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You never know when an ordinary day in Magnolia Cove will turn into one that’s extraordinary—and not in a good way.
All heck breaks loose when Pepper and her cousins accidentally release a magic eater into their beloved town. At first, they’re not sure what kind of evil they’ve unleashed, but when bodies start dropping, it’s clear this magic eater intends to feast on people in town.
Pepper must stop the creature from claiming more victims and attempt to plan her wedding to Axel Reign. Can she and her friends stop the magic eater or will a member of the Craple family become its next victim?
Starring a cast of characters from previous books including hat shop owner Sylvia Spirits, school headmaster Saltz Swift and goofy real estate agent CJ Hix, Southern Conjuring will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the end!
Release date: August 4, 2019
Publisher: LADYBUGBOOKS LLC
Print pages: 170
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“Oh, so you’re the culprit with the mason jars.”
I’d come down to the kitchen for a glass of sweet tea and found the living room filled to the brim with boxes of mason jars. I’d thought that was strange enough, but when I entered the kitchen, that’s when I discovered my cousin Amelia sitting at the table in front of even more boxes of dusty and grimy jars.
She tugged at her blonde hair. The pixie cut that I’d known Amelia to have since, well ever since I’d met her, was slowly growing out. Soft blonde curls sprouted, haloing her face.
She released a shot of air. “They were shipped to the Vault from someone looking to get rid of them. Erasmus Everlasting asked me to bring them home and dust them.”
“All of them?” I asked, incredulous.
She nodded. “All of them.”
I stared at the box of seemingly harmless glassware. “Why would he have you dust it here if it’s supposed to go in the Vault?”
The Vault was Magnolia Cove’s storage unit for all objects magical.
Amelia shrugged. “I don’t really know. They’re supposed to separate things, but they must not be dangerous if Erasmus is letting them out of the Vault. Besides, we’re overrun with objects right now. He’s got to reorganize things to create more space.”
I frowned. “We’re magical. Can’t he just use a spell and make the Vault bigger?”
“You would think.” Amelia raked her fingers down her tired face. “But apparently it’s not that simple.”
“Nothing ever is in Magnolia Cove.” I opened the fridge. “Just be careful. I don’t want something bad happening to us.”
The kitchen door opened, and my grandmother, Betty Craple, strolled in wearing a floral dress, white gloves and a white hat.
“You having tea with the queen?” I said.
Amelia giggled. “You are fancy.”
Betty glared daggers of fire at us.
“You do look nice,” I said quickly. “I didn’t mean the tea thing in a bad way.”
Betty pulled a pipe from her pocket and shoved it between her teeth. “This better? Now I don’t look like I’m having tea with anyone, do I?”
Amelia and I exchanged a look. “No, you still look like you’re having tea with someone.”
“Well, with an attitude like that, no one’s going to want to have tea with you,” Amelia said.
I stifled a laugh.
“For your information,” Betty snorted, “I have a meeting of the Magnolia Cove Founding Witches. We don’t meet that often, and when we do, I have to dress up.”
Amelia arched a brow. “Is that because Snow Wigley’s going to be there?”
I hiked a brow. “Snow Wigley? Who’s that?”
Betty frowned. “Don’t you be worrying about Snow Wigley.”
“Snow,” Amelia informed me, “is only Betty’s oldest rival when it comes to who has the best and most successful life.”
I scoffed. “If it weren’t for Betty, Magnolia Cove wouldn’t even exist.”
They stared at me blankly.
“Okay, maybe the town would exist, but Betty’s the witch connected to the heart stone. If the heart stone didn’t have anyone connected to it, the town’s magic would go kaput.”
The heart stone was an actual stone made from a heart that lived in our fireplace. Yes, it sounds weird, I know, but just roll with it.
All of Magnolia Cove’s magic is tied to that stone, and the stone, in turn, is tied to a living person—my grandmother.
Betty scratched her bald scalp underneath the curly gray wig she wore. “That’s true, but my rivalry with Snow goes way back. For several years her daughter was Magical Ambassador to Britain.”
I cringed. “Oh, and your daughters—”
The back door opened abruptly, slamming against the wall. Mint and Licky Craple, my aunts and Betty’s children, strolled inside, wide smiles on their faces.
I went ahead and finished my sentence to Betty. “Your daughters are chaos witches.”
“You see how Snow wins,” Betty said.
I flashed my engagement ring at her. “Well, I just got engaged to a man who pretty much single-handedly stopped a werewolf/witch fight in the South. If that’s not enough, I defeated Lacy the Evil, as I like to refer to her, in a witch match that was almost to the death.”
“Your death,” Amelia said.
That was all true. A couple of weeks ago the Head Witch Order had arrived with one purpose—to steal my powers. I could either go with them willingly or have my magic sucked from me.
I chose neither.
Luckily it all worked out and I defeated their leader, Lacy.
In the end, everything had turned out okay. Amelia even got a new sweetie out of the deal—Sherman Oaks, a bumbling wizard but one that practically worshipped the ground Amelia walked on.
If you asked me, that was what she needed. Before Sherman, Amelia hadn’t had much luck with men.
But anyway, Mint and Licky had arrived, and all our attention was honed on the two chaos witches.
Betty cocked her chin at them. “What do you two want?”
So much for a welcome greeting.
Mint raked her finger through her silky locks. “We only came over to say hello.”
“And we’re sorry we missed the Head Witch Order,” Licky added, twisting a few strands of her straight hair into a braid. “But there were things we had to do.”
“Or we would’ve been here to fight,” Mint said proudly. “But as it was—”
“We were on vacation,” Licky finished.
“Good thing,” Betty said. “Now, what is it you want?”
Mint and Licky exchanged a smile. Mint spoke. “We’ve come to escort you to the Magnolia Cove Founding Witches meeting.”
She raised one fisted hand and snapped her wrist. Flames unfurled in the air, revealing a sheet of pristine white paper.
Betty paled. “What in tarnation is that?”
Mint smiled. “It’s our invitation to join the club.”
“We are descendants of the people who started this town,” Licky said.
“So naturally we’d eventually be asked to join.”
The veins in Betty’s temples popped. “No. Absolutely not. There is no way y’all two are going to the meeting and embarrassing me.”
Mint’s mouth dropped open in shock. She splayed a hand over her chest. “Mama, we just want to go and support you.”
Betty ignored her. “Oh, Snow will have a field day with this. She probably sent you the invitations, knowing what it’ll do to me that you’ll be there. She’ll be spouting off about her daughter the ex-ambassador, and I’ll be explaining how my daughters nearly destroy anything they come in contact with.”
Licky folded her arms and said crossly, “I take offense to that sort of talk.”
“You can take offense all you want, but that’s how it is.” Betty’s gaze swept around the room until it landed on me and Amelia. “Y’all two, pack up. If Mint and Licky are going to the meeting, so are y’all.”
I shot Amelia a confused look. “But we weren’t invited.”
“I’ll say you’re my guests.” Betty’s gaze landed on the mason jars. “What are those?”
Amelia opened her mouth to answer.
“Never mind, bring those too,” Betty commanded. “We’re all going.” She eyed my outfit of jeans and a T-shirt. “That won’t do.”
My grandmother snapped her fingers, and I was suddenly draped in a violet suit dress. Double-breasted buttons lined the jacket, and the cuffs flared just slightly. I touched my head and found Betty had topped off the outfit with a hat.
My gaze landed on Amelia, and she looked exactly the same, except she wore powder blue. “Is it okay if I finish cleaning the jars.”
Betty sniffed. “If you must, but sit in the back.”
I frowned. “Won’t that look weird? Amelia cleaning?”
Betty shook her head. “They’ll think she’s the help. It’ll be fine.”
Amelia’s face fell. “That’s not an insult or anything.”
Betty shooed us toward the door. “I’ll tell them you’re doing official Vault business. That’ll twist up Snow’s girdle good and tight. No one will question you after that.”
I shot Amelia a hopeful look. “I’m game if you are.”
Amelia shook her head. “You haven’t met Snow. Once you meet her, you’ll wish you’d never gone.”
Mint clapped her hands. “Is everyone ready? I’ll whisk us there by magic.”
“I’ll take care of myself and my granddaughters,” Betty snapped. “There’s no telling where you’ll end up sending us if we go with y’all.”
Licky brushed a bit of lint from her shoulders. “Well then, we’ll see y’all there.”
My aunts clapped their hands in unison, and in less than a blink they’d vanished.
“Let’s just hope they end up in Bermuda and I don’t have to deal with it,” Betty said. She opened the door and stared outside. “Are the two of y’all ready?”
Amelia grabbed the box of rattling mason jars. “I feel like such an idiot.”
“But at least you’re an idiot with style,” I said. “Besides, wouldn’t you rather be entertained by your mom and aunt instead of sitting here cleaning jars all alone?”
Amelia shrugged. “That’s a hard call.”
“Buck up, kids,” Betty said. “Tighten your hats, hold on to your panties and let’s get ready to attend this meeting. There’s no time for cast-iron skillet riding. We’re doing this the old-fashioned way—by magic.”
“Isn’t everything in this town done by magic?”
Betty shot me a scathing look. “Don’t go getting smart on me, girl. I’m too old to put up with that crap.”
“Sorry,” I said.
Betty lit her corncob pipe and covered one nostril. A tendril of sparkling magic swirled from her nose and surrounded us. “Here we go,” she said.
The magic coiled, engulfing me. The backyard faded away, and a moment later I was standing on a cliff overlooking a deep bluff. A raging river gushed below.
I felt some sort of invisible force pulling me forward before a hand clutched the scruff of my neck and yanked me back.
“Turn around, kid,” Betty said. “We’re here.”
I pressed a hand to my chest. My heart beat frantically, pounding all the way into my ears.
I pivoted to find the three of us standing in front of a blue cottage tucked into a forest, overlooking the bluff.
“Where are we? I thought you said we were in Magnolia Cove.”
Betty adjusted her hat low, nearly covering her eyes. “We’re in the Cobweb Forest.”
“Who lives here?” I said, unbelieving. The Cobweb Forest could be a dangerous place—moving trees, unknown creatures, possibly giant spiders. I just made up the last one, but you never knew. No one lived out here. No one.
At least until now.
Amelia adjusted the box in her arms. “Snow Wigley, that’s who.”
I stared at the cottage. A round porthole window sat at the very top of what appeared to be the third floor. A shadow moved across the glass and light flickered.
Chill bumps rushed down my spine. The cottage was a cheery blue with white lacy trim. It looked inviting, but at the same time there was something eerie about it.
I felt like I was standing at the mouth of the witch’s home in “Hansel and Gretel.” If I wasn’t careful, I’d be tossed into a fire.
The front door creaked open.
Amelia shuddered. “This is so creepy. How long do we have to stay?”
Betty’s chin stiffened. “As long as it takes or until your mother embarrasses us.”
A woman who looked to be in her midsixties stood in the doorframe. She wore a snow-white antebellum dress, ringlet curls and dark eyeliner that made her look at least one hundred years old as well as crazy.
“Whoa,” I whispered. “Who invited Baby Jane?” I referenced the old movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Amelia ribbed me. I sucked air, and then suddenly realized exactly who I was looking at.
Snow Wigley stretched out her arms and, in the most caustic voice ever—seriously, it sounded like her vocal cords had been raked over gravel—she said, “Betty Craple, welcome to my home. Your daughters are already here, ready to be initiated into the group. I see you’ve brought your granddaughters. Come in, young ladies. Come in.”
Her gaze darted to the trees. “Hurry, you never know what lurks in this forest. You’d better come inside before the family of rabid possums that’s been living under the bluffs decides to jump up and attack.”
Amelia’s voice shook with fear. “Rabid possums?”
Snow cackled, a true witch’s cackle. Betty snaked her hands through our arms, linking us. “Come on, girls. Let’s go. Better get out of the open before something happens.”
Snow smiled and gestured for us to enter. The stairs creaked as I ascended the porch. “Come in.”
The old witch gave us room to sweep past her. “This should be enjoyable,” Snow said. “Mint and Licky Craple are about to cast a spell to see if they’re ready to join.”
Betty snarled. “What sort of spell?”
Snow’s eyes glittered with delight. “Why, a conjuring spell, of course. Mint and Licky are about to conjure a spirit from the other side.” She leaned forward. “Let’s hope they get it right.”
Her tone made me feel like a sliver of ice was running down my back. “Why’s that?”
“Because, dear,” Snow said as if I were a simple girl who could barely understand American English, “if they conjure an evil spirit, that could kill us all.”
Snow smiled widely as she shut the door behind us, closing us in.
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