The smell of cotton candy, popcorn, and other standard carnival fare wafted by on a warm breeze. Music played from each ride, punctuated by excited screams rising over the noise of the crowd as we paused to watch the ring tossing.
Sean, my five-year-old brother, tugged on my hand while leaning towards a nearby concession stand. “I’m hungry.”
“Again? Where are you putting everything?” We’d already purchased four different snacks between rides, and had only arrived about two hours before. “Your tummy isn’t that big.”
Nick laughed, both hands busy holding onto Jonah’s legs. My younger brother sat on the shifter’s shoulders, holding fistfuls of hair and wearing a huge smile. He was enjoying being the ‘tallest’ for a change.
“He’s growing. We guys are always hungry during growth spurts.”
“Maybe, but you’re not the one who’s going to get it if he gets sick from too much sugar.” I ruffled Sean’s dark blonde hair. “Let’s go find the parents and see about dinner.”
“Fwench Fwies,” Jonah voted at the top of his voice, and everyone within twenty feet winced. Even me, though I had to smile. It’s cute when little kids haven’t gotten the hang of certain letters.
“Okay, let’s go, men.” The older adults were checking out the various expo halls after deciding not to waste the services of two perfectly good younger adults as babysitters. I led the way, glancing back a few times at Nick and Jonah.
My boyfriend had leaped at the chance to join a family outing, and really seemed to be enjoying himself. He wasn’t even freaking out about all the sticky bits Jonah had managed to mash into his hair.
One of the smaller buildings, rented by the New Age center my mom worked at, was my first choice to check. As I suspected, she was in front of the table that displayed the bars of soap and tiny bottles of perfume she’d made.
She also had Betty, my dad’s second wife, cornered and was holding one of the little bottles right under her nose. Poor Betty. She’d been raised to respect her elders, and not only was Mom that at fifty-seven, but also one of Dad’s best friends and the mother of his eldest child. She was stuck, standing there with a fixed smile on her face.
“Hey, where’s Dad?” My question stopped Mom from trading out bottles. “Sean the Bottomless Tummy is hungry, and I could use a meal break.”
Seeing an opportunity, Betty was quick to snatch it with a loud Oh, thank God flying from her mind. “I’ll go find him.”
We watched her hurry off, and then Mom rummaged through her bottles, picking one up and turning to Nick. “Tell me if this one says ‘Cordi’ to you.”
I shook my head at his agreeableness. She’d latched onto him the second we’d walked through the entrance gate, and kept him busy for twenty minutes, smelling perfume after perfume. Mom said she was trying to mix the perfect scent for me, but I thought she was just enjoying sharing the fruits of her newest passion. Nick was a willing guinea pig, eager to get along with my family even though he’d suffered a major sneezing fit after one smell test.
Sean began wiggling. “I gotta go.”
“Me too,” Jonah chimed in. Anything his big brother did, he had to do too.
“Okay, I’ll take you.”
Nick lifted him off his shoulders, and set him on the floor. “There you go.”
“You have cotton candy in your ear.” Grinning at him, I caught Jonah’s hand. “Let’s go.”
There was a restroom not too far away, and fortunately, it wasn’t full. After undoing buttons and zippers, I sent both boys into one stall and stood by waiting for them to do their thing. Giggles followed as they relieved themselves, and there was a bit of discussion about who could pee the most.
Boys. Rolling my eyes, I traded a smile with a woman busy changing a diaper. “Don’t forget to flush, guys.”
“I wanna do it.”
“No, I get to. I’m oldest.” Sean won, flushed the toilet, and then both were ready for help refastening their jeans.
“Good job. Let’s wash our hands.” That went well, with a minimum of mess to my relief. Small boys and water usually result in disaster. I led them back outside.
Sean saw something. Before I knew it, he’d shaken loose and taken off like a shot, disappearing into the crowd. “Sean! Oh, crap.”
I picked Jonah up and ran after him. Panic was setting in by the time I spotted him watching people lined up and playing ski-ball. “Dude, don’t do that. You know you’re not supposed to wander off. You’ll get lost.”
“I can’t get lost. You’re here. Can I play this one?”
Confidence, thy name is little brother. Sean sort of understood my job was to find people and things, and that I had special abilities. Of course, he thought they were magic. I guess to a five-year-old, psychic talents were magic. “Maybe after we eat. Everyone’s going to be wondering where we are. Come on.”
He pouted, but gave me his hand. Looking around, I realized we were halfway down the midway and sighed. “You move fast and far when the mood strikes.”
“I’m gonna be a ninja when I grow up.”
Laughing, I started walking. “Perfect job for you.”
I stopped and turned around to find Logan a few feet away. “Hey.”
There were some people with him, and he was holding a girl’s hand. She looked about seventeen or so, very pretty with pale gold hair and light green eyes. Logan smiled. “Are these your brothers?”
“Yes. Sean and Jonah, meet my friend Logan. He can turn into a tiger.” Their eyes went wide as they stared at him.
Jonah spoke first. “I can tiger too. Wanna hear?”
“Sure.” Logan glanced at me, one eyebrow rising a bit.
“Ow. My ear.” I couldn’t even rub it, with him on my hip and holding Sean’s hand.
Logan chuckled. “That’s a pretty good roar.”
The girl shifted her weight, leaning against his arm, and he smiled at her. “This is my cousin, Terra. Terra, Discord Jones, that private investigator I told you about.”
A smile lit up her face as her eyes zeroed in on mine. “Hello, I’m pleased to meet you.”
“Hi. Same here.”
Logan introduced the other two with them, both men. “Soames and Teague.”
I nodded and smiled, receiving the same back. About to mention we were planning to eat and invite them to join us, I froze with my mouth half-open as I don’t want to die resounded in my head, followed by a rush of cold, hard fear.
“Discord? What is it? A vision?” Logan took a step forward, Terra releasing his hand.
Why is this happening? I can’t…someone help me! Please!
I shoved Jonah into Logan’s arms. “Hold him. Someone’s in trouble. Sean, stay with Logan.”
Turning, I closed my eyes and concentrated, trying to pinpoint the direction the fear was coming from. Catching hold of emotions is hard. It’s like playing a game of Hot and Cold. You move in a direction and see if it gets stronger.
Oh God, oh God. I can’t stop.
Eyes opening, I ran towards the Ferris wheel, vaguely aware of Logan and his group following. It was the right direction, and someone screamed just as I stopped at the edge of the loading platform. I looked up, as everyone else was, and gasped when a woman jumped from the top.
Thrusting up both arms, I called on my telekinetic ability and managed to stop her plunge to the ground. A few slow breaths later, I was lowering her to the platform and aware that the people closest were staring at me.
She was unconscious. Sighing, I rubbed my forehead as the ride operator called for help.