A WITCHY SURPRISE: BOOK 2
A magical heritage. A threat in the forest. An explosion of powers.
Charley Cooper is tired of being the lone non-magical person in a family of witches. At the ripe old age of sixteen, she believes the witchy gene has skipped her.
But when something dark in the forest threatens her best friend and her little sister, Charley’s powers appear out of nowhere.
Now Charley’s best friend is angry about the secrecy. Her crush is dating someone else. And, her out-of-control powers threaten to expose her family’s secret.
When a dangerous enemy tries to silence them forever, Charley knows she must fight back. Can she learn to control her magic before they’re all taking a nap in the local graveyard?
If you enjoy magic, quirky characters, and small-town mysteries with a touch of romance, you’re sure to enjoy A Witchy Surprise!
Also In This Series...
GET THE PREQUEL, A WITCHY NUISANCE, FREE. YOU’LL ALSO FIND MORE FREE COZY MYSTERY BOOKS HERE.
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Published: December 18, 2020
Author: Rhonda Hopkins
Publisher: Killer Ink Press
Editors: Cheri Yori
Cover Designer: Bridgette O’Hare at Dark Unicorn Designs
Genres: Paranormal Cozy Mystery, Young Adult
Tags: Young Adult, Small-town, Quirky Characters, Unique Familiars, Family, Magic, Witches, Visions, Shifters
Cackling, laughter, and high-pitched squealing came from our backyard as I stepped outside just in time to snatch Babette, our miniature pig, out of the air.
“What the heck is going on?” I cuddled Babette to me, her squeals slowly ratcheting down as she pushed her warm velvety snout into my neck. I hugged her closer, and she quieted.
Even at ten o’clock in the morning, the scorching Texas heat had me sweltering in seconds. Backing up, I opened the screen door and sat Babette gently inside before turning to face the dastardly duo in the yard. My cousin Danu bent at the waist with her hands on her knees, laughing so hard she had tears streaming down her face. My great-grandmother, who was definitely old enough to know better, cackled the laugh of the wicked witch she sometimes was.
“What in heaven’s name do you two think you’re doing? You’ve probably traumatized Babette for life.” Folding my arms across my chest I stood looking at them, my bare foot tapping against the wooden beams of the wrap-around porch.
“Oh, don’t be a spoilsport, Charley.” Grandma Ruby huffed and rolled her eyes. She sometimes acted like a teenager rather than someone in her seventies.
Even though you don’t see pigs flying by very often, or ever – not even in Whispering Pines – I’m still surprised it took so long for me to notice Grandma Ruby’s attire. When I did my eyes nearly popped right out of my head. She wore her signature ruby red, of course. Only today, the color spanned a pair of shorts. Short shorts. I mean, really reeaallly short. A black halter-top adorned with red ladybugs and black combat boots finished off the outfit. Blue veins ran down the length of her pasty white legs.
In my shock, I couldn’t speak. I scanned the backyard and sighed in relief when the high wooden fence and trees surrounding the five-acre property came into view. Then I remembered Mom had put a concealment spell on the backyard to prevent neighbors from catching sight of my cousin and great-grandmother experimenting with Danu’s powers. They had both gotten in trouble for disrespecting magic and using it inappropriately. For some reason my mom and Aunt Nadine thought making them work together for the summer would straighten them both out. If you ask me, it had been a colossal failure.
I stepped down one step and sat on the porch, placing my head in my hands. I breathed in and out several times.
When I felt calmer, I sat up straight. “Grandma Ruby, what are you wearing? You haven’t left the house like that have you?” I was trying not to be disrespectful in my panic, but with school starting back in a couple of weeks, I didn’t want the kids teasing me about my crazy great-grandma on the first day. I had my whole senior year ahead of me for that.
“What? It’s hot out here. Besides, I think I look good.” She twirled around and Danu reached out to steady her as she tilted to one side.
As she turned, I got a good view of Grandma Ruby. Way more than I wanted to see. Fortunately, her boobs weren’t that big, so they didn’t sag down like some of my friends’ grandmothers. Still, the side view of her and the glimpse of butt cheek were a little more than I needed to see. Ever.
Shaking my head, I remembered Babette. Focus, Charley. “Why was Babette flying through the air?”
“Well, Miss Nosy. I told Danu she had to get over her fear of flying and get on the broom and she said, ‘When pigs fly.’ So…” Grandma Ruby waved her arms in front of her as if it was a perfectly reasonable explanation.
Danu’s laugh burst into the silence that followed. “I’m still not getting on that broom, you old witch.”
“Better an old witch than a scared witch.” Grandma Ruby bent over to pick up the broom lying on the ground and I slapped a hand over my eyes.
Seriously, the woman needed to put on some more clothes.
I peeked through my fingers and found her upright again. I lowered my arm and stood. “You know… Mom’s not going to be happy when she finds out what you did to her familiar.” I stepped back onto the porch and walked to the door, opening it.
“Well, don’t be a tattletale!” Grandma Ruby shouted at me.
Just before the door closed I looked over my shoulder and said, “I won’t have to say a word. Babette will tell her.” I glanced back through the screen and saw Grandma Ruby frown which made me smile. Things should be entertaining when Mom got home.
I walked to the fridge and opened the door. I wasn’t really hungry, just frustrated and needed something to do. Spying the new jug of tomato juice, I pushed some items around until I could pull it out. No one but Dad and me liked tomato juice, so it was a treat when we had it in the house. I poured a large glass and took a long sip before putting the container back in the refrigerator.
I really wish I had a friend I could confide in on days like today. Oh, I had friends. I’d grown up in this town and knew most everyone thanks to my dad being Chief of Police and my mom owning a shop in town.
My two best friends… well, one best friend, and one… well, I just don’t know how to label the other. Grace’s mom and mine have been best friends since they were kids and with Grace and I being born only a month apart, we’d known each other our entire lives. With her, I have a double bonus, a best friend who has been like a sister. Even as close as we were, I wasn’t allowed to tell her about our family’s magical heritage.
And then there was Jackson. Jackson was complicated. We’d been friends since the first day of Kindergarten. We were inseparable. Until the beginning of the summer, that is. Last year, I found myself falling for him. You know… like falling, falling. I fought it because it scared me to think I might ruin what we had. Turns out, I might have messed it up, anyway.
At her end of school pool party, Heather asked me if Jackson and I were dating. I wish I’d lied and told her we were. Instead, I told her we weren’t, so she asked him out, and they’d been dating ever since. I couldn’t stand to see them together and avoided him as much as I could this summer. When we were together, it was awkward. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle it when school started again in a couple of weeks and I had to see them flirting in the hallways.
Regardless of my friendships though, I had no one to talk to about my family other than family. And, sometimes you just needed to be able to vent to someone else. You know?
My mom came from a long line of witches. Her mom was a witch as was her grandmother and great-grandmother and so many more populated my family tree. My dad was human, so it was a fifty-fifty shot my sister and I would be witches. Most have their powers by the age of thirteen. Since I would be seventeen on Halloween, I’d pretty much given up the thought of me gaining any powers. That is until the end of the school year when I’d had a couple of visions about Danu being killed. I’d managed to prevent that because of the dreams I’d had. I’d ended up with a broken nose and thumb, and my cousin had a sprained ankle and a bruised knee. We were fortunate it hadn’t been worse and that we both healed quickly.
Nothing else had happened over the summer. No more visions. And, no other magical abilities popped up. Nothing. So, I guess I was a little jealous of my cousin Danu. Having received her magic at twelve, she’d been practicing her craft for two years now. If you could call it practicing. She threw it about any old way she liked, which often got her into hot water with her mom. Hence the reason she and Grandma Ruby were in the backyard causing mischief this morning.
I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t more grateful for her gift. She treated it like a way to stir up trouble rather than do good things with it. I envied my mother’s ability to use hers to blend potions, creams, and medicinal concoctions to help others.
Danu, however, used hers to embarrass a classmate just before school was out. Not that Tiffany hadn’t deserved it. She was a mean girl who bullied those not in her clique. She’d been relentlessly teasing Danu all year when Danu finally reached her limit. Even so, Danu’s actions weren’t subtle and Mom and Aunt Nadine, Danu’s mom, were worried she was going to bring the wrong kind of attention to us. So, they insisted she spend the summer training with Grandma Ruby. Personally, I didn’t think Grandma Ruby should be anyone’s role model, but no one asked me.
Danu’s dad just up and leaving had caused my cousin to act out, and she harbored a lot of anger. Throughout the summer, my aunt had also insisted she attend counseling a couple of times a week. I think it had helped and her temper didn’t flare up as quickly as it had in the past.
I finished my juice, rinsed out the glass, and put it in the dishwasher just as my sister, Deanna, came into the bright and cheerful kitchen. Her name often got shortened to Dee.
“Why do you have that look on your face?” She grabbed a blueberry muffin from the plate on the counter and took a bite.
“The one that says you’d like to run away from home. What did Danu do now?” She pushed her glasses up on her nose.
I shook my head. “Not Danu. Have you seen what Grandma Ruby’s wearing today?” I pointed to the back door.
Deanna walked over to the door and peered out the glass. “Oh my gosh! That should be illegal!” She laughed and plopped another bite of muffin in her mouth. “That can’t be all of it though,” she mumbled while chewing.
I sighed. “No. I walked outside just in time to catch Babette as she flew by. Grandma Ruby had her airborne.” I waved my arms around.
“What?” Her eyes widened. “Poor thing. Mom is going to hit the roof.”
“Yeah. I’m kind of looking forward to it.” I shook my head. “I guess I’m just feeling sorry for myself. No magic for me, but the two of them just use theirs whenever and however they –”
“Is Babette okay?” Deanna headed out the door.
I stopped her. “She’s fine. She’s probably hiding under the bed until Mom gets home.”
We both moved into the living room, plopping down on the comfy sofa.
“You know, I don’t have magic, either. And, at least you had those visions.” She put her head on my shoulder and I slung an arm around her.
Some might have thought it strange we were so close and didn’t squabble like many siblings. Oh, we’ve had our moments, but I nearly lost my baby sister when she was five. She became so sick she nearly died. Nothing medical or magical worked for months. If they ever determined the cause, my parents didn’t say. I just knew I stayed by her bedside, with Grace and Jackson keeping me company when they could. I prayed and bargained. I was only nine when I’d sworn I’d protect and take care of her if she’d only get better. One morning, she woke up without a trace of the illness that had possessed her for so long. I still don’t know how or why. I’m just very grateful.
“Yeah, but you just turned thirteen. You still have nearly a full year to go.” I picked up the remote and flipped through channels on the TV. “Besides, you have your own brand of magic. Anyone who has an IQ as high as yours can do a lot that we mere mortals can’t do.” I smiled and gave her shoulder a squeeze.
“It’s not the same.” She shrugged and moved to get up. “I think I’m –” My phone rang, cutting her off.
“It’s Mom.” I swiped upwards, answering the call. “Hi.” I listened, then said, “Sure. We’ll be right down.” I disconnected the call, picked up the remote and flicked off the TV. “Mom wants us to come help her set up the booth for the festival. Apparently, there were some issues earlier that she had to help with, so she’s behind.”
“Should we ask Grandma Ruby and Danu to come, too?”
“Are you kidding? You saw Grandma R.” I laughed, shaking my head. “Would you just let them know where we’re going? I need to run upstairs for a sec.”
We took off in different directions. While heading up the stairs, I sent off a text to Grace, letting her know I was heading to the festival grounds in case she wanted to meet up.
I brushed my teeth to get rid of tomato juice breath, then ran a brush through my reddish-brown hair and pulled it up into a ponytail. I grabbed a pair of well-worn tennis shoes from my room and put them on. By the time I finished, Grace had left a message, saying she’d meet us outside. She just lived a few houses down the street.
As I reached the bottom of the stairs, Deanna capped the sunscreen and pitched it to me. Good thing my sister was a stickler for reminding me of sun protection or my fair skin would be lobster-red by the time we finished. I had inherited our dad’s paler complexion and was tall and lanky like him with his green eyes. Deanna was vertically challenged like Mom and she got her sapphire blue eyes and curly brown hair from her as well. She tanned easily, but was still religious about protecting her skin. And, mine. Seriously, I often wondered which of us was the older sister.
Grace waved from the sidewalk in front of our house. She wore cut-off denim shorts similar to mine and a baby blue t-shirt that matched her eyes. Her long blonde hair had been braided into a French plait that hung down her back. Bright white tennis shoes donned her feet at the end of her lithe dancer legs. Just like her name implied, she was graceful when she danced. Completely my opposite. My middle name could well be “Klutz”. She had what I considered a pixie personality. Grace habitually wore a smile and her spirit was filled with happiness that overflowed through her quick wit and motions. She couldn’t stay still. Even as we approached, she bounced on the balls of her feet.
Deanna hugged Grace who returned it and grinned. “Hey, Squirt. What have you been up to?”
Deanna screwed up her face at the nickname; but, as she often did, brushed it off and smiled back. “Just hanging around with Casen and trying to get ready for school. I’m going to miss my friends.”
“Oh, right! The new academy for brilliant kids. Are you excited?”
Nodding, Deanna and Grace crossed the street and stepped onto the grassy field which would take us through the forest. “I am. I’m just not going to like not knowing anyone.”
“Knowing you, you’ll make friends as soon as you get there.”
I stopped, looking toward the tree line. A chill moved down my spine and my flesh prickled.
“Hey…” I interrupted the conversation. “Are you sure you want to go this way?” I took a couple of steps toward them.
“Don’t you?” My sister turned to face me, but kept walking backward. “It’ll be much cooler through the trees than on the street.”
She was right of course, but I hesitated. Both girls stopped to wait on me. After a few seconds, I shrugged and caught up, unsure why I felt unsettled by the thought of cutting through the forest we’d played in since we were children. We often took the path through the trees into town and it made sense to do so on such a scorching hot day.
Even before entering the woods, my senses were overloaded with the smell of pine, oak, and elm along with a cacophony of floral fragrances. It was a smell I associated with home as these same Piney Woods of East Texas bordered our home on two sides. Entering the thicket, the trees shaded us from the sun. Relief from the heat made us all sigh.
“Oh, man, that feels so much better.” Grace raised her arms above her head as if in thanks.
“Mmmm.” I muttered. It was cooler, but I still felt anxious.
“So, what happened this morning at the festival grounds?” Deanna grabbed my hand and sent our arms swinging back and forth. She was one of those that always liked contact when possible.
“Mom didn’t say. Just some sort of incident that put them all behind.” I hip bumped Grace. “Soooo…how’s Stefan?”
Twigs cracked under our feet, and birds twittered above us.
Grace blushed, her pretty cheeks going bright red. “How should I know?”
“Oh, come on. He’s been hanging around ever since he moved in next door to you. “I think he has a crush. And, I’ll bet he was at your house last night.”
“So?” She looked away. “That doesn’t mean anything.” She waved an insect away from her face.
“You like him, too. Don’t you?” I asked, not letting her off the hook.
“Sure. He’s nice enough. But I don’t like him like that.” She stopped and looked around. “Do you hear that?”
“Oh, don’t try to change the sub–”
Deanna cut me off. “She’s right. Listen.”
I stopped, looked over the trees, the ground. “I don’t hear anything.”
“Exactly.” Dee whispered. “Everything’s quiet. Too quiet.”
Then I understood. There were no birds flying around, No chirping. No insects. No anything.
We cautiously moved forward. Our steps took us almost to the edge of the forest. The opening into the field that would take us to the festival grounds grew closer.
Just as I started to make a joke about being paranoid, leaves crunched and two men rushed out of the trees wrenching my sister and best friend away from me.