Don’t Give A Witch
Bless Your Witch, Book 6
Dylan Apel is at it again…
When the Magical Abilities contest is announced, Dylan couldn’t give a flip about entering. But when she discovers the prize is the coveted Never Forget, a spell that makes you immune to mind erasing, she’s all in.
That is, until the potion is stolen. Now, she’s on lock down in Castle Witch with a thief on the loose. But lucky for her, the witching elite has also arrived, and Dylan’s convinced one of them is the Master, an elusive criminal who she believes committed a heinous murder twenty years ago. All Dylan has to do is slip a magical ring on the right person’s finger and she’s got her killer.
But when the ring is stolen, Dylan’s not sure who to trust. Things get worse when her boyfriend is arrested for a theft he didn’t commit, a close friend can’t remember important details, and Dylan herself is accused of cheating in the contest. Before things get any worse Dylan must find a thief and a murderer—before she becomes the next victim of the Master.
“Okay, this is not my circus and these are not my monkeys,” I said.
My younger sisters, Seraphina—Sera for short—and Reid, stood on either side of me watching the sight.
Sera smoothed back her short bob of chocolate-colored hair and clicked her tongue. “Oh, this is definitely your circus. Pretty sure I saw some of your monkeys, too.”
My eyes slid to one corner. I tried to scowl at her without looking too harsh. “Well, if it’s my circus, then it’s yours too.”
She shrugged. “I never said it wasn’t.”
Reid hopped up and down. “Come on, let’s go find some seats.”
A drop of saliva caught in the back of my throat. I nearly choked. “Y’all lead. I’ll follow.”
My grandmother, Hazel, broke between the three of us. “What’s going on? Why isn’t anyone moving? You girls aren’t afraid of a little witch get-together, are you?”
I rolled my eyes and scoffed so hard phlegm edged up the back of my throat. “No,” I said quickly. “I’m not afraid of all these people. We’ve been over this.”
Grandma’s pointy elbow jabbed my side. “Then find some seats, Dylan. Lead the way before I call upon my winged chariot to escort me in.”
I flashed her a dark look. “You don’t have a chariot.”
Grandma fluffed her hair. “It’s called witch storage, Dylan. I have a chariot. You’ve just never seen it.”
Reid grabbed my wrist. “Come on. I’m tired of waiting. My new boyfriend might be in that crowd.”
I dragged my eyes through the knot of people. My breath quickened when I saw, really saw, the sight before me. Not only were there regular people and witches, there were also fairies, folks from Monkey Town, a few male centaurs with bare human chests and horse bodies, as well as mermaids. How could I tell they were mermaids, you ask? Because they sat in wheelchairs, their wide fins flapping against the wheels.
Have I mentioned I’m a witch? I know you must be shocked to discover that since I just mentioned magical creatures, but it’s true. I only found out myself less than a year ago, and though I’ve accepted a lot of things about my new life, I hadn’t quite met up with this many magical creatures at one time.
From beneath the cloth-covered outdoor pavilion, a string quartet started up. Soft music filled my ears as white sheets twisted over the pavilion’s timbers. They were pinned in place by large bouquets of roses.
Reid tugged again on my wrist. “Come on. We’ve got to find seats.”
“Okay,” I sighed, following her.
We wove through the crowd and found a few chairs tucked in back that were unoccupied. The quartet’s song transitioned into the wedding march. The entire audience rose. Through the sea of bobbing heads in front of me, I caught a glimpse of the bride—a matron in her fifties with long, iron-gray hair and piercing dark eyes.
When I caught sight of her escort, my heart fluttered. Standing at six-two with a quarterback’s physique, shoulder-length blond hair and sea-green eyes rimmed with dark, smudgy lashes, was my boyfriend, Roman Bane.
Yep. I get all aflutter when I see him, think about him, or even hear him. His eyes slid over in my direction, and I watched his mouth quirk slightly.
A giddy laugh bubbled up in the back of my throat, but I held it at bay. Roman and I had only recently returned from a whirlwind vacation in Paris.
Y’all got that right, Paris, France. Not Paris, Alabama, because that wouldn’t be a vacation. That would be pool time at the Holiday Inn.
Not that I’m knocking it.
Anyway, we’d had an amazing trip and had only gotten closer in the end for it. Yep. At the moment I lived on cloud ten. That’s right. Cloud ten. I skipped number nine altogether and jumped right to the best one.
Roman escorted his aunt Eliza to the front, where she met her husband-to-be, Jonathan Pearbottom. Normally I’d call him Jonathan Pain-in-the-bottom, but in the past few weeks I’d come to a certain understanding with the witch police inspector.
I spaced out as the wedding proceedings went underway. I mean, who doesn’t space out a little at these things? They can be kinda long and kinda boring.
I must have done something right because that twenty minutes of daydreaming made the wedding itself fly by. In no time at all, the departure music hummed on the quartet’s strings and bluebirds flew toward the altar, dropping thornless roses on the newly married couple.
I stood, stretching the kinks from my body.
Grandma clapped her hands. “What a lovely ceremony. Why it reminds me of the time when the queen of one faction of harpies married the king of another. They have a very strange ritual where they pull feathers from each other—”
Reid clamped a hand over her mouth. “Thanks, Grandma. Great story. Want to grab some grub? I see a centaur who looks like he needs some company.”
Grandma’s head quivered. I don’t think any of us had ever actually physically stopped her from telling one of her harebrained stories. I think it might have shaken her up a bit.
“Yes, Reid. I could use some food right now.” She glanced over at Nan, her nearly sixty-year-old bodyguard. “You hungry?”
Nan nodded. “I’ve got to stay strong if I’m going to guard this family. I’m cutting my carbs, girls. No more of that refined sugar stuff for me.” She pounded her chest like a gorilla. “I’m upping my protein so I can stay a lean, mean, fighting machine.”
I fisted the air. “You go get ‘em, Nan. Show ‘em who’s boss.”
Confusion clouded Grandma’s face. “Who’s the boss, Dylan?”
I shook my head. “Nan is, apparently.”
“Has she started paying us?”
I think my eyes rolled into the back of my head. “No, Grandma. She isn’t paying us. Reid, please take her to get some food. I think her blood sugar must be low.”
They moved away, leaving Sera and me all alone.
“Hey, there.” Like melted butter spreading over lightly brown toast, came the voice that belonged to Brock Odom, Monkey King and, most importantly, Sera’s boyfriend.
Brock had long, dark wavy hair and brown eyes. The smile tracing his lips trailed up into his gaze. Warmth and goodness washed off him like red mud off a stick.
Hey, I know it’s not the best comparison. Just go with me on this.
“Ladies,” he cooed in that Matthew McConaughey voice of his. “How’re y’all doing this evening?”
I swear I saw Sera faint slightly at the sound of his voice.
“Good,” I said. “We’re great. Beautiful wedding.”
“Beautiful,” Sera said.
Brock took Sera’s hand and brushed the back of it over his lips. “Can I interest you in some punch?”
Her knees buckled a little bit, and a woozy smile plastered her face. “Sure thing, captain.”
Captain? I arched an eyebrow at that.
She shot me a panicked look. I assume because she realized that she would be leaving me all alone. I waved her off.
“Go on. I’ll catch up in a minute. I think I broke my heel.”
Brock glanced down at my foot. “Can I get you something?”
I bent my knee, pretending to limp a little. “No, no. I’m good. I’ll fix it. Think of this like the zombie apocalypse. You’ve got to leave the weakest behind sometimes.”
Brock stared at me in confusion.
Sera shook her head as if she couldn’t believe how crazy and stupid I was. I gripped the back of a chair for dramatic effect. “Seriously. Go grab a glass for me.”
Brock slid a hand over Sera’s bare shoulder. “We’ll be back.”
As soon as they disappeared into the crowd of magical folks, I stopped the whole hobbling routine.
An arm snaked around my waist. My breath caught in my throat.
“It’s been too long since I’ve smelled your hair,” came the gruff voice over my shoulder.
I narrowed my eyes. “I didn’t know you had a hair fetish. That’s totally weird.”
Hot breath parted my locks like fingers. “You’ve got a knack for ruining romantic moments. Did anyone ever tell you that?”
I giggled. “Anyone ever tell you that telling a girl it’s been too long since you smelled her hair is weird?”
Roman spun me around. I pitched forward only to be caught by muscular arms made of iron as soon as made of flesh and blood.
“Hold on there. Don’t fall over.”
I straightened. Sea-green eyes met my poo-brown ones. Yes, they were poo brown.
Blond hair grazed the top of his shoulders. I wove my fingers through the ends, pretending to be getting out a bit of lint or something, but really I just wanted to touch his hair.
He wrapped me in a quick hug. “You do smell good.”
We parted and he smiled at me. A goopy look filled his gaze. I bit down on the lopsided grin I knew was stitched on my own face.
“So,” I said. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Roman pocketed his hands. “You come to weddings often?”
“All the time.”
“I bet you go to pick up men.”
I rocked back on one heel. “Am I that obvious?”
Roman leaned on one hip, studying me. He rubbed his chin. “You’re not that obvious. It’s more of a sense I get from you.”
I quirked a brow. “Oh?”
“You seem like the type who goes to weddings, picks one guy, dances with him all night. It’s just long enough for that guy to fall a little bit in love with you. Then you dump him.”
My jaw fell. “That’s horrible. Why would someone do that?”
Roman shook his head. “Ever heard of a black widow?”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re terrible. I’m not a black widow. If anything, you’re a dark assassin.”
It was time for Roman to do some major eye rolling. Which he did. Which didn’t surprise me. “Right. Listen, how about you agree that I’m right and we do some dancing?”
I folded my arms over my chest. “Is that the proper way to ask a lady to dance?”
In a flourish of testosterone, Roman dropped to one knee and extended his hand to me. “My lady, would you care to dance with this poor soul?”
I nearly busted my gut laughing. Tears blurred my vision as I said, “Yes.”
Roman guided me out past the chairs. The quartet strings thrummed as he twirled me into the space. Others quickly joined, and the post-wedding fun kicked into high gear.
I have to tell you, those of us who weren’t centaurs had to make a lot of room for them.
Laughter buzzed in the air as the romance of the wedding took hold of us. Roman and I fell into a smooth rhythm, my head on his shoulder, his arms wrapped around me protectively. There was no place else I would rather have been.
A crack of light splintered into the center of the dance floor. People screamed. Others leaped back. Roman pushed me behind him, shielding me with his body.
My heart hammered against my ribs. Heat rose in my chest, rippling up my neck. I peered over Roman’s shoulder.
A man stood in the center. He wore an ebony cape with lapels starched up to his eyebrows. His amber hair was slicked back, and he had a deep widow’s peak that plunged down his forehead.
He clapped his hands. “Greetings, everyone!”
The air stilled. The looks of shock on people’s faces quickly changed to confusion.
The man’s gaze washed over the crowd. He studied the gathering as if analyzing us in bits and pieces. He clapped his hands again. “I’ve come with good tidings to the happy couple.”
From his seat at the wedding table, Pearbottom gave a stiff nod. Eliza clutched his hand, her knuckles stretched white.
I was surprised that neither Pearbottom nor Roman had moved on this guy. The small bit of analytical brain I had quickly realized they didn’t consider him to be a threat. That one notion made me relax a tiny bit, the muscles in my neck and shoulders unknotting.
The man flashed a brilliant smile. “This year’s Magical Abilities contest is open for submissions. The grand prize is a vial of Never Forget.” His gaze swept across us once more, landing on me. His piercing look made my stomach knot. Maybe it was the cape, but I felt kinda creeped out by him.
The man raised his hands. “You may enter the contest”—he brought his watch to eye level—“starting now!”
A puff of gray smoke billowed up around him. The smoke took on lines, becoming sharper at the edges, more delineated until small circles broke off. These orbs of gas transformed into doves. Their wings fluttered as they rose high into the sky before disappearing.
A shimmering picture remained where the caped wizard had been standing. A halved roman column sat squat on the ground. Resting on it was a small golden trophy. A halo shot out around it. After a few seconds the picture faded away, revealing a red banner with yellow script.
REGISTER NOW FOR THE MAGICAL ABILITIES CONTEST!
ALL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED WITHIN 24 HOURS.
From all around me, the wedding crowd released a collective breath.
Roman turned. “You okay?”
I dragged my gaze from the banner. Energy still bubbled in my stomach from where the wizard had stared right through me.
“Hmm?” I said. I shook my head. “Yeah. I’m fine. Wow. That was totally weird. What was that all about?”
“I’ll tell you what it was about, toots.”
I glanced over and saw my paternal grandmother, Milly Jones, caning up to us. She’d dressed up for the occasion. Oh, she still wore black orthopedic shoes, beige support hose, a dark skirt and a shapeless cardigan. But this sweater had sequins!
“Milly, you’ve outdone yourself,” I said.
A loud snort jutted from her gnarled hook nose. “I spare no expense when it comes to weddings. What can I say? I love seeing people get married. The only thing better than that is playing with babies,” she said flatly.
I really didn’t know if she was being serious or not. Milly loving babies? That was kind of like an alligator liking small deer.
Not that Milly was going to eat said children. She didn’t do that. Of course not. But she just didn’t strike me as the type to love playing with sweet, cooing babies.
I’d been known to be wrong before, though. It could happen again.
Milly eyed Roman like a pirate eyed treasure—with a glint. The only thing she was missing would have been a metal hand and maybe a gold tooth.
“Roman, it’s good to see you.”
“Good to see you, Milly.”
She studied the magical banner. People were milling about, taking their places once again on the dance floor.
“So I missed the announcement,” she said.
I pulled a tissue from my clutch purse and dabbed a splotch of sweat from my neck. “Where were you?”
“Bathroom.” She drifted toward the banner. “So it’s time again, huh? Time for the contest.”
I shrugged. “Looks like.”
Her neck snapped back to me. “You know you need to enter.”
I dropped the tissue and shot her a panicked gaze. “Me? Why me? Why do I need to enter?”
She thumbed her nose. “All of you do. You and your sisters.”
“Why do we have to enter?”
Milly’s lips coiled into a serpentine smile. “So that you can win the Never Forget spell.”
I frowned. “Why would I need that?”
Her eyes dragged across the pavilion until they landed in my grandmother Hazel’s direction. “You need the spell,” she said slowly, “so that you can start remembering.”
Confusion fogged my brain. “Remembering what?”
Milly glanced back at me, her eyes stony cold as she said, “Everything your other grandmother makes you forget.”