THE ARTIST’S INHERITANCE
Juli D. Revezzo
Antique Magic, Book One
Antique Magic, Book One
Copyright © 2012 by Juli D. Revezzo
“Look, I love you, Trevor,” Caitlin said, “but why don’t you put your art aside for a minute and help me move the rest of these boxes out of the living room?”
He didn’t hear her, more intent on the chair. Beautifully carved of expensive oak, its curving armrests begged something to hold; its tall back reached toward the ceiling, though its peaked top fell far short of its goal.
He hadn’t wanted to just fit precut plywood slats together. No. He’d gone out, bought blocks of wood, chiseled and sawed away at the blocks day after day. He’d worked on it since late February when he’d bought the house in Gulf Breeze, Florida, from his sister-in-law Amelia. Almost before he’d finished packing his tools, he’d pulled out his sketchbooks to jot down ideas.
If he’d only stop working long enough to help her straighten up the downstairs, she could love the piece even more.
He said nothing.
“Trevor? Boxes. Move. Help.”
“Yeah, yeah. In a minute.” He strolled to his worktable by the attic window. Pencils, saws, gouges and other woodworking tools filled its surface. Trevor selected another gouge and turned back to the chair.
Caitlin crossed her arms, finding herself thoroughly dismissed, and not liking it one bit. Oh, for Pete’s sake! “Maybe you can use one of the empty boxes to move that thing out.”
“What? Move what out?”
She waved a hand to the chair. “Your project to make you the new avant garde?” If he didn’t get rid of it, she’d do it herself. She hated the thing. Her skin crawled whenever she looked at it, yet she couldn’t say why. “When someone buys it, you can use one of the boxes to ship it to them.”
A quirk creased his brow; the silent look proved he thought her crazy. “Sell it? Who’d want it?”
“Indeed.” She pushed the festering argument down, watching him finger the chair with mixed reverence and longing. Though lovely, she wondered why he would simply carve a chair when they had this beautiful landscape, Santa Rosa Island, and its intriguing Civil War era fort, outside their window.
Maybe his brother’s love of the fort drove him away from the subject.
She ran a hand along his shoulders. “Come downstairs when you can, honey.”
Trevor blinked and set the chisel aside. “I’m sorry. What needs doing?”
She tugged his hand. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
Another set of boxes managed to make it into the attic, but by dinner Trevor was hard at work again. Caitlin frowned, stirring a dish of steaming vegetables.
He was driven. She had to give him points for that. He spent hours, days thinking about his work; nights brought dreams of the chair. One night not long after they’d cleaned up the living room, Caitlin found him sitting in the attic, staring at the oak construction, muttering to himself.
“No, not good enough. Useless piece of trash—”
“It’s lovely. Keep going.”
“Ugly, terrible. Quit wasting your time.”
“Honey, who are you talking to?” Caitlin said.
He held the chisel poised against the chair. The moon shone through a gap in the curtains. Caitlin stood at the door, watching, worried. She took a step forward.
A frosty blast seeped over her.
She crossed her arms tight across her chest to ward off the chill. Another step forward and the chill vanished. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Her worry for her beloved remained. “Trevor?” Fixing her gaze on the chair, she could see yet more intricate designs in the wooden surface, swirling vine-like etchings, a few stylized horses and ravens.
The chisel fell from his grip.
Did she see a severed human head among the marks? “What are you doing?”
“Dreaming. I mean, I thought I was.” He scanned the room, bewildered. “I don’t know.”
She took his hand and tugged him to his feet. “I’d say you were sleepwalking.” She frowned at the chair. “Or I guess, sleep working.”
Trevor wasn’t prone to sleepwalking. How bizarre to find him working while unconscious! “Come back to bed.” She led him to their bedroom, pulled the bedcovers back, and he crawled underneath them, shaking.
Everything after she’d snuggled down next to him was an utter haze. Yet, somehow, here, three-thirty in the morning, he’d ended up in the darkened attic working on the chair again. She switched off the light and pulled him into her arms. “You need to give that chair a rest. You’ll burn out if you’re not careful.”
His twin brother Gordon had. Gordon worked himself to death his wife said. Of course, exhaustion wasn’t the official explanation for Gordon’s demise. The local news had a field day with the story. His was the first famous death at the fort in . . . a long time.
She didn’t want to think about it.
Three days passed and the more Trevor’s head cleared, the more he spent time with Caitlin and their new home. He trailed behind while Caitlin trawled the nearest garden center, picking out flowers for her garden, then spent all day planting. Beside the lavender, marjoram and other herbs she’d planted in spring she added some pink blooms—what the garden center employee called Echinacea. She was all set to plant a tray of geraniums, momentarily.
Caitlin took a swig from a water bottle and brushed the sweat from her brow. “I hope these last through fall. You know my horrible luck with plants.” Several years of trying in vain to keep chrysanthemums alive on their apartment porch proved her words. Somehow, she suspected those deaths were due to her timing and hoped she got it right this time.
Trevor bit back a laugh. “That was a fluke.”
“Uh huh.” Caitlin picked up a geranium start, squeezing its plastic pot to loosen the roots. “We’ll see.”
When she exhausted her day’s gardening efforts she allowed herself to relax. A shower proved a great balm to her aching back, and she smiled when she peeked out the window to see the red and purple blossoms in her new garden. If the geraniums and Echinacea didn’t last, she hoped the rose bushes would survive.
She rolled her shoulders and dragged the towel over her wet hair, deciding she would pay for all the hard yard work tomorrow.
If it didn’t kill her.
“You know, I think I’ll let you do all the yard work from now on, and just direct from the shade.” She sauntered into the bedroom. Empty. She slid her favorite nightgown over her head and padded through the house. Trevor wasn’t in the kitchen, either. Only the lunch dishes waiting in the strainer met her gaze. She peeked out the front windows.
Where did he get to?
Tapping met her ears. She mounted the stairs, and pushed the attic door open. There he stood, tools in hand.
Hard at work—again.
She leaned against the doorjamb, arms crossed, watching. “I don’t mean to sound like a worried mother, but haven’t you done enough work?”
“Mom was never so worried about me.”
No, because for all we know, she’s dead.
Caitlin shuddered, willing the thought away. She was unsure how to describe the sound of his chisel—tapping in designs, or nailing a coffin shut? “Suit yourself. Don’t blame me if your batteries are drained in the morning.”
“In a—oh, hell. I forgot what I meant to add.” He sighed and tossed the chisel onto the floor beside the chair. “You’re right, as usual.” He pushed to his feet and loped past her, placing a kiss on her cheek. “What’s for dinner?”
She rubbed her hand along his back, and turning, frowned at the chair.
For a split second, she saw a figure in the chair, a man with his head lolling at a weird angle. The lips gray and cold under the dark beard, the eyes open, staring at something she couldn’t see.
The soldier’s black boots waited beside Trevor’s monstrous creation, as if he might step into them any moment. His military-style coat hung over the high back. He’d died, and would never use any of them again.
Her heart seized for the poor man. Who was he?
The shape of his face changed, shedding the beard, the jawline tapering into a more feminine line.
The face mutated further until she recognized it: The face was her own.
Caitlin sucked in a quick, startled breath and took the stairs as fast as she could.
* * * *
Trevor thrashed and turned throughout the night. He muttered to himself, and cursed, cajoling someone in scathing terms. He awoke the next morning in a black mood, blaming her when he found his coffee too hot. When he put in too much sugar, it was her fault.
By the time he’d slammed the front door, she wanted to slam his head into the concrete. Deep breath, Cait. You love him.
He stumbled as he reached his truck, and braced his hands against the hood. He shuddered and gasped for breath. Caitlin ran down the steps two at a time. She laid a worried hand on his back. “Are you okay, honey?”
“I’ve got a bastard of a headache.” He took another slow breath. “No, actually, I feel like shit. I think I better see a doctor.”
The problem was, they didn’t have one yet.
Caitlin skimmed through their insurance papers, and picked a new doctor. She was disappointed when the man only pronounced Trevor exhausted and prescribed exercise and a dose of sleeping pills when necessary.
When Trevor didn’t follow the advice, he was difficult, grumpy, argumentative, always locked in the attic, chiseling and scribbling. Caitlin worried about him every second he worked up there. When he complained of blinding headaches she pointed to his work as the culprit. Even when he took a day off, tried to rest, the pain persisted.
“Maybe a fishing trip won’t be such a bad idea.”
“The sun will kill me.”
She brushed the complaint away. “You’re not a vampire.”
“How do you know?” He nibbled her fingers.
“You used to surf every hour of the day?” She laughed and tugged away reluctantly. Perhaps he wasn’t so sick after all. “We should do that again sometime. Check the wave reports. Maybe we can go tomorrow.”
Within seventy-two hours, he pronounced the pain gone, and returned to his duties for his new employers, Wilkins and Brandt Art, the small gallery in Gulf Breeze. Mrs. Wilkins allowed him to display a set of the chair drawings in her gallery.
Caitlin ambled through the gallery, waiting for Trevor to finish for the day.
“How much will you take for these fine drawings?”
The male voice drew her attention away from Trevor’s work. A short man with black hair and a lazy eye, dressed in a pinstripe suit and straw hat, crossed the gallery to pause at Trevor’s side. “They’re your work, are they not? Are they available?”
“Yes, they’re mine,” Trevor said. “They’re not for sale. Sorry.”
Caitlin eyed the older man. Who’s this fella?
“Don’t be absurd, Trevor.” Abby Wilkins jumped in before Caitlin could ask.
Caitlin took in his fine coat, the diamond gleaming from his ring finger. More than likely, the man could pay a fortune for the pictures. Perhaps even the chair they had stashed in the attic. Maybe they’d be rid of the stupid thing yet.
“For you, Mr. Hofter? Of course they are.”
“No, I’m sorry,” Trevor said. “They’re not for sale.”
Abby choked and pulled Trevor aside. “Are you mad, darling? Do you know who he is?”
Caitlin peered over Abby’s shoulder, seeing the man in question studying a Jeffersonian era desk. Trevor grimaced. “I can’t say I do.”
“That’s Marvin Hofter,” Mrs. Wilkins said conspiratorially.
“Who’s Marvin Hofter?” Caitlin asked.
Abby spluttered and tugged at the collar of her linen blouse. “How can you not know him?”
The name meant nothing; Caitlin could only give her a blank look. “I don’t.”
“My dear, he’s only the editor in chief of Antiques Daily.”
Now Caitlin understood why Trevor’s mentor was making such a huge deal.
Trevor touched one of the sketches, almost, Caitlin thought, as if he would protect them. “I’m sorry, no. The pictures aren’t for sale.”
Hofter pursed his lips and retrieved a card case from the pocket of his silk coat. He pulled forth an embossed business card and handed it to him. “If you change your mind, don’t hesitate to call me.” The man tipped his hat and walked away.
Caitlin kept her gaze on him. Something about him made her want to grab Trevor and move as far away as possible. Like to Siberia.
Abby turned back to them, drawing Caitlin from her thoughts. “Trevor dear, are you all right?”
“Just tired.” He frowned. “I haven’t been sleeping well.”
“Earlier you mentioned something about your family. Are things all right?”
Reluctant to answer, Trevor looked at everything but Abby. She exchanged a worried glance with Caitlin. Trevor leaned against the welcome desk, sighed and said, “I had a fight with my father.”
This was the first Caitlin had heard of any fight. She opened her mouth to ask what happened, then thought better of it. That he’d mentioned his family didn’t bode well. Abby will think he’s crazy if he starts talking about his brother and sister. Although, undoubtedly she knew all too well what Gordon did, thanks to news and local gossip.
“I think you need something to take your mind off whatever’s troubling you,” Abby said.
Trevor shuffled a stack of fliers sideways. “I’m fine, Abby. I’ll see you tomorrow. Come on, Cait.” He retrieved his keys from his pocket. “Let’s go.”
He pushed out the door and left Caitlin staring questioningly after him. Mrs. Wilkins patted her arm. “Go on, dear. Keep him home this weekend. Maybe he’ll feel better after a break.”
As they drove home through afternoon traffic, Caitlin wondered if time off was a good idea.
Sitting at the kitchen table, ignoring his dinner, he drew designs on his napkin.
She picked up his half-empty plate. “You’re bored.”
“No. Okay, a little.” He smiled with a certain glint in his eye. “Can’t you think of another way to keep me occupied?”
“I’ve a nice pie recipe somewhere. You could make it for our dessert tonight.”
He snorted. “What, me? Cook? What would Noah think if he found out?” he said, meaning his best friend. “You’re the woman around here.”
She smiled, scraping the remainder of his dinner into a storage container. “You remember that when all those groupies show up.”
She heard him push his chair back and soon, his arms went around her. “What groupies?” he said, his voice husky. He nuzzled her cheek. “Maybe you can skip out of work this weekend, and see about going to the beach or something? Think you can get the day off?”
“I’ll see what I can do.” She wondered if there were any reports of sharks around here. “Afterward, you can put your surfboards in the attic where they belong.”
Trevor closed one eye, watching her thoughtfully. “In the meantime, I have a great idea of how to spend the rest of the night.”
She put the plate aside and turning, she rubbed her nose against his. “Do you?”
“Mhm.” He walked his fingers into the opening in her flannel shirt, caressing her breasts, a mischievous smile on his face. “Come with me, and I’ll show you.”
He scooped her up, carried her into the bedroom and plopped her down on the bed before going back to work undressing her. Caitlin helped, sliding out of her jeans.
His fingers tickled along her thigh. “Caitie, you’re gorgeous.”
“You’re a fool.”
“A fool who loves you.”
Dragging her toes up his calf, she closed her eyes, welcoming Trevor’s skillful lovemaking.
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Juli D. Revezzo is the author of Gothic romance Lady of the Tarot, the Antique Magic and Celtic Stewards Chronicles series and more. All books available at Amazon. Also Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Some are also available as audiobooks via Audible and Itunes.