Shades of Witches - Ebook
Shades of Witches - Ebook
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Wonderful. Guess there’s no rest for the wicked, as they say. Am I wicked? Just a little.
As a Starlight witch, I’ve had my fair share of struggles. I mean, let’s face it, being a witch is tough enough, but when you add a little sister into the mix, things get crazy.
Shay’s got the power of the sun inside her, and everyone wants a piece of that, including the evil vampiress Freida. She wants to use my little sister for her own nefarious purposes, and I’ll be damned if I let that happen.
To make matters worse, my past has come back to haunt me. My giantess friend, Catelyn, still blames me for her parents’ death, and she’s got a vendetta against me that even my Starlight magic can’t fix. I’ve got to protect Shay and keep her safe from Freida while dodging Catelyn’s giantess fists and icy glares.
So I’ve got to protect Shay from Freida and try to convince Catelyn I’m not the villain she makes me out to be. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. Because when you mix magic, vampires, and old grudges, things tend to get a bit messy.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve and a couple of magical friends who’ve got my back, including my sexy-as-sin giant boyfriend, Valen.
And I never back down from a challenge. Ever.
Shades of Witches 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
Look Inside Chapter 1
“Can I help you?”
“Huh?” I looked up, way up, into the face of an extraordinary woman. She was the tallest, largest woman I’d ever seen. Well, if you counted Catelyn in her giantess form, she was a close second. This woman looked like she might have some giantess ancestry in her as well. She had to be at least seven feet tall, if not taller.
Her long, black hair hovered at her waist, tied into a braid. She wore black cargo pants tucked into boots and a black shirt. Something about her hinted at an Asian heritage, although I couldn’t be sure.
“Wow. You’re big—I mean, large—sorry, I meant to say that you’re not what I was expecting.” By her terrifying frown, I gathered she didn’t appreciate my verbal diarrhea. But in my defense, she did kind of throw me off for a moment.
I’d been so deep in thought on my way here, reflecting on my meeting with Freida only half an hour ago, that when this generous female opened the door, I had to blink a few times to ensure I wasn’t hallucinating. I barely remembered getting into a cab and riding all the way here. Freida’s appearance was still fresh as I replayed the events in my head. Disturbingly fresh.
The vampiress had been waiting for us as if she knew Shay attended Fantasia Academy. Or maybe she just wanted me to see her, for me to know that she knew about Shay and where to find her. Either way, the vampiress knew Shay went to that school. Although she might not be able to get in, she could still grab Shay the moment she stepped out.
Fear slid into the corners of my mind at how she’d been staring at me, like I wasn’t a threat, like I was an easy obstacle to remove so she could get her bloodsucking hands on my little sister.
She knew I was a Starlight witch. Good for her. And I knew she was a bloodsucking leech. Whoop-dee freaking-doo.
I was going to need help retrieving my little sister from school today. A giant’s help. With Valen accompanying me, I’d feel much better. Safer since my starlights wouldn’t be of much help. Still, it meant that from now on, Shay couldn’t go anywhere without me or Valen, preferably both. If Freida knew Shay went to that school, I was certain she knew where we lived.
The thought of grabbing my little sister and running away north hit me again. It looked like now was the time for us to run.
But if we did, I might not be able to find the cure for the Mark of Death curse for Shay. My gut told me I would find the cure for the curse here in the city, not out in the wilderness. What if I took Shay up north, only to discover that she got weaker, and Valen’s healing magic stopped helping her? What if taking her away from the vampiress inadvertently made her worse? I didn’t know if I could risk my sister’s life on such a chance.
I needed to talk to Valen. But first, I needed to speak with this coven of sorceresses.
The woman crossed her larger-than-life arms over her chest. Her eyes wrinkled in displeasure. “What do you want?” Her voice was rough, deep, and manly. I wasn’t sure if she was doing that on purpose to make herself even more frightening, but it worked. She stood there before the doors to the building like a doorman, or rather, doorwoman, looking like she was ready to pound the heads of intruders or the unwelcomed. Me.
Please don’t pound my head. “Right. I’m here to see the coven. Ladies of the Light. They’re expecting me.”
Elsa had pulled some strings and managed to get me a meeting with them. Through, with who, I didn’t know. And I didn’t have the name of any of the sorceresses, just the name of the coven and the address. I blinked and looked past the doorwoman to the stone chapel behind her.
The chapel was small, but its steeple towered over the trees in the center of the block, glinting in the sunlight with a white stone façade. Four columns supported an imposing portico, which served as the main entrance and was shielded by a line of seven-foot cedar trees that kept it out of sight from humans.
Elsa had told me that the coven had bought the chapel in the 1900s and converted it to their needs, whatever that meant. It was pretty, but I wasn’t here to admire the view or discuss the architecture.
When the doorwoman didn’t let me through, I added, “I’m Leana Fairchild. The Starlight witch. You can tell them I’m here.”
The doorwoman’s dark eyes flickered with interest at the mention of my name. “You’re the Starlight witch?”
“That’s what I said.”
“This way.” She turned around and walked into the chapel.
I followed the doorwoman inside, and my body immediately filled with a strange sensation. I couldn’t help but inhale deeply, feeling the electric-charged air cling to me. The energy in the room seemed to build around me as I crossed the threshold, tingling from head to toe.
Wards. Powerful wards. No doubt to fry curious intruders if this doorwoman was indisposed.
I stepped through a short entrance lit with sconces that lined the walls, illuminating everything in a bright yellow glow. The light reminded me of Shay when she’d turned on her sun magic and stood there in her dazzling glory for all to see. I shook my head, trying to get rid of the thoughts of the vampiress. I needed to focus on getting Shay the cure or counter-curse. It was why I was here.
Pushing down my thoughts, I followed the doorwoman up a small set of steps leading to another hallway. My shoes clonked loudly as I made my way up. Every ten feet, the lights flickered on, sending yellow beams reflecting on the stone walls.
At the end of the hallway stood a door. Not just any door. Golden sigils and runes were etched all around the doorframe. The markings pulsed and thrummed along with the massive energy rippling from them.
This had to be it. The coven was behind that door. Why else would it be so heavily guarded by magical wards and energies?
I felt like I was staring at a high-voltage power outlet that would cook you like a fried chicken if you got too close.
The doorwoman gestured toward the door. “In.”
I raised a brow. “Not much for small talk, huh? But I’m guessing you’re more muscle than brains. Right?”
A glimmer of annoyance crossed her face. She waved her hand at the door like I hadn’t understood her the first time. “You need to go through the door.”
“I got that.” I wasn’t an idiot. The door was decorated with powerful sigils for a reason. “What happens when I open the door?”
The doorwoman stared blandly at me. “If you are who you say you are, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
I like how she purposely avoided my question. “And if I’m not? What happens then?”
She blinked. “You will die.”
“Nice.” So this was some sort of test. A truth test or magical test of sorts. If I was the Starlight witch, then technically, I should live. If not…
“Only those with magic in their blood can enter and speak to the Ladies of the Light. If you’re not who you say you are… then…”
“I’ll be a fried chicken.”
I stared at the door. I didn’t know why, but I was suddenly really nervous. My armpits were damp with stress sweat. And for a moment, I doubted my abilities as a witch. It was daylight. What if the wards didn’t recognize my starlight magic? What if I wasn’t “witch” enough to pass through those doors?
No. I came here to see the coven, and the coven I would see.
Determined, I sucked in a breath, stepped up to the door, and turned the handle.
The door lit up in bright yellow-and-white hues. I could feel the magical power of the protective wards quivering as they moved through me. I felt a sudden rush of energy exit my body as the wards locked into place.
The wall shook, and then the heavy door opened silently, revealing another room beyond it.
I reached out and patted myself down to reassure myself that I was indeed still alive. I was. It seemed I’d passed this test.
Drawing in a deep breath, I walked through.
I entered a room that must have been the hub of the chapel at some point with its towering ceilings and elaborate stained-glass windows. Being that the chapel was small, it was a short walk—stressful but brief. I crossed the room, and where the altar would have been stood a half-moon desk made of gleaming hardwood.
Around the desk sat twelve females, the sorceresses.
They wore matching white robes, but that’s where the similarities ended. Their hair was a mix of colors and styles, some cascading down their shoulders, while others were bald as eggs. Some held themselves with otherworldly poise and hidden strength, like older people with a secret youthful vigor and power. A couple looked to be my age, and others were frail and bent. But I knew that was a ruse. They were still as sharp and powerful as they came.
The sorceresses’ eyes fixed on me as I neared. My skin tingled as I approached, like I was rubbing against static electricity, but I felt no pain. I cast a quick glance around them as I kept walking, not settling on any of them. I thought about stopping. Maybe I needed them to invite me closer. But I’d come this far and passed their stupid test, so I decided to keep going. I walked up to the desk and stopped.
Again, they just ogled me without a single word. The silence was making me uncomfortable, but more restless than anything.
“Hi,” I said, my voice echoing through the room. Looked like I was going to be doing the talking. I had no problem with that. “I’m here because I need your help.” Might as well cut to the chase.
“Leana Fairchild, the Starlight witch,” said one of the sorceresses. Her long, blonde hair gleamed like it was under the sun, which it wasn’t, and her voice was aged, unlike the face of a thirtysomething woman staring at me. She reminded me of Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings movies. She looked like an elf. I had to refrain from angling my head to see if she had pointy ears.
“Yes. That’s me,” I said instead. “Listen. I’m here because—”
“I am Cassia,” said the same sorceress. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen another Starlight witch.” Her light eyes widened in delight and… was that curiosity?
I narrowed my eyes. Her tone was friendly enough, yet I could detect some ulterior motive behind her words. A stirring of unease pulled through me.
“You knew another Starlight witch?” I had to admit that piqued my curiosity. I’d only heard about others like me. I’d never met one. Not if you didn’t count Shay, who is technically a Starlight witch since she can harness the sun’s power, which is a star. And my starlights loved her.
“Over a hundred years,” said another sorceress with coffee-colored skin whose hair was cut so sort, she looked bald. Light from the room reflected off her scalp. “Her name was Odessa Devereux.”
By the gloomy tone in her voice, I gathered that she didn’t live to the ripe old age of one hundred and one. “What happened to her?”
“She was murdered by a cabal of Dark wizards,” answered Cassia. “They were trying to tap into her starlight power and use it for their own gain.”
“Doesn’t work like that.” It angered me to know that some fools, even back then, thought they could steal the power of a Starlight witch. And it was still happening.
“Yes. We know.” Cassia shared a look with her coven. They were silent, staring at each other, and I had the feeling they were communicating telepathically. Could sorceresses do that?
“Which stars do you draw your powers from?” asked another sorceress, who looked as old as Auria had before she’d gone under her magical knife and ended up looking younger than me.
I felt pressure in my head behind my eyes. I opened my mouth to tell them, and then at the last minute, I withdrew. Weird. I’d never be so candid with strangers, especially strangers who were all looking at me like they couldn’t wait to cut open my head to see what made me tick. This felt… felt like they’d used a persuasion spell on me. To make me communicate what they wanted. When I reached out to my starlights, what little I could, I felt a slight tingle of magic inside me that wasn’t my own. Foreign. The sorceresses’. Yup. They’d just tried to manipulate me. My head throbbed from the pressure like I was suffering from a sinus headache. But I hadn’t told them anything. I resisted.
Cassia’s eyebrow lifted, seemingly sensing that I’d broken whatever coaxing spell they’d tried on me. She looked… she looked impressed. The others looked at me with even more interest than before, like I’d just grown a third arm, and they were watching me clap.
It ticked me off. I found it rude. They were trying to force me to tell them my secrets about my magic. This alone would have enraged me, but I was in a time crunch. Plus, I was in a room with twelve mighty magical practitioners. The odds were most definitely against me. I also needed their help. If I gave them the finger, I doubted they would offer their assistance.
“Be on your guard,” Elsa had said to me over the phone on my way here. “Sorceresses don’t think like we do. We’re nothing to them. Don’t consent to anything you don’t want to do. Just remember who they are and what we mean to them.”
We were objects of curiosity, it appeared. I’d admit, this group of females had gone too far to spell me like that. But I had to remind myself why I was here in the first place. It wasn’t about me.
This is for Shay. For my sister.
I smoothed out my anger as best as I could, cleared my throat, and said, “Do you know the sorceress Auria?”
At that, I had all their attention on me again. Good.
“Yes, we do,” answered the dark-skinned sorceress. “Auria is a troubled soul. She was once part of our coven long ago. But she became obsessed with the forbidden, so we had to sever our bond.”
“She’d lost her mind,” said another sorceress, the only one with red hair. “She wasn’t Auria anymore. Not after…” She clamped her mouth shut like she’d said too much.
“She was warned, Mave,” said another sorceress, her eyes hidden in the folds of her wrinkles. “We did all we could. And she chose the forbidden over her own coven. She was lost to us.”
Again, the coven lapsed into another bout of silence, all gazing into each other’s eyes with their brows twitching and their expressions shifting like they were having a telepathic argument. I stood there feeling like an idiot as things became awkward.
Finally, Cassia folded her hands on the desk. “If you’re here to seek her out, I’m afraid she won’t help you. Auria hasn’t been part of this coven for years.”
“Oh. I know she won’t.” I clasped my hands in front of me and said, “She’s dead.”
A gasp rippled through the assembled sorceresses. Some leaned back in their chairs, their expressions sour like I’d just passed gas. It happens when I’m nervous.
“Preposterous,” cried the sorceress named Mave, her eyes on me. Her pale skin flashed red on her cheeks. “That is absurd. You insult us with your claims, Starlight witch. Auria isn’t an ordinary witch. She is a sorceress. And a mighty one at that. She wields powerful magics that could level mountains and topple fortresses. Her arcane knowledge is unsurpassed. Her power is undeniable.”
Here we go. She’d said it like Auria was some kind of indestructible goddess. “Yes. I know she was a sorceress. But she’s still dead. So unless she can return from the dead, your old pal Auria is gone.”
“How do you know this?” asked the bald sorceress.
Hmmm. This was the part where I wasn’t sure they’d be happy. I still needed them to help me with the curse. The last thing I needed was to anger them because I’d killed one of their own. I didn’t sense their love for Auria, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t turn on me.
Resolute, I said, “I killed her.”
The coven exploded in a cacophony of suspicion. Then the expected outcries followed, ending in a weird silent treatment as they presumably had a joined freakout moment inside their own minds.
This was most definitely the strangest thing I’d ever witnessed in my life. And I’d had my share of weird.
The only one who didn’t look surprised was Cassia. She regarded me for a moment. “How did she… die?”
“I’m assuming because of this.” I pulled out the pendant with the blue stone I’d pulled off Auria’s neck. Elsa had dropped it off last night after our phone call, thinking it might come in handy if I were to meet with the coven.
I held out my hand. When Cassia gestured for me to come forward, I stepped closer, dropped the pendant in her hand, and took a step back. “I don’t know what it is, but it made her younger. She killed a few witches, took their powers, and made herself young again. You can check with the Gray Council. They should have everything you need to verify my story.”
Cassia rolled the stone in her hands, her eyes closed. “Auria tried to kill me. I didn’t want to kill her. I needed her. But she left me no other choice.” No one said a word, so I kept going. “She was powerful, a formidable opponent. And she might have killed me, too, but when I ripped that pendant off… she…”
“Became old and frail.” Cassia opened her eyes. “I can feel an echo of Auria’s essence in the stone. Yes, I believe you. She is dead.”
A murmur traveled along the other sorceresses. She passed it on to the bald sorceress next to her, who widened her eyes appreciatively like she’d never held one or hadn’t in a very long time. “This is a Neidr stone. They are extremely rare and extremely dangerous. It can store power.”
“I got that.”
Cassia fixed her gaze on me. “And you say Auria attacked you? I know her well enough to know she wouldn’t do such a thing without a good reason.”
“Yes, well...” I exhaled, thinking of how to explain it all. “She was angry because I stole her book of curses a few months ago.” At their collective frowns, I added, “To rid the curse she put on my friend Jimmy, which turned him into a wooden toy dog.” I tried to gauge their reactions to see if they knew what I had done, but all I got back was a set of blank faces.
“Well, she wanted revenge and cursed my little eleven-year-old sister. She cursed her with the Mark of Death.” I looked into their faces, and still their expressions showed nothing. “So, I’m here to ask for your help to rid her of the curse.”
At that, the group of sorceresses gazed at each other and had another one of those telepathic chats.
I stood there feeling my blood pressure rise until Cassia broke the silence. “I’m sorry, Starlight witch, but we cannot help you.”
My jaw dropped open. Anger and frustration filled me, and I curled my fingers into fists to keep them from shaking. “You can’t, or you won’t?”
The bald sorceress looked at Cassia before replying, “We do not have dealings with witches and the other paranormal races. We are a private coven. We don’t involve ourselves in matters with the other communities.”
“So you’re just going to let a little girl die because you don’t want to get involved?” I seethed, fury pounding me.
“Even if we wanted to help,” said Cassia. “Auria’s curses were legend. The Mark of Death is, well… simply put… it cannot be undone.”
“Bull,” I told them. I knew they were holding back. I could see it in their eyes, even though they tried to hide it. They knew how to remove it, but they wouldn’t tell me because of some misplaced loyalty to Auria. She was a sorceress, whereas I was just a mere witch, a lesser magical practitioner to them. I was nothing.
“Licasta, please escort the Starlight witch out,” said the bald sorceress.
I flinched, seeing the mammoth-sized woman beside me and not having heard her approach.
With a last hateful glance their way, I spun around and marched out, my steps hurried. I needed to get the hell out of here before I did something stupid. The fact that they had kept the pendant wasn’t lost on me either.
It couldn’t have gone more wrong if I’d tried. The coven refused to help me.
I’d failed Shay.
But it wasn’t over yet. It was time to make that celestial phone call to Matiel, my dearest angel father.