The light on the console sitting on the floor by her feet came on. It also vibrated slightly, alerting her. Reaching up, Dorrie tapped the button on her earpiece.
“A gentleman wants a reading.”
That made her open her eyes. Men comprised about one percent of her clientele. “Give me a minute, then send him in.”
She reached for the fishbowl on the bookcase behind her and set it on the table in front of her. Inside, the two goldfish swam around, unperturbed by the slight jostling.
“Show time, girls,” Dorrie informed them, smiling.
A soft knock on the doorframe signaled her customer. Dorrie watched as a young man strode in, hesitating when he spotted her sitting underneath the small canopy of silk scarves. She gestured to the chair across from her. “Have a seat.”
“Thank you for coming, Elliot.”
The man’s eyes went wide. “How did you…”
Giving him a small smile, Dorrie tilted her head slightly. “Why don’t you sit down before you fall down?”
He did, scraping the chair across the wood floor before parking himself in it, then scraping the floor again as he scooted it back toward the table. Immediately, his eyes dropped to the two fish. “You have goldfish?”
“You were expecting a crystal ball?” she somewhat teased. The fish always confused the newcomers.
“Why, I…yes.” He grinned in embarrassment, and the sight of it threw her off a bit. To cover herself, she launched into her spiel.
“They are my Pisces. My psychics. They reveal everything to me, except not in your case, Elliot. From what I can gather, you are beset by many problems. So which one in particular drove you to seek me out?”
“Janay never told me you told fortunes using goldfish.”
She sat back a bit. “I don’t tell fortunes, Elliot. I give readings.”
“And you are very angry about something. Are you here because of what’s angering you?”
She knew she should be accustomed to the surprised looks that always crossed her clients’ faces. Or the guilt. Or the amusement. Or sometimes the pure meanness. This man, however, continued to knock her for a loop. Although she’d seen sorrow before, finding it in his blue eyes nearly made her heart ache. She quickly backed off. “Or are you saddened because of your anger?”
“Gee, you’re good,” he remarked.
“Tell me about your girlfriend,” Dorrie suggested.
The sorrow was replaced by anger again, and the man bent his head to stare, yet not stare, at his restless hands lying on the table.
“You believe she’s cheating on you?” Dorrie asked in a gentler tone.
“I know she is,” Elliot stonily replied. “I just don’t know how to prove it. I want to show her the proof to her face when she tries to laugh me off. And she will. She’ll just laugh it off, like it’s some kind of joke. Pretend it’s a prank I’m pulling on her.” He raised his face to stare at her. “I need to know where I can find the proof. If you give me proof, I’ll come back and reward you handsomely. As an additional thank you. Money’s no object.”
That remark hit squarely on Dorrie’s curious bone. She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest. “What makes you think I’d be interested in your money, Elliot?”
The man grinned again, nearly taking her breath away. “You took my money before seeing me.”
He has a point.
Oh, shut up.
Elliot pointed to the fishbowl. “So what do your fish tell you? Can they give me at least a starting point? A clue or hint? Hell, I’d even be happy with the name of the bastard, if they can manage that.”
It won’t do him any good.
“It won’t do you any good,” Dorrie informed him. “The damage has already been done.”
“Damage? What damage?”
She’s with child.
To her surprise, Elliot nodded. “I know. She’s already told me.” That lopsided, adorable grin reappeared. “Guess I’m not the father?”
“Get in touch with her doctor. You’ll see the timing’s off. Then once the baby’s born, you can have the DNA tested.”
Elliot sighed. “I figured that was it.” He snorted. “Guess that’s all the proof I was asking for.” He eyed her again. “And you’re sure about that?”
Work trip to London. Vacation in Cancun.
“Remember that work-related trip you took to London? The one that took longer than expected?”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “It was only supposed to be for a couple of months, but an unexpected delay added another month.”
“That’s why she insisted on that vacation to Cancun as soon as you returned,” Dorrie pointed out.
He paused as he thought about it. “Yeah. That’s when she said she’d gotten pregnant.”
“Call and have a talk with her doctor,” Dorrie repeated. “He’ll confirm her dates.” She smiled. “And there’s your proof. She can’t deny it or claim it’s made up.”
This time Elliot gave her a warm smile of gratitude. “You’ve been a big help, Madam Turcov. Thank you. Thank you very much.” As he rose to his feet, he glanced down at the bowl. “And tell your fish thanks for me.”
She returned the smile. “They say you’re welcome.”
She watched as he turned and left the room. As soon as he was gone, the two fish morphed into their siren forms and surfaced, crossing their arms on the bowl’s lip as their tails lazily swished the water.
“He’s cute,” Tonga gushed.
Mallia agreed. “And quite the catch, Dorrie.”
Dorrie continued to stare at the blank doorway. “I hope it works out for him.”
“Oh, it will!” Mallia assured her.
Something in the tiny mermaid’s voice alerted her, and Dorrie frowned. “What are you not telling me?”
Tonga snickered. “Exactly what you’re feeling but not wanting to admit to.”
“Feeling what? Admit to what?”
“That you were smitten by him,” Mallia confirmed.
“I was not!”
“Ha ha!” Tonga crowed. “Deny it all you want, but we know the truth. We can read you like a book, and you know that!”
“Thing is, he was smitten with you, too,” Mallia confessed with a wink.
“In fact,” Tonga continued, “a week from today, he’s going to be back with the excuse of giving you more money, like he promised.”
“He’s also going to ask you out.”
Dorrie almost laughed. “Ask me out?”
“Not like a date date,” Mallia explained. “He’s going to say he wants to show you his appreciation for getting him out of a situation that could have become disastrous, both personally and professionally.”
Dorrie narrowed her eyes. “Are you girls—”
“And you can’t tell us you aren’t interested.” Tonga casually checked her fingernails, as if thinking of getting a manicure. She wasn’t, and Dorrie didn’t need anyone to tell her differently.
“Okay. Say I’m…willing…to go on this not-a-date date.”
Mallia grinned. “He’s cute.”
“He’s independently wealthy,” Tonga added.
“And, more importantly, he’s had his heart broken way too many times in the past because women see he’s a twofer, and they try to take advantage of him,” Mallia included.
“Rich and cute.” Tonga waved a hand. “Whereas you aren’t interested at all in that sort of stuff, which is going to surprise him at first. Then he’ll come to understand you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him.”
It took Dorrie a moment to realize what they were telling her. “Girls—” She started to say more when the console went off. She pressed the earpiece. “Yes?”
“Mrs. Costas is here for her weekly reading,” Marcie announced.
“Send her in.”
She watched as the girls shifted back into their full fish forms and dove under the water before the woman appeared. Their conversation may have been interrupted, but the topic wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.
For the rest of the day, Dorrie couldn’t keep herself from thinking about the man with the soulful eyes. She looked forward to his next visit more than she was willing to admit, although the girls knew the truth.
The truth and her future.
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