Spies and Spells
Book 1 in the Spies and Spells Series
While Maggie waits for her Witchy Hour, she works at the family diner with her mom, aunt Meme and Lilith, her sister – all witches. Soon Maggie gets entangled with a mysterious handsome stranger, Mick Jasper, and his secret U.S. organization, SKUL. Has she found her calling?
Spies and Spells
Book 1 in the Spies and Spells Series
Spies and Spells
Rowl! The soft, pink paw tapped my nose a couple of times before the old cat gave me the ole one-two punch. His midnight fur helped him blend in with the unlit room.
“Stop, Riule,” I groaned, batting my mom’s familiar feline away from me and jerked the pillow over my head. “Tell her I’m up.” My voice muffled from underneath the pillow.
Rowl! The damn cat took a couple of more swipes at my hands gripping the pillow across my face.
I took the pillow off my face and sucked in a deep breath when I heard the paws of Riule’s feet dance across my bedroom hardwood floors and out the door. Outside, the early morning breeze caused the leaves on the tree beyond my window to move around, directing the sun’s rays to trickle through my blinds and dancing along my ceiling. It was a habitual morning dance between the two, which let me know I was going to be late for work if I didn’t get my lazy hinny out of bed.
Same shit. Day in, day out. I got up, got ready, went to work, came home, ate dinner, and went to bed. Sometimes that routine included a social visit with Lilith, my sister, but definitely not a regular basis, as she too had the same schedule as me. Only she got up a couple hours earlier to go to work. Lilith worked the early shift at The Brew, our family diner that was only open for breakfast and lunch.
At twenty-eight, I still hadn’t found my life’s journey. No. We, my family, did not call it our ambition in life. In fact, we didn’t grow up like mortal children, going to school and figuring out that we wanted to be: a teacher, doctor, lawyer or whatever. We had what was called the Witchy Hour. It was the hour on which we stumbled into our life’s journey.
There wasn’t much I could say about the Witchy Hour, because I had not had mine, therefore, I got up every morning and worked at the diner. Clearing dishes, taking orders and delivering food could not be my journey. I knew it in my soul.
My family was witches. Modern day, every day, normal looking kind of people. Only witches. Witches who made sure we blended into the area where we lived.
Historic Old Louisville, Kentucky, on Belgravia Court to be exact. The area was a very artsy area where a lot of hipsters hung out in the local eateries and bars.
The city was not too big or too small, allowing us to more easily fit in. And so, at age twenty-eight, I worked in our family’s dinner, The Brew, until I was hit with my life’s journey.
I had heard, as well as seen, witches in their journey. Take my mother, for instance, who Lilith and I still lived with along with my Great Auntie Meme along with all of our familiars. Yes, witches did have familiars. Only mine happened to be my car, Vinnie. Riule, the ornery cat, happens to be my mother’s, who, by the way, was doing her dirty work this morning. Gilbert, the macaw, was Lilith’s familiar and Ms. Kitty, an owl, was Auntie’s.
I was the only one with a non-animal familiar, which spoke volumes to how I had led my life. I had been on a mission to find my life’s journey. My job. And get out from underneath my family’s home.
At times I had even wondered if Mom or Auntie Meme had put a spell on me so I would not find my journey, and so they’d have to keep me here. On Belgravia Court.
I pushed back my long black hair away from my eyes, peeling a few strands away from my cheek where it had been glued from nighttime drool, something I wasn’t proud of, and pushed the quilt off me. If I didn’t make some sort of movement, the one-hundred-year-old historic home wouldn’t creak from under my feet and Riule would be sent back up to see what I was up to. Then smugly running back downstairs to Mom, giving her the lowdown on my laziness. They didn’t realize that if I had my life’s journey, I would be happy to get up every morning and go do it, just like Mom and Auntie Meme.
“What to wear?” I asked.
Growls and barks were coming from outside my front bedroom window. I made my way over and pulled back the curtain to see what all of the ruckus was about, hoping Riule hadn’t gotten Mrs. Hubbard’s yappy dog all stirred up.
Mrs. Hubbard was the old lady who lived in the house across from us. She bent over her flower boxes that were sitting on the brick ledge of her front porch fussing with her plastic Patagonia flower she had wired together with bread ties. She had one end of the plastic bouquet while King, the yappy Yorkie, had the other end in his mouth. King looked like he was playing. Mrs. Hubbard looked like she was not. The two played tug-of-war until King won out, rushing off the porch and under her row of hedges that lined the front of her home.
Mrs. Hubbard stood five foot with grey hair that hung down past her ears, parted to the left side, with side bangs. Mrs. Hubbard was never without her pearl earrings, pearl necklace and a cardigan. She must’ve had stock in pleated black slacks because it was the only color, or style, of pants she ever wore. Today her choice of cardigan happened to be hot pink, making her crazy stand out even more.
As though she knew I was watching her, she looked up and gave a slight wave. I waved back, but not quick enough to pull back and avoid her gesture to have me open my window.
“Good morning, Mrs. Hubbard.” I tried to be as pleasant as I could at seven in the morning. I pushed a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “How are you?”
Ruf, ruf, ruf. King had emerged from the hedges and went from attacking the flowers to attacking the air and space between the two of us. I glared at the scrawny, wiry spit fire wondering if I could just send him up in flames, right there in front of Mrs. Hubbard. No one on Belgravia Court liked the yappy dog.
“Fair to middlin’. Fair to middlin’,” she repeated shaking her head and pointing at the fake garden. “I’m trying to bring home the blue.” Her eyes slid over to the front of our home where Mom took a lot of pride in her landscape and gardening.
The blue Mrs. Hubbard referred to was the annual Historic Old Louisville Hidden Treasure Garden Tour that was taken very seriously by the residents on Belgravia Court. Mrs. Hubbard being one of them. Little did they know Mom was a witch and her specialty was all things earth. She was kind of like Mother Nature, only in witch form and she also grew the best herbs for potions, which Auntie Meme liked to use on customers at The Brew.
“I need another bread tie. It looks like the coons got my flowers. I’m going to give those coons a knuckle sandwich,” Mrs. Hubbard said in a silvery tone. She shook her thin fist in the air.
I smiled. Mrs. Hubbard was the queen of what I called southernisms. Most of the time I didn’t even understand what she was talking about. I wanted to tell her she wasn’t going to bring home the blue with plastic flowers but there was no telling her that unless I wanted a good cussing.
“You know.” She squinted up at my window. “I’ve never seen y’all have any sort of rodents over there.” Her brows furrowed. “What’s your secret?”
And there she went.
Mrs. Hubbard was nosy and she and Auntie Meme had had a few words right there in the courtyard in front of everyone. Auntie Meme told her to mind her own business, only her exact words were my business isn’t your business and unless you’re my panties don’t be up my ass.
Mrs. Hubbard was as mad as a wet hen but it didn’t stop her from still being nosy.
“There’s no secret.” There was. Auntie Meme put a rodent spell on Mrs. Hubbard’s house sending every rodent on Belgravia Court over there. The Orkin man was a fixture over there.
Susie Brown, our other neighbor and Belgravia Court’s neighborhood watch president, even started a rumor that Mrs. Hubbard and the Orkin man were having a fling. Only we knew the truth and we never gave into gossip. In fact, the women loved to meet up in the courtyard on Saturday nights with their fancy cocktails and catch up on the gossip on Belgravia Court. The Park family—my family—were always a topic of interest because we spent much of our time to ourselves. Well, not Auntie Meme. She spent a lot of time looking out the front window wondering what type of spell she could send Mrs. Hubbard’s way. When she’d get down to the nitty-gritty of a spell, Mom wouldn’t let her send it. Auntie Meme fussed that Mom let her make the spell, why not let her send it. Mom let Auntie Meme concoct the spells so she wouldn’t have to entertain my feisty auntie.
Still, the neighbors loved to gossip about us. Much was speculation, but still, they lived on speculation.
“I’m getting ready to go to work. I’ll see if we have any bread ties.” I politely waved, pushing the window back down. I pulled the cord of the blinds, zipping them up to the top of the window to let the sunlight fully in.
I stomped over to my closet for good measure in case Mom was listening and opened the dark wood door. Everything in the house was dark and old. It was one of the things that drew Mom and Auntie to the Historic Old Louisville. The small suburb within the city held many secrets, like our family. It was old, like our family, and held comfort for Mom.
From what Mom had told me and I had gathered, when we moved to Kentucky before I was born, the family started to become more and more engrained with mortals. We were a dying breed and it was fine with me since they never let me use the magic I held inside.
Don’t put a spell on that. Clean the dishes, not with a swipe of your finger. Use the laundry machines, not a wave of your hand.
But today I was going to be late and a wave of my hand might be what saved me from doing the dishes, the mortal way, in the diner.
Just like that, I raised my arm, twirling my wrist three times ending in a snap. And just like that, I was dressed in a black long-sleeved turtleneck, black skinny jeans, and a pair of cheetah print loafers. My long black hair neatly slicked back into a ponytail and minimal makeup was perfect for the home-cooked meals I’d be serving.
“Good morning.” I greeted my mom who was standing at the kitchen sink window picking some basil off the potted plant. I put my hands on both of her arms, giving her a little squeeze. “Thank you for sending in Riule,” my tone was sarcastic.
Riule was sitting underneath the kitchen table with his leg thrown up in the air looking like the cover model on Cat Fancy magazine, his tongue stopped in mid-lick as his eyes bore into mine stopping for a second and then returning to cleaning himself.
“It won’t be a good morning, good afternoon, or good night if you don’t get to work.” Mom’s eyes drew down on me. Her beautiful good looks caught me off guard. Her hair was long and black like mine. We had the same almond-shaped black eyes and oval face. She had high cheekbones like Lilith, while I had round ones that made me look younger than I really was. “Auntie Meme will work on a spell for you instead of Mrs. Hubbard.”
Many times Mom and I had been in public when people had mistaken her for my sister.
“And,” her eyes slid down to my toes and up to my head. Her eyes stared at me. She had crow’s feet—the only facial sign she was older than me. “It seems like you got ready awfully fast.” Her cool tone was filled with I know you used magic.
“Do we have any bread ties?” I grabbed the piece of wheat toast Mom had sitting on the counter. I closed my eyes and savored the first bite. She made the best buttered toast. There wasn’t a single grain left unbuttered. Mom made sure she spread the pat of butter to the edges, letting it seep in the warm toast.
“Mrs. Hubbard?” Mom picked a few more leaves from the window garden and bundled them with a piece of cord she had already precut.
“Yes,” I mumbled, stuffing the rest of the toast in my mouth.
“In the drawer.” Mom waved her hand in a circular motion before uncurling her long lean finger toward the junk drawer.
“In the drawer huh?” I questioned, pulling the junk drawer open knowing it was stuffed with pens, coupon circulars, and everything but bread ties. “Talk about magic.” I swiveled my eyes Mom’s way, questioning her little bit of magic. “And you accuse me of using magic.”
I grabbed a fistful of ties, kissed my mom on the cheek and headed out of the kitchen toward the front of the house.
“I’ll be right back,” I called over my shoulder and walked down the hallway, opening up the heavy wooden door to the courtyard.
Belgravia Court was an odd place to live. There were two rows of houses opposite each other with a grassy courtyard down the middle. The front of the houses faced the courtyard. Each side had its own sidewalk with gas carriage lanterns lighting the way. Along the backs of our homes was an alley with each home having a detached garage.
The houses were so close together, I couldn’t spit out my side bedroom window without hitting the neighbor’s house.
Belgravia Court was a close-knit community with everyone in everyone else’s business. Not the Parks. We tried to stay on the down-low as much as possible. Given our heritage and all.
“I found some.” I waved my fistful of bread ties in the air toward Mrs. Hubbard.
I glanced up at the sky. It was unseasonably cool for a June day in Kentucky.
Ruff, ruff, ruff. King charged me. I flicked my hand, sending a little jolt of don’t screw with me at him. Enough for him to feel it, but not enough to hurt him. I had to keep the ankle biter from sinking his sharp little daggers in me.
King yelped, running back under the bushes.
“He has that same reaction with your crazy aunt.” Mrs. Hubbard eased down her front steps and bent down to get her dog from the hedges. Her butt stuck straight up in the air, she dug her arms deeper into the bushes until she came out with a shaking King. “Oh stop that.” She snuggled him against her. “Maggie isn’t anything like the rest of ’em.”
“They aren’t so bad.” I glared at the dog, holding the ties out for her to take.
“Thank you, honey.” Mrs. Hubbard nodded her head to put them down on the step, glancing sideways at me. She walked back up her steps and put King in the house. She turned and said, “Tell me.” She went back to the fake flowers, quickly tying some together before sticking them back in the planter boxes. “What was your mom doing up there on the balcony?”
I looked over at my house. The red three-story home was beautiful with the double porches on the front of the left side of the house. On the right were two large windows on each level. But the porches were really the charming feature. The first one was considered the front porch. Two dark grey pillars were built on the brick wall to the open porch leading up to the large wooden door with long skinny decorative windows on each side. Above the door was a stained glass window Auntie Meme had created herself. If you were to look closely, you’d see little images of our heritage.
Above the porch was another open porch with wrought iron railing. The doors leading into the house from the second porch were all glass. The room off the second porch was Mom’s room. Then the third floor was where Lilith and my rooms were located. We had the whole Jack and Jill bathroom thing going. It was cute when we were kids, not so much now.
“She was doing her morning yoga.” I smiled, lying.
Mom used the morning sun to welcome the day, sending a little prayer of protection for the family every morning. Normally she was careful of watchful eyes at four-thirty in the morning, and normally Mrs. Hubbard wasn’t up that early. Something told me today was going to be anything but normal.
Mrs. Hubbard harrumphed, not fully satisfied with my answer, but she didn’t balk at it either.
“I don’t have a horse in that race. But it seems to me she’d go to one of them fancy yoga studios.” Mrs. Hubbard eyed me, setting her jaw. We stood there for a second before she waved it off. She bent down and picked up a bouquet of plastic flowers. “No horse in that race.”
“It was good to see you.” I turned to go back to the house and grab my clutch and keys. “I’ve got to work.”
“Still working for Meme?” Mrs. Hubbard asked, shaking the bouquet at me.
“Yes, ma’am. It’s a family business.” I strolled closer to my house, making more distance between me and Mrs. Hubbard. If I didn’t, she’d start asking questions I didn’t want to answer.
“You tell that mom of yours that I’m going to give her a run for her money on the Hidden Treasure Tour,” she warned.
“I’ll do that.” I ran up the front stairs and slammed the front door when I got safely inside. “Mom!” I yelled down the hall. “You better step up your garden game.” I laughed and grabbed my keys and clutch off the counter. Mom had put the bundle of herbs next to them so I wouldn’t forget to take them to The Brew. “Mrs. Hubbard is going to give you a run for your money.”
Mom stopped plucking the herbs and looked at me. There wasn’t a bit of amusement in her eyes. She took her life’s journey very seriously.
I put my arms up in the air with my hands stuffed. “Her words not mine.” I winked and headed out the back door. “Hey, do you think I could take more of an active role in cooking at the diner?”
Mom’s head snapped back, she took me in.
“I’m so tired of not having a purpose.” I objected to her stare. “I know the Witchy Hour and stuff, but I’m twenty-eight years old and I’d like to get on with my life.”
“When you have your Witchy Hour, your life will get on,” she said and went back to plucking.
“Mom.” I cried, getting her attention. “All I’m asking is for you to talk to Auntie Meme and tell her you agree to let me have a more active role in the kitchen.”
“Maybe.” She shrugged, pointing to the door for me to get going.
Mom had really done an amazing job in our back yard. We had a play pool; it was only four feet deep and not very long, but it was big enough for the four of us to get in and enjoy on a hot Kentucky summer day. Plus the vibrant colors of the flower garden Mom had grown along with special herbs made the yard pop with colors. The fountain that drained into a curvy pond where koi fish lived was a new feature. Mrs. Hubbard hadn’t seen it and was going to probably die right there while the tour was going on. That wasn’t my concern. I had to get to work before Auntie Meme had her own heart attack.
I used the keypad to open the electric garage door.
“Good morning, Vinnie,” I said to my 1965 red AC Cobra familiar.
His lights blinked off and on, the driver door swung open, and the engine started.
“Good morning, Maggie. I hope you find the temperature to your liking this cool morning,” Vinnie said, as he always aimed to please me.
I got in and put the herbs down on the passenger seat along with my purse.
“I see your mom has been busy this morning.”
“She has.” I shut the door and put my hands on the wheel. “What’s the weather today?”
“A cold front is coming through and will be here for the next couple of days.” Vinnie pulled out, taking a right down the alley.
At the end, he took another right on Sixth Street and then a left on Hill Street.
“I imagine you will be busy today.” Vinnie was good at making small talk.
He hadn’t had to get me out of too many bad situations. And I wasn’t sure what he could do as my familiar to keep me safe. But I never questioned. He was a cool car and he had become more of a friend than a car. Sounded strange, but it was true.
“I hope so,” I groaned. “You know,” I sighed. “I’m twenty-eight and I don’t want to be stuck in a diner all my life.” I bit my lip wondering if I was going to have to create my own destiny and not worry about what my heritage said my life’s journey was. “Or maybe we have become so engrained in the mortal world, we don’t have a life’s journey anymore.”
“You mean like an evolution type of theory?” Vinnie asked pulling up to the curb on Fourth Street where the diner was located.
“Yeah. Something like that. Something has got to give or I’m going to find my own journey. Create my own Witchy Hour.” I sucked in a deep breath and looked through The Brew’s front windows.
It was already busy. Many of the regulars were already bellied up to the counter.
“You leave well enough alone. Your Witchy Hour will be here soon enough.” Vinnie didn’t like me messing with the spirits. “You are messing with your future and that is not up to you.”
Contrary to what mortals lived by, you can be anything you want to be, not me. I had to be what I was destined to be and I knew in my gut The Brew wasn’t my destiny.
I grabbed the bundle of herbs and my clutch and opened the door to get out. Once I got out, I glanced around to make sure no one saw me talking to my car. I bent down into the driver’s side and said, “I’ll see you in a few hours.”
I shut the door and watched Vinnie zoom down Fourth before I stepped up onto the sidewalk in front of the diner.
The Brew, our family-owned retro style diner, was a great cover for my family’s little secret in Louisville, Kentucky. The residents here loved Kentucky basketball and fast horses, not a family full of witches. I’m not sure how or why my mom and Auntie Meme came to live in Kentucky, but it’s been home to me all my life.
We fit in. Mom made sure of it. While growing up, during the day Lilith and I went to an all girls school and at night we went to witchery school. Witchery school was taught by Auntie Meme and Mom in our living room.
We had the latest and greatest clothes. With a flick of my hand, I could make an old rag look like a runway dress. Lilith was the true stylist. In fact, Lilith went to real cosmetology school at a local mortal school after high school. Auntie Meme thought it was great. Mom, on the other hand, thought it was disastrous. Lilith was a sloppy witch and Mom knew it. If Lilith messed up a client’s hair or nails, she’d whip her hand in the air fixing it with magic. If the client knew it, Lilith would wipe their memory and a whole new set of problems would occur. Me, I stayed on the straight and narrow.
Sure I did my fair share of what we called fun spells, like the whole dare thing Lilith and I played with each other, but other than those, I was on the straight path. My own words tumbled around in my head. Was I destined to take over The Brew?
“You’ve got the counter.” Lilith snapped her head toward the back of the diner when I walked in. Her short black bangs swung along with her shoulder-length bob.
“Good morning to you too.” I rolled my eyes and grabbed the apron off the hook.
“I see you are just in time.” Auntie Meme popped her head through the pass way of the kitchen and diner. Her flaming-red-colored hair stuck out in all different directions. Her bright red lips curled into a smile. “Looking as pretty as ever.”
“Thank you.” I couldn’t help but get in a good mood when I saw her. She was always fun and on my side. “Say,” I leaned in closer to the pass through while tying the back of the apron around my waist. “Do you think I could help with some cooking?”
Her black eyes jumped, her mouth flung open. “Do you mean to tell me you think you are. . .”
I didn’t have to hear the end of her sentence to know what she was going to say. She didn’t make it a secret that she wanted me to take over one day. Maybe that was my journey. Create spells like her.
After all, it wasn’t a bad gig for her. She loved to cook. She loved happy people and people left The Brew happy no matter what type of mood they had when they walked through the door.
I shrugged. “I don’t know, but it couldn’t hurt to help it along a bit.” I winked, grabbing the order pad from the counter top before going down the line of regulars at the counter.
“Have a seat!” I called out. It was a habit. When the bell over the diner door dinged, one of us would yell to have a seat, letting the customers know we saw them.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy in the green sweatshirt, the hood over his head, take a seat at the bar on the far end away from the regulars.
“Mornin’ Maggie.” Joe Farmer, owner of Farmer’s Dry Cleaners, sat in the first seat.
“Good morning, Joe.” I winked and nodded my head toward the kitchen. I topped off his coffee and the guy next to him. “Did you ask her out yet?” I asked the widower who had been after Auntie Meme before his wife got cold in the grave.
“She won’t even look at me this morning.” He grunted.
“Giving her cat calls when she comes to the cleaners isn’t going to win her heart,” I said making my way down the line with the steamy pot of coffee, filling cups that needed filling.
I had given Joe many tips over the past few years on how to win Auntie Meme, but he figured free dry cleaning and cat calling was the way to go. Clearly not.
“Coffee?” I asked the guy at the end of the counter.
His head was down. His fingers drummed the counter and his knee bounced up and down.
“Coffee?” I asked again. Coffee looked like it was the last thing he needed. His nerves were on high alert.
“Yeah.” He shook his head, slowly lifting his face. He unzipped his sweatshirt and pulled out a small brown paper package and set it on the counter in front of him. “Sure. Coffee.”
“Cream? Sugar?” I asked, noticing that he had one brown and one white eyebrow. Strange.
“Order up, Maggie!” Auntie Meme screamed louder than normal through the pass through.
I jerked my head her way, the coffee pot still dangling from my hand.
Auntie Meme slightly shook her head. My eyes lowered as I tried to get a read on what she was trying to say to me. A quick second, Auntie Meme’s eyes opened wider, her jaw set.
“Coffee please,” a male voice came from behind me.
I twirled around. There was another man in a black sweatshirt next to the white brow guy. He had his hands folded on the counter in front of him, staring ahead.
“Good morning.” I tried to greet him through the heavy tension between the triangle of the three of us. I flipped his white coffee cup over on the saucer and began to pour.
I glanced up, getting sucked into the depths of his blue eyes. An unexplainable brittle look hung around them. It was as though it was nervousness, excitement, and a sense of fright balled up on his face.
I couldn’t help but notice his muscular build underneath the white t-shirt he wore under his hoodie. His hair was as black as mine and with a nice widow’s peak. A sign of a strong man in the witch world.
Then something unexplainable happened. My insides shuddered as though my entire being was having an earthquake inside. My hand started to shake. I forced my eyes to focus on the coffee pot.
“Shit.” I plucked a few napkins from the dispenser on the counter and tried to dab the entire pot of coffee I had dumped on it, completely missing the cup.
It was like slow motion; the streams of coffee were reaching the edge of the counter, about to spill over into the lap of blue eyes. The brown package had already been soaked.
The hooded customer grabbed the package, coffee dripping off the bottom, and darted out of the diner.
“I’m sssso. . .” I stuttered. I shook my head bringing me back to the reality of hot coffee dripping all over the good looking guy, one customer had darted, and Auntie Meme was sending me daggers.
I shut my mouth, put the pot down, and turned around to grab a couple towels from the shelf. When I turned back around, blue eyes was gone. The bell over the diner door swung from his abrupt departure.
“It looks like you need a night out.” Lilith whispered over my shoulder, lending me a hand with the clean up.
Lilith was right. The rest of the day was miserable. After a packed house for breakfast and lunch, Lilith was off and I was left to finish out my shift. I had the clean up shift. I was responsible for getting everything ready so when Auntie Meme and Lilith came in the next morning, The Brew was ready to open. They didn’t have to worry about refilling the condiments, napkins, place settings; I did all of it.
“I swear, half of the food Auntie Meme made today made it on the floor.” I sucked in a deep breath and ran the pad of my finger around the shot glass in front of me.
Lilith and I met up at our hangout, The Derby; which was on the corner of Second Street and Magnolia. It was the only bar in Historic Old Louisville and not too far from The Brew. I had decided to walk down instead of hoping in Vinnie, who didn’t like it one bit.
I guess he decided on his own that I needed a keeper because he’d rolled down the street beside me as I’d walked. The air was good for my soul.
“I’m so glad I don’t have your shift.” Lilith lifted her shot glass to her lips. And in one motion she tipped back her head and hand, letting the elixir slide down her throat.
“You couldn’t handle my shift.” I chased her shot and did my own.
I lifted my hand in the air, letting Buck know I needed a refill.
Buck was a stocky five-foot-eight with big round arms and legs. He was a body builder and did a lot of those cage-fighting events. He had asked Lilith and I to come but there was no way I was going to be able to sit there and watch people tear each other up like animals. It was a big business around here. Strange to me why anyone would want to do that, but to each their own.
Buck was as bald as a cucumber. He wore a knit hat, for fashion as he said, but it still wasn’t a great look. He never strayed from his jeweled jeans with crosses and stuff all over them and shirts to match.
“I could so do your job,” Lilith said with a snarled lip and a cocked head.
“You would never get those nails dirty.” My brow lifted in amusement knowing her manicures cost more than she made, yet she mysteriously had enough money to get to the salon on a weekly basis.
I glanced around at the tables and chairs inside The Derby. It was busier than usual. The bar matched the old feel of the artistic suburb. The interior was dark wood with mahogany wainscoting halfway up the wall. The rest of the way up, to the ceiling, was painted a muted green giving a warm feeling. The stage in the back was buzzing with people with tattoos all over their arms, faces, any visible skin was adorned with body art.
The shelves behind the bar were lined with bottles and bottles of liquor, especially the delicious bourbons made in Kentucky. The top of the shelf was where local artists displayed their wood carvings of masks, eagles, horses, and a carved pair of a lady’s crossed legs hung over the top.
“Wanna make a bet on it?” Lilith asked, bringing me back to her dare. An evil smile I knew all too well crept across her pink-stained lips. “A dare?”
“I’ll take that dare!” It spurted out of my mouth before I could take it back. I had never won a dare from Lilith. Something childish we had been doing. . .well . . . since we were children.
“That one.” Lilith was snappy and sassy with her cocked brow and turned-up lips. Her long lean finger tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear before she uncurled it, pointing through the smoky bar. “That one needs to be a kitty cat for at least one hour.” She wiggled her butt in the stool causing her shoulders to shake in delight. Her lips pursed with snarky spunk.
The toe of my high-heeled black, knee length boots tapped as I danced them on the ground, twirling my bar stool around. My eyes followed along Lilith’s finger across the dark, smoky bar. I sucked in and took a deep breath before blowing out a steady stream, piercing the dirty air, creating a clear path to the table of men.
“Oh, now you are being a Lily liver?” Lilith taunted me.
I twirled back around and took a dollar from my clutch and threw it in Buck’s tip jar knowing Buck would signal the Call To Arms and the group of men would come running to the bar.
Before I could even throw back the shot Buck set in front of me, he rang the tip trumpet siren from behind the bar setting off the Call To Arms we Louisville, Kentucky residents are all too familiar with since it happens to be the Kentucky Derby anthem.
Whenever Buck’s tips rose above the black Sharpie marker line on his tip jar sitting on the bar top, he hits a button that plays the trumpeter’s song, sells beer for a dollar and yells, “And they’re off!”
“Excuse me.” The guy Lilith had pointed to had shoved his way next to me. He raised his muscled arm in the air with his dollar stuck in between his fingers, trying to get Buck’s attention. His elbow jabbed me in the side.
“Watch it,” I growled, trying to ignore the toned bicep that was level with my eyes.
“Sorry.” He glanced down at me. His sharp blue eyes held mine for a minute. His smile broke the stare. “You are that waitress.” He brought his hand down and shook the dollar bill at me.
Lilith was leaning over from behind him. A big smile planted across her red painted lips.
“That one,” she mouthed, pushing her blunt bangs out of her eyes. Her thin hand curled around a cracked shot glass.
I took a deep breath when I felt the earthquake begin to erupt again from deep within me. He waved his dollar another time before Buck grabbed it out of his hand and slammed a glass full of beer on top of the bar.
“Cheers,” his voice broke with huskiness. He held the handle of his mug up in the air. The gold in his eyes flicked with interest.
“Cheers,” I said in a low, seductive tone, clinking his glass with my shot glass of whiskey.
I lifted the glass to my nose and took a nice long whiff. I could sniff out Makers Mark bourbon anywhere. I tilted my head; my long black hair flowed over my shoulder and past my chest. I smiled.
The sweet whiskey, smelling of caramel and vanilla landed on the front of my palate, soft and smooth, with a long, warm finish.
“Ahh.” Satisfaction came out of my mouth and I set the glass down.
“I’m glad you didn’t spill that.” He let out a soft laugh. His straight, white teeth glowed. “You like the hard stuff, huh?” blue eyes asked. His eyes were sharp and assessing. He stepped back, standing behind me.
This might be easier than I anticipated, I thought about the dare. I curled a loose strand of my hair around my finger and tapped my feet until I had rolled the barstool to face him.
“Nothing better.” I lifted my brows in delight. I bit the edge of my lip. “Excuse me.”
I stood up. His eyes drew down my frame. I tugged on the edge of my tight black knit sweater over the waist of my skinny jeans.
“I need to go to the ladies room.” I winked, sending a spark to his heart before heading to the bathroom.
“I’ll go with you.” He caught up to me. “You can never be too safe in a bar.”
Bless his heart. If he only knew what I was capable of. I glanced back at Lilith. An evil grin crossed her lips. She curled her nose and made a cat claw, raking it toward me.
“I mean.” The guy shook his head. I could tell he was trying to make sense of how he was following me to the bathroom. I winked at him again. “You, you,” he hesitated as we stood at the bathroom door.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” I whispered, noticing we were alone in the small hallway, a perfect place to take care of my dare from Lilith.
“I’ll wait right here.” He nodded, taking another drink of his beer.
“By the way,” I tapped my finger on his chest. He was wearing the same white t-shirt without the hoodie, exposing exactly what I thought was under the sweatshirt. Muscles. The perfect size. “I’m sorry about the coffee this morning. I was going to apologize but you took off.”
“No problem. My friend,” he cleared his throat, “that was there with me is a bit shy and doesn’t like attention brought to him. So we took off.”
“Mick!” One of the other guys from the table stood at the end of the hallway. “Now!”
“I’ve got to go.” Mick shook his head. “You wait here. I’ll be back.” He took off with the group of guys running out of the bar.
“What the?” Confused, I walked out of the small hall and back over to Lilith.
“You better go after him if you want me to pick up your shift.” Lilith gestured toward the door. “Or you have to pick up mine.”
I grabbed my black sequin clutch off the bar top and darted out the door. The smell of impending rain hung in the air; which would explain the strange weather. Off in the distance a flash of light cracked the sky.
“One, two, three, four, five, six…” I counted until the distant sky lit up again. “Twenty minutes until it pours.”
It was true. For every second between distant lightning, it was a minute away. So I had twenty minutes to pull off the task Lilith dared me to do.
I snapped my finger. The clouds moved away from the full moon and like clockwork, Vinnie pulled up to the curb on the corner of Fourth and Hill Streets
My eyes darted back and forth before I got in. One could never be too careful.
“So now you summon me?” Vinnie asked.
“Do you think I want to get caught in the rain?” I asked. “Which way did the guy with the short black hair and compelling blue eyes go? He had on loose-fit jeans, brown slip-on loafers, no laces, and a white tee-shirt with nice muscles.” I gripped the steering wheel.
“Not again, Maggie?” Vinnie shifted gears, speeding off down Fourth. His dashboard lit up a map of Old Louisville. The red dots, which were the men, moved down Fourth toward Central Park. “When are the two of you going to grow up?”
“Tomorrow when she has to take my shift.” I pushed the gas pedal, encouraging my little sportster to go faster on Magnolia toward Central Park. Surely we could catch up pretty quickly because Vinnie’s map showed they were on foot. “When you are a witch living among mortals and can’t have any fun with the God-given powers you inherited, you take any dare you can get. Plus a day off at The Brew sounds really good right now.” I held my hands in the air taking a good look at my paint-chipped fingernails I had neglected for way too long. “I could stand a day at the spa. My nails are looking wretched.”
Vinnie slowed down. I snapped my fingers, calling the moon to shine down around me like a flashlight. He pulled into the parking lot at Central Park near the police substation, which was closed, and slowed to stop in a parking space, shutting his lights off.
“According to the heat sensitive data, he ran in there,” Vinnie snarled. “Maggie, I have to say I’m not getting a good read out on this dare. There is a reason this man and his friends ran to the park. As Auntie Meme says, not my circus not my monkey.”
Not only did I have a smart aleck familiar, I had a southern one.
“I think you should concede to your sister.”
“Ahh, hell no. I can’t do that, Vinnie.” I looked into the dimly lit park. The moon couldn’t penetrate through the tall trees and the carriage lights were gas and only meant to be decoration, not a true street lamp. There was really no need for extra security around Old Louisville. It was one of the safest, crime-free parts of Louisville. I put my fingers in my mouth and quickly pulled them out before I chewed what little nails I did have. “My nails need me.”
I opened the door and got out of the car. The air whipped around me, sending a chill up my spine. I ran my hands up and down my arms, trying to warm the frost that bit my bones. There was an evil lurking. I stood for a second to listen. The crack of branches echoed deep in the park. The rustle of leaves danced across the sidewalk.
“Damn,” I furrowed my brows, taking my first steps toward the sounds of footsteps.
The moon lit up the Colonnade. The shadows of the thick, old grapevines hanging off the concrete structure danced in the grass, creating an ominous feeling deep within it. I glanced back at Vinnie, but he was gone. I scanned the perimeter of the park, first Fourth Street, then left on Park Street where I could see my familiar rolling along, keeping his sights on me. Confident I was okay, even though my gut pinged, I swept across the park, at lightning speed, and hid behind one of the columns at the end of the Colonnade.
There was movement near the Shakespearean theatre. My eyes shifted toward the stocky shadow and I ran across the grassy lawn in the shadows so he wouldn’t see me.
Squawk, Lilith’s familiar and rare purple macaw landed on the back of one of the many wooden Adirondack chairs that was provided by the Historic Old Louisville’s newly formed Chamber of Commerce.
“You can fly on back and let my dear sister know she needs to get home for some rest since she’s going to be pulling two shifts tomorrow,” I warned her familiar and wondered which chair had The Brew’s name stamped on the metal tag nailed on one of the wooden planks as I snaked my way down to the amphitheater.
I vividly remembered Auntie Meme giving a very generous donation when the Chamber of Commerce was recently formed and went around to all the businesses in Historic Old Louisville, which weren’t many, inviting them to join. They had all sorts of plans and ideas for Central Park and the community. The chairs were a nice, cozy added touch.
Mick ran along the bottom of the stage, stopping on stage left. Behind him I could see Vinnie rolling back down Fourth Street. Stopping.
Perfect, I smiled knowing I was about to do my thing, and run off into the night with a long day of the spa ahead of me.
“Here goes nothing.” I stepped out in the moonlight, setting my spell in motion for Mick. I drew my hand in the air and stared at his back. His hands were planted on the top of the stage floor as though he were about to jump up on it. I said, “From the ashes you will fall, making hourly kitty cat calls.”
He turned around just as the sound of running footsteps came closer. I had to hurry and get the hell out of there. The man slowly turned around, dropping his hands off the stage and looked at me. He wasn’t Mick. It was the man from the diner. The man with Mick.
He threw something in the wrought iron trashcan next to the stage. There was a terror-stricken look on his face. The white brow over his left eye glowed in the moonlight. His green eyes with golden flakes had a haunted look.
A clap of thunder overhead caused me to jump, pulling my hands close to my body. The moonlight I had created slowly disappeared behind the blackest cloud, covering Central Park with a dark blanket.
“Wait.” My jaw dropped. The sky opened up. The rain poured down. “You aren’t. . .”
Like magic, the man, who was not Mick, scurried off on his new furry four legs.
“Shit, shit, shit.” I stomped my feet on the ground and pounded my fists at my side. “How the hell did you get that wrong?” I asked, trying to cover my head from the rain with my arms. “Shit.”
I bent down to the ground, trying to see where the man ran, but the rain dripped down my face and into my eyes. The rain was so hard, puddles were forming around my hands as I tried to crawl around looking for the man.
“Here kitty, kitty, kitty,” I called for him, hoping he couldn’t resist the catcall.
The sounds of running footsteps got closer. I stood up; peeling my hair away from my ear to get a sense of how fast the person was running. The thumping of the rain wasn’t helping clear the audio.
“Mick,” I gasped, knowing in my gut it was the man from the diner and the bar who was supposed to get the hourly kitty cat spell so I could win the dare. “Here!” I commanded the package from the trash. It appeared in my hands. “There,” I commanded again and ran in the rain toward Fourth Street, away from the park.
“Shit!” I heard a man’s voice scream from behind me. “Shit! Wait! You! Stop!”
I knew he was talking about me and I knew it was Mick. I didn’t turn around. I gripped the package nearly dropping it when Vinnie skidded in a puddle of water in front of me coming to a complete halt. The water drenched me. The door flew open.
“Get in,” Vinnie commanded. “Maggie, get in.”
My heart was pumping inside my chest. My breathing rang in my ears like gongs. I brushed my forearm over my eyes to try to dry the rain from them so I could see. I ran around to the driver’s side door.
“I said to stop!” Mick screamed, running faster toward me and getting closer.
“Come on,” Vinnie pleaded with me. “Not our circus.”
“And I’m not a monkey,” I quipped with one last look over my shoulder at Mick before scanning the park one last time for the kitty cat.
I threw the package in my car and planted both hands on top of the roof, peering over the top at Mick. The raindrops pinged the top of Vinnie. Mick scooted to a stop. His chest heaved up and down. His shirt soaked wet to his body, outlining his muscular chest. My breath caught as I scanned down his drenched form. There was a gun holster strapped around his waist. His hand rested on the gun nestled up against his hip.
“You again,” his voice penetrated the space between us like the thunder above our heads. He ran his hand through his wet hair. “You are everywhere.” He let out a deep sigh, putting his hand back on his gun. “Where is the package? Give me the package.” He stretched out his hand.
With another clap of thunder, I disappeared inside Vinnie. The door slammed behind me. The tires squealed from underneath me.
I turned around in the seat and watched out the back window as Mick ran after me as fast as he could. His gun was still in his holster.