When Skye Williams receives news of her estranged mother's death, she must go to Ireland to claim her inheritance. But when she arrives in the tiny village of Derrydun, she isn't prepared for what she finds nestled amongst the rolling hills of the Emerald Isle.
Lumped with her mother's crystal shop, a moody goth girl for an employee, and a crumbling cottage, selling up sounds like a great plan...until she sees the hot Irishman she's been crushing on turn into a fox.
Thrust into a world she never knew existed, Skye discovers she's a witch, like her mother before her, but it comes with a heavy price. She is the last of her coven, the Crescent Witches, and is on her own with a terrible burden.
Witches are being hunted—and Skye might be the only one who can stop magic dying out...before it's gone forever.
The Crescent Witch Chronicles is a series stuffed full of Irish charm, myth and mayhem. Come on an adventure fraught with danger and forbidden romance...and the ultimate battle to save magic before it's gone forever.
Release date: August 9, 2017
Print pages: 214
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Nicole R. Taylor
Standing in the shadow of the ancient hawthorn tree, my grip tightened around the dagger.
I wished I’d opened my eyes sooner because it would’ve saved a lot of heartache, but it was always the way. Hindsight was a terrible thing in the aftermath of life-altering events. The past can’t be changed, no matter how hard you wish it to be.
Sometimes, a coincidence is just that. Other times, the signs just keep piling up one after the other until there’s no denying it. This was real. All of it.
Magic, witches, fae, shapeshifters. They no longer resided on the pages of a storybook. They lived in my backyard, clawing at my door, thirsting for the magic that ran through my veins.
Staring up at the hawthorn tree, the silver rays of the full moon trickled through the branches, dusting the clearing with an eerie glow. Under different circumstances, it might’ve been beautiful, but I wasn’t waiting for a lover to come and sweep me off my feet. I was waiting for a monster.
The ritual was complete, the trap was set, and now all that was left to do was to wait for destiny to come and claim me.
The sound of something moving through the woods echoed all around, and I spun, my heart leaping into my throat. Catching sight of the russet-colored fur of a fox melting through the forest, I sighed in relief. It was just him.
He stepped into the clearing and came to join me in the shadow of the hawthorn, a comforting companion in the dark of night.
“Do you think they’d be proud?” I asked my friend. “Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?”
The fox yipped softly.
“My first test as the last Crescent Witch,” I murmured, holding the dagger flush against my chest. “No turning back now.”
It was my duty to protect the last whisper of magic from the darkness that threatened to take it. It didn’t matter what I wanted. Not anymore. I was the only thing standing in the way of its extinction. Me. Skye Williams.
But my story didn’t start here. It began on the beaches of southern Australia, an entire world away from the forests of Ireland, and the day I found out my mother had died.
The day the Crescents called me home.
* * *
The ocean was calm today.
Usually, the wind chopped up the water and hurled it at the cliffs down the coast, making it treacherous for the cargo ships leaving the bay. Passing between the headlands required the help of specialized pilots who zoomed out in their bright orange speedboat at all hours of the day and night, but today, the water was flat, and the wind hardly blew at all.
The sky was clear, though storm clouds brewed on the horizon, and the whole world seemed balanced on a knife’s edge. Something was in the air, and it tickled up and down my spine like I was full of static electricity. The next time I touched something metal, I was going to get one hell of a shock.
It was the first of April, and there I was sitting on the deck of my dead father’s beach house on the wild and windy coast of southern Victoria, Australia, like the April fool I was. Last night had culminated with a horrid confession from my boyfriend, Alex, rather than the passionate kiss I’d been expecting when the clock ticked over at midnight. Things had been great between us, and there I was thinking he was going to offer me a diamond ring. Fat chance.
He’d said it. It. The thing every woman dreads when she’s expecting the complete opposite. The five words that resembled the ultimate cop-out when breaking up with someone. It’s not you, it’s me.
My grip tightened around the glass of ‘water’ in my hands, and the ice clinked. Bastard.
Pair that with being handed a redundancy package from my job the month before and I was onto a winner. Pulling my feet up onto the deck chair, I curled in on myself. Bad things always went for the trifecta. What was number three going to be? It felt like the universe was aligning for the ultimate slap in the face, and it was aimed right at me.
If Dad were here, he would know what to do. He always knew the right thing to say. Buck up, kiddo. He just wasn’t as good as your old man. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.
Dad was gone now—he passed away from brain cancer, four months after his diagnosis—but his house was still here. He’d left it to me in his will, and I’d been too attached to it to even think about selling up. Good thing for me since I was broke and alone. I needed a place to crash until I could work out what I was going to do. So, I’d legged it from that awful party, passed Alex’s place to pack my things, and had driven from Melbourne straight to Ocean Grove. I’d driven home.
The sound of screeching tires echoed through the stillness, and the glint of sun hitting metal glistened between the scraggly windswept scrub. A silver car appeared over the rise and weaved along the unkempt driveway toward my little beach house. I watched as it finally stopped, coming to rest next to my little red sedan in the yard, and the handbrake made a ratcheting sound as it was pulled on.
A balding man was inside, and I could see he was wearing a suit and tie. He flung open the door and wrestled with the seatbelt, and once he’d unclipped it, he practically fell out of the driver’s seat and onto the patchy grass underneath. Then he dived back in, his stubby legs flapping about before finally emerging with a black briefcase. The whole thing was like a slapstick comedy routine out of a Monty Python movie, and I watched in silent awe at the display.
Narrowing my eyes, I wondered if he had the right house. He was wearing a dark suit, his tie done up, and his jacket still on. Lawyer? Debt collector? The odds were at two to one. His forehead was dripping with sweat as he waddled up the path, cursing under his breath.
Standing, I set down my glass on the table and leaned against the railing of the deck. “Can I help you?”
“Ah,” he said, glancing up at me. “Are you Skye Williams?”
“Yeah.” I looked him over and tried to hold onto my laughter. He looked like a penguin waddling up the path, and his short stature didn’t help one bit, nor did his thick Irish accent. He was a long way from Antarctica.
“My name is Robert O’Keeffe,” he said, dabbing his forehead with a handkerchief. “I’m here on behalf of you mother, Aileen.”
I stared at him, my amusement turning into full-blown shock. I hadn’t heard from her since I was two years old, and even then, I couldn’t recall a single thing about the woman. All I had were a few creased photos and the random memories Dad used to mumble before he died. The meds the doctors put him on loosened his tongue, and for the first time in my life, I’d learned a little about the ghost of my mother, the Irish woman who’d come to Australia for adventure and ended up with my dad.
“My mum?” I asked the man. “You mean the woman who abandoned my dad and me when I was two? What does she want?”
The man, Robert O’Keeffe, wrung his hands. “I’m very sorry to be bringin’ the news, but your mother has passed on.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“It happened a month ago,” he went on, looking forlorn. “I’m very sorry for your loss.”
I raised my eyebrows. I was supposed to feel something, wasn’t I? Sadness, shock, despair, or whatever emotion was comparable, but I didn’t feel anything. How could I when I didn’t even know her? My mother was a stranger.
“How?” I asked instead. Looked like morbid curiosity was now a thing with me.
“Heart attack. It was very sudden.”
I snorted and glanced out across the ocean.
“I know this is a shock to you,” he said, climbing the stairs and standing on the deck next to me. “But she left you everythin’ she owned. I’m a longtime friend, but I’m also the executor of her will.”
Everything was numb. Even the strange weather wasn’t bothering me anymore.
“I guess that means I’m stuck with her debts now,” I drawled. Glancing up at the sky, I added, “Thanks, universe. Just what I need. Just add bankruptcy to the pile, and you’ve got your trifecta. I knew something was coming today. I knew it.”
“No, no,” Robert said, watching me curiously. “She had no debts. You can be sure of that.”
“Then give me some good news, Robbie,” I said with a scowl. “I lost my job to a cheaper workforce overseas, my boyfriend dumped me last night, and now you show up in your suit and tie and say my stranger of a mother has died. I’m a financially ruined, emotionally whiplashed orphan. Give me your best shot.”
He beamed at me. “Aye, you’re the spittin’ image of her with your long black hair and green eyes, to be sure. She was just as strong willed with the mouth to match.”
Another tidbit of information had just fallen into my lap, and I wasn’t sure how to take it. When I was little, I’d always dreamed of her. I would lie in bed—cuddling whatever soft toy was my favorite that week—and dream up wild stories of what she would be like. She was from a faraway place that seemed so magical to a little girl of seven. Ireland with its green hills, wild forests, and fairies. Adventure…it seemed its call was in my blood.
Robert set his briefcase down on the table and popped the latches open. When he lifted the lid, he pulled out a pile of papers and a pen that glinted gold in the clear autumn sunshine, never mind the fact we were standing in the shade. The thing looked solid. As in twenty-four karat.
“I need some signatures to make it official, but here’s the list of her assets.” He cleared his throat and began to read. “To my daughter, Skye, I leave all my earthly possessions and assets. The cottage I have called home for twenty-five years, which has been in our family for a hundred and fifty more, that resides in the village of Derrydun, Ireland. My shop, Irish Moon. All my belongings and inventory. The bank accounts and whatever remains in them.” Robert shuffled another paper and read the amount, “Thirty-five thousand euros in the savings account. Twenty-eight thousand euros in the business account. Forty-six thousand euros in the term deposit.”
“Whatever,” I said, trying to keep calm about the one hundred and eleven thousand euros, not to mention the house and that Moon thing. It was about time she gave me something other than heartbreak. “Where do I sign?”
“I must warn you,” he said, holding out the pen. “There’s one condition that needs to be upheld.”
I snatched my hand back. “Which is?”
“As her last living relative, you must come to Derrydun. Your mother stipulated it in her will,” he said. “All costs associated with your travel will be looked after by her estate, but the condition still stands. You must come to Derrydun to settle.”
“I have to go to Ireland?” I exclaimed. “But that’s on the other side of the world!”
He nodded. “To be sure. That’s how geography works.”
“Oh, man…” I let my head fall into my hands before glancing up again. “Wait… I’m the last living relative?”
“What happened to everyone else?”
Robert frowned. “They passed goin’ on twenty-five years now.”
Putting two and two together, I began to form a picture of my mother’s circumstance. She’d returned to Ireland and had never come back, but I didn’t realize it might have to do with something like that. Everyone else had died, and she’d gone back. Great, this was going to be one of those deep, dark family secret scenarios, wasn’t it? Did they have cults in Ireland?
Ignoring the lawyer—I presumed that was what he was—I studied the colors in the ocean. Deep blue, turquoise, greens, and dark blobs of black seaweed floating about in the current, at the mercy of the tides. Then there was the whole thing about the tides being at the mercy of the moon, and…well, it just went on and on. Everybody was controlled by something bigger than themselves. Employment, finances, global stock markets. I was unemployed, broke, dumped, and was moving into my dad’s beach house in the middle of nowhere. There were great job prospects in a town of two hundred people. Not.
What did I have to lose by going to Ireland? Not a lot. Maybe I could finally understand why she, Aileen, left us behind and get my inheritance along the way. That money would come in real handy.
“Okay,” I declared. “Give it to me.”
Reaching out, I grasped the pen and yelped as a bolt of static electricity cracked through my fingers and up my arm.
“Curious,” Robert declared. “That hasn’t happened before.”
“Holy…” I shook my arm, still grasping the pen. “That hurt like hell!”
“You know what they say about a static shock? It awakens things inside you that were sleepin’.”
“No one says that. Do they?” I asked, rubbing my arm.
“No, I just made it up.” He laughed and pushed the papers toward me. “Sign everywhere there’s a sticky note. There’s nothin’ predatory in there, by the way. It’s only for the name of ownership, which will be finalized when I see you in Derrydun.”
I gave him a look before flipping open the contract and signing. The pen scratched over the paper, the ink as blue as the sea before us. Flipping over the last page, I signed and gave him back his solid gold pen.
“Here.” He handed me a plastic folder printed with the details of a local travel agent. “Your ticket is already booked. You just have to call the agent, and give them your details.”
“Were you that sure I would agree?” I asked, taken aback.
“When people are presented with free money, they usually say yes,” he said with a deadpan voice. “It’s life. Sometimes, you need a break, and that’s what parents are for.”
I made a face. “Fair enough.”
“It was nice to meet you, Miss Skye,” he said. “I will see you in Derrydun.”
“Wait, you’re not traveling with me?”
“No, I can't. But you’ll do just fine.” He closed his briefcase with a bang and clipped it shut. “Things always have a curious way of workin’ out for the women in your family. Of that, I’m sure.” Smiling mysteriously, he held out his hand.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I shook his proffered hand.
“One last thing,” he said, hesitating on the edge of the deck. “Your mother loved you a great deal, Skye. I was told your name was on her lips when she…you know.”
I didn’t reply. When it became apparent I wasn’t going to offer him anything in response, he turned and waddled down the path, squeezed into his car, and drove away just as erratically as he’d driven in.
Glancing down at the folder from the travel agent, I sighed. I was going to Ireland. Checking the date on the ticket, I yelped. I was going to Ireland the day after tomorrow.
It wasn’t until I went inside and called the travel agent in town that I realized the strange lawyer known as Robert O’Keeffe had no way of knowing I would be at the beach house.
Curious was the word of the day.
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