Home > Harvest Web (Moonshadow Bay #4)

Harvest Web (Moonshadow Bay #4)
Author: Yasmine Galenorn

 


Chapter One

 

 

I brushed a stray leaf out of my hair and stood up to stretch. I had been bent over for the past half hour and my lower back was burning.

“That’s what you get for deciding to grow a vegetable garden,” I muttered.

I was harvesting the last of the tomatoes and the final crop of cucumbers from my first attempt at a garden. A row of lettuce was wilting under the autumn rains that had finally come in, but I considered just turning it under. It wasn’t that I didn’t like lettuce, but I had been eating salad every day during the summer, I was tired of it, and I didn’t feel the least bit healthier. Not to mention, the rains that had come early had practically pounded it into the ground. I was lucky the tomatoes and cucumbers were still in good shape. But this would be the last crop.

I paused, pivoting my gaze to the Mystic Wood. The trees felt volatile today—I could sense their reluctance toward sharing their space with humans. I wasn’t sure where the sudden anger had flared from, but for some reason, the forest that abutted the back of my yard had been grizzled lately. That was the best way I could put it.

The woodland was filled with magical creatures, not all of whom were friendly. In fact, very few of those I had met so far seemed to care for humankind—or witchblood, for that matter. The forest itself was a hive mind, forming an entity stronger and bigger than the mere flora and fauna that made up its body. There was some sort of design behind the watchful sentinels—the massive cedars and firs that made up most of the Mystic Wood. And the past week or so, whatever intelligence lurking within the wood hadn’t been happy.

As I stretched my arms wide and yawned, I caught sight of an owl sitting in one of the trees near my garden. It gazed at me for a moment and I stared back at it. Then, with a soft hoot, it took wing and flew off. As it left, a rush of feeling exposed and vulnerable washed over me. Knowing better than to just brush it off, I picked up my basket of produce and headed for the gate leading to Killian’s house, hoping that whatever was wrong would pass.

 

 

I set the basket of tomatoes and cucumbers on the counter, and glanced at the clock. One p.m. I flipped on the espresso machine and made myself a mocha as I ticked off the box next to “Pick veggies” on my to-do list. I had taken the week off from work so I could have plenty of time to move back into my house.

Xi landed on the counter and rubbed against me, letting out a purp that was so loud that she snorted, surprising herself. The tortie blinked, looking around, before she jumped down and leisurely crossed the kitchen to nosh on some kibble. Klaus, her gorgeous gray brother, was asleep in the living room, curled up in Killian’s leather recliner. By now, the kittens were ten months old. While Xi was still relatively lithe, Klaus was beefing up to be a big boy.

I carried my mocha into the living room and curled up on the sofa. Killian’s house was comfortable, in some ways more than mine, but it wasn’t my home, and I felt disconcerted staying here while he was gone. We had been together for nine months and we were in a comfortable place, but I had gotten used to living on my own again and I wasn’t ready to share my space with anybody else—not on an everyday basis.

As I set my mug down, my phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID—it was the contractor.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Jaxson?” Even though he knew my voice, Jim Lark always asked if it was me.

“Yes, Jim, this is January. What’s up? How are things going at my house?” I purposely kept away from the house because when I hovered, the workers slowed down. I had forced myself to stay away the entire past two weeks.

“We’re done. If you’d like to come over for a walk-through, I can show you around and see if there’s anything we missed. The city inspector has been in, and approved all the new plumbing and wiring, so I have those documents here for you to look at.”

My heart skipped a beat and a smile spread across my face. “Jim, those are wonderful words to hear. I’ll be over in ten minutes. Give me a moment to change. I was out in the garden and I’m a little grubby.” Before he could sputter out an apology—the man was a chronic apologizer, and even if you paid him a compliment he found a way to turn it into a complaint—I hung up and scooped up Xi in my arms.

“We can go home today! Jim’s crew is done, Xi! I’m going to have the en suite of my dreams, and the kitchen will be new, and the house will feel a lot more open!” Ignoring the knots in my back, I jumped up and danced her around the room.

Xi gave me a haughty look, then playfully swatted at my nose. I kissed her on the forehead and carried her into the bedroom with me, setting her on the bed. I poked through the closet for a clean pair of jeans and a V-neck sweater. As I dressed, it occurred to me that I needed to buy some new clothes. I had been on the edge of a size fourteen when I first moved back to Moonshadow Bay, but leaving Ellison had freed me to actually eat something and not burn it off through nervous stress. I was starting to push close to a size sixteen now. I didn’t really care too much, as long as I put the brakes on somewhere, but I hated wearing clothes that were too tight for me, and the jeans I changed into were close to not zipping. The last thing I needed or wanted was a camel toe.

I glanced out the window. It was raining steadily again, but since I just had to run next door, I ignored my coat and grabbed my purse and checkbook. Making sure I had my keys, I dashed out the door and down the walkway toward the fence that led to my backyard. Another glance at the Mystic Wood told me I hadn’t been imagining things—there were some agitated spirits hanging out in the forest. I could feel them all the way up here. Turning my attention to my house, I pulled out my keys and raced up the steps to the porch, feeling like a little kid who just found out they were bound for Disneyland.

 

 

Jim was waiting in my kitchen. He was a short man, but he had a huge spirit, and he beamed as I peeked in the door.

“Welcome home, January.”

I took a deep breath and slid through the door, looking around. It was hard to know what to look at first. The counters gleamed. I’d decided to leave the white quartz counters and the deep espresso–stained cabinets, but Jim had spruced them up. The biggest change, though, was in the elimination of the wall that had originally separated the kitchen from the hall closet. The hall closet was gone and the kitchen extended into an open dining area, which merged into the living room.

Jim had also changed the position of the front door, moving it to the left side of the living room instead of far right. It meant walking a few more feet from the driveway to enter the house, but new side steps up to the front porch eliminated walking through the rain and mud. The front sidewalk now curved left, leading to the new entrance.

I had also asked Jim to remove the door to the office—which was on the left—and replace it with a wide archway, which opened the flow of the house even more. Given we’d had to work within the house’s original footprint, there really wasn’t more space, but it was utilized so well that it felt much bigger. The walls were smooth and freshly painted in the colors of my choice. Everything looked and felt so surreal.

“I can’t believe what you managed to do with the house,” I said, looking around. I opened the door to the powder room to see he’d updated the fixtures and paint.

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