The wind moaned, a soft pitch that rose slowly into an eerie wailing cry, almost as if a voice summoned him. Waves crashed on the jagged rocks, foamed white and sent spray high into the air. The sound was deafening, big thunderous booms echoing along the cliffs. Heavy rain had left the cliffs unstable but Drew Madison ignored the warning signs and climbed over the fence to slip and slide his way through the soft, crumbling dirt close to the edge.
The water churned and boiled, a dark beckoning brew far below the jutting cliffs. The sight was mesmerizing. As hard as he tried, he could not pull his fascinated gaze away, or stop listening to the voices murmuring in the thunder—calling—calling. He wiped his hand over his face to clear his head. His skin was wet, but he wasn’t certain if it was the drizzling rain or his own tears. The waves boomed again, this time the sound hollow to his ears, a lost soul as haunted as he was—a summons.
He forced his hands over his ears to drown out the mournful howl, but the wind struck at him, demanding attention, insistent that he listen. He stumbled back, shaking his head, slipped, teetering for just a moment. Let go. Let go. The voices in the wind urged. Freedom was a step or two away.
“No!” He shook his head and felt behind him for the security of the fence. His fingers gripped the wood so tight his knuckles turned white. He stared down at his hands, forcing his gaze from the roiling water below. He had to tell someone, make them understand what was going on. But who was there to tell? They’d lock him up if he told them the tides were dangerous. Something lived there and it was hungry.
Hannah Drake stood on the Captain’s walk facing the sea. The wind beat at her with unusual fury, sending her long hair whipping across her face. Waves pounded relentlessly and somewhere in the distance she thought she heard a cry of alarm. Hannah stepped closer to the protective railing and turned in the direction she thought the elusive sound had come from. Three times now she’d felt uneasy—and three times she failed to find the source.
She glanced at her home. Her sisters waited for her, their warmth and happiness filling up the cold emptiness, but she couldn’t go to them yet. She had to make one more try. She threw her head back and stared up at the sky. Clouds partially obscured the moon casting dark shadows over the light. Her breath lodged in her throat as she caught sight of the double ring around the moon—dark red to black.
“Hannah!” Libby Drake called, “come save me. I’m getting picked on!”
Hannah drew her sweater closer around her and hurried back into the safe haven of her home. Trouble was coming very soon—but she didn’t where—or at whom—it would strike. She needed the laughter and camaraderie of her sisters to dispel the fear growing inside of her. Sometimes her gifts were a curse.
Libby slipped her arm around Hannah as they went down the stairs together. “You okay? You’re shivering with cold.”
“I’m fine. I’m looking forward to our get together tonight,” Hannah replied, hugging Libby close. Just touching Libby could soothe away her fears. She forced a smile as she joined her sisters, throwing herself on the floor in the warm circle. “So tell me why you’re all picking on Libby.” She glanced one last time toward a window and then turned away. There was nothing she could do so she turned her attention to her sisters and the enjoyment they always brought her.
“All I said was, I’m tired of being goodie two shoes. I’m changing my image completely and becoming a bad girl,” Libby announced.
“Libby, you crack me up,” Sarah Drake said to her younger sister. “You don’t have a mean bone in your body. You couldn’t be a bad girl if you tried.”
Libby scowled at Sarah and then glared at the circle of faces surrounding her. “I am not the goodie two shoes you all think I am.”
“Oh, really?” Joley Drake raised an eyebrow from where she was sprawled out on the floor. “Name one person in this world you’d like to see take a flight to Mars. Someone you utterly despise.”
Laughter rang through the living room. “No way is that possible,” Hannah leaned over to kiss Libby on her temple. “We all adore you, hon, but you really don’t have it in you to be a bad girl. Not like me—or Joley.” She looked at the youngest sister. “Or Elle.”
The laughter increased and Elle shrugged. “It’s the red hair. I take no responsibility for my—er---interesting personality.”
“It’s way more fun to be bad,” Joley said, unrepentant. “No one expects you to do the right thing and you’re never really in trouble. Mom and Dad never expected me to be polite and kind when we were growing up. They spent all their time telling me to censor.” She reached for a cookie and sat up to drink her tea. “I tried to explain I was censoring, that five things came into my head and I picked the least offensive, but they still weren’t thrilled.”
Elle grinned at Joley over her teacup. “They got used to being called into the principal’s office at school. I was really glad I came after you. You paved the way for me. I argued with the teachers over everything and the counselor said I had problems with authority figures.”
“They could never actually catch me at anything,” Hannah said, breathing on her fingernails and polishing them with a satisfied air. “One or two of the teachers suspected I had something to do with frogs pouring out of desks of girls who weren’t very nice to me, but no one could actually prove it.”
Libby sighed. “I want to be like that. I detest being the good girl.”
“But you are a good girl,” Kate pointed out, patting Libby’s knee. “You can’t help it. Even as a kid you had causes. You couldn’t get into trouble because you were too busy saving the world. That’s not a bad thing.”
“And you don’t think mean things, Libby,” Abigail added. “It isn’t in you.”
“You’re responsible,” Sarah said. “That’s a good thing.”
Libby, sitting cross-legged on the floor, covered her face with her hands, groaned aloud as she tipped over to land with her head in Hannah’s lap. “No. It’s so boring. I’m just plain boring. I want to be bad to the bone. Wild. Unpredictable. Anything but good old steady Libby.”
“I’ll dye your hair for you, Lib,” Joley offered. “Hot pink tips and streaks of pink and purple.”
Libby peeked out around her fingers. “I cannot possible have hot pink tips and streaks of pink and purple and be taken seriously when I go to the hospital to work. Can you imagine the reaction of my patients?”
Joley frowned. “That’s the point, Lib. You want a reaction. Throw caution and good sense to the wind. Changing your hair color isn’t going to make you less of a doctor. You’re as respected as any doctor could get.”
Libby dropped her hands from her face and reached for an all important cookie. She needed comfort food. “I’m scheduled in a run with the doctors without borders. I can’t go to Africa with hot pink hair.”
“Sure you can. The kids will love it,” Joley insisted.
“It’s different with you, Joley. You’re a musician. People expect you to be wild and crazy. I have to look a certain way.”
“Why?” The plate of cookies was empty and Joley waved toward the kitchen. On cue, the plate rose into the air and sailed toward the kitchen where the aroma of freshly baked cookies wafted out into living room.
“Joley’s showing off,” Elle said. “It took her forever to learn that.”
Joley swatted at Elle with a rolled up newspaper. “I did not. I could do that before you were born. Get with the program, Hagatha, we’re trying to teach Libby how to be a bad girl.”
“Talk about Hagatha,” Elle defended. “I tried to wake you up this morning and you made rude noises and threatened to toss me off the tower into a sea filled with sharks.”
Joley poked Libby. “See, hon? That’s how to be a bad girl. Did I get up and do the vacuuming like her majesty wanted me to do? No, I slept in and she did it for me.”
“As if,” Elle snorted. “I didn’t do your job. Libby did it so you could catch up on your sleep which you wouldn’t need if you weren’t up at all hours of the night.”
A collective groan went up. “Libby, you didn’t.” Joley tried to sound disappointed but she only managed to choke on laughter.
Libby ducked her head so that her black hair fell in a cloud around her face and shoulders. “I thought you might need a few extra hours. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Sarah hugged Libby. “You are incredible and don’t even realize it.”
“No, I’m not,” Libby insisted. “I want to be a Hagatha. I just don’t want to color my hair. Sorry, Joley, thanks for trying, but seriously, pink hair isn’t for me.”
Joley grinned at her. “There you go, trying not to hurt my feelings. We need a school for bad girls. It would be the only time in your life you got less than an ‘A’.”
Libby lifted her chin and glared at her younger sister. “I could get an ‘A’ in bad girl class. I always get A’s.”
Joley shrugged. “I tried not to get good grades. Once you start, the mom and pop want it to continue. Then you’re stuck.”
Hannah nudged Joley with her foot. “Good philosophy. Wish I’d thought of it.” She waved her hand toward the kitchen. “And you never stay on task. We might all perish without cookies.”
“Did you do the ones with that butter frosting you make, Hannah?” Kate asked. “I love those.”
“For you.” Hannah smiled at Kate but turned to give Sarah a hard look. “But not for you. You sided with the Jonas Harrington over the movie the other night. You’re in the doghouse so no frosting on your cookies.”
“Hannah,” Sarah protested. “You can’t deprive me for liking a movie you didn’t like.”
“I’m not depriving you because you liked the movie, you treacherous wench, I’m depriving you because you admitted it in front of caveman and inflated his ego.”
“I’m sure Sarah didn’t mean to side with Jonas,” Libby said.
Another round of laughter went up. “You’re hopeless, Lib,” Hannah said. “I’m showing you how to be Hagatha and you just can’t grasp the concept.”
A gust of wind blew through the house as the living room door opened, admitting a tall man with broad shoulders. Jonas Harrington, the local sheriff, slammed the door behind him and strode in as if he owned the place.
Hannah’s gaze jumped to the huge window overlooking the sea, her heart pounding in sudden alarm. The fury of the wind whipped the dark clouds around, but failed to hide the blood red circle slowly seeping into the blackened ring around the moon. Her hand went to her throat—a purely defensive gesture—as her gaze met her youngest sister’s. Elle had the same knowledge of impending danger in her eyes.
“Hannah?” Libby ran her hand down Hannah’s arm to comfort her. “Is something wrong?”
To distract her sisters, Hannah gestured toward the sheriff and groaned.
Hannah groaned. “Speak of the devil. I swear, it’s like you whisper his name and it conjures him up, just like a demon from hell.”
Joley nudged Libby. “See, that’s censoring. She was thinking way worse than that, right, Hannah?”
Hannah nodded. “You better believe it.” She felt the instant shift of power in the room the subtle flow of her sisters automatically helping her, keeping her from the curse of stammering or worse, having one of her panic attacks simply because someone other than a family member was with them.
“Baby doll,” Jonas greeted Hannah, deliberately provoking her with a hated nickname. “It’s impossible for you to teach Libby how to be a Hagatha. You were born that way. She, however is nothing but goodness.” He grabbed a handful of cookies as the plate floated by and expertly tossed his jacket on the couch without looking.
“Why don’t your obnoxious guard dogs bite him,” Hannah asked Sarah. “The next time either of them wants food I’m going to remind them they failed in their most important job.”
Sarah shrugged. “They like Jonas.”
“They have good taste,” Jonas said, smirking. He sat on the floor, wedging himself between Hannah and Elle. “Move over cupcake,” he pushed his leg hard against Hannah’s thigh. “I’m joining the family powwow tonight.”
Hannah opened her mouth then closed it abruptly, studying the grim lines etched around Jonas’s mouth, noting the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. She knew, as did all her sisters, that when something went terribly wrong at work, Jonas sought the comfort of the people and the one place he called family and home. Hannah waved her hands in a graceful, complicated pattern toward the kitchen and at once the tea kettle whistled.
“Libby wants to be a bad girl,” Sarah announced.
Jonas’s eyebrow shot up. A slow smile spread across his face. “Libby, hon, there is no way you can be corrupted by the rest of your sisters. You’re just too sweet.”
Libby glared at him, totally exasperated. “I am not. Come on! You could help out a little, Jonas. I have the ability to be just as wicked as the rest of my family.”
“Hear, hear,” Elle said. “Well said, sister.”
Joley nodded her head in agreement. “Not true, but well said,” she agreed.
Hannah lifted her hand palm out and a mug of steaming tea floated out of the kitchen toward the circle of sisters. She caught it carefully, blew on it until the bubbles quieted and handed it to Jonas.
“So why do you want to be a bad girl,” Jonas asked.
“My life is boring. Borrrriing,” Libby drew out. “I want to have fun. I don’t want to be the responsible one any more.”
“Then you’re dropping your doctors without borders and your save the whales and support big cat rescue causes?” Jonas asked. He snapped his fingers. “And you definitely have to stop recycling and your save the environment thing you do every year.”
“Wait,” Joley added. “You can throw out the save the rainforest as well. That should give you plenty of time to be a bad girl.”
Libby kicked her sister with remarkable gentleness. “You’re not being nice and neither is Jonas. You’re laughing at me.”
“No I’m not,” Joley denied immediately. “I love you just the way you are. You just have to accept that you don’t have a mean bone in your body. It’s why you can’t think of anyone you’d like to put in a rocket and send to Mars.”
“Jonas,” Hannah said. “Because he’s so bossy.”
“Hannah,” Jonas said simultaneously, “because she craves so much attention she’s always showing her bod to every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to see it.”
“I’m a model, you toad,” Hannah said. “I don’t show off my body, I show off the clothes.”
“And brilliantly too,” Kate said, blowing her a kiss. “I’ll second Jonas for being mean to Hannah.”
“It isn’t fair to gang up on me,” Jonas protested. “She was mean to me first.”
“You said it at the same time,” Kate pointed out.
“Only because I knew what she was going to say.”
“Jackson Deveau,” Elle named a deputy sheriff. “Because he annoys me no end.”
“Illya Prakenskii,” Joley added a heartbeat behind. “Because he needs to be off planet and he’s just plain spooky.” She rubbed the palm of her hand as if she had an itch.
“Frank Warner for breaking Inez’s heart,” Sarah said.
“I can’t very well say Sylvia Fredrickson because she’s turned over a new leaf,” Abigail said, “so I’ll just have to say I’m going with Joley on this one.”
Everyone looked at Libby. She sighed, feeling the weight of their stares. “Not Jonas. He’s bossy but really has our best interests at heart.”
Hannah rolled her eyes when Jonas poked her.
“Certainly not Jackson. Honestly, Elle, how can he be annoying, he never talks, poor man. Illya Prakenskii helped us, Joley, and Frank’s in jail paying for his crimes. Inez is hurt, yes, but she’s a strong woman and understands that people make mistakes.”
“So who would you send on a rocket to Mars?” Joley prompted.
“I’m thinking.” Libby sipped at her tea frowning. “There was one nurse who always made fun of me. She said I was flat-chested and not in the least attractive.”
Hannah sat up straight. “Who is she? I’ll have a thing or two to say to her.”
The room thickened with sudden tension. Tea boiled in the cups.
Libby shook her head. “No, poor thing, she had such a horrible life. She has so many problems it’s really no wonder she isn’t very nice. I felt sorry for her.”
The Drake sisters blew on their tea before exchanging looks, but Libby was frowning in concentration. “I’ll think of someone.”
“Face it, Lib, you can’t think of anyone because you just aren’t mean.”
Libby ducked her head. “I can think of someone. He went to school with me on and off and was in all the accelerated programs. He even attended Harvard when I did.” She looked up at her sisters. “His grades were better than mine.”
Jonas grinned at her. “I’ll bet that really set your teeth on edge.”
“It wasn’t just that, Jonas, he doesn’t believe in magic. He thinks we lie about our gifts and that my family members are charlatans and con artists. He’s very arrogant and opinionated.”
“Well put his name on the rocket to Mars, sister,” Elle invited.
Libby sighed. “It’s just that he has an incredible brain. The world really needs him. He won a Nobel prize in medicine already. He’s very gifted. Not that he does it for the right reasons.”
“He’s a glory hound?” Kate asked.
“No, he could care less about publicity. He’s totally a lab rat. All he cares about is the science. Well, science and adrenaline.”
“You’re talking about Tyson Derrick,” Jonas guessed. “He’s crazy. When he isn’t working in the laboratory he’s working for the forestry. He’s a total adrenaline junkie. Skydiving, racing, motorcycles, white water rafting, whatever is available, he’s the man.”
“He has no right to risk his genius,” Libby said.
“You haven’t put him on the rocket,” Joley pointed out.
Libby blushed. Color swept up her neck and into her face turning her skin bright red. Scarlet. Crimson. It was the bane of her existence, that and being flat-chested.
“Uh oh,” Joley said. “I think your Tyson Derrick is a hottie. He is, isn’t he, Jonas?”
“How the hell would I know,” Jonas said. “I don’t look at the man unless I’m stopping him for speeding and giving him a ticket.”
“He speeds?” Libby asked, fanning herself and trying to be subtle about it.
“On his motorcycle or in his car. The man doesn’t know the meaning of the words ‘slow down’.”
“He looks good,” Sarah admitted, “but he’s a pain. The man can’t do polite conversation. I’ve seen him get up abruptly in the middle of double date with his cousin, and just walk out, no explanation at all, leaving Sam sitting there with two very angry women. He just doesn’t care.”
“If he didn’t talk, he’d be hot,” Libby admitted. She wasn’t admitting anything else. She didn’t seem to have a normal sex drive. The only time it kicked in was when Tyson Derrick was around and then her libido was stuck in overdrive. She’d never live that one down. So no way was she putting him on a rocket to Mars, not until she had the chance to sleep with him. And that would never happen because he was an obnoxious jerk who thought too much of himself. She would never ever admit to anyone she dreamt of him. It was humiliating to be attracted to a man who treated her so poorly. He was the complete opposite of everything she stood for and valued.
“So what happened tonight, Jonas,” Elle changed the subject abruptly. “You’re upset about something.”
The smile faded from the sheriff’s face. “You don’t want me to talk about work.”
“This is the best place for it.”
He sighed and took a drink of the tea. It always seemed to soothe him, or maybe it was just being around the seven sisters. “We went out on a call this evening. A neighbor said she heard screaming. A forty year old man was taking care of his mother who obviously is ill. He’s collecting her checks as they come in, but he was starving her and he certainly was beating her if she bothered him. He had a complete home theatre set up, top of the line, and his mother is in the back room with dirty shirts and no food or water. I wanted to…” He broke off, glancing around the room. “I’m sorry. I know you’re all able to feel what I’m feeling and I try to keep it under wraps but…” He trailed off with a small shrug.
Hannah and Elle both put a hand on his knee. Libby leaned in and did the same. Sarah and Kate touched his shoulders while Abigail and Joley wrapped their fingers around his arm. At once he felt the flood of warmth, of family stealing into him.
“You don’t have to do that,” he denied. “I didn’t come here to have you expend energy on me. I just needed to be with you. I was hoping your parents and Aunt Carol were back.”
“No, they decided to take a few days and tour the wine country. The Napa valley is so beautiful this time of year and they thought they’d take advantage and do a little sight seeing,” Kate explained.
“More likely they needed a break from us,” Joley said. “Aunt Carol brought home a couple of magazines, you know the ones with the latest scoop on the wild singer, Joley Drake. I think I’m supposed to be in a rehab this week.”
“That was last week,” Elle corrected. “This week you were arrested for tearing up a hotel room.”
“I did?” Joley looked pleased.
“I want to tear up a hotel room,” Libby said. “Well. Maybe not. I don’t really want to destroy someone’s property.”
“Am I still in jail?” Joley asked hopefully.
“No. You’re latest lover bailed you out. In case you don’t remember him, he’s got longer hair than you do, a scruffy beard and he plays for some heavy metal band.”
“I haven’t actually met him,” Joley said, “but we were in the same hotel for about five minutes. He must be quick on action with no foreplay.”
“The mags are really after you lately, Joley,” Sarah said.
Joley sighed. “I know. Hopefully it will blow over soon.”
“I’ve never understood why you don’t sue those writers when they make up so many lies about you, Joley,” Jonas said. “It makes me angry.”
“In the beginning I was angry and hurt, and worried about my family having to read really ugly lies, or maybe even get interviewed and be asked questions about me, but I’ve learned to live with it. There are so any crazies out there, Jonas, but I guess you already know that.”
“Unfortunately. I talked to Douglas about your security with this last concert,” Jonas added. “They let someone rush the stage. I couldn’t believe it. If that had been someone out to hurt you, it would have been all over.” His voice had gone grim again.
“It was an overzealous fan, Jonas,” Joley soothed, “security carried him off and I was just fine.” It had shaken her, but she wasn’t going to admit it to him. Singing in front of thirty thousand people was easy. Dealing with stalkers and crazed fans and the paparazzi could be nerve wracking.
“Well,” Elle hesitated, biting at her lower lip. “There was more in that magazine.” She looked at Libby. “Do you remember that incident a couple of months back when you healed that child and the parents told their miraculous story?”
Libby nodded. The magazine had run a full page picture of her. Fortunately, the article was so theatrical, she was certain most people would dismiss it.
“Another reporter interviewed the parents and did a little digging. He turned up a few other former patients willing to sing your praises. One of them was Irene Madison.”
“No way,” Sarah said. “Irene would never betray Libby.”
“She was very upset the last time we went to see her son, Sarah,” Hannah pointed out. “She kept insisting Libby cure Drew’s leukemia. Libby bought him time, but Irene wants a cure.”
“The magazine paid her,” Elle said.
“How do you know that?” Jonas asked.
Elle simply looked at him.
Jonas put up his hands in surrender. “Sorry I asked.”
Libby rubbed her suddenly pounding temples. “I should have known. At work today someone came to see me. He was well dressed, a suit, definitely from out of town and he wanted to arrange a meeting with his boss.”
The faint smile was gone from Jonas’s face and he shifted closer. “Who was he?”
“That’s just it. I recognized the name of his boss. Edward Martinelli. He’s a big name in pharmaceuticals, but he has a certain reputation. There are always rumors flying about him and the people who back his company. I told his representative that I was too busy. The man didn’t threaten me, but I felt threatened. He mentioned my family, specifically Hannah, that she was beautiful and high profile.”
“Damn it, Libby, just when were you going to mention this little chat to me?” Jonas snapped. “You should have reported it immediately.”
“I reported the incident to the hospital security—and to my sisters,” Libby said. “It wasn’t like he threatened me—or Hannah. What was I going to say to the police?”
“Not the police—me,” Jonas corrected. “You tell me.”
“It isn’t like this doesn’t happen all the time,” Libby defended. “The gossip rags love to come out with the ‘faith healer’ and ‘miracle worker’ articles when they have a slow day.” She pushed a hand through the cloud of dark hair falling around her face. “I just hoped it wouldn’t happen again for a long while.”
“Martinelli has ties to a crime family out of Chicago. He’s been in San Francisco for a few years supposedly squeaky clean with his company, but his family’s been under investigation numerous times.”
“Maybe he really is legit,” Libby said. “If no one’s been able to find anything on him, maybe he’s just a businessman with unfortunate family ties. We all have skeletons in the closet.”
“Then why would he send someone to threaten Hannah if you don’t cooperate with him?”
“He didn’t threaten her,” Libby repeated. “I was tired, Jonas, I pulled an eighteen hour shift and I wasn’t happy having a stranger come up demanding a meeting with a his boss. He wouldn’t tell me what Martinelli wanted, but when I said I didn’t conduct test trials, he did say it was nothing to do with his company. Maybe I was so tired I misunderstood.”
“I’m going to be looking at Martinelli very closely. There was no reason for him to mention Hannah. Have you ever seen the list of wackjobs writing her threatening letters? She has as many or more crazies after her as Joley.”
“Lucky me. And just how are you seeing these letters?” Hannah asked.
“Since I know you’re too stubborn to turn them over to me, I have an agreement with your security and your agent.”
“Great. Have you ever heard of privacy?”
“Get over it, doll face. I’m never going to be politically correct. When I think it’s necessary to protect any of you, you’re getting protection whether you like it or not.”
The Drake sisters exchanged small smiles.
“You’re so good at beating your manly chest,” Joley said. “I swear, Jonas, I’m about to swoon.”
“No one would blame you.” Jonas closed his eyes not in the least intimidated by the women around him.
Hannah waved her hand to turn off the lights and set the candles flickering. “You’re so arrogant and bossy, Jonas, don’t you ever get tired of it?”
“No. I’m stuck with the seven of you and someone has to be the brains.”
Sarah hit him with a pillow. “You’re lucky we love you, otherwise we’d let Hannah turn you into a toad.”
“She tried that already, it didn’t work. My mojo’s too strong. Where are the doomed men tonight?” Jonas asked, lying back, hands linked behind his head. “Did they run for the hills?”
“We’re having a girl’s night,” Sarah said with a small smirk. “No fiancés. Only sisters.”
Jonas groaned, opening his eyes just enough to glare. “You could have told me. I won’t live this one down for awhile. They’ll be merciless.”
“And it will be so deserving,” Hannah said. “You really only came tonight to harass us and eat cookies.”
“Too true,” he agreed. “It always makes me feel better. But Kate nabbed the last cookie with frosting. When is this wedding? I’m beginning to think you aren’t really going to have one, you just want to stay in Sea Haven to annoy me.”
“It’s my life’s work,” Hannah agreed.
“Aleksandr wants to elope,” Abigail confessed. “He doesn’t want to wait for the wedding of the century. He thinks it’s crazy and we should just quietly marry.”
“Quietly?” Jonas made a rude, derisive sound. “The wedding of the century is going to be a circus. Doesn’t he realize the entire town has to be invited or there’s going to be hurt feelings?”
“Hence the elopement.”
“I think you want to elope,” Sarah guessed. “You’ve never liked crowds, Abbey.”
Abigail ducked her head. “Mom and Dad would be so disappointed. All the relatives are flying in and it’s going to be such a huge event.”
Kate placed a hand on Abigail’s arm. “That doesn’t matter. It’s your wedding. If you want something very small, we can sneak in a minister and have it right here with only Mom, Dad, Aunt Carol and us.”
Jonas raised his hand. “I’ll kick Aleksandr’s ass if you don’t include me, Abbey, but I’m all for it. He really is as uncomfortable with a big wedding as you are.”
Abigail let out her breath. “How upset do you think Mom and Dad will be?”
Elle turned on her stomach and stretched out beside Jonas. “Mom already knows you don’t want a big wedding. I’m certain she’s mentioned it to Dad. They want you happy, Abbey, not miserable on such an important day. You should know that.”
“It’s just that Mom seems so happy planning the weddings.”
“I’m torturing Damon,” Sarah said. “He’s going to have to do this because I’ve always wanted a big wedding and he needs to realize the people in Sea Haven are important to me.”
“You just like to torture him on principal,” Jonas commented. “What about Matt, Kate? Is he fine with the big wedding?”
Kate flashed a small smile. “His mother is in seventh heaven. And she wants babies immediately. She told us to go out and multiply. Quickly. I’ve never seen anyone so eager for grandchildren. She’s already had a play yard built at her house. I wouldn’t want to take her moment away from her and neither would Matt. It’s different with you Abbey, you don’t have anyone else to please. I say you should have a small private ceremony right here. We can keep it under wraps.”
“I’ll do the music for you,” Joley offered.
“I can do all the baking including a wedding cake,” Hannah said. “That way no one outside the family will realize anything is going on.”
“I’ll do the decorations in the house,” Kate said. “Matt will help.”
Abigail’s face brightened. “Are you sure Mom and Dad won’t be upset?” She looked at Elle when she asked the question.
The youngest Drake sister shrugged. “They’re expecting you to tell them you want a small private ceremony. Mom and Aunt Carol have gifts too. You all need to remember that.”
“Mom has all the gifts,” Elle reminded in a low voice.
Joley made a face. “I’ll say. Mom always knew I was going to sneak out of the house before I tried it. Sarah, you’re going to be so lucky when you have children. They’ll never get away with anything. Mine will turn out to be like me, so no way am I reproducing. The world, and especially me, couldn’t take it.”
“You’ll have children, Joley,” Sarah said.
“How? I’m not about to let some idiot of a man tie me to him.” Joley shook her head adamantly. “I can’t take the bossiness. And if they’re yes men I’m so bored I want to scream. There just isn’t a middle ground for me. I’m doomed to be alone.”
Jonas snorted derisively. “You don’t sound very unhappy about it.”
“Would you want to live with you?” Joley demanded.
“I’m perfect,” Jonas declared.
“A manly man,” Sarah teased.
“You got it babe.”
“I am turning you into a toad,” Hannah said. “No one could ever live with your arrogance or your bossiness. Your poor wife would be browbeaten and your kids would run away.”
“My poor wife would keep her clothes on around other men and the world in general and only take them off for me,” he said.
“Why do you insist I take my clothes off? I wear clothes, that’s my job.”
“Inez carries all the magazines if you’re on the front cover, baby doll. I’m not sure I’d call what you’re wearing most of the time, actual clothes. When are you getting a real job?”
Hannah turned her face away from Jonas. Elle and Libby instantly put a hand on her, warmth and energy flowing into her. Sarah kicked Jonas. “Go home. You’re annoying all of us now. You know you don’t want us all angry with you.”
Jonas made it smoothly to his feet. “Protecting the Barbie Doll again. You aren’t doing her any favors. She can’t live off her looks forever.”
Hannah winced visibly. Her hands trembled so that she curled her fingers into fists.
Elle stood up, her small, petite frame dwarfed by Jonas’s much larger one. “You know, Jonas, if I didn’t know the things I do about you, that your intentions are really the best, I’d kick your ass myself. Go away. And do it now.” Her red hair crackled with electricity and in the darkened room, her body seemed to throw off light, as if all the energy inside of her was seeking a way to get out. The walls of the house expanded and contracted and the floor shifted slightly under their feet.
Jonas scowled at her, not in the least intimidated. “I don’t care what you know, Elle. And don’t threaten me.”
“I’m not threatening you. If I did, you wouldn’t be standing there, you’d be running for your life. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, it isn’t easy being me. You think I want to know what everyone is thinking or feeling at any given moment? You think it’s easy to have a normal temper like the rest of the world, but be so dangerous I don’t dare express anger?”
“You’re expressing it right now.”
“That’s because I love you and I’d never accidentally hurt you. I don’t love everyone else, you idiot. Go away before the house shakes apart and mom and dad are royally pissed at me.”
“Can you do that? Shake the house apart?”
“Does it look like I can do that?” Elle countered, gesturing toward the walls.
Her sisters were up, surrounding her, Libby putting her hands on her younger sister’s shoulders so that her healing warmth flowed into the mass of boiling energy. Elle sagged back against her so that Libby slipped her arms around her.
“It’s getting harder for you, isn’t it?” Libby whispered.
Elle nodded and turned to bury her face against Libby’s shoulder. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Jonas stepped closer and swept both sisters into his arms. “I’m sorry, Elle. I’d never make your life harder if I can help it. I can’t stop being who I am, as much as I’d want to for you.”
Elle shot him a small smile. “I know you would, Jonas. I feel very lucky to have you in my family.”
Libby rubbed her sister’s back as she watched Jonas slip out the door. The wind rushed in when he opened it so that the flames on the candles danced and flickered wildly, casting shadows along the walls. Libby didn’t like the way the shadows leapt as if reaching for the Drakes, stretching clawed hands for them. She glanced uneasily at Sarah, the eldest and saw the same recognition in her eyes. Hannah and Elle exchanged another long look of apprehension as Libby tightened her arms around Elle, holding her close to comfort them both.