Witching After Forty
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Half-witch, half-necromancer, Ava Harper has finally accepted her destiny, her inheritance, and her insane power. Yet, there is still so much more to learn.
And it’s time to use it to do some good. Necromancers are being held captive at the vampires’ headquarters in Milan.
No big deal for our Ava. She’s the most powerful necromancer in like… possibly ever? She can handle those fanged suckers.
Things go a little crazy and Ava gets some help from a very unexpected ally. Together, the group of friends and ghouls have to free the world from the influence of a couple of very corrupted vampires.
That’s not to mention the rest of her to-do list: wedding planning, figuring out the souls in the Viking blade, helping Olivia deal with her family’s new magic, and don’t forget the mess Crystal left with the shifters.
It’s all going to be okay. Ava is powerful, right? She’s got this.
Chapter One: Lucy-Fur
—The cat, not the devil—
There was nothing ruder than being woken up from an incredible dream. I was about to finally catch that darn red light. Like seriously, I was so close to owning that little beam! But noooo, Winston, the house I was cruelly forced to live in with Ava and her clan of ghouls was shaking violently and making awful noises.
Utterly annoyed, I forgot my glorious dream and tried to twitch my ears and figure out what was happening. Something scary had to be going on for the house to react so dramatically. Actually, that wasn’t true. He could’ve been pitching a fit because Olivia came over. Winston really didn’t care much for Olivia, though none of us knew why.
Since I was up and wouldn’t be going back to sleep anytime soon, I stood and stretched before making my way down the upstairs hallway to the top of the stairs to see what in the ever-loving world was going on. If it was something stupid, I was going to yell at everyone in the vicinity for disturbing my beauty sleep.
Snort. Yeah, right. As if I needed beauty sleep. I was glorious and we all knew it.
The sight on the first floor was not at all what I expected. Chaos was the best way to describe it. Certainly, Winston was right to do his little freakout. Wait let me take that back. Chaos didn’t seem to be a strong enough word for what was going on.
Alfred, Ava’s house ghoul, had a wooden spatula in one hand and a fishing net in the other, fighting off a rabid bunny and a rat. What in the world did I wake up to? My tail twitched of its own accord, my instincts driving me to go get that rat.
But hang on a sec. Was that a ferret with a knife in his mouth trying to make it up the stairs? Holy crap. My feline instincts were fine with me taking on a ferret, but maybe not one holding a freaking knife!
Thankfully, Winston wasn’t having any of it. The stairs moved and rippled to keep the small animal from climbing them. The ferret got smart, or stupid, depending on how you looked at it, and started jumping to every other step. “Don’t you dare come up here!” I screamed in my most commanding, forceful voice. “I won’t have it.”
Lucky for me, Winston turned the steps into a slide. The knife-wielding furball slid down so fast it smacked into the front door, bouncing back enough for Winston to swing open the door and use his magic to shove the vermin outside.
“I’m too sleepy for this foolishness,” I yelled at the house in general before turning around and walking to the attic stairs. That would be a suitable spot for me to get quiet to finish my required fourteen-hour afternoon nap.
“Finish the last bite, then you can go play.” And mommy could get some much needed me time done while no one was home. A rare occurrence around here since I lived with the devil himself. Yep, you heard that right, Lucifer was my father and we lived with him while learning my newfound powers.
It wasn’t just Luci and I who lived in his gothic mansion on the property adjacent to Ava’s. My biological mom, Phira, my two college age children, Sam, my husband, and our son, Sammie.
Sammie picked up the last piece of his PB&J and shoved it into his mouth. Then he grinned at me, peanut butter and jelly stuck all over his teeth.
The little snot. Trying not to laugh at my almost six-year-old’s antics and failing awesomely, I said around my giggles, “Chew with your mouth closed. No one wants to see your chewed-up food.”
When he started laughing, I gave him the mom look to stop him before he choked. As I raised my eyebrows for added emphasis, my phone rang. The caller ID read Luci’s name, so I answered. He didn’t call all that often. My biological father was prone to literally popping in instead. “Hello,” I said brightly as I wagged my finger at Sammie.
“Hello, dear.” He sounded pleased to talk to me. It’d taken me a lot to come around to my new father, but we were working on our relationship. I no longer hated the thought of him, so that was a big step.
Luci, Phira, my biological mother who’d previously been banished to a specter dimension, and my two older kids, Jess and Devan, were off vacationing around the world. When the kids had mentioned they were going with Luci and Phira, I’d protested, saying they had school. But Luci reminded me that the kids had basically just lost their father. They needed a happy time. And he’d been right.
Carter, my ex-husband and the father of my older two, was worse than a horse’s butt. An overabundance of colorful words came to mind when I thought about him.
He was human, and when he’d found out that his kids and I had magic, he’d disowned us. Carter and I had divorced years ago, so I couldn’t care less that he wanted nothing to do with me. He’d already made that abundantly clear when he’d kicked me out of our home and took the kids from me. But in my defense, I was a wholly different person back then.
Carter hadn’t changed, however. Right now, he was at a hunter camp in North Carolina, training to hunt down paranormal beings. All three of my children were said paranormal beings. As was I. And my best friend, my biological family, and pretty much all of the important people in my life. Everyone but my husband, Sam. My sweet, wonderful man was a hundred percent human.
If Carter thought he would be allowed to come after his own kids, he was in for a very rude awakening. After all, I was half-goddess, half-fae princess, and I was learning how to lay quite the spectacular smackdown.
“What’s up? You miss us already?” I teased, earning me a chuckle from the devil.
The goddess half of me came from him since he was Lucifer. Phira was a fae princess and she called Luci, Loki. Say that ten times fast. That was what Luci had been going by when the two of them met and fell in love. He had a bunch of other names, too, but I didn’t bother with much other than Luci.
“John called.” Ava’s father. “He, Beth, Winnie, and Wade are ready to come home, but I can’t easily leave. We’re on a cruise.” Beth and Winnie, Ava’s mom and aunt, were in Philadelphia, shopping for new bodies.
It sounds a lot worse than it is, I promise.
Of course, they wanted to come home now during my down time. “I can portal over and get them.” I’d been practicing my magic several times a day, building on my strengths and discovering my weaknesses. My magic was the whole reason why Sam, the kids, and I were still staying at Luci’s gothic mansion, which was situated conveniently beside Ava’s old Victorian house.
Creating portals was one of my latest achievements, and I was quite proud of myself, thank you very much.
“If it’s no trouble, that would be great.” Luci paused as Jess’s muffled voice in the background made me miss my family. But they deserved this vacation. School or not, they needed the distraction. Plus, Luci and Phira loved the kids and spoiled them all the time. They deserved that as well.
Sucking back a sigh of regret at missing my planned “me day”, I brightened my voice. “No trouble. I’ll drop Sammie off with Ava and pop over to Philly to pick them up.”
“Good, good. I’ll talk to you in a few weeks. Ciao!” Luci hung up before I had a chance to reply.
Instead of being offended, I laughed and dialed John’s number. Ava had given it to me on the off chance that I would need it. The way our crazy lives had been going over the past several months, it was good to have everyone’s contact information.
John answered on the second ring. “Hello.”
“Hi, it’s Olivia. Luci said you need a pickup?”
“Yes, we’re ready. We’re not at Hailey’s house, though. We’re at Wade’s.”
I thought about it for a few, trying to remember where Wade lived. I’d only been in Philly for a few hours once to pick up Ava. Luci had then sent us on a ghost train that had conveniently dropped us into the spectral world where Ava’s mom was trapped, along with my mom, and we’d figured out how to free them both. Now Beth was looking for a body and my mom was cruising with my dad.
What was I trying to remember again? Oh, yes. Where Wade lived. I was pretty sure I remembered it correctly. “Got it. I’ll see you in a few. I just have to drop Sammie off with Ava. Be there in a bit.”
We hung up, and I slipped my phone into the back pocket of my jeans before smiling brightly at Sammie, who’d just drained the rest of his milk. “Mommy needs to go run an errand. Would you like to stay with Ava until I get back?”
“Yay!” Sammie did a little dance in his chair before jumping down. He loved staying with Ava.
Before he made it out of the kitchen, I grabbed him, hurriedly wiped the PB&J off his mouth, then teleported us to Ava’s.
Instead of portaling into Ava’s living room as I’d been aiming for, Sammie and I landed at the top of the stairs, which was super weird. I was generally good at hitting the intended target. I hadn’t messed up like this in a while.
Ava stood at the railing, drinking coffee and looking at something downstairs. I followed her gaze and gasped while covering Sammie’s eyes as fast as I could.
A shirtless Viking was in battle with a… “Is that a bunny?” I whispered. “And a rat? What’s going on?”
“Shifter assassins,” Ava said simply.
I stared at her for a few moments, shocked at her calm demeanor, before I turned my attention back to the chaos unfolding below us. And boy, was it chaotic. The rabbit and rat were doing everything in their power to get past Alfred—the Viking—and up the stairs.
Something hit the window right behind the melee. I fought back a little squeal and snapped my gaze to it, where a ferret had his face pressed to the glass. He snarled and chirped away, as if cursing at the house, which, to be fair, he probably was. Winston was doing all he could to keep the critter out.
I tore my gaze from the window to Alfred. Once a zombie-looking ghoul, he was now a fleshed-out, seemingly alive hottie. Washboard abs, broad shoulders, and long brown hair with streaks of gold in it. And his long beard with two braids on either side of it was the whipped cream on top of the glorious Viking dessert. The transformation he had gone through was…wow. Chef’s kiss. I didn’t have words to describe it other than hot.
Don’t judge me. I’m just as much in love with my husband as the day I realized I was in love with him six years ago. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a fine Viking form. And beard.
“Should we help Alfred?” I asked, glancing at Ava again.
Ava shrugged. “I think he’s got it.” She then turned to face me. “Good morning, by the way.”
“Morning.” I laughed, then said, “Assassins.”
She nodded. “Yep. The vampire council is getting desperate.”
“And yet they aren’t any smarter.”
Sammie squirmed in my arms, and I realized he was looking at the whole scene through my fingers. “Get behind me,” I said sharply, and my sweet boy obeyed without hesitation. Probably because it meant he’d be able to watch better by peering around me.
The sound of glass breaking drew our attention back to the battle on the first floor. The ferret jumped through the broken window and locked gazes with Ava. His intended target.
Oh, heck no, he didn’t. I twirled a finger, conjuring vines to come up out of the floorboards and cage the little demon. He bit and clawed at the vines, too distracted to notice when Winston opened up the floorboards underneath him. The ferret disappeared. Ha!
“Winston and Alfred make a good team defending the house,” I said.
Ava pressed her lips in a thin line. “This is ridiculous. I can’t use my magic on them because they’re shifters. My magic only works on the undead.”
“Well, you have that electricity,” I pointed out. “Zap them.”
She sucked in a breath through her teeth. “I would, but I’m not super good at it yet. I’d hate to set Winston on fire.”
He moaned extra loud at that moment, apparently agreeing.
Just then, Zoey bounced out of the hallway in tiger form and let out a roar that shook the house. It was a good thing our closest neighbors were a good mile away. Sammie squeaked and pressed his face into my thigh. Zoey was one of his favorite people, but it was pretty obvious, even to Sammy, that she was furious.
Alfred darted into the downstairs hallway out of sight while the tiger took over fighting off the bunny and the rat. Movement at the broken window caught my attention. Holy crap. It was a massive wild cat of some sort. Maybe a mountain lion. Ava pointed and yelled, “Cougar!” Same difference. Whatever its technical name was, it was bad news. The big cat had its head and one leg inside the window already.
Not even a second after she yelled, Alfred rushed back in with the Viking sword in hand. The cat was halfway inside the house now, wiggling through the narrow window. Alfred swung and cut the cougar’s head. Off. Cut it off. I grabbed Sammie again and pressed his face into my stomach while the cat’s body dropped to the floor and the head bounced into the living room.
Ava and I said, “Ew,” at the same time, drawing out the w sound.
Sammie jerked out of my hold and stuck his head through the wooden bars of the railing. “Cool, Mama. Did you see that?” Of course, he was excited. Of course.
“Um, yeah, buddy. I saw it and wished I hadn’t.”
Zoey roared again and the smaller shifters froze in place, looking from her to Alfred and then the dead cougar. After a split second debate, they ran flat out toward the front door. Winston opened it and gave them all a little magical push before slamming it shut behind them.
Everything fell silent as Winston stopped moving and groaning. Zoey shifted back to her human form fully dressed thanks to the enchanted clothes Ava’d made her. She took the stairs two at a time and joined us at the top just as Larry exited his bedroom.
He was rocking the bedhead look with one side of his light brown hair sticking straight up in the air. He had red sheet marks on that same side of his face. Rubbing his face and yawning, he stopped next to Zoey and looked down to the first floor with wide, sleepy eyes. “What’s going on?”