Forbidden Fruit (Shannon Cheney) - By Ann Aguirre


First, thanks to my editor, Sasha Knight, who was a joy to work with on this novella; Forbidden Fruit is much shinier for her input. I wish her talent, expertise, and enthusiasm could be bottled, as it’s invaluable.

Thanks to my wonderful friends who led by example, including Bree Bridges, Donna J. Herren, Lauren Dane, and Courtney Milan. I also thank the rest of the Peeners for supporting me. The only reason I had the nerve to try this is because I’ve watched my mates blaze the trail so expertly. In other words, I’m lucky to know so many gifted women, who give me the courage to spread my wings.

Much love to my amazing proofreader, Fedora Chen. If this story is fabulous and polished, it’s because she took it to the next level.

I also appreciate my family for putting up with me. I love you all, and I’m so proud of your achievements, even when I seem distracted. I’m listening, really!

Finally, thanks to my readers. I hope you enjoy reading about how Jesse and Shannon hooked up. You can get in touch with me at [email protected].


The first thing you need to know about me is—I see dead people. Okay, that’s a lie. I hear dead people—on an antique radio of all things. I know, right? But I didn’t make the rules. If I had, I certainly wouldn’t be working at Pretzel Pirate. The uniform is unrelenting polyester, and I can’t pull off white lace or a swashbuckler hat. I’m into striped tights, combat boots, cosmetics, piercings, and tattoos.

I’ve also got an amnesia thing going on. Don’t ask me to explain it, but my head’s foggy. I used to live in Kilmer, Georgia, and for reasons I can’t recall—I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time—I split with a cop from Texas…and some other guy. I haven’t seen the second dude for a while, but the cop brought me to Laredo. It was weird in Kilmer, and my mom’s…gone. I should be sad about that, but that part of my life is misty. Which makes me wonder if I used to do hardcore drugs. It would explain a lot, huh? I should be grateful it was a cop who pulled me out of that death spiral and not some perv who’d chain me up in his basement.

So I’m in Laredo now. The cop who saved me—and I’m sure whatever he hauled me out of in Kilmer, it was ugly—then deposited me with some family friends. They’re a married couple, nice enough, but I felt like I was cramping their style. They just had a baby, and I’m not au pair material. To make matters worse, their house burned down, and we were all out of luck for a while.

They went to stay with relatives, and I didn’t feel right about going along. So this guy, Chuch, found me a roommate, his cousin, Maria. She’s a nice girl, but not home a lot. We both work, and I’m trying to get into community college. Things being what they were in Kilmer, I got my GED here.

So anyway, it’s five thirty p.m. on a Thursday, and I’m stuck at Pretzel Pirate. The food court is hell. Each afternoon, I stare across at the same dorky kid selling burgers. Sometimes he makes a pirate hat out of a paper placemat and puts it on to mock me. I give him my middle finger as a special prize. Good times. This job pays minimum wage; it also siphons off a portion of my soul each time I say, “Arrr, matey, want to try a Buccaneer special pretzel with extra cheese?” FML.

Unlike charlatans who use a crystal ball, I can tune into dead people on my radio—and not random ones, either—so considering that I’ve learned to control the ability, I should be raking in the cash. But due to snafus like the Salem Witch Trials, the Gifted community frowns on us using our talents in the open, so any medium listed in the Yellow Pages is a fake. I wish I could figure out a way around this restriction, but for now, I’m working at the mall to make ends meet.

The only bright side is that I’m sober, apparently, and the guy who rescued me cares enough to check in on a regular basis. At least, I think that’s why he’s coming toward me. Here’s something I didn’t mention. The cop’s smoking hot. Jesse Saldana, that’s his name. I’ve never written it all over my