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Safe Harbor: Chapter 15

‘HANNAH, would you mind coming downstairs,’ Sarah called. ‘We’d like to do another healing session on you. Libby’s feeling great. Jonas isn’t here and the house is in protection mode, so we should have a few hours with no interruptions.’

Hannah closed her eyes briefly and tugged the blanket closer around her. Jonas had been gone all day, and why that depressed her, she didn’t know. She’d detested being cooped up in her room, but where else could she go? If she went downstairs, everyone spoke in the hushed tones she’d come to despise. She couldn’t say anything because she didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So she was holding a first-class pity party in her room and waiting for Jonas to come back and treat her normally again.

‘Hannah!’ This time Sarah’s voice was sharp and imperious, as only an eldest sister could manage. ‘Come down here.’

Hannah made a face at the door, feeling childish. Sarah could reduce them all to children when she was on a roll. It was easier just to go along with what she wanted than to try to argue. Hannah tossed her blanket on the bed and reluctantly opened the door of her bedroom. At once, familiar scents filled the air. The tea kettle whistled merrily and Joley’s contagious laughter mingled with Libby’s. Hannah stood in the hall for a long moment, breathing it all in. She loved them all so much—her sisters—even when they were killing her with kindness. And no one laughed like Joley. She could light up an entire city, let alone a room.

Hannah descended the spiral stairs and discovered the lower story was lit only with candles. The scent of cinnamon and apple potpourri filled the air. The flickering light threw dancing shadows on the walls. She hoped that the candlelight also softened the effect of the wounds on her face.

Already, her body was healing. Her sisters gathered twice a day, pushing themselves in order to boost her body’s ability to recover. The wounds had closed and this afternoon she’d noticed the raw redness was already fading. Unfortunately, the healing sessions had little effect on the trauma. With Jonas next to her, she could sleep a little, but alone, she was terrified to close her eyes.

Sometimes she tried to recapture the moment of the attack in an effort to give Jonas more details, but her mind didn’t cope well with the trauma and steadfastly refused to provide anything else that might help him. The only thing she remembered with any certainty was the shocking slash of the knife. Although it made no sense, she could have sworn she remembered her attacker whispering an apology as he drove the knife into her again and again.

Her sisters were gathered in the large living room, where they usually met in the evenings when they all came home. Most no longer resided full time in the family home. Sarah lived next door with Damon, and Kate and Matt had a house on the bluff by the old mill.

Abbey and Aleksandr were purchasing a large two-story home overlooking the sea a mile down from the Drake house, and Tyson and Libby had an extraordinary home he had found for her up on a bluff surrounded by acres of private land. Only Hannah, Joley and Elle still used the family home as a permanent base when they weren’t traveling.

Hannah waved her hand at the fireplace and flames leapt to life. ‘I should have baked cookies earlier, but I didn’t think about it,’ she greeted her sisters, forcing a cheerful smile.

‘That’s okay,’ Kate said. ‘I made some myself.’ She arched a look over her shoulder at Joley. ‘All by myself.’

‘Hey!’ Joley objected. ‘I started the first batch and you kicked me out of the kitchen.’

‘She set the oven on fire,’ Sarah explained.

‘It wasn’t my fault,’ Joley said. ‘I put the cookies in the oven and just forgot I was baking. Did you know that cookies can turn to charcoal if they’re in the oven long enough? And then they can actually catch on fire.’

‘You caught the cookies on fire, Joley?’ Hannah covered her mouth to smother a laugh, and looked away from her younger sister. For the first time since the accident, she felt more comfortable with her sisters, and she realized she couldn’t feel overwhelming pity from them. If they felt it, they were careful to shield her from their emotions. They were acting much more normally, and teasing Joley was habitual. She just gave them so many opportunities.

‘Yes, actually I did, and they were surprisingly resistant to being fixed.’

Alarm spread. ‘You used magic to fix them?’ Hannah cast a mock-terrified look around.

‘No one has eaten them, have they?’

Her sisters shook their heads. Joley put her hands on her hips. ‘I’m not feeling the love here. I went to a great deal of trouble to try to fix those cookies; the least you could do is try one. What a bunch of chickens.’

‘Joley, you can’t fix burnt cookies with magic,’ Hannah said. ‘What spell did you use?’

‘I countered it,’ Elle said. ‘Sorry, Joley, but it was the only safe thing to do. Considering the mood you were in and the way you were muttering about Prakenskii, I was afraid your spell might take a wrong twist and turn the things into bombs or something.’

‘It’s okay, sweetie,’ Libby said, wrapping her arm around Joley. ‘At least your heart was in the right place.’

The girls tossed pillows on the floor and sank down in their familiar circle.

‘Speaking of Prakenskii, what’s going on with you and him?’ Hannah asked. ‘He asked me if you were a spell-singer. I didn’t like that he might even know what that meant.’

There was a small silence while they all exchanged anxious looks.

‘He was almost possessive with you,’ Sarah added. ‘And to use up a personal favor just to get the name of the man you supposedly were photographed in a compromising position with in a tabloid, that’s just plain crazy.’

Joley swept her hand through her hair. It was a bit shorter and a new color, not dark like Libby’s anymore, but rich bands of red and dark brown with streaks of gold. Hannah touched her own hair, so difficult to work with, heavy enough to give her headaches, and wished she had the courage to do whatever she wanted with it the way Joley did. It was just that everyone loved her hair. It was so unusual, so beautiful, but then no one else had to cope with the tangles and weight of it.

She leaned toward her younger sister. ‘If you don’t want to answer, Joley, you don’t have to. I’m just worried.’

Joley sighed heavily. ‘I don’t know how to answer. I think he put a spell on me or something.’

The Drake sisters gasped audibly, almost in stereo. Joley held up her hand. ‘Wait. I don’t mean literally. I think I’d know if he really did. I think you’d know. Wouldn’t you?’

Hannah reached out, but didn’t touch her arm. ‘May I?’ Because she wasn’t going to invade her sister’s privacy ever again without permission. None of the Drakes liked their privacy invaded and she wasn’t going to push beyond Joley’s boundaries.

Joley nodded. ‘I want to find out.’

‘Then let Elle as well. She’s strong in different ways, and between the two of us, if he’s there, we’ll find him,’ Hannah said. ‘Are you ready?’

Joley compressed her lips. ‘Yes. Ignore anything you see about how I feel about him, because it’s crazy.’

Hannah and Elle reached for her at the same time and energy immediately crackled in the air, manifesting itself as tiny white arcs and zigzagging streaks between the three girls.

There was a small silence broken only by the sizzling of electricity and then Hannah and Elle dropped their hand from Joley’s arms. They looked at one another over her head.

‘He’s all over you, Joley,’ Hannah said. ‘And it’s consensual. You let him get inside you.’

‘I didn’t, though. Not really. He just kept whispering to me, night and day, and his voice was so—sexy—God, not even that, more than sexy. Mesmerizing.’ She rubbed her palm back and forth on her thigh without being aware she did so. ‘I just couldn’t resist him anymore. I wanted to see him, really see him. I thought I would be stronger and I could force him to go away, but he…’ She broke off shaking her head. ‘I’m so worn out. He was so enraged with me over the tabloid thing.’

‘Why didn’t you just tell him the truth?’ Hannah asked gently.

‘Because he makes me so angry. If someone with magical skills manipulated the attack on you, Hannah, it wasn’t him. I would know. I know it isn’t him.’

‘What does he want?’ Kate asked.

‘Me. He wants me,’ Joley admitted. ‘I told him I don’t date criminals and he said he doesn’t date. I don’t dare ever be alone with him. I can’t seem to resist him for very long.

I’ve gotten good at surrounding myself with people when I know he’s in the area, but…’

Again she broke off.

‘Tell him you don’t want anything to do with him, that you’re not attracted,’ Abbey suggested.

‘I have told him to stay away, but he knows I’m physically attracted. I can’t hide it from him, not when he’s in my head. It’s horrible, like one of those moth-to-the-flame, stupid-idiot attractions. I know better. I never—never—meet him alone, face to face.’

‘All right, honey,’ Hannah said, ‘don’t panic. You should have come to us a long time ago, before he was able to get a real foothold in you. Tonight, we’re doing a healing session for you instead of for me. I’m strong enough now and the wounds are healing nicely. A session or two with all of us will give you some breathing room and I’ll do a little research and see what’s in the books to combat this.’

Hannah looked around her at the circle of faces. They were all being matter-of-fact with her, treating her normally, rather than overwhelming her with sympathy. She could breathe again. Let her guard down a little. If felt good to have them all back—even if it was just for the moment.

‘No, no, you can’t do that, Hannah. Tonight is all about you. We planned it,’ Joley said,

‘and it’s important to me—to all of us—that you have this night. We need to tell you something—show you something.’ She looked around the circle at her sisters. ‘I’m going first since I spoke out of turn.’

Hannah pulled back suspiciously. ‘What is this? Have I been ambushed?’

‘You’ll like it,’ Joley promised. She waited until the scrap-book Sarah pulled out was handed to Hannah and flipped open. ‘This is the page I made for you. I wrote you a letter, put a couple of my favorite pictures of us together, and I also wrote a song for you. It’s not entirely finished. I’ll tweak it before I record it, but it’s from me to you.’

Hannah pulled the book closer so she could read the letter penned in Joley’s scrawling cursive.

Hey baby girl,

How are you doing? I really hope that you are good. I’ve been thinking back over our lives, Hannah, and there are so many amazing things we’ve done together. You and I were—and are—best of friends and that will never change, no matter what.

You truly are an amazing person, Hannah. Everything inside of you is so beautiful. You are one of the strongest people I’ve ever come across to give up so much just for your family. I’ve never taken the opportunity to really show my love and feelings for you, and I should apologize for that. I’ve always looked up to you. You were always my role model. You are always kind and gentle to everyone, yet so fun and exciting to be with. I always have the best of times with you, whether it be dancing around the house singing at the top of our lungs, or sun bathing on the beach and checking out the hot surfers.

You’ve always been there for me and I’ll always be here for you. Nothing can ever change my love for you. I care about our relationship so much and I hope you see that I’ll always be here for you. The song I’ve written for you is titled ‘All of Time.’ I hope you like it, because it’s how I really feel.

Love always,


Hannah looked up at her sister and then around at the circle of faces. Tears shimmered in all of their eyes. ‘Joley, this is beautiful. Really, it isn’t any of you. It isn’t. I’m struggling, but I love you all and I’m just trying to find a way to work things out, and I will. I’m sorry I’ve been so difficult.’

‘Don’t, Hannah,’ Sarah said. ‘We’re the ones apologizing and for a very good reason.

Joley, show her my page.’

Joley leaned over and turned back the pages until she came to the first one. There were pictures of Sarah and Hannah at various ages, all evoking memories of Sarah carefully brushing out the terrible tangles the tight spiral curls always caused, and wiping away tears when someone called her a poodle. There was even one of all the girls in poodle skirts with their hair teased into fluffy curls because Hannah had been so upset that she couldn’t straighten her hair.

The memories brought a tightness to Hannah’s chest. Sarah had always been so good to her, watching over her when she went to school early and helping her to keep from stuttering in front of others. She pressed the scrapbook to her breast and fought against the lump in her throat threatening to choke her.

‘You have to read my letter, honey,’ Sarah encouraged.

‘I don’t think I can. It will make me cry,’ Hannah said.

‘It’s supposed to make you feel better,’ Sarah pointed out. ‘It comes from my heart.’

‘I’ll read it, but if you make me cry, I’m going to turn you into a toad,’ Hannah promised.

‘And who’s supposed to be making the tea?’

‘You always make it,’ Kate said. ‘You know everyone’s favorite and no one else can make it taste the way you do. I’ve never figured out what you do to it.’

‘She adds love,’ Elle said. ‘That’s always been Hannah’s secret.’

To give herself a moment, Hannah waved her hand toward the kitchen and at once the tea kettle began to whistle. Her hands followed a familiar, graceful pattern as she wove a spell that would bring each of her sisters their favorite tea. Only when the mugs were floating out on a tray, and her sisters had chosen their brew, did Hannah look down at the bold, precise and very honest writing that could only be Sarah’s.

Dearest Hannah,

From the time you were born and I first held you in my arms, it was apparent that your soul was as old as time and that your very essence put forth a calm healing light that drew all who looked upon you. Yes, on the outside, you always looked like a golden goddess.

However, dearest sister, it has always been your inner beauty and light that has drawn and kept us close to you.

You are my sister and I love you dearly, but you know me. I have never put much store into exterior looks or beauty, because some of the most beautiful people have the ugliest of souls and intentions. You need to know I am proud of you and that as your big sister I put great store into who you are as a person. It has always been so hard for you to be out there in the world, and the people who meet you have no idea how hard it is for you to be there, but there you are and you always manage to come through for us all. No matter what the cost is to you.

Not one of those pushy photographers have ever taken the time to know you, let alone what your life costs you, or how much you would rather be curled up at home in an armchair enjoying a hot cup of tea surrounded by the people and things that you love.

Rather than feeling awkward, shy and ready to crawl out of your skin and ready to run away and hide.

Perhaps, dear sister, we too have failed you, we always thought that letting you know how beautiful you were and how amazing you looked was important to you. We always thought that you wanted to travel, that you wanted to be in the forefront and that you were happy in your career even though it cost you emotionally. We just didn’t see the bigger picture, let alone know how much we had set up the playing field and how hard we had made things for you. Know this, Hannah, whatever you want to be in life, wherever you want to go, is just fine by us. We love you and completely support your decisions whatever they may be. I am just so sorry that it has taken me this long to figure out you were doing all these things for us and not for yourself. Please forgive us for our ignorance and know that we love you unconditionally with all of our hearts.

Love you, as always,


‘Okay, now you’ve really made me cry,’ Hannah accused, brushing at the tears running down her face. ‘You have to know you don’t owe me an apology. I should have told you how I felt. I really should have, Sarah.’

‘Why didn’t you?’ Sarah asked, leaning forward.

‘I just hate letting down the people I love most. I didn’t even talk to you about it. As many times as we all sat here together, I never once told you how unhappy I was.’

‘Jonas saw it when none of us did,’ Sarah said. ‘We got into an argument about it and then suddenly I could see what he was saying so clearly and I was ashamed of myself.

I’m your sister and I should have seen how unhappy you were.’

Hannah shook her head. ‘No, Sarah, it was my life, and my decision to make. I should have told all of you. Please don’t take responsibility for my mistakes. If one good thing comes out of this, it’s that I’m determined to make decisions based on what I really want.’

‘Is Jonas what you really want?’ Libby asked. ‘The two of you did a lot of yelling yesterday, but today things seem better.’

Hannah bit down on her lower lip. ‘Actually I love him with my entire heart and soul. I should have told him a long time ago.’

Joley and Elle exchanged a quick look of alarm while Sarah and Kate smirked and Libby mouthed I-told-you-so to Abbey.

‘Don’t you think he’s a little bossy?’ Joley asked hopefully. ‘I mean, really, Hannah, how are you going to put up with him?’

‘Don’t listen to her,’ Abbey said. ‘She’s thinking of her own skin. If you fall, she’s next on the list.’

‘Don’t even go there.’ Joley shuddered visibly. ‘I’m not dating ever again, just so there’s no way I’ll get caught. Can you imagine me trying to live my life with one of the wack jobs I’m attracted to? I’ve got loser stamped in neon letters across my forehead. If they’re big and bad, and hotter than hell, I’m their girl. Then they open their mouth and annoy me and it’s over.’ She sighed. ‘I’ll be the old lady with the cats.’

Kate waved toward the kitchen and a plate of cookies floated out. Hannah waited until everyone had one before she turned the page to Abigail’s entry. Pictures of the ocean and long-haired girls running hand in hand over the sand brought back memories of laughter.

Abigail leaned over and pointed to one with her arms around Hannah when she was about thirteen. ‘That one is my favorite. See the light spilling around you? That’s the way I always see you, shining from the inside out.’

Hannah ducked her head, taking a slow sip of tea. For a moment she felt nearly overwhelmed with love. She’d always known she was lucky. All of them were. Good times or bad, they banded together and shared. She took a breath and let it out before looking at Abbey’s letter.

Dear Hannah,

I just wanted you to know how much I love and admire you. You are always so strong and there for everybody, even when it is so hard for you. You never complain and are the first one to jump in and help out.

I wanted to remind you of something you did for me that was special to me but I just can’t narrow it down to one thing. You have always been my support and I don’t know what I ever would have done without you. When I was being silly or rash, you helped me through it. When my temper (the one I still say I don’t have) rears its ugly head, you are there to bring me back to a simmer.

Growing up, when I got hurt, you were always the one who would hug me tight and take the pain away. If somebody picked on me at school, you were there before I ever had to ask. More than one time somebody that was picking on me mysteriously got sick. You always said it was not you doing anything but I was sure it was just you protecting me.

I guess what I am trying to say is you are perfect in my eyes and someday I can’t wait to have my little Hannah running around protecting her older sister no matter the problem. I can’t imagine anything more promising than that in life. I want you to know that I love you unconditionally and no matter what you do in your life I will always love and support you. You have my shoulder, just as I have always had yours.

I love you,


Hannah swallowed the lump in her throat. ‘I’m very, very lucky to have all of you. You always make me feel so loved and so special. I don’t know what I was thinking, afraid you couldn’t accept me because I’m not a model anymore.’

‘Did you really think that, hon?’ Libby asked gently, ‘or did you have trouble accepting yourself?’

There was a small silence. Hannah took another sip of her tea. Honey and milk combined with the tea to soothe her throat. ‘Of course I have trouble accepting me. Look at me, Libby. I already look at myself and see every flaw, real or imagined. Part of me wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out.’ She frowned, trying to really analyze her feelings.

‘Part of me was terrified and sickened that someone would want to do this to me, but there is a tiny part that felt free. I felt if I could focus on that small triumph instead of the wreck of my face and body, I might find a way to emerge victorious. I’m really sorry I shut you all out.’

‘Don’t be,’ Sarah said. ‘It was good for us to have to figure out what we were doing wrong. Jonas said something the other day that made a lot of sense. He said when Damon and I have a fight, he doesn’t interfere. I really thought about that. Jonas has always been protective of us, and he never once interfered with any of our men when we argue. He must want to—maybe even need to—but he doesn’t because it would be wrong. And it was wrong for us to try to run your life for you, even if our intentions were good.’

Hannah looked around at the faces smiling at her. Acceptance. It was what made them all so close. Joley, as wild as she could be; Elle, so quiet and with fire simmering beneath the surface; Abbey, more at home in the sea; and Libby, without a mean bone in her body.

Sarah, organized and reliable; and dear sweet Kate, whom everyone had to love. ‘You’re all pretty great sisters,’ Hannah said, trying not to cry.

Kate bit into her cookie. ‘Of course we are. When you were a little girl, you were very angry with us because it was time for school and you didn’t want to go. How old was she, Sarah? You remember when I’m talking about.’

‘Oh, don’t tell this story,’ Hannah said and put her head down on the crook of her arm, laughing. ‘Joley and Elle don’t know and you just can’t tell them.’

”Cuz we think she’s so perfect and would never do anything bad,’ Joley said. ‘Spill it, Kate.’

‘How old was she, Sarah? You remember the time we were hurrying, trying to get ready for school, and she decided she absolutely wasn’t going to go?’

‘Six,’ Sarah supplied. ‘She was only six.’

Hannah groaned and took another sip of tea. ‘You’re both going to be sorry for telling this story.’

‘It will be well worth it,’ Kate said. ‘She sat on the stairs with her arms crossed, glaring at us, and if we touched her, we’d get zapped.’

‘An electrical shock,’ Sarah added, ‘a real jolt. She zapped us all—including Mom and Dad. At six she was already making up spells.’

There was a small silence. Joley sat up straighter. ‘I’m seeing you with new eyes, Hannah. You’re a goddess. You really zapped Dad? I wish I had known that spell. He caught me going out the window one night and, well—let’s just say I could have used something.’

They all burst out laughing. When they sobered, Libby took the book and a little shyly opened it to her page. The pictures were all taken of a day they’d been walking together in the forest. Hannah remembered the day because it had been so perfect—everything from the weather to the company.

‘This was one of my favorite times with you,’ Libby said. ‘We talked about everything and I was so distressed. I was in med school and the hours were killer. I was younger than everyone else and some of the other students weren’t very nice. You made that day so wonderful, Hannah. I knew, after that walk, that I could face everyone and do what I wanted to do and still be me. You gave me hope.’ She pointed to her letter. ‘I’m not very eloquent, but it’s from the heart.’

Hannah dropped her gaze to the scrawl that was Libby’s.


I need to tell you just how much you mean to me. You are so very special and a large part of my heart belongs to only you.

We have shared so many laughs and tears through the years and have made enough memories together to last forever. I still get a smile on my face every time I remember the time we were playing cards and were hysterical with laughter when the phone rang. We couldn’t answer because we couldn’t stop laughing and when you did finally answer it was a wrong number which only sent us back into another round of laughing until our stomachs actually hurt.

My life would not be what it is today had you not been a big part of it. You were always there for me with your love and support, and often your protection. Many times, I’ve seen you step out of your comfort zone to help me as well as many others. You are one of the most loving and giving persons I’ve ever known.

Dear sweet Hannah there is nothing you could ever do or say that would change my feelings for you. You are a huge part of my life, and I love you just because you are YOU!

Your loving sister,


Hannah closed the book with a small snap. ‘Now you’ve got me crying.’

‘Just drink more tea,’ Elle suggested. ‘That’s what I do.’

The door banged open and Jonas hurried in, the wind and mist coming in behind him.

‘It’s getting cold out there,’ he greeted them, striding into the room and stopping abruptly. He frowned. ‘You’re not having one of your girlie things, are you, with everyone crying and being all mushy?’

‘That’s exactly what we’re doing,’ Joley said cheerfully. ‘Come on and sit down and join us.’

Hannah felt pleasure bursting through her. It had been this way for so long. The seven sisters and Jonas. He’d always been in the circle with them. He complained, of course, and sometimes rolled his eyes and sneered, but he always flopped on the floor and became a part of who and what they were. She watched him as he took his place between her and Joley, wedging his thigh against hers and sliding his arm around her waist, fingers at the nape of her neck, slowly massaging.

‘Did anyone bother to cook dinner? I’m starving.’

There was another burst of laughter. He scowled at them. ‘What?’

‘You always ask that, every single time,’ Hannah explained. ‘You’re always hungry, Jonas.’

He bent down and skimmed a kiss down Hannah’s cheek, right over the fading wounds as if they weren’t there. His kiss ended at the corner of her mouth. ‘They’re being mean to me, baby. Can’t you turn them all into toads or something?’

‘Yeah, now you want her casting, now that she’s on your side,’ Joley said.

‘Don’t worry, Joley,’ Jonas said as he snagged a mug of tea floating by and scooped up a handful of cookies from the plate. ‘She really just wants sex. The minute she gets what she wants and I start bossing her around, it’ll be back to the seven of you against one lone man.’

Hannah choked on her tea and had to have Jonas whack her on the back.

‘He’s right, you know,’ Elle piped up. ‘Think about that, Hannah, before you do anything stupid. Sex is great and all that, but he’s going to be so bossy. Do you really want to put up with that night and day?’

Jonas grabbed Elle in a headlock and rubbed his knuckles over the top of her head. ‘I already boss all of you night and day, you little wildcat. Someone has to, or you’d all be out of control.’ He let go of her, ignoring the punch on his thigh. ‘So are all the letters read?’

‘You knew about this?’ Hannah asked.

‘I know all,’ Jonas replied, expanding his chest.

‘She’s turning to my page now,’ Kate said a little shyly. ‘Please remember, Hannah, I’m better at fiction than reality. I have such a difficult time expressing myself.’

‘Not with Matt,’ Jonas said. ‘You’re all over him.’

Kate gave him an undignified smack on his arm while Hannah looked through the pictures. They were of a shoot Hannah had done. First she looked glamorous in several gowns and then she was laughing, in her jeans and sweater, hair piled on her head, making faces at them. ‘I love those, because they show what a real person you are underneath all that glam.’

Hannah took a deep breath to still the overwhelming love she felt for her family so she could read what Kate had written to her.

Dearest Hannah,

When I think of love, of family, of the way sisters should be, I think of you. When I think of courage, of incredible personal strength, it’s your face I see. Though you may never have realized it, you are the strongest, the bravest, of us all.

I know what you suffer when you go out in public. We’re both so alike in that respect. To be surrounded by strangers, to be the center of attention, to feel emotions beating at you: I could never do it. I’ve always clung to the shadows, to the security of solitude, but you never have. I can’t tell you how much I’ve always admired you for that.

I realize now that your bravery has always been for our benefit, not for your own, and that must stop. I love you, Hannah. What I want for you is all I’ve ever wanted: your happiness. So be brave for yourself, not for us. Live your life the way you want to, seek out the happiness waiting for you. And let us love the sister you are, not the sister you think we want you to be.

Love forever,


‘Thank you, Katie,’ Hannah said simply and leaned over to kiss her. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without all of you. I really don’t.’

‘Fortunately we don’t have to find out,’ Kate agreed. ‘You scared us all, Hannah. Really, really scared us. I couldn’t think or breathe. When you went down, you took all of us with you, and for one terrible moment, we knew what life without you would be like.’ She glanced at Joley. ‘I know Prakenskii is dangerous. All of us touched his mind, and we could catch glimpses of a very scary man, but I’ll always be grateful for what he did, whatever his motives. He saved your life. He kept you alive for us and it took a huge toll on him. He knew it would make him vulnerable to our magic, but he still kept you safe for us. I pray every single day for his health and happiness.’

‘Pray for his health, Kate, but leave off the happiness part,’ Joley muttered.

Jonas threw a brotherly arm around her. ‘If he was your man, I wouldn’t have to worry about you so much. He’d scare everyone off. Maybe I ought to bribe him.’

Joley pinched him hard and shoved a cookie in his mouth. ‘You’re such a joker, Jonas.

Ha, ha, ha. Very funny.’

Hannah leaned back into Jonas and instantly his arms came around her. His chin nuzzled the top of her head.

‘What else is in that scrapbook?’ he asked.

‘My page,’ Elle said, shyness in her voice. ‘The first pictures are of you directing the wind. I love to see the power in you, your hair blowing and your arms outstretched to the sky. You glow, Hannah, and you look so feminine. Nothing makes me prouder than to see you that way. And the others are of you in the kitchen. When I come home and I’m so tired and…’ She broke off, looked around at her sisters’ faces and then down at her hands. ‘When I feel so weary that I don’t think I can go on, there you are. The moment I see you, I know I’m home. That’s what you represent to me, Hannah. Home. Safety. Love and acceptance.’

Hannah turned her face into Jonas’s chest for just a moment to brush aside the emotional tears. Elle was so quiet and rarely talked about herself or her feelings, and when she did, Hannah felt privileged. ‘That’s such a beautiful thing to say, Elle. Thank you.’

‘It’s the truth,’ Elle replied simply.

There were nods all around. ‘She’s right, Hannah. Now that Elle brought it up, you do represent home and family for all of us,’ Sarah agreed.

Hannah couldn’t talk so she read the letter instead.


Hey Goldie-locks, though I’m no writer like Kate and I sure don’t have the Joley touch, I can’t let another day pass without telling you how much I love you. And what you’ve meant to my life.

Did you know that one of my first memories is of jumping in my crib chanting Hann, Hann, Hann and knowing that you’d come running? You’d pull me up over the rails and out of the crib, hug me close and dance me around the room. When I was crying you tickled me and made me laugh. Hey, I still have the tiny penguin you gave me when I was five. It’s a treasure I keep in my purse and pull out when I’m a little sad or lonely, and need a reminder of how much I’m loved. Who could forget our penguin walk and laughing until we cried? And my prom date… when I wrecked my dress and Joley fried my hair… remember how you held me tight, reassuring me that it wasn’t the end of the world? Like always, you dried my tears and fixed everything better than new. You made me look like a fairytale—even though my date turned out to be a frog and not Prince Charming. Somehow you even made me laugh over that disaster. I always think of you on the catwalk, twirling under the wind and rain and night sky… you were the one who showed me the stars.

Hannah, I always knew you were there for me and more importantly that you’d understand how I was feeling. Through all these years you’ve been the one to help lighten the load when I started feeling the pressure of being the seventh of seven. You’d tease me and make me laugh and remind me that we’re all in this together… sisters forever. Did you know that your sweet smile has always been one of the brightest spots of my life?

You’re brave and courageous and one of the most giving people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Maybe you’ve never realized—I’m sorry I’ve never told you before how much I’ve always looked up to you (in every way—all puns intended) and how much your mischievous ways bring me real joy and make me laugh out loud in a world that’s sometimes pretty sad. You’ve always been there for us, being what we needed you to be, keeping the smile strong in our hearts. Now it’s your turn. Please be brave and strong just for you this time. You deserve everything good and wonderful. I love you so much.


your baby sis, Elle

Now Hannah was crying in earnest. ‘Elle, I love you, too. Thank you all. This was the sweetest, most thoughtful thing you could have done. I’ll treasure these pages for the rest of my life.’ She hugged the scrapbook to her tightly.

‘You’re not finished,’ Jonas said. ‘I made you a page, too. This book is about things we love about you. Don’t worry, I didn’t put in any embarrassing pictures, because I didn’t have any.’

‘You really made me a page?’ She turned her face up to his, her heart lurching.

‘Of course I did. I put a mixture of my favorite pictures up, there’s one or two that really matter, but mostly there’re ones with animals. I know you love dogs, even though you don’t have one of your own.’

‘It wouldn’t be fair. I’m never home long enough to spend time with a pet. Sarah’s dogs love me, though.’

She opened the scrapbook to Jonas’s page. There was a small silence as she stared at the series of pictures of Hannah and Jeanette Harrington dressed in 1920 vintage clothes. She recalled that afternoon vividly. She’d been invited for tea and Hannah had found a closet filled with spectacular clothes. She looked at the pictures, trying to see through the tears in her eyes. She was so little with curls everywhere, wrapped in a too-long coat with a band and peacock feathers on her head. She was holding Mrs. Harrington’s hand.

She blinked rapidly to clear the tears, focused on the masculine scrawl on the next page, and in spite of the lump in her throat, burst out laughing. ”Reasons Why Hannah Should Marry Jonas,” she read the title out loud.

‘I’ve listed them all.’ He pointed to the long column. ‘Joley made me put reasons why you shouldn’t, and as you can see, there’re very few and they’re lame.’

‘Lame?’ Joley echoed. She jabbed her finger at the first one. ‘That’s reason enough. I’m next in line for the big fall and it’s your duty to protect me by staying unmarried forever.

And…’ She glared at Jonas. ‘I put stars by the next one and three exclamation points.’

Jonas peered over Hannah’s shoulder. ‘She did that after I was finished, the little sneak. I am not arrogant and bossy. I am charming.’

Hannah choked and her sisters whooped with laughter. Joley and Elle fell over holding their stomachs. Libby tried to maintain her composure, but even she succumbed, laughing with her sisters.

‘You’ve all lost your minds,’ he said with great dignity. ‘Not that I was ever certain you had minds in the first place.’ He grabbed another handful of cookies for comfort, and when Hannah doubled over laughing, he leaned down, swept her hair out of the way and attacked her neck in retaliation, leaving a very large red mark. Satisfied, he went into the kitchen looking for something more substantial to eat, leaving the women to sober up.


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