Silver Falls: Love’s Magick Kiss
Jessica Coulter Smith
In the magical town of Silver Falls, things are never what they seem.
When Hadley lost her beautiful twin daughters to a drunk driver, she thought her life was over. Though she’s still haunted by their loss, Lucas has always been there for her. She’s been able to lean on him as a friend, but now she wants more.
When her hunky neighbor finally asks her out, she knows saying yes is the right thing to do. His kisses make her knees weak, but he’s more than just a big teddy bear. Is it safe to trust her heart to a grizzly?
Available from Changeling Press
Hadley knelt in the snow in front of the two tiny graves. After placing a red rose on top of each one, she brushed the tears from her cheeks. It had been nearly a year, but it still felt like it was only yesterday. A day didn’t go by that she didn’t blame herself for their deaths. What if she had reacted just one second sooner? What if she had been paying more attention, would she have seen the other driver in time? But no amount of what ifs or wishes would change the fact that her two babies were gone. She knew in her heart that the blame lay with the drunk driver who had plowed into their vehicle, but she had a hard time blaming someone who was dead. She was the sole survivor of the crash, and there were many days she wished she hadn’t survived.
Standing, she brushed the snow from her jeans. The cold and damp was starting to soak through her clothes straight to her bones. Even if she did want to stay longer, she knew it was best for her to leave and come again another day.
Hadley wasn’t sure she was moving on exactly, but it was a step in the right direction. She often wondered if it would be easier to shoulder the grief if she had someone to share it, but her children’s father hadn’t been in the picture from the moment he’d learned of their existence. It had been shortly after his rejection that she’d moved to Silver Falls, leaving behind the big city for the comforts of a small town. Of course, she hadn’t realized at the time that she was moving to a town where humans were the minority. But even in a town of supernatural beings, no one had been able to save her babies.
Huddling inside her coat to keep warm, she turned and walked down the path toward her car. It had taken her nearly a year, but she was finally driving again. She’d felt guilty, asking her friends to drive her everywhere, but at the same time driving a car had terrified her. She’d finally worked through the issue in therapy and started driving two months ago. The new Ford Explorer gleamed in the sunlight. After the accident, she’d sworn to never own a small car again.
She’d spent plenty of time at the cemetery for the day, and now it was time to head home and get to work. There was always something she needed to do. Work had been difficult for her, but she’d managed — somewhat. Writing children’s books had been easier before the accident. She’d turned in a few projects to her editor, but only one had been accepted. She had a lot of work ahead of her to make the others presentable. But days like this one made writing nearly impossible. It made her wonder if she would ever get over the pain of losing her children.
As she pulled into her driveway, she noticed a large box on her front porch. She didn’t remember ordering anything and most of her friends lived in town. Who could have left something so large on her porch?
She got out of the Explorer and went to investigate. There wasn’t a return address, but she could see where one had been. It had smeared during transit and could no longer be read. She tried lifting it, but it wouldn’t budge. The thing weighed a ton.
With a sigh, Hadley realized she’d have to bother her neighbor for assistance. Lucas Bowman had been her neighbor for years and had always been kind to her. She didn’t agree with his lifestyle, but he seemed to be a genuinely good person, not to mention he was the hottest guy she’d ever seen. The man was mouthwatering to be sure. She’d be lying if she said he hadn’t starred in at least one or two of her fantasies over the years. She was surprised he wasn’t at work, but his truck sat in the driveway.
She knocked on his door. A moment later Lucas opened the door. He smiled when he saw her, making her knees feel weak. Her heart was beating so hard she was sure he could see it pounding in her chest.
“Hadley, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“The postman delivered a package today while I was gone and it’s too heavy for me to lift. Would you mind carrying it into the house for me?”
He nodded. “Just let me grab a coat. I’ll be right there.”
“Sorry for disturbing you.”
He grinned. “No problem.”
She waited patiently while he got ready and then led the way to her small house next door. Lucas hefted the box without any trouble and carried it inside, depositing it on her living room floor.
“Do you need anything else?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry I bothered you.”
“It’s okay, Hadley. I was just going over some paperwork. I needed a break.”
“Are things going well at the store?”
He nodded. “Yeah, sales have been good. It’s been a good month so far. I’m actually surprised. This is usually our slow time of year. What about you? How are you doing?”
“I have good days and bad days. I went to see the girls today so it’s not one of my better ones. They say it gets easier, but…”
“I can only imagine what you went through, Hadley. There isn’t a time limit on grief. You take as much time as you need.”
She gave him a small smile. “Thank you, Lucas.”
“Well, I better get back home. If I don’t finish my reports, my employees won’t receive their checks on time.”
After closing the door behind him, she turned to face the mystery box. Peeling the tape off, she managed to open the top. All she could see were thousands of white packing peanuts. She reached inside and dug around until she felt something. Pulling as hard as she could, she managed to budge it a tiny bit, but it wasn’t coming out of the box. Whatever it was, it was large and heavy. No matter how much she dug, she couldn’t see anything but peanuts. It seemed she would have to bother Lucas again if she wanted to know what it was. But that could wait for another day. She didn’t want to disturb him again so soon.
Putting the box out of her mind, she went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. She loved her Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine. She had a regular coffeepot for serving a large number of people, but when it was just her, her Dolce Gusto machine was her one guilty pleasure. After her cup of coffee was brewed, she added her favorite creamer and carried her cup into her office.
The light, airy room was inviting most days. The cheerful pale yellow walls could usually brighten her mood, at least a little. She looked out the window at the snow covered trees and wondered what she would work on first. There were several books that needed revisions. But she almost felt like starting something new. Turning to face her computer, she began to write.
* * *
Three hours later, Hadley had finished a story. It was one she had told her children many times before laying them down to sleep at night, one she had created just for them. She’d stopped and cried several times while she was writing, but she was glad she’d put the words to paper.
The doorbell rang, pulling her from her thoughts. She saved her file, then got up and went to answer the door. Finding her other neighbor, Grayson, was a surprise. He’d been kind to her since she’d moved to Silver Falls, and while she wasn’t sure they were friends exactly, she knew she could count on him if she needed to. He seemed like a sweet guy. If it weren’t for Grayson, she didn’t know how she would have made it since moving to Silver Falls. He’d stopped in and helped her quite a few times over the years, fixing anything from the kitchen disposal to leaky pipes, and always greeted her with a smile.
“Are you okay?” he asked with a frown.
She wiped at a stray tear and nodded. “I was just writing. It was a story I used to tell my children before bed. It was harder to write than I’d thought it would be.”
He stepped into the house and took her hand. “Are you all right now?”
“I’m fine. But thank you for asking. Oh, while you’re here, may I ask a favor?”
“I had a package delivered earlier today and whatever is in it is too heavy for me to lift. Would you mind taking it out for me?”
She closed the door and walked over to the box. “I don’t remember ordering anything, and I can’t read the return address, so I have no idea what’s in this thing.”
“Well, let’s find out.”
Grayson reached into the box and lifted out what was inside. Hadley cried out when she saw what was nestled inside the peanuts.
Grayson sat the large rocking horse down on the floor. “I take it you didn’t buy this?”
“I did, but… It was going to be a present for the twins’ third birthday. I had forgotten about it.”
He dug around in the box and produced a note. “It says that you forgot to pick this up a few months ago so they shipped it to you.”
A tear slipped down her cheek. “What am I supposed to do with it now?”
“Is there somewhere you want me to put it for now?”
“In the girls’ room.”
She led him down the hall to her daughters’ room. She pushed the door open and flipped on the light. Everything looked the same as it had the day they’d died. She hadn’t been able to change a thing yet, but it was on her list of things to do.
Grayson set the horse in the corner of the room and didn’t say a word. She couldn’t even tell what he was thinking. Her friends Tildy and Sasha both thought the shrine, as they called the room, needed to go. But Grayson… if he felt the same way, he kept it to himself.
“Thank you,” she said softly.
He nodded and followed her out of the room, closing the door behind him. Once they were back in the living room, he stood near the door, running a hand through his hair.
“I guess if you don’t need anything else, I’ll go,” he said after a minute or two of awkward silence.
“Would you like a cup of coffee or a soda first?”
“Coffee would be great, if you’re sure it’s no trouble.”
She smiled. “I could use a break to regroup before I try to write anything else today.”
“Need any help?”
Hadley shook her head. “Just have a seat and I’ll be back in a few minutes. You like your coffee black, right?”
Carrying the cups back to the living room, she smiled at Grayson. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” He smiled. “So… besides your crying spell when I arrived earlier, how have you been? I haven’t seen you in the past week.”
“I’m okay I guess. I went to see the girls today so I’m more of a basket case than usual. Some days are easier than others. But enough about me, how is work going these days? I’ve noticed you’ve kept longer hours than usual the past few weeks.”
“Busy. Lots of leaky roofs this time of year. And I’m building a house in Carson Corners.” He took a sip of his coffee. “How’s your writing going?”
“Most days it’s not. I have a lot of unfinished pieces and several that need work before my editor can see them. Today is the first day I’ve finished anything.”
“It will take time.”
“It’s been nearly a year. People are tired of being lenient with me and hearing excuses. They just don’t understand what it’s like. Losing a child is like losing a part of yourself. Someone ripped me in half and threw the other part away. It hurts so damn much all the time,” she sobbed.
He pulled her into his arms and held her close. Gently rubbing her back, he murmured words of comfort in her ear. Even when her tears subsided, he didn’t let her go. Grayson’s arms tightened around her. “Feel better?”
She nodded and pulled back, removing herself from his embrace.
“Hadley, you know that any time you want to talk, or just need to be around someone, I’m right next door. You’re welcome to come over anytime you’d like.”
“I’ll remember that. I have this list of things I’m supposed to accomplish to move on with my life, and my friends think I should be crossing things off already.”
“But you’re not ready.”
“No, I don’t think I am. At least, not for all of it. And the things I think I could tackle, I’m not ready to do alone.”
“So what’s on this list?”
“Well… My therapist wants me to clean out the girls’ room. He thinks it’s unhealthy and the constant reminder of what I’ve lost is keeping me from moving on. He also suggested that I cut back on my graveside visits to one every other week.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “I’m actually doing better with that one. I don’t go every day anymore. Sometimes I only go twice a week.”
“It sounds like he’s asking a lot of you. But if you do decide to box up the girls’ room, I’ll help you. I don’t think that’s something you should do alone.”
“You mean it?”
“Of course.” He took her hand. “You have friends for a reason. Don’t hesitate to lean on them in your time of need.”
“Is that what we are? Friends?”
“I’d like to think so. And despite what your other friends think, you should tackle the things on your list when you’re ready. I’m assuming there’s more?”
She nodded. “Stuff to do with work and my personal life. I tried telling him I didn’t have one before the accident.”
Grayson grinned. “I know several guys who wanted to date you. They were just worried you’d turn them down. Everyone in town knew your daughters were your entire world.”
“I always thought my daughters were the reason no one asked me out. Most guys don’t want to date a single mom, especially one with twins.”
“I think our dear friend Lucas would have asked you out if you’d been open to it,” he said. “And I know at least one guy in the pack who was interested.”
Lucas was interested in her? She’d always liked him, as more than just a friend, but she hadn’t thought she was his type. She’d seen the women he went out with and none of them looked anything like her. She was more of the girl next door type and they were more of the model type.
“If someone had asked, I would have said yes. I didn’t date because no one ever asked me out.”
“What about a movie? Say Sunday night?”
“Grayson, I don’t know…”
“Just as friends. It will do you some good to get out of the house.”
She hesitated only a moment before nodding. “All right. Sunday then.”
“I’ll call you Friday to set up a time.”
He had a point about getting out more. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone to see a movie, or gone out to dinner. She hadn’t even had a girls’ night out with her friends in over a year. Hadley had been hiding in her house since the accident, and she realized that’s what it was — hiding. Maybe Grayson was right. Maybe she needed to rejoin the land of the living.