It’s been exactly two years since Katie and her aunt and uncle opened the Honeybee Bakery, where they serve delicious—and bespelled—treats to the good people of Savannah. After a dinner celebrating the bakery’s anniversary, they all take a stroll along the waterfront and meet Aunt Lucy’s friend Orla, a colorful character who has been telling the fortunes of locals and tourists alike for years.
The next day, Orla meets with what seems like a terrible accident, but Katie’s witchy intuition tells her it was something more sinister. Together with her trustworthy coven and her firefighter boyfriend, she’ll race to find out what happened to the unfortunate fortune-teller before the piping hot trail goes cold....
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The bleat of a boat horn drifted from the river to mingle with the sounds of the Savannah waterfront. Tourists and locals strolled along the brick and tabby sidewalks. A pack of kids ran by, their laughter sparkling through the air. The intense aromas of she-crab soup, garlic, and onions drifted from Huey's Southern Café. Moments later, the sugary fragrance of custom-made candies outside River Street Sweets filled my nose. If I hadn't just finished off our celebratory meal at Vic's with an indulgent serving of sweet potato crème brûlée, I might have dragged my companions inside for a piece of salted fudge.
"I can't believe it's already been two years," Aunt Lucy said. She and Uncle Ben were walking ahead of Declan and me, their arms twined around each other's waists.
Ben smiled and drew her closer. "The time certainly has flown by."
She laid her head against his shoulder, and a long tendril of gray-blond hair escaped from its messy bun to curl against the back of her neck. Hand in hand, Declan and I followed at a leisurely pace.
We passed a man strumming a guitar and crooning "Mr. Tambourine Man," occasionally blowing into the harmonica suspended by a metal bracket in front of his face. A bearded gentleman dropped a few dollars into the guitar case at his feet, and they exchanged nods. A toddler in shorts and a chocolate-stained T-shirt ran by at an impressive speed, his harassed-looking mother barreling after him, half bent over with her arms spread wide to sweep him up. Streaks of color pinked the western sky as the sun dipped toward the horizon.
A dragonfly flitted in front of us. Declan squeezed my fingers as the iridescent beauty dodged the watchful gaze of a gull on a nearby light post and zoomed toward the Savannah River. Our steps slowed as we both took note of its path.
"Is that one of yours?" he murmured.
I shrugged. "There's just the one. Probably on the hunt for supper."
"Seems a bit late in the day," he answered with mild skepticism.
"Mm. More mosquitoes out now, though."
Aunt Lucy noticed the mosquito hawk as well and shot me a conspiratorial look over her shoulder. She and Declan both knew dragonflies were my witch's totem, a kind of metaphysical tap on the shoulder that told me to pay attention to whatever was going on.
But I was feeling happy and lazy, my skin caressed by the soft April air, my belly full of good food, and the evening blessed with the company of some of my favorite people in the world. At the moment, I wasn't interested in taps on the shoulder-metaphysical or otherwise-calling me to action. Still, I couldn't help a quick glance around, intuitively probing our surroundings. Nothing along Rousakis Plaza appeared amiss, and I dismissed the winged visitor as a coincidence.
The four of us were taking our time returning from a thoroughly decadent supper at Vic's on the River. We'd been celebrating the second anniversary of the grand opening of the Honeybee Bakery, as well as the success our enterprise had enjoyed during the past two years. There had been a few low points, of course. Heck, before we'd even managed to open the doors to the public, Uncle Ben had been the main suspect in the murder of crotchety old Mavis Templeton. Nevertheless, I would be forever grateful that he and my aunt had talked me into quitting my boring, poorly paid position as an assistant bakery manager in downtown Akron to move to Georgia. Ben had just retired as Savannah's fire chief, and their brainstorm of teaming up with me to start the Honeybee had saved my sanity. Plus, getting far away from the guy who had dumped me mere days before our wedding had seriously saved my pride.
Of course, I'd learned Lucy had another reason for luring me south. Out of the blue, she'd sprung the news that she and I were both hedgewitches. Magic in the kitchen, she'd said. A natural green thumb. Some call those of us with a gift for cooking and garden spells "green witches." Whatever moniker you choose, our kind has been helping and healing for centuries by tapping into the natural magic inherent in herbs, spices, and food.
It had taken a little convincing, though. Imagine having someone you love suddenly dump that bombshell on you one afternoon over a cup of tea. Lucy had assured me hedgewitchery was a family heritage my mother had long hidden from me. At first, I'd scoffed and rolled my eyes at my hemp-wearing hippie aunt's airy-fairy notion. I mean, who wouldn't? However, I'd eventually realized that it explained an awful lot about my childhood-and my adulthood, for that matter-and came to accept my magical gifts.
I brought my thoughts back to the present. Near the Anchor Monument, an elderly couple held hands and gazed out toward the water. Suddenly, the woman leaned in and whispered something into the man's ear, and he smiled. They had an aura about them that told me they'd been together for most of their lives, probably had children and grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren. Still, they could make each other smile, still wanted to hold hands.
I glanced up at Declan's face, savoring his ice-blue eyes beneath wavy dark hair. A half grin softened the solid planes of his cheekbones and jaw. However, his attention had been snagged by something down toward the River Street Market Place, and he missed the question in my eyes. Would we be like that older couple in fifty years? Would we have children and grandchildren, too? We'd been engaged for a little more than four months but hadn't set a date for the wedding yet. He'd made only a few mild comments, but I could sense he was getting impatient. From the beginning, Declan had been the one pushing our relationship to the next level.
I knew he wasn't at all like Andrew, my erstwhile fiancé of three years ago. He'd never leave me at the altar. Still, how could I know we'd make it together in the long run? How could anyone know? Then my gaze cut to Lucy and Ben, and I had my answer. His gentle brown eyes were full of affection as they met hers. They'd met later in life and been married thirteen years. I couldn't imagine the way they looked at each other ever changing, not if they lived to be a hundred. The chemistry between them was undeniable, the roots of their connection tangled deep and strong.
Declan and I had been through quite a bit in the year and a half we'd been together. It had been touch and go a couple of times-especially after an incident when I'd nearly killed him with magic. It had been an accident, but still . . . it could have broken us. Yet in the end it had helped to strengthen our bond.
The anxiety that had begun to rise within me quieted.
As we continued to walk, I disengaged my hand from Declan's and slid it around his waist. He grinned down at me absently, then looked at the juggler we were approaching. As we watched, he touched a flame to four torches and began tossing them into the air. The spectacle lent a dramatic touch to the festive atmosphere. Ben's and Declan's eyes lit up in appreciation, drawn to the flames as only those of a former fire chief and a current firefighter would be.
Ben either hadn't noticed the dragonfly or didn't care. Unlike Lucy and me, my uncle wasn't particularly interested in such small magical details. He knew we were witches, of course, and fully supported his wife, his niece, and the other members of our informal coven, the spellbook club. Declan had come around, too, especially after a séance in which he discovered he had his own, er . . . gift.
We passed the juggler. A group of children was gathered around a ventriloquist with a wooden dummy on his knee, their mouths open with delight as the dummy appeared to speak of its own accord. The man and his puppet sported the same dark-framed glasses and black hair, the puppet a mirror of its handler.
"What's brown and sticky?" the ventriloquist asked.
Murmurs from the kids, and a few parents exchanged looks of mild alarm.
"A stick!" cracked the dummy in a high voice.
Everyone laughed, and we kept walking.
A redheaded man on a unicycle pedaled among the buskers and spectators in complicated turns and spirals, stopping on a dime and then veering off again. Booths and tables boasted everything from crafts and food products to kitschy souvenirs and funky clothing.
About fifty feet away, a woman sat beneath an arching canopy of draperies. The high back of her chair was elaborately carved and rose a foot above her head, giving the impression of a throne. Her silver braid was coiled on the crown of her head. A small black fedora tied with a scarlet scarf perched on top of the braid. Her long red skirt pooled on the patterned carpet beneath her feet, and silver rings flashed from every finger. Thick eyeliner gave her the look of a wise cat, peering over her tiny half-glasses at the woman sitting across the table from her.
"Katie, look. That's Orla." Lucy turned to me. "She hasn't come into the bakery for ages."
"Maybe she's on a diet," I said. "And I rather suspect that at the moment she's not the Orla Black we know." I tipped my head to the side. I'd never seen our friend in her full fortune-telling regalia.
My aunt nodded. "This is certainly a different look for her. I wonder if she's almost finished with this client."
"Client or mark?" Ben murmured as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Even though he witnessed us practicing our mild-mannered magic every day, his eyes were narrowed with skepticism, and his lips pressed together above his short beard.
"Hush, dear," Lucy said. "Orla's the real deal."
A lush velvet cloth the color of the night sky covered the round table in front of the fortune-teller. On it sat a deck of oversized tarot cards and a plain glass sphere on a black stand. Instinctively, I sent out a questioning tendril of intuition and felt an oh-so-subtle current of real power coming from the woman. That wasn't surprising, really, since magic is around us every day if we pause to look for it. However, the elaborate costume and stereotypical trappings seemed a little over-the-top.
Or are they stereotypical? I chided myself. Spellbook club member Jaida French was an expert in all things tarot, and Mimsey Carmichael's pink quartz shew stone had come in handy for our group more than once.
"We should get back to the bakery," Ben said with a pointed glance at his watch.
Reluctantly, I began to follow him toward the stairs that led up to Bay Street.
Suddenly the air was a-whir with the lacy wings of a hundred dragonflies. I heard Declan suck in his breath, and a pang of anticipation arrowed through my sternum as I stopped and turned back toward Orla.
"Katie," Ben said, "what are you . . ."
He trailed off when Lucy gently squeezed his shoulder. Her eyes followed the phalanx of dragonflies as they gathered above the fortune-teller's canopy, hovered in a tight knot, and then exploded in every direction like a benevolent bomb.
I quickly sidled back, drawing Declan with me. We watched as Orla shoved the crystal ball to the side, placed her hands palms up in the center of the table, and nodded for the woman who sat in the rickety metal chair across from her to grasp them with her own. After a moment's hesitation, she did. She flinched as their skin touched, and she drew back. Then she took a deep breath and reached for the fortune-teller's fingers again.
The client looked to be a decade or so older than me, so about forty. Her cream-colored suit and expensive shoes coupled with the blond chignon and haughty expression made her look like an unlikely personality to seek the advice of a sidewalk seer. Still, I knew better than to judge anyone by her looks when it came to magic or any of its ancillaries. No one in the spellbook club looked like a "witch," except perhaps Bianca Devereaux, with her long black hair and piercing green eyes.
We had drawn close enough that I could hear the lilt of Orla's murmuring voice, but not the words. However, the look on the other woman's face had gone from stony to frightened.
Suddenly, the blonde swept the deck of cards off the table and stood. "How dare you say that to me?" she growled. Her hand came up, and she shook her finger in Orla's face. "You are a disgrace. A sad, pathetic disgrace. A complete and utter fraud. And you ask for money for telling people this kind of nonsense? Unconscionable!" Her eyes blazed with anger, but even from where Declan and I stood thirty feet away, I could see the anguish behind her anger.
"Wow," Declan murmured into my ear. "I've never heard anyone actually use that word out loud before."
I nudged him to be quiet.
"Madam." Orla slowly rose to her feet with great dignity. "I'm sorry you didn't like what you heard. However, you did insist that I tell you the truth. It is my gift and my curse that I am able to do so."
"Truth! Ha! I bet what you're doing is illegal. In fact, I'm going to contact the authorities-" She stopped midsentence as a man strode across the brick walk toward her. It was the ventriloquist whom we'd seen earlier, sans dummy. His face, so cheerful when he'd been joking with the kids, was now mottled with fury.
Blanching, Orla's client backed away, then turned and fled. I was surprised at how fast she was able to make her way up the stairway to Bay Street in those heels.
"Hey!" the man yelled after her. "Stop! You haven't paid the fee!"
He appeared poised to run after her, but Orla stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Let it go, Taber."
"But-" He shrugged off her hand and turned toward her. "Mother, are you all right?"
She snorted. "Of course. You worry too much."
He regarded her in silence for a few seconds. "Perhaps. Still, you can't allow your clients to get away without paying. I'm only trying to help."
Orla tore off her fedora, which unfastened the braid on top of her head. As it uncoiled, she absently flipped it over her shoulder. That simple act transformed her from being a mysterious reader of fortunes to plain old Orla Black, who loved the peach fritters at the Honeybee Bakery.