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About the author:
Rebecca Chastain is the international bestselling author of the humorous Madison Fox, Illuminant Enforcer urban fantasy series and the highly praised MAGIC OF THE GARGOYLES fantasy novella. She has found seven four-leaf clovers to date, won a purebred Arabian horse in a drawing, and once tamed a blackbird for a day. Dreaming up the absurd and writing stories designed to amuse and entertain has been her passion since she was eleven years old. She lives in Northern California with her wonderful husband and two bossy cats. TINY GLITCHES is her latest release. Sign up for Rebecca’s newsletter at http://www.rebeccachastain.com/newsletter/.
What inspired you to write your book?
I fell in love with screwball comedies in college, and short of a few early Janet Evanovich novels (not her Stephanie Plum series), I wasn’t finding many in literary form . . . so I decided to write my own. Tiny Glitches is a whirlwind adventure full of romance and danger—and a touch of magic, because every story deserves a little magic. In this instance, I used the magic as a form of torture for Eva, giving her a curse that drains electricity in a world where everyone is glued to their phones and communication is becoming increasingly electronics driven. The novel is a hybrid romance/adventure/suspense that readers have repeatedly praised as laugh-out-loud funny and nonstop action.
Here is a short sample from the book:
This wasn’t about me, and as satisfying as it’d be to release my curse and embrace the anger simmering in my blood, it wouldn’t help Sofie. If I didn’t want to be forced to leave, I needed to find tranquility.
I’m floating on a cloud of coffee cake. A fluffy brown sugar and cinnamon cake dense enough to choke the bastards—
I pried my teeth apart to ask the gallery owner, “What did the police say?”
Gabriel slammed the back door of the gallery’s storage room as the patrol car pulled out of the alley. His ruffled purple shirt fluttered in the back draft. “Best guess, they think it was a mistake, that the thief took the wrong art. Like that’s helpful.”
“The wrong art?” Nails curled into my palms.
In the middle of the night, some pea-brained imbecile had burgled Galileo Gallery, swiping every S. Sterling piece waiting in storage for next week’s show. S. Sterling—my aunt Sofie—wasn’t due back from San Francisco until this afternoon, which was why I stood in front of a ripped-open crate practicing deep-breathing exercises in a futile attempt to rein in my anger and dampen my curse. The stuttering fluorescent above me mocked my ineffectual control.
“Sterling’s art is . . . well, it’s not the most expensive or the most coveted. Or sophisticated. Or—” Gabriel met my scowl and rushed to clutch my hands, smoothing them straight. “But what do the police know? Your aunt’s paintings are exquisite and always sell, which is the point, right, Eva?”
I pretended I didn’t see the sheepskin sleeves pop into existence around his arms. Rescuing my hands from Gabriel’s enthusiastic soothing, I examined the art in the boxes to either side of Sofie’s. Those on the left sold for double my aunt’s asking price. Across the storage room, uncovered, rested a painting worth more than all my aunt’s stolen artwork combined. The police’s theory was logical. It was also infuriating and insulting. If some jackass had to steal Sofie’s artwork, he should steal it because he wanted it, not because he couldn’t read the labels on the boxes.
The light above me popped, darkening half the room. Gabriel squinted at the burned-out bulb, then spun away with a toss of his glossy black hair to prop open the back door. Sunlight spilled in from the alley.
I am floating on a coffee cake cloud. I crossed my arms and thrummed my fingertips against my forearm.
“I have been violated. I feel like Frida Kahlo after the trolley car,” Gabriel said. His sheepskin sleeves disappeared and an ankle-high insubstantial plastic pink flamingo materialized beside his left foot, then another by his right. The apparitions floated back and forth with his pacing feet. “How dare someone invade our sanctuary. Never again! We’ll be locked as tight as the Louvre before sundown.” The flamingos multiplied into a wall of identical arched pink necks and crooked right legs that marched with him, one long, tasteless yard-art army.
Grimacing, I took a deep breath and sought tranquility. My curse was gaining momentum, and calming exercises were barely taking the edge off my anger.
“What about Sofie’s art? What are the police doing?”
“Nothing useful. Checking pawnshops, notifying auction houses. That sort of thing.” A white fifties-style full-coverage brassiere engulfed his chest, obscuring the bulk of his shirt. The bra spontaneously combusted. “I’ve got a broken lock and a slew of missing art, and they inferred I am at fault for not having video surveillance.”
The burning bra tested my hard-won ability to ignore apparitions. Flames licked up the straps and the cups disintegrated, exposing Gabriel’s ruffle-front shirt through the blackened holes.
Though Sofie claimed the apparitions were a family gift, it felt more like I was twice cursed. At least Sofie, my mother, and Nana Nevie saw useful images. I suffered through a barrage of people’s emotions, represented by intangible apparitions that floated around their bodies. The visions were unique to each person, following no rhyme or rule—and definitely not logic. In other words, I was privy to divination gibberish. Case in point: What the hell did a burning bra on a middle-aged man mean?
In my twenty-six years of apparition bombardment, I’d learned it was easier to judge a person’s emotions by their expressions and actions than by using my questionable gift. If I could have turned off the visions, I would have flipped the switch years ago.
Without the off switch, I was perpetually at the mercy of my curse.
The bra’s embers drifted toward Gabriel’s feet, disappearing at his knees. I sucked in a deep breath and held it for a count of five, only half listening to Gabriel’s ongoing rant.
“. . . swap my testicles for turnips if they remember to check—”
Gabriel’s teeth clicked shut as a shadow darkened the door. I followed his gaze. The man peering into the storage room from the alley had a dusty-blond five o’clock shadow and striking blue eyes that warranted a double take. His tousled dirty-blond hair said surfer but his posture and physique said military. I approved of both, especially how the sun outlined his broad shoulders and trim hips.
My pent-up breath eased out. The gallery owner’s burning brassiere melted away, and he stood on the deck of a colorful gondola. It bobbed in the concrete beneath his shoes, extending three feet in front and behind him, the prow and stern severed by the sharp lines of reality.
Gabriel floated to the handsome stranger, hand extended. “Gabriel Galileo. May I help you?”
“Hudson Keyes. We spoke on the phone this morning about upgrading your security.” A dimple flashed in Hudson’s five o’clock shadow, and a layer of my morning’s tension lifted at the sight, making it almost easy to ignore the heavy, wide-brimmed blue sombrero dwarfing Hudson’s head. Enormous gold shells circled the base of the sombrero’s barrel, and golden pom-poms clustered the brim. When he spoke, a matching poncho draped his chest.
“Yes, of course.” Gabriel shook Hudson’s hand. The pom-poms swayed.
Hudson turned his smile to me, and Gabriel released him to make the introduction. “This is Eva Parker, niece of S. Sterling, the artist whose collection was abducted last night.”
Hudson’s large warm hand enclosed mine, and the contact zinged through my body. For the first time since I’d learned of the theft earlier that morning, I smiled.
The three remaining fluorescent lights sputtered out, drowning the storage room in shadows.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” Gabriel exclaimed. In the glow of the sunlight slanting through the open back door, I watched Gabriel test the light switches, then throw up his hands. “What else could go wrong?”
“I’m sorry for your family’s misfortune,” Hudson said, unfazed by the lighting issues.
“Aren’t we all,” Gabriel said. “Simply awful. Sterling’s pieces are amazing. Definitely worth stealing. Not that someone should have stolen them. Not that anyone should ever steal anything. Oh, dear, I’m babbling.” He clapped both hands over his mouth, then shrugged, dropped his hands with a smile, and barreled through the space between Hudson and me. “At least the lights are still on in the gallery.”
Gabriel flung open the interior door, and Hudson and I threaded through the cramped, gloomy storage room into the spacious gallery. Hudson glanced around, his eyes on the ceiling rather than the art. My gaze slid down Hudson’s backside to appreciate the fit of his jeans.
“I didn’t see a camera out back and I don’t see any video surveillance in here—”
“First the officers, and now you! I’m starting to feel like I’m the criminal.” Gabriel thrust his wrists toward Hudson. “Okay, I confess. I don’t have any cameras. Lock me up.”
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary.” Hudson didn’t hold back his grin, and Gabriel swooned toward him. “What about an alarm?”
I eased away from the men. I wouldn’t have minded ogling Hudson Keyes a bit longer. I could use a dose of handsome to counterbalance the frustrations of the morning, but I should have left the moment I saw the gondola.
Shoving familiar bitterness back into its mental box and wedging the lid shut, I strode down the hallway to Gabriel’s immaculate office. I closed the door behind me and leaned against it. Picturing a placid lake, I dumped my emotions into it, letting the anger and frustration sink beneath the surface. As my emotions calmed, I restored the barriers around my curse and did my best to smother it.
Technically, I wasn’t cursed; my gift simply required fuel. Unlike my body, which ran on water, food, sunlight, and good sex, the nonstop apparitions ran on electricity. What little control I’d mastered over my body’s passive consumption of electricity deteriorated in proportion to my emotional distress; the stronger my emotions, the faster I sucked in electricity and the more numerous and elaborate my divinations.
Pushing from the door, I thumbed through the leather satchel on my shoulder. Organized inside its plethora of pockets and pouches were the tools of my trade as a feng shui consultant. The bag also contained the flotsam of a woman who never knew where her curse would strand her next.
It was a big bag.
I pulled out a packet containing photographs and information on all the stolen paintings and placed it in the center of Gabriel’s spotless desk. The police had already received their own copy. Sadly, hand-delivering the paperwork was the extent of my usefulness.
I reached for the door, then paused to give myself a quick pat-down. Seeing Hudson had done wonders for restoring some of my calm. A little light flirting was just what I needed to shake my lingering irritation before the bus ride home. I pulled my mussed hair back into a high ponytail; then I applied a fresh layer of pink lip gloss. Some redheads are summery and freckled. I’m pale. A kind ex had called my skin alabaster. It sounded better than fish-belly white. With the right makeup, I could pull off exotic; without makeup, I looked like a ghost in a wig.
I emerged from the hallway in time to see Hudson bustle into the back room carrying a ladder and a tool pack. The door closed behind him and I sighed. So much for this morning’s silver lining.
“Please let your aunt know I’m taking every precaution to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Gabriel said, wringing his hands. Iridescent peacock feathers were braided through his hair, and a comfy green armchair trailed his heels like a puppy. “Ms. Sterling’s work is so uplifting. People are going to be terribly disappointed. Our Twitter feed has been flooded with fans tweeting about her show, and the click-through rate on our ads featuring her work were phenomenal.”
He spoke a form of gibberish I’d heard often enough to grasp the gist of, but I wasn’t fluent enough to attempt to respond in kind. As a computer’s archnemesis, I possessed only peripheral awareness of all things Internet.
I left without promising anything on my aunt’s behalf. I wasn’t sure I could—or wanted to. Sofie wasn’t going to be pleased Gabriel was only now making efforts to protect his gallery from thieves.
The bright midmorning Los Angeles sun warmed my legs when I stepped outside. Sundress weather in April—I lived in the perfect city. The light breeze carried the smell of hot asphalt and exhaust, and the only clouds in the sky were plane contrails.
With the sun’s rays soaking into my skin, my frustration evaporated to genuine calm. Sofie’s plane would touch down in a few hours, so I had time to burn. I turned right, following the delicious cinnamon smell wafting from a nearby café. If the café sold cinnamon rolls, maybe they also sold coffee cake.
Behind me, the gallery doors jingled open and someone called my name. I turned to see Hudson rush out, wearing a ship captain’s hat this time. My stomach fluttered. I pivoted to face him, fighting to keep my eyes on his face and not scan down his body as he jogged toward me. The breeze pushed his blue company T-shirt against his chest, and my fingers tightened around the strap of my bag.
“Hey, Eva, I wanted to assure you that after I get done today, no one will be able to steal from Galileo Gallery again,” he said when he caught up to me. “Not that it’s much of a consolation, I guess.”
“It’s good news for the rest of the artists, but I won’t be happy until the bastards who did this are caught.”
The conversation stalled, but Hudson’s dimple rooted me in place, and his heavy eye contact suggested he hadn’t chased me out of the gallery just to brag about his job skills. Plus, while I didn’t understand the emotional significance of his changing hats, I thought I could accurately read the butterfly-size sharks circling through his midriff as nerves. I smiled and felt only a smidge guilty to capitalize, however remotely, on my aunt’s misfortune.
“Would you like to get lunch with me sometime? I’ve got this thing.” Hudson gestured back toward the gallery with a boyish grin. “Otherwise I’d suggest right now.”
“I like your enthusiasm.”
“Wait, you don’t have a boyfriend, do you?”
The sharks disappeared and formal navy dress whites covered his jeans and T-shirt. The captain’s hat tucked under his arm didn’t move when Hudson reached into his back pocket and pulled out his phone. “So that’s a yes, right?”
Gravity got a little lighter as we grinned at each other. “Yes, when—”
A hand clamped on my arm and spun me around. I yelped in surprise.
“Eva? Eva Parker? What a surprise to find you here.”
I leaned away from the short black woman who squeezed my arm in a vise grip. Her large eyes showed too much white around the brown irises and focused on me with an unnerving intensity. She smiled a quick flash of teeth behind full lips. Racehorse blinders sprouted next to her temples, intensifying her stare.
“It’s Jenny,” she said. “Jenny Winters. From Santa Monica High.”
“High school?” I couldn’t remember any high school friend or acquaintance named Jenny. I tried to gently extract my arm, but she dragged me forward a step.
“We had a class together. Honors English. Junior year.”
“Right. Overachievers unite. Look, it’s great to see you again—”
“Yes, how the years have flown by. Isn’t it amazing? Can you believe it?” Jenny recited the platitudes in a flat voice, the words fast.
“I really can’t.” I dug in my heels and yanked my arm free, wondering if she’d left bruises. Jenny glanced behind us, then peered into a nearby narrow alley. A warning tingled in my spine, and I eased back a few steps. “Are you okay?”
The dark circles under her eyes, the dirt-smeared khaki pants, and the waist-length jacket on the balmy day all gave lie to her claim.
“I’ve been looking for you, Eva. You’re a hard woman to find. I wouldn’t have known where to look if I hadn’t remembered Arianna da Via.”
Dirty Coke-bottle glasses dropped onto her face, obscuring her eyes. She lunged for my arm again, and I stumbled out of her reach and into Hudson. He steadied me with a hand on my hip, and the heat of his palm rushed through me. I glanced up at him; then my gaze dropped to his full bottom lip.
Wait, Jenny had been looking for me? And she had tracked me down through my best friend Ari?
“What does Ari have to do with anything?” I straightened, focusing on Jenny. Ari would have mentioned chatting with a crazy woman from our past, and she definitely wouldn’t have told her where to find me.
Jenny clamped a light brown fist around my wrist and jerked me between two parked cars and into the road. “I need to show you something. It’s urgent. We need to cross.” Jenny yanked, and my arm strained in its socket. A car horn blared and I jumped half a foot, planting my free hand on the car’s bumper to steady myself. Crap! She’d almost gotten me run over.
“Let go of me!” My skin burned when I attempted to twist out of her grip.
“Let me go!”
Jenny wrenched me forward, and against my will, I ran across the remaining three lanes of traffic, opting to extricate myself from the safety of the opposite sidewalk. Heavy footsteps followed, then Hudson caught up to us.
“Who are you?” Jenny demanded, glaring at Hudson.
Hudson draped a warm, muscular arm across my shoulder, trapping my free hand against his side when he squeezed me to him. “Eva’s boyfriend.” His fake possessive maneuver forced Jenny to release me.
She eyed him up and down. “Fine. Actually, that’s better. We’re going right in here.”
Jenny popped open the latch on the back of a horse trailer parked next to the curb. Hudson kept his arm around me like he belonged there. Jenny leaned around the side of the trailer to check up the sidewalk, then behind us, before scanning the rooftops.
I remained frozen in place. For a second, when Hudson had made his ridiculous statement, a straitjacket had engulfed Jenny’s torso. It vanished just as fast, replaced by a bundle of arrows piercing her rib cage directly through her heart. Not good. Definitely not good.
“Come on,” Jenny said. She pulled the trailer door open and slipped inside.
“Any idea what’s in there?” Hudson whispered, dropping his arm.
I shook my head and examined the trailer. It was large and dark gray, with suspicious stains smeared across the bumper beneath the swinging door. And it smelled. Bad.
My imagination conjured up plenty of graphic possibilities of what an insane woman would stash in a trailer: an injured horse, a sick person, a dead horse. A dead person?
I shivered, missing the warmth of Hudson’s arm despite the eighty-degree heat and the sun on my shoulders. I couldn’t walk away and leave some creature—human or otherwise—at this crazy lady’s mercy. Gingerly, I pulled the door open wider. My heart pattered in my chest, and I tensed to run as I peeked inside.
“You have an elephant!”
Hudson yanked the door wider and stared over my shoulder.
“Shh, keep your voice down.” Jenny stretched to her tiptoes to peer out the high windows on the side of the trailer. “Come inside and close the door.”
Against my better judgment, I stepped into the trailer. Hudson eased in behind me and pulled the door shut.
The elephant was small, no taller than my waist. Its wrinkled gray skin was crusted with dried mud and peppered with long wiry hairs. A stubby trunk the length of my arm curled back over its head. I amended my statement. “You have a baby elephant?”
“Basically. Her name is Kyoko,” Jenny said.
The elephant didn’t look injured. It looked perfectly healthy, if wildly out of place in a horse trailer in the middle of Los Angeles. The stench had to be emanating from the greenish brown piles splattered against the edge of the trailer. I craned to look up and down the sidewalk through the tall windows on the side of the trailer. “Do you have its mother around here somewhere?”
“No. Listen up. I need you to keep Kyoko for a few days.”
The elephant shifted, and the entire trailer shuddered.
“For optimum success, here are the parameters,” Jenny said, her earlier agitation gone, replaced by a calm, almost clinical tone. She ticked points off on her finger as she spoke. “Kyoko doesn’t like loud noises, so no more yelling. She needs company; you can’t abandon her by herself. You will go to prison if you’re caught transporting or possessing an endangered species.” She flipped her hand to point at the elephant. Its long eyelashes blinked over large golden-brown eyes. “Don’t get caught.”
Rapid-fire, the arrows shot from her chest and studded the floor in a straight line from her feet to mine. Even knowing they were insubstantial apparitions, I flinched and swallowed a scream. The remaining arrows burst from her chest and peppered the trailer’s walls. Had they been real, Hudson would have been dead.
“Hold up. I’m not getting caught, because I’m not in possession of an elephant.” I waved my hands in front of me in the universal this-isn’t-my-problem gesture. “I don’t know what you’re involved in, Jenny, or why you think I would help—”
“I chose you because of your”—her eyes flicked to Hudson, then back to me—“special relationship with power. It makes you unpredictable. I noticed it in high school. I watched you, studied you.” Hard brown eyes met mine. “I know several people in the government who’d be interested in my observations.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said through numb lips. Hudson’s curiosity bore into my flesh. His eyes darted between Jenny, me, and the elephant. I should have already been walking—running—away, but my feet had welded to the trailer.
“Five computer lab crashes,” Jenny said, ticking off points on her fingers again. “Byron Davy’s spate of dead car batteries after prom—”
He’d deserved every single one of them, the two-timing bastard, but I couldn’t summon my usual vindictive satisfaction. Each finger tick doubled my heart rate.
“Twenty-two classes with no power. Three school brownouts—”
“What are you saying? That you think . . . That you’d . . .” I couldn’t finish the sentence, but I needed to make her stop talking in front of Hudson. Somehow, this woman I didn’t know or remember had figured out my curse. She’d freaking studied me. The thought of one stranger knowing about my curse limned my veins with icy foreboding. Her threat to tell other people, to make me a helpless lab rat, overwhelmed rational thought.
“All I need is for you to take care of Kyoko for a few days.”
“I can’t.” I lifted a feeble hand in protest. Jenny snapped something cold and hard around my wrist. Metal clanged on metal, and I was handcuffed to a steel brace on the side of the trailer.
“If you don’t help her, they’ll kill her,” Jenny said. She darted out of the trailer.
“Wait! You can’t do this!”
“Hey!” Hudson rushed to my side and gave the handcuff attached to the trailer a quick yank. It held firm.
Jenny peeked around the back of the trailer. “It’s only for a few days. I need to get organized.” Pieces of black and white sheets like mutated Scantron forms coated her shirt. “It’s imperative you keep Kyoko’s existence a secret, for her and you. If you go to the police, I go to the papers, Eva. And don’t bother with the feds. The government can’t help you, and they’ll— Listen: Don’t trust the government and don’t tell them about Kyoko. If you do, we’ll all be dead.” Jenny ducked out of sight.
“Are you crazy!” I shouted.
The baby elephant trumpeted. I jumped. The handcuff snapped against my wrist.
“What the hell?” Hudson asked.
With eyes as round as saucers, Hudson leapt after Jenny. I stretched to look out the side of the trailer. He sprinted down the sidewalk, only to slow a few car lengths later. He pushed his hands through his thick hair and jogged back to me.
“She got away,” he said.
Peachy. Jenny was on the loose with my secret and I was shackled in a trailer with a baby elephant.
I examined my imprisoned wrist, then the illegal, endangered animal. The elephant wasn’t tethered to anything. It snaked its trunk back and forth, a savage gleam in its eye.
“Easy there, little elepha—”