I am so excited about my new series, the first book of which is going live today on Amazon. It’s called Witch In Charm’s Way and is about a witch who is down on her luck and fleeing home to her magical town of Brimstone Bay with a big problem. A secret that is deadly to herself and others. But let’s not think this is too grim – it is a cozy mystery after all!
Brimstone Bay itself was partially inspired by Hogsmeade in Harry Potter, a place where only magical people live. But I’ve added a beach to it because who doesn’t love the sea and sand, and some magical cats to keep the beach pleasantly warm at all times of year, given that this is England with it’s very long winters that we are talking about! Plus a cliff with a view, a lovely old castle for Esme to live in (oh the romace of living in a medieval castle!) and all the magically delicious cakes you could dream of eating.
I decided to set this book in the same fictional universe that my Percy Prince books are based in – The Magicwild universe. If you have accompanied Percy and Nan to the Magicwild Market and the store that sells happiness – Flaffiness Emporium – you will have encountered part of Esme’s world already. Esme is from the Westbrim witching family, who are famously the only witches in the world capable of making flaffiness, due to the side effects of a fairytale curse (no less!) and it is Esme’s family who run this marvellous store.
Esme wants to hide away in her castle and find a solution for her disastrous problem, but matters only get more complicated when a body turns up on her doorstep, followed soon afterwards by a ridiculously handsome investigating Special Agent.
Read a sample chapter from Witch In Charm’s Way below.
Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This will cost you nothing extra.
CHAPTER 1: HOMEWARD BOUND
Running away was not something that I, Esme Westbrim, of the famous witching family of Westbrims, had ever planned to do.
My phone beeped. I opened up the text message to take a look.
It said, Where are you?
I stared at it in shock for a moment. Then I hit delete and put the phone back in my pocket.
I felt hunted. Paranoia, I told myself.
It was past midnight. The lights above blinked on and off as the train juddered onwards through the night, making my empty carriage feel more than a little eerie.
“You’re the scariest thing in here, Esme,” I muttered to myself.
And then gave a little snort of laughter. I didn’t feel like it.
I could move into another carriage where the lights worked, but it might not be empty, and it was better for me to be alone right now.
When the train shuddered to a halt, I looked out of the window, straining to see into the darkness. It was pitch black out there. Why couldn’t they put lights over the name-signs in English countryside train stations?
I squinted harder and was glad to have to strain. I couldn’t see in the dark yet. That was good. Maybe it meant that the malady that had made its way into my bloodstream really was being held at bay by my magic.
By the faint glow of a distant street lamp, I caught a glimpse of a sign with the station name on. It told me the train had reached the penultimate stop in my journey. I gave a sigh of relief. Just one more stop to get home.
I buttoned up my coat and readjusted my knitted scarf tightly around my throat and the lower half of my face. I was cold. All week I had been cold. It felt like the chill was radiating from my insides out.
But soon I’d be safely tucked away in my bed at Mansion House with a mug of hot cocoa in my hands and a log fire roaring somewhere nearby. There was nothing I wanted more in the world right now.
Thank goodness for my Great Aunt Adele, who had left me Mansion House in her will. Somewhere to hide away and think, and figure out what to do next, before anyone found out what had happened to me. And before my family found out that I had come home.
Home to Brimstone Bay where I had once said I would never return to live again. Bewitching Brimstone Bay as the local tourist office liked to call it.
The train’s engine died unexpectedly. Everything went quiet. All I could hear was my own jittering legs. The occasional hooting of an owl came from the otherwise great big silence outside. I didn’t like it.
“Come on, train. Let’s get going,” I muttered.
The longer we sat here, the greater the chance someone might come into my carriage.
My phone beeped. Unable to resist it, I opened up the text message.
It said, Don’t ignore me. Where are you?
I glared at it and hit delete again.
But my anger was mixed in with hurt. I was trembling. What they had done to me was the ultimate betrayal. Tears came to my eyes and I wiped them away.
Just think about happiness and it will be so, Granny Selma used to say. But the happiness magic had never worked for me.
The train had been halted for what felt like a very long time. I glanced out of the window anxiously. I was relieved when the engines suddenly rumbled back to life.
Just as the train was about to depart, a dark figure dashed past my window, yelling, “Wait just one minute!”
The figure slammed into the doors of my carriage with a great thump.
The doors swooshed open, admitting a blast of frigid air that made me grateful for my over-large droopy beret and great big bundle of a scarf.
As a man entered the carriage, I pulled my beret down lower over my face. I had a pair of big sunglasses inside my handbag. I would have put them on if I wasn’t worried they would make me look even more conspicuous than I already felt.
I waited for the man to go and sit on the opposite side of the carriage to me. This was what strangers in London would do, never wanting to be too close to each other if there was an alternative option.
The guy was big and hulking. He was a dishevelled looking sort with a bushy, overgrown beard and a brownish strain all down the front of his hooded jacket. He came to plonk himself down right near me.
I was immediately on edge. Couldn’t he tell just by looking at me with my face all covered up and my purposefully hunched up body language that I didn’t want him anywhere near me? How rude!
The train started up again, chugging resolutely towards Brimstone Bay. At least it was just one stop.
My phone beeped again. I couldn’t stop myself from reading it.
What’s happened has happened, said the message. Can we talk about it?
I stared in disbelief. Not even an apology! The nerve of it!
The message was from my best friend Sarah. Or former best friend after tonight. Because there were some things that you could never forgive, and if you did that just made you an idiot. And I was tired of being an idiot.
Earlier tonight, after a whole week of terrible sickness, I had dragged myself out of bed and gone to Sarah’s house, desperate for someone to talk to. I knew I couldn’t talk about the awful thing that had happened to me, which in itself was against magical law, but I had at least been hoping for a good old natter to put me back in a hopeful mood.
I had arrived to find my husband Drew’s car outside Sarah’s house. To my surprise the front door had been ajar. Feeling concerned for Sarah, I had gone in and had seen something that I wished my eyes had never had to see.
Flaffiness Is Happiness was my family motto, and in that moment the last traces of happiness I’d had left in my rather limp balloon of the stuff had made a rude farting noise and floated away.
If Sarah thought I was going to reply to her message, she had another think coming. She had probably only messaged me because Drew had told her to. He no doubt wanted to know where I was in case I was going to barge in on his sordid business again. It made me grind my teeth.
I angrily typed out a message. I never want to talk to you again. You can have him for all I care.
I wanted to add a curse word or two, but I knew I would regret it, so I hit send before I could change my mind.
It only took a few moments for the phone to beep again.
Don’t say I didn’t try. And for your information, I already have him.
I ground my teeth and let out a quiet scream of rage. Then I shut up because I remembered I was no longer alone in the carriage. How mortifying.
The stranger was now looking at me. His shifty eyes considered me the way a dog might eye up a rabbit to see if it was worth chasing. I looked away, out of the window, into the darkness, hiding my face from him.
I could picture the two of them together even now. I’d bet the last tenner in my purse that Sarah would waste no time at all moving into the very nice Knightsbridge apartment that I had shared with Drew. They were probably there already.
There together, while I was alone in a rattling old train carriage with just one backpack hastily crammed full of a measly change of clothes and several big bottles of precious sunblock.
I shifted uncomfortably. I could feel the stranger’s eyes were still on me. It felt menacing. I had nothing to defend myself with. Unless I squirted the sunblock on him. Take that, you hulking beast!
I took another quick peek at him. It was all I needed to confirm my original suspicion. The guy was a werewolf.
Growing up without much magic in an entirely magical and paranormal community, I had learned a few things my peers hadn’t needed to bother with. Like being more attuned to the subtle signs that gave away what sort of eldritch being somebody was.
It was something in the way that people carried themselves, or the look in their eyes, or the way that they spoke, or chose to dress themselves. It all combined to tell me whether someone was a werewolf or an incubus or a succubus or angelus or any one of the other supernatural beings who lived in Brimstone Bay. Unless they were trying to hide it.
This guy was not. And by the way he was fidgeting and shuffling and kept rubbing his face, he was off his head on something too.
I had kept up with witching news for the sake of safety in a big city where a large number of magical and eldritch folk I did not know were hidden in plain sight. Just the other day I’d read in The Daily Oracle about a new dangerous magical stimulant that was doing the rounds. It would be just my luck if this werewolf was taking it.
My phone beeped again. With gritted teeth, I opened up the message. My patience was gone. I was going to say something really mean to Sarah.
Except it wasn’t from Sarah. It was from my cousin Allegra. Biting my lip, I read it.
Enough is enough. We are all coming to see you with Feverfew potion. You better open your door or we are coming straight in. Brace for impact!
I felt a wave of panic.
By ‘all’ she meant her and her two sisters, Viviana and Flaffy. They were going to etherhop to London to rescue me.
Due to being so ill this past week, I had skipped my usual weekly coffee date with Allegra and been terrible at replying to her texts. In the end I’d been forced to admit to her that I’d had a fever.
Now all three of them were coming to London and they were going to find me missing. It was going to ruin my plan to quietly hide out.
Please don’t, I’m fine, I quickly typed out.
Then I deleted it. It wasn’t going to be enough. She probably thought I was on my death bed or something. Which wasn’t far off the truth.
Keeping one eye on the werewolf, I called her instead.
She answered immediately, saying, “Finally! Are you alive or not?”
I laughed. “Yes, I’m alive.”
“Oh good!” she sounded relieved. “What was it? Why didn’t you let me drop off some potion earlier in the week? Why did you have to suffer like a Humble?”
“You know me. I just want to be alone when I’m sick.”
“But this me we are talking about,” she said, sounding offended. “Or is it that you thought I’d cramp your honeymoon-first-sickness-lovely-dovey-new-hubby-nursing-you-better style?” She made a gagging noise.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Something like that,” I lied.
I hated lying to Allegra.
“Where are you?” she said, suddenly sounding suspicious.
I was paranoid she’d somehow heard the train in the background. It would be just my luck if the conductor chose this moment to make an announcement.
“Actually, Allegra, I have to go,” I said quickly. “Don’t come around. I’m much better and we’re a bit busy. But I promise to call you later, okay? Bye.”
“Later when?” she demanded, but I pretended not to hear and hung up.
I hoped I done enough to stave her off for a day or so. Later I would have to think of a good enough reason to explain my odd behaviour.
A sudden noise made me look up.
The werewolf had gotten sick of sitting down. He had bounced to his feet, and was pacing up and down the central aisle of the carriage, stomping harder than necessary. There was an aggressive touch to it.
And he kept looking at me.
Finally he said, “Alright love?” and came to sit in the seat opposite me.
I tensed up. The guy was trouble. What did he want? Money? I couldn’t afford to give him the last bit of money in my purse, and even if I could have, I refused to be intimidated into doing so.
His shifty eyes scanned my face as if sizing me up.
“Nice night, isn’t it?” he said, scratching his nose.
I didn’t reply. It was best not to be confrontational. Perhaps my stoic silence would discourage him.
He leaned closer and seemed to enjoy it when I shifted away. He gave me a sickly leer.
If only I’d still had my pink hair to scare him off with. I had been born it, a throwback to my family’s Magicwild heritage, and a sign to those in the know that I was a powerful witch. Supposedly. But in the Humble world it’d had the opposite effect of making people think I was ditzy. Drew had never liked it. I had dyed it brown a long time ago.
No pink hair, plus all the signs I’d been living in the Humble world for too long. Now this werewolf thought I was going to be easy pickings.
“Bit late for you to be out all alone, isn’t it?” he said.
He had taken my silence as weakness.
I glared at him. “I’m fine thanks.”
“Yeah, you look fine.” He looked me up and down. Then he looked at my handbag.
Darn it! Was he planning to mug me?
I was sick of running away. I wanted to glare at him until he backed down. But what if he did not?
It wouldn’t be long until the train reached Brimstone Bay station. But at this time of night, no one would be around. What if he decided to follow me to where he could corner me?
I had a long walk ahead of me to get to Mansion House. I couldn’t call for a taxi. My Uncle Radaghast ran the local taxi service, and he was the last person that I wanted to know about my coming home.
“Excuse me,” I said to the werewolf.
I stood up abruptly and grabbed my backpack.
He stood up too. Very quickly. He was blocking my way with his body.
When it looked like he might try to stop me, I gave him a small smile that I hoped had more confidence in it than I felt. I took my wand out of my pocket and pointed it at him.
“Say hello to my little friend.”
The werewolf blanched and took a couple of quick steps backward.
“That’s right,” I said. “Keep walking.”
He did, but only halfway down the carriage, from where he stood and glowered at me.
Dammit. He knew something was up.
An angry witch would have done something to him by now. Like singed that stupid beard off his face to teach him a lesson. But I didn’t dare attempt to use my magic, and he was eyeing me up as if he was fast reaching this conclusion.
“And stay there,” I said in what I hoped sounded like a voice full of contempt, like one particular mean girl I had gone to school with.
Witches and wizards were top of the pecking order in Brimstone Bay, and living so close by, this werewolf would know to be wary of a certain type of witch.
Giving a snort of disgust, as if I couldn’t bear to be in the same carriage as him, I opened up the interconnecting door that led into the next carriage.
Only after stepping through it and shutting it firmly behind me did I let out a sigh of relief.
“Stupid tweeking werewolf,” I muttered to myself, thinking there was no one within earshot.
And then I gave a little cry of shock.
This carriage was not empty like I had thought. A man was sitting very still and quietly in a seat nearby.
A man who was very different from the werewolf.
This guy was dressed neatly in pressed tan trousers and a jacket that fit all too attractively over his broad shoulders. Even his trim beard was neat. I didn’t usually like men with facial hair, but there was something undeniably appealing about this one. He looked vaguely familiar.
I gave him an apologetic glance, hoping that he had not heard what I’d said. He looked like a Humble, a non-magical human, and if he had heard me muttering about werewolves he would definitely think that I was off my rocker.
But clearly he didn’t give two hoots about whether I was sane or not. He had not even spared me a glance.
Frowning, I did the civil thing and marched past him towards the opposite end of the carriage to give him his space.
From the corner of my eyes I saw him stand up. I glanced backwards just in time to see him put his hand on the door that I had just come in by. Clearly he meant to go through it.
Maybe he had heard me after all and had no intention of sitting in a carriage with a batty woman.
And now he was going into the carriage with the werewolf in it!
“No don’t,” I said quickly.
He turned to look at me, his brow furrowing.
I hurried towards him, intending to physically get in his way if I had to.
I had made the werewolf angry by pointing my wand at him, and I couldn’t let this poor Humble take the brunt of the werewolf’s rage.
Werewolves were much stronger than Humbles. I wouldn’t put it past the werewolf to pick a fight with him.
I gave the Humble man a smile, intending to put him at ease. This did not have the effect I wanted since my scarf was covering up my face. So I pulled it down just a little and tried again.
The man did not smile back.
“You don’t want to go in there,” I said. “There’s a guy in the other carriage who—”
I stopped speaking abruptly. I had just realised why he looked familiar.
It was Chris Constantine!
The Chris Constantine himself. That light brown hair, those blue eyes with a hint of green, six feet tall. His beard had confused me, but it was definitely him — the hunky Hollywood actor who played Captain Shield, America’s favourite superhero.
“What are you doing here?” I blurted out.
He gave me a tense smile as if he was tired of being asked this question.
“Did you want something, madam?” he said coolly.
“Er, well, I just… Er…”
Dammit! I was blithering like a fool and clearly he thought so too by the look on his face.
I cleared my throat and tried again. “I was just going to say you don’t want to go in there. There’s a guy in there who is off his head. A very unpleasant sort.”
He shrugged. “I think I can handle it,” he said.
I glared at him. The arrogant fool.
“I doubt it,” I said, unable to keep the snap from my voice.
Just then the train jerked to a stop. I nearly fell into him. I grabbed a seatback to catch myself just in time.
We had arrived at Brimstone Bay Station. I was immensely relieved. Now we could all get off the train and it would be fine.
But to my annoyance, Chris Constantine turned his back to me and opened the door to the next carriage.
“What are you doing?” I said in irritation, reaching out to grab his arm.
“Let go,” he snapped.
But instead of doing so, I held on harder, determined to stop him and give the werewolf a chance to leave first.
A look of disbelief came onto Chris Constantine’s face, but I didn’t care. He would never know what I had saved him from, but I would.
He tried to yank his arm away, but I threw myself onto him and wrapped both of my arms around his waist.
“Get off me!” he said urgently.
I held on, and started laughing.
I couldn’t help it. I was forcibly hugging Chris Constantine.
How Allegra would laugh, if only I could tell her about it. And Viv and Flaffy would be green with envy.
He struggled to throw me off, and I enjoyed the brief tussle a bit more than was necessary. I was saving him, even if he didn’t realise it.
I looked past him to see where the werewolf was, and was astonished. The werewolf was staring at the both of us, his eyes wide with fright.
And then he turned and ran out of the train as if his tail was on fire.
Laughing harder, I let go of Chris Constantine.
“Sorry about that,” I said between chuckles. “I was doing you a favour.”
Chris Constantine glared at me. “You stupid woman!” he growled. “You’ve let him get away!”
End of sample chapter.
Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This will cost you nothing extra.