This is a bit from the first chapter of MOURNING DOVE LOCKET.
Their clock radio alarm blared. Sunlight skimmed across their room and into her eyes though she kept them down, on him. Her lover.
Trevor pulled her back for another kiss, as reluctant to let Caitlin go as she was to move away. He slapped at the alarm, annoyed, and when it fell silent, he kissed her again. “You should’ve warned me to turn it off.”
The thin comforter was too warm, her husband even warmer and Caitlin kicked off the covering, but remained snuggled against her beloved. “You’re a better alarm than that blasted thing, any day.”
The clock blared again.
“Fine, we’re up,” he complained, punching the off button. “We were up an hour ago; where were you, lazy bones?”
“Half-hour,” Caitlin corrected. Though she still hummed with their lovemaking, their plans for the day wouldn’t wait. Trevor had a meeting, and her math and economics classes at Pensacola State College began in an hour. She must move fast if she ever expected to get her degree in Social Work. “This was a bad idea.”
“Michela didn’t think so.”
“What does she know?” Caitlin snorted, forcing herself from bed. “She’s not struggling through the classes.”
“Call Heather. You know, your witch friend? She’ll help you.”
Her hair snagged and tangled in a mess, she grabbed a hairbrush, along with her clothes for the day. “You mean, Heather, who is partly to blame for this nightmare?” Both Heather and Michela had talked her into taking college classes, this spring. “I should turn them both into toads.”
Trevor laughed and tugged a shirt over his head. “I can’t let you. What will Arianrhod do if I let you turn our family guardian into a toad?”
“I suppose you’re right,” she said, watching him check his bags one more time.
With kisses and promises to see her this weekend, he’d flown off to Chattanooga, Tennessee, while she waited here for her phone to ring, battling with homework and the running of their antique shop, Starfort Collectibles.
This morning, choosing a thin summer blouse, jeans and tennies, she left home and soon parked in the student parking lot to suffer through another day of classes.
But she couldn’t keep her mind on her professors’ lectures, distracted by Trevor, and his out-of-town meeting with a gallery executive.
Abigail had negotiated the meeting in Chattanooga and if all went well, he’d come back with a date for a show. The thought that he was showing his sculptures again both excited and scared Caitlin. How many pieces would they want from him?
She hoped they wouldn’t ask for anything resembling his accursed chair; she knew he’d do his best to divert them. She also hoped they didn’t give him some sort of crazy time frame, like setting the show before the first of June. That would leave him far too little time in which to create anything new they requested and she didn’t like that idea. The last time he’d worked fast, he’d filled every available spot in their home with chairs of all sizes, culminating in his beautiful, cursed throne-like chair. The one now gracing Arianrhod’s palace in the Otherworld. And the near-wreck of their lives. Caitlin wondered briefly if Arianrhod would loan the throne to the gallery for the show, and shuddered.
No. Caitlin never wanted to see the thing again. It was bad enough she couldn’t forget it ever existed. As if it hung over her head, waiting to drop again someday, and crush them both.
As if her friends Beryl, Sealya, and Heather would let it. When talking of the gods, though, how could a mere witch’s coven stop them if they wanted a favor of you?
They still hadn’t given Abby the full story of the sale of the chair, but she knew well Trevor’s hesitation.
Caitlin didn’t relish worrying all day about how the Chattanooga meeting would turn out; as soon as class ended, she raced for her car, wondering what to do with the rest of her afternoon. Go open Starfort Collectibles for a few hours? Maybe, but she didn’t feel like staying inside.
The day proved warm and she instantly regretted leaving the air-conditioned classroom. The sunshine drew her mind to her garden. What could she accomplish before dark?
Caitlin unlocked her car, dropped her purse onto the passenger seat, and settled down, starting the engine for the drive home. The air conditioner didn’t do much to cut the afternoon’s heat. Late April was already proving to be extremely hot. What would August promise?
She stopped at a thrift store, just out of curiosity. New shorts wouldn’t go to waste. She tried on a few choices; then a curio filled with tiny treasures piqued her interest.
To her disappointment, the curio held “collector’s plates” of every cheesy romance movie made since the 1940s. Between them stood assorted knickknacks her husband would call kitsch. She felt the hint of an old ghost, perhaps the plates’ makers or original owners, but nothing as insistent as she’d recently come to expect from those in need of her help.
No Margarete, no Roland.
Refreshing after the last year, she thought.
She smiled at the shop’s clerk. Although, with her own antique shop, she knew she had no need for more stuff, she perused a rack of earrings set up on a table, not far away.
“Hi,” a girl’s voice drew Caitlin’s attention away from the jewelry. Behind her, for an instant, something shimmered in the sunlight. An old woman smiled, there and gone, startling Caitlin.
She’d had bad luck with fear the last year and wondered when her heart would give out from it. Ghost, another pesky ghost, she thought. Gulf Breeze was full of them, these days. The apparition already gone, Caitlin scrutinized the girl, taking in her dark ponytail, her shorts. She was about fifteen or maybe sixteen, Caitlin judged from the braided bracelet on her wrist, and her height. But more important markers interested her. The girl’s solidity, that she couldn’t see through her, the perfume-cloud around her, and the sheen of sweat on her lip and staining her blue short-sleeved school uniform shirt, told Caitlin she must be alive.
“You like jewelry,” she said.
Caitlin’s hand sought out her peridot and gold ingot necklace, the one she’d received from the goddess Arianrhod, an heirloom her former incarnation had left in her care. Payable on her next life.
The necklace had almost come at a stiff price, very nearly the loss of her beloved Trevor. If she ever met her other self, Kate, in a dark forest, they were going to have a long, serious discussion. She wondered if the other Kate understood what “what the hell, woman?” meant.
She’d seen enough of Kate’s tribulations to know she did.
Caitlin scanned the store, seeking out Hofter—the evil imp who had given them both fits.
Seeing that he wasn’t doing handstands near the doors of the dressing room—or anywhere else, for that matter—she turned back to the teen.
“Sure. Some pieces. Why?”
From her pocket, the girl produced a small, oval gold locket. “I bet you’ll like this.”
Caitlin cocked her head, studying the piece.
She offered it but Caitlin kept her hand firmly placed on her warm hip. She’d learned never to touch first. She’d even become wary of sniffing strange things, in the last few months. As there was no sense in jumping to conclusions yet, she met the girl’s hazel-eyed gaze. Clear and calm, yet expectant.
Her fingers proved warm and soft when she laid the necklace in Caitlin’s. This girl was no ghost.
“It’s my abuela—grandma’s.” She glanced over her shoulder to, Caitlin thought, a woman. “Mom doesn’t want it. She wants to sell it anyway.”
“You should give it back to your grandma, then.”
“I can’t.” The girl shook her head, disturbing her shining black curls. “But my grandma needs it.”
Caitlin wondered how many times a year her heart could stop, and yet, keep her alive. It is my Grandma’s. I can’t give it to her. But Grandma needs it. Oh…
Surely, these weren’t normal verbal slips. She knew present tense when it was used.
Caitlin studied the locket in her hand. Some sort of dove graced the smooth gold cover. She flipped it over, squinting for the maker name or some sort of engraving to identify the owner. She didn’t see one.
Turning it over one more time, she ran a finger over the dove, closed her hand around it. “I can’t take it from you, dear, but let me go talk to your mom.” She smiled at her. “Maybe we can work something out.”
The girl shrugged and headed in the direction of a table full of pots and pans. A woman of clear Hispanic descent stood there, perusing the items. Caitlin approached her yet her daughter made the introductions. “Mom, she’ll give Abuela her necklace.”
Did the teen have any idea what she said? She peered at the girl. She was no ghost.
The woman blinked dark eyes. “It’s a locket, mija, and you know she doesn’t need it anymore,” she said, a hint of accent to her voice. The woman met her gaze, a sheepish smile on her face. “Don’t pay any attention to her, ma’am.”
She doesn’t need it anymore. The grandmother might indeed be dead.
“She has an active imagination.” Yet Caitlin had a feeling the girl was more than imaginative. Was she a budding medium?
Caitlin knew how treacherous the training was. Her heart twisted for the girl. Was she too about to go through hell, as Caitlin had?
She held her hand out for the locket, but a little voice whispered in her mind that it would be better if she made a deal. “I’ll tell you what.” Why can’t Trevor be here for this? Buying and selling antiques was his forte; she was still an apprentice. “My husband owns an antique shop.” She opened her purse, pulled out a Starfort Collectibles business card, and handed it to the woman. “Your daughter says you’d like to be rid of this necklace. I’m sure my husband can give you a fair price for it.”
The woman took the card and studied the embossed lettering, the star sitting beside Trevor’s name.
Starfort Collectibles; Trevor Fulmer, Owner, Proprietor. Caitlin was still pleased with the printing job she’d done here. For however much she hated working for Kameko’s Print Shop, they’d done good work together.
Caitlin frowned at the memory of the print shop’s jackass manager, Calvin. Glad to be out from under Calvin’s thumb, she retrieved her cell phone. A quick search of Starfort Collectibles’ website gave her a good idea of a preliminary offer. Without Trevor, it felt strange to make such a promise, but then she remembered what Michela once told her: Legally, she owned half of their business. Wouldn’t any offer she made be just as valid? Still, flipping the piece over in her hand, she wasn’t sure. “Let me see what I can do.” Caitlin took a few steps away, dialing Trevor’s cell phone number.
“Starfort Collectibles,” Trevor answered in two rings.
“How much would you give someone for an old locket?”
“I don’t know,” Caitlin admitted.
“It’s a bit banged up. There’s a teenage girl offering it to me, so I suppose it’s expected.”
“Why would she offer it to you?” he asked.
“Don’t know. But I have a hunch.”
Caitlin glanced over her shoulder. The mother was trying to mind her own business, so Caitlin lowered her voice. “She claims her grandmother wants me to have it.”
“What’s the grandmother say?” he asked.
She cleared her throat. “I don’t think she cares for money anymore.”
“Oh…” The tone in Trevor’s voice told her he absolutely understood in what world the grandmother currently resided. “Offer her a hundred and fifty. Tell her I’ll examine it and may adjust the offer, depending.”
“Will do. I’ll see you Tuesday.”
“What do you think about it?”
Caitlin studied the girl, trying not to be too conspicuous about it. Her hand floated over a rack of old shirts nearby. “I don’t know yet. Might be lost or have a message.”
“What about an Otherworldly troublemaker?”
“Possible.” Dear gods, I hope not! She’d had enough of supernatural troublemakers to last her several lifetimes.
“I’m not curious. I don’t want to give any strange entity ideas.”
He had the right of it, sure enough, but, blast it, she was curious.