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Flash Mob

Flash Mob

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Book 2 of 6: Midlife in Aura Cove Series

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Chapter 1

Katie sped to the pin Marisa sent in the text, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel to dispel her nervous energy. She was glad she’d been summoned in the clear light of day. In the dark, the neighborhood currently surrounding her would feel infinitely more menacing. She parked behind an old neighborhood pharmacy sandwiched between several other bodegas, restaurants, and check-cashing establishments. Her fingers flew over the keys as she fired off a text that simply stated, Here. Green Beetle. Glued to her phone, she watched the status change from delivered to read.

“C’mon, c’mon,” she mumbled into the air, unable to contain the excitement bubbling inside her. “What a rush.” Every sense was heightened and alive, and pangs of guilt tingled among the giddy frisson of her newfound purpose. “Relax, Jack. This isn’t a Lifetime original movie, it’s Marisa’s real life,” she mumbled under her breath in an attempt to quell her excitement.

Katie took a few deep breaths to calm her jumpy heart. “I wonder if this is how Yuli feels when she conspires with Karma,” she mused aloud as she glanced around, eager to see Marisa’s face. Each second ticked by slowly, ratcheting up her anxiety. Her eyes focused on the burgundy metal back door of the grocery store, waiting for Marisa to burst through it. She hummed as energy raced through her in a flurry of restlessness. To diffuse it, she organized the coins in her console, then glanced down impatiently at her watch. “Where the heck is she?”

Finally, the door flung open, and Marisa hurried through it. She paused briefly, her eyes darting around and her face pale. Seeing no immediate threat, she raced over to Katie’s Beetle. She opened the door and sat down, ushering in a wave of jasmine, ylang-ylang, and fresh anxiety that dizzied Katie.

“Give me your phone,” Katie demanded with her hand out, palm up.


“It’s a tracking device. Haven’t you watched Law and Order SVU?” Katie asked. “Dun-dun,” she chimed with the distinctive sounds the show had made famous.

Marisa’s expression was blank and confused by the reference, but she obediently handed over the phone, anyway.

“Never mind.” Katie popped out the SIM card and opened the car door.

“Wait! What about yours?” Marisa asked, interrupting her dash to the dumpster, causing Katie to rethink her plan.

“Good point.” Katie’s cheeks pinked up, and her bubble of false confidence burst. She pulled her SIM card out, then ran over to deposit them both quickly in the dumpster before racing back and starting the car.

“Lie back,” Katie instructed, and Marisa yanked the lever on the seat, lowering her out of view through the windows. Her skin was pasty and her hands trembled.

Katie raced back to her home and didn’t utter a word until she shut the garage door firmly behind them.

“We’re safe here. You can sit up.”

With a sigh and a yank on the lever, Marisa lurched up in the seat. “What am I going to do? It’s only a matter of time before Rocco figures out I’m not coming home.”

Unsure how to answer her and wanting to bring the terrified girl some comfort, Katie defaulted to the question she always asked when a guest was a visitor in her home.

“Are you hungry?”

“Constantly, now that I’m pregnant,” she admitted. “I can’t stop eating, but I’ve been afraid to overdo it since Rocco weighs me every day. I’m allowed to fluctuate five pounds.”

Katie reeled back at the admission like she’d been slapped. “Allowed? You’ve got to be kidding me. We’ll deal with that misogyny in a minute.” The admission incensed her. “You see how toxic and controlling his behavior is, don’t you?”

“I know,” Marisa admitted, her voice barely audible in shame. “I haven’t told him yet about the baby. He doesn’t know I’m pregnant.”

“What were you going to do in another couple of months when you started to show?” Katie asked.

“That’s why I’m here,” she admitted.

Katie thought it over. “Have you been to a doctor and started prenatal vitamins?”

“No,” she answered, then burst into tears. “I guess I was hoping that, if I ignored it, it would go away and I wouldn’t have to deal with it.”

“Is that what you want? For it to go away?” Katie asked, forcing herself to keep her tone even and the judgment out of it. Though she’d never wanted to terminate a pregnancy herself, she deeply believed in the mother’s right to choose.

“I don’t know what I want,” Marisa whispered, clearly overwhelmed as fresh tears spilled down her cheeks. Katie reached out to squeeze her hand.

“How about we get you inside where you can rest? I could run you a nice warm bath and then I’ll have to make a run to the pharmacy and grocery store to get some supplies. Is there anything in particular you’re craving?”

“Chocolate milk?” Marisa said wistfully, more like she was asking a question. “And some green olives?”

“You got it.” She led the exhausted woman through the door of the garage and walked her into the bright kitchen. “Don’t worry, we’re alone here.”

Arlo barked to make his presence known. “Well, except for my doggo, Arlo.”

Marisa bent down with a smile on her face, and Arlo ran over to her, his tail wagging with glee in the presence of a friendly unknown visitor. She scratched the patch of fur under his chin and he licked her face.

“Are you cheating on me already, boy?” Katie joked. Arlo howled and then walked away to his post under the kitchen table. “I’ve got to run some errands, buddy. You keep an eye on our guest. This is Ms. Marisa.” She turned back to Marisa and added, “I have some clothing that will fit, but it won’t be as glamorous as what you’re used to, I’m afraid.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers. If it’s clean, I’ll take it,” Marisa said as she stood up quickly. Her skin turned green, and she covered her mouth with her hands, panic lighting up her eyes.

“In there,” Katie pointed to the powder room down the hall, and Marisa hurried to the toilet, where Katie heard her retching for the next several minutes. “Poor kid.” She walked to the pantry and pulled out a sleeve of saltines and two glasses, filling one with orange juice and the other with water. While she waited for Marisa to return, she set them on a tray.

“I’m sorry,” Marisa said. Her hair hung in greasy strings, and she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

“You never have to apologize to me. I swear when I was pregnant with my youngest, Callie, I was so sick there were mornings I thought I would puke my baby right out.” Katie laughed at the memory now. “You have my full support and sympathy. Pregnancy isn’t always the walk in the park the movies portray it to be.” She gathered up the tray. “Let’s get you set up in the guest suite. It has its own bathroom and you’ll have more privacy. I want you to feel at home here. Help yourself to anything in the refrigerator or pantry.”

“Thank you,” Marisa replied. She crept up the stairs, following Katie to the guest suite, where Katie set the tray down, pulled back the comforter, and patted the bed. “You look exhausted. Why don’t you take a little nap and I’ll run the errands, and then we can figure out what’s next?”

Marisa climbed into the bed, and Katie pulled the comforter over her. The nurturing action made the young woman burst into tears.

“Oh no, are you hurt? Did I…?”

Marisa reached out and squeezed her hand. A faint flash of light blinded Katie and she reeled back from a blow. Inside her head, she heard a scream and the sound of metal scraping against the wall. The flash wasn’t strong enough for her to receive any coherent visual messages, and it left Katie frustrated.

“I can’t remember the last time someone was this kind to me,” Marisa explained. “I’m sorry, it’s probably the hormones. They are surging through me right now. Last week, an ASPCA commercial made me sob for an hour.” She closed her eyes and relaxed into the pillow.

Katie nodded. “I get it. Just rest.” She didn’t even finish the sentence before she heard Marisa snoring softly.

* * *

Two hours later, Katie pulled the green Beetle into the garage and parked. Getting out of the car, she stood frozen for a moment, confused by the faint sound of Arlo’s incessant barking.

“I didn’t leave him outside, did I?” she asked herself. Whenever she ran errands, Arlo had the run of the house and usually spent the time curled up in a ball on the sofa now that Jeff was gone. But now, his barks continued on repeat, louder and louder.

“What in the world is going on with him?” She quickly grabbed two sacks of groceries and hurried into the house.

As she made her way down the hallway, the barking stopped. Seeing a light on, she rounded the corner into the kitchen. “Oh, good, Marisa, you’re awake! I picked up your prenatal vitamins at the drugstore and some mandarin oranges. Also, dill pickle potato chips. Now I know that sounds disgusting, but when I was pregnant with Callie…” Katie stopped cold. The bags fell from her hands and the carton of eggs hit the ground, sending eggshells and yolks splattering across the floor. The brown glass jar of prenatal vitamins hit the ground with a clink, but thankfully stayed intact and rolled away.

Katie let out a whimper when she saw Marisa tied to a chair with a bloodstained gag placed over her mouth. Two kitchen stools lay on their sides and Marisa’s eyes were wild. She muttered into the gag, but it muffled every syllable. Jerking her head repeatedly, Marisa lurched and tugged at the restraints. The chair they had secured her to squealed across the travertine as she struggled to wrench herself free.

To her left, Arlo was outside on the deck, growling and clawing at the patio door, and jumping up and flinging his furry body against it in vain. The glass was covered with paw prints and smears from his nose. He was baring his teeth, charging the door repeatedly, desperate to break through. When his eyes landed on Katie, his snarls became more viscous and demanding.

Her skin prickled with knowing a split second before she felt his forearm crush against her body and pull her feet off the ground. Katie made a split-second decision and reared her head back and head-butted him. His nose made a satisfying crunch as blood poured out of it and spread across a face she recognized instantly.

Rocco dropped her to the ground, yelped in pain, and covered his nose with his hand. Seeing crimson blood covering his hands he roared in fury, and Katie witnessed his aura shift from red to black before he delivered a fierce backhand that sent Katie reeling. She saw stars and points of light and suffered an instant headache when she hit the ground.

A second man in the room laughed at his pain. “Bested by a woman? You are a pussy.”

“Shut up, Carmine! That bitch broke my nose.”

“Wait until Big Tony hears about this.”

The comment only seemed to incense Rocco further. Katie tucked her knees into her chest as Rocco kicked her in the stomach and lower back. Carmine’s razzing fueled the attack as Marissa wailed into the gag. Katie’s gaze focused on Marisa, huffing hard against the fabric to breathe, her nostrils flaring. It sucked in and out of her mouth in time with her panicked gasps. Her feet flailed, desperate to find leverage, bucking against the chair now in a burst of survival-fueled energy.

Carmine held Katie face down on the floor and then forced her arms behind her back and fastened them together with a zip-tie. He found his feet and yanked up, dragging her across the room, then jammed her down on the chair next to Marisa.

Rocco came into view, then Katie’s vision clouded. She struggled to see through the black smudged aura covering his body. He picked up the bottle of prenatal vitamins from the floor.

“We’re having a baby?” Katie saw the black haze that engulfed his being morph into red the closer he strode to Marisa. “Amorino?” He untied the gag and Marisa spit in his face, then howled.

“I hate you!” she screamed. “We are not having anything.” Her voice was rough and strangled from terror.

“You will not take my child from me,” he shot back. Grabbing a handful of her hair, he yanked her head back and she yelped in pain.

“Who said I am carrying your child?”

Carmine chuckled again from the shadows.

“Maybe it’s Carmine’s,” she dared and turned toward the other man. “I know you watch me in the shower, you pig!”

“Whoa! Wait a minute.” Carmine held both his hands up and backed away. Rocco crossed the room in two strides and socked him in the gut, sending him to the ground with one punch before he could even dispute her story.

“Maybe I liked it,” Marisa purred. “I did. I did like it.” She ground her teeth together and made a passionate moaning sound that seemed to level Rocco. “Carmine especially loved when I called him daddy and let him take me in our bed.”

Rocco’s palm rocketed forward and struck Marisa’s cheek with such force her head whipped back and then lolled to the side. A cut on her jaw dripped blood down the front of her shirt.

“Stop hurting her. She’s carrying your child. You are putting stress on her and the baby.”

“Who the hell are you?” Rocco crouched down in an effort to intimidate Katie. “You look familiar.” His face was inches from hers, and she felt his hot breath on her cheeks.

“I’m nobody,” Katie offered, hoping to distract him.

“Is that right?” Rocco stood up and walked over to the bookshelf where a photograph of Katie’s children was proudly displayed in a gold leaf frame. He plucked it off the shelf and brought it closer to Katie’s face. Seeing the faces of her children in his meaty hand made her stomach flip.

“Children are a gift from God, are they not?” He studied the portrait for a long minute. “They are also a person’s biggest weakness. Beautiful. It would be a shame if a razor transformed the porcelain skin of this beauty.” He turned the frame to her, pointing at a beaming Callie. “I could wipe that smile off her face with the blade of my knife.” He dragged his index finger up in a line on each cheek, leaving a trail of blood in its wake. “You’ve inserted yourself into my life where you don’t belong, and I am feeling the need to return the favor.”

“Please,” Katie begged, “leave my family out of it.”

Rocco laughed and glanced around her home. “I’m sure your kids had idyllic childhoods growing up here, spending their weekends playing soccer and surfing. They probably thought nothing bad would ever happen to them in Aura Cove.” He clicked his tongue. “Children are so naïve, aren’t they? Random acts of violence can happen to anyone, anywhere.”

“Please, I’ll give you anything you want. Just leave my children alone.”

He made a tsk-tsk noise. “Isn’t that interesting?” He bent back down, inches away from her face. “Tell me why I should extend you a courtesy that you had no intention of extending to me?”

Tears washed down Katie’s cheeks. She’d put them all in danger and was out of her depth. Who did she think she was? Just because she saw a few flashes and had Karma on her side, did she think she was powerful enough to take on a full-fledged member of the mob?

“You should have known to stay in your own lane. Marisa is mine. And now that I know she is carrying my baby, there is nothing I won’t destroy to keep my family intact. I’m sure you can relate.”

Katie nodded as her eyes filled with tears.

“This is an impressive house and I have a new mouth to feed. Seems like a lottery ticket fell into my lap just when I needed it.” He turned toward the other man. “Carmine, I’m going to ransack the house quickly and grab valuables. You put the mouthy bitch in the back of the van with Marisa and we’ll go.”

“Are you too afraid she’ll nail you again?” Carmine laughed, poking the bear. “That’s right, you need to hire a real man for the job.” He paused long enough to produce a couple of body builder poses and then kiss his own biceps.

While he was distracted, Katie twisted her wrists together and then tried to wiggle her wrists out, but the zip-tie cut into the skin and drew blood. After several long moments of struggling, she felt a surge of hope when she pulled her hands free. With her heart thundering in her ears, she waited for her opportunity. Rocco was upstairs ransacking the house when Carmine bent down within her grasp. Katie sprang into action, clawing at his face with her fingernails until she drew blood. She ripped at his hair, pulling out a small chunk of it with her fist. Carmine lurched back, and she landed a solid punch to his solar plexus that took the wind out of him and sent him reeling. Adrenaline coursed through her, and she kicked free, running to the door as he stumbled to follow. She grabbed a cook book and flung it at him, darting away to the door. Like a caged animal, she was frantic, hearing Arlo howl on the deck in unison.

At the front door, her hands landed on the deadbolt to unlock it. So close to freedom, just beyond the door were streets filled with neighbors who could help. One more second and she’d be free. Her heart soared as she pulled the heavy door open. She screamed, “FIRE!” that was cut off before the door was abruptly rammed shut by a powerful arm just behind her.

Rocco shoved her and pinned her to the wall with his body. His heavy palm pressed the back of her head into the hard wall. She writhed around and struggled to fight herself free, tasting the copper in her mouth. She spit on the walls and rubbed her bloodied hands against them, leaving clues behind of a struggle. Rocco yanked her up, and she fought him off. Her foot kicked at a vase full of peonies, and it crashed to the ground. He forced her down, and she felt the shattered crystal from the vase dig into her neck and back, making her whimper in defeat.

An early nineties episode of Oprah flashed into her mind. “Never let them take you to a second location. Fight with all your might. It’s your only chance to survive.” Katie gave one more valiant effort, summoning every ounce of strength and power within herself. She kicked and screamed, clawing and writhing against her attacker. She bucked and yanked him around the room, her desperation to survive lighting her on fire. Rocco wrestled with her, and she crashed down onto a coffee table that shattered under their combined weight. Her head felt light, and a trickle of blood obscured her vision. Dazed, she tried to gather her thoughts together, pinned under the weight of Rocco.

She bit his neck, tasting sweat and bile. A second later, she felt a rough rag cover her face and her eyelids become heavy. Refusing to inhale, her mind raced, a tightness spread from her chest to her limbs and, after a long minute, desperate for air, she took in her first deep breath. She fought against a heavy gray wave. Her eyes latched onto the portrait of her children, upside down on the ground a foot away from her. She forced herself to keep her eyes glued to their faces. Another smaller breath later, and she succumbed to the gray. Beckett, Callie, and Lauren’s faces drifted by like a grainy movie, and she followed them into the abyss.


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A paranormal women’s fiction series filled with bold female characters over 50, and in the prime of their lives. 

After discovering she has supernatural powers and has been chosen to conspire with Karma, Katie’s first mission involves a desperate pregnant woman and has her tangling with unsavory characters from her great-great grandmother's checkered past. 

But when Katie is abducted by a menacing mob leader, her best friend, Frankie, takes matters into her own hands. Teaming up with Katie's family and her trusty dog, Arlo, they embark on a heart-pounding race against time to find her.

Meanwhile, Yuli finds herself forced to consider joining forces with her mortal enemy, Zoya, in order to bring her granddaughter home, leading to a showdown between good and evil that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  

This is book 2 of the Midlife in Aura Cove Series, a perfect escape for fans of Darynda Jones, K. F. Breene, Kristen Painter, Robyn Peterman, Deanna Chase, and Shannon Mayer.


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