17 days until Witching After Forty Book 2 releases! LA Boruff and I are so excited and can’t wait for you guys to read it. So, We have a sneak peek for you.
Here is the first chapter for you.
Preorder it here: https://amzn.to/3bP4AMG
“Coming!” I called.
The persistent knocking on the door roused me from a dead sleep. I’d just settled into the deep bliss of dreamland. And my crazy house didn’t help. Every time whoever-was-about-to-get-an-earful-from-me-for-waking-me knocked on the door, the house echoed the sound upstairs, and I would’ve sworn it was doing it on purpose. Right outside my bedroom door. The last double tap was so loud I jumped out of bed. Literally landing on my buttocks on the hardwood floor, and then I understood why they were called hardwood.
Rubbing my behind, I stomped down the stairs, paying back the house for waking me. Whoever it was could have left a message and went away. I’d call them back, maybe. Eventually.
“Where is everyone?” I mumbled loudly. I’d told Alfred not to answer the door unless he knew who it was, but my son was here for the weekend, and Owen, my friend, roommate, and teacher, was hanging around somewhere. Apparently, neither of them was home.
As long as our new houseguest, the fully defleshed skeleton, Larry, didn’t answer, we’d be okay. It was way too fudging early to deal with the aftermath of anyone seeing him.
Alfred stood beside the door, dry-washing his hands. He shrugged at me, his eyes somehow looking worried even though he couldn’t move the skin on his face to convey that emotion. “It’s okay,” I said softly. “Just stand behind the door.”
As my ghoul, Alfred had become a beloved member of our family, even if he wouldn’t let me take out the strings tying his lips together. His vocal cords definitely worked, because he made grunting noises all the time. I’ve even caught him mumbling to Snooze once. So he could talk. I wasn’t sure why he didn’t want to. But I filed it under one of the many mysteries of life I didn’t have time to solve at the moment. There was something about him he wanted to keep hidden, but hey. Who was I to judge? I’d kept my necromancer side hidden for over twenty years.
Sometimes we suppressed part of who we were, and that was okay. So I wasn’t about to push him to share his secrets.
Peeking out the peephole, frowned. Nobody out there. “Probably some town kid playing a prank,” I muttered. We had the spooky old house on the hill. Well, spooky with fresh paint and newly renovated insides.
I’d been thinking about doing some major upgrades, but at the last minute decided to restore the old house and keep the historical value of it. Although the value may have been zero since the house was basically alive. It wasn’t possessed or anything, it was just… animated. My theory was the house had absorbed so much magic through the centuries that it formed its own spirit along the way.
I opened the door cautiously in case there really was someone out there. Couldn’t be too careful after the winter we’d had. Murders and Satanic Christmas parties and all that. It had been chaos. The neighborhood was going to Hell.
Or was that just my new devilish neighbor? Definitely was Luci because I was going to send him there. Hopefully soon.
Casting thoughts of the devil aside, for now, I frowned at the absence of a warm body—or cold body with my luck—standing on my porch. But instead of being greeted by a person, I stepped back when an envelope fluttered into the house and hung suspended in my entryway.
“Er, okay.” The envelope turned toward me when I spoke and froze in midair, leaving the front so I could clearly read my name written in a bold red calligraphy. Ava Calliope Howe Harper. Wow. They’d middle named me. I hadn’t been middle named since I was a teenager living here with Yaya and Aunt Winnie.
What the heck was I supposed to do now?
I plucked the envelope from the air as Alfred shut the door behind us. He moved closer as if curious to what it was. That made two of us.
“What’ve you got?” Owen walked down the stairs smoothing his long black hair back. He looked freshly showered, which explained why he hadn’t answered the door.
I lifted one brow, at least I thought I did. Usually, I ended up moving them in all directions while trying to lift only one. “Where were you? Did you not hear the door?” He was a morning person. I wasn’t. This was his time to be adulty.
“I was in the shower.” He studied me for a moment. “What’s wrong with your eyebrows?”
“Nothing.” I waved him off and focused on the envelope, then answered his question. “This floated into the house when I opened the door. I’m hoping it’s not cursed.” I laughed even though I was being serious.
We all walked into the large kitchen and sat at the table. I spied my son, Wallie, on the porch drinking coffee. We’d opened up the back wall of the kitchen to let in more light. Half of the back of the kitchen led into a large conservatory where we grew herbs and plants mostly for use in spells. The space was big enough, I could put in a small antique wood burning stove and a workstation for me to do my potions and spell casting. The ritual room in the attic was used for bigger magical things. Like accidentally conjuring Satan last Christmas.
Before we’d knocked down the wall, we had to go through the conservatory to reach the back deck, but thanks to a little elbow grease and a lot of magic, big French doors now also led to the porch from the kitchen.
I didn’t blame Wallie for having his coffee out there. We’d recently learned how to create heat bubbles around ourselves, something among the many things Owen had taught us. Since I’d rejected my necromancer side and strongly suppressed even my elemental magic all my life, I’d had to relearn all the things my mother, aunt, and grandmother had taught me as a child and teen.
Plus, there was a whole world of magic I’d never given them the chance to share with me. One of my biggest regrets now that they were all gone.
“Alfred, will you get Wallie?” I said studying the envelope. A hum of magic flowed from it, telling me another witch had sent it.
Alfie grunted and tapped on the glass in the door, making Wallie jump and turn with wide eyes. Then he laughed when he realized he’d been startled by the house ghoul. I chuckled softly.
He walked in followed by the skeleton, Larry, and our big, fat Maine coon cat Snoozle. Mr. Snoozleton, to be precise, but he was called all sorts of things.
“Good morning,” Larry said. “I hope you’re all well on this lovely winter morn.”
Good grief, the skeleton was a morning undead person. I didn’t do morning or morning people, undead or alive. Flesh or no flesh.
I had to force myself not to roll my eyes at the skeleton’s turn of phrase. Or the fact that it still creeped me out that he could speak so eloquently without the aid of any vocal cords.
“The doorbell rang,” I explained. “Then someone knocked until I answered, but nobody was there. Just this envelope.”
Larry leaned close and his head pulled back as the sound of sniffing filled the air. “Smells like magic,” he whispered.
How…? Nope. No, I wasn’t going to ask how the skeleton could smell. Nope, not asking. Just go with the crazy.
“Hello?” A voice from the front door made me turn my head, but I didn’t get up. I knew who it was before she spoke.
“Come in, Olivia!” I yelled. She came over all the time, but I didn’t mind. She’d quickly become my best friend and partner in crime, even though we’d been enemies in high school.
Times changed us all. Life changed us. “Get in here,” I called. “I got a mysterious letter.”
She hurried in the kitchen with her arms full. Of course, she’d cooked. I looked up at her and spied a big pink box. Nope, she bought donuts this time.
Her son, Sammie, scurried in the room, arms held out toward Snoozle. Nice to see how I ranked with the kid. Did he not know I was the closest thing to an aunt he’d ever have?
Snooze hunkered down, but he let Sammie pick him up and hug him. “Hello Mr. Snoozer,” Sammie said. “I missed you.”
The look Snooze shot me made me snort. There was real panic in his eyes.
“Okay, he loves you, too,” Olivia told Sammie. “Put him down.”
Alfred grunted and Sammie launched himself into Alfie’s arms. “Hey, Alf!” he cried. “I missed you too.”
Alfred grunted a few more times, which Sammie apparently understood because they ran out of the room and thundered up the stairs as Olivia’s husband and my lifetime best friend, Sam, walked in.
“You shouldn’t have given Alfred an iPad,” Sam said. “Now Sammie wants one. He’s been driving us nuts about it.”
I blanched and shrugged while hiding my smile. “Sorry, friend. I had to have a way to communicate with Alfred. I don’t speak grunts.”
“What is that?” Olivia asked, setting the donuts on the table.
“A magical envelope.” I smiled at her.
“Will you open that thing already?” Owen asked. “I’m dying to know what it is.”
“As am I,” Larry said pompously as he sat in one of the kitchen chairs. His pelvic bones clacked against the wood of the chair.
I closed my eyes briefly, hoping no parts fell off him.
Tearing my gaze away from the still-shocking sight of a skeleton at my kitchen table, I ripped the back of the envelope open.
The parchment inside was the thickest I’ve seen and probably expensive. I unfolded it and read the contents to the room.
Dear Ms. Howe-Harper,
The Shipton Harbor Coven cordially invites Ava Howe-Harper, Wallace Harper, and Owen Daniels to the monthly coven meeting on this Saturday at 8 pm. It will be held at the home of the Coven Master. Repeat the spell on the bottom of this paper when you are ready to travel, and the direction will be made clear to you.
Princeps invenire pythonissam
“Is that the spell?” Olivia whispered. Her eyes were wide and excited as she bent over my shoulder. “Can I go?”
“Yes. It means something along the lines of Find the High Witch. And no,” I said evenly. “Because I’m not going. These people ostracized Aunt Winnie and Yaya because of my dad. No way.”
I crumpled the parchment and tossed it on the table. As soon as it landed, it started opening up from its ball. Within seconds it was smooth as when I pulled it out of the envelope. I pointed and said, “See? Cursed.”
Owen stared at it. “It’s not cursed.”
Yet he eyed it like it was going to attack him. Ha, not so sure, are we?
“I thought they invited your mom,” Sam said. “But I don’t remember the details.”
I sighed and looked around the table at my new family. “They invited Mom, but Winnie and Yaya always said it was because they wanted an in with a powerful necromancer. Which never made sense to me since they once hated my dad for that same reason. Back then, I wasn’t suppressing my power, and they sensed how strong I would be. When Mom died, Winnie withdrew from the coven, and I began to suppress my powers. Yaya and Winnie wouldn’t force me to use them, so the coven sort of shunned them. Yaya stayed in because of, as she said it, keeping her enemies close, but she was basically trolling them.”
They’d treated her like crap. We never got invitations to the witch parties, I was never invited to play with the other children of the coven, and once Winnie had pulled away and stopped being social after Mom died, her invitations dried up as well.
“I loved my coven in Nebraska,” Owen said. “It was like a big family. Maybe this one has changed.” He raised his eyebrows. “What would it hurt to go see?”
I tapped the parchment that wouldn’t die. “Bevin Magnus was one of the ones that could’ve made us feel welcome after Mom died, and could’ve tried to get us back in the fold. But no, he did nothing but stick his nose up at us. I’m telling you, they’re not good people.”
“I’d like to go, too,” Wallie said. “I’d like to meet other witches. This Magnus might be a jerk, but they can’t all be. And it’s hard to meet our kind without the coven network.” He grinned. “Michelle took me to meet her coven. It was awesome.”
Michelle, his witch girlfriend, had come home with him for Christmas. Some big exam had kept her on campus this past weekend, but she was a sweet girl.
I sighed and stared at Owen and Wallie’s hopeful expressions. “Fine,” I growled. “We’ll go. But mark my words. These witches are bitches.”