A witch in denial........ An interfering family........ A murder......... A vampire who may or may not be a good guy......... A dog who is more intelligent than the average person........ Just another day in the complicated world that is Jenny Sinclair’s life.
Jenny Sinclair is a witch who is still trying to recover from an event in her past which altered her life forever. She’s carved out a life for herself, but unfortunately for Jenny, her past is about to catch-up to her, along with an attack on the community she belongs to.
Oliver Collins has worked hard to achieve standing in his chosen career. He never thought that a troubled witch who can’t seem to hold back a single thought she has would get under his cool, controlled exterior. Just when he thinks there is a chance of a happy future, events unfurl which threaten his own life and the person he cares for the most. One thing is for certain, no one in the witch or vampire community is safe…Will Jenny be able to make the right choices or will she never escape the past?
The Reluctant Witch is a romantic paranormal cozy mystery, topped with a generous dose of humour, action, and mystery. If you like simmering chemistry, fast-paced adventures, and strong, compelling characters, and page-turning twists and turns, then you'll love Amelia Hopegood’s tale.
Buy The Reluctant Witch and enjoy a dose of romance, mystery and the supernatural today!
Release date: August 8, 2020
Print pages: 284
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The Reluctant Witch
I am not a witch. I am not a witch. I. Am. Not.
As I rested my feet on my cluttered coffee table, the first warning I received that my peace was about to be disturbed was when my police dog started wagging his tail. My black and white English springer spaniel, Fitzwilliam, was not moving any other part of his body.
I groaned and swung my feet from their comfortable position. Fitzwilliam’s response could mean only one thing: At least one member of my family was about to knock on the door. I actually expected more than one person – my relations tended to move around in groups. It was more intimidating that way to us lesser mortals.
True to form, a hearty knock pounded on the sturdy wooden unit. Standing, I looked around. I wasn’t the tidiest of people. My excuse was that I worked long hours, but the reality was — laziness. Why tidy when I could binge watch the latest Netflix boxset? I thought the place didn’t look too bad, so I didn’t do the usual mad run around to hide at least some of the mess before opening the door.
My mother and grandmother stood, smiling, on the front step.
“That’s a worrying sight,” I said in greeting, stepping back to allow them entry. Fitzwilliam was doing his usual snake around the legs dance in greeting.
“Let us in, Fitz,” my mother said, waving at him. Fortunately, he’s a highly intelligent dog who understands the random waves my mother often aims in his direction, so he stopped his dance and led the way into the lounge as if my family had come to visit him. Which wasn’t an unreasonable assumption to make, as I think he at least equals me in their affections.
They entered the square room, which was my favourite room in my small house; sun brightened it almost all day when the sun actually came out of course. The sofa and chairs were a little too big for the space, but it was furniture that hugged you. Bookshelves filled the back wall, and a tiny television occupied a corner. I’d decorated each wall a different colour, as I couldn’t make up my mind what ‘theme’ I should paint it. The colours were all shades of lilac and purple, my favourite colour. It definitely was my happy place — a bit haphazard, but warm and comfortable. Sums up my home and myself to a tee.
The two most formidable women in the family assessed the clutter level — and made no attempt to hide it. “You could have this sorted in a matter of seconds,” my mother scolded, hinting at the subject, which once raised, always ended in an argument.
Ignoring her words, I smiled at them both. “Brew?”
“Yes, please. It’s freezing out there,” my grandma said.
“I’ll switch on the fire,” I responded, moving over to my gas fire and pressing the ignite button. I made tea while they crowded the building warmth.
Grandma sniffed as she saw me enter carrying a tray bearing three cups. “No biscuits?”
“No. It’s four weeks until Christmas. I’m trying to be good,” I answered.
“You can be good when you’re dead,” Grandma responded in disgust.
“I’d rather be good now and prolong the death part for as long as possible, thanks,” I retorted.
“You come from a line of long-lived witches. There’ll be no problem in your living for decades yet,” Grandma assured me.
“I’m only half witch, and I certainly don’t look like one,” I pointed out through gritted teeth. It was true. My mother was a witch but had committed a cardinal sin by falling in love with a non-magical man. There had been arguments, apparently. My mother looked like a witch: jet black hair and green eyes that glowed whenever she carried out her witchy tasks. Me, on the other hand: mousey brown hair and blue eyes. About as un-witchlike as I could be. “Anyway, in order to quickly change the subject, to what do I owe this honour?”
“You were a high achiever, half witch or not,” Grandma muttered.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t got the time to start this argument at the moment. We have other things to discuss,” Mum intervened.
Immediately on the alert, I waited. If mum didn’t want to support Grandma in her argumentative persuasion of trying to return me to the witches’ fold, something must be up.
“Have you heard from any of your colleagues this morning?” Mum asked.
“No. I’m on rest day for a couple of days. Should I have?” I was a dog-handler for the local police force. It combined my two loves — protecting people and working with dogs.
“We thought you might have because of the nature of what’s happened,” Mum said.
“You’d best explain,” I said, sitting down on my sofa. I didn’t put my feet back on my coffee table. Yes, it was my house, and yes, I was an adult, but you don’t appreciate the high standards of my relations nor their quelling looks when someone, okay me, was foolish enough to step out of line. Give me some credit for being careful about which fights to choose.
“A witch has been killed, and there were bite marks on her neck,” Grandma supplied.
“Really?” Her words certainly got my attention.
“Yes. Last night sometime. She was found in the woods this morning by a dog walker,” Mum said. “Obviously it was around town in minutes.”
“Obviously,” I responded dryly. There’s something you need to understand about my town. It’s weird. Witches, humans and vampires live together, side by side, in an uncomfortable but fairly consistent peace. It’s one of the few places in England, Scotland, and Wales where that happens. Normally, the two sides of the supernatural don’t take to each other, and the humans don’t trust any of us, in the main. Animosity and mistrust abound from lack of understanding of the traditions and ways of the opposing groups. That makes it sensible to live in separate areas. Laughable really when we are held up as the epitome of towns. The reality is, if we’re separate, there’s less likelihood of tension.
Our town, for some long-lost reason way back in its history, decided to live together, in an uneasy, but acceptable, neighbourly fashion. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we mix; we just live side by side, but peacefully, which is very important to all sides.
“Have they found out who did it?”
“Not as far as we know. But it’s being treated as a murder,” Mum said unnecessarily.
“There’s to be an urgent meeting of the elders tonight. Can you minute it?” Grandma asked. She wanted to know if I could take the minutes of the meeting for the record of official witch business. The elders meeting was really the only part of witching life I took part in, and that was only because I was a non-practising witch. It was a rule that the record of the meetings had to be written by a non-magical person. The witching community hated this. There was a healthy distrust of the non-magics within both the witching and vampire worlds, which to be fair was equally as high within the human world. When I’d rejected my heritage, it had seemed a perfect way of remaining true to the constitution without having a non-magic involved. That was the justification of the elders. My aim was to choose the route of least confrontation.
If it meant that I led a peaceful life without some of the recriminations of my people for turning my back on magic, I could live with it. Some of the elders were open in their opinion of me, but the only real criticisms of my life choices came from my family. I could ignore those with a fair level of equanimity. Most of the time.
“Yes. I’ll be there,” I said. “It must be sending ripples through both communities,” I mused. “My bosses will be organising patrols.”
“There’s already been a higher police presence around,” Mum admitted.
“Did you know the woman who was killed?” I asked.
“No. She’d only just moved into town,” Grandma said. “The welcome party had been round, but she’d not really had time to get involved with anything as yet. She lived alone. Poor girl. Cut off in her prime.”
Grandma’s assessment of the age of the deceased, could range from anything from twenty years, to a hundred and twenty. We weren’t like vampires who could live for hundreds of years, but reaching a hundred and thirty, was a common occurrence. Thankfully, humans were living longer, so old age was less of an indication of being an old witch when seeing a very elderly person around town.
The witching community nominated a few elders and some of the younger members for a welcoming party to any newcomers to the area. Their role was to encourage new witches to fully engross themselves into the events and organisations that existed in the area. It also gave us the opportunity to explain our unique living arrangements. I didn’t necessarily agree with this. I thought it just created wariness, especially of the vampire community, from the start. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any say in what happened. I was barely tolerated in most cases; I was an outcast for rejecting my heritage. I wasn’t run out of town only because grandma was one of the elders.
It was a fact I could have lived with, completely moving away and starting afresh, but my family couldn’t, so I stayed put. It meant I existed on the edge of two societies, the magic one and the non-magics. I didn’t really fit into either. It wasn’t always easy, but I loved my family, so accepting things as they were, I just got on with it.
“I’ll meet you at the library at seven,” I said. “I’ll give Fitz a walk beforehand.”
“Do you think that’s wise?” Mum asked. “There’s a killer on the loose.”
“I’ll walk him in the park, not the woods,” I said. There was no point in arguing with a protective parent, nor did I want to cause her any unnecessary worry.
“I could come with you. At least then I’ll have my powers to use if anything should happen,” Mum offered.
“Only a fool would be anywhere near this town today with the amount of police activity there’ll be,” I assured her. “And it would seem magic wouldn’t do anyone any good if an active witch couldn’t fight off her attacker.”
Mum took a sharp breath. “If we can’t fight them with magic, what can we do to protect ourselves?”
“Find the murderer,” I said.
“We’ll be conducting our own enquiries,” Grandma assured her daughter.
“You should leave it to the police,” I cautioned.
“Pah. One of ours is dead. None of us is going to rely solely on the non-magics to find the killer,” Grandma retorted.
“Those are my colleagues you’re criticising,” I responded just as tartly.
“Who will just put it down to inter-racial fighting. Don’t worry. Anything we find, we’ll pass on to them. Through you,” Grandma assured me.
“You really want to see me hated by every colleague I come into contact with, don’t you?” I sighed. “I would love to just go to work like a normal person and get on with my life. Instead you insist on reminding my peers that I’m an oddity.”
“You are a witch of the finest pedigree,” Grandma sniffed. “It isn’t my fault you came up with some hare-brained idea of following a non-magical profession.”
“It was more than that. You know it was,” I said quietly. It was always the same. I could never get them to understand my decisions, yet they knew my reasons for making them. My life choices hadn’t been made on a whim. I still suffered the nightmares to prove it.
“Come, Mother,” Mum said. “Let’s get back. I need to drop you off before collecting Jim from the golf club.”
“Give dad a kiss for me,” I said, standing to hopefully encourage Grandma to realise that our conversation was over.
“I will. ‘Bye, love.”
“Bye, Jenny,” Grandma said, for once taking the hint. “I’ll see you later. Don’t be late.”
“I never am,” I answered, giving her a kiss on the cheek. I closed the door behind them. Looking down at Fitzwilliam, I rolled my eyes. “Ten years, and she still won’t accept my decision.” My words received a tail wag and a circle, his usual happy dance. “Yes. You know it’s an early dinner for you and a leg stretch. I daren’t be late after claiming that I never was.”
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