Paying the lawyer’s fees had put a strain on Lauren’s once comfortable savings. She’d bought the pre-owned Porsche before Beth’s arrest with the money she’d obtained from selling her designs to Galliano. The Porsche was proof that dreams did come true. That hard work, pounding the pavement, believing in herself paid off.

Sure she could sell it, but she’d worked hard for the convertible and she loved it. Loved that every time she drove the car, the rush of the engine reminded her of the euphoria of her first big success. She wasn’t willing to sell the car-or that feeling-for Beth or for anyone.

If her runway show in Paris was a hit, her designs would be in demand and money would no longer be an issue. But right now, she had to focus on the renovation. Another blow to her savings.

She glanced at her sister, the cause of this mess. Trying not to show her dueling anger and frustration, Lauren covered Beth’s hand with her own.

“I have to go, but I’ll be back soon.” She rose and kissed her sister’s cheek.

As she walked out, Lauren had the weird sensation her sister’s gaze was following her, watching her as she headed for her life outside the prison walls.

THE PORSCHE BOXSTER, engine revving, zoomed past the open field in a flash of fire and blinding speed. The convertible-top down, unusual for this time of year-dazzled for an instant before disappearing in a screeching cloud of dust. The vibrant red sports car caused a commotion in Stewart, Massachusetts, a sedate New England town consumed with getting ready for tonight’s Annual Fall Festival, always held the weekend before Halloween.

Jason Corwin glanced toward the heavy thrumming sound. His heart rate picked up speed, much as it had before a snowboarding race, until he deliberately clamped down on the unwanted reminder of his previous life. A life where he’d had the more expensive Carrera. A life of excitement and a constant rush of adrenaline through his veins. A life that was over, he harshly reminded himself before turning back to the more mundane task of building a tarot card booth for tonight’s big event.

“I wonder who could be so determined to make an entrance,” Clara Deveaux pondered aloud.

“Couldn’t tell you.” Jason hammered the last nail into the sign for Clara’s booth.

But considering the brightly colored exterior of the car and the deliberate way the engine had been revved up full throttle, the driver had definitely wanted people to notice.

“I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough,” Clara said. “So are you almost finished?”

He nodded. “As a matter of fact, I am.” He’d agreed to help with setup for the festival, but since Clara was a friend of the family, Jason had also helped to build and decorate her booth and bring over supplies.

As owner of Crescent Moon, a New Age Wiccan gift shop she’d recently relocated to Stewart, Clara was sure to be a success, her booth filled with people who wanted their future told. After all, this town believed in spells and curses. As a Corwin male, direct descendant of William Corwin and, some might say, recipient of the infamous Corwin Curse, Jason wanted nothing to do with witchcraft.

But Clara insisted on doing a tarot reading for him as thanks for all his hard work. And Clara didn’t take no for an answer.

“Great!” She seated herself in front of him and pulled out an oversize deck of cards. “Shuffle.” Her bangle bracelets clinked against one another as she handed him the deck.

With a feigned groan, he did as she asked, shuffling under her watchful eye.

After four months in a relationship with his uncle Edward that no one in the family could define, Clara was obviously here to stay. Jason liked the woman. It was her do-gooder tendencies that drove him nuts. Clara, like Gabrielle and Amber, his cousins’ wives, pushed and prodded him to get out of his present funk.

He could understand they were sick of his attitude. He was pretty sick of it himself, which was why he’d humor her and let her read his cards.

He handed the deck back to her.

“This deck is my personal favorite,” she said as she turned over one card. “Knight of Pentacles reversed. You’re a hard worker and can take care of yourself, but something recently happened to turn your world upside down.”

Jason held back a snort. The whole town knew his goal of winning Snowboarding gold in the winter Olympics had gone south after he’d tested positive for steroids at the World Championships. He’d never touched an illegal substance in his life, but the IOC had banned him from competition for two years. His appeals had been denied, leaving him out of the upcoming 2010 Olympics. With no sponsors to support him, he’d lost the income that enabled him to practice and compete.

Unable to prove his innocence and the fact that he’d been drugged, Jason had no choice but to concede defeat. He’d maintain his innocence forever, but snowboarding was in his past. The winter Olympics this February in Vancouver would take place without him.

“I see that skepticism,” Clara chided. She waved her arm and the sleeve of her colorful caftan created a breeze of its own.

“You have to admit, you’re not telling me anything you don’t already know.”

With a smile, Clara turned over another card. “Crossing card is what is affecting you. Three of Cups, a betrayal of the heart.”

Jason’s thoughts immediately turned to Kristina Marino, the woman who’d set him up for the fall.

He’d met her six months before his failed doping test and they’d become inseparable. Jason, who usually had a hard time sustaining a relationship because few women understood or respected his dedication to the sport, had finally found someone who didn’t resent the time his training required. Or so he’d thought. In reality, she’d been in love with his main competitor, Rusty Small, but she’d hidden the connection and seduced Jason, gradually adding a banned ingredient into the power shakes he consumed daily.

Kristina had confirmed Jason’s hunch in person after Rusty dumped her for someone else. She’d arrived on his doorstep last month to clear her conscience. Too little, too late, and she was still completely unwilling to clear his name by confessing. Jason was left with being seen as yet another athlete proclaiming his innocence to a disbelieving world.

“You’re going to have to do better, Clara.” Jason teased her, but she wasn’t deterred.

“Bottom card.” She turned it over.

Jason didn’t pay much attention as she spoke about his past and what had brought him to this point in life.

“To the left.” She revealed another card. “Your recent past. Knight of Cups upright. You need to find your meaning again. Your holy grail, if you will. You are committed to seeking what you need for yourself,” she said.

“Care to elaborate?” he asked.

Clara smoothed her jet-black hair. “Of course not. Only you can decide what it is you need.”

“Of course.”

Ignoring his sarcasm, she moved on. “Card above. What is within your reach. Queen of Wands.” Her voice rose in excitement. “She’s a passionate woman, impulsive, impish.”

Jason let out a chuckle, which sounded rusty even to him. Had it really been that long since he’d had a genuine laugh? “Come on, Clara. Even if I were looking, which I’m not, every woman in town knows to steer clear of a Corwin man.”

Not that it mattered. Jason hadn’t been interested in any woman since Kristina. She’d soured him on females for a good long while. Although he had to admit celibacy wasn’t working for him.

“You don’t see me running away from the right Corwin man, do you?” Clara glanced at him through guileless eyes.

“You’re different.” Clara and Edward had a history. She seemed to be the only one capable of drawing his reclusive uncle out of his shell.

The medications his uncle had been put on a few months ago had finally taken effect, and Edward Corwin, formerly the town recluse, had slowly begun to venture out into the world again. He was wary but trying to rebuild his life. Trying to overcome decades of ingrained fear of the Corwin Curse, which had ravaged his life. But the one thing that hadn’t changed was his unwillingness to commit to Clara Deveaux. Edward was scared. Clara refused to give up on the stubborn old coot.

She grinned. “I’m no different than any woman in love. Now let’s continue. Card to the near right. High Priestess. Woman of mystery, as you can see by the red mask covering her eyes.”

He immediately thought of the red Porsche whizzing through town.

“She represents finding things within yourself instead of looking to the outside world. Interesting we’d get the

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