Wicked Ways - Ebook
Wicked Ways - Ebook
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Okay, not exactly the news I wanted to hear from my aunts. But here it was. Now, what the hell was I supposed to do with it?
Just when I thought I could finally get a well-deserved break from the shitshow I’d been living for the past months, I get hit with this.
To make matters worse, an investigator starts snooping around Hollow Cove, asking questions about my aunts. If they’re found guilty of this murder, it’s a one-way ticket to Grimway Citadel—the witch prison.
Adding to my problems, something in the dark is hunting me. And unfortunately, it’s not a naked Marcus.
If that isn’t bad enough, things between me and the chief are falling apart, literally, and I don’t think they can be fixed.
If you like fast-paced urban fantasy adventure with a kick-butt heroine and plenty of action, suspense, and humor, you’ll love Wicked Ways.
Look Inside Chapter 1
Look Inside Chapter 1
We killed someone.
Okay, not exactly the words I was expecting to spew out of my Aunt Dolores’s mouth, but here they were. And here we were. Now, what the hell was I supposed to do with them?
Just when I thought I could finally get a well-deserved break from the shit show I’d been living for the past months, my aunts dropped a bomb.
I rubbed my temples with my fingers. “Who? Who did you kill?” The words sounded dark and foreign on my lips.
My aunts all shared a look. Beverly’s features scrunched up for a moment, but then she smoothed them, her small nose and perfect lips easing into a pleasant expression.
“His name was Nathaniel Vandenberg,” answered Beverly, her beautiful voice showing a hint of distress. “He was the most eligible bachelor in the witch community. Tall. Dark. Handsome. Powerful. Rich. He had the whole package.”
“More like the crazy package,” prompted Ruth, tension carrying through her words.
Again, the aunts shared a look, but none of them answered. Instead, Dolores pushed back her chair and stood. She moved to the kitchen and grabbed a wine bottle from the wine cabinet along with four glasses. She set a glass in front of each of us, twisted the cork with a corkscrew, lifted it out, and poured a generous amount of red wine in each glass.
Living with my aunts over these past few months, I came to understand that the more wine they poured, the bigger the problem. Judging by the volume of red sloshing in those glasses, we were facing a crisis of gargantuan witchy proportions.
Beverly grabbed her wineglass first, titled her head back, and downed the entire contents. She smacked her glass on the table. “Hit me again.”
Yup. This was going to be a big one.
“You gonna eat that?” Hildo, the black cat familiar I’d rescued from the in-between and revived, eyed the cheese on the table. On my lap, he turned his yellow eyes on me and gave me an eager look. More like a starving-kitty look he’d mastered over the last few hours. I broke the cheese in half and gave him a piece. He’d barely been here twenty-four hours, and he already had me wrapped around his little fingers.
Beverly took a big gulp of her freshly poured wine. “I met Nathaniel about a year ago at the Winter Solstice Ball in Providence. That’s in Rhode Island.” She sighed dramatically. “Ugh, he was so handsome. Fit as a shifter in his prime. And as hard—”
“We get it, thanks,” I said, raising my hands. Yeah, not going there.
Hildo snorted, and I caught a glimpse of him expertly swiping his paw over the cheese platter and snatching up a piece in his claw. Clever little bugger.
“Which was very unusual for a witch in his late fifties,” continued Beverly, her red manicured fingernails wrapped around the base of her wineglass. “Rare stock. He reminded me of Sean Connery in the James Bond movies. He had skills. With just one look… he made you want to rip your clothes off. So, when he asked me for a date, well, I didn’t see why I should refuse. I was—”
“Thrilled,” said Dolores, her eyebrows high on her long face. “You wouldn’t shut up about it. I remember quite well you saying that only the devastatingly beautiful and voluptuous would catch the eye of Nathaniel Vandenberg.”
Beverly shrugged and threw her blonde hair over her shoulder as a tiny smile pulled the corners of her lips. “That’s true. I can’t help it if I was blessed by the goddess with a body that is every man’s desire…” Her green eyes filled with sudden terror, and whatever she was going to say next vanished.
I wasn’t surprised if such a handsome man would want to date my Aunt Beverly. She was gorgeous with a small, but voluptuous body, perfectly proportioned and fit. Any man would be lucky to have her on his arm. So why did they kill him?
I took a sip of my wine. “So, what happened? I get the feeling he was no Prince Charming, this Nathaniel character.”
Ruth made a face as she peeled the label off the wine bottle. “He wasn’t. I still have the pins in my voodoo doll to prove it.”
My lips parted. I stared at my sweet Aunt Ruth—the tiny witch with the large, innocent blue eyes and her white hair piled on the top of her head in a messy bun held by two pencils, who always saved the spiders and beetles found in the house and let them out in the backyard—wondering who this new witch was.
“You made a voodoo doll of this guy?”
Ruth looked smug. “I made thirteen. You want to see them?”
“Maybe later.” Not really. Voodoo dolls gave me the creeps. But if I ever needed to make one, I knew who to ask.
Again, the kitchen went to silent mode, the hum of the refrigerator and dishwasher cutting into the silence. Though no words were needed to see the gravity of this situation, if the tight expressions on each aunt’s face were any indication.
My shoulders stiffened with tension in the new silence until Beverly broke it.
She lifted her head and said, “It started about a month after we were dating.” Her face twisted in a memory that would haunt her for the rest of her life. “There were little signs, you know, at the beginning. But I ignored them. I thought I was overreacting.” She gave a forced laugh. “How could Nathaniel Vandenberg be anything other than a perfect gentleman? It was absurd.”
Fury seemed to stop my heart. I frowned, knowing what she was trying to articulate without having to say the words. “He hit you?” I loathed nothing more than an abusive man. It got me all worked up, and not in a good way.
“Worse. Much worse,” informed Dolores, her voice strained. “When she came home with bruises around her neck one morning, I knew precisely what kind of man he was.”
“The kind you push down the basement and forget about,” growled Ruth, rolling a torn piece of the wine bottle’s label between her fingers, a crazed look in her eyes.
Grief and anger slammed into me at the thought of anyone hurting my Aunt Beverly. And bruises around her neck could only be one thing. He’d tried to strangle her.
Fury gripped me. “Son of a bitch bastard.”
Beverly wiped at her eyes. “He did things to me… he… he…” She swallowed hard, her face pale, and my gut twisted, that piece of cheese threatening to say hello again. She shifted on her chair and said, “We all know there’s not a prude bone in this exquisite body. I’m the first one to try new things in the bedroom. Hell, I invent things in the bedroom. The Kama Sutra’s got nothing on me. I’m the Beverly Sutra of my generation.” Again, that forced smile hidden behind a mask of horror. “But…” Tear-framed green eyes met mine, and a terrible fear lay in her gaze. “But the things he did to me were… unnatural.”
I stiffened in my seat, my imagination running wild, afraid to ask what kinds of things she meant because I had a pretty good idea what they were.
Beverly took a sip of her wine and let out a shaky breath. “He promised he would stop. He booked a suite at the Harbor Inn Hotel in Cape Elizabeth for the weekend. We were going to spend a romantic weekend, just the two of us.” She brushed another tear away. “He could be persuasive, and I believed him.” She shook her head as angry tears spilled down her pretty face. “I was so stupid.”
Dolores reached out and tapped her sister’s hand. “Stop. This isn’t your fault. You didn’t ask for this to happen. The witch was crazy.”
“He was a psychopath,” blurted Ruth. She twisted her face. “Or is it sociopath? I always get these two confused. Oh, I know. He’s a psyciopath,” she added happily.
Now, I was really interested. “And? What happened?”
“Well.” Dolores leaned back in her chair, her face hard and her lips pressed together. Her gaze flicked to Beverly before she spoke. “When she didn’t come home after the weekend—”
“We went looking for her at the Harbor Inn Hotel,” interjected Ruth, her eyes on Beverly and looking like she was about to burst into tears.
Dolores cleared her throat. “When we found her room, she was …” Her expression darkened with horror. “She was on the floor. Bleeding, broken, barely alive. He’d performed the magicae effusio spell on her.”
“What’s that?” It sounded familiar, like I’d read about it or heard of it, but I couldn’t remember.
“An illegal spell,” answered Ruth flatly. She looked over at Beverly. I could see that my aunt was still struggling to keep it together.
“It’s a magic absorption spell. It’s when a witch taps into another witch’s power to drain them of it.” Dolores’s expression was laced with a threatening warning. “The way a vampire might drain the blood from its victim. Only this spell kills the witch in question and absorbs her power inside the other witch, making them stronger.”
My jaw clenched. “Like the immortals in Highlander.”
Dolores raised a questioning brow. “I’ve never heard of the Highlander immortals? Are they some kind of demon?”
Hildo chuckled, and I shook my head. “Eighties movie. Never mind.” Though it was cult classic and one of my favs. Christopher Lambert in a kilt? Need I say more?"
Beverly began to sob silently in her chair. The sound tore some holes in my heart until I could practically feel it leaking. I strained to keep my damn waterworks from spilling all over my face. I hated seeing her like that—frail, defeated, beaten. If this Nathaniel character wasn’t already dead, I would have killed him myself, and then I would have raised him from the dead, only to kill him again.
“Nathaniel was in the shower when we got there, so he didn’t hear us come in,” continued Dolores. Brow pinched, she inched forward in her chair, the emotion in her voice raw, and she blinked fast. “We were doing everything we could to revive her.”
“And then he came out,” said Ruth. Her shoulders stiffened. “And he tried to do to us what he did to Beverly.”
Hildo whistled. “Looking at your expression, that was a mistake. Am I right?” said the cat, and Ruth squared her shoulders proudly.
I leaned forward. “And?” I asked, though I already knew the answer. I caught a glimpse of Ruth sneaking a piece of cheese in Hildo’s direction.
“And…” Dolores let out a sigh. “We fought. We won. End of story.”
I cocked a brow. “I seriously doubt the story ends there.”
“We tried to make him stop,” said Ruth. “We begged him, but he wouldn’t. And then… and then we might have accidentally killed him.”
“He was going to kill us too. We pushed back… maybe a little too hard… and he died. It was an accident. I never meant to kill him—”
“I did.” Dolores’s scowl was fierce, and she reminded me of Gran. “It was self-defense. We were within our rights to fight back. To make him stop. To do whatever it took to save ourselves.”
My gaze fell on Beverly. Her eyes were red, but she’d stopped crying. “You saved Beverly.”
Dolores’s lips twisted in thought. “Having him in the same room saved her. We had minutes to work. Maybe less. We pulled Nathaniel’s body next to Beverly’s, and we were able to reverse the magicae effusio spell.”
My gaze roved around my aunts. A new appreciation blossomed for them, how they saved their sister from this psychotic freak. They were badasses. This sisterhood was tight. Every family had its share of dark secrets. This was theirs. But I was also touched that they trusted me enough to share their secret with me.
A pair of black ears rose from Ruth’s lap, followed by a head and a pair of yellow eyes. Hildo. I glanced down at my now-empty lap. How the hell did he manage that? Sneaky little furball.
My eyes fell on Beverly. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry this happened to you.” My throat tightened. I didn’t know what else to say for fear of bringing more pain to her by reliving the experience. She’d been traumatized enough tonight.
Beverly said nothing as she took another sip of wine, blinking fast.
“Okay, I get it.” I leaned back in my chair and eyed that letter on the table. “I would have killed the bastard too. The creep deserved to die, and it was self-defense. But… what does the letter have to do with anything?”
“Everything.” After a moment, Dolores emptied the last of the wine in her glass.
Beverly stood. “I’ll get another bottle.”
“You see, Tessa. Nathaniel comes from a line of one of the oldest and most prominent and powerful White witch families,” Dolores explained just as Beverly came back with another opened bottle of the same wine and poured some in Dolores’s glass.
Beverly set the bottle on the table and took her seat, her shoulders and face tight with an old fear.
“His family’s loaded,” said Ruth and spread her hands wide to show me just how big of an amount.
“Thanks for that visual, Ruth,” snapped Dolores, pulling her gaze from her sister back to the letter. She looked up at me and said, “This letter is from MIAD.” At my questioning frown, she added, “Merlin Internal Affairs Division. Think of them as the internal affairs within the Merlins. An internal investigative division. The group examines incidents, possible suspicions of lawbreaking, and professional misconduct attributed to Merlins—a police force policing itself.”
“They can take our Merlin licenses away.” Ruth snapped a cracker in half. She gave one piece to Hildo and popped the other into her mouth.
Dolores interlaced her fingers on the table. “You see, Nathaniel’s family is looking for him. They filed a missing person's report. The letter states his last whereabouts were here in Hollow Cove. Beverly is mentioned.” Dolores sighed through her nose. “They’re coming here. To investigate us.”
“What happens if they find out you had something to do with his disappearance?”
“They’ll take our licenses and make sure the Davenport name goes down hard,” said Dolores.
I edged closer in my chair. “My license as well?”
“Maybe not yours,” said Beverly. “But our reputation as Davenport Merlins will be finished.”
Great. Just when I just was finally starting to like my Merlin status.
Dolores tapped a finger on the table. “But I’m worried about his family. If they find out… their enemies have a way of disappearing… never to be seen or heard from again.”
“Poof,” said Ruth, making hand gestures. She was on fire tonight.
“Then…” I said, leaning back, “we make sure they don’t find anything that’ll lead them back to you.” I didn’t like the way the three sisters glanced at each other again after I’d said that, like there was a giant piece of the puzzle they still hadn’t told me. And I had a feeling I knew what that was.
I cast my gaze to each aunt in turn, my heart leaping in my chest. “Where’s the body?”
Dolores gave me a nonchalant shrug and said, “We buried him in the backyard.”
Of course they did.