Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sneak Preview of NO REST FOR THE WICCAN

Since I am on deadline and will be noticeably quiet for the next couple of months, I thought I would post an early preview of NO REST FOR THE WICCAN, 4 in The Bewitching Mysteries. NRFtW will be released November 4, 2008 {although you're likely, as always, to find it on bookstore shelves a little earlier than that}, and is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

Also, a side note for my Ohio fans: I will be signing books at the Meet the Spirits paranormal expo near Cleveland, Ohio on June 29, 2008. I'd love to see some of you there. You can read all about the event here: http://www.meetthespirits.com/events.php

Without further ado . . . the snippet. Hope you enjoy!

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NO REST FOR THE WICCAN
#4 The Bewitching Mysteries ~ ISBN# 0425224562
To be released: November 4, 2008


My name is Margaret Mary-Catherine O'Neill—Maggie, please, only my mother goes the long way 'round the bend—and I am a lifelong resident of Stony Mill, a mostly uninteresting small town in Indiana.

Mostly.

I used to think that living in a small town meant boredom, monotony, and slim pickin's in the way of potential male companionship. On the other hand, I also used to think a belief in magic, ghosts, and witches was a symptom of an overactive imagination, wishful thinking, and possibly even outright insanity.

Kind of funny, when you think about all that has happened here in the last eight months.
And all in this sleepy little town.

Except you won't find me laughing. Would you, if you discovered within yourself a previously unacknowledged ability to discern, and even feel, the hidden, secret, most private emotions of others? The ones they don't want anyone to know about? It's a little unnerving. Unfortunately there are no twelve step programs for empaths. No magic pill to make it all go away. Just like all the other intuitive souls out there in the world, we empaths are on our own, for better or for worse.

And actually, come to think of it, there was also nothing boring or monotonous about the strange disturbances that had been popping up all over Stony Mill, either. Turbulence of a sort in the fabric of energy and matter that makes up the reality the rest of us see and feel and experience. Ripples that seemed to have opened a door and put out a great, big welcome mat for all sorts of weird phenomena. In the beginning, only sensitives noticed the change in the tides, and only those sensitives with a deeper familiarity with matters esoteric understood the significance of what they were feeling.

That chaos energy was on the move.

Dark energy.

That's where the N.I.G.H.T.S. come into the picture. The Northeast Indiana Ghost Hunting and Tracking Society, that is. Headed up by my witchy boss Felicity Dow (at Enchantments, of course--Indiana's finest mystical antique shop), my band of ghost-hunting buddies have been a big help to me in learning to understand more about myself, and to gain some much needed confidence while together the lot of us plumbed the depths of the mysteries of Stony Mill—mysteries both dark and light combined.

For as any good metaphysician will tell you, one cannot exist without the other. I took comfort in that knowledge. That dark could never overpower light. That light would always exist, no matter what. As long as that was true, there was always hope.

A girl needed to have hope. Especially when all the signs pointed to the weirdness in town getting worse.

Scoff if you will. I know how strange this all must sound. A year ago I would have scoffed, myself, but all that I've experienced has since opened my mind. I'm still not convinced that's necessarily a good thing, but I am learning to deal with it. My way.

As for the charge of slim pickin's, it seems I might have been too hasty. A girl with two very different men vying for her attention can hardly complain. What to do with the two of them, well, that's another problem entirely.
My name is Maggie O'Neill, and this is my story.


In researching my newly recognized "talent," I'd read that many empaths tend to be unusually susceptible to the weather, reacting to it on more than just a physical level. Perhaps there was something to that theory, because there was something about a hot, sultry night that never failed to set my nerves on edge, and this summer had had no shortage of them. Summer . . . that's the thing. Summer, it wasn't. Not yet. Not quite. The formality of the summer solstice was still a little over a week away, but already we'd seen enough searing heat to brown the grass and drive people indoors to the cool relief of overworked air conditioners. Between the hot sun and a shortage of rain, the green lushness typical of mid-June in Indiana had thus far failed to manifest. Fields of soybeans and corn that should be beginning to flourish struggled valiantly to deepen their root systems in the crumbling soil, while above ground their growth had faltered, their yellowing leaves coated with the gray dust that was raised from gravel roads with every vehicle that traveled them. Local farmers eyed the sky beneath glowering brows, searching for a hint, any hint, of the much needed moisture.

How it could be as steamy as it was without rain, I had no idea, but it was enough to try the patience of a saint. And Saint Margaret, I was not. Not even close. I was actually beginning to be glad I lived in the basement apartment in the old Victorian on Willow Street rather than on the upper levels. Home to the occasional shadow creature my dark little apartment might be, but at least the surroundings were always a temperate (if damp) seventy degrees, and without the monstrous electric bills my best friend Stephanie Evans, better known as Steff, endured in her apartment two floors above me.

Still, a girl started to go stir-crazy if she stayed home too often. Which was one reason why I had allowed Tom—Fielding, that is, my on again, off again, not-quite-boyfriend—that steamy, Saturday evening, to sweet-talk me into a moonlit drive down to the sunken gardens in the old limestone quarry. The other reason being that I was still trying to make up to him, at least in my mind, for my unplanned lapse in ethical judgment six weeks ago, when I'd allowed Marcus Quinn to kiss me. Marcus Quinn, the delectable male witch I had once mistakenly written off as being attached to my boss. Marcus Quinn, who'd let me know in no uncertain terms that he was most definitely interested in me. Marcus Quinn, who with his shoulder-length dark hair, blue eyes, and laughing demeanor had teased his way into the illustrious position of Temptation No. 1 in my life.

Marcus, Marcus, Marcus!

Forgive the Jan Brady moment, but I will hereby confess to a general state of man-centered confusion. At least Tom was a known commodity. There were variables when dealing with Marcus. Unknowns. Call me a wuss, but unknowns made me nervous. He made me nervous.
Wow, did he ever.

I'd been avoiding him ever since. Or trying to.

Tom, on the other hand, I'd been doing my best to get to stand still. It had been six months since he'd told me he wanted to date me. I'd been trying ever since to figure out what exactly that meant to him. A lot of things had been implied, but never anything definite. There are just some things that a girl needs to get clear in her mind. Like, were we an item, or weren't we? Enter Steff, my very own bona fide Love Guru. She would just shake her head at me and remind me that love was all about the heart, not the head, whenever I voiced my concerns. But then, Steff had an innate confidence I'd always wished for but had never quite managed to acquire.

Back to my Saturday night interlude . . .

Closed to business long ago, the quarry had found new life in years past as one of the top make out destinations in Stony Mill. Not, perhaps, the usual haunt of a couple of non-teenagers, but desperate times called for desperate measures. We'd been there all of ten minutes, trying to get into the experience, when I remembered why desperation was such a necessary part of the equation for an illicit summertime visit to the local Lover's Lane: overheated lip-locks, a steamed-up windshield, hip bruised by a badly positioned seatbelt, bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and the constant embarrassment threat of seeing someone you know stroll past did not make for full-blown seduction.

What had I been thinking?

To make matters worse, Tom was "on call," which as an officer of the law and Special Task Force Investigator was a nice way of saying he was really on duty, but allowed to do things he wanted to do unless his attendance was required elsewhere. Which also meant that the occasional squelch and squawk of the police radio was our romantic accompaniment. Which also meant that Tom's attention was—how shall I say?—diverted.

When I first realized that he was pausing to lend an ear to the portable police radio he carried as part of the job, I almost thought I must be mistaken. After all, his eyes were still closed; it could just be the heat getting the better of my imagination. With the second lull, though, I frowned and concentrated on putting more effort into keeping his focus on the business at hand . . . so to speak. But by the third breather, when he'd actually lifted his lips from mine and put our proceedings on hold while he trained his ears to the numerical call codes and details that followed, I was starting to feel a bit peevish, pent up, and put out. Between the heat, the steam, and the inevitable hurt feelings, any willingness to participate on my part had evaporated in a way that the sweat dampening my frizzing hair would not.

I extricated myself slowly and began to untwist my clothes. Tom shifted to make way for me, but his body was still on high alert, his eyes focused hard on the red power light on the radio as the call detail concluded with a noisy squelch. I don't think he'd even noticed the loss of our romantic evening mojo.

That hurt my feelings even more.

I tried not to let it. His job meant the world to him, and the last thing I wanted was to be one of those needy, self-absorbed women who have to be the primary focus of their man's life. But, geez. Call me high maintenance, but in her more intimate moments, didn't a girl deserve a little priority?

"Maggie." Tom was already buckling himself in on the driver's side as simultaneously he started the engine. I knew what it meant. Without a word I reached for my buckle. "Maggie, we're going to have to go. Both of the guys on duty are in the middle of things right now, and there's been a report of trespass and possible break-in at the feed mill in town." As he threw the truck into gear, he glanced over at me and added as an afterthought, "Sorry."

I sighed. Sorry he might be, but this seemed to be happening more and more often on what little time we managed to find together. Not that it was always Tom's fault; life at Enchantments, Stony Mill's answer to an upscale gift shoppe and secret witchy emporium, was keeping me busier than I ever would have imagined. Business, as they say, had been booming.

"It's all right," I told him, trying hard for magnanimity. "You've gotta do what you've gotta do."

He reached out and squeezed my hand. "That's my girl."

As we left the old quarry, I wondered how many couples had been startled out of their clinches by the bouncing headlights that identified our hasty departure. Then again, would I have noticed, had I been suitably enthralled? Hmm, probably not.

I turned my attention to Tom, keeping my expression neutral and my tone light. "Are you dropping me off, then?"

He shook his head. "No time, not if we want a chance in hell of catching whoever is there. Might be nothing, but better to be safe than sorry. You'll stay in the truck and lock the doors."
It wasn't what I'd wanted to hear, but it was all part and parcel of seeing a cop. Whether I liked it or not, there would be times he would be called in to duty, and whether I wanted it or not, there would be occasions where I would be with him when the calls came in and circumstances would necessitate my being taken along for the ride. Such was life.

I really didn't like it, though. I'd seen enough danger in the previous eight months to last me a lifetime, and none of it had been by choice.

We were traveling indecently fast up the bumpy county roads, slowing only a little before blowing through stop signs at the crossroads. My heart made a scaredy-cat dip every time. I managed to stifle any squeaks of distress, but I feared my fingers would make permanent dents in the soft parts of the doorframe by the time we drew near to the edge of town, where the pseudo-skyline of the feed mill loomed on the horizon, backlit by security lights in the steamy night air.

The Turners had owned the feed mill, the largest collection of grain elevators in the county, as far back as I could remember. A small village worth of silos of varying diameters and heights, the tallest stretching as high as a ten-story building, this hub for the farming community had changed drastically from when I had visited with my Grandpa Gordon as a child. Back then, it had been little more than some old silos, a dusty roundabout, and outlying holding pens for hogs heading for slaughter. Now the new-and-improved array of silos were interconnected by an extraordinary number of ramps and conveyer systems, the hog barns looked pristine—at least on the outside—and the very air itself whirred and buzzed with the noise from drying fans that looked big enough to drive a truck through. I remembered seeing an article in the Stony Mill Gazette about major renovations at Turner's and how they were costing a pretty penny, but this was the first time I'd been out this way in quite a while. Technology, it would seem, had arrived at last in the farming sector of Stony Mill.

As fast as we'd traveled through the surrounding countryside, now that we were drawing nearer the feed mill, we were creeping by comparison so as not to broadcast our approach. Next to me, Tom had gone instantly, perhaps even reflexively, into police mode, his entire body on high alert. His eyes grew sharp, moving here and there, taking in all the shadowed coveys, the many pockets of quiet where a person could easily be hiding.

"Jesus," he said under his breath. "Where to start? The guy could be anywhere."

I watched as he unlocked the glove compartment and withdrew his ankle holster, his eyes still on the quiet scene in front of us. Without a word, I reached behind the seat and grabbed the heavy utility belt and bulletproof vest he always kept at the ready like the Boy Scout he was, and handed it to him.

"Thanks." He opened his door and stepped out cautiously, drawing the vest over his head and securing the thick leather belt around his waist with a quick and practiced motion. He slipped his hand into the pocket of his jeans, withdrawing a big pocket knife, which he tossed onto my lap. "Here. Just in case. Stay put. Lock the doors behind me."

He closed the door firmly but quietly and moved away from the pickup with all the grace and danger of a panther on the prowl. His plain white T-shirt and blue jeans stood out all too easily beneath the bright glow of the security lights. A sitting duck, if anyone was out there with a serious reason for not wanting to be caught. Remembering what he'd told me about taking precautions, I punched the Lock button, feeling far more secure as the solid ka-chunk of the tumblers crunched into place. The weight of the folding knife in my hand reassured me even further—not that I'd need it, but its presence eased my mind anyway. At least, for myself; for
Tom, well, that was another worry altogether.

This was the hardest part of dating a cop. One never knew from day to day whether his health and well-being would continue. I found myself leaning forward on the truck's bench seat, staring out the windshield at the pockets of darkness as Tom darted in and out of them, hugging close to the walls. Why didn't he take a flashlight? I wondered, fretting. Maybe I should turn on the headlights . . .

I forced the thought from my head and made myself relax back against the seat. There was no way Tom would see that as anything other than interference, and I'd promised him months ago to keep my nose out of police business. Not that I had ever intentionally intervened. Like my mom had a fondness for saying, trouble just seemed to have a knack for finding me.

I fidgeted anxiously. Nine forty-two on the clock, glowing bright green on the dashboard.
At nine forty-three another car scuffed to a halt beside the truck, red and blue lights flashing, but no siren. I turned my head, but the officer who had been driving had already leapt from its confines and was standing outside my window, face stern, one cautious hand on the butt of his gun as with the other he motioned for me to open the window. Far be it from me to get in the way of the law. I pressed the Down button, posthaste.

Recognition registered suddenly on his face—Jed Something, I remembered just as suddenly, an older, thicker version of Tom, whose gunbelt served only to emphasize the middle-age drift.

"Oh, it's you," he said. "Thought I recognized the truck. Tom already here?"

I nodded. "Out there somewhere. I've lost track of him."

"Right. You stay here." He cut the flashers.

“Be careful. I haven’t seen anyone yet, but—”

He had already turned away from me. Just then the misty clouds that had been obscuring the moon shifted. I glanced up at the movement. My breath caught in my throat as the glow from the half-moon silhouetted a silo with its system of conveyers and chutes and ladders . . .

“Oh, my God. What is that?”

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Copyright 2008, Madelyn Alt. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Shel said...

Wow, talk about leaving a body hanging!! That's just mean, now, Mad!!

LOL I'm joking, of course. Can't wait til I can get my hands on this one.

Shel