Return to The Zodiac Series: Aquarius
A Lick And A Promise
Lisa Pinckney thought astrology was
a lot of nonsense, but she’d
never tell Aunt Jo. Jo Nell Clark had
actually taken classes in the stuff
and been certified, whatever that meant.
For years the family joked that Jo
was certifiable. Her four ex-husbands
thought so, too, except they weren’t
joking. But Lisa found nothing to criticize
in her lively aunt. How many women
in their sixties could run marathons
and ride bicycles, dressed in OSHA
orange, no less?
Lisa, with her own platinum spiked
hairdo and body piercings, was considered
a bit offbeat by relatives, too. Consequently,
she stuck close to Aunt Jo at family
gatherings. Tonight they were meeting
at The Health Nut, Jo’s favorite
restaurant. Although Lisa preferred
the fried chicken livers and gravy
at Cracker Barrel, she had to admit
that her aunt’s choice was healthier.
So she resigned herself to a meal of
tofu meatloaf and astrological advice.
It would probably be the last time
they’d dine out together for
a long time.
Aunt Jo, waiting at a corner booth
when Lisa arrived, rose to hug her. “Sweetie,
that shade of red becomes you.”
“Thanks,” Lisa murmured,
sliding into the booth across from
her. She’d worn her red power
suit for a meeting with her staff. “That
metallic lime suits you, too.”
Jo patted her wild silver hair and
chuckled. Her matching lime earrings
jingled from the movement. “Thanks.” She
slid a sheet of paper across the table. “Here,
sugar. You’ll need your reading
Lisa plucked the paper from the table.
Even if she didn’t believe in
astrology, she was curious to see what
the planets had to tell her. Furthermore,
her aunt invested a lot of time in
preparing her monthly chart, for which
clients paid up to a hundred dollars
per reading. Jo earned enough money
from her astrology business that, combined
with her social security, she could
afford expensive bicycle equipment
and running gear.
“Thank you.” Lisa folded
the sheet and stuck it in the outside
pocket of her purse. She’d look
at it later.
“Don’t wait too long to
read it. It’s very important
for you to be open to romance during
this period, Lisa, especially to a
At the word romance, Lisa tuned
her out. She’d had more than
enough romance, thank you very much.
Hell, she’d had enough of dating
as well. And a Gemini? She made it
a point to know every man’s sign
so she could report back to her astrologist-aunt,
but only one Gemini had been among
them. There was no way in hell she’d
open herself to romance with the arrogant
Ethan Parker, even if she’d be
around to date him. Which she wouldn’t.
They’d had one dinner date, a
total disaster. Talk about two people
with nothing in common!
“Don’t rule out anybody,
sugar, until you really get to know
A shiver tickled Lisa’s spine. “Who
says I have anyone in mind?”
“I may be an Aries, but Aquarius
is my first house and my rising sign.
We’re connected that way.”
“Because ... my sun sign is
Lisa should know this stuff. She didn’t
want Aunt Jo to think she hadn’t
paid attention to her horoscope readings
all these years. She remembered some
of the personality traits of an Aquarian:
unconventional, creative, and into
all levels of communication. Relationships
took priority. Jo once told her that
strangers were friends she had yet
to meet. True, these traits squared
with Lisa’s personality but didn’t
persuade her to embrace astrology.
Aunt Jo nodded, jangling her earrings
again. “You and I share personality
traits. We’re more alike than
you might think.”
As in unconventional? “Okay,
but you once told me that an Aquarian
and a Gemini weren’t compatible.”
“I did not!” She recoiled
as if Lisa had insulted her. “I
wouldn’t say such a thing.”
Busted. “Sorry. I forgot what
you said about generalizations.”
“You’ve just been humoring
your favorite aunt about astrology,
Busted again, but she wouldn’t
admit it and hurt her aunt’s
feelings. “No! I just can’t
remember everything you’ve told
Mollified, Jo smiled. “So tell
me about the Gemini you dated.”
“Are you psychic?”
She smiled and winked. “Sometimes.
But don’t change the subject.”
“I have to. I have news. If
you’re psychic, it may not come
as a surprise, though,” Lisa
“News? Spill! I’m not
a mind reader.”
“It’s a good-news, bad-news
Lisa hesitated as the young waitress
arrived to take their beverage orders.
In her hippie costume of bell bottom
jeans and a peasant blouse, she needed
only a peace symbol necklace to complete
her sixties look, although the kid
was born at least two decades later.
Aunt Jo ordered papaya juice.
“Make mine a bottled water.”
The waitress shuffled to the kitchen
in her Jesus sandals and Jo resumed
their conversation. “Okay. Give
me the good news first.”
“I’m being promoted to
plant manager.” Just saying it
brought excited butterflies to her
stomach. Plant manager was a big step
for Lisa’s career. “I’ve
earned it, but it’s still scary.”
“That’s wonderful! I know
how hard you’ve been working
“After Wendy left, it wasn’t
as much fun to goof off.” Aunt
Jo knew she was referring to her best
friend, Wendy Powers, who had finally
met Mr. Right and moved to Atlanta. “I
“You matured,” Jo
said. “Do you and Wendy keep
“Not as much. We’ve both
been too busy.” Lisa missed Wendy.
Soon she’d live just a couple
of hours from her and they could reconnect.
“Well, you don’t have
to tell me the bad news, sugar. The
job’s not here in Columbia.”
“Maybe you really are psychic.
I’ll be in charge of a small
plant near Macon, Georgia.”
“That’s not too far. You’ll
come back for visits, right?”
“Of course. And you’ll
visit me, too. I’ll have a guest
room, wherever I decide to live.” She’d
been house-hunting once, but needed
to settle on a place soon. She’d
already given up the lease on her apartment.
Jo shook her head. “I won’t
be intruding on you and your husband...”
“Husband?!” Jeez, what
was with Aunt Jo tonight? Husbands.
Romance. A Gemini man. “Are you
nuts? I don’t even have a boyfriend
at the moment.”
“We still need to discuss this
Gemini you dated.”
“No, we don’t.” Lisa
sighed. “Look, even if a Gemini
and an Aquarian can be compatible,
Ethan and I are not. Subject closed.”
“Ethan, eh?” Jo said,
ignoring the subject closed directive. “You
know, Gemini and Aquarius are both
air signs. Both are into communication...”
“Look, maybe there is a Gemini
in my future, someone I have yet to
meet. All I know is it can’t
be Ethan Parker.” She would never
hurt her aunt’s feelings, but
talk of a romance with Ethan Parker,
Gemini or not, was preposterous.
“Just tell me what’s so
terrible about him.” She wouldn’t
Lisa had tried to put the humiliation
out of her mind. “Let’s
just say he was immune to my charms.
And, no, he isn’t gay.”
“In other words, you came on
to him on the first date and he told
you to back off?”
“Good grief, I don’t want
to have a conversation about my sex
life with my aunt! Let’s just
As if. “Exactly what went wrong
on your date with the guy, sugar?”
“What went right?” Lisa
slid further in the booth as if hiding
from the memory. “I thought he
was hot, you know? I mean, he could
play double for Johnny Depp, but he
wears gray suits and blue shirts, and
those plain burgundy ties. I knew up
front he was, you know, Mr. Conservative.
But he’s also young, barely thirty,
and I thought he’d be like any
other hot-blooded American guy.”
“Let me guess. You went to dinner
with Joe Establishment dressed in a
short-short halter dress with thong
panties and stilettos.”
“Worse.” Lisa sighed. “No
underwear at all. I just assumed...”
“You assumed he expected sex
on the first date? Oh, Lisa.”
“Be honest, Aunt Jo. Every guy
wants sex on the first date, or any
“Don’t be cynical. Not
every guy wants only a physical relationship,
“I’d say every guy does
except Ethan Parker. He acted offended,
treated me like an unsolicited hooker.” Lisa
took a deep breath. She didn’t
want to whine, especially to Aunt Jo.
They’d never quite seen eye-to-eye
on casual sex. Modern Lisa regarded
casual sex acceptable as long as one
used good sense, reliable birth control,
and prophylactics. Jo, on the other
hand, didn’t date. She married.
“He said, ‘obviously we’re
not suited for one another,’ in
his condescending way.”
“Is that all...”
“No, that’s not all!” God,
her skin burned as if the date was
only last week instead of months ago. “He
offered me fifty bucks for the time
I’d wasted with him having dinner. ‘Considering
how you’re dressed, I can only
assume that you charge by the hour.’”
“Oh, sugar, no wonder you were
hurt. That was callous.”
“Damn straight. I told him to
shove the fifty bucks up his tight
Mercifully, the waitress delivered
their beverages, putting a temporary
end to the subject. She poised her
pencil over her pad. “Have you
Lisa snatched the menu from the table
and flipped it open. Talk of the date
from hell had nearly cost her her appetite.
She tried to focus on the menu and
heard Aunt Jo order the oriental salad.
That didn’t sound overly health-foodish. “I’ll
have the same.”
After the waitress left, Jo wisely
abandoned the Gemini and husband talk. “So,
when do you have to move?”
“They want me as soon as possible.
They’ve been without a manager
in that plant for a couple of months.”
Jo frowned. “How definite is
“Very. It’s been announced,
my transfer package has been signed,
and I already have the relocation department
scheduling the moving company. I have
to be out of my apartment by the end
“Hmm. Hand that back to me a
Lisa knew she was referring to her
reading. She pulled the sheet from
the side pocket of her purse, unfolded
it, and laid it on the table.
Scanning the chart, her aunt gnawed
her lower lip. “Lisa, while Mercury
is in retrograde motion and Saturn
is opposing your sun, an agreement
you made will not turn out as expected.
It can be better or worse but not as
Not turn out as expected. Unease prickled
the hairs on the back of her neck. You
don’t believe in this astrology
crap, remember? The promotion was
final. What could change now?
Jo covered her hand with her own. “Listen,
sugar. This is actually a time for
making plans to put into play when
Mercury goes direct again.”
“When’s that?” Lisa
heard herself ask, hating the uncertainty
that shook her voice.
“Mercury goes direct February
“My birthday. Terrific.”
“You know, Mars was making
an aspect to your natal Uranus
when you made the agreement.”
Huh? She resisted making a joke about
her anus and asked, “What’s
“It means, prepare to be surprised
by some unanticipated action. Expect
something unusual to happen.” Jo
pursed her lips and nodded. “You
know, things might work out better
if you’re somehow independent
in your career.”
“You mean working for myself?” Lisa
didn’t want the insecurity of
no certain paycheck or insurance coverage.
No way. “Are you sure you’re
reading it right?” Not that
I believe in astrology.
“Your natal Sun is in the tenth
house and Venus is in your second...”
Lisa struggled to keep up with her
aunt’s astro-speak. “Sun
is ego, right?”
“Right. The ego is satisfied
in business and this is where you
shine. With Venus in your second house,
you have ability to earn, to have money
and other valuables.”
“But wouldn’t managing
a textile plant fall into that category?
I’ll be in charge of that business.
And my salary increase is substantial.” That’s
how astrology worked for Lisa. She
made it fit her life’s choices,
not vice versa.
“I suppose, sugar.” But
Jo sounded unconvinced.
Determined to regain her earlier cheer,
Lisa chose to disregard her aunt’s
interpretation of her horoscope. She
usually did, anyway. Why let it spook
her tonight? “Well, we’ll
soon find out what it means, so let’s
not worry about it now.”
But Lisa did worry. Later, as she
let herself into her apartment, she
couldn’t shake the sensation
of a black cloud hovering over her.
Full of salad and spring water, she
decided she needed a drink. In the
back of her fridge she found an unopened
bottle of champagne she’d bought
to celebrate the promotion. Was it
bad luck to open it now?
Get a grip, girl! Since when
was she a superstitious nincompoop?
She uncorked the bottle over the sink,
spilling the chilled liquid into a
stemmed glass and over her hand, then
lifted the glass for a toast. “To
a new life in Georgia ... without a
As she gulped a greedy mouthful, she
closed her eyes against a foreboding
shiver. She had no idea why, but the
sudden knowledge that nothing about
her toast would come true haunted her.
* * * *
Ethan Parker’s serene exterior
was the acting performance of his life.
An internal storm tore him apart as
he slipped inside the supply closet.
Here he could safely release his rage,
“Son of a bitch!” he whispered. “Damn
it all to hell.”
His Methodist-minister father would
be appalled by his cursing, but Dad
wasn’t here to witness the disintegration
of his eldest. Maybe if Ethan had followed
his father into the ministry he wouldn’t
be faced with the corporate bullshit
he’d just endured. A promotion
he’d worked his ass off to get
had just been ripped away from him,
all because the company had been sold.
He’d heard rumors a month ago
on CNN that a Japanese corporation
was showing interest in a hostile takeover
of Cotton States Textiles. Nothing
more had been said. In fact, Cotton
States denied the rumor and carried
on business as usual. Last Friday,
his appointment as District Sales Manager
had been announced to the employees,
along with several other promotions
and personnel changes. Everything was
to take effect February first.
“Frankly, Parker, you’re
lucky to still have a job,” Paul
Lee, the Vice President over Personnel,
told him this morning. Looking glum
himself, he’d had the unenviable
task of meeting with each member of
management to tell him--or her, in
the case of Lisa Pinckney--that all
promotions and transfers had been frozen.
The Japanese would determine who would
stay and who would be replaced with
managers from the holding company.
In other words, he still had a job maybe.
It wasn’t the career of a lifetime,
of course, but his job at Cotton States
Textiles allowed him to stay in Columbia
near family. Near her. He thought
about his house payment and cringed.
He’d sell his car before he’d
give up his house. Ariel’s house.
The home she’d picked out and
decorated with such passion. The home
she’d planned to start their
family in. The home now too large and
lonely without her.
No, he’d stock the shelves at
Home Depot again, just as he’d
done during college, before he’d
give up that house. But it’d
take more than determination and a
stocking clerk’s salary to meet
the mortgage. If the new owners declared
his job a redundancy, where would he
go? He needed to update his resume
instead of venting his temper in a
“Son of a bitch!” he whispered
again before leaving the closet. “Damn
it all to hell.”
Easing open the door, he checked the
hall. Nobody. He scurried from the
closet just as Lisa Pinckney, looking
entirely too cheerful, rounded the
corner. Obviously, she hadn’t
been called into Paul Lee’s office
yet. Perky and pretty, she didn’t
understand the concept of “dress
for success.” Her expensive business
suit lost its impact with her sequined
nail polish and pierced eyebrow. Ow!
Why did women do that to themselves?
As for her hair, it was just plain
messy, making her look as if she’d
just been laid. Not that he’d
“So you’re finally coming
out of the closet, eh?” she teased.
“Very funny.” He tried
to smile to soften the snappishness
in his tone, but it just wasn’t
worth the effort. Lisa had accused
him of being gay after their one attempt
at dating. It hadn’t taken long
to realize she just wasn’t his
type of woman. She’d come on
to him right off the bat, as if sex
was a given. Maybe it was his strict
upbringing, or maybe it was Ariel.
But hot, foxy Lisa did nothing to turn
him on that night. Or now.
“Holy cow. Who rained on your
She didn’t know. Should he prepare
her? After all, she had her heart set
on her promotion, too. Besides, he
owed her for not questioning him about
why he’d been in the supply closet.
Thank God. “I’m afraid
the same one who’s about to rain
She grabbed his arm. “Who are
we talking about?” Seriousness
replaced the mirth in her big blue
He’d always known Lisa was a
looker. Why did she find it necessary
to paint black lines around those gorgeous
baby blues? “Paul Lee,” he
answered then gave her a brief recap
of his own meeting with Personnel.
Lisa frowned but without the shock
or defeat he expected to see in her
face. Shaking her head, she quietly
murmured, “Oh, my God. Aunt Jo
Who the hell was Aunt Jo? Lisa walked
away as if in a trance. Chatty, flirty,
and sexy, Lisa could be annoying. Even
tempting. But Lisa quiet and pensive
... now that was scary. He debated
catching up to her, making sure she
was all right, but why? He didn’t
even like the woman, although beneath
her multiple shades of eye shadow and
black mascara lurked an amazing pair
Despite her bizarre taste in clothes
and hairstyles, she epitomized the
modern career woman: aggressive, freethinking,
and self-indulgent--traits he despised.
But watching her head down the hall
in a robotic state, his worry for her
grew. Probably Miss Independent would
spurn concern from an old-fashioned
guy like him.
He jogged after her, as if his legs
operated from a different brain. “Lisa!
1265-Phoenix to Denver-ETD: Delayed
Lance Cullen couldn’t believe
his eyes. He removed his glasses and
gave them a quick swipe on his suit
coat then put them back on. Yep. Delayed.
He glanced at his watch and wondered
if it was too late to call the Kick
Ass Games office in Denver. Phoenix
didn’t change time along with
the rest of the country. Even though
Lance had lived in Phoenix for six
years, he still couldn’t figure
out how the time change thing worked,
or didn’t as was the case for
He did know that his office was still
open so he flipped open his cell phone
and dialed his secretary.
“Pendragon Studios, Jennifer
speaking. How may I help you?”
“Hey Jen,” Lance said
into the phone as he searched the gate
area for an empty seat.
“Mr. Cullen?” The surprise
in Jennifer’s voice was evident. “Aren’t
you supposed to be on your way to Denver?”
“Yeah, the flight’s delayed.” He
spotted an empty chair by the wall
and headed that way. An older woman
sat next to it, but she looked like
she was sleeping so he placed his briefcase
on the seat and stood to the side. “What’s
the time difference between here and
there, Jen? Do you know?”
“They’re an hour ahead
sir, so I think their offices are closed.
Would you like me to check?”
Lance smiled. This was why he’d
kept Jen on when he’d bought
out his old partner, now rival. Her
efficiency was flawless.
“Sure. I’ll let you go
so you can make the call.” Removing
his briefcase, he sat down next to
the old woman and softened his voice
a notch so he wouldn’t disturb
her. “Call me back when you find
out. In the meantime, I’ll see
how long the delay is going to be.”
Lance closed his phone and leaned
back in his chair. Resting his head
against the wall, he closed his eyes.
Exhaustion rolled over him. He’d
been working on reconfiguring the platform
for his newest video game, Hell’s
Gate, for the last two months. This
trip was important. Stanley Culbert,
the CEO of Kick Ass games, had requested
a personal viewing before they bought
the game and put it into production.
Not that he didn’t love building
video games for a living. That was
every boy’s dream growing up,
right? At least every geek boy’s
He’d been one of those geeks.
He still was, for that matter. His
lack of female companionship proved
that. No amount of working out in the
gym would ever take the geek out of
He sighed audibly and reached up to
remove his glasses, rubbing his face
with his hands, willing the stress
of the day away. It was just as well--he
didn’t have time for a relationship.
He straightened and looked at the
information board behind the gate counter.
The sign still said delayed and there
wasn’t a line. He needed to find
out how long the flight would be delayed
before Jen called back.
Shrugging out of his suit coat, he
stood up and grabbed his briefcase
but left the coat on the chair. The
airport was busy and he wasn’t
about to lose his seat.
“I’ll keep an eye on your
seat for ya, Sugar.”
He turned to look at the older woman
who a moment before had been sleeping,
or so he thought.
“Thanks. I’m just going
to check and see how long my flight
is being delayed and I’ll be
“You on the Colorada flight?” The
woman’s soft drawl soothed his
“Yes. Are you?” Lance
couldn’t help but stare at her.
When he’d first seen her from
across the room he thought she’d
been frail and in her seventies. Now
that he was close, he could see that
what he’d taken for frail was
actually leanness. Her body was thin
but muscular. The calves showing from
underneath a gauzy purple skirt were
smooth and had a biker’s look
to them. She was also definitely not
in her seventies. If he had to take
a guess, late fifties or early sixties.
“Sure am,” she replied. “I’m
on my way to an Astrology convention
and to do a little mountain biking.” She
stood and stepped toward him, hand
outstretched. “I’m Jo Nell
Clark.” Jo Nell gave him a firm
hand shake and had a bright smile and
a twinkle in her eye. “We’ll
be leaving in about forty-five minutes
so if you want to sit back down and
chat for a bit, it’ll pass the
“Lance Cullen. Um.” He
glanced at the desk again. “Did
you already ask them about the delay?”
“Well no, Sugar. I just know.”
“Okay.” Great, just
what I need. Some quack job old lady
wanting to chat.
“I’ll go check anyway,
maybe it’s changed.” He
dropped her hand and turned toward
“You do that, Sugar,” Jo
Nell called after him. “I’ll
be here waitin’.”
Lance weaved his way to the gate hoping
to hell he wouldn’t get stuck
sitting next to Jo Nell on the plane.
Despite the fact he liked her southern
drawl, he could only imagine what sort
of nonsense would come from her mouth.
“Excuse me, miss?” Lance
knocked once on the counter. The girl
behind the counter gave him a look
of distain. Her over-dyed jet-black
hair was pulled back in a severe ponytail,
her blue eyes rimmed with matching
black lining. She smacked gum behind
rose-red lips. “I’m sorry
to bother you,” he continued, “but
do you know how long we’ll be
She gave a deep sigh and rolled her
eyes. He’d obviously not been
the first to ask the question.
“For-tee-fi-ve minn-utess,” She
pronounced the words as if he were
hard of hearing.
He was too tired to deal with snotty
young gate attendants so he nodded
his thanks and went back to his seat.
He didn’t quite know what to
say to Jo Nell. She’d been right,
and while the old lady didn’t
scare him, her confidence at being
sure she knew how long the delay would
be did give him pause.
He was a logical person. One plus
one equaled two. Jo Nell seemed like
she could be one of those people that
believed the answer to one plus one
was irrelevant based on the placement
of the moon three weeks from now. He
laughed a little at his own joke, and
wondered what Jo Nell would say if
he’d told her that.
“What’s so amusing, Sugar?” Jo
Nell moved his suit coat aside and
patted the empty seat. “Sit down
and visit with me.”
Lance sat down and despite his previous
thoughts, couldn’t help but keep
the grin on his face. “You were
right. Forty-five minutes.”
“Well, of course I was, darlin’.” She
handed the coat back to him and patted
his knee. “Now why don’t
you tell me why you look like hell
warmed over. A handsome, strong young
man like you shouldn’t look like
Lance’s grin faltered for a
second. He knew he felt tired, but
he didn’t think it was that obvious.
There was something about the way Jo
Nell looked at him. The sincerity of
her question was in her eyes, and before
he knew it they were boarding the plane
and he’d just told a perfect
stranger his life story.
He helped her put her carry-on in
the overhead bin, and made sure she
had a pillow. The flight attendant
must have noticed the easy camaraderie
between him and Jo Nell because she’d
asked if his grandmother would need
any special consideration upon landing.
Jo Nell had given a full-bellied laugh
at that and was still wiping away the
tears from her eyes when he finally
sat down next to her.
“Phew wee, that was the best
laugh I’ve had in a long time.” Jo
Nell reached over and squeezed Lance’s
hand. “Thanks for telling me
about yourself, Lance.”
He laughed at that. “I should
be thanking you for listening to me
drone on about my boring life.”
Her smiled faded a little. “I
don’t know who ever told you
that you were boring, Sugar, but they
She reached under the chair in front
of her and grabbed a large purple purse.
She rummaged around and let out a triumphant, “Ah,
ha,” and pulled out a small black
“What’s your birthday,
Lance?” She pulled out a pen
from her purse and opened the journal
to a blank page.
“I thought so, Aquarius. Well,
go on.” She nudged him with her
elbow. “I need the year too,
Sugar. I won’t tell that pretty
young flight attendant how old you
are.” Her smile was back to being
bright, with just a hint of mischievousness
to it too.
“Thirty-three, huh? Not a bad
age.” She wrote down the date
on the top of a blank journal page.
She pulled out another journal from
her purse, this one red leather. “Give
me a minute, Sugar, and I’ll
have something for ya.”
“Sure thing, Jo Nell.”
Lance didn’t have any clue as
to what she was doing, but let her
scribble away in peace. They were in
the air already so he took out his
laptop and booted it up. He wanted
to check one last time that all of
the bugs in Hell’s Gate had been
He’d spent the last two years
saving so he could buy out James Ronal,
his ex-partner. They’d started
their gaming company together six years
ago. Lance was the genius behind the
games; James was the genius behind
the money. It had taken only three
years for them to see a profit, unheard
of in the gaming industry. But James
had wanted a bigger piece of the pie.
Three times Lance had caught James
making a deal behind his back to sell
the company. Every time he’d
confronted him, James denied everything.
Saying it must have been someone in
the company trying to discredit him,
or that it was a rumor the larger gaming
companies had started to bring dissension
between them. That was when he’d
The day Lance brought in a lawyer
to help him persuade James to sell
his shares to him, he’d found
James in the conference room getting
ready to sign over the company to Michael
Dalton, the CFO of their biggest rival
company, Monkey Business Games. Lance
had gone ballistic. His natural nonchalance
moved over and made way for the rage
and bitterness he felt at being betrayed
over and over again by a man he once
considered his best friend.
They’d settled out of court,
and James hadn’t spent any time
in jail. Lance had full ownership of
their company. He’d renamed it
Pendragon Studios for two reasons.
To rid the company of any residual
negativity from James’ deceit,
and to honor his father, who’d
passed away last year.
His dad had been a King Arthur historian
and had instilled in each of his children
a love for the legend. Lance and his
three siblings were named after the
legend, Arthur, his older brother,
younger sister Morgana, and youngest
brother Gawain. His mother had vied
for Guinevere for his sister’s
name, but his parents couldn’t
agree on which of its many spellings
to use so they’d settled for
Jo Nell had laughed when he told her
about his quirky family names. She’d
said that to be named after such great
legends was an honor itself.
He glanced up from his laptop to see
how her journaling was coming along.
She looked to be on her third page.
He wondered why his birthday could
be so interesting that she’d
filled three pages with writing.
Oh, yeah. She was on her way to an
Astrology convention. Probably going
to commune with the trees or something.
He liked Jo Nell, but didn’t
put much stock in the hocus pocus of
the zodiac. She slammed the book shut
and startled him so much he almost
dropped his laptop.
“Oops, sorry,” she said. “I’m
finished and just in time. We’ve
got about thirty minutes to go over
your reading before we land.”
“Yep, do you have an appointment
book or something?”
“I’ve got a scheduler
on my computer.” That twinkle
was back in her eye, and he wondered
what she was up to.
“Perfect. First things first.
Pull up today and at the top of the
day type Aries.”
Lance did as she asked, typing in
capital letters at the heading of the
Jo Nell opened her black journal again
and began to mark off her notes as
she read them to him.
“You will meet an Aries today.
She’s your future.”
Lance snorted. Oh, yeah, communing
with the trees all right.
“Don’t snort, Sugar, just
type it in your computer there.” She
gestured to his screen. “You
can tell me later if I’m wrong.”
“Okay Jo Nell, I’ll play
along.” Lance replied as he typed ARIES=FUTURE.
“Now you’re gonna be busy
the next two weeks here so try and
keep up.” He typed as she rattled
off dates and headings. Twenty minutes
later, the pilot’s voice came
over the loud speaker announcing their
“Now Sugar,” Jo Nell once
again dug into her purse--Lance was
beginning to think of it as her bag
of tricks--and offered him a business
card. Jo Nell Clark. Astrologer. “I
want you to either give me a call or
email me in three weeks. That should
give you enough time for the planets
to do their magic and fulfill your
With Jo Nell he’d either been
Mr. Talk-your-ear-off or Mr. Can’t-say-anything;
it seemed Can’t-say-anything
had surfaced again. He smiled and copied
her indifference over the whole weirdness
of their conversation by staying silent,
putting his laptop away and settled
back for the landing.
My destiny, he thought. Yeah, right.
I’ll just go through and erase
it all later, but for now, I think
I’ve made her happy.
He glanced over at Jo Nell and took
her hand. “Thanks,” he
said, giving her hand a little squeeze.
She smiled up at him and squeezed back.
“You are very welcome, Sugar.”
* * * *
Once off the plane and in the Denver
terminal, Lance had given Jo Nell a
hug and watched for a moment as she
strolled off to meet her group of fellow
astrologer cyclists. She certainly
had made his flight entertaining. He
headed toward baggage claim and after
he picked up his luggage, went to find
a cab. Stanley Culbert had said he
was sending someone to pick him up,
but because the flight had been delayed,
Lance figured that person would be
Just as he was about to step out into
the cool Denver night, he heard his
He turned to see a short woman with
blonde hair holding up a sign with
his name on it, written in a rainbow
of colors. The woman--the only reason
he thought woman verses girl was because
of her full figure--was calling out
his name over and over again, but he
couldn’t seem to respond yet.
Twice today he’d been overwhelmed
by the opposite sex. Maybe that was
the problem. He needed sex. He stepped
towards her so he could get a closer
look at her.
She might have been short, but she
was all curves. Low-waisted jeans hung
on lush hips with the help of a chain
wrapped through the belt loops. She
wore a cropped black t-shirt with a
print on the front that looked like
an impressionist painting, but not
one he’d ever seen before. Her
honey-colored hair was cut in a short
curly bob that made her look angelic.
She stopped calling his name out and
glanced down to check her watch. He
didn’t want her to think she’d
missed him so he walked up to her.
“I’m Lance Cullen,” he
said, taking in her green cat eyes
and the fact that she barely reached
“Oh,” she gasped. “Thank
God, I thought I’d missed you.” She
reached out and hugged him.
It was a quick hug, but his chest
burned as if he’d been branded.
“Welcome to Denver, Lance.” She
stepped back and flashed him a wide
smile, engaging his eyes.
“I’m Aries. Aries Culbert.
Nice to meet you.”