Charlie Logan's sinister obsession with Ivy Grant has ruled his life. When he discovers a book of dark magic during a burglary, he decides to return to Oak Hill and use his newfound power to gain control over Ivy.
Ivy and Violet, with help from their grandmother, need to practice their magic to overcome the evil seeping into their lives. A battle is coming, and Ivy's life is not the only one at stake.
|Publisher:||Red Adept Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.42(d)|
Read an Excerpt
If livestock had ever lived on the farm, the animals were gone long before Ivy and Violet came to live there. Lately, the only critters that occupied the stalls of the dusty barn were the cats and their tiny, elusive prey. Jack Grant had always told his granddaughters that a farm needed "good mousers," so eight-year-old Ivy thought they were practically as useful as a cow or horse would have been. She didn't see any reason to keep other animals on the small Midwestern farm.
Ivy's twin sister, Violet, raced into the barn. The dirt floor had long since been ground to a soft powder, but she still made enough noise to startle the kittens. Violet always ran, even when she had no reason to hurry. Once, she'd told Ivy that she liked to imagine flying like a bird when she ran. Ivy had no doubt that Violet had spent the entire morning outside, taking advantage of warm weather that promised to turn to sweltering heat.
Violet's sneakers thumped across the floor of the barn to the stall where Ivy had nestled. "Ivy, Gran said she's going to town in about an hour, and do you wanna go?" Violet choked a little as she inhaled a mouthful of dust that her footsteps had stirred up. Static electricity lifted layers of her ponytail in the dry air.
"Shhhh ..." Ivy hissed as if she were an adult addressing a child. "You're bothering the kitties." She turned back to the kittens, intent on ignoring Violet's intrusion.
Violet crouched beside her and delicately petted a kitten with gray stripes. It mewled quietly then yawned before returning to its nap. "So you wanna go? I'm gonna go." She bounced on her toes as she squatted, as if deciding whether or not to stick around for Ivy's answer.
Ivy stared at the kittens. The warm spring breeze already threatened to melt away into sweltering summer heat. She couldn't stay in the barn all day. "Yeah, I'll go."
Violet sprang to her full height, making Ivy flinch and earning a whine from the kitten in her hand. "Okay! I'll go tell Gran. She said be inside in fifteen minutes to clean up, 'cause she's leaving at eleven with or without you." With their grandmother's instructions barely out of her mouth, Violet was off, running toward the house.
Ivy gave each of the kittens a last snuggle in hopes that they would remember her once they opened their eyes. Kittens that didn't enjoy being petted and carried around the yard were no fun.
Slowly, she became aware of another presence in the barn. Her eyes roamed away from the kitten cradled in her arms to the boots standing just beyond the stall door, next to her discarded sandals. Eyes wide, she sprang to her bare feet as fast as she could without trampling the kittens.
Charlie Logan was blocking the way out of the stall. The sunlight that slipped in through the gaps in the barn's wooden planks cast his face in mottled stripes. She knew him because Grandpa Jack had always let his granddaughters roam the farm freely, and Charlie had spoken to her many times. Never alone, though. She stood awkwardly, her eyes darting around the dimly lit solitude of the barn.
"Nice kittens you got there." He nodded cheerfully toward the kittens then smiled. His hand twitched as if he might reach out and touch her.
"Yeah," she said quietly, looking back and forth between Charlie and the kittens. "None of them are sick or anything. Sometimes there are sick ones ..." Ivy rambled nervously until her eyes settled on Charlie's face, and then she stilled, wishing she could disappear.
Charlie moved in closer, trapping her in the corner of the stall. "They'll all be good mousers, I bet."
His tone was friendly, but Ivy's guts tensed. She desperately wanted to be away from the stall that had, without warning, become too dark and far too secluded. If she shouted, someone would likely hear her and come, but Charlie had always seemed nice enough. Maybe he did just want to talk about kittens, and she didn't want him to get in trouble for not being busy at work.
When she made a move toward the door, his tall frame shifted. She jerked back, away from his body, pushing herself tighter into the corner of the stall. He was close enough that his scent of stale cigarette smoke and sweat forced its way into her nostrils and stomach. When he exhaled, his breath smelled of strong coffee.
In slow motion, Charlie reached out and touched her hair just over her ear. Heart in her throat, she froze. Charlie Logan had not come to discuss anything good. He smiled at her affectionately as he stroked her hair.
"I need to go." She gushed the entire sentence as if it were a single word. "I'm supposed to go with Gran."
She willed herself to move, but at her smallest motion, he leaned forward, pressing himself against her. Wishing she could sink into the rough sycamore planks behind her to keep from coming in contact with his body, she squeezed her eyes shut, pinching droplets of tears from the edges of her eyelids. She opened her mouth and tried to call for help, but the blood rushed so loudly in her ears that she wasn't sure if any sound had escaped. He leered down at her wordlessly. His heat seeped into her everywhere that his body touched hers. The front of his T-shirt was damp with sweat, and her stomach clenched in revulsion. He started breathing heavily. His fingers tangled in her hair, and her heart threatened to jump out of her throat. His grin turned to a snarl. Then his eyes widened, and his back went rigid.
"You slide on out of there, Ivy," Grandpa Jack said from behind Charlie.
Relief mixed with confusion washed over her. She had been so absorbed in the closeness of Charlie's body that she hadn't noticed her grandfather's approach. Charlie apparently hadn't heard him, either. He was stock-still. She jerked her head, wincing as her hair caught in his grip. His fingers loosened. She scrambled away from him then clutched at her grandfather's arms, which were holding a pitchfork to Charlie's back.
Without looking at Ivy, Grandpa Jack shook her off gently. "You go on in the house."
Charlie's T-shirt dimpled under the pressure of the tines.
She backed out of the stall and toward the barn door. Hiding just inside the entrance to the final stall, Ivy breathed in the dust that sparkled in a shaft of sunlight. A gap in the boards offered a view of her grandfather's back and the motion of his pitchfork.
Charlie tried to twist to face Jack, but the older man increased the pressure of the tines, forcing him forward into the wall. "We were just talking about cats is all. It's hot outside, and I thought it'd be cooler in here. Just takin' my break."
"I ever lay eyes on you — on my farm or anywhere else — again, I will kill you." Grandpa Jack's dead-calm voice sent a shiver through Ivy. "I will kill you. I will put you in the ground." Jack released the fork just enough for Charlie to twist around and face him. "You get this one last chance to get gone."
"You can't run me out of town just for talking to a little girl." The bravado in Charlie's voice faltered at the end. "You don't get to treat people like that."
Jack didn't move. Ivy had never thought of her grandfather as mean, but she recognized his tone of voice. He was not making an idle threat. Grandpa Jack's jaw was tight. The tendons in his neck stretched his weathered skin.
Could Grandpa Jack really kill somebody? Ivy held her breath. The men were silent and still.
Finally, Charlie squeaked, trying to take a breath. He put his hand on the metal shaft to shove it away. But Jack forced the fork into Charlie's ribs.
"You get gone, or I'll kill you now." Jack's control over his obvious rage only made him more menacing.
Charlie paled and drooped over the pitchfork, but Jack jerked him upright. Ivy covered her mouth to stifle a gasp. After casting a sidelong glance at the kittens, she turned and ran. Ivy had never enjoyed running as much as she did at that moment.
Audrey Grant was putting clean dishes into the cabinets when Ivy burst into the room, gasping. The screen door banged shut, and the child stood bent over with her hands on her knees. The shimmering cloud of anxiety surrounding Ivy told Audrey that the girl was not simply in a hurry, excited about a trip into town.
Frowning, Violet jumped from her perch on the counter. She leaned down next to Ivy and gently patted her back. "Ivy ..." she whispered, "are you okay?"
Ivy clutched Violet and started to sob in short, choked breaths. The two girls sank to their knees together in front of the door. Over Ivy's shoulder, Violet looked to Audrey for direction, her eyes wide with confusion.
Audrey knelt next to them and gently peeled Ivy's arms off Violet. She grasped Ivy's shoulders. "Sweetie, slow down. Breathe." Audrey took her own slow, deep breaths to demonstrate. "What happened?"
As Ivy gathered her composure, Audrey wiped the girl's eyes with the dishcloth she'd tossed over her shoulder.
"I was in the barn, and Charlie came to talk about kittens, and then he was really close to me and touching my hair." Her voice cracked as she gestured vaguely toward her hair. "He was really creepy, and I couldn't get away. But Grandpa's out there with him, and he has a pitchfork. I don't know what happened. He was there, and then Grandpa was there ..." She shook her head, her lip quivering.
Audrey pulled Ivy against her chest and embraced her. "He only touched your hair?" Audrey hoped her voice didn't reveal that she was overwhelmed with fear and anger, thinking of what could have happened. "Nothing else, right? Just your hair?"
"Yeah. He was kind of smooshing me into the wall." Ivy put a hand on Audrey's hair to demonstrate what Charlie had done. "But if Grandpa hadn't come ... he was really close. I don't know ..." A small hiccup swallowed her words.
Audrey wasn't certain Ivy had fully understood the man's intent. Through the screen door, Audrey's eyes locked onto the barn a few yards from the house. She groped blindly for Violet with her free arm. When the girl grasped it, she pulled her in and hugged both of her granddaughters. Then she wrapped Ivy's arms around Violet's shoulders. Audrey jumped to her feet and ran out the door, careening between the sharp, ragged edges of relief and fury. She didn't hear the door bang closed behind her, so she knew the girls had followed her to the porch.
She whirled, pointing at the house. "You stay here."
They both froze in the doorway.
Audrey started across the yard. She wasn't sure if she was going to the barn to stop Jack from doing something he would regret or if she was going to do something regrettable herself. Her shaking hands felt hot. Her ears burned. The heat outside only fueled her internal flames. She imagined strangling Charlie Logan and hitting him so hard that he fell to the ground. The magic coursing through her hummed across her palms, so close to the surface.
Then Charlie emerged from the barn, freezing Audrey in her path. Sudden realization about his appearance curdled her blood. Young and handsome, he was tall, dark, and well muscled — a wolf in sheep's clothing. Maybe that was why she hadn't noticed he was capable of something so ugly — because he wasn't outwardly unattractive. Though tempted to use every ounce of power she had, Audrey tamped it down into the hollow of her stomach. Too many eyes.
In that moment of hesitation, her anger felt displaced. Audrey knew she was as much to blame. Charlie was only a wolf being a wolf. But I should have seen it. She cursed herself, remembering flashes and small actions that had given him away. Audrey had ignored her intuitions and made excuses for him. My fault, she thought, pushing away the image of her daughter's face, along with memories of the signs she'd ignored then, too. I'm to blame — again.
Her vision narrowed until she saw only Charlie Logan. She followed several paces behind him. She didn't know what had transpired in the barn between Jack and Charlie, but watching him walk awkwardly to his truck, she knew who had been wielding the pitchfork. When Charlie got inside the vehicle, Audrey stopped a few feet away from the bumper. He tried to light a cigarette with shaking hands before tossing it aside in frustration. Then he smashed the key into the ignition and started the truck. They made eye contact for an instant, and her stomach twisted with anger — at them both.
The gravel dust that stirred up along the long driveway partially concealed his retreat. Audrey stared after it, forcing her heart to beat a normal rhythm.
"No, it's all right, Sam," Jack called out.
She turned to see Jack leaning against the doorjamb of the entrance to the barn, his arms crossed over his chest. Their head farmhand jogged to a stop next to Jack, his eyes darting from the dust cloud to Audrey. She started over to them as Jack spoke to Sam, waving him back toward the orchard. With a nod, Sam walked slowly toward the trees before casting a glance back over his shoulder.
"Were you goin' to beat on him or something?" Jack asked her with wry smile.
"I thought about it." Her anger was swiftly deflating into relief, and the thrum of energy in her hands dissipated. "What did you say to him?"
"Told him I'll kill him if I see him again." The simple, concise statement hung heavy in the air as Audrey's eyes met his. "I poked him a little." He nodded toward the pitchfork resting in its place near the door.
Audrey surveyed the pitchfork for a second before her gaze returned to her husband. "Would you really?" She looked at him hard. "Kill him, I mean."
His forehead wrinkled with contemplation. Then he looked away, swallowing hard, a grimace flashing across his face. "He'd already be dead if I'd turned up a few minutes later." Eyes shining with unacknowledged tears, he pushed himself away from the barn and straightened. He glanced at the house and at the girls watching from the porch, then he turned to walk back to his work. Over his shoulder, he said, "And a man who's done that doesn't come back with nothing good in mind."
Audrey returned to the house with deep resolve. She had failed to trust her instincts for the last time. The girls needed to know they were special, that they could protect themselves and each other.
Charlie's heart pounded to the beat of a fierce excitement. Some things he did because he was driven by an unnamed, persistent force from within. Other things he did because he enjoyed them. He craved the rush of adrenaline that came with raw defiance of the rules. Years had passed since he'd felt such a rush ... nearly a decade. Jack Grant wasn't around to steal his prize this time.
He looked around the darkened room. The owner of the grand house was away — on a trip that Charlie knew he himself would never take and probably driving a car that Charlie would never be able to afford. The paintings on the wall meant little to Charlie Logan, except that he understood other people would pay to own them. Breathing in the heavy scent of the owner's cologne, he imagined the amount of time a man would have to spend in a room for it to take on his scent. This other man would surely place his valuables there, where he could keep them close to him.
The house had an alarm system, as most expensive homes in the area did. However, the house hadn't always been so elaborate. The neighborhood was a cluster of historical homes that had been remodeled, reshaped, and resized. But the window to the storage room in the garage had been long forgotten by the homeowners and security company alike.
Instead of blindly breaking in, Charlie had taken the time to educate himself about the home, even going so far as to pose as an electrical company employee just to get an up-close view. He had failed to plan plenty of times before and had resolved not to make that mistake again. Savoring his victory over the alarm system, he'd taken his time exploring the house. His friend Artie waited outside in a car parked on the street, where the ornate lampposts were more decorative than luminous.
This house has got to have a safe. Even though the paintings were too large to be his first haul away from the house, he gingerly pulled one away from the wall to check behind it. Nothing. He turned to survey the entire room.
Suddenly, headlights flashed through the window. He froze for a brief second as the lights passed over him, then he hustled in a crouch to the window ledge. From there, he saw the garage door open. Oh, shit!
Excerpted from "Dark Designs"
Copyright © 2017 Stefanie Spangler.
Excerpted by permission of Red Adept Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Romance, danger, magic, and small town charm are all found within Dark Designs by Stefanie Spangler. The book is a quick and easy read that I could not put down. The magic in the book was there in every scene yet it was more of a feeling, a small reaction than a wham bam here is my magic scene. I felt that this made the book seem more realistic, more true to life, and more enjoyable for me. Ivy and Violet’s grandmother was my favorite character. Even with her magic she was sweet, lovable, protective, and perfect. She was portrayed exactly as a grandmother should be. She worked the farm alongside her husband, raised her granddaughters when her daughter wouldn’t, and protected them with all that she had. I do wish there was more explanation of her magic, how did she get it, was it inherited, what was her skill with it. If you like fun, quick, and magical books I recommend checking out Dark Designs by Stefanie Spangler.