Marsha Quinn is used to being called a witch. Her abilities as a psychic make a lot of people uncomfortable, after all. No one has ever called her an angel before. But Sam Sterling is a man with big problems, including a partner who is out to kill him, and a nosy reporter who’s just been murdered. And an angel is exactly what he needs.
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welcome to historic Oberon, California
Although it was already mid-September, it still felt like summer in Oberon. The little town was blanketed in a thick, heavy fog. It was the kind of weather that descends on California’s Central Coast each summer, making air conditioning unnecessary. The tourists who had come here expecting palm trees and sunshine wandered along the sidewalks, shivering in their T-shirts and shorts. Business was brisk at any store that stocked Oberon sweatshirts or hand knit sweaters, and at The Crone’s Nest, shoppers crowded the inside tables and sat huddled over mugs of coffee or tea on the bench just inside the front door.
Only the locals, seemingly impervious to the damp, occupied the terrace on mornings like these.
It wasn’t the weather which bothered Marsha Quinn, although, like the town itself, she felt like she’d been operating in a fog for several weeks now. Her mood was low and dismal, and she felt so much older than the thirty-seven years the calendar allowed her to claim.
She looked around wistfully. There was nothing wrong with her surroundings. The terrace looked especially beautiful this morning, even shrouded in mist. The Matajilla poppies were still in glorious bloom. The huge showy blossoms with their crepe-papery white petals and yellow pompom centers towered above the pink and yellow Joseph’s coat roses in the adjoining beds, and the slender stalks of the French lavender underplanting them. Marsha had opened The Crone’s Nest--part herb and tea shop, part occult merchandise and apparel store--some four years ago, and she’d added the terrace a year later. It had quickly become a gathering place for a loosely connected group of her friends, many of whom would stop by for coffee or breakfast a couple of times a week. This morning the group was very small, just Marsha and her two partners.
Lucy and Scout were discussing plans for Scout’s wedding to Lucy’s cousin, Nick. It had pretty much formed their sole topic of conversation for weeks. Marsha drummed her fingers on the table. Their order was taking forever to get out here, and she was vaguely put out by the fact that neither Scout nor Lucy seemed to care. But then, neither of them had taken any notice of her moodiness, either. They were too preoccupied with their own interests.
The wedding, which was taking place at the end of the month, had not started out as a big event. In fact, when Scout and Nick had announced their intentions, a scant two months earlier, their plans ran something along the lines of a weekend trip to Vegas. It was Lucy who insisted they should make a big deal of it. And, with Scout otherwise occupied--first with moving back into the house she’d recently inherited from her stepmother, and then with turning the deserted, century-old carriage house on the property into a functional sculpture studio --it was Lucy who had taken on most of the tasks involved with coordinating the affair.
Marsha didn’t know what was motivating Lucy, although she suspected that guilt at having opposed the union for so long was a big part of it.
Until three months ago, when Scout had unexpectedly returned to Oberon after a twenty-year absence, no one had ever imagined she and Nick would revive the somewhat disastrous affair they had begun when she was only sixteen. It was unfortunate that the events which had precipitated her departure all those years ago had left Lucy and most of her family holding a fairly formidable grudge against Scout. It had taken a brush with death to bring Lucy to the point where she could accept that there might be worse things than for Scout and Nick to get back together.
The rest of her family had yet to see the light.
It was possible that Lucy saw this wedding as a means of promoting family unity, as well. But Marsha thought it just as likely her friend was over-compensating for the fact that she hadn’t gotten to plan her own wedding sixteen years ago, when she and Dan had opted to elope to Vegas, themselves.
At times, Marsha wasn’t sure even Lucy understood what she was up to. Under her guidance the wedding was shaping up to be one helluva party, yet she was still expending an almost equal amount of energy suggesting reasons why they should consider calling it off. Even now.
"Look, Scout, you could at least think about it, couldn’t you?" Lucy asked, for what had to be the two hundredth time. "I know everyone would completely understand if you wanted to wait awhile."
Scout smiled serenely, and shook her head. "Read my lips, Lucy. No way. We didn’t even want to put things off this long."
Ever since she and Nick had gotten back together, Scout had a glow of contentment about her that would have made Marsha green with envy if she weren’t so happy for her friend. But she was happy for her, she reminded herself, again. Very happy. And really, the envy she felt was nothing more than a tiny, tiny pain.