Awaken: A Spiral of Bliss Novel (Book Three)
Author:Lane, Nina

Our messages never fail to make me smile, and the warm feeling lasts all day as I run errands, take walks along the lake pathways, and work at the library, bookstore, and museum.

 

One morning almost three weeks after his departure, I return home for lunch, taking a few letters and bills from the mailbox. There’s a small box outside our apartment door with a printed label reading: Mrs. Olivia West.

 

I go inside and open the package, which contains a slender gold ring with a ruby embedded in the band. The accompanying note instructs me to wear the ring on the little finger of my left hand with the stone turned toward my palm, symbolic of our intense, secret love.

 

I glance at the clock and calculate that it’s about nine p.m. in Tuscany. Picking up the phone, I dial Dean’s cell number. He answers on the second ring.

 

“Good one, professor,” I say.

 

“You like it?” He sounds pleased.

 

“I love it. Thank you.”

 

“Are you wearing it?”

 

“Just like you told me to.” I spread out my hand to admire the gold band. “It fits perfectly. How did you know the size of my little finger?”

 

“I know exactly how you fit into things and what fits into you.”

 

Warmth floods my chest at the faint huskiness of his voice. “Oh.”

 

He gives a muffled laugh. “Gotta be at a review meeting in five minutes. I’ll call you later tonight.”

 

“Tease.”

 

“Just trying to prove my adoration for my lady.”

 

“You proved that years ago.”

 

And every day since.

 

After we hang up, I enjoy the warm fuzzies for a few minutes before I gather the mail I’d left on the foyer table.

 

There’s an official-looking envelope addressed to me at the bottom of the stack. The return address is Sinclair and Watson Law Offices, based in Phoenix, Arizona.

 

My stomach tightens. Maggie Hamilton’s father is a lawyer, but he’s based in Chicago. I can’t think of any reason a lawyer in Arizona would want to contact me.

 

I tear open the envelope and unfold a piece of paper imprinted with the law office’s letterhead.

 

 

 

Dear Mrs. West,

 

 

 

I am writing to formally notify you of the recent death of Mrs. Elizabeth Winter and my role as the executor of her estate. You are named as a beneficiary in her will and trust. Under the terms of the document, the will and trust are now irrevocable, and we are required to distribute assets accordingly.

 

All debts have been paid, and you are entitled to receive the sum of fifty thousand ($50,000.00) dollars which Mrs. Winter bequeathed to you as part of the distribution of her estate…

 

 

 

The words blur in front of my eyes. For an instant, I can’t make sense of them, can’t process the name Mrs. Elizabeth Winter.

 

I take a breath and keep reading the letter, which informs me that as soon as I supply my social security number and sign the enclosed forms, I’ll receive a check for fifty thousand dollars via certified courier.

 

I drop the letter onto the table. I want to think this is a scam or a bad joke. But the name Mrs. Elizabeth Winter is embedded in my memories.

 

My mother’s mother.

 

My grandmother, whom I saw once from a distance when I was seven years old. A woman I never spoke to, never even knew. I grab the phone and dial my aunt Stella’s number in Castleford. Stella is my father’s sister and—before Dean—my only family outside of my mother.

 

Trying to keep my voice from shaking, I ask her if she knows anything about Elizabeth Winter.

 

“A lawyer called a few weeks ago to ask if I knew your address,” Stella says. “He didn’t tell me anything except that she’d died. I had no contact with her, of course.”

 

“Did my mother ever talk to you about her?” I ask. “Or even mention her?”

 

“No. I didn’t even know your grandmother was still alive.”

 

Neither did I.

 

I thank Stella and tell her I’ll call her again soon. I start to dial Dean’s number, then stop. I need time to figure this out first. Instead, I call the lawyer’s number.

 

“Yes, Mrs. Winter named you as a beneficiary of her estate,” Mr. Thomas Sinclair explains. “I’m sorry to tell you that she died of cancer in January. She’d finalized her will and trust last year, after her doctors told her that her illness was no longer treatable.”

 

I swallow past a sudden tightness in my throat. “I’m… did she ever try to contact me?”

 

“I don’t know, Mrs. West. I had to track down your married name and address, though, which leads me to believe that Mrs. Winter didn’t know you were married or where you live.”

 

“Was Elizabeth Winter in touch with my mother? Crystal Winter?”

 

“I don’t know that either. I did write a letter to Crystal Winter informing her of Mrs. Winter’s death.”

 

“You have my mother’s address?”

 

“I had the letter sent to her last known address. Would you like a copy of Mrs. Winter’s will and trust? All beneficiaries are entitled to a copy.”

 

“No, that’s not necessary.”

 

“I’ll have your check processed and sent as soon as I receive the signed forms.”