Of Curses and Charms
Of Curses and Charms is the second book in the Sister Witches of Raven Falls Cozy Mystery Series. Join a set of magickal sisters as they solve mysteries that fans of Charmed, Hocus Pocus, and The Good Witch will love. ***Bonus recipes and craft instructions in every book!
I’m Summer Whitethorne and I can see the future. Except when it comes to my sisters.
I couldn’t stop an evil entity from taking our mom, and my ‘gift’ feels like a curse since I can’t use it to protect Spring, Autumn, and Winter either. My desire to stay close to home wars with my yearning for marriage and a family of my own someday, but I there’s no way I can leave my sisters.
A vintage necklace gifted to me from handsome antiques dealer, Hopper Caldwell, triggers the Sight and reveals the fact a dark wizard is in town – and may have murdered his wife. Now, she needs me to get the bottom of it and avenge her death.
Hopper is the perfect accomplice in my undercover sleuthing, and while I try to keep him at arm’s length, I’ll admit, I’m head over pentacle for the guy. If only he wasn’t off limits. He’s perfect for me, but I’ve seen his future and know he’s destined to marry another.
When our not-so-covert investigation brings the dark wizard to Conjure’s doorstep, I’ll need my superior charmcasting to avert disaster. With the help of my phoenix familiar, Cinders, can I keep my sisters—and Hopper—out of the dark wizard’s grasp? Or will my gift of clairvoyance curse us all?
**Note: While this story is intended for grown-up audiences, this story is clean and shareable with younger readers 13 and up!
Sister Witches of Raven Falls Cozy Mystery Series
Of Potions and Portents (Book 1)
Of Curses and Charms (Book 2)
Of Stars and Spells (Book 3)
Of Spirits and Superstition (Book 4)
Fall in love with small-town magick!
Welcome to Raven Falls, where four sisters—Spring, Summer, Autumn, & Winter—run their witchy shop, Conjure, and find themselves up to their magickal tea cups in murder, mystery, and romance!
I have a confession… I can see the future.
That is, for everyone except my sisters. The three people in this world I want most to protect.
I’m Summer Whitethorne, fire witch. My favorite time of the year, the Summer Solstice, is only a few days away, falling on my birthday this year. The one wish—the only wish—I have is to see what’s going to happen to the four of us.
I touch my mother’s crystal wand, lying on my dresser, and it instantly reveals a secret she tried to keep from us before she died. One I have yet to tell Spring, Autumn, and Winter.
Along with the gift of claircognizance, I have the Touch. Psychometry is the one thing I wish I didn’t possess as I often pick up messages I’d rather not when I touch people or things. Mostly it happens when death is near, and combined with my ability to see the future, it creates quite a conundrum for me. I detest lies and secrets, but I can’t go around telling people when and how they’re going to die.
Harm none…the spirit of that rule is one I embrace whenever possible. Foretelling someone’s future can certainly create more harm than good.
Leaving my cabin with a fresh pair of fingerless lace gloves, I step outside and warm summer air flows over me. It’s Monday and my to-do list is as long as my broomstick. While I’d love to skinny dip in the hot spring or go hunting for crystals in the cave next to it, I’m looking forward to marking everything off my list during these longest of days.
Cinders, my familiar, calls a good morning as he flies down to land on his perch. The Phoenix is a mythological creature, but after a near-death experience at four years old, I conjured one for myself.
Mother had read me a bedtime story about a beautiful witch transforming into a phoenix upon her death in a fire set by her enemies. Not exactly your normal bedtime story at that age, but I wasn’t exactly normal. The fictional witch rose from the ashes in order to protect her family, and it’s still my favorite story. When I accidently drowned in the hot spring at four, it was Cinders I met on the other side of the veil who brought me back to life.
Since he bursts into flames at inconvenient times, he stays outside and rarely goes close to the woods. This morning, I greet him with a stroke of his feathers and a handful of shredded carrots for his breakfast.
“We have a lot to do,” I tell him, my jet and carnelian bracelets making a soft clicking noise on my wrist as I pet him. “I hope you’re ready.”
He squawks and rustles his wings, the red and blue feathers soft and new, telling me we should be safe from a fiery transformation until the full moon. That’s his normal time for going up in flames, but if he becomes alarmed or stressed, he erupts early.
As he gulps his food, I make an offering to my goddess, Hestia, protector of hearth and flame. “North, South, East, and West, protection and health as you know best. This is my will, so shall it be. Thank you, goddess. Blessed be.”
I set off toward Conjure, the shop my sisters and I own. We sell a variety of products and services for those into holistic, organic, and Wiccan living and carry everything from baked goods and jewelry to bath products and home décor. My love is crystals, and I have a section devoted strictly to them, including raw and tumbled stones, wands, and assorted jewelry.
People think witches sacrifice animals, worship Satan, or put curses on them. In reality, the majority of us drink a lot of tea, have too many cats, are into crystals and smudging, and mostly want to be left alone.
The temperature is climbing into the eighties, but there’s little humidity and I enjoy the sun on my face and smelling the flowers and herbs my sister, Spring, has planted along the path. The lavender is blooming, filling the air with the sweet scent along with roses and hydrangeas. A smattering of wild violets are interspersed with the other plants, and I stop and pick a few to weave into my braid.
The shop doesn’t open until nine, but the kitchen light is on and Spring is inside. As I get closer, a breeze passes over me and I smell warm sugar and vanilla. She’s baking and my gift shows me a pie in the oven. I see a bit of the purple juice bubbling from the browning crust and know it’s made with the berries we gathered in the forest yesterday. I’m hoping for a blueberry cake for my birthday, too.
Looks like I’m having pie for breakfast.
Cinders flies by overhead. “Pie for breakfast?”
At least that’s what his squawk says to me. Another thing that came out of my near-death experience—I can hear certain animals talking as if they’re human. Normal people hear barks, growls, chirping, etc., but my brain translates it into messages I understand. Not all species, but certain ones, like Cinders, tell me quite a few things.
“Hey, it’s fruit, all right?” I retort. “It’s no worse than one of Spring’s muffins or scones.”
He makes another squawk and it sounds like laughter.
I’m nearly to the back porch when Godfrey, Conjure’s resident cat, shoots around the corner. The beautiful black cat looks alarmed, which puts me on alert.
Godfrey doesn’t react that way to anything, unless it’s his empty food dish, which being the diva he is, resides on a special antique dresser in the shop. He refuses to eat on the floor. Godfrey only has two modes—cat napping and eating.
“Small beasts! Extreme noise!” he yells in my head, a high pitch screeching noise coming from his physical mouth. He’s named for the great inventor because he insists he’s the genius reincarnated.
“Make it stop!” he yells at me. My sisters often understand him too, since he was our mother’s familiar and has a special bond with all of us. Unfortunately, we’re regularly subjected to his demands, including the fact he insists we should call him God and leave the “frey” off, since he’s superior to us and is full of disdain for us regular humans. He constantly plies me with formulas and equations that mean absolutely nothing to me.
“What kind?” I ask.
“Wiggly ones!” he shouts.
That casual word is not in his normal lexicon. He’s really shaken up. “Could you be more specific? Where are they?”
He flicks his tail, a slight curl on the end, before turning on his forepaws and leading me around the outside of the shop.
“I don’t have time for distractions today, Godfrey,” I tell him, wondering how far we’re going and why he’s so upset.
He takes me to the front porch, the closed sign still in view since it’s an hour before opening and marches up the steps.
On the porch, all I see is a ragged cardboard box, the flaps folded in on themselves. On the side in slanted writing are the words Please Help in black marker.
As I jog up the steps, a tiny cry goes up, a tiny sound that goes straight to my heart.
Dropping to my knees, I reach for the box as Godfrey hops up on the small round table off to the side with two chairs for visitors to sit and chat. On the heels of the first small cry, another joins in followed by a third.
I don’t need claircognizance to know what’s inside.
Peeling back the flaps, my heart does a little skip. Inside are nestled five tiny kittens, not more than two weeks old, their eyes still closed.
Tiny paws reach toward each other as they fumble over themselves and the blanket someone left with them.
I glance around the parking lot and across the street to the woods, but there’s no sign of who put them here. They’re so young that without their mother their odds of survival are slim.
The mewing grows louder, shriller, as they sense I’m near. From the north, I hear a familiar vehicle approaching, and a moment later, our neighbor Hopper Caldwell pulls in.
I reach in and pet each in turn, cooing and trying to reassure them they’ll be okay. Mentally, I send questions but get nothing back. They have no idea who their mother is, what happened to her, or how they ended up here.
The little bodies are cool to the touch where they should be warm, especially in this heat. I’m already starting to sweat a little along my hairline. It’s definitely going to be a blistering warm June day.
I need to get them inside, figure out what to feed them. Hopefully, Spring will have the recipe for Mom’s special formula.
“Good morning,” Hopper calls as he bails out of his truck. In his hands, he carries three books and a velvet bag. He’s pulled his mahogany colored hair away from his face in a tiny man-bun at the base of his neck, the sun picking up auburn highlights in it and his beard. His worn jeans and Metallica t-shirt belay the fact he’s a millionaire. “Whatcha got there?”
My heart does a happy skip at his presence. “Someone dumped kittens on our porch. They’re too young to be away from their mother.”
His boots echo on the steps as he comes beside me, bending over to look. He smells good, like he recently got out of the shower.
He sets his things on the table and Godfrey makes a face and jumps down, jetting as far away as he can get.
Hopper’s big hand is gentle as he strokes one of the kitten’s heads. “We better get them inside,” he says. He motions at me to take the books and bag before he lifts the box.
I always carry thin lace gloves to put on if I have to touch anything. Today it’s a pair my mother made me. She was always knitting, crocheting, or weaving. Her loom and needles sit untouched in Winter’s cabin.
Pulling them on, I unlock the door and he brings the kittens into the coolness of the shop. “Take them to my treatment room,” I tell him.
Godfrey bangs through the cat door and hops on the counter, keeping his eyes on the box. “Too much racket! Make it stop!”
They mewl loudly from the rough treatment, poor things, even though the giant man carrying them is doing so as gently and reverently as a mother would a sleeping baby.
“Hush,” I murmur to Godfrey under my breath. “They’ll die if we don’t help them.”
He raises his black nose and gives a little snort.
We’re not allowed to have animals in the kitchen where Spring bakes, so I call to her as we pass the doorway “Spring, I need you.”
Hopper uses his booted foot to push the door open to my tiny treatment room where I do crystal consultations and energy work. He sets the box on the table and once more begins petting the kittens, his low voice soothing as he speaks endearments.
The anxious mewing morphs into sounds of curiosity as they struggle to get into his hands. A couple try to suck on his fingers, while a white one with orange spots climbs up his arm.
Hopper laughs softly, a smile spreading across his bearded face. This side of him amazes me, even though I’ve seen it before. His appearance is that of a rough mountain man, or a biker from some motorcycle gang, so seeing the softer side of him is always a pleasant surprise.
He glances at me with that smile and my heart melts a little. “You can save them, right?”
I detach the white and orange kitten’s nails from his arm and hold it close to my chest. Through the palm of my hands I feel its weak heartbeat as well as its determination to live.
I don’t want to see the future because I know its chances of survival are less than fifty percent, but it comes anyway. I smile at Hopper, camouflaging the dread I feel. “Of course.”
Spring rushes in, her blonde hair in a ponytail, cheeks flushed from the heat in the kitchen. She’s carrying a dishtowel, drying her hands on it. “What’s wrong?” Her eyes go to the tiny being I’m holding, then to the box and Hopper. “Goddess above, where did those come from?”
I tell her about Godfrey leading me to them. “Someone abandoned them here.”
She frowns. “What do you need me to do?”
“We need something for them to eat. We’ll have to hand feed them, probably with droppers to start.” A little magick might be in order, too, I offer telepathically.
A nod, determination like that of the small kitten flooding through her. “I have mom’s formula recipe for abandoned baby animals. I used it on the squirrels I found this past spring in the forest, remember? I’ll tweak it for these little guys. Be right back.”
Hopper disengages his hands after a bit of struggle. One nearly made it all the way up to the Death Before Dishonor tattoo on his bicep, but he doesn’t seem annoyed by the tiny nail pricks. “I have a heat lamp at my place. Do you want me to get it?”
His antique shop three miles north is where he lives, our closest neighbor, but still, the time it’ll take to get there and back may be too much. These guys need to warm-up and eat now.
“Spring has grow-lamps in the greenhouse,” I tell him. “There are three by three boxes for seedlings as well. They might be the perfect size. Can you grab one of each?”
He nods and takes off. “Don’t worry,” he calls over his shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”
Hopper knows I’m a witch, but I’m not sure what his concept of that is. Many people have a basic concept of Wicca, but not true magick. Seeing it in action can scare them. He definitely doesn’t know I can see the future or get hits off certain things I touch.
I’ve touched him.
I wish I hadn’t.
My treatment table has a gemstone mat on it that heats, so I turn it on, clicking the infrared and photon options as well. The little guy I’m holding mews raggedly, but then I feel a soft vibration under my hands.
Thank you, the teeny, tiny voice barely registers in my mind, but it’s there. My mothering instincts kick in hard, and I close my eyes. Once again, the future flashes across my mind.
The kitten's chances are growing stronger.