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Authors: Madelyn Alt

A Witch In Time

BOOK: A Witch In Time
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Berkley Prime Crime titles by Madelyn Alt
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2010 by Madelyn Alt.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Alt, Madelyn.
eISBN : 978-1-101-18625-1
1. Witches—Fiction. 2. City and town life—Indiana—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3601.L75W57 2010
813’.6—dc22 2009050091

For Matthew and Lindsey
Congratulations, kiddos!
Love you madly!
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors
the servant and has forgotten the gift.
Chapter 1
My name is Maggie O’Neill, and I am a small-town girl.
At one time, I was loath to admit it. We all know what city people think of us out here in the ignominious sticks. I mean, I know there are instances of hickdom here and there, but honestly, it’s not like it’s the Dukes of Hazzard all over again. So even though some of us are monster-truck-driving, shotgun-owning, corn-growing, demolition-derby-attending, Sunday-afternoon-barbecuing kinds of people, that doesn’t mean we are all country bumpkins without a shred of culture to our names . . . even if the 4H fairs do draw in more customers than all of the dusty museums in the area combined. Here we attend school programs, not Broadway shows, and for some at least, the only classical music they will ever hear comes from the middle of the football field at halftime.
To some city folk, that means we’re . . . heathens.
The funny thing is, that’s not really too far off the mark, depending on one’s perspective.
You see, we
the heathens of old-time reckoning— people of the land, whose countrified lifestyles mark the passing of the seasons in ways that many city people cannot understand.
Some of us are more heathen than others.
And I, dear friends, am a prime example.
It isn’t so much that I am the epitome of an irreligious person. Call me . . . spiritual instead. Or should that be spirit-ual, hyphen intended? Because the spirits that have been hard at work in Stony Mill, Indiana, certainly seem to think they are an important part of the equation. I’ve lived my whole life in Stony Mill. Once upon a time I thought living here assured a certain level of safety, even if monotony was standing ever so patiently alongside, waiting for the baton pass in the Relay O’ Life. The spirits seemed to have opinions about that, too.
Monotony doesn’t begin to describe what we’ve been experiencing these last nine months. Rather the opposite, in fact.
At first it was only the sensitives who could feel the winds of change sweeping in like a summer storm through my hometown. People like my witchy boss and mentor, Felicity Dow, whose heightened senses delved into depths of perception unknown by more “normal” folk. And—surprise, surprise—people like me. As an empath—a sensitive who feels the emotions of others to the extent that they might as well be her own—I must count myself among those numbers. But after a strange collection of tragedies and calamities in town, it didn’t take much sensitivity at all to realize that something was . . . different. Case in point, my perfectly perfect, if somewhat obtuse, little sister, Melanie. Mel was about as sensitive as a doorknob, and her only gift for intuition came in the form of a strong nose for gossip. Bless her heart. Yet even Mel in her expensive subdivision and ideal life had not been safe from the chaotic energies running amok in our sleepy little town.
I think it is safe to say, that trend is on the rise. Time will tell.
Welcome to my world. My name is Maggie O’Neill, and this is my story.
August was in full swing on a late Thursday afternoon where it seemed all I had gotten done was to peer anxiously at the wall of antique clocks opposite my usual post at the sales counter. So much for being the model employee I tried so hard to be. I shook my head to clear away the mists of worry and distraction that hovered on the fringes of my mind as I rang up the purchases for what would likely be Enchantments’ last customer of the day. At least I hoped it was our last. For once, I was Ready. To. Go.
“That will be thirty-nine ninety-six,” I told our customer, a regular, as the numbers totaled on the cash register. It had been a long, hot day, our air-conditioning had been acting up, the HVAC crew was missing in action, and a seemingly endless period of Mercury being retrograde in the cosmos had ensured that Murphy’s Law was alive and kicking. Things at the store had been chaotic at best. Add in the missing shipments; a broken crystal vase thanks to my little furry fiend—I mean,
—and store kitten, Minnie; and a laptop whose hard drive suddenly stopped talking to its keyboard, forcing us all to rely on memory to locate items in our extensive inventory; and what you got in total was frazzled nerves.
All mine. Liss was, as per usual, as cool as the proverbial cucumber. My proverbial cucumbers, on the other hand, always turned out pickled.
“How do you do it?” I asked her when the customer had walked out with a gift bag packed chockfull of goodies and a smile of satisfaction on her face. The admiration coloring my tone was not for effect. I would be the first to admit that I aspired to achieve my boss’s Zen approach toward life someday. It would be nice not to be affected by all of the small annoyances and frustrations some would consider a normal part of spending time on this earth.
“What’s that, ducks?” Liss asked, peering at me from over her half-moon glasses as she tucked a pencil absentmindedly into the hair above her ear and pushed the Return key on the nonfunctioning laptop.
“Stay calm and cool in the face of adversity?”
Liss laughed, a lovely, merry sound that in all the months I’d known her had never yet failed to make me feel better. “I wasn’t aware that we
facing adversity. I’ll have to keep my eyes open now, won’t I?”
Her unfaltering good mood stopped me in my tracks. Was I making too much of things? “You’re right. I’m being overly dramatic.” And I, for one, despised melodrama.
“It’s just the heat getting to you, love. Now, where are those repairmen? They were supposed to be here hours ago. This old building needs some TLC.”
She was right. August had been sizzling, steamy, and sultry and just plain abysmal as far as the weather went . . . not that that was unusual for this time of year. But sometimes there was a sense that we were all dancing around like grease on a forgotten griddle. You’ve heard of jumping from the frying pan into the fire? Yeah. Despite all of the good things that had been happening in my life of late—the most interesting of which had been the blossoming of a new and potentially promising pairing with the not-nearly-so-dark-as-everyone-thought but nevertheless dangerous-to-my-equilibrium Marcus Quinn—there was still an element of edgy uncertainty swimming around in the mix. Or was that just me, being dramatic again?
Liss was right. What was a little hot weather in the overall scheme of things? What were a few minor annoyances? It was the town gone mad that we had to worry about.
And on that cheery note . . .
“Would you like me to wait with you for the repairmen?” I offered, although I freely admit that for once the offer was only halfheartedly made. Tonight was a scheduled off night for me, and I had made plans. Big plans. Hopeful plans.
I caught Minnie gazing at me with her luminous bi-colored eyes. I shot her a meaningful look that said,
And said plans will not require input from you, Missypants! None of your funny business.
She just blinked at me, the soul of innocence, then bent over to acrobatically lick the back of her leg.
“Oh, my dear. I wouldn’t dream of keeping you. Now, now,” she said, brushing away my hands as I made a move to tidy the counter. “None of that.” She examined me more closely. “If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were procrastinating.”
“I’m not procrastinating! I‘m—” I wasn’t, was I? I double-checked myself. Of course I wasn’t. What was there to procrastinate about? A night of movies, munchies, and Marcus in front of the television at his house, away from the nervous energy cycling through town . . . what was there to be nervous about that?
Except the butterflies in my stomach were calling me out as a liar. Because after three weeks of exploring every facet of making out with Marcus like a teenager in the heated throes of new love, I knew that we were standing on a precipice that would change things forever, for better or for worse, and while I wanted it as much as I thought he did, there was still that edge of uncertainty about what it would mean to the relationship. What it would mean to us.
Get a grip, Maggie
, I told myself.
It’s not like you’ve never done this before.
Visions of a young Madonna flashdanced through my head, and I don’t mean the beatific one.
But it really had been a while, and all the what-ifs were making me crazy.
BOOK: A Witch In Time
6.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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