This is the SECOND book in the series. If you haven’t read the first book, you will find it here.
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MacInnes Mansion, October 1900
From the outside, the house seemed almost finished. The front porch and balconies still 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 and all the stained-glass transoms were installed above the windows and French doors. Inside, the walls on the first and second floors were almost ready for plaster. All that remained unfinished was the third floor and deciding 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 late 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.
“All right, 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 the 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 agreed, “but then, where will the boys play if it rains? In the library?”
Rory realized she had him there. “All right, 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 rest of the afternoon off,” he murmured, 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 where would we store all those garden supplies?” Rory asked.
“There aren’t that many,” Agnes replied, “but we do need a place to relax and enjoy a view of the garden. 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?”
Agnes smiled. “I don’t see why not.” They were still holding hands as they went downstairs 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 for the local animal shelter after their original location was flooded.
“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 fine for my larger 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 he was, 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,” Gabbi replied. “I really need to find a range, then we can put in this cabinet.” She grabbed her jacket off a hook on the 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. “Matthew is supposed to be stopping by to check on him any minute.”
“Handy, having a veterinarian as your neighbor,” George observed.
“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 said. “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 pulled low, almost covering the brown eyes that could look right through a person or hold their gaze. A useful trait for a police detective.
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. “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, but I’m not going to be able to 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.”
“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 and smiled. “We could do this all afternoon,” he replied, leaning down to kiss her once more.
After a few moments, Moira took a step back. “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 smiled. “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 leaned over to scratch the dog behind the ears. “What a good boy.” Turning to Moira, he said, “He looks great.”
“I know,” Moira agreed, her smile fading, “but 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 are 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. “This 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 this 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 suggested. “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.
“He helped me find the perfect range on the first day we looked,” Gabbi replied. “And he’s going to deliver it tomorrow.”
“The perfect range?” Moira asked, looking over at Emma. “And how much does 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 still have enough left for a new refrigerator.”
“Not to mention those granite countertops,” Emma reminded them.
When Gabbi said nothing, Moira added, “I think we may have just lost the island.”
“All right, it wasn’t that bad,” Gabbi replied, trying not to smile. “Just wait until you see it.”
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