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Chapter Nine: Present Day

Chapter Nine

Present Day

“Maybe just a little catnap,” she said, green eyes nearly closed. Standing, Eoghan snatched a pillow off the couch and moved to offer it for her head, but she seemed truly asleep. Sitting up. He hesitated, then slid his free hand beneath her hair to curve around her neck, warm and delicate. She sighed and leaned into his touch, so he shoved the pillow behind her head and gently pressed shoulder to guide her to it.

He stared at her for a long moment. Being around her again, with her easy way of getting him to talk to her against his normal instincts, put him on edge. He didn’t like the contradictory urges: he wanted to be around her, at the same time he wanted to withdraw, avoid the inevitable humiliation he found in every relationship he’d wished could last.

Leaving Cora to sleep in the study, Eoghan wandered in deep thought back to the wall of windows overlooking the sea. As an engineer, logic told him that the odds of running into someone you had met in your youth, after taking significantly different educational and career paths, was highly improbable, but not impossible. Factoring in that her family might live near, that they had both attended college at Bowdoin, and that his family had ties in the area . . . it was statistically conceivable they would meet again. 

But something in his gut felt that it was more than just coincidence. He’d never forgotten that head of hair, those incredible eyes, or her laugh through her terror when she had told him a joke about engineers and light bulbs. How many times in the past years had he cursed himself for being too awkward to even ask her last name? And now here she was.

Concussed and nearly dead because of you, he added wryly. And since when are you the romantic?

“You’d be right to be careful of her,” he heard Marca say behind him, and turned in surprise to see her bringing him a coffee. He disliked that she seemed to be reading his own thoughts.

“You’ve come to tolerate me. You don’t think I can manage not to scare her?”

That earned him a wisp of a smile from her stoic face, then she shook her head.

“It’s her. Not you. Killigrew. That name carries meaning around here and not the good kind.”

Eoghan leaned a hip against the kitchen island and eyed her expectantly. The woman wasn’t usually so chatty, but given a chance to gossip or share an ancient ghost story, she practically became a troubadour.

“You know of witch’s hole, ya? That’s where they drowned her. The Killigrew Witch.”

A wash of cold raised the hairs on his arms, and he glanced around in search of an open window. It wasn’t a draft.

“Alright, Marca. Tell me the old wives’ tale that happens to share a surname with Cora — likely a very common Irish last name in these parts.”

“I’m not so old that I don’t know calling it an old wives’ tale is sexist, ya know,” she snapped.

Eoghan raised an amused brow. “Burned your share of bras, Marca?”

Her noncommittal reply was a blush and a wave of her hand.

“The Killigrew Witch was a witch in the area who made spells and potions for the other settlers, around the early 1700s. But when she killed a pair of twins to avenge herself against their mother, who had accused her of trying to cast a spell to lure the woman’s husband, it was a bridge too far. The townspeople put her to trial —”

“A balanced jury of her peers, I’m sure?”

Marca shrugged. “They decided to drown her in the hole. Tied an iron ball to her feet with the help of a local pirate and threw her in. And they never ever found her remains.”

He tipped his head. “Isn’t that to be expected when you tie a body to a weight and sink it in deep water?”

Marca’s appreciation for his wit ranked below her determination to finish her spooky tale.

“They say you can still see her hair — long and black and red — if you look down into Witch’s Hole at low tide.”

In a town like Sealport, with a minstrel like Marca to start the trend, he could foresee this tale becoming the centerpiece of most family dinners for the next month or more. Eoghan rubbed the side of his jaw, then skewered Marca with a warning glare.

“If I hear this story affects Cora’s ability to do her job, because of local gossip . . . It’s just an old tale, okay?”

Marca’s shoulder raised merely an inch and she turned away to get back to whatever she did all day.

“When she’s up, there’s chowdah in the crock pot.”

Next Chapter: Chapter Ten: The Maine Province, 1722