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Authors: Lynn Cahoon

return of the fae

 

 

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A witch in training, a hunter on the prowl, and a world in jeopardy.

 

Learning the rules of being a witch takes years, but Parris McCall needs to master them in only weeks. Knowing how to wield her magic is the one thing she has to keep her grandmother safe and herself alive.

 

Ty Wallace is going mad with his desire for Parris, but he has to maintain an emotional distance from her. She’s a distraction in his quest to find Coven X before they grow too strong, taking The Council and everyone he knows down with it.

 

As Parris labors through the academy manuals, the couple takes a trip to find Ty’s mentor. He’s their only hope in helping Parris with her studies. To their dismay, the old man has disappeared. Their only clue comes from a witch banished for actions against The Council. When they return, not only do they find their own lives threatened, but casualties in the war between the covens have risen. And a new life hangs in the balance.
 

 

A Lyrical Press Paranormal Romance

 

 

 

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She had been born a witch. Time to learn to act like one. And quick. The Council had made it clear a first blood strike seemed imminent. A long overdue fight between two rival covens would not only put the witch community in jeopardy but also endanger the human world. The Council wanted humans to stay ignorant of their interweaving into the mix as long as possible. Forever would be preferred.

She took her second cookie and coffee back to the living room where she pulled the book close and resumed reading. If she had to be a witch, she would know everything about the life she could learn. And then some.

Two hours later, she finished Volume Two. Volume Three sat on the table near Derek. She scooted the sleeping Dragon over to a pillow on the couch, stood and stretched. She dropped the book on the table as her cell rang.

Derek shook his head.

Smiling, she answered the call. She might be able to ditch study hall, sooner rather than later. “April, what’s going on?”

 

Return of the Fae

Book 2 of the Council Series

Lynn Cahoon

 

 

 

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Dedication

 

To my husband for listening while I plotted out the story as we walked the streets of Cincinnati. And to my writing friends who pull me up when I stop believing.

 

Acknowledgements

 

Big shout out to my most awesome editor, Antonia Tiranth.
 
Thanks for loving my characters as much as I do.

 

Chapter 1

 

The presence of a fairy is a blessing in a young witch’s life. Parents should nurture this connection, not question the imaginary friendship. If a witch doesn’t have a blessing fairy, applications may be made to the inter-species council. Less than beneficial relationships are not a valid reason to apply for a change in assignment. So suck it up.–The Academy of Witchcraft Manual, Volume 3, page 43.

 

“Fairies, witches, and elves. What else am I supposed to believe? Gremlins are running around the town square?” Parris McCall sat curled up in her floral wing chair, reading a training manual, which was sounding more and more like the fairy tales her mom used to read at bedtime. Dragon curled next to her, sleeping peacefully. Parris absently rubbed the Pomeranian’s furry tummy as he stretched into the caress. She half expected to turn the page to read the story of Hansel and Gretel. She closed the leather bound book and tossed it on the coffee table. Wincing at the thud it made, she stood, and stretched the kinks from her back.

“Giving up so soon?” Derek Chandler looked up from the display screen. He’d been researching Parris’s family tree, or at least he said he was researching. For all she knew, he could be visiting porn sites on his laptop. The Council assigned Derek to train her in her new witch hunter role. Ty Wallace, her other trainer, was Derek’s best friend. Parris didn’t know how to define her relationship with Ty, but she’d worry about the details some other time. First, she needed to learn the basics of being a witch. Ty held the position of The Council’s best witch hunter, the man who made her toes curl when he walked in the room and the one who’d turned her life into this mess. “Eight year olds fly through these books. You’re taking forever.”

“Eight year olds aren’t running a business. Coffee. I need coffee.” Honestly, she needed a taste of the aged bourbon she’d kept on the home bar. She glanced at the clock. Quarter after nine in the morning, probably too early to chug a quick shot.

“Alcohol doesn’t help you study. Believe me, I’ve tried. In college, I spent an entire semester drunk.” Derek followed into her bright, sunny kitchen and poured them a cup out of the already brewed pot. “Fun times. Of course, my GPA dropped like a rock. Eventually, my friends threw an intervention party.”

“Who said I wanted a drink?” Parris sat on one of the wooden chairs surrounding her small kitchen table, curling her feet under her. The warm coffee flowed through her, making her feel like she’d been covered with a fluffy down blanket. She sat straighter. “Knock it off.”

“Sorry, I forgot you’re sensitive to comfort spells.” Derek took a sip of coffee too. “Although you did notice quicker today than yesterday.”

“I don’t need you or Ty calming me down. If I’m upset and want to talk, I will.” Parris twisted a strand of her curly black hair absently. She felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. Or at least the weight of her and Grans’ existence. Two months ago, she’d been a happy bar owner, different but adapting in what she thought could be a normal life. Her life.

Unfortunately, her normal life consisted of a freaky witness protection program her grandmother crafted after the deaths of Parris’ parents. An accident looking like a death hit sanctioned by a coven of witches no one knew existed before that day. A coven made up of smoke and mist. She shouldn’t be so rude to Derek. It wasn’t his fault he’d been assigned to be her teacher. He couldn’t help that.

Parris still hated him for his cool demeanor and insistent questions.

“Most students read the first five volumes before they’re even admitted to the academy. The books help explain the witching world and our place in human existence. The fairy tale style of writing makes the lessons easier to understand. I don’t think the authors ever imagined their book would be used to train an over thirty witch just learning of her power.” Derek peeled a banana. “And, please, you know I can read your thoughts. Don’t play dumb with me regarding the bourbon.”

“No wonder Grans always seemed one step ahead of teenage me. Now, it makes sense. She knew I planned on sneaking away with Nick Cook.” Parris grabbed a peanut butter cookie off the plate. She’d baked this morning. Sleep was overrated. At least her body thought so. “I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the things I thought were make-believe.”

“And that’s why parents tell their children early, when they can handle the announcement. Kids haven’t had magic drilled out of them by the human world. You’re at a disadvantage, embracing your power now–belief is harder for adults. Not to change the subject, but your grandmother did an excellent job of covering your past. I finally found a small newspaper piece listing the accident.” Derek ran the tip of his finger over the coffee cup.

Parris’s heart stopped. “Are you sure? What did it say?”

“I can’t be sure, the article is short. The St. Louis Post reported a car crash on a rural Illinois highway in 1975, killing Mark Brown, his wife, Sarah, and their five-year-old daughter, Paige. Police assumed the driver fell asleep at the wheel driving home after attending the theater in St. Louis. Apparently they found ticket stubs in the car.” Derek watched her.

“But I wasn’t there. Why would the paper say a five-year-old was killed?” Parris frowned. She turned the name Paige over in her head. Even though she knew she had been given another name at birth, she’d been Parris most of her life, she didn’t feel like anyone else. “There couldn’t have been a body. Our last name wasn’t Brown, I’m pretty sure of that.”

Derek sighed. “I think your grandmother glamoured the documents to show the fake name.”

Parris put the cookie down. “But what about the child’s body? Could she glamour that?”

“No. There had to be a real child’s body at the accident scene. The report says Paige had been thrown from the car–she wasn’t wearing a seat belt or in a car seat.” Derek wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“So you think my grandmother found a dead body of a five-year-old and planted it on the scene so The Council would think they killed me?” Parris couldn’t control her rage. No way Grans would do something like that. Besides, where would she find a body?

“Don’t judge. This happened a long time ago and, if it’s true, she did what she thought best.” Derek pushed the plate of cookies toward her. “Ty’s over there now working on reversing the forgetting spell she placed on herself after getting everything set. Matilda’s amazing. The woman thought of everything.”

“What if I don’t want this life? What if I don’t want to know my grandmother is a witch? Hell, that I’m a witch?” Parris took a sip of her coffee and stared at Derek.

“My lovely, you don’t have a choice in the matter. The Council made the point clear.” Derek stood and refilled both their cups. “Once they’ve decreed something, no one can break the agreement.”

Parris watched Derek return to his computer in the dining room. He was right. She couldn’t turn this knowledge off. She wanted to turn time back to the moment Ty Wallace walked his sexy, six-two lanky frame into The Alibi and kick him to the curb. She’d felt danger seeping from the man in a wave, yet she’d ignored the warning signs. She’d thought she might lose merely her heart, not her entire life and history. Now, there was no going back.

She had been born a witch. Time to learn to act like one. And quick. The Council had made it clear a first blood strike seemed imminent. A long overdue fight between two rival covens would not only put the witch community in jeopardy but also endanger the human world. The Council wanted humans to stay ignorant of their interweaving into the mix as long as possible. Forever would be preferred.

She took her second cookie and coffee back to the living room where she pulled the book close and resumed reading. If she had to be a witch, she would know everything about the life she could learn. And then some.

Two hours later, she finished Volume Two. Volume Three sat on the table near Derek. She scooted the sleeping Dragon over to a pillow on the couch, stood and stretched. She dropped the book on the table as her cell rang.

Derek shook his head.

Smiling, she answered the call. She might be able to ditch study hall, sooner rather than later. “April, what’s going on?”

Parris listened to April’s concern over the morning’s delivery. The supply truck had only delivered ten cases of beer and with the weekend approaching, the bar would be short if the delivery wasn’t fixed. Her smile widened.

“I’ll be right there.” Tucking the phone into her purse, she shrugged her shoulders. “April needs me at the bar. We can continue tomorrow?”

“That’s what you said yesterday. At this rate, we’ll be retired before you finish,” Derek grumped.

“Sorry, what can I do? My business needs me, even if I’m a witch.” Parris kissed her sleeping Pomeranian on the top of the head when she passed by the couch. “Make sure you let Dragon outside.”

“I’m not a dog babysitter,” Derek called after her.

As she walked the tree lined streets from her condo toward the bar, Parris felt light. Almost giddy. Sure, she’d spent the morning learning fairies, elves, and trolls lived in the world around her, at least she hadn’t been subjected to meeting one. She crossed the street and whispered, “Leprechauns, I wonder if they’re real too?”

“Of course they’re real. Unless you’re Irish, they’re kind of nasty little things.” A small girl stood, as if she was waiting. The child wore a flowing summer frock, more suited for a tea party or church than playing on the sidewalk. Her hair hung past her shoulders, the blonde wisps sparkling in the sun but Parris thought she saw a tip of a point on the girl’s ears. Parris smiled, her reading was affecting her mind, yet something seemed familiar about the child.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Parris glanced down the street. None of the neighbors were outside, strange for mid-day. No one walking their dog, or hurrying to work. Just the two of them.

“You asked about Leprechauns. I answered your question.” The little girl twirled around a light pole. “I’m glad we can talk again. It’s been lonely.”

“Do I know you?” Parris frowned. Was this one of her neighbor’s kids?

“You used to.” The girl put her hand into Parris’ and started walking. “Come on, I need to tell you some things.”

Parris followed. “I don’t remember meeting. What’s your name? Do you live around here? Your parents could be looking for you.”

The little girl stopped and looked up into Parris’s eyes. “I don’t have parents. Like you now.”

Fear gripped Parris, freezing her in her tracks. “Who are you?”

“I’m Toki.” The girl pulled on Parris’s hand. “Come on, we should keep walking or they’ll see us.”

Toki’s real?
Parris started walking again with her imaginary friend who she hadn’t seen since she was five.
Of course, why not
. At least their path took them toward the bar. “Who will see us?”

“The humans, silly.” Toki stared at her. “You still don’t know. I thought they trained you in fairy practices early?”

“I’m just starting my training.” Parris pulled up short. “You’re saying you’re a fairy and while I’m walking with you I’m invisible?”

Toki shook her head. “Witches. You always want to know how magic works. Yes, I’m a fairy. I’m invisible to humans when I want to be. You’re invisible when you’re holding my hand or touching me. Hiding in plain sight makes it easy to have conversations the other world wouldn’t understand. We don’t have to be invisible but its easier keeping up the shields when we’re moving. Walking isn’t a requirement, only a good idea.”

“Oh.” Parris didn’t know what to say after that.

“You don’t remember me?” Toki’s voice sounded quiet, forlorn.

“I remember my imaginary friend. I didn’t know…”

“You didn’t know I was real. A fairy.” Toki laughed. “Smile, it could be worse. You could have been assigned a troll. They aren’t a bit fun. All business. And they stink.”

A voice called out of bushes near the apartment building. “Hey–You try living under a bridge and see how clean you smell after a few hundred years.”

“Sorry, Henry.” Toki raised her eyebrows. “And they’re very sensitive.”

“A troll lives across the street?” Parris glanced at the building in horror.

“Actually, he’s watching. We’ve been taking turns minding your house, ever since
he
started showing up.”

“Ty? Derek? I think they’re okay.” Parris felt foolish. She believed a fairy telling her the men helping her weren’t trustworthy.

“No, not the witches. They’re nice. And hot.” Toki winked.

“That is freaky coming from a five-year-old child.” Parris shook her head.

“I may look five but add a few hundred years and you have my real age. Or at least I think that’s my age. You’re the one who decides what you see when you look at me.” Toki smiled.

Parris decided changing the subject a better option than thinking of Toki’s real age and physical projection. “So who are you watching for?”

“He’s been outside your house for the last two weeks. He’s young, but not.” Toki frowned. “He’s like a witch, only more. I’ve never seen anyone like him except the night your parents died. One like him watched outside your house that night too.”

Coven X. A chill ran through Parris’ body. Could her long lost relatives have found her already? Desperate, she wondered what could she ask Toki about the coven to give Ty and Derek what they needed? Apparently, telling them she got the information from a fairy wouldn’t be a problem. “What does he look like? What’s his name?”

“Some things I can’t tell you. It’s against the rules. All I can say is he’s there. We’re allowed to watch and act to save you if he makes a move.” Toki shook her head. “I should have seen this coming when your folks were killed. I thought the watcher had been sent from your dad’s side of the family.”

“We know about the other coven. Or at least The Council does.” Parris wondered about giving away Council secrets. The book clearly said she could trust the fairy assigned to her. She read this morning about the inter-agency agreement between the two species.
So weird, totally weird.
“So you’re assigned as my fairy? What does that mean?”

Toki shot her a look bordering on frustration and impatience. “Look, you need to read the book. After you’re done, you can ask me anything you don’t understand. I can’t answer open ended questions like that. Somebody needs to teach you these things.”

Parris sighed. “Believe me, they’re trying.” She would check in with April then start reading the book she’d stashed in her oversize purse. “I’ll take it more seriously, I promise.”

“Good, because I’m worried.”

“About what?” Parris glanced down at Toki who’d stopped walking. “I can’t ask that, can I? Too open ended?”

Toki shook her head. Her eyes brimmed with tears. “No, the question was fine.” She released Parris’s hand and faded. “Someone is trying to kill you.”

 

Chapter 2

 

The assigned Fairy Guardian has limitations. She cannot do your homework. She isn’t allowed to clean your room and can’t tell you the future. Especially when you’re asking about serious concerns, like birth, death, or marriage. Focus your questions on a specific subject and make sure the fairy can answer with a yes or no, these practices will give you better results. Remember, most of all, never tell the fairy your secret name.–The Academy of Witchcraft Manual. Volume 3, page 142.

 

Ty pulled his Mercedes onto a parking spot in front of the bar. Four hours with Matilda, Parris’ grandmother, and they’d only started breaking the forgetting spell. He’d left her searching through her old spell books, hoping she’d left herself a clue. If she had, she’d hidden the clue well.

When he’d called to check on Parris and Derek, he’d found Derek had been unsuccessful in getting the woman to focus. Parris had bailed. Again.

She needed to prioritize, like him. First thing in the morning, he’d checked in at the law office, placed a few phone calls, delegated other tasks, and finished his work. He was a freaking lawyer. Parris needed to learn to let April handle management of the bar for at least a few hours a day.

Pushing through the heavy wooden door, he caught a whiff of her, reminding him of the first time he’d walked through The Alibi’s door and discovered one rogue witch with no clue about who she was or what she could become. The smell of chamomile, thyme, mint, and a surprising touch of vanilla, mixed with a slight scent of sulfur now meant Parris. Anytime, anywhere. Even in this dark, dive bar filled with spilled beer odors and lingering cigarette smoke. Parris, his soul mate.

The thought sent chills up his spine. He’d been struggling with the idea of Parris since they’d met. When he realized the strength of their connection, he’d been ready for the commitment.
 
After his research uncovered she’d been born to First Bloods, both in and out of The Council, he’d questioned their union. Now that The Council had issued an edict for him to train her in her powers, he’d pushed his feelings aside. Right now they had business. Serious business that would keep her alive and her grandmother safe. Now was not the time to imagine stripping off her black cotton sundress and taking her right on the bar.

“Hey, Ty.” April waved at him from behind the bar. “You want something? Soda, beer?”

“Coffee.” He walked toward the table where Parris sat, an open book in front of her. Slipping into the chair, he frowned. “You shouldn’t be reading here.”

“A fairy told me today I needed to study harder. She said my life is in danger.” She paused as Ty’s coffee was delivered.

“Thanks.” Ty smiled at April but when he saw her face, he frowned. “You okay? You look like you haven’t slept in a week.”

“Mid-terms.” April shook her head. “Why I ever thought I could take fifteen credits and work full time, I’ll never know.”

“I should be here more, helping.” Parris touched her arm.

April put her hands on her hips. “No. You hired me to manage the bar. I just got a major promotion. You hanging here all day tells me one thing. You don’t trust me.”

“Seriously, I’m not that much of a mother hen, am I?” Parris blushed.

“Cluck, cluck. Look, I know you love this bar, but you have to let me do my job. Let me prove I can manage everything.”

“If that’s what you want.” Parris finally took a breath.

“So, you’re going to leave right after Mr. Wonderful here finishes his coffee?” She raised her eyebrows. “Maybe go have lunch together, like a date?”

“I can do better than that.” Ty asked, “When is she due back on the schedule?”

“Monday morning – day shift and payroll.” April’s attention diverted to the opening door, and she waved at the entering couple of regulars.

“You won’t see her until then,” Ty promised.

“Guys, I’m sitting right here.” Parris held up her hands in surrender. “Fine, I’m out of here unless you need me. Like today.”

“I promise I won’t call until I look everywhere for the missing boxes. I can’t believe I didn’t see the stack in the alley.”

When they were alone, Parris told Ty the highlights of her conversation with Toki. “So a fairy and a troll are guarding the house. They say someone is watching us.”

He frowned. “Another witch?”

“Toki said yes and no. What good is having a fairy attached if she can’t give you a straight answer?” Parris shut the book and finished her club soda.

“There are rules to follow.”

“So I’ve heard.” Parris looked over at April who chatted with a young man sitting at the bar. “You think she’s okay?”

“I think you trained her well. The bar is in good hands.” Ty sipped his coffee. “Relax.”

“She looks worn out. I mean, she’s always taking too many classes. Maybe taking on more responsibilities came too fast.” Parris kept watching her second in command.

He tapped her hand with one finger. “She’s fine. You want a reason to worry.”

“I do not.” Parris’s eyes flashed with a touch of anger.

He smiled. There was her spark. He changed subjects before she turned the fire on him. “Your grandmother says hello.”

Parris started. “I’d forgotten you went to see her. Could she break the spell?”

He shook his head. “The woman is good. Her spell has more twists and turns than any I’ve seen in the last ten years. She’s almost…” Ty paused, Robert’s face popped into his head for the first time in a long time. He needed to talk to his mentor and teacher. The man had more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

Parris laid her hand on his arm. “What?”

Ty grinned. “I think I thought of someone who might help. Last I heard, he lived in Cincinnati. Feel like a road trip?”

“We’re going to Ohio?”

“Why not? April said your schedule is clear until Monday. That gives us four full days, time to work with Robert and see if he can find your name. Until we know your secret name, you’ll be useless in training.” Ty finished his coffee and stood. “Come on. Let’s get some provisions.”

In two hours, they were on the road. Derek reluctantly agreed to stay with Dragon. Ty stuffed overnight bags in the sedan’s trunk. Parris sat next to him, eating peanuts. In his Mercedes. The woman was impossible. At least she’d bought already shelled nuts. He shuddered thinking about the mess peanuts shells would make in the carpet.

“Don’t drop any.” He sped up on the freeway entrance, merging with traffic. He couldn’t believe the amount of food she’d bought at the gas station. The woman had provisions for a week of camping in the back country, not a six hour drive.

“Worried I’ll get your pretty car dirty?” Parris grinned. “Can’t you clean it with a wave of your hand?”

“I send it to the car wash for a detail every week. I don’t use magic for things I can hire out.” Ty turned up the stereo, an old George Jones song drifted from the speakers.

“I guess having money and magic are a lot alike. I don’t understand what you use magic for then. Will the books enlighten me?” Parris opened the volume on her lap, and scanned the page before her.

“Different people use magic different ways. I never saw a need for making my entire life about magic.”

“And yet, hunter, your real world is about magic,” Parris said, her voice flat.

She had him there. He could preach all he wanted on the subject of using magic for noble reasons, but for months, maybe years, he’d been The Council’s pawn. His recent assignments consisted of tracking down runaway kids and concubines more often than rogue witches.

“Sorry, you didn’t deserve that.” Parris turned a page in the book. “You’ve been nothing but nice and I’m being a royal butt.”

He smiled. The girl could turn him six ways to Sunday, yet in the end, she oozed sweetness and light. A very non-witch skill.

“Ask me the questions you have. What don’t you understand? Maybe we can finish up the preliminary training before we get back. That way Derek can take you into foundations.” Ty sped the car forward passing a minivan filled with what looked like an entire girl’s baseball team. “Thank God I’m not that driver.”

“What, you never wanted to be the dad of a teenage athlete?” Parris smiled, watching the blue minivan disappear behind them in the side view mirror.

“I never wanted to be a dad,” Ty blurted, checking the rearview mirror before switching lanes.

Parris shot him a look. “Really? No wanting a boy or girl you could teach to ride a bike or take fishing?”

Ty glanced down at his expensive suit. “Do I look like the fishing type?” He waited, but Parris didn’t answer him. “I mean, I’ve never thought of the whole kid, family, and white picket fence future. I didn’t think I’d live past thirty when I became a hunter. People in my profession tend to have short life spans.”

“I don’t understand. You bring lost witches back to The Council. How could your job be dangerous?”

“If a witch is in hiding, there’s usually a good reason. Like they found the dark side or more commonly, the dark found them. Evil exists, Parris. In the human world and in the magical world. Where there’s good, there’s evil. It’s the yin and yang principle.” Ty sped the car around a sedan with an older couple in the front seat.
Sunday Drivers
. “When witches don’t want to be found, they get testy when you tell them you’re taking them to The Council.”

“They attack you with magic?” Parris stared at him now, the book forgotten in her lap.

“With magic, with guns. Hell, last year, a succubus stabbed me. Took ten stitches and a pint of blood to get me able to travel. I spent a week in the makeshift hospital on Council grounds.” Ty grimaced.

“How’d you explain your absence to your boss, the law office, I mean?”

“I took an impromptu Caribbean vacation and had an unfortunate zip-line accident. By the third time I told the story, I felt like I’d been on vacation.” Ty tapped the book. “Read, you need to read.”

Parris sighed like he’d sent her to the library for detention. She opened a packet of strawberry licorice and started reading.

As he drove, Ty let his thoughts wander. Robert Nelson had mentored Ty once he’d been tapped for placement into the prestigious hunter program. They’d fought when he’d taken Rowena to meet Robert. The man had been cordial, but curt. He’d told the couple although the girl seemed perfectly nice, she wasn’t Ty’s soul mate. When Ty protested saying he’d asked Rowena to marry him, Robert laughed, and called him an idiot being led around by his penis.

Two years later, Ty knew Robert had been right. Ty couldn’t see it then. All he knew, all he wanted, had been Rowena. Then she’d betrayed him. Now, being honest, the woman had probably set up their chance meet that had led to a hot and sex-filled first date.

Kind of like his relationship with Parris. They’d been thrust together too fast, too quickly. And he felt the danger. Not just with Coven X, but between the two of them. He needed to keep this relationship professional. At least until he could sort out his feelings. Protection mode wasn’t the best reason to enter a relationship.

Now, he hoped Robert would even talk to him. He prayed the man would tell him Parris wasn’t his soul mate too. He’d been wrong back then and Robert had been able to see through the emotion to the truth. This time, he’d listen and maybe not play the patsy like he had for Rowena. Something in his heart knew history wouldn’t repeat itself. Not this time.

* * * *

B. O. R. E. D. Between the hum of the tires on the asphalt and the chapter on using herbs in magical spells, Parris fought sleep. She looked over at Ty. The man still gave her chills, with a glance.

Since she’d been kidnapped by The Council and then placed into Ty’s hands for training, things had felt different between them. He kept a professional distance. Maybe their relationship had been a one night stand for him, but God, she still wanted him. Wanted to run her fingers through his dark, curly hair, and pull him down for a kiss. The thought of a single kiss sent a wave of tingles through her body. She had it bad.

Ty shifted in the leather seat, shooting her a quick glance before his gaze returned to the road, almost like he’d known what she thought.

Parris reviewed the last month with this man in her life, the times he threw her a calming spell, how he knew where she lived or where she was before she told him. Of course he knew what she was thinking–duh. Although, it didn’t seem like he was totally tuned in. More like he heard her thoughts on a radio station too far away to get a clear signal. Clearly, if she would have any privacy at all, she’d have to figure out how he got into her head and, more importantly, how she could stop him.

The book in her hands flipped pages. Frowning, Parris grabbed at it, attempting to keep the pages from turning as if a gale force wind ran through the car. “What the heck?”

Ty glanced over at the book. “You asked a question?”

“Not out loud, at least not directed toward the book.” Parris shook her head. This magic stuff felt hard to control. “Why would the book respond to my thoughts anyway? It hasn’t done anything like this before.”

“Relax, it’s a good thing.” Ty turned down the stereo.

“How in any stretch of the imagination this okay?” Parris felt her pulse race. Inanimate objects responded to her unspoken commands. He thought this was a good thing?

“The book has bonded with you. It’s trusting you now. It takes a while for your grimoire to accept you and know you’re serious about learning. Some witches study for years before the book reacts to them at all. You’ve only been reading a few weeks.” Ty tried to see the page open in her lap. “Why are you wondering about soul attachments? That’s kind of advanced for what you’re reading now. Did you find the Sleeping Beauty story?”

“What? No. I…” Parris paused. No way would she tell him she needed to keep him out of her head. What the heck did he mean soul attachments? She slipped a book mark into the book and closed it. She’d read the section later, alone. “Do I want to ask? The fairy tale or the movie?”

“You know, most fairy tales are actually witchcraft sightings. The Council invented the stories to explain the incident. Kind of like your modern newscasts.”

“Derek explained something like that. He said it made it hard researching sometimes because he had to sort through fiction to find the truth.” Parris sat back in her seat, her shoulders dropping. The conversation had moved away from her initial question.

“When a witch cursed her rival over the love of a powerful warlock, the myth of Sleeping Beauty developed. Of course, the witch in her agitated state went a little overboard. Most of Western Europe fell into a coma along with the offending witch.” Ty shook his head. “The rival witch held the position of liaison between the European coven and our Council. When she didn’t show for a meeting, The Council sent a hunter.”

“Who kissed the girl, waking the entire kingdom. I read the story.” Parris ripped a new licorice stick from the package.

“No, the hunter couldn’t even get close. The taint of the witch’s spell led him to the conjurer who happened to be mixing up a soul breaking spell. The hunter put the pieces together, then the warlock swept in on a dragon and took his bride away. Once the spell’s target was removed, the town awoke. Unfortunately, on the dragon, the warlock succumbed to the sleeping spell.”

The car’s speed slowed and Ty turned into a rest stop built for truckers and long distance travelers. The welcome center stood in a large log cabin in the middle of the picnic areas.

“Why are we stopping?” Parris tucked the book into her purse. Flipping open the vanity mirror, she sighed, and ran her fingers thorough her mussed hair.

“A lady wouldn’t ask such things.” Ty grinned, his smile making Parris squirm a bit in her seat. She turned and stared out the window. Two semi-trucks sat in the parking lot, otherwise, the rest stop was empty.

Parris climbed out of the car, stretching her arms out, yawning like a cat woken from an early morning nap. “Hey, what happened to Sleeping Beauty and her warlock?”

“The dragon dropped them into an active volcano. The end.” Ty clicked his remote, locking the car to set the alarm.

“No. Seriously?” Parris stopped in front of the car, watching him.

“What, you thought you’d get the sanitized, fairy tale ending?”

“I hoped the ending would be at least happy for someone.” Parris knew she’d never be able to read a fairy tale again without wondering what real story of pain lay beneath it.

“I’m joshing you. The dragon dropped them off at the warlock’s castle he’d warded against magical attack. As their feet touched the castle’s rock floor, the spell dissolved, and the two awoke. She pledged her undying love to the warlock and they lived happily ever after. You happy?”

“Ty, this isn’t a bed time story. I don’t have to be happy. I need to know what happened. Maybe I can figure out a way to help.” Parris trudged up the pathway toward the restrooms. The man infuriated her. It wasn’t bad enough everything she’d ever known as true had been turned up on its ear, now he played games with her? She pushed the restroom door open and stopped, frozen in the doorway.

“What? You didn’t believe I existed again? We talked. Are you going to look like you’ve seen a ghost every time I show up?” Toki shook her head and went over to the sink, where she played with the automatic water faucets.

“I didn’t think you’d be here.” Parris looked around. For a state run rest stop, the fixtures were pretty high end. The marble floors, wall sconces, even the wall paper, reminded her of the bathrooms at the Opera House.
 
She and Grans attended a few performances at the renovated historic venue every year. She shot a look at Toki who grinned at her through the mirrored wall in front of the sinks. “Hey, did you glamour this?”

“You’re not using your powers for anything. I thought I’d show you how most witches live.” Toki turned and half sat, half floated above the vanity. “I’ve always loved the opera.”

“Dork.” Parris entered a stall. When she finished, with Toki still hovering, Parris washed her hands, and asked the question troubling her since she’d seen Toki earlier. “Have you always been here? I mean with me and I couldn’t see you anymore?”

Toki’s smile seemed sad. She put her hand on Parris’s arm. Parris wouldn’t, couldn’t, meet the fairy’s eyes. “I understood. You didn’t want to see me. You didn’t want magic anymore. I didn’t exist.”

“But you did, and you followed me when I took Grans to the opera.” Parris held her hands open. “You were always there.”

“Of course. I’m your fairy.” The words weren’t accusatory, just a statement of fact.

Parris did meet Toki’s gaze then. For years, her best friend had been within reach, if only she’d believed. Maybe her new world wasn’t so horrible.