Lucien

By: Elijana Kindel

CHAPTER ONE




Elise Hamilton cringed as thunder boomed outside Andersen Corporation and the phone line crackled. “Um, Raven, could you repeat that? And do it slowly.”



“Thirty thousand dollars.”



Her eyes bulged and the pen cap she’d been gripping bounced from the desk to the floor. “Oh my goodness,” she breathed in horror. She swallowed hard and forced herself to ask her brother, “Raven, where in the world are we going to get thirty thousand dollars?”



“I don’t know, Elise.” Raven cursed under his breath. “I called Dad and… well, you know how Apollo is about money.”



“Yeah, I know.” Apollo, Raven’s father, was as confused with money matters as their mother, Moonbeam. “I’ll call my dad. He’ll help.” I hope, she added silently.



“Elise,” Raven said in his semi-patient but wiser and older brother tone. “If it were you who needed the money, I’d say ask, but Wyndemere won’t stroke a check for more than a couple of hundred without asking why. And if your father finds out that his money is being used to save Moonbeam’s neck, he’ll re-enact page three hundred and twenty-six of The Seven Blades of Death.”



“I don’t even want to know what happened on that page,” she muttered miserably. Skimming the blurbs on the back of her father’s novels was enough to make Elise sleep with all the lights on for a month. She’d rather curl up with her worn copy of Pride and Prejudice or watch The Parent Trap for the six hundredth time than experience the bone chilling fear her father’s graphic books detailed.



Raven sighed. “I just left Mom and she’s—as always—in another world. Moonbeam swears The Guiding Light of Gaia will bail her out of this one.”



“The Church said they’d help her,” Elise asked incredulously.



“Not in a way that’ll help. Moonbeam and the head priestess are discussing the proper herbs and chants to use for their super-duper, whammy of a money spell. Her words, not mine.”



Elise fell back in her chair and groaned. “Thirty thousand dollars. I don’t have thirty thousand dollars. My car isn’t even worth a fourth of that.” She closed her eyes and racked her brain for possible sources of fast cash and came up with one and only one source. “I’ll sell my car.”



“Elise, if you sell your car how do you plan on getting to work?”



“Raven, it’s either sell my car or my body.”



“Sell the car,” her older brother said quickly. “I’ll find you a scooter.”



Elise managed to chuckle. “Thanks. Nice to know I won’t have to thumb for a ride every day. What are you planning on selling? Your body?”



“No.” He hesitated. “I… my babies.”



Elise bolted upright in her chair. “Your babies? Are you out of your mind? Insane? You can’t sell your babies! How will you work? I’d rather sell my body than let you sell your cameras,” she practically shouted into the phone.



He growled loud enough for her to hear it from his studio across town. “Elise, if we’re gonna keep Moonbeam out of trouble, we’ll have to come up with a helluvalot more than thirty thousand. That—my sweet, little sister—is just the beginning.” Saracsam dripped from his voice along with a heavy dose of anger which Elise suspected Raven directed at himself.



“Explain,” she ordered. “How bad is Mom’s situation?”



“Bad. Moonbeam didn’t forget to file, she flat out refused to pay her taxes. The first estimate has her in the hole for about a half a million and—”



“A half million?”



“Don’t shout, Elise. My head is killing me.”



“Oh, sorry,” she murmured. “Go ahead.”



“Thank you. Moonbeam didn’t pay her taxes during the Reagan administration. She was making a statement about something Reagan said in one of his movies. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now. And—don’t,” he ordered when she drew in a sharp breath, “shout—thirty grand is just a roundabout number of what we’ll need to retain the attorney and pay the fees to keep Moonbeam from being arrested for charges of tax evasion.”

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