Isabelle Girard, aka The Legendary Madame Karma, sat at her fortunetelling
table and observed the crowds wandering through the spacious courtyard
drenched in bright southern California sunshine. The outdoor Valentine’s
Day party thrown to celebrate the recently completed renovations to the
upscale Fairfax building complex was in full swing and clearly a huge
success. People of all ages, families with children, couples, singles,
groups of teens wandered along the flower-lined walkways or on the
meticulously manicured grass, sampling food from the cafes in the complex
as well as the numerous booths featuring foods from local restaurants.
Many carried shopping bags bearing the logo of a Fairfax shop while others
toted artsy items ranging from paintings to ceramics purchased at one of
the craft booths brought in for the occasion. Entertainment, in the form
of face painters, jugglers, wandering magicians, and Madame Karma herself
added to the festive atmosphere. There was even a band, complete with a
small dance floor set up in corner of the courtyard, a popular feature
based on the number of couples currently dancing.
Isabelle drew in a
contented breath. She enjoyed participating in events such as this. Not only
did they provide extra income and allow her to increase the customer base for
her fortunetelling business, but she loved being outdoors. The fresh air and
sunshine rejuvenated her. Recharged her “psychic batteries.” And after telling
fortunes for more than six decades, Madame Karma--legendary or not--required the
occasional change of scenery.
Her gaze shifted to
the huge fountain marking the U-shaped courtyard’s center where a rainbow of
sunshine gilded droplets cascaded downward from the shooting streams of water.
A profusion of colorful flowers and neatly trimmed dark green hedges encircled
the area, dotted with numerous attractively inviting wrought iron curved
benches, some situated in the sunshine, others resting in the protection of by
the shade provided by soaring elms. The courtyard was the perfect place for
shoppers who visited the complex’s stores to rest and enjoy a snack or for the
workers in the offices above the retail stores to partake of a casual, outdoor
Or, based on the
number of couples currently seated close together on those benches, also the
perfect place for a bit of romance. And with today being Valentine’s Day, also
the perfect time.
settled on one of the couples, a pair she judged in their early forties, and her
psychic instincts tingled. She clearly sensed the couple’s deep love for one
another, as well as their joy. Isabelle focused her energies, or as she called
them, her “cosmic feelings,” on the couple, then a smile tugged at her lips as
the reason for their happiness became clear to her. A much-wanted,
long-awaited-for baby on the way. She hoped they would visit her table so she
could confirm her feeling.
She resumed her
perusal of the numerous other party-goers, a number of whom possessed bright
auras and evoked a strong psychic reaction in her, again filling her with the
hope that those individuals would take the time to visit her table. Whether it
was because of Valentine’s Day or due to the planets’ current unusual alignment,
or a combination of both, she strongly sensed love and romance in the air. In
her experience, however, many people fought the forces of Fate. Didn’t believe
in Destiny. Or Karma. Walked right by or completely ignored their perfect
match because of preconceived notions. Focused their attentions on people who,
in the long run, wouldn’t make them happy, most often when the person who would
stood right beneath their noses.
If only they would accept their karma, their path. In her experience, those who
did always fared well in matters of the heart. Those who didn’t...well, as she
knew, fighting Fate was like trying to push back the ocean with a broom--you
were doomed to fail.
today, with all these romantic currents all but snapping in the air, she could
set some of these party-goers on the right path. Help them find their soul
mates. Or at least keep them from choosing the wrong person.
in her chair as a smiling young woman approached her--a young woman whose aura
was particularly bright. Isabelle’s instincts tingled with anticipation.
Karma and Fate
were about to be predicted.
steaming container of freshly brewed tea in one hand and an oversized frosted
cookie in the other, Lacey Perkins exited her coffee shop, Constant Cravings,
then walked toward the fortunetelling table set up several yards away.
sunshine warmed Lacey’s skin, and unable to resist its alluring heat she paused
for several seconds to savor the sensation. Closing her eyes, she tipped back
her head and drew in several deep, appreciative breaths of fresh air redolent
with the delicious scents wafting from the various food tents set up around the
courtyard. She’d been cooped up in Constant Cravings since early this morning,
and as much as she loved her store, she welcomed this momentary respite.
She opened her
eyes, then blinked against the sun’s glare. Based on the crowded courtyard and
the nonstop stream of customers who had filed into Constant Cravings from the
moment she’d opened the doors this morning, the Valentine’s Day party
celebrating Fairfax’s renovations was a huge success. Certainly her sales thus
far today had exceeded her expectations. Throughout the course of the hectic
day she’d recognized the faces of many of her regular customers--Baxter Hills
locals and workers whose offices were located in the complex. Everyone from
executives to the landscapers who kept the courtyard in pristine condition.
But she was even more
encouraged by the number of newcomers to her shop, a large number of whom
reached for one of the business cards she kept stacked by the cash register.
Hopefully those first-timers would come back for more of her specialty coffees,
teas, and fresh-baked goods. Check out her website. Hire her to bake custom
items for their next special occasion or party.
She’d worked long and
hard to make her dream of running her own store a reality, and the mere thought
of Constant Cravings, of all the personal touches she’d put into the décor and
the menu items, filled her with pride. While you couldn’t swing a stick and
fail to hit one of coffee house franchises that occupied space in nearly every
block in the Los Angeles area, she’d strove to make Constant Cravings different
in every way, from setting up her store in Baxter Hills, an up-and-coming area
on the outskirts of the city, to the decorations to the desserts she served to
the colorful napkins she used. The exposure from today’s party would hopefully
lead not only to those new faces becoming regular customers but to them telling
their friends about her shop. Which would lead to even better sales.
Which might finally
get Evan Sawyer off her back.
As if the mere thought
of Fairfax’s building manager-- who, by virtue of that title was unfortunately
her landlord--could make him materialize, her gaze happened upon him, standing
across the courtyard. His features were set in their usual scowl, and she
wasn’t in the least bit surprised to note that in spite of the warm weather and
the facts that it was a Saturday and this was a party, he wore one of his
uptight business suits complete with a perfectly knotted maroon tie.
through her. The man always looked perfect, as if he’d just stepped from
the pages of some GQ photo shoot--dark suit perfectly fitted, dress shirt
without a wrinkle, shoes buffed to a glossy shine. Even though the breeze
currently ruffled his dark hair, the effect somehow managed to look perfectly
Yes, his was the sort
of irritating perfection that always made her feel gauche, messy, wilted, and
somehow undone--like an unmade bed. Made her want to smooth her hands over her
own wrinkled attire, wish she’d taken more time with her out-of-control curly
hair, and surreptitiously check her teeth to make sure no remnants of her
spinach salad remained.
Which was completely
ridiculous. What did she care if he found her physical appearance lacking?
While she grudgingly admitted that he’d never said he did, he did
have a way of looking at her that made it clear he didn’t approve of her.
Certainly he’d made no secret of the fact that he didn’t approve of the way she
ran Constant Cravings.
She’d been a Fairfax
tenant for nearly eight months and her every interaction with Evan Sawyer had
proven frustrating. He was more rigid than a concrete pillar, repeatedly
complaining about the lingerie-clad mannequins she re-dressed bi-monthly for her
quirky window displays. Said they were “too suggestive”, as were her best
selling cookies in the shapes of a men’s and women’s torsos. Her latest idea
she’d run by him--to expand Constant Cravings into one of the storefronts on
either side of her should they come up for lease--had been met with all the
enthusiasm of having his innards ripped out with a rusty knife.
Sheesh. You’d think
the man would be thrilled that she wanted to expand since her store generated
such solid sales figures, a percentage of which sales were paid to Fairfax. But
no, all he did was complain. He was an uptight, unbending, workaholic thorn in
her side. One of those all work, no play types she called Soulless Clones. And
given what was clearly his strong aversion to anything the least bit sensual,
she suspected he was a dead bore between the sheets.
Which was too bad,
because in spite of his physical perfection, or maybe because of it, he was
very easy on the eyes--if you cared for that button-down corporate type.
Which she most emphatically did not. Good thing, too, because she’d be a
complete idiot to find a man who was so ridiculously not her type in any way
attractive. So what if he filled out those uptight suits very nicely? Who
cared if his eyes were the most amazing shade of blue she’d ever seen? Big
deal. Lots of men had great bodies and beautiful eyes. Most of those other men
probably also knew how to smile. And laugh. And take a few minutes to stop and
smell the roses. And didn’t mind cookies in the shape of torsos.
to allow the irritating man to disrupt this fabulous day, Lacey was about to
turn away and continue toward the fortuneteller when Evan’s gaze zeroed in on
her. Inexplicably feeling like she was caught in a sniper’s crosshairs, she
froze, and for several seconds they simply stared at each other. An odd warmth
tingled down Lacey’s spine--no doubt aggravation brought on the fact that the
man really was undeservedly handsome. Why the “good-looks gods” had so
abundantly blessed him when he should resemble a troll was a shining example of
utter unfairness, one she put right up there with the fact that males didn’t
suffer from cellulite. And that crow’s feet made men look distinguished and
women look old. And that every bite of chocolate didn’t permanently attach
itself to the male ass. It just wasn’t right.