cover

Albatross

 

A Kendra Spark Novel, Book 3

S. Peters-Davis

 

Digital ISBNs

EPUB 978-0-2286-0722-9 

Kindle 978-0-2286-0888-2

Web 978-0-2286-0889-9

 

Print ISBNs

LSI/Ingram Print 978-0-2286-0890-5

B&N Print 978-0-2286-0892-9

Amazon Print 978-0-2286-0891-2

 

tmp_97972b4dbeec40f5d94f35251504eed8_NHbohc_html_m5c7a5096.jpg

 

Copyright 2019 by

Cover art by Michelle Lee

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book



Dedication

To my mother and father, may you rest in peace

Yes, I still follow my heart…like both of you taught me in our time together.

Chapter One

 

Kendra

 

 

The scent of vanilla stirred the air within the bathroom. “Sparky, why aren’t you in the big house with Derek?” Jenna, in all her ghosty-glory, got my attention using her pet name for me, an annihilation of my last name. She leaned against the doorjamb of Derek’s small cottage version of his home and silently tapped her toe.

“We needed some thought-provoking space apart.” I turned from the mirror and faced Jenna. “So, did you honestly believe that I saw ghosts before you became one? I mean truly.”

“Well, I called you a few weeks ago when Dad’s life lay in peril from a psycho killer targeting FBI agents.” Jenna tilted her head, her eyes narrowed. “Is this about Derek?”

“He continues to struggle with what he saw at the Voodoo Re-resurrection Ritual. I mean, he watched it, actually saw Buster, and Grandma Ellie with all of the Guardian Angels, and the soul-lights belonging to the trafficked teens.” A deep agonizing sigh rolled off my tongue. “You never saw any of the ghosts I did, and yet you called me for your dad. You had to trust in my ability, right?”

“Listen, Sparky, honestly, I called because none of the agents could get a handle on the situation fast enough for me. My concern for Dad had driven me to make the call. At that point, I wanted to grab at anything, including your ability, even if I didn’t fully believe or understand it.” Jenna stepped closer, her gray and fluorescent green running ensemble flattered her slim frame. “I’d wrap my arm around your shoulder if I could. I still feel like I owe you an apology for so many things, not believing in your ghost-vision is but one.”

“Well, you put on a good front for me, because in college, I never doubted your belief in me.”

Jenna chuckled. “I thought most of what you told me related to your fiction. You were always such a good story-teller with your wild-wacky imagination. Most of the time, I figured you set me up for a shock-factor effect.”

A light rap on the front door announced Derek, but he didn’t enter like usual. Jenna shimmered out of sight as I strode to the door and opened it. My lips parted as I sucked in air. Clara Jones, my literary agent…here? “How did you get this address?”

“From your writer friend, Sharon. I got her information from the last manuscript she sent to me because you were here.” She peered over my shoulder, glancing around the inside of the cottage. “Wow, now this is one hell of a writing retreat.” She pushed past me and stood in the center of the room, gaze darting everywhere until it settled on me. “Tell me you’ve started the first book in the series. Knixton House is getting anxious for the media and cover art information, and since I was in D.C., I thought I might pick it up personally.” She forced a smile. “I’m beginning to think you’re dodging my calls and text messages.”

Another light rap on the door, I swung around to Derek. His smile warmed me, but his arched brow and nod toward Clara indicated his concern.

“Come in and meet my Literary Agent, Clara Jones. Clara, FBI Special Agent, Derek Knight.”

“We just met. Mr. Knight told me how to get back here.” And still, Clara moved toward him with the speed of a booster rocket. Her hand extended and grabbed Derek’s before he offered it. She studied Derek’s face, her gaze traveled over him, from head to toe, until his face blazed red.

He pulled his hand from Clara’s. “Nice to meet you, again. Kendra has mentioned you.”

Clara turned to me. “Only mentioned?”

“We’ve been rather busy solving FBI cases.”

With a poof of vanilla, Jenna reappeared next to Clara. “Wow, she’s a looker. And damnation, her eyes keep creeping back to Derek.” Jenna chuckled. “You’ll have to muzzle her or wrap a blindfold around her head.”

I chuckled out loud. Of course, at the worst inappropriate timing.

“I hate to cut your visit short, Ms. Jones, but Kendra’s presence is requested at a meeting downtown D.C., and we are running behind schedule.” Derek pressed his lips together, tension swept along his jaw and temple.

“Wait a minute, buster. This woman already has a job.” She poked a finger in Derek’s chest. “In fact, she’s obligated to complete that job in record-breaking time to meet the commitment of her book contract.” Clara’s green eyes widened as she glared at Derek.

“I think bolts of lightning are flying from her eyeballs and striking Derek, right in the heart, where her fingernail is buried.” Jenna grinned. “What do you think?”

I forced an exasperated breath and stepped closer to the duo. “Derek, I need some time to talk with Clara. Can you go to the meeting without me? You can record it or just pass on anything I should know.”

Derek grabbed my elbow and directed me toward the door. “She’ll be only a moment,” he said as the door slammed behind us. We kept walking away from the cottage and around the side of Derek’s log home. He stopped and whirled me toward him. “Why is she here? When she knocked on my door this morning and requested you, I thought she might be a relative.”

“I have a signed contract to a new publishing house, and Clara’s nervous about the upcoming deadlines. With everything going on, I haven’t told her about my decision to stay here for a while. I’m not sure how to break my contract.” Plus, the fact that I didn’t look forward to a face-off with Clara. I’d neglected this major obstacle. “She has no clue about my ability, or why the FBI would use me. It’s going to take some time to explain.”

“I’m sure the FBI has some kind of legal documentation we can present to Clara that will supersede your contracts.” He tilted my face upward and pulled me closer. His lips touched mine, stealing my breath. His throaty moan electrified the beat of my heart, and I melted against his body.

Then vanilla fluffed the air, but I ignored it.

“Sparky, wrap it up. Little Miss Nasty-Pants is on her way.” Jenna’s face appeared over Derek’s shoulder. She winked and then vanished.

I broke away from Derek’s embrace. His stormy-blues smoldered.

Clara flounced around the corner and ran into Derek’s shoulder. He stood solid as she stumbled, but then she righted herself, eyeing him and then me. “I’m not getting a good vibe with what’s happening here, Kendra. We need to talk. In private.” She glowered at Derek.

“Get this straightened out.” Derek’s gaze met mine, and then he moved away from Clara. “I’ll let Director Powers know you’ve been detained. I’m sure there’s something he can pull out of his hat to help secure your position with the FBI.”

“What’s he talking about?” Clara’s face flushed to a bright red, almost matching her hair.

“You got time for a coffee, maybe two? This might take a while to explain.” I nodded to Derek as he walked away, and then slipped my arm through Clara’s. “Let’s go back to the cottage. It comes with the best little screened-in porch, very private and serene.”

No resistance from Clara, she more or less led the way back. After I poured the coffee, we settled on the cushy couch in the porch, placing our steaming cups on the low table in front of us. Sunlight filtered through the leafy tree branches, and the morning forest birds kept a continuous conversation batting back and forth, surrounding us in their chatter.

“You’re not going to uphold your contract are you.” Moisture gathered in Clara’s sea green eyes as she stared into the woods. One dribbled down her cheek, making me feel like a mountain-sized pile of poop.

Grandma Ellie’s words chimed through my head, giving me some semblance of peace and strength. “You’re on the right path, Kendra. Your heart just told you so.” I recalled the beautiful soul orbs and the Guardians collecting them to deliver, either to Heaven or to the soul’s rightful owner, those belonging to the trafficked teens’ that the Soul-Sucker had stolen for sustenance. I grabbed Clara’s hand and squeezed. “I don’t expect you to understand, but I’m hoping you’ll resonate with my reasoning for the change of heart.”

“How can you assist in an FBI case, Kendra? Honestly. You’re an author. A mystery and suspense writer of fiction, and that’s what you do well…write fiction.” Clara shook her head and again stared out the window screen without glancing my way. “Your friend died. I don’t understand why you want to stay?” She sighed. “Is it for Derek? Have you developed a relationship with him since you’ve been in D.C.?” Her gaze slid to my face, an eyebrow arched, and she said, “You have the potential to make more money with this publishing company than you’ve made adding the sales royalties from all the books you’ve written so far. It’s this kind of success every author dreams of accomplishing, making big money. You’ve established your fan base of readers, what more could you possibly want? You love what you do already, why change that?”

“I do love writing, but that’s not my only ability.” I met her gaze. “I can see and communicate with spirits, the ghosts of people who have died. Since I became old enough to walk, I’ve had that ‘gift’ as my Grandmother Ellie used to call it. I couldn’t tell if my friends were alive or dead…I didn’t realize there was a difference until I was much older. People made fun of me for talking to air, like I was a paranoid schizophrenic because they couldn’t see the spirit standing beside me.” A few of those memories snapped through my brain, and I realized this could be another one of those times with Clara.

Clara’s eyes went wide, huge unblinking circles, an all too familiar expression. “You’re telling me you see ghosts? Not only see them but can talk with them…as in conversations?”

Her tone sounded somewhere between stunned, sarcasm, and possibly awe. The moment of silence between us grew until it became the drowning whale in the room.

She gasped so loud, it startled me. “Why in the hell didn’t you tell me that? I have so many dead people I want to contact.”

I dropped my mouth open, and I was positive my brows shot up to mid-forehead. “Not meaning to disappoint you, but I don’t have a lot of control calling in spirits, well, unless they’ve just died.” Although I had used the personal possessions of the deceased to connect with their spirit in the past, I didn’t wish to share that information with her now.

Clara slammed her back into the couch cushion. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

“Okay, my ability allows me to communicate with Jenna, my friend who died in that accident a few weeks ago. She’s an FBI criminal analyst. I’m her translator to the living. Between her and I, we can gain information from murdered victims. That is if their spirit remains earthbound for a bit.” I studied Clara. Her eyes narrowed, her chin tilted up as if intrigued. “I believe what I can do for the FBI is my true calling. My stories might be impactful to some readers, but what I’ve done for the FBI has saved lives. A lot of them.”

She leaned forward to grab the handle of her coffee cup and took a sip. Again, her attention slipped to the forest. A deer scampered between the trees, followed by at least five more, white-tails flashing like small flags. She sipped again, then settled back with the cup in her hand. “I get it, Kendra. I wish you had been straight with me from the beginning before you signed the contract. Will you ever want to write another novel? Or could this be a year or so hiatus?”

“At this point, I don’t foresee writing in my near future. I don’t know how I’ll feel a year or two from now. Writing has been my life for so long, I’m surprised there’s something else speaking to me louder than being an author.” I leaned forward to retrieve my cup and drank, feeling the hot liquid slide down my throat and through my chest. “All I know for sure is I need to stay.”

Jenna rushed through the screen, her eyes bulging. “There’s a couple of big guys in uniforms wandering around Derek’s house. They’re carrying guns. Sparky, I think you and Clara need to hide in the secret room. Now! They’re sneaking through the trees, headed this way.”

“Clara, we need to hide.”

She stared at me as if my face morphed into troll-mode.

I stood, gave her a hand up, and then whispered, “Be very quiet, bring your cup, so they don’t know we’ve been out here. We need to get into the secret room. There’s a trap door in the floor of the bedroom closet. We have to hurry.” Thank goodness Derek gave me a tour of the little room soon after those men broke into his home a few nights ago.

Clara’s brows drew together, and she eyed me again.

A look I’d grown to recognize from the many I’d seen in my lifetime. It saddened me for a heartbeat. Then I grabbed Clara’s hand. “Bring the cup with you,” I repeated.

“I’ll be right back. Maybe those dudes will say something that gives us an idea why they’re planting electronics and packing guns.” Jenna whooshed out of sight. A new sound-effect she’d not used before today.

I led Clara to the closet in silence, refraining from the temptation to peek out the window. I moved shoes out of the way but left a few stacked to fall over the square doorway in the floor when I closed it. I went first to flip on the light for Clara, she scuttled down the ladder right after. We both heard footsteps cross the living area. I quietly climbed the rungs high enough to slide the deadlock into place. I signaled for her to remove her shoes in case they made a sound, and then we settled on the concrete floor in the farthest corner from the ceiling entrance and exit.

Derek had left a loaded gun inside a box, and it lay next to me. I popped off the cover and pulled the pistol out, setting it in my lap. The small concrete room, about seven feet-by-seven feet, had been painted gray and held nothing other than the box with the gun and us. Thank goodness for the one dim lightbulb hanging from the ceiling near the ladder.

Clara’s face paled as I held my finger to my lips to keep her silent. Her body trembled, and her eyes welled with moisture as she nodded her head.

The intruders walked above our heads, hesitating at the bed. Damn. I’d left my purse on the bedspread with my cellphone tucked inside.

I hoped Derek’s security alarm got triggered like it had the other night, during our nap before the midnight voodoo ceremony in the forest. Right now, Clara and I huddled as if we were mice in a trap…with a gun loaded and ready.

Chapter Two

 

Kendra

 

 

The scent of vanilla broadcasted Jenna, and she shimmered into form in front of Clara and me, even though Clara couldn’t see her. “The men headed into the woods about ten minutes ago. I followed as far as my tether to you allowed. They wondered why you left without your purse or phone. They placed something inside your phone, and it looked like they made a copy of your cellphone numbers. That means they got Dad’s and the teams.”

I didn’t want to think about what that meant. “Clara, they’re gone. We can go up now.” I tucked the gun back inside the box and covered it with the lid.

“How do you know they’re gone?” Clara whispered, her voice quaking.

“My friend, Jenna, is here with us. She followed the two guys into the woods. They’ve left for good. She saw them set some electronic surveillance around Derek’s and in the cottage also. But she wasn’t with them the entire time so they may have set electronics in other places.” I helped Clara to her feet, and we both moved slow, muscles stiffened from the cool concrete floor and wall. “We won’t be able to talk about this until we get away from the house. Would you mind driving me into D.C.?” I wanted to make sure Derek had made it there without trouble. Otherwise, he would have been back here from the breach in his security system.

“Yes, definitely. I’d like to get as far away from this place as possible. Right now. This place is like stepping into some damn thriller scene.” She huffed, a signal she’d returned to fearless, her usual state of being. “Why in the hell is there a gun down here anyway?”

Before I could answer, she held her hand up to stop me.

“This could be the start of your next suspense-romance.” She grinned at me as I moved past her to climb the ladder.

I opened the trap door and shuffled back down. “Go ahead, Clara. I’ll snap the light off after you climb up.”

She hustled onto the rungs, and once in the bedroom, sighed a big breath that I assumed was relief. Maybe she wasn’t her fearless self quite yet. I followed her out of the closet and closed the secret-room door.

“Sparky, I’m not sure why Derek isn’t back here. Something isn’t right about his security system. Those men should have triggered the silent alarm.”

“Yes, I wondered the same thing. Derek confirmed a few times how his system is impenetrable, infallible.” I walked over to the bed.

Jenna pointed a finger at her mouth and then at her ear. “They are listening. And watching.” She nodded her head in a direction. “Don’t look. They attached a camera on your lampshade, and they stuck a microphone on the base of the lamp. Derek can take care of it. Let’s get out of here before we say anything more. We may have said too much already…talking about the security system is a sure tell we knew they were here. Well, I guess them watching you climb out of the secret-room was a sure tell also.”

Clara stood quietly beside me, her lips pressed tight. Her brows rose as she gazed around the room. “We should get into town, right?”

“Yes.” I left my phone and purse on the bed. “Let’s get.” I glanced at Clara. “You didn’t carry your purse?”

“I left everything inside my car, but the key.” She pulled it from her blazer pocket. “The doors are locked,” she added.

We left the cottage without locking it because I had yet to receive a key. “Do you think Derek might not have set the alarm because we stayed behind?”

Jenna stared ahead, looking thoughtful. “Derek has a perimeter alarm around his property that I’m sure those men would have triggered. I’m fairly certain that’s always live, even when he doesn’t set the house alarm.”

I chose not to relay Jenna’s message to Clara.

Clara tapped in her password to open the car door and then hit a button to unlock the passenger side. We climbed in and buckled our seatbelts. She swung the car into the turn-around and drove down the driveway, staring straight ahead.

Jenna planted herself in the backseat of the Cadillac. “Wow, what a plush interior.”

“Yes, it’s a lovely car,” I said, scanning the area through the front windows for evidence of trouble for Derek or worst-case scenario, his SUV with him in it.

Clara glanced my way, eyes blinking. “Go, ahead, talk to your friend. I’m assuming you’re not talking to me.” Then she resumed her attention on driving, fast and white knuckled.

“Did you hear any other conversations from those guys?” I asked Jenna, but studied Clara. Stymied over how well Clara consumed what I’d shared regarding Jenna.

Jenna leaned toward me, then morphed through the seat and dashboard. She positioned herself as if sitting in front of me, her head wavered in and out of the windshield with her animated, expressive movements, looking extremely weird like a large lit bulb bouncing back and forth through the window. “Yes. They mentioned their superior as ‘Linchpin-G’ and how there would be hell to pay if they didn’t roll into some intel from Knight. They need to find out what he knows, can his intel be trusted and used or is it compromised. He and his team could be eliminated.”

“Oh, my Gods. How would we know what Linchpin-G considers compromised? What does that even mean? They’d kill us?” I glanced at Clara as she side-eyed me, and then she turned her attention back toward the road, increasing the speed of the car.

 

 

* * *

 

Derek

 

 

Someone rapped on the conference room door, and Jackson appeared strained as he waved a finger toward me. “Derek, do the honors.” He turned back to Tressa. “Now that we know we can’t trust anyone from WPD, including Internal Affairs from Gimbel’s Wilmington Police Department precinct, we’re on our own for research. I’ll handle the meeting this afternoon with those representatives. So, Tressa, tell us what you’ve learned about Kelly and Tori James.”

I opened the door and slipped out of the room to Darla. Her wide eyes piqued my curiosity as she would never interrupt a meeting unless for a good reason. “What is it?” Kendra came to mind.

“Come with me. Someone broke into your house.”

Every nerve in my body sluiced pain into my chest and cut off the air to my lungs. My brain screamed to protect. I pushed past Darla without an apology, my need to get home far more immediate.

“Derek, Kendra is at my desk.” She hollered, running to catch up.

“Why the hell didn’t you lead with that?” I hurried the rest of the way down the hall and rounded the corner to Darla’s desk. Kendra lifted her gaze toward me as I approached. My heart thundered in my ears. The feeling of not being enough to keep her safe burned through my chest as I continued the struggle of believing what I’d seen the night of the Voodoo ritual. She stood next to her agent.

“Did Darla tell you what happened?” Kendra stepped closer, and I couldn’t stop from embracing her for an extended few seconds. She stepped back, and breathlessly said, “Thank goodness you’re all right.” She hugged me and again drew away. “I was also thankful you had shown me the secret-room, and you’d left a gun for just-in-case. So was Jenna.”

I glanced at Darla.

Darla’s eyes looked like quarters, and her mouth dropped open. “Jenna?” Her arms crossed, and her brows pulled together as she stared at Kendra.

“No, not Jenna. I’m sure Kendra meant Clara, her agent.” I grabbed Kendra’s elbow and guided her down the hall. Clara followed us. I led them through a door to another small intimate interrogation room. One Kendra had visited before, and she’d seemed comfortable in the cozy chairs. Both women sat next to each other as I went to close the door. “Darla, you won’t be needed for this meeting.”

She hovered at the door, peering around me, which seemed odd.

I repeated she wasn’t needed and closed the door in her face. I took a breath, and a sigh of frustration escaped. “Tell me what happened. I never got a warning notice from my security company.” Kendra reached for my hand. I stepped to her and grasped hers in a steady grip, her skin soft and warm. “How did those guys get to the house? By car? Did they get inside?” She drew me toward the chair next to her. “Are you all right?” I asked. “They didn’t see you, correct?”

“We hid from them in the secret-room under my closet floor. I never saw them. Jenna’s the one that forewarned me to hide.” She glanced away, toward empty air, a sure sign Jenna stood there. “The men called their superior Linchpin-G.”

A rap on the door, Jackson strode in and over to Kendra. She rose and hugged him. “I understand you had a dangerous morning.” He scowled at me from over Kendra’s head. “Derek, what happened to your security system?”

“I’m not sure.” I cleared my throat from the tightened muscles cutting into my breath.

Then, Jackson broke apart from Kendra and glanced at Clara.

She rose to her feet. “Clara Jones, Kendra’s literary agent.” She shook Jackson’s extended hand.

“Jackson Powers, Kendra’s new boss.”

Tressa, Ray, and Luke filed into the room. Tressa rushed to Kendra, they hugged. “We’ve been busy this morning. Derek filled us in on your agent showing up.” She stepped away from Kendra and handed Jackson a folder.

He opened it. “I believe these documents are for you, Ms. Jones. Official documentation issued from the Federal Bureau of Investigations stating Kendra Spark has been formally requested for service to this government agency, expunging all previous contracts or commitments to any other agency or business.” Jackson handed the folder to Clara.

“I came here for Kendra’s first chapters and media package for her new series, and this is what I get,” she said, her tone flat as moisture gathered in her eyes. She stared at the papers and then at Kendra. “I hope you realize what you’re giving up, and the danger you’re getting yourself into with the FBI.”

The room went into a vacuum of silence as everyone stared at Clara. Tears rolled down her face as she stumbled into Kendra for a hasty hug.

“I know exactly what I’m doing, Clara. Please don’t worry. I’ll keep you updated periodically…as friends. No writing in the near future…and possibly never again. And I am safe at what I do for the FBI.”

“Not today,” Clara added. Her gaze wandered around the room as if denoting to everyone her fear for Kendra’s safety. She stopped on me, her eyes narrowed. “You better keep her safe, Mr. Knight.”

My body tensed, knowing I couldn’t make that promise with the little knowledge I had of the unseen world beyond the normal. I needed an education, some how, some way, to the dark creatures and spirits that threatened Kendra’s life. “That’s my plan.” Truth.

Ray broke the moments of silence that had followed, and said, “I’ll escort you out, Ms. Jones.”

Everyone sat, waiting for Ray to return. I walked out to call my home security company and ran into Darla near the open doorway. “Is there something else?”

She jumped back. Again, her eyes went to quarter-size, and she stuttered, “No, nothing, just walking past.” But she didn’t move away from the door.

Strange. I strode down the hall expecting her to follow me as the phone in the reception room rang for the fourth time, but when I looked back, she’d snugged herself into the doorjamb. “Darla,” I called to her. She didn’t look my way. I hollered, “The phone at the reception desk is ringing. Darla!” She turned toward me but hadn’t moved forward. “Go answer it,” I directed, pointing toward reception.

She raced down the hall and left me with the oddest sense that I’d caught her eavesdropping, and she didn’t care.

I called the security company. They informed me of a small blip, but nothing recorded as a breach in my security system. After I explained what had happened at the house, they agreed to send some of their technicians to run a complete assessment of my indoor and outdoor systems.

I hurried back to the room, and Jackson met me at the door. “I’m sending your team to investigate what happened this morning. They’ll have the equipment to sweep out any foreign surveillance electronics left behind. Maybe afterward, you can have a short meeting to set up a task agenda for your team. I’d like a copy of it.” He walked out the door before I could respond.

Tressa, Ray, and Luke rode in the big black van filled with tools and supplies for any number of uses, like protection, monitoring-surveillance, state-of-the-art GPS, or medical aid. Kendra rode with me and shared more about what had happened at the house, like the thugs stealing contacts from her phone, their added electronics, and the reference they’d used for their boss as Linchpin-G.

“So, Linchpin-G. Do you think of Gimbel?” I asked.

“Actually, at first, I did, but then there’s also Gonzolas, as in Bertellia Camilla Gonzolas, A.K.A. Queen B to consider.” Kendra chewed her cheek as she stared at me. After a moment, she added, “Grandma Ellie shared something with Jenna. Bertellia is gaining a reputation for being a malevolent bad-ass, connected to the dark forces on all planes. We need to figure out why and what. She’s got something up her sleeve, and somehow Jenna and I are in Queen B’s plan. Maybe, she’s actually the big-guy running the show, running Gimbel.”

“She’s a ghost. Why in the hell would you think she could be any part of this?”

“Because of the threats she’s made with Jenna and me, she wants to use us, gain leverage. How could she do that without someone on the earth plane doing her bidding? I’m not the only person that can communicate with the dead.” She exhaled a heavy sigh. “I know you aren’t totally on board yet with believing what you saw at the Voodoo ceremony, but there are also other ways for someone to help Bertellia as in the Queen B gaining possession of someone’s body. Just a thought.”

A thought that soured my stomach. Damnit, my world keeps expanding into supernatural possibilities that fly over my head and screw with my ability to protect Kendra and our team. “Without any idea of how to protect you from dark spirits, as you’ve referred to them, how can I possibly know when one has possessed a human body?”

“Honestly, we both need some training from NaNa Rosa. There are some protection chants and rituals I can use from Grandma Ellie’s journal, but I have a feeling NaNa Rosa can teach us more profound, effective ways to protect ourselves, and hopefully more…as in actually destroying dark entities.”

 

Chapter Three

 

Kendra

 

 

I dumped the contents of my purse on top of the bed, searching for any foreign electronic “bug” devices, not positive I could recognize one if I saw it. Vanilla wafted around me then Jenna appeared next to my bed. “Tressa and the guys are wrapping it up. They’ve gone around the perimeter of Derek’s property and all over the house with the seek-n-find equipment. There weren’t as many electronics placed as I initially thought. Between the team and the security guys, they figured out how those not-so-idiot dudes got into the system also. Tressa dazzled ’em on that one by going through the security company’s computer system.” Jenna wriggled her brows up and down. “That woman packs some mad-skills, more than the nerds that broke into Derek’s system.”

Tressa tapped on the bedroom doorjamb and then walked in with a small instrument. “Thought I’d run a scan through the cottage.” I pointed at the lamp, but she started with the stuff on the bed and grabbed my phone. Then she wandered over to the lamp and found two, sealing them and my phone into a metallic-looking bag. “How’s it going, Kendra? Are you coming down to earth after that big scare this morning?”

“I’m tougher than you think. I’m even tougher than I think.” I laughed. “Grandma Ellie watches over me in the spirit world, and Derek and the team keeps us all safe. I’m good, and letting Clara know that I’m on hiatus with writing to work with the FBI has freed a huge weight from me.”

Tressa walked over and gave me a hug. “If I were lucky enough to have a sister, I’d want you.” She smiled, took a step back, and then said, “Nope, I got stuck with five brothers and guess what, I’m the youngest. I had to get fearless to survive, and a couple of my brothers taught me how to fight and how to raise hell with the internet.” She chuckled.

Jenna smiled, studying Tressa. “I always admired this woman. She’s intelligent and straight-forward. No BS.”

“Let’s go meet up with the rest of the team,” Tressa said. “They’re waiting for us in Derek’s kitchen. He’s making everyone a burger on his indoor grill.”

“Are you sure he didn’t place an order at Grandma’s Homemade Vittles? We love the burgers and fries from that place, and they deliver here.” I raised a brow and then looped my arm through Tressa’s. “Let’s go before anyone gets anxious, like Ray.” I grinned. “Don’t think Derek and I don’t know you two have a thing going on.”

“I didn’t hide it from you because I trust you. How does Derek know about us?” She led me out the cottage door, and we walked toward the house. Jenna floated along on the other side of Tressa.

“Well, he’s not blind.” I stopped her. “Is there an issue for agents to be in a relationship?”

“Yes. We’ve tried to hide it, but watching you and Derek…well, that became tough for us.” She moved forward, and Jenna and I followed. “Guess it’s time to come clean with Derek, especially because sometimes I get to go into the field with everyone. When I was mainly at the office, it didn’t feel as compromising as it might to Derek now.”

Compromising?’ I mouthed to Jenna.

“She means, when two agents are in a deep relationship, there’s always a chance one will compromise their position, along with the whole team’s position, by a rescue attempt for the other. A lot of times that takes out two good agents. It gets dangerous for the whole team.” Jenna shimmered out of sight, and then said, “I’ll see you inside.”

“I’m not sure why that matters when there’s the attitude of ‘no one gets left behind.’ At least, I know that’s how Derek thinks.” I’d seen it enough to know how much he cared for each of the team. I squeezed Tressa’s arm.

We both walked into the kitchen to dead silence. I didn’t see anything on the counter to indicate Derek intended to grill burgers. Ray stood on a bar stool, fishing around the hanging light above the granite surface. Derek put his finger to his lips, indicating silence.

Ray yanked something out and came away with a small object. He climbed down, dropped it on the counter, and zapped it with a tiny laser. He picked it up and handed it off to Tressa. “We missed one. Here you go. Maybe you can follow up on this to see where it originated.”

“Hard to do when it’s now toast.” Tressa pressed her lips together.

“Oh. Oops.” He backed away from her, and everyone laughed.

“She’s got a powerful attitude, most likely from her brothers.” Jenna chuckled, releasing the scent of vanilla as she appeared. “I’ve always enjoyed being around Tressa. She’s not one to run away from a potential confrontation, and she’s never afraid to give her honest opinion.”