In the small Michigan town of Roseberg, Keriam Norton and her cousin, Janna, are preparing a grand opening of their store, The Treasure Chest. This is quite a feat for Keriam since she can't bear to be touched. When she's touched, she imagines she can feel the emotions of the person who touches her and she fears she's losing her mind. Still, she refuses to fail her cousin and her store. She doesn't have to touch anyone to make change or arrange items in the store. Then something gives Keriam pause...
“It’s beautiful.” Keriam focused on the display, on the weddingdress with its yards of lace, fighting the rush of anxiety and joyousanticipation Janna was feeling. It would be worse if Janna actuallytouched her, she knew, and kept a careful distance between them.“Now. Let’s get ready for hordes of customers to make us filthy rich.”
“In your dreams,” Janna said, laughing. As she passed throughthe door, she added, “Mine, too.”
Keriam stopped as the weight of unseen eyes danced over herskin like thorny little ant-feet. She whirled, taking in the entire streetwith a sweeping glance.
Roseberg’s small business district, composed of ancient brickstorefronts, would soon be bustling but now was serenely quiet.And yet...
Someone was watching her.
Across the street, a large black dog sniffed a reproduction coachlamp near the curb. Keriam dismissed the animal, letting her gazemove toward the intersection. A shadow, long and sharp in the sun’sslanting rays, moved and vanished before Keriam could identify it.No faces pressed against the glass of the shops lining Main Street.There was no traffic.
Her attention returned to the dog. It sat, tongue lolling, tail idlysweeping the sidewalk. It had a feral tilt to its pale eyes that madeher think wolf. Which was ridiculous, there weren’t any wolves inthis part of Michigan.
Then...expectancy flashed through her body, heightening herperception. From the east came the scent of the pig farms and therendering plant, faint but distinguishable to her acute senses. Automobilefumes from the highway drifted, mingling with the occasionalperfume of green, growing things from the surrounding farmlands.A silent call hung in the cool, morning air and she let the door closewithout going inside. She shut her eyes, fighting the urge to followthe call, to abandon Janna and the store.
A single, deep bark cut through the wild sensations and, as ifa door slammed shut, the scents were gone, the call silenced. Herheart skipped a beat, then skittered like a wild thing. These episodeswere coming far too often. And too powerfully. How long before shecould no longer fight them?
How long before she lost her mind?
“Hey,” Janna spoke from the doorway. “Something wrong?”
“No.” Keriam shook her head, forcing a smile. “No. Nothing. Iwas just...daydreaming. Come on. There’s still a lot to do.”
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