Name of Book: The Object of Romance Anthology
Author: Karen Michelle Nutt, Christine DeSmet, Courtney E. Michel, Patricia E. Gitt, Linda L. Lattimer
Publisher: Beacon Books Publishing
Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=The+object+ of+romance+ anthology&z=y&pers=n
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Stolen Pleasures by Christine DeSmet
Iris Beale always dates the safe, temporary 'door mat' men--like those who make deliveries to her antiques shop. But danger lurks when Iris's boyfriend is murdered right before a burglar attempts to steal the famous 'Lady in Green' portrait. Iris comes under suspicion by her next 'door mat' man--the handsome but mysterious new cop in town, Jonathon Sparrow. Iris realizes that to break the case she may have to risk breaking her heart.
Summer Breeze by Linda L. Lattimer
A mother desires for her daughter to find love. A daughter desires her mother to stop mourning and begin anew. A young man carries a photo of the one girl he loves after all these years. Will the three be able to ease the other's pain?
Life's Choices by Patricia E. Gitt
When Elizabeth Barnes receives a coveted industry honor for outstanding leadership she finds her achievement an empty footnote to her dynamic career. Running away to Vermont to reevaluate her life's choices, she runs into Jack Lawson who unleashes emotions long suppressed during her drive for success.
Mr. O'Grady's Magic Box by Karen Michelle Nutt
Aubrey Jules, a reporter from Unbelievable Finds is sent to investigate a box, which is reputably older than time and crafted by the wee folks. Mr. O'Grady, owner of the bed and breakfast in Dana Point, California, convinces Aubrey to wish for a soul mate. When Ian Quinn, who abandoned Aubrey ten years ago, walks in she's convinced the fairies have a wicked sense of humor.
Double Booked by Courtney E. Michel
Cullen Porter is finished with dating. He wants a quiet vacation in a rental at Lake of the Ozarks where he once worked as a landscape architect. Unfortunately, he is double booked into the same house with another couple. When Mina Tracey, a fourth guest, arrives with her cherished boat, De Dame Kaptien and daughter in tow, fire works will fly during this unexpected Fourth of July weekend.
Mr. O'Grady's Magic Box by Karen Michelle Nutt
Aubrey Jules slipped her purse over her shoulder as she stepped out of her car. She gazed up at the cheerful yellow and white Victorian mansion displaying its antiquity with a grand elegance. It was dramatically located on a bluff overlooking Dana Point in lovely Southern California. Couples flocked to the bed and breakfast to relax, renew their love, or reaffirm it, whichever the case may be.
Nelson Carr, her boyfriend of three years, was supposed to join her, but at the last moment, he bailed because he had too much work to do. It was perfectly fine with her, since she was here on business anyway. Romance would have gotten in the way.
Gathering what she could manage, she started up the carefully-tended walk and into the inn itself. The man behind the counter was beyond his prime with his thinning, gray hair, and spectacles. He wore a vested suit that was outdated, but it fit him well, as if he was left over from the Victorian era and placed among the other antiques. As she neared, his mouth spread into a grin and his Atlantic blue eyes twinkled.
“Well, aren't you a wonder for my sore eyes.” He spoke with a slight lilt to his voice, giving it a musical quality.
“Hello, I have a reservation. It should be listed under, 'Unbelievable Finds', the magazine I work for.”
He adjusted his glasses and looked at the computer screen. “So you do. The best that we have to offer, don't you know. Ah,” he sighed. “You'll be able to see the sunset over the ocean. It's a wonder.” He looked at the computer screen again. “Oh--this couldn't be so.”
“What is it?”
“It says here you're alone. Surely, this isn't the case. You being the prettiest lass I ever did see.”
“This isn't a romantic getaway. I'm here to see Mr. O'Grady's magic box.” She tried to remain serious, but sometimes what she was sent out to investigate was ridiculous. “Are you, Mr. O'Grady?”
“Aye, and you must be Miss Jules. Will you be starting the interview tonight, then?”
“The sooner the better so I can write the piece and have it drawn up for next month's issue.”
He studied her for a moment before he sighed with a shake of his head. She was a nonbeliever. “After you settle in, I'll show you the box. Will you be needing help with your luggage? My grandson's around here somewhere and will be glad to lend a hand.”
“No thank you, I can manage.”
“Well then, we'll be seeing you later on for tea and scones.”
“I don't think--”
“Oh sure, you'll be needing to relax and could use with a bit of nourishment before you become all business-like.”
She had a hunch he'd make it difficult to refuse, and she needed him to cooperate. “All right.”
As Aubrey made her way up the stairs, she admired the rosewood handrail with its lovely ornate carvings. The hotel, originally a home for the O'Grady family, was built in the late eighteen-hundreds. Later, it became a boarding house, a hotel, until finally a renowned bed-and-breakfast getaway. A lot of care went into the hand-picked wallpaper, antiqued furniture and decorative quilts depicting an era of long ago. It wouldn't be difficult for couples to imagine magic played a role in their romance. Ambiance was everything for a good story, and she could bet these walls had heard it all.
* * * *
Tea was served downstairs in the library. There were two couples already seated with their teas and scones before Mr. O'Grady arrived with a freshly brewed pot for her. “Is your room to your liking?” he asked.
“Yes, it's lovely.”
He poured her a cup of tea in the dainty, rosebud cup. “Give me a moment to tend to the other guests, and I'll sit with you a spell.”
“I'll be here.” She bit into a scone and instantly thought she'd died and gone to heaven. She'd have to see if she could finagle the recipe out of the cook.
After her second scone and two cups of tea, she decided to make herself at home, looking around the room, admiring the knickknacks and old books lining the mahogany bookcases. She leaned forward to peer into the curio cabinet. On the upper shelf, a fairy was forever posed with a bouquet of flowers in her hand. Below it, there was a replica of Bunratty Castle. She'd seen the real one in Ireland. The ruins were now restored to the castle's original splendor. Tourists could experience castle life with entertainment and elaborate banquets.
“Oh, I see you found it.”
Startled, she turned to find Mr. O'Grady looking over her shoulder. She wondered how he'd been so quiet on his feet. “I found it?” she asked.
“The magic box.”
She looked back to the cabinet, and there it was, stashed between the shamrock paperweight and Blarney Castle teapot.
Mr. O'Grady moved around her to open the curio cabinet. She watched him handle the item as if it were made of fine china instead of sturdy oak.
“Tell me a little about it,” she asked. “How does the magic work? What's the trick?”
“That there box isn't your average Tom Foolery with nothing but smoke and mirrors. No, the box is older than time--and crafted by the wee folk.”
Aubrey would have laughed but she could tell the old man was serious. She looked back at the box with its intricate Celtic knots and ancient carvings. She had to admit, there was something rather otherworldly about it. “Our sources told us it grants wishes.”
He glanced around him as if he feared they'd be overheard. Then he stepped closer. “Aye--that it does.”
She nearly had to swallow the smile. “Really?”
“You don't believe me. Don't go denying it, now. I can hear it in your voice. No matter, it's what it is.”
She could see she'd hurt his feelings and that wasn't her intention. It wasn't personal. She was here for her job, not on a quest, but it didn't mean she had to be rude. “I apologize. I'm not trying to be disrespectful. There's been very little magic in my life, and it's difficult for me to believe in the impossible. So, please forgive me.”
It took a moment, but his gaze softened. He gave her a nod. “A man by the name of Thomas was the one to wrestle it away. He was quick-witted and managed to outsmart a leprechaun.”
“I thought leprechauns were known to keep pots of gold.” She knew her Irish lore.
“And so they do, among other treasures. Now, Thomas being a smart man of twenty, knew the box be of more value than gold. It was a magic box with the ability to find what your heart desires, but only if one was worthy. Like a soul-mate perhaps,” he hinted.
Aubrey glanced at it again. It was no more than six inches by twelve. “I hope he doesn't appear in the box.”
Mr. O'Grady chuckled. “You're a corker, Miss Jules. The box doesn't conjure up what you desire. It's sort of mailbox to the wee folk who grant the wishes. You write what it is you be wanting. Then you place the note in the box and close the lid. You must chant the words and if you open the lid and your slip of paper is gone; your wish will be granted.”
“Just like that, like in that moment, in a week, or what?”
“The wee folk have no concept of time. It could be a day or it could take years, but you be knowing when the magic is there.”
“Hum.” She wasn't convinced. “What are the carvings down the side?”
“That's the ancient writing. Ogham, a prayer of sorts.”
“May I photograph you holding the box?” From her pocket, she pulled out her Canon digital camera.
“To be sure.” He held the box up for her, blinking as the flash went off.
“So, was Thomas granted his wish?”
“Aye, he wished to find his soul-mate. He was married fifty years, if not a day more.”
“You seem to know a lot about this Thomas.” She studied the carvings closely.
“I should. He was me own granddad.”
She looked at him now. “Oh. So this is a family heirloom.”
“Aye, I suppose it is. Do you want to give it a gander?” He somehow conjured up a pen and paper.
“Me? I wouldn't even know what to wish for.”
“Come now, Miss Jules. Don't you wish to find your soul-mate as Thomas did?”
Aubrey thought it was a sweet story, but she didn't believe in destined soul-mates, only well-chosen partners who shared in your fundamental beliefs. “I don't--”
“Do you remember your first kiss?”
“Do you remember your first true kiss that set your toes a-curling within your shoes?”
She was about to say she never lost herself that completely, but then a memory surfaced with vivid recollection. She had been nineteen, taking a break from college to travel. She ended up in Ireland, hiking, exploring the old ruins, and bike-riding through the beautiful countryside. She'd met a man, a boy really. Now that she was older and wiser, she knew the difference. Ian Quinn was his name. He'd been barely twenty, with hair wild and long, dark shades of brown naturally highlighted with gold and bronze. His eyes were blue, sparkling clear with a mischievous glint. He was breathtakingly handsome, so much so that she would say he was beautiful.
She should have known it was a mistake to start anything with him. He wasn't a local, just vacationing as she was before heading off to college somewhere in the states, the east coast she believed. What did it matter? They were in love, or at least she knew she was. They had traveled together, took in the Cliff of Mors; kissed the Blarney stone; and visited the cathedrals in Dublin.
It was in the park where Oscar Wilde's statue was displayed in a lackadaisical pose with his impish grin greeting the people who walked by. He had kissed her there for the first time, a sweet, slow drugging kiss she'd never wanted to end. She was in love with him.
They stayed at a hotel that night, wanting privacy the hostels didn't provide. He was her first and later, he confessed she was his. It was the most loving experience she ever had to this day, and the most painful.
Silly of her, she knew that now. She'd thought they would marry, maybe not soon, but eventually. However, in the light of day, he was gone, not a word, not a note, just gone. She'd cried for two days before she became angry with herself for being so stupid. He'd gotten what he wanted, hadn't he? Even thinking he'd used her, it was difficult to erase the time they'd shared. It had been magical and sweet, and she held onto those memories, not wanting to dwell on the cruel way he'd left her.
She frowned, surprised that her first thought had been of a boy she hadn't seen in a decade.
Mr. O'Grady was grinning at her, and she knew she'd daydreamed for a moment. “You remembered something,” he said. “Aye?”
“My first true kiss, the way it felt to be in love and the way it hurt.”
“The pain only reaffirms it was real. You wouldn't be caring otherwise. Go back and hold onto the blissful moment.” He handed her the slip of paper and pen. “Now write down what you wish for in a soul-mate.”
She decided--what harm could there be in playing along? She wrote and folded the paper in half. Mr. O'Grady held out the box. “Now put the note inside and close the lid. You must hold it when you make your wish.”
She held the box, and for a moment, she longed for the possibility of a soul-mate. Her eyes widened as she felt a jolt. It was as if an electrical current flowed from the box, coursing a path to her fingertips.
“You felt it, didn't you?” Mr. O'Grady inquired.
Her brows furrowed. She felt something. She opened the box and the note was gone.
* * * *
She wasn't that gullible. Of course, there was a trick to the box, a fake compartment. She turned it over and looked. Then she shook it, causing Mr. O'Grady to chuckle.
“Your request is being considered, Miss Jules. It's out there now written in the wind and it can't be taken back. The fairies are fickle that way. Whatever you asked for will be granted. Hopefully, it's something you're prepared to embrace.”
She handed him the box. “It was a lovely trick, Mr. O'Grady, but I have a difficult time believing in fanciful things as soul-mates and wishes in a blink of an eye.”
He placed the box back in the cabinet, locking it behind the clear glass. “Only time will tell.” He rested his hand on her arm. “You look to be needing a little magic in your life. It could be the reason you came to stay with us.” He left her with those parting words.
“Magic,” she said as she turned toward the box. She hadn't believed in magic for a long time.