Authors: Morgana Best
(The Kitchen Witch, Book 4)
Copyright © 2016 by Morgana Best.
All Rights Reserved.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should purchase your own copy from your favorite ebook retailer. Thank you for respecting the author’s hard work.
* * *
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The personal names have been invented by the author, and any likeness to the name of any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
This book may contain references to specific commercial products, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, specific brand-name products and/or trade names of products, which are trademarks or registered trademarks and/or trade names, and these are property of their respective owners. Morgana Best or her associates, have no association with any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, specific brand-name products and / or trade names of products.
By this act
And words of rhyme
These books of mine
With these words I now thee render
Candle burn and bad return
3 Thymes stronger to its sender.
Table of Contents
I was looking forward to my morning off work. It was the first one I’d had in ages. I threw my car keys down on the couch and sat next to them, and then placed my mail on my lap. If only I hadn’t had to drive to town to fetch it, but the pesky mail lady, Kayleen, had made a Post Office Box a necessity.
The first bill was an overdue electricity notice along with a sizeable late fee. What? I hadn’t even gotten the first bill yet. I scowled and looked at the second letter. I tore it open. Another bill, this time a gas bill. I didn’t even have the gas connected! I shook my head. As I reached for the third letter, the sound of a battle cry forced me to my feet. “Can you please turn down that down?” I yelled at the house.
The house always decided what it wanted to watch on TV. I had inherited my magnificent Victorian house, along with a cupcake store, from my Aunt Angelica. No-one had told me the house was alive. I’d found out the hard way.
The house used to enjoy watching mixed martial arts or Jamie Oliver; now it was
Game of Thrones
. It was like sharing a house with a demanding housemate. The house turned down the volume just as I looked up at the screen to see a rather gory scene. I shuddered and turned my attention to the third letter. My spirits lifted when I saw it was from the Lotteries Office. Maybe I’d won something! The first words were not encouraging:
Call Gambling Help
. I read down the page. No, I hadn’t won a thing.
So much for my relaxing morning off. My eyes fell on the bare rooted rose in the corner of the room. My neighbor, Camino, had given it to me as a gift the previous day. I sighed and picked up the plant. I knew I would have to plant it sooner or later, so I might as well get it over with. I headed outside to the little garden shed behind the house to fetch a shovel.
I wasn’t one for gardening. Luckily for me, the garden was mature, with beautiful lilac trees and a native mango tree all well established, and the rest of the garden could take care of itself. All I did was water it regularly, but I wasn’t one to plant new flowers.
Once in the garden, my mood soon improved. How could it not, as the air was permeated with the scent of many fragrant old English roses. Now where to put it? I didn’t even know what type of rose it was, because it didn’t have a label. It only had the words, ‘Bare Rooted Rose,’ scrawled on the plastic wrapping. I was glad there had been unseasonal heavy rain lately. I didn’t much fancy digging in ground that was usually like concrete. After a quick appraisal of the area, my eyes fell on a patch of ground next to the daisies. That looked as good a place as any. I shrugged and headed for the spot.
As I suspected, the ground was soft, so the digging was easy. It was an awfully big bare rooted rose, and I figured I should make the hole deeper than the root ball. That was something I remembered from watching a gardening show the house had once made me watch.
Just one more shovelful
, I thought, and made a special effort to dig. As I pushed the shovel in strongly, the soft ground suddenly made way to something hard, and the impact reverberated through my back. I dropped the shovel in shock as a sharp pain seared through me.
I assumed it was a hard rock, so I gingerly dug around it. After all, even I knew that a rose shouldn’t be planted over a big rock. To my surprise, it was not a rock, but a metal box. I kneeled down, ignoring the pain in my back, and managed to pull the box from the dirt. It was covered with particularly sticky, slushy mud. I quickly shoved the rose into the hole after backfilling some dirt, filled in the hole and then patted down the dirt, and all the while my back pain was increasing.
The metal box looked old. The latch that fastened it had rusted away but was still working. I was intrigued. Perhaps my Aunt Angelica herself had buried this in my garden. Maybe it was full of expensive jewelry. My hands shook with excitement. I could keep the nicest pieces and sell one or two to pay the bills. I wondered if there were garnets in there, or perhaps rubies? I was partial to emeralds, too. Maybe there were huge pink diamonds. The tin was certainly heavy enough.
I picked up the box, leaving the shovel next to the rose, and hurried to the house. I left the box at the front door and went inside to find an old rag to clean it.
When I went back outside, the box wasn’t at the door. It took me a moment to see that it was on my front lawn. “Why don’t you want the box inside the house?” I asked the house, but as usual, there was no reply. Perhaps the house didn’t share Aunt Angelica’s taste in jewelry.
I hurried down the steps and wiped the box as best I could, and then washed my hands under the garden hose.
When the box was suitably clean, I took it inside and placed it on top of some newspaper on my coffee table. The pain in my back was much worse. In fact, my back was cramping up. It was all I could do to straighten up, and bending over drawers looking for a screwdriver didn’t help. By the time I found a screwdriver to bust open the latch, I was in considerable pain.
I carefully perched on the edge of my couch, and gingerly inserted the screw under the corroded latch. After all, if there was jewelry inside, or perhaps solid gold bars, I didn’t want to damage the contents. It could even be cash. What if Aunt Angelica hadn’t trusted banks and had put all her savings in the tin?
I was quivering with excitement and suspense. After moving the screwdriver backward and forward for a while, I managed to release the latch. Finally! I took a deep, calming breath and prepared myself to see my newfound treasure. I opened the box and gasped.
No jewelry. No diamonds. No gold bars. No cash. There, inside the box, was a beautifully bound volume of ebony leather, with a pentacle embossed in gold on the cover. Wonderment at once replaced my initial dismay at the lack of jewelry.
I opened the book, cautiously handling the frail, ancient pages that threatened to snap at my touch. On the first page in flowery script were the words,
Book of Shadows
. This spellbook must have belonged to one of my ancestors! I trembled with anticipation as I lifted the book onto my knees and opened it. The pages were tanned and the gold leaf so long ago applied to the edges of the pages was crumbling away.
As I gingerly turned the crinkled pages, I fancied I could smell the scent of ancient white sage. It was a fragrance I usually associated with the mysterious Alder Vervain. The book fairly pulsed with energy.
I made to stand up, but a searing pain hit me at the base of my spine. This pain wasn’t going to go away by itself. I carefully set the book aside and scrolled through my phone to google a physical therapist, and called the first one I saw.
“Harden Physical Therapy, please hold,” a disembodied voice said.
I hadn’t yet had a chance to speak, but the phone played some particularly unpleasant music. I opened the book to a random page near the beginning. “This looks like ancient writing,” I said to myself. I was in the habit of speaking to myself aloud. After all, I lived alone unless you counted my two cats, Willow and Hawthorn. The cats didn’t look alike, but had identical personalities. Willow, a large ginger, was three times the size of Hawthorn, a slender black cat. They were both staring at me now, and I could’ve sworn that there was concern in their eyes.
I was careful with the book’s pages, given that they were brittle, like old parchment. “This looks like Latin or something,” I said to the cats. “Oh look! Here’s a spell to improve one’s baking. How strange—that heading’s in English, but there’s a whole section below it that looks like Latin. Do you think it could improve
Both cats looked doubtful. Undaunted, I proceeded to read the Latin aloud as best I could, while the music on the phone changed to another old song.
Both cats hissed, turned, and sprinted for the door. I tried to stand up, but my eyes watered from the pain. “Here’s something in English,” I said to their departing cat bottoms. “‘Beware the
,’ whatever that means. Someone else must’ve written that, as it’s in different handwriting right below that Latin section.”
The music stopped, and a woman’s voice spoke. “Hello, Helen Harden speaking. How may I help you?”
I did not answer, because a hideous entity manifested before my very eyes.
The apparition hovered in front of me. I was filled with terror. I assumed it was a demon, not that I’d ever seen a demon in real life, only in movies, but it looked like one to me. It was a humanoid type of thing, only much scarier than a human. It had a big round face, a mouth filled with sharp jagged teeth, and a small amount of spiky hair that stuck out in all directions. Its body was bloated and its legs and arms were spindly.
It smiled at me, but I didn’t know whether that made me relieved or more frightened.
I finally found my voice. “What are you?” I squeaked.
The creature bowed low. “Great Dark Witch,” it addressed me. Its voice was deep. “You summoned me.”
I took a step backward and shook my head. “No, I didn’t!”
The apparition jabbed its finger at me. “You summoned me as your assistant.
assistant.” It shot me a glance that was likely malevolent.
“A baking assistant?” I said in disbelief. I fervently hoped that the spell I’d read aloud for improving one’s baking didn’t work by means of summoning an apparition as an assistant.
“If you wish.”
It was then I realized someone was still on the other end of the phone. “Hello? Hello?” the voice said loudly.
“Hello, sorry about that,” I said.
“How can I help you?”
“I just hurt my back badly while digging in the garden,” I managed to say, while keeping an eye on the creature. “I was calling to make an appointment. I’m in a lot of pain.” I turned slightly and then punctuated my sentence with a heartfelt “Ouch!”
“If you leave right now, I can fit you in. Are you in town? I only have a small opening due to a last minute cancelation,” the voice continued after a pause.
I was about to refuse and book an appointment for the following day, given there was an apparition hovering in front of me, when my back spasmed painfully. I shot one more look at the being, and then decided. “Yes, I’m in town. I can be there in five minutes.”
I hung up, and then realized that I had no time to put on nice clothes or make-up. I shook my head. Why was I even thinking about clothes or make-up when there was a supernatural being in front of me? I must be losing my mind.
Still, there was no time to worry about the spirit now. I just hoped no one else could see it. My back spasmed once more, so I grabbed my purse and headed out the door.
Halfway to my car, I shot a glance over my shoulder—which by the way, hurt quite a bit—and there was no sign of the demon. I let out a long sigh of relief, but that only served to hurt my back even more.
The driving made my back worse, even though it was only a short distance. When I got out of the car, I had difficulty straightening up. I hobbled into the front door of Harden Physical Therapy. I saw at once that it was a small business, with a tiny desk, computer, and chair in the corner, and a doorway labeled ‘Treatment Room’ at the back of the room.
A woman hurried through the door. She had a mess of curly auburn hair and particularly good skin. I had no chance of guessing her age—she looked anything from thirty to fifty. “Amelia Spelled?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
She ushered me into the treatment room and gestured to a chair. She then proceeded to ask me questions, but I was distracted, wondering if the apparition would suddenly appear, and what I would do if it did. I really needed to call Ruprecht and get his advice on the situation, but I was in too much pain to think clearly. I looked up to realize that Helen was staring at me, her pen in hand. “Sorry?”
“I just asked if you had lost any unexplained weight lately.”
I shook my head. “I wish!”
Helen was not amused. She made me lie down on her treatment table and massaged my back for a bit. “You’ve pulled muscles around the bottom two vertebrae. When your back gets better, you’ll have to walk and do exercises to strengthen your core, and do Tai Chi or Pilates. What do you do for work? Standing or sitting in the one position for too long isn’t good.”
“I have the cupcake store,” I began, but she cut me off.
“Oh yes, my husband mentioned it recently. He’s a Systems Analyst Specialist at the Council. Now I’m going to put the TENS machine on you while I ask you more questions about your injury.”
The questions mercifully came to an end, although I did like the sensation of the ripples from the TENS machine. Helen held an ultrasound machine across my back after that, and then stuck on a heat pad that adhered to my clothing. “I’m going to give you traction now,” she said.
For a moment, I was worried that the demon had possessed her. “Traction?” I said, horrified.
Helen frowned. “Don’t worry, the rack was used as a torture device centuries ago, but these days we use it to take pressure off your spine. It will help with the pinched nerve. I’m just going to buckle you up, and then attach this device to your legs. You’ll feel relief pretty quickly.”
I sure hoped she was telling the truth. Helen continued to talk as she strapped me in. “How’s your business going?”
“Since the Council moved to the new building right near me, all the staff are coming in, so we’re doing a roaring trade.”
Helen simply nodded and left the room, after telling me she would be back in fifteen minutes.
I had to admit, the traction did appear to be working. After a few moments, the awful crunching sensation in my lower back started to ease, and I relaxed into the sensation. What a terrible start to the day I’d had! I had hurt my back badly, and I had summoned an entity.
A touch on my ankle wrenched me from my daydreams. I opened my eyes, expecting to see Helen. Instead, it was a man.
“Let’s get these terrible things off you,” he said firmly.
He undid all my straps, and I sat up, confused. “But Helen said I needed traction?” I asked. I hardly thought it likely that Helen would employ a physical therapist who did not share her views on treatment.
The man bent over me. “I’ve saved your life! She was trying to torture you. I’ve fulfilled my duty by helping you.”
I stared at him. Was this some kind of joke?
“It’s me, Great One, your assistant,” the man said. “I thought you’d prefer this human form.”
Realization dawned on me slowly. “You’re the demon!”
The man was visibly offended. “How could you say such a thing, Great Dark Witch?” He clutched his chest. “I’ve never been so insulted or hurt in all my lives! I’m not a demon, I’m your assistant.”
Just then, Helen hurried into the room. “I thought I could hear voices,” she said, staring at the man. “How did you get in here?”
He pushed past her and hurried out the door. I was grateful that he had kept his human form, and thankful he was wearing clothes.
Helen turned to me. “Do you know him?”
I shook my head. “I’ve never seen him before,” I said.
Not in that appearance, at least
, I silently added.
Helen shook her head, and strapped me back into traction. She started the traction machine, then hurried to the window and slammed it shut. “Perhaps he got in through here,” she said. “I apologize I left you alone for so long. I just had a call from the security man. That husband of mine! He didn’t replace the batteries when I said we should, and now we have no batteries at all. The security man said they’re all corroded and he has to order them from Melbourne. It’ll take weeks!” She sighed deeply.
She kept making small talk throughout my treatment, but I barely listened to her. I was worried about the entity. I now knew that it could take human form. Was it a shapeshifter? I shuddered.
And what was it going to do next?