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Robert’s Rules Undone, Lowth Series Book 2
by Cheryl Steimel
SHEILA DRYSDALE-ROBERTS CURLED her fingers over the edge of the cardboard box and fought to maintain the immaculate façade she presented to the world.
Sheila Perfect. God, how she hated the nickname her family had given her. Some days, it didn’t pay to live up to it.
She narrowed her eyes at her brother, Kevin, who had, out of character, appeared at her townhouse. She’d barely had time to park her Lexus and pull out the box containing personal items from her desk at Cooper, Cooper, Cooper and Sighne, her employer until about an hour ago.
“Why are you here?” She and Kevin had nothing in common but keen, analytical minds. Whereas she used hers as a tool to conquer corporate America, Kevin ambled through life, drifting from one job to another.
He shrugged and took the box from her. “I had a nagging feeling something wasn’t right. This has to be the earliest you’ve been home in ages. The sun’s still up.”
She removed her house key from the rest and thrust it into the lock. “Not funny, baby brother. C3S let me go. I believe the politically correct term is ‘involuntary separation’.” She shoved the door open and led the way into the expensively decorated great room.
“Something you’d know about.”
“Not anymore.” Of course she knew about losing a job. It’s what C3S specialized in. They bought, stripped down and merged other businesses. Her ex-employers received a healthy profit, and the local unemployment office geared up for long lines. She’d never thought she’d be standing in one.
“Can I get you something?” She strode into her austere black-and-white kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Three-month-old champagne from New Year’s Eve and a half bottle of merlot summed up the available cold refreshments. She pulled out the wine and poured two glasses. “It’s all I have.”
Kevin took one and saluted her. “What did old man Cooper use as an excuse?”
“David booked out and left Jerome Butler to do the dubious honor. He said it was ‘reversals’ whatever the hell that means. He’d die before admitting it was my failure on The Temp Exec. The bastards.”
She’d been a fool to think her appearance would garner great press. Instead, her reality television appearance had been looked upon as self-serving. Mea culpa.
“You can’t help that it rained and the other team had an indoor venue.”
“I went down in flames, Kev.” She’d been humiliated at bombing out in the third episode, one of the few times she’d failed on a mission.
“Their loss. You brought in millions.” Kevin laid a sympathetic hand on her arm.
Sheila moved away in case he did something stupid, like hug her, a gesture guaranteed to break through the tenuous hold she had on her emotions. No sense getting maudlin even with family. As the middle child, she’d always been the peacemaker.
“Thanks, I appreciate it.” She slung back the wine, hoping to swallow her embarrassment with it.
“I have confidence you’ll find something to do before long.”
Sheila didn’t share his feeling. She’d dedicated her life to her job for eight years, twelve hours a day. Sudden leisure seemed foreign.
With a shaking hand, she set her glass down on the granite countertop. “Why are you here? Really?”
“Something told me to come over.”
She glared at him, but he stared back with complete innocence. “I hope you’re not going to tell me you had a psychic vision. I so do not want to go down that road.”
“What? Afraid I share Jane’s telepathy?”
Sheila refused to think of her younger sister. Since learning of her talent and all the circumstances surrounding it, she’d blocked it from her mind. “Let’s not go there.”
“You never have, have you? Gone to see her?”
For such a laid back guy, he could be a relentless bastard. “It’s hard to believe she lives in Fantasyville.”
“It’s called Lowth. Mom and Bryant live there, too. It’s not a figment of our imagination.”
The room chilled. Sheila crossed its expanse to fiddle with the thermostat.
Almost a year earlier, Jane had disappeared after a car wreck. Weeks later, their mother and Kevin followed. Sheila and her two remaining brothers had come under suspicion. The police would never have believed the missing persons had fallen through a portal to another, alternate world where elves and fairies and God knows what existed.
Kevin strode to her side. “Mom and Jane made it their home. I visited. It’s real, and it’s time you accepted it.”
Kevin had a touch of romance in him, but her other brothers, logical and reasonably sane, had taken the leap of faith and bought into the story. She couldn’t imagine why.
“I want to see them,” she announced. “Put on your pointy shoes, do an incantation, and take me to them.”
Kevin, unruffled by her decision, ran his hand through his straight brown hair, the same color as hers. “It’s not like I can send out the bat signal.”
“I don’t see why not.” Ignorant of his secret world for months, now she wanted to know all about it. Anything to keep from thinking about failing at her job and the yawning gap in her life. “How do you communicate with them?”
“And?” She tapped her toes, a clue anyone at C3S would have interpreted as trouble. Her gaze swept the room, looking for her car keys. “Where’s the portal they use?”
Kevin moved in front of her before she could make her escape. “In Walker, but it only works if an Elf takes you through.”
“Damn inconvenient.” Sheila Perfect seldom swore, but today it gave her immense satisfaction.
“It stops trespassers.”
“Kind of dumb, seeing as how no one on this side knows about Lowth. That’s beside the point. I want to go there. Make it happen, little brother.” Once said, the words took on a compelling reality. Nothing stopped her from leaving. It’s not as if she had a job anymore.
“You said it’s complicated, which means it’s not impossible.” The toe tapping started again.
Kevin rolled his eyes and looked to the heavens. She could almost see his brain clicking, weighting the pros and cons then realizing he had no chance against her. “It will take some time.”
Satisfaction curled in her like the smoke from her imported Italian marble fireplace, filling her body with delicious warmth. “I’ve got time.”
He nodded. “You have no idea what you’re asking.”
“A trip through the looking glass.” She gave him a gentle shove toward the door. “Now hurry, or you’ll be very, very late.”
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