The latest magical romance in the Spellbound Falls series from the New York Times bestselling author of From Kiss to Queen and The Highlander Next Door
Welcome back to Spellbound Falls, Maine—where love is the greatest magic of all...
Katy MacBain moved to Spellbound Falls with secrets she plans to keep. The newest member of the Fire and Rescue Team, she disappeared for three weeks before arriving on the job. She doesn’t understand why Gunnar Wolfe—the town’s interim fire chief and her boss—seems determined to uncover the truth of what happened to her during that time. Or why she’s more attracted to him than she’s ever been to any other man.
A confident firefighter, Gunnar Wolfe doesn’t give up—and he’s resolved to find out what’s wrong with the mysterious and beautiful Katy. Since she is the newest member of his team, he’s naturally protective of her, but he’s surprised to find himself captivated by the tenacious and talented woman who is so...magical.
About the Author
Janet Chapman was the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance novels, all set in the state of Maine, where she lived with her husband, surrounded by wildlife. Best known for her Highlander series, including Tempting the Highlander and Loving the Highlander, and her Spellbound Falls series, including The Highlander Next Door and Courting Carolina, Janet also had several contemporary series set on the coast and in the mountains.
When she wasn't writing, Janet and her husband spent their time camping, hunting, fishing, and generally rubbing elbows with nature.
Read an Excerpt
Two weeks later
Katy MacBain's heart sank when she saw that one of the late arrivals they'd been holding the plane for was a kid.
Please stop. Please stop walking, she silently pleaded to the young boy striding down the aisle of the crowded commuter jet. Katy sighed in relief when the decidedly winded, harried-looking woman following him grabbed the loop on his backpack and pulled him to a halt five rows away.
It wasn't that she didn't like kids, but this one looked more excited than an astronaut boarding a spaceship to Mars. And in her experience, excited little boys liked to fidget. And talk. Considering she'd just spent the last ten hours zigzagging across the country, trying to get from Idaho to Maine, Katy feared her head would explode if she had to spend the final leg of this hellacious journey being nice. It would be too much for her, when she was barely keeping it together.
She groaned inwardly when, after eyeing the man next to the vacant seat, the woman nudged the boy forward once more. Katy looked back in hopes there were more empty seats behind her, but the duo stopped at her row.
"I wasn't able to get us seats together." The desperation in her eyes contradicted her congenial smile as she apologized to Katy. "But don't worry," she rushed on, her gaze dropping to the book in Katy's hands. "Shiloh brought plenty of things to keep him busy."
Two deep dimples punctuated the six- or seven-year-old's bright grin. "I brought a book to read, too. Mine's on raising chickens."
How . . . weird. "Why don't I just go take your other seat," Katy said, bending to grab her own backpack from the floor in front of her.
"I already asked the flight attendant, and he said it's too late to change seats because the passenger list has already been filed."
Katy grabbed her backpack and straightened. "I'm sure they won't mind if he at least takes the window seat."
"I prefer Shiloh be on the aisle where I can see him," the woman said, jostling her carry-on and large purse in order to slip off the boy's backpack.
"Could you ladies swap recipes after we're airborne?" came a male voice from a couple of rows back. "We've been stuck at this gate over twenty minutes waiting for you."
The woman aimed her congenial smile in his direction. "And I greatly appreciate your patience."
Only the kid ducked past her to face the man. "Our other plane was late, and we had to run across the whole terminal. But I needed to stop and use the bathroom, 'cause I don't like the toilets on the planes, and I knew I couldn't hold it all the way to Maine."
Several chuckles and a loud feminine gasp drowned out whatever the man muttered. "People don't want to hear about that," the woman said, settling the boy down beside Katy, tucking an array of games, books, snacks, and other items into the pocket in front of him and then popping his backpack into the overhead compartment.
As she dug around for his seat belt, he said, "But I had to explain it to him, Mom, 'cause he thinks it's your fault we're late." Shiloh leaned into the aisle, twisting to look back at the man. "Mom picked me up and ran like a cheetah so we wouldn't miss the plane. And if you don't know, cheetahs are the fastest land animal on the planet."
That well-aimed salvo effectively put the grump in his place, and Katy found her first smile of the day. Because really, who wouldn't want to sit next to a little boy willing to defend his mother at his own expense? In fact, Katy was afraid she was already halfway in love with the little warrior herself. More than that, she was relieved to have a distraction from the dark thoughts that threatened to consume her.
"You don't gotta worry I'll make you sick or anything," the boy said as he twisted toward her to help his mother hunt for the other half of his seat belt. "Even though Mom told me to hurry when I used the bathroom, I made sure to wash my hands real good so's to kill all those nasty public germs."
"Thank you for that." Katy fished the buckle out of the crack and handed the belt to Shiloh. Smiling at his mother, she said, "Go spend the next couple of hours relaxing. We're all good here."
Ignoring the heavy male sigh from several rows back, the woman leaned down and gave her son a quick kiss on the cheek. "Don't go talking the lady's ears off," she reminded the boy over the soft whoosh of the jet's front door closing.
"Let me help you stow your bag and get seated," the flight attendant offered, taking the woman's carry-on and walking up the aisle as the plane gave a slight lurch backward.
"I'll be good, Mom," Shiloh said as he pulled a book from the seat pocket. "I'm gonna study which breeds are the best layers and see what dates I can get the chicks delivered."
Ah. The kid was going to raise chickens. Katy leaned her head back and closed her eyes to the drone of the idling engines as they taxied to the runway.
"You're supposed to watch while he tells us what to do in an emergency," he whispered.
"This is my fourth flight today. I could probably give the demo myself. In fact," she added, opening only one eye at him, "I happen to know you're supposed to put on your own oxygen mask before you help me put on mine."
The kid gaped at her for a full three seconds, but Katy saw his tiny shoulders go back and his chest puff out as he returned his attention to the attendant. The captain came on the speaker, thanked everyone for flying with them, and said they were next in line for takeoff. The weather in Bangor, Maine, was seventy-three degrees with clear blue skies, and thanks to a good tailwind, he expected to be landing in one hour and forty-seven minutes.
Katy figured she could subtract several degrees off that temperature for her eventual destination up in the northwestern mountains. In fact, by the time she got there around nine or ten tonight, it would probably be closer to fifty.
She'd hadn't given herself much time before starting her new job in Spellbound Falls-and that was by choice. She didn't want to spend even one day at home in Pine Creek answering questions about the two months she'd been in Colorado-mostly because she'd actually spent the last two weeks in Idaho trying to forget what had happened in Colorado.
She'd agreed to only a quick dinner in Bangor with her folks before heading up the mountain. She hoped she could make it through that much. Because even though she'd gotten really good at lying over the phone, Katy wasn't sure how long she could hold up under her father's scrutiny. And if by some miracle she made it through dinner, there was still the chance her mother would know all was not well-physically or emotionally-with her youngest daughter.
Which brought Katy back to her ongoing litany of the last few days. Please, please let me be healed-at least enough to fool Mom. Deep down, Katy knew she'd been getting by on adrenaline and denial, but she had to. This was no time to fall apart. She needed to make the most of this job, needed to become the person it would demand her to be. By rescuing others, she'd rescue herself. That was her new, and only, mantra.
As of three weeks ago, when she'd finally decided she could no longer deny inheriting her mother's little . . . gift, Katy had obsessed over whether or not it was possible to actually hide an injury or illness from a former trauma surgeon who also happened to be a medical intuitive. If not, then a motherly hug might be all it was going to take for everything to go to hell in a handbasket right there in the middle of Bangor International Airport.
Please, please don't let Robbie be with them. Because hiding anything from her magical big brother was nearly impossible, considering he was Guardian of the MacKeage and MacBain and Gregor clans and could friggin' travel through time at will.
Was there a reason she couldn't have been born into a normal family with plain old everyday talents instead of being a first-generation Highlander whose father hailed from twelfth-century Scotland? Not to mention her two male MacKeage cousins who could manipulate the energy of mountains and Winter MacKeage Gregor was an actual dridh.
Funny how the MacKeage and MacBain males were strongly encouraged to do at least one tour of duty in the military-in essence putting themselves in harm's way on purpose-but a MacBain female who was strong and capable and a damn good equestrian couldn't do something even remotely dangerous if it served no intrinsic purpose to humanity in general or the clans in particular.
So Katy had rebelled by not going to college. Instead, she'd taken a night course at the regional high school and gotten her real estate license. The problem was she'd been damn good at that, too, which was why everyone had been surprised when instead of buying the business when her boss retired five years ago, Katy had run off to Bangor and enrolled in a two-year course to become a paramedic.
She'd felt crazy and brave and filled with more purpose than she'd found in her life to that point. And if her family didn't quite understand, that had to be okay. Just like they might not understand how monumental it felt to finally be on the verge of something most people her age managed years before, having a place of her own, however small and humble. In a family the size and intensity of the MacKeages, solitude always seemed both impossible and undesirable. But these days, for so many reasons, a new wind was blowing in Katy's life. It was time to find her own spot in the world.
And then came the news story four months ago about a rescue squad being formed in a small mountain town a hundred crooked miles to the north. Once again, she'd quietly left home, then called her parents from Colorado to tell them she was taking a wilderness rescue course for her new job on Spellbound Falls Fire & Rescue. It was also why she'd waited until there had been two thousand miles between them before mentioning she'd even applied for the position, much less gotten it.
But good grief, this was the twenty-first century, not the twelfth. If she'd been born in her father's original time, she'd be considered a hopeless spinster at twenty-eight-assuming she hadn't been married off at fifteen and already anticipating the arrival of her first grandchild.
No, she definitely would have been a spinster, likely shunned for her . . . gift.
How in heck had her mother not gone insane?
The major reason Katy had decided to become a paramedic was to help her understand what she was seeing whenever she inexplicably found herself rooting around inside someone else's body in her mind's eye. Unfortunately, every anatomy class in the world wouldn't help her make sense of the pulsing colors and conflicting emotions that assaulted her every time she went hurtling through bone and cartilage and various organs.
Well, except for three weeks ago, when she sure as hell hadn't had any trouble recognizing Brandon Fontanne's loathing.
Darkness threatened to overtake her, and Katy shuddered. She pushed it back as best she could but didn't feel confident she could keep it at bay.
"You don't gotta be afraid," a soft voice whispered. A small hand touched her arm, and Katy's eyes snapped open. The young boy, Shiloh, sat looking up at her with shining, alert eyes. "That loud thump was just the landing gear going up inside the belly of the plane, so the wheels won't drag in the wind and slow us down."
Oh, good Lord, she'd forgotten where she was. "How old are you, Shiloh?" Katy asked. Talking had to be better than remembering.
His small shoulders went back. "I'm almost nine, and in September, I'll be in the third grade."
Nine? The kid barely looked seven. But then what did she know, having been born into a family of giants? Well, except for her mother, who topped out at five-foot-three.
"Mom named me after my grandfather, 'cause she said that, even though he was born too early just like I was, he still managed to grow up big and strong and live to be ninety-four." Shiloh leaned over to glance up the aisle then looked back at her with a heavy sigh. "But I'm still waiting for the growing big part to kick in, 'cause even though I was the oldest kid in my class, people kept thinking I was too young to even be in school."
Poor little guy.
"Well, you've definitely started the strong part of growing up," she said, giving his forearm a quick squeeze. "And I predict you're going to be six feet tall by the time you're done growing. So, Shiloh . . ." She nodded at his catalog. "How many chickens are you planning to get?"
He stared at her for several heartbeats, his big brown eyes both hopeful and skeptical as he apparently tried to decide if he believed her about being six feet tall. Finally, he said, "I might only be able to get six pullets. But I'm really hoping to get four dozen so I can sell their eggs to the resort where we're gonna live. Mom said she's gotta ask the top boss lady if I can have any chickens, 'cause I don't want to keep them penned up if I don't have to." He gave another glance up the aisle then shot her a grin. "And if Mom lets me go with her when she asks, I can tell the boss lady that she wouldn't have to spray chemicals around the resort, 'cause free-range chickens would eat all the bugs and worms and even small frogs and baby snakes."
"Hens might be a good alternative to pesticides," Katy drawled, "but they do like to leave little . . . packages all over the place. So don't be surprised if the boss is reluctant to have resort guests dodging chicken droppings. Also, four dozen are a lot of birds to take care of," she added at his frown. "I know because, from the time I was five, it was my job to take care of my family's eighteen laying hens."