Charmed Nights - Ebook
Charmed Nights - Ebook
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To get it back, I must complete the witch trials. Okay, so I have to pass a few magical trials. No big deal. Right? Wrong.
The trials are treacherous, ominous, and deadly. I’m not prepared for such brutal, magical tests, but I can’t stop. Stopping means failure, and too many people are counting on me.
But then the worst happens. While I’m trying to focus on the trials, the local baker in Hollow Cove is poisoned and killed. And someone I care about is blamed.
As the clues start to fit together, I realize I have to wade through a pack of lies to find the truth—and to find the real killer.
But first, I’ll need to survive the witch trials.
Charmed Nights is the third book in The Witches of Hollow Cove series. If you like fast-paced urban fantasy adventure with a kick-butt heroine and plenty of action, suspense, and humor, you’ll love Charmed Nights.
Look Inside Chapter 1
Look Inside Chapter 1
I stood in the entryway of Davenport House, my eyes tracing the wood grain from the front door. It gave the place a rich, organic glow, and my heart thumped on superspeed. My aunts and Iris stood a few paces behind me, their nervous energy intensifying my nerves until I felt as though I might jump out of my skin and leave it in a pile on the floor like a heap of discarded clothes.
Today was October 31. It was Samhain, or Halloween as the humans called it, a celebration of the end of summer and the beginning of a new magical year. We prepared a huge feast and honored our dead—witch or animal familiars who’d passed—and took our celebration through the streets of Hollow Cove. The festivities ended with a massive bonfire on Sandy Beach, where we sang and danced until the early morning hours.
It was by far my favorite witchy celebration, yet my heart was not in the celebrating mood.
Today was Samhain, but it was also my first day of the Merlin witch trials.
Two months had passed since I received my summons, if you will, from the Witch Trials Training Division Director, Greta Trickle. In her short letter, Greta had stated that if I didn’t attend the trials my Merlin license would be revoked.
How very kind of her.
According to the lengthy telephone conversation my Aunt Dolores had had with Greta after reading my letter, my Merlin license had been suspended. Greta had written to the North American Board of Merlins, the department that administers the licenses, and had managed—no doubt by exaggerating the circumstances in which I had received mine—to convince the board to suspend my license until I satisfactorily completed the witch trials.
So here I was, two months later, fully energized and ready to begin my newest adventure. Yeah, not really. Truth was, I was nervous as hell.
According to my little black book of ley lines, The Ley Lines of North America, I was going to have to transfer lines after the fifth stop and take another ley line west to High Peak Wilderness, New York—wherever that was. Jumping different ley lines wasn’t the reason I was shaking.
The unknown had my legs doing a little jig—possibly a tap dance.
For nearly two months my aunts had done their best to coach and prepare me for what I might expect. Like clockwork, they’d been quizzing and testing me: Ruth on potions, Dolores on ley lines and power words, and Beverly on enchantments and glamours. It never stopped. Even Iris chipped in. She tested me on my demon summoning skills and Dark curses and hexes. Though the aunts kept telling her that wasn’t in the trials, she just pretended she didn’t hear them and taught me anyway.
And I wanted to learn. All of it. Knowledge was power, and the more magical knowledge I had, the better off I would be. Or so I hoped.
But the truth was, it had been more than thirty years since my aunts had navigated the witch trials, and a lot could change and happen in that amount of time. Which meant, anything they coached me on might not be valid anymore.
I could have responded to Greta with a nice drawing of my middle finger, but seeing how important it was to my aunts that I become a Merlin like them, I decided to keep that drawing lying on my desk. It might come in handy for someone else… like Gilbert.
Being a Merlin meant something. It meant respect in our paranormal communities. It meant holding a position that could actually make a difference and help our people. I wanted to be part of that. For the first time in my life, I felt I had a true purpose, like I was meant to become a Merlin.
So, I’d made a promise to myself. I would pass the witch trials and get my Merlin license back, no matter what.
“It’s fifteen to nine. You should go,” instructed my Aunt Dolores. She stood with a hand on her hip while she gestured with the other, reminding me of a schoolteacher. At five-ten, her deep frown and cynical eyes would have many men scurrying away. Her long gray hair was loose and fell down her back, giving her a softer edge. But you’d be a fool if you thought her soft, just before she knocked you down with one of her spells. “You don’t want to be late on your first day,” she said. “Being late would be catastrophic.”
“The only late that’s catastrophic is when you’re pregnant,” said Beverly, swinging her hips and tossing her blonde hair back. “Or when you have to choose between two men. Or three. Or four men. That’s catastrophic. This isn’t.”
I gave a nervous laugh. “I won’t be late,” I answered, wondering if I’d just answered Beverly or Dolores. Letting out a sigh, I adjusted the strap of my messenger bag on my shoulder. I’d stuffed it with only the essentials: my ever-faithful The Witch’s Handbook, Volume Three, my little black book of The Ley Lines of North America, a couple of power bars, one carrot muffin, my wallet, and my phone.
Speaking of phones, I grabbed it and glanced at it one last time, my heart dancing as I glanced at the screen. No missed calls. No new texts.
Deflated, I dropped my phone back into my bag. Marcus had been MIA for nearly two months. He’d been called on urgent business up in Pennsylvania to help with some crisis the same night we were supposed to have our very first date. He’d texted me that evening before he left.
Marcus: I’m leaving for Pennsylvania tonight. It’s urgent. Give you the details later. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Sorry about dinner. I’ll make it up to you. Promise. Call you when I get back.
I’d texted him back.
You better. And added a smiling emoji.
That was the last text I’d gotten from him. It was the last anything I’d gotten from him. And that was nearly two months ago.
I’d remained hopeful as the weeks went by but nothing. I’d resisted the urge to call him the first two weeks. I didn’t want to be that woman who kept her man on a tight leash. Marcus wasn’t my man. We hadn’t even been on a first date. He wasn’t my anything. But after a month of not hearing from him, I decided to call.
It went straight to his voicemail.
Marcus never called or texted me back. I’d really wanted that dinner, damn it. But if he was ghosting me, he was going to get an earful the next time I saw him.
The fact that he didn’t call back or text to let me know his trip was going to take a little longer than expected… hurt. I’ll admit it. I was falling for the guy, the chief of Hollow Cove. That kiss had been extraordinary, causing my brain cells to explode on impact.
But the fact the guy didn’t call back spoke volumes about said guy.
It said I wasn’t important enough to him to merit one damn phone call.
My pulse sped faster at the thought, and I hated how it made me feel. I felt stupid for letting my guard down and allowing him in, and I was angry as hell.
I forced those gloomy thoughts away. I couldn’t lose my cool or get distracted. I had to focus on what was more important and pressing, like passing the witch trials.
I’d need my whole brain for that—and then some.
My nerves skyrocketed the longer I stood there staring at the door. I glanced over my shoulder to Iris. She gave me a tight smile with her full lips, her dark eyes round with excitement. The thirty-two-year-old Dark witch had settled amazingly well into Davenport House with the rest of us. One look at her pretty, pixie-like face, silky black hair, and perfect little body, you’d never guess that only two months ago she roamed around Hollow Cove as a goat. That douchebag Adan had put the curse on her to keep her quiet. But with Adan six feet under, the curse had lifted. Iris was a witch again.
I thought she might have preferred to return home to her family, but she’d decided to stay with us. We’d become quite close, like sisters, really. Being an only child, I’d always wanted a sister, someone I could rely on since my mother and father (mostly my father) had been MIA most of my childhood.
Ruth handed me a small brown paper bag, pulling me out of my thoughts. “Here. I made you a lunch in case you get hungry. With all that traveling, you might get hungry. And if you’re hungry, all you have to do is eat what’s in the bag.”
“I think she gets it, Einstein,” grumbled Dolores with a smile.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d already packed some snacks. “Thank you, Ruth. That’s very thoughtful.” I snatched up the brown paper bag and dropped it in my messenger bag, not wanting my aunts or Iris to see my shaking hands. It was the only thing I carried. Hauling luggage around would have been awkward. Since I was able to use the ley lines, I could come home after the trials. Thank the cauldron for that. I did not want to stay in a hotel with a bunch of strangers as my blood pressure was already hitting a record high.
Ruth took my hand and squeezed it in hers. “You’ll do fine. Just be yourself,” she encouraged, seemingly having noticed my unease and nervousness no matter how hard I tried to hide it. She smiled, the corners of her blue eyes wrinkling and holding a mixture of wonder and excitement. Her white hair was piled on top of her head in a messy bun held by two pencils.
“That’s the problem,” I mumbled. “Whenever I’m myself, crap happens.”
Ruth laughed. “Me too. It’s part of being a Davenport witch. It’s our charm.”
“Like hell it is. Crap is not my charm,” huffed Beverly, her usual sultry tone high with nerves. She winked at me and added, “My curves are.”
“You ready?” asked Dolores, the tension carrying through in her voice.
“No.” But what choice did I have? Either jump the ley line or lose my Merlin license. I let out a shaky breath. “Well. Guess I’ll be going now.”
“Knock ’em dead,” said Dolores, inclining her head by way of dismissal.
I beamed. “If you say so.”
Dolores rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. Though I wouldn’t mind picking out a casket for Greta. A black one… with little red worms would do marvelous.”
Iris stepped forward. “I wish I could come with you,” said the Dark witch, her black hair swaying against her chin.
“Me too.” I’ll admit, having Iris with me might have helped some of my jitters. But I was a grown woman. I could do this. I had to do this on my own.
I dipped my head. “See you in a bit.”
Steeling myself, I focused my will and reached out to tap the ley line. A vast, roaring current of magical energy radiated out and hit me. I felt the ley line’s magic in my mind, flowing by with a power that vibrated up through the soles of my boots. It charged by like an enormous rushing, crushing river.
I took a deep breath and then thrust my thoughts down into that power. Into the ley line.
And then I reached out, grabbed the door handle, pulled open the door—and jumped.