes some issues with intimacy because when I touch people, I pick up on what they think and if you compare to a former lover, I’m going to know.  I’m five three, I hate walks in the rain, I kind of enjoy dirty movies, I love dirty books and I’m still a virgin. I’m kinky as hell and I’d love to find a way to get laid, but I don’t see that happening…

Yeah, it led to problems.

It had been pure accident that she met Linc.

She was online, incognito, naturally. Almost any time she went online, it was related to work.  She had been investigating the disappearance of a teenager in Florida and he’d been smacking down somebody who had been preying on a couple of preteen girls.

Granted, the predator had acted like he was a girl.

She had seen through it, just as Lincoln had.

It was a long and convoluted path, but they’d been talking online for almost a year.

He’d asked more than once if they’d ever meet.

She wanted to tell him yes, so badly.

And she’d been really, really close.

Despite the fact that she’d been…well, misleading him from the beginning. Despite the fact that she had been hiding some huge secrets.

She needed to come clean with him because if she didn’t, they had no chance at all.

And she had been this close.

Planned her entire vacation around coming down here, too.

But then, nearly three months ago, he’d stopped talking to her.  Stopped answering emails, cut off contact completely.

Sadly, one of her jobs came up that had pushed her off the grid for nearly three weeks. She’d reached out to him as soon as it was over and he’d finally called her back, only she’d been in a meeting.

I don’t have time for this, Jay.  It’s not working out.  Good-bye.

When her boss Oz offered her another short-term, off-the-grid job, she took it.  Five weeks in, but she submerged with the gut deep feeling that something was wrong.

Lo and behold, something was.

Now she was here.

In Hell.  Literally, and maybe even in the biblical sense of the word.

Jay had done a double-take the first time she’d seen the name of the little town and she’d asked Linc twice if he was joking. But as she’d driven by the little bank and saw the digital display of the temperature—a balmly 96 in June—she had to admit, Hell was aptly name.  She’d spent the past ten years living in Texas.  She was intimately acquainted with hot.

This place, though, took the idea of hot and cooked it up and deep-fried it for good measure.

Before she hunted down her man, though, and asked how they’d gone from dirty little sexts in the middle of the night to the cold shoulder and I don’t have time for this, she needed gas.  She needed a cold drink and maybe five minutes in the bathroom.

The A.C. on her car was…questionable…at best and she’d been slowing baking in her car for the past hour.  It was edging up nine and it was still boiling hot outside.  This place had to be pure torture come August.

The gas station looked like it hadn’t been updated any time this millinium.  The pumps were slower than her great-grandmother had been on seniors day at Kroger back home in Louisville and when she pushed inside the store, the cool blast of air was so welcome, she wanted to cry.

She was damn glad she always traveled with some cash on hand, because there was a sign taped to the do—Plastic is no good here.  Cash only. Yeah, definitely stuck in the last century, because there was no ATM, either.

The guy behind the counter looked like he might be stuck in the nineties, maybe even the sixties because he was staring at her like she was some alien life form. Jay was used to that.  She actually kind of like the odd attention she received over her pink and blue streaked hair, the little gold hoop that pierced her right eyebrow.  The gloves tended to catch a lot of notice, but she’d give almost anything to not need them.  Her physical appearance was weird enough that the gloves just went with everything else, but the gloves were a necessity.

Everything else was just preference.

She’d go crazy without her gloves. She couldn’t function.  Not for long, anyway.  One touch against the wrong anything was enough to put her into a state of shock, something she knew from experience.

Those innocent little touches, the things people took for granted, were the very things that could drive her insane.  A brush of a hand, even if she was shielded, could flood her with all a person’s fears, anxieties and secrets.  If the person was having a bad day, it got even worse.

And if the person was in pain, physical or mental, the effects were so much worse.

Psychometry wasn’t picky when it decided to wreak fhavoc on her life. Her gift tied into emotions and she didn’t have to take off the gloves to know the guy behind the counter was a mess.

His thoughts were…dark.

She approached him with more than a little bit of caution, wishing she’d thought to strap on her weapon, but it was a pain in the ass, even if she had have a conceal carry permit.  Although, hey… she was kinda sorta involved with the sheriff.

Well, she thought she was.


It didn’t matter, though.

This kid was more involved in whatever was twisting up his mind than anything else.

She pulled her money out of her pocket and peeled off three twenties, putting them down on the counter.

The kid just stared, rocking back and forth on the stool, staring at nothing.

“Ah, hey.  Can I get my change?”

His eyes skittered over to hers.

A chill raced up her back.

The lights aren’t exactly on. Nobody is home, she thought.

The door opened behind her and the kid went stiff, his gaze bouncing to the men behind her and she shifted, turning so that she had them in her line of sight and could still see the kid.

Sweat beaded along his lip and abruptly, his body relaxed and a sigh shuddered out of him.

He blinked and looked at her.  “Ma’am, that will be $57.00.”

She gestured to the counter, focused on the men who move to fill the empty space between the counter and the door.

Rednecks, she thought.  And not the hard-working kind she’d come from.  Her daddy had been a redneck and he’d busted his ass from dawn to dusk to make sure she never wanted for anything.

These guys, though, rednecks and not in the nice sense of the word.  Already, the one in the middle was eying her in that way that just made her feel dirty.  Trouble, trouble, trouble…

Some people just gave off a certain vibe.  Most women eventually learn to pick up on that vibe…it was that vibe that had them crossing the road when she saw a certain sort of guy, the one that made her realize she didn’t want to be anywhere alone with him, the guy that set off every internal alarm she had.  He was the guy that stood too close, stared too long, and generally just creeped her out.

There were three of them standing in front of her now, and the one in the middle was the worst.

And the biggest problem of them all was that he had a rough psychic skill.

In her line of work, she’d come to learn that psychic ability wasn’t as uncommon as some might think.  It was estimated that one percent of the population had some sort of psychic ability—it sounded like a low number, but that added up to one in hundred.  With billions of people on that planet, that wasn’t as low as it seemed.

The abilities varied, though and the typical ‘homegrown’ psychic, like this guy, was weak.  Most of them just had better than average instincts.  Some were going to just be sensitive to things—might feel really uncomfortable in a house where a lot of violence had happened, while another might be really good at guessing a winner at the Derby or really good at occasionally picking four or five lottery numbers.  The lucky sort of bastard.

Judging by the way he was watching her, he decided he was going to get lucky again.

And he had no idea what he was dealing with either.

Because like most of those homegrown psychics, he had no idea what he was, and no idea what he was dealing with.

She shifted her attention back to the boy and waited for her change, using the mirror mounted in the corner to watch him.  If she was lucky, she could get out of here without messing with him.

When he whistled in her direction, Jay ignored it.

She was good at ignoring things.

All she had to do was get out of there and everything would be good.

She scooped up her change, careful not to make contact with the kid behind the counter, careful not to let him touch her even with the gloves.  Tucking her cash into her pocket, she turned to go and wasn’t surprised to see all three men blocking her way.

“Excuse me.”

“She looks like a piece of candy.  Look at that pink hair.”  It was the one with the mild psychic ability and the leer in his eyes made her skin crawl.  His gaze raked over her from head to toe and then zoomed in on her chest.  She wore a tank with a fishnet top stretched over it.  It fit close.  Most of her clothing did.  Once upon a time, she’d hid behind baggy clothing, cowered in her room, convinced she was going crazy.  Her dad’s death, the emergence of her ability, it had all hit at once.  Sanity had been a touch and go thing for a while.

She might be a little crazy but hiding hadn’t helped.

So she’d stopped hiding and she’d learned how to deal.  With everything, just about. Including guys like this.

As he continued to stare at her tits, she said again, “Excuse me.”

A wide, unpleasant smile spread across his face.

She steadied herself and bolstered her shields.  She could only keep everything locked out for short periods of time.  More than ten or fifteen minutes and she felt like she was going through some sort of serious bout of sensory deprivation.  That didn’t help her state of mind.

But touching thugs like this? That wasn’t going to help either.

And she was going to have to touch one of them, probably several of them.

The ringleader stepped up and reached out.

She didn’t react as he trailed a finger down her cheek.  “You lost there, sugar?”  She felt nothing but the physical contact, his finger, rough against her skin.  She could almost imagine a slimy aftertrail.  Dirty—he was so dirty and he contaminated everything he touched.

“No.”  She lied through her teeth and did it with a smile as she angled her head away, breaking contact.  Keeping her shields up kept her feeling too much, but she still caught enough—too much—lust and greed and a need to hurt.  She wanted a shower.  “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go.  I’m meeting somebody.”

“Why don’t you tell me where you’re heading?  I can give you a hand.”

“I don’t need—”

The bell over the door rang.

She didn’t look away from the men in front of her.

“Lloyd.  Why don’t you step away from the lady?”

A shiver raced down her spine.  That voice.  Familiar…

The man in front of her curled his lip, a slow, smirking sort of smile.  It was the smile of a man she wouldn’t trust at her back.  She didn’t even trust this man at her front.  “Well, hey there, sheriff…oh, wait. You ain’t the sheriff no more.  You know what?  I think I’ll stay right here.  I’m talking to this pretty little piece of candy here.”


She tore her eyes away from him and stared at the man she’d come to find.

Sheriff Lincoln Dawson, the man she’d found herself falling head over heels in love with over the past year.

The man who according to this thug wasn’t the sheriff anymore.

Okay, that could wait.

“I think you’ll step away.” Lincoln’s voice came a little closer and she took a deep, steadying breath.

His eyes cut to hers.

And she watched as his gaze passed over her, and then immediately came right back.

Cocking her head, she said softly, “Hello, Lincoln.”