Enchanted - The Wedding Story
Sugar Maple, Vermont – the day before the bridal shower
Do you have a big family?
You know the kind I mean: loud and loving and always there for you when times get tough.
I have spent most of my life wishing for aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews. What can I say? I wanted hand-me-downs from my older sister, noogies from my big brother, and little siblings who would look up to me, even when I didn’t deserve it. But, most of all, I wished for a mother and father. I was orphaned at six when both of my parents died in a terrible car crash and from that moment on, it seemed like I was searching for someone to call my own.
Don’t get me wrong. I was never alone. After my parents’ deaths, I was taken in by Sorcha, a wise and loving crone, who postponed piercing the veil to raise me to adulthood and into my magick.
I forgot to tell you about the magick, didn’t I? I’m Chloe Hobbs, the half-human, half-magick owner of Sticks & Strings, the most popular yarn shop in New England . . . and one day Planet Earth, if business keeps growing the way it has been. I’m also the de facto mayor of Sugar Maple, a tiny blip on the Vermont map, where centuries ago other magick types had found refuge during the Salem witch trials. Thanks to a powerful charm invoked by my ancestor Aerynn, Sugar Maple has been hiding in plain sight here in the world of humans for as long as anyone could remember and right now it’s up to me to keep that chain unbroken.
Sorcha quickly discovered that raising a future sorceress really did take a village and the inhabitants of Sugar Maple rose to the challenge. An entire village of magickal beings, Fae and witch and shifter and were-family and troll and vampire, who had been hiding in plain sight for centuries.
They were right there by my side as I grew up, cheering me on. In retrospect, I guess it wasn’t entirely out of the goodness of their collective heart. The future of our town rested on my half-human, half-sorceress-in-training shoulders and the sooner I claimed the birthright established by Aerynn, my ancestor and the founder of Sugar Maple, the better off we’d all be.
The years passed and I grew older and taller and more human by the minute. It seemed I had about as much sorcery in me as a Magic 8 Ball. The only thing I had inherited from Aerynn and her descendants was a talent for knitting and bad luck with men.
And then, not too long before my thirtieth birthday, I fell in love with Luke MacKenzie. My magick blossomed. I gave birth to our very magickal baby girl, Laria.
And I said yes.
I never thought I would say yes to anyone, mostly because I never really believed anyone would ask. I’m not exactly great marriage material. A human bloodline isn’t very appealing to my magick friends. And, let’s get real here, most humans would run screaming from my family tree.
Unless you were lucky enough to find the one human in a million strong enough to take a giant step into the unknown, all in the name of love.
I guess it’s no surprise if I tell you that Luke is definitely that one human in a million strong enough to embrace the fact that the woman he loved was the daughter of a sorceress, descendant of a long line of sorceresses, and whose destiny was tied forever to a tiny magickal town hiding in plain sight in northern Vermont.
This is my home. This is my destiny. This was where I was born and from where one day, long after Luke was gone, I will pierce the veil. I will never retire to Florida or buy a cottage in Cornwall or even move to Boston to be closer to Luke’s family. I’ll be right here in Sugar Maple.
There will be no sons for Luke to play catch with. No more daughters either, for that matter. Descendants of Aerynn bear one child and that child was always a female who would carry our line forward toward the next millennium.
Kind of takes the fun out of family planning, doesn’t it?
Then again, when it comes to family planning, the MacKenzie clan takes it to a whole new level.
Now that Luke and I are engaged and have set a wedding date, his large and loud and basically wonderful family has taken over our lives and I am quickly learning how to navigate within that strange new world.
You’ve heard about bridezillas, those scary women who would sell their first-born for a Vera Wang hand-embroidered original. Well, let me introduce you to Momzilla, aka my future mother-in-law Bunny MacKenzie.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this woman. Despite the fact that 1) I am not going to take the family name after Luke and I wed or 2) move closer to the family, Bunny has been my number one champion. She loves Laria to distraction, showers me with affection and good advice (even when I don’t ask for it or need it), and she is a first-class knitter who singlehandedly could keep Sticks & Strings in business for the next decade.
She is also the nosiest woman I’ve ever met.
Not nasty nosy. Plain, old garden-variety nosy. The kind of nosy you probably wouldn’t even notice if you didn’t have something to hide.
Secrets? We have a million of them and as the descendant of Aerynn it’s up to me to make sure they stay that way.
Which hasn’t exactly been easy now that I was part of a loud, loving family of humans.
Falling in love with Luke brought my powers to life but learning how to use those powers has been more problematic. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way—some worse than others—but I liked to think I was keeping one step ahead of our baby daughter Laria who is showing signs of being blessed in the magick department.
“I have a surprise for you,” Bunny said, as she helped me shelve a new shipment of cashmere from Jade Sapphire.
“Besides the surprise bridal shower tomorrow?” I asked.
She tossed a skein of lace-weight at me and laughed. “I need to have a word with that son of mine. He inherited my big mouth.”
“Don’t blame Luke, Bunny,” I said, praying she wouldn’t turn around and see her eight-month-old granddaughter levitating a foot above her makeshift crib. “I badgered him.”
“He grew up with siblings. He should know how to handle badgering by now.”
I dusted off the skein of lace-weight and put it back on the pile. “So what’s the surprise?”
Her hazel eyes sparkled with excitement. “You know I’ve been working on a MacKenzie family tree for a few years now.”
I nodded and struggled to keep my expression neutral. The mention of family trees always made me break out in a cold sweat. “Last I heard, you found a link to the Revolutionary War on Jack’s side.”
“Even better! I added branches for you and for Laria. You are now officially MacKenzies.” She paused for a second then winked at me. “No matter what name you go under.”
My stomach twisted into a double sailor’s knot. The human side of me was thrilled to finally be part of a big, loud, loving family. The magick side, however, was starting to freak out.
“Tiny branches, I hope. I don’t have any blood relations.” The only things I knew about my human father was his name (Ted Aubry), that he was born in Maine, and the fact that he had been studying medicine before he fell under my mother Guinevere’s spell.
Were his parents still alive? Did he have siblings? Cousins? Aunts or uncles? I hadn’t a clue and, to be honest, I never asked. Sorcha had told me that he had turned away from his human family when he married Guinevere and the fact that nobody had ever showed up in Sugar Maple, with questions about his death or his baby daughter, spoke volumes. Still, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of Bunny poking around or of the questions she might ask about him.
And, let’s get real, not even Ancestry.com could trace my magickal lineage. Only the Book of Spells could do that and so far it was holding its secrets close.
“I don’t have much information yet,” Bunny went on, mercifully unaware of my growing panic, “but don’t worry. I’ve had a lot of practice tracking down family.” Her eyes twinkled with amusement. "Nobody’s safe from me!”
“’Nobody’s safe from me!’” I repeated to Luke a few hours later as we ate mac and cheese at the kitchen counter.
“Her exact words?” he asked, forking up a mound of cheesy goodness.
“Verbatim.” I dropped my fork onto the plate. “This is a nightmare!”
Luke was quiet for a moment. “It’s not like she’s going to find out your mother was a sorceress.”
Luke is a former Boston homicide detective, now Sugar Maple chief of police. He tends to think like a cop, which means he can be annoyingly logical.
“Exactly,” I said, barely swallowing down a sigh of exasperation. “She’s not going to find anything.” I stabbed a forkful of gooey elbow macaroni for emphasis. “Zip. Nada. Not one single leaf or branch on my mother’s family tree.”
"Genealogy is a lot of work,” he reasoned to my growing annoyance. “My mother’s run into blank slates before. It’s part of the process. It will seem normal to her.”
“I’m nothing but blank slates!” I was starting to sound a little crazy but I couldn’t help it. “The only place she’ll find my mother is on my parents’ marriage license. Other than that, I might as well have been dropped here from Mars.” And that was assuming they’d actually had a license.
“Venus,” he said, a grin playing at the corners of his mouth. “Definitely Venus.”
“You’re not funny,” I snapped, even though he kind of was. “I knew blending our families wouldn’t be easy, but I wasn’t expecting Bunny to start climbing my family tree.”
“My mother can be intense,” he said.
“I’m beginning to understand why Meghan moved away from Boston.”
Meghan was Luke’s youngest sister and his favorite. She had a history of falling for the wrong guy, which is a nice way of saying she has a major thing for bad boys that led her into a potentially fatal relationship with a gorgeous Fae.
“Let’s just take it one crisis at a time,” Luke said.
I chuckled and burrowed my nose into his armpit. “I’ll be a lot happier when all of this wedding business is over and we can get back to normal.” Assuming I could remember what used to pass for normal.
“You know I love your family,” I said carefully. “It’s just that Sugar Maple wasn’t built to accommodate free-ranging humans.” We liked our mortals well enough from nine-to-five when they were spending their hard-earned money in our shops and restaurants, but once the sun went down we were a whole lot more comfortable without them.
Truth was, lately something had felt off to me. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, mostly because I couldn’t explain it to myself, much less anyone else, but the sense that there was a disturbance in Sugar Maple’s force field was becoming harder to ignore.
Then again, so were the MacKenzies, who were definitely enough to cause a disturbance in anyone’s force field, magick or not.
“We’ll get through this,” he said. “Tomorrow’s the shower and in two weeks the wedding will be a memory.”
“I can’t wait,” I murmured, my words muffled. “But I’m not all that sure your mother will go back home. She asked if she could keep a change of clothes and a toothbrush here.” Just saying the words made my blood run cold.
“She’ll go,” Luke said. “Dad wants to take that cruise they’ve been talking about for years.”
“An around-the-world cruise?” I sounded more hopeful than I should have.
“Bahamas,” Luke said, chuckling. “Six days, seven nights.”
“Right now that sounds like heaven.”
“We could elope,” he said. “Ditch everyone and fly to Vegas.”
“One small problem,” I reminded him. “My paperwork is pretty much non-existent. You need proof you exist before you can get a marriage license.” Here in Sugar Maple that wasn’t a problem, but the rest of the world might find it a bit strange.
“Have the Book of Spells whip something up for you.”
I hated to admit it, but that wasn’t a bad idea. “When it comes to the Book, I’m still barely literate.”
“You nailed the emergency section right out of the gate,” he reminded me, “and managed to save the town from Isadora and Dane.”
“I did, didn’t I?” I could hear the pride in my voice. A charm pulled from the Book of Spells might be a Def Con option, but I was hoping to find a way that couldn’t backfire on Bunny or Meghan or any other human MacKenzie. Whatever it was, I’d better find it soon since the wedding was in two weeks.
“’Tis as I said ‘twould be,” a familiar nails-on-the-blackboard voice rang out from the doorway. “Consort with humans and trouble follows.”
Elspeth, our combination nanny/surrogate grandmother/Greek chorus, floated toward us with Laria in her arms.
Luke locked eyes with his baby girl and Laria broke free from the yellow-haired troll and surfed the air straight into her Daddy’s arms.
“There be exceptions,” Elspeth said, her fierce expression softening. “Not many, but a few.”
Who would have thought Elspeth would become Luke’s fiercest supporter in Sugar Maple? I don’t think anyone saw that coming. Luke still didn’t quite believe it but there was no denying the affection Elspeth felt toward the father of the next generation of Aerynn and Samuel’s descendants. She was even willing to overlook the fact that he didn’t have a drop of magick in him.
Both Elspeth and I had offered him the chance to acquire some but to his credit Luke had declined. While I loved the fact that he was one hundred percent Homo sapiens, I have to admit there was a part of me that wished he would accept at least a smattering of magick if only to be able to protect himself from—well, from the unknown. If the last two years had taught us anything, it had taught us that danger was everywhere. Not even a powerful centuries-old protective charm had been able to save Sugar Maple from chaos and it was in our best interests to be prepared.
Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared us for what the fates had in store.
Enchanted - The Wedding Story (The Sugar Maple Chronicles - Book 6) will be released on February 14, 2018.
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Barbara Bretton is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than 45 books. She lives in New Jersey.