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Chapter One

Callie squeezed by booth 11, narrowly avoiding the grubby hand that reached out to grab her as she balanced a tray of drinks on one hip. 

“You are just too cute,” she said, smiling down at him.  “Some day you’re going to be a real heart-breaker.”

The toddler grinned at her and cheerfully dug into his mashed potatoes and gravy with the other hand, mashing the food around on the tray of his high chair.  Mom was busy settling an argument between his two older sisters over whose turn it was to sit in the front seat next and barely looked up as Callie delivered a fresh iced tea.

“That was a close one.” Callie breathed a sigh of relief as she headed back to the kitchen to get another order.  The child had almost touched her bare hand.  “This job may be exhausting and the pay isn’t much, but tips are good.  I’ve got to hang in here for a couple of weeks longer, just till I can save up enough to pay for that new transmission.”

Business was brisk tonight and Callie hustled from table to table.  She’d learned that roadside diners were a great place to pick up some cash.  Staff turnover was usually high and an attractive young girl who refilled endless cups of coffee with a smile and a kind word could always find a job filling in somewhere during the busy tourist season.

She felt a blast of warm air behind her as the door opened and turned to see a pair of tight jeans and a dusty brown leather jacket head for table 3 by the window.  Callie grabbed a menu and made her way down the aisle.

“Hi there,” she said, setting the menu and silverware roll in front of him.  “Welcome to Danny’s Diner. Can I get you a nice cold drink?”

The stranger looked up and Callie felt a jolt of electricity shoot through her as his dark eyes met hers.  For a moment she saw him dressed in an expensive suit, leaning back in a leather chair at the head of the mahogany table in a crowded conference room.  Callie blinked, and as he smiled back at her the image faded.  Now she was facing a hot hunk with wavy dark hair and two days growth of beard, wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt under the worn biker jacket.

“You can start with a big glass of water and keep ‘em coming.”  His voice was low and husky.    “Kinda hot out there for this early in the season, isn’t it?” 
        

“I’m not from around here, so I really don’t know.”  Callie hardly knew what she was saying.  She was still shocked by how clear this vision had been.  Normally she had to be in physical contact with people to read them but with this stranger, just looking into his eyes triggered an image with incredible detail.  Callie could even describe the view she’d glimpsed out the window of the board room behind him.  A steep hill filled with a rainbow of Victorian “painted ladies” leading down to a bay with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

She shook her head and put on her pleasant “customer” smile.  “I’ll be right back with that water and then I’ll tell you about today’s specials.”

“I’ve got to pull myself together.” Callie headed for the waitress station, still shaking a little inside.  As the old saying goes, her ability was both a blessing and a curse.  She shied away from getting too close to anyone.  Casually brushing against an elderly lady on a crowded street could send her spinning into a hospital room, hearing the desperate prayers a devoted husband would be whispering next week.  But she had never had a vision about someone right in front of her without some form of skin contact.  That’s why Callie always looked so demure – long sleeves buttoned to the wrist no matter what the weather was like.  Yet under the long sleeves and black work pants was a lush body longing for the kind of soft caresses other young women took for granted.

Callie knew that one more “incident” would cost her this job.  And she had to get the car fixed and be in Waynesville soon.  Whatever was to going to happen, it would be while the peach trees were still in bloom.  Callie didn’t question these other visions any more.  She had seen them become reality on the evening news too many times by now.  She just knew those were peach blossoms on the trees behind the old farmhouse she saw – the farmhouse in Waynesville where a little girl with curly blonde hair was being dragged down into the root cellar, screaming for her mommy.

Trent watched her head back to his table, struggling to regain his composure.  He’d never experienced anything like this before.  Staring into those deep brown eyes of hers, he’d felt an instant connection – straight to his cock. 

“Down, boy,” he said to the bulge in his suddenly too-tight jeans.  His sex life had been almost nonexistent for months.  There was no time for a relationship when every waking moment was spent negotiating the details of the sale of Virtual Voyages. 

Before that, he’d been just another computer nerd, days blending into nights as he sat in front of the keyboard alone, creating the concept for the popular video games that blended virtual reality with extreme sports.  Now he had enough money to experience all the expensive hobbies his characters enjoyed – sports a boy raised by a cash-strapped single mom could never afford.  Yesterday, he finished helping Mom move into a gorgeous condo in Boca and drove off in a brand-new Harley that now sat outside the diner.  Both were thanks to years of living like a monk in a cramped studio apartment in San Francisco while he worked to secure a future for himself and the woman who had given up so much for him.  Trent was finally free to begin living the kind of adventure-filled life he’d been creating in his head for his characters since he was a kid.
 
Callie came back with a glass of ice water.  As she set it down in front of him, Trent reached for it.  Their hands touched and Callie gasped, the glass dropping from her fingers and shattering on the tile floor. 

As the icy water splashed over her, she was suddenly standing under a waterfall that cascaded over an outcropping of moss-covered rocks.  Her nipples were hard.  But Callie didn’t know whether it was from the chilly torrent of water pouring over her or the big hands of this naked man in front of her, stroking her breasts and then bending his head to lick where he touched.

Danny’s harsh voice shattered her vision and brought her spinning back to the diner.  “How many more of my customers are you going to drive away with your daydreaming and carelessness?”

“I’m sorry, Mister,” he growled, striding out from the kitchen.  “She does this all the time.  Did you get cut by the glass?  Dinner is on me – and you’re outta here,” he said, turning to Callie.  “I can’t afford to keep paying for dinners and dry cleaning every time you zone out into your own little world.” 

Callie didn’t blame him.  Ever since Daddy passed away, she had tried to hold down a succession of jobs.  But the visions she’d seen since she was a little girl were uncontrollable – and so very real.  Each time Callie was transported far away and her current world ceased to exist for a few moments.  Often the scenes played out before her were gut-wrenching.  Once it was over, she was left shaking, her head pounding  uncontrollably. 

Callie’s grandmother had been born with the gift, too.  But Granmere lived a quiet life back in the bayou. She could take to her bed after one of her “spells”.  When Callie was a child, Granmere’s patient teaching and comforting presence helped her cope with the problems these unusual abilities created.  But Granmere had been gone for over ten years.  Now, with satellite TV available even in the most remote corner of the bayou, technology brought home the grim reality of her psychic visions.  Too often, Callie watched helplessly as her nightmares were played out before her eyes over and over on the cable news stations at 3 AM.
 
While Daddy was alive, Callie lived like Granmere had – taking care of the two of them in a small cabin on a dirt road in the bayou.  After her death, Callie took over Granmere’s role in the backwoods community.  The local women came to her to learn the sex of their unborn child or for advice about a new boyfriend.  Sometimes instead of advice, they got a warning about the new beau.  Her best friend Lydia didn’t listen to that warning.  Callie still missed her every day.  

Then Daddy died too and left her his old Ford and a few thousand dollars he managed to squirrel away in a savings account.  Callie promised herself that the next time she had a premonition, she was going to do something to save the victim.  So far, she’d arrived in time to change the outcome for three people who owed her their lives…but would never know it.
      
But Daddy’s meager funds didn’t last long on the road, and Callie had been forced to take a few jobs along the way just to get by.  Now the Ford was in Ernie’s hands at the service station up the road and the bill for repairs was going to chew up every dime she had left.
 
Callie turned away, fear clenching in her stomach.  There weren’t any other jobs she could get to from her cheap weekly rental without transportation.  “But my car isn’t ready,” she blurted out. 

Trent looked at her stricken face, and then turned to the burly owner.  “There’s no need to fire her.  It was just a glass of ice water – no harm done.”

“Yeah, well, I warned her that if it happened again, she was through,” Danny replied.  “Last time she dropped a whole dinner in somebody’s lap.  Afterwards, she walks around all pale looking like she’s gonna faint and scaring everybody else.  I can’t afford to get sued if she drops a pot of hot coffee on somebody’s head when she’s having one of her spells.”

For as long as he lived, Trent would never understand what drove him to speak the next words.  There was something about her that felt so familiar.  Stretching out his hand, he turned to Callie and said “If you’re out of here, so am I.  Can I offer you a ride somewhere?  I’m heading through the Nantahala Gorge to Waynesville.”

Callie reached for the stranger’s hand.

 As they touched again, she found herself sprinting into a clearing deep in the woods. The stranger stepped out from behind a clump of trees and grabbed her in a tight embrace.  Then he dragged her over to a fallen log, sank down and pulled her roughly across his lap.  He yanked down her jeans and panties, exposing her bare ass.  One strong hand was across her back holding her securely in place.  With the other hand, he was spanking her soundly, all the while lecturing her that she was never to rush recklessly into danger again.

 


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