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Witches Wild (Bewitching Bedlam Book 4), Page 2

Yasmine Galenorn

  “Why the hell didn’t you say anything, man?” Keth looked pissed. “She’s been a thorn in our sides ever since she started working with us. I can’t stand the bitch, to be honest.”

  I knew why Sid hadn’t said anything. “Guys, he didn’t say anything because he saw this as your big chance and he didn’t want to muck up the works. Am I right?”

  Sid nodded, staring at his feet. “We might never get another chance. Opportunities like this don’t come around very often. I didn’t want to screw things up by complaining.”

  Aegis closed his eyes for a moment, looking pained. “You thought that you had to put up with her crap just for the band? Listen, nothing’s worth harassment like that. Nothing. Not the band. Not a gig. Not a record deal.”

  Jorge cleared his throat. “Well, as long as we’re all being honest, I’ve missed just…being us. I mean, we were going to put out our own album, our own way, weren’t we? Now, we have to change our act to please DreamGen. We’re not a bunch of drunken idiots, but that’s what Ferris and DreamGen want us to be. I don’t know about you, but I liked the way we were. I’m not having fun anymore.”

  “What exactly are you trying to say?” Aegis slumped back, his gaze flickering up to the guys. “Do you want to kill the contract? I think we can, but if we want to go back to being an indie group, we’d better do it now before they can claim we owe them a fuckton of money.”

  Sid slowly raised his hand. “I think, if my marriage is to survive, I have to quit the band or quit working with DreamGen. If we complain to them about Ferris, you know they’ll laugh off my concerns.”

  Keth shrugged, tossing his drumsticks on the floor. “We were doing fine before we signed with them. We’ll do just fine without them. I’m up for going back to being a garage band.”

  Aegis straightened his shoulders. “All right, then. We’ll break the contract with DreamGen. But if we do, we do things our way from now on, because a bigger company would be even worse. I guess it’s hard to find a producer who isn’t out to screw over the band in one way or another, isn’t it?”

  “Or, in Ferris’s case, just screw the band,” I said. “Seriously, guys, you have a sound that’s hard to match. You start slanting it the way she’s pushing you to, and you’re going to sound like a canned act. You’ve got a solid audience and you can build your way up doing things the way you want. And that doesn’t include encouraging groupies to throw their panties on stage or fucking your handler because she can make life miserable if you don’t.”

  Sid paused. “Do you think they’ll try to sue us?”

  Aegis grinned and shrugged. “There’s only one way to find out, now, isn’t there? We’ll look over the contract and figure out how to break it at our next meeting.”

  And with that, Jorge returned to the driver’s seat, and we headed back to Bedlam.

  AEGIS AND I hopped out of the bus and waved as Keth drove off toward his place. He lived with his mother and father on ten acres just outside of town. There was plenty of space to park the bus there.

  I glanced at the sky. It was four-thirty and we still had almost three hours till sunrise. Aegis stretched, bringing his arm down to wrap around my shoulders. As we headed toward the kitchen slider, it occurred to me just how lucky we were.

  The town of Bedlam was located on the island by the same name. Located off the northern edge of the San Juan Islands, Bedlam was overlooked by most humans. We didn’t exactly cloak the town, but rather, used some of the magical energy that permeated the area to keep ourselves from being noticed. The town had been founded by my kind—witches—and had a population of around six thousand permanent residents. A quirky, old-fashioned charm surrounded the area, and truly, it was beautiful here. The foliage was much like the rest of the west coast of Washington—with tall firs and wide, drooping cedar trees, and juniper and other evergreens that kept their needles year-round. Intermingled with the conifers were oak and maple trees of all varieties. Birch, black chestnut, and alder dappled the heavy forests, and the ever-present scent of moisture filled the air.

  Bedlam experienced about sixty-five cloud-free days a year. The rest of the time the sky was partially or fully overcast, with a silvery sheen that soothed the heart and emotions. Rain was ever present, whether in drizzles or in downpours. We received more precipitation in terms of rain and snow than the rest of the San Juan Islands because the magical energy of the island and its inhabitants acted like a magnet for storms, drawing them in. So here, rain shadows were few, and we could always expect snow during winter and the gales of autumn to blow through.

  A ferry ran from Bellingham over to Bedlam, docking once per hour most of the night. On weekends, it ran later, which was good for us or we would have had to find a vampire-safe hotel over on the mainland.

  The Bewitching Bedlam—my bed-and-breakfast—was an old house. It had been built over two hundred years ago. We knew that because our house ghost, Franny, had been born here in 1791. She had died in 1815. I wasn’t sure how much older it was, but the foundation was solid, even though the weathering stone walls showed their age. The house had been abandoned when I found it, falling apart on the surface but with good bones. I had restored it to its original beauty on the outside, and had fully modernized the inside.

  The Bewitching Bedlam had room for four guests, if I counted our private guestroom. The house had fifteen rooms, not counting the bathrooms, and was two stories, not including the basement and the attic.

  As we unlocked the slider leading to the kitchen, I made sure Bubba and Luna weren’t poised to run out. Sometimes they would lie in wait, then pounce when I opened the door. Bubba was my massive red boy of a cjinn, and Luna was his girlfriend, a lovely calico who didn’t seem to mind that she was “dating” a magical creature.

  But Bubba and Luna were nowhere to be seen. I flipped on the light, and Aegis immediately headed toward the fridge.

  “You must be hungry. They didn’t have any food at the club. At least, nothing substantial.”

  In addition to being one hunka hunka burning vamp, my boyfriend was also an excellent cook and baker. He loved mysteries and jigsaw puzzles, and had an intense fondness for kittens. When he found out I had taken in Luna, he had been delighted.

  My stomach rumbled. “Actually, I am. I was going to just go to bed. It’s been one hell of a long day, but I don’t know if I can sleep if I don’t eat first. Leftovers are fine.”

  He poked around. “There’s some chicken left from lunch yesterday. And some macaroni and cheese. That work?”

  “Yeah.” I yawned again, my eyes heavy. “I’m so tired. Just nuke them.”

  The chicken was from my favorite chicken joint—Chicken Chicken. It kept crisp after being reheated, and the breading was so good, just thinking about it made my mouth water. As Aegis fixed a plate for me and popped it in the microwave, I let out another yawn.

  “So, what did you make of the way Ferris was acting toward Sid?”

  “It pisses me off,” Aegis said. “Nobody harasses the people I care about. I don’t care whether you’re male or female, you don’t get a free pass to force yourself on anybody else.”

  “Sylvia would freak if she knew. They’ve been working out some relationship issues and this wouldn’t help at all. I think we should keep quiet about it unless Sid decides to tell her. After all, you guys have decided to stop working with DreamGen.” I paused. “How do you really feel about it? I know you had a lot of hopes pinned on this.”

  Aegis shrugged as he set my plate in front of me and handed me a fork. He slid into the chair next to me, a beer in his hands. Vampires could eat and drink all they wanted without ever being affected by the food, but blood was still their actual sustenance.

  “Disappointed, I won’t lie about that. But I refuse to work with someone who pressures one of my boys to go against his wishes. Sid doesn’t even like Ferris. After the initial rush of signing the contract, he told me that she made him uncomfortable.”

sp; “Ten to one, she was working on him even then.” I bit into the chicken and scooped up a forkful of mac ‘n cheese. The creamy, salty taste melted in my mouth and I let out an audible sigh, relaxing as the food slid down my throat. I hadn’t realized just how hungry I had been.

  “You’re probably right. Well, I’ll talk to DreamGen after the guys and I go over the contract. Even if I have to pay a penalty to break it, that’s fine. I won’t ask the guys to chip in. I know none of them can afford it.” He watched me eat for a moment, then reached across the table. “I want to thank you. I wouldn’t have gone in there, and Sid would have been screwed over, in more ways than one. Thanks for recognizing a problem that I hadn’t put my finger on yet.”

  I smiled and patted his hand, still eating. Once I finished, I carried my plate to the sink to rinse it off to put it in the dishwasher. Once I got to the counter, however, I paused. There was a sack sitting there. It hadn’t been there when we left in the morning. I opened it and froze. Inside, was an urn, with an envelope beside it. I opened the letter and read it, then set the paper down and backed up a step.

  “What is it?” Aegis asked.

  I couldn’t answer. I hadn’t thought this would affect me so much, but now that the time had actually come, my heart rose into my throat. Pressing my lips together, I turned toward Aegis, feeling a thousand years old.

  “Maddy, what’s wrong?” Aegis took a step toward me.

  I tried to answer, tried to form the words, but they didn’t want to come out. It was as though my lips were frozen and, no matter how much I wanted to say something, they wouldn’t move.

  “What the…” Aegis paused by the counter and stared down at the urn. He slowly picked up the note. “May I?”

  I gave him a faint nod. He picked up the paper and began to read aloud.

  “Dear Ms. Gallowglass:

  We wish to express our condolences in your time of sorrow. We have enclosed the urn with your mother’s ashes in it, as you requested, and you will also find a copy of her death certificate. We are the legal team representing your mother’s posthumous wishes. She asked that her remains be returned to you for dispersal, and that all her personal magical effects and family photographs and documents be sent to you. In accordance with her will, we will be packaging her magical supplies, photographs, and papers, and mailing them to you shortly. Everything else will be sold and the proceeds will be remitted to you after payment of any outstanding debts, according to her instructions. If there’s anything else we can do, please ask.


  Jessie Midas

  Midas, Timmons, & Smith, Solicitors”

  I stared at the stone urn as though it was going to jump up and bite me. Zara, my mother, had died a few weeks ago, and now she was home with me. I had spent a lifetime despising her, and only in the last months of her life had I come to understand—if not exactly love—her. We had parted as friends, as mother and daughter rather than antagonistic relatives. But seeing her remains on the counter brought home, once again, the realization that we had been robbed of nearly four centuries together, thanks to my grandmother and my father. My mother had been forced into living a lie most of her life. For that, I would never forgive them.

  I reached out and slowly took the urn out of the sack as Aegis watched me, a cautious look on his face. Finally, I slid my fingers down the cool stone and over the name they had etched on it: Zara Malina Gallowglass. She had kept her mother’s family name, as had I even though I had been married for a time.

  Trying to navigate the minefield of emotions that were waging war in my heart, I closed my eyes and whispered, “Welcome home, Mother.” And then, slowly, the tears began to fall.

  Chapter 2

  I SLEPT A good share of the day, exhausted from the trip, but also from the emotional upheaval that had hit when I saw my mother’s ashes sitting there. Sandy, my best friend, texted me while I was asleep. I woke up around noon to her text. Unable to decide whether to call her, I finally passed on it. I wasn’t ready to talk about how I felt. Instead, I headed outside, leaving Kelson—our most illustrious housekeeper who kept the Bewitching Bedlam running like clockwork—to handle anything that came up. We were sparse on guests right now, with just Mr. Mosswood to cater to. He had taken permanent root in our inn, it seemed. But things would pick up with the coming holidays, and I decided we should use the downtime to plan out a series of events that might attract guests.

  As I folded my arms across my chest, facing the wind, the tall firs shivered and shook as clouds rolled by overhead. Shivering as a blast of chill air hit me, I thought about what an odd and winding road I had taken to come to this place in my life.

  MY NAME IS Maudlin Gallowglass—Maddy for short. I was once known as Mad Maudlin, and with good reason. I’m a witch, and I’m also the High Priestess of the Moonrise Coven here on Bedlam. I was born on October 28, 1629, in a little cottage that nestled in the countryside in Ireland.

  Long story short, I’m the Mad Maudlin mentioned in the folk song “Mad Tom of Bedlam.” He—Tom—was my lover, until he was turned by vampires and corrupted. Let’s just say that I went a little crazy when that happened, and together with my best friends Cassandra—Sandy—and Fata Morgana, I took vampire hunting to a new level. I became the scourge of vampires throughout Great Britain and Europe. I rained down fire and death on them, and together, the three of us managed to destroy hundreds of the creatures over a period of about a dozen years.

  But the intense focus burned me out. By the end, when we stood above a village of vampires, watching as it burned to the ground—with the vampires caught in it—my passion for vampire hunting vanished with the ashes and smoke. Sandy, Fata, and I went into party mode, spending the better part of ten years in an old-school sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll phase—sans the rock ‘n roll. We were hanging with a group of satyrs and wood nymphs. Then Fata and I had a falling out, and she—wild water spirit that she was—rode out to sea on the waves, furious. I had pushed the argument away, not wanting to remember it, and so Sandy and I made new plans.

  We decided to travel, to cloak ourselves up and so, taking Bubba with us, we journeyed from country to country, and finally came to the United States. And here we stayed, making new lives for ourselves. And when the Pretcom came out in the open, we came out, too.

  There’s so much I haven’t mentioned, but it could take a lifetime to tell my story. For now, a few paragraphs will have to do.

  I WAS BRAINSTORMING a winter carnival event for the Bewitching Bedlam when Aegis woke up. We both loved autumn and winter because he had more time to spend awake, as the sun rose late and set early. My stomach rumbled, but the sun was setting shortly before six-thirty, so I decided to wait on dinner until he woke up. As I was wrapping up my work for the day—specifically, I was going through my Rolodex, looking for an ice witch who could conjure up an ice elemental for a party—I heard Aegis in the kitchen, as the basement door opened and then shut. It had a distinctive squeak that I recognized every time. We kept meaning to oil it, but that was about as far as we had gotten.

  “Maddy?” His voice echoed down the hall.

  “I’m in the office,” I called back.

  “Come into the kitchen, please! I have something you need to see.”

  Frowning—usually Aegis came in to give me a kiss—I put down my pen and stretched, wincing as my back cracked. I should visit the chiropractor. Or maybe start adding yoga to my workouts. I was a haphazard gym bunny. Wilson, my trainer, wasn’t thrilled with my progress but he constantly said some exercise was better than none, and he had given up trying to transform me into Ms. Fitness USA.

  I yawned and headed for the kitchen. Kelson was standing by the sink, smirking. Aegis was sitting at the table, his hand on the handle of a large wicker basket. It was covered, and the trim poking out around the edges was gingham.

  “What’s this?” I asked, moving in for a kiss.

  He wrapped his arm around me, pulling me ont
o his lap as he planted a kiss on my lips. “Don’t you know what today is?”

  “Um…October fourteenth? Saturday?” I wasn’t sure where he was going with this.

  He looked disappointed. “Really? You can’t have forgotten.”

  I blinked, trying frantically to remember if we’d agreed to make tonight a date night or what. And then, I saw the roses on the table behind him, and it clicked. I felt like an ass.

  “Happy anniversary!” I smiled, almost shy. The last time I had said those words to a man, all I had gotten was a torrent of verbal abuse.

  But Aegis cuddled me, kissing my cheek. “I knew you wouldn’t forget! Happy anniversary, my love,” he murmured, sniffing my hair.

  I let out a contented sigh, then glanced up at his face. “I’m so sorry. I guess I didn’t think you would remember, and then I just put it out of my mind and forgot about it.”

  “Of course I remember. We’ve been together a year.” He teased my nose with his lips, then kissed me again. “I’m not Craig. I’m not any other man you’ve ever been with.”

  “That’s for sure,” I whispered. And he was right. I had never dated a vampire before. I reached for the basket, but he swatted away my hand. “Hey, I was just looking.”

  “It’s a surprise.”

  “All right, so, picnic in the parlor? You can’t be thinking of picnicking out in the park. It’s pretty cold.”

  “No worries, my frozen little dumpling. We’re not going to the park.”

  I snorted. He was more romantic than I was, but even that was a hair too cloying for an anniversary.

  “The basket is filled with your favorite foods. And the roses are for the flower of my heart.”