Read the first chapter here!
Then hop over to Amazon to grab the rest of the book.
“Damn it.” The glass vial shattered, pieces of glass danced across the wooden floors of my aunt’s shop. I couldn’t get my poop in a group today. Something just felt off. Could you feel like a stranger in your own body? Because today, that’s exactly how I felt.
“Ouch.” I flinched as the glass pierced my skin. Flexing my hand, I studied the blood pooling into a small dot and licked it away. The cut wasn’t bad, so I pinched my thumb with my finger to keep it from bleeding everywhere. Not that it mattered. We had body parts from animals and corpses mixed in with every kind of herb you could think of. Whatever. Witches had strange needs sometimes. Armed with the thick fabric of my apron, I carefully and slowly picked up the broken glass.
“Sorry, just a second,” I said. Nick, my customer at the moment and my long-time friend waited patiently for me to do things the human, not magical, way.
“No problem. Do you need any help?” he asked.
I glanced at the counter where he stood. The same counter of my aunt’s shop where I’d worked every day after school since the day I was six. Maybe that was an exaggeration. A blush heated my cheeks as I remembered just how useful I wasn’t at six or even now. At six I would pretend to enchant my Barbie and Ken dolls into loving each other. Sadly, even now, my magic hadn’t advanced any further than pretend.
“No, no. I’ll be right there. Let me just grab a broom and – “I stopped as the mess disappeared.
Rolling my eyes, I looked up at Nicholas Remington.
“Thanks, Nick. I appreciate the help.”
He smiled the same delicious smile he flashed at all the young witches in the area. Except I wasn’t a witch, or one of note anyway. I wasn’t much of anything. My aunt assured me I was special and my powers would come when they were meant to. Twenty-two years to the day though, and nothing had shown up.
“Anything for the beautiful Fiona. Besides, it’s your birthday.”
With a roll of my eyes, I stood up and grabbed another vial. “Right. So this is my present? You cleaning up after me?”
Nick smiled. “Well, I’d love to give you more, but this might be the only thing your aunt will let me give you.” He winked and sure, my stomach did a tiny blip. But nothing would ever come of the flirting. My aunt made sure of that.
I shook my head and stood up. “Why, Nick, whatever do you mean?”
His hands propped against the counter as I walked behind it. “We’ve known each other, what? Sixteen years?”
I shrugged. “Yeah. I suppose. I met you right after being dumped here.” I tried to keep the aggravation out of my voice but dumped summed up what I felt like. Even with my aunt’s care, there was nothing like being abandoned by your own mother.
“Yeah, well. Maybe your aunt will have a change of heart this year. I’m expected to name a fiancée, you know.”
“And that affects me and my aunt, how? She hasn’t changed her position on dating and honestly, as handsome as you are, I don’t see that being enough to sway her.”
Yeah. Small lies. Tempting he was. Did I feel attracted to him? Absolutely. Was it enough to break my aunt’s one and only rule? Nope. She accepted me for me and I needed to respect that.
“Fiona, how are you the only woman in the quarter that is immune to my charms?”
I laughed. “Aw, did I hurt little Nicky’s ego? You’ll be fine.”
“Brat,” he said, shaking his head.
I stuck out my tongue and headed for the first aid kit under the counter. I peeked over the counter at Nick. He was practically royalty in the witch and caster community, and that made him one of the elite. Nick’s family was one of the oldest in the town, and lucky for me, my aunt was too.
I would have swooned if this was seventeenth-century England or if I hadn’t grown up with him. His parents having been part of the same coven as my aunt, I got plenty of time with the great Nick. He was handsome, but in the end, he was off-limits. Just like every other male I came across. I’d guess you’d say I was off-limits, really.
“All right, almost good as new. One more second,” I said. I squatted, balancing my forearm on my thigh as I extended my finger and went to place a small bandage over the cut and paused. Where in the hell was the cut? It hadn’t been huge by any means, but it was bleeding. In fact, I’d seen a trail of blood down my wrist. Turning my finger side to side, I racked my brain. What had just happened?
“You okay down there?”
Nick’s voice pulled me back to the present.
“I, uh. Maybe? Did you cast a healing spell?”
I popped up and held up my finger. “My finger. It was bleeding. Is this another birthday present?”
He cocked his head. “Nope. Maybe it was like a paper cut. Go dip your finger in the alcohol and I’m sure you’ll find the damn thing.”
I tilted my head and glared. “Funny.”
One more quick glance at my finger again, and I let it go. Sure, it was my birthday and apparently I was losing it. Like full-on mental breakdown. First the voice this morning, now a magical cut?
Nick reached for my hand. “So, do you think dear old auntie will let you out of her sights for a few hours?”
I snorted. “Are you new here? I doubt she will. You’ve been asking to take me out for the last five years, and if you couldn’t change her mind then, why would today be any different.”
He shrugged. “Can’t blame a man for trying. See you later, Fi. Thanks for the herbs. Mother’s cooking up something special for dinner tonight. Half the coven will be there, just to celebrate you.” He reached over the counter and ran a finger down my cheek before turning back to the door. “Tell your aunt I said hi.”
As if on queue, Aunt Beatrice flounced through the curtain from the back. “No need, Mr. Remington. I can hear just fine. You march right home now, and we will see your family later. No more nonsense about asking my niece out, you hear.”
His face dropped, a picture of stoicism and honor. “Of course, Ms Beatrice. We will see you tonight.”
The bell on the door tinkled as he left, and sadly I stared after him. What I wouldn’t give to go on a date with anyone. Hell, a kiss would be nice.
That damn voice again. I looked around. There was the damn voice again. I’d heard it earlier as I showered. Hey, a girls gotta take care of herself when no one else was allowed to.
“Hello?” I asked, spinning around.
“Hello, dear. Are you feeling all right?”
I shrugged when the only voice I heard was Aunt Bea.
“Yeah. Sure. Just hearing things. Oh, and this. My finger.” Holding out my finger to my aunt, I waited for a response.
“There’s blood, dear. Did you spill some bottles again?”
I shook my head. “No. That’s the thing. This is mine. I dropped a vial of rosemary and it shattered, cutting my finger with it.”
Aunt Beatrice looked back into the shop.
“I take it Nicolas helped clean it up?”
I stomped my foot. “Yes, so? My finger. He didn’t heal my finger.”
My aunt waved her hand over my wrist and then my hand and finally over my fingers.
For the love. My eyes nearly bugged out of my head. “Hmm? That’s all you say is hmm? Is this it? Am I finally growing into my powers?”
Aunt Beatrice’s eyes flashed from her human brown to a witchy green and back. “It would appear that perhaps my time’s nearly up, wouldn’t it?”
What the hell did that mean?
“Aunt Bea, what does that even mean? I’m tired of being useless and the only non-magical person around here. Is this it? Am I finally getting my powers? Or not?”
Beatrice waved her other hand and dimmed the lighting in the store. “Oh, my sweet girl. You aren’t the only non-magical person around. You’re simply the only you around this area.”
She pulled me behind her, and as she swept the curtain aside she pulled me into the back.
“Aunt, we don’t close for a few more hours.”
Beatrice clicked her tongue. “Oh, no worries, dear. I put a sign in the window. Should buy us a few minutes.”
Finally, my aunt let my arm go. “Sit. Sit. Sit.”
I did as told, pulling up the familiar worn stool to my aunt’s work table. How many years had I sat here watching Aunt Beatrice create potions, poultices, and spells? How many years had I longed to be special? Sometimes I felt closer to the humans that slunk into the shop, hoping for a love spell or fertility potion. They were in the same boat. Magic-less.
“Let us see here,” my aunt said as she grabbed a few herbs. “Now hand me your finger, dear.”
Great, more no answers. I extended my arm without thought. “It’s healed, I already, ouch. What the hell was that for.”
I looked down at my newly-healed finger just to see a small stab wound. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
My aunt ground away at the mixture in her small stone bowl.
“Don’t talk to me like that, young lady.”
I shut my mouth and watched my aunt work. For a few seconds anyway.
“So if this is it, can I finally date?”
I tried to envision Nick on a date. Would there be wine and a picnic? I mean, I read books and lived through all my friends. Some of whom had in fact dated Nick. Witches weren’t usually known for their purity. Just one more thing to keep me apart from this world.
I sighed, only to jump as the damn voice came back.
“Who’s coming?” I couldn’t stop myself. I answered the voice in my head.
My aunt looked up. “What dear?”
I tilted my head. “Didn’t you say something, Aunt Bea?”
My aunt reached her hand to my forehead. “Are you feeling all right?”
I shook my head. “I. I don’t know. There’s this voice. I, well. Am I just going crazy?”
Nothing would make you feel crazier than the only person you trusted in the entire world looking at you like you just started speaking in tongues.
“And you’re answering this voice?”
I nodded, any hesitation fleeting. I needed answers. I needed to know if it was maybe my magic? Or was I crazy? Or was it a tumor? So many choices.
Silence filled the space, the scratching of the stone against the bowl creating a lulling rhythm.
“Auntie, don’t look at me like that. I don’t want to be crazy and non-magical. Is this what happens to witches without magic? They go crazy and some stupid little voice shows up? Holy crap, maybe I’m possessed. Is this what a possession feels like?”
Aunt Bea’s laugh splashed cold reality on my panic.
“Lord,girl. You certainly have an imagination. For the last time, dear. You are unique and you’re not really a witch. You never have been. You’re more, and when the time is right-“
She broke off and went back to her mixture.
I sat there and bit the inside of my cheek. What? When the time was right, what?
“Then what am I?”
My aunt took a pinch of the dust concoction and sprinkled it into her hand, mumbling an advanced spell I would never master.
I didn’t need to hear I wasn’t a witch, although that I wasn’t still hurt. The truth was finally out there, finally speaking to the fears. I didn’t belong here.
So why did she insist on me staying here for school? I could have bussed to the human side of town and now, well. I could have gone off to a human college.
Instead of doing any of those things, I waited. Something I’d gotten good at. Years of sitting in this same spot told me when my aunt was off in whatever magical world I had no business being a part of.
Well, there was no time like the present to just dive headfirst into insanity. It was that or listen to the clock ticking as my aunt did her thing. So why the hell not try to talk to the voice.
Are you there?
Nothing. Was I happy or sad? Was I really crazy or not?
I stood up too quickly and knocked over the stool.
“Shit. Sorry, Aunt. I’ll fix it.”
Beatrice didn’t seem to notice. Right. Because she wasn’t hearing the voices in my head. Hell, my aunt was off in la-la land herself.
The stool. Right. I kicked at it with my foot and then tried to pick it up by the rung with the toe of my shoe. Energy raced up and down my spine. Anxiety? No. I couldn’t place the feeling. Abandoning the stool, I decided pacing had more merit.
My heart threatened to jump out of my chest the more I focused on the voice. I was definitely possessed.
I stopped mid-step. Taking a long cleaning breath. It’s fine. Shipshape. Everyone has odd quirks. Mine is apparently a voice. Instead of trying to talk to it out loud, I responded in my head. Let’s make the crazy less obvious, I thought. Why not?
Okay then, what are you?
Great. What the hell. Was I going crazy or not. Even my crazy wasn’t consistent.
Should I freak out? Should I stay calm?
I jumped. My damn heart was already struggling to remain calm.
“Fine. Interrupt my mental breakdown. For crap’s sake. I can’t handle it today. I’m going to have a heart attack. You’re going to kill me.”
My aunt’s face filled with warmth and love. “You will be fine. Your heart is fine. No one is trying to kill you. Today.”
Nodding, I filtered the words. “What? Wait? Today?”
Aunt Beatrice closed the gap and took up my hands.
“Your mother said to protect you at all costs. And I have done that. For sixteen years I have loved you as if you were my own. Your mother was one of my dearest friends and I miss her every day.”
My aunt’s warm touch swept aside the hair on my face.
“Every time I look at you, I see her beauty. You have her eyes, you know that, Fiona?”
It was hard not to smile. Even if I didn’t belong here, I had once belonged somewhere. Of course, then the hurt tried to come back. My mom had left me. Only, there wasn’t any point bringing that back up. It led nowhere.
“Thanks, Aunt Bea. So what was all that about? The thing.”
She smiled. “Oh. That. Right. Maybe you should come sit down?”
This didn’t sound promising. I could count on one hand the number of times my aunt had asked me to sit down. The first time to tell me my parents wouldn’t be coming back and the second was after I’d gone through my first period. That was a fun conversation. Telling a teenager that she wasn’t allowed to kiss anyone, let alone date. Why? Yeah. The reason sucked. I was already promised to someone. Talk about the worst news when you were raised by a rather progressive aunt. If I ever asked when I would meet him, the answer was always ‘when the time is right, dear.’ Every freaking thing out of my aunt’s mouth was cryptic.
And I hated it.
I hated time because all it ever meant was wait. Wait for this. Wait for that. I was damn tired of waiting. Now, waiting took on a whole new meaning. Waiting to find out who the hell I was promised to. Waiting to see if they cared that I seemed to be a dud in the magical community.
My skin prickled. The last time I felt like this was when my aunt had gotten fed up with me asking about my future husband. A girl had a right to know. Only, she’d said, “The less you know the better.”
Even the idea and fear of being promised faded away with time. I wasn’t afraid anymore because the more I distanced myself from something I didn’t get, the less real it felt.
Here. The voice, again. Stupid voice.
Who’s here? I asked like some schizophrenic. Because why wouldn’t I talk to myself?
Well, I guess at least the voice answered me.
“Aunt Beatrice? You said the shop was closed, right?”
Before she could answer, the door dinged. Aunt Beatrice looked up. I swore her eyes were glossy. Something was different.
“Sweetheart, could you go get that for me?”
Nodding, I did as told. I always did as told. My fight had left me years ago, my anger a distant memory. My aunt had cared for me without question all these years and I trusted her.
Slipping through the curtain, a scent I’d never smelled before filled the room. It overpowered everything else in the shop, and that said something when you had dried entrails in a jar. I looked around and didn’t see anyone and wondered if I was hearing a phantom bell too.
No, Aunt Bea had asked me to get the door. I walked around the counter, past the rack of flesh-eating plants I hated and made it to the door. It was then that I heard the voices. Three men arguing. No, one arguing and two talking. Casters? Maybe.
I drew in the air again, wanting more of that delicious smoky scent. It was so different, so, well, shit. It was twisting my insides into a ball of goo.
I wanted whoever it belonged to. It was then that the voice decided to invade my head once again. Only the word it repeated meant nothing to me.
Want more? Download from Amazon!