The Witch’s Handbook to Trapping Demons
Southern Single Mom Paranormal Mysteries, Book 3
When an inspector from Magical Protective Services threatens to take away Andie Taylor’s two-year-old daughter, Andie is ready for a knock down, drag-out fight.
But when that same inspector winds up dead, one of the town’s supernatural citizens is quickly blamed.
Yet it seems there was more to this inspector than meets the eye, for with his death a demon has been unleashed on the town of Normal, Alabama, and this demon is after one thing—the supernatural children.
Now it’s up to Andie to stop the creature before it can start claiming victims. Can she do it? Or will her own daughter wind up in the clutches of the demon?
The moon hung high in the constellated sky. I approached the house slowly, my shadow creeping in front of me like an old lady trying to steal my purse.
I stifled a giggle.
I know old ladies don’t necessarily steal purses, but the thought made me laugh.
A groan came from inside the house. The noise snapped me from my thoughts. I steeled my emotions, forgetting all about the little joke and focusing on the task at hand.
Something lay in that house. Something that wanted to destroy me.
I had to fight it. I snapped my fingers and felt a pop as magic flared on the tips of my newly manicured nails. I’d picked the color Cajun Shrimp because New Years was only a few days away, so I wanted to be festive. Also I just really liked red polish. I thought it was so classic in an Audrey Hepburn sort of way.
The whole magic part must’ve tipped you off. My name’s Andie Taylor, and I’m a witch, vampire hunter and, most recently, werewolf catcher.
I inwardly roll my eyes. I know, it’s a long list of descriptions for a short little blonde lady like myself, but what can I say?
Something shuffled inside, pulling my focus. It sounded like furniture scooting across a wooden floor. I picked up the pace and reached the back door. Turned the knob slower than molasses runs off a stick.
I eased it open until the hinges released a whisper of a groan. Then I wedged through and onto a tile floor. My ears pricked at shuffling coming from the other side of the house.
My eyes adjusted quickly. I dropped to the floor and burgled through the home at a snail’s pace. I padded out of the kitchen. My fingertips brushed a thick rug. I followed it until I reached an arch. A living room lay on the other side; I’d been in the house enough times to know. And the noises, the scuffling and such I also pinned to be taking place in the same general area.
I closed my eyes and reached out with my magic, probing the area for sound, trying to amplify it. I heard it—the slight sound of movement—like an arm curling or even a chest barely rising to snatch a breath from the air.
This was it. My one shot. I had to get it right. I leaped in front of the arch. “Hold it,” I yelled. Magic streamed from my fingers, lighting the room.
Empty chairs, shallow corners, and bare space all flooded my brain at the same time.
The room was empty.
Which meant I was dead.
“You’re dead, Andie,” came the voice from behind me.
I exhaled a plume of breath and whirled around. The power on my fingers lit the darkened house. The man stood on the other side of the arch—he possessed thick, wavy hair the color of amber, blue eyes, a Superman-like build, and an easy smile that generally threatened to make my knees jellify.
But none of that meant I wasn’t irritated with him for beating me.
I crossed my arms and stamped my foot. “Okay, how’d y’all do it? How’d you get the draw on me?”
The lights flared to life, and Dexter Taylor ran muscular fingers through his hair, showing off a sculpted bicep. Did he do that on purpose? Show off his muscles?
That’s the sort of thing estranged undead husbands would do—show off their muscles so that you want to wrap your arms around them and dangle in the air.
And you heard me right about the undead part. Dex was a vampire, which meant he was no longer living. Three years ago he’d disappeared off a cliff with a lord vampire. Turned out, the vampire made my husband a bloodsucker. I had lived for years thinking Dex was dead, an idea he could have squashed at any time. All he had to do was show up on my doorstep and let me know he was still around. But he chose not to.
Needless to say, our relationship was ripe with conflict.
Vordrid, a thousand-year-old wizard and my mentor, sailed in behind me. The form he inhabited, a Magic 8 Ball, pivoted around.
Yes, I know—first a vampire and now a Magic 8 Ball. Stick around. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Vordrid sniffed. “It was very simple, Andie. I hid in a corner and created the illusion of being a body.”
I smacked a palm to my face. “The oldest trick in the book. So you’re the movement I heard.”
Vordrid bobbed. “I was. Don’t be discouraged. You haven’t honed your hunting skills in a long time.”
“Right,” Dex said, smiling. “Listen, not even the best warrior princess can always kill a lion. Sometimes the lion has to live.”
If I wasn’t so irritated that he’d beaten me—beaten by a boy; how annoying—anyway, if I wasn’t so irritated, Dex would have amused me, as warrior princess was a nickname he’d thrown on me in our younger days.
He clicked his tongue. “And try not to think about the fact that you’d be dead, because I would have easily come up behind you and snuffed out your life. Luckily I’m one of the good guys. You can call me lion warrior if you want.”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t want, and I don’t believe it’s very nice that you’re talking about ending my life when you’re a vampire. Don’t you see the irony here?”
Dex chuckled. He shaded his brow with his hand and shook his head. When his gaze drifted back to me, it landed on my throat. My neck twitched like it was just itching to be bitten by him.
“Andie, I’m only trying to help. Get you back into hunting shape.”
I groaned and sank onto the couch. “I know. I know you’re only trying to help me. I can’t believe I totally screwed that up and fell for Vordrid’s little trick.”
Dex tapped his fingers on his slim hips. He seemed to consider whether or not to join me on the couch. In the end he came over and sat. He coiled his forearm around mine and entwined our fingers. The feel of his flesh sent a jolt snaking through my body.
He pulled me close. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. It was a trick.”
I lifted my chin and glared at him. “It was a joke. And not a very nice one. Basically you cheated. I want a redo.”
His eyes danced with amusement. “It won’t change the fact that you’d be dead.”
I pulled my hand away. “You tricked me.”
“You had every chance to feel around both rooms and find me. You fell for it.”
“Because you pushed me into it.”
Dex leaned away. “So this is my fault?”
I slapped a hand across my knee. “Darn right it’s your fault. You made me think you were in one room. You, Dexter Taylor, cheated me out of a victory. I think you should be the one who feels bad. Not me. In fact, I’m scoring this one as a victory.”
I crossed to the other side of the room where a whiteboard had been screwed into place. One side read Andie, the other Dex. At the present I had three marks under my name and Dex also had three. I uncapped a black dry erase marker and stroked a line under my name.
“Four. There. You cheated.”
Dex’s eye twitched. He studied me and then wrapped his arms behind his head and sank back onto the couch. “If you want to take a fake victory, go for it. But in your heart, you know it was me who won.”
I threw the marker to the floor. “I don’t know any such thing. All I know is I’m the real winner here. In fact, this makes me wonder if you’ve actually won any of your other victories.”
I raised my arm to erase the marks under his name. In a blur of color, Dex was off the couch and between me and the board.
His jaw clenched. What was it with men? Pretend to take a victory from them and all sorts of heck broke loose.
“Don’t even think about it. I won all the others fair and square.”
I chuckled. “Oh, if by fair and square you mean cheating, that is.”
Dex’s blue eyes flamed. “Don’t do it, Andie.”
Dex was always so competitive. Even back in our early days together, he couldn’t stand it if he lost a game we were playing. I always teased him that he hated being beaten by a girl. But the truth was, Dex just plain old hated losing.
But don’t we all?
Clearly I am case and point in this.
Vordrid sailed up between us and made a sound similar to clearing his throat. He spoke in his most regal of voices. “Might I remind the two of you that you’re working on the same team? Winning and losing isn’t what matters. What’s important is that you have a common goal.”
“Can it,” I said.
“For once we agree,” Dex murmured to me. “But I’m telling you, Andie, if you so much as erase one line of my wins, you’ll regret it.”
I narrowed my gaze until I felt my brows pinch together. “Is that so?”
Dex nodded, his eyes glimmering with something—mischief maybe? “That is so.”
I raised a finger high in the air and swiped away the tiniest fraction of his wins.
In less than a second, Dex’s lips were on mine in a swift, confident kiss. I felt myself melt into him, my body a swirl of emotions—Dex was my husband; he was also a vampire. Not by his choice, but still, he was a vampire, my sworn enemy.
All these thoughts curled around my brain as I sank into him. And then I remembered I needed to keep my head on straight.
I broke the kiss. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Dex’s lips coiled in a cocky grin. “Horrible, huh? Worse kiss ever.”
I glared at him. “No comment.”
He swiped a thumb over his bottom lip. “Told you you’d regret messing with my numbers. Though I’ll admit it, even if you won’t—I enjoyed that.”
I threaded my fingers through my golden locks. I caught a quick glimpse of myself in the mirror—my brown eyes peeked out under bangs, and red flushed my cheeks, a betrayal of exactly how much I enjoyed locking lips with Dex.
He chuckled. “Next time look for a trick, any trick. We’re trying to keep our daughter alive, here. You never know when and where something might attack.”
I sighed. “I know. It’s just a lot of pressure.”
So, a couple months back, an incredibly sexy angel named Stone, who I’ve kissed in the past, appeared in my backyard and explained that my daughter, Gabby, was in some sort of danger and he was her guardian.
Problem was, Stone didn’t have specifics. All we knew was that we must guard her. So Dex had decided that I needed to be prepared for anything. Anything meant we created mock situations where he hid and I tried to find him. Apparently he was better at hiding than I was at catching him.
My phone blipped from my back pocket.
Dex raised a brow. “You brought your phone?”
Meaning, if this had been a real situation, it could’ve given my position away.
I rolled my eyes because he was right and I’d made a stupid mistake. “I have a two-year-old. I never know when something might happen to her. Yes, I brought my phone. Would you like to chastise me more, Dad?”
He frowned. “Not your dad.”
“Yep. ’Cause that would be weird.”
I glanced at the screen. It was home. My landline. Yes, I still had one of those. I pressed the button to answer and said, “Hi, Dot.”
Dot is my great-aunt and Gabby’s full-time babysitter, since I am a preschool teacher at Giving Trunk.
“Andie, I need you to come home right away.”
Dot’s tone was sharp, disturbed. Now, Dot was never anything but cool and prodding, always wanting me to do things I didn’t want to, like use my power.
Anxiety bubbled in my gut. All worst-case scenarios flashed through my mind. “Why? What’s going on? Why do I need to come home?”
Dot cleared her throat. “Maybe I should let them tell you.”
I rose. “What? Who? Them? What are you talking about?”
I heard a muffled shuffling as if the phone was being passed to someone else.
“Andie Taylor?” A man’s voice, crisp and clear, broke through the line.
I hesitated. “Yes?”
“This is Special Agent Rufus Weatherby of Magical Protective Services.”
My eyebrows shot to the ceiling. “Magical Protective Services?” I threw Dex a look. His eyes widened.
I covered the microphone. “Do you know anything about this?” I whispered to him.
My undead husband shook his head. His face twisted into distress. “No.”
The agent’s clipped voice broke in. “Yes, Magical Protective Services. We watch over the children of witches and supernaturals.”
I scoffed. “I’m aware of what you do. You take them to new homes if their parents can’t care for them. What I can’t figure out is what you’re doing at my house.”
It sounded like Agent Weatherby spat on my floor. Gross.
The hardness of his voice was like steel arrows to my heart. “We received a tip from someone close to the family that your daughter is in danger, Mrs. Taylor. We’ve been sent in to take her away.”