The Beltane Witch (Cloudburst Colorado)

BOOK: The Beltane Witch (Cloudburst Colorado)
11.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beltane Witch

 

Siobhan Muir

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Thanks
go to Nichole Severn for reminding me that bad guys don’t go away that easily and yes, you do have to finish their stories, too. Shannan Albright caught my pet words and social faux pas. As always thanks to Lanya Ross for reading for logic and giving me a good peer review. Thanks also to Emily Yenawine for catching my mangled sentences and overactive paragraphs.

 

 

The Beltane Witch

By Siobhan Muir

Copyright
2013 by M.E. Varhalmi

 

Cover Photo:
Laurin Rinder
 

Dreamstime.com
Curaphotography
 | 
Dreamstime.com

Paul Fleet
 | 
Dreamstime.com

Cover Design: H.L. Carmichael

 

eBooks are
not
transferable. They cannot be sold, shared, or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

 

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except for brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

First Electronic Print, June 2013

 

Chapter One

 

Sabrina Foxglove stepped out the side door of Mazie’s Five and Dime and took a deep breath of cold spring air. Cloudburst, Colorado, hadn’t gotten the memo on mild temperatures for the season. Still, hinted scents of new growth in the cool breezes and the crocuses in her garden warned of warmer weather.

The weather is tur
ning and it’s Beltane in a week. Yay, May Day.

Sabrina had long chosen
Beltane, the Goddess’s celebration of fertility and rebirth, as her favorite holiday next to Yule. She loved the dancing, the small campfire—she couldn’t have a bonfire in her backyard. Forest fires in the National Forest were frowned upon—and the brightly colored ribbons around her own miniature May Pole. She and her daughters always dressed up, baked goodies to share with her neighbors and sang the special prayer songs as the night moved to Midnight.

This year, Tansy’s school
would hold a May Day celebration and she’d promised to bake brownies for the class.

Sabrina heard
extra footsteps as she walked down the alley toward the back parking lot after locking the door to Mazie's. The sounds of those feet sent a frisson of fear and anxiety down her back. She didn't want to look back, but it’d be better to see her attackers, just in case she had to identify them later.

When she reached the single bulb illuminating a small portion of the parking lot, she turned with her keys pushing between her fingers like claws and raised her chin. What met her
eyes made her blood run cold.

Five men filed out of the alley
led by Marty Robinson, one of the most outspoken about her marriage status. Or lack thereof despite motherhood. He’d given her trouble in the past when she’d politely refused his invitation to attend one of the church gatherings, but she never thought he’d do anything rash.
Apparently he's changed his approach.


Did you need something at Mazie's, guys? Sorry, we're closed.” She hoped her voice sounded nonchalant and wished she stood closer to her minivan.

“It’
s not safe to be walking alone at night, Sabrina.” Marty’s buckteeth always made him whistle when he spoke, lending to his overall unpleasantness. At least he didn’t have a lisp, and if he kept his mouth shut, he could be considered somewhat attractive.


Thanks for the reminder. And thanks for accompanying me to my car. I’ll just be getting in and going home now.”


If you had a husband, you’d be safer,” one of the others snapped, his voice full of frustration.
What is his problem?


Thanks for the concern, but—”


A husband could protect you from just these kinds of situations,” Marty said.

She raised her eyebrows and t
ightened her fist on her keys. “This is a situation? Is there some problem?”


Being single is a sin against God,” Mr. Frustrated shifted his weight and his hands fisted at his side.

“I didn’t think marital status was one of God’s main concerns.”

“Mothers shouldn’t be single. You should have a husband.” Marty’s lips tightened over his teeth and his eyes narrowed. Sabrina swallowed hard and kept moving through the parking lot.


And all of you are here to convince me?” She raised a dubious eyebrow. “I’m not sure I need one husband, much less five.”

“We’
re not into polygyny.” Marty and the others edged closer, fanning out a little to get behind her. Sabrina backed up a few steps, trying to keep them all in view.


I’m relieved to hear it. It's sweet of you to offer, but I'm fine, really.” She backed up a little more, the keys cutting into her palm.

“You
should have a man to take care of you, Sabrina. Single women with children are an affront to God. You'll never enter Heaven.” Marty voice approached reasonable, but his eyes glowed with an unhealthy zeal.


Hey, you know, I'm not really worried about it.” Where had she parked her damn van? “Thanks for the concern though.”

The men moved closer, trying to circle her before she could reach her car. The wind blew the scents of cold blacktop and spilled gasol
ine past her and she wished she’d parked closer to the building.
So much for getting more exercise. I should’ve taken kickboxing
. Her eyes darted around to see any visible weapon she could use to hold them off other than her keys, but she saw nothing. Not even a damn snowball.

Winter’s continued grip on
the Rockies sent a cold breeze eeling down her back as her heel came down on a patch of black ice. Her foot shot out from under her and she slammed to the cold pavement on her butt. Cold seeped in through her pants and filled the crannies of her heart.

Glory be,
I'm so screwed.

Fear surged as the men closed on her. How would she get home to her daughters? How could she face
them after these men did…whatever they were going to do? She wouldn't allow herself to even name the heinous acts groups of men did to women in the dark.


Now we're gonna teach you why you need a man.”

Marty
’s expression shifted to rabid as he reached for her. She gritted her teeth and tightened her grip on the keys. If they chose to do this, she’d make sure they’d remember how hard they worked to get her to submit.


Five men against one woman is a little unorthodox and unfair, don’t you think?”

The deep masculine voice floated out of
the darkness of the alley they’d left behind. Her attackers turned to look over their shoulders, their bodies tense.

Sabrina couldn’
t see much at first, just a blacker shadow among the rest. A tall male form emerged into the edge of the light wearing a long black trench coat with a wide hood over his head. He had leather gloves on his hands and heavy black boots on his feet to protect him from the spring cold in the mountains. The hilt of a very large sword rose over his left shoulder, held there by an ornate leather strap embroidered with oak leaves across his chest.

Oh Goddess, who the hell is this?

“Your religious leaders might look askance at your behavior this evening. Hounding women doesn’t seem an honorable pastime.”

“Who are you?”
Marty snapped.

“Sh
e needs to be taught a lesson. She needs a husband.” Sabrina swore Mr. Frustrated had been dropped on his head as a child.


Mayhap she does, but this is not the way to convince her,” the dark stranger remarked, amusement in his voice. “Did your fathers teach you nothing about wooing? Flowers, chocolates, perhaps even sweet poetry or jewelry. But never threats or fear.”

“Hey, man, we saw her first.
” She knew that voice. Timmy Lewis’s pockmarked face looked ghastly in the weak light. “Go find your own woman.”

Nice to know she held some value to the local male population
.

A deafening silence settled around them
. No one moved for a few seconds, but the energy in the little parking lot shifted from tolerant amusement to icy disdain. In a flurry of motion, the stranger swept the feet out from under Mr. Frustrated, slammed Timmy into one of his cronies until they slumped to the ground, held the fourth man in a choke hold, and had a long dagger blade pressed against Marty’s throat by the time he stilled.

He’
d positioned himself between her and the others and she got a good look at his back. The sword in its leather scabbard hung to his hips and she thanked her lucky stars it remained sheathed. The wide expanse of his shoulders assured her he could wield it, probably faster and stronger than the propeller on an airplane. His arms, one holding the gasping man and the other holding the dagger, never wavered.


Now would be an excellent time to gather your friends and retreat to your mothers’ skirts.” The words came out in a growl and Sabrina shivered. “Go. Now.”

The stranger
released the man he held, and Mr. Frustrated, Marty, and Choke-Hold scrambled to retrieve their two fallen comrades and retreated back toward Main Street. The hooded man watched them go, big, powerful, and menacing in his stillness. When their footsteps faded from hearing, he turned to her and offered her a gloved hand.

“Let
’s get you home, Ms. Foxglove.” His voice encouraged trust.

S
abrina looked at his hand then up at his face for a long time while she waited for her heart to stop pounding. She’d just watched him kick ass on five guys in an icy parking lot, and he expected her to trust he meant her no harm?

On the other hand,
he looks fast enough to catch me if I run.

Biting her lip, she reached out to grasp
his hand. The warm leather engulfed her frozen fingers and she felt dwarfed by his size. Her hand looked like it belonged to a small child’s in his and he tugged her up, guiding her away from the black ice.

“Thanks.
” She tried to pull her hand away as soon as she gained her feet.

His
grip tightened and he dragged her closer to his hooded face. “They were right in one respect. It’s not safe for you to be walking alone at night.”

“Thank you for th
e reminder.” Goddess save her from nosy men. Her reactionary anger surged. “And you just helped so much by embarrassing them in front of their friends. Now they’ll be after me because of it.” She shook her head and tugged at her hand again.

“There are greater concern
s than that now.” He released her, gesturing with his free hand toward her van. “Perhaps we could discuss them on the way to your home.”

Sabrina followed the
line of his arm with her eyes then looked back into the darkness of his hood.

“What makes you think I’ll let you in my car
with me?” She snorted. “I don’t even know you. Yeah, you beat off those guys, but it only proves you’re much stronger than me. Why would I trust you?”

“I just saved you.
” He gestured, palms up, as if his words explained everything.


So? I said thanks. Who are you? And how do you know my name?”

He hesitated for a moment, nonplussed. Then he pushed back his hood to reveal his face in the weak light of the bare bulb.

Good heavens, he’s beautiful.

Long, straight hair parted haphazardly and fell to his shoulders, the front strands pushed behind his ears to keep it out of his eyes. The eyes were some light color, but she couldn’t tell which one in the darkness of the parking lot. They had heavy lids and crow’s feet at their corners, telling of his experience.
A goatee framed his elegant lips and deep laugh lines at their edges gave him a humorous expression, though he didn’t smile. He had eloquently arching brows, one higher than the other in amused query.

“My name is Darius Winterbourne, Chamberlain of the Summer Court, and I’ve been sent to prepare you for the Court’s arrival.”

“Wait. The Summer Court, as in the Sidhe, the Fae peoples of the Goddess?”

“Yes
.”

Sabrina snorted and shook her head. “Is this some sort of joke? Because
I follow the old beliefs? Gah! Look, it’s not funny. Thank you for what you did, but I’d like you to leave me alone now.”

Darius frowned. “I
do not joke, Lady Foxglove. I came to prepare you for their arrival.”

“T
he Summer Court is coming here. To Cloudburst, Colorado.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Be
ltane is in a week’s time and—”

“I
know
when Beltane is, I honor the old ways. I meant, why would the Summer Court of the Fae come
here
, to Cloudburst? It’s a flyspeck on the map.”
Smaller than that, really.
“Wouldn’t it be more fitting for them to celebrate Beltane at, say, Stonehenge, or somewhere more grand? Heck, the Grand Canyon would make more sense if they wanted to come to the US.”

“It is the job of the Fae to heal and restore the sacred places of the Earth and to ensure
the chain of blessing isn’t broken, even in flyspecks like Cloudburst.” He raised his chin to look down at her. “They are coming here to strengthen the connections to the Goddess. You are the most powerful resident witch and they depend upon you to uphold the traditions and rituals of Beltane. They will come this year to oversee your practices and bolster the protections.”

“Oversee
my
practices?” Sabrina gaped in disbelief. “I haven’t done the traditional rituals in over four years and I don’t plan on doing them now. The last time I
participated
in the High Beltane rituals, I got a daughter out of the deal. You heard what some folks think of my single-mom status. I don’t need any more children, thank you.” Even when she’d been on the pill, the magic of the rituals had produced a baby. She couldn’t take the chance again, especially when she hadn’t renewed her prescription.
What’s the point? I’m not having sex anyway
.

BOOK: The Beltane Witch (Cloudburst Colorado)
11.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

River of Death by Alistair MacLean
Season in Strathglass by Fowler, John;
Exit the Actress by Parmar, Priya
The Doublecross by Jackson Pearce
The Intuitionist by Whitehead, Colson
Winning the Alpha by Carina Wilder
The Switch by Lynsay Sands
Hide and Seek by James Patterson