Read an Excerpt
Bewitching the Enemy
A Vieux Carré Witch Sister Novel
By Dawn Chartier, Kimberly Daniel
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Dawn Chartier
All rights reserved.
Storm Morgeaux hated being late more than anything.
She dashed through the museum's grand wooden doors, heart pounding, and plowed past the interior's massive Roman columns, whipping around the corner toward the stairs. Her dirty construction boots thumped loudly, sounding out of place on the pristine marble tile as she hurried up the staircase and rushed down the corridor.
Crap. They'd moved her grandmother's painting out of the small room it hung in last year. Damn it. The museum staff was always rearranging the rooms. She turned on her heel and stalked down the hall, peeking into each room as she went. That's when she heard them.
"Bless thee ..."
She followed the sound and entered a small room. Her three sisters and mother stood in a semi-circle, chanting and holding hands as the four of them faced the oil painting of grandma. And in typical Morgeaux fashion, they'd started without her.
Storm slid into place next to Rose. "Couldn't y'all wait another —"
Cold air blasted through the room.
Momma's legs buckled, then she bent and slid to the floor. Storm ran behind her, catching the brunt of her mother's weight. They both fell against the unforgiving marble. "Mom!"
She maneuvered to her knees and held her mother's head in her lap. "Mom? Can you hear me?" No response.
Storm's sister, Brye's gaze met hers, dark with worry. Beside them, Dusti dialed 9-1-1, while Rose rushed out of the room calling for help.
They'd never started the prayer without one another before. Why now? Why couldn't they have waited a few minutes longer? Momma's chest rose steadily. "Mom, can you hear me?" A beat. "Mom?" Thunder cracked outside like a whip. Not one snap, but four quick ones in a row.
Her mother still didn't respond.
"Why were you late?" Rose's sad voice cut off her thoughts. "You know how she gets about the ritual." She paused. "I left you a dozen messages."
Storm rocked, in an attempt to soothe her mother. "I came as fast as I could." She had promised she would be there. "I ... I uh ... ran to the jobsite to go over the revised surgery center contract and —" She should have postponed the meeting. But the weight of the entire family construction business weighed heavy on her shoulders.
Entirely her shoulders.
Shit. Her neck muscles tightened. Mom always warned them something terrible might happen if they didn't show up. She'd never believed her. None of them had. She'd always chalked it up as one of her mom's crazy philosophies. It's just a weird coincidence is all. Wasn't it?
"Where's the damn ambulance?" She leaned over. "Mom. C'mon. Wake up."
The youngest sister, Rose, touched Storm's shoulder. "She'll be okay, Sis."
Pressure built behind her eyes at her sister's kindness. Storm clutched her mother's hand. "She has to be." Tears threatened, but she held them back. She had always been the strong one.
For her mother's sake, being strong was more important now than it ever had been. She prayed she'd have the chance to make this right.
"Was she feeling bad earlier?" Storm glanced at Brye.
Brye faced the portrait and chewed on her lip for a second. "She seemed fine. But then she started mumbling about not letting them loose."
Storm followed her sister's stare, a sour taste filling her mouth. "Not letting what loose?"
"I've no idea."
She touched her mother's cheek. The annual gatherings had never made sense to Storm. She had no clue why her grandmother had requested they visit the painting each year after she died. Today, Storm had almost broken that vow. You were only a few minutes late. Give yourself a break. Surely being late hadn't caused this? Had it?
A pair of paramedics rushed into the room, pushing her aside, and swarming around her mother.
"Storm? Hey. Did you hear me?" Brye touched her arm.
She blinked at her sister. She'd been so caught up in watching her mom's face for a sign of consciousness that she'd blocked everything out except the strange tingling in her head. "No. What?" "I'll go with Mom in the ambulance. Dusti and Rose will take Mom's car. Follow us in your truck."
"Let's go." Storm loosened her ponytail, hoping to relieve the pain in her head ... didn't work.
The medics lowered her mother onto the gurney, and as they began to push it forward, Brye stopped them. "Wait. Where's her necklace?"
Mom never left home without that necklace.
Rose's eyes widened. "I saw her fiddling with it before she passed out.
"Go. I'll stay here and then catch up with you at the hospital." Storm hurried back into the other room, praying she'd find the one piece of jewelry her mother never took off.
It didn't take long to search the small room. Nothing. Her heart sank.
The necklace and the damned portrait — both were so important to her mother. Storm moved closer to the painting, searching for a clue, something that would be vital.
A black tome sat frozen above her grandmother's left hand and an ivory one sat above the right. Like the Libra horoscope sign.
The balancing scales of Justice.
Without thinking, Storm raised her hands and imitated her grandmother's pose. A cold breeze rushed through the room, and a shudder ran through her. She forced her hands down. A current started beneath her skin, humming stronger with each second, burning like fire.
Seized by a powerful urge to touch the floating tomes, Storm raised her hand toward the closest hardback — the black one. Her fingers hovered mere inches from contact when the ivory volume grabbed her attention and shifted her fingers to its direction.
Her hand shot back toward the black book. Run! A voice screamed in the back of her mind. Now! Her body refused to listen while her fingers moved ever closer to the dark book. Coldness wrapped around her like a wet blanket.
The room tilted, and her head spun. Black dancing spots blurred her vision. What the ...?
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Sweat rolled down her temples and between her breasts, stopping at the waist of her faded work jeans.
Wrapping her arms around her waist, Storm wondered what the floating books were supposed to signify, if anything. Strange how she'd never thought about them before.
She'd never liked this painting. Damn, she liked it even less now.
A slamming door resonated down the hall, and she flinched, her pulse skyrocketing.
She tried to turn and leave, but her legs refused to cooperate. Her gaze shot to the painting once more. It toyed with her, demanding her attention.
Grandma's auburn hair hung long and wavy, exactly like hers.
The urge to touch the black tome returned, stronger than before. She focused on the blue and white veins lining the edges of the books, and then she saw it. Each book had a golden clasp lock.
Except one detail was off.
The black book's clasp was cracked. "You weren't there before — were you?" The lock had now spread farther apart as though it had been painted that way. "Impossible." She hesitated, and then slid her fingers across the ridges of dried paint.
Blinding light surged from beneath her fingertips. "What the —?"
She jerked her hand back, and the burst of light disappeared.
Shoulders squared, she raised her finger to the clasp. "What do you want?"
No reaction of course.
She snorted with relief. "I'm losing it." Stress had simply caused her to see things that weren't real. It happened.
But then, her headache exploded into a full-on migraine, and she leaned against the picture frame, fingers gripping the wood. A splinter pierced her skin, and she jerked back. Blood oozed, and trickled down her hand, but not before she'd accidentally smeared it across the portrait. "Good going, dumb-ass."
Storm wiped the blood off the picture.
A bright glare shone like a spotlight from beneath her splayed fingers. Blinded and too terrified to move, she tried to yell for help, but nothing came out.
A jolt of blistering electricity zapped her, and searing heat spread through her like lightning.
The room spun, then slowly faded.
Storm hit the floor like a sack of bricks. The whack to the back of her head was nothing compared to the acid burn eating away her insides.
"Are you okay, Ma'am?" A short, middle-aged woman stood over her, eyes full of concern. The lady helped Storm up and settled her onto the bench. "I'll get you a glass of water." She turned, and stopped in front of the painting. She bent over and picked something up and rushed back to her. "Um ... Did you drop these?"
Storm stared at the papers in the woman's hand. She didn't drop them, but somehow they appeared as though they belonged to her. "T-thank you." Without thinking, Storm reached out and took the papers. The women hurried off.
Storm studied the yellowed parchment that appeared to be torn from an ancient book, then flipped the pages over. All of them were blank. How odd.
Slowly, she raised her gaze to the book she'd touched in the painting. The lock was gone.
On the floor below the painting, the gold clasp now lay completely shattered and right next to it was her mother's broken necklace.CHAPTER 2
Pediatric surgeon Dr. Nathan Davis returned to the emergency room area after reporting the suspected child abuse case. He wanted to check in on the little girl before her mother and father decided to run again. This was her third visit in the last six months. This time her injury was a dislocated shoulder.
He cracked his knuckles, knowing deep in his gut that none of the injuries were accidents. The authorities moved way too slowly. Once his surgery center was complete, he'd do things his way. Sure he'd follow protocol as far as medical procedures went, but the abusive parents wouldn't like him very much once he was done with them.
The silver medallion he'd worn against his chest since becoming a Paladin, a Warlock hunter, chilled slightly against his skin with a familiar warning that danger was near. Within seconds of it chilling, the medallion warmed back to normal. What the hell? False alarm? He'd check into it if it continued. But not until he'd finished with his patient.
Nate squeezed the stuffed bear he'd bought from the gift shop and pushed the animal through the small opening in the curtain, keeping himself hidden. Throwing his voice into a silly falsetto, he said, "Hello. I'm Freddy the Bear, and I need someone special to take me home and watch over me."
Nate expected a giggle at the very least, but he got nothing. He reached to tug the curtain open, but someone beat him to it. A beautiful, obviously upset, redhead stared at him without saying a word. His breath caught in his throat. He glanced at the bed and no child. Sonofabitch.
The little girl's parents must have snuck her out.
An elderly woman lay still and silent where the little girl had once sat. Holding the teddy bear out to the redhead, Nate said, "Looks like you could use this."
"Thanks. I think." The woman took the bear and squinted at the furry, brown toy in her hands before eying him in confusion. Her fingers toyed with the bear's paw. "Wrong room, huh?"
Yeah, but right woman. Nate skimmed her dusty shirt, then her boots. He didn't smile often, but he felt a smirk coming on. "Sorry, cher, but keep the bear."
Her expression changed. "Wow. A doctor who gives out bears and knows how to rhyme. What a rare find."
Was she mocking him? "You've no idea."
Should he follow the strange urge to stay and find out more about the redhead, or leave in total humiliation over his theatrical performance with the stuffed animal? Without waiting for her shock to wear off, he turned. "Take care of my bear."
"I thought he was mine now, Doctor." She said as he closed the curtain behind him.
What the hell are you thinking? Find the little girl and her parents. Yeah, then what? It's not like you could kidnap the kid.
Nate sighed. It was true. He couldn't help her if she wasn't here. The thought angered and motivated him at the same time.
Only when he reached the end of the corridor did he remember he'd placed his phone number on a tiny piece of paper in the bear's front pocket so the little girl could call him in case of trouble. Now the redhead had it. Part of him liked the idea that she could call him. The other part knew she was trouble.
Nate searched the hospital corridor. His medallion had turned cold against his sternum for the second time today, and he grinded his teeth as adrenaline kicked in. No. One wouldn't dare come here. He opened his mind and scanned the abandoned hallway. Damn. He'd lost it. Rushing down the long hall, he found Paul behind the nurse's station chatting it up with some pretty blonde.
Paul wore a shit-eating grin. Nate cleared his throat then motioned with his head when Paul spotted him.
"I'll be right back." Paul ran his finger along the hospital tech's chin and winked at her.
Nate slammed through the door to the doctors' lounge and paced the room. His hands clenched, and he ached to punch the vending machine across from him. What the hell would bring one of those Warlock bastards here? On my fucking turf.
Paul swung open the door and stared across the room at Nate. "Make it quick. I've got about two minutes."
"Don't you feel it?" Nate asked. He'd been uneasy at the hospital all afternoon thinking his medallion was acting up, but now he was not so sure. "I feel one — here."
Paul closed his eyes and pulled his medallion from beneath his shirt. "Got nothing, man," he said, opening his eyes and curving his lips. "Itching for a kill, are you?"
Maybe. Nate glared at his fellow Paladin Warlock Hunter. "Aren't you?" Paul's eyes lit as he slid into a chair at the table. "Always. Did the Elders call?"
"No. I haven't heard from Grant yet." He hated waiting on orders from his grandfather. Locate the son of a bitch first, then wait for the call. That sounded better. However, they did have to hold off until the bastard left the hospital. There would be no bloodshed, not by a Warlock, where he saved people's lives. "What time do you get off?"
"Right after surgery. Give or take two hours." Paul moved to the door and glanced back to Nate. "If what you are feeling is correct, I can't believe those fuckers are that brave. Must have some big ones."
"Bowling balls. For peace of mind, scan the east wing on your way to surgery, I'll check the west."
Paul slipped out of the room. Just as the door closed, a missing-person code blared through the paging system. He strode out of the doctors' lounge, racing in the direction where he instinctively thought to find the missing person.
A slight chill developed against his chest once more. Maybe there was a Warlock sitting on his deathbed in the hospital. But why come here? Warlocks didn't go to hospitals. Nate rubbed his forehead. If you aren't dead already you bastard, you'll wish you were when I find you.
* * *
"What do you mean Mom's eyes opened and the newspaper floated in front of her?" Storm asked her sister.
Rose shrugged from the opposite side of the hospital bed. "Just what I said. I was dozing off when a noise — papers ruffling — woke me, so I glanced at Mom and found her sitting up in her hospital bed, her eyes wide open, hollow-looking, and staring at nothing. Then the newspapers lifted and danced in the air, like a breeze had tossed them, except her palms rose high as though she was guiding them with invisible strings." Rose rubbed her red-rimmed eyes. "Freakiest thing I've ever seen."
Storm wished she hadn't taken the bear to her truck. She wouldn't have missed the floating newspaper, and she could've used the bear to comfort her. "You sure it wasn't a draft from the air conditioner?"
"No, I'm not sure. She stayed like that for about ten seconds, then a nurse strolled in and everything was back to normal." Rose crossed her arms. "You think I was dreaming or something?"
After the weird event with the painting, Storm was in no position to deny what her sister believed to be true, even if it sounded like a campfire story.
Brye draped her arm around Rose's shoulders. "We're going through a lot right now, Sis. Maybe you did see it. I just wish I would've too, instead of going for coffee." She glanced around the room. "Where the heck is Dusti?"
Excerpted from Bewitching the Enemy by Dawn Chartier, Kimberly Daniel. Copyright © 2014 Dawn Chartier. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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