Authors: H.P. Mallory
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Time travel, #Fiction
H. P. M
THE JOLIE WILKINS SERIES
Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble
Toil and Trouble
THE DULCIE O’NEIL SERIES
To Kill a Warlock
A Tale of Two Goblins
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Bantam Books Mass Market Original
Copyright © 2012 by H. P. Mallory
The Witch Is Back
copyright © 2012 by H. P. Mallory
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
The Witch Is Back
by H. P. Mallory. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Cover illustration: Anne Keenan Higgins
Cover design: Eileen Carey
“So, no more ghostly encounters?” Christa, my best friend and only employee, asked while leaning against the desk in our front office. She was referring to the fact that the previous evening I’d seen my first ghost.
I shook my head and pooled into a chair by the door. “Maybe if you hadn’t left early to go on your date, I wouldn’t have had a visit at all.”
“Well, one of us needs to be dating,” she said, knowing full well I hadn’t had any dates for the past six months.
“Let’s not get into this again …”
“Jolie, you need to get out. You’re almost thirty …”
“Two years from it, thank you very much.”
“Whatever … you’re going to end up old and alone. You’re way too pretty, and you have such a great personality, you can’t end up like that. Don’t let one bad date ruin it.” Her voice reached a crescendo. Christa has a tendency toward the dramatic.
“I’ve had a string of bad dates, Chris.” I didn’t know what else to say—I was terminally single. It came down to the fact that I’d rather spend time with my cat or Christa than face another stream of losers.
As for being attractive, Christa insisted I was pretty, but I wasn’t convinced. It’s one thing when your best
friend says you’re pretty; it’s entirely different when a man does.
And I couldn’t remember the last time a man had said it.
I caught my reflection in the glass of the desk and studied myself while Christa rambled on about all the reasons I should be dating. I supposed my face was pleasant enough—a pert nose, cornflower-blue eyes, and plump lips. A spattering of freckles across the bridge of my nose interrupts an otherwise pale landscape of skin, and my shoulder-length blond hair always finds itself drawn into a ponytail.
Head-turning doubtful, girl-next-door probable.
As for Christa, she doesn’t look like me at all. For one thing, she’s leggy and tall—about five-eight, which is four inches taller than I am. She has dark hair the color of mahogany, green eyes, and rosy cheeks. She’s classically pretty—like cameo pretty. She’s rail skinny and has no boobs. I have a tendency to gain weight if I eat too much, I have a definite butt, and the twins are pretty ample as well. Maybe that made me sound like I’m fat—I’m not, but I could stand to lose five pounds.
“Are you even listening to me?” Christa asked.
Shaking my head, I entered the reading room, thinking I’d left my glasses there.
I heard the door open.
“Well, hello to you,” Christa said in a high-pitched, sickening-sweet, and non-Christa voice.
“Afternoon.” The deep timbre of his voice echoed through the room, my ears mistaking his baritone for music.
“I’m here for a reading, but I don’t have an appointment—”
“Oh, that’s cool,” Christa interrupted, and from the saccharine tone of her voice, it was pretty apparent this guy had to be eye candy.
Giving up on finding my reading glasses, I headed out in order to introduce myself to our stranger. Upon seeing him, I couldn’t contain the gasp that escaped my throat. It wasn’t his Greek-god, Sean-Connery-would-be-envious good looks that grabbed me first, or his considerable height.
It was his aura.
I’ve been able to see auras since before I can remember, but I’d never seen anything like his. It radiated from him as if it had a life of its own—and the color! Usually auras are pinkish or violet in healthy people, yellowish or orange in those unhealthy. His was the most vibrant blue I’ve ever seen—the color of the sky after a storm when the sun’s rays bask everything in glory.
It emanated from him like electricity.
“Hi, I’m Jolie,” I said, remembering myself.
“How do you do?” And to make me drool even more than I already was, he had an accent, a British one. Ergh.
I glanced at Christa as I invited him into the reading room. Her mouth had dropped open like a fish’s.
My sentiments exactly.
His navy-blue sweater stretched to its capacity while attempting to span a pair of broad shoulders and a wide chest. The broad shoulders and spacious chest in question tapered to a trim waist and finished in a finale of long legs. The white shirt peeking from underneath his sweater contrasted with his tanned complexion and made me consider my own fair skin with dismay.
The stillness of the room did nothing to allay my nerves. I took a seat, shuffled the tarot cards, and handed him the deck. “Please choose five cards and lay them faceup on the table.”
He took a seat across from me, stretching his legs and resting his hands on his thighs. I chanced a look at him and took in his chocolate hair and caramel eyes. His face was angular, and his Roman nose lent him a certain
Paul-Newman-esque quality. The beginnings of shadow did nothing to hide the definite cleft in his strong chin.
He didn’t take the cards. Instead he just smiled, revealing pearly whites and a set of grade A dimples.
“You did come for a reading?” I asked.
He nodded and covered my hand with his own. What felt like lightning ricocheted up my arm, and I swear my heart stopped for a second. The lone red bulb blinked a few times then continued to grow brighter until I thought it might explode. My gaze moved from his hand up his arm, and settled on his eyes. With the red light reflecting against him, he looked like the devil come to barter for my soul.
“I came for a reading, yes, but not with the cards. I’d like you to read … me.” His rumbling baritone was hypnotic, and I fought the need to pull my hand from his warm grip.
I set the stack of cards aside, focusing on him again. I was so nervous, I doubted any of my visions would come. They were about as reliable as the weather anchors you see on TV.
After several long uncomfortable moments, I gave up. “I can’t read you, I’m sorry,” I said, my voice breaking. I shifted the eucalyptus-scented incense I’d lit to the farthest corner of the table and waved my hands in front of my face, dispersing the smoke that seemed intent on wafting directly into my eyes. It swirled and danced in the air, as if indifferent to the fact that I couldn’t help this stranger.
He removed his hand but stayed seated. I thought he’d leave, but he made no motion to do anything of the sort.
“Take your time.”
Take my time? I was a nervous wreck and had no visions whatsoever. I just wanted this handsome stranger to leave so my life could return to normal.
But it appeared that was not in the cards.
The silence pounded against the walls, echoing the pulse of blood in my veins. Still, my companion said nothing. I’d had enough. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
He smiled again. “What do you see when you look at me?”
No, I couldn’t say that. Maybe he’d like to hear about his aura? I didn’t have any other cards up my sleeve … “I can see your aura,” I almost whispered, fearing his ridicule.
His brows drew together. “What does it look like?”
“It isn’t like anyone’s I’ve ever seen before. It’s bright blue, and it flares out of you … almost like electricity.”
His smile disappeared, and he leaned forward. “Can you see everyone’s auras?”
The incense dared to assault my eyes again, so I put it out and dumped it in the trash can.
“Yes. Most people have much fainter glows to them—more often than not in the pink or orange family. I’ve never seen blue.”
He chewed on that for a moment. “What do you suppose it is you’re looking at—someone’s soul?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. I do know, though, that if someone’s ailing, I can see it. Their aura goes a bit yellow.” He nodded, and I added, “You’re healthy.”
He laughed, and I felt silly for saying it. He stood up, his imposing height making me feel all of three inches tall. Not enjoying the feel of him staring down at me, I rose too and watched him pull out his wallet. I guess he’d heard enough and thought I was full of it. He set a hundred-dollar bill on the table in front of me. My hourly rate was fifty dollars, and we’d been maybe twenty minutes.
“I’d like to come see you for the next three Tuesdays
at four p.m. Please don’t schedule anyone after me. I’ll compensate you for the entire afternoon.”
I was shocked—what in the world would he want to come back for?
“Jolie, it was a pleasure meeting you, and I look forward to our next session.” He turned to walk out of the room when I remembered myself.
“Wait, what name should I put in the appointment book?”
He turned and faced me. “Rand.”
Then he walked out of the shop.