All hell breaks loose when Richard MacKnight's eccentric Aunt Agatha hires gypsy astrologer, Tia Vadella, to advise them on business ventures for their land development firm. Richard thinks astrology is bunk, and he is determined to keep any stargazer from interfering with his work. After trying, unsuccessfully, to buy Tia off, Richard realizes that her predictions are accurate. Still, he can't run his business by the stars. Even so, he finds himself drawn to the seductress in bangles and scarves, but he wants her in his bed, but not in his business. Richard and Tia find themselves falling in love. But can a bullheaded Taurus, descended from a Scottish laird, and a sensual Scorpio, of gypsy heritage, find true happiness? They're total opposites. But while opposites attract, they also conflict. He constructs buildings. She constructs astrology charts, concocts herbal potions, dowses, and performs healing rituals with a group of strange people who chant ancient incantations. Richard is determined to marry Tia, and enlists her father's help, which turns into a comedy of errors when Richard gives his all to win Tia's gypsy heart.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Dorothy Peer Promiscuo is a member of Romance Writers Of America. She is published in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in a variety of regional and national publications, including GRIT, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, NURSERY DAYS, BYLINE MAGAZINE, LADY'S CIRCLE, TRUE CONFESSIONS, and TRUE ROMANCES.
"AND THAT'S it for Aries. Now for the sign of the bull." Tia Vadella tapped the next symbol on her astrology wheel. "Taurus, don't even bother to get out of bed. This is definitely not your day. You just might as well curl up under the covers and go back to sleep."
Richard MacKnight watched the woman on the TV intently, his gaze traveling appreciatively over her provocative attire. A red bandanna graced the abundance of dark wavy hair cascading over her bare shoulders. Gold hoops dangled from her ears, and a drop-sleeved peasant blouse clung enticingly to her feminine curves.
So this was the New Age guru his Aunt Agatha had hired to advise them on their business ventures. Eyes fixed on the screen at the foot of his bed, he sat upright, willing himself not to be amused. Oh, she was a charmer, all right. No wonder his aunt had been taken in by her.
Well, he wasn't taken in by her. He knew a con-artist when he saw one. Astrological Consultant? What a crock. He glared at the screen. No matter how attractive she was, or how excited his aunt had been about hiring her, Richard had no intention of having Tia Vadella advise him on anything. He was determined to get her off the payroll of Bartram Development, and the sooner the better.
Nevertheless, she was entertaining, and despite his annoyance, he found himself watching with rapt attention as she continued giving her predictions. Finally she got to Scorpio.
"Okay, for all you Scorpios out there, today it's sting or be stung, so get that stinger of yours ready for an attack." Her green eyes flashed mischievously as she added, "Since you all know what sign I am, you know I've got my defenses up already."
Ah, so Tia Vadella was a Scorpio—the most passionate sign of the zodiac. Oh, yes, he knew all about the signs. He'd been exposed to the subject at a very early age because of his aunt's fixation with astrology. Well, as far as he was concerned, Astrology was bunk. Hocus-pocus. He knew that, yet he couldn't bring himself to turn off the TV. He was feasting his eyes on the loveliest vision of femininity he'd seen in a very long time.
After giving the last of her predictions, Tia threw a kiss to her television audience. "My gypsy heart goes out to each and every one of you. Until tomorrow, love and light."
So she was every man's fantasy, she still wasn't getting that gorgeous little body of hers in the door of Bartram Development, and that was that. He sat there a moment, picturing her vivacious smile, her flashing eyes, her lustrous hair, and the bandanna tied around her forehead. He had to hand it to her, she could sure put on an act.
Well, he wasn't swayed by her talents. He was going to have a little talk with Tia Vadella, and she was going to see things his way. He flicked off the TV and leaped out of bed, right onto the pile of books he had been perusing the night before. The heap toppled under his weight and sent him crashing to the floor.
He lay there in a stupor with visions of Tia dancing through his head. "Don't even bother to get out of bed. This is definitely not your day," she taunted in that soft sensual voice of hers, while her flashing green eyes mocked him openly.
As the room slowly came back into focus he blinked a few times and tried to get his bearings. He was acutely aware that his forehead was pulsing like a strobe light, just above his left eyebrow, and his rear end felt like he'd had been walloped with a slab of sheet rock.
In less than a minute he heard the familiar footsteps of Aunt Agatha rushing up the stairs. "Richard, whatever in the world was that noise?" she called to him in her faint Scottish brogue. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," he muttered, raising himself up on one elbow with a concerted effort.
"Good. I have a bit of business I want to discuss with you." There was a pause. "Are you decent?"
"I'm decent. Come on in."
The door opened and a plump, gray-haired, little whirlwind barged into his room. "Did you see Tia? Oh, I hope you got a chance to… Richard," she gasped, "what in Heaven's name are you doing on the floor… like that?"
"Richard, would you please be serious?" She leaned closer and frowned down at him. "And whatever happened to your forehead? It's all bloody."
He rubbed the gash above his left eyebrow, assessed the blood on his hand and nodded. "I guess I must have hit the night stand when I went down."
"When you went down?" Agatha clasped a hand to her ample bosom. "Richard, you'll be the death of me yet." She heaved a sigh of frustration. "If only you'd have been more careful. You know, you're a Taurus, and—"
"And according to Tia, I should have curled up under the covers and gone back to sleep. Right?"
"You saw her?" Agatha clapped her hands excitedly. "Isn't she marvelous? I'll be taking her to lunch tomorrow so we can discuss the Brookhaven parcel."
"You can discuss it all you want, I'm not changing my mind." Richard hoisted himself up onto the bed with a grunt of annoyance. "I'm not interested in bidding on some cow pasture that hasn't even been zoned commercial yet. And I'll be damned if I'm going to have some sign reader telling me my business."
"But Richard, she knows her stuff," Agatha protested. "You can surely tell that from her predictions. And her references are very impressive. In fact, that's one of the reasons I hired her."
Agatha surveyed him with concern. "Richard, are you sure you're all right?"
"I think I'll live, no thanks to your friend Tia."
"You see how accurate she is? If only you would have stayed in bed this wouldn't have happened."
"And how was I supposed to go to the bathroom?"
Agatha frowned thoughtfully. "Well, at least you could have been more careful. Remember, to be forewarned is to be forearmed." She shook a finger at him. "If I've said it once I've said it—"
"A million times," Richard reminded her morosely.
"Richard, you're impossible." Agatha plunked her hands on her hips, did an about face and headed for the door. She paused, then turned back to face him. "All right, we'll not talk about the Brookhaven parcel. At least for the time being. Instead, we'll turn our sights toward that parcel you wanted out by the turnpike. That is, if Tia agrees."
"And if she doesn't?"
"Then we won't be buying it. From now on we're not buying anything unless Tia gives her approval."
Richard stifled a groan. He knew it was pointless to argue with his aunt. Not only was she the chairman of the board of Bartram Development, she was as stubborn as all hell. But then, so was he, and he was going to get that parcel one way or another. It was prime acreage, and no one was going to convince him otherwise, least of all some stargazer in a gypsy outfit.
"One more thing." Agatha tilted her chin up and fixed him with a stern look. "Tia's going to be working on your chart. I've given her your birthday and the other information she needed. I do hope you don't mind."
"Mind?" He gave her a tight-lipped smile. "I'm ecstatic."
In spite of his discomfort, Richard smiled as he watched his aunt's hasty exit. She was a lovable eccentric who had consulted psychics for as long as he could remember, and he had decided early on that it was up to him to make sure that none of them took advantage of her. He dearly loved this woman who had so generously taken him in when he was only seven. He had vowed then, that when he grew up, he would show his appreciation for all she had done for him, by taking care of her.
Well, that had been a long time ago. Now, he was thirty-five and he was still taking care of Aunt Agatha. Or rather trying to, as Agatha Bartram at nearly seventy, would never admit that she needed any taking care of whatsoever. She did exactly as she pleased, which for the most part consisted of her constant interference in any job he undertook.
It never failed. After finding the best commercial land available, he would purchase it, make the development plans and hire the contractors. Sure enough, some psychic would advise Aunt Agatha that it was either the wrong location, the wrong date to start building, the wrong moon phase, or some damn thing. In fact, he couldn't imagine what it would be like to start a job without any complications.
Still, he felt fortunate. He was grateful for his aunt's insistence that he become an architect, and the financial backing afforded him as a partner in the firm. He marveled that, despite all the setbacks, it was one of the most prosperous development firms in all of Chester County—in all of Pennsylvania, for that matter. And although, by now, he was pouring a considerable amount of his profit back into the business, he still did everything in his power to humor his aunt.
He'd tolerated the psychics, the gurus, and the ghost hunters. Even the couple who purported to be visitors from Venus. Now, he had an astrological consultant to contend with, an astrological consultant who was on the payroll of Bartram Development.
"This is where I draw the line," he muttered, getting to his feet with a thrust of determination. A stab of pain in his rear end pulled him up short. Grimacing at the sharp reminder of his fall, he muttered a curse and headed for the shower.
Pausing at the open door of his closet, he glanced at the kilt hanging inside—just as he'd done every day for the past year. His father's kilt. His jaw tightened. Why didn't he burn the damn thing and be done with it? Because his aunt would be devastated that he was throwing away his heritage. He laughed dryly. Some heritage.
* * *
DETERMINED not to be dissuaded from his mission by a few aches and pains—from his various mishaps during the day—Richard drove to ParaCenter, where, according to his aunt, Tia conducted an astrology workshop on Monday evenings.
Despite the gash on his temple and the slight stiffness in his rear end from the fall he'd taken that morning, he was in pretty good shape. Well, there was the razor cut on his chin, and the bump on his head he'd gotten when he'd come up underneath the cabinet door. He'd left it open when he'd bent down to pick up the glass he'd dropped on his toe. Even so, he was hardly aware of any discomfort. His concentration was focused on one thing—having a little talk with Tia Vadella.
He parked his Range Rover and walked up the gravel path toward a structure he recognized as one of the old Chester County barns, which were built before the turn of the century. He felt a tinge of sadness, thinking that these historical landmarks, one by one, were being converted into various kinds of housing and office buildings in the name of progress.
At least the barn hadn't been torn down. Fortunately, the original structure had been preserved with only minor alterations. Richard paused to admire the rustic beauty of the wood, then he entered the building and found himself in a hallway brimming with people, plants, and bright colors. A sign listed the classes for Monday, September the twelfth. Noting the direction of the astrology workshop, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders and headed down the hallway.
"What's your sign?" asked an elderly woman standing outside the door of the classroom.
He arched an eyebrow. "My sign?"
"He's got to be a Leo," said another woman. "Look at his hair."
"No, he's too intense for a Leo," insisted the first one. "I'll bet he's an Aries."
"I'm a Taurus," Richard said. He glanced from one to the other indignantly, as if that should settle the dispute. "Now, if you could tell me where I might find Tia Vadella."
"Oh, Tia will be here any minute," said the first woman. "I'll give you a name tag, then you can go in and be seated."
He stared at her blankly. "Be seated?"
"The workshop will be starting in about fifteen minutes," said the second woman. "It's only five dollars. The money benefits ParaCenter, and of course, Tia donates her time."
"Of course," Richard mumbled, realizing with a tinge of annoyance that he should have come after her workshop was over, rather than before it started.
The woman gave him a welcoming smile. "Oh, I'm so glad you'll be joining us."
"No, I meant… Never mind." He took his wallet out of his pocket and gave her the money. The last thing in the world he had intended to do was to sit through Tia's workshop. But then, maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all. This way he'd be able to observe her firsthand, and to decide how best to approach her with an offer she couldn't refuse.
The first woman wrote TAURUS on a blank name tag in big bold letters, then she ripped off the backing and plastered it onto the lapel of his corduroy jacket. Stepping back, she surveyed her handiwork with a nod of approval.
Richard glanced down at the tag apprehensively. "I'm supposed to wear this?"
She pointed to her own tag that said AQUARIUS, with an obvious sense of pride. "We have to know our sign before we can even begin to know ourselves."