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Authors: G. J. Walker-Smith

Star Promise (43 page)

BOOK: Star Promise
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“One of these days we’re going to buy a house, Charlotte,” Adam declared, dragging the last of his suitcases into the living room. “And maybe some furniture to put in it.”

I couldn’t help laughing. The only stick of furniture we’d ever bought was a bed for our kid. Everything else was either stolen from Ryan or was already in whichever property we were squatting in at the time.

“Maybe we could look at it down the track,” I replied. “When we’re grown up and responsible.”

“It’ll happen one day.” He kissed the top of my head. “But for now, we’re gypsies with a lot of luggage.”

“And a little bit of baggage,” I hinted.

He leaned back, frowning. “Meaning?”

“Meaning, I want you to sort things out with your dad before you go.”

Time was running out. Adam’s flight was booked for the next afternoon. It wasn’t the first spat the stubborn Décarie men had ever had, but something about this one felt different. If they couldn’t find a way past it, I feared the damage might become permanent.

“Maybe you could go and see him in the morning,” I suggested. “Call a truce and –”

“I have no intention of going over there, Charlotte,” he interrupted. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not the one who needs to apologise.”

I shrugged. There was no point discussing it further. Adam wasn’t going to budge. All I could do was cross my fingers and hope I had better luck with his equally stubborn father.


Bridget didn’t quite grasp the concept that we’d only be apart from her dad for a week. Breakfast conversation the next morning was a little stranger than usual. “Don’t forget who I am and don’t find another kid,” she ordered. “That would be bad.”

Adam hid his smile behind his coffee mug. “I’ll try not to.”

“And please look after Treasure,” she instructed. “You can’t touch her. Just look nicely at her.”

Adam blinked. “I’m taking Treasure?”

I pointed to one of the suitcases. “She’s already packed,” I said sheepishly. “I hope you get her through customs okay.”

He groaned, making both of us giggle. “Just what I need,” he grumbled.

I picked up my bowl and kissed his cheek. “Well, I hope you enjoy your last day in the Big Apple.”

“We’re going to the park,” announced Bridget.


“To play with wild animals,” she added.

Me too
, I didn’t reply. Trying to talk sense into Jean-Luc probably wasn’t going to work, but I was going to give it a crack.


An hour before I was due at work, Fiona met me at the palace door armed with a tight hug and a few instructions. “Do not let him kick you out until you make him see sense.”

It was hardly encouraging advice.

“You’re married to the big lug,” I reminded her. “And the other fool is your son. Why can’t
force them to kiss and make up?”

She pouted, and annoyingly began fussing with my hair. “You’re so much better at handling drama, darling.”

“No promises.”

Fiona looked at the package in my hand. “You brought him a present? That’s a lovely idea.”

“I didn’t bring him a present,” I corrected. “I brought him magic.”

I doubt she believed me, but she was desperate. With a firm hand on my back, she pushed me to the stairs and sent me on my way. “Go, darling. Work your magic.”

I trudged up the curved staircase as if headed to my own execution. The sour look on the king’s face as I walked into his study did nothing to make me think differently.

He glanced up briefly. “To what do I owe this pleasure, Charlotte?” he asked formally.

He hadn’t invited me in, but I took up residence on the chair opposite his desk anyway, leaning my parcel against his desk. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Jean-Luc lifted his wrist, checking the time. “I have half an hour.”

“You’re all heart,” I muttered.

Perhaps realising he was being an epic jerk, he set his pen down. “You have my full attention.”

“Adam leaves tonight,” I stated.

“So I heard.”

“You’re going to let him go without an apology?”

He frowned. “And what do you think I should be apologising for?”

“Adam worked incredibly hard for you,” I reminded him. “Why won’t you cut him some slack?”

His steely stare remained fixed on me. I was getting nowhere. “I don’t agree with my son’s choices of late.”

“You can’t make him be who you want him to be,” I said roughly. “Just be happy that you’ve had a hand in who he is.”

Jean-Luc leaned back but refused to unlock me from his gaze. “I have had no hand in this ridiculous newfound affinity to carpentry,” he snapped. “That’s your influence. Mine was forking out for the best education money could buy and a position in my law firm.”

I was shaking my head before he’d even finished. “The wood thing is nothing to do with me. He’s been that way inclined for years, and I find it sad that you didn’t see it.”

When he slammed his fist on his desk and ordered me out, I stood as if I was doing as I was told for once. Instead, I walked over to the photo he’d bought from the gallery.

“Tell me again why you like this so much?”

“We’ve been through this,” he grumbled. “It’s getting tiresome.”

I turned back to him. “But you never gave me a straight answer. I’ve never made four thousand dollars on a picture before. I’d like to know why it’s so special.”

His eyes widened. “You took that picture?”

I nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You didn’t ask.”

And for that reason, I’d never been forthcoming with the history of it – until then. I went back to his desk and picked up the package I’d brought with me. “I thought you’d like to see what the boat looked like when it was finished.”

I tore the paper off and leaned the frame against my chest, holding it up to him. “Adam started working on it the day after Bridget turned one,” I told him. “He finished a week before her second birthday.”

The king didn’t say a word. I was thrilled: if I’d rendered him speechless, I was getting somewhere.

“It was derelict when he found it.” I motioned to the before picture with a nod. “It was delivered to his shed in two pieces and most of it was rotten, but he had to have it.”

“Why?” The word seemed to hitch in his throat.

“He said it reminded him of the boat you used to take him sailing on when he was young. I guess it left an impression on him.”

And if my hunch was right, it had left an indelible mark on Jean-Luc as well. “Is that why you like it too?”

The king’s eyes darted between the picture on the wall and the one I was holding, finally settling on the overhauled yacht. “Adam did that?”

“All by himself,” I proudly confirmed. “It wasn’t very profitable, though. It’s the only project he’s undertaken that he didn’t make any money on.”

“Where’s the boat now?” he asked curiously.

“We still have it.” I smiled at the picture in my hands. “I don’t think he tried too hard to sell it. This one’s special.”

“I’d like to see it one day,” he choked.

“Well, it’s funny you should mention that,” I said wryly. “I was going to suggest that you come to the Cove for Christmas. Maybe you could check it out then.”

The wounds Adam and Jean-Luc had inflicted on each other in the past few weeks ran a little too deep to be patched with a simple apology. Baby steps was my plan. All Adam hoped for was understanding. If I could get his father to the Cove, he’d see what kind of talents his son possessed – starting with the bank building and ending with the boat projects he’d taken on since then.

He didn’t exactly jump at my suggestion. His mind was elsewhere. “Where did he learn to do work like this?” he asked.

“A lot of it was trial and error.” I shrugged. “He got a lot of advice from contractors, and my dad. Alex is pretty handy.”

He nodded, still staring at the picture. “It is extraordinary.”

“I’m not surprised that you like it so much,” I teased. “This boat is French.”

Jean-Luc’s laugh was a welcome break in the serious conversation. “How could you know that?”

“Well, when all the paint was scraped off, we found a brass nameplate on the stern. It was a French name.”

“What was it?”

Knowing I’d botch the pronunciation, I wasn’t even going to attempt it. I nodded at the frame on the wall. “I wrote it on the back of the picture.”

Jean-Luc walked over and took it down. “
,” he announced with reverence. “Do you know what that means?”

“No clue.”

“It is the final part of a story or a play,” he explained. “When all the complications and drama of the plot are resolved, the tale wraps up leaving no loose ends. Puzzle pieces fall into place and everything becomes clear.”

I wondered if he understood the nuance of magic behind the words he’d just spoken. Then he surprised me by proving he did.

He held the picture up to me. “A spider web, you think?”

I wanted to cry – I was that elated.

“Yes,” I confirmed in a shaky voice. “It’s all about spider webs. Fate and spider webs.”

He smiled at me. “Do you think there’s a lesson in this for me?”

“I think it’s proof that we’re all where we’re meant to be, and following the path we’re supposed to,” I replied.

Jean-Luc replaced the picture and sat back at his desk. “How do you explain the web connecting you to your mother, Charli?” he asked. “Surely that was a connection you could have done without.”

We were getting a little off track. I’d never discussed Olivia with anyone other than Adam. I didn’t know how to give an impartial account of what reuniting with her meant to me – or if I wanted to.

“I don’t regret meeting her,” I said quietly. “I told her I do, but I don’t. It taught me that sometimes the best option is to walk away.” I added, “And it was remarkably easy to do it.”

“Why is that, do you think?”

“Because she didn’t contribute a thing to who I am,” I replied strongly. “She doesn’t get to take any credit.”

“I’m glad you recognise it,” he told me. “And I’m glad you’re not hurt by her failings.”

I couldn’t claim to be completely unscathed. I had a lot of questions for my father, and it terrified me to think he wasn’t going to be able to give me the answers I needed – but that was a problem for another day.

“Your sons are good men,” I told him. “You made them that way.”

He smiled in a way that reminded me of Ryan.

“I cut the tie to my mother,” I told him. “Your boys will never do that to you as long as you let them drift a little.”

Jean-Luc frowned, and I worried that I was losing him. “They’re always going to be tied to you, but they need room to move,” I explained. “They’re Money Spiders.”

He threw his head back and laughed. “How apt.”

“You’ve heard of money spiders before, right?” I asked, catching his infectious laugh. “They’re not keen on sticking to one thing. They like to balloon. They attach themselves to a dragline of web and let the wind carry them – just like your boys do.”

Jean-Luc’s smile was as strong as I’d ever seen. “And why are they called Money Spiders?”

“Well, legend has it that if a money spider lands on you, he’s come to spin you new clothes, which back in the day would’ve changed your fortune.”

After a long moment of thought, he shook his head. “You’re quite extraordinary at times.” I wasn’t sure if that was an insult or a compliment, so I kept my mouth shut on the off-chance he was being nice. The king walked to the huge bookshelf. “I suppose you’re now going to claim that you’ve shown me magic?”

“Not at all.” I wasn’t that hopeful. “I’d be happy knowing I’d at least made you think outside the box a little bit.”

After a moment of searching, Jean-Luc pulled a small black book from the shelves and made his way back to his desk. “When I was courting my wife, she used to go to extraordinary lengths to better her French,” he told me. “When she worked at the Odeon, she used to sneak into the movies.”

I laughed, trying to imagine my mother-in-law carrying out such a crime in her theatre-issued silk tights.

“Fiona has no patience.” He smiled. “She never sat through a whole film – to this day I’m not sure that she ever has.”

I looked at the book he’d set on the desk. When I realised it was a notebook, curiosity began to bubble. I pointed at it, to hurry him along.

“She used to sneak in half-way through the screenings,” he said, patting the book. “And then she’d summarise the ending in French in this notebook.” His line of sight dropped to the book in front of him. “To this day, I find it incredibly endearing.”

I had no idea why he was sharing the story with me, but I was glad he had. It proved that he knew how it felt to be besotted and in love. It also went a long way to explaining why Lord Muck had chosen Fiona over all others.

“Is it a good read?”

Jean-Luc thumbed the pages. “The last half hour of hundreds of films are summarised in here. Her French at that time was appalling,” he said with a chuckle. “But you might think it’s magic.”


He flipped back to the first page and turned the book to face me, tapping his index finger on the handwritten title on the first page. “
,” he announced. “More spider webs, you think?”

“Yes!” I rushed out the word in absolute shock. “Totally magic.”

He slid the book over to me. “I’m inclined to agree with you,” he replied. “And because of that, I will no longer doubt the existence of Charlotte’s web.”


Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’d missed the life we’d created in Australia, but I had no idea how much until I went back.

Getting into the laidback swing of things was as easy as dusting off the furniture and moving into the cottage. By the time Charli and Bridget arrived a week later, things were so close to the way they used to be it was as if we’d never left.

I didn’t regret our time in New York. My daughter now had an understanding of how I’d grown up, and had spent time forming a tight bond with her grandparents and uncle.

My bond with my father wasn’t anywhere near as tight as it should’ve been, but putting some distance between us had dulled my ire significantly – to the point where Mom and Dad were making plans to visit over Christmas.

BOOK: Star Promise
6.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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