Chapter One

Gabriel was having a terrific horrible day. Since morning, after he got up and dressed for the day, he had known it was going to be a shitty day, but sometimes some days still managed to amaze him. Like now —standing in his lawyer's office and staring at his once beautiful wife who was making demands like she had a right to anything after she had cheated on him as she did. But she believed she had and Gabe was getting this hollow feeling in the middle of his body.

When had his life decided to come apart like it was doing right now? When he had lost sight of Grace and her disappearing love for him? When have things escalated this way like now? Gabe had no answer but one thing he knew for sure —his nights will be sleepless from now on. And he wasn't even sure he could blame Grace completely.

His gaze focused on her stubborn expression, one he had adored many times before, but right now he could only find it evil and unyielding. Really, what was the point of dragging this further on?

"She can have it." He spoke out loud, his voice powerful enough to stop the two lawyers from arguing the terms of their partage. Both he and Grace had too much pride to start arguing in front of the public and this was yet another trait of hers he had loved and respected about her. Although, now he realized there had been no respect from her and especially no love.

"Gabriel…" His lawyer started and he knew the tone. It warned him not to give in, the bitch deserved nothing. Gabe almost smiled, honestly amazed by James' professionalism. He knew what sort of a swearing mouth he had.

"No. I give her the house in exchange for her never to approach me in public or private." Gabriel insisted and was pleased to see her ugly surprise at his words. Beside him, James hid a surprised smile and added in his smooth, calm way —"Are you talking about issuing a restriction order?"

Gabriel smiled nastily. "If possible, yes."

James pushed the glasses on the bridge of his nose and looked at the other lawyer who looked rather surprised at this turn of events. "These are our terms. Ms Dale gets the house only and she never approaches Mr Montgomery, regardless of the intention. Or legal action will be taken. Do you consent?"

Grace scoffed as she crossed her arms in a defiant posture. "That's a silly arrangement and request, Gabe." She addressed her former husband who raised an eyebrow in her direction. "What if I need to contact you about some unpaid bills or some house damage caused by you?"

"You can take it up with my lawyer or assistant. But I don't want to see you ever again, Grace, regardless of your reason. Even if you see me from afar, I want you not to cross my path." Gabriel said with an incredible calm expression, but his words showed different emotions —hurt, misery and abandonment of all hope.

She had been someone he had hoped to grow old with, to have children with, but she had proven to be the one who stole away his heart and dignity altogether.

Grace frowned and for a moment, he saw something, a flicker of emotion in her cruel blue eyes. But surely it was just his imagination wishing for things that were never there. He still cared about her, that much he could accept, but he wasn't going to allow her to toy with his emotions more than she had done. The best way to keep her away was to push her away in every possible way. And he'd take the chance if needed.

She gave him another odd look before she nodded to her lawyer. "Let the man have his way." She said in a patronizing tone and Gabe knew she was still trying to needle him.

"James, if I'm no longer needed, I will take my leave." Gabriel said to his lawyer who looked at him with a fleeting concerned expression.

"I and Mr Lockwood will draw the papers and you can sign them later." James informed him and with a curt nod, Gabe stood up and left the office without a goodbye.

It was rude, but so was pretending you gave a damn anymore about the woman in there. He reached the elevators in a few steps and was impatiently waiting for one of them to come. He cursed the gods the moment he heard the clicking of heels behind him and he knew without turning that it was Grace who was coming his way.

"I assume I am allowed to share the same elevator with you." She addressed him in a silky yet sarcastic tone, but Gabe ignored her. He needn't get angrier than he already was. To his surprise, she kept quiet till the elevator came and both stepped inside.

Gabe couldn't help but steal a glance at the mirror wall on her side and his heart squeezed into a painful clench. The sight of them standing side by side reminded him of how little she was next to him and how he used to put his hand over her shoulders and drag her to his chest. How he used to kiss the top of her head, inhale the sweet perfume she put on every morning. He was painfully remembering how good they were together and how best they complimented each other when going out. And now, all of that was down the drain, clogged with good memories tarnished by her act of cheating.

"I am sorry."

At first, he didn't register the words or that she had uttered them, but something in him snapped. "Too late. You should have thought better before cuddling another dick between your legs." He said with a controlled tone, but the words were vicious. He believed he almost saw her flinch.

"Gabe, I know I did you wrong, but you got to admit...we weren't in love anymore."

Gabriel froze at her words, but in a brusque manner, he turned to look at her, his hazel eyes full of stormy emotions. "It was you who wasn't in love anymore, don't you dare dump your immature shit on me just because you couldn't sum up the guts to tell me you didn't love me anymore." He took a quick breath and continued —"Is this why you think you deserve the house?! Because you want to believe I stopped loving you as you did?!"

Grace looked at him as if he had slapped her, but thankfully the elevator just arrived downstairs and its doors were opening slowly.

"Just stay out of my life, Grace. I have enough shit without you in it." He added before rounding on his feet and leaving the elevator and her proximity. He needed to get drunk and for the first time, he understood the people who turned to alcohol when in difficult emotional situations.

Too bad he couldn't drink because he had always had a weak liver when it came to alcohol. But tonight...he might do an exception, even if it landed him in the hospital.

Aidan's morning was perfect.

He got up with a great feeling, made breakfast, stirred some potions and was ready to go to the market. The sky was clear, his baby plants were blossoming in their earthly beds and by midnight he will have another batch of freshly brewed concoctions to help the aching muscles and bones. It was a witch's legacy to tend to nature and nurture it and in return getting the cures for the fickle human body. Aidan had no misconstrued idea that their magic could cure cancer or other deadly diseases, but they always tried to ease someone's pain using nature's help. All it asked was care and love from their side and the witches had more than plenty to give.

And Aidan loved working with nature. It was simple even when most complicated situations happened and it came to his call like a river to a bay. There was no purer emotion than the one when wind whispered around him, water danced in laughing waves when he beckoned it or when earth sang deeply within the soil as he gave back what he took. Only a witch could understand these emotions as only they could feel nature on such a deeper connection.

The man took a deep breath as he stepped outside into the sun, lifting his face towards the warm light. It was going to be a heated day, he could feel it in the air, but he didn't mind. The land needed the scorch of heat just like it needed the cool rain of the sky. But it wasn't time for dallying as he had to go to the market where his mother awaited.

Today was Lammas in the witch calendar and those interested in the occult would come to the square market to buy different things that would help them in their wishes in the upcoming cold days and celebrate the sun god with the results of their daily work. And since this was Lancaster, everyone would hit the market either way, occult lover or unknowing tourist. His sister, Siobhan, was left in charge of the family store —O'Hara Witchcraft.

It was an appealing name and even in a world still prejudiced by wrongly spread religions, they were still playing on the safe side, their real secret hiding in plain sight. But yet again, there were plenty of stores pretending to know about witchcraft and of the true history of witches. Like in Lancashire where witch hunts have been conducted and now people visited the town in the hope to meet the past. No one actually knew that the witches that had been mercilessly killed had actually dabbled in the dark arts and the villagers had been right in pursuing them. However, sometimes a white witch got caught as well and it would hit the community pretty hard.

But Aidan wasn't thinking of terrible events of the past as he got into his car and drove to the town's market. His house was just outside the main cluster of technology and business-oriented people. It offered him the space and the privacy to connect with nature without forgetting to be active in the modern world. Even as a witch one still had to provide an income and make a life of their own. Aidan was no exception to this and at twenty-seven, he could say he was quite accomplished. Had his own home and a car, shared a business with his family and was an active witch every day and occasionally night. Some could say he was ready to settle down, but Aidan liked his solitary life and he wasn't sure another person would fit well in his life.

Witches had a different approach to love and marriage and throughout the years they have only married for love as it would help with the magic within. If love eluded a witch then she or he would not marry and simply settle for another course in that life. And Aidan thought often enough that he might be one of those witches for whom love and marriage just weren't in the cards. And the idea didn't bother him that much as long as he could get the occasional one-night-stand. Luckily for him, it wasn't hard to get it.

With olive skin, green eyes and dark hair, Aidan fit right into the famous description of Tall, Dark and Handsome. Like most witch families, he was the sibling who took after his mother who was a gipsy Irish woman of origin. Siobhan, his sister, took after his father and was the total opposite of him with her vibrant red hair, fair skin and deep honey brown eyes. People were always surprised that they were siblings and sometimes they even pretended to be a couple as a joke. It amused them to no end even if their mother was reproachfully watching them every time they told another story of this kind.

The car stopped and Aidan hopped out of it, quickly picking the basket with the herbal potions made freshly this morning. Just as the alarm on his car clicked active, he allowed himself a moment to survey the background noise of the market. It was a ten minutes walk from the parking lot to the market and even with this small distance, he could hear and feel the rising energies from the early birds, ready to tackle the cheapest prices for their favourite products. The town's square wasn't large but that didn't stop the merchants from squeezing in a vendor and selling their stuff. Neither did the customers mind that they were brushing shoulders, stomping on feet accidentally as long as they got the best price on their desired product.

With a soft whistle, Aidan proceeded to the square, each and every time letting himself be awed by the buildings which encased the market with their dark coloured stone. As expected, the church was right in front of the square, standing tall and foreboding at times, allowing everyone to enter its premises should there be a need for shelter whether from heat or rain. The market wasn't always filled with vendors and usually, it was a hangout place for tourists or locals. But on some weekends, the town hall allowed the merchants of the city to unfold their business out in the open. It helped with the touristic image and also it gave something to look forward to both buyers and sellers.

And despite being eight past twenty, the stalls with different goodies were already lavishly stretched around the square and people were running about, discussing their deals on the products. Aidan smiled at the sight and made his way to his mother's stall, greeting his fellow business friends as he passed by. Even customers saluted him as they recognised him from the O'Hara shop.

"Morning, ma!" He said cheerfully as he reached their selling place and squeezed in the back to peck his mother's rosy cheek.

"Morning, luv." Liliai O'Hara greeted her son, a big smile stretching on her beautifully aged face. Same green eyes met Aidan's and they were full of love and emotion for him. They often looked as sister and brother rather than mother and son with their olive-skinned faces, deep dark hair and lean bodies. "I trust you have there bottles of Mind's Drums and Heart Woes." She then said as she took the basket from him and looked into it.

"Of course. And also, some Soft Bones." He added pridefully, knowing that Liliai would have expected these in two weeks.

His mother looked at him surprised. "Those aren't under-brewed, Aidan, right?" She asked him in a serious tone and even if she trusted her son, sometimes witches tended to get carried away with their powers and some potions ended up being useless and a lot of work from both the witch and nature would have been wasted.

"I am wounded, mother." Aidan gave her a puppy eye look. "I tested it on myself and it works."

Liliai narrowed her eyes. "How did you test it on yourself?"

Aidan waved his hand dismissively, not wanting to get into these details. His mother always freaked out when he did the testing on himself because sometimes in order to get a healing done properly, one had to get hurt first. And Aidan used to get some injuries on purpose. Liliai hadn't been too pleased to learn of this habit of his and since then Aidan had avoided telling her what he did for some of the testers.

"Aidan O'Hara, you better not be hurting yourself again for the sake of these potions. You can't help anyone if you end up hurt." She reprimanded him and Aidan let her have her say, already knowing that his mother would have her opinion known one way or another.

"I know, ma. No need to worry." He winked at her before stealing the basket from her. "How about we focus on making our customers happy today?" He changed the subject and even his mother knew.

Liliai could only sigh.

Gabriel didn't have much luck with getting drunk as in the first pub he stopped he met some of his and Grace's common friends and as much as he needed to get wasted, he wasn't going to do it in front of an audience who knew him. So he left briefly after saying hi, avoiding more or less the pitying gazes. He hated Grace for making him feel like this, for making him want to run away and for making him want to drink his sorrows. And she had thought he had stopped loving her. What a joke.

If anything, he had believed they were greater than ever when together, that he was lucky to have found someone like her, to share his life, his love and passions. But how wrong he had been, he could see it clearly now. He had been too blinded by his feelings for her to see that what he thought amazing, she had thought it dull. If only she had told him, if only she had discussed it with him, maybe things would have been better.

No, he shouldn't go down this road, it was useless. It would only hurt him and she had already done a fine job, he needn't give her a hand. So he took a deep breath and headed for the town's market. It wasn't where he wanted to be, but maybe in the crowd, he'd lose himself, his haunting thoughts of a traitorous woman.

By the time he arrived there, it was closing near to noontime and the market was brimming with people wandering from one vendor to another. He was amazed by the positive yet fierce atmosphere the market gave off as he often avoided crowds, not liking to have to make his way through it by constantly saying "excuse me" or avoiding to no avail stepping on someone's feet or be stepped on. But right now, he knew that the last thing he needed was to be alone and he couldn't go to his parents for advice as they never liked Grace, James was cleaning his mess and Ava was on her holiday. His best friends weren't available to witness his misery, so he was going to play pretend until they were. Whoever said that in adulthood you don't need friends, they were sorely sad.

With much more courage than he had, Gabe ventured himself into the bustling crowd of the market, looking curiously at the products each vendor had to offer. There were different kinds of cheese displayed, meats of all sorts, seeds and vegetables, quickly followed by vendors which had materials to sell, antiquities or some old grandpa's belongings. The variety was astounding and even if one could find all of this in a supermarket, there was something more real here.

You could interact with the people who kneaded the cheese, grew the vegetables and selected their finest materials to sell it to you. All of this got so much more personal and your shopping got a whole lot more special knowing who did it. Sometimes, you'd even get a story about that particular type of product you purchased.

All of this, Gabe could observe and for a moment, he felt happy, pleased to see everyone working as a unit, trying to earn their existence one way or another. He could feel the pulse of life, here in this market, and this made him hope that, despite Grace's cheating, he could feel alive again. So he continued to wander, drawing the calls of the vendors which he refused with a polite but bright smile, his feet bringing him closer to the church. His attention shifted from the church to a vendor which had a wood carved sign which wrote in big and bright green letters —"O'Hara Witchcraft". It made him smile, automatically thinking that this was so Irish —the name and the colour— but also so occult baiting.

Out of curiosity, he approached the vendor which was very popular —no doubt, they sold eyes of newt as being curative for the blindness and people were naive enough to believe it— as there was a crowd of older, but also young people who waited anxiously in a queue. It was probably the most organized vendor out of them all. Gabe had to see what the fuss was all about, so he took a place in line and tried to see what was being sold.

"You get that lotion, it eases the burns from the sun in the field." He heard an old lady say to another who nodded eagerly.

"And it smells so pretty, Aidan says it's made of fairy dust." A girlish chuckle could be heard from the two ladies.

Gabe frowned thoughtfully as he started to have an idea what this shop might actually be about. But then—

"She gave me this spell, she said it would calm my rabbit. All I have to do is to write it on paper and put it under the rabbit's straw bed." An enthusiastic teenager was saying to his mother, his eyes sparkling with hope.

Gabe hoped that the poor kid wasn't going to be disappointed about his rabbit because some people decided to make money on others' woes. Somehow, this thought filled him with rage and by the time he arrived at the vendor he was ready to call them on their sham when the most beautiful man looked his way and smiled.

Gabe felt like time stood in place as his eyes took in the sight of a brown with softened angles face, bright, twinkling green eyes and a curvy, thin mouth. The tousled hair which only enhanced the beauty of the man's face made Gabe want to run his hands through his hair. It has been a long time since he had felt so impacted by a man's sight, having committed himself to Grace completely, after they got married. But he had never forgotten how good a man felt against him and how much he had enjoyed his male partners before Grace swooped him off his feet and got him off the market.

And now, the most gorgeous man was standing in front of him, wearing a curious expression and Gabe realized that he had probably stared for a couple of moments at him. And to top it all, he opened his mouth to say —"You're beautiful."

Horror washed over him as his brain registered both his words and the man's surprise. Without a single word, he twisted on the spot and ran, much to his embarrassment and people's amusement. He wasn't sure now if getting wasted in front of common friends of his and Grace hadn't been the better choice.

This was definitely not his day.

"What happened?" Lilai asked as she looked curiously at Aidan who stared into the crowd instead of taking on the next customer's request.

"Someone gave me a compliment and didn't hang around to thank him." Aidan replied casually, but his mind was on that man's face and words. He was aware that he wasn't the typical sight in a city like Lancashire, but he had never been so boldly approached in such a public place and by a man, nonetheless.

The honesty that had rushed out of that man's mouth had him feeling a bit light-headed like he had just taken a gulp of fresh air for the first time in many years. And his deep, hazel eyes were so beautiful, despite the sadness he had read in them. Aidan was weak against such traits and now, all he wanted to do was to chase that man and get his name and maybe his phone number.

"Huh." Lilai made a sound, drawing his attention again to the task. He knew his ma wanted to say something, but he smiled her way and then focused completely on the old lady now waiting at his counter.

He will get back to that mysterious, Cinderella man. After all, he had a compliment to return.