This is the THIRD book in the series…and you can read the prologue and first chapter right now!
If you haven’t read the first two books, here’s a link to the book trailer and sneak peek.
Anacortes, Washington, August 1902
Agnes and Rory walked up the steps to the large Victorian home, which only a few weeks before had hosted Fiona’s fourth birthday party.
“I still can’t believe it,” Agnes said. “There’s no other choice?”
Rory shook his head. “He left too many debts.”
The front door opened just as Rory lifted his fist to knock. “Thank you for coming.” Rachel took a step back so they could enter. Her luggage was stacked in the foyer, and Sarah sat on a stair watching them.
“Do you have to leave?” Agnes asked. “Couldn’t you stay…”
“And what?” Rachel replied. “Get a job teaching? I considered it…but it’s probably better to go back to Rhode Island, than to try to start over here.”
“I know it won’t be easy,” Agnes said.
“It’s not that,” Rachel assured her. “If I thought someone would hire me, I’d stay.”
Agnes glanced at Rory, who could read her thoughts as clearly as if she’d said them out loud. “You should come work for us,” he said.
“I appreciate the offer,” Rachel replied. “I really do but T’Eqwem is your nanny. Unless you want me to work as a maid?” She smiled. “I’d be willing to do almost anything at this point.”
“No,” Agnes said, “not a maid. I want you to be the children’s governess. You’d be perfect.”
Rachel hugged her. “You’ve always been a true friend. Are you sure you really need me?”
“Of course,” Rory said. “We need your expertise and little Fiona needs her friend.” He smiled up at Sarah. “Wouldn’t you like to come live with Fiona and Violet?”
Sarah nodded and carefully walked down the stairs. “Yes, I would,” she said very seriously.
Rory laughed and picked her up, then looked at Rachel. “What do you say?”
“We’d like that very much.” Rachel looked around at her luggage. “This is all I have that the creditors won’t be taking.”
“I’ll have John pick it up this afternoon,” Rory promised.
“Thank you,” Rachel said, squeezing Agnes’ hand. “Thank you both.”
When they got back to the MacInnes mansion, T’Eqwem helped Rachel get settled, then they all had tea on the terrace as the girls played with their dolls.
“I’m so glad we’re staying.” Rachel smiled at the other two. “Now, our daughters will be as close as we are. You both are so dear to me.”
That evening, Rachel stood on the third-floor balcony and watched the moonlight on the water, feeling at peace for the first time in days. There was something almost magical about this place. T’Eqwem had once said these woods were sacred. Tonight, she thought she might believe that.
MacInnes Mansion, Present Day
Gabbi and Emma looked out at the water from the third-floor balcony. “It’s really beautiful up here.” Emma said.
“It is,” Gabbi agreed, “but we came to look at the book.”
“I wanted to watch the moon on the water,” Emma replied. “I don’t see this view every night.”
“All right. I admit it.” Gabbi smiled. “I’m pretty lucky to see it every night and every morning.”
Emma turned to her. “Yes, you are. We’re both lucky to be a part of the history of this place. Now, let’s go look at the book.”
“Right behind you,” Gabbi said as they walked through the linen closet and into the secret room. She ran her hand along the book’s edge as it rested on the podium.
We’ll need the necklaces.” Emma pushed on the trim of the bookcase to the left of the fireplace. It slowly swung open and they stepped into the smaller space.
Below the photograph of the three women, Gabbi opened the compartment and took out the box. “Who needs a security system with all this?” she asked, smiling.
“It took us long enough to find it,” Emma reminded her.
The rose quartz necklaces were inside, and the women took them out of the box and carried them back to the book. “You take the top and I’ll do these two,” Gabbi said, dropping the quartz into the larger loops of the filigree.
They waited for a moment, then opened the book. It didn’t shock them and Gabbi smiled. “What do you want to try first?”
“Nothing,” Emma said. “We’re just reading a few pages.”
Gabbi frowned. “Oh, come on. One little spell. Something harmless, just to see if it works.”
Emma raised an eyebrow. “What do you consider harmless?”
“I was thinking that lost love spell might be fun.” Gabbi slipped on the gloves they’d left on the counter by the book and carefully flipped the pages. “It was about halfway back I think.”
“You really believe this is a good idea?” Emma asked.
“Here it is,” Gabbi replied. “And yes, I think it’s an excellent idea. I would love to see Antonio waltz up to the house and ask me out to coffee.”
“The wine guy?” Emma asked, surprised. “That’s what this is about?”
“Well, why not?” Gabbi smiled. “I said I’d like to show him the wine cellar. I’ll bet his model girlfriend/fiancé doesn’t have one of those.”
“You said that was years ago,” Emma reminded her. “He’s probably married by now…or divorced. He sounded like a jerk.”
“Oh, he was,” Gabbi replied, “which is why this would be so much fun.”
Emma shook her head. “If we do this, you’ll wait until Moira finishes the research before trying anything else?”
“Absolutely.” Gabbi smiled. “There’s not much to this. Do you see any of these ingredients in those jars?”
Emma looked at the recipe, then walked over to the shelves of jars across from the fireplace. “There’s some old-looking lavender and some cinnamon sticks. I don’t know if you’re going to find any dill up here.”
“I have that downstairs,” Gabbi replied, “along with the other cooking herbs. Do you see any candles?”
Emma pulled open a few drawers under the long countertop. “Yes, is a taper okay?”
“I guess it will have to be,” Gabbi said. “You get this ready, while I go down and grab the rest.”
“Don’t take too long, or I may change my mind,” Emma said, picking up a bowl on one of the shelves.
Gabbi was back in almost no time with all the herbs they needed. She read the recipe out loud and Emma got the ingredients ready. “It says we add them all to the bowl, light the candle, say a few words, blow the candle out, and dump it all outside next to our door.”
“This is crazy,” Emma said. “I mean, I believe there are probably some very helpful herbal elixirs in this book, but no one is going to show up from your past because you dump some herbs by your backdoor.”
“We’ll see.” Gabbi put the herbs in the bowl, lit the candle, then they said the words. She waited to see if anything would happen, but it didn’t. She blew out the candle and looked at Emma. “Honestly, I expected more.”
“Does that mean we can go downstairs?” Emma asked. “I’ve had all the excitement I can take for one night.”
Gabbi made a face. “Fine. You’re probably right, but I’m still going to dump this outside.”
“Might be for the best,” Emma said. “This is not a fragrance I’d choose for potpourri.”
Gabbi nodded. “I agree.” They closed the book, put the necklaces away, and carried the bowl downstairs. Walking outside, Gabbi dumped it by the backdoor behind a shrub.
“Let’s hope the smell dissipates overnight,” Emma said.
“It’s not that bad,” Gabbi said, then wrinkled her nose. “Let’s wash out the bowl and finish our wine.”
Moira handed Jack another pillow as someone knocked on the door. When she opened it, the owner of the inn was standing there holding a tray.
“I thought you might like something to warm you up,” she said, walking in and setting two cups of tea on the table.
“Thank you,” Moira replied, smiling. “That was very thoughtful.”
“Oh, I almost forgot,” the woman said, walking to the door. “I’ll be right back.” In a moment she returned with a robe. “I thought you might like to sleep in something besides that lovely dress. We have these for emergencies.”
“This will be much better,” Moira agreed.
“Do you need anything else?” the woman asked, then turned to Jack. “I can get another blanket if you like.”
Jack shook his head. “This will be fine, thank you.”
Looking back at Moira, the woman added, “If you need anything, my husband and I are on the third floor.”
“It’s a lovely inn,” Moira said, pouring tea into the cups. “Have you had it a long time?”
“Actually, we purchased it a few years ago.” The woman smiled. “We’ve been making some improvements as we go, but I’m hoping to add a coffee shop downstairs.”
“Well, it’s charming,” Moira replied. “Thank you again for the tea…and the robe.”
The woman nodded. Remember, anything at all you just let me know.”
After she left, Moira whispered, “I think she was checking up on us.”
“I know she was,” Jack replied. “Probably wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking advantage of the situation.”
That was nice of her.” Moira smiled, then realized what Jack had said. “I know you’d never do that. Would you like some tea? Unless, you’d rather get some sleep.”
“I’m not really tired,” Jack admitted. “Are you?”
“No, I’m too wound up,” Moira replied. “I was just so relieved we could find a place to stay.”
“About the car…” Jack began.
Moira smiled. “I had a wonderful time at dinner. All of this,” she paused and looked around, “is just a charming and unexpected adventure.”
“You really think that, don’t you?” Jack asked. He smiled and took her hand. “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever dated.”
“I hope that’s a good thing,” Moira replied.
“It’s a very good thing,” Jack said, moving closer to her. He stopped, then smiled. “Will you walk downstairs with me? I’d like to kiss you but given our present circumstances…it seems inappropriate to do it here.”
Moira nodded. “You do have a point. All right, Mr. Stewart, I would be happy to accompany you downstairs.”
They carried their tea to the lobby and sat at a small table by the bookshelves. No one else was around and Moira smiled. “Where were we?” she asked.
“Right about here,” Jack replied, leaning forward and kissing her. “You look beautiful tonight,” he whispered, then kissed her again.
“Thank you.” Moira took his hand. “Jack, I know we haven’t been dating that long, but I…” She paused, then smiled. “I really like you. And there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about.”
She’d intended to tell him about the all the unexpected discoveries in the attic, but Jack asked, “You’re worried about my being a police detective?”
“No. I mean…I guess I am, but you’re very capable.” Moira squeezed his hand. “I’m sure you’d be able to handle yourself in any situation.”
“My father was a wonderful police detective,” Jack said, frowning slightly. “He seemed invincible. Until the night we got a call saying he’d been killed.”
“What happened?” Moira asked. “I know you mentioned it, but I haven’t wanted to pry.”
“Moira, you can ask me anything,” Jack said. “He…he was on his way home one night, when we had one of the worst storms the Island has ever seen. There was so much rain, then the electricity went out. Mudslides were a problem, trees were uprooted…of course, we didn’t know most of this until the next day. We just knew the power was out.”
Jack paused for a moment, then continued. “My dad was on his way home, when he saw a car had slid off the road into a ditch. He got out and helped a man and his two daughters out of the car, but the woman was trapped in the front seat. He went back and was trying to pull her out, when a tree fell and pulled the powerline down with it.”
Moira’s eyes grew huge. “Was he…” she stopped.
“He and the woman were both killed,” Jack replied. He shook his head. “It happened so fast, there was nothing anyone could have done.”
“I’m so sorry,” Moira said, realizing how inadequate that phrase sounded.
Jack looked into her eyes. “He knew the risks and he was doing what he believed in. Helping people was why he joined the department. It’s why I joined.”
Moira got up and walked around the small table. “Come with me,” she said. They walked outside and stood on the big front porch. “You are the most wonderful man I’ve ever met,” she said, putting a hand against his cheek. “I’m so glad you asked me to coffee that day.” She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
After a moment, he asked, “So, you’re okay with what I do for a living? Even after what I told you?”
“I’m more than okay with it,” Moira replied. “I’ll always be a little worried about you, but I’m also very proud.”
Jack leaned down and kissed her this time. After a very long moment, he stopped and smiled at her. “Do you have any plans for tomorrow night? I’d like to take you to dinner again. Maybe somewhere in Anacortes this time.”
“I’d like that,” Moira replied. He kissed her once more, then they walked back inside and up the stairs.
They stopped outside their room. “Why don’t you go in and change? I’ll wait out here until you’re finished.”
Moira nodded, then leaned up and gave him a quick kiss. “I’ll just be a minute.”
Jack waited a couple of minutes, then opened the door a few inches. “Safe to enter?” he asked.
“Yes,” Moira replied, pulling the covers up to her chin.
Jack didn’t look over but walked to the sofa and stretched out with his back to her.
“Good night,” Moira said. She turned off the lamp and noticed the moonlight coming through the transoms, kept the room from being completely dark.
Jack fought the urge to look over his shoulder. “Good night, Moira.”
The next morning, it took Moira a moment to remember where she was. She looked over at the sofa, but Jack wasn’t there. She got up and quickly dressed, then heard someone knock on the door.
“Would you like some coffee?” Jack asked. He slowly opened the door, then walked in and offered her a mug. “They have breakfast downstairs if you’re hungry.”
“Not really,” Moira said. “Are you?”
“Coffee was fine for me,” Jack replied. “I checked on the car and it seems to be running all right this morning.”
“That’s good.” Moira took a sip and smiled. “This coffee is wonderful.”
Gabbi was still asleep, when Emma knocked on her bedroom door. “Are you awake?”
“No,” Gabbi said.
“Very funny.” Emma opened the door. “I’ve got to meet the family for brunch.”
“Thanks for staying last night.” Gabbi opened one eye. “Do you want some coffee?”
Emma shook her head. “Already had some. I left you half a pot.”
Gabbi smiled. “You’re a true friend.”
“I know,” Emma replied, closing the door.
Gabbi was drinking more coffee and debating about making something to eat, when Moira walked into the kitchen. “Where’s Jack?” Gabbi asked.
“He dropped me off, then went home,” Moira replied.
“Did you have…fun on your date?” Gabbi smiled.
“I did,” Moira said.
Gabbi raised an eyebrow. “How much fun?”
“Not the kind you mean,” Moira said. “Listen, I have an idea and I want to know what you think.”
“All right,” Gabbi said, seeing Moira was serious.
“Have you considered making the mansion a B&B again?” Moira asked. “I know you’ve been thinking about a restaurant, but we could serve breakfast and maybe have an afternoon tea and coffee with desserts or something.”
“I like that you’re thinking about doing something creative,” Gabbi replied, “but a B&B is a lot of work. Especially, if it’s year-round.”
“What about just in the summer?” Moira asked, not wanting to give up on her idea so easily.
“I don’t know,” Gabbi admitted. “You must have really liked this inn.”
“It was charming,” Moira agreed. “Not as pretty as our mansion, but it was larger.”
“That’s another problem,” Gabbi said. “We’d need more rooms to make it profitable. And do we really want to live with guests in the house all the time.”
“I don’t know,” Moira admitted. “The owners were on the third floor, and I thought maybe we could do something like that.”
“We could.” Gabbi thought about it for a minute. “That would give us four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It would be better if each room had their own bath.”
“Good point,” Moira conceded.
“If we could rent out all the rooms at once, we’d be in a better position. What if we specialized in conferences or weekend retreats?” Gabbi batted her eyelashes. “Or weddings.”
“Very funny.” Moira rolled her eyes. “Just because Jack and I had to stay the night…”
“Actually, weddings might not be a bad idea,” Gabbi said. “Think about it. We could have the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and the reception, maybe a bridal brunch. And if we could use the gardens as well as the mansion, this might work!”
“We could use the pergola,” Moira pointed out. “And the roses would be perfect.”
“We could have our own wine!” Gabbi’s face lit up. “Cuz, this is a wonderful idea.”
“The wine would be a nice touch,” Moira admitted. “How many months does it take to make wine?”
“Ben and Matthew would know,” Gabbi said, getting up. “I’m going to call Matthew right now. I want to see how quickly we can renovate that barn.”
“Now?” Moira asked, giggling. “Do you mind if I change?”
“Sorry.” Gabbi smiled. “Go take a shower. Did you eat breakfast?” As Moira shook her head, Gabbi added, “I’ll make you something, then we’ll talk to the guys.”
Gabbi started pulling ingredients out for brunch, when she realized maybe the ‘wine guy’ she should be thinking about was not the one from the past…but the one who lived next door.