Pre-order AMERICAN WITCH now!
Starting today, I’m going to post snippets from AMERICAN WITCH every Friday through release day on April 29, 2019. They’ll be around 2,000 words or so long, with the understanding that I’ll break whenever there seems to be a good place in the narrative.
I shared an early version of chapter 1 back in December, as a holiday treat for readers. If you haven’t yet read that or need a refresher, click here to read the first chapter.
Please remember, as always when I post snippets of draft work, it’s all subject to change (or even deletion). Anything you read will very likely have typos and grammar issues that will be addressed during the editing process. For that reason, I ask that you don’t post this in other places.
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Hours later, Molly had checked into a hotel suite and unpacked what she had stuffed into her suitcases, such as it was.
She hadn’t been as clear thinking as she’d thought. She had packed her toothbrush but hadn’t grabbed a tube of toothpaste. She had swept her cosmetics into a bag, but her facial cleanser had been sitting by her sink and she’d missed it.
She didn’t have the Xanax. She had packed a single shoe, not a pair, but at least she had the athletic sneakers she was wearing. And she had forgotten to grab any of her bras. She had her bathrobe, jeans and T-shirts, a light jacket, and a dove-gray two-piece suit to go with her single shoe.
At least she’d grabbed the most important things. She tossed the leather satchel full of the contents from the safe onto the table, unexamined. Then the fury that had propelled her forward ebbed, and her emotional landscape crashed.
A single comfort existed. It felt good to be somewhere Austin couldn’t find her, existing in the cool silence of a strange place. Temporary as it was, this was her space, and she finally felt like she could breathe again.
Calling the concierge desk, she requested an overnight bag of toiletries, then she called room service to order a dinner she didn’t think she could eat along with a bottle of wine that she had every intention of drinking.
After that, she wandered through the rooms, unable to sit or focus. She felt torn in two, as if the old Molly was starting to rip away from the person who now lived inside her skin, while bits and pieces of the scene at the party replayed in her head.
Jesus, she thought. The things we hurled at each other.
I am nota frigid bitch. I did not deserve any of this.
But Austin’s words had burrowed inside like poisonous worms, causing tissue damage in all her most vulnerable places, and as she looked out the window at the impenetrable night, the doubtful thoughts wouldn’t stop.
Did I really make him feel like he had to earn affection from me? she wondered. Did I really portion it out and make my love conditional, like my mom did with me? Or did he fire that salvo because he knew it was the one thing that would hurt the most?
Her breathing roughened, and tears burned at the back of her eyes until her attention snagged on the one anomaly from the whole debacle.
The vase. How had it broken? No one had been standing anywhere near it.
Why do I feel like… maybe I did that?
I’m not crazy. I’m not. Something came out of me. What was that indefinable, invisible thing?
And why did that man look at me with such a knowing expression? Russell called him Josiah. He must be the new DA. Why did he tip an imaginary hat to me? It’s almost as if he also knew I broke the vase. Which is patently impossible. Isn’t it?
She pressed her hands over her eyes, remembering the sparks of light at the edges of her sight and the burst of energy that had shot out of her body just before the vase crashed into a million irreparable pieces. Was she quite sure she wasn’t going crazy?
The angry hornet of her phone wouldn’t stop buzzing. Grabbing it, she checked the screen. There were many more texts and calls than before, and a low-battery warning that said she had less than ten percent power.
A power cord was another thing she hadn’t thought to grab. She made another call to the concierge desk. Then she sat, cupping the phone in her hands and staring into space until a knock sounded at her door and everything she had ordered arrived.
After eating a few bites of pasta and drinking most of the wine, she finally felt calm enough to shower and fall into bed. As soon as her head hit the pillow, she went out like a light.
After a formless darkness, she found herself in a kitchen.
It was large and Victorian, decorated with yellow-patterned tiles and pale green paint. Warm sunlight streamed through tall windows while outside, someone was gardening. A man with shaggy blond hair walked by, carrying a rake over one broad shoulder.
A woman stood cooking at a clunky, ancient gas stove, her back turned to Molly. Graying hair tumbled down her back. She had a round, comfortable figure, and she wore an old flowered housecoat.
“You’re a noisy one,” the woman said. Her rich, warm voice washed over Molly’s shattered nerves like a soothing balm. “Woke me out of a sound sleep, you did. I thought since I was awake, I might as well scramble a few eggs.”
“I’m sorry if I woke you,” Molly said. “I don’t know how I got here.”
“No? Well, don’t fret about it,” said the woman. “When are you coming to see me?”
“I don’t know that either. I don’t know who you are or where this is. Or, for that matter, what I’m doing here.”
As Molly looked around, she realized she was sitting on a tall stool at a large butcher-block table in the middle of the kitchen. She was wearing the T-shirt she had worn to bed, and her legs were bare. Embarrassed, feeling exposed, she hooked her heels on the edge of her chair and tucked her knees under the shirt.
“Don’t fret about that either,” the woman said. She turned off the stove, stepped away from an iron skillet, and bent over an old stone bowl. “It will come clear with time. Ah yes, I think this spell is about ready now.”
“Excuse me, you didn’t just say spell, did you?”
“As a matter of fact, I did.”
“Now I know I’m dreaming,” Molly muttered. She didn’t know anybody who could cast spells. She had met a few nonhumans over the years, but for the most part the worlds of the Elder Races and their demesnes were a reality that existed far away from her life.
The woman took something out of the bowl. Molly could smell a mixture of lavender and lemon along with a sharp, spicier scent she couldn’t identify. Then, as the woman turned to face Molly, she brought her open palm up to her mouth and blew.
Molly caught a glimpse of dark, powerful eyes. Before she could get a good look at the woman’s face, a cloud of spice and energy enveloped her.
The woman said, “Find me.”
Then the woman, along with the kitchen, faded away, and she slept deep and dreamlessly for the rest of the night.
* * *
“Molly! What on earth are you doing?”
On Saturday, a swirl of Dior perfume wafted over the table as Julia Oliver threw herself into the seat opposite Molly. She was shorter than Molly, and petite, delicately rounded at breast and hip, with dark, curly hair tumbling down her back. Outside the restaurant, bright spring sunlight danced along the sidewalks.
“I’m reading the list of today’s lunch specials,” she said with a quick glance up and a brief, preoccupied smile. “What on earth are youdoing?”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” Julia looked up as the waitress came to the table. “I’ll have a lemon drop martini.”
Molly raised her eyebrows. So it was going to be that kind of lunch, was it? Why the hell not? She shut her menu with a snap. “I’ll have the same.”
Their waitress came back quickly with their drinks and took their lunch orders. When she had left, Julia leaned forward. “Everybody’s talking about what happened at your place on Thursday evening.”
“I’m sure they are.” She stretched her neck from side to side to ease the tension in her muscles. She didn’t want to be having lunch with Julia, but the woman had been her best friend for the past five years, and Molly didn’t feel right nottalking to her.
Julia’s gaze was lit with scandalized horror. “Did you really drop some other woman’s panties into Austin’s drink?”
Julia looked down at her drink, touched the sugared rim, and delicately licked the tip of her finger. “Do you know who the other woman is?”
Molly shook her head. “No, although I’m guessing I’ve met her at some point. You know how actively we’ve been entertaining.”
“And after you confronted him, you just walked out?”
“Yes,” she said again. She took a gulp of her drink. Ah, alcohol.
“I wish Drew hadn’t been so sick. If I could have, I would have been there for you.”
“You couldn’t very well leave your five-year-old with a babysitter when he was running a 102-degree temperature,” she pointed out. “And besides, it’s not like I planned any of it. It just happened.”
“Well, I still wish I could have been there for you.” Julia considered her. “But why didn’t you call to tell me?” A hint of hurt crept into the other woman’s voice.
Molly shrugged and looked around the restaurant. What could she say that would make any sense? That bizarre things kept happening around her and sometimes she thought she was going crazy while at other times she felt certain she was causing them? She had been working hard to hold everything together for the past few months, but Austin and his infidelity had sent her over some kind of edge.
Finally she replied, “I know you would have been there for me, but I was so exhausted, all I did was check into a hotel, order room service, and fall into bed. And yesterday I was busy. I had to go to the bank and look for a lawyer. In fact, I have an appointment with one on Monday. After that, I just slept.”
She had been so tired. She had lain in bed watching the reflected sunlight on the wall until the room slowly fell into darkness.
She was still so tired. She felt like she could sleep for weeks.
“So you’re doing it.” Julia watched her face closely. “You’re really leaving him.”
She nodded. “I’ve already left. Now I’m going to divorce him.”
Julia’s expression twisted, a brief response, and then it smoothed over. “Good riddance then. I always said you deserve worlds better than Austin. But where are you staying?”
“Like I said.” She shrugged. “At a hotel.”
“Would you please come stay with us, so I can make you home-cooked meals and hopefully put a little meat on those bird bones of yours? Austin and Philip might be partners in the same firm, but you know how men are. They compartmentalize. They’ll keep the private stuff separate from work.”
“That means a lot.” Feeling warmed, Molly smiled. “But I’m quite comfortable at the hotel. I’ve got one of their executive suites with a kitchenette.”
Julia’s hazel gaze was serious. “You’re still welcome anytime. I want you to know that.”
“I do.” Molly looked down at her napkin, smoothing the edges with her fingers. “You might as well know I’m thinking about leaving Atlanta too.”
“Noooo.” Julia’s pretty mouth turned down at the corners. “You’re just reacting, that’s all. And it’s understandable. Austin acted like a pig, but this is your home. Your friends are here. Your lifeis here. Your mother’s only forty-five-minutes away!”
Biting her lip, Molly waited until Julia sputtered into silence. Then she said, “My life as I knew it is over. It was slowly smothering me anyway, and I wantit to be over. I’m not flying off the handle or doing anything impulsive. I just can’t imagine staying.”
With a tiny lunge forward, Julia grabbed her hand again. Julia touched people. Molly had seen her do the same thing a dozen times before.
“That’s just how you feel today,” Julia insisted. “Everything has got to be feeling off right now.”
Not wanting to argue further, Molly nodded. “You have a point. In my mind, Atlanta has this huge cloud of unhappiness hanging over it. Eventually I’ll figure out what I need to do. It just may not be here, that’s all.”
“I find this totally unacceptable,” Julia declared while tears sprang to her eyes.
Molly caught their waitress’s eye and tapped the rim of her glass. The waitress smiled and nodded.
Halfway through their second lemon drop, Julia said bitterly, “You’re going to go off and find yourself and leave me here to be a corporate law partner’s wife without you. I’ll bet you’re going to eat all the calories you want and stop shaving your legs and wearing a bra, and you’re probably going to have one-night stands with sweaty mechanics in small towns.”
Despite herself, Molly burst out laughing. “You never know, I might.”
Copyright: 2019 Teddy Harrison LLC
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