Struggling with guilt over her sister's death and the stress of her medical residency, Maya Radelis runs away to Scotland. A robin seems to lead her to an antique shop, where she finds a century-old engagement ring. But what is the ring’s history? She follows the slim paper trail, wondering if it is only coincidence that her dreams reveal the story of a Swiss woman physician who wore the ring during World War I.
In Paris she meets fellow New Yorker David Fischer, a lawyer with family in Switzerland as well as America. He helps Maya follow the memories stored in the ring as they lead her around Europe. The attraction between David and Maya grows, and when they discover a connection between the ring and David’s family, they learn, bit by bit, more about the ring’s earlier owner. Will Maya’s own life have the same tragedy of lost love?
|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.79(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Edinburgh, August, Thursday — Present Time
I was lost. In my life in general, but also in the dark narrow alley of Edinburgh's Old Town.
This sudden realization nearly knocked me down, and I stopped short. I choked on thick fog, and my throat sealed shut. I shouldn't have taken the shortcut. I shouldn't have run away to Scotland.
I've obviously made a mistake. Typical.
I hated not knowing where I was going. I hated walking in the dark alone. I hated being alone. Years of getting home in the middle of the night, as a medical student in New York City's hospitals, still didn't take away my fear of danger lurking in dark alleys. I scanned my surroundings, fear pounding in my chest, making my rib cage ache. Was the street below a safer choice?
I stood on the uneven, well-worn steps of a narrow walkway. Gray buildings towered over me on both sides. The stone beneath my feet was wet and slippery from the moisture dripping off the walls. There were a few small windows above me and an old streetlight up ahead, making the alleyway a little less dungeon-like. I willed my mind to focus on these small sources of light. My lungs unlocked, and I inhaled the cold wet air.
The smell of mold immediately overwhelmed me. I hurried up the steep slippery steps toward the light. But no matter how fast I climbed, it seemed to get farther and farther away, and my stomach twisted tighter with each step.
Moments later, I felt the world suddenly fall away beneath me as I landed on my right hip, hitting the sharp edge of a stone. I cursed, the words echoing off the moldy walls. Shifting a bit on the icy wet ground, I palpated my aching parts, making sure that my pelvis, femur, and acetabulum were only bruised and not fractured.
Sitting still, I listened to the slow "drip, drip, drip" of water from the buildings and felt sorry for myself. I was in Edinburgh to have a break, after all; this was not fair! It was when I tried to get up that I heard the chirping. This tomb-like passageway surely couldn't be the home of a bird? But there it was — on a bright green branch, growing over the wall of one of the buildings, sat a puffy little bird.
Another old streetlight next to me suddenly turned on, filling the alley with a soft yellow light. I got back up on my feet slowly after some awkward maneuvering and tested my ability to walk. The bird chirped again, startling me so that I jumped, rather painfully for my bruised leg. Then the slight creature moved to the step directly above me.
"You scared the shit out of me!" I yelled at it, holding on to the wall with one hand and rubbing my leg with the other.
I leaned my back against a building. The bird turned its head and looked directly at me, chirping again. I sighed and squinted my eyes to see it better. It had a round white belly and a bright orange chest. I hadn't seen a regular city bird in a long time. For the last seven months there had been only tropical ones around me. My breath stabilized, and my heart and stomach settled.
"Listen," I said to it. "You're cute, but I need to get back to my hotel, okay?"
The bird turned its head toward me, sang another verse of its song, and gently flew into the passageway in front of me, as if showing me the way.
"Do I follow you or something?"
I did. I followed it out to the street above, with no further trouble. To be honest, I was glad for its temporary friendship. Being lost had unsettled me thoroughly. Finally out of the alley, I found myself in the middle of the main street of the Old Town, Royal Mile, with crowds gathering for the Military Tattoo's marching band performances. The lights were lit on Edinburgh Castle, and its flags waved to me in greeting.
"All right, so where do I go next?" I asked. But the bird had disappeared.
With my mind depleted of all rational thought and my feet begging for some relief, I looked around for a place to sit and realized I was standing in front of the dusty display window of a small antique shop.
I would like to say that I noticed the ring in the display right away, but I know now that it had recognized me first. After all, the ring's features were not displayed in any special way that would catch the attention of shoppers. In fact, it was turned slightly around, as if somewhat shy. An old yellowed price tag half-covered it, suggesting it had been ignored by all but the rare Scottish sunlight for years. But I was unable to take my eyes away, somehow held by its power.
The wooden door of the Royal Mile Antique Collection creaked as I opened it, my arms straining with effort. The shop smelled of the familiar aroma of most places in Edinburgh — mold and whisky. The dark interior revealed several open-shelved cabinets displaying mismatched teacups, whisky glasses, and various jewelry items. A small ray of light from the door in the back was making dust dance over the displays, and I moved toward it with hope.
"Hello?" I called out.
A gawky teenager emerged from the door. "Um, were you needing somethin'? We're getting ready to close."
"Can I please see that ring over there in the window?" I pointed.
The teen fumbled with the display case and sighed. "It's locked, miss. I don't know if we've even got the key. Those items are just a decoration for the shop."
"I'd really appreciate it if you'd look," I said and attempted a smile, my patience wearing thin.
He shrugged his shoulders and disappeared back behind the small door, leaving it creaking and groaning as it closed slowly behind him.
I paced in irritation, rubbing my injured hip and wondering whether this store didn't get many customers or just didn't care whether they made any sales at all. Lousy customer service, for sure. I walked to the display containing the ring, examining it closely. My reflection stared back at me — a tired and flushed face with a now-fading tan, frizzy brown curls escaping a loose ponytail, and a brand-new tartan lamb's wool scarf befitting a tourist.
The door opened, but, instead of the teen's face, a head full of silver hair appeared, leaning low to avoid the doorframe. The head belonged to a handsome and ridiculously tall man. He resembled a college professor, with his pleated brown wool pants and the collar of his white shirt folded neatly over the neck of his sweater. Large glasses and a well-groomed cropped silver beard completed his rather academic appearance.
"Good day. My grandson is telling me ye're interested in one of my rings?" He gave me an appraising look and offered his hand. "Name's Ian Fergusson. Which one is it, then?"
"It's the silver one with the white stone in the middle," I said.
"Why does this one catch your eye, may I ask?" He raised his brows, but his eyes were kind.
"I'm not sure, actually. It's just — calling to me."
He nodded his head a few times. "Aye, that's the best way to find your pieces. Let them speak to you and tell their story. This ring must've found the right owner, then."
My heart beat faster as he opened the display, carefully removed the ring, and handed it to me.
"What kind of stone is it?" I gently touched the glowing gemstone in the center.
"A moonstone. It's said to bring protection during travel. There's another meaning to it also," he continued. "Lovers exchange moonstones in the hope of eternal love. But you choose what meaning suits you best."
I laughed. "Who wouldn't wish for eternal love? But I'd settle for travel protection."
"Been traveling, then?"
"A while, yes."
"Are you staying in Scotland for a bit?"
"I think I have to get home soon." Eventually.
"Your accent is difficult to place. A bit of the American and a bit of the ... French?"
"I live in New York," I said. "But I was born in Ukraine. What are these?" I pointed at the sparkling rows of stones around the moonstone. I was anxious to switch the conversation back to the ring.
"Marcasite. Made of pyrite, a type of iron. Used commonly in the last century. See how carefully it's mounted in its place? Very delicate work. Gives the stone some extra sparkle."
"How old is it?"
"Given the marcasite and the moonstone, I'd venture a guess it's likely an Art Nouveau ring. Made somewhere between 1912 and 1920."
I turned the ring to look for an inscribed date and squinted to see something etched on the inside. "There are words here!"
"Well, that's unusual. Can I take a look?"
I waited impatiently as he examined it with a magnifying glass.
"German, certainly. I can sort out Ich, but the rest of the words are too faded and in need of cleaning. Very tricky to clean it properly though — may lose some of its tarnish. Do you want me to try to clean it a bit for you? Do you speak German?"
"No, I don't. Only Russian and Spanish. But that's all right, you don't need to clean it." I stopped him from taking it again. "I'm not really shopping; I just wanted to look at it. I don't buy very much jewelry." I hesitated. "Do you know where this ring came from? If it has German writing in it, I wonder what it's doing here, in Scotland."
He looked at me for a moment, head cocked to the side. "I have a few minutes. I can look in my records."
"I'm sorry I'm asking so many questions."
"It's nay bother. My supper will keep." He winked and walked behind the counter to a black desktop.
"You have computer records for your inventory?"
"This is modern times, you know. We've had a database for over ten years. If we bought the ring in that time, I can tell you a bit about where it came from." He checked the faded tag, and I heard him typing numbers on the keyboard after he placed the ring back on the counter.
I picked up the ring and held it up to the flower-shaped wall sconce to see the inscription. It caught the light and sparkled, blinding me for a second. As my vision cleared, my eyes were greeted by a tiny rainbow reflected onto the window of the shop. My heart skipped a beat, then another, then started again, making me shudder.
My twin sister Ella had loved rainbows. She'd drawn them on every scrap of paper she found.
The rainbow blinked and disappeared, its power captured back within.
"There it is." Ian handed me a page from the printer.
"Paris!" I nearly jumped. "The ring came from Paris?"
"Indeed. It was part of a purchase from a store we often work with, Les Trésors Enchantés. We bought jewelry and a few furniture pieces from the same estate at the time."
"Do you have anything else from that estate?" I wonder ...
"Unfortunately not; everything's been sold. I can give Paris a call, if ye'd like, and find out if they have any information about the seller or any more objects from that estate?"
I motioned for him to stop. "I'll buy it!" The words burst out of my mouth.
I walked out of the shop a few minutes later with the ring and the receipt from its purchase from Paris in my backpack. My earlier fears of the evening had been forgotten, as I now felt a strange sense of satisfaction. The streets had filled with more people. Normally, I would've walked over to hear some of the music and watch the spectacular fireworks, but tonight I rushed through the crowds. I could still see the blue lights of Edinburgh Castle on top of the hill, but I was quite done exploring. I gave the ring, now safe on my finger, a quick touch. It was my only companion at the moment, and I couldn't afford to lose it.
The truth was, I had been pounding my feet on the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh for days, but despite the bloody blisters on my feet, I was no closer to finding a solution. A solution to my current issue of having no good return plan after running away to Guatemala and then to Scotland from my pediatric residency in New York.
But now, at least, I knew what I was doing tonight. Tonight, I was going to clean the ring and read that inscription. And find out why I had felt so compelled to buy it.
Edinburgh, August, Thursday — Present Time
My body jerked awake violently, and I stared unseeing into the darkness. Icy shivers pulsed through my spine. I grabbed my blanket from the floor and wrapped it tightly around me, but the shivers continued.
What day was it? Thursday? Yes, definitely Thursday. Edinburgh.
My body was back in my hotel room, but I still smelled the nauseating scent of wisteria blooming wildly in the garden I was just in. I still heard the crunch of the gravel under the wheels of my bicycle.
I hadn't touched a bike since I was eleven. Since the day I insisted that my twin sister race bikes to the beach with me on a sweltering summer day. The day I watched Ella collapse, gasping for breath, on the path covered in gravel and sand, with wisterias dropping their purple blooms on her white face.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was the first condition I learned about when I got to medical school. Ella's heart muscle grew abnormally thick and her heart couldn't pump well. Patients with this condition were supposed to avoid bursts of physical activity, especially in extreme temperatures. I hadn't thought of Ella in a long time. Too long. I guess that was the idea. Go to medical school, become a doctor, save lives. Earn my right to be alive when she was dead. I wiped the tears rolling down my cheeks.
The dream. I needed to think. I'd had strange dreams before, but not this vivid.
The garden I just rode through in my dream looked similar to the gardens we liked to ride through as children. But ... not quite the same. I rode my bike through a large entrance with an arch, then past well-manicured bushes bearing different kinds of flowers. Then I went through a black iron gate and onto a gravel path, past the fountain and toward the wisteria trees, where I knew someone waited.
A woman stood by the bench, leaning on her bicycle, while several birds played at her feet. Her gray flared skirt cascaded gently over her laced-up boots, and her jacket was almost the same color as the wisteria. The woman slowly lifted her head, allowing me to see her face, slightly shaded by a hat. She was strikingly beautiful, with skin that seemed to glow in the light of the morning sun. Her large, dark, brown eyes were framed by long lashes. And full of tears.
She said something in a language I didn't understand, then got on her bicycle, and we rode on together. I tried to keep up with her because I knew she needed my help. I also sensed I had hurt her feelings, and I felt desperately sorry. As I finally reached her on my bike, I noticed her hands on the handlebars. On the long outstretched fingers of her right hand she wore a ring — the same one I had bought earlier today. I pointed at it, speechless, and that's when I woke up.
I didn't know this woman. I didn't know why I may have hurt her. Was this related to Ella? I hadn't had any nightmares about my sister in a long while, but maybe it was time they returned. But, no, this didn't feel at all like a nightmare. This felt very real. Too real. I stopped shivering, but I still couldn't think clearly. I tried to remember what the woman said. I was fairly sure it sounded German. She didn't look at all like my sister. And she wore my ring.
I got out of bed and turned on the lights and the TV. Despite the constant noise of the Edinburgh festival, my room's silence was unsettling. It wasn't even midnight yet. I had fallen asleep from fatigue, still wearing my street clothes. I changed into a clean shirt and a pair of yoga pants and made a cup of tea, as sleep seemed an impossible idea at this point. I sat on the chair by the window, looking at the darkness of the street below.
Maybe I've spent too much time in Scotland.
Maybe this dream was telling me to go home.
Of course, I was in Scotland because I couldn't go home to New York. Not yet.
I walked to the bathroom to clean the ring and try to read the inscription. Maybe there was a clue. Not that I felt superstitious, but I was glad to get it off my finger. Some scrubbing with my baking soda toothpaste, and the letters began to shine beautifully, even in the dim bathroom lights. I took the ring into the bedroom and held it under the bedside lamp.
I turned on my laptop and carefully typed into the search engine while squinting to read the tiny letters. "Du Bist Mein, Ich Bin Dein." Several pages popped up, each one telling me that these words were from a medieval German love poem found in the Tegernsee monastery and written by an unknown author. I couldn't understand the poem in German, but the English translation read:
"You are mine, I am yours,
Thereof you may be certain.
You're locked away
Within my heart.
Lost is the key,
And you must ever be therein."
Excerpted from "Wrapped in the Stars"
Copyright © 2018 Elena Mikalsen.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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