Maggie McCrae knew her granddaughters were not ready for the legacy she must leave them. The house, the grounds and everything that went with it would now be theirs. She vowed she would do all she could to protect them and hopefully, give them the time they needed to fulfill their destiny. Gabriella and Moira must learn to trust themselves and each other as they discover the true magic of Burrows Bay.
This is the first book in a serialized story about family and friendships…that also includes a little magic. This is the beginning of a long storyline, so there will be cliffhangers.
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You can read the first part of the story right now. Happy Holidays!
“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” –Wolfgang von Goethe
Maggie McCrae wandered around the house she had known all her life. Well, mansion really, but somehow it had always seemed comfortable and welcoming to her. So many memories…most of them wonderful and only a few that were not. It had been a good life.
Her great-grandparents had built this beautiful home on the cliffs overlooking Burrows Bay on Fidalgo Island. Part of the San Juan Islands north of Seattle, the views were amazing from almost every window. Tonight, she was out on the balcony that ran along the upstairs library. This is where she did her best thinking. And her most effective magic.
Maggie remembered being in this room with her grandmother, some seventy years earlier. She had taught her all about the plants and herbs, which formed the basis of their special powers. Maggie always said anyone could do what she did with enough study and effort. But tonight, she wondered if that were true. Could they learn? Would they be able to do it without her?
Too much pride! She chided herself yet again, for not reaching out to the girls earlier. They were grown women now. Not the young girls they should have been, when they learned how to use their powers. But it couldn’t be helped. She had foolishly thought they would have more time. Now, she realized even her abilities had limits as she had not seen this coming. The doctors had been very nice, but there was nothing to be done. Her days on this lovely island were almost over.
She watched the lights flashing out in the woods. They were just waiting. Waiting for her to die, so they could move in and bulldoze all that she loved…for money. The love of money was always the greatest evil, she believed. For four generations, her family had protected these woods and the cliffs overlooking the bay. If her girls were successful, they might yet save it. Her two lovely granddaughters, Gabriella and Moira. Cousins, who had spent so little time with each other and now, she was throwing them together. Sink or swim, she thought. There was no time for anything else.
She had taken care of all the legalities. Arthur, her oldest friend and solicitor, would be by in the morning. Bless him, she could always depend on Arthur especially at times like this. But there was one more thing she had to do. She’d put it off as long as she could, while she took one final day for herself. Thankful for the warm September weather, she had walked through the gardens and around the small vineyard, enjoyed her favorite views from the cliffs and finally, taken one last stroll through the woods. She’d come back to the house and prepared her favorite dinner, while playing the music that she and her beloved Patrick had listened to on their honeymoon. He’d been gone so long. She desperately hoped that she would see him on the other side. She smiled as she remembered the love of her life and how they had been everything to each other. She sighed and wished for one more night.
But there was simply no more time. She had to do it now. She hoped the Autumn Equinox would amplify her normal powers. The plants and herbs she had chosen from the garden were laid out on the table in front of her. As was the silver bowl. She said the words more for her own confidence than any actual benefits of the verse. They were from an old monk she had met near Tibet many years ago. It was the closest thing to a protection spell that she knew, and she prayed that it would work.
She placed the lavender and mint in the bowl, followed by the basil and rue, then the bit of tansy and other native plants that were written in the book. Finally, she added the sachet filled with spices collected by her grandmother. When all were carefully laid in the bowl, she took the wooden match and lit the candle. The vanilla fragrance filled the room and as she said the last line of the verse, the candle flared. Probably a draft, but she smiled at the drama of the moment. She would take it as a good sign.
She poured a bit of the wax on the herbs, then added the rum. She had forgotten the vodka, but the rum would have more meaning. She’d seen that in her mind’s eye and had decided to write it down in the book. They might enjoy that, when they discovered their heritage. At the last moment, she decided to take the bowl and candle out onto the balcony. The trespassers might appreciate the light show and she could use all the help she could get.
She waited until the herbs had wilted in the rum and then she took a breath as she readied herself. With a final look across the forest and bay, she began.
“This is for all who have come before and all who will come after,” she said, knowing these first words by heart. “For them and for myself, I ask that everything we love and everything we guard be protected by the ancient spirits of this island and the ancestors from our Scottish homeland.”
She looked up at the night sky and continued. “I offer all that I am and all that I will ever be to ensure that the children of my children find their way and be protected from the evils that walk the earth and dwell in the hearts of weaker beings.”
She took the candle and quickly lit the herbs, now soaked with rum. The flames jumped up and she took a step back, still watching the woods. “The evil that knows no limit, no fullness, only hunger. I ask that all that is good, light and helpful in this world watch over my children’s children and help them on their journey. Give them the time they need to learn, to grow and to become all they must to protect everything we know and love.”
As she spoke, she raised her arms out to her sides and then up to the sky. She could feel all her power, all her might, draining from her. But she kept going until the words were finished. As she watched, there was a glimmer in the night sky…or was it the final remnants of the aurora borealis that had shown itself this summer? She wasn’t sure, but she chose to believe it was a sign that the magic had worked. She hoped so. It had taken the last of her energy. She walked over to the chair by the fire, feeling her age for the first time. It had been a good life. A happy one, for the most part. She had regrets, but not many. And she had seen enough of the future to know there was a good chance it would all work out. She hoped it would. Too tired to go to bed, she put her feet on the ottoman, wrapped the throw around herself and slept.
The next morning, Arthur O’Reilly walked into the house, calling Maggie by name. “Come on, old girl, where are you? I thought you said coffee on the porch this morning?” He chuckled to himself, knowing she would give him grief about the old girl part. She was still lovely at seventy-four and he looked forward to calling on her. More a sister than anything, it was still a boost to the ego to be in her presence.
As he wandered upstairs, he correctly guessed she’d be in the library. It had always been her favorite room, not counting the conservatory. And she preferred the balcony upstairs, when it was nice enough to leave the doors open.
“Maggie, my dear, did you forget our breakfast date?” he joked as he walked into the room. Seeing her on the chair by the fire, he said, “No napping now, you’ve coffee to fix. It’s one of the main reasons I come to visit.”
As he came closer, he saw how pale she looked. Bending down, he grabbed her hand. “Maggie! Oh no. Maggie, talk to me. Talk to me!”
As she stirred, Arthur felt he could breathe again. “I can’t lose you, too. Not so soon after Lily,” he said, more to himself than to her. “Maggie, let me help you up.”
“No,” she said as she held out her hand. “I’m afraid I’m quite ill, Arthur. I should have told you sooner, but I knew you would only worry.”
“Just stay there, Maggie. I’ll get help.” He pulled out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1, praying they would get there quickly.
“Arthur, my granddaughters…” Maggie looked up at her friend. “I should have contacted them sooner.”
As she started to fade, Arthur reached down and checked her pulse. “Maggie, don’t leave. Hang on, my girl, hang on!”
But it was too late. She was gone. Arthur wiped his eyes and heard the sirens far off in the distance. Too late, he thought. Too late! The breeze blew through the doors to the balcony and he could have sworn he heard faint bells, then a soft whisper. “Don’t worry old friend, this is not the end. Be a help to them. They will need you.”
He shook his head, clearing it of such fanciful thoughts and went down to meet the ambulance.
Moira Dunbar couldn’t believe she had wasted eight months of her life on Craig Johnson. She shook her head again, her hair falling well past her shoulders. She was quietly pretty with her medium brown hair and slender build. The typical girl next door except for those green eyes, which lit up if she became excited or upset.
Today, it was upset. She had actually expected Craig to propose this afternoon. He had said there was big news and she should come over right away. He had applied to some of the largest law firms in the country since passing his bar exam. She knew because she had helped him with his resume. She was a great sounding board or so he’d said. Now, she wondered if he’d ever seen her as anything else.
“No one marries their sounding board,” she said under her breath as she drove the car back to her apartment. How could she have been so clueless? He had the champagne poured, when she walked into his condo and music playing in the background.
“Oh good, you’re here,” he’d said as she walked in. “I have something important to tell you.” Accepting the glass of champagne that he handed her, she sat down and waited for him to continue. “I got it! Moira, I got it. The job in Charleston.”
He was so excited, she smiled. “I knew you would get one of them. You did so well on your exam.”
As he passed her chair, he crouched down next to her and said, “I couldn’t have done it without you. You were my…well, my sounding board. Anytime, I wasn’t sure about something, talking to you seemed to clarify the situation.”
Sounding board? Hmm…inspiration would have been more romantic, but she’d work on that, she told herself.
“I’m so glad. Are you sure this is the one you want?” She knew the job in New York had been his first choice.
“New York went with someone else as did Austin, but Charleston was my third choice and I think it’s a good fit for me.”
Not us, me. This wasn’t going so well. “When do you plan to leave?” she asked.
“Next week. I can’t wait to get out of Billings. I’m so sick of snow.” Rolling his eyes, he continued, “Maybe it’s a good thing New York fell through. What about you?”
“I could get used to a shorter winter,” she replied, smiling.
“Moira, there’s something I want to ask you,” Craig said, leaning down, his breath brushing her hair.
“Yes?” she asked. She wondered if this was it. Was he going to propose? They had talked around it for the past few months and now she wasn’t sure if she wanted him to or not.
“Moira,” he repeated. “Do you think I should wear the blue suit or the gray one?”
She stared at him. “Um, I think either would look fine.”
“Good, because I want to look great, when we go out on the town to celebrate. It’s Saturday night and we should make the most of it.” He started walking towards the bedroom.
Moira glanced past him to the mess in the room. Craig was not a tidy person, but she didn’t really mind. As she looked a little closer, she saw a dark blue, satin nightgown hanging off the foot of the bed.
“Craig,” she said, rising out of her chair, “who does that nightgown belong to?”
Craig tried a nonchalant laugh, but it came out more as a croak. “Well, Stacy stopped by last night just to compare notes on her resume….and one thing led to another.” He stopped, suddenly finding an overwhelming interest in the lamp shade next to him.
“She stopped by,” Moira repeated. “And one thing led to another?’ She shook her head and began walking toward the door.
“Moira, wait.” He started after her. “It’s no big deal. It’s not like we’re married or anything.” He saw the look she gave him and stopped talking.
“No, we’re not. And I’m very glad I found out what type of person you really are before investing any more time into this relationship.”
She started to walk out, then stopped. “By the way,” she said over her shoulder, “the gray suit makes you look fat.”
Moira marched out of the condo, down the sidewalk and got into her car. She drove away and managed to make it almost ten blocks before pulling over to have a good cry. What was wrong with her? Was it too much to want to find someone, who had the sense of honor and integrity that only seemed to exist in books and old movies? She wiped her eyes and finished the drive back to her apartment.
As she walked in, her phone was ringing. “I do not want to talk to that man ever again,” she said out loud as she checked her caller ID. But it wasn’t Craig. It was her cousin Gabriella, who never called. Something was wrong.
Picking up the phone, Moira asked, “What happened?”
Gabriella McCrae heard the frustration in Moira’s voice. “Nice to talk to you, too, cuz,” she said, haughtily.
“Sorry,” replied Moira, “rough day.”
“I just called to see if you’d checked your mail today,” stated Gabriella.
“No. Why? Is something wrong, Gabriella?” Moira hoped not. It had already been a long day.
“Why don’t you go get your mail and find out?” As an afterthought, she added, “And you know I hate the name Gabriella, so please call me Gabbi.”
“As you wish,” replied Moira. “I’ll be right back.”
Since she was still carrying her phone, Gabbi could hear her walking down the steps and over to the row of mailboxes for the apartment complex.
“There’s a big manila envelope,” Moira informed her, “and it seems to be from a law firm. O’Reilly and Finch, Solicitors in Anacortes according to the return address.”
“That’s the one,” Gabbi said. “Guess what? We just inherited a house. An actual house.”
“Gran?” Moira asked, walking back to her apartment. She hadn’t known her grandmother very well but remembered her through the eyes of a six-year-old as someone magical and intriguing. “I didn’t know she was back in the country.”
“Apparently, she got back in June,” said Gabbi. “According to the letter, that’s when she updated her will. She leaves everything to us, her grandchildren.”
“Let me read through this and I’ll call you back,” Moira said, suddenly very tired. “Are you going to be home tomorrow?”
“I’ll be here after five. I’m working the lunch rush and most of the afternoon. Talk to you tomorrow,” Gabbi said, then hung up.
Moira slid down onto a stool at the kitchen counter and laid her head on the granite. It felt cold and suddenly, so did Moira. She started to cry. For so many reasons, but she hoped as much for Gran as for herself.
The next day, she called Gabbi back. Moira had spent the morning going over the paperwork and it was very clear that they were both expected to go to Anacortes for the reading of the will. She looked around her apartment. There was nothing keeping her here. Her job selling advertising space for her parents’ newspaper would be here if she returned. She rather hoped she would find a reason not to come back.
The little town just outside of Billings, Montana had never been her dream location. Too much snow and the summers were too hot. She had traveled to so many places, when she was young, but once her parents bought the paper, they were too busy to leave. Maybe an adventure and a new location were exactly what she needed. She was good at selling advertising and that was something she could do anywhere.
As Moira listened to Gabbi’s phone ring several times, she wondered if she should leave a message or call back in an hour. Just as she was about to hang up, Gabbi picked up the phone.
“What?” Gabbi demanded. “What is it?”
“Hi, it’s me. Moira. You said to call you back after five.” Moira hoped Gabbi wasn’t in a bad mood. Their relationship was difficult enough at the best of times.
Moira was surprised, when Gabbi said, “Just a minute. Hold on. It’s not you.”
“Okay,” Moira waited about ten seconds and when Gabbi came back, she was laughing. “I can’t believe I wasted my time on that loser!”
“Man troubles?” Moira asked.
“You could say that,” replied Gabbi. “Let me tell you what happened, when I came in the door this evening.”
Gabbi explained that she had come home after a long day at work to discover her boyfriend getting cozy with another woman. She had been letting Darryl stay on the couch, while he looked for a new apartment. Today, she told him to get out of her apartment and her life. When he just stared at her, she walked past him and started throwing his clothes out the second story window.
When Darryl said she’d be sorry to see him go, Gabbi responded by saying, “I won’t miss you or that permanent dent in my sofa.” She heard the front door slam and glanced out the window. She smiled as she watched him grab his clothes and throw them into his car. Gabbi admitted it was the first time she’d done anything like that, but she’d had enough of his freeloading. The last thing she saw was his car speeding away and a sock flying out the back window.
It felt good to laugh, thought Moira. And even better to laugh with her cousin. They had not done that in a long time.
“Today is Sunday. I can be there on Wednesday as that’s the day we’re supposed to meet with the attorney,” she told Gabbi. “I have to finish up a few things at work and then I can use my vacation time. I have two weeks saved up.”
“Don’t you still work for Mommy and Daddy?” Gabbi said in that voice Moira remembered all too well.
“Yes, I do,” she replied, “but work is the keyword in that sentence. As I said, I can fly over on Wednesday. Do you want to pick me up around ten in the morning or should I catch a flight to Anacortes?”
“I’ll pick you up,” replied Gabbi. “It will give us time to talk on the way. I have some ideas.”
Oh no, thought Moira. Gabbi’s ideas had gotten them both into trouble in the past. “Okay, I’ll see you, then. But it might be best not to spend the money until we actually see how much the house is worth.”
“Very funny,” Gabbi replied. As she hung up the phone, she wondered what Moira would say, when she found out that selling was the last thing she planned to do.
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