Authors: Dakota Cassidy
Published by Dakota Cassidy.
Copyright © Published 2015, Dakota Cassidy.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, locales, or event is wholly coincidental. The names, characters, dialogue, and events in this book are from the author’s imagination and should not to be construed as real.
Manufactured in the USA
After spending ten months in magic-abuse jail for a crime she doesn’t remember committing, accident-prone witch-in-denial Bernice Sutton is zapped to the small paranormal town of Paris, Texas. With Miss Fee Line, her kitty drag-queen familiar, by her side, Bernie just wants to fulfill the terms of her parole—shoveling horse and cow dung on a ranch—so she can get back to Boston and dig into the mystery of her parents’ deaths and her witch lineage.
But plans be damned, Bernie’s quickly distracted by the town’s quirky cast of magical characters, from Winnie—the sassy owner of the local witch halfway house—to the entire posse of Poise Pad wearers at the senior center. And then there’s the biggest distraction of all, Ridge Donovan, Mr. Hot-Pants ranch owner. Maybe it couldn’t hurt to let them teach her how to harness her magic; if nothing else, it might make her less of a walking disaster. And Ridge is one hunk—er, *helpful* study partner.
Between learning spells, wreaking havoc on the ranch, turning bingo night at the senior center into a “whirlwind” of excitement, and fighting her attraction to Ridge, Bernie is unprepared for an unwelcome person from her past. On one hand, he’s the key to her lifelong questions. On the other, he could destroy the new life she’s coming to enjoy—and the lives of all those she’s coming to love.
I’ve taken license with the lovely town of Paris, Texas, because it worked so perfectly for my witch Bernie and her journey. First, I turned the town into a paranormal-palooza—dripping with witches and magic.
Second, I’ve fictionalized it to a degree, creating street names to suit me and places I’m certain don’t exist, but I kept the amazing Eiffel Tower with the red cowboy hat on top—because it’s just too awesome a structure to ignore.
That said, to anyone who reads this and lives in Paris, no disrespect intended. I lived in Plano, Texas, for nine years and I love Texans. Y’all are some of the best folks on the planet!
Dakota Cassidy xxoo
h, nope. Absolutely not,” Bernice Sutton said, shaking her head from side to side as she gathered up the few personal belongings she’d accumulated since she’d been in magic-abuse prison, located in chilly Salem, Massachusetts.
There was a long, disgusted sigh from a disembodied voice, the gravelly hiss warring with the flagrant tint to the words that followed. “No’s so harsh, Bernie baby. So final. Why don’t we start with a
, Pookie? Just a little one.”
“I say we start with
. A big one. As in no chance in hell.”
“Perfection! It gives me something to aspire to. I love a good challenge.”
“This is not a challenge.
am not a challenge, and I’ve told you a hundred times. I don’t need a familiar. I don’t think I even fully understand what a familiar is. In fact, now that I’m almost free, I still don’t know what
am or what I’m supposed to do about what I am. Why would I drag someone else along with me into the great unknown?”
God, this being a witch was all so confusing.
Miss Fee Line, her self-appointed familiar and wannabe drag-queen cat, appeared out of nowhere. Ten months and a various assortment of spells and wands later, and Fee’s popping up out of thin air—an ability among several he possessed—still never failed to make her jump out of her skin.
Fee swished his tail with the pink bow attached to it in indignation. “You’re not dragging me, Bernie. I go forth a willing participant in your witch journey.”
Bernie shook her head again. “No. No. You can’t come with me. That’s that. Now go harass someone else. I hear Knuckles in cellblock C had her boyfriend sneak in a can of salmon. Everybody’s talking about it. Bet if you offered to wax her upper lip, she’d give you some.”
Fee hopped down off the small table that held Bernie’s few toiletries and stretched his spine with a purr of satisfaction, reaching forward with his front paws. “You know, Boo, I don’t want to point out the obvs, but—”
“Oh you do, too. You love to point out the obvious.”
“Fair enough, but you’d know what a familiar was if you’d shown up to all your classes.”
Baloney. She’d damn well been to all the classes. Every single crazy, mind-bending one. How To Be A Witch In 2015. How To Navigate the Muddy Waters Of Necessary Magic Versus Magic For Personal Gain. How To Control The Urge To Shove Your Wand Up Someone’s Ass.
She’d sat quietly in the back of the meeting room in the center of the prison, her hair hanging over her eyes, her hoodie from a borrowed jacket on her head, as she slouched in her chair like some weird outcast and listened to every “how to” support group the prison offered on everything and anything witch-ish.
She’d been to them all, and she still didn’t understand how this had happened or how she’d landed here—with a bunch of women who claimed they were “her people”.
A witch. She was a witch. Not like the Wicked Witch in
, but a white witch.
It just didn’t get any more CW Network than that.
Sure, it explained a lot of kooky mishaps in her thirty years of life to date—things she was still coming to terms with—but even after ten months it was proving a hard pill to swallow.
Bernie narrowed her eyes at the black cat and tugged on his fluffy pink tutu. “I did show up to all my classes. Every single one of them.”
“You did not. Your luscious, curve-riddled body might have been there, but your mind was absolutely not in attendance, honey.”
“That’s probably because my mind was still blown. In fact, if you check the stall in the latrines by the mess hall, there are still bits of it scattered on the floor. You try showing up to anything with your mind when it’s blown to smithereens.”
Fee yawned, his sharp teeth gleaming, as though he were bored with her constant protests. “What part of ‘you are a bona fide witch’ is so hard to grasp, Bernie girl? You’ve known for ten months now. I’d think you’d be long past disbelief.”
Ten long months of reflecting on her life—a life she’d spent a good portion of in trouble. At school. At home. At all fifteen of her eventual jobs. The last being a night security guard at a big law firm.
Bernie pulled the two ends of her ponytail to tighten it. “Well, it doesn’t matter what I believe, now does it? I did my stint for the Council, showed remorse, blah, blah, blah. I’m out. Alone. You hear me, Fee? Like a lone wolf—ahrooooooo!” she howled into her drab gray surroundings.
She didn’t have time for Fee’s nonsense today. Today was for fresh starts and moving forward—oh, and figuring out how not to be a witch anymore.
Cracking her knuckles, she took one last glance around her jail cell and blew out a breath of relief.
Almost there, Bernie. Almost there
Fee hopped down off the table and onto Bernie’s dismally thin jailhouse mattress, where he’d spent every night since she’d arrived, curled into a small ball of tulle and Dollar Store tiara. “And I’m telling you, your journey’s just gearing up.”
“What’s this journey your gums keep flapping about? There is no journey that includes you. I get to leave here today a free woman.”
And go back to what, Bernie? You can’t go back to nothing. You have nothing.
“Oh, girl. You bettah come on back from that trip you’re takin’ at Delusions-R-Us now.”
“Fee? Save the fancy talk and get to the point. What do
know that I don’t know?”
He rolled onto his back, his ebony fur glistening sleekly under the dim light. “You don’t really think once those cell doors open and that crazier-n’-a-queen-at-a-beauty-supply-store-wig-sale Baba Yaga shows up and waves her magic wand that it’s over, do you? Humph. This is exactly why you need me as your familiar—to
your pathetic ass.”
Right. Familiars were a witch’s advisor. Sort of like high school counselors—only not. If all the crazy she’d been spoon-fed up to this point was true, witches often became great friends with their familiars, and Fee had been first in line to apply for the job.
Bernie balled up the sheets from her cot and threw them in the bag that had magically appeared every three days at her cell door for dirty laundry since she’d arrived. As the hour of her release grew closer, her patience grew shorter.
“Just explain what you mean, Fee.”
“Parole, honey. P-A-R-O-L-E. You don’t just up and skip outta here as if those Kotex-pad slippers were made for walkin’. You gotta do more time on the outside. Prove you’re worthy. Community service. Atone, you know?”
That pulled Bernie up short. Parole? God, she should’ve listened more carefully in Redemption Is The New Black class, but her fellow inmate, Chi-Chi Gonzalez, had been far more interesting. Her story about polar ice caps and what had gotten her five years in magic-abuse jail was more fascinating than anything that screw Halima could teach.
Plus, Chi-Chi had paid good commissary money for Bernie’s special Kotex slippers. They’d lasted longer than Winnie Fosters’ had, according to Chi-Chi—Winnie being the ultimate success story everyone referred to when talking about redemption.
But this was bullshit. “Atone? I
atone—for something I wasn’t even aware I did to begin with. Hell yes, I’ve done my time, buddy. Yes, I damn well have. I did the prison rotation like I was goin’ for the convict gold. I worked in the laundry room for three hellish months with Big Sue Moses breathing down my neck while she practiced putting eyeshadow on me made out of baby oil and cigarette ashes, for shit’s sake—”
“You have to admit, that concoction’s pure genius, and it makes a hella smoky eye that lasts all night.”
“I’m making a point, Fee.”
“Sorry. Carry on.”
Bernie held up her red, chapped hands. “See these? I peeled a thousand potatoes if I peeled one in the kitchen—even under the hateful glare of One-Eyed Lorraine, who, I might add, pads the orders for pudding then sells the overage to the cell-dwelling nuts in here for a ridiculous price. So the hell I’m giving this bunch of crazyface, pointy-hat-loving, wand-wielding dark overlords another second of my time. I did my ten months clean as a whistle. No isolation. No strikes. No backtalk. That means I’m out the second Baba Yaga decides to put on her leg warmers and show her freakishly age-defying face at that cell door,” she scoffed, thumbing a finger over her shoulder.
Taking in a long breath, Bernie blew it out with a wince. “She’s behind me, isn’t she?”
A tapping of nails on the cell bars made Bernie cringe. “She is, and lucky for you, Bernice, today is Monday, which is ripped-sweatshirt day, not leg-warmer day, thank you very much.”
Whipping around, Bernie was fully prepared to throw herself on a metaphoric sword and apologize in order to keep from doing any more time. Baba Yaga was the witch-in-charge-of-everything witch, and also the warden at jailhouse rock. She couldn’t afford to piss her off—especially not on release day.
Lifting her eyes, Bernie fought the urge to laugh out loud at Baba Yaga’s latest outfit. She was an ’80s fanatic, stuck somewhere between Rick Astley and Debbie Gibson, and sometimes her outlandish reproductions of Madonna a la “Like A Virgin” caught Bernie so off guard, she had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep from snorting.
“Aw, c’mon, BY,” Fee backed up Bernie. “She’s just got some release-day jitters. She can’t wait to get started on making things right, isn’t that so, Bernie?”