It Takes a Witch (Wishcraft Mystery Series #1)by Heather Blake
Darcy Merriweather has just discovered she hails from a long line of Wishcrafters-witches with the power to cast spells by making a wish. She's come to Enchanted Village to learn her trade but finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation...See more details below
Darcy Merriweather has just discovered she hails from a long line of Wishcrafters-witches with the power to cast spells by making a wish. She's come to Enchanted Village to learn her trade but finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation...
Read an Excerpt
DEAD AND GONE
“Has anyone seen Sylar?” Ve asked. “He was supposed to walk back with us.”
“He was here a minute ago,” Gayle said.
Ve looked toward the back door. “He probably stepped outside for a moment. He wants me to think he quit smoking, but I know he still sneaks a few cigarettes a day.”
“I’ll check for him,” I offered. I cut through the romance section and walked along a narrow hallway, past a restroom, a small kitchen, a storeroom, and an office.
I opened the back door and was surprised to find Sylar kneeling on the ground, an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Rain fell steadily.
Sylar’s glasses wobbled on his nose as he looked up at me, his face drained of color. Rain dripped off his chin. It was then that I noticed that he was kneeling over someone.
I stepped forward. Alexandra Shively lay on the ground. My breath caught when I spotted Ve’s beautiful turquoise scarf knotted tightly around Alexandra’s neck.
“We need to call the paramedics,” Sylar said in a small voice.
There was no use. Alexandra’s face was swollen, blood trickled from her nose, and her eyes were wide open and bulging, but not seeing anything at all.
She was very clearly dead.
It Takes a Witch
AN OBSIDIAN MYSTERY
Published by New American Library, a division of
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
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First Printing, January 2012
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Copyright © Heather Webber, 2012
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Table of Contents
I am beyond thankful for the wonderful editorial guidance of Sandy Harding. She not only took a chance on me (and Darcy), but also helped me shape this book into something I am incredibly proud of. A big thank-you also goes to Elizabeth Bistrow and everyone at NAL who had a hand in seeing this book come to life.
Endless gratitude goes to Sharon Short, who spent hours with me at a local Panera helping me flesh out Wishcraft rules. I can only imagine what eavesdroppers may have been thinking. Next time, Sharon, the green tea is on me.
To my critique partners, who always know just what to say (even when I might not want to hear it): You’re the best friends a girl can have.
I’m so grateful for my family, who have always been incredibly supportive of me and my dreams. I couldn’t do this without you. Much love.
Finally, to my readers who enthusiastically follow me—and my characters—wherever my books take us … I cannot express how grateful I am. Thank you.
Usually I’m not in the habit of tiptoeing through strange houses under the cover of darkness.
It was unsettling to say the least, and I felt completely out of sorts. My outfit only added to my discomfort. The flouncy, frilly pink satin bodysuit, tulle tutu, and pink ballet slippers were a far cry from my usual jeans and tee.
It didn’t help that my every move was being watched closely.
As I crept up the aged wooden stairs of a large house along the coast of Salem, Massachusetts, Amanda Goodwin followed behind me with her mother-in-law, Cherise, bringing up the rear. They’d ushered me straight upstairs as soon as I’d arrived, their eyes lit like they were two little girls sneaking a peek at Santa. At the top of the steps, a long hallway branched into four bedrooms, one of which had its door closed. Pink and black polka-dotted block letters attached to the wood paneling declared it as my destination: Laurel Grace Goodwin’s bedroom.
“Have you done this before, Ms. Merriweather?” Amanda asked softly, tugging on my gossamer wings. “Played the tooth fairy?”
I had sized up Amanda immediately as a hip suburban soccer mom, in her designer jeans, beaded tank top, and Grecian-inspired sandals. A natural blonde, she wore her hair long and straight, parted down the middle. Lots of lip gloss and mascara but not much else.
I smiled, trying to hide my nervousness. “Please call me Darcy, and this is my first time.” I truly hoped it would be my last. Tulle and I didn’t get along. My legs were itching something fierce, despite the thin protection of a pair of tights.
“Well”—Cherise had the strong Boston accent of someone who had been born and bred in this area—“your aunt Velma highly recommends you, and we trust her and As You Wish implicitly.”
I had been working at my aunt Ve’s business, As You Wish, for only two weeks. The company blended the tasks of a virtual personal assistant and a personal concierge service. Our clients’ requests were diverse, often challenging, and sometimes just plain strange. They ranged from administrative tasks to running errands, to shopping for a gift, to providing an extra pair of hands to clean up a messy house, and much, much more. As You Wish’s motto was that no request was too big or too small and no job impossible—as was proven by the fact that I was standing before the Goodwins looking like a character from a fairy tale.
I transferred my velvet drawstring purse from one hand to the other and noticed I was leaving a trail of glitter behind me. It sparkled on the rich dark oak floors.
Short and pleasantly plump with chin-length snow-white hair, heavily layered and teased, Cherise wore a bit too much makeup, and overaccessorized with several ropes of beaded necklaces and heavy chandelier earrings. “I was glad to hear of you and your sister moving in with Velma. I imagine she’s been glad to share the family business with you?”
Ve had told me that she and Cherise were old friends, though they hadn’t spoken in a while. Even still, I wasn’t the least bit surprised Cherise knew of my arrival to the Enchanted Village, the unique Salem neighborhood where my aunt lived.
A new witch in town doesn’t go unnoticed in these parts.
And two new witches? Rumors were flying faster than some broomsticks.
Cherise either was fishing for a little gossip or was genuinely curious to know if my sister, Harper, and I were aware that the family business she referred to wasn’t the brick-and-mortar As You Wish, but the fact that we could actually grant wishes through a wishing spell.
It was a reasonable inquiry. Until three weeks ago, Harper and I were living in Ohio and dealing with lives that weren’t what we’d imagined. When we received a note from Aunt Ve asking if she could visit because she had something important to tell us, we had no idea how our lives would change. Within a week we had packed up what little we had and moved to the Enchanted Village.
“We’re glad to be here.” Well, I was. Harper was still adjusting.
Putting my (disastrous) divorce and my inability to find a decent job behind me and getting Harper out of Ohio before she caused any more trouble may have been the perfect incentive to move, but learning about our heritage of the Craft, or in my family’s case Wish craft, was now a priority. I was still learning the Wishcraft Laws, and all the ins and outs that came along with the revelation that I was a witch.
Thankfully some of the laws were easy to remember. Like the fact that I can’t wish death on anyone. Or prevent death. Or interfere with true love. Or that no Wishcrafter can grant her own wishes (or other Wishcrafters’ wishes). I also can’t solicit or refuse to grant a wish without severe consequence. However, the biggest rule of all was that I (or any Crafter for that matter) couldn’t reveal to any mortal the truth about my powers or I risked losing my wish-granting abilities forever.
Unfortunately, some of the laws were a little fuzzy. Like the law about wishing for money—granting that wish meant the money would have to be taken from someone else. To follow the Crafters’ basic principle of “Do no harm,” the Wishcrafter Laws also required that only wishes made with motives pure of heart would be granted. How that was actually determined was still a mystery to me.
Cherise pressed. “How do you enjoy working for As You Wish?”
The Goodwins were Curecrafters, healing witches, and were apparently quite nosy to boot. “It’s going well,” I said. “So far this week I’ve tracked down sold-out tickets to tonight’s Boston Pops performance, created a gift basket for a basset hound recovering from surgery, searched online for an out-of-print romance novel, and now this.” I gestured to my costume. I didn’t mention anything about the Wishcrafting, and how I’d been able to use a spell to help a client get last-minute tickets on a sold-out flight to Paris so he could surprise his girlfriend with a weekend getaway.
As You Wish was both popular and highly successful. Most of the requests received were accomplished through hard work and sheer determination. However, sometimes… sometimes magic was needed to get the job done right. Often, because of the name of the shop, people simply made wishes—which made our job a whole lot easier. Other times, seeking the help of other Crafters and their unique abilities gave us an edge.
But mortals, who were the majority of our clients, didn’t know about the magic. And though the average customer wouldn’t be surprised about something mystical happening in a place called the Enchanted Village, disclosing our family powers wasn’t a risk Aunt Ve was willing to take, especially after having an ancestor nearly burned at the stake.
“Well, you make a lovely tooth fairy,” Amanda said as a grandfather clock donged at the far end of the hallway.
It was nine. I had to hurry this along—or I’d be late for the emergency village meeting that was due to start at nine thirty. Ve had insisted Harper and I attend. Our aunt was still introducing us around the village and was eager for us to get acclimated. She wanted nothing more than for us to put down solid roots among the other Crafters. Well, that and take over As You Wish when she retired.
“Do you mind if I tape this?” Cherise asked, holding up a small video camera. “For my son? He couldn’t be here tonight.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “We don’t allow videotaping of our services.” For good reason. Wishcrafters emitted a blinding glow, a white aura, on camera. Which explained, after all these years, why there weren’t any baby pictures of Harper and me, and why every picture we were in was always “overexposed.”
I was surprised Cherise had asked. Didn’t she know about the auras? I made a mental note to ask Ve how much Crafters knew about one another and their limitations. How secretive were Crafters with one another?
Cameras were definitely out. Not that I would even recognize myself right now, with all the costume makeup and glitter I was wearing. It took a lot of effort, and some amazing false eyelashes, to look fairylike.
“Dennis was welcome to be here tonight, Cherise.” Amanda’s cheeks flushed. “He declined. It’s his loss.”
“He’s stubborn,” Cherise said. “You know this.”
I tried to blend into the woodwork—rather hard to do when one looked a lot like a giant glittery stick of pink cotton candy. The last thing I wanted was to get involved in the middle of a family dispute. Been there, done that.
Amanda must have sensed my unease. She said, “I’m sorry. My husband and I recently separated. I’m sure you don’t need all the gory details. Suffice it to say that he’s the one who moved out.”
My heart ached for her. I was much better off without my ex, but it had taken me two years to realize that.
Cherise’s eyebrow rose. “He’s very stubborn.”
Amanda flashed her an irritated look. “Besides, if you recall, it’s his fault we had to contact As You Wish in the first place.”
As You Wish had received a frantic call from Cherise this morning, needing to hire someone to play the tooth fairy. Amanda’s daughter, five-year-old Laurel Grace, had lost her first tooth, and had been excited for the tooth fairy to come—until her father told her there was no such thing.
Aunt Ve, who had taken the call, had somehow deemed that this was the perfect job for me to take on. I had my doubts. Especially when I saw the gossamer wings and the pink tights. Not to mention the dreadful tulle.
Cherise looked pained. She explained, “He wasn’t thinking. Once he realized what he’d said, he tried to convince Laurel Grace he’d been kidding, but the damage had been done.”
“Not the first time,” Amanda murmured.
“I just wish…,” Cherise began.
I sucked in a breath, waiting. My every nerve was on alert, standing on end, prickling, getting ready to react. Adrenaline surged, flowed.
“I just wish…” She shook her head. “Never mind.”
I let out the breath I’d been holding.
Wringing her hands, Amanda said, “Five-year-olds shouldn’t have to grow up so soon. Darcy, we need you to convince her that sometimes grown-ups can be wrong. The last thing we want her thinking is that magic doesn’t exist, especially when she doesn’t know about her Craft yet.”
“I’ll certainly do my best,” I said. “Shall we give it a try?”
Aunt Ve had gone over exactly what I should do. I ran over the instructions in my head as I slowly turned the doorknob to Laurel Grace’s bedroom. I held my breath and entered.
Moonbeams slipped through striped curtains, spreading muted light across the room. The walls were painted pastel pink and trimmed in creamy white. Touches of pale green were everywhere from the curtains to the overstuffed chair in the corner, to the duvet on the bed. Stuffed animals overflowed a toy chest, books were piled high on a corner bookshelf, and a dollhouse sat on a tiny table in the middle of the room, filled with delicate-looking miniatures.
I turned my attention to the four-poster bed. Tucked under a lightweight comforter, Laurel Grace slept on her side. I crept closer. Blond ringlets fell across a lace-trimmed pillowcase. Her little face, slack with sleep, was angelic and peaceful.
I was aware of Amanda and Cherise lurking in the doorway as I carefully slid my hand under Laurel Grace’s pillow. I pulled out the little ribbon-edged, tooth-shaped pillow that had been delivered by courier earlier in the day for Laurel Grace to tuck her tooth into. I felt the lump of the tiny tooth under the fabric as I brought the keepsake over to Amanda and handed it to her.
I then walked back over to the bed, opened my purse, and pulled out a small satin pouch trimmed in white ostrich feathers. Laurel Grace’s name had been embroidered in pink on the bag. Inside, two one-dollar gold pieces clinked together. I gently slid the pouch under the pillow.
I smiled in the twilight, thinking about how expensive that little tooth had been. Two dollars from the tooth fairy, fifty dollars for accessories, and one hundred dollars for a half hour of my time.
I bent my head close to Laurel Grace’s and whispered the words Aunt Ve had me memorize.
“Hello, hello, little one,
A tooth you have lost,
More you will lose.
Put them under your pillow,
And take a sweet snooze.
For upon that eve,
You will receive
A visit from me,
If you just believe.”
Laurel Grace’s eyelids squeezed into a wince—I couldn’t blame her—it was a horrible, horrible rhyme—then popped open.
Filled with a warmth that came from being part of such a special moment, I suddenly had visions of being the area’s go-to tooth fairy, spreading love and happiness and gold coins across the state—heck, across all of New England. Even the tulle didn’t seem so uncomfortable anymore.
Laurel Grace stared at me for a second, probably taking in the tiara, the eyelashes, the wings, the makeup and glitter. I kept quiet, giving her a moment for it all to sink in.
Abruptly, she sat upright, looked me straight in the eyes, and started screaming at the top of her lungs. Long, shrieking cries that hurt my ears. “Stranger danger! Stran-ger dan-ger!”
Startled, I screamed back.
Amanda rushed into the room, saying, “Shhh, shhh.”
I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or her daughter.
Clamping my lips closed, I backed away as Amanda sat on the bed and gathered Laurel Grace close. “Shhh.”
“Stranger danger! Stran-ger dan-ger!” Laurel Grace continued to howl.
“No, no,” I said, gathering my wits. “I’m not a stranger! I’m the tooth fairy.” Heaven help me, I even twirled. My skirt billowed out, raining sparkles on the carpet.
“No, you’re not.” Tears flowed from Laurel Grace’s eyes.
Ve had not prepared me for this scenario.
“Yes, I am,” I reassured, fluffing layers of tulle as though that would help my cause.
“She really is.” Cherise sat on the other side of the bed, rubbing Laurel Grace’s back.
“No, she’s not,” Laurel Grace insisted.
“Why isn’t she?” Amanda asked her daughter.
“She’s—she’s…” I was waiting for the words “a fraud” to fall from her lips, and was shocked when she said, “She’s not blond!”
I held back a smile as I fingered my long dark hair, trying to think of what to do, what to say. I knelt by Laurel Grace’s bed and improvised as best I could. “Fairies are just like people.” And Crafters, I added silently. “We come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors.”
She gazed at me with big blue eyes as though I wasn’t even close to measuring up to her idea of a fairy. It was true I more resembled Esméralda from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which might be a tad bit confusing to a five-year-old looking for the Tinkerbell sort, so I tried really hard not to be offended when she started wailing again.
I saw Cherise’s lips moving but couldn’t hear what she was saying, and then her left eye blinked twice. Laurel Grace immediately quieted but still wore a tremulous pout.
Cherise had used a curing spell to calm the little girl.
Amanda quickly said, “Why don’t you look under your pillow, honey?”
I recognized a chance to escape when I saw one. “I should be going. Lots of stops to make tonight. Lots of teeth lost!” I backed out of the room as Laurel Grace pulled the satin pouch from beneath the pillow.
“How did she know my name, Mommy?” I heard from the safety of the hallway.
“Because she’s magical,” Amanda answered. “Do you believe now?”
“Maybe,” Laurel Grace whispered.
I had to smile at her noncommitment.
Cherise had followed me out. “Thank you, Darcy,” she said as we walked down the stairs. In the kitchen, she pressed a check into my hand. “I’ll let Velma know what a great job you did.”
I was ready to put this whole night behind me—and hang up my wings for good. I tucked the check into my purse. “You’re welcome.”
Cherise rubbed her ears as if they were still ringing. “She’s tiny, but she has a pair of lungs that can rival an opera singer. Sometimes spells come in handy, don’t you think?”
I fidgeted, not sure what to say.
Before I could come up with a response, she added, “I just wish Dennis could be here right now. He’s really missing out on an important event in his daughter’s life.”
She stared expectantly at me.
She had me. As a Wishcrafter, I was obligated to grant the wish. However, if Cherise wasn’t pure of heart in her motives for making the wish, my spell wouldn’t work no matter how hard I tried to grant it. Do no harm.
My nerves tingled as I said softly, “Wish I might, wish I may, grant this wish without delay.” I winked my left eye twice, which would look merely like a twitch to a mortal, but other Crafters would know my spell had been cast. “You’re sneaky.”
“I know. Sorry about that.” She gave me a mischievous smile. “You just can’t trust anyone these days.”
Ten minutes later, my cell phone, tucked into the car’s cup holder, bayed like a bloodhound. The loud arr-oooo told me the caller was my sister, Harper, the tone chosen because of Harper’s tendency to be all bark and no bite (most of the time). I answered.
“Where are you?” she asked in a tense whisper. “It’s like I’ve been fed to the wolves. Questions are coming at me left and right.”
Harper was being a bit melodramatic, especially since she was more of a wolf in sheep’s clothing than anyone.
I said, “I’m in the car. I was waylaid by a wish.”
“Did the wish come true?”
She was still skeptical about our talent and hadn’t cast any spells since arriving in the village.
A (justly) confused Dennis Goodwin had stormed into Amanda’s house as I was on my way out. He took one look at me and started grumbling. Obviously, he hadn’t been impressed with my glitter or my eyelashes, either. Like daughter, like father. He especially wasn’t pleased to learn he’d been wished there.
I gave Harper the shorthand version of my night, and ignored her laughter at Laurel Grace’s “stranger danger” reaction. “I’m almost to the village. Where are you now?” I’d expected to hear noise from the village meeting in the background, but there was only silence.
“I ducked into the back alley. I’m surprised someone hasn’t followed me out. Vultures.”
“I thought they were wolves?”
“Close enough. I’m still being picked apart, torn limb from limb.”
I wasn’t worried in the least about her being alone in a dark alley. Sure, she was tiny, but she was mighty and quite a fighter. Always had been, ever since she was born prematurely, twenty-three years ago. My chest tightened as it always did when I thought about Harper’s birth. And how it had also been the day of our mother’s death.
Besides, the Enchanted Village was about as scary as a baby duckling. Nothing bad ever happened here. That alleyway was as safe as safe could be.
“I’m still not sure this village is right for us. I sense some seriously bad juju at this meeting.”
Lightning flashed in the distance, highlighting dark cloud cover. I shuddered. I hated electrical storms with every fiber of my being.
Focusing on what Harper had said, I knew I’d be a fool to ignore her instincts—they were finely tuned— but I thought this village was exactly where we needed to be. So much had gone wrong over the last few years in our lives, from my divorce to Harper’s brushes with the law.
“It can’t be worse than where we were, right?” I said.
“It was one little arrest, Darcy. Six months ago,” she added impatiently. “Can we let it go now? I don’t really want my arrest record to follow me around for the rest of my life.”
She should have thought of that before she was caught shoplifting a puppy. Harper swore up and down it was the first and only time she’d ever stolen something, and I wanted to believe her, but didn’t quite. Ever since she was little, she was always getting into some kind of trouble. In elementary school, it was writing on the bathroom walls about the injustices of processed cafeteria food (she was always too smart for her own good). In high school it was mostly silly pranks on the class bullies (sneaking into the locker room and putting itching powder in jockstraps). In college she’d been the lead suspect in setting free dozens of lab rats in a science lab (not enough evidence to file charges). As far as I knew, she was currently on a straight and narrow path, her misguided attempts at activism in check. Hopefully a change of scenery would keep her on that course. I really didn’t want to see her go to jail.
“Hey, what’s one more secret?” I completely agreed we should keep her past quiet. People could be terribly judgmental.
She laughed. “I think the witchy wish thing trumps my misdemeanor.”
I smiled at the thought of Miss Demeanor, aka Missy, the gray and white Schnoodle (half Schnauzer, half Poodle) who was now part of our family. The dog was the only silver lining that had come out of Harper’s arrest. Well, okay, all right. There had been the fact that Harper’s arrest had sparked an investigation that led to the dreadful pet store and three puppy mills being closed down (which was why the judge was lenient with her, giving her community service instead of jail time). Be that as it may, Harper still didn’t mind getting into all kinds of trouble if she believed she was fighting for a just cause.
I tried not to worry too much about Missy’s slight personality change since our arrival to the village. She’d gone from a wild puppy with crazed frenetic energy to one who had more of a controlled enthusiasm. And one who had suddenly become an escape artist, running away as often as she could. Thankfully, she always returned, but it was exhausting searching for her, and for some reason, I couldn’t figure out how she kept getting out of the yard. Was hers the normal progression of puppy behavior? Or was I just overreacting? After all, the move had been an adjustment for all of us. New house, new town, new everything. Even still, I wondered whether I should take her to a local vet for a checkup. Just to be sure.
I slowed and took a left turn down the road that led to the Enchanted Village. “I needed the change, too,” I said so Harper wouldn’t feel like this move had been all about her. “You know, because of the divorce.” It was the truth. It was good to get away, to not have to see my ex with his brand-new family around town. The jab in my heart told me I still wasn’t completely over what had happened, despite my attempts to convince myself otherwise.
An elaborate iron trellis covered in dripping vines and vibrant white night-blooming moonflowers marked the change from the paved road into a cobblestoned lane that twisted narrowly through the woods that surrounded the village.
As I drove along, the branches of mature yew trees stretched overhead, entwining to form a natural tunnel. The dark, shadowy passage stirred recollections of enchanted forests from old storybooks where pixies played and hollows hid mischievous trolls.
It was likely that in these particular woods pixies and trolls still played. I’d come to believe anything was possible in the Enchanted Village. After all, I was a witch.
Only four months had passed since my father’s death, which had been the catalyst to my and Harper’s lives changing drastically. Till that point, I’d been working at Dad’s dental practice as an office manager. With his death the practice closed, and I lost my job—no more throwing myself into work to forget my painful divorce. No more pretending everything was just fine in my life.
Harper, a recent college graduate who hadn’t had any job offers, had turned to activism to occupy her time.
Dad had left us a nice inheritance, sure, but we quickly found out that money didn’t buy us the happiness we were sadly lacking or suddenly reveal our purposes in life. We were grieving, at loose ends. Not sure what to do with our lives. Until Aunt Ve visited us and made her big revelation. We were witches, something our father had known all along and hadn’t told us. I was still trying to comprehend why he’d kept us in the dark, even going so far as to make Aunt Ve promise never to tell us while he was still alive.
Never in a million years would I have guessed I was a witch before Aunt Ve broke the news. I wondered how my life could have been different if I’d known about the wishing spells when I was growing up. How I would have been different…
I shook the thoughts aside. There was no use dwelling on what-could-have-beens. It was time to focus on our futures. “Has the meeting started?”
“Not yet. Everyone’s waiting for the grand hoo-ha to arrive.”
“Has there been any talk about why the meeting was called?”
“Not a peep—people are too busy interrogating me.” Desperation caused a hitch in her voice as she added, “How soon will you get here?”
Harper had always preferred books to people, hated crowds, and, most of all, detested answering questions about herself. This meeting had to be torture for her.
“Another ten minutes or so. I need to stop at the house and change.” I’d already shimmied out of the tutu and wings and put on a pair of jeans I’d had in the car. I used some wet wipes to take off the heaviest makeup, but I still wore the frilly pink bodysuit, and the glitter was being stubborn.y
“What? No! You don’t have time. I need you here, Darcy. Or there may be nothing left of me. Please?”
That was low. She knew I couldn’t say no to her when she asked nicely. “Okay, fine. I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”
I hung up as the natural tunnel widened, and I slowed at an ornate welcome sign at the side of the road, crowded with colorful flowers at its base.
WELCOME TO THE ENCHANTED VILLAGE, WWHERE MAGIC LIVES
I looked ahead, taken away by the beauty and charm before me. The village square was aglow in fairy lights and sparkling lanterns hanging from tree branches. Gaslights cast circles of light onto the stone sidewalks and threw shadows along the connected storefronts and individual shops that lined the main square.
Awnings shaded large plate-glass shop windows, and ivy trailed from flower boxes bursting with bold-hued annuals. A few tourists remained, walking hand in hand along the sidewalk, window-shopping—most of the shops closed at nine on weeknights. Windows glowed in the apartments above the storefronts, and specks of lights twinkled from the streetlamps along the lanes of the neighborhoods beyond the square.
Neighborhoods where magic lived.
The Enchanted Village had prospered by focusing on all things magical. Tourists loved it. But what the mortals didn’t know was that magic was truly present here in the form of witches. From the time of the Salem Witch Trials in the late sixteen hundreds, this land had been a haven. A safe place for witches to hide until it was safe to practice their Crafts publicly once again.
That time had never come. There were still too many who didn’t understand the magic, the powers, and they feared what they didn’t know.
So the decision was made to hide in plain sight. By creating the Enchanted Village as a tourist area, the Craft could be practiced under the guise of commercialism.
The Spellcrafters opened the Spellbound Bookshop—where I was headed for the meeting. The Herbcrafters opened Natural Magick Tea Shoppe. The Colorcrafters opened both the Magic Wand Salon and Just an Illusion Art Gallery.
Some of the shops in the village were owned by mortals, who had no idea they worked side by side with Crafters. To many, this was just a cute tourist destination and a quaint place to live. But to the Crafters, this village was their heritage—and a way to keep it alive.
Lightning lit the western sky as the road narrowed. At the center of the village, I slowed and turned right, heading toward the bookshop.
All the diagonal parking spots in front of the store were already taken, so I parked down the street, in the lot of the Pixie Cottage, a small B&B. Thunder rumbled in the distance as I hurried down the sidewalk, fighting against the strong breeze, fighting against the apprehension within me that arose with every storm. Across the village green, I spotted the brightly lit As You Wish sign swaying on the arched portico of a beautiful Victorian.
Home. I liked the calm and peaceful feeling the word created within me—serenity had been hard to come by since my divorce.
Smiling, I picked up my pace before the storm hit. Every shop I passed was closed up tight. The only businesses open this late were the Cauldron (the local pub) and the Sorcerer’s Stove (a family restaurant with the best burgers in the village), but they were located on the other side of the square. I rushed past the Spinning Wheel and the Witch’s Brew Coffee Shop, and paused ever so slightly at the Bewitching Boutique. Its window display highlighted a gorgeous blue flowing gown, perfect for a romantic night on the town.
Romance. It was a nice thought—for someone else. Though I’d come to fully believe in magic, to me love was a complete and total fairy tale. A bad one at that.
The sulfury scent of rain hung in the air, and lightning flashed brightly, a flickering warning to take cover. I was almost to the bookshop when I spotted a man approaching from the opposite direction, his gait sure and steady. Confident. Thunder echoed as we reached the door at the same time.
He was tall, dark, and dangerous with his don’t-mess-with-me attitude. I’d never seen him before, though if he was attending the meeting, he must be a local.
Mortal or Crafter? I wondered.
No way to tell.
Even within the Craft world, there was no way to know unless the power was revealed through the eye twitch or through word of mouth between Crafter families. We all had to be very careful what we said. Revelation of our powers to a mortal, even accidentally, meant risking the loss of our gift forever.
I smiled politely and reached for the door handle. He beat me to it. My right hand landed on his left, and I felt a jolt of energy clear up to my shoulder. I dismissed it as a result of the electricity in the air and drew my hand back and waited.
But he didn’t open the door. In fact, I was pretty sure he was holding it closed.
“I don’t think I know you,” he said, his voice deep, curt, and oddly mesmerizing. “Are you new in the village?”
“Fairly new.” I glanced at the door, willed him to open it. I wanted to wish it, but I couldn’t grant my own wishes. Unfortunately.
He had a look about him—a keen, assessing dark gaze, the square of his shoulders—that screamed law enforcement of some kind. As far as I knew, I hadn’t done anything wrong tonight—other than almost scaring a little girl to death—so I wasn’t sure why I suddenly felt like a suspect.
“Nick Sawyer,” he said, holding out his right hand, his left still firm on the damn door.
“Darcy Merriweather.” I reluctantly held out my hand.
He surprised me by smiling. “Ve’s niece?”
I nodded, hating what his smile was doing to my stomach. Making it feel all soft and gushy. I tugged my hand from his. Why was my mouth suddenly dry? And why did I suddenly notice his left ring finger was bare? “We should be getting inside, don’t you think? We don’t want to miss the meeting.”
“No, we don’t want to do that.” He was blatantly staring at me, making no move to go inside.
“The door?” I resisted the urge to squirm under his scrutiny.
“Right.” Again the smile. “Nice to meet you, Darcy Merriweather.”
“You, too,” I said as sweetly as I could muster. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so uncomfortable.
He (finally!) held open the door, and I rushed forward, so very glad to be free. But I suddenly ran into a solid wall of muscle. Nick had sidestepped in front of me, blocking my entrance. Surprised, I reached out before I fell backward.
Unfortunately, I latched on to him. Gripping his shirt, I could feel his muscled chest beneath my hands. His heartbeat, too. It was strong and steady, pulsing under my fingertips.
I backed off. Way off. I tucked my arms behind me, linking my fingers together tightly.
A sly smile pulled on his lips. “Just wanted to say…”
His gaze swept slowly over me, making me heat from the inside out. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. I hadn’t let myself get this close to a man since my divorce—when I’d sworn men off altogether. I couldn’t let this instant attraction go any further than this doorway.
I didn’t want to be hurt again.
“Yes?” I said with a hint of steel.
He held the door open wide. “I like your tiara.”
“Darcy, dear, this is Sylar Dewitt, owner of Third Eye Optometry and chairman of the village council.” Aunt Ve linked arms with the man. Her cheeks colored as she added in a conspiratorial whisper, “He’s also my beau.”
Sylar shook my hand heartily, a wide grin splitting his doughy face. He was short and pudgy with kind blue eyes, a shock of spiky white hair, and a white mustache that curled upward at its ends. A pair of round glasses perched precariously on his bulbous nose. “Pleasure to meet you, Darcy. I’ve heard much about you from Ve.”
I sensed a genuine fondness between the two of them, and it immediately relaxed me. They looked adorable together, a perfect pair of lovebirds.
“Hopefully not too much,” I teased.
Sylar laughed and said, “Are you keeping secrets?”
Ve caught my eye and mouthed “Mortal.” Ah. Okay. Sylar wasn’t a Crafter and didn’t know about the wishes.
“Doesn’t everyone?” I countered. Maybe Harper was right about the wolves.
Ve’s gaze swept over me, inspecting. Her thin eyebrows lifted and her smile broadened. “Did you come straight from the Goodwins’?”
I nodded. My cheeks were still burning after my doorway rendezvous with Nick Sawyer, but it was probably the glitter—or the eyelashes—that had captured her amusement. I’d already tucked the tiara into my handbag.
I glanced around. “It’s crowded in here.”
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