Garden of Dreams and Desires - Kristen Painter

Chapter One

Kindness is often mistaken for weakness.

This is not a mistake your enemies should make twice.

—Elektos Codex 9.2.10

New Orleans, Louisiana, 2068

One witch to rule them all.

Giselle almost laughed out loud at the cleverness of her thought. Instead, she kept her giddiness to a smile. A tourist passing through Jackson Square smiled back. Giselle let the woman think it was an invitation to duck under the pavilion Giselle had set up for reading fortunes, not her rising anticipation of what was to come.

The woman kept walking. Giselle’s smile disappeared. One day after Mardi Gras and the city was still thick with tourists carrying on like the party had yet to end. She didn’t mind. Much. It suited her purposes. Today might be a bust, however. It was afternoon and she’d yet to have anyone she could use sit across from her. Soon, when the spell she and Zara were working on was cast, she’d never have to sit here and pander to the masses again.

A young man approached her booth, a nearly empty plastic cup of beer clutched in one hand. “You’re too pretty to be a fortune-teller.”

She studied him. Expensive wristwatch. Manicured nails. Alligator loafers. This was not your average college boy. She smiled coyly. “Is that so? How should I look?”

He ducked under the ivory pavilion. “You know, wart on the nose, scarf on the head, that sort of thing.”

He’d been drinking for a while, based on the cloud of alcohol surrounding him. She shrugged. “I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

“I’m not disappointed.” He drained the last of his beer and set the empty cup near the small ivory placard that displayed her prices in simple black font.

Beneath the pristine white velvet draping her table, she dug her nails into her palm to keep from hexing him. She pointed a few yards away. “There’s a trash can over there.”

He left the empty cup where it was and sat on the folding stool across from her. He stuck his palm out. He had the smooth hands of someone who’d never done manual labor. “Tell me my fortune.”

She thought about telling him she was closed, but a sixth sense made her wait it out. She tapped the top of her sign. “One, you must pay me first, and two, I don’t read palms. I read crystals.”

He dug into the pocket of his shorts, pulled out a wad of plastic bills and dropped a few on the table. Quite a bit more than her rate. She didn’t correct his mistake. He put the rest away and put his open hand back on the table. “How about now?”

“I still don’t read palms.” She tucked the plastic away, then placed a tall silver cup filled with crystals in front of him and went into her spiel. “I am Giselle, mistress of the crystals and keeper of the light. Cover the—”

“I’m Robbie.”

She lifted her hand. “No names. I prefer to work without influence. Now, cover the cup with your hand and think about one question you’d like to have answered, but don’t tell me what it is. Keep the question in your mind.”

Laughing like it was all a big game, he put his hand over the cup and squeezed his eyes tight. A moment later, he opened them. “Okay, I thought of a question.”

Giselle took the cup from him. “Very good.” Since Ian had tattooed her with a crystal, the source of her power, her ability to read the crystals was sharper than ever, which proved that his inherent gift was an extraordinary one. Even so, she whispered a few words over the crystals for clarity and guidance, then tipped the container and spilled the stones across the velvet. They twinkled with a rainbow of colors despite the shade of the pavilion. She stared at them intently, not saying anything for almost a minute.

Strong images of power, money and influence danced before her. Money she understood, but the boy across from her didn’t look like anyone of importance.

“So?” He shifted impatiently.

“Silence.” She moved her hands over the crystals but they never lied. One of the formations showed a strong family tie. That must be where the power and influence came in. “You live a blessed life.”

He nodded like that was no revelation.

She continued, asking the crystals to show her specifically where this young man’s power and influence came from. An image of a woman formed in her head. A woman she recognized.

He crossed his arms. “Is that all you’ve got?”

She looked up at him, seeing the resemblance