Making Magic

Third Book of the Kindling

Excerpt #4

Making Magic She wore a different outfit and sang a different song every time Jake visited. Sometimes it was a touch of new color or a wisp of fog, but she was always changing, this mountain. And today—today there was something else in the song. Something he could barely hear, like the drone of a drowsy bee in the sun—a sad harmony that followed along.

Jake stood on the tailgate of his truck, gazing back at the view from the Woodruff’s solar barn. Even after twenty-five years of coming up here, he had yet to decide which season was his favorite, although autumn was always a treat. And this spot had a great view of the mountain, the house, the gardens, the pond, the apiary…pretty much everything. He supposed they had chosen it because of the number of hours of sun it got, considering all the solar panels positioned on the roof and downslope.

“Beautiful day, ain’t it?” Eddie said from the ground.

“Damn near perfect.” Jake jumped down and took one more look at the planks of cherry wood before he closed the tailgate.

“I hope your wood turned out like you wanted.”

“It looks real good. I need to talk to Nick about how much I owe him.”

Eddie waved him off. “Hell. Sawmill’s not getting much use, ’cept for the renovations up at the old home place and some projects here and there. That old cherry ’us just gonna rot up there.”

“Well, it’s gonna make some nice sound when I use it for my rails and bridges. I’ll use every inch of her for something, even cutting boards and toys with what’s left over,” Jake said. “If you see any other snags or downed trees that look promising, let me know. I’m always on the lookout.”

“Jamie swears she found a downed curly maple somewhere, but she’ll have to take you to it with her GPS.”

“That would be a prize,” Jake agreed, climbing into the cab. Although he really didn’t know how the child could tell it was curly, but good maple was good maple, curly or not. “Thanks again.”

As he drove back to the house, he wondered why he’d abandoned his work in town to pick up wood that could have waited another week or more. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have more than one deadline staring him in the face. And as yesterday’s session had proven, his group needed a lot more practice time. Yet here he was and there was that red BMW sitting right where he had parked it.

Pulling up behind it, he jumped out and gave the car another admiring once over as he walked past.

“That is some car.” It was Nick McKenzie’s voice.

Jake found Nick and Grace on the porch swing, rocking back and forth while their Plott hound watched warily from a safe distance. Grace looked gorgeous as always, and completely miserable. She was so very pregnant that it made his injured stomach muscles twinge in sympathy.

“We are trying every home remedy known to man to get Lily to quit fooling around in there, but she’s taking her own sweet time,” Nick said, kicking the porch swing higher. “Someone said swinging might help.”

Grace rolled her eyes, so Jake had a pretty good idea who came up with that theory.

Jake went up the steps and leaned on the post. “I’ve heard that if you…uh…repeat the original activity that got her in this condition—”

“Oh, we’ve tried that too,” Grace said. “Several times.”

“We could always try again,” Nick offered. “In the name of science.”

She poked him in the ribs and laughed. “That would require lots of fuel. Ice cream—mounds of chocolate ice cream, for the tiny amount of caffeine in there.”

“With whipped cream,” Nick agreed. “Lots of whipped cream. All over.”

“Okay, enough,” Jake said. “TMI, as Jamie says. I wanted to thank you for the cherry wood and the use of your sawmill.”

“No problem,” Nick said. “Someone needs to use it now and again to keep it in good condition.”

“And that old tree deserves to be used in something beautiful, like your instruments,” Grace added. “Besides, we owe you a lot more for taking care of Thea on Saturday.”

“How is she doing? Still laid up with that cold?”

“She’s been sleeping,” Grace said.

“Sleeping and eating,” Nick agreed.

“Spent most of yesterday in bed too. She was completely exhausted,” Grace added. “She’s up and around today though.”

“Really? That’s good,” Jake said, looking in the front door.

“She’s not in there,” Grace said with a knowing smile.

“Oh, well.” Jake stood. “I thought I’d check in on her. And that giant hairball she was carrying.”

“Bailey’s been doing the whole sleep and eat thing too,” Nick said.

“So there was a dog under there?”

Grace laughed. “Oh yes. Mel did a great job excavating the dog out of the hair.”

“Thea took her for a walk this morning, up to the cemetery.” Nick nodded in the general direction. “Every once in a while, we can hear her up there.”

Jake looked towards the Woodruff family cemetery up on the meadow. “Barking?”

“No. Thea,” Grace said. “Playing her flute.”

So that was what he had heard woven into the mountain’s song—the velvety harmony of Thea’s flute. He couldn’t hear it distinctly from here, but it was there, blending in with the sounds of nature.

“Good. I was afraid…” His voice sounded a bit hollow to his ears and he couldn’t finish the thought.

“That she had given it up?” Grace spoke up. “I was too. It’s been too long since we’ve heard it.”

“Yeah. It has.” Jake turned back towards the cemetery, listening.

“How’re you feeling, by the way?” Grace asked.

“Me? I’m fine,” Jake replied absently.

“Your bullet wound?” Grace said.

Jake ran his fingers over his side. “Good. I’m good.”

Grace motioned with her fingers and the movement of the swing stopped. “Come.”

“May as well give in,” Nick said. “She’ll keep chipping away at you if you don’t.”

Jake frowned and walked over, lifting his shirt and tugging at his waistband to let Grace take a look. She squinted at the round scar, still red, but healing. He tensed as she reached out to touch it.

“Spasms now and again?”

“Not bad. I need to get in some PT, but I haven’t had time.”

“Feel free to use my equipment down at the solar barn,” Nick said. “It needs to feel useful, like that saw.”

“Thanks. I might.” Jake felt a warm tingle from Grace’s fingers and tried not to jump.

“It looks good,” Grace said. “You need to stretch those muscles though. Warm up then stretch before you do any crunches or use that equipment.”

“Yes, Dr. Grace,” Jake said, tucking his shirt back in.

“I think I want to try something else,” Grace said. “All that did was make me seasick.”

Nick grinned. “No problem.”

“I’ll leave you folks alone then. Hope Lily decides to show up soon,” Jake backed down the steps and headed for his truck before he had to hear any more about inducing labor.

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