Devious minds, p.1
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       Devious Minds, p.1

           Colleen Helme
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Devious Minds

  devious minds


  Colleen Helme

  Copyright © 2016 by Colleen Helme.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

  Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

  Book Cover Art by Copyright © 2016 by Colleen Helme

  Book Layout © 2013

  Devious Minds/ Colleen Helme. -- 1st ed.

  ISBN-13: 978-1523273201

  ISBN-10: 1523273208



  Fast Money

  Lie or Die

  Secrets That Kill

  Trapped By Revenge

  Deep In Death

  Crossing Danger

  Devious Minds


  To the city of Paris

  May your light always

  Shine in the dark.

  Joie de Vivre!


  First of all, this book wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunity to visit Paris! To actually stand beneath the Eiffel Tower was a dream come true. I need to thank my husband, Tom, for sharing that exciting experience with me. Including walking for miles down the Champs-Élysées, through Pere Lachaise and many other places that Shelby visits in this book. It was a trip to remember, and now I can say, we’ll always have Paris!

  Huge thanks goes to my daughter, Melissa Gamble, who is my beta reader and all around awesome supporter. Your enthusiasm and encouragement keep me on my toes. I couldn’t do it without you! Also a big thank you to my daughter, Erin, for your unwavering belief and support! She reads Carrots to her students, and I get to visit and be a famous author! How great is that?

  I’d also like to send a big thanks to my great editor, Kristin Monson, for catching my mistakes and making this a better book. Thank you to trial expert, Bonnie Karrin, for your input and help with my questions relating to murder trials and courtroom procedures.

  Another big thanks goes to Francine Timothy and Francine Mahak for checking my French dialogue, which was a huge help in getting it as close to correct as possible.

  I also need to thank Wendy Tremont King for giving Shelby her voice on the Audible Book versions of this series. You Rock!

  Last but not least, thanks to all of my fans who love this series and want more Shelby Nichols Adventures. You keep me writing!


  Devious Minds

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 1

  The first day of spring arrived, filling me with an overwhelming sense of freedom. Even though the temperature wasn’t real warm, it meant that winter was officially over. Even better, a ride on the motorcycle behind Ramos was now a possibility.

  I’d missed that and I’d missed him. He’d been gone for two weeks helping Uncle Joey take care of some out-of-town business. I wasn’t exactly sure what that entailed and... believe me, I didn’t want to know. Jackie, Uncle Joey’s secretary and wife, told me they were both due back in the next few days, and deep down where I didn’t want to admit it, I could hardly wait to see them again.

  That probably made me a bad person, since I worked for Uncle Joey and he was a mob-boss. Ramos was his hit-man and he’d saved my life a few times. I had to admit, it was a far cry from the first time I’d met Ramos almost a year ago, when he was thinking he might have to kill me for the big boss.

  I’d had to tell Uncle Joey my secret that I could read minds to stop that from happening. Since then, my skills had come in handy for Uncle Joey, and gotten me into a lot of trouble. But he’d always been there to bail me out, both literally and figuratively.

  So now I helped Uncle Joey, not because I was forced into it, but because I wanted to. That was just twisted on so many levels, and he wasn’t even my real uncle. But I couldn’t seem to stop, so I did my best to keep on the right side of things.

  Ramos was another part of that story. He was one hot and swoon-worthy man any woman would fall for. I had to keep reminding myself that I was happily married every time I laid eyes on him. He was the quintessential bad boy and, like a decadent chocolate dessert with whipped cream and a cherry on top, something that I might want in the worst way, but that would also be very bad for me.

  If I wasn’t married with kids... well, who knew what could happen, but I loved my husband and children, and Ramos respected that. Even so, there were still times when my heart seemed to have a mind of its own around him, and I’d have to rein it in or lose control, which was not an option.

  Only a handful of people knew I could read minds, and I liked it that way. I told everyone else I had premonitions, and that mostly worked. I also had my own consulting agency, which included helping the police along with my own clients. Because of that, I managed to get into even more trouble, and that wasn’t counting the mob-boss part.

  Like now.

  My husband, Chris, had asked for my help on a hard case. He was an associate partner in the prestigious law firm of Cohen, Larsen and Pratt. This case was the single most important event of Chris’ career, mostly because the partners were looking to replace the Cohen part of the firm, and change it to Larsen, Pratt and... Nichols.

  This was a huge deal, and I wondered if the fact that Chris handled all of Uncle Joey’s accounts had something to do with it. Probably, but I wasn’t touching that with a ten foot pole. This put a lot of pressure on me. Not as much as Chris, but still… I didn’t want to screw it up for him.

  That brought me to my problem. I wasn’t sure I wanted to help Chris, mostly because he was defending a woman accused of killing her husband, and ten million dollars from the life insurance policy was in the balance. To complicate matters even more, the husband’s company was one of Chris’ biggest clients.

  If they won, Chris’ firm would get a nice, fat share, and also keep the company as a client. But from everything he’d told me, she sounded guilty as sin. If I listened to her thoughts, I’d know for sure, and that would just ruin everything. It made me realize that sometimes my ‘gift’ wasn’t so great. Not when I had to use it to get someone off who actually deserved some jail time.

  But... wasn’t that what I did for Uncle Joey? So how was this any worse?

  In fact, I’d recently made a deal with a government agent to keep Uncle Joey out of prison. In exchange for my help on one of his cases, he’d agreed to make any charges against Uncle Joey disappear. When Uncle Joey found out what I’d done, he wasn’t too happy with me. Especially since he thought I’d told Blake Beauchaine I could read minds.

  Once he knew I hadn’t, and Blake just wanted me for what he thought were my mad interrogation skills, he’d calmed down. Still, Uncle Joey told me he could have handled anything Blake might have thrown at him without my deal. To be honest, it kind of hurt my feelings. Then
he made me promise to involve him if Blake ever came to collect.

  So now on top of everything else, I had Blake’s phone call to look forward to, and Uncle Joey to involve after that. It was enough to give me an ulcer.

  “Shelby? We’re ready for you,” Chris said, poking his head out of the conference room.

  My stomach lurched, but I covered it with a quick nod and stood. Chris caught my reluctance and his mouth turned down on one side. I picked up his thoughts of disappointment that I was hesitant to help him, especially since I didn’t seem to have the same qualms about helping Uncle Joey. What was up with that?

  Before I could explain my misgivings, he pulled the door open, and I had no choice but to enter the room, knowing I’d just have to straighten him out later. The big honchos, Larsen and Pratt, stood to greet me, and I picked up their eager hope that, whether the client was guilty or not, I could help Chris win the case. Talk about pressure, and I hadn’t even gotten started.

  Then came the moment of truth, and Chris introduced me to his client. Her name, Victoria Hampton, sounded as rich as she looked, with her beautifully groomed, long brunette hair and dark eyes framed by long lashes and artful eyebrows. In her mid-forties, her hands were soft with manicured nails, and she wore a navy, tailored dress over her slim body with a matching set of cultured pearls and diamonds around her neck and hanging from her ears.

  I could practically smell the money oozing off of her. Of course, without all that money, she wouldn’t be out on bail, and it could have been a lot worse. Now her trial was about to start, and the fear in her eyes took some of the polish off her outward appearance.

  “Nice to meet you,” I said, not quite meaning it.

  “Thank you so much for helping us out,” she answered, not only sincere, but desperate for anything that would get her out of this mess.

  “Of course,” I said. “Whatever you need.”

  While this made Chris happy, Victoria was ecstatic, and it changed her whole demeanor from desperate fear to quiet hope. She was thinking how Chris had told her I was their secret weapon, but until meeting me, she wasn’t so sure.

  Wow. I hadn’t even done anything yet, and here she was, pinning all her hopes on me.

  I listened closely and picked up that she was impressed with my credentials and no-nonsense attitude. She’d found out everything she could about me and my consulting agency. That brought her to my premonitions, and she wondered how they worked. Was there a chance I would find out the truth?

  “Right... uh, Shelby?” Chris asked.

  “Huh? Oh... sure,” I said. I smiled and listened real hard to his thoughts, finding out that I’d just agreed to help them with the jury selection, which we’d discussed at home. Since they’d hired a jury selection specialist, I thought it was overkill, but I was still willing to help where I could.

  I went back to Victoria’s thoughts, but she wasn’t thinking about who’d killed her husband anymore, so I’d missed my chance to know the truth about her... at least for now.

  Of course, this was something Chris had given me strict instructions about, since he didn’t want to know if she was guilty, so it was probably for the best. That also meant he didn’t want me to listen too hard to her thoughts so I wouldn’t know either. But how was I supposed to do that and help win the case? He’d said I was their secret weapon, but somehow he didn’t want me to use my ability to hear the truth... or at least not tell him.

  I sighed, knowing I was in an impossible situation. In all reality, I’d probably find out she was guilty and have to keep it to myself. I never had to do that with Uncle Joey. A big surge of resentment toward Chris hit me between the eyes. Oops... that wasn’t good, so I pushed it away and focused on the discussion.

  “I think we’re ready to go,” Chris said. “Do you have any questions, Shelby?”

  “Yes,” I said, coming to a decision. “Can I have a moment alone with Victoria?”

  Chris’ eyes widened, then his brows drew together. “Um... really? I didn’t think...”

  “I know what you thought,” I said, tempering my words with a smile, “but I just need a minute, then I’ll know the best way I can help her.”

  “Fine.” He let out a sigh, resigned to the fact that I was going to do this my way. But he was thinking that I’d better not tell him she was guilty... even if it was the truth.

  As they filed out of the room, I took a seat across from Victoria and smiled at her. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

  “Uh... thank you,” she said, her eyes filling with sudden tears. She hadn’t expected compassion. It reminded her that since her husband’s death, she hadn’t even had a chance to grieve. How unfair was that?

  “This is so unfair,” I began. “You lost your husband, and then on top of it, you’re accused of his murder. I’m sure this has been a nightmare. Who would have thought something like this could happen?”

  She sucked in her breath. “That’s just what I was thinking.”

  “We’ll figure this out, and I’ll do everything I can for you.”

  “Thank you, Shelby.”

  “So tell me about that night.” I’d already read the files, but I wanted to hear what she thought more than the words she spoke. Still, I took out my pen and the little notebook I used, then smiled and nodded at her to begin.

  “Well... that night I went to bed early. Donovan and I had argued, and it had given me a headache, so I told him I couldn’t talk about it anymore and was going to bed. The next morning I headed downstairs to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. I saw his feet first and knew something was wrong, so I ran into the room and...he was lying there, like he was asleep. If not for the blood, I would have thought he’d passed out or something.”

  She swallowed before continuing. “I hurried to his side and checked his pulse. I thought I felt something, but then I knew I was wrong because he cold. I tried to wake him up anyway... I think I even tried to do CPR. Somewhere in the process, I got his blood all over me. After that, it’s kind of a blur. I know I called nine-one-one and the police came with the paramedics.

  “They asked me a lot of questions, but I don’t even remember what they were, or what I said. I let them search the house for signs of a break-in, and they couldn’t find anything. That’s when it hit me that he must have killed himself. In my efforts to save him, I didn’t even notice the gun. But the police did. They said it was in his hand, so it looked like he’d shot himself. It was the only thing that made sense, even though it was hard to believe. That’s why I was so surprised when they came to arrest me.”

  She sighed and shook her head. “I didn’t do it, but they said I had motive and opportunity.” She caught my gaze. “My husband had his faults, but I didn’t kill him. I loved him.”

  “Do you really think it was suicide?”

  “To be honest... it doesn’t make sense that he’d kill himself, but I don’t know how else to explain it. We argued, but his business is going great, and he had no signs of depression or anything like that.” Guilt flooded over her as she thought of her last words to him, especially after she’d confronted him about his affair.

  She’d threatened to divorce him and take him for all he was worth. She hadn’t meant it, but she was hurting. That’s when he’d reminded her of the pre-nuptial agreement she’d signed, and told her that if she went that route, she wouldn’t see a dime of the money he’d made since the day they got married.

  Right then, his betrayal had hurt so bad that she’d wanted to kill him. She’d gone to bed that night so upset that she couldn’t sleep, so she’d taken a sleeping pill. She’d even thought of taking the whole bottle to kill herself, but couldn’t go through with it. The next morning, he was dead. Part of her wondered if she’d done it in her sleep, but she knew she’d never left the bedroom. So how had it happened?

  Whoa! She’d wanted to kill him, but didn’t, and he’d ended up dead that very night? It sure didn’t look like a coincidence. No wonder Chris was worried about winning this
case. She looked guilty... but I was pretty sure she wasn’t.

  “I don’t think you did it,” I said.

  “You believe me?” she asked, surprised.

  “Yes. But the evidence... it looks bad, especially when you add his affair, the pre-nup and the threats of divorce into the equation.”

  She gasped. “But I haven’t told anyone I threatened to divorce him.”

  “That’s true,” I said. “But with the pre-nup and the affair, it looks like you have an even bigger motive than the insurance money. Do you know the woman he was having the affair with?”

  “No. In fact, I found out about the affair by accident. I’d gone to visit him at work. He wasn’t expecting me because he was in a meeting, or so I thought. I sat in his chair behind his desk to wait and noticed that he’d left his laptop on with the browser open. That’s when I saw the emails. They were pretty explicit and kind of made me sick.” She sighed, thinking that was the worst day of her life, well... until she got arrested for murder.

  “Did he know you’d found out?”

  “Not until I confronted him that night. He didn’t deny it, so even though I’d only seen the emails, I realized it had to be true.”

  “Do you have any idea who it is?” I asked again. “Could it be someone from work?”

  “That’s what I’d guess, but I don’t know for sure. She signed them ‘Aphrodite,’ so it could be anyone.”

  “Damn,” I said. “How much of this does Chris know?”

  “He knows about the pre-nup and the affair. That’s why he was so worried. But he thinks I only found out about the affair after Donovan’s death, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

  “So, Chris doesn’t know you threatened to divorce Donovan?”

  “That’s right,” she said.

  “Well,” I sighed, “it might not matter now. If the prosecution finds the woman in question, or even someone who knew about the affair, they wouldn’t hesitate to put them on the stand. They’ll insinuate that your argument that night was about the affair. Who knows? They could even say Donovan might have asked you for a divorce, and since the pre-nup left him with all of his earnings, you snapped and killed him.”


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