Witching After Forty, Book 9

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Necromancer-witch hybrid Ava Harper has accomplished many things in the year since moving back home to Shipton Harbor. She’s checking things of a bucket list she never knew she had.

Met—and started dating—a hot cop
Caught a murderer. More than once.
Sent a couple of lunatics to Hades with the help of her devilish neighbor.
Visited Paris.
Saved a bunch of shifter kids.
Animated her cat’s girlfriend.
Sold her old house and found closure.
Discovered her aunt’s ghost.
Saved her mother’s ghost from a dark evil blob.

The list goes on and seems to be never ending. Now Ava is faced with a new entity to deal with. Faeries! Who knew? They’ve dropped a bombshell on Ava and her best friend Olivia. While they come to terms with all the insanity their lives have thrown their way, Ava gets more news from her mother.

Mommy dearest learned some interesting and relevant information while in the Inbetween. She has news about Ava’s father that will change the course of Ava’s life and take her down another new, exciting path.

Will this new thread in Ava’s life prove to be more dangerous than she could’ve dreamed of? Maybe. But it’s more likely that the truth about her father will be killer.

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1 

Lucy-Fur 

—The cat, not the devil— 

 

What in the ever-loving, hairball-causing Underworld had I signed up for? Better yet, what did that no-good Maine Coone Snoozer sign me up for? My new ghoulish life was entirely that big furball’s fault. I mean I’m grateful, really, I am. And I like Snooze and Ava, most of the time, but I don’t go around telling people that. I have a reputation to maintain.  

And I’ll deny everything. 

Excuse me. I have an itch I just need to…Oh for whiskers’ sake…Ah, that’s better. Sorry you had to see me licking my back leg. How embarrassing.  

If you haven’t noticed by now, Ava’s life is a little crazy… not to mention, she is a major chaos magnet. There’s always something insane going on around her, and yet nobody ever seems to notice! How is that possible? The things that happen around this house and Ava have to be documented. And since nobody else is jumping up to do it, Well that makes me the right cat for the job.  

First, I watched Zoey use that new social media thing, Tik Tak or Toe? Something like that, so I broke into her account—ridiculously easy, as she never actually logs out—to see what it was all about.  

That was when the idea hit me. Everything aligned in my mind, and I got so excited I was actually nice to Snoozer. Ugh.  

I could do videos and talk about Ava’s chaotic and unpredictable life. This could be a goldmine. It’s not every day humans see a talking cat. Well, there was that silly lawyer man, but he doesn’t count. He wasn’t even a real talking cat, and look how much attention he got. So I’m almost guaranteed to get a plethora of followers. 

Like that word? Plethora? It was on Ava’s WOTD calendar.  

Anymeow, about the talking cat thing… Yeah, it surprised me too when I woke up as a ghoul. We don’t know why or how it’s possible. I should’ve just been a cat, like Snoozer. Continuing my cat life, sunshine naps, eating, chasing string, all that good stuff. But talking’s not all. I can read, too. Well, not like actual reading, I just understand the words on the paper. Ugh, it’s hard to describe. Just come along with me. I’ll catch you up.  

I jumped up on Zoey’s bed, my favorite in the house, by the way. Probably because of her shifter smell. It’s alluring.  

I padded over to where she had left her tablet and touched the screen with my nose. It flared to life, and I entered the code. Easy peasy. Zoey’s tablet and phone were the only devices in the house that didn’t have the face recognition turned on. She said it was pointless as it didn’t work when her face was in half shift. Convenient for me.  

Like me, Zoey was a ghoul. Unlike me, she was also a tiger shifter who unfortunately didn’t have full control of her shifting. Most of the time around the house, her tiger ears twitched on top of her head, or her facial features looked more feline than human. Other times, her tail was out. I liked to chase it. Ahh, that was a lot of fun.  

Once I had the Toe Top app open, I bunched the blanket under the tablet, so it sat at an angle. When I got it just right, without flipping the tablet over, which wasn’t so easy, I nudged the three-minute timer and hit the record button.  

I backed into place, smiled at the tablet’s camera, and started my story. “This week’s update is about the newest thing with Olivia. Yes, boring human Olivia. She found out her mother is a Fae princess, and her father is Luci. Yes, that Luci, not me. I spell my name with a Y.” I licked my front paw and smoothed a piece of fur away.  

“So, that makes Olivia a demonic Faery princess. Sounds like a Halloween costume gone wrong, doesn’t it? Anyway, Ava wrote it in some short story called Old Magic or something stupid like that. It’s in an anthology called Girdles and Ghouls at that big online e-book store if you want to read the full story. But I’m here to give you a spoilerific recap in case you missed it. To be clear. Lots of spoilers coming.” 

Sucking in a deep breath, I waved and let my audience know I’d continue in part two. These videos didn’t last long enough.  

Now for the hard part. I had to get all the hashtags on there. It took a while because my toe beans weren’t situated to be able to do it—no opposable thumbs, you know—and my nose often missed. But eventually, I had them in. #catsoftiktok, #cats #catlover #shiptonghoul—to tie my stuff to the stuff Alfred had been doing on Insta—and a few more that were currently trending.  

Then I started over again with part two. “In my last update, I told you about the black blob from the Inbetween actually being a Fae princess. Well, Ava and the coven tried every spell and counter-curse they could think of and couldn’t figure out how to cure the Fae and turn her from an angry blob into a pretty lady. Then, one random day, Ava and Olivia went out to the blob and when they came back, they brought back the Fae all normal and nice. Turns out Olivia’s blood was the key! Who could’ve guessed? Olivia’s powers unlocked and the house sprouted vines and flowers, which Snoozer and I got trapped in.” I gave the camera a flat, aggravated look. “I was not amused.” 

“What happened next was chaos from the noise. I was trapped in the vines, so I don’t know all the details. Lucifer showed up and I guess they had a family meeting or something. The next thing I knew, Olivia’s older children showed up. Turns out when Olivia’s powers unlocked, so did theirs. Olivia and her family moved in with the Devil and the Fae princess to learn their powers. Then at Ava’s birthday party, Olivia’s ex-husband showed up and boy was he pis—” 

“Lucy-Fur, What are you doing?” Ava’s sharp tone scared the kittens out of me. I jumped and whirled around to face her. “Geez, Ava, you look like death.” Her green eyes were dull and tired-looking, and her hair was greasier than I’d ever seen it. And that was saying something, considering she went into her office and didn’t emerge for hours and hours, or days and days sometimes. She looked rough after a big writing jag like that.  

To my horror, she reached down and snatched up the tablet, turning the video feed off.  

I darted forward, but it was too late. “Hey! I need to save that!” 

With her lips pressed together, she stared at me for a long while. I gazed back, not understanding what she was trying to do. Intimidate me? Ha! I think not. That wasn’t possible. I was un-intimidate-able.  

She looked down at the tablet and started swiping her finger across the screen. I couldn’t see what she was doing, but I knew it wasn’t good. Her voice came out all low and growly. Phlegm, maybe? “How many of these videos have you done?” No, it was anger.  

I laid down and licked my paw, unconcerned with her fury. “A few. I have followers—” Over a hundred thousand, thank you very much. “—and they love me.” 

“Unbelievable. And it sounded like you were telling people about Olivia without changing names or anything. Everyone pretty much still thinks she’s human! What were you thinking?” Ava lifted her head and paused as if she was going to sneeze. When she didn’t, she called out, “Zoey!” 

I paused in my bath and studied Ava. She’d been sick for the past couple of weeks, but today she really didn’t look so hot. 

A few seconds later, the young tigress appeared at the door of her bedroom. Her tail wasn’t twitching around behind her, but her ears were out on top of her head. “Yes?” 

Ava handed her the tablet. “Change your passcode. Did you know that Lucy was making Tik Tok videos?” 

Zoey giggled and one of her tiger ears disappeared from the top of her head. “Yeah, of course. She has a bigger following than me. Besides, they think it’s me using a filter that makes me look like a cat.” 

Ava looked supremely irritated and opened her mouth to say something but sneezed, then coughed. Zoey frowned and reached out to her. “You should see someone for that cold.” 

Ava waved her off, and I lost interest in the whole situation. It was no longer about me, therefore it wasn’t important. “I’m going to go find out where Snooze wandered off to and disrupt his nap.”