Kiss My Witch
Bless Your Witch, Book 2
Dylan must face an entire convention of witches? It’s enough to make a girl run for cover … except there’s no place to go that they can’t find her.
Every time Dylan Apel casts a spell, disaster strikes—from conjuring a giant swarm of bloodsucking mosquitoes, to exploding the electrical grid. When witches flood her peaceful hometown for a convention, Dylan is in no shape to protect herself. She’s not sure which will happen first—another witch killing her for her powers, or the ruling council punishing her for misuse of magic.
Murder strikes quickly. When a witchy gossip columnist dies, the peaceful convention turns riotous. Was the witch murdered for spreading lies, or for stealing magic? And was it coincidence that she ate Dylan’s dessert? There is a mansion full of suspects, but only one man who can learn the truth—the hot, aggravating Roman Bane.
When the witches are ordered to stay until the murderer is found, Dylan decides Roman needs help, and she’s the perfect witch for the job. Not because she’s falling for him, nope. She’s just being helpful. But to find the killer, Roman and Dylan must navigate a maze of lies, dark magic and old rivalries. With the killer one magical step ahead, will they discover her identity in time to prevent more death—such as Dylan’s?
“If one more mosquito bites me, I’m going to freeze every last one.” Grandma Hazel slapped the paper-thin skin of her arm. A tiny insect lifted off her and flitted through the air. She shook an angry fist at it.
My sister Seraphina, Sera for short, unhooked a blanket from her elbow. “Whose idea was it to have a picnic, again?”
“I guess it was mine,” I grumbled. Sera smirked and set about spreading the blanket over the grass.
“I’m going to freeze them all,” Grandma muttered.
My baby sister, Reid, full of eighteen-year-old angst and vinegar, plopped down on the blanket. “Please, Grandma. Kill them. Kill them all. I can’t stand mosquitoes. They always eat me for lunch.”
“That’s because you are lunch,” Sera said. “Of course, this wouldn’t have been a problem if Dylan hadn’t conjured up the idea of a picnic.” She shot me a dirty look that I knew she didn’t mean.
At least, not completely.
“Excuse me for wanting to have a little bonding time with the fams,” I said.
“Fams?” Grandma asked, fluffing her triangle-shaped silver hair.
“Family,” Reid interpreted. “You know, the hip way to talk.”
I set a small wicker basket on the blanket. The back door of the house opened, and my grandmother’s bodyguard (yes, bodyguard), Nan, exited rear end first, a tray of potato salad and fried chicken between her hands. This is the South, after all. Down here, we don’t think too much about our arteries and cholesterol. Well, we do, but there’s medication for that.
I licked my lips. Yum.
“I’m starving,” Reid said. “Nan, can I help you?”
Nan, an older woman by my standards and a younger one by my grandmother’s, handed Reid the tray. Nan brushed her hands and fisted them on her hips. She surveyed our fenced-in backyard and said, “Should be a quiet evening.”
“Hey, ladies,” came a husky voice from next door. I glanced up. Through the slotted fence our tall, dark and handsome neighbor, Rick Beck, waved at us. “How’re y’all doing?”
Reid waved back like a puppy looking for approval. “We’re great. Just great. Enjoying this beautiful weather.”
Rick rested his hands atop the fence. His crystal-blue eyes lit with amusement. “I don’t know about beautiful, but it’s certainly hot.”
“Yes,” Reid chirped. “It’s hot. Not beautiful.”
“I hope we’re not being too loud and disturbing you,” I said.
Rick shook his head. “Not at all. I saw y’all out here and thought I’d come say hey.”
“Hey,” Reid said weakly.
He nodded. “Well, y’all enjoy yourselves.” He gave a wave and disappeared back into his house.
Reid deflated like a flimsy balloon on a cold day. “Tell me I wasn’t a moron.”
Sera rubbed Reid’s arm and gave her a warm smile. “You weren’t a moron.”
“He’s just so hunky. My tongue does all kinds of stupid things around him.”
I waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it.”
“We’re here to have a quiet evening, remember?” Nan said.
“That’s if no one invited any winged monkeys,” I replied, more to myself than anyone else.
Grandma pulled a strand of loose pearls out from under her scarf. “Oh? Was I supposed to invite one? No one said anything.”
“No,” I said quickly. “We’re good. We don’t need any winged monkeys joining us.” I gave Sera a help-me look. She shrugged.
Right. In case you hadn’t guessed, my family isn’t normal. Normal would be people having a picnic, complaining about the heat, not—
“Dylan, try to freeze the mosquitoes. I know you can do it if you try.” Grandma grinned at me as if all her hopes and dreams hinged on me turning flying annoyances into ice cubes.
That’s what I mean. We’re not normal. I recently discovered that I come from a long line of witches. Awesome, right? You’d think so, but not. Like, at all. That’s because a few weeks ago someone tried to kill me and steal my witchy powers. Actually, not just someone—my old assistant, a person I trusted and cared about. And I’m not even good at magic. I’m still trying to get a handle on my abilities.
“Grandma, I don’t think I can put mosquitoes into a deep freeze.”
Grandma popped my wrist. “That’s because you don’t have any confidence. Listen, girlie, if you build it, they will come. It’s as simple as closing your eyes and imagining all those nasty winged devils sitting in the middle of an ice cube.”
No problem. “I’m on it. Any advice?”
Sera handed me a paper plate dressed with a dollop of potato salad and a chicken leg. The grease from the crispy skin had soaked into the plate, leaving a ring. “Yeah. Don’t screw up.”
I wrinkled my nose at her.
“No advice,” Grandma said in a soothing voice. “Just do.”
“Aren’t we all zen?” Reid said.
I ignored Reid and closed my eyes. In order to pinpoint the target of my spell, I imagined my family surrounded by a swarm of buzzing mosquitoes. I then focused on every bug and visualized each one being encased in ice and falling to the ground with a thud.
“Um, Dylan,” Sera said. “Not sure it’s working.”
“Shhh,” I whispered. “I’m trying to concentrate here.”
“I think you might be focusing in the wrong direction,” Nan said.
I opened one eye a slit. “Did I do it? Are we surrounded by mosquito popsicles?”
“Um, not exactly,” Reid said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Grandma jabbed my arm. “Take a look.” She pointed toward the sky.
I glanced up. A dark cloud freckled the horizon. I peered closer. It wasn’t a cloud at all. The mass wasn’t solid. A riot of individual black specks flew toward us, clipping at a fairly swift pace.
I edged to one corner of the blanket. “What is that?”
“That would be a mess of mosquitoes coming to suck our blood,” Grandma said.
“What? Did I do that?”
She adjusted a silver ring on her finger and said, “I do believe so.”
Okay, so saying I’m not good at magic might have been an understatement. The truth is, I’m terrible at it. I try, really I do, but often spells backfire or don’t fire or, like this one, they burst into flames.
The cloud descended, making its way toward us. Panic scrambled up my throat. “What do we do?”
Grandma pushed her sticklike frame from the blanket. “Unless we want to become a feast for bugs, I suggest we run.”
She didn’t have to tell me twice. I loaded my arms with plates and napkins, silverware and cups.
Reid moved with the urgency of a sloth. “Can’t one of you make it go away? I was enjoying the picnic.”
Grandma clutched her body as if looking for her car keys. Of course she didn’t own a car, so that was neither here nor there. “Time to go,” she said.
We hustled toward the house. I glanced back to the sky. The cloud hadn’t missed one beat. The tiny bloodsuckers were coming, moving fast, heading straight for us. It felt like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Only they were bugs. Bugs. I mean, why were a bunch of bugs trying to attack?
Maybe they weren’t going to attack. Perhaps once we went inside, they’d leave.
We reached the house and shut the door. Grandma whirled around. “Let’s grab all the towels we can find and stuff them under the door. Fill any cracks in the windows. I don’t know how long they’ll wage their siege on us, but we must stop them from gaining entry.”
She saluted us like a general and dashed toward the cupboard to grab the towels. She handed them out, and I stuffed one under the seam of the door just as the day went black.
“They’re here,” she said. “Shut the blinds. Don’t let them see us.”
Right. We were talking about mosquitoes, after all. Not some military force on a stakeout. But my sisters and I listened to my grandmother and turned the wands, closing the wooden blinds.
The five of us clustered in the center of the room and held our breaths. Nan took an offensive karate-style stance, arms raised, legs splayed, ready to do some damage to our tiny foes.
“How long will they stay?” Reid asked.
Grandma shrugged. “I suppose until they get bored.”
Sera tipped her head down. A curtain of glossy brown hair cut across her face. “How long will that take?”
Grandma settled down at the dining table and drummed her fingers across the wood. “Hard to say. Bugs can have minds of their own. They’re very stubborn, mosquitoes. They might stay an hour or a day. Perhaps a week at the longest.”
“A week?” I said. “We can’t be locked in here for a week. I have a shop to run, things to do.”
She folded her hands in front of her. “You should have thought about that before you summoned them to attack us.”
“I didn’t summon them! I was trying to freeze them so they’d stop biting us.”
Grandma sniffed. “You didn’t do a very good job.”
Nan slapped her arm. “Ouch. Little bugger bit me.”
My ears pricked in her direction. “What’s that?”
“A mosquito bit me,” she said.
“Get away,” Reid said.
I glanced over. Sure enough, a small rebel squad of mosquitoes hovered in the air. “They’ve gotten in,” I said. I strode over to the cloud, hitting the air to take out as many of their soldiers as I could. All I managed to do was move them around, spreading the little buggers out over the living room. “What do we do? Grandma, can’t you erase their memories or something? Make them decide not to feast on us?”
Grandma joined our fighting battalion of women swatting this way and that. “It’s very hard to erase a bug’s memory. They’re programmed to perform specific tasks, like seek out blood and drink it. It’s not that simple. Now, if I had a field full of unicorns, perhaps their tails could act like weapons and they could smack the mosquitoes, but other than that, there’s nothing I can do.”
A field of unicorns? Leave it to Grandma to come up with an idea that not only made no sense but bordered on downright crazy talk. No matter how wild-haired it sounded, though, Grandma is friends with the unicorn king, a fact I found out not long ago. And I wasn’t joking about erasing our attackers’ memories. Once, my grandma erased a scissor’s memory. Don’t ask. The whole situation was completely unbelievable, and I’m still not sure I’m convinced that inanimate objects have memories, but at the moment I had bigger fish to fry. Smaller fish, actually, but that’s tit for tat.
“How are they getting in?” Sera asked, dancing about the room in an attempt to shake her attackers.
“There’s too many of them,” Reid said. She raked her hands through the air at a feverish pace. “There must be something else we can do.”
Sera grabbed a pillow and swung it back and forth. “We’re witches, for goodness’ sake. Can’t we stop this?”
Grandma fanned at the cloud of bloodsuckers with a white gauzy scarf. “We must stand and fight, girls. We can defeat the enemy.”
I glanced at Sera. She shot me a look that said, really? We clawed at the mosquitoes, but somehow those little jerks had figured out a way in—probably a crack in a windowsill—and they were determined to drink our blood.
The room darkened to a pitch. I stopped swatting, unsure of what was going on.
“What happened?” Reid asked.
I shook my head.
The walls started vibrating as if a million bug wings were flapping against it, which in all reality they probably were. Dust from the popcorn ceiling floated to the floor. The steady stream of biting insects invading the house seemed to increase.
“You’ve got to do something, Grandma,” I said.
Bugs battered the windows. The glass shuddered, the floor rumbled, and the walls swayed as if a giant hand were pounding on the house. We wouldn’t last much longer.
I had to stop this. We’d be bitten to death by bloodsucking insects while the house collapsed around us. I closed my eyes, bunched up my hands—my skin stinging from all those minuscule needle mouths stealing my precious blood—and I screamed.
I choked as mosquitoes filled my mouth. They clambered for the back of my throat as if trying to see who could make it to my stomach first. I sputtered and gagged, spitting out as many as I could. Then I continued to scream.
Pop pop pop pop pop pop pop.
The air faded from my lungs. The sound of my voice lessened.
“Don’t stop, Dylan. Keep screaming,” Grandma said.
So I did it again.
Pop pop pop pop pop pop.
I opened my eyes and watched as tiny mosquito bodies exploded in the air. The popping sound resembled a piece of bubble paper twisting between two hands. It was the sound of death by rapid fire.
I continued screaming, joined by Sera and my grandmother Hazel, because neither Reid nor Nan were witches. We didn’t stop until all the pests inside the house lay on the floor, and the riot of bugs covering the house had receded.
After what felt like half an hour of screaming, I collapsed onto the couch. That was, of course, after I brushed it of teeny carcasses. The whole place smelled of bug guts. Ew.
“What happened?” Reid said. “That was totally weird.”
I wiped sweat off my brow. “I don’t know. I’m only glad it’s over.”
Nan pointed a finger in the air. “I’ll get the Benadryl cream.”
“Great idea,” Sera mumbled, swiping a hand down her welted arm. I looked at my own limbs. Red bumps swelled on my flesh. I sighed. This totally blew. They didn’t itch yet, but I knew they would soon. Great.
My grandma Hazel lifted her arms. Bugs and guts vanished, thank goodness, and the scent of roses filled the air. “That’s better. Now. What happened? I don’t know. All I know for sure is Dylan called down a storm of mosquitoes on this house.” She paused. “It reminded me of the time the winged monkey king invited a troupe of termites over for dinner. I was deep in the Amazon, investigating a rogue group of primates that were thinking of performing magic against the terms of the peace treaty they’d set up with another village of monkeys.”
I raised my hand. “I’m sure it’s a great story, Grandma. As much as I’d love to hear about the winged monkey king, I can’t say I’m in the mood right now.”
Did I mention my grandma is bat crazy? I mean seriously. Not that I didn’t believe in a monkey king, but still—I didn’t want to give her any reason to keep me on her tilt-a-whirl of silliness.
“Fine,” Grandma said. “But you may need my help if what just happened gets out.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Reid opened a set of window blinds. “Yeah. What do you mean? It’s not like Dylan meant to kill all of us by being bitten to death by mosquitoes.”
“Thanks, Reid,” I said.
“Don’t mention it.”
Sera scratched her arms. “Speaking of, where’s Nan with the anti-itch cream?”
“Right here.” Nan sailed in, twisted off the cap, and squirted white cream on her arms and face. She finished rubbing the thick medication into her flesh and handed the tube off to Sera.
Sera layered her arms in a thick coat of the stuff. “I think Grandma means that your mosquito trick may look like an abuse of magic.”
Alarm bells blared in my head. I bolted up. “Abuse of magic? What do you mean? It was an accident.”
Grandma untangled the strand of pearls from her gauzy scarf. “You know that. I know that. But if Queen Witch is anywhere around, I can guarantee she’ll see it differently.”
I relaxed. We hadn’t seen Esmerelda Pommelton, or Em, Queen Witch of the South, for weeks, not since I’d accidentally fingered her for murder. Boy, had that teed her off royally. But it wasn’t my fault that I thought she was a murderer. My old assistant had made Em look guilty. But that was neither here nor there. Because of me, Queen Witch had spent a few nights in witch jail and had been peeved about it. When they released her, she promised to get even with me for my mistake.
My gut cramped. I laughed away my discomfort. “Thank goodness Em isn’t here.”
The front door rattled. We all gaped as the wood bowed and buckled. It crashed open. Esmerelda Pommelton, Queen Witch of the South, filled the frame. Her cinnamon and crimson curls swirled in a magical wind, while golden bangles clanked on her wrists.
The queen sneered. “Well, well, well, look who’s in trouble.”
I’m guessing that would be us.