My latest release, Love Spells for the End of the World, is now available in Kindle Unlimited! This fun, romantic Halloween fairytale was inspired by my love of all things spooky and all of the Halloween films I grew up watching and loving! Below, just for you dedicated readers of my blog, I’ve posted an excerpt of the first chapter!
All my love and thanks,
Once Upon a Time, there was a very well-meaning witch who may have accidentally brought about the end of the world. It wasn’t entirely her fault of course, and again, she had the very best of intentions. One minute, she was knitting scarves, trying to tamp down her anxiety and the next minute, the skies over her town opened and everything turned fire and brimstone really quick and…
…And…Well, it’s me. I’m the witch. I almost accidentally ended the world.
I guess the story began when I was fifteen and The Town Oracle—also a licensed psychotherapist—officially diagnosed me with acute anxiety. Or maybe it began when I was seventeen and a house sprung up across the Leyton town border from mine and he began plotting elaborate ways to kill me. Or maybe it began in the 1900’s when Leyton first began opening its doors to the mortal world every Halloween.
But, if I’m really being honest, the story started on that fateful Halloween morning, the one that was shaping up to be Earth’s last Halloween ever.
At the time, we didn’t know it was possibly the last Halloween the human race would ever enjoy—if I had known that, I would have spent much more time snacking on candy corn—but you couldn’t tell that by the way I was decorating. Since sunrise on All Hallow’s Eve, I’d been up here, sweating and elbow-greasing all over the roof tiling of my tiny Victorian house on the edge of Leyton, trying to get the place perfect and ready for tonight’s celebrations.
The house had been decorated for the Halloween Festival. But that was kid stuff compared to the way the town really came alive on All Hallow’s Eve. See, every year for the month of October, the magical town of Leyton opens their doors—and lets down the magical barriers protecting us—to the human world for our annual Halloween Festival. It’s unbelievable what mortals will pay to take Instagram pictures in front of a witchy-looking house with a cup of enchanted hot chocolate. But at midnight on October 30, those gates shut again, and the magical denizens come together for our most high of sacred days, bringing out the extra-special, magically enhanced decorations that are too good for human eyes.
So, that’s how I found myself—precariously dangled by one hand from the broomstick-shaped weathervane at the top of the house’s northern tower—fighting with a tangled knot of magic-burst shaped lights using my only free hand and my teeth.
“Jezebel Marilyn Hallow, what are you doing up there?”
At the sound of my Aunt Evanora’s voice, my entire body stiffened. As a Light Fairy—some people would have called her an angel—she didn’t often raise her voice, but when she spoke above a whisper and called me by my full name, I knew I was in for it.
“Decorating,” I called, my mouth still full of light wires. “What else would I be doing?”
“Don’t you dare sass me, young lady! I had to repair about a thousand of your broken bones when you were growing up, trying to learn to fly by jumping off of that roof there. An old woman is allowed her fears. Now come down from there! Sheba, make her get down from there!”
The knot finally came loose in my hands, and I smirked at the sound of Aunt Nora’s light, soprano voice as it hit the melodic stratosphere, a sure sign that she’s in acute distress. Her wife, my Aunt Sheba and a Dark Fairy—also known as a demon in particular mortal spheres—joined her at the wrought-iron gate surrounding my small plot of property. From my vantage point, I could see short, round Aunt Nora and her pink corkscrew curls cling to black-and-green attired Aunt Sheba’s practically Amazonian frame, so I pulled myself back onto the safety of the peaked roof and sat down to finish untangling the knots.
Aunt Sheba called up to me. “Trying to learn how to fly again, love?”
“I’m making sure the magic bursts are properly set.” I said, referring to the cords in my hand strung with tiny lights. To humans, they might have looked like fireworks, but we knew that they were really the small pops of light that came after a witch had shot off a spell. “I don’t want the bulbs going out again like they did during the lighting last year. And the cobwebs need to be just so. They weren’t thick enough last year. Barely any giant woodland spiders made their nests up here and I won’t go through that embarrassment again.”
Aunt Sheba considered this, then released her wife, apparently unfazed by my explanation. “Well, if you need me, I’ll be overgrowing all of McArthur’s weeds again.”
“What? She’s a grown woman. Let her break all her bones trying to fly if she must. It’s the only way she’ll learn, my darling.”
Mentions of my disastrous three-year attempts at learning to fly always rankled me. In the end, I didn’t learn to fly. Instead, I learned how to float, but even that I could only do badly and for a few seconds at most. All of those broken bones for nothing. “I’m not trying to fly! I’m trying to make the house look presentable.”
“But your decorations were beautiful last year,” aunt Nora said, practically cooing the words. ”I don’t see how you could improve on them.”
I could. Trying to hold back the flood of words threatening to overflow, I bit my lip and let the bitter tastes of blood and licorice commingled in my mouth. See, the thing—the terrible thing— about Leyton was that I was one of the least magical people in it. By all accounts, I’m a witch. I exhibited all of the classic symptoms. The moon and three stars tattoo materialized on the back of my neck the day I turned ten. I was incapable of drowning. I was always able to perform basic, practical magics with a flick of my Conductor. Normal witch stuff. But when it can to real magic, like the kind that most witches used to decorate their houses during our All Hallow’s Eve celebrations…something inside of me was stuck. I wouldn’t say it was broken. Partly because, growing up, Evanora never allowed me to say it was, but also because I could feel it. I could feel the magic trying to break through some imaginary boundaries within my body, but never quite being strong enough to manage it.
I knew there were better reasons to want magic than to win the spookiest, most magical house on the street competition that only really existed inside of my own head, but still. The house and all of its human decorations dotted with magical ones were emblematic of a greater struggle within myself, one I’d spent my entire life fighting against and one I didn’t know if I would ever win.
“Bel?” Aunt Sheba called, her voice a strained, thin line that pulled me away from my thoughts. Without even looking down to check, I could somehow tell that she had only returned to our conversation by the prodding of Aunt Nora. Aunt Sheba was a demon, after all. And while I always knew she loved me in her own way, touchy-feely stuff wasn’t really in her wheelhouse. She preferred to show her love by sneaking me pieces of candy when Evanora wasn’t looking or exacting revenge on my enemies. “Is that neighbor of yours giving you any more trouble?”
“No more than usual.”
My eyes drifted from the lights I was unraveling to the house next to mine, the one across the invisible barrier separating Leyton from the rest of America. On the day I’d turned sixteen, that previously abandoned shack of a place suddenly came alive with light and sound, as a boy moved in next door. For a while, it was a dream come true. How many books had I read where the lonely outcast suddenly fell in love and became a badass queen because some cool guy destined to fall for her moved in next door?
Unfortunately…life wasn’t like the fairy tales or the teen rom-coms I’d devoured. I couldn’t remember a single movie where the guy who moved in next door was the descendant from a long line of people trained and conditioned to kill the heroine. But when Elijah moved in, he sent a very nice letter—through Darryl, not through the Pixie Post we used in Leyton—informing me of his purpose.
It is my sad duty to inform you that you now live next door to a witch-hunter. Please make your final arrangements.
Yours Most Sincerely,
Over the years since he’d sent that letter, he hadn’t so much as pulled a hair from my head, but we’d crossed paths many, many times. People couldn’t pass through the barrier around Leyton, but objects could, which meant that most times when I was tending to my garden on the western side of the house, I had to make sure I carried a wooden shield to protect me against incoming crossbow arrows.
He was my nemesis. But Aunt Sheba’s worries were misplaced. I could handle the witch hunter, just like I always had.
Tearing my gaze away from his darkened, slightly crooked house, I glanced down at my Aunts, the two women who’d raised me in every way that had mattered, as they shared a look. My stomach dropped. I knew that look. That was the look they shared when they had to inform me that Santa Claus wasn’t, in fact, a marketing creation designed by humans but an actual light elf who’d gone rogue and started his own accounting of children’s behavior.
Aunt Sheba’s tone was considered, measured. “Well, we were thinking…”
Aunt Nora, on the other hand, didn’t have the same reservations about her words. They came out in a great, excited heap. “What if you moved? There’s a great plot of land near the Orchard that we think would suit you just fine. A little adorable Craftswitch house away from the barrier. And now that your little business is taking off, you could really decorate it as nicely as you wanted.”
The skin at my neck flushed. Most witches could magic anything they wanted out of and into existence. None of them had any trouble decorating their houses. I, on the other hand, had to knit enchanted scarves and sell them to humans on Etsy to afford anything I wanted. Sure, most of the people in Leyton didn’t take money for the things they made and sold—no need for greed when everything in the universe is just a spell away— but I didn’t want their charity or their pity.
Besides, not that I would ever tell anyone in town, but I preferred human coffee to the coffee brewed by magic folk anyway. Just like I liked my little house on the edge of town, a tiny Victorian mansion that was the fairy tale house of my eight-year-old dreams. Slowly, I climbed down from the roof, following the familiar path from the gingerbread molding at the top all the way down to the ground. I wouldn’t be attempting to float or fly with either of them here. The last thing I wanted at a time like this was to prove them right.
For years now, they’d been subtly trying to separate me from the edge of town, doing everything from offering to switch houses with them to having a team of Pegasi lift my house and fly it to another plot of land. But even if I had wanted to live anywhere else, which I didn’t, I couldn’t leave before Elijah Thorne did. I’d been here before he’d shown up, and I would be here when he finally caved and left this place. I couldn’t let him win.
“I’m fine here. I like my little house. I like the cursed leak in my kitchen. And I like—”
“Living next door to a witch hunter who’s been trying to kill you since you were sixteen?” Aunt Nora screeched.
A snort tugged at her companion’s face. “He’s clearly not very good at it.”
“What? Ten years is a long time to not kill your mortal enemy.” With a scoff, she whipped out one of the knives that lived at her hip and inspected her own reflection in it, stopping to rub a spot of lipstick away from her teeth. “What an amateur.”
“I’m your mortal enemy,” Aunt Nora countered. In response, her wife pulled her into a tight embrace, tapping her on the nose with the tip of her knife as if it were a knitting needle instead of a deadly weapon.
“Yes, darling, but you are, also, very cute.”
Even when they bickered, it was impossible to miss the love flowing between them. My aunts had always been the ultimate opposites-attract romance, and I couldn’t help the sting of jealousy that nipped at my heart whenever I saw them like that. After a lifetime in this town, I’d never met anyone who set my heart on fire. I’d kissed a lot of frogs—sometimes literally—and still hadn’t yet met my prince.
I unspooled the last of my lights and reached for the extension cord running from the back of the house. Even with the distraction, I could still hear them kissing. A groan fought its way up my throat. Dawn was coming soon; I couldn’t afford to lose any more time if I wanted to see how the lights looked in the darkness.
“Is this love fest over? I’d like to test my lights if you don’t mind.”
“We don’t mind.”
But, of course, they didn’t stop kissing, either.
“Alright.” I sighed, and readied my hand at the socket. “In three…two…one…”
All at once, three things happened in perfect, timed harmony. The plug went into the socket, the bulbs lining my roof illuminated, and a thunderous, raging monster of a hell-roar shook the world.
And then, just like that, it was gone. My house glowed in the early morning light with green and orange lights, overlooking the street with an eery kind of beauty, but the sound only echoed in the chambers of my rattled heart.
We all froze.
“What was that?” Aunt Sheba asked, her voice guarded, defensive. When I spun around, she’d raised her knife in front of her and Aunt Nora, who couldn’t have looked less disturbed. Or perhaps she was just very, very good at hiding it.
I glanced at the extension cord in my hand. “I didn’t—that wasn’t—”
“Of course it wasn’t!” Aunt Nora chirped. “Strange things are always happening on All Hallow’s Eve. Now, we’ll see you tonight for the costume parade, won’t we?”
“Mm-hm. I’ll be there.”
As we said our goodbyes, I did my best to keep my smile firmly in place, reflecting Aunt Nora’s smile. On the inside, though, I couldn’t help the slight, permeating dread I felt when I looked into Aunt Sheba’s eyes.
Aunt Sheba was a demon. One of the most feared creatures in the universe. And there was something like fear glinting in her gaze, reflecting the silver of her knife as she adjusted her grip on the handle. If Aunt Sheba was afraid, it meant that there was no hope for the rest of us.
When they were finally gone, I unplugged the lights and retreated into my house.
…Only to find that the nightmare I’d been dreading wasn’t somewhere outside. It wasn’t some creature or spell gone wrong that had shaken the Earth only a moment ago. It was a small pit that had opened up in the floor of my living room, a swirling vortex of purple and green energies that stretched its field out further and further with every second,
I slammed the door shut and pressed myself against the other side of it, hissing air in and out of my lungs as I tried to compose myself.
“Okay. Okay. cool. A Hellmouth has opened up in my house. No problem. I’ll just… I’ll just…”
Slowly—slower than I’d ever done anything in my life—I cracked the doorway, pulled the conductor out of my pocket, and threw every spell I had at it. Closing spells. Protection spells. Dismissal spells. Anything and everything I’d ever even attempted, I aimed directly at the Hellmouth.
To no avail. The vortex kept on devouring, kept on growing, and my magic was useless against it. Staggering away from the house, I examined my surroundings for something—anything—that could…that could…
My eyes fell upon the Witch Hunter’s house.
That’s when it hit me. If it’s a magical thing that can’t be killed with magic…Then I’d need a magic-killer on my side. And, unfortunately, I only knew one of those.
If you liked this magical preview, make sure to get your copy of Love Spells for the End of the World on Amazon, free with your Kindle Unlimited Subscription! Happy Reading and Happy Haunting!