I started a new series titled "The Gifted". My heroines will have some kind of psychic gift. In book #1, Madison's Gift (Regency Romance Suspense), my heroine has visions, which helps the Metropolitan Police in solving crimes.
I have sent my story to a few people for reviews, and already, I've received six 5-star reviews! I'm so thrilled!!
In a world full of normal people, Madison Haywood stands apart. Madison sees things that others cannot, and she uses her visions to assist people who are in trouble--even the Metropolitan Police. Not everyone is accepting of her gift, however, and she isn’t certain what to make of the handsome police inspector, Cameron Westland, who has a habit of interrupting her life.
Cameron Westland’s younger sister has gone missing. Working as an investigator for the Metropolitan Police isn’t getting him anywhere. But when his other sister brings in a woman claiming to have visions, he’s leery to believe. Although he’s attracted to Miss Haywood, he thinks she is losing her mind. Desperate to try anything to find his lost sister, Cameron gives the puzzling Miss Haywood a chance and soon finds himself in danger of losing his heart.
I must save the boy!
Madison Haywood breathed deeply, focusing her concentration on the matter at hand. A strong scent of coffee drifted around her, and she tried pushing the aroma from her thoughts. Mr. Clarkston stood by the window of the little office inside the Metropolitan Police Station, noisily sipping from his cup. His grown son, Harry, sat by Inspector Johnson’s wooden desk, drumming his fingers on the oak top.
These fools were making it impossible to clear her head.
She squeezed her eyes closed, and clutched the lost little boy’s boot to her chest. She ran the pad of her finger over the slightly frayed laces and onto the smooth leather. The lad had been wearing this boot before he’d disappeared.
“You must try harder, Miss Haywood. Concentrate!” Inspector Johnson’s grating voice pierced her concentration.
Grumbling under her breath, she snapped her eyes open and stared at him. Try harder? Indeed! One did not merely ask a woman with her particular gift for assistance and expect her to produce results while screaming at her.
“This is hogwash,” Mr. Clarkston said irritably. “We are wasting valuable time. My son and I should be with the other volunteers searching for Judge Gruber’s grandson, not listening to this mad-woman.”
Madison gritted her teeth as she raked her gaze across the men in the room. “Inspector, please. I must have silence in order for this to work.”
Inspector Johnson inclined his head. “My apologies, Miss Haywood. Please proceed.”
Drawing a deep breath, Madison closed her eyes once more, blocking out the judgmental gazes of Mr. Clarkston and his son. She realized that not everyone believed in her visions. Most people called her an imposter, in fact. She was used to people thinking that way in regards to her gift.
She couldn’t fathom why the boy’s image hadn’t suddenly popped into her mind. Usually, she didn’t have to struggle with her visions. Then again, she’d never had three impatient men staring her down, either.
Pushing all of her negative thoughts aside, she focused on clearing her head of any images besides the lad’s boot. The deeper she breathed the more her body and mind calmed. Slowly, the image of Mr. Clarkston’s pocked blanched face faded from her mind.
Just as she finally put everything aside, the boy’s face became clear. Scratches marred his ten-year-old body, and dirt smudged his face. His reddish-blonde hair matted his head, and a small amount of dried blood stained his ear. He wore one boot, and it was wet, as were the bottom of his trousers.
Relief suffused her. He was alive. At least for now.
She couldn’t hear any sounds around him, but sometimes her visions didn’t allow the sound to come through. From what she could tell, he was outside in the woods. He sat on a fallen tree, eating… She breathed deeper, trying to focus harder. All around him were trees that were lying on the ground instead of rising toward the sky. However, the lad was alone. She couldn’t see anyone nearby.
The boy’s frightened eyes darted all around him. His chest rose and fell with quick breaths. His mouth moved, and Madison heard no words. His lips formed the words Ma and Pa.
“I see him,” Madison whispered. Still blocking out the sounds in the room, she continued to describe her vision to the inspector. “He’s in the woods near fallen trees. He’s scratched up, but I think he’s fine.”
“Do you see who kidnapped him?” Inspector Johnson asked in a tight voice.
“No. He’s alone.”
Madison zeroed in on the trees, searching for any clues that might hint at the boy’s location. There were only a few glades like this around London. At first nothing discerning met her eye, but then the boy leaned over and scooped up a handful of rusty, orange-colored shavings. Next to his hand was an axe.
Realization hit her, and she gasped, taking a step back. A large hand grasped her arm as though to steady her. She kept her eyes closed, clinging to the vision, and muttered, “Woodcutters.”
In a split second, the vision disappeared. Blinking, she tried to regain her senses as she entered the real world again. Inspector Johnson’s brown eyes were wide and his mouth hung agape. Mr. Clarkston’s face paled further—if that was possible. And his son…well, some people would never believe in her gift no matter how many times she had proven them wrong. The younger Clarkston released Madison’s arm, folded his arms across his chest, and arched a judgmental eyebrow.
“Woodcutters?” The inspector scratched his long, bushy brown sideburns. “I say, Miss Haywood, I’m not certain what you mean by that. Judge Gruber is not acquainted with any woodcutters that I know of. Why would they have taken his grandson?”
The younger Mr. Clarkston scoffed with disgust. “Deceitful wench. This is all an act. I’ll stake my career as a barrister upon it.”
Madison sat on the edge of the desk. Her visions had always weakened her for a few moments. The unbelievers usually thought this was part of her performance, but she was exhausted with trying to convince them otherwise.
“We have to trust her,” Inspector Johnson snapped, aiming a scowl at the younger man. “We have no other leads.”
The younger Clarkston grumbled, and motioned toward Madison. “I cannot believe a word that comes out of her mouth. The next thing you’ll tell us is that she speaks to dead people as well.”
Madison couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. “Actually,” she began as she tapped her booted heel on the floor, “I can talk to dead people, but only if they allow it. If you’d like, I could ask that ghost standing behind you now…”
The man hitched a breath and swung around, looking behind him. Madison held back the laugh ready to spring from her throat. However, she couldn’t stop the grin from stretching across her mouth.
The man growled and turned back to face her. He laughed slowly and forcefully. “You are not very humorous, Miss Haywood.”
Madison shrugged as she grinned. “I disagree. I think I was rather funny just then.”
“Augh!” The inspector shoved past the large man, and moved closer to Madison. “Harry, leave her be. Because of her vision, we have more to go on than the three of us have found. Give her a chance.” Inspector Johnson met Madison’s gaze. “You said woodcutter. Why?”
Throat dry, Madison swallowed and looked into the man’s desperate gaze. “In my vision, the boy scooped up wood shavings. They looked to be fresh. Fallen trees were all around him. He must be somewhere in the woods where woodcutters have been. And there was an axe by his feet. The bottom of his trousers were wet, as well.”
“Hmm…” The inspector paced the small area in the room. “Woods and water.” He stopped and switched his gaze to Madison. “Is it possible that the boy is in Bromley?”
The elder Mr. Clarkston choked on his coffee, and placed the mug on the desk. “My cousin is a woodcutter. He and his crew have been working in that area.”
Madison swung her hand toward the door. “Then gentleman, I suggest you leave immediately and investigate this further before you lose anymore sunlight. Judge Gruber’s grandson appeared weak. His face was—” she stopped herself before blurting paler than Mr. Clarkston’s, “extremely white, and his eyes sunken in.”
The inspector dashed around the desk and grabbed a pistol. “Let us go now.”
“You cannot be serious.” Harry Clarkston shook his head in disbelief.
Inspector Johnson scowled at the younger man and shoved a pointed finger into his wide chest. “I’m very serious. I’d rather look into this lead than tell the judge that we have no idea where to find his grandson. And, if by chance, the boy is in the woods, I’d rather find and return him home than see his parents’ sad expressions. I particularly don’t want the guilt of knowing that I could have stopped a child’s death, but didn’t because you had reservations about this young woman’s visions.”
Harry held up his hands in surrender. “As you wish. We’ll go, but if the boy is not there—”
“Then you will hear my apology.” The inspector nodded. He straightened and plopped his hat on his head. His gaze met Madison’s. “I would like you to stay here. We shall return before nightfall.”
Madison bit her tongue. Should she argue? What could she possibly do in the inspector’s office for that long? She hated twiddling her thumbs. She’d likely expire from boredom.
Slowly, she released a frustrated breath and nodded. She must do what the inspector asked of her. This boy needed to be found soon. The sun would be descending within a few hours, and once darkness covered the land, it would be impossible to find the missing lad.
Inspector Johnson led the way out of the room, and the other men followed wordlessly. Madison meandered out into the large main room and found an empty chair. As she glanced at the other policemen, it was hard to ignore their distrustful stares. One might think she’d grown two heads…or sprouted horns…or even a tail. Most people that knew of her visions didn’t believe she was human. Many believed her ability was the work of the devil.
She’d known she was different since she was seven-years-old. Over the years, it had become very difficult to convince people of her abilities. And now, fifteen years later, no matter how many times she proved herself, most people remained skeptical and some were downright cruel.
Because she was different than the other children in school, Madison didn’t have many friends. Except for Josephine. Josephine had been friends with Madison since they were ten-years-old. She was the first girl to accept Madison’s gift without judging her or thinking she was a fraud.
About a week ago, Josie told Madison that she should be assisting Metropolitan Police on a regular basis instead of taking a case now and again. Josie had said that these men needed her. She’d been at Josie’s house for a visit, and shortly after the mid-day meal, a rider had come to see her, informing her that Inspector Johnson needed to see her on urgent business. The inspector had previously been convinced that Madison could help. No doubt Josie was responsible for Madison’s being there now.
Madison adjusted in the uncomfortable chair and stretched her legs out in front of her. The tips of her boots peeked from underneath the brown and green gingham dress she wore. With brown-gloved hands, she smoothed a few of the wrinkles that had gathered since she’d arrived not too long ago.
She lifted her gaze and slowly took in everything—and everyone—in the room. Two men wearing uniforms stood against the other wall, talking in low voices. One older, gray-haired woman sat at the desk of one of the other officers, pleading with heartfelt sobs for someone to help her find her lost dog. She clutched a brown rope, turning it over and over in her hands. The officer assisting her definitely didn’t appear as if he truly wanted to help the old woman.
A woman, perhaps in her mid-twenties, sat by the two officers near the wall. The woman’s swollen eyes were filled with tears and she dabbed a white handkerchief to her cheeks as the tears rolled down her face. Occasionally, the woman peered Madison’s way, but then quickly dropped her gaze to her lap.
Madison closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. This was going to be a very long day as she waited for Inspector Johnson. She sighed and glanced toward the door again. She hoped he would be able to find Judge Gruber’s grandson. Although she couldn’t give him an exact location, she prayed it would at least lead him in the right direction.
At the sound of the older woman’s sobs, Madison moved her gaze to the lady.
“Please, Officer,” the woman begged as she leaned forward on the desk, “I know someone has stolen my husband’s prized Labrador. Tobias is the best there is.”
“Uh…Tobias?” The officer tilted his head and narrowed his gaze on the older woman. “Is that your husband or your dog?”
The old woman huffed. “That’s my dog, of course.”
Madison held back a grin.
“Well, you see, Mrs. Inman,” the man strummed his beefy fingers on the desk. The lack of sympathy in his tone let Madison know he didn’t plan on doing anything to help the woman. “We are Metropolitan Police Officers. We don’t help with missing dogs cases.”
“But don’t you see?” She twisted the rope in her hands. “I think someone has kidnapped him, and…what if they want a ransom? Tobias is worth a lot of money.”
“I see,” the policeman said. His oversized jowls shook when he spoke. “Have you received a ransom note?”
Madison placed her hand over her mouth to keep from smiling, for what concern the woman had for her prized Labrador. She’d never understand why some people treated their dogs better than their own children.
“You must understand, Inspector,” Mrs. Inman held up the leash, “I don’t usually have Tobias on a rope, but this morning, he seemed jumpy, so I tied him up so I could travel into town to visit my grandchildren. When I returned, Tobias was gone.”
Madison studied the leash. She wasn’t very far from the old woman, making it easy to glance over the object. Immediately, she noticed something that obviously, the other woman had overlooked. Should Madison say something? Yet, she had always helped people who were in need anyway she could.
She stood and cleared her throat. “Excuse me for interrupting,” she stepped beside the older woman, “but I think I might know what happened to your dog.”
The officer lifted a skeptical eye to her. “Miss Haywood.” Irritation laced his voice. “I have this handled, but I thank you for trying to assist.”
Madison shrugged. “Yes, I can clearly see you have this handled, however, I just thought I’d reassure this woman that her dog wasn’t stolen.” She turned to move back to her chair, but the old woman touched Madison’s arm. She met the woman’s gaze.
“What do you know about Tobias?” the lady asked in a shaky voice.
Madison didn’t wait to get permission from the officer, and instead, pointed at the leash. “Do you see where your dog has chewed the rope? I suspect your dog freed himself from the leash.”
The woman sucked in a breath as her hand flew to her throat. “Oh, my. I didn’t even realize it had been chewed.”
“I’m certain your dog didn’t go very far,” Madison assured her as she reached out to place her fingers on the rope. The moment her skin made contact, a scene flashed in her head. The Labrador was someplace dark and damp…and enclosed. The light brown fur of the animal had turned nearly black from mud, and clumps of twigs matted in the animal’s fur. The dog’s paws were wet, and Tobias shivered when he whined.
“Mrs. Inman?” Madison asked the old woman. “Do you know if there is a canal near your home?”
The woman’s face paled. “Y-yes there is. Why do you ask?”
“I believe that’s where you can find your dog. He’s trapped in the canal.”
“How…how do you know?” she asked warily.
The officer snorted and flipped a beefy hand in the air. “Miss Haywood thinks she has visions.”
“Indeed?” The woman’s eyes widened even more, if that were possible. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“Well, Ma’am, I’ve been having visions since I was a young girl.” Madison folded her arms. “When I touched the dog’s rope, I saw him inside a dark, damp, hole like a canal.” She released a deep breath. “If you like, I shall go with you to find him.”
Gratitude danced in the woman’s brown eyes. “Oh, yes—”
“That won’t be necessary,” the officer cut in. “I’ll have one of the officers assist Mrs. Inman.”
Madison held up her hands in surrender. “You will? I thought you just told Mrs. Inman that Metropolitan Police—”
“I know what I told her,” the officer snapped. The man moved his gaze to the men standing by the other wall, and he motioned for one to come over. “Escort Mrs. Inman back to her home and then search the canal for her dog.”
“Uh…her dog, sir?” the other officer asked.
“You heard me.” He pointed to the older woman. “Get on it immediately.”
“Of course, sir.” The officer assisted the older woman out of her chair.
Mrs. Inman smiled at Madison. “Thank you so much. You’re a Godsend.”
Grinning, Madison walked back to her chair and sat. She couldn’t count how many people she had helped over the years. But in all of those times, she’d only been wrong twice. She enjoyed seeing the smiles of gratitude on their faces. Their joy brought happiness to Madison, and it also made it easier to dismiss people like Mr. Clarkston and his pretentious son.
She sighed and traced her gloved finger along a white stripe on her dress. Stillness had settled over the room, but she didn’t look up this time. Knowing she’d helped that old lady made her content.
At least for now.
Within minutes, the floor creaked nearby Madison, accompanied by the rustling of a woman’s dress. She lifted her attention. Standing right in front of her was the woman who’d been crying.
“I would like to hire you,” she said softly. “I couldn’t help but overhear what you did with Mrs. Inman,” she pointed toward the door, “and I need your special type of help.” She sat on the empty chair beside Madison. “I have the funds to pay, I assure you.”
Shock washed over Madison. This certainly had never happened before. “What…do you need me to do?”
“My younger sister has been missing for two days. My brother is an officer for the Metropolitan Police, as was our father before him, God rest his soul. My brother is at his wit’s end trying to find our dear Rosie, but I fear that he will sink into the same melancholy as our father had when he died five years ago.”
Madison’s chest tightened. How could she turn the girl down now? And yet, she really didn’t want to. Something inside of her leapt at the chance to show another officer with Metropolitan Police just what she could do. Men like Harry Clarkston needed to be brought down a notch or two.
“Does your brother have some of the investigators in this office helping him?”
Tears coated the woman’s eyes again and her bottom lip trembled. “No. He wants to handle the situation himself—to keep it in the family.” She dabbed the tip of her finger to the corner of an eye.
Something wasn’t right about all of this. Why wouldn’t the brother ask the men he worked with for assistance? Why would the man want to keep it in the family? Very odd…
“Do you live here in London?” Madison asked, hoping she didn’t have to travel far.
The girl shook her head. “We live in Illford.”
The name of the town struck her like frigid water being dumped over her head. It nearly froze her body and her mind. She couldn’t go there! Her parents had died in that horrid town when she was just a child. For years afterward, her uncle and aunt’s nightmarish-type stories about her parents’ death—and how the town was to blame—had brought fear to her as if the same fate would come upon her if she returned.
No. She couldn’t go there, not even to help a missing person. Taking a deep breath, Madison prepared to give the woman a plausible excuse why she couldn’t help. But as she opened her mouth, the woman grasped Madison’s hands tightly. Her green eyes pleaded with desperation.
“Please, Miss. You are our only hope. If you cannot help us, I fear my sister will die.” A tear leaked out of her red, puffy eyes to travel down her moist cheek. “She’s only just turned sixteen. She’s too young to die.”
Silently, Madison groaned. She must turn away the request. Although she’d vowed to help anyone she could…this just couldn’t be done. Not when she was too frightened to step foot inside the town.
Once again, she opened her mouth to refuse, but a memory intruded. She’d assisted a dying man in reuniting him with his children. So grateful for what Madison had done, he made her promise on his deathbed, that she would never hide her gift. His words echoed in her head, God has given you this talent, which means you must share it with others. If you don’t, what is the use of having a gift from the Lord?
Her heart sank. Returning to Illford would certainly be an unbearable obstacle, but it was one she would have to face, nonetheless. Hadn’t she been able to accept her visions even though she’d been ridiculed and tormented? So if she could hurdle that obstacle, she could get through anything!
Putting on her best smile, she nodded. “I hope I don’t disappoint. I shall try to find your sister.”
Relief poured over the woman’s expression and more tears streamed down her face. “Oh, thank you Miss Haywood.” Sniffing, she wiped her cheeks. “My name is Alice Westland.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” She breathed slower, hoping it could calm her racing heart. “So are you waiting for your brother here?”
Alice shook her head. “He doesn’t know I have come. When I arrived, he was out on a case.”
The door to the office swung open so fast, it smacked the wall. Madison jumped and swung her gaze in that direction. A gush of wind blew in leaves and debris, followed by two men wearing the official uniform of Metropolitan Police officers. One man looked like most of the other men she’d seen in this building, but the man in the rear was completely opposite. Taller than the others, he strolled inside as his heavy boot-steps rattled the floor. Neither man wore a pleasant expression.
Standing beside Madison, Miss Westland sucked in a quick breath and muttered he’s here. Madison took a quick peek at the woman who now watched the tall man with wide eyes. This man couldn’t possibly be the older brother, could he? He was so large, and Alice was so petite.
He was an impressive sight, not only in height but with his looks. The powerful shoulders filling out his uniform were almost as eye-catching as his handsome face. He removed his tall hat with the Metropolitan Police badge pinned on the front, and his brownish-blonde hair with the slight wave to the fullness shook as he walked.
When the man’s gaze landed on Alice, his brow furrowed. His eyes blazed a brilliant green. His footsteps struck the wooden floor harder as he headed toward them.
“Alice Louise Westland? What are you doing here?” The man’s deep voice boomed through the room like a cannon blast.
He stopped in front of them and Madison nearly lost her breath. Whether it was from his overpowering presence, or his good looks, she wasn’t certain. He glanced her way briefly before turning his attention to his sister. His scowl would make anyone hold their tongue for fear of being reprimanded.
“I…I was waiting for you to return,” Alice spoke softly.
His chest rose and fell slowly. His body relaxed as he folded his arms. “I told you not to come here. I never know from day to day when I’ll actually be at the office.”
Thankfully, his tone had mellowed a little. But he continued to glare at his sister.
“I recall you saying that, but…I can’t sit at home and do nothing. I want to help find Rosie.”
“Lower your voice.” His jaw hardened. “There’s nothing you can do,” he clipped. “As I told you before, you need to let me handle this matter.”
“Perhaps, I won’t be able to do anything, but,” Alice turned and clasped Madison’s hand, “I truly believe she is the answer to our prayers.”
Finally, Madison received the man’s full attention. His gaze skimmed over her from her ringlets hanging over her shoulders, to her gingham dress, and finally to her brown, leather boots. When his gaze jumped up to meet her eyes, he arched an eyebrow.
“Indeed?” he said, a hint of sarcasm to his voice. “You believe a woman is the answer to our prayers?” He shook his head. “I think not, sister dear.”
Irritation boiled inside of Madison like water in a kettle hanging over a blazing fire. How dare he insult her merely because she was a woman! If she hadn’t already decided to assist Alice, this man’s attitude would have made the decision for her. She’d always been a little stubborn, and this man made it easier for Madison to show her true colors.
Straightening her shoulders, she lifted her chin and looked at Alice. “Miss Westland? When do you wish me to start?”
She sneaked a peek at Alice’s brother. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. Priceless. It was worth every second, even if she feared she’d be arguing up a storm with this particular man.