An Everyday Disaster novel, Book 3
Putting the Ice in Nice
Lucky Foot Press in conjunction with Book View Café
It pays to be nice… but only if you’re into blood, pain, and tears.
Beck Wyatt, a witch with very few f*cks to give, is back in action, and as usual, her life has gone pear-shaped. Her maybe-boyfriend has gone MIA. One of her bffs fell into a big hole and got Lifeflighted to the hospital. The cops want to help her solve a kidnapping with a side helping of murder. Even worse? Her recently un-estranged mom wants to have brunch.
There’s also a homicidal deer.
It turns out there’s witchery involved in the murder/kidnapping, and a certain asshat detective has spilled the beans about Beck’s powers. Now she’s looking for a killer. Trouble is, the killer might be looking for her too.
Beck’s about to learn that no good deed goes unpunished, and nice is just another word for victim.
I was cursed.
I had to be. No one could possibly not be cursed and still get a ticket, have a flat tire, and spill her triple espresso mocha all over herself and her car before eight in the morning.
I gripped my steering wheel hard, tapping my foot as I waited for the cop to do whatever he was doing. Probably jerking off. He’d taken my license and registration and retreated to the squad car parked behind me, lights flashing red and blue. Cars whizzed by on the highway, some honking gleefully at me. I snarled, tempted to give the last one a flat tire. Or two. Or all of them. I could send a quick zap of magic and the assbite would be hating life at least as much as I was at the moment. I resisted the urge, silently congratulating the lucky bastard on getting away.
Sighing, I tipped my head back against the headrest, closing my eyes and trying to relax. I had been speeding. No point arguing. Of course, I’d also been wildly squirming in my seat as hot coffee broiled my thighs and crotch. Good thing sex wasn’t on the menu any time soon; I probably had ninth degree burns on my cooch.
If the cop was any kind of a decent human being, he’d have at least considered letting me off with a warning. As it was, he’d barely hidden his laugh when I’d jumped out of the car and performed the hot coffee shimmy and shake, loudly cursing all the while. Now I had to sit in wet pants and underwear as I waited for my ticket. If I did the little nose twitch thing (that’s not really how magic works, incidentally) and was suddenly dry, he’d probably be a little curious. Maliciously so.
That was not the way to cut the timer on this particular humiliation.
Another sigh and a little smile.
Officer Smug had fast lost his little urge to laugh at me when Ajax had leaped out my open door. He came up to my waist and weighed a good buck-fifty and I could still feel his ribs just a bit when I pet him. He also resembled a wolf. Some even said he was a wolf. I didn’t see it. He was a giant, snuggly teddy bear. I’d rescued him from a seriously abusive situation, and we’d been close to inseparable since.
Upon Ajax’s sudden appearance, Officer Smug had back-pedaled fast, nearly tripping over his own feet. He’d managed not to fall on his ass, so he had no real reason to be pissed. What kind of a man couldn’t take a little justified cackling? Anyway, I hadn’t turned him into a frog for finding my hot-coffee dance amusing, so he should return the favor and let me go without the ticket.
Though to be fair, he’d have to know of my largesse and telling him I was a witch would probably have him calling the little men in white coats to take me off to the nuthouse. That or he’d have corrected me and said it was spelled b-i-t-c-h.
I dug my fingers into Ajax’s ruff and scratched his neck. He gave a little moan and leaned into the caress, lifting his head to give me better access to a particularly itchy spot. I obliged the silent demand, watching Officer Numb-nuts clamber out of his car in the rearview, my left foot tapping impatiently.
I hated being late, even if I’d rather eat a jar of live scorpions rather than have breakfast with my mother. My real mother. The woman who’d I’d grown up calling Mommie Dearest had turned out to be my aunt. She’d kidnapped me as an infant. Twenty-seven years later she’d been murdered and suddenly I had a new mother and a huge sprawling dysfunctional family, not to mention a witch community and culture that was about as bizarre as a twelve-legged cat. Not that those exist. I think. Wouldn’t bet my life on it, though.
Anyhow, now my mother wanted to get acquainted, and I’d reluctantly agreed. It wasn’t her fault her sister kidnapped me and then spent my entire life using me as her personal torture doll. It also wasn’t her fault that she closely resembled Aunty Mommie. Nevertheless, just looking at her tended to make me first recoil and then want to kill her. At least a little.
Still, I felt a little sorry for her. She’d never had any more kids, and thanks to the birthing contract, my father had taken my two siblings (I was a triplet) and she’d never seen them again.
I made a face. Birthing contract. The witch community managed their magical bloodlines like horse breeders. They negotiated birth contracts between families, giving the studs and broodmares absolutely no say in the matter. Neither love nor lust nor like nor respect entered into the equation. Basically it came down to pimping out the family chromosomes, not to mention uteruses, dicks, and vaginas.
Despite my adamant refusal to be a part of that whole baby factory thing, my father (who I’d also just met) had determined that I belonged to him and therefore would fuck whoever he wanted me to and have whatever babies he’d contracted for. Bonus—I wouldn’t even have to raise them!
Excuse me while I vomit.
“Here you go, Ma’am.”
The cop passed my registration and license through the window. He was an older guy, maybe around fifty, with a shaved head to cover up the fact he was bald on top. Silver threads shot through his brown mustache and goatee.
“I’m going to give you a warning this time,” he said.
“Really?” I hadn’t seen that coming. “Why?”
“Call it extenuating circumstances,” he said without cracking a smile, but the corners of his eyes crinkled slightly.
“That’s….” I shook my head. “Thanks.”
“Your dog licensed?”
I frowned, shifting into momma-bear mode. “He is.”
“He doesn’t have a collar.”
“The fuckers who had him before me kept him on a chain. When we rescued him, he was starved, covered in bruises with broken bones and his collar had worn a bloody infected trench into his neck. I won’t force him to wear one again.”
At my description, his face turned to granite, his upper lip curled, his nostrils flaring. “Tell me you reported the assholes.”
“It was a hostage situation. You probably remember. Happened not too long ago. A month or so, maybe. Out in north of town in the hollows. Father was a mean son of a bitch who beat the wife and girls. Wife ended up shooting him and then trying to off the girls. They hid in the doghouse with this big guy.”
I scratched Ajax’s ears, my throat knotting with emotion. He’d been determined to protect the little girls despite being close to dead himself. He’d weighed maybe sixty-five pounds and had broken bones from getting kicked who knows how many times. I still couldn’t quite believe that Lorraine—one of my best friends and an incredible veterinarian—had managed to put him back together. She was a miracle worker. “Not sure what happened to the mother. Prison, I hope. No idea what happened to the girls. They weren’t a lot better off than Ajax here.”
He muttered something under his breath.
He shook his head. “Do me a favor and keep it to the speed limit.”
He quirked an eyebrow. I shrugged.
“You try pouring a raging hot cup of coffee on your twig and berries and not stomping down on whatever pedal you’ve got your foot on.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “I’d just as soon take your word for it if you don’t mind.”
“And even if I do mind, right?”
He smirked. “I like to think I’m smart enough to learn from other people’s mistakes.”
I tucked my registration back into my glove compartment and slid my license into my wallet. “Is this where I tell you thanks for the break and wish you a nice day?”
He stepped back and nodded. “Drive safely. I’d just as soon not see you again.”
“And here I thought we were falling in love.”
He smirked. “My husband would have my balls.”
“My boyfriend might have something to say about it too,” I said with pretend regret.
The mention of Damon made my stomach twist. I hadn’t heard from him in days and I didn’t know if I should be worried about him, worried about our relationship, or if I was being an emotional idiot. We hadn’t been seeing each other long, and I didn’t have any relationship experience to work from. I was totally in the dark and feeling like a fifteen-year-old with a crush on the high school quarterback and having a lot of what-the-fuck issues over him liking me back. Or loving me. Damon said he loved me. I was still trying to come to grips with how I felt about that and about him and now I was wondering if he really did or if he’d been having a stroke.
Definitely an emotional idiot.
Damon had been gone a couple of weeks now after receiving an emergency call. Apparently, it had something to do with his family, though he hadn’t given me any details. I hadn’t asked.
My new cop buddy patted the top of my roof. “Have a good—” He grinned. “A better day.”
“You’re a surprisingly nice cop.”
“That’s what everybody I don’t give a ticket to says.” He chuckled and returned to his vehicle.
“And now on to the next disaster,” I muttered as I put the car in gear. I was still driving a Highlander. Not fancy or sexy, but it carried a lot of stuff and people, and I had a fluffy bed in the back for Ajax, along with a pile of old towels for when he took a dunk in the river where I generally ran, or at my secret cove.
I knew better than to even hint the universe might have another disaster in store for me, though it was inevitable. My whole life was ruled by Murphy’s Law and Mercury was in permanent retrograde, while at the same time I must have busted so many mirrors in another life the bad luck had carried over to this one. At least I had managed to avoid the emergency room for a while.
I headed back to my house to clean up. I waved to Joseph the gate guard as I drove in, circling the looped driveway and parking at the front. I drew a long breath and let it out, fortifying myself. With a silent groan, I got out.
The place looked like a French chateau with sweeping front steps and two wings angling off the main house. Stone gargoyles of various sizes perched along the roofline front and back. I scowled at them. Auntie Mommy had imprisoned them, forcing them to swear a blood bond to guard the house and property and all its denizens forever. My Uncle Mason had been able to break the spell that kept them bound in stone, except if their protection was needed. Now they stayed during the day and came alive at night. I’d promised to find a way to release them, but so far hadn’t had any luck.
Actually, I hadn’t tried all that hard. I’m a highly untrained witch. I have a lot of power and determination, which allows me to do a lot of stuff, but I hadn’t wanted to let Auntie Mommy know I had power, so used it very sparingly. Stupid, since it turned out she knew exactly what I was, but I hadn’t known that. I had no training and no clue how to begin to free the gargoyles. I’d tried, but I needed more than a seat-of-the-pants approach. Damon had started teaching me witch language and basic spells, but then he’d left town.
Taking a deep breath, I steeled myself to go inside, my body tensing, my stomach churning. I hated it here. This is where Auntie Mommy had spent years torturing me. I’d sworn I’d never come here willingly, and now I was living here. The universe has a crappy sense of humor. A psychic—Lindsey, who I’d saved from her evil aunt’s ghost—had made a very vague and ominous prediction promising that trouble was coming, and then she’d written out an enormously complex spell all over the walls of an indoor gym. I had no idea what the spell did nor why it had been so important that Lindsey had been whipped into a frenzy to write it out. She had no idea either. Not what it meant or why.
I’d taken pictures to send to Damon, but they disappeared off my camera as fast as I could take them. I’d tried copying onto paper, but it disappeared again. Then it faded off the walls so that the only copy of it was seared into my brain. Nobody else who’d seen it could remember it, including Lindsey.
More than a little unnerved, I’d moved into the house. It had magical protections along with the gargoyles, though I hated the idea that they might have to protect me. I needed to find a way to free them before that became a potential issue.
I had a lot of enemies, most of whom I didn’t know, most of them wanting me for my magical DNA. Apparently, I was the Serena Williams of broodmares. I came from two of the most powerful magical families of the witching world. They had an electronic server that disseminated emails to every witch, and I’d promptly sent everybody a message to fuck right off and that I wasn’t interested in birthing no babies, but someone had already tried to kidnap me for my womb. He wouldn’t be the last. Likely my father already had a kidnap squad or ten planning my capture.
I had nightmares about being put in some kind of catatonic state and popping out babies two or three at a time for as long as my body held up. With magical healing, it could be a long time. Bile flooded the back of my tongue and I swallowed. It didn’t matter how many times I declared I was never going to let that happen. The cold hard reality was that if someone got a hold of me, they’d give me a lobotomy and turn me into an EZ Bake oven for whoever wanted to put a bun or three inside me.
I’d tried to convince my three best friends—Stacey, Jen, and Lorraine—to move as well, but they just hugged me and assured me they weren’t targets. I had to admit that while worried about them, I hated to be alone in the mausoleum. Not that I was really alone. I had servants.
That fact alone was enough to make me vomit. I disliked the concept of servants. I didn’t like people waiting on me and cooking for me or opening the door for me or doing my laundry. I’ll admit, not having to clean the toilets or scrub the floors was nice, but I’d gladly go back to doing them for a little privacy. Unfortunately, when I’d inherited the house, I’d inherited the servants, too, and I wasn’t about to put any of them out of a job, so I was learning to live with having people constantly around.
I jogged up the steps and hadn’t reached the top when the door opened.
“Hey, Linus,” I said, striding past the butler.
“I didn’t expect you back so soon, Miss Beck.”
“Just Beck,” I said yet again. “I spilled my coffee.”
“So I see.”
I shot him a sideways glance, pretty sure he was laughing at me. His expression remained as bland as ever. It was a goal of mine to get him to break control and laugh.
“I hope I didn’t interrupt your morning orgy.”
“Not at all.”
“I haven’t been gone that long. You might want to get some blue pills to help your stamina.”
“I’ll keep that in mind for the afternoon orgy. I’ll have another coffee prepared while you change.”
“Of course, Miss Beck.”
“I know I’ve told you to drop the Miss thing and just call me Beck.”
“Yes, Miss Beck. You have.”
“And you’re just going to keep doing it anyway.”
“It would appear so.”
“Maybe I should start calling you Mister Linus.”
“That is your prerogative.”
“Did you like Aunty Mommy? Like working for her?” The questions shot out of me before I knew I was going to ask it. I’d been wondering about it since I was a kid but never wanted to chance asking in case Aunty Mommy retaliated against him or whichever servant I asked.
“One does not judge one’s employer.”
“Did you know what she was doing to me?” Another question I’d been holding back. I wasn’t sure I wanted the answer. What would I do if he had known? He couldn’t have done anything. Aunty Mommy would have turned him into a cockroach if she didn’t kill him outright.
“It was apparent she was abusing you, yes.”
I couldn’t be sure, but I thought his gaze hardened with the acknowledgement.
“She hurt any of the staff?”
“No. She would not.” He said it with perfect certainty.
“I suppose it’s hard to get good help.” Especially those who’d conveniently ignore her nasty torture habit. Resentful anger sparked in my chest. I knew what she was capable of and that crossing her was dangerous, but I couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if one of the servants had called her out or reported her. Maybe she wouldn’t have killed them. Maybe someone would have stepped in.
Right. Who? The only ones who could have were witches, and she’d done an excellent job of hiding from the witching world. Who knew what sorts of spells she might have used on the staff to keep them from reporting anything?
I sighed. It’s not like it mattered. It was all over. I just needed to get over it.
“I’d better get changed.”
I heard a quiet, “Yes, Miss Beck,” as I hurried off. So much for making him laugh. Maybe next time I’d try talking about the Holocaust or slavery or something equally amusing.
I’d changed into a pantsuit and was coming back down the stairs when my phone beeped and then rang. I checked the ID screen. Stacey.
I smiled. “Hey! What’s going on?”
My stomach clenched. “Stacey? Are you there? What’s going on?”
A soft groan. “I may or may not have fallen and I may or may not have broken my leg. Maybe some ribs too. Can you come take me to the hospital?”
I catapulted down the last of the stairs and sprinted for my car. “Where are you? Do you need an ambulance? Did you call 911?”
“Phone’s dead. Can’t call anybody but you, thanks to that little spell you put on it. Thank goodness for that or I’d be seriously fucked.”
I could hear tears in her voice and the little gasps that told me she was hurting a lot worse than she was trying to let on. Plus she was talking in that peculiar voice people get when they’re speaking through held breaths while keeping themselves braced against the pain.
“Where are you?”
“Well, that’s part of the problem.” Her laugh quickly turned into a whimper. “Ow ow ow. Fuck me, that hurts.”
“Where. Are. You?”
“I don’t know.”
“Excuse me?” My pulse had leaped into high gear. I wrenched open my door and started the engine, setting my phone down as the car picked up the signal. “Can you hear me still? I’m in the car.”
“I can hear you. I took my bike out to the bluffs. Decided to do a little cross country. Hit a rock or something and took a header. Crashed into a little ravine. Crap, Beck. It hurts like a dinosaur chewed me up.” She let out a short litany of curses and then went silent except for what sounded like deep breathing.
“I’m on my way,” I told her, stomping on the gas pedal, my tires squealing. “Which parking lot? Did you go north or south from it?”
“Parked up by Ghost Creek Trail. Took the lower side and went off-trail maybe three or four miles in. Was trying to reach Schism Point.”
Before I could respond, I heard some bumping and shuffling and then a loud clatter.
“Fuck! Beck, I dropped the phone. I can’t reach it.” Stacey sounded scared and close to crying.
“It’s okay. I’ll find you.”
“Beck? I can’t hear what you’re saying!”
I heard sounds like the scrape of rocks and then a loud cry of pain and then crying. My hands clenched on the steering wheel and I jammed my foot to the floor. Stacey didn’t cry, which meant her injuries were serious.
I wondered if I should call for help. Call the cops or the Park Service. I shook my head. I wouldn’t risk the connection to Stacey. Anyway, I could find her faster.
“I’m coming! Hold on, Stacey! Keep talking to me!” I shouted the words as loud as I could, negotiating a curve and nearly going up on two wheels. Times like these I really missed my Thunderbird. It cornered smooth as butter at high speed. This Highlander was more top heavy.
“I hurt, Beck. I can’t… Just please get here fast. I think I’m going to pass out.”