QSFer Jaime Munn has a new FF paranormal urban fantasy out: Bump.
Be careful who you witch for…
Ever had that feeling—when you’re completely alone—that you’re being watched? I envy you. I see the watcher in an empty room, and I firmly believe ignorance would be bliss.
Nilla Hayes has a problem. It isn’t the pretty werewolf she shouldn’t be attracted to. It isn’t that her best friend is trying to set her up, either. There are things going bump in the night and they all start with a wicked witch.
Things would be a lot easier if Nilla could just turn a blind eye, but not all witches are bad. Now it’s war—and no one is safe when witches duel with magic.
Ever had that feeling—when you’re completely alone—that you’re being watched? I envy you. I see the watcher in an empty room, and I firmly believe ignorance would be bliss. My watcher had been standing in the corner of my store for fifteen minutes, making no concession to the table with its small collection of bedside lights. They both occupied the same space. She stood like she’d been born with a table that ran straight through the middle of her hips and I pitied her mother. The lamps around her flickered occasionally. If she’d been at all polite, she’d have come through the door like any other customer or client. I was determined to ignore her, but her continued presence and silence were more than a little unnerving. When the door chime jangled, I jumped knocking the brass name plaque off the countertop.
Livia Darrow, one of the blessedly ignorant though she claimed to be something of a psychic, paused in the open doorway, two takeaway cups of hot java in her hands, eyeing me speculatively. “Jumpy today, Nilla?” She crossed the space between us, hips swaying, to deposit the cups on the counter before bending down to retrieve the plaque. “There are more dings in this than a not-blue, blue beetle. Why don’t you throw it out?”
“It was a gift,” I replied though she knew that already. The watcher gave no sign that anything had changed. She simply stared at me like I was the only person in the room.
Livia ran a finger over the plaque. “I think the ex in girlfriend allows you to throw out gifts.” She returned it to its place on the counter where it boldly stated ‘Nilla Hayes’ to all who entered the store and deigned to notice it. Her delicate features turned thoughtful. “If I were one to hold onto the gifts of old flames, I’d need a bigger house.”
“Of course you would, Liv,” I said. “Me, I just have this old plaque.”
“Don’t make fun of the person in charge of your morning caffeine fix.” Livia rounded the counter and took her place on the spare seat next to mine.
We’d been friends for over two years now. She’d not cottoned onto the fact that Which Light, the store you’ll find on Main Street in Whisper Falls, was a cover for Witch Light. Few people see the real sign in the window; most of them just drop by to buy lamps. It keeps food on my table, so I keep on selling them. These are my customers. My clients are those that come to the store with no interest in lighting fixtures.
“Coffee-on-Main had a special on crème caramel mochas,” Livia told me as she pushed a takeaway cup my way. “So I got us marshmallow mochas.” There was nothing predictable about Livia Darrow.
I took a sip, aware of my watcher from the corner of my eye. Was she planning on standing there wearing my table all day? “Perfect call, it’ll save me a few cents on the afternoon mocha run,” I told Livia and she mock-scowled.
“Don’t get cheap on me, Nilla. I don’t stand for it from my dates and certainly not from my friends.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I replied, managing a nervous smile.
Livia shook her head and drank her mocha in silence for a handful of minutes before she set the cup down and brushed her hands over her bare arms. “Did you turn up the air-con? This place is freezing.” Her white chiffon dress with black straps did nothing to protect the rest of her body, but that wasn’t why Livia was wearing it. It was also summer, and Erica Hanley—Livia’s boss—kept Tangles, the small art boutique, air-con free because of her sinuses…or something. My jeans, t-shirt, and sweater weren’t nearly as glamorous, but far more effective against the heat sucking spectre haunting my store, haunting me, today.
“It’s out of my control,” I said, then took a long draught of my mocha. The beverage was sweet; would have been sweet even without my standard four spoonfuls of sugar. The energy rush was just what I needed to top up my witchy reserves. Sugar, it’s the quick fix energy reservoir every witch learns to tap. I savoured the flavour as well as the boost and eyed my watcher speculatively. “I’ll get the thermostat checked.”
Livia stayed a little longer before her coffee break was up; the morning tradition helped steady my nerves. By the time she left, I was feeling ready to take on the phantom wearing my lamp table.
“See you later with mochas in tow,” Livia said as she left the store. She’d said nothing about Erica barring me from Tangles, but that didn’t mean it would be safe for me to enter the gallery. I was quite sure that Erica had overheard me telling Livia how I could never date her, even if it turned out that she and I were the last lesbians in Whisper Falls. Maybe I just felt guilty about saying the words aloud. I couldn’t tell Livia the real reason I couldn’t see myself dating Erica. Psychic wannabe or not she just wouldn’t understand. I didn’t want to lose my best friend in town because she thought I was a Bedlam escapee. I sighed and turned my attention to my uninvited haunting.
“I don’t think lamp tables are anything like Carmen Miranda hats, even if you swapped out the fruit,” I told the watcher. Finishing off the last swallow of my mocha, I crossed to the door and turned the sign in the window from open to closed. I added the ‘back in ten minutes’ notice faking a hopeful feeling that didn’t sit well in the pit of my stomach. I glanced at the creepy Victorian angel lamp in the window display. The bulb never flickered, but did that mean I was safe?
Jaime Munn lives in a house with too many windows on the outskirts of Manchester, the city of immortal bees. He writes contemporary and urban fantasy stories. His novels blend the real world with his fascination for all things supernatural. By day he is a therapist. By night he is not a vampire.