A Grave Midlife

Witching After Forty, Book Eleven

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Ava Harper is ready to settle into her new life of witchcraft, necromancy, and being a bonded mate. All she wants to do is help her best friend learn about her powers and write her next bestselling book.

Unfortunately, new events conspire to keep her on her toes. Wasn’t almost dying bad enough?

In addition to dealing with the chaos in her personal life, now a group of necromancers want to make sure Ava doesn’t abuse her changing power.

As she focuses on calming down that drama, a new and separate threat appears out of nowhere to make things more difficult.

And all this while trying to plan a wedding. Really, it’s all getting deadly depressing. Ava will have to rely on her strength, her family, and her friends to make sure everyone comes out of this alive.


Chapter 1 


It was gigantic, long, and proud. And a little intimidating. 

I bet you thought I was talking about something else. Double entendre completely intended. 

It was pretty hard to intimidate me, considering I was a powerful necromancer. One of the most powerful necros in decades, according to Drew and my father. It all boiled down to me being the last female in my bloodline, blah blah. You get the picture. I had a lot of juice. 

Enough about me and back to the intimidating mystery sword Dad and I had found in the cave along with a large power stone also known as the chasm. 

It’d been almost a week since we found the sword, and we still didn’t know much about it other than it was Viking, possibly Norse. That discovery only added to the number of questions we all had. 

By we, I meant the whole chaotic menagerie: Olivia, my best friend; Sam, my life-long best friend; Drew, my hunky boyfriend; Mom and Dad, recently back from the sort-of dead; Winnie, recently back from the literal dead; Owen, my friend,, and necromancer mentor; Liv’s kids, Jess and Devan; Liv and Sam’s son, Sammie; Wally, my son and his girlfriend, Michelle; Uncle Wade, my dead husband’s uncle who was now a vampire and under my care; Luci, our next-door neighbor, who was also the literal devil and his girlfriend Phira, who was also Olivia’s mom, and did I remind you that Luci is her dad? Yeah, drama. And then we had my seven ghouls: Alfred, Mr. Snoozerton, Lucy-Fur, Zoey, Larry, and my mother and aunt were also technically ghouls under my care. 

Well, maybe not all seven ghouls had questions. The cats seemed to not care one way or another. Little Sammie only cared about playing. And Jess and Devan’s focus was on their father, who was missing. That was another mystery we kind of pushed to the back burner. Not that we didn’t care whether Carter was really missing. Olivia just wasn’t sure. Plus, she was a little bitter because the SOB had turned his back on his kids when they needed him the most. 

“Alfred, why do you enjoy cooking and cleaning for Ava?” Dad asked, drawing my attention from the sword over to Alfred. 

I glanced at Dad, noting how his attention was divided between the sword and my ghoul. Everyone at the kitchen table, including me, Mom, Dad, Winnie, and Olivia, was captivated by the sword. I wasn’t sure if it was the strange low pulse of power coming from it or the mystery of not knowing anything about it. Probably both. We hadn’t figured out a darn thing about it, and that added to the frustration and curiosity. 

But now, everyone seemed to be waiting for Alfred to answer Dad’s question. 

Alfred smiled his stiff-lipped smile. “I’ve always enjoyed cooking. Ava has done so much for me in our short time together, it’s the least I can do to thank her.” Alfred’s high-pitched voice was a little squeaker than usual. Was he maybe a little emotional? How sweet. 

I didn’t sense a lie, but the way he quickly set the breakfast plates on the table and rushed back into the kitchen told me he didn’t want to talk about it. I also noted how he purposely avoided the sword. There was a story there, I was sure of it. However, I wasn’t the type of person to call people out in front of others, unless they were harming my family and friends. Whatever it was about the weapon, it made Alfred supremely uncomfortable. 

To take the spotlight off of Alfred, I asked, “Has anyone found anything on the sword? Even a whisper of a rumor?” 

Olivia shook her head as she fixed her plate. “Phira took a look at it and confirms it’s not from the fae realm. She too seems to think it’s Norse.” 

Yeah, we have already come to that conclusion. I’d even searched the internet with no luck. There were plenty of swords used in various mythologies. Norse had several. It was hard to narrow it down. A historian I was not. I’d been hoping Phira might have some knowledge of it. 

The sword wasn’t my only worry. Mom and Winnie still wanted to find human bodies so they could be actually alive, and their biggest hope was that their magic would return. It irked them that they couldn’t use magic to help me. 

Then there was the little problem called the vampire council. A group of elder vamps had been holding necromancers hostage and recently tried to kill me. I’d sent them a message not to mess with me or mine again, but I wasn’t hopeful they would listen. That message had come in the form of a new power of mine that was sure to motivate the council to increase their number of assassins or find a new alliance of some kind. They weren’t the type to take my threat lying down. We were going to have to prepare for another attack. 

I voted to bring it on. I was pretty dang powerful, and my friends were no chumps. I mean, Olivia’s dad, my next-door neighbor, was the literal devil! We could handle it. 

But first, we needed to prioritize our magical to-do list. Cause it was long. 

Tabling the sword for the moment, I fixed my gaze on Mom. “Any luck on finding bodies?” They’d been volunteering at the hospital a few towns over. The ideal body would be someone with no family to miss them, and they had to be beyond all hope of a cure. Their souls had to have moved on already. We wouldn’t risk putting Mom or Winnie in a body that had another sentient being in it. That was how the Alfred-Winnie fiasco happened, though that hadn’t been intentional. 

Mom shook her head while Winnie said, “It’ll be better if we look outside of Maine. The farther out the better.” 

That was true. “Yeah. That way if you find a body without a soul, if there is any family around, you’ll be less likely to run into them here in Shipton.” However, that idea wasn’t a new one. It was a nudge for them to leave again and continue their search. But where? I didn’t want to just send them off anywhere. Their powers were tied to the stones we’d excavated from the chasm now, rather than being tied directly to me, which meant they could travel virtually anywhere. The thought of them being alone in a strange city without me there to help them if something happened to their stones. What if they were in the middle of New York or some other city and they turned back to ashes? They’d just blow away, and I’d never see them again. It had to be somewhere I could still keep an eye on them. 

Then an idea hit me. “Would Philadelphia be far enough away?” If they went to Philly, they could potentially stay with Hailey, the woman who bought my house. She’d been turned into a vampire right after buying it. The vampire leader of the whole United States, Jaxon Parsons, lived in a nondescript house across the street, and if we sent them there, Wade could go with them and maybe get in a bit more vampire training with Jax. It would help us out tremendously, although I didn’t see much in it for Hailey, I’d hope she’d be amenable to opening her home to a few fellow supernatural creatures. 

Mom nodded thoughtfully while Winnie said, “Yes, I think it is. If we find live bodies there and bring them back here, we’d be fairly well sheltered from running into any of their relatives.” 

Hopefully they were right. “Great. I’ll give Hailey a call and see if you guys could stay with her.” I took a bite out of eggs, then sipped my coffee. One thing checked off the list. Did that mean I could take a break now? 

Then Olivia asked, “Would Yaya know about the sword?” 

Nope. No breaks for me. I started to shake my head, but then reconsidered. “If she did, we would have no way to contact her. I’m not going back into the Inbetween to hunt down her soul either.” Not to mention, I was pretty sure she was already past the Inbetween and on to peace. 

“What about the mirror?” Olivia asked, shoveling food in her face. 

That was actually a good idea. It could work, except I was pretty sure we’d exhausted all the magic Yaya had put in the little mirror. 

Winnie stared at me with wide eyes, so I explained. “We found an old hand mirror that Yaya had placed an imprinting spell on. It was her way of saying bye. Wallie got to meet her that way. But the magic is used up because the spell was only meant to last a short time.” 

My aunt grinned like she had the best idea ever. “You can do the spell and we can ask her.” 

I could? I wasn’t so sure. Then again it turned out I could shoot electricity from my hands, which was another thing to add to my list—learn to control the light. 

Mom added, “We could go to the cave with the chasm before we leave and use that as a booster.” 

That would probably work. At least, it would give me some peace of mind that they wouldn’t suddenly poof and be gone forever. 

I waved a hand, and the family grimoire appeared on the table behind my plate. While I finished my breakfast and everyone moved around the kitchen, eating and getting ready for the day, I magically flipped the pages, looking for the imprinting spell. Our grimoire was a collection of family spells and recipes that went back hundreds of years. When I was little, I used to read all the spells, so I was pretty sure I remembered it being in there. 

After studying the spell for a few minutes, I bobbed my head. “Looks like we’re taking a trip to the chasm cave. I think with the power from the crystal, I can make the imprint permanent.” 

Maybe. We’d soon see. I was about to call out for Owen when he appeared in the archway of the kitchen. He seemed to do that a lot. I studied him for a second. “You always know when I need you.” He’d also shown up in town exactly when I’d needed him, and I’d thanked my lucky stars for him more than once. 

He smiled and crossed his arms. “I’m intuitive.” 


I glanced around the table, thinking of who else was missing. I’ve become used to having so many people in the house, I didn’t keep track of them all. Wallie, Jess, and Devon were all back at their colleges. Or at least getting settled into starting classes in a few weeks. Luci, aka Lucifer, had created portals for each of them to use to pop back home whenever they wanted. Wallie’s was located in his bedroom upstairs. Jess’s and Devon’s were in their rooms at Luci’s house. 

Little Sammie—Liv and Sam’s too-cute-for-words five-year-old—had said he wanted his own portal. Olivia had told him he could have one when he went to college. Now Sammie couldn’t wait to go to college. No one had the heart to tell him he had a very long time to wait. 

Putting my attention back to Owen, I asked, “Have you eaten?” 

“Earlier, before you got up.” He sat across from me and smiled expectantly. 

He was a morning person. I wasn’t, but still, I’d been up this morning earlier than normal. Was it weird that I was a little proud of that? “Will you come to the cave with us?” I asked. “I might need help.” 

He chuckled and glanced at my dad. “I’m sure you won’t, but yes, I’ll come.” 

His confidence in me was touching. “Great. I just need a few minutes to get dressed and grab the mirror.” 

As I rinsed my plate in the sink, a telltale sound reached my ears, and I, like all cat owners in the world, braced for impact. “I hear a cat puking!” I yelled. “Lucy, Snoozer, get off the rugs!” 

Owen, Dad, Alfred, Winnie, Mom, and I went running. Footsteps sounded all over the house. When we cleared the first floor, I sprinted up the stairs to see if the sound had come from up there. 

I flung my bedroom door open just in time to find Lucy walking slowly off of my bedroom rug. “Don’t worry,” she said dismissively, the tip of her tail twitching up in the air as she sauntered by. “I made it to the rug before I horked.” 

Dismayed, I looked into my room to see a giant slimy hairball on the very edge of my carpet. An inch to the right and she would’ve puked on the hardwood, where it was much easier to clean up. 

“Thanks a lot,” I muttered with a voice full of sarcasm. 

Which was totally lost on Lucy. She stopped in the doorway and sat, delicately licking one paw. “My pleasure.”