Book One of the Transformation Series
By Ann GimpelWhat if your psychotherapist could really see into your soul? Picture all those secrets lying hidden, perhaps squirming a bit, just out of view. Would you invite your analyst to take a peek behind that gossamer curtain? Read your aura? Scry your future…?
Classically trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Doctor Lara McInnis has a special gift that helps her with her patients. Born with “the sight” she can read auras, while flirting with a somewhat elusive ability to foretell the future. Lara becomes alarmed when several of her patients—and a student or two—tell her about the same cataclysmic dream.
Reaching out to the Institute for answers, Lara’s paranormal ability sounds a sharp warning and she runs up hard against a dead end. Her search for assistance leads her to a Sidhe and ancient Celtic rituals blaze their way into her life. Complicating the picture is a deranged patient who’s been hell bent on destroying Lara ever since she tried to help his abused wife, a boyfriend with a long-buried secret and a society that’s crumbling to dust as shortages of everything from electricity to food escalate.
Book Two of the Transformation Series
Born with the sight, Laura McInnis is ambivalent about her paranormal ability. Oh it’s useful enough some of the time with her psychotherapy patients. But mostly it’s an embarrassment and an inconvenience—especially when her visions drag her to other worlds. Or into Goblin dens. In spite of escalating violence, incipient food shortages and frequent power blackouts, Lara is still far too attached to the comfortable life she shares with her boyfriend, Trevor, a flight attendant who lost his job when aviation fuel got so expensive—and so scarce—his airline went out of business. Forced to seek assistance to hone her unusual abilities in Psyche’s Prophecy, Book I of this series, Lara is still quite the neophyte in terms of either summoning or bending her magic to do much of anything.Reluctantly roped into channeling her unpredictable psychic talents to help a detective who saved her from a psychopathic killer, Lara soon finds herself stranded in the murky underbelly of a world inhabited by demons. The Sidhe offer hope, but they are so high-handed Lara stubbornly resists their suggestions. Riots, death on all sides, a mysterious accident and one particular demon targeting her, push Lara to make some hard decisions. When all seems lost, the Dreaming, nestled in the heart of Celtic magic, calls out to her.
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About the Author Ann Gimpel
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Two novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, and its sequel, Psyche’s Search, have been published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing, a small press. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)
Book One of the Transformation Series
By Ann Gimpel
Lara McInnis fidgeted in the ginger-colored overstuffed chair taking up most of one corner of her cozy psychotherapy office. Schooling her face to neutrality, she tried to gin up some energy to support her quarreling clients. Bethany Beauchamp wasn’t saying all that much, though; and her husband was cataloging her faults, clicking them off one by one on his fat fingers. Wonder why they really wanted to come here? Lara asked herself, searching for an opportunity to intervene. Aha, there it was.
“Mister Beauchamp,” she murmured, voice pitched purposefully low so he’d have to stop talking in order to hear her.
“Yes, what?” He sounded irritated, voice scratchy from too many cigarettes. “You interrupted me.”
“Yes, I know. But I was interested in what you were saying and I didn’t quite catch that last part before I, um, interrupted. Might you be so kind as to repeat it for me?” Oh-oh. Watch the sarcasm.
Ken Beauchamp straightened self-importantly in his chair, carefully slicking back a couple of mouse-brown hairs that had fallen out of place in his too-careful comb over. Uncrossing short chubby legs encased in expensive suiting, he turned so he could look right at her with close-set blue eyes. Broken blood vessels along the sides of his nose suggested a far-too-intimate relationship with alcoholic beverages.
“We pay you quite well. The least you could do is be attentive,” he snarled.
She nodded, offering a silent invitation to speak to her rather than to his wife who looked exhausted. Bethany’s eight-month pregnancy dragged at her tall slender frame and dark smudges under her hazel eyes detracted from her showgirl beauty. Light auburn hair fell in limp curls to her shoulders. Though only in her early thirties, today she looked ten years older.
After an imperceptible pause Ken took the bait and, rather than repeating his last statement as requested, he started in on Lara. “Well, Doctor, you’ve been late for our appointments twice out of the ten we’ve scheduled. None of the things you’ve suggested work and our marriage isn’t any better than it was the day we walked in here.” He sat back in his chair, a smug smile on his florid face.
“Which things have you tried?” It was a struggle to keep her features pleasant. She was coming to detest Ken Beauchamp and suspected his wife felt much the same. Stealing a glance at her other patient, Lara noticed Bethany seemed to be trying not to cry. Reaching over, Lara handed her the box of Kleenex she always kept next to her chair. “Mister Beauchamp?” she urged. “What things have you tried? I need to know so I can work with you to figure out what might be more effective.” Or, so I can find an excuse to terminate you from my practice.
Ken’s face reddened even more. “I’m sure we’ve tried some of them,” he said defensively. Shifting his bulky body around in his chair, he shot his uncomfortable wife an intimidating look. “Beth, the good Doctor here is asking what we’ve tried.”
Withering under her husband’s knife-like stare, Bethany burst into tears, choking on the word, “n-nothing,” as she buried her face in her hands. Outside of her soft sobbing, the corner office, morning sun streaming through leaded-glass window panes, was absolutely silent.
Lara leaned forward, her dark luminous eyes moving from Ken to Bethany. “It’s like I told both of you when you first came here, I can’t fix your marriage. Only you can do that. But, for there to be any improvement, you have to be willing to listen to one another.
“We’re nearly at the end of today’s hour, but frankly there’s not much reason for you to spend your money coming here week after week just so I can listen to you argue and try to referee. What I want you to do is this: go home and have an honest discussion, this morning while everything’s still fresh. Figure out if you really want to continue seeing me. If the answer is ‘yes’, call me and come on back next week. If the answer is ‘no’, well. . .” She let her last words hang in the air, realizing she was hoping to never have to see Mister Beauchamp again.
“Uh, here.” Ken rustled around in an inner jacket pocket coming up with a well-creased piece of paper. “Sign this.”
Taking the paper from him, she flipped it open. Damn the man. He’d been court-ordered to attend marriage counseling and he hadn’t told her. In fact, neither of them had. Fuming, she hastily checked the box verifying attendance at ten sessions, signed the document and handed it back to him. “You should have told me, Mister Beauchamp. We might have done things a bit differently.” We sure would have, since I’d have referred you to another therapist. He just looked at her as he snatched up the paper, a feral smile on his unattractive face.
“Thank you, Doctor McInnis.” Bethany’s voice was still clotted with tears. Planting her feet beneath her ample belly, she lurched to her feet. Standing, Lara held out her hand and Bethany latched onto it like a lifeline. The two women looked down at Ken who hadn’t made the slightest effort to leave his chair. He was chewing on his lower lip, his face the color of a boiled lobster.
Acting on impulse, Lara let go of Bethany’s hand and gestured to her. “I’ll just walk your wife down to the ladies’ room, Mister Beauchamp, so she can put some cold water on her face. She’ll meet you at the car.”
Pulling the office door open, she exchanged a meaningful glance with her receptionist. “Arabel, could you please see Mister Beauchamp out?” Without waiting for a reply, she took Bethany’s elbow, pushing her out into the hallway. As soon as they were safely out of the office, Lara turned to Bethany. “He hurts you, doesn’t he?” Her voice was the barest of whispers as she remembered the little she’d been able to drag out of Ken about his obscenely violent childhood.
A single tear leaked from one of Bethany’s eyes as she mumbled, “I, uh, can’t, um, shouldn’t. . .” They had reached the bathroom and were both inside the tiny enclosure. Lara waited, regarding her patient intently with well-honed inner senses, but Bethany maintained an edgy silence. Lara could see the ragged darkened edges of Bethany’s aura dragging around her lank hair; and suddenly she knew much of what the woman was unwilling to divulge. Sadly, the incandescence typical of pregnant women was all but missing.
Reaching into a pocket of her plaid wool skirt, Lara pulled out a pen and one of her cards, scribbling a number on the back. “If things get bad, make an excuse, any excuse. Tell him you’re going out for a walk. Bring your cell phone and call this number. They help women like you.”
Bethany’s hand snaked out and she took the card; then a frantic look washed over her. “But what if he finds the number?” she whimpered.
“It doesn’t matter. They won’t talk to him.” Lara laid a hand on Bethany’s arm. “You probably need to get down to your car. Maybe you could come in and talk to me by yourself.”
“He’d never let me.” Dull voice matching her dead eyes, Bethany let herself out into the corridor and began walking, with the awkward gait of the very-pregnant, towards the stairs.
Back in her office, Lara stopped at Arabel’s desk. “Who else do I have today?”
Hooking her thumb out the door, Arabel asked, “What’s up with them? The mister, he seemed pretty put out. For a minute there I didn’t think I was gonna git him out of the office.”
“You know I can’t discuss patients with you, dear. Or, at least we have to pretend we don’t talk about them.” Lara smiled fondly at the elderly Black woman who had been her sole office help for over twenty years. Arabel was dressed in her usual white blouse, navy gabardine skirt and black flats. An ancient maroon sweater hung over the back of her secretarial chair. Hair in a modified mostly-gray afro, she had a piquant sense of humor and a quick temper that was sparking from her nearly-black eyes.
“Hmmmmph. . .” Arabel bristled, mouth twisted into a frown. “You know I got nobody I’d be tellin’ anything to. Never have.”
“Sorry, sorry. Didn’t mean to your feelings.” Lara held out a conciliatory hand. “Truce?”
Arabel cocked her head to one side. The corners of her mouth twitched as she reached up to shake hands. “Truce. Never could stay mad at you. Not for long, anyways.” Turning back to the computer, she brought up the day’s schedule on the computer monitor. “David Roth cancelled, so you’re free till one thirty. Then you got folk packed in here till close to eight.”
Lara walked around the desk so she could look at the screen. Groaning audibly, she glanced at her watch. “Okay, I’m going to swing by the gym and then grab some lunch. Call me if anything comes up.”
“You got it.” Arabel’s voice followed Lara into her office where she grabbed her purse and her BlackBerry, locked her client file drawers and let herself out the back door.
Lara’s office was in an old, pale blue Victorian on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. She’d bought the building for a song about ten years before because someone had thought there were problems with the foundation. There had been some structural deficiencies, but they’d proven relatively trivial to fix. Split into four offices, her building was home to an architect and a CPA on the first floor, and herself and a psychiatrist on the second. Walking through a carpet of leaves that had fallen off the Madrona trees thickly lining East Avenue, Lara hit the clicker and heard the answering chirp from her nearby BMW.
As she drove, Lara thought about the Beauchamps. She’d spent an unusually long time—at least the first five sessions—gathering a history from them. One problem had been Ken’s reticence to disclose much of anything. Persistence and caginess had paid off, though, and he’d told her far more than he’d meant to about the French-Irish gang-affiliated father who’d turned him out as a child prostitute at the age of eight. His mother had abandoned the family when he was so young he had no memories of her at all, just oodles of anger Lara suspected he generalized to all women. . .including her. By contrast, Bethany’s meager life story had tumbled out with very little prodding. Not that hers read much better than her husband’s.
Fears for Bethany nagged at her. “What if they want to come back?” she asked herself softly. “Should I see them?” Pulling into the parking lot for her fitness center, Lara knew she’d turn that question over in her mind as she moved through her workout. Once she lost her objectivity—and any empathy she’d tried to gin up for Ken had long since evaporated—it became progressively more difficult to work with clients. She’d learned some hard lessons over the years, including that it was usually better to cut the cord sooner rather than later.
“Hi Tony!” Dropping her membership card onto the glass countertop, she snagged the proffered key and towel from the tall well-sculpted front desk attendant and headed down the lushly carpeted stairs.
“Have a good workout, Doc! Power’s on today so all the machines are available,” Tony’s throaty voice trailed after her.
Pulling her longish coppery hair into a snug ponytail, she was just pocketing her locker key when she heard her phone trilling its Bach Etude. Wrinkling her forehead in irritation, she stuffed the key back into its hole, retrieved the phone and barked, “Doctor McInnis,” without bothering to look at the screen.
“Hey there, Lara. It’s me.” The clipped British accent of Trevor, her long time, live-in lover, came through the tinny cellular system. “Sorry to bother you, love, but the power’s off again. . .at least on Queen Anne Hill.” He paused. “Thought you’d want to know.”
She found she was gripping the plastic of her BlackBerry. “Again? But that’s the third time since, let’s see, last Wednesday. How long did they say this time? Or did they? Or did you even call? What about the food in the freezer?” She stopped abruptly, realizing her voice had become unnecessarily shrill. “Sorry,” she muttered. “I’m just worried, that’s all.”
“I know, I know. That’s why I called you.” There was a hesitation. “Guess I’m worried too, and I just wanted someone to talk to.”
She closed her eyes, summoning an image of him with his Nordic features and summer-blue eyes. He was a flight attendant for KLM airlines, which meant he only worked about fifteen days each month. She’d met him ages ago on a return flight from Europe where she’d been completing the last leg of her analytic training at the Jung Institute in Zurich. Exhausted from a grueling six weeks of seeing patients, she’d been half-asleep in her narrow airline seat and he’d solicitously brought her tea and cookies. Lara wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, but he’d come home with her that night and they’d been together ever since. Those first few years had been more than a bit rocky. In fact, she’d run screaming from their home a time or two, so she wouldn’t kill him on the spot. But something indefinable—in fact she still didn’t truly understand what it was—had always drawn her back.
Sinking into one of the wicker chairs in a corner of the locker room, she felt a less-than-vague sense of unease tugging at her. “What do you think it means? Have you any idea?” There was a very long silence, so long she finally said, “Trev, you still there?”
“Yes, Lara, I am.” His accent was more pronounced, so she knew he was debating whether or not to give voice to his thoughts. Finally, he blurted, “I think we’re really running out of oil this time. Not like all those other times when the government stock-piled it and then released it after the price sky-rocketed. You wouldn’t know about this, since you’re such a news-phobe and I gas up the cars, but it was really hard to find petrol last month. Damned near impossible, actually.
“If what I suspect is true, everything that takes oil to run will eventually go tits-up.” He paused to draw what sounded like a frazzled breath before adding, “We might have been all right here in the northwest with all our hydroelectric power, except the rest of the country’s been draining power off our grid to compensate for their shortages. That’s been in all the papers since our state lawmakers have been kicking up a fuss in D.C. Anyway,” his voice was brusque, “I’m cooking up what I can from the freezer. We can talk more about this when you come home. If you get any breaks today, think about how you’d feel if we had to leave the city. Whoops, my cell’s ringing. See you tonight.”
Slipping her phone back into her locker, Lara walked towards the aerobics room and jumped on one of the elliptical trainers. She wanted to come to some decision about Bethany and her husband, but the conversation with Trevor kept intruding. Damn it, she thought irritably. He hung up before I could even react to that whole doomsday scenario he laid out. Hmmmmph! Probably didn’t want to give me a chance to talk him out of it. Meantime, I’m supposed to think about leaving the city? Where the hell would we go?
Mopping at sweat that was trickling down her face, Lara glanced at her reflection in the mirrors covering almost every wall. Staring back at her was a tall too-thin redhead with freckles covering every inch of exposed skin. Her angular face, with its prominent nose and chin, glistened in the reflected light. Moving to the treadmill, she set it for six-and-a-half miles an hour and ran hard for ten minutes. Gasping, she slowly backed off on the speed, while increasing the angle. Ten minutes after that, she sucked down what felt like a quart of water from the drinking fountain and stopped by the squat rack to do three sets. Finishing with twenty pull-ups, she headed for the locker room and the showers.
Briskly toweling off, she felt animated and dynamic, the problems with power outages and the Ken Beauchamps of the world temporarily pushed to a back burner. Nothing like a few endorphins, she told herself, inhaling deeply. Making plans to get a smoothie-to-go with extra protein powder from the small on-site restaurant, she contemplated the afternoon’s lineup of patients.
Out of the six scheduled, there was one analytic client, two angry teenagers: a cutter and a bulimic, another couple and two lonely middle-aged women, one depressed, the other anxious. Too bad it’s unethical to introduce patients to one another. . .outside of a therapy group that is. Lara chuckled softly to herself. She loved doing analytic work, but there weren’t many who really wanted to delve that deeply into themselves. Not to mention the cost. For analysis to be truly effective, patients needed to come three, or even four, times a week. “Magic theater, not for everyone,” she mumbled as she picked up her smoothie, a tofu bar and some green tea before heading for her car. The sun, an elusive phenomenon in Seattle, was nowhere in sight and it was raining lightly. While not cold, the day held some of the crispness typical of mid-October. Her phone chimed again but she ignored it, figuring she’d be back at her office in less than five minutes.