Second, if you liked The Familiars or Verdanta, you might like the first book that my agent accepted from me: FABRIC OF LIFE. It's a paranormal romance with mystery/suspense,too.. https://www.amazon.com/Fabric-Life-Judith-Post-ebook/dp/B0079SANOY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
The sisters had so many activities scheduled for Friday that everyone, even Price, enjoyed themselves. They passed out snorkel masks and let people swim in the safety of the cove. Saff led them to a waterfall on the west side of the island, and they had a picnic lunch there. Even Della and Russ got to come. Ward drove them over on the ferry.
The day was spent outdoors, near the water, in the brilliant sunshine and warm air. By supper time, the guests were ravenous. They devoured the lobster and tenderloin, pasta, and roasted vegetables. When the sisters carried out four different tortes, a cheer went up. And after supper, Ward and Avery set off fireworks--a stunning site against the black canopy of the sky.
“What a finale!” Ted said. “Perfect.”
The others agreed, and when they went to their cabins for the last time, they left satisfied. Only Price lingered behind. He stalled and turned to the sisters. “It helped me talking to Currie about my family yesterday. I’d like to talk about Lyssa, get that off my chest too. Do you mind?”
“This might not be the time,” Currie worried. “You leave early tomorrow. You might dredge up emotions you don’t have time to deal with.”
“But at least I’d air them, get them out.” He shook his head. “Yesterday, you said that Lyssa wanted us to get it right as much as I did, that she was hurt too. I’ve thought about that. So who do I blame? What went wrong?”
“Why do you have to blame someone?” Saffron asked. “It’s hard to find your soulmate, the person who’s right for you. I still haven’t found mine.”
“Someone had to drop the ball,” Price insisted. “It wasn’t me. Her friends didn’t help.” He moved as he talked, pacing from the patio tables to the half-wall that surrounded them.
“Okay, what bothered you the most with Lyssa?” Brie asked. “If you know that, you can start there.”
“What bothered me most?” Price’s fingers curled into fists. “That part’s easy. This is confidential, right? Like talking to a priest? You girls are like psychologists, in a way.”
“No, we have a responsibility to do what we think is right,” Brie said. “We’d never look the other way and let someone hurt other people, for instance.”
“Fair warning. I’ll tell you what I can then.” Price jammed his fists into his pockets and paced faster. “The thing that really got to me is that after putting up with all of Lyssa’s neuroses and doing everything I could to get her in shape, she wanted to leave me.”
“Why?” Saffron asked.
“Because she never once stopped to consider that everything I did was for her own good. Her friends were mamby-pamby artsy types who were more into creative masterpieces than paying bills on time. They encouraged her to be the same.”
“But she had you,” Thora said. “You paid the bills, didn’t you?”
“That’s not good enough. She needed to be more responsible, stronger.”
“So you argued,” Brie guessed.
“No, she wasn’t brave enough for that. She’d disagree with me, we’d talk and reach a decision, then she’d sneak around behind my back.”
Saffron asked, “Was that before or after the baby?”
“She blamed me for the abortion. Me! Said she couldn’t stay with me, and she didn’t think she could raise a baby by herself.” Price’s laugh was brittle. “She got that part right! She couldn’t take of herself without me.”
He was getting more and more agitated, so Currie tried to calm him. “It sounds like she tried, but couldn’t handle being in a serious relationship.”
Ward hurried to add, “Not everyone can.”
“Don’t you get it?” Price yelled, his face red, his muscles knotted. “She was going to leave ME!!! Like I was the one with the problem!”
“She probably couldn’t trust her own judgment,” Currie said. “She needed to retreat into solitude again.”
“NO one treats me like that. NO ONE.”
“You could have left her,” Currie said. “You could have been the first to walk away.”
“And admit defeat? Failure? I don’t think so!”
Price cut her off. “Lyssa was MINE! I’d invested time and money in her. I don’t lose on my investments.”
Curried lowered her voice, hoping to defuse some of the tension. “You can’t own or control another person.”
“Why not? She’d soaked me for blood, sweat, and tears. Isn’t that worth something?”
“You did that because you loved her. And she loved you.”
“Yeah, my mom loved me too. Lucky me!”
“When love goes sour, all you can do is walk away,” Avery said. “Believe me. I know.”
“Then you’re a wimp and a loser.”
Avery took a deep breath. “What else is there?”
“Kill the damn bitch!”
Saffron jabbed a finger at him. “If it was you, then why did you fall into the pit? Why would you do that if you dug it yourself?”
He grimaced. “Because there’s not one straight path on this whole stupid island. I tried to use a tree as a marker, and I thought I had things aimed right so that Ward would go in, but I got it wrong. I hid the damn hole too well and got my directions backward.”
Currie’s hands balled into fists. “Why Ward?”
“Because I hate him! First, he messed up things with Em and me, and then he ended up with you. He always wins, and it’s not fair!”
Brie’s voice was flat and hard when she asked, “Did you drug Lyssa before you hanged her, or did she swallow the pills herself, and you just finished the job?”
“Always the nice girl, she couldn’t stand having someone mad at her. She needed everyone to like her.” He gave a harsh laugh. “So I told her that even if she left me, we could still be friends. We toasted it with wine. She hates wine, but she didn’t have the balls to say no. Couldn’t tell the pills made it taste wrong.”
“And your guilt’s been eating at you ever since,” Brie said.
“Guilt, hell! Hate. You women are all the same. I hate you all.” He paced to the half wall and pulled a butcher knife out from behind the stones. “Women are evil.” He lunged for Currie. She melded with the air, and the knife sliced nothing. Price looked around, confused. “What kind of a trick was that? Where’d she go?”
Saffron jumped to her feet. “Put down the knife.”
“You’re all witches. You live on this island and lure men here like Circes did. I should get rid of all of you!” He swung at Saffron and she disappeared.
Avery and Ward started for him. Price tipped a patio table toward them, knocking it and its chairs over, and they went down with it, arms flailing. As they scrambled to get free, Price turned to Thora. “What about you? You’re just a cousin. Are you a witch too, about to have a demon child?”
The three sisters formed a wall between him and Thora. “Run!” Brie said.
Price’s lips twisted into an obscene grimace. “She must be the weak link, so you girls are going to protect her.”
Instead of running at them, he dodged to the side and, just as Avery struggled to his feet, slashed the knife across his arm. “It’s deep. He’ll bleed a lot!”
Ward lunged for his foot, but Price kicked him, hard, in the face. Then he raced after Thora.
Saffron and Currie left Brie to tend to Avery and flew to their friend. Price caught her under the willow tree. He tackled her, and they both rolled to the ground. Pushing her face in the dirt, he rose up enough to get a better hold of the knife. When he started to plunge it, he yelled in surprise. The willow twisted its branches around his wrist and began to pull him toward its trunk. He slashed at the branches, hacking them away. Saffron and Currie threw themselves on top of him, trying to pin him down, but he was too strong. He elbowed Saffron in the stomach, so that she doubled over, the air knocked out of her. He punched Currie, full force, in the face. She fell backward. Tears blinded her eyes. She heard a small splash and smiled. She knew that Thora had made it to the lake. She’d melded with the water.
“Damn! Damn! Damn!” Footsteps pounded toward them, and Price’s voice lowered to a feral growl. “Ward to the rescue.”
Currie struggled to her knees. She grabbed onto Price’s pant leg. He kicked her away.
Ward glanced at Currie and Saffron. “Thora?”
Price threw himself at him.
“NO!!!” The scream ripped from Currie’s throat.
Price raised the knife, and the willow shot branches at him.
“Get out of here!” Ward pushed Currie to her feet as Price lunged forward. The knife’s blade sank deep into Ward’s shoulder. Ward’s fist connected with Price’s jaw. Price staggered backward. Ward stumbled too, and Price pounced. His momentum shoved Ward against the tree. He yanked the knife out of Ward’s flesh to strike again, but Ward’s punch jabbed straight and hard. Price’s nose crunched. His eyes watered. He took a few steps backward. The willow’s branches whipped around his ankles, and he fell.
Currie raced to Ward. “Are you all right?” Blood soaked his shirt, was spreading quickly.
“Huh!” Price gave an odd, surprised grunt. He pulled his hand away from his abdomen and stared at it. It oozed with blood. He swayed to his knees, looked down at the knife handle that protruded just below his ribs. His body started to shake. His teeth chattered. He looked at Currie and Ward in surprise. “You lucky bastard.” He gave a gurgling laugh, dropped to the ground, and didn’t move.
Saffron hurried to him, laid a finger on his pulse, and shook her head. “He’s gone.”
Currie pressed a hand to Ward’s shoulder. “I’ll get Sara.” But before she could go, the willow’s bark grew transparent. The tree reached for him and sucked him into its core. Currie stared in surprise. Ward was a mortal. Could he survive melding? A few minutes passed, and the tree released him. Ward stumbled forward, taking deep breaths. He touched a hand to his shoulder. It was healed. When he turned to the tree, he saw that the bark was blighted where his shoulder had passed through it.
“Will you be all right?” He gently touched the willow’s bark, rested his hand on the trunk.
The tree’s branches moved to him, caressing him. The leaves looked even greener in the moonlight, if that were possible.
“That tree loves you,” Saffron said as she and Thora came to stand with them.
“Thank you.” Currie pressed a kiss on the blighted spot.
“A remembrance,” Saffron said. “That spot will never heal.”
They walked back to the patio and found Sara finishing her ministrations to Avery.
“It’s a good thing we brought you here,” Brie said, tears in her eyes. “I’m just sorry we’ve made you work so much.”
Sara smiled. “Actually, it’s helped me. I haven’t been able to help my son. It feels good to cure other people.”
“We appreciate it.” Avery gingerly touched the bandages on his arm.
Sara nodded at the others. “He got lucky. A long slash, and deep enough for stitches, but not deadly.”
She looked at the blood on Ward’s shirt. “You’re pale, but you can walk. I’m thinking that blood must be somebody else’s.”
“I’m going to ask Ted to help me bring back Price’s body,” he told her.
Sara considered that. “You’re right. He should be one of the first to know.”
Ward went to Ted’s cabin, and in a short time, they left for the lake, both carrying a blanket. Currie and Saffron went with them. If each of them took a corner, it should be less work. And they could use the second blanket to cover him.
When they got there, Ted stared down at Price and shook his head. “It’s better this way. He can’t hurt anyone else, and he’s done hurting too.”
They carried him to the ferry and covered him with a heavy canvas tarp.
“I’ll call his family,” Saffron said. “We’ll make sure that someone’s there tomorrow to get his body.”
“I’ll call my dad,” Ward added, “and tell him what happened. He can tell the detective who worked on Lyssa’s suicide.”
“Are you going to be all right?” Currie asked Ted when they walked back to the cabins.
“We all tried,” Ted said. “I’ve learned that’s all you can do. I gave up trying to control things. I learned that here. Price wouldn’t.”
“Do you want me to stay with you a while?” Saffron asked. “Keep you company?”
Ted cocked his head. “I don’t suppose you know how to play gin rummy?”
“I’m not as good as Brie, but I pass.”
“Good, then I might even be able to win.” Ted led her toward his cabin.
Currie put an arm around Ward to lead him to their cottage. Then she froze. “Everything happened so fast, I didn’t stop to think. Where’s Fang? Thumper?”
Saffron turned, shaking her head. “My fault. I forgot. I locked them in the nursery. We were doing so much all over the island today, I didn’t want to worry about them. I never let them loose.”
The knot of fear subsided as fast as it had formed. “We’ll go and get them. It’s on our way.” Currie smiled when a howl floated across the meadow to them. “Fang doesn’t like being cooped up.”
She and Ward crossed the open field. The moon gleamed in a silver circle. Stars twinkled, and the scent of flowers perfumed the air. They only half noticed. Weary and frazzled, all they wanted was to get their pets and go home.
Everyone heard the news before breakfast on Saturday morning. The whole story leaked out, bit by bit, on the ferry back to the mainland. Currie and Ward waited to meet Ward’s parents, the detective that his father brought with them, and Price’s mother.
She looked at her son’s body and grimaced. “Always told him he’d end up like this.”
If she was sad or distressed, it didn’t show. Once she identified his body, she lit a cigarette and walked to her car. Ward explained what had happened to his dad and the detective, then the detective waved for Price’s body to be taken away.
Once business was out of the way, Ward introduced Currie to his parents.
“Welcome to the family.” Ward’s mom wrapped her in a warm embrace. “This is sort of rushed. None of us planned on meeting today, but I’m sure glad it happened.”
They didn’t have much time. “We’ve sold the house, and we’re packing things right now to move out here. Then we’ll do a proper job of this,” Ward’s dad told them. “We were supposed to be at my sister’s this morning, but I phoned her. She has a realtor ready to show us some condos.”
Ward nodded. “We’re moving into our house too. You’ll have to come to see it. We haven’t had a chance to make it ours yet.”
Their visit was short, but wondrous, thrown together as it was at the last minute. “No wonder you love them so much,” Currie said on the ferry trip back to the island.
When they returned home, Brie and Avery waited on the pier, and Saffron was standing in the waves at the shoreline. “How’d it go?” she asked.
“Price’s mom came for his body, and I got to meet Ward’s parents. You’re going to love them.”
Saffron smiled. “Good, everything’s done. I wanted to wait to see you before I left.”
“Where are you off to?” Ward asked.
“I thought I’d pester Em.” She was melding with the water when her mother rose out of the waves. “Mom!”
Gaia frowned at her daughters. “You.” She pointed at Brie. “I had news that you married a mortal.”
Brie clutched Avery’s hand and stepped forward. “He saw me in a flower.”
“And you?” Gaia turned her attention to Currie. “You married as well?”
“Ward saw me in a stone.”
Gaia’s eyes narrowed. “And this mortal can meld with trees?”
“No, ma’am, just the willow by the lake. It saved my life.”
Gaia’s eyebrows rose. “It did, did it? And wolves have been guarding your guests, and blue jays watch over them during the day?”
The girls all started talking at once.
Gaia raised an imperious hand to silence them. “I understand that you’ve had an exceptional experience during this visit. You’ve done what you had to do. That’s Nature. Survival. But this man…” She turned her gaze on Ward, “has broken an unbreakable rule.”
“Price stabbed me, and ….”
She waved him silent. “The willow chose you. So did the wolf. They decided.”
“You won’t hurt them, punish them?” Ward took a step toward her, ready to argue.
“Nature does as Nature wants. They wanted you. Who am I to disagree? The willow missed my Samuel. It’s tired of losing mortals. Therefore, as long as you live on this island and meld with your tree when you need strength, you’ll defy aging.”
“You mean, I’ll be like Currie?”
“Similar. She has no need to renew her energies, but you can if you choose to.”
Ward looked at Avery. “Avery helped too. Price slashed him…”
“I’ve heard. And my daughter loves him. So does the island. So I gave him the waves.”
“Me?” Avery gaped.
“Mortals. This island must love them more than I realized.” Gaia shook her head. “I’m sure you have things to do. So do I. I can’t stay.” She frowned at the two men. “Take good care of my daughters.” And she melded back into the waves.
“If I find a guy, I’m bringing him back here and introducing him to the garden. Maybe the herbs will renew him.” Saffron grinned. “See you later.” And she disappeared into the tide.
Thora sighed and put her hand on her belly. It jumped, and Ward reached out to feel it too. He looked at Currie. “Someday we’ll add a new, little sprite to this world.”
She nodded. “When the world needs one, I hope she looks a lot like you.”
He grinned. “We’ll argue about that when the time comes. But for right now, let’s go home. I finally get to have you to myself.” He pulled her toward the path that led to their cottage. Fang, the fox, and Thumper bound after them. Ward sighed. “Well, almost to myself.”