For Witch’s Sake
Bless Your Witch, Book 5
Dylan Apel can’t stay out of trouble…
When Southern witch Dylan Apel finds herself stripped of her powers and under house arrest, she’s got no one to blame but herself. But that doesn’t stop trouble from knocking on her door. When a convicted murderer winds up dead outside Dylan’s house, there’s a short list of suspects, including her own grandmother.
With everyone on high alert and no one sure of who’s going to be the next victim, Dylan breaks her house arrest in order to solve the crime. But when one of the good guys suddenly becomes the primary suspect, Dylan’s world turns upside down.
In order to discover whodunit, Dylan must accept truths about herself as well as the witching world, all while running a successful dress shop and trying to stay sane amidst a nutjob grandmother, a destructive baby unicorn, and a sister determined to outfit all of Silver Springs in crocheted body suits. Will Dylan figure out the killer before she becomes the next victim?
“Everybody stand back! It’s still growing!”
I threw out my arms, pushing my sisters, Seraphina and Reid, as well as my maternal grandmother, Hazel Horton, out of the thing’s path.
Sera, my younger sister by only two years, tossed a curtain of dark glossy hair from her blue eyes. “Reid,” she shrieked. “What did you do?”
Reid, a substantial ten years younger than me, patted down burgundy curls that were frizzed out from the Alabama humidity. She had the rounded cheeks of youth and lovely, delicate features that made me a bit jealous. Of course, Sera had those gorgeous blue eyes, tan and tone limbs and sleek hair. Basically I envied my sisters everything I could.
“I didn’t do anything,” Reid stammered.
Sera flashed our baby sis a dark look. Her eyes blazed. “You did something!”
Reid summoned up all her eighteen-year-old angst and said, “I only told it to grow. I did exactly what Dylan said.”
Every eye turned to me.
I backed up. “Listen, all I did was suggest she use a growth spell.”
“Well, it’s growing,” my maternal grandma said. “It’s almost to the roof.”
I shielded my eyes and glanced up at the vinca gone wrong. The pink flower that was only supposed to be about six inches tall stood a good ten feet high.
And it was still growing.
Okay, so in case you haven’t guessed, I’m a witch. In fact, my whole family is. Well, Reid wasn’t at first, but several weeks ago her powers came in. We’ve been trying to teach her magic, but since Sera and I are still learning ourselves, it’s been an interesting process.
The vinca on steroids would be a case in point.
“Someone’s got to do something,” Sera said. “If this thing keeps sprouting, we’re going to have the whole town over here.”
“Or the witch council,” Reid added.
Great. The witch council. My family and I had accidentally worked magic in front of nonmagics—or regular people—before, but this was a first. A giant flower that resembled Jack’s beanstalk could get us in serious trouble.
Because witches aren’t supposed to work magic in front of regular people. They’re not supposed to know we exist, even though we live side by side most of the time.
Grandma placed her withered hands on my shoulders. “Tell it to stop, Dylan. You can do it.”
I heaved a deep breath and focused my magic. A swirl of power ignited in my core. I lifted my hands and felt a surge beam into the flower.
The leaves shook and trembled. I stopped breathing.
It shot up three more feet.
“Hmmm. It didn’t work,” Grandma mused.
“That’s the understatement of the year,” Reid countered.
We all inched back as the flower climbed past the roof.
I heard the screen door creak open. “Does someone want to tell me why a giant flower is threatening to eat your house?”
I groaned. Turning around, I came face-to-face with Roman Bane, chief detective of Silver Springs, Alabama, and my boyfriend. Sun-streaked blond hair grazed his shoulders, green eyes smoldered just above high cheekbones and the seams of his clothes tugged at his chiseled frame.
He sighed. “I really can’t leave you alone for more than a day, can I?”
“I just don’t think that’s really true,” I said.
I crossed my arms, feeling smug. “Because this would’ve happened whether or not you were here. I didn’t do it. Reid did.”
He cocked his head toward Reid. “You had Dylan teach you, didn’t you?”
Roman walked over, kissed my forehead and said, “I rest my case. Not one day.”
“Traitor,” I said.
“Not sure how that applies.”
“Me neither. But I’ll find a way.” I threw up my hands. “What are you doing here anyway? You never drop by without calling.”
He leaned over and murmured in my ear. “I had something important to tell you. But it looks like it’ll have to wait.”
Roman cocked his head toward the vinca. “That flower’s about to be poking Jack in the rear end.”
“Very funny. It’s not that high.”
Roman nodded behind me. “Maybe you should take a look.”
I gasped. The flower on nuclear steroids had jetted up to the chimney.
“Seriously, Dylan,” Sera said. “The neighbors will start to notice.”
Grandma twirled the strand of pearls around her neck. “It’s not the neighbors you should be worried about. It’s the witch council. They find out about this and it’s curtains for you girls.”
My jaw dropped. “For us? This was your idea. You wanted the vincas to be bigger.”
Grandma shook her head. “Bigger, Dylan. Not apocalyptic.” She wiggled a finger in the air. The paper-thin skin was nearly translucent from old age. “There is a difference.”
“Not that it matters now.” I nibbled on a corner of my index finger and spat out a square of nail. “So fix it, Grandma. You’re the most experienced out of all of us.”
Grandma lifted her hands and mumbled something. The flower shook, rattled and sprang even taller.
“This. Is. Bad,” Reid said.
Grandma shook an enraged hand at the plant. “It’s taken on a life of its own, girls. It doesn’t want to stop growing and is using our own magic against us.”
“You could say that again,” I said. “So what do we do?”
Grandma snapped her fingers. A World War II army helmet appeared in her hands. She strapped it on and said, “We go to war, that’s what.”
“Can’t you just wipe the thing’s memory?” Sera asked.
Okay, so I know that sounds weird, right? Like, really weird, but it’s true. One time I worked some magic on a pair of scissors, charging them to life. Well, the scissors had so much fun that they didn’t want to stop cutting and dancing. That’s right; the inanimate object wanted to live.
Apparently that’s also what was going on here.
Grandma fisted her hands on her hips. “No time to wipe its memory, Dylan. It will fight me all the way to the end. We have to take drastic measures.”
Roman strode toward it. “Those drastic measures better include stopping the neighbors from noticing.”
Suddenly a round of screen doors opened.
“What’s that thing?”
“Looks like a giant flower!”
“Well, what’s it doing?”
“Looks to me like it’s growing.”
I rubbed my face, groaning. Apparently I lived in a neighborhood filled with Sherlock Holmeses.
The house phone’s shrill peal broke through the murmur coming from our neighbors.
I raked my fingers through my hair. “No one answer it. It’s probably someone calling to see what’s going on. We’ve got to contain this. Like yesterday.”
“I’m on it,” Roman said. He strode into the house. In an emergency situation such as this one, I was almost surprised he didn’t break into a sprint or even a quick walk. No, ma’am. Roman Bane was cool as a cucumber in absolutely every situation I’d ever seen him in.
Me, on the other hand… I had rings of sweat staining my armpits that I was certain would never wash out.
I whirled on my grandmother and sisters. “Let’s try one more time to stop this thing. If we don’t, we’ll have Jonathan Pearbottom up our rear ends so high he’ll be poking out our noses.”
“Dylan, gross,” Reid said.
“Sorry. Let me try to be politically correct while I’m facing a giant flower that looks ready to eat our town.”
Sera clicked her tongue. “It wasn’t even PC. It was just gross.”
Grandma clapped her hands. “Girls, no time to argue. We’ve got flower power against us. We need to stop it.”
The four of us focused, generating what felt like enough magic to light a city. We shot it into the flower.
Everything stopped for a moment.
The flower rose five more feet as the ground rumbled. Thick, branch-like roots erupted from the soil, extending outward and latching on to more ground. A quake splintered through the neighborhood.
“Oh yeah. I’m pretty sure we’re toast. Councilwoman Gladiolas is going to be so mad at us,” Reid said.
“Don’t say that,” I hissed. “Besides, we’re protected from being punished.”
That was true. Several months ago we’d helped solve a murder mystery involving a witch. Because of that, Councilwoman Gladiolas gave us immunity from punishment for using our power in front of regular people. To be honest, I think she felt sorry for us. Up until that point, we’d accidentally worked a lot of magic in front of people. I believe she thought that at the rate we were going, we’d be boiled alive in no time.
Yep. That’s the punishment for letting people see your magic.
Gross, right? Thank goodness we were exempted.
Sera stepped back. “Dyl, the thing’s the size of a skyscraper. No way we’re getting out of this.”
I glanced up, shielding my eyes in order to get a better look. My stomach crashed to my feet. Dear Lord. Wavering high overhead and looking ready to take over the United States air space, lived a vinca that shouldn’t have existed.
No doubt about it. We were toast burned to beyond a crisp, leaving nothing but skeletal remains. Once the witch council found out about this, we were dead.
Maybe I could go into hiding. If I left now, I could grab a bag of clothes and get out of town. As I started to think that was the most brilliant idea ever, the door crashed open.
Roman strode to the flower, an ax in his hand. “Stand back. Way back.”
“I’ve got you blanketed,” Grandma said.
“Don’t you mean covered?” I said.
“No, Dylan. And it’s not nice to correct your elders.”
“Never stopped me before,” I mumbled.
The head of Roman’s ax bit into the flower. The plant shook, vibrating the earth.
“What’s going on?” I heard one of the neighbors say.
“What in the world?” another shouted.
Roman swung again. The steel chomped a chunk of stem from the vinca. The plant shuddered. It stopped growing, hovering as if suspended. The flower existed in that half second between standing still and falling.
I sucked in air.
The vinca lingered, a soft breeze blowing its petals. It tilted forward as a sharp wind caught hold of it.
Then the thing plummeted to the ground.
“Now,” Roman shouted at Grandma.
She waved her hands, and just before the vinca broke fences, trees and roofs—it vanished.
As if by magic.
Which was technically what happened.
A breath of air shot from my lungs in relief. I glanced at Roman. He dropped the ax to the ground. A dark expression etched his face.
“You okay?” I said.
Without a word Roman crossed to me. The worried look fell away, and he wrapped me in a hug. He smelled of pine and musk. I melted into his arms, letting my anxiety wash off.
“I’m fine,” he whispered, stroking my hair. “But are you okay?”
I leaned back and my gaze locked with his. Other than his sea-green, soul-searching eyes turning my knees to jelly, I was fine. “I’m okay. I’m glad you showed up when you did.”
He winked at me. “I must have some sort of sixth sense when it comes to you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can sense when you’re about to get in trouble.”
I poked his ribs. “I thought you came to tell me something important.”
“I’m surprised you remember with all the fuss about the flower.”
I rolled my eyes. “I figured by important you meant we were going to Paris.”
He lifted a brow. “Want to?”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “Does that mean we’d have to be alone? Like all the time?”
It was Roman’s turn to roll his eyes. “Yes. And it also means you’ll see me naked.”
My face heated to smoldering. “Um. Well.”
He grinned. “Don’t worry, darlin’. I’ll count you in.”
I had not up to this point seen Roman naked. Nor had he seen me.
He grabbed my hand and kissed the fingers. “I’m serious. If I hadn’t shown up, that thing would be halfway to asking God about life’s deepest secrets.”
He shrugged. “You love me anyway.”
It was my turn to grin. “You’re right. I do.”
He wrapped me even tighter and kissed my cheek. “Thank goodness for small miracles.”
I peeled away and gave him a wobbly smile. “So the whole neighborhood saw that.”
“Looks like we’ve got a lot of memory wiping to do, Grandma.”
Grandma lowered her arms. “Already done.”
“Good thing. I’d hate to get into trouble with the council or even the witch police.”
Roman took my hand. “Me too.”
The screen door opened. “Dylan Apel.”
My blood froze. I turned around.
There stood Witch Police Inspector Jonathan Pearbottom—arms crossed, face bent into a sour expression, parrot-shaped nose looking especially parrotish. “Dylan Apel,” he repeated. “You and your sisters are under arrest for working magic in front of nonmagics.”
All feeling left my limbs. I glanced at Grandma.
She wrung her hands. “I always hated vincas.”