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A Charming Hex

Book 9 in the Magical Cures Mystery Series

Bubble… Bubble…

June Heal is excited to be going on an island honeymoon where she not only will she get away for some much needed rest away from her magical powers that she’d promised Oscar she’d leave home, but where she will get away from her sassy talking crystal ball, Madame Torres, and her pesky familiar, Mr. Prince Charming.

Cures and trouble…
The secluded island is a perfect getaway for the charming honeymooners, especially since the only other vacationers are a wedding group. June Love’s a good romantic wedding and this one is on the beach.

Magic stirs…
June is embracing her old mortal self until the groom from the wedding party washes up on the beach …MURDERED!

And troubles double…
June is unable to keep her promise to Oscar about not using magic for their weekend island getaway and finds herself square in the middle of the investigation.

Suddenly, June wishes that her pesky familiars were there to help and realizes that there really is no place like home.

A Charming Hex

Excerpt

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Chapter One
Ahh, the long and much needed sigh passed my lips. I lifted my chin up to the warm tropical sun and dug my toes in the hot, grainy sand. I’d never been to the beach. Darla never took me on a summer vacation. She said that the tourists ruined the natural habitats and she didn’t want my images of Earth’s natural beauty to be tainted at an early age, and that I had all my life to be influenced by outside forces she couldn’t control when I became of age.

But I couldn’t help but think that she’d love being here with me right now.

The crystal blue and almost white water was very calm. The small waves curled slightly over the sand, creeping up and hitting the tiptop of my toes. I smiled and glanced down the beach in both directions. No one was there. Just me and the white sand surrounding me as far as the eye could see.

“Oscar?” The flailing arms in the ocean caught my attention. Where was Oscar? “Oscar?” I pushed myself up to stand, not even worried about the hot sand that felt like a bed of hot rocks on the soles of my feet.

The arms went under and my instincts kicked in.

I dove into the vast ocean, surprised it was so deep as soon as I took my first step. Deeper and deeper I pushed myself, from the crystal blue into the suddenly-turning black, dark depths of the ocean with the arms of the man in sight.

A bright orange light pierced the darkness and dove in a spiral around the man. The man’s body stiffened, his arms out to the side, his head thrown back, and his eyes looking over at me.

The water felt as if it turned to ice, my body was still warm, but the man’s glare chilled the space between us. His eyes were diamonds. I watched as the spiral closed—he was gone. The spiral was gone. I pushed myself up toward the surface. The ice surrounded me. It sucked the air out of my lungs. I pushed harder, fighting the heaviness in my chest.

The light. The light of the bright sun pierced the surface of the water.

Just a little more. Push to the top. My mind told my body, but my arms were stuck to my sides as if there were concrete blocks tied to each finger. My shoulders moved rapidly back and forth. I kicked my legs. The light wasn’t far, but the blackness engulfed me.

“Ahhh!” The animalistic sound escaped me from deep inside as I gasped for air.

“June.” I heard the familiar voice and felt the strong hand stroke my back. “It’s just a dream. Just a dream. Open your eyes. Please open your eyes.”

When I tried to open my eyes, my inhale skipped down my nose and filled my lungs. The darkness filled with light as my body willed my eyes open.

“Oh, baby.” Oscar pulled me into his safe and warm arms after my eyes found his face. His crystal blue eyes held concern. “It’s okay,” he assured me. He rubbed his strong hand down the back of my head as it rested against his chest.

“The beach.” The words came out in a raspy voice as though my mouth was filled with the sand that I had just dreamed my toes were in. “There was a man drowning.”

That was all I could remember. My nightmares were so intense, I swear my body and mind blocked the memories. One problem, I knew over the course of a few days, the memories would trickle back into my head and leave me with the memory of the full dream. And sometimes it was too late. I’d never had a nightmare where some part of it hadn’t come true.

“You are just stressed,” he assured me. “You’ve never been to the beach and you’re not sure what to expect, but I promise,” his heartbeat thundered in his chest; I pressed my ear closer to him, “I promise, we are going to have a wonderful time.”

“I really think I need to take Mr. Prince Charming,” I whispered and pulled away. I glanced around the room looking for my fairy-god cat.

“June,” Oscar’s head tilted. His hair was stuck up in different directions all over his head and as black as a raven’s wing. “It’s our honeymoon. Nothing is going to happen to us. I am a cop. I can protect us.”

“But. . .” I gulped knowing that whenever I had a nightmare like the one I had just had, something evil was lurking.

“But nothing.” He pulled the covers back and pushed himself up with his muscular arms and got out of bed. “I’m going to get in the shower. Don’t be late for the council meeting.”

I watched him disappear out the bedroom door. I waited until I heard the water turn on and the shower curtain pulled close before I reached over and rubbed the palm of my hand over the glass crystal ball of my other familiar, Madame Torres.

“Who is it that you seek? Or shall I say who seeks you?” The voice dripped out of the confines of the ball.

“I am open to who seeks me or the dangers surrounding my dreams.” I could feel the fear in my voice as it trickled through my vocal cords.

I closed my eyes and let all the sounds and the feelings of the dream drift away from my soul. When I opened my eyes, Madame Torres had turned her ball into a clear calcite crystal. The small bubbles floated deep within her. My eyes focused on the center of her. The answer within the depth of Madame Torres told me everything I needed to know.

“Mr. Prince Charming,” her voice was resigned.

Meow, meow. Mr. Prince Charming yawned. He was curled up in a tight ball at the foot of the bed.

My white, ornery fairy-god cat reached his front legs out in front of him, elongating his arms and spread his claws apart before his entire body waved in full stretch.

I tried to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat.

The clear calcite turned lavender and Madame Torres’s face appeared, taking up most of the space within her ball. The orange turban perched on her head had a large diamond in the front where the material was gathered, bringing the memory of the man’s eyes from my nightmare back into my head.

The waves deep in the ball moved like those of the ocean. Her eyes magnified, the bright yellow eye shadow covered her lids, bright red rogue was rubbed along her cheekbones, her lips stained ruby red.

“Mr. Prince Charming must accompany you and Oscar on your honeymoon.” Madame Torres was well aware that Mr. Prince Charming was the last familiar Oscar wanted me to bring. Plus it wasn’t easy trying to get a cat on a plane or to a tropical island. “Or you shall not go.”

“So you do see some sort of danger?” I had to clarify. “We shouldn’t go on the honeymoon?”

“What?” Oscar walked into the bedroom with a towel around his waist and another one in his hand dragging it through his wet hair. “We are going on a honeymoon. I’m taking you to the beach and we are going to be secluded. No one around but us. And no magic.”

“Madame Torres said that. . .” I pointed to her but kept my eyes on his handsome physique.

“Madame Torres hasn’t been outside of Whispering Falls and wants to go.” Oscar sat on the bed and leaned toward my familiar.

The only thing he could see was her lavender liquid insides rolling around. He didn’t have the gift of reading crystal balls. Oscar was a wizard and he only knew how to use his wand. But I could see the look on Madame Torres’s face as she glared and then rolled her eyes in his direction. I smiled. Neither of my familiars got along well with my husband. I felt like I was constantly brokering peace between them.

“I’m going to head to Locust Grove and finish up my paperwork so we can be on the plane in the morning,” he said in a stern voice. “Don’t you think I’m a nervous wreck about flying? I’ve been to the beach a bunch but we always drove.” He sat down on the edge of the bed next to me. “You are nervous about flying in a plane.” He kissed my forehead. “It’s really fun. I’ve flown several times and you are going to love it. Promise.” He criss-crossed his heart with his finger.

Rowl. Mr. Prince Charming wasn’t happy with Oscar’s observation. He batted at us and darted off the bed.

I patted Madame Torres on the top of her ball when Oscar left the bedroom. I peeled the covers off me and got out of bed. There was so much to do before Oscar and I left and staying in bed worried about a nightmare that may or may not come true wasn’t going to check the to-do items off my list.

I tooled around my cottage and got ready for the day while I waited for my coffee to brew. I loved where I lived. It was small and cozy. It had only one bedroom and bath along with the family room and a kitchen. But the view was undeniably the best feature. I leaned over the kitchen sink and stared out the window, overlooking the magical town I called home. Whispering Falls, Kentucky.

The morning sun was dripping over the mountains and spotlighting all the cozy shops that held secrets only the members of the village understood. Like Oscar, everyone who lived in Whispering Falls had a magical power. In mortal words we’d be called witches. In our world we considered ourselves Spiritualists.

My homeopathic cure shop, A Charming Cure, was my cover for my spiritual gift of potion making. It was a gift I had gotten from my spiritual side of the family—my father’s side. I grew up in Locust Grove, a neighboring town about twenty minutes away, with non-spiritualist Darla, my mother who didn’t like to be referred to as Ms. Heal, Miss Heal, Mrs. Heal, or Mom. So I called her Darla. She was a mortal and tried to use my father’s family journal to create homeopathic cures, but it wasn’t until she died and I got my hands on the journal did the recipes come to life.

Growing up, Oscar and I lived next door to each other in Locust Grove and it wasn’t until we were in our mid-twenties that Isadora Solstice came to Locust Grove and told us of our real heritage, along with introducing us to the magical village of Whispering Falls. It was here that we embraced our gifts and made it our home. Oscar was a police officer in both Locust Grove and Whispering Falls. It wasn’t until a few months ago that we finally got married, but had yet to take a honeymoon.

It was easy for mortals to drop everything and go on a honeymoon, but it was different for us. Well. . .for me. My two familiars kept me safe from the outside forces and knew things before they happened. The nightmare for instance. I didn’t have them a lot, but when I did, I had to be on high alert. I couldn’t help but think I was having one because I was leaving the comforts of our small town like Oscar had said.

“I can’t worry about the what if’s,” I said and poured myself a hot cup of coffee to go and made a mental note to grab some Mr. Sandman Sprinkles from my shop. Mr. Sandman was the best potion I had created to help me sleep. Though. . .I’d promised Oscar “no magic” on the honeymoon, but I was sure sanity trumped it.

Mewl, Mr. Prince Charming was perched on the back of the couch. He walked it like a tightrope and jumped off at the end. He stood at the front door. When I opened it, he darted out and down the hill toward Whispering Falls. His tail swayed back and forth. He was on a mission. I shook my head and locked the door behind me. He was like an old man in the village. Every morning he made his rounds to all the shops and greeted them.

Mr. Prince Charming had shown up on my porch in Locust Grove on my tenth birthday. I knew he wasn’t a present from Darla. We didn’t do birthday presents. We barely did cake. It was the only time Darla would let me eat sweets.

That particular year, the cake Darla had gotten me had Happy Retirement Stu written on it along with the manager’s special sticker on it. Darla hadn’t even bothered scrapping off Stu’s name.

Mr. Prince Charming showed up with a dingy collar and a turtle charm that was missing an eye. Oscar gave me his mom’s old bracelet for the charm. It was the best birthday I’d ever had.

I ran my hand over my wrist and felt my charm bracelet, bringing me out of my thoughts.

“See,” I said out loud. “If I really were in danger, Mr. Prince Charming would’ve given me another charm.”

I took a close look at all the charms he’d given me for protection. I was fine. I was safe. But I was still stressed and needed a June’s Gem.

Just thinking about the chocolaty treat made my mouth water and I knew I had to make a pit stop at Wicked Good Bakery before I went to my shop. Without much more thought, I let my stomach and stress guide me and before I knew it, I was standing on the sidewalk right in front of Wicked Good Bakery.

Raven Mortimer was inside her bakery working away behind the counter and getting ready for the morning rush when Wicked Good opened. The green and pink awning above the shop windows flapped in the morning breeze.

Lightly I tapped on the door and got her attention. Raven’s long black hair was pulled up in a ponytail; the Wicked Good apron was almost white from all the flour doused on it. She was rolling out dough, kneading it and shaping it when she looked up. A big grin scrolled up to her eyes. She rubbed her hands across the front of the apron before she walked over and unlocked the door.

“Get in here.” She pushed the door open and hurried back behind the counter. “If I don’t get these in the oven, I won’t have a dang thing for my customers to purchase.”

“Thank you for letting me borrow Faith. I know she does all your deliveries and works around here.” Faith Mortimer was Raven’s sister. She worked for Raven part-time at the bakery, full-time as the editor-in-chief of the Whispering Falls Gazette, and part-time for me at A Charming Cure. Faith was going to work at the shop the entire time I was gone. “I’m so glad I don’t have to close the shop for the honeymoon.”

I gestured to one of the June’s Gems she took out of the oven. It was her take on the Ding Dong and was named after me. She nodded.

“Are you getting excited?” she asked just as I took a bite of the savory cake.

“Mmm.” I tilted my head side-to-side, my ears to my shoulders in a “meh” kind of way. After I swallowed, I said, “I had one of my nightmares last night.”

“Really?” she asked and then scanned her eyes down her pastry counter. “I don’t see anything here.” She referred to her spiritual gift of Aleuromancy. She was able to see signs in her work, the dough. She made the most wonderful fortune cookies. She had a gift of putting in just the exact right fortune the customer needed.

“Good.” I wiped across my mouth with the back of my hand. “That’s a good thing.”

“It sure is.” Raven smiled and went back to kneading the ball of dough in front of her. “Faith is so excited to be in charge of the shop. She said she’s going to redo the display window with a fun summer theme.”

“That’s what I love about her. She does whatever she wants.” I pointed to another June’s Gem. She nodded again.

“It’s not like you to eat two, you must be stressed,” she noted. “If I see anything before you leave, I’ll be sure to let you know.”

“Great.” I grabbed one of the Wicked Good to-go bags and put the June’s Gem in it. “This will make a great snack for before the meeting.”

It was true. Ding Dongs were and are my stress-relieving treat. Raven invented the June’s Gems and right now I was stressed out to the max.

“That’s right!” She smacked the dough down on to the counter, flatting it out before she took the rolling pin doused in flour and flatted the dough more. “You find out from the village council where you get to go on your honeymoon.”

“You know.” I wagged my finger in the air and walked backward to the door. “Growing up as a mortal I had always envisioned my wedding. It was nothing like I had planned. Then I also had this idea in my head about my honeymoon.” I shook my head. “I never imagined I’d be letting a group full of witches figure out where I was going to go.” I referred to the council meeting today.

The village council had called a special meeting to decide where Oscar and I could go on our honeymoon. We were able to send in a list of destinations. Of course I wrote down Hawaii and Oscar wrote down Jamaica. Both of us wanted to go to a beach, that was for sure.

We were excited to find out which one they picked. Really either was good with me. Toes in the sand and a drink in my hand was how I was going to spend my much-needed week-long vacation.

“You’re lucky.” She wagged her brows up and down. She and everyone else in the village had been raised by their spiritual parents, unlike me and Oscar.

I gave a quick wave and out the door I went.

“June! Whoo hoo!” the voice called from down the sidewalk. It was Isadora Solstice. She stood at the steps of Mystic Lights. Her lighting shop was a cover up for her crystal ball reading spiritual gift. It was where I had found Madame Torres. Or rather Madame Torres finally found me.

Something else I’d had no idea about. The spiritualist didn’t have a say in their crystal ball, the crystal ball picked the spiritualist. Madame Torres had sat on the shelf in Mystic Lights for centuries like a big round snow globe until I walked in. That was when she came to life and only I could see her.

“We moved the meeting time up so be there in an hour.” She pushed her long blond wavy hair behind her shoulder before wiping her hands down her black A-frame skirt with the red hearts all over it. Her black pointy-toed boots were laced up tight. “I picked my skirt for you.” She winked her big blue eyes and smiled. “For love.” She clasped her hands as a delightful sigh escaped her.

“I’ll see you soon!” I hurried across the street where A Charming Cure was located. I only had an hour to talk to Faith before the meeting and I wanted to make sure she was prepared, plus get my Mr. Sandman Sprinkles.

I stopped just shy of the gate that opened in front of the shop and looked down the street. Whispering Falls was so magical. The village was carved in the side of the mountain. The moss covered cottage shops were nestled into the woods and each had the most beautiful entrances. All the shops had colorful awnings with the shop’s name on it.

The sidewalks on both sides were dotted with carriage lights with gas flames. Each shop had a special gate that led up to the shop steps, making the special village even cozier than it already was. There was already a line out the door of The Gathering Grove, the tea shop in the village. Tourists knew that they could go there for a nice breakfast before the rest of the shops opened.

A calmness came over me. I was being silly about going away. I was sure everything was going to be fine and Oscar was right. I was just stressed about my first time being on a plane and first time at the beach.

I opened the gate to A Charming Cure and a big whiff of the purple wisteria vine tunneled around me before I walked up the steps to the shop.

I reached up and ran my hand over the wooden sign that hung off the front of my cottage shop. The words A Charming Cure had replaced the A Dose of Darla sign after I moved here and accepted my spiritual gifts.

There were two shop windows and Faith was working in the right one. She was hanging beach balls from the ceiling. The ladder she was standing on teetered when I walked in.

“How on Earth did you get that?” I pointed to the four-foot tall sand castle made of real sand and reached to steady her.

“A little bit of magic.” Faith’s blue eyes sparkled. The teetering ladder didn’t phase her. “Your honeymoon has inspired me. And I saw the new line of sunscreen you left in the back. Mortals love going on summer vacations and if they can get something from here, we need to jump on it.”

“You are so smart.” I took a moment to look at the shop. Tiered display tables dotted the shop’s floor. Each table had a long red tablecloth that grazed the floor. Different sized and colored ornamental bottles sat displayed on each table.

When I had taken over the shop, I categorized the different potions for different ailments. I kept the big chalkboards that Darla had put on the wall with the daily specials. In fact, the chalkboard closest to the counter still had A Dose of Darla written on it in Darla’s handwriting, something I couldn’t erase.

Another thing I moved was the inventory. Darla had kept her inventory and ingredients in the back room. I had made a couple of open shelves behind the counter to display them. It was neat to see the different bottles and ingredients and made the shop feel more organic. I had turned the back room into a little sitting room and while I did put extra inventory in there, I mainly used it for a place to eat lunch or relax while working late.

Keeping the ingredients behind the counter was perfect for when a customer came in for something to help with what they thought ailed them, I would talk to them and immediately get a sense of what was really going on. My best seller was by far the antacids. Customers thought they had acid reflux or some other stomach ailment, when in fact the root of their issue was stress over money or heartache. It was then that I took the homeopathic bottle they had chosen from the sales floor and gave it a special touch to address what really ailed them. All of my customers returned because my homeopathic cures worked.

Sunscreen was going to be a big one this year along with all the weight loss potions. I had made one that helped with hunger, changed bad thoughts about body image, and boosted confidence. Faith was right. The quicker we sold it, the word would get out and we wouldn’t be able to keep them in stock.

After Oscar and I had planned to go on a honeymoon and set the date, I knew I was going to need to make up potions for Faith to have on hand. I had stored them in the back room, leaving her with plenty of stock while I was gone.

“I have to go to the village council within the hour.” On my way back to the counter, I tugged and smoothed my hands over the display tables’ covers. It was very important to me to have a beautiful shop.

I stopped shy of the counter and looked at the framed photo of my parents, Darla and Otto Heal, hanging on the wall. They would’ve loved this shop. I knew they already loved Oscar because they showed up in Madame Torres while Mr. Prince Charming was walking me down the aisle. It was amazing.

My image reflected from the framed glass. My short black bobbed hair grazed my bare shoulders. My blunt bangs crossed my forehead in a perfect line. The white and blue striped bandeau top was new. I’d bought it from a shop in Locust Grove and paired it with white shorts and gladiator sandals. I was definitely ready for the beach.

“Are you okay?” Faith called out over her shoulder. A sand pail dangled from her long finger.

“I’m fine,” I said and picked up the chalk for the chalkboard. “I need to write the daily specials.” Quickly and in fancy cursive, I wrote the sunscreen specials on the board. “Tomorrow we can keep the same special, but change it to the weight loss special in a couple of days.”

I took a step back and looked at the board. The smells of cinnamon, sage, dill and thyme swirled around my head. I smiled and took another look around.

I walked behind the counter to get a good look at the ingredients on the shelf, and nearly jumped of my skin when Mr. Prince Charming leaped up on the counter next to me.

Rowl. He barely opened his mouth. He dropped something and nudged it with his nose. I gulped after seeing the spiral-shaped charm he’d pushed toward me. Fear, stark and sheer ripped through me when the memory of the orange spiral from my nightmare jolted my insides.

“You don’t look fine. In fact,” Faith glided toward me, “you look worse than when I asked you.”

I put my hand on the counter over the charm, hoping she didn’t see it. I raked it into my palm and put it in my front pocket. There was no way I wasn’t going on this honeymoon and there was no need to alarm anyone that Mr. Prince Charming had given me another charm.

“I’m fine.” A nervous laugh escaped me. “I think I’m just nervous about leaving the shop and home.”

“It’s all good. I’ve got this.” She pointed to herself, then at me. “You need to go enjoy that hunk of yours.”

My mind wasn’t wrapped around that hunk of mine; my mind was wrapped around the spiral charm. Mr. Prince Charming had been giving me protection charms since he showed up on my tenth birthday. The first one was a small turtle and anytime he felt I was in danger or going to be in danger, a new charm showed up.

I ran my hand over my wrist and curled my fingers around my charm bracelet. What if Mr. Prince Charming was trying to tell me something about my nightmares? Or what if Madame Torres was right about me having to take him with us?

I looked back at the shelf of ingredients and contemplated my options. I could make my Mr. Sandman Sprinkles and take them on my honeymoon just in case I needed it or just take my chances. My thought processes lasted all of a second, at the most, and I reached for the Aconite, the first ingredient for my potion.

I flipped on my cauldron and measured out 30 c of the Aconite, dumping it into the cauldron. I mixed in 6c Kali phos, 6c Nat suph, 3x passiflora and stirred it slowly. The liquid curled and bubbled, nearly flowing over the top of the hot cauldron. The frothy mix puffed a couple of smoke signals in the air. The smoke bubbles popped, sending the smell of fresh ocean salt air into the open space.

My cures took on the favorite smells of the person it was intended for making it even more appealing for the recipient. In this case, I was the patient of my own cure.

“You better get going,” Faith called out and nodded to the clock on the wall. “You have to get up to The Gathering Rock.”

The Gathering Rock was a communal space where we held our village rituals and village meetings. It was a sacred place. It was my job to smudge the area clean of any evil.

The Mr. Sandman Sprinkles rolled and roared inside the cauldron until it came to an abrupt stop. I ran my finger along the empty bottles on the shelf, knowing the bottle that was meant for this potion would glow as soon as my finger touched it. A small, white, milk glass bottle with a simple cork top lit up.

“Perfect,” I whispered, grabbing the bottle. I took the cork off and held it over the cauldron allowing the potion to magically transfer from the cauldron to the bottle. It was a phenomenon that I didn’t bother trying to explain or understand, it was just accepted like my spiritual gift.

The smudge ceremony bag caught my attention when I grabbed a rag under the counter to wipe the cauldron. Happily, I smacked my hands together. Faith jumped.

“I’m so sorry.” I grabbed my smudge bag. All of my stuff for the trip needed to be smudged. I also grabbed a bottle with a generic potion in it.  It would help me feel better and help keep me safe along with the charms. My intuition that I relied on was going to be on high alert. The generic potion would be good to take on my trip as a base to any potion I might really need to make.

“Wait.” Faith stepped in front of me when I walked out from behind the counter with my Mr. Sandman Sprinkles bottle and smudge bag. “You aren’t supposed to take any potions or witchy things on vacation. Orders of Officer Park.”

“I’m going to take this to the meeting,” I lied. If I told her the truth, she would’ve told Oscar I was smudging our house and luggage. I had promised him no potions, no spiritual stuff, just me and him on the honeymoon.

I couldn’t help it if I had an obligation to my spiritual side. Even if I couldn’t put it aside for a week.

Faith gave me the stink eye. She closed her eyes. She sucked in a deep breath in her nose and released it in a slow steady exhale out of her mouth. Her onyx eyes opened.

“I don’t hear anything.” She had tapped into her spiritual gift of Clairaudience.

“Or the fact that you just broke the law.” I referred to one of the by-laws of the village. Spiritualists cannot read another spiritualist. The second by-law was that if you owned a shop in Whispering Falls, you had to live in Whispering Falls.

“Pish posh.” She flailed a limp hand in the air before I grabbed my black cross-body bag and flung it across me. “Like no one else does.”

She was right. Even though it was a law, it was unspoken that we did dabble in reading each other. Out of curiosity and protection of our kind.

“Now go.” She pointed to the door.

Mr. Prince Charming jumped off the counter. His long white tail dragged along the floor as he waited patiently for me.

“And I don’t want to see you in here again until you get back!” she shouted before I shut the door behind me.

I ran my hand down into my pocket and felt the charm. I looked down at Mr. Prince Charming.

“What on Earth does this mean?” I asked him, hoping he’d just open that little mouth of pointy teeth and tell me. He didn’t. He darted down the steps, out the gate and between A Charming Cure and A Cleansing Spirit Spa.

“Hi-do, June,” Chandra Shango waved from the stoop of her pink cottage shop’s door. She owned the spa where she did nails, hair, and massages. She was a palm reader and the spa was the perfect cover. She gave out advice like candy to her clients. They loved her. She was always booked. “Are you getting excited to find out your honeymoon destination?”

“Wanna give me a hint?” I elbowed her as we met in between our shops. “Hawaii?” I did a hula dance to each side. “Or Jamaica Man?” I asked in my best Rastafarian accent, which was not too good mixed into my southern, hick accent.

She wagged her blue painted fingernails with the little gold star in my face. She had on a blue cloak with yellow stars all over it. Her yellow turban had a blue jewel in the middle to match the cloak. “You know I can’t tell you, but you are going to love it. More relaxing then any old massage.”

We talked about this and that on our way up the hill to The Gathering Rock. She told me about her new adventure in acupuncture. I wasn’t sure I’d let her do that to me. I’d seen her go off track and I didn’t want to be a pin cushion.

The Gathering Rock was exactly what it was named after, a big, gigantic rock that was in front of a clearing that served as a communal area. The village council already had chairs set up in front of the rock that was believed in the spiritual world to have powers in itself. Hovering over the rock with long black cloaks dangling down from the air, legs crossed and black hats pointing to the sky were the Order Of Elders. The Marys to be exact—Mary Lynn, Mary Ellen, and Mary Sue. They were retired village presidents of other spiritual communities and they only came around when there was a problem, like when I was accused of killing someone, which I didn’t do.

My insides curled. I ran my hand over my pocket and felt the charm. Did they know what Mr. Prince Charming had given me?

“What are they doing here?” I whispered to Chandra.

“They are nosy.” She tapped her nose. “Always got to be in everyone’s business.”

“Hi.” Oscar walked over to us and bent down to kiss me. His lips were warm and soft. A calmness spread over me like wildfire. “I can’t wait to get away with you.” His eyes slid over to Mr. Prince Charming.

Mary Ellen had released her legs and floated down to the ground. She landed on her leopard-print boots. She bent down and picked up the ornery cat and stroked him. He purred so loud that you could hear him over the murmur of the council as they got ready to give us our honeymoon location.

Everyone’s eyes were on me, and my intuition kicked in. My mind and body flooded with the spiritual rights of the smudging ceremony. I walked up to The Gathering Rock and took the smudging kit out of my bag. The sage stick was filled with cleansing ingredients such as sagebrush, sage, sweetgrass, lavender, cedar, mugwort, juniper, yerba santa, and rosemary, each used for a different purpose. Most of them were used for cleansing, clearing negative, encouraging awareness, purifying and healing. I was looking more to the cedar’s component of deeply clearing negative emotions and replacing with positive energy to surround me and Oscar on our honeymoon to help negate the nightmares.

Once I lit the stick, everyone closed their eyes and bowed their heads. I walked around the circle of spiritualists and took a handful of the sage smoke and blew it toward each one of their hearts as I walked past each spiritualist. As each person took a deep breath to allow the healing smoke to fill their lungs, I waved the long feather to deepen their awareness of the healing power and whispered, “Breathe in positivity, courage and love.”

The chants that came out of me were not something I had come up with. The chants would come out of my mouth on their own as I went deeper and deeper into my intuitive spiritual gift. This particular chant seemed to be appropriate since the council was here to give me and Oscar our destination.

“And now we call on our ancestors and all the animals of the spiritual world to carry our love and light to the rest of the world in order of protection, healing and love,” my voice lifted into the air as I waved the smudge stick around in the middle of the group allowing the animals with wings to fly into the smoke and carry the messages from our spiritual world.

The feathered friends chirped and squawked before flying off into a deafening silence. Once the silence blanketed us, instinctively we all opened our eyes and moved to our rightful places in the council meeting area.

“Order! Order!” Petunia Shrubwood called, smacking the gavel a little too loudly for baby Orin who cried out from the kangaroo pouch hanging down her front. She was the Village President and all too happy to be in her position. She was an animal whisperer and owned Glorybee Pet Shop. She and Gerald Regiula were married and had baby Orin. “I’m so sorry baby boy,” she whispered to Orin.

Gerald rushed over and grabbed Orin from the pouch to console him. He took the top hat off his head and fanned the baby. Orin loved the breeze and cooed with happiness.

The village council consisted of Gerald, Petunia, Isadora and Chandra.

“I’d like to welcome everyone to our special session today as we discuss the honeymoon destination for June Heal and Oscar Park.” Petunia motioned for us to come in front of the council.

We stood next to each other holding hands. He squeezed mine and looked down at me. The love and compassion in his eyes always amazed me. It’s hard to believe that I was married to my childhood best friend. He knew that Darla never gave me sweet treats and so would knock on my window in the middle of the night with a box of Ding Dongs. I knew then that I loved him. It wasn’t until we were grown and living in Whispering Falls did we give in to our attraction and the chemistry between us.

“The Order Of Elders is here to reiterate that there must be no magic performed outside of Whispering Falls.” Petunia looked back at the Elders. All of them nodded in agreement. “We know that Oscar understands, but we need to know from you, June Heal, that you understand the by-laws since it seems to be you that breaks them the most and gets herself in trouble.”

My jaw dropped, my eyes lowered. I couldn’t believe Petunia would say that to me. Nervously she looked away and bit her bottom lip.

“I get it,” I said in a flat tone. “Ouch.” I jerked my hand away from Oscar when he squeezed it a little too hard.

“Then we have picked your destination.” Petunia nodded to Isadora.

“We’ve picked the small island in the Caribbean, Tulip Island.” Petunia lifted the large crystal ball in the air, waving her hand over it. “Tulip Island is a very small American island that only accommodates a few tourists at one time. This will help you keep a low profile and help stay out of trouble.”

“Tulip Island?” Oscar stepped up. “I really wanted to go to Jamaica.”

“I put down Hawaii.” My confusion swirled around me.

“I’m sorry,” Petunia couldn’t even look at me. “Hawaii has the tiki legend and a spiritual community we’d like not to mingle with.” She sucked in a deep breath through her nose. “And Jamaica has voodoo that we’d like to keep at a distance.”

“It is certainly out of the question, with your wife’s history, that we send you just anywhere in the world when we have to keep an eye on her.” Elder Mary Sue pointed a finger at me. Her deep, brash voice boomed, “If you do not accept Tulip Island, you can honeymoon on top of the hill in your cottage.”

“No, ma’am.” Oscar stepped back in line. “We are more than happy to go to Tulip Island.” He nudged me. “Right, honey?”

Mary Ellen put a squirming Mr. Prince Charming down on the ground. He ran over and reared up on his hind legs, batting his front paws on my pocket where I had put the charm.

“What is wrong with your familiar?” Elder Mary Lynn squeaked from the air. She stroked her fox stole that was around her neck.

“Oh no,” Oscar groaned from under his breath.

 

 

Chapter Two
“Why didn’t you tell me about the new charm?” Oscar stalked after me on our way back to the cottage. “You and I both know that, that, that,” he spat and stuttered before he stumbled over his own feet because he was so mad at Mr. Prince Charming.

“He gave it to me right before the meeting.” I stalked beside him.

“Then you should’ve told me before the meeting.” He wasn’t getting it.

“I didn’t have time, Oscar.” My words were bitter and to the point. “I had a smudge to do and not only that, but this was something that you and I should discuss in private. If the council knew about the charm, they wouldn’t let us go to Tulip Island, wherever that is.”

The fact that they said they had to watch me angered me more than thinking I needed some protection.

“What am I supposed to do, Oscar?” I asked using his name which meant only one thing. . .I was mad. And at him. “He is my familiar. I can’t control what he sees and knows. I don’t even know how he knows it. All I know is that every single time he’s given me a charm it has been for protection.”

“Did this have anything to do with your dream?” he asked calmly.

I shrugged and turned around to head back to the cottage, putting distance between us. “You know and I know that I don’t remember all of the dreams. All I know is that there was a man drowning.”

“Fine!” he yelled after me because I was tired of listening to his lecture and wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. “We aren’t going to the island.”

“Oh yes we are!” I yelled back, my hands fisted at my side.

“June!” he yelled louder than I’d ever heard him yell. There was anger in his voice that made me pause. He caught up with me and put his arm around me. “We are not going. I will not have you anywhere near water if this is the case. We are going for relaxation, not work.”

“Then I will just go by myself.” I knew I sounded like a baby. But in my head I had reasoned with myself that if I didn’t hang around anyone else on the tiny island but Oscar, then we would be fine. All fine. I wouldn’t see a man. I wouldn’t see the spiral. All fine.

“I’m not going to work. I’m going to relax with some books that Ophelia has waiting for me at Ever After Books. While you work on your tan, I will sit happily under the umbrella and read.” I think I even made myself believe my own words. “If what Isadora says is true and the island is much smaller than even Whispering Falls,” I gestured down the hill over our village as we stood on the front porch, “then we won’t run into anyone.”

He looked at me for a moment too long and let out a deep sigh. He reached around me and opened the door to the cottage.

“We have a day to think about it.” We stepped inside. “I need to do some investigating about the possibilities of this happening. And I hate to even say it, but if Mr. Prince Charming and Madame Torres turn up something else in the next twenty-four hours that means you are going to be in the middle of some murder investigation, then we won’t be going.”

“Fine.” I crossed my arms in front of me, my fingers crossed underneath the fold.

“Fine.” He walked around me and back to the bedroom. “I’m going to get my clothes together for the trip and I suggest you do the same.”

My lip curled and I admit I was pouting. But there was no way I wasn’t going to go on this honeymoon. Charm or not. Oscar had been looking forward to this for so long that even a little nightmare wasn’t going to stop me.

I ran my hand down into the front pocket of my shorts and pulled the charm out. I knew what I needed to do next. Exactly what I did every time one of these charms was dropped in front of me. Go see Bella Van Lou, owner of Bella’s Baubles and the shop where Mr. Prince Charming conveniently stole the charms from.

“I’m going to pick up those books,” I called from the family room back toward the bedroom, leaving out the fact I was going to go see Bella first.

“Okay. Let Colton know that I’m going to soak up some sun for him if you see him.” Oscar joked about Ophelia’s boyfriend, Colton Lance, the co-sheriff with Oscar in Whispering Falls.

I grabbed my bag off the hook and headed out the door and down the hill. The street was packed with tourists and I was happy to notice customers were in A Charming Cure. I would stop by to make sure Faith was doing all right after I got my books, but first things was first.

Bella’s Baubles was the only jewelry store in Whispering Falls and was like the rest, a cover for Bella’s spiritual gift. She was an astrologer and she was able to read gemstones. The cream cottage style shop with the pink wood door was just as charming as Bella herself. It was a perfect time to visit because the sun was coming up perfectly over the mountains and shining down on the pink door where there were all sorts of gems embedded making a rainbow of crystals dart all over town. It was truly beautiful.

Every time I read the store’s hours painted on the door, I smiled. Open Morning to Night. She was as clever as she was amazing. When I stepped through the door, Mr. Prince Charming darted through my legs and jumped on the jewelry display case where Bella was showing a customer a square-shaped ruby. But only when the bell dinged above the door announcing my arrival did she look up.

“Good morning, June.” She smiled exposing the space between her two front teeth and the balled-up cheeks. “I was expecting you.” She straightened up, her long blond hair cascaded down her five-foot-two-inch frame. She ran her slender hand down Mr. Prince Charming, white strands of fur flying with each stroke. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

“I’m in no hurry.” I browsed around the shop and listened to her talk her customer into buying the ruby stone instead of the sapphire the man insisted on buying his wife as a gift because she’d just gotten a promotion.

“She loves the blue tones.” He shook his head.

“Yes, but your wife is one of character and strength. Not only is the ruby the most precious of gems, but it will propel her to leadership of the company.” Bella casually pushed the stone toward him and retracted the sapphire that lay on the black display cloth. “She does want to be the CEO of the company, am I right?”

Bella was able to tap into the man’s wife through him and she knew exactly what his wife needed to go forward in her success. Rarely did one of Bella’s customers walk out of the jewelry shop with what they had come in to buy. And they all were returning customers.

“The sapphire is a meditation of sorts. Easy. And we don’t want her to be meditating on the job do we?” Bella went in for the kill. “I’ll tell you what.” She picked up the square ruby and placed it in the palm of his hand. She curled his fist with hers and said, “If your wife doesn’t see movement toward another new role in the company that has to do with making her CEO faster than anticipated, you come back and see me. Not only will I give your money back, but you can keep the ruby and I will give you the sapphire.”

“Can I get that in writing?” the man asked in a leery voice.

“All done.” Bella reached under the display and pulled out a piece of paper.

The man stood with his mouth opened, stunned. After the transaction and money was exchanged, the man left happy.

“I do love when they come back.” She drummed her fingers together and watched out the window at the man getting into his car. She pushed back her hair, bringing it into the grip of her hand and pulling it around her shoulder, letting it rest down the front of her. She turned to me. “Now. I guess you are here about a little spiral charm.” She stuck her hand out in front of her palm up.

I took the charm and my bracelet and put them in her open palm. She curled them into her fist, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Courage, bravery, and awareness.” Her words were slow and static. “Aware of your surroundings.”

She opened her eyes and smiled.

“So what does that mean?” I asked. “Specifically to my trip.”

“This is a nice charm he’s picked this time.” Bella rubbed down Mr. Prince Charming and I swear he smiled with pride underneath the loud purr. “There are several meanings to the charm, but for you and your trip, it only means that you need to be aware of your surroundings.”

“That’s it?” I asked. “Nothing evil, bad?” I shook my head.

“Just be aware. Keep your eyes open and awake.” Her cryptic language stuck me in my gut. There had to be more than just being aware, but I had to take her for her word. I couldn’t ask her to give me a full reading because of the by-laws, but I sure wished she would. I had to take the meaning of the charm and somehow relate it to my life at that moment.

“Which I guess would make sense because we are going to a tropical island with only a few people on it.” I smiled, brushing off any notions about a bad honeymoon. Now I felt like I should run back to the cottage and hug Oscar.

“Good.” She clapped her hands together in delight. The bell dinged over the door and a new customer walked in. “Have a wonderful time and take plenty of pictures.”

“Pictures.” I groaned. I’d forgotten to get my camera from the house in Locust Grove. “I’ve got to go and get some books Ophelia has picked out for my trip.”

“Come back after and I’ll have this ready for you.” She patted the bundle of charms and set them on the counter. She was always so good about putting the new charm on and getting it back on my wrist as soon as possible.

I waved and let her take care of the next customer. I crossed the street and waved at Raven through the glass window of Wicked Good. She had a line out the door. It was so nice to see the village doing so well. It hit me right then. I was probably feeling all weird because I had never left Whispering Falls for a long period of time as a spiritualist. I had to wonder what it was going to be like as a witch in a community of only mortals for a full week.

“June,” Isadora, Izzy for short, waved from the door of her shop. She wore a ring on her middle finger. It was in the shape of a curled up cat. She brought me out of my thoughts. “I know the remote island wasn’t what Oscar and you requested, but we felt it was in your best interest. And now that Oscar has decided that he would like Madame Torres to accompany you, it tells me that he is also glad we are sending you there.”

“He what?” I threw open the gate to her shop and walked up the steps. Mr. Prince Charming came out of nowhere and started to do his signature figure eight around my ankles. “He came to you?”

“Yes, he just left.” She lifted her arm. I followed the length of it down to where she was pointing, just in time to see Oscar turn behind A Charming Cure. “Didn’t he tell you?” Her question was more judgmental than questioning.

My silence was enough of an answer. He didn’t say a word to me about Madame Torres. He said he was packing.

“I saw you come out of Bella’s so I’m assuming Mr. Prince Charming gave you a charm?” She drew her eyes down to the ground and watched as he curled his long white tail around my leg.

“He did. A spiral charm and I didn’t think anything of it as real protection until Oscar came here. He is the one who assured me that everything was going to be okay and my nightmare was silly.” I was starting to guess that my theory my nightmare was caused by the stress of me being gone was wrong. Izzy strolled up next to me. I said, “He said that I was stressed because I was going to the beach for the first time and riding in a plane for the first time.” Dumb me.

“He said that you had a nightmare and told him you didn’t want to go on the honeymoon. So to ease your fear of anything happening, I felt it best that Madame Torres ride along in your suitcase.” Izzy curled her arm around my shoulder.

Rowl! Mr. Prince Charming batted the air and ran off.

“Yeah, he’s not going to stand for that.” My brows lifted. “I’m guessing he can’t go?”

“We would have to get special clearance from the mortals and that is just something I don’t feel is necessary.” I heard the words that were coming from her mouth, but my thoughts were right back at the nightmare. “A lot of islands require the animal be quarantined so they don’t bring unwanted diseases onto the island. Since you are only going to be gone a week, I figured you can use Madame Torres to not only ask how things are going here, but also keep an eye out for things there.”

“Well, let’s hope so,” I said blankly. “I’ve got to go see Ophelia. She’s got some books waiting for me to take and read.” I paused. “If I’m not working on figuring out my nightmare while on the island.”

“You will be fine.” Izzy pish-poshed me and tucked her hands in the pockets of her skirt.

I just couldn’t believe that Oscar would get clearance for me to take Madame Torres. That only meant one thing to me, that my dream and my fears had him on high alert. Before he was adamant about it being just me and him. Alone at last. Well, Mr. Prince Charming might not be able to come, but a bunch of my potions and my Magical Cures Book were definitely fitting in my suitcase. I glanced over at my shop. It looked full so going in to hide some potions in my purse was going to have to wait until there weren’t so many eyes around.

“Hi, June.” Ophelia Biblio was sitting on the floor in the children’s section with the small kids gathered around her. “Your books are on the counter.” She continued reading the book to the children.

Her soft voice drew me in and I quietly sat for a few minutes and enjoyed her reading the story and watched one little girl in particular twirling a strand of Ophelia’s curly honey hair around her finger as she was mesmerized by Ophelia’s reading. I got up when I noticed she had a stack of children’s books next to her and the sign behind her said that story time was an hour long and it had just begun.

I looked through the books she had stacked for me on the counter. There were a couple romance books that looked steamy enough for a honeymoon, a memoir about one of our spiritual guides, a map of Tulip Island, and a myths and legends book of the island. She gave me a thumbs-up when I glanced back at her, curious about the island books. I took them anyway so I wouldn’t hurt her feelings and made a mental note to leave them at home. I wasn’t going to spend my honeymoon exploring myths and legends of an island. At least I didn’t think so.

end of excerpt

A Charming Hex

is available in the following formats:

Jun 30, 2016

ISBN-13: 978-1534922723

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