they’d wound up living with green hair until their mothers agreed to pay for a professional fix.

“Let’s shop Boylston Street and Copley while we’re there,” Sharon said, making a disgusted face as she pulled on the fabric of her dress. “I need some new clothes.”

Gabrielle laughed. Some things never changed. They both loved shopping. She and Sharon were just like sisters-sisters who never fought and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Sharon led her inside and they sat in the living room decorated by photographs of Sharon and her brother and eclectic other odds and ends favored by Sharon’s mother.

“I’m so grateful you came to give that lecture for Richard. He’s convinced that in order to beat Mary Perkins, he has to get rid of the townspeople’s fear.” Her friend was a huge supporter of Gabrielle’s work and kept the library stocked with her books.

“My pleasure.” Gabrielle reached out and squeezed her friend’s hand. “I’m so excited to be living close by you again.”

Sharon leaned forward. “Same here. But right now, I want to know about your newest project. What do you have planned for your next book?”

Gabrielle drew a deep breath. “I’m going to write about the Corwin Curse.” And hopefully dispel it for good.


“Exactly. I’m going to do some research, as well as interview the Corwins and the Perkins. I’m determined to shed some light on this thing, once and for all,” Gabrielle said, definitively.

For years, she had dispelled other paranormal rumors like ghost sightings or UFO reports, writing about everything but curses to try to heal her pain over losing Derek. But avoidance hadn’t helped. The Corwin Curse had taken the man she loved away from her because Derek was a believer. If not for that curse, Gabrielle would probably have married Derek and been the mother of his children. She’d still be a writer because it was in her blood, but her personal life would have played out so differently. It was time for her to deal with that, Gabrielle thought. She planned to face her past, define her future and confront old ghosts.

“How do you think they’ll react?” Sharon asked.

Gabrielle shrugged. “I can’t worry about it. I need to do this for myself.” From the day Derek had broken up with her, her life had been defined by that curse.

After moving to Florida after graduation, she’d gone to college there. She’d majored in psychology and minored in human behavioral science. Over time, she’d let her writing become a means of working out her feelings. She hadn’t been able to fight Derek’s beliefs when he’d broken up with her, nor had she understood how he could allow an old curse to destroy the future they could have shared.

Gabrielle needed to understand how human beings with free will could have their behavior swayed by things that didn’t exist. She had to somehow comprehend how the man she loved and who she thought had loved her had dumped her because he believed he was cursed.

“I just can’t get over the fact that Richard’s future hinges on an old, ridiculous myth,” Sharon said.

Gabrielle gave her friend a wry smile. “Why not? Mine did.”

Sharon slapped her hand over her mouth, deliberately dramatic. “I’m sorry! What an awful thing for me to bring up. I just wasn’t thinking!”

“It’s fine. I was kidding. The problem is, when people believe in this kind of stuff, their beliefs are based on things that are just so hard to refute. For one thing, history has repeated itself over and over, making it appear as if the original curse on the Corwins has validity.” That was why Gabrielle needed to research it in detail.

Sharon scrunched her nose, her disgust with the subject clear. “You mean, because all the Corwin men have been unlucky in love, people believe that a witch caused it to happen?”

“It’s not just that they’re unlucky in love. It’s also because Mary Perkins’s family, who’ve run the town for years, have used those failures to cement their position. By reminding everyone of the Corwin Curse, the Perkins are able to manipulate those around them, holding on to their power by playing on people’s fears.”

Sharon nodded. “She’s as much as insinuated that, since she’s the namesake of the original Mary Perkins, she has the power to brew up another curse. Just when Richard thinks he’s making headway in reaching people, she’ll bring up the past and remind people of her power.”

“In what way?” Gabrielle asked, wondering how one woman could have so much sway.

“Well, a large development group came to town to buy property that they wanted to turn into an ocean-front resort. Mary doesn’t want to chance anyone coming in and usurping her position, so she coerced the owners to sell their otherwise profitable land to her at a cheap price rather than to the developers.”

Gabrielle rose and smoothed the wrinkles in her linen skirt. “How? And why in the world would anyone take a lesser price?”

Sharon got up, too. “Mary claimed the town owned the land through eminent domain. She threatened to take the individual landowners to court, informing them she’d win and they’d probably get much less than what she was graciously offering now. She also mentioned she was a direct descendant of the Mary Perkins, and not so subtly reminded those homeowners that she could bankrupt them with a few choice curse words. Darned if they didn’t sell cheap. And of course, after the fact, nobody would admit they’d been threatened, either.” Sharon shrugged.

Pausing by the window, Gabrielle glanced out at her convertible parked on the quiet street. “Well, I can see why Richard has his hands full.” Gabrielle didn’t want to tell her friend that a few lectures might not be enough. Old beliefs were powerful. Too often, not even persuasive reasoning or common sense could overcome them.

“So…we’ve talked about the curse long enough. When are we going to discuss the five-hundred-pound elephant in the room?” Sharon asked.

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, pretty sure she knew what her friend was referring to but wanting to hear it before she jumped to the wrong conclusion. “Care to elaborate?”

“The man himself? Derek Corwin? I know that seeing him again won’t be easy.”

Gabrielle smirked. “Five hundred pounds? Guess I won’t have to worry about that old attraction rearing its head again after all.”

“Very funny.”

“I thought so.” She shrugged and remained quiet.

Sharon exhaled loudly, breaking the silence. “Okay fine, I get the message. We won’t talk about Derek today. So here’s the plan. I need to stop by the library and pick up my cell phone first, since I left it there last night. Afterward, I thought we’d go shopping. There’s a new mall you’ll love. What do you think?”

Gabrielle nodded. “Sounds good.”

Anything that changed the subject, Gabrielle thought.

She’d become an expert at that. Whenever Sharon tried to impart gossip about Derek, Gabrielle deliberately asked about something else. But that hadn’t stopped Sharon from letting some pertinent facts slip over the years, from Derek’s early marriage to his more recent divorce. Hearing about him only reopened old wounds, but Gabrielle had recently been forced to accept that those wounds had never really healed.

She may have tried to move on with her life, but even all these years later, she hadn’t been successful. It was time she confronted the past. She had no choice. Derek had left her incapable of moving on.


DEREK AND HOLLY MADE A STOP at the library to return a few books and take out some new ones before hitting the mall. Derek dropped her off at the library while he went to get gas and pick up lightbulbs at the hardware store.

Half an hour later, they were on their way. Holly’s mother had called her on her cell phone, and the two spoke for the duration of the ride to the mall. Marlene was loving her trip and had to buy an extra suitcase for all the goodies she’d bought for Holly. After twenty minutes of listening to Holly regale him with stories her mother had told her, getting to the mall almost seemed like a relief.

Which was ironic considering shopping was his least-favorite activity. Normally he preferred to get in and out of stores as quickly as possible. But today, he enjoyed his time with his daughter, hitting shops he’d never been in

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