Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas

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  To Sue and Scott Carlson for being such wonderful and caring friends, and for creating a beautiful place where I can write and set my imagination free.

  Love always,



  Special thanks to my friend Connie Brockway, for graciously allowing me to use a quote from her spectacular historical romance The Other Guy’s Bride in the first chapter. You are a jewel, Connie—no wonder your words sparkle.


  Title Page

  Copyright Notice



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Reading Group Guide

  Also by Lisa Kleypas

  Praise for Rainshadow Road

  About the Author



  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.

  Together they had made a success of Artist’s Point, which had become popular with both tourists and locals. They hosted weddings and private parties, and held monthly events such as cooking classes and wine tastings. During the island’s tourist season, the inn was at or near full occupancy, and even in the off-seasons they averaged about thirty-five percent.

  There was no obvious physical resemblance between the cousins—Justine was tall and slender, with brown hair and brown eyes, whereas Zoë was a blond bombshell who caused men to react like the old cartoon characters … the ones whose eyes launched out and tongues dangled and who had steam puffs that came out of their ears. Zoë’s voluptuous appeal had always attracted men who had inflicted terrible pickup lines on her, and treated her as if she had the IQ of a houseplant.

  Nudging the romance novel closer to Justine, Zoë said encouragingly, “Just try a few pages. You’ll get so caught up in the story, you’ll feel like you’re in another time and place. And the hero is wonderful.” She paused with a dreamy sigh. “He takes her on an adventure across the desert, looking for an ancient lost city, and he’s so protective and sexy and brooding…”

  “I’m afraid that reading about fantasy men might raise my expectations at a time when I need to lower them.”

  “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve never thought your expectations of men were all that high to begin with.”

  “Oh, yes they were. In the past, I would only go out with a guy if he had a good personality, a decent body, and a job. Now I’d settle for a man who isn’t currently married or incarcerated.”

  “Reading about fantasy men won’t raise your expectations. It’s just a nice escape.”

  “And of course you need an escape,” Justine said dryly, “from your hideous troll of a fiancé.”

  Zoë laughed. Alex Nolan, a loca
l builder, could be legitimately called many things, but “hideous troll” was not among them. He was a singularly attractive man, dark-haired and lean, with austerely perfect features and glacier-blue eyes.

  No one would have paired the cynical and hard-drinking Alex with someone as gentle-natured as Zoë. But during the process of remodeling a cottage on Dream Lake for Zoë over the summer, Alex had surprised everyone, including himself, by falling deeply in love with her. He had stopped drinking and had straightened out his life. It was obvious to everyone that Zoë had him wrapped around her finger. She could manage him so sweetly that he didn’t seem to notice—or care—that he was being managed.

  Although Justine had never experienced real love, she knew it when she saw it. When Zoë and Alex were together, they tried to be casual, but the emotion was still too new and raw for either of them to be easy with it. Their intense awareness of each other was emblazoned in the air no matter how discreet they were. Sometimes it was even in their voices, as if love had filled them until they had to remind themselves to breathe.

  You could feel terribly lonely, being around that kind of love.

  Snap out of it, Justine told herself sternly. You have a great life. You have everything you need.

  Most of the things she had longed for had finally come to her. Caring friends … a home … a garden … a front porch with potted impatiens and trailing verbena. For about a year she’d even had a boyfriend, Duane, a biker with tattoos and big sideburns and an easy laugh.

  But Duane had broken up with her just a few weeks ago, and now whenever they happened to cross paths, he was distantly friendly, his gaze never meeting hers. They had broken up when she had inadvertently scared the hell out of him.

  Her gaze lowered to the romance novel. She pushed the book away like a sated diner refusing an extra piece of cake.

  “Thanks for bringing the book,” she said, while Zoë turned on the ovens and went to pour herself some coffee. “But I wasn’t actually planning to read it in the first place.”

  Zoë cast a quizzical glance over her shoulder. “What were you going to do with it?”

  Self-mocking amusement twitched the corners of Justine’s mouth as she admitted, “Burn it and buy you a new copy.”

  Zoë fumbled with a spoon as she stirred cream into her coffee. Turning to Justine, she asked blankly, “Why were you going to burn my romance novel?”

  “Well, I wasn’t going to burn the whole thing. Just a page.” Seeing her cousin’s confusion, Justine explained sheepishly, “I was planning to sort of … well, cast a spell. And it called for setting fire to ‘words of love scripted on parchment.’ So I thought a page from a romance novel would do the trick.”

  “Who were you going to put a spell on?”


  Judging from Zoë’s expression, an inquisition was about to start. “You’ve got some cooking to do,” Justine said hastily, “and I need to roll out the coffee cart to the lobby—”

  “The coffee cart can wait” came the gentle but inflexible reply.

  Justine sighed and settled back in her chair. Silently she reflected that although she was known as the bossy and opinionated cousin, Zoë was the one who got her way more often. She just happened to be quieter about it.

  “You’ve mentioned this stuff about spells before,” Zoë said. “And I remember when I was having problems with Alex, and you offered to put a curse on him. I thought you were joking, trying to make me feel better. But now I’m getting the impression that you weren’t kidding.”

  No. Justine had not been kidding.

  She had never made a secret of the fact that she had been raised in the pagan tradition. What she hadn’t admitted outright was that she, like her mother, Marigold, was a hereditary witch.

  So many varieties of witchcraft existed that the word itself was practically meaningless without a qualifier. There was classic witchcraft, eclectic witchcraft, monotheistic witchcraft, Gardnerian, goth, Wiccan, and so forth. But Family Tradition witchcraft was a rare, centuries-old category of natural-born witches … those with magic in their DNA.

  Throughout Justine’s childhood, her mother had instructed her in the ways of the Tradition. She had taken Justine to festivals, camps, classes, often moving the two of them at a whim with no regard for school schedules. One year they had lived in Oregon, and the next they’d stayed in a pagan community in Sacramento … then a few months in New Mexico … Alaska … Colorado … Justine couldn’t remember all the places they had stayed. But they had returned most frequently to Friday Harbor, which was the closest thing to a home that Justine had ever known.

  If the soot pattern on the inside of a glass candleholder resembled a heart pierced by swords, Marigold would say it was time to leave again. She saw signs in footprints, the shape of a cloud, the path of a spider, the color of the moon.

  Justine couldn’t remember exactly when she had started to resent the nomadic pattern of their lives. She only knew that at some point, it had bothered her that they could pack up everything they owned in a quarter hour. “It’s so much fun to go to new places,” Marigold had told her. “We’re free as birds, Justine. All we lack is wings.” But even robins and starlings had stayed in their nests longer than Justine and her mother.

  Things might have been different if Justine’s father, Liam, had still been alive, but he had died when she was a baby. From what little Marigold had told her, Justine knew that Liam had been a farmer—an orchardist—who had grown apples, pears, and cherries. Marigold had met him when she was buying apples to celebrate the autumn equinox. A red bandana had been tied across his forehead to keep his long dark hair out of his eyes. He had peeled an entire apple in one long strand, and when the peel had fallen to the ground, it had made the shape of Marigold’s initials, which she’d taken as a sign.

  They had married right away. Liam had died before the next year was out. Their entire relationship had been as brief and intense as a lightning storm. Marigold had kept no photographs of him. She hadn’t even wanted his wedding band or pocketknife, or the guitar he had played. His orchard had been sold, and his possessions had been disposed of. Justine was the only evidence that Liam Hoffman had ever existed. She had his heavy dark hair and brown eyes, and according to her mother, she had his smile.

  Whenever Justine asked for stories about him, Marigold shook her head and explained that when someone you loved was gone, all the memories went into a secret place in your heart. You could take them out and look at them only when you were ready. Eventually Justine had realized that Marigold would never be ready. All Marigold wanted to remember about her late husband was that love was the worst thing that could ever happen to you. It made you hate springtime breezes and guitar music and the taste of apples.

  Reflecting on those years of constant upheaval, Justine thought she understood why her mother could never stay in one place. If you held still long enough, love might find you, and catch you so tightly that you couldn’t slip free.

  And that was what Justine wanted, with all the force of her will.

  “Can we forget this whole thing?” Justine asked Zoë, rubbing her tired eyes. “Because you don’t believe in this stuff, and if I try to explain, I’m only going to end up sounding crazy.”

  “It doesn’t matter what I believe. What matters is that you believe in it.” Her cousin’s tone turned coaxing. “Tell me what kind of spell you wanted to cast on yourself.”

  Justine scowled and swung one of her feet, and muttered something under her breath.

  “What?” Zoë asked.

  Justine repeated it, more clearly this time. “A love spell.” She darted a glance at her cousin, expecting derision or amusement. But this was Zoë. She only looked concerned.

  “Is this because of the breakup with Duane?” Zoë asked gently.

  “Not really. It’s more … oh, I don’t know. It’s just that now Lucy’s together with Sam, and you’re engaged to Alex, and … I’ve never been in love.”

  “It takes
longer for some people,” Zoë said. “You’re still a year younger than me, you know. Maybe by next summer—”

  “Zoë, the problem isn’t that I haven’t fallen in love. The problem is that I can’t.”

  “Why are you so certain?”

  “I just know.”

  “But you’re a very loving person.”

  “In terms of friendship, yes. But when it comes to romance … I’ve never felt that kind of love. It’s like trying to understand what the ocean is like by holding a conch shell against my ear.” She glanced morosely at the romance novel in Zoë’s hands. “What’s your favorite part of that book? The page you’d tell me to use in a spell.”

  Zoë shook her head, beginning to flip through the book. “You’re going to make fun of me.”

  “I’m not going to make fun of you.”

  The page was located with an ease that implied many repeated readings. Zoë handed the open book to her, her cheeks turning pink. “Don’t read it out loud.”

  “I won’t even move my lips,” Justine said. Her gaze swept down the page while Zoë busied herself at one of the counters, measuring ingredients into a mixing bowl.

  “You,” he whispered, “are my Solomon’s mine, my uncharted empire. You are the only home I need to know, the only journey I want to take, the only treasure I would die to claim. You are exotic and familiar, opiate and tonic, hard conscience and sweet temptation.”

  The scene continued with escalating passion for pages afterward, compelling in its unabashed lyricism. Justine wanted to read more. “Are emotions like that even possible?” she asked. “I mean, even though you and Alex are in love…”—she gestured with the book—“real life can’t be like this, right?”

  Zoë’s face turned pink as she replied. “Sometimes real life is even better. Because love is there not just in the big romantic moments, but in all the little things. The way he touches your face, or covers you with a blanket when you’re taking a nap, or puts a Post-it note on the fridge to remind you about your dentist appointment. I think those things glue a relationship together even more than all the great sex.”

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