Gillian lacked faith in numbers. Of course, since she was a librarian and not a math teacher, this was to be expected. Words were to be trusted, numbers, especially when it came to predicting the future, were more less reliable.
Marley felt differently and she slammed her hand on the table to emphasize her words. “It’s the power of three.”
Why three had any more power than five or ten, Gillian didn’t know, but rather than point this out to her friend, she sipped her tea and glanced around the crowded and noisy café willing for someone to come and rescue her. Typically, she couldn’t go anywhere without someone she knew from the school or church choir stopping for a chat, but not today.
“The whole thing…it’s suspicious, isn’t?” Gillian picked off a morsel of her donut and put it in her mouth. She and Marley were supposed to be celebrating the end of the school year—not arguing. She regretted ever telling Marley about the mysterious safety deposit box. “I mean, why send did the attorney send the notification to the school and not the house? If it had gotten lost in the mail, there was a real chance I wouldn’t have even seen it until after the break.”
“It came at the perfect time,” Marley said.
“Well, it came on the twenty-fifth birthday, as my mom had arranged.”
“Probably because she didn’t want your gram to get a hold of it. Which is probably why the letter was sent to the school instead of the house.”
Gillian frowned at her donut. It had turned her fingers sticky and somehow, she’d managed to eat half of it without even noticing. “But my mom couldn’t know I would be working at the school.” Her voice as it often did when she thought of her mom. In just five years, she’d be the same age as her mom had been when she’d died. “But she might have known you’d be raised by your grandmother.”
Gillian held up her hand and twisted it so the emerald cut sapphire and surrounding diamonds caught the sun and sent shoots of light across the table.
“There were three things in the safety deposit box, right?”
“Yes, but I really don’t see—”
“Things come in threes! It’s a proven fact.”
“First, you got the letter about the safety deposit box. Second, the offer from Traverse Magazine. And third, they both arrived right as school ended for the summer.”
Gillian pulled a face. “The summer was going to come no matter what. It always does.”
“But don’t you see? If the offer from Traverse magazine had come at any other time of the year, you wouldn’t be able to go. And since you discovered all that money in the safety deposit box, you can afford to go.”
“Leslie Tremaine, that’s the editor of Traverse Magazine, offered to pay all my expenses.” Even she heard the touch of wonder in her voice. “Doesn’t that seem weird to you?”
“Why? You’re a gifted photographer and writer.”
“But there are thousands, maybe even millions of blogs. How did she find mine? I mean, very few people actually do.”
“Did you ask her?”
“No, I didn’t want to look a gift-horse in the mouth.”
“I never understood what that even means,” Marley muttered.
“It means if someone gives you a horse, don’t inspect its teeth. It’s rude. But I don’t want to get to Ireland and find the whole thing is some sort of ruse.”
Marley shook her donut in Gillian’s face. “That is exactly something your gram would say. Along with that whole gift-horse saying. Did you tell her about the safety deposit box?”
Gillian fought back a wave of guilt. “No. I’m not sure I’m going to.” She’d never been very good at keeping secrets, especially from Gram. Her grandmother had an eerie sixth sense that had terrified Gillian for years.
“You shouldn’t,” Marley said, her disdain for Gram dripping in her voice. “Have you had the chance to read the diary, yet?”
“Of course. I stayed up all night.” She smiled at the memory. “Reading her writing was like being introduced to someone I thought I knew, but didn’t. Someone witty and charming.”
“And probably beautiful.”
“I already knew that about her.” Memories of her Marilyn Monroe-beautiful mom flashed in Gillian’s head.
“Did the diary mention your father at all?”
Gillian shook her head. “But it does mention some of my mom’s friends.” She took a bite of her donut, chewed and swallowed before adding, “I’d like to meet them.”
“Another reason to go to Ireland.”
“I know, but…”
“But what?” Marley asked.
Gillian scrunched her nose. “It’s all too neat and tidy. Contrived, even.”
“You like neat and tidy! You thrive on neat and tidy! You’re a librarian, for Pete’s sake.”
A sudden vision of her stepbrother, Pete, flashed in her mind. Tall, lanky, blond almost white hair falling across his forehead, baby-blue eyes framed by surprisingly dark lashes. She banished his memory to the back of her mind…where he belonged.
“What is it?” Marley asked, sitting up.
“What’s what?” Gillian asked, returning to the here and now. Rose Arbor. A tiny town in the Pacific Northwest, where she’d lived with her grandmother since her mother’s death ten years ago.
Marley sighed. “You’re hopeless. I’m telling you, if you don’t go, I will.”
Gillian cocked her head. “Would you come with me?”
“Serious?” Marley brightened.
“Sure. If you’ll come with me, I’ll go. I’ll even pay for your flight.”
“When would we go?”
Gillian shrugged. Now that she’d made the offer, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go through with it because there was still the matter of how in the world she’d explain it to Gram.
As if bidden, Gillian’s phone buzzed with a text. She pulled it out and frowned at the text. “It’s from Gram. She needs me to pick up her hemorrhoid cream from the pharmacy.”
“Your gram texts?”
“No, she gets Harold to do it.”
“The man next door. He pretty much does everything Gram tells him to do. She pays him with baked goods.”
“Interesting…” Marley murmured. “Let’s get back to planning our trip! I can’t go until after Sue’s wedding.”
“That works,” Gillian said. She polished off her donut, her mood lifted. “Are we really doing this?”
“Absolutely! Why wouldn’t we?”
“What if it’s a scam?”
Marley laughed. “It’s an all expense paid trip to Ireland! What could go wrong?”
When Gillian caught sight of the patrol car parked in front of her Gram’s bungalow, her steps faltered. Tod Bingham. What was he doing there? With her lips pressed into a straight line and feeling like she was walking before a firing squad, she passed through the front gate and climbed the steps up the porch. She listened to the murmured conversation for a moment, catching the words break-in and trespassers, before she pushed open the door.
The conversation halted as soon as she entered.
Her gram sat on the sofa holding a pair of knitting needles in her hands and a ball of yarn in her lap. Gram ordered her clothes from Land’s End and perpetually wore cardigans over floral blouses with matching polyester pants in bright colors. Her sunny clothing usually sharply contrasted with her mood and expressions that ranged from distaste to dissatisfaction.
Tod stood in the center of the room, looking, as he always did, like a St. Bernard. He not only had the same build and fuzzy hair—albeit close-clipped—but he also always had an eager to please, hopeful expression that Gillian found sweet but also annoying.
Chester, the cat, jumped off the sofa and came to rub himself against Gillian’s ankles.
“What’s going on?” Gillian asked.
But then she spotted her mom’s diary on the coffee table and a terrible dread swept through her. She moved to snatch it up, but Gram was faster. She dropped the needles, snatched the book, and shook it at Gillian.
“Do you want to tell me about this?”
“It’s my mother’s diary,” Gillian said in a strangled voice.
“How did it get in the house?”
“I brought it here.” Gillian skated Tod a glance. “Why did you call the police?”
“When I found it in your room, I thought for sure someone had broken in.”
“What were you doing in my room?”
“Just tidying up.”
Tidying up? Her room was as clean and sterile as the library. “You don’t need to tidy up my room.”
“It’s my house, isn’t it? I can go in any room I like.”
Gillian blinked as a sudden thought rocked through her. With the money from the safety deposit box, she could afford to move out.
As if she could Gillian’s thoughts, Gram snorted, horse-like. “This is a lie! I knew your mother much better than you ever will and this did not belong to her. Where did it come from?”
“An attorney notified me of a safety deposit box.”
“An attorney?” Gram’s eyes narrowed with suspicions. “What attorney? Where’s his office?”
Doubts tickled in the back of Gillian’s mind. Of course, if her mom had taken out a safety deposit box, it would have been in a bank in New York—not Seattle. But that book…it had to belong to her mother, she was sure of it. “Give it back!”
Gram stood and moved to the fireplace where a blaze crackled.
Horror swept through Gillian. “Don’t you dare!” She darted in front of her Gram. “Tod! Do something!”
“Now, Mrs. O’Hare, don’t do anything you’ll regret.”
“I can’t have this trash in my home!” Gram announced.
Gillian plucked the book from grandmother’s fingers.
Gram froze. “Where’d you get that ring?”
“In the safety deposit box.”
Gram clutched her heart and staggered back to the sofa and fell onto it. A puff of dust settled around her.
“Gram? Are you okay?” Gillian asked.
“Mrs. O’Hare? Would you like me to call an ambulance?” Tod asked.
Gram pinned Gillian with a steely gaze. “Get that book out of this house!”
“Gram,” Gillian began.
“Get out! Get out!” Gram shrieked. “This is my house and I can say who and what belongs here and what doesn’t.” She pointed a wavering finger at Gillian. “GET OUT!”
Gillian stared at her grandmother with an open mouth.
Tod took her elbow and steered her from the room and out onto the porch.
“She doesn’t mean it,” Gillian said in a shocked whisper. “She can’t really mean it.”
Tod gave her a sympathetic glance and rubbed her back. She eased away from his touch.
“Do you have somewhere to go?” he asked.
She nodded. “Marley, Jessie, or Cynthia.” She had lots of friends who would probably be happy to share a sofa for a few nights.
Tod shuffled his feet. “I was going to say, you’re always welcome to stay with me. It’s not much, and I’d have to tidy up…bachelor, you know?”
“That’s sweet, Tod, but not necessary.”
Gram appeared in the doorway with a shotgun in her hand. She cocked it. “Are you still here? I want you off my property immediately!”
“Gram!” Gillian gasped. “She’s lost it!” she said to Tod.
“Give me the gun, Mrs. O’Hare,” Tod said, looking, for once, officious. He tossed the words, “Get out of here, Gillian,” over his shoulder. “Go somewhere safe!”