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The Giant and the Witch - Ebook

The Giant and the Witch - Ebook

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After Shay and I moved into Valen’s place, I thought I could finally get a well-deserved break from the madness of this city and spend some quality—naked—time with my giant.

But when someone finds an emaciated body in Valen’s restaurant, I know I’ll never catch a break. And it gets worse.

More bodies turn up, and a Gray Council investigator starts snooping around The Twilight Hotel as well as Valen’s restaurant. The evidence points to my giant, but if Valen is found guilty of these murders, he’ll get a one-way ticket to the paranormal prison. And I’ll never see him again. Ever. I’m not about to let that happen.

Then the unthinkable occurs. While I’m trying to clear Valen’s name, someone I care about is wounded by an old enemy and takes a turn for the worse.

As the clues start to fit together, I realize I must defeat this old nemesis to keep my loved ones safe—and find the real killer.

The Giant and the Witch is perfect for fans of urban fantasy, mystery, slow-burn romance, and humor. Get ready for this heart-pounding and laugh-out-loud magical adventure!

Look Inside Chapter 1

It had been one month since Shay and I moved into Valen’s apartment above his restaurant, After Dark. It had also been a month since my little sister, aka Jewel of the Sun, had blown the Dark witch Darius into dust with a beam of her Starlight magic, which was basically the sun’s energy only she could control.

As a Starlight witch, I was rare. As a Sun witch, as Shay liked to call herself, she was even rarer—probably the only witch who could conjure up the sun’s power in my lifetime, possibly centuries.

And as Starlight magic went, my power was limited to a specific group of stars, a triple-star system called Alpha Centauri. Sounds eccentric, but the downside of having this type of magic was that it was restricted during the day. Add the sun—a bully star—blocking my reach to the stars, it doesn’t sound so glamorous anymore.

The truth was, most Starlight witches couldn’t call on their power in the daylight.

All except for Shay.

My little sister drew her magic from that bully star.

The gift had incredible power, passed on to her from our father, Matiel, the angel. And that power could be ultimately destructive and dangerous if the bearer didn’t learn to control it.

Which explained why we were on the roof of the Twilight Hotel with the sun warming our faces, embarking on our daily morning practice sessions and getting our vitamin D doses.

“It’s not working. I don’t feel anything.” Shay hung her head, looking like she’d rather be back in her room playing with her tablet than on the roof with me.

“Haven’t you heard the expression ‘practice makes perfect’ before?” I angled my head to try and make eye contact with her. “You have to keep trying.”

“Why?” Shay looked up at me, her green eyes sparkling with anger. “It doesn’t work. I don’t have magic anymore.”

My heart gave a tug at the defeat in her voice. “That’s not true. It’ll come. Your magic can’t just disappear. That’s not how this works. It’s still inside you. Now, you need to focus.”

It was true that Shay’s power hadn’t materialized since that day Darius tried to kill me. We’d been at it practically every day since, trying to conjure it and help her wield it. But so far, nothing.

Shay had saved my life with that incredible starlight power, her sun power. She’d been so proud that day, having first believed she had no magic of her own. She’d surprised us all when a massive beam of sunlight had roasted Darius and some of his minions.

But Shay’s joy had diminished when she’d tried to conjure up that same magic and failed. Every day since then, her resolve had been getting worse until she was almost right back to how useless she’d felt when she was too weak to save her mother from Darius.

Shay was only eleven and a half. This was too much for her to handle so quickly. Not to mention discovering that she had an older half sister she would live with until she became an adult. It was a lot to take in, and so far, I thought she was handling it exceptionally well, under the circumstances.

“Your power is linked to your emotions,” I said. I’d seen it firsthand when Darius was trying to kill me, and Shay had blossomed into her power. “You need to tap into that. Tap into that well of emotions and grab on to them. It’ll wake up your magic. Like a switch.” I was sure of that. I’d watched it happen. The loss of her mother and then seeing the same bastard who’d killed her trying to kill me had awoken that power. But we hadn’t seen it since.

I also wanted to test a few theories—the first being whether she could also draw on her power at night. Or was it limited to the day, like mine was limited mostly to night? But without her having good control over her abilities, I’d have to wait and see. First, she needed to be able to call upon her powers on a whim, and then we’d test the other theories.

“I don’t want to do this anymore.” Shay kicked a piece of roof shingle and then turned her back on me.

I sighed. That’s not good. We were only just starting to get used to each other, and the last thing I wanted was for her to hate me. If I kept pushing her, though, I had the feeling that was exactly what was going to happen.

“Give the girl a break, Leana,” said Elsa as she sat in her folding chair, massaging the vintage brass locket around her neck. I knew the Victorian mourning jewelry contained a lock of hair from her deceased husband. “You don’t want to wear her out. She's allowed to have rest days between sessions, you know. You don’t need to drill her so hard.”

She frowned, her blue eyes crinkled with crow’s-feet as she attempted to tame her unruly red hair that had been caught in a breeze.

“She’s right.” Jade stuffed her hand in her bag of microwave popcorn and tossed a few kernels into her mouth, the white plastic bracelets around her wrists clacking. She slid her round, purple sunglasses up the bridge of her nose. “Maybe we should break for an early lunch. I hear After Dark makes a mean eggs Benedict,” she said and flashed me a smile.

Black curly hair replaced her usual blonde mane and was shaped in a mohawk style. Hopefully, it was some magical spell and not permanent. A white, ruffled shirt lay under her long, velvet purple jacket. It appeared she was going for a Prince look this morning. I was digging it.

“She needs to learn to control her power.”

The faster she did, the better. I didn’t know for sure if others had learned about my little sister’s unique power, but word always got out somehow. If one douchebag Darius knew about it, I was positive others would soon. And when they did, I wanted to make sure Shay knew how to defend herself. We lived in a dangerous world, especially for young girls with incredible power.

Yet it seemed the more substantial the power, the harder it was to harness and conjure.

“Not today,” said Elsa, giving me her motherly glare that I was sure she’d reserved for her son when he was disobedient.

I didn’t like taking orders from the older witch, but she was right. The more I pushed Shay, the more she withdrew. We were at the limit for today. But I still needed to figure out a way to help her draw out that power of hers.

Maybe I was doing it all wrong? I was going with my gut, the way my mother taught me my Starlight magic. But Shay’s was different. What if I was going about it the wrong way? It wasn’t like I could ask another Starlight witch, who could control the sun’s energy. I was at a loss here. The only other person who might be able to help was her father, our father, and we hadn’t seen him since that night at the hotel.

How does one go about reaching out to an angel? I’d have to ask around.

I looked over at Shay. With her back to me, I couldn’t see her face, but I was sure I’d find the same frustration as before. Poor kid needed a break. “Lunch sounds good. What do you say, Shay?”

At the mention of lunch, Shay whirled around. “Can I have pancakes? With real maple syrup?”

I laughed at the hopeful smile on her face. “Of course.”

Shay’s teeth sparkled in the sun, and for a second, I saw our father’s face. “Cool.” Without another word, Shay spun around and dashed to the emergency exit roof door.

“Wait for us!” I followed after her.

“Doubt she heard you.” Jade folded her chair and stuffed it under her arm.

“Yeah.” I sighed. “Or she did, and she chose not to hear. By the time we get to the lobby, she’ll be sitting and waiting for us in Valen’s restaurant.”

“You’re worried about her. Aren’t you?” Jade’s shoulder brushed up against mine. “About the no-magic thing?”

“A little.” No point in lying. “She should be able to conjure her power by now. She needs to be able to protect herself. I mean, she used it to save my life. It’s in there somewhere. We just have to figure out how to draw it out.”

“She’s young,” said Jade, as though that explained everything.

“I was her age when I started to control my power,” I said, remembering how patient my mother had been with me and how frustrated and very much I’d been like Shay until my powers showed. “But her powers are different from mine. I’m thinking I might be doing this all wrong. Maybe I’m making it worse.”

“I don’t think so.” Elsa was shaking her head, her face set in a deep frown as it did when she was thinking up a storm. “I think you’re doing everything right. Your power is the closest thing to hers, and you’re teaching her the way your power responds to you.”

“So, why isn’t it working?”

Elsa pursed her lips. “I don’t know. I’m sure it will come. You just have to keep working at it with her.”

I nodded, but it didn’t help the feeling of trepidation slowly forming in the pit of my gut. Shay wasn’t showing any signs of her power. And that was a problem.

I yanked out my phone. “I should let Valen know we’re headed his way.”

Me: Heads up. Shay is on her way to the restaurant. She wants pancakes. Be there soon.

“How’s that going?” asked Elsa as she dragged her folding chair closer. “Still going well?”

I stuffed my phone in my pocket and made for the door. “Yes. Really well.” I knew she was asking about Shay and not me. The move to Valen’s much bigger, superior apartment had gone better than I’d hoped. Shay’s room was double the size I had in my old thirteenth-floor apartment, not to mention she had her own en-suite bathroom too. She seemed much happier there than back at my old place. And I thought I knew why. “Valen spoils her.”

Elsa chuckled. “I’m not surprised. He loves that girl.”

My belly warmed at her comment. “You got that right. After what she’s been through, she deserves to be pampered.” As a giant, Valen was programmed to be a protector, a guardian. It was in his DNA. But I’d also noticed a fatherly side to him that had emerged when he first met Shay and it continued to grow. The two of them were close, and I loved seeing him dote on her. That side of him, for some reason, had my hormones out of whack. And it was sexy as hell.

“You know what’s next. Don’t you?” Jade opened the door, and we followed her inside.

Music, TVs, and the sounds of people conversing reached me as we stepped into the hallway of the thirteenth floor. I stared into my old apartment, the one I’d given to Catelyn, and saw the door open. But it wasn’t Catelyn’s home anymore. The giantess had moved back to be with her family a week ago since she could now control her inner giant, and gave me the apartment back. I’d accepted, of course, and now I used the space as my office and headquarters for my friends and me.

“What?” I asked as she and Elsa set their folding chairs at the entrance of our now office.

Jade’s eyes widened. “Wedding bells.”

Heat rushed to my face like I held a flamethrower to it. “It’s a bit too soon to be talking about weddings. I’ve only been divorced a month and a half,” I added as we crossed the hallway toward the elevator.

Elsa shrugged. “So? What does that have to do with anything? When it’s right, it’s right.”

I pressed the down button from the elevator control panel. “I’m not ready for a wedding right now.” But I was ready for a grilled double-cheese sandwich.

Not that I hadn’t thought about it. I’d thought a lot about what it would be like to be married to a giant—a hot, uber-sexy giant, no less. But also strong, dependable, and charming.

Elsa scrunched up her nose in thought. “It’s always best to marry a man your own age. As your looks fade, so will his eyesight.”

I huffed out a laugh. “Valen hasn’t popped the question either.”

No. That was way too fast. And I had the feeling Valen wasn’t ready. He’d lost his first wife to cancer, and no way would I pressure him into another wedding.

“Who’s popped the question?”

The voice snapped my head around, and I found a tall, handsome male walking toward us, a snug white T-shirt making a show of his tight muscles and athletic body.

“Valen asked you to marry him?” Julian’s voice echoed in the hallway like he was shouting through a megaphone.

“Shhh!” Mortified, I reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him close. “Quiet. No one popped any questions,” I hissed, my face flaming anew.

I looked over his shoulder to an older female shifter named Linette, who was staring at me with a knowing smile on her face. I knew that smile said she was about to spread a rumor on the thirteenth floor. If she did, the entire floor would know of this “faux wedding proposal” by the time the elevator hit the lobby’s floor. Fantastic.

“Okay, okay,” chuckled Julian, running his fingers through his short brown hair. “Sorry. I heard wrong.”

He didn’t look sorry at all, more like he enjoyed seeing me red-faced and horrified. I pointed a finger at him. “I’ll get you for this.”

Julian laughed harder. “I said I was sorry.”

With a ting, the elevator doors swished open. I stepped through and whirled around. “What about you? Have you proposed to Cassandra yet?”

Julian’s face clamped tight, and I swear I saw something like fear in his eyes. He just stood there like a teetering zombie, not answering. Guess I hit a nerve with that.

“You coming to After Dark with us?” asked Jade, sensing a bit of tension as she stared at her witch friend with concern like he was sick or something.

Julian just nodded and stepped into the elevator after Elsa. I glanced at the tall witch, but he refused to make eye contact with me. If I were to guess, I’d say Julian was thinking of asking Cassandra to marry him. They had been dating for about a month now, and I knew he’d been in love with her for, like, forever. Plus, he loved her twin daughters. But as of right now, he looked like he was in hell.

I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing as the elevator jerked and began its descent. A few seconds later, the doors opened, and we stepped into a spacious lobby with high ceilings, lots of glass, gray paint, and rich red accents.

A pale man fitted in an expensive, dark gray, three-piece suit stood behind a counter at the end of the lobby, typing on a tablet. Errol, the lizard shifter, and the hotel’s concierge.

He looked up, his light eyes fixated on me for a few beats. A nasty cruelty lurked behind the calm of his features, a contemptuous grimace hiding within the ordinary posture of his body. Yup. He still hated my guts, but I didn’t blame him. I had nearly killed him—the key word nearly—a month ago when I lost my temper and threw him across the lobby with my Starlight magic. Oopsie. The shifter was a creep, no loss of love there.

 I followed the ladies out the hotel’s front doors, and together we entered Valen’s restaurant, which happened to be conveniently situated right next door. The storefront sat under a gray awning with a sign below that said AFTER DARK.

The restaurant door banged behind us as we wandered into the lobby. The modern interior had many dark gray furnishings in an open-concept room with twelve-foot ceilings and exposed beams and pipes, just like the apartment upstairs.

“Your juvenile delinquent is over there.”

I spun to find my favorite hostess, whose name I never cared to remember, in a white shirt and short black skirt. She was staring at a young girl sitting by herself like everyone thought she carried the Ebola virus.

Said hostess, with her long, flowing brown hair and perfectly tight body, had the feel of a mermaid about her. If I looked closely enough, I swore I could see a pair of gills and scales.

She hated me from the start because I suspected she was in love with Valen. Looked like he preferred warm-blooded females as opposed to cold sushi.

“Thanks, Fish,” I told her, smiling at her intake of breath, and moved between occupied tables. Paranormals glanced up briefly as I passed them, and reached Shay.

“You could have waited for us,” I told her as I took the empty seat beside hers.

Shay’s face was buried in the menu. “I was hungry.”

I snorted. “You’re always hungry.” Thank God Valen didn’t charge us for food in his restaurant. Otherwise, I’d be broke just feeding Shay. Who knew kids ate so much?

“You’ve been working the girl since eight this morning. Of course, she’s hungry,” said Elsa as she pulled out a chair and squeezed herself in. “Why is this chair smaller?” She shifted, trying to get comfortable.

Jade giggled. “It’s not. Your butt just got bigger.”

“It did not,” snapped Elsa. Her cheeks grew a touch of pink.

“Well, the chair didn’t shrink,” laughed Jade as she stabbed her sunglasses into her hair.

Julian let himself fall into his seat. He rubbed his hands together and said, “After all the workouts with Cassandra last night, I could go for a big steak.”

“Ew.” Jade grabbed the empty chair next to him and sat. “No talk of whoopee, please. We’re about to eat.”

“Please.” Julian leaned over the table. “I know you’ve been having plenty of sex with Jimmy. Boning every day, twice on Sundays. Am I right?”

“What?” Jade hid her face with her hands but not before we saw how red it got.

I glared at Julian, flicking my eyes over to the little person who was now fully attentive to our adult conversation. He mouthed a “sorry” between the goofy grin on his face.

“Your banana pancakes are on their way,” said a deep, husky voice.

I turned my head to feast on the man who’d appeared at our table. His handsome face pulled into a smile that sent hot tingles over my skin. The black shirt he wore had to be made of some stretchy material. Otherwise, all those large muscles would have ripped it by now. The tattoos that peeked out from under his sleeves only added another layer of sexiness and danger. I liked it. I liked it a lot.

“And real maple syrup,” said Shay as I pulled my eyes away from the giant to see her smiling face.

Valen gave a soft laugh. “And real maple syrup.” His dark eyes flicked to mine, burning with a kind of intensity that had my insides churning.

I had assaulted his broad chest with my face two months ago. He’d been unforgivably rude. But now… now we shared a bed, among many other things.

The giant pulled out a small notepad. “I’ll be taking your orders.” He brushed back a strand of his dark, wavy hair, streaked with gray at the temples, which only made him more attractive.

“Well,” said Elsa, her reading glasses tipping the edge of her nose as she read the menu. “I’ll have the chicken parmesan. Please ask your cook not to burn the cheese. I hate it when the cheese is burnt. Takes away from the flavor.”

Valen’s lips twisted in a smile. “Noted.” He looked at me. “And what will you—”

A scream split the air.

I jerked around in my seat in time to see a female customer dashing out of the ladies’ room.

“She’s dead! She’s dead!” screamed the same female, her eyes wide as she pointed in the direction of the bathrooms. Her gray-white hair was a matted mess like she hadn’t brushed it in years, and her blue eyes brimmed with tears and fear. Our eyes met, and her lips trembled, but no other words came out. I had the fleeting feeling I knew her, but the thought vanished just as quickly.

“What the hell?” I stood up, my heart thundering, and ran toward the bathrooms, which were to the left of the entrance.

I dashed into the short hallway and rounded the corner. I pushed open the door, with the picture of a werewolf in a dress, holding a parasol, and froze.

A wave of nausea hit as I stared at an emaciated, mummy-like face and withered body. She was lying on her side. Female from her sheer size and the width of her shoulders and delicate, tiny hands.

The skin over her face, hands, and neck was dried as though all the blood and fluids had been drained from her body. Her teeth were too large, and barely a hint of a nose was left.

My lips parted as I ran my eyes over the body. Because, yes, it was a body. No one could be alive and look like that.

Whoever she was, she was dead.

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