Read AWitchsSkill Online

Authors: Ashley Shayne

AWitchsSkill

A Witch’s Skill

Ashley Shayne

 

Cassandra is a witch—quite a good one in fact. But not many
people know that about her and the ones who do aren’t the type you’d want to
meet in a dark alley. Cassandra can take care of herself but when she’s tricked
into working her magic on a captive vampire—a very
hot
captive
vampire—things don’t go quite as planned.

Acayo isn’t about to allow his kidnappers to find out the
secrets behind becoming a vampire, but he’ll need help getting out of the
dangerous situation he’s found himself in. When a sexy witch comes to his
rescue, he can think of only one suitable way to thank her for her
assistance—by making love to her all night long!

Reader Advisory: This story has graphic sexual language and
scenes—no closed bedroom doors (or other rooms) here!

 

An
adult paranormal romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

A Witch’s Skill
Ashley Shayne
Chapter One

 

I looked up as the bell on my door jangled and a breeze from
outside lifted the hair off my forehead. Clients! Great. Business as a psychic
was never exactly booming but even for me it had been a slow week. I was
expecting my usual clientele—older, middle-upper-class women who were concerned
about their love lives or their children and wanted reassurance that the future
held nothing but happiness for them. I was usually able to satisfy these women,
even if their future actually looked terrible. I’m the real thing—a witch as
well as a psychic—and could tell them nothing but truth if I wanted to. But I
learned early on in my career that people don’t want truth. They want
reassurance and I gave it to them. I refused to lie so I tended to dodge a lot
of questions. I usually just changed the subject if I saw something horrible,
such as the death of a spouse. I’d say something like, “I’m afraid your
husband’s future is hazy but I see your daughter. Oh, she’s getting married and
she looks so beautiful.” Not a lie, since the future was always hazy, and the
client would leave pleased, having forgotten what it was she had wanted to know
in the first place. It almost always worked and when it didn’t, a little subtle
magic did.

The people walking through my door toward me weren’t the
usual clients. For one thing, they weren’t women. And for another thing, they
didn’t look middle-upper-class at all. Instead they looked rough. The taller
one swept his gaze around my shop carefully, as if checking for threats, while
the smaller one eyed me intently. I couldn’t imagine either of these men
wanting advice about their love lives and I couldn’t imagine what else they’d
need a psychic for. Of course they could be here to hire me for my witchy
skills. Those were advertised through word of mouth alone but it wasn’t hard to
find a working witch, if you were inclined to do so. Provided you knew the
right people, of course.

I stood as they came toward me, carefully throwing a cover
over the crystal ball into which I had been gazing when they entered, and came
around from behind my table to extend a hand. The smaller man took it after
looking me carefully up and down. I was dressed in what I thought of as my
psychic outfit, a loose, flowing, multicolored skirt, a light linen peasant top
and low heels. I had a shawl wrapped around my shoulders and heavy eyeliner around
my golden-brown eyes. I looked more like a psychic than a witch and I wondered
if that explained his scrutiny.

I gestured them into the seats in front of my table and the
smaller man sat while the larger leaned against a wall behind him. They were
both dressed in black—jeans, boots and shirts. The tall one had a tight black
t-shirt on that accentuated his muscles while the shorter one wore a button-down
open at the neck to reveal scraggly chest hair. The small one was rather greasy
and had a pockmarked face and beady, cunning eyes. Both of them were looking at
me intently and I repressed a shudder with an effort.

I joined them at the table and gestured at the short one to
begin. I didn’t introduce myself or greet them. I’ve found that putting on a
certain mysterious air helps a lot. The man cleared his throat meaningfully and
I made myself meet his snakelike eyes.

“My name is Ryan. We’ve been told you are more than just a
psychic.” He spoke in a deep voice that seemed odd coming from such a small
man. I nodded gravely and after a moment he continued. “We understand you have
certain…shall we say
talents
? And we require the help of someone with
your skills in a small matter coming up.”

Witch’s work then. I wondered why he’d bothered introducing
himself and not his partner before I decided it didn’t matter, and, nodding
again, I waited for him to continue.

“We have a man. A friend, I would say actually. Something’s
happened to him. Someone has stolen his memories. Including a memory we need
rather badly. We’ve heard there’s a truth spell, a ritual that can be done by a
talented witch who will compel him to answer the questions despite his loss of
memory. We think the truth is still in his head, just blocked off or hidden. We
think this spell will let him give us the information we need.”

I thought about it for a moment before answering, uneasily
aware of his predatory eyes on me.

“Perhaps. It would depend, of
course, on whether the memories are still there or if they have been erased
completely. If they are still there, it’s possible a truth spell would bring
them out. Additionally, achieving success in retrieving the information would
depend on what has been done to him, the strength of the witch or wizard, the
strength of the spell. I could not guarantee the results, you understand. It
may work, it may not.”

“We get that. We want you to try. You have quite a good
reputation. If the memories are gone, well then, they’re gone. If the other
witch or wizard is stronger, you’ll let us know and we will find someone even
stronger. If it works, we will be very happy. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. You’ll
be paid either way.”

I nodded. Magic was always uncertain and messing with
someone else’s spells even more so.
If
the spell was what I thought it
was, countering it could be relatively easy. More often than not though, I’d
run in to something unexpected. Some aspect of the spell would be unusual or
different. In that case, the results ranged from some spectacular failures to
the more usual
nothing at all
. I was always a little uncertain about
contracting out my magical skills and I never did so without a promise I’d get
paid, regardless of the outcome. In advance. I’d had a few grumpy customers
thinking I had ripped them off when in actuality, what they’d wanted wasn’t
possible. I had to give a man a cat’s tail once, to prove I really could do
magic (just not the magic he wanted) and to get him to back off and leave me
alone. He ended up paying me extra—on top of our agreed-upon fee—to remove the
tail. Although I’d been pretty certain that was the end of it, I admit I did
watch him in my crystal ball for a few weeks to make sure he wasn’t planning on
revenge. My response to his anger may have seemed rather cruel but the story
got around and I’d had less trouble since then.

Turning my attention back to the man in front of me, I
resumed the conversation. Details about how much I charged, how much material
would cost, and when and where were hammered out before the strangers left. The
tall one cast a suspicious glance back at me as they went through the door and
I shivered. The moment they’d gone, I locked the door behind them, taking down
my open sign.

I hoped I hadn’t just bitten off more than I could chew.
Unfortunately, I needed the money, and their fee was very generous. Even though
Ryan’s eyes had made me shiver and even though the tall one seemed to be
nothing more than a thug, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d worked for people
on the wrong side of the law. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be the last.

I prepped for the ritual over the next week. We’d determined
a warehouse they owned would be a perfect place for me to do my thing, and the
tall one came by and dropped off keys a couple days after our meeting. I
preferred to prepare by myself. Not that there was anything secret about the
process… But people tended to ask too many questions and the whole procedure
always ended up taking at least twice as long when I had an audience.

Alone at the warehouse, I spread salt in a series of circles,
moving outward from a set point where I would place the subject. I put candles
in iron sconces around the space—they didn’t actually do anything but people
seemed to expect them—and spread a protective cloak over the whole building. The
last thing we wanted were strangers wandering in halfway through the ritual.

Finished, I dusted off my hands and looked around me. Yep. Ready.
The ritual was set to happen the next day so I headed home for an early night’s
sleep. Sadly, I didn’t sleep well at all. I was nervous about this job. I
considered the matter carefully, since I don’t like ignoring my instincts, but
I couldn’t figure out what was bugging me. It wasn’t as if it was my first time
performing this particular spell. And this certainly wasn’t my first time doing
magic for money. Maybe my unease simply stemmed from my dislike for my clients.
Still…
That
wasn’t anything new either, and I never ended up this on
edge. I tossed and turned through the night and when I finally got up I
realized I was in a horrible mood.

I threw on a comfortable pair of black jeans, a baggy, gray
tank top over a sports bra and a soft, wool cardigan. I put my long black hair
up into a ponytail, grabbed my bag and headed out the door. I tried to think positively
and gave myself a little pep talk on the ride there.

Both the men I’d met before were already at the warehouse
when I arrived. I nodded at them and Ryan greeted me. True to form, the taller
one remained silent. As I wandered around, lighting the candles, the tall man
went into a back room. When he returned he was dragging another person—a person
who was chained. His head was down and I couldn’t see his face. The taller man
was not particularly gentle with him and I winced as the chained man’s knee banged
into the concrete floor. I bit my lip and turned away to find Ryan watching my
reaction.

“What’s going on?” I asked him, glancing back at the man on
the ground. “You said this was your friend. Why is he chained?”

The chained man lifted his head as he heard my voice and I
caught my breath. He was gorgeous. He had dark-brown hair, olive skin and a
straight Greek nose under eyes that were so dark they were almost black. A
trickle of blood leaked from a cut on his forehead and he stared at me,
desperation clearly visible in his gaze. The tall man yanked on the chains and
quick as a flash, the prisoner turned his head and lunged for the tall man’s
leg, long fangs flashing. The tall man jerked out of the way and kicked the
chained man in the head as I scrambled back, gasping.

“That’s a vampire!” I shrieked in surprise.

“So?” Ryan approached me, his cold gaze pinned to my face. “It
won’t make a difference to the magic, so why does it matter?”

I stuttered and hesitated, my eyes glued to the vampire as
he rolled on the floor, clutching his face and moaning. If this were how my
clients treated their friend, I would hate to be their enemy.

“You said he was under a spell,” I told Ryan, fear making my
voice sharper than I’d intended.

“He is,” he assured me, sounding as though he fought to keep
his temper in check. “Really, if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be fighting us.”

I heard a snort from the man on the ground and he looked up
at me.

“Don’t listen to them,” he croaked, his voice dry and
cracking. “I’m not under a spell—I’m a prisoner. Don’t help them. They’re
evil!”

“Says Satan’s spawn,” the tall man sneered, surprising me
completely with the unexpected speech, before he kicked the vampire in the face
again.

Why wasn’t he using his powers to escape? I glanced at the
chains again and had my answer.
They must be made of silver.
Silver
drastically weakens vampires, though it won’t kill them.

“Please don’t kick him again,” I said, horrified by the
unnecessary violence. Though I’d had my share of troubles over the years, torture
or anything like it turned my stomach.

“A delicate witch,” Ryan sneered, grabbing me by the arm. “We
have a deal. You better not back out on us.”

His tone was serious and he glared angrily. Fear ran through
me and I cursed myself heartily, wishing I’d trusted my instincts and cancelled
this gig. I swallowed hard and nodded unhappily at him.

“Put him in the circle then,” I told them, trying to stop my
voice from shaking.

The prisoner kicked and fought as much as he could in his
chains, and several moments passed before the tall man finally succeeded in
depositing him in the innermost circle. Once there, the bindings kicked in and
he was unable to move out of the rings.

“Release his chains please,” I told them, making sure I kept
out of reach of his arms.

“Is that necessary?” Ryan asked, suspicion coloring his
voice.

“It is. I am trying to set free the truth. How can I free
anything with all these chains around?”

A half-truth, at best. Sure, the chains would confuse the magic
but probably not enough to make the ritual fail. Still, I wanted them gone. They
were hurting him and he couldn’t reach me through my wards anyway. Ryan nodded
to the tall man and he stepped into the circles, making sure to keep his feet
out of the innermost one. He quickly unlocked the chains before leaping
backward out of the way. The prisoner shook the chains off his wrists and quick
as a flash, flung them at the tall man with enough force that they flew out of
my protective wards. The tall man ducked and the chains whipped by, barely
missing him. I gasped and stared. Getting through my wards took force and
something more than that, and vampire or not, he shouldn’t have been able to do
what he’d just done. I hoped the circle would contain him. I hoped he wouldn’t
be mad at
me
if it didn’t.

The vampire stood slowly, shaking out his shoulders, and I
just stared. He must have been around six feet tall and his muscles were
perfectly sculpted. He looked at me across the circle and I stared back at him,
losing myself in his eyes. The moment stretched and would have continued for
who knows how long, but Ryan coughed and I reluctantly looked away from the
prisoner’s face.

I turned to kneel and dig through my bag, busying myself for
a second while I tried to think about what to do. I didn’t like my clients. I
didn’t trust them and this was so not what I had signed up for. There was a
huge difference between recovering memories from someone who had a spell put on
them and stealing truth from an unwilling victim. Vampire or not. I didn’t have
any time to come up with a plan though, and leaving didn’t appear to be an
option. The one thing I had on my side was the fact that Ryan and his bruiser
buddy didn’t have any idea what the spell involved. I could do almost anything
as long as it looked witchy and they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Being
able to talk with the prisoner would help, I thought to myself, and that gave
me an idea.

Other books

The Brooke-Rose Omnibus by Brooke-Rose, Christine
Unstable Prototypes by Lallo, Joseph
The Evangeline by D. W. Buffa
American Babe by Babe Walker
Lisístrata by Aristófanes
Copperhead by Tina Connolly
Indigo by Beverly Jenkins