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Authors: Again the Magic

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BOOK: Damon, Lee
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"Right. It was inevitable, I guess. I was always the smallest kid in class. My real name is Catherine, but no one calls me that except my grandmother. In fact, I'll bet everyone has forgotten it by now." Her brown eyes sparkled merrily as she added, "I usually do, myself."

Some ten hours later, Kitt and Ez collapsed gratefully into a pair of captain's chairs set out on the deck. They swung long legs up to rest their heels on the railing. Ez stifled an oath as Hero landed in his lap and then, catlike, stretched his thirty pounds in total relaxation the length of Ez's thighs.

"Really, Kitt, this beast is somewhat oversized for a lapdog." He gestured toward the river, some thirty feet beyond the back fence. "Now that's rather romantic— moonlight sparkling on the dark water, a balmy spring evening, and we've even got a bottle of wine. Maybe I should have coaxed the pixie into staying a while."

"I'll bet you wouldn't complain if
jumped into your lap." Kitt laughed. "Although if she hears you call her a pixie, she's more apt to break that bottle of wine over your head. Speaking of wine, how about opening it? Weren't we going to drink a toast to my new life?" Kitt held out the glasses for Ez to fill and then handed one to him.

They touched glasses as Ez said, "To you, the River Port Bookshop and a happy new life."

They sat quietly for a few minutes, sipping wine and watching the Kennebunk River moving swiftly by on its last mile to the sea. The bright moonlight flashed off metal fittings on the many boats tied up to docks on both sides of the river. It was a deep, tidal river, rising and falling as the ocean tides turned every eight hours. In the days of sailing ships, Kennebunkport had been a major shipbuilding center on the New England coast, sending tall ships out to sail the far oceans of the world.

"Kitt? You
going to be all right, aren't you? This isn't going to be too much for you to take on?"

"No, it's not. Oh, I couldn't have made it even two years ago by myself. But thanks to you, I've had time to get myself back together and, thanks to Grandma Arlen and her legacy, I've got my chance to be truly independent and do something

I've long wanted to do. If one can't own a library, the next best thing is a bookshop—and you know how I've always loved books and discussing them with people. Mrs. Stewart's been really great about teaching me the business end of it over these three years, so I'm not too worried about that part."

"I do believe you've really got your confidence back, and I couldn't be happier—not that I haven't enjoyed our being together these past few years, despite the fact that you were going through such a bad patch. At least you've been with me, and not thousands of miles away with strangers. And these last few months have been great." He smiled and lifted his glass in her direction. "It's certainly nice to have the old Kitt back again."

"Not the old Kitt—a new Kitt. Older, smarter, stronger and a lot more cautious. Never, ever, will I let anyone get me into that state again. I'm not sure if I could survive a second time, even with your help."

Ez turned his head away, hiding his face, suddenly harsh with frustration and pain as he recalled the time five years before when he'd heard about the horror his much-loved twin had endured in the two years of her marriage and the months after its breakup. He'd been half a world away, and it was all over before he knew what was happening. It was too late then to rescue Kitt, too late to vent his rage on Leon, too late for anything except to wrap his shattered sister in all the love he had and help her piece together what was left of a once joyous, trusting, outgoing girl.

In silent communion, Kitt reached over and gripped his arm, feeling the tense muscles. "Ez? Don't think about it anymore." Her voice lightened and she gave him a teasing look. "Have you considered where this leaves you, now that I'm out of your hair? You can now concentrate on developing a meaningful relationship with some lucky, deserving girl."

"Hmmmm. I've been giving that some thought today, in between hauling furniture upstairs, moving it around six times and tacking up umpteen yards of fencing. You may be seeing more of me than you expected." His voice was bland, but his eyes filled with merriment as he continued, "After all, it only takes a couple of hours or so to drive up here, and I'm not all that busy on weekends. This would be a nice, relaxing place to correct term papers."

Kitt chortled. "Transparent as glass. Fancy Midge, do you? Watch it, Brother. I have a strong feeling you may have met your match."

"One can only hope." Ez nudged Hero off his legs and stood up, stretching. "I hate to move, but I've got to get going. Got an early lecture in the morning." He carried the chairs inside while Kitt collected the glasses and wine bottle.

"Do I take it that I'll be seeing you next weekend? Or is that a silly question?"

Ez grinned and tugged gently on a lock of her hair. "Silly question. In fact, I get through early Friday, so you'll probably see me before suppertime. Ah... it might be nice to invite Midge to have supper with us, don't you think?"

"Delightful, I'm sure. Of course, I can always talk to Hero," Kitt teased. "You wouldn't consider bribing me to go to the movies, would you?"

"Funny, funny." Ez leaned to kiss her cheek. "I'll probably settle for sending you to bed early." He dodged her swinging hand and ran, laughing, down the stairs.

Later, Kitt strolled along Ocean Avenue with Hero pacing beside her. She was tired but relaxed and content, thinking about all they had accomplished that day, her first new friends, the quick rapport she had felt with Midge despite their age difference. She smiled to herself at a mental picture of big Ez holding off an infuriated Midge. It should be fun to see how that develops, she thought. She's certainly going to be a lively addition to the shop, and she likes books as much as I do.

It was very quiet. Kennebunkport was an old summer resort town which boomed in the season with summer residents and thousands of tourists. Off-season, it had the aura of a peaceful fishing village, although in recent years enough activity had developed on the weekends to make it worthwhile for resident owners to keep their shops open all year.

This end of Ocean Avenue was lined on both sides by one- and two-story frame buildings. There were old houses that were still maintained as individual residences; others had been converted into small shops or, as in Kitt's case, into a combination of shop and residence. Several of the buildings had started life many years ago as fishing shacks and small boathouses, and had evolved into restaurants, shops or imaginative living quarters. A very few of the buildings were new, but even they had been designed to blend in with the nineteenth-century aura of the village.

As she walked along the side of the road, Kitt noted a lighted window here and there indicating permanent residences, but also noticed that the majority of buildings were obviously still shut up for the winter. Only a few of the yards showed signs of tending, and not many of the shops had their signboards up.

She could hear her footsteps echoing back from the empty buildings at the end of the road where Ocean Avenue turned sharply to the right and then almost immediately made a sharp left turn into Dock Square. Hero's nails clicked against the pavement in counterpoint to the murmur of the river. Gravel crunched as they crossed the parking area to the stairs angling up the side of the building to the rear deck. Hero leaped up the steps, nimble-footed as a cat, and sat by the sliding glass doors waiting for Kitt.

She stepped onto the deck and strolled across to stand at the railing, facing the river and absorbing the peace and solitude along with lungfuls of salt air. Her body was utterly relaxed, her mind drifting among cloudy visions of the future—a misty picture of the shop filled with customers, an impression of lazing on a white beach, a fleeting glimpse of Hero romping in the backyard.

She turned to go in, feeling a welling of excitement at the thought that tomorrow would be the beginning of her carefully planned new life. But Kitt hadn't even the slightest premonition that before the week was over, her new life was going to be turned inside out.

Chapter 2

Shortly after seven o'clock on Friday morning, Kitt swung her dark blue Camaro into the parking area in front of the shop, pulling over to the far left near the outside stairs. She and Hero had been for an early morning run on Beach Road, and both were now more than ready for breakfast.

Kitt got out of the car, motioning Hero to follow. She walked over to the edge of the lot bordering the road and turned to study the building with a satisfied smile. It had been a very busy week so far. Between unpacking household and personal belongings and reorganizing the bookshop, she had had little time for quiet contemplation. It's beginning to shape up, thought Kitt, and will look even better when I get some flowers in along the front.

The building was old. Originally a private house, it had been remodeled several times in the course of 125 years. The last work had been done some six years previously by the Baxters, the couple from whom Kitt had bought the property and the business. They had obviously hired an architect to redesign the building, and he had used equal measures of imagination and practicality in doing so. The austere look of the typically plain, four-square coastal village house had been softened by the addition of large small-paned bow windows— two on the first floor, flanking the wide door, and two more on the second floor directly above them. The building was sided with gray weathered shingles; the shop door and exterior trim were painted a soft slate-blue.

Hands tucked in the pockets of her fleece-lined denim jacket, Kitt moved a few steps closer and examined the displays in the big shop windows.

I like it, she decided. Blessings on Midge for knowing about that collection of ship models. It was certainly nice of Mr. Everett to lend them. Should be an eyecatcher for the boat-people coming up over the next few weekends to get ready for the summer.

Her eyes traveled up to the second-floor windows. Like those below, they were six feet high and eight feet wide, taking up most of the front wallspace in the two bedrooms. Kitt stepped back a few paces to see how much was visible within the rooms. Well, that's not too bad, she thought. The plants fill up enough space to make it difficult to see details in the daytime, and the inside shutters work great at night. I'm glad I decided against drapes.

She started walking toward the stairs. "Hey, Hero, come on out of there! I just got those gardens spaded up, and I promise you there are no bones in them. Come on, now, I've got a lot to do today. Midge will be in at noon, and your favorite lap is landing in late this afternoon for the weekend. Surprise, surprise, can't imagine what the attraction is, can you?"

Kitt put in a fast-moving two hours after breakfast making up a bed for Ez in the spare room, giving the apartment a quick once-over with duster and vacuum, watering her jungle of plants and whipping up a couple of her twin's favorite pies. Just before ten, she was flipping on the lights and unlocking the front door of the shop.

Weekday mornings were still slow, so Kitt decided to tackle the deep cabinets under the work counter along the side wall behind the checkout desk. She had a strong feeling that there might be forgotten treasures in the far corners and, besides, with the summer rush coming up, she would definitely need that space. Midge had offered to clean out the cabinets, but Kitt felt that Midge's limited time would be better utilized in helping select summer stock for the shop.

Hero jumped up onto the folding director's chair kept behind the desk for his use and watched with apparent interest as Kitt started pulling things out of the cabinets. He was in a "talkative" mood that morning, and carried on a running "conversation" with Kitt as she commented on the degree of usefulness, fascination or worthlessness of her discoveries. Hero had an expressive voice. It rose and fell in tone, and combined a variety of sounds in different lengths with pauses in between, so that they sounded much like sentences. Occasionally, he even ended a combination on a rising note, much as a person would when asking a question.

Kitt was kneeling in front of the last cabinet, head and shoulders inside as she reached into the far corner, her voice muffled as she continued talking to Hero. She didn't hear the opening and closing of the door, and the firm footsteps coming across to the desk were softened by the carpeting.

Hero's remark of "Muruuroow arraoo" broke off abruptly. He came to his feet and watched, alert and tense, as the tall man leaned forward to place his hands flat on the desk. One corner of an expressive mouth twitched up in a half-smile, while deep sapphire-blue eyes gleamed appreciatively as they roved over the most visible part of Kitt—her slim but firmly rounded rump.

He watched silently as she wriggled backward on her knees to get room to pull her shoulders and head out of the cabinet. She sat back on her calves, straightening her body and lifting both hands to push her hair away from her face.

Still unaware of her silent admirer, Kitt waved a hand in a broad gesture, muttering, "Tell me, dog, what am I going to do with all this stuff? Hmmmm?" Hero growled softly. Kitt snapped her head around to look at him, and then half-turned to follow the direction of his stare.

She rose gracefully to her feet in one smooth motion and took a step forward, saying, "Sorry, I didn't hear you...." Her voice died in her throat; she stopped breathing, stopped moving altogether except for the slow widening of her eyes as she stared incredulously at the man leaning on the desk.

Ten seconds dragged by. His face now mirrored the expression on hers. Total silence. Then Kitt drew in a shallow breath, followed by a deeper one, and stepped forward, reaching out slowly to place the tip of one finger on his chin.

"O'Mara?" Softly questioning at first, Kitt's voice grew stronger as her face lit up with a delighted grin. "Oh, Lord, O'Mara! I don't believe it! Whatever are you doing

He was laughing now and straightened up to his full height of six feet four, holding out both hands, palms up, to Kitt. He closed his hands tightly around hers and leaned back a bit to examine her admiringly from the toes of her soft suede ankle boots to the top of her tousled hair.

BOOK: Damon, Lee
11.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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