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MacInnes Mansion, October 1900
From the outside, the house seemed almost finished. The front porch and balconies needed a coat of white paint, but the brick work was done. The cedar fish-scale siding on the third floor would soon weather to a lovely shade of gray. All the stained-glass transoms were installed above the windows and French doors. Inside, the first two floors were almost ready for plaster. All that remained was the third floor and how best to use the space.
“Rory, I told you,” Agnes MacInnes said to her husband, “we do not need any servants living in the house.” She smiled up at him, her green eyes sparkling.
“Not even T’Eqwem?’ Rory asked, taking her hand. He loved the way her auburn hair caught the afternoon light from the window.
“That’s not fair,” Agnes replied, trying not to laugh. “You know I don’t think of her as a servant. She’s more like a member of our family.” T’Eqwem was the young, Native woman, who helped her with the children. She was also her best friend.
“Well, she still needs a place to live…and that means you owe me a dance.” Rory smiled as he took her hand and they waltzed slowly around the unfinished third floor. He was a big, strong man and a surprisingly good dancer.
“Alright, you win,” Agnes said, looking up at him, “but I do not think we need anyone else living up here.”
Rory spun her around once more, then gave her a quick kiss. “I believe we may need a few more people to help out with a house this large. It makes sense to use this space as the servants’ quarters.”
Agnes looked around. This was their seventh disagreement about the house this week and their fifth waltz. “We could make this an area for the servants,” she replied, “but where will the boys play if it rains? In the library?”
Rory realized she had him there. “Alright, we’ll frame in a few rooms and leave one area open for the playroom.” He shook his head. “Do I really have to do the polka?”
“You know I’m always happy to trade my dance for more garden space,” Agnes replied with a smile.
“Aye, you and your gardens.” Rory leaned down to give her another quick kiss, but this one ended up being much longer than he’d planned. “I could take the afternoon off,” he said, thinking how lovely she looked with her hair down.
“We’ve got the architect arriving in half an hour,” Agnes reminded him. As she looked into those dark blue eyes, she added, “Afterwards, I’m sure T’Eqwem would be happy to watch the children for an hour…or maybe two.”
Rory smiled. “Let’s go down and see if John has any questions for the architect. I think he has the carriage house foundation almost finished.”
“We could put the servants’ quarters above the carriage house,” Agnes suggested.
“We could…but then, where would we put all those garden supplies?” Rory asked.
“There aren’t that many,” Agnes replied, smiling, “but a garden does need a place to enjoy the view. Maybe we should add a gazebo.” She ran her hand up his arm. “They’re very romantic.”
“A gazebo,” Rory repeated. “Hmm…I think that would be a fine idea.” He took her hand and kissed it. “Maybe one large enough for a waltz?”
“I don’t see why not,” Agnes said. They were still holding hands as they walked down the stairs and out the front door.
MacInnes Mansion, Present day
Gabbi McCrae opened the door as George Bronson walked up the front steps. He was tall, Native American and very handsome. He was also the contractor, who had agreed to help Gabbi with her kitchen remodel. Being a chef, she had definite ideas about what she wanted in the space.
“Did you bring the cabinet?” Gabbi asked.
“Of course,” George replied, noticing her blue eyes turned almost lavender as she smiled. “It’s in the back of my truck. I just need some help unloading it.”
“I’ll go with you,” said one of the volunteers, who was helping to get the house ready for the Halloween party in two weeks. Gabbi and her cousin Moira Dunbar had agreed to host the party at the mansion to help raise money for the local animal shelter.
“Thank you,” Gabbi replied, following the two men out to the truck. “This is perfect,” she added a few minutes later, rubbing her hand along the top of the cabinet as they set it down in the kitchen.
“I thought you might want pull-out shelves,” George said, “so I added two in the main cabinet, but there’s room for one more.”
“No, this is just fine for my large mixing bowls,” Gabbi replied. Taking a step towards him, she smiled. “Thank you, George.”
“My pleasure,” he said, smiling back. Gabbi was tall, only a few inches shorter than himself, with long dark hair that fell in waves down her back. Realizing he was staring, George quickly looked at his watch. “I have a few hours before my next meeting. Do you want to go look at appliances?”
“That would be great. I really need to find a range, then we can put in this cabinet.” Gabbi grabbed a jacket off the hook on her way out. “Let me tell Moira I’m leaving.”
As they walked past the kitchen garden and into the carriage house, they found Moira sitting on the floor next to Lucky, the dog she’d found in the woods the weekend before.
“How’s he doing?” George asked.
“Much better,” Moira replied, smiling. “Matthew is supposed to be stopping by to check on him any minute.”
“Handy having a veterinarian as your neighbor,” George said.
“Well, we’re off to look at appliances,” Gabbi announced, trying her best to appear bored at the mention of Matthew Rogers. He lived a little too close for comfort in her opinion. Looking at Moira, she asked, “How much did you say I could spend on the range?”
Moira shook her head, trying not to laugh. “You know we have $50,000 for the entire remodel, so try not to spend it all today.”
George smiled. “I think we can find what you need and stay within the budget.”
“Great,” Gabbi replied. “We’ll be back pretty soon.” As she walked out the door, she added, “And cuz, it looks like a certain police detective is on his way to see you.”
“Moira jumped up and told Lucky to stay. She walked out to the drive as Detective Jack Stewart got out of his black sedan. “Hi, Jack.”
“Moira,” he replied, walking up to her, “you look beautiful today.” He was wearing his usual trench coat and fedora, which only added to his charm. The hat was low, almost covering the brown eyes that could look right through a person or hold their gaze.
Moira looked up into those eyes and smiled. “Thank you, but I’m pretty sure I have paint in my hair.”
“White paint,” Jack said, looking at her brown hair with hints of gold. “A little on your collar, too,” he added, running his finger along the top of her shoulder.
Moira blushed, then took his hand. “Why don’t we check on Lucky? You haven’t seen him since dinner the other night.”
“About that,” Jack said, “I know we made plans for tomorrow night, but I can’t make it.” He followed Moira into the carriage house and closed the door. “I’m going to have to work late. What about Saturday?”
Moira smiled. “I can wait one more day,” she said.
“Well, I can’t,” Jack replied, leaning down and kissing her. “I’ve been wanting to do that since I left Monday night.”
Moira wrapped her arms around him. “So have I,” she said, kissing him back.
He looked into those lovely green eyes. “We could do this all afternoon,” he replied, leaning down to kiss her once more.
After a few moments, Moira took a step back and smiled. “There’s someone else, who’d like to see you.”
Jack glanced over at the dog bed. “Where is Lucky?”
“Probably up in the apartment,” Moira replied. “He’s doing much better. Matthew said this will be the last day he’ll need to check on him.”
At the sound of his name, Lucky came trotting down the stairs. “There you are,” Jack said, leaning over to scratch the dog behind the ears. “What a good boy.” Turning to Moira, he added, “He looks great.”
“I know,” Moira agreed, her smile fading, “and that means it’s time for me to do something I’ve put off until now. I need to find out if anyone is looking for him.” She glanced down at the dog. “He’s so sweet. I can’t imagine anyone purposely dumping him in the woods.”
Jack put an arm around her. “I’m surprised no one has advertised if they’re looking for him.”
“That’s what Gabbi said,” Moira replied.
Gabbi walked around the range, raising one eyebrow as she checked the price. “Is this the only shop on the Island?” she asked George.
“There’s another one,” he replied, “but they usually don’t have as large a selection.”
“I guess I could go to Seattle,” Gabbi said, “but I’d like to get it installed before the party.” She looked around the room and shrugged. “Why don’t we try the other place?”
They walked back to his truck and ten minutes later they were at the next store. “What do you think?” George asked.
“There’s nothing here that says focal point,” Gabbi replied, glancing around the room. “I’ve been picturing something large, very efficient and preferably stainless steel.”
The saleswoman walked up as Gabbi stopped talking. “Did you say large?” she asked.
“Definitely,” Gabbi replied. “I’m a chef and I want something with at least six burners and two ovens.”
“Gas or electric?” the saleswoman asked.
“Both if you have it,” Gabbi replied. “I’d prefer a gas cooktop and electric ovens.”
“Then, I think I may have just the thing,” the woman said. “It’s been sitting in the back room for the past three days. I was planning to return it tomorrow.” She motioned for them to follow her.
Gabbi’s eyes grew huge as she saw the range. “That might work,” she said, trying to remain calm.
“We had a customer special order it from the catalog. When she found out it was far too large for her space, she brought it back.” The saleswoman paused and looked at Gabbi more closely. “Just how much room do you have?”
“Oh, I think we could rearrange a few things,” Gabbi said, glancing over at George, “depending on the price.”
“Well, this is an expensive range,” the woman replied, “but I could knock the price down a bit. We’d have to pay to return it.”
“And I’d guess the woman gave you a deposit before you agreed to order it,” George added.
“That’s true.” The woman looked from George to Gabbi. “Let me see what I can do.”
As the woman walked back to the front, Gabbi grabbed George’s arm. “It’s perfect!” she said.
“I know,” George replied. “Let’s see how low she’ll go. There’s probably a re-stocking fee, not to mention transportation costs. And I know this isn’t standard,” he added, pointing to the box next to it.
“Is that the hood?” Gabbi asked. “It must be six feet long.”
“It would have to be for a range this size,” George replied, then smiled. “She’s coming back.”
Gabbi took a deep breath and put on her best bored expression. “This is what I could do,” the woman said, handing Gabbi a piece of paper. It was almost one third of her budget.
“Does that include the hood?” Gabbi asked.
“No,” the woman replied, glancing over at George, “but if you want the range, I could add it.”
“What if I pay cash?” Gabbi said. “I’d want to pick it up tomorrow.
“Cashier’s check,” George said, smiling. “Much safer than carrying around that much cash.”
“You can pay it all up front?” the woman repeated, obviously surprised. “If you can pick it up tomorrow, I’ll give you the hood and knock another 5% off the price.
“Done,” Gabbi agreed, looking over at George.
He smiled and turned to the saleswoman. “Someone will be by tomorrow afternoon.”
Twenty minutes later, George dropped Gabbi off at the mansion. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said as they pulled up. “I’ve got to get going, but I’ll bring the range over around two.”
“Thank you, George.” Gabbi leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, then hopped out of the truck and waved as he drove off.
“Did you have a good time?” Moira asked, walking up with Emma. They were both smiling.
“I’m going to have to ask my brother,” Emma said, her eyes sparkling, “what he did to deserve a kiss on the cheek.” Emma was also a contractor and had spent the afternoon helping them get the mansion ready for the party.
“Only find me the perfect range on the first day we looked,” Gabbi replied. “He’s going to deliver it tomorrow.”
“The perfect range?” Moira asked, looking over at Emma. “And how much did this perfect range cost?”
Gabbi smiled. “So, how’s Jack?” she asked, hoping to change the subject.
“He’s fine,” replied Moira, “and I think you just answered my question.” She looked at Emma and shook her head. “Hopefully, we’ll have enough left for a new refrigerator.”
“Not to mention those granite countertops,” Emma reminded her.
When Gabbi said nothing, Moira added, “I think we may have just lost the island.”
“Alright, it wasn’t that bad,” Gabbi replied, trying not to smile. “Just wait until you see it.” Looking around, she added, “Where is everyone? I thought we were having daiquiris tonight.”
“We were,” Moira said, “but Callie had to leave early. She got a call from her mom and one of her little boys fell. He’ll be alright, but he has to have a few stitches.”
“So, instead of drinking daiquiris, she’s filling out insurance forms,” Gabbi said, quietly. “Not exactly the evening she had planned.”
“Well, I still have tomorrow morning off.” Emma looked over at Moira. “I’m guessing it might be nice to celebrate someone’s new range.”
Moira smiled. “I think that’s an excellent idea.”
“If we’re going to have daiquiris, I should probably make some snacks to go with them,” Gabbi said, walking towards the house. “Let’s have them on the back terrace.”
As Gabbi went into the house, Emma turned to Moira. “So, how did things go with Jack? Are you still going out tomorrow night?”
“No, we had to postpone until Saturday,” Moira said, “but he’s taking me to dinner in Seattle.”
“Sounds like a fancy dinner date,” Emma said.
“Not really,” Moira replied. “He has to drop off some paperwork and asked me if I’d like to go with him and get dinner on the way back.”
“What are you going to wear?” Emma asked, smiling.
“Hopefully, the dress Opal is altering for me,” Moira replied. “We’re supposed to pick it up tomorrow at her vintage clothing store.” As they walked into the house, Moira added, “I have to go upstairs for a few minutes, so make yourself at home.”
“Thanks,” Emma said. “I’ll see if I can help Gabbi in the kitchen.”
Moira knew she had to make that call about Lucky, but as she walked up the stairs she had an idea. Smiling, she went into her room and found the card Marissa Sinclair had given her. The realtor answered on the first ring.
“Hi, Marissa. What are you doing this evening?” Moira asked.
A few minutes later, Moira met Gabbi and Emma on the back terrace. The view of the islands was amazing anytime, but with the sun setting it was even more beautiful.
“This is the best!” Gabbi said, taking a sip of her strawberry daiquiri. “I never thought I’d have a view like this from my home.”
“I know,” Moira agreed, zipping her jacket. “It’s a little chilly but the view is wonderful. Just think how nice it’s going to be this summer.”
Gabbi turned to Emma. “I love it, when she says things like that.” Smiling at Moira, Gabbi added, “Do you really want to keep the mansion?”
“Yes, I do,” Moira replied. “It’s our heritage.” Looking at Emma, she added, “I don’t want to think what would happen if we weren’t planning to keep it.”
“Land developers,” Emma said, knowingly. “They’ve been circling the place for years, trying to get Maggie to sell.”
“Gran would never do that,” Gabbi said, taking another sip. “Not even for little Miss Pink Heels.”
“Be nice,” Moira said, hiding a smile. “You know it’s Marissa’s job. She’s a realtor.”
“About that,” Gabbi said, glancing over at Emma. “Are you sure, she’s the third one of ‘the three’ or could it possibly be someone else?”
“Her grandmother, Judith Thomson, along with Maggie and my grandmother were the last three,” Emma replied, seriously. “We will have to talk to Marissa eventually.”
As the doorbell rang, Moira jumped up. “That might be sooner than you think.” At Gabbi’s look, she added, “Drink some more of your daiquiri. I’ll be right back.”
“She didn’t,” Gabbi said, looking at Emma.
“Oh, I think she did,” Emma replied, smiling.
“And I thought this was going to be a nice evening,” Gabbi said, shaking her head.
Moira opened the front door and walked out on the porch. “Thank you for coming over,” she said, indicating Marissa should follow her down the steps. A pretty blonde about the same height as Moira, Marissa seemed to live in gray suits and pastel heels. “I have the dog in the carriage house,” Moira added.
“No problem, I was on my way home,” Marissa replied, following her around the house. “I’m just surprised you didn’t ask Callie.”
Callie was a veterinarian and the one, who had talked them into the Halloween party. She was also Jack’s sister. Moira thought for a moment, then said, “Actually, Matthew has been taking care of Lucky. I was hoping if I asked you, it would be less official than going through the animal shelter. If he has someone looking for him, then of course, we’ll return the dog. But if no one is…”
“Then, you’d like to keep him,” Marissa finished the sentence for her.
“Exactly.” Moira said, opening the door to the carriage house. “Matthew thinks Lucky is part husky and maybe part collie.”
Marissa followed her in and they found Lucky curled up on the sleeping bag, which had been made into a dog’s bed. “He’s beautiful,” Marissa said, leaning down to let him smell her hand, then scratching his head, softly. “What a nice boy.”
“He was half starved, when we found him,” Moira replied. “We’ve been taking care of him since Sunday.”
Marissa nodded. “You’ve done a wonderful job.” She looked up at Moira. “I checked with the shelter before I came over and no one has reported a dog that fits this description.” At Moira’s look, she smiled. “I call in a couple of times a week to see if any animals need homes or have been lost. I also help post flyers around town.”
Before she thought about what she was saying, Moira asked, “Why are you a realtor, when you enjoy working with animals?” Catching herself, she added, “Not that it’s any of my business….”
Marissa looked down for a moment. “I thought about being a veterinarian, when I was a kid.” She looked up. “My friend cut her hand in high school and I almost passed out.” She blushed for a moment. “Not a good trait for a vet.”
“Probably not,” Moira agreed, “but you’re obviously good with animals. Lucky seems to like you. He’s almost fallen asleep, while you’ve been petting him.”
“I do have the gift of getting them to relax,” Marissa admitted, “and they often do what I tell them.” She smiled. “It kind of freaks out some of the volunteers at the shelter, so I don’t do it much in front of people.”
“Really?” Moira said, thinking about their grandmothers. “Well, it won’t bother me, so talk to him as much as you like.”
Marissa smiled. “Thank you. If you like, I can check with Diane tomorrow to see if anyone has contacted her directly about a dog fitting Lucky’s description.”
Diane Knox was the woman, who ran the shelter. “I would appreciate that,” Moira said.
“You’re pretty attached to him,” Marissa said, looking at Lucky, “and I would guess the feeling is mutual.” She stood up, glancing at her watch. “I should get going.”
“If you’d like to stay, we’re having a girls’ night at the house,” Moira offered, smiling. “It’s the least I can do after asking you to drive all the way out here.”
Marissa thought about it for a moment, then smiled back. “I would like that. I don’t have any appointments until ten tomorrow morning.”
“We’re having strawberry daiquiris on the back terrace,” Moira said, leading Marissa out of the carriage house and past the kitchen garden.
As they walked up to the house, Marissa looked up. “This is such a beautiful home. I know you’re not selling it, but do you mind if I walk around and meet you in back? I’d love to take a closer look.”
“Of course,” Moira replied. “Let me get you a glass and I’ll see you on the terrace.”
Marissa nodded and started walking towards the front, while Moira stopped in the kitchen for a glass, then went outside to see Gabbi and Emma. “Marissa is going to join us for a daiquiri.” Moira said, “so be nice.”
Gabbi made a face, then said, “I’m always nice. Aren’t I, Emma?”
Emma tried not to laugh and almost choked on her daiquiri. “Sure, definitely a people person.”
Gabbi raised an eyebrow as Moira shook her head. “What?” Gabbi asked.
“Hi,” Moira said, looking past Gabbi as Marissa walked around the corner and joined them.
Marissa smiled as Moira poured a drink for her from the pitcher on the table. After glancing over at Gabbi and Emma, Marissa said, “Thank you for inviting me.”
“Sit down and enjoy the view,” Emma said. “The islands look amazing with the sun setting behind them.”
“It’s a great view,” agreed Gabbi, “but I wish we could sit out here without freezing.” She wrapped her coat more tightly around her.
“Drinking iced daiquiris probably isn’t helping,” Moira said, shaking her head. “Maybe we should make hot buttered rum next time.”
“Or we could build a fire pit,” Emma said, looking around the terrace. “There’s plenty of room for one.”
“A fire pit would be amazing!” Gabbi said, jumping up out of her chair. “Where do you think we should put it?”
“I’d say over here,” Emma replied. “It’s far enough from the pergola, but still not blocking your view from the turret.”
“Do you think we could have it finished for the party?” Gabbi asked.
“That would be wonderful,” Moira agreed.
Marissa didn’t say much, but sipped her drink and listened to the others talk about the party. Gabbi was excited about the food and her new range, while Emma focused on the repairs. Moira did her best to include Marissa in the conversation and when she poured another drink for her, Marissa smiled. “I want to thank you again for asking me to join you. I don’t have many friends.”
“That’s a surprise,” Gabbi said without thinking. Seeing Moira’s look, she added, “I mean, with you having grown up here.”
Emma shook her head. “It’s not that easy. So many of the people we grew up with have moved away.”
“That’s true,” Marissa agreed. “I’ve thought about leaving, but my home is here.” She smiled and took another sip of her drink. “My grandmother says I’m the best realtor she has.”
Moira glanced at Gabbi, then turned to Marissa. “It must be nice to have such a close relationship with your grandmother. Gabbi and I didn’t have the chance to spend much time with ours.”
Emma nodded slightly. “I really miss my grandmother. We were close, too.”
“Oh, Grandmother and I aren’t what I’d call close.” Marissa blushed. “I mean…”
“Relax,” Emma said, smiling. “As Callie says, what happens at the mansion, stays at the mansion.”
“That’s good to know,” Marissa replied. “My grandmother is, well, she’s a very strong person if you know what I mean. She pushes herself to be the best and she expects the same from the rest of us.”
“She sounds like a…” Gabbi began.
“Very interesting person,” Moira said, cutting Gabbi off. “You know, why don’t we give you a tour of the house? You’ve seen the downstairs, but it might be fun to show you the second and third floors.”
“Especially the library,” Emma said, glancing over at Gabbi. “That room has a great view, too.”
“Fine,” Gabbi muttered under her breath. A little louder, she asked, “Does anyone want a refill before we start the tour? I plan to take my drink with me.”
“That might not be a bad idea,” Moira said. They refilled their drinks and started up the stairs…
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