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Authors: Heather Blake

Gone With the Witch

BOOK: Gone With the Witch
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PRAISE FOR THE NATIONAL BESTSELLING WISHCRAFT MYSTERIES

“Blending magic, romance, and mystery, this is a charming story.”

—Denise Swanson,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Scumble River Mysteries

“Magic and murder. . . what could be better? It's exactly the book you've been wishing for!”

—Casey Daniels, author of
Supernatural Born Killers

“An intriguing tale of magic and mystery. . . . Blake is a superstar in the cozy genre. Readers will love this story!”

—
RT Book Reviews
(4½ stars, top pick)

“Blake successfully blends crime, magic, romance, and self-discovery.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“A modern-day version of
Bewitched
with a little bit of ‘Cinderella' thrown in.”

—Open Book Society

“Exciting. The entire concept of witches, spells, and the magical forest is certainly spellbinding.”

—Fresh Fiction

“This series is full of charm, magic, and delightfully humorous and entertaining characters.”

—Kings River Life Magazine

“A fun twist on typical witchy mysteries . . . with a delightful cast of characters.”

—The Mystery Reader

“Wonderfully unique and full of mystique and magic.”

—Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

“Quite simply a fantastic read from cover to cover.”

—The Season (top pick)

“Heather Blake has created a wonderful new spin on witches in Salem that is both lighthearted and serious. An all-around wonderful read.”

—The Hive

OTHER MYSTERIES BY HEATHER BLAKE

The Wishcraft Series

Book 1:
It Takes a Witch

Book 2:
A Witch Before Dying

Book 3:
The Good, the Bad, and the Witchy

Book 4:
The Goodbye Witch

Book 5:
Some Like It Witchy

A Magic Potion Mystery

Book 1:
A Potion to Die For

Book 2:
One Potion in the Grave

Book 3:
Ghost of a Potion

OBSIDIAN

Published by New American Library,

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

This book is an original publication of New American Library.

Copyright © Heather Webber, 2016

Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

Obsidian and the Obsidian colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information about Penguin Random House, visit
penguin.com
.

eBook ISBN 9781101990124

PUBLISHER'S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

For Sandy Harding
Thank
you.

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

A big thank-you to Jess Wade and everyone at Penguin Random House who help make Darcy's books the best they can be. And a special thank-you to Bella Pilar for her beautiful cover art.

I also want to thank Lois Rotella, Janet Cearley, Stephanie Berba-Cornock, Christy Hesseltine, and Kathleen Fortun for suggesting the name “Cookie” for the goat in this story.

As always, much gratitude goes to all the readers who've shown such wonderful support to Darcy and me throughout the years. Thank
you.

Chapter One

S
unlight burst through the front windows of As You Wish, spotlighting the pink streaks in Ivy Teasdale's shoulder-length strawberry blond hair and the vehemence in her blue eyes.

“The integrity of the event is at stake, Darcy,” Ivy said to me, the sound of hammering outside punctuating her words like exclamation points. “Along with its sterling reputation.”

She sat ramrod straight on the velvet sofa across from me, her hands fisted, her black-tipped fingernails pressing deeply into the fleshy skin of her palms. Her perfectly sculpted right eyebrow twitched every few seconds, probably a result of too much stress or a caffeine addiction. Or both. Above average height and slightly heavyset, she was in her early forties and as tightly wound as I'd ever witnessed another human to be.

This bright and airy parlor with its soothing
aquamarine and silver color palette and whimsical design usually set visitors at ease.

Not so with Ivy.

Fairly shimmering with restrained anxious energy, she said, “If she is cheating at the event, she must be caught and stopped.”

The “she” in question was villager Natasha Norcliffe.

The “event” in question was the Pawsitively Enchanting Pet Extravaganza.

And Ivy was hiring me to oversee the catching and the stopping. I was used to unusual requests that came to me through my work at As You Wish, a personal concierge service that was quickly becoming known for private investigating, but this one topped the list. Ivy knew of my involvement in several criminal cases that had occurred in the village over the past year and had deemed me the perfect person to take on a cheater.

“Have you been to the Extravaganza before, Darcy?” Ivy, the Extravaganza's founder, was also the owner of the Fairytail Magic pet-grooming salon, which everyone around here simply called Fairytails. She wore a black-and-white polka-dot pencil skirt that hit just below her knees along with a turquoise blouse that set off her eyes. Angled to the right, her long toned legs were crossed tightly at the ankles. Black peep-toed heels showed off glittery silver-painted toenails.

Her stylish flair hinted at a fun-loving personality, but I wasn't seeing any trace of it right now. All I saw was a white-hot intensity that made me question why she was so high-strung.

“No, I haven't been yet. I moved to the village shortly after last year's event.” Right up until Ivy had come knocking, I'd simply planned to attend the Extravaganza to soak in the fantastical hoopla of it all. “But I've heard all about it. Good things,” I quickly clarified so she
wouldn't glare at me with that scorching blue gaze of hers.

The Extravaganza was one of the preeminent annual events in the Enchanted Village, a themed neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts. As a tourist destination, the village often drew large crowds to its events, which generally focused on a mystical element thanks to its location and history.

Which was entirely appropriate, considering that the village was full of witches, known as Crafters, who lived here secretly among mortals. We hid in plain sight working at businesses like the Gingerbread Shack Bakery, the Bewitching Boutique, and of course here at As You Wish, the personal concierge service that I'd always believed to be owned by my aunt Ve. In reality, the business had once belonged to my late mother, Deryn Merriweather, who'd died when I was seven. A few weeks ago I'd learned that the company had actually been bequeathed to
me
, and had been held in a trust overseen by my aunt Ve until I was ready to take over.

As You Wish was
mine
.

That news had shocking to say the least.

Since I'd found out, I had been easing myself into the daily running of As You Wish. Though Aunt Ve technically still worked for the business part-time, she was now busy doing her own thing as village council chairwoman, a position that was similar to a mayoral role in the village.

As I spoke with Ivy, discussing her suspicions of cheating at the event, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with responsibility but tried not to show my apprehension at taking on a new client.

“You're in for such a treat,” Ivy said. “It's so much fun. It's not so much a competition as a festival of sorts.” Her eyes brightened with excitement.

The glimmer was a nice change from the rabid anxiety usually present in her gaze, and I suspected it reflected her true nature.

The Extravaganza was one of the few celebrations in the village that truly had nothing to do with witchcraft. It was completely pet-centric. But that didn't mean there wasn't Craft involvement. . . . I knew of at least one familiar, a witch spirit who resided in an animal form, entered in the contest, and more than a few witches, including my own sister, Harper, and my best friend, Starla Sullivan, were attending as well. Harper was entering her tabby cat, Pie, and Starla was entering Twink, her bichon frise. Aunt Ve had considered entering Tilda, her beautiful but cranky Himalayan, but only for a moment.

It was a wise decision, considering Tilda's tendency to scratch . . . and hold grudges.

Ivy added, “Which is why I must ensure that its respectability doesn't suffer. Nothing untoward must happen at this year's event.”

And with those words the brightness dimmed, and the obsessive angst returned.

I wished my friend Curecrafter Cherise Goodwin was here to deliver a calming spell. If a person was ever in need of Cherise's magic, it was Ivy.

Truly, I wasn't sure whether Ivy had good reason to be worried about potential sabotage at the event or not. Cheating was entirely possible, I supposed. Even though I'd never attended the Extravaganza, which was set to kick off late tomorrow morning, I knew it wasn't just a blockbuster event for the village . . . it was also one for its participants.

People took their pet pageantry very seriously.

So seriously, in fact, that the illustrious competition now drew contestants from across New England, even as far away as northern Maine. Driving six-plus hours to enter Fido in the Pooch-Smooch category boggled my
mind, but there was no denying the Extravaganza's charm. There was a wait list a mile long, which was due to space limitations at the Will-o'-the-Wisp, the reception hall that hosted the contest. Entries had been capped at two hundred forty, twenty competitors per twelve categories. It seemed as though the more difficult it was to register a pet, the more desirable the event became.

It helped, too, that the Extravaganza wasn't a prim and fussy pet competition. Nine years ago, Ivy had created it to be lighthearted and fun. All household pets were allowed to be entered, including dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, turtles, and even a Nigerian dwarf goat.

Given all that, it didn't seem so far-fetched to imagine someone going a little overboard to ensure a win for their pet. But to go so far as to
hurt
someone, as Ivy suspected? That was taking overzealousness to a whole new level.

Ivy reached into her purse and pulled out an official-looking name badge, a frilly clip that had a laminated purple-printed number (240) attached, a folder of paperwork, and a fancy pen. “Here is everything you need, Darcy. The badge is secretly marked as all-access, which grants you the ability to roam around without being questioned. The paperwork includes the rules and regulations as well as a map of the booths and the facility. The clip attaches to Missy's collar.”

I took it all from her outstretched hands. The badge read
DARCY MERRIWEATHER, ENCHANTED VILLAGE
. On the clip, beneath the purple 240, was my dog Missy's name printed in curlicue font along with the category in which she was entered: Easy on the Eyes.

The Extravaganza boasted twelve categories ranging from Splish Splash (swimwear) to Wag It (best tail), and the winner of each would be featured in the event's highly sought after calendar. From those twelve pets a
grand-prize winner would be chosen to grace the coveted spot on the calendar's cover. Landing it was quite the triumph.

For the past three years running, that cover girl had been Titania, a beautiful black ragamuffin cat with owl-like amber eyes, who belonged to Natasha Norcliffe.

And for the past two years, Natasha's top competitors had suffered an unfortunate accident or illness that had required them to withdraw their pet from the event at the last minute. The mishaps had begun the year before last when Marigold Coe, whose cat, Khan, had been rumored to be a favorite to win the grand prize, had tumbled down a crowded set of steps and broken an arm and ankle, and had needed immediate surgery to repair both.

Fortunately, Marigold had fully recovered and was returning to the competition this year, but Khan had since retired. This time around Marigold was entering her dog, Lady Catherine, a year-old fawn-colored whippet, in the Crankypuss category.

The second “accident” that had occurred took place during last year's event when villager Baz Lucas had come down with food poisoning hours before the winners were to be announced. He and his wife, Vivienne, had to withdraw their dog, Audrey Pupburn, a black-and-white long-haired Morkie (a hybrid breed of Maltese and Yorkshire terrier) from judging so Baz could seek treatment at a local hospital.

Soon after, Ivy had started to become a little suspicious that these incidents had not been accidents at all.

Which was where I had come in.

Ivy had hired As You Wish to sniff out a possible cheater.

Missy, my miniature Schnoodle, and I were going undercover.

And I was nervous about it.

Nervous enough that I found myself secretly hoping that Ivy would simply wish for what she wanted, as oftentimes clients would because of the name of the company. Though my father had been a mortal, on my mother's side I hailed from a long line of Wishcrafters, witches who had the ability to grant wishes using a spell. The ability came in handy, especially in my line of work.

The wishes of mortals were granted immediately if they abided by Wishcraft laws and regulations. However, because of previous egregious abuses of our powers, wishes from other Crafters now had to first go through the Elder, the Craft's governess, in some sort of magical judicial system. In an instant, she decided if a wish was pure of heart and could be granted immediately, or whether the wishee had to be summoned before her to plead his or her case.

As far as I knew, Ivy was a mortal, but it didn't seem that she was going to take any cues from the name of the business. Since it was against Wishcraft Law to solicit a wish, I paid close attention to everything she was telling me.

“The pen,” Ivy said, her eyes wide with enthusiasm, “is a spy pen. It takes both still pictures and video.” She winced as the hammering outside continued, and said loudly, “It is imperative that you document any wrongdoing you may witness by Natasha.”

The hammering came from two doors down, where my new home was being renovated. The house, which was zoned as a home-based business, had been bought as a new location for the As You Wish office—and as a home of my own—by Aunt Ve, who'd been acting as a trustee on my behalf. The funds for the purchase had come from my mother's estate, an inheritance I'd known nothing about until Aunt Ve had handed me the keys to the house . . . and the news that I was now in charge of the company.

I said, “Do you really believe Natasha is cheating to win? And harming people in the process?”

Thirty-something Natasha, who managed the local playhouse, was an actress who loved the sound of her own voice.

I set the paperwork on the coffee table. “I can maybe see her cheating to win, for the attention factor alone, but not hurting anyone. She doesn't seem the malicious type.”

Self-centered, yes. Malicious, no.

“Competition changes people. Trust me,” Ivy said somberly. “It brings out their worst. I've witnessed it many times. As I mentioned to you the last time we met up, I'm not one hundred percent positive that Natasha was responsible for the
accidents
, but I heard through the grapevine that she was on the steps at the time Marigold fell, and that she'd been seen loitering near Baz and Vivienne's booth at lunchtime. It seems too coincidental.”

It did at that.

Ivy's hands curled into fists once again. “Missy is entered in the same category as Titania, Easy on the Eyes, so Natasha will be watching you, no pun intended. Missy has lovely eyes, so she'll certainly be viewed as a threat by the competition.”

I couldn't help feeling a puff of pride. Missy did have nice eyes, a rich brown color full of emotion and personality. She would definitely give Titania a run for her money. Of course, working undercover would disqualify Missy from winning, but her competition wouldn't know that, only the judges.

“Your booth will be directly across the aisle from Natasha's, affording you an unfettered view of her movements,” Ivy said. “I don't want her getting suspicious that she's being watched, but do not let her out of your sight.”

“At all?” I asked.

“At all. If she uses the restroom, you use the restroom. If she takes a lunch break, you take a lunch break. . . .”

Yeah,
that
wouldn't be suspicious at all.

“If Natasha
has
been sabotaging her toughest competition,” Ivy said, her words clipped, “it's imperative she be stopped before word leaks out. Not only would it be a PR nightmare for the event, it would be a PR nightmare for the whole community. The Extravaganza floods the village with tourist dollars. It would be quite a loss to our fiscal influx if one rotten egg causes the downfall of such a wonderful village tradition.”

Fervor had caused a red flush to creep up Ivy's neck and settle in her full cheeks. She had painted a nice picture of not wanting the village to be hurt by the Extravaganza's potential downfall, but I knew it would hurt her financially as well. Despite owning Fairytails, she seemed to live for the Extravaganza, and I had to wonder how well the grooming business was faring. On the surface it seemed successful, but I knew appearances could be deceiving. Especially in this village.

BOOK: Gone With the Witch
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