Berkley Mass Market Paperback
Southern Witch Series #2
December 3, 2013
Southern Witch series — Book 2
Messing with magic can spell disaster!
Welcome to Duvall, Texas, where Tammy Jo Trask has just unleashed an accidental Armageddon.
Tammy Jo’s misfiring magic has attracted the unwanted attention of WAM, the World Association of Magic. Now, a wand-wielding wizard and a menacing fire warlock have come to Duvall to train her for a dangerous mandatory challenge. But is there more to their arrival than they claim?
When a curse leads to a toxic spill of pixie dust, the town comes unglued and the doors between the human and faery worlds begin to open. To rescue the town and to face the impossible magical test, Tammy needs the help of incredibly handsome Bryn Lyons, but WAM has declared him totally off-limits. To avoid deadly consequences, Tammy probably ought to follow the rules this time…
On the other hand, rebellion is an old Texas tradition.
Read an Excerpt
In the past, the closest connection I’d had to criminals was rooting for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid during Duvall’s classic movie month. But now thieving was on my mind, and, unlike last week, I wasn’t going to be the victim. Normally, I’m honest and law-abiding, but you wouldn’t believe how much can change in just a few days.
“I know it sounds like stealing, but the truth is that those jewels weren’t mine to sell…so retrieving them is really just putting things right,” I explained to Mercutio as I set the bowl of key- lime batter in the fridge.
A fall breeze blew in from the open window, and I smelled freshly mowed grass. I opened the window a little wider before I walked around the counter to the couch. I sat down so we could have an eye-to-eye conversation.
“I’ll make sure Jenna gets her money back. I’ll even find a way to lift that hiccups hex.” I leaned over Mercutio where he lay on the couch. He purred and his fur rippled, making his ocelot spots dance. He probably didn’t think much of my trying to rob anyone, even if it was one of our nemeses. Before a week ago, Jenna Reitgarten had just been a snooty blond nuisance, but she’d been promoted. And Merc, who I didn’t even know before last week, had become my trusted friend and sometime action-adventure sidekick. Yeah, you wouldn’t believe how much stuff can change in just a few days.
Merc batted a loose strand of my red hair, catching his claws on it and tugging my head forward.
“Hey,” I complained, pulling the hair loose. “Watch those paws. Remember you’re not a tabby. With jungle-cat strength comes jungle-cat responsibilities. Now, when do you think would be the best time to burgle a house?”
Merc licked his paw thoughtfully, and I reached for a washrag on the counter to wipe a drop of cream cheese frosting off my Longhorns T-shirt. It wasn’t that I wanted to start in on a life of crime. Far from it. But the honest approach to jewelry recovery hadn’t worked.
“If I wait until they’re out of town, I’d have to break in and maybe trip the alarm. Or I could sneak in when they’re having their festival party and swipe the stuff and sneak out.”
“Either way should be exciting,” a soft voice said.
Startled, I jumped, and jerked my head to find Edie, the family ghost.
I smiled at her white trousers, navy boat-neck sweater and double strand of jawbreaker-sized pearls. Mostly Edie sashayed around town in her 1920s flapper dresses, but sometimes she wore trousers, and she could make pants look every bit as elegant. If she were chocolate, she’d be a holiday box of Godiva truffles. Me, I’m more of an M&M’s girl. As you might guess, there’s a lot about her that I envy, except for the part about being dead and all.
“I thought you were out of the country,” I said.
“I was traveling, but I got bored. There was no one interesting in Notre Dame, and the Scottish ghosts were off on some mass haunting. Extremely tiresome. I’ll come along on the robbery, shall I? To play lookout?” Edie asked, fingering her sleek black bob.
“That would be great,” I said with a smile. These days Edie was usually too busy with her own life—well, afterlife—to get overly involved in mine. “You’d be the perfect accomplice, since it’s not like you could get arrested and put in jail, right?” I said.
The oven timer dinged, signaling that my first batch of cupcakes was done. I hopped up to take out the muffin pans.
“Speaking of good-looking men with handcuffs, how is your favorite member of law enforcement?” Edie asked.
Zach, I thought with a slight pang. “Right as rain,” I said, hoping that he was. Truthfully, my normally ever-present ex had dropped out of my life, not returning my calls, even when I left supersweet messages on his machine. Zach’s avoidance maybe had to do with the way a certain gorgeous guy—and forbidden wizard—was trying to become a fixture in my life. Or maybe it had to do with having to fight a whole mess of werewolves last Thursday night because of me. Generally, when Zach’s off-duty from being a sheriff’s deputy, he likes to have a few beers and watch a game. And battling the supernatural creatures he never knew existed hadn’t exactly gone smoothly. I wanted to make things up to him, but first I had to track him down.
“Why are you making so many cupcakes? I rather doubt you needed to go to the trouble for our cat. A bowl of cream would have sufficed, or a small rodent.”
I wrinkled my nose at the thought of Mercutio eating fuzzy little mice. “I’m taking these to Miss Cookie’s place to see if they convince her to rehire me. Du-Fall Fest is kicking off, so she’ll need the help. With the right confectionary bribes, I think she’ll realize it’s a good time to forget about my act of defiance. After all, whoever said ‘the customer is always right’ was probably just a customer trying to use an expired coupon. I mean, if a man buys a pack of gum and then says, ‘I think you should tap dance,’ is he right? Ever see a cashier in tap shoes?” I paused. “I didn’t guess so.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, and why on earth would you want that job? You should be concentrating on learning your craft. You’re a witch now.”
“Oh, no. Those were special—especially bad— circumstances. I’m back to being a baker,” I said, waving my arm to indicate all the batter-covered pots and pans on the flour-dusted counter. “It’s my one talent. You don’t know because you’ve never tasted anything I’ve made. I’m telling you, if Hershey’s had a college, I’d have a PhD in cocoa.”
She rolled her eyes. “Wonderful. Gives a whole new meaning to flour power. You’ll undoubtedly change the world, one fruitcake at a time.”
She disappeared into a small green orb and was gone. I was two steps from the kitchen counter when someone knocked on the door.
Mercutio yowled and sprang off the couch to dart down the hall.
The knocking got louder. “I’m coming!” I called, hurrying to the front door, hoping to find Zach.
I pulled the door open and did find a man leaning against the brick door frame, but he wasn’t anybody I’d ever met or been married to. I looked over his preppy turtleneck, dark trousers, and gleaming smile. He wasn’t very tall, only about five-six, but he was clean-cut and pretty enough to be in a boy band. I’d bet some women wouldn’t find it hard to fall for him right off.
“Hey there. Can I help you?” I asked.
“You have that backward,” he said in a yummy English accent.
Don’t even think about getting another crush!
“I’m here to help you. Jordan Perth,” he said with another flash of his wide smile. He pulled a folded envelope from his pocket and handed it to me.
There was an impressive-looking black wax seal on it that had partially cracked off. The seal seemed to be some kind of a crest.
My eyes darted to his face and then back to the envelope.
“A hand delivery, huh?” I mumbled. “I hope my mailman, George, doesn’t hear about this. He’s mad enough about e-mail taking all his business.” I ripped open the envelope and pulled out the letter.
Dear Ms. Trask:
Having been found guilty at your hearing, you are expected to immediately comply with all Conclave directives. Details of the remuneration you must pay will follow in a separate letter. The matter of your training and placement within the hierarchy of magic must begin forthwith. Mr. Jordan Perth, the bearer of this letter, will assist you in your preparation for the Initial Challenge, which shall occur on November 1. Should you fail to comply with completion of the Initial Challenge, you will be considered in breach of Amendment 247, Article 6 of the Association’s Constitution and will be subject to incarceration or extermination.
As a result of Mr. Bryn Lyons’s involvement in your illegal use of magic, you are barred from any contact with him. Though Mr. Lyons has appealed the decision, until the matter is settled, you are expected to comply with the original verdict.
Chief Secretary, Department of Justice—World Association of Magic
Senior Advisor to the Conclave
“What the Sam Houston? I wasn’t told about any hearing.”
“You weren’t? Bryn Lyons said you had waived your right to be present.”
“Oh.” I cocked my head and frowned. “Well I did tell him he could speak on my behalf to the what-do-you-call-it, the Conclave, but I didn’t know it was like a trial. I would have gone and explained myself.”
“Unfortunately, it’s a bit late for that now.”
“But did Bryn explain the special circumstances? That I had to put a zombie back in the ground after someone, against my will I might add, stole some blood and hair from me to do magic? And that I had to find a family heirloom to prevent the destruction of the soul of a very elegant former witch?”
“I didn’t attend the hearing, so I’m not aware of what explanations were presented,” he said.
Bryn’s a lawyer and he’d gotten me out of trouble in the human court system last week, so I’d just assumed he would do the same in the magical one. But now I realized that Bryn might not have told them all the details about how my locket had gotten stolen. When I thought it over, it seemed pretty dumb of me to have sent him to tell my side of the story.
“Well, listen, I can’t pay any fines. I’m flat broke. Actually, I’m unemployed.” I bit my bottom lip thoughtfully.
“Plus, this Initial Challenge thing sounds time-consuming, and if I can’t get my old job back, I have to go job-hunting.”
“Your nonmagical occupation is subordinate to your magical obligations. In the Initial Challenge, you’ll face a difficult task that—”
“Hold on. I’m not a witch. I’m just a pastry chef. I had to use magic before on account of an emergency, but I don’t want to join any magical world association or whatever, though I’m real honored to be asked. So you can just go back and tell them, I’m going to stay a private citizen. And reassure them that I won’t use magic again. I promise.”
He smiled. “That isn’t quite how things work. If you don’t participate in the challenge by the allotted time, you’ll face the consequences. Imprisonment or death.”
“I’m a pastry chef!” I shouted. “Not a single one of the spells I cast last week turned out right. I tried astral projection and ended up half-possessed and drunk on magic. I tried to put the zombie back in the grave and gave a whole bunch of factory workers a deadly sleeping sickness. I’m not safe with magic. What I am is a magical menace!”
He grinned and gave me a sympathetic look that seemed designed to humor me. “You’re just uninitiated. With proper training, you’ll be quite effective I’m sure.”
Fury, red as my hair, exploded in my belly. “I don’t think so. As I said, there’s something wrong with my magic. I’m pretty sure it’s broken.”
“That isn’t at all likely. Now, I’m staying at the Yellow Rose Inn on Poplar Street. Do you know it?”
I took a deep breath and blew it out. Did he need me to translate American English to his language for him?
“Yes, I know the Yellow Rose, but—”
“Excellent. Let’s say seven thirty. By that time, your other instructor should have arrived, and we’ll discuss things at greater length over drinks.”
“Other instructor?” I echoed.
He tapped his finger under my chin. “Right. We’re going to teach you what you need to know to survive the challenge.”
I knocked his finger away, but he didn’t react to that or the furious look I gave him.
“See you later, love,” he said, strolling down to his car, a blue BMW convertible.
“My name is Tammy Jo!” I snapped.
He raised a hand to acknowledge that he’d heard me, but didn’t bother to turn around and apologize for being overly familiar and more than a little patronizing.
I swung around and spotted Mercutio perched on top of the chest of drawers in the foyer. “Did you hear that?” I demanded.
He looked at me, and, since he had ears, I gathered that he had.
“Well, I don’t know who they think they are,” I said, slamming the door. “They can send ten more pretty-boy wizards with long eyelashes and Crest Whitestrips teeth. I don’t have to be a witch if I don’t want to! Now, let’s get back to icing our darn cupcakes and planning our robbery.”