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Books. Change. Lives.

Copyright © 2021 by Babette de Jongh

Cover and internal design © 2021 by Sourcebooks

Cover design by Dawn Adams/Sourcebooks

Cover illustration by Elizabeth Turner Stokes

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

All brand names and product names used in this book are trademarks, registered trademarks, or trade names of their respective holders. Sourcebooks is not associated with any product or vendor in this book.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900


Front Cover

Title Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26


Excerpt from Magnolia Bay Memories


Back Cover

This book is dedicated to Penelope Smith. My ability to communicate telepathically with animals was a curse, not a blessing, until I found her book, Animal Talk. It showed me how to summon the ability at will (rather than being smacked upside the head by incoming communication at the least opportune moment). When I later attended her classes in animal communication, her wisdom and mentorship literally changed my life. Thank you, Penelope, for showing me how to light my own small candle and keep it burning. I promise to add my light to the collective torch that all animal communicators carry, so that together, we can hold it high and pass it along.

Chapter 1

“I hate people.” Abby Curtis wadded up the hem of her yellow bathrobe and dropped to her knees in the ditch. A pair of green eyes stared at her from the middle of the culvert. “Here, kitty, kitty,” she called.

The eyes blinked, but the kitten stayed put. Another stray dumped in front of Aunt Reva’s house, and it wasn’t going to trust humans again anytime soon. For a nanosecond, Abby thought about running back to the house to get Reva, but something told her the kitten would skedaddle the moment Abby turned her back.

Reva’s dog, Georgia, a Jack Russell terrier/cattle dog mix, peered through the other side of the culvert and whined. The kitten spun around to face the dog and hissed.

“Georgia.” Abby snapped her fingers. “Stay.”

The frightened kitten puffed up and growled at Georgia. Abby didn’t have Reva’s way with animals. But with the little dog’s expert help, she might be able to catch the kitten without bothering her aunt, who was in the house packing for a long-postponed trip.

Georgia whined again and the kitten backed up farther, her full attention on the dog.

Thankful the ditch had been mowed and recently treated for fire ants, Abby eased forward onto her belly in the damp grass. She reached into the culvert, ignoring the cool, muddy water that seeped through her robe and soaked her T-shirt and panties. Shutting out images of snakes and spiders, she scooted closer and stretched out farther.

Just a little bit more…

Georgia seemed to know exactly what to do. She fake-lunged toward the kitten, who spat and hopped backward into Abby’s outstretched hand. “Gotcha!” Abby grabbed the kitten’s scruff.

The kitten whirled and spun and scratched, but Abby held on, even when it sank needle-like teeth into Abby’s hand.

“Shh. Shh.” Abby got to her knees and stroked the kitten’s dark tortoiseshell fur. A girl, then. Like calicos, tortoiseshell cats were almost always female. “You’re okay, little girl. You’re all right.”

Abby’s robe had come open in the front, and the kitten pedaled all four feet with claws extended, scratching gouges in Abby’s exposed skin. She held on to the scruff of the kitten’s neck, crooning and humming. “You’re okay, baby.”

Georgia leaped with excitement, begging to see the kitten, who continued to struggle and scratch and bite.

“No, Georgia.” Abby wrapped the kitten in the folds of her robe and held it close. It calmed, but Abby could feel its body heaving with every desperate breath. “Not yet. She’s too scared.”

If this catch didn’t stick, Abby wouldn’t get another chance. Abby’s fingers touched a raw, bloody patch on the kitten’s back: road rash from being thrown out of a moving vehicle.

God, Abby hated people. No wonder Aunt Reva had all but turned into a hermit, living out here in the boondocks alongside the kind of people who would do this. But then, Abby had learned that evil lived everywhere—north and south, city and country. She cuddled the kitten close, even while it tried to flay her skin with its desperate claws.

“Nobody’s going to hurt you, I promise. Nobody’s going to hurt you, not ever again.” She could make that promise, because she knew Reva would keep the kitten or find it an even better home. All strays were welcome at Bayside Barn.

Abby herself was proof of that.

Disgusted with all of humanity, Abby struggled up out of the ditch, her mud-caked barn boots slipping on the dew-wet grass. She had just scrambled onto solid ground when a Harley blasted past, turned in at the drive next door, and stopped just past the ditch.

Uncomfortably aware that her bathrobe gaped open indecently and her hair hadn’t seen a hairbrush since yesterday afternoon, Abby hid behind the tall hedge between Aunt Reva’s place and the abandoned estate next door. Georgia clawed Abby’s legs in a “Help, pick me up” gesture.

“Lord, Georgia, I can’t hold both of you.”

Determined, Georgia scrabbled at Abby’s legs. One-handed, Abby scooped up all

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