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It Must Be Magic
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It Must Be Magic

4.5 8
by Jennifer Skully

Widower Tanner Rutland couldn't believe it when he found himself tiptoeing through a redwood forest looking for a dead body. How could he think, even for a second, that Fluffy had witnessed a murder? It was no use. One look into her gorgeous eyes—Lili's, not Fluffy's—and Tanner was a goner.

And when he finally kissed her…pure


Widower Tanner Rutland couldn't believe it when he found himself tiptoeing through a redwood forest looking for a dead body. How could he think, even for a second, that Fluffy had witnessed a murder? It was no use. One look into her gorgeous eyes—Lili's, not Fluffy's—and Tanner was a goner.

And when he finally kissed her…pure magic.

Now he had to decide if Lili's gift with animals really did exist—or if she just had a screw loose. But deep down, his heart was telling him to find the real killer and prove his Dr. Dolittle was innocent.

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4.21(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

"CAN YOU REALLY talk to animals?"

Translation: "I don't believe you can. I also don't believe in ghosts, vampires or Bigfoot. And let's not even get into the Santa Claus myth."

Lili Goodweather was used to skepticism from adults, but not in twelve–year–old girls. Children had a wonderful capacity for believing in the unbelievable. Unless it got squashed out of them early on. Which was obvious in Erika Rutland's case.

A shivering tabby sheltered in her arms, the girl stood on Lili's back stoop, her grandfather a step behind her like a guardian angel. Erika's straight blond hair straggled over her shoulders and dark circles beneath her blue eyes contrasted with the pink glow of childhood innocence on her cheeks. Sign of a type A personality, poor kid.

Lili decided to save the metaphysical explanation of how she communicated with animals for later. "Yes, I can."

"Well, since you say you can, then will you try talking to Fluffy?" Erika cuddled the animal in her arms.

The cat's dilated pupils almost obscured the sunflower–yellow irises of his eyes, and the tremors coursing his back made the hair stand on end, giving him a fluffier than normal coat. A muddy blue aura like a churning river shrouded his body.

"Of course I will." Lili pushed open the screen door, letting in the warmth of the April afternoon.

Roscoe Rutland—Rascally Roscoe as Wanetta had called him—stuck out a steady hand and pumped Lili's with a firm grip. "We're happy you're living next door to us."

She'd officially moved into Wanetta Crump's house five days ago, but she'd met Erika and hergrandfather during her many visits here when the elderly lady had been alive.

Roscoe had plenty of lines on his face, but they were happy lines, as if he laughed a lot and had thoroughly enjoyed his many years, which Lili guessed to be about sixty–five. He also seemed a bit on the thin side, as if he ate to live instead of living to eat.

With a sparkle in his blue eyes, he added, "And my son Tanner can't wait to meet you."

Lili had never met Erika's dad, the mysterious Tanner Rutland. All right, he wasn't really that mysterious, not like an ax murderer or anything, he just worked a lot and didn't seem to be home much. Lili had her doubts Tanner Rutland had professed any interest in meeting her. People often said exactly the opposite of what they meant out of politeness, and Roscoe's glowing statement sounded a little fishy.

Lili's long skirt swished across her knees and the tops of her boots as she backed up against the open screen door. "Welcome to my home." Saying that felt grand.

Stepping inside, Roscoe's gaze dropped to the checkerboard floor, which was once again black and white instead of gray…and gray. "You've done a great job with the place."

"Thank you." Wanetta's house had been built in the early 1900s, with a wide front veranda, a swing hanging from the porch rafters, shutters and dormer windows in a tiny third–floor attic. The upstairs bathroom had a claw–foot tub, and of the three bedrooms, Lili had taken one for an office. The living room fireplace would be wonderful for rainy winter nights, but the kitchen, even with its ancient appliances, was Lili's favorite spot. She often sat at Wanetta's big wood table in front of the window to watch the blue jays squawk at each other and dig for worms. The forest was almost in her backyard.

She'd spent the week cleaning from top to bottom, and was thankfully done, since tomorrow, Friday, she had to get back to work at the flower shop.

"Wanetta was grateful for the way you came running whenever one of her cats needed help. Not to mention the litter box problem." Roscoe plugged his nose dramatically.

"That was easy enough," Lili answered. Wanetta had left Lili with seven cats. This week, they'd gotten discombobulated with her move–in. Taking to hidey–holes throughout the small house, they had yet to come out, except at dinnertime or to slip through the laundry room cat door for a potty break. When Wanetta had first called on her in distress—she'd had a full house of twenty at the time—Lili had talked the cats into using the universal outdoor facilities instead of the indoor carpeting. The house was as fresh as a daisy now, after Wanetta had had the carpets torn out and discovered the hardwood underneath.

"I'm so glad she left you the house," Roscoe went on. "I can never thank her enough for that." Lili was terribly grateful for the lady's legacy to her. On her salary at the flower shop, Lili could never have bought a house, even in the little town of Benton, which was nestled in the mountain foothills an hour and a half south of San Francisco. The town was twenty minutes by bus from the beach (and the Boardwalk amusement park, which Lili loved) and the deep forest was only a tenminute walk outside the back door. As much as she missed her parents after their retirement move to Florida, she couldn't bring herself to leave her hometown. There was no more wonderful place on earth.

"Grandpa, do you think we could talk about Fluffy now?"

Lili understood how Erika felt. Adults, they talked, talked, talked, when there were more important things to be done. Such as getting to the business at hand and helping Fluffy.

"Why don't we sit down?" They all crowded around her kitchen table, she in the middle, Roscoe to her left, Erika on her other side with Fluffy in her lap.

Before Lili could do a thing, Fluffy growled low in his throat, and his gaze shifted to kitchen floor central.

Einstein had slipped in on silent kitty–cat paws and was now sitting in the middle of the checkerboard floor, her tail swishing. A regal Russian Blue with soft, sleek, silver–tipped fur, she'd been with Lili for seven years, and she was generally a great help in interpreting animal issues.

Looking at Einstein, Fluffy's muddy–blue aura shifted, deepening, swirling. Lili wasn't sure if other people saw auras the same way she did; she only knew how an animal's aura made her feel. And Fluffy was mad as all get–out at Einstein.

Einstein merely flicked her tail in irritation. "I don't think they like each other," Erika said as she rolled her fingers in Fluffy's coat. He settled, and his aura ceased swirling. Erika's touch obviously had a positive effect.

"Someone invaded somebody else's territory," Lili explained.

Einstein had been the invader when they'd first moved in, with an abrupt rebuke from Fluffy, and though Lili had hoped the two could get over the animosity, Fluffy wasn't backing down. Einstein claimed the marmalade male didn't like females who were more intelligent than he was.

The guy's a wimp. What self–respecting tomcat would answer to Fluffy?

Animals thought in pictures and most humans thought in words, but over time, Lili and Einstein had managed to translate their differing thought processes quickly. Lili received an image of a tomcat having his masculinity…er…Einstein could be very graphic in her imaging.

Have some sympathy, Lili admonished. People didn't realize that names were extremely important in the animal world. Names were images. Alpha dog. Protector. Fluffy lost all his dominance every time Erika called him by the name she'd given him. Animals revealed their names if their owners knew how to listen, not that animals could actually be owned, per se, especially not cats. If anything, it was the other way round; a cat owned its human. That was certainly true for Einstein.

But explaining all that to Roscoe and Erika right now was ill–timed. "Let's discuss how I talk to animals." "Yes, please." Erika regarded her with intense blue eyes. She had the serious gaze of an old person. Or a skeptic.

Lili flicked her long hair over her shoulders and clasped her hands in her lap. "Well, first I look at their colors." She touched Fluffy's marmalade fur. "Not the color of their coat, but the colors around their body." She cupped and circled her hands for effect. "Their mood is reflected in the colors encompassing them. Just like people."

"You mean an aura."

Lili beamed. "Yeah. An aura."

"It's supposed to be an electromagnetic field surrounding the body. But I've never seen one." Erika raised an almost white brow several shades lighter than her hair, and her meaning was clear. Since she'd never seen it, it probably didn't exist.

Skeptic she might be, but little Erika was a smart one. Where had she read about auras? "Not everyone can see them. You have to be…open."

"What's my aura look like?"

Well. Erika had a bit too much brown in her yellow aura, as if she were feeling stressed about school, or something. But Lili didn't want to tell her that. With a child, it could be counterproductive. "It's yellow. Which means you're creative, optimistic and easygoing."

Erika blinked. Once. "Okay."

Lili didn't think Erika was those things at all. But she had great potential if she could rid herself of the stress.

Finally, the little girl said, "How else do you communicate with animals?"

"Animals think in pictures. And I can see them. We sort of—" she tipped her head, thinking of the best way to describe how she communed "—send movies back and forth, like Netflix."

"Netflix are DVDs you send through the mail. I don't think that's how you do it." Obviously Erika was a literalist.

Roscoe made a sound a bit like a stifled snort. "It's the best analogy I could come up with," Lili offered.

"It was a very nice try." Ah. Erika was a polite literalist. "May we please begin? I have homework to finish, and my dad will be upset if I'm not done with it by the time he gets home." The child was definitely a tough nut to crack.

"You might as well face it, Lili, Erika doesn't think you can do it."

She'd dealt with a lot of nonbelievers. It didn't bother her. Really. She was so not bothered by it. Most pet owners didn't care how you helped their animals, even if they figured it was nothing more than intuition and lots of probing questions, as long as their problems were solved. In the end, Lili figured out the meaning in the images she saw and unraveled the mystery. That was all that counted. "I promise to try my best, Erika."

"My dad says don't confuse efforts with results. It's all right to say you don't think you can help Fluffy."

Don't confuse efforts with results. Well, that was a rather cut–and–dried way of looking at things. What if a little girl studied as hard as she could and still got a C on her test? Didn't that mean the teacher, or the parent, needed to try again as much as the child did? Lili was starting to understand the dark circles beneath Erika's eyes. Performance anxiety.

Lili leaned forward and scratched Fluffy under the chin. The cat shivered. "Why don't you tell me what happened, why you think something's bothering him?"

Erika blinked. "Isn't that cheating? My dad says that's how palm readers do it. They study your body language and ask a bunch of questions before they even start reading your palm, then they use all the stuff they learn and make it sound like they actually read it in your hand. People are very gullible. And that's not magic."

"I never said what I did was magic. I just listen." Lili touched Erika's hand. "But there's lots of magic in the world. In things like the beauty of a sunrise or an early morning mist rising through the trees or the salty taste of the ocean on your tongue. Don't you believe in magic?"

"Those things aren't magic. They're nature."

The poor child. "Then I guess you don't believe in magic."

"My dad says magic—"

Lili cut her off. "I'm not asking what your dad thinks. What do you think?"

Behind her, Roscoe held his breath. Lili felt it in the very stillness of the kitchen air.

"Sunrises and mist in the trees and the ocean are there all the time, so there's nothing magical about them."

But every sunrise was different, and each time you strolled through the trees or scuffed your bare feet in the sand was unique. Erika Rutland couldn't see that.

Every child was born with the ability to see the magic in a sunrise, yet somehow, by the age of twelve, Erika Rutland had lost that ability. It was a tragedy. Maybe it was because she'd lost her mother when she was only two. Lili had learned that from Wanetta. "Why did you bring Fluffy if you didn't think I could help him?"

Erika glanced to her right. The answer was obvious. "Your grandfather talked you into it." "He said it couldn't hurt."

It wouldn't hurt, and Fluffy would get better, but Lili wasn't sure Erika would get over losing her ability to see magic.

"All right. Let's talk about the goal here," Lili said carefully. "We want to help Fluffy. So any information you give me can only make this quicker and easier."

Roscoe raised one white eyebrow. "Go ahead, honey." Then he winked at Lili.

Ah. Here was the believer in the family. "He sleeps on the porch at night," Erika finally said, "but he wasn't there this morning when I got up to feed him. And he didn't come when I called. He wasn't even home by the time I had to leave for school."

"We heard the coyotes last night," Roscoe added. Coyotes, while a natural part of life in the mountains, could be terrifying. Lili had heard them last night, too. They did hunt by day, but their howls carried farther in the stillness of the night. The sound of a pack zeroing in on the scent of some little animal was enough to send chills down the spine. The excitement of the chase, and worse, rang through their collective voices, an eerie, eager yipping and howling. Wanetta's cats slept inside.

"I thought Fluffy was a goner," Erika whispered.

"He's always there in the morning for his crispies."

Cats had excellent internal clocks. If you didn't wake up to give them what they wanted, they woke you up. Einstein would sit on Lili's pillow and stare at her until she opened her eyes.

"You must have been worried about him all day at school."

The girl's eyes misted, and her bottom lip trembled. It was the first sign of emotion she'd displayed. "I was," she whispered, then sniffed. "He was hiding under the front porch when I got home this afternoon."

"About an hour ago," Roscoe clarified.

"What was he like when you found him?"

Erika folded her body over the cat, hugging him against her abdomen. "He scuttles under the bed or behind the couch if I move too fast. And he hasn't stopped shivering."

Definitely some sort of trauma. Lili looked at Einstein. All the cat did was blink.

Lili would have to go in blind. "Let's get started."

Meet the Author

Jennifer Skully's dream has come true! She now spends her days penning the stories that have been coming to life for her since she was a child. Though recent corporate events can attest to the creativity of accountants, Jennifer has given up the world of balance sheets and P&L statements for the writing life. She lives in the foothills of a gorgeous California mountain range with her husband of twenty-odd years, her dog, Star, and her cat, Eddie Munster.

If you like your romantic suspense fast paced and laced with humor, try a Jennifer Skully novel. She adores quirky characters—the wackier the better—and you'll find a whole cast of them in her novels. Her romances bubble over with humor, self-discovery and a great big dollop of suspense. Her first book, Sex and the Serial Killer, was a January 2005Romantic Times BOOKreviews Top Pick and was nominated for Best Contemporary Romance for the Romantic Times BOOKreviews 2005 Reviewers' Choice Awards. Jennifer's second HQN release, Fool's Gold, has been called an erotic thrill ride by In the Library Reviews.

Jennifer also writes spicy contemporary romance as Jasmine Haynes. As J.B. Skully, she's created the popular Max Starr series, a collection of erotic ghostly mysteries. Of course, being in the same body with these two, Jennifer doesn't let up on the hot, sexy love scenes, either.

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It Must Be Magic 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Patty Hartwell More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book! Just the right amount of humor, mystery, and romance. Looking forward to starting the next one by skully.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RmceWrtr More than 1 year ago
Had I been left to my own devices regarding this book, I may very well not have purchased it. But, a friend recommended it -- and I'm glad I took him at his suggestion. This book had just the right mix of uptight hero who was really just a wounded soul -- and flighty, free heroine who was just the right person to bring him out of his shell. The talking to animals was an added angle I enjoyed. Well written, this book engaged me on an emotional level. I'm not one who needs a lot of intimacy scenes to convince me the two are drawn to each other -- so I could have actually done without a couple that led to the 'big moment' -- but that is my personal preference. The book would have been just as beautiful without them, as far as I'm concerned.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Lili Goodweather lived a normal life, working at a flower shop, riding her bike,and had cats for pets.Did I mention that she could carry on a conversation with her furry friends? Lili had a gift for communicating with animals by seeing the images in their minds and translating them into words in her mind. Erika Rutland, Lili's neighbor visits one afternoon to see if Lili can find out what is bothering Fluffy, Erika's cat. Taken aback, Lili discovers that Fluffy witnessed a murder in the woods surrounding their homes. Lili could not tell Erika the truth so she decided to tell a little white lie to get her by, no harm done...yet. Tanner Rutland wanted Lili from the first moment he laid eyes on her. She was not just a casual sex kind of girl in his book. She was everything he ever wanted, but she was a little on the strange side talking to animals and such. One kiss and he was hooked, he would go to the moon and back for this woman. He still had not fully gotten over the death of his wife, but when he met Lili it became a little easier to move on. Tanner discovered the body in the woods, now the big question was what was Lili hiding from him? Thoughts began running through his head, could she have committed the murder and then made up the story about Fluffy seeing it, did she stumble upon the body while taking a walk? He honestly did not believe she could talk to animals but every time he went to confront her, he became weak with want for her. Can Mr. Levelheaded logical man see the truth in Lili's gift? Will Erika ever get the mother she is pining for? What is crazy Ms. Dreadlock's meaning to God will punish you? So many questions that need answers, but you must read this book to find out. Ms. Skully has magically written a wonderful romance story that will warm your heart. This story border lines on erotica but is very tastefully written. Her characters were easy to fall in love with, and the whole story line just keeps you wondering what will be coming next. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a little Magic in life. 5 hearts for It Must Be Magic by Jennifer Skully
Guest More than 1 year ago
It Must Be Magic is a contemporary and humorous romance that will appeal to romance lovers and especially to cat lovers. The heroine is a cat talker and can see the world of animals through images. This spirit of this romance recaptures the innocence and childlike wonder before the world that as adults we often fail to see. Lili Goodweather's twelve year old neighbor pleads with her to help her terrified cat Fluffy. She doesn't really believe Lili can talk to animals just like she doesn't believe in ghosts, vampires or Santa Claus. When it comes to helping her cat, however, Erika will try anything. Lili discovers that her neighbor's cat has witnessed a murder. She can't very well scare a child, so Lili has to risk ridicule and do the next best thing --- tell her father, Tanner Rutland. After the death of his first wife, Tanner Rutland has to protect his daughter. The best way to do that is to keep her heart from being broken and to focus on the cold practical facts. 'Success not effort is the key' and 'Everything is fine' are his refrains. He knows every answer. He's logical and out of touch with his feelings and just about as different from Lili as day is from night. So why is he traipsing through the forest looking for a dead body with Lili? When they actually do stumble across a body, Tanner must choose whether Lili can actually cat talk or is she mentally misdirected (Lili's words) as Lili fears he will think. The reader is drawn to the lovable characters, even the secondary ones. The side romance of Lili's boss is a wonderful addition. Erika's grandfather interferes, rattles and plots behind Tanner's back. Lady Dreadlock haunts Lili --- can Lili finally get through to her like she does with animals and finally unravel the mystery of the murder? Who is this mysterious woman? Most of all, readers will adore It Must Be Magic because it brings the reader back to that that world where goodness and magic and romance thrive. What you can't see online is the back cover. In the corner are two 'new' constellations in the shape of cat paws. This book is like discovering a new constellation...magic.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Thirty one years old Lili Goodweather works as a sales clerk in a florist. She also has a special skill that few people possess she can talk to the animals. Her neighbor, bottom line financier widower Tanner Rutland, scoffs at her ability to communicate with animals when his twelve year old daughter Erika and his father Rascally Roscoe insist she can. They want Lili to discuss with the other member of the family Fluffy the cat what traumatized him Lili agrees to talk to the scaredy cat only because Erika¿s aura showed plenty of brown stress in her normally optimistic yellow. After a few minutes she realizes the traumatized Fluffy witnessed a homicide. Tanner thinks this is foolishness but for his daughter¿s sake he agrees to team up with Lili in investigating the homicide his daughter¿s cat swears he saw at least that is what Lili claims. On the one hand he hopes she is proven a fake because of his pragmatic beliefs though that also means she is a killer based on what they found in the Redwoods yet on the other hand he hopes she can speak with the animals as he and his daughter are falling in love with their good neighbor whose kisses cannot be that of a murderer. --- IT MUST BE MAGIC is a whimsical romantic mystery with the Doolittle fantasy element bringing a fresh spin to the whodunit. The story line is fast-paced with witty asides from the animals like Einstein for instance who cannot believe a tomcat named Fluffy (think of Johnny Cash¿s A Boy Named Sue). Readers will easily accept the fanciful Lili¿s asides with cats and dogs as Jennifer Skully provides an entertaining tale that fans who enjoy a bit of personification will appreciate. --- Harriet Klausner