Samantha Maplegood tucked her best-selling author award into the desk drawer, sopped the tears from her face and called her soul sister.
“Izzy, you know what I’m going to do?” Samantha said, squinting into the morning sun. “Hunker down here and manage this bed and breakfast, polish my nails and get funky with the next hot guy who blows my skirt up. Forget Max and his bullshit. ‘I’m too busy with work to make room for you in my life, Sam.’ Hell, I might even buy a plant. You know, a fucking daisy or something.” She wrapped her hair into a bun on top her head. “Or a fish. Something I got to feed or water to keep alive.”
“I get it, darling,” Izzy said. “Anything to avoid thinking of the Toxic One.”
Samantha blew her nose. “I can’t even write. Deadline for my new novel idea is three weeks away and I got nothing. Makes me sick to think of romance. Everything I do is to the beat of this story in my head. I keep hearing his voice, seeing his wicked smile. The way his eyes swallowed me whole when he asked me to marry him.”
“Sounds like you’re speaking what you need to be writing, girl. Isn’t your writer’s retreat next month? Maybe that will get your keyboard snapping.”
Samantha pressed a spoon against the tea bag in her mug. “What kind of man purposes while washing the car anyway? He put more thought into what model computer to buy.”
Tears fell into Samantha’s coffee mug. “Iz,” she said. “Come see me. I need your famous foot rub. Bad. Oh, and bring one of those special suckers. Those and a few Mia Tia’s, I can forget Max ever existed.”
“Will see if I can catch a flight this weekend, bump some meetings to online. Did one last week from the tub, bubbles up to my neck and Jake in undies on the deck in downward dog… oh, damn, Sam. I don’t mean to salt that wound.”
“Not your fault you got a keeper,” Samantha says. “Bring some of that salt. We can use it to cast a spell for my next man.”
Samantha pinched the candle flame dancing in the crystal holder on the stove.
“I see why this place is called CandleWick Cove now,” a man said, placing his patrolman hat on the counter and pouring a thermos full of coffee. “How’d you learn to do that?”
“Same as you learned to fire your weapon,” Samantha replied, pointing at his gun belt. “Sleep good last night? First night in a new place I walk into walls searching for the potty.”
A pearl black cat jumped on the counter and nudged the treat bag in an open cabinet.
“Charcoal!” Samantha clapped her hands.
The cabinet door slammed, narrowly missing Charcoal’s head.
Samantha rolled her shawl close to her neck and smiled at the officer. “You have your weapons and I have mine,” the hostess said, twirling to face a woman dressed in a long paisley skirt and red ankle boots.
“Wind about blew me toward the pearly gates,” the woman said, tucking stray, gray hairs into a blonde bun.
“Officer Riley, this is my mom, Lillian. She’s lived in Portsmouth for forty years. Knows the ownership chain of each building in town. You need to find a house… she’s your woman. No real estate fees or license. Around here you only need a license to practice medicine and sometimes to drive.”
“Make you a deal,” Riley said, smiling. “Find me a house here in Portsmouth before the baby is walking and earn one get-out-of-ticket free voucher.”
“Aw!” Samantha said. “How old is he?”
Riley ran his hand over his brillo pad head. “Six months. How’d you know I have a boy?”
“Samantha’s always been a good guesser,” Lillian said. “Right, dear?”
“Need a woowoo license to do what I do.” Samantha winked. “Mom, it’s room 3 that needs cleaned for the doctor coming tonight. Thanks for helping out today. This is a heavenly job, but I’ve got to try to get some words on the page. Never thought I’d be caretaker of a B&B.”
Riley wiggled his fingers as if playing a piano and slipped out the back door.
“Hellooo,” a female shouted over the whistling tea pot.
Samantha plopped a tea bag into a mug. “In here,” she said, turning to a tall lady with black curly hair held in place by a pink headband and pulling a leopard print suitcase.
Samantha darted toward the lady and hugged her, knocking her into the wall. “Izzy!”
Izzy presses Samantha’s head to her breast. “Oh, baby girl,” she said. “We must get your power back. We can’t let Max—”
“I’m so ready!” Sam unwrapped from the embrace and looked into Izzy’s eyes as if the Messiah had just come. “What first? I’ve already cleared my chakras, saged the house and did a forgiveness ceremony—could do that ceremony every day. The waves of anger—I just really believed he wanted a life with me.” Sam fell into Izzy’s waiting arms, sobbing.
Izzy rubbed Sam’s head for several minutes. “I’m here to help you get your groove back. Tea. Dandelion if you have it, darling,” Izzy requested, sitting on the barstool. “And grab yours.”
Samantha poured a mug full and scooted a jar of honey across the granite countertop.
Izzy squeezed honey directly onto her tongue. “Drink up.”
Sam finished off her tea and Izzy peered into Sam’s empty mug.
“Looks like a griffin in here. Wings and feet. You live between two worlds.”
“Twenty-two worlds somedays,” Sam said.
“Grasshopper and dove,” Izzy said, squinting and turning the mug. “Good luck, abundance and luck is with you, chic.”
Sam sighed. “Luck is like the tide.”
“It does leave,” Izzy said, “but always returns, different and transformed just like this dragonfly.” Izzy pointed into the mug.
Samantha turned away from the bar and looked out the window over the sink. A cardinal stared at her from the white fence post. News was definitely coming. She just hoped it would be the spark of inspiration she needed to forge a new path to love.
As the sun set Officer Riley popped open a beer and kicked his feet up on the Adirondack chair on the back patio. A burning incense cone inside a hanging metal sculpture casted fairy images onto the brick wall of the house. “Amazing view of the city and the river from here,” he said.
Samantha settled into a chair and waved as if drawing a shape over her small plate of salad. “Ever seen a UFO?”
Riley’s beer-filled hand stopped mid-air. “You shitting me? Have you?”
Samantha pointed toward the yellowish-pink horizon. “If it’s going to show itself, it’s usually around now.”
The backdoor creaked open and Izzy and Lillian strode out, hands full of wine and berries. They plopped the food onto the table and sat in the swing.
Riley tipped his head toward the newest guest. “Doc, I’m looking for a house to buy. Wanted to come back closer to family here in Ohio. My wife and baby are in South Carolina. She works and needs me to find a house so she can approve it online and give her boss notice.”
Docs bald head shone under the torch light. “Women, babies and new careers make the young heart sing,” he said.
“What about you, Doctor Braxton?” Samantha asked. “You married?”
Doc rubbed his hands together as if rubbing a genie bottle for a wish. “No, the Navy was my goddess.” He glanced at Riley. “You must be proud young man. Not easy raising a family in a world where chemtrails are more prevalent than bees.”
Riley and Doc clinked beer can to wine glass.
Sam said, “Doc, this is my mom, Lillian. She’s a widow.”
Lillian smoothed her blouse. “My Sam. Never did hide behind my skirt tail.”
Doc peers over the wire-rimmed glasses perched tight on his narrow nose. “I’m the state prison medical director,” he said. “More drama in prisons than I saw during my assignment as a Navy ship director overseas near Egypt.”
Sam said, “I can clear some of that negativity if you’d like. I’m an energy healer.”
“I’m game.” Doc motioned her over. Samantha raised her hand by his right ear and flipped her fingers across her thumbs as if playing a musical instrument.
“Interesting stories you must have,” Samantha said, blowing into her hand as if it were a birthday cake full of candles. She stepped back and drew in the air again.
“Could write a book,” he replied. He holds his head stiff and blinks continually. “Am I going to combust? Feeling fireflies in my head.”
“Fire burns confusion,” Sam said. “From the moment our seed of life is planted in the womb, a book begins growing inside us,” she said, returning Doc’s bow and ‘Namaste,’ the Sanskrit acknowledgment of divine love. The corner of Samantha’s plump mouth curled up as Charcoal wrapped around her leg. “Every man’s hand writes upon time’s wall.”
“Excellent!” Doc said, closing his eyes as if enjoying a fine wine. He opened them and swept his finger toward Samantha. “We have a poet in our midst. A mighty fine one. I tried to get a literary agent to no avail. Rejection letters. Ouch.”
Samantha smiled. “Yes, got to have fire and endurance to be a writer—or a lover.”
The next afternoon Liz and Samantha crawled into a crossed-legged position on the ground, knees touching under the shade of a red maple tree. Liz sprinkled salt around them clockwise while Sam clasped her thunderbird necklace to her heart and her other over a paper heart on her lap.
“Protect this space,” Liz chanted. “We call our guides and ancestors into this healing circle. We call the four directions, North, the Earth.” She grabbed a scoop of tobacco from a pouch and patted it onto the ground between them. “West. The Water,” she said, pouring a stream from a tiny flask.
Samantha lit a red candle. “South, the Fire,” she added. “And East, the Air.” She exhaled as if trying to expel all the breath from her lungs.
Both closed their eyes, a resounding “Ohm,” echoing through the surrounding trees.
Sam said, “Earth beneath me, light the way. Protect my footsteps every day. From up above to down below, make known the path that I should know. Lead me to peace. My soul longs for deep release.”
Izzy hoisted Sam up by the arm and both girls walked clockwise in the circle, eyes shut and heads low.
“Knew you’d be outside,” a voice called.
Both girls looked toward the house. Lillian was standing on the patio beside a stocky dark-haired man with a bandage on his forehead. His blue eyes glistened like the surface of the ocean. Samantha blinked. Spells don’t work this fast, she thought. I must be dreaming.
Izzy patted Sam’s shoulder.
Sam’s eyes locked on Max’s. She whispered to Iz. “I’m not going to pass out.” She took a deep breath. “I’m going to face him. Head-on.” She walked toward him while Izzy and Lillian ducked inside.
“Sam,” he said, motioning to the chairs. “You look amazing. As usual.” He grinned and took a seat.
Sam ran her hand along her neck. “Thanks.” She sat opposite him at the table. “What happened?”
“Was robbed,” he said. “At a rest stop in North Carolina. Some lady called 911. Thank God for her.” He wrung his hands. “Two thugs. They had a gun. Hit me with it instead of shooting me.
Samantha’s eyes glazed over as she watched Max’s aura exploding into jagged edges.
“You okay, Sam?”
“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he said. “I, well…” Max pulled a cigar from his pocket. “I’m not very good at relationships.”
Sam turned her head and looked at the circle she’d just left under the tree.
Max stroked the cigar.
“I want to …,” he said. “Damn it, Sam.” He smacked the cigar onto the table. “I love you. I want to make it work.”
Samantha tossed her head back, tears streaming, and ran into the house.
“Max is squirming more than a man sitting atop a hornet’s nest,” Lillian says while Sam sobs into a towel.
“I just don’t know if I can do this again,” Samantha says.
“No guarantees in life.” Lillian hugged her daughter. “With love or anything else. You’re miserable without him. But you know how to fix that. Either change your perception of him and give him a shot or cut all ties and never mention his name again. He must be dead to you if you want to heal.”
Samantha nodded. “I know. He still here?”
Lillian said, “He says you deserve time to process this. You freshen up.” Lillian opened the door. “I have a casserole in. A special request from the handsome doctor.”
“Delicious,” Doctor Braxton said, scooping another spoonful from the dish.
Lillian licked the wine from her lip. “Thanks!”
“So, Max,” Izzy said. “Do tell how you got injured. Sam says you were robbed at a rest stop down in Officer Riley’s neck of the woods in South Carolina.”
“Crime is rampant down there,” Riley said. “I’ve been on the live cop show three times this year.” Riley looked at Max. “What happened?”
Max tipped back in his chair. “Yesterday evening I was driving back from Georgia where I’d been on business and stopped at a rest stop near Columbia. I got out of the car and the next thing I knew a young lady with a baby was standing over me asking if I was okay.
“What!” Riley exclaimed, flipping his palm toward the sky. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“Blood was stinging my eyes and my head was throbbing. The police and ambulance arrived a few minutes later.”
Riley looked at the table full of open mouths. “Bet the lady had red hair.” Riley scrolled through his phone and displayed a picture of a red-headed woman. “My wife, Megan.”
Max leaned in, staring at the picture. “That’s her! That’s your wife?” He shook his head. “She saved my life.” He laid his hand on Sam’s. “In more ways than one.”
Samantha glanced at Izzy. Max pressed his lips against Sam’s cheek as a cool breeze wafted the smell of honeysuckle over the patio like a blanket.
“Megan told me last night that she’d seen a man getting attacked at a rest stop,” Riley said. “She usually wouldn’t have stopped at a rest stop so close to home, but the dog had to do his business.”
“Amazing!” Doc said. “No coincidences.”
“We’re all connected,” Izzy offered, grabbing Samantha’s hand. “Let’s share a prayer.”
Izzy bowed her head. “With this circle of love, we give praise and gratitude for all our blessings. We feel the connections we can’t see and trust in divine timing.”
Samantha raised her glass as if it were a torch. “To rekindling the flame and to surprises.”
Glasses clinked. Charcoal sauntered in and a clap of thunder sent him onto Samantha’s lap, tail on high alert.
Samantha rubbed her earlobe with one hand and the cat’s back with the other. Charcoal’s black fur turned silver.
Doc’s eyes seem to dance above the rim of his glasses. “A chameleon cat?”
“Appearances,” Samantha said, “are deceiving.”
“Sure are!” Riley said, wrestling his legs onto the ottoman. “I swear I wake up every morning with less hair than when I went to bed.” Riley gathered his plate. “Speaking of which, early shift tomorrow.”
Izzy stacked the empty dishes. “I’ll take care of this. A normal chore would help me ground right now.” Riley and Izzy carried plates inside.
Doc hopped up. “A stroll, my lady?”
“Delighted,” Lillian answered and tiptoed around the fern.
Max scooted his seat back as the older couple rounded the house. “Sam, I know you have no reason to believe me.” He held her hands. “It took me getting hit over the head to see there’s more to life than work.”
Samantha bit her lower lip.
“I want a life with you. I want to make it work.”
“It’s not that simple,” Sam said.
Max helped Samantha up and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Maybe it is.”
A single tear fell from Samantha’s chin as Max leaned in, his lips searching hers for the sweet taste of wine. He pulled her so tightly only one silhouette fell under the watchful full moon.
Samantha nuzzled against Max’s neck. “I’m glad you got hit over the head.” She raised up smiling.
Max kissed her hard—until Sam came up for air.
“Get it!” Samantha screamed. “Somethings down my shirt!”
Max flipped something onto the table. “There,” Max said, pointing to a cricket.
Samantha bowed to the lucky insect. “Our new song. ‘Cricket Love’.”
“Got an extra bed in this place tonight?” Max asked, grinning.
“I think I can make room.” Samantha looked at Max as if she could explode his pounding heart that instant. “Just don’t give me reason to rub my magic ear. It will hurt more than any board.”
Max laughed. “You’d just smack me with that broom of yours.”
He led Samantha inside where Izzy was loading the dishwasher.
“Looks like a new novel is blooming.” Izzy laughed. “Love at the BNB.”
The next morning Max smiled sternly over his computer at the patio table. “This teleconference,” he says into the screen, “is going to be more the norm. Working from home when possible can make us all more productive and happier,” he added grinning over at Samantha who was on the chaise lounge snuggled up to her computer, typing and breathing in the refreshing changes… hot tea to her right and a new romance novel in the works. The characters were coming to life. The writer’s block was over. Maybe her heartbreak was, too.