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The Problem With Witches: An Arcane Shot Series Novel, Page 1

Joey W. Hill




  A Knights of the Boardroom Crossover

  Ben O'Callahan has worked a long day. The last thing he wants is to find a couple witches and two guys who claim to be "Guardians," aka sorcerer-stye cops, lying in wait for him on the parking deck of the K&A offices. But he has information they need, about a dark witch from his past who may have plans to destroy New Orleans. Well, screw that. This is his town. Much as he'd prefer to go home to his beautiful submissive and a nice steak, a knight knows when it's time to don the armor and go fight evil. Only in this case, his lady isn't the type to wait at home. Marcie is going to fight for the city, right by his side, with the Guardians and witches who know that love is the one thing that evil can't defeat. Not if the will is strong enough.

  The Problem With Witches

  An Arcane Shot Series Novel

  Joey W. Hill

  The Problem With Witches

  Copyright © 2019 Joey W. Hill

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

  Cover design by W. Scott Hill

  SWP Digital & Print Edition publication June 2019

  This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Story Witch Press, 452 Mattamushkeet Drive, Little River SC 29566.

  Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

  The publisher and author(s) acknowledge the trademark status and trademark ownership of all trademarks, service marks and word marks mentioned in this book.

  The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers. Reader discretion is advised.

  Digital ISBN: 978-1-942122-91-3

  Print ISBN: 978-1-942122-92-0

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Something About Witches

  Chapter 1

  Afterword

  Ready for More?

  About the Author

  Also by Joey W. Hill

  Acknowledgments

  Many thanks to Irene for her help with Russian endearments. Like Raina, I’d be happy to listen to Mikhael talk in Russian all day, even without having a clue what he’s saying. However, I thank Irene for making sure those words have the right meaning, lol.

  Thank you as always to my hardworking critique partners and line editors for your patience, insights and invaluable friendship.

  To my husband, for the gorgeous cover, the book set up, and all those other publishing tasks he handles so I can focus on the books. It would be impossibly difficult to be “storywitch” without the help of “Story Witch Press.”

  There’ve been a lot of personal challenges during the writing of this book, a lot of life lessons learned. I hope those experiences have only enhanced the final result and that you enjoy this story. Though it’s rare I intersect our contemporary with our paranormal worlds as extensively as occur in this story, it was a fun ride.

  A final important thanks to Kristen. Life’s crossroads are far more bearable with the benefit of a kind and listening ear. Since I’m far better at being a writer than a friend, it makes me eternally humble and grateful to have a friend like you. I wish you many well-deserved blessings, dear lady.

  Chapter One

  Drip, drip, drip.

  Just a leaky pipe, he told himself, shrugging it off. Ben glanced at his watch. He’d told Marcie he’d run late tonight, so when he got home, he anticipated finding her on the small nook balcony of their Garden District home. She’d be nested into the wrought iron garden chair she’d repainted a cheerful blue and placed amid the forest of blooming potted bougainvillea there. She’d have a glass of wine at her elbow, her sneakered feet propped on the rail. Her lovely face would be creased in concentration, strands of her silky blond hair framing her delicate features as she studied for the police academy exams.

  He tried to curb his demanding appetites while she was in study mode, which was part of why he’d chosen to work late, but pinning her to the wall and taking her hard before he fixed them a late dinner qualified as restraint for him.

  He’d probably want her once more when they finally went to bed, but she wouldn’t be studying then. Or when he woke at the 3am witching hour, which he often did. His beautiful submissive would murmur in her sleep, open to him, give him all of herself, as she took all of him, and then slip back into dreams, drawing him with her. His good witch, with her own special magic to counter the darkness of the bad stuff that disturbed his sleep in the middle of the night.

  He—

  Drip, drip, drip.

  Damn it. Ben paused, his brow furrowing. He tracked every foot of the parking deck, looking for the source. It was one thing to hear dripping from the eaves in the aftermath of a rain shower. They hadn’t had rain in three days, and this drip was like the leak from a rusty pipe, something heard underground. He didn’t like it.

  Two vehicles were on the top covered level of their parking deck, the McLaren and Lucas’s Outback, since he’d biked home this afternoon, the maniac.

  Only two cars, but the parking deck wasn’t empty.

  Ben didn’t carry a gun. He was glad as hell his wife carried and knew how to use the concealed Glock she favored. But he’d learned to fight and survive without one. Had killed without one. The ability to handle a situation with wits and whatever weapons were close to hand was a skillset he’d never abandon. Never wanted to get out of the habit.

  It came in handy when a couple of assholes were trying to corner him on his own parking deck at work.

  “If you don’t come out of the shadows, the security cams can’t show me kicking your asses on YouTube. I’ve had a long day, I’ve got a beautiful woman waiting on me at home, and a good sirloin. So show yourselves, let’s get this done, or fuck off.”

  The shadows to the right moved. Ben set down the briefcase and put his car at his back. As soon as the cameras did show whoever was approaching him, the alert team Kensington & Associates employed would be on their way to clean up what he left in a crumpled mess on the concrete. The cameras should have already tracked what he was dealing with, but apparently the bastards had knocked out a couple lights on that side.

  The big son of a bitch who emerged wasn’t what Ben was expecting. He wore a cowboy hat, for fuck’s sake. He also carried a white ash staff, very Gandalf-like, that did
n’t blend with the worn jeans and dark blue button down he wore. But it did work with his boots, which might have been snake or alligator skin but were neither, at least no species Ben had ever seen. The scales were bronze and silver, with tinges of iridescent color. The guy wasn’t wearing them as a fashion accessory. They were scuffed, well-used.

  His face was lined and rugged. Maybe forty-something, until you reached the steel-blue eyes, and then Ben thought he was looking at someone—or something—way beyond room for candles on his birthday cake. Unless the expanse of buttercream frosting was the size of a football field.

  The set of the guy’s mouth and jaw said cop to Ben, no matter the odd get-up. Too often in his youth, Ben had been on the opposite side of the law, so that cop-vibe was another instinct that never went away. Yeah, he got the irony. Leland Keller, a Baton Rouge police sergeant, was a close friend, and Ben’s own wife was studying to join the blue line. God help him.

  Asshole number two stepped into the light a few feet away from Cowboy Gandalf. This one had the same cop vibe, was also tall and broad-shouldered, though he presented himself quite differently. His black suit was a Brioni bespoke, Ben was certain of it, a four- or five-figure investment. No Lord of the Rings staff for this one, but there was an odd energy vibrating around him.

  His gaze was so dark Ben couldn’t detect pupil from iris, as if that wasn’t eerie as fuck. The guy’s hair was dark, thick and silky, enough to make Jon, their resident K&A pretty boy, trade hair product recommendations with him. But there was nothing pretty boy about the eyes. That darkness ranked up there with vampire movie effects, not so easy to laugh off in the middle of the night.

  But he’d faced a lot scarier things.

  “Getting bored,” he said sharply. “I do have office hours. What do you want?”

  “A voodoo priestess named Elagra Bluebird Jones,” said Cowboy Gandalf.

  Okay, that was one of the scarier things.

  It was perhaps the last thing Ben would expect someone to say to him. Yet it wasn’t a surprise to hear it, because somewhere way deep down in his gut, he’d always known he’d have to deal with her again.

  Out of all the disturbing things that woke him at 3am, one of them actually was a witch.

  “She’s no voodoo priestess.” He knew voodoo practitioners. They’d want nothing to do with something like Elagra. But it was New Orleans, and the bitch had always known how to market herself.

  To pull in the unsuspecting.

  Drip, drip, drip. If that fucking noise didn’t stop…

  Just water, he reminded himself. But when he’d been younger, the rust had turned it red. When he woke with the drops staining his skin, she would say it was blood. And smile.

  “It comes through the pipes. It is all the blood shed on a New Orleans night. In the dark places, where hope can’t exist. It all flows to me, for there is power in despair, to twist a man’s heart any way I wish. I can make him abandon his soul. Even if the world, with its unseeing eyes, thinks him the strongest of men, he is a naked, shivering thing. Always.”

  When she’d told him that, they’d been in a section of tunnels that picked up the sounds of New Orleans through the drains. The rhythmic bump of traffic, the call of vendors and tourists, the salty humid smell of the nearby waterfront. They hadn’t been far from the Warehouse District. Back then, he could get to the surface through a grate near Mardi Gras World.

  Thanks to an unexpected friendship with the late shift security guard, he’d become a regular nighttime visitor there when he was a kid. He’d slip in, wander amid the floats. Occasionally, a couple of designers would be working late at their drafting tables or computer screens. They knew him, would lift their heads when they saw him, nod, and go back to what they were doing. All of them silent ghosts haunting the dormant Carnival world.

  He remembered coming face-to-face with the Grim Reaper float. The towering figure had looked down at him with staring eyes that seemed to follow him. Even when he circled behind the damn thing, he kept expecting the head to swivel around one-eighty. He’d been glad when they’d torn that one down, to build something new. Its eyes reminded him too damn much of Elagra Jones.

  Shit. Memory had sucked him in, and he’d lost time and place. The hair on the back of his neck was a prickling, charged field, and his muscles were tense and ready for the fight.

  The two men hadn’t moved any closer, but that didn’t make Ben less annoyed with his distraction. Way to get yourself killed, O’Callahan.

  “Sometimes my presence resurrects old demons,” Brioni Asshole said. Those dark eyes held Ben’s. “It is one way I get to the truth of things, sooner rather than later. More efficient.”

  His tone was resonant, in an inexplicably contained way. Cowboy Gandalf’s was the same. In the mostly empty parking deck, their voices should have echoed, rather than sounding like the notes were filling all the hollow space and drawing decisive lines around it.

  For just a moment, the clustered shadows around the dark-eyed male looked like a pair of large, sinister wings. The lights Ben thought had been knocked out weren’t, and caused the talons at the joints of the wings to gleam.

  Ben blinked again, and the wings were gone.

  “You are right. She is not a voodoo priestess.” Cowboy-Gandalf brought his attention to him again. His expression was grim. “It’s good you already know she’s not what she presents herself to be.”

  Ben’s gut was as tight as an overwound spring, his heart cold and still. He didn’t tolerate fear, especially not from specters of his past.

  “You need to fuck off now,” he said. “Give that staff back to the pimply geek you stole it from at DragonCon.”

  “But the tears of surly teenagers give him such joy.”

  At the first note of the purring voice, Ben was hit by a wave of far different energy. Whereas the two males heightened his warrior instincts, driving him to evaluate what kind of fight he was facing, this one took him to an entirely different kind of arena, though no less physical.

  He had a stronger-than-average sex drive. His wife would declare that an absurd understatement, with fervent gratitude, loving amusement and the right kind of sensual trepidation. Yet he was also a grown man who had iron discipline over when he opened the flood gates on that formidable carnality.

  This voice wrapped around that lever—pun impossible to avoid—and pulled it into the On position with the ease of glossy feminine fingernails flicking a light switch.

  The woman who came out of the blackness behind Brioni had the kind of shiny ebony hair that had shimmers of blue in certain lights. Her exotic green-gold eyes made Ben think of dragons. She had a dusky complexion, lush lips and an even lusher body, clad in a velvet green scoop-necked top with flared sleeves that draped over ring-bedecked fingers. Which yes, were tipped with glossy nails, painted dark green and sparkling with a black diamond chip on the middle finger and thumb. Her black jeans fit her every bit as well as expected, showing off an ass that would fill a man’s hands just fine. The pentagram around her neck gleamed silver.

  She laid her hand on Brioni’s arm. The glance he sent her was ten percent exasperation and ninety percent possession.

  “We need his mind clear,” he said. “Perhaps dial it down.”

  “That was our thought,” said another female voice. “You and Derek are broadcasting ‘tell us what you know, or we’ll fuck you up.’ She was balancing it, so this didn’t turn into a fight. Which you already know won’t work with him.”

  This voice had a Lauren Bacall sound to it, raspy but direct. The woman to whom it belonged stepped into Ben’s field of vision at the elbow of “Derek,” the blue-eyed staff wielder. She was far more functionally dressed than the other woman. Form-fitting but well-worn jeans and an Army green tank top outlined a feminine but toned body. Based on the way she carried herself, her obvious situational awareness, and the open shirt she wore over the tank, Ben guessed she was carrying.

  With her hair pulled back in a ponytail, she�
�d have looked totally in her element standing next to Lara Croft with matching Desert Eagles at the ready. Though he expected what she had concealed would be something like his wife’s compact Glock, easy to hide but just as lethal when needed.

  “We were being direct,” the dark-eyed male said, tossing her a slightly annoyed look. “And exceedingly polite. For us.”

  “Could everybody attending this rave step out into the light?” Ben said, with more than a tinge of annoyance in his voice.

  “This is all of us,” she told him. “And don’t worry. Your cameras will see nothing but you getting into your car and driving home.”

  “I’m not worried. But how is that supposed to reassure me?”

  “It’s better than your security people wondering why you’re talking to the air,” she said, with a practical tone that made Derek’s lips twitch. The male sent her a fond look.

  Unlike the two men, her manner of speaking was far less formal. The way the other woman spoke was something unclassifiable, but definitely not casual English.

  A crazy thought crossed Ben’s mind. He and the Lara Croft woman might be the only fully human things on this deck.

  “Look,” she said, “we didn’t mean to spring out at you. We just really need to find her, fast. Some bad shit is going to go down in New Orleans, and she’s got info about it we need. I’m Ruby. This is Derek.” She nodded to the man in the cowboy hat. “Mikhael,” she indicated the Brioni, “and Raina.”