Chapter 1

“WOW. LOOK AT this place.” Nathan squinted up at the faded grandeur of a house that appeared out of nowhere. “You don’t see it until you’re right in front of it. I wonder how old it is.”

Sara adjusted the baby on her hip and handed her a biscuit. Then she pulled a tissue from her bag, ready to wipe cookie drool from her daughter’s chin before it dripped down to stain the only clean shirt she’d brought on their outing.

It was a minute or two before her eyes took in what was before them. A house, but not like any other along the coast. It had elements of the Victorian-inspired residences that were popping up in trendy areas of the city they lived in. New builds that tried to fool people into thinking they were from another era but were never quite convincing enough.

The house did look old, authentically old, though she wouldn’t call it run down. Overgrown, maybe. Ivy crept along the lower deck. Blackberry tendrils, twisted and barbed and reaching out in every direction, blocked the only access she could see up from the beach. She wondered if it was abandoned.

Nathan climbed over the outcropping of rocks on which the foundation was built, then ambled around the corner of the deck to see if the pebbled beach they had been exploring continued around the bend. He returned, shaking his head. “We’ll have to go back the way we came. It’s too rocky along that side.”

“I wish we had a carrier for her.” Sara adjusted Kaylee again, hoping Nathan would receive the hint and take their daughter for a bit.

Her too-subtle gesture eluded him. He was crouched down examining an oyster shell.

“Look at the size of this.” He held it out for Sara and the baby to admire.

Kaylee reached for it, but Sara pulled her back.

“It’s dirty, honey.”

Nathan swished it in the water, his eyes following the tide as it rolled gently toward him and then was sucked back out to join the next swell. He rubbed the pearly inside with his thumb so that it became luminous in the sun. Sara’s opinion about taking shells or picking flowers was clear: If everybody did it, there’d be none left for anyone to enjoy. But he didn’t see the harm in it, so he tried a different approach.

“Somebody’s gonna snag this one for sure. Either that or it’ll get washed back out to sea and then get smashed coming in again. It won’t hurt anything if we take it, and besides, it can be a keepsake for Kaylee. Who knows how old she’ll be before we get a chance to come back here again.”

It was probably true, Sara conceded. It was their first holiday since Kaylee had been born. First real holiday ever. They’d both been working hard at jobs that barely paid the bills. And this trip had only come about because of the charity of Sara’s great aunt. She had a vacation home on Vancouver Island and let select family and friends use it when she wasn’t there. But she had so many rules to abide by. Sara was on edge most of the time for fear they’d spill or stain or damage something. If they were invited to use it again, Kaylee would be walking, and Sara shuddered to think of the carnage a toddler could leave in her wake.

No. Her aunt’s pristine condo, full of trinkets collected from her travels, was not the place for a mobile, inquisitive child.

Sara settled herself on a large rock. She was tired, both from their long walk and from the weight of the baby in her arms. As her eyes were drawn again to the lofty house, a light came on—just for a second, illuminating something in her brain—but it vanished so quickly that she couldn’t make out what it was trying to show her. It had been happening more often lately, and she longed to know what it meant.

The impressive dwelling, built into the gently sloping, rocky hillside, had appeared luminous at first glance, but on closer inspection, it was beginning to discolor in places from age and peeling paint. One of the windowpanes in the turret had a crack in the bottom corner; a piece of tape, applied from the inside, was lifting. And the roof had some damaged shingles.

Despite signs of disrepair, the house gave off a stoic vibe as though it had life left in it, as though it was waiting patiently for someone to bring it back to its former glory.

“It looks a bit like a castle.” Nathan echoed her thoughts. “Kind of a grand old dame. I wonder who owns her.”

“Wouldn’t it be fun to buy a place like this and fix it up?” Words unrehearsed in her conscious mind slipped from her mouth unbidden, and Sara tensed in anticipation of her partner’s response.

Nathan hesitated briefly, then planted a glare. She averted her eyes, wishing she could learn to keep her thoughts to herself.

“I mean, if we won the lottery or something,” she laughed weakly, hoping to dispel the lecture she suspected was coming.

“I hate to break it to you, but that would be a waste of a perfectly good windfall.”

“Why do you say that?” Suddenly she wanted to defend herself. Surely not all that came out of her mouth was utter foolishness.

“Houses like this are nothing but a money pit. So much would need to be upgraded or replaced. Anybody buys this—they’re gonna have to sink so much into it; they’d never get it back.”

I’d put money into it. This time the thought stayed inside Sara’s head where it was safe.

She didn’t argue. Nathan had just enough knowledge of just enough subjects to sound like an expert. Whether he was right or not, he was always quick to straighten her out when, in his opinion, her naivety was showing.  

They turned back the way they’d come and were stopped by what they saw.

“Shit. I think we’re gonna get our feet wet.”

The tide had been coming in, and the stretch between them and the stairs leading up to their car was uncomfortably thin.

“If we hurry, it might not be too bad.” Nathan took the baby from Sara.

As she followed, trying to keep up to his quickened pace, she couldn’t help but glance back at the distinctive house. As she did, a weathered sign in the trees caught her attention. The inscription ‘Path of Least Resistance’ sprang from a piece of driftwood that hung askew from the branch of a huge Arbutus tree.

“Wait,” Sara called ahead. “There’s a path here. It’s narrow and partly overgrown, but I think it leads up to the property. Maybe out to the main road.”

For once, Nathan didn’t argue or pull rank. They made it past a particularly aggressive blackberry bramble, though not without scratches, and the rest of the path was unrestricted. An easy walk up a gentle slope to a paved driveway. The pavement was rough with roots below the surface—a little, Sara noted, like the veins on the back of her great aunt’s hands.

They both stood transfixed, not sure which way to turn. A driveway led away from the house where it would undoubtedly connect to a road, but neither of them moved toward it.

“It doesn’t look like anybody’s around. You wanna check it out?”

Sara, usually a stickler for following rules, was elated by Nathan’s suggestion. She wanted to explore the premises as much or more than he did.

A wide flagstone staircase led up to an inviting front entry. Four marble pillars supported the balcony above, creating a portico roomy enough for an ornate bistro table and chairs. A statue of a cherub pouring from a bucket stood off to the right. The door and sidelights contained thick leaded glass and were flanked by sizable flower pots that held the arid remains of what had surely been vibrant and lovely.

To the left of the elevated entryway was another set of stairs, this one going down. They checked it out first, Nathan leading the way. A heavy wooden door with a stained glass window had the words ‘Wine Cellar’ on a sign above it.

Beyond that, more stairs led down to a small deck facing the ocean. It overlooked the stretch of beach they had been standing on just moments ago.

From that vantage point, Sara was one with the house. Whereas on the beach she’d been merely an observer, now, standing on the deck, she could look the way the house looked, see what the house saw.

Whoosh. A stirring from within.

Nathan had gone back up the stairs, Kaylee still with him, and Sara was content to stare out at the water, the Gulf Islands, the mainland beyond.

It seemed endless, filled with possibility, ripe with promises for anyone brave enough to seize what they knew to be their destiny.

Where is this coming from? She pleaded with the strange knowing. And what am I to do with it?

The ocean breeze didn’t hold any direct answers, but it soothed her just the same. The rhythm of the waves, the caress of the afternoon sun on her shoulder, were enough to take her, if even for a short time, to a new, a serene place inside. A place Sara hadn’t known about. She didn’t know she’d been looking for it, yet she’d found it there.

“Hey, check this out.”

Nathan’s voice was jarring to her ears. She reluctantly pulled herself away from the intoxicating reverie.

She found him on the other side of the house in a shady courtyard. Chairs and tables, once white, were mottled with rust and algae. Ivy crawled along the railings. Several determined saplings had sprung up through the concrete. Though it needed attention, she could see that it had once been a gathering place, big enough for a party or—

A wedding.

Such a thought, in the not-so-distant past, would have filled Sara with longing. It had saddened, even embarrassed her that she wasn’t Mrs. Anybody. So many people—family and friends alike—had asked, hinted, assumed when she was pregnant with Kaylee, that she and Nathan would marry.

She had too.

He’d promised at first—not proposed, exactly, but had spoken it with enough assurance that she felt engaged in her mind. After Kaylee was born, he began to evade the issue whenever she’d bring it up. He’d relented one time and said they should just go down to the courthouse and get it done with, but that wasn’t what Sara wanted.

A ceremony would have to wait. She wanted a proper wedding, not just some official reading lines from a book and pronouncing them legally married.

Money was always the culprit. No money for a ring. No money for a honeymoon. No money. Period.

Now she’d made peace with it. Sort of.

They continued exploring. A double-car garage was attached to the main building by an attractive arbor, white lattice beneath a green robe of indomitable ivy. It too was being quietly devoured by algae.

There appeared to be a suite above the garage, and Nathan was about to climb the stairs when a small plane flew low overhead. The sound of humanity was enough to remind them both that they were snooping where they had no right to be.

The driveway took them around a steep bend, made narrow by the ravenous vegetation that lined it. At the end of the pavement, a gravel road continued, but a set of gates kept them from taking it. There was no way to squeeze through; the spaces between the decorative swirls were too small for an adult to fit.

Going around the stone pillars that flanked the black iron meant fighting blackberry bushes in a precipitous ditch, and given the scratches they were already nursing, Sara didn’t want to attempt it.

“What should we do?” She looked back the way they had come. The tide would have completely blocked that route already.

“I’m gonna try climbing over.” Nathan handed the baby to Sara.

The task was manageable with convenient footholds, but heaving himself over the top meant carefully avoiding the dull but no-less-hazardous spearheads that adorned the top of the gates. Once over, he jumped safely to the ground.

“Pass Kaylee through to me,” he instructed. “She’ll fit easy enough.”

An abbreviated pause, yet enough for the child to sense her mother’s apprehension. She buried her face into Sara’s shoulder.

“It’s all right, honey,” Sara hushed. “Daddy’s going to take you.”

Attempts to pass the reluctant little one between the metal vines made her squirm, and her head bumped the cold iron. She began to cry, and Sara pulled her daughter back.

Nathan frowned. “I know she doesn’t like it, but we’re just going to have to do it.”

Sara tried again, but the crying turned to screams, and she had to hold the baby close and rock her before Kaylee began to calm down.

“Why don’t you go and find the car?” she suggested. “I’ll try to get her to sleep.”

He headed up the gravel lane, which they both hoped led to the road they’d been on earlier. From there, he’d know where to find the car.

Sara scanned her surroundings for a rock or stump to sit on. Finding nothing suitable, she went back down the driveway. Just seeing the house again brought a measure of comfort.

She tested out a wooden bench to see if it was sound, then sat and slipped the baby into the hoodie she had tied around her waist. She wrapped the loose sleeves once around the child, tied them in front, and pulled the drawstrings on the hood leaving only the baby’s eyes and nose exposed. Sara laughed at the funny-looking bundle and drew a soft smile followed by a yawn.

“That’s right, little one,” Sara cooed. “Time to sleep.”

Kaylee had been three weeks premature, so at six months she was still petite. Sara cradled her daughter in her arms and began humming as she rocked back and forth, her eyes fixed on the distant horizon.

The tranquility ministered to them both, bringing rest and ease. Sara’s thoughts soon began to drift.

She could imagine herself returning one day. Not owning the place—Nathan had stomped all over that lovely fantasy. Instead, she pictured someone else buying it and turning the old manor into a chic inn or a trendy bed and breakfast.

Castle. Cove. Inn. The three words lined up in her mind with military precision. That’s what they’d call it. It would be featured in travel magazines, and people from all over the world would find their way to it. She saw herself entering a raffle or a radio contest and discovering she’d won a week-long stay.

A glance up at the house revealed someone in one of the upper windows. Sara jolted, nearly waking Kaylee, and would have promptly left had they not smiled warmly. She lifted her hand in an apprehensive wave, hoping the young woman would forgive her for trespassing, but the face disappeared.

Sara knew that she should leave, yet the place, the pretty visage in the window—they were drawing her. So much so that she had to rein in the urge to knock on the front door, introduce herself, and explain her un-authorized presence.

Tires crunching on gravel.

The sound not only meant that Nathan had returned, it effectively broke the spell Sara was under. It was time to go, yet Sara resisted. Her gaze lingered on the house, then swept across the property to the vista beyond.

When she heard the car door shut, she breathed a heartfelt goodbye to the enchanting place and rushed out to the road.

~ ~ ~

This beloved house is much older than most people believe it to be.

Records claim that it came into being in recent decades,

but there are a few who know better.

Some things defy the bounds of time and can be

perceived only by those who have eyes to see.

This majestic structure is one of those treasures.

Those who have truly seen it, they know.

Fishing boats at the dawn of the last century claimed

to use the imposing manor as a landmark.

Natives across the water call her a ghost, rising up on a full moon,

revealing her beauty to those who are worthy.

In a small gallery, hangs an old painting of a

white castle perched on the rocks in a pristine inlet.

Though the artist is renowned, there is some debate

about the picture itself. It is said to be

a product of his imagination.

But I know what he saw.

Chapter 2

“EVANGELINE!” DOROTHEA’S VOICE sliced through the shared wall of their bedrooms. “Where is my hair clip?”

“Sister, dear,” Lillian replied, “you lose more of your personal belongings than some people ever own.”

Dorothea turned in her sister’s direction, but her gaze seemed to pass right through. Snubbed again, Lillian noted. She was getting used to it, but it still pierced her heart sometimes.

Evangeline appeared in the doorway, holding up a hair clip, though apparently not the missing one because Dorothea continued her rant.

Lillian rerouted her eyes to the always-agreeable view from the upstairs window. She smiled, then turned and left the bedroom to her siblings as they readied themselves for the evening’s party. Another to which she’d been invited. Another she’d politely declined.

A sigh escaped as she hurried out of earshot of their incessant chatter. One spoiled sister was taxing, but two were more than she could take most days.

Lillian quietly opened the door to the attic and hurried up the narrow staircase to the forgotten space that had become her sanctuary, her own personal retreat.

She’d spent many a happy hour at the top of their seaside home, in her grandmother’s favorite room. Nan’s furniture still filled the open space. A velvet settee, a cherished patchwork quilt, a writing desk that had been Nan’s mother’s. And Lillian’s favorite spot, a rocking chair in front of the window, positioned perfectly to take in the pristine islands.

As a young child, Lillian had been enthralled by the old woman’s stories, her kind nature, and the hard candies she always produced from her apron pocket.

Nan, as Lillian lovingly called her, had known things, had spoken of things that most adults either didn’t know or didn’t care to articulate. She’d understood emotions and how they were meant to guide a person, talked about an energy that pervaded everything, and the potential that all possessed but few were aware of.

She’d spoken of extraordinary things too, like illusions and veils and different worlds. Lillian asked her father about it once, and he shook his head sadly. Told her to pay no attention. Said her grandmother’s mind was starting to go.

But Lillian couldn’t disregard the things that Nan had expressed. After she passed away peacefully one summer evening and they laid her body to rest in the family cemetery, Lillian spent her days sitting in her grandmother’s chair, ruminating on all she’d learned from the woman.

It was some time before she got the idea to write them down. At first, she was hesitant because of her father’s admonition, but as days passed and the idea poked at her, she knew she had to follow her instincts. It was what her grandmother would have wanted.

On the clean pages of a bound journal she bought in town, she was diligent in penning the precise words Nan had used. Over time, however, she found herself writing not what she’d heard, exactly—though she couldn’t be sure—but what she thought the wise woman had said or even meant.

As the years passed, her journals and her grandmother’s spirit became dearer than her own family, and she began to write whatever musings came to mind as she sat gazing out to sea.

“MAN, I’M GLAD we’re home.” Nathan collapsed on the couch after the third and final trip in from the car. “Traveling with a baby is more work than it’s worth.”

While Sara couldn’t disagree entirely, it was his use of the word home that crackled like a mosquito zapper in her head. She’d noticed it as soon as they opened the door to their rented duplex. It smelled differently than she had remembered—not bad, necessarily—but like it belonged to someone else. And it had a strange energy, whatever that meant.

It was an hour or more—while Nathan flipped through channels on the TV and made some phone calls, while Sara unpacked and got Kaylee ready for bed—before the feeling began to subside.

At eight-thirty, Nathan announced he had to go out for a bit. She was becoming used to his erratic schedule, his impulsive ways, though she didn’t like how evasive he often was about it. When she asked, his meager reply referenced his friend Tony and a car he was fixing up.

With Nathan gone and Kaylee asleep, Sara let herself get pleasantly ensnarled in thoughts about their holiday, their adventure at the mysterious house—which to her had been the trip’s highlight, and the sense of home that was still lacking.

Oddly, the impressions formed on the island, particularly at that charming property, were more akin to what she believed a home should feel like. Though Sara had never been to that part of the country before, never even been near an ocean, it was like returning to something familiar.

Moreover, as they’d sat on the top deck of the ferry, earlier that day, watching Vancouver Island get smaller and blend into the surrounding islands, she’d experienced an intense longing. For one brief second, as they passed a ferry heading the opposite way, she’d wanted to call out to it, stop the boat she was on, and allow the other to take her back. Allow her to stay in the place her heart was calling her to.

GRAHAM SAW THE e-mail but ignored it while he deliberately opened every other piece of mail in his inbox. Finally, having dealt with the urgent ones, responded to the important ones, and delegated the rest to the trash, he opened up the correspondence, knowing full well what it was about.

The letter was the most recent in a string of e-mails that had passed between him and a fellow named Hertson in the past three months. It had been a trying time for Graham, and the man’s intrusion into his life was making it more difficult.

The topic of discussion was a woman named Claire and, more pointedly, a piece of property she’d owned on Vancouver Island in Canada.

The property boasted a substantial castle-esque home that she had run as an inn. There were three good-sized, self-contained units, all overlooking one of the most picturesque inlets, all with views of the ocean, the coastal mountains, the Gulf Islands, not to mention the wide variety of wildlife that lived there. Otters, herons, eagles, deer, and seals were just a few of the species that called that cove their home. In the summer, Orca whales were known to come to the calm, cool waters of the bay, and guests had been thrilled to spy them playing from one of the sunny decks. Her place was, for many years, a popular holiday destination.

Graham knew this because, although he and his father’s second wife had severed ties after his father passed away, curiosity kept him from banishing Claire Pierce from his thoughts altogether.

He’d come across her name on the Internet, saw that it was associated with a place called Castle Cove Inn. The rest of the details had been readily available on the inn’s website.

What he didn’t learn in a timely manner was that she had passed away. It was several months before he was contacted at his office, peppered with questions about himself, his father, and eventually, Claire—who, they informed him, had a dated will leaving everything to her husband. As the only living heir, Graham thereby inherited all that she owned.

What that meant, in part, was that he was obliged to pay off her debt. The house had not been operating as an inn for some time due to changes in zoning. Before Claire could even apply for rezoning, she had been required to make extensive upgrades. Evidently, it proved too costly. The result was that her suites sat empty, unable to be rented.

Apart from the necessary changes, the place needed work. Graham had hired a local man to do an inspection. Though maintenance had been done over the years, cosmetic upgrades had not been carried out. The house and suites all needed a thorough and undeniably costly renovation.

As for money, Graham had done well for himself. He’d had the foresight to invest in an industry that aging baby boomers were driving to never-before-imagined heights. A chain of home health care supply stores took little of his time and attention, thanks to a competent manager hired during the formative years of his business.

Graham was an accountant, and though he’d retired from the firm he’d been with for over two decades, he maintained a handful of clients that he worked with on the side. This gave him the time and money to enjoy life. And he was. A new relationship held promise. Recent travel had whetted his appetite for more.

The unexpected news of Claire’s passing, however, had hit him harder than he could have anticipated. Latent guilt for the breakdown in communication that had led to their estrangement, though it was long past, still gnawed at him.

He’d been busy building his empire, as he saw it, had neglected to visit his father for over a year—until he learned that he was dying. Claire had been quick to blame Graham for his father’s heartache that, in her opinion, had brought about his rapid decline. Graham had retaliated with barbs fired thoughtlessly from a place of guilt and pain. They’d never mended that rift.

His phone rang, and Graham whisked aside the tedious thoughts as well as the burdensome obligation of replying to George Hertson. He was relieved and happy to see Charlotte’s name on the screen. The lovely woman in his life was exactly the distraction he needed.

~ ~ ~

It takes passion and dedication to sustain a place and allow

it to become all that it can be. Claire had that.

I was drawn to Claire. She was a woman of vision, with a deep love

for the earth and for all the creatures that inhabited it.

She had a softness that most people saw or at least felt.

But she wasn’t one to be walked over.

It took determination to recreate this home in

the image of what it once was—an image that seemed to originate in

Claire’s mind but actually existed long before that.

She found the property easily. Claimed it had been calling her.

Said it knew she was the one that would tend to it, love it, create a

place that not only preserved and respected the land

but reached out to others.

She found me too, which was inevitable.

I was the one that had been calling her.

Chapter 3

IT HAD BECOME a recurring dream: The big white house on the island, calling her.

Sara knew that she was letting her thoughts about it ravel out of control. It was verging on obsession. She told herself it wasn’t hurting anyone, yet the grip it had on her was unreasonable; it was a year and a half since their trip.

Kaylee was two now. She was talking, inquisitive, and funny. Sara had eagerly begun telling her daughter bedtime stories about their holiday, the places they’d seen. As the months passed, she began embroidering the tales with niceties both remembered and made up, until the whole experience was cast in an artificial glow. Kaylee was always willing to listen, had learned to repeat the words Sara used to describe the memories she treasured.

Unfortunately, no one else could relate to the life-altering event it had been for Sara. She’d seen things, embraced things that kept her from going back to normal, whatever that was. It was a cruel kind of torture. It had lit a fire in her that time couldn’t seem to extinguish. She didn’t want to extinguish it, because while it taunted, it also nourished her.

The scenes that often returned to commandeer her sleep state were in no way ordinary. Rather than becoming shadowy with time or banal with repetition, the opposite was happening. Original details remained sharp, while fresh ones were added. The face in the upstairs window was not only increasingly clear, but it was also becoming more animated as if the young woman was trying to communicate with her.

The nighttime show mimicked the actual experience, but it had taken on a life of its own. Between the augmented bedtime tales and the ever-evolving dreams, Sara couldn’t say for sure anymore what had taken place on the island that day or why it continued to haunt her in such a lovely, confusing way.

And on those rare occasions when she could daydream purely—not pine for change or trip over the fact that her fantasy would never be a reality—she was swept into an invigorating whirlwind. Every time she added to her seductive dream or remembered a tiny detail of their trip, she likened it to a painting that, had she been artistic, she might actually create. It may never be a great work of art, never be bought and sold by collectors, but she consoled herself with the knowledge that when it was done, she could hang it proudly in the gallery of her mind and visit it often.

LILLIAN WAS UNABLE to please any of them. Her mother was exasperated with her; the pointed looks were enough to convey her sentiment. Her sisters ignored her. Her father was loving, talked to her more than the rest, but even he was becoming more distant.

Had they simply left her alone, she would have been happier. She was twenty-one and content with her life. She didn’t want to be like them. But her father’s solicitous plea for her to return to them, to be a part of their family again, made her give in somewhat. She knew that he didn’t like to see her up in that attic room alone for hours at a time, yet she was powerless against the magnetism of the space.

Something in his manner compelled her. While she thought she knew about life—because of her sisters’ endless bragging about what they’d done, whom they had met, and such—she was quite naive about the world in general. The expansive world that went beyond the facts and pictures in her collection of books made her more than a little curious.

Her compromise, while she knew it irked her sisters and caused her mother to shed dramatic tears, was to spend more time volunteering at the soup kitchen in town. She’d been given so much; it was only right that she give back.

However, when she peered into the eyes of people who’d lost everything they’d spent a lifetime accumulating, soldiers who’d left a vital part of themselves in distant countries, children who had never learned to dream of more than a full stomach—she was profoundly affected. While some might be brought down by the bleakness, the poverty in such a place, Lillian regarded the opportunity to help as life-giving. She not only had time to give, but she also had love and patience. And she had wisdom.

She saw that what her grandmother had given her wasn’t meant for her alone. It was a gift she could offer others. She hadn’t experienced the pain or suffering or loss that these people had, but the teachings she held dear were fundamental truths that others needed, wanted, were deeply hungry for.

ROAMING THE SHOPPING mall with Adrianna was a regular outing. They met at least twice a week, both pushing secondhand strollers, both gazing into storefront displays, both stifling their desires for new and pretty things.

Adrianna could relate to Sara’s situation. She was a single mother, so she knew about hard work and sacrifice. What she didn’t know and what she probably couldn’t relate to was the complexity, the magnitude, of Sara’s yearnings that went beyond the material. Yet Sara longed to tell someone.

“Did you hear Wanda and Jarrett are going to Mexico?” Adrianna shook her head, her long, straight hair sweeping her cheek before falling back into place. “Man, I could sure use a holiday.”

“Me too,” Sara agreed, her mind fleeing instantly to Vancouver Island.

“Maybe your aunt would let you use her place again.”

Sara shrugged. Her aunt hadn’t offered, and she didn’t have the courage to ask.

“I mean, it’s usually the accommodation that’s the deal breaker,” Adrianna went on. “Get in the car and drive for a day, grab a burger or two on the road. That’s not unrealistic.”

It wasn’t. Not even on their meager incomes, yet Sara couldn’t see it happening anytime soon. Nevertheless, she liked the direction of the conversation and wanted to keep it going. “That’s true. I’d love to go back. We had such a good time.”

Adrianna shot her a sidelong glance. The elation in Sara’s voice sprang from something other than a well-deserved getaway that was more than two years past.

She knew about the growing tension between Sara and Nathan. Deemed their relationship to be rocky at best. She wouldn’t hesitate to advise her friend to leave him if it came to that. But it wasn’t the time. Nathan, at least for now, was bringing home a paycheck, supporting his family. Adrianna sighed. That hadn’t been the case with her ex.

“What was it,” she prompted, “about the trip? I mean, was it good for your relationship or just a change, a break from the ordinary?”

Sara had the opening she’d been seeking, a perfect segue into the heart-to-heart she wanted to have with her best friend. Still, she waffled.

“It was . . . I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. It had nothing to do with Nathan, though.” She concealed a bitter laugh at the thought of her significant other being the reason for her secret dreams. “Trust me.”

“Tell me, then,” Adrianna demanded. “I didn’t say anything at the time, but you seemed different, somehow, when you got back. What happened on that trip?”

“I told you. We couldn’t afford to do much, so we spent our time hiking, exploring the beaches.”

“And you came across that neat old house; I know. But there’s more to it,” Adrianna probed. “What is it?”

Sara siphoned a breath. It was time.

She’d asked, and the Universe had handed her the opportunity to speak aloud with someone about the unyielding thoughts, the dizzying notions that threatened to take over if she would allow it. She had to trust that talking about it with Adrianna wouldn’t diminish the magic present whenever she let herself dip into it even slightly.

Both their daughters were asleep, so Sara and her friend purchased cold drinks at the mall’s food court and found a relatively quiet spot to sit

“I . . . felt stuff when we were on the island.” Sara was more self-conscious now that they were sitting opposite each other. She searched for a glimmer of understanding. “Stuff I’ve never felt before.”

Adrianna’s eyes scanned hers, silently inquiring.

“It was like I’d been there before. The island, the ocean in general . . . but specific places too.”

“Like the old house.”

Sara nodded.

“So you experienced déjà vu?”

“I guess.”

To hear her magical moments summed up with such a worn-out term was disheartening. Sara inspected her left hand, spent a few seconds removing imaginary dirt from under one nail.

“What else?”

She quietly asked for words to match the snapshots in her mind, the silent messages in her heart.

“It was more than that,” she began unsteadily. “It was like . . . I was from there and was . . . I don’t know . . . being welcomed back or something. Like I knew things about the island and about the house that I couldn’t possibly know. I was at home there—really at home. And since then, I’ve dreamed about it. All I can think about is going back someday. It’s kind of frustrating,” she laughed, finding a dusting of relief.

Adrianna was not merely listening. Her steady gaze and forward bearing proved she was fully immersed. Questions, comments were forming. Sara could see them, so she waited, sipped her soda.

“SO WHAT ARE you going to do about it?” Charlotte lifted her eyes.

It was a million-dollar question. Literally. Graham had been twisting the options over in his head for weeks. He’d become the owner of a valuable piece of property on Vancouver Island. The assessment he’d had done surprised him. Although the place needed work, it also had potential.

He had paid off the debt owing. Now he wrestled with the decision to keep it or sell it. It wasn’t as easy as he’d thought it would be, and Dr. George Hertson was the reason.

“I don’t know.”

Charlotte caressed his hand. “You’ll figure it out.”

The response, from someone else, might have been patronizing. He looked deep into Charlotte’s eyes, saw flecks of amber, bathed in azure, set in a ring of deep kettle blue. He also saw sincerity, a belief in his ability to sort through the issue and come up with the best possible answer. Her faith in him was refreshing.

He let the issue rest, turned his attention to the woman who was becoming by the day, if not by the hour, more alluring to him. They’d finished their meal, and Graham had an idea or two about how to spend the rest of the evening. One simply being an invitation to return to his place for drinks.

Yet her hand warm in his, her body falling into a leisurely pace next to him as they walked along the street—these were satisfying at another level. The ease he felt with her, the desire to just be near her, needing nothing more—this was new for him. She filled a void in him he hadn’t known about, and the result stirred his heart as much as his loins.

“I think I need to go and see it before I—”

The fragment was out of context with what they’d been discussing before a comfortable silence had settled between them. Yet Charlotte glanced up at the smooth line of his chin in the perpetual luminance of urban nightfall and knew precisely what he was referring to.

“Of course.”

“Would you like to come with me?”

The invitation couldn’t have been less thought through. It was inappropriate given their relationship was still in its infancy. Moreover, it was ripe with innuendos barely concealed beneath the surface.

Graham took both Charlotte’s hands, turned to her, and asked again—this time without words. When he read the answer in her smile, he kissed her deeply.

THE TWO FRIENDS talked openly at a level they’d never before attained. Adrianna admitted her growing interest in the spiritual, the metaphysical. She was more than encouraging. She opened a door that Sara waltzed through with eagerness.

“How do you feel about psychics?” Adrianna asked, still somewhat conscious of crossing invisible boundaries her friend might have.

“I don’t know much about them. Other than what I’ve seen on TV. It’s a fascinating topic, though.”

“I know. I’d love to develop that ability. Supposedly anyone can.”

Sara’s eyebrows dipped. “I thought people were just born with it or they weren’t.”

“Some are born with the propensity. But that doesn’t mean others can’t learn it too.”

Sara cringed at the unfamiliar word. She didn’t want to show her ignorance, so she didn’t ask. She’d struggled in school, had grown up believing that others were smarter than her, better than her. Her distracted thoughts caused a lull in the conversation.

Adrianna’s eyes flickered across Sara’s face. She was a tough one to figure out sometimes. She kept so much to herself. What they had discussed was far beyond anything they’d touched on before, but Sara was still holding back. Adrianna returned to the subject, tiptoeing carefully.

“Would you ever go to one?”

Sara shrugged. “Maybe.”

The idea more than casually interested her. It appealed to something deep within that had been revealing itself as of late. Yet she was unsure where her friend was going with it.

“My sister’s friend is training to be a psychic. She’s picking it up quickly. And from what Patty says, she’s good. I’m thinking of going for a reading. Why don’t you come too? Maybe she could help you figure out why your trip was such a ‘trip’.” Adrianna provided quotation marks in the air, smiled at her own wit, waited to see if her invitation would be accepted or rejected.

“I don’t know,” Sara balked. “What does she charge? I mean . . . Nathan would flip if I spent money on something like that.”

“Oh, there’s no money required. She’s not at that level yet. She just likes to practice on people. It’s part of the training. So . . . yes? You’ll come with me?”

Sara’s mouth inched up on one side, and she nodded her response. Then reinforced it with a definitive yes. She could hardly squelch the excitement that began to pop like hot kernels within her, though for some reason,

she still needed to try.

She finished her drink, opened the lid, and tipped the cup. Watched as a nugget of ice slid slowly toward her mouth. Crunched down with a budding sense of come-what-may.

~ ~ ~

This young one holds so much promise.

She heard me clearly as a child, less as a youth,

and for a few years, not at all.

Now she’s discovering who she is,

reconnecting with the fullness

that I’m a part of.

She’s got an interesting road ahead.

A bit bumpy. And she’ll want to resist, but that’s okay.

I’ll be right there to guide her.

Claire was like that. Early on.

It took a bit of creative intervention to get her to see

through the veil that so many wear over their eyes.

She was headstrong, ambitious. But it was those very

qualities that served her best.

She heard me too, and it’s that hearing, that willingness

to listen, that makes it fun

to play with those on the leading edge.

What am I saying?

Those conditions merely add to the exhilaration

I feel every moment of this glorious existence.

Their willingness is not essential for my satisfaction.

Not in this realm.


Time. Most are unaware of its seductive power. They remain blindly under its influence, believing it to be steady and reliable. Some pick up on the discrepancies: It can get played over, miss a step. Stretch out here, overlap there.

Analytical minds spend their lives trying to make it all fit together, providing explanations. Others embrace the mystery and let it take them places they’d never go. Do things they’d never do. I’ve been waiting for someone like that. Been watching for her. Calling her. I see her innocence, her purity, her desire. Without words, I speak to her. There’s so much for her to discover. So much I want to reveal. It’s time. Again.