Read CnC 5 One Hex of a Wedding Online

Authors: yasmine Galenorn

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Mystery Fiction, #Single Mothers, #Witches, #Occult Fiction, #Divorced Women, #Washington (State), #Women Mediums, #Tearooms, #O'Brien, #Emerald (Fictitious Character)

CnC 5 One Hex of a Wedding (8 page)

BOOK: CnC 5 One Hex of a Wedding
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When she opened the door, I could tell she’d already heard the news. She bustled me in and settled me in the rocking chair with a glass of lemonade before I knew what had happened.
“I know he was shot, I know he’s okay, so don’t you fret,” she said.
I relaxed, thinking again about Nathan and how cavalier he’d been over his brother’s injury. With a shake of my head, I launched into what had happened, filling in the missing details for her. As I finished my story, I asked, “Can you think of anybody who might have a grudge against Joe?”
Maggie glanced over at me from the window, where she was studying the last of the evening light that filtered through the lace curtains, casting delicately woven patterns on the walls. After a moment, she turned, a thoughtful look on her face.
“What about that man you were dating before you met Joe? I recall he was pestering you to get back together with him.”
“Andrew?” The thought had never occurred to me. To be honest, I’d pretty much pushed Andrew’s existence out of my mind. I thought we could be friends but he wouldn’t leave me alone. He’d been the one who dumped me, but he couldn’t stand the thought I’d moved on. So, I dropped contact with him. “I don’t know. I don’t even know if he still lives in Chiqetaw.”
“You might want to have your detective friend check him out for you,” Maggie said, refilling my glass and adding a splash of cherry juice.
As I sipped the concoction, wincing at the tangy combination of sour and sweet tart on my tongue, I thought about what she’d said. Could Andrew possibly still think we had a chance? Was he even aware that I was getting married? The notice had been in the paper, of course, and being a quasi celebrity in Chiqetaw assured me a write-up in Ingrid Lindstrom’s column. But even if he knew, would Andrew stoop to shooting Joe? I’d have to call Murray, it was that simple. If there was even a chance it was Andrew, she had to check it out.
The thought crossed my mind that if Joe was in danger, Randa and Kip might be next in line … or me. I pulled out my cell phone, excused myself, and punched in Murray’s number.
Four
 
 
 
MURRAY DIDN’T ANSWER so I left a message, asking her to call me the next morning. I glanced at the clock. Almost eleven, and I was exhausted. “I’d better be getting home,” I said, “but before I go, do you think I should drop by the hospital to tell Joe about Nathan? After all, Joe will expect him to be there when he gets home. I promised to pick up Nate from the airport.”
Margaret nixed the idea. “Let him rest.” The look on her face spoke volumes. Her brow furrowed, she let out a loud sigh. “Nathan is a carbon copy of Dexter. Dex always has been, and always will be, an irresponsible boy in a man’s body. I had hoped that both sons would escape their heritage, but it seems it was too much to ask.” She brightened. “At least Joe didn’t succumb to the family pattern of addiction. Tell him about Nathan tomorrow, on your way home from the hospital.”
She fussed with her tea. “I have to say, Emerald, I consider Joe lucky to have you. You’ve given him the stability and sense of family he’s always craved. And I know he’s head over heels in love with you.”
“When I asked Joe if he wanted to invite his parents to the wedding, I thought he was going to raise the roof,” I said. “That’s the only time I’ve seen him get angry. He’s got a lot of pent-up resentment toward them.” I hadn’t been afraid of his outburst, but I learned quickly that his family was a subject better left untouched. Apparently, I wouldn’t be meeting my in-laws, other than Maggie.
“It’s a little chilly this evening,” she said, reaching for a lace shawl draped over the arm of the sofa. She wrapped it around her shoulders. “After Dexter left, Terri had no idea what to do. She was young, with two young boys, and her husband abandoned her, taking every cent that he hadn’t already gambled away. Terri and the boys’ lives became very chaotic after that.”
“Did she work?”
“Oh, she managed to land a job in a wineshop and she was good at it. She learned about the business inside out. I gave her a little extra money when I could, and when I came into my part of the inheritance from my father, I set up a small trust fund for each boy. Dex certainly didn’t help out. He always said he would, but it never happened. And he worked odd jobs to avoid having his wages garnished. I’ll give Terri this—even without child support, she kept food on the table and a roof over their heads.”
“It’s never easy—even with child support,” I said, thinking about the first year I’d struggled to rebuild my family after my divorce. And I’d had a settlement to start my business with and to buy a new house. Most divorced women didn’t get a head start. Of course, I’d been angry enough to go after Roy, instead of slinking away meekly to nurse my grievances.
“No, it’s not. Unfortunately, the struggle to survive took a toll. Terri ended up resenting the boys for the extra work they caused her. I don’t think she ever showed it overtly, but kids are smart. Joe and Nathan knew she wasn’t happy. They had a string of ‘daddies’ who never stuck around. When the boys left home, she moved to California and opened up her own shop, but the steady stream of men and booze never ended.”
I gave Margaret a quick kiss on the cheek. “You’re right. Joe is a lucky man. He’s got
you
. You’re one special lady, Aunt Maggie.” As I headed out into the night, I felt a flash of gratitude that Margaret Files had become such an integral part of my life. She was a champion supporter, and I adored her.
 
 
SUNDAY DAWNED PARTLY cloudy. We weren’t due for rain, but the sky was overcast and the temperature mild. So much for sunshine. I just hoped it wouldn’t be raining on the solstice. We’d planned to hold the wedding in our garden lot next door, with White Deer acting as our officiate. She had registered at one of those online ordination sites so that she could marry us.
Joe and Jimbo were supposed to build arches over which we would drape ivy and grapevines, and tuck roses into the lattice work. I sighed, making a note to ask Jimbo what kind of help he would need now that Joe wouldn’t be able to lift a hammer. Maybe my father could help him slap them together. Or maybe we’d have to buy them ready-made.
Randa came racing down the stairs. In an hour, she was due at the house belonging to the president of her astronomy club. The club was making a field trip to Bellingham to visit the new astronomy museum that had opened up. More of a gallery than a real museum, it was sponsored by the Skies & Scopes shop.
She screeched to a halt in front of the fridge. “Mom, do you know where my backpack is?”
At least some things were running on track. “Try the laundry room. You left it there yesterday. Have you had breakfast yet? And did Kip feed the cats?”
“I’m not hungry, and yeah, Kip fed them,” she said, peeking into the pantry where the washer and dryer were located.
“Hold on there, chickie. Make time for breakfast. I want to see something going into your stomach and it better not just be sugar.” The light blinked on my espresso machine, indicating that it was ready. I flipped the switch and watched as four shots of pure black gold poured into the glass decanter. I stirred it into a tall glass, along with raspberry and chocolate syrups, milk, and ice. Randa leaned against the counter, a snarky grin on her face.
“And what is that, if not pure sugar?” She pointed to my glass. “Face it, Mom, you’re a junkie. You couldn’t go a day without caffeine if you tried.” A smile tweaked the corner of her lip and I knew she was teasing.
“All right, all right, I’ll eat something, too. Let’s see, what do we have?” I opened the refrigerator and peered at the food-laden shelves. Since Joe had moved in, we never were without plenty of groceries. He kept the larder stocked a lot better than I had. Feeling just a tinge inadequate, I glanced at the clock. “I have to call the hospital in a few minutes to find out when I can pick up Joe.”
“Do you know who shot him yet?” Kip asked, entering the kitchen. “He’s gonna be okay, isn’t he?”
Kip was lugging a book almost as big as he was. He’d maintained his love of computers from the school year and had progressed to the intermediate class at computer camp, which made me both proud and a little worried. Considering Kip’s predilection for getting in trouble, I still had concerns that I might be raising a hacker, but at least he’d found a passion other than the folk magic that Nanna had taught me. I had no problem passing on my magical training, but more than once, Kip had proved himself too emotionally immature to cope with the responsibility. I had told him that we were going to wait until he was thirteen before starting training again.
“Joe’s going to be fine, and no, we don’t know who shot him,” I said. “Okay, I’m making breakfast, and everybody’s eating. Got that, Randa?” She nodded. “Good. How about ham and cheese sandwiches? Quick, nutritious, and they won’t dirty up any pans.” Anything for freedom from dirty dishes.
As I opened the bread, Randa handed me a knife and three plates, while Kip foraged through the fridge for ham, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, tomatoes, and lettuce. I spread the bread with the mayo and mustard while Randa sliced cheese and tomatoes, then Kip layered ham and lettuce on the bread.
We worked in silent unison, immersed in the rhythm that ran through our family. Joe had managed to slip into that rhythm, never breaking it. He flowed right into the stream that had become our lives since we first moved to Chiqetaw. The kids accepted him, edging over gently to allow him space next to me. And I’d grown comfortable with sharing my life with another adult. I finally knew what it meant to be
partners
with someone, rather than just “the wife.”
When we finished, the kids carried the food over to the table, along with glasses of milk and what was left of my mocha. I picked up the phone. Not quite time to call about Joe, but I needed to touch base with the shop.
It felt odd—being away from the Chintz ’n China for so long. I wouldn’t be returning until July—another two weeks—and I was already fussing about how things were going. But I tried to rein in my fretting. My finances would show a crunch, but I wanted to enjoy every moment of my wedding and honeymoon.
“Chintz ’n China Tea Room, how may I help you?” Cinnamon answered. She’d just graduated with her Associate of Arts degree in accounting. I had the feeling she would be moving on soon; she was a smart girl with children to feed, and I couldn’t pay her what she deserved. I was reluctantly awaiting the day when she handed me her resignation and had already informed her that if she needed time off for an interview, she should just ask.
“It’s me, Cinnamon. How’s it going?”
“Almost ready to open the doors. Lana’s going to be a little late, but since it’s Sunday, the rush won’t come until later. If you have the time, though, you need to sign off on a few checks. Several invoices came in yesterday.”
Since Cinnamon had her accounting degree, I figured she might as well learn the back end of the business and had handed her some of the easier paperwork to deal with. “I’ll try to drop by this afternoon. This weekend’s been insane—”
“I saw the paper,” she said, her voice tentative. “I wasn’t sure whether or not you wanted to talk about it, so I wasn’t going to bring it up until you did.”
A chill ran up my back. Paper? What paper? “Bring what up? What are you talking about?” I asked, knowing full well I wasn’t going to want to hear the answer.
She hesitated. I was known for throwing tantrums over the local media, with whom I had tenuous and stressful connections, but I never directed my anger toward the messengers unless they were directly involved.
“Go on. I’m not going to bite you, you know.”
“Okay. Ingrid ran a huge article in the
Chiqetaw Town Crier
about Roy being thrown out of the party the other night. She followed it up with an expose on Joe being shot and is linking the two stories by inference. Since the paper said Joe’s going to be all right, I decided to wait until you mentioned it.”
“Holy hell. If something like this happens again, tell me right away. I haven’t been out to pick up the paper—it’s still in the yard. So, the shop’s fine?”
“Yeah, everything’s okay here.” I could hear relief in her voice.
“Okay, then. I’m going to go look at that article. I’ll drop by a little later today to sign the checks and glance over the invoices.”
I dropped the receiver back in the cradle and made a dash out to the front yard. For once, the boy had gotten the newspaper near the porch. Joe was meticulous about keeping the lawn in order, and Kip had taken on a new diligence in his chores, wanting to impress his older buddy. A light film of dew still shimmered on the blades, but a glimpse of sunlight through the clouds promised to burn off the moisture before noon.
I snatched up the paper and returned to the kitchen, where I slipped into my chair. Randa, almost done with her breakfast, glanced at the paper, then at me, and winced. My fact-oriented daughter had developed a strong distaste for the
Chiqetaw Town Crier
’s cavalier attitude toward the difference between reality and speculation.
“They have something on you in there?” she asked, swallowing the last bite of her sandwich. She drained her milk and wiped her mouth. Kip had already polished off his ham and cheese and was digging through the pastry basket for a doughnut.
I grimaced. “Yeah, so I gather. Don’t be surprised if I blow.” I shook open the paper and turned to the front page. A grainy picture of Joe and me taken during our party, filled the lower right quarter of the paper. Slow news week, so it seemed.
Next to it was Ingrid’s article. EMERALD O’BRIEN WEAVES HER MAGICAL CHARM AGAIN, the headline read. Oh God, just shoot me now.
Emerald O’Brien, Chiqetaw’s beloved sorceress and teashop owner, has once again made the front page, but this time not because of some ghostly visitor or murdering marauder come calling. No, Emerald’s been plying her charming self into the spotlight via the men in her life.
Reports have it that a brawl broke out between Emerald’s ex-husband, Roy O’Brien, of Seattle, and her fiancé, Joseph Files, captain of Chiqetaw’s Medic Rescue Unit. Ms. O’Brien must have been brewing up quite a storm of love spells for the tempest that prevailed. Mr. O’Brien was evicted from the premises by Mr. Files and his biker friend, Jimbo Warren. What this reporter wants to know is: Is a reunion in the mix between Emerald and her ex, or was it just wishful thinking on his part?
On a more serious note, yesterday at approximately three-thirty Mr. Files was shot by an unknown assailant out at Miner’s Lake while preparing for a barbecue. He was taken to Chiqetaw General Hospital and is due to be released today. Police have no idea of who shot Mr. Files, or why. Considering the goings-on at the engagement party, this reporter can’t help but speculate.
BOOK: CnC 5 One Hex of a Wedding
9.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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