Esmerelda Seville’s early morning humming lilted softly through the chilly stillness inside the old, three story building that housed the antique shop on the corner of Hawthorne and 7th Street, the sound filling the room with a whimsical air as she slowly made her way among the various rows of shelving, her wandering gaze carefully inspecting each item in turn.
As one of the three co-owners of Seville’s Antiques and Collectibles, it was her job to make sure the polished wooden shelves inside the store always appeared to be fully stocked and today they were brimming with brilliant artwork, unique handicrafts, priceless knickknacks, and lots of high quality vintage pieces—both exotic and mundane—from all over the world.
But it was not the harmless little glamour spell she had cast that Esmerelda was checking this morning. Instead, she was searching for the special bits; pieces which remained outside the enchantment. Specific items with specific purposes; tokens which would allow her and her sisters to complete their latest assignment.
Having already checked every inch of every shelf in the wide open room once, she was just beginning her second pass when a glistening reflection from something in her periphery caught her eye. Excited now, she hurried over to a section of shelving near the back wall and lifted a shimmering, water-filled glass ball from its base, turning it this way and that to stir up the contents inside.
Watching as artificial snow spilled down, cascading over a lovely winter scene, Esmerelda called out to her sisters, her voice easily carrying from the main chamber on the lower floor to the small back room office next door. “What a pretty snow globe! Did you two know we had this back here?”
Enthralled, she turned the fragile glass in her hands again, shaking it slightly this time. She smiled when the falling snow inside settled softly along the curving boughs of several tall evergreens and blanketed the roof before gently coming to rest upon the ground around a lovely house which had been painted a soft, powder blue.
It wasn’t a large house but there was something about the compact, two-story miniature structure that made it seem cozy. It was quaint, Esmerelda thought. Simple, and yet comfortable. The kind of house in which a family might live. A handsome, strong man, perhaps, who wasn’t afraid of things which were different, and an adoring wife who worshiped him.
Allowing her thoughts to wander and the fantasy she had conjured in her mind to continue, she pictured an adventurous little boy with green eyes like his father, an adorable little blue-eyed girl who looked just like her mother, and maybe even a dog, she decided.
It was the type of house she herself might like to live in someday, Esmerelda thought wistfully. Home.
Banishing the fantasy that was beginning to play out in her thoughts with a quick shake of her head before one of her sisters picked up on it, she continued to stare almost trance-like into the glass, taking careful note of the startlingly vivid detail worked into each item inside the ball.
The quaint but cozy two-story house and its snow-covered lawn was surrounded on three sides by a white, intricately worked lattice fence which was covered by the thick and twisted empty vines of several climbing rose bushes.
A stone-edged graveled walk made a relatively straight path from a side door to the gated opening in the fence, its lines marred only by the junction of a second walkway leading to the front of the house. A tiny, white painted mailbox perched just outside the gate and the thick black lines of the house number stood out in stark relief against the bright white of the mailbox: 214.
“Hey, two fourteen,” she called casually over her shoulder to her sisters, her gaze still locked on the scene within the glass, but Serephina and Mortianna were too busy chattering among themselves about the depression glass the lady who was coming by this morning would be looking for to hear her.
“She’s looking for a green piece, Feeny,” Esmerelda heard Mortianna tell her sister. “Green! We have exactly one. All the others are amber and rose—and none of them have our numbers. Can’t we just whip one up? I mean, it’s not like she’ll know magic was involved. Nobody does. People don’t believe in it anymore.”
And it was that simple truth which had allowed the sisters to settle into Hawthorne Grove almost thirty years ago. Well, that and their assignments.
The numbers Mortianna had mentioned just happened to be the girls’ date of birth, and its presence on any of the antiquities in their shop actually meant something—something very specific—but only to them. If an item had the Seville numbers on it, whether painted on or molded in or even carved inside, the girls knew it was the designated piece to be infused with their special brand of magic—one that would ensure the proper results for their assignments.
“No, we cannot whip one up, Morty,” Serephina scolded. “And you keep your naughty little fingers to yourself because you know that’s not true. Remember the Dover girl two summers back? She believed in magic and she knew the afghan we sold her was enchanted. Lucky for us, she didn’t figure out we were the ones who spelled it in the first place. We almost got caught and it was your fault.”
Esmerelda remembered that afghan. It was mauve and pastel pink, crocheted in a hounds tooth pattern. The girls had infused it so that whenever the Dover girl lay beneath it, she would think of her predestined mate. Feeny had given the infusion a little “extra” charge, however, and the lady knew there was something not quite normal going on because her thoughts and feelings were far too strong in relation to whenever she wasn’t wrapped in the afghan.
“Hello? Valentine’s Day?” Esmerelda called to them again, this time from the doorway, but her sisters continued to ignore her. She sighed. One would think her having broken in on their argument not once but twice in as many minutes would have been enough to put a stop to their petty bickering, but no. Not Mortianna and Serephina. When those two got started it was practically impossible for anyone to get a word in edgewise.
“My fault?” Mortianna’s eyes narrowed accusingly and she pointed a finger at her older sibling. “You were the one who gave her the fertility poem and told her to recite it!”
It was days like this that made Esmerelda wonder if being a Seville was even worth it. Did Hawthorne Grove really need them? Was their special brand of matchmaking magic even necessary to bring their lost lovers together? They had Valentine’s Day, after all, and it should have been enough … but she knew it wasn’t. Sure, Cupid had his bow and arrows, but he only worked one day a year. The Seville girls worked all year round. When they weren’t bickering among themselves about who was responsible for whatever mishaps had taken place over the years.
Holding out the glass between her hands like an offering, Esmerelda stepped between her sisters and said, “Ladies! Snow globe. 214. Valentine’s Day. Ring any bells?”
“What? It doesn’t snow on Valentine’s Day, Merry,” Mortianna grouched, barely paying attention, but when she finally glanced in Esmerelda’s direction she seemed to realize there was something important in what her sister had said—something that she had missed. “Wait, what are you talking about?”
Now that she knew she had her sister’s undivided attention, at last, Esmerelda said, “It’s the house numbers, see?”
Slowly, she turned the globe in her hands so her sisters could look inside. “214. February the fourteenth. Our birthday. This is it!”
“Well, bring it here,” Serephina insisted, motioning her forward with an impatient wave. “If it has our numbers inside, this must be the piece we need.”
Mortianna’s expression was doubtful. “A snow globe? She’s looking for depression glass. Green depression glass, remember? This glass is clear as crystal and cold as ice inside. How in the world is something like that supposed to warm her up to the idea of trusting a man again?”
“She has a name,” Esmerelda reminded her sister and then motioned with a quick tilt of her head toward the front door of the shop. “It’s Kaylee, remember? And unless my perfect eyesight fails me, I believe that’s her standing out there on the sidewalk, trying to decide whether or not it is safe to come inside. Hurry up, Feeny! Do it now, before she gets to the door!”
* * *
Kaylee Dean glanced at her watch and then up at the dilapidated building in front of her before speaking into her cell phone, answering her cousin, who was waiting for her to confirm she had located the antique shop in Hawthorne Grove. “This place looks like it has seen better days, Min, but it says Seville Antiques and Collectibles right over the door so I guess this is it.”
“That’s the place, yes. Thanks, Kay. You’re a doll for doing this for me. Mom will never guess!”
“You’re welcome, Min. Talk to you in a bit,” she said and then ended the connection. Sliding her phone into her back jeans pocket wasn’t as easy this winter morning as it was in spring and summer. For one thing, she didn’t wear anything as bulky as the ash gray and black trimmed pea coat currently belted at her middle in the warmer months. For another, she generally wasn’t so distracted by the utter lack of modern anything when she visited a place of business.
Seville’s Antiques and Collectibles looked like a run-down warehouse straight out of the mid-1900’s or, as her cousin Mindy would say: so last century! No wonder Min wanted her to come here to look for the depression glass … it was probably still being freshly made inside!
Kaylee had been told the shop held a vast array of priceless antiquities but she found that hard to believe when the building itself looked like it might fall over if you so much as sneezed beside it.
The two story frame boasted a cracked and badly weathered wooden exterior, nicked and worn hardwood doors—even the window frames were no more than thin bits of old wood—some of it worm-eaten—and panes of plain, clear glass gone cloudy with age.
Not to mention, Kaylee couldn’t see a single shred of evidence the owners had taken any precaution whatsoever to secure the place from thieves and vandals. Didn’t they know anyone could walk by and knock out a window—probably with no more effort than it would take to flick away a noisome fly? With such valuable pieces reportedly inside, how could they risk getting broken into? Granted, Hawthorne Grove was a smallish town but it had its share of bad apples, she was sure. Weren’t the owners even a little bit worried about losing their priceless inventory?
“Maybe it’s not so valuable after all,” she muttered, having finally managed to stuff her phone into her pocket.
Three steps later, she was tugging at the heavy brass door handle, and then she stepped inside. Overhead, the loud jingle of bells caught her attention and she glanced wryly toward the ceiling, expecting to see a string of round, silver bells suspended from bare, maybe even broken rafters, but she was met instead with a view of the store’s interior she certainly had not anticipated.
The main room was much larger than she had thought it would be; it spanned two full stories in height. In the ceiling, wooden beams were exposed, but they were neither worn nor rotting. Instead, they were thick and strong, their surfaces gleaming in the morning sunlight that spilled through the uncovered windows as if they had just been freshly polished. Unlike outside, the mullioned windows were neatly trimmed with more burnished wood, and she could see heavy, lustrous brass latches securing each one.
“Good morning! May we help you?” a voice called from the back of the store and she glanced around, moving instinctively through the tall rows of display shelves toward the sound of warm greeting while her eyes busily scanned the room in both surprise and awe.
“Hello. I am looking for depression glass and an acquaintance said I should check here … ” she explained, her words trailing off as her attention was caught by first one exquisite piece and then another.
Brow furrowed in confused astonishment, she turned, trying to absorb it all but she found the whole of her experience thus far almost too diametrically opposed to take in. The sheer beauty filling every nook and niche inside the shop, after having witnessed the results of what must have been many years of painful neglect on the outside, was almost …
“Unbelievable,” she whispered, her jaw slack as she was still held in a bit of a trance by her reaction to the surprise, but when a woman appeared from the back carrying some sort of glass object, she snapped her mouth shut and offered a nod of greeting.
“Isn’t it?” the lady agreed in passing, and Kaylee felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment from having been overheard.
“We have some lovely Mayfair Pink pieces…” the woman said in reference to her explanation of what she was looking for.
“No, it must be green,” Kaylee said. “It is for my aunt, you see. She has been collecting depression glass for a few years now and green is the color she is currently on about, so Min says it must be green.”
Her words did not seem to trouble the woman at all. In fact, she seemed more concerned with carefully situating the glass object she had been carrying upon the front counter than she was with her customer at the moment, and Kaylee found herself growing inexplicably curious about the piece.
“As luck would have it, we do have the green, but there is only the one piece. I’m sure there will be more soon, but for now—” She held up the glass ball and shook it. Light sparkled through the cut glass, creating dozens of rainbow prisms which seemed to shoot out through the room in all directions. Then, she walked a few feet to the checkout counter and shifted a few bits and baubles to one side before removing something from her pocket, which she placed in the center of the counter. Next, she settled the glass carefully onto the thing—an intricately carved wooden stand, Kaylee realized—before finally stepping away with a look of happy satisfaction on her face.
“There!” she said, her expression positively radiating with glee. She squeezed her hands together in front of her chest and glanced up at Kaylee to ask, “Isn’t it lovely?”
Kaylee wandered over as if she were being summoned, once more feeling inexplicably drawn to the thing, and when she looked inside the ball, she found it difficult to look away. A tiny blue house sat on a bed of snow, and the whole of the scene was surrounded by trees, a fence, and—there was even a tiny mailbox outside the gate at the edge of a snow-covered lane with no end and no beginning.
“Beautiful,” she agreed, running her fingers lightly over the sparkling clear glass. Despite the cold scene inside, Kaylee felt a rush of warmth filling her, spreading from her gloved fingertips to her toes. She did not even lift her head to ask, “How much is it?”
“$225, but if you’re buying the depression glass, I’ll give it to you for half,” the lady said, stepping quickly behind the counter. She bent down to rummage beneath, her hands emerging seconds later with one near mint condition piece of depression glass. “I think your aunt will love this one.”
Five minutes later, Kaylee exited the store with her purchases carefully wrapped and bagged and a happy smile on her lips. Excited, she reached back to fish her cellphone out of her pocket and quickly flicked through with her thumb across the two screens it took to contact her cousin before raising it to her ear.
Mindy answered after only two rings.
“I got it, Min!” Kaylee said in a rush. “A Hazel-Atlas Royal Lace dinner plate. Green, yes. No visible flaws and it isn’t sick, either! Twenty-five dollars, and Min? I bought something for myself, too. It is so beautiful. I can hardly wait for you to see it!”
“Oh! My bad. My bad,” Jordan Parker said, swiftly reaching out to steady the young woman he’d almost sent sprawling before she lost her balance completely. “I was so busy trying to figure out why anyone would recommend a place that looks like it’s so old it’s about to crumble into the dirt, I forgot to look where I was going.”
“I know, right?” she said breathlessly once she was on surer footing, but he couldn’t tell whether her breathlessness was from the biting chill of the frosty morning air or reaction to her near fall.
“But don’t let the exterior fool you,” she continued. “They have everything you could possibly imagine inside.”
Jordan studied her, a bemused smile curling his lips. She was a short little bit of a thing. Petite, he guessed was more the correct term, and she was … well … cute. From the fuzzy little pink ball on the top of her soft knit pink cap to the glossy sheen of her black half-boots, everything about her said peppy. He caught himself wondering if spirited girls like her ever agreed to have coffee with sentimental idiots like himself. “Really? You’d never guess it from here.”
“Oh, yes!” she insisted excitedly, her wide brown eyes sparkling with a warm glow he found it hard to look away from. Her hair, or what he could see of it where it poured from beneath her cap, was also brown—a rich, warm chestnut, gilt throughout with tendrils of fire—and her lips… “It’s like a magic store in there!”
The word was muted, as if it were coming from a great distance and he saw in the changing of her expression the moment the sound registered in her ears. Her eyes widened and she glanced away from him while hurriedly raising her cellphone to her ear. He listened in as she quickly began to apologize, “Sorry, Min! Sorry! I was—”
Her cheeks colored with what he supposed was embarrassment over having forgotten she’d been on a call, and again, he found himself bemused. Not by her, but at himself. His reaction to her. She was peppy and breathless and colored with a delightful blush and he was surprised to realize that he liked everything he saw.
Her shoulders rose and fell in a quick shrug as she angled the coral pink iPhone away from her soft pink lips to whisper, “Excuse me. I forgot my cousin was still on!”
Without really knowing why, he grinned. Wow, he thought. Everything about this girl was … warm somehow. Her eyes, her hair, and now her cheeks. He took a step closer, not even realizing he hadn’t let go of her until she shrugged away from him and offered a quick half-smile of apology. “Thanks for saving me! I have to run, but I hope you find what you’re looking for in there.”
Jordan snatched his hands down to his sides, stepped sideways out of her path, and nodded. “Yep.”
He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her, and as she hurried away, he caught a few words of her phone conversation.
“…going in as I was coming out. What? Oh. Yeah, he is, I suppose…” She glanced back over her shoulder at him and he smiled. She smiled back and then promptly forgot he existed as she turned to work the keys in her gloved palm to unlock her car.
Sentimental idiot for sure, Jordan admonished himself silently, shaking his head at the insane direction his thoughts had taken as he turned to enter the antique store. He’d just gotten out of a relationship. Now was definitely not the time to be thinking about asking someone he didn’t even know to share a few hours of conversation over a cup of mocha crème latte with him at Sam’s.
* * *
“Why did you throw them into one another like that?” Serephina bit out, scolding her sister in a heated whisper while continuing to watch the couple outside from behind the counter in the shop. “You know we aren’t supposed to interfere!”
“And what do you call giving them magic-infused items that will bring the two of them together if not interference, hmm?” Mortianna shot back. “Besides, it’s a dull, dead bore to watch them come in here and then leave like two ships passing in the night, the one never seeing the other until they are well out of our sight.”
Her grumpy pout disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, the corner of her lips suddenly kicking up in a half-grin. “At least this way we get to see a little action! Did you two notice he never took his hands off her until she shrugged? No, wait. Did you notice she didn’t realize he hadn’t until her blasted cousin butted in? You know she was feeling it. Heck, I was feeling it—from all the way in here! Those smoldering gray eyes of his are sexy enough to make any woman’s—”
“Mouth shut,” Serephina commanded with a swift flick of her wrist, silencing Mortianna before her runaway tongue could do any more damage to the situation, then she turned to greet their latest customer with what she hoped was a warm smile as the bells over the door jangled out a noisy warning. “Good morning, sir!”
Sliding off his dark sunglasses, he slowly folded them and slid them into the inside pocket of his heavy charcoal gray bomber jacket, his gaze roaming over the front interior of the store before he nodded to each of the sisters in turn. “Ladies.”
“Can we help you find something?” Serephina asked, surreptitiously motioning for Mortianna to bring the box around, but Esmerelda swept it out of her hands.
“I’ll just put this in the back,” she said, making sure to pass by him on her way. His eyes flickered to it as she passed and his hand shot out, halting her.
“Hold on. Is that mahogany?”
“Mm hmm,” Esmerelda murmured. “It’s a bit worn, but look at this. Metal string work, inlaid Mother Of Pearl…”
She turned the box, tilting it a bit so he could see it better, but he reached for it instead. “Do you mind if I have a closer look?”
Smiling, she handed it over to him. “Not at all. It really is a lovely box. English, I believe, but I’m not quite sure what these hooks on the sides are for … ”
“A pen, or quill, and a letter opener,” he offered without further encouragement.
“There’s a bit of the spiral trim work missing up here, and the feet—see, you can tell where they once were—” he said, pointing out the rounded indentations on the box’s bottom, “are missing.”
“Yes, I see. You are very astute. It does have a few flaws. The missing feet, a bit of string work, trim, and the inside is a bit picky though intact.”
“There are numbers here, too. Likely the mark of the creator. See? They’ve been carved into the wood on the bottom. Looks like 2-1-4.”
“Numbered? Well, then, that makes it even more rare and wonderful! Serephina, this one is marked, darling. Remember the Avrochelle set from last year? This box must be the second item in a single desk set made up of four pieces. Should I put it in the other room until we’ve located the others?” She peered over her shoulder at her sister, who bit at her lip to erase the growing smile that tried to appear at his words.
“Oh, my, yes! The set will bring much more. We can’t—”
“I’ll give you two fifty for it,” he said. “I know it’s worth less—I’m a bit of a hobbyist collector myself—but I’m willing to lose a little to bring it home today.”
Esmerelda frowned. “Oh, I don’t know. We would actually prefer to find the other pieces. This one is clearly part of a set, you see. If it is like the Avrochelle set, there would be a blotter, an ink stand, and an—”
“Oh, of course we will give it to him, Merry,” Serephina called out. “Would you like it wrapped, sir?”
With barely a glance at Esmerelda, he walked over to the counter, placed the box carefully to one side and took out his wallet. “Thank you, ma’am, but it isn’t a gift.”
“Ah, I see,” Serephina said. She picked up the box and placed it inside a paperboard box before sliding both into a thick, gray craft paper bag.
“I saw you with the lady outside and I thought—oh, well, it doesn’t really matter what I think.” Waving away her words as if she were embarrassed to have made such a guess, she said, “We’ll take one eighty.”
He nodded and placed a few bills on the counter along with a business card. He tapped it, and picked up the box. “If you happen to locate the other pieces, give me a call. Thank you, ladies.”
“No, thank you,” Esmerelda said as he made his way to the door. The minute he stepped outside the shop, she turned to her sisters with a wide-eyed look of awe. “Did you see those eyes? Oh my! Miss Dean isn’t going to know what hit her!”
….LIke it? You can pick it up here:
Google Play : http://bit.ly/1WWAL1f
(it should be on Kobo later today)
Paperback : http://amzn.to/1TCjAvp