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Authors: Nora Roberts

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BOOK: Charmed
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Giggling, already forgiving him for the lapse, she came over to hug him. “You’re silly.”

“Yeah.” He cupped his hands under her elbows and lifted her up for a hearty kiss. “And you’re short.”

“One day I’m going to be big as you.” She wrapped her legs around his waist and leaned back until she was upside down. It was one of her favorite pastimes.

“Fat chance.” He held her steady as her hair brushed the deck. “I’m always going to be bigger.” He pulled her up again, lifting her high and making her squeal with laughter. “And smarter, and stronger.” He rubbed the stubble of his beard against her while she wriggled and shrieked. “And better-looking.”

“And ticklish!” she shouted in triumph, digging her fingers into his ribs.

She had him there. He collapsed on the bench with her. “Okay, okay! Uncle!” He caught his breath, and caught her close. “You’ll always be trickier.”

Pink-cheeked, bright-eyed, she bounced on his lap. “I like our new house.”

“Yeah?” He smoothed her hair, as always enjoying the texture of it under his palm. “Me, too.”

“After dinner, can we go down to the beach and look for seals?”

“Sure.”

“Daisy, too?”

“Daisy, too.” Already experienced with puddles on the rug and chewed-up socks, he glanced around. “Where is she?”

“She’s taking a nap.” Jessie rested her head against her father’s chest. “She was very tired.”

“I bet. It’s been a big day.” Smiling, he kissed the top of Jessie’s head, felt her yawn and settle.

“My favorite day. I got to meet Ana.” Because her eyes were heavy, she closed them, lulled by the beating of her father’s heart. “She’s nice. She’s going to show me how to plant flowers.”

“Hmm.”

“She knows all their names.” Jessie yawned again, and when she spoke again her voice was thick with sleep. “Daisy licked her face and she didn’t even mind. She just laughed. It sounded pretty when she did. Like a fairy,” Jessie murmured as she drifted off.

Boone smiled again. His daughter’s imagination. His gift to her, he liked to think. He held her gently while she slept.

*  *  *

Restless, Ana thought as she strolled along the rocky beach at twilight. She simply wasn’t able to stay inside, working with her plants and herbs, when she was dogged by this feeling of restlessness.

The breeze would blow it out of her, she decided, lifting her face to the moist wind. A nice long walk and she’d find that contentment again, that peace that was as much a part of her as breathing.

Under different circumstances she would have called one of her cousins and suggested a night out. But she imagined Morgana was cozily settled in with Nash for the evening. And at this stage of her pregnancy, she needed rest. Sebastian wasn’t back from his honeymoon yet.

Still, it had never bothered her to be alone. She enjoyed the solitude of the long, curved beach, the sound of water against rock, the laughing of the gulls.

Just as she had enjoyed the sound of the child’s laughter, and the man’s, drifting to her that afternoon. It had been a good sound, one she didn’t have to be a part of to appreciate.

Now, as the sun melted, spilling color over the western sky, she felt the restlessness fading. How could she be anything but content to be here, alone, watching the magic of a day at rest?

She climbed up to stand on a driftwood log, close enough to the water that the spray cooled her face and
dampened her shirt. Absently she took a stone out of her pocket, rubbing it between her fingers as she watched the sun drop into the flaming sea.

The stone warmed in her hand. Ana looked down at the small, waterlike gem, its pearly sheen glinting dully in the lowering light. Moonstone, she thought, amused at herself. Moon magic. A protection for the night traveler, an aid to self-analysis. And, of course, a talisman, often used to promote love.

Which was she looking for tonight?

Even as she laughed at herself and slipped the stone back into her pocket, she heard her name called.

There was Jessie, racing down the beach with the fat puppy nipping at her heels. And her father, walking several yards behind, as if reluctant to close the distance. Ana took a moment to wonder if the child’s natural exuberance made the man appear all the more aloof.

She stepped down from the log and, because it was natural, even automatic, caught Jessie up in a swing and a hug. “Hello again, sunshine. Are you and Daisy out hunting for fairy shells?”

Jessie’s eyes widened. “Fairy shells? What do they look like?”

“Just as you’d suppose. Sunset or sunrise—that’s the only time to find them.”

“My daddy says fairies live in the forest, and usually hide because people don’t always know how to treat them.”

“Quite right.” She laughed and set the girl on her feet. “But they like the water, too, and the hills.”

“I’d like to meet one, but Daddy says they hardly ever talk to people like they used to ’cause nobody really believes in them but kids.”

“That’s because children are very close to magic.” She looked up as she spoke. Boone had reached them, and the sun setting at his back cast shadows over his face that were both dangerous and appealing. “We were discussing fairies,” she told him.

“I heard.” He laid a hand on Jessie’s shoulder. Though the gesture was subtle, the meaning was crystal clear.
Mine.

“Ana says there are fairy shells on the beach, and you can only find them at sunrise or sunset. Can you
write a story about them?”

“Who knows?” His smile was soft and loving for his daughter. When his gaze snapped back to hers, Ana felt a shudder down her spine. “We’ve interrupted your walk.”

“No.” Exasperated, Ana shrugged. She understood that he meant she had interrupted theirs. “I was just taking a moment to watch the water before I went in. It’s getting chilly.”

“We had chili for dinner,” Jessie said, grinning at her own joke. “And it was
hot
! Will you help me look for fairy shells?”

“Sometime, maybe.” When her father wasn’t around to stare holes through her. “But it’s getting too dark now, and I have to go in.” She flicked a finger down Jessie’s nose. “Good night.” She gave a cool nod to her father.

Boone watched Ana walk away. She might not have gotten chilled so quickly, he thought, if she’d worn something to cover her legs. Her smooth, shapely legs. He let out a long, impatient breath.

“Come on, Jess. Race you back.”

Chapter 2

“I’d like to meet him.”

Ana glanced up from the dried petals she was arranging for potpourri and frowned at Morgana. “Who?”

“The father of this little girl you’re so enchanted with.” More fatigued than she cared to admit, Morgana stroked her hand in a circular motion over her very round belly. “You’re just chock-full of information on the girl, and very suspiciously lacking when it comes to Papa.”

“Because he doesn’t interest me as much,” Ana said lightly. To a bowl filled with fragrant leaves and petals she added lemon for zest and balsam for health. She knew very well how weary Morgana was. “He’s every bit as standoffish as Jessie is friendly. If it wasn’t obvious that he’s devoted to her, I’d probably dislike him instead of being merely ambivalent.”

“Is he attractive?”

Ana lifted a brow. “As compared to?”

“A toad.” Morgana laughed and leaned forward. “Come on, Ana. Give.”

“Well, he isn’t ugly.” Setting the bowl aside, she began to look through the cupboard for the right oil to mix through the potpourri. “I guess you’d say he has that hollow-cheeked, dangerous look. Athletic build. Not like a weight lifter.” She frowned, trying to decide between two oils. “More like a … a long-distance runner, I suppose. Rangy, and intimidatingly fit.”

Grinning, Morgana cupped her chin in her hands. “More.”

“This from a married woman about to give birth to twins?”

“You bet.”

Ana laughed, chose an oil of rose to add elegance. “Well, if I have to say something nice, he does have
wonderful eyes. Very clear, very blue. When they look at Jessie, they’re gorgeous. When they look at me, suspicious.”

“What in the world for?”

“I haven’t a clue.”

Morgana shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Anastasia, surely you’ve wondered enough to find out. All you’d have to do is peek.”

With a deft and expert hand, Ana added drops of fragrant oil to the mixture in the bowl. “You know I don’t like to intrude.”

“Oh, really.”

“And if I was curious,” she added, fighting a smile at Morgana’s frustration, “I don’t believe I’d care to see what was rolling around inside Mr. Sawyer’s heart. I have a feeling it would be very uncomfortable to be linked with him, even for a few minutes.”

“You’re the empath,” Morgana said with a shrug. “If Sebastian was back, he’d find out what’s in this guy’s mind anyway.” She sipped more of the soothing elixir Ana had mixed for her. “I could do it for you if you like. I haven’t had cause to use the scrying mirror or crystal for weeks. I may be getting stale.”

“No.” Ana leaned forward and kissed her cousin’s cheek. “Thank you. Now, I want you to keep a bag of this with you,” she said as she spooned the potpourri into a net bag. “And put the rest in bowls around the house and the shop. You’re only working two days a week now, right?”

“Two or three.” She smiled at Ana’s concern, even as she waved it off. “I’m not overdoing, darling, I promise. Nash won’t let me.”

With an absent nod, Ana tied the bag securely. “Are you drinking the tea I made up for you?”

“Every day. And, yes, I’m using the oils religiously. I’m carrying rhyolite to alleviate emotional stress, topaz against external stresses, zircon for a positive attitude and amber to lift my spirits.” She gave Ana’s hand a quick squeeze. “I’ve got all the bases covered.”

“I’m entitled to fuss.” She set the bag of potpourri down by Morgana’s purse, then changed her mind and
opened the purse herself to slip it inside. “It’s our first baby.”

“Babies,” Morgana corrected.

“All the more reason to fuss. Twins come early.”

Indulging in a single sigh, Morgana closed her eyes. “I certainly hope these do. It’s getting to the point where I can hardly get up and down without a crane.”

“More rest,” Ana prescribed, “and very gentle exercise. Which does not include hauling around shipping boxes or being on your feet all day waiting on customers.”

“Yes, ma am.”

“Now, let’s have a look.” Gently she laid her hands on her cousin’s belly, spreading her fingers slowly, opening herself to the miracle of what lay within.

Instantly Morgana felt her fatigue drain away and physical and emotional well-being take its place. Through her half-closed eyes she saw Ana’s darken to the color of pewter and fix on a vision only Ana could see.

As she moved her hands over her cousin’s heavy belly and linked with her, Ana felt the weight within her and, for one incredibly vivid moment, the lives that pulsed inside the womb. The draining fatigue, yes, and the nagging discomfort, but she also felt the quiet satisfaction, the burgeoning excitement and the simple wonder of carrying those lives. Her body ached, her heart swelled. Her lips curved.

Then she
was
those lives—first one, then the other. Swimming dreamlessly in that warm, dark womb, nourished by the mother, held safe and fast until the moment when the outside would be faced. Two healthy hearts beating steady and close, beneath a mother’s heart. Tiny fingers flexing, a lazy kick. The rippling of life.

Ana came back to herself, came back alone. “You’re well. All of you.”

“I know.” Morgana twined her fingers with Ana’s. “But I feel better when you tell me. Just as I feel safe knowing you’ll be there when it’s time.”

“You know I wouldn’t be anywhere else.” She brought their joined hands to her cheek. “But is Nash content with me as midwife?”

“He trusts you—as much as I do.”

Ana’s gaze softened. “You’re lucky, Morgana, to have found a man who accepts, understands, even appreciates, what you are.”

“I know. To have found love was precious enough. But to have found love with him …” Then her smile faded. “Ana, darling, Robert was a long time ago.”

“I don’t think of him. At least not really of him, but of a wrong turn on a particularly slippery road.”

Indignation sharpened Morgana’s eyes. “He was a fool, and not in the least worthy of you.”

Rather than sadness Ana felt a chuckle bubble out of her. “You never liked him. Not from the first.”

“No, I didn’t.” Frowning, Morgana gestured with her glass. “And neither did Sebastian, if you recall.”

“I do. As I recall Sebastian was quite suspicious of Nash, too.”

“That was entirely different. It
was
,” she insisted as Ana grinned. “With Nash, he was just being protective of me. As for Robert, Sebastian tolerated him with the most insulting sort of politeness.”

“I remember.” Ana shrugged. “Which, of course, put my back up. Well, I was young,” she said with a careless gesture. “And naive enough to believe that if I was in love I must be loved back equally. Foolish enough to be honest. And foolish enough to be devastated when that honesty was rewarded with disbelief, then outright rejection.”

“I know you were hurt, but there’s little doubt you could do better.”

“None at all,” Ana agreed, for she wasn’t without pride. “But there are some of us that aren’t meant to mix with outsiders.”

Now there was frustration as well as indignation. “There have been plenty of men, with elfin blood and without, who’ve been interested in you, cousin.”

“A pity I haven’t been interested in them.” Ana laughed. “I’m miserably choosy, Morgana. And I like my life just as it is.”

“If I didn’t know that to be true, I’d be tempted to work up a nice little love spell. Nothing binding, mind,” she said with a glint in her eye. “Just something to give you some entertainment.”

“I can find my own entertainment, thanks.”

“I know that, too. Just as I know you’d be furious if I dared to interfere.” She pushed away from the table and rose, regretting for a moment her loss of grace. “Let’s take a walk outside before I head home.”

“If you promise to put your feet up for an hour when you get there.”

BOOK: Charmed
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