Crystal Cove

By: Lisa Kleypas


One


It was a safe bet, Justine Hoffman thought glumly, that after ninety-nine failed love spells, the hundredth wasn’t going to work any better than the rest.

Fine. I give up.

She was never going to fall in love. She would never understand or experience the mysterious thing that fused one soul to another. It was something she’d always suspected deep down, but she had stayed too busy to dwell on it. The problem with staying busy, however, was that sooner or later you ran out of things to do, and then the thing you’d been trying so hard not to think about became the only thing you could think about.

Justine had wished on stars and birthday candles, thrown coins into fountains, blown the florets of dandelions to whisk the seeds upward on tiny feathered parachutes. With every wish, she had whispered a summoning spell … These words bespeak your fate … have no repose while I await … fate has found you … love has bound you … Come to me.

But her soul mate had never appeared.

She had pored over every page of the grimoire her mother had given her when she was sixteen. But there were no rites or spells for a witch with an empty heart. Nothing for a young woman who yearned for something as extraordinary, and yet entirely normal, as love.

Justine had tried to pretend to everyone, even herself, that she didn’t care. She had said she didn’t want to be tied down, didn’t need anyone. In her private hours, however, she stared at the little tornado of water at the drain of her bathtub, or the shadows thickening in the corners of her bedroom, and she thought, I want to feel.

She wanted the kind of love that would take her on the ride of her life. She dreamed of a man who would strip away her defenses like silk garments, until at last she could surrender all of herself. Maybe then the world wouldn’t seem so small, or the nights so long. Maybe then her only wish would be that the night would never end.

The mournful parade of thoughts was interrupted as her cousin Zoë entered the kitchen.

“Good morning,” Zoë said cheerfully. “I brought the book you asked for.”

“I don’t need it anymore,” Justine said, barely looking up from her coffee. She sat at the wooden worktable, leaning her chin on her hand. “But thanks anyway.”

A September morning breeze had swept inside the inn, the air bitten with ocean salt and a hint of marine diesel from the nearby docks of Friday Harbor. The scent was agreeable and familiar, but it did nothing to improve Justine’s mood. She hadn’t slept well for the past few nights, and caffeine wasn’t making a dent.

“No time to read?” Zoë asked sympathetically. “Just keep it for a while. I’ve read it so many times, I practically have it memorized.” Her blond curls swirled on her shoulders as she set the paperback romance novel in front of Justine. The pages were tattered and yellow with age, some of them barely attached to the spine. A woman wearing a gold satin gown swooned languidly across the cover.

“Why read something over and over when you already know the ending?” Justine asked.

“Because a good happily-ever-after is worth reading more than once.” Zoë tied on an apron and deftly pulled up her hair with a plastic clip.

Justine smiled reluctantly and rubbed her eyes, thinking that no one deserved happily-ever-after more than Zoë. Although they were distant cousins and had only seen each other at infrequent intervals during childhood, they had become as close as sisters.

It had been more than two years since Justine had asked Zoë, a talented chef, to come work at her Friday Harbor bed-and-breakfast, Artist’s Point. Justine handled the business side of things, including the office work, cleaning, and building maintenance, while Zoë took care of inventory, food buying, and cooking. Zoë and her culinary skills had been so essential to the inn’s success that Justine had offered her a share in the ownership.

Their partnership was a perfect balance—Justine’s impulsive, outspoken nature was tempered by Zoë’s diplomacy and patience. They shared a strong bond of loyalty, seeing each other at their worst, confiding their dreams and fears and insecurities. But the best part of the relationship wasn’t all the things they agreed on—it was when they disagreed, when they helped each other look at things in a new way.

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