A grave situation
Things were already bad enough for Reg Rawlins, Psychic Investigator. As if being the target of bigotry and hate crimes wasn't enough, she fears she may finally be losing her grip on her own sanity.
She's losing her memories, sense of reality, and her central self. And, of course, there's the small matter of a dead body that she appears to be responsible for.
Going back to a life on the street scraping by with a few psychic readings and spiritual contacts is actually starting to look pretty good.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ P.D. Workman's witchy writing carries you through a world that can make you stop and wander. Could something like this really happen? Could it be possible? You sure wish it could be. Even the smile you have at the end says this might just be the beginning of a magical new life.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This book has all my favourite things: heart, great writing, nearly-flawless editing, something unusual in the air, and a cat.
Like paranormal mysteries? Psychics, witches, fairies, and more! Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling Author P.D. Workman waves her wand to transport readers to the myth- and magic-filled small town of Black Sands for another paranormal cozy mystery to be solved by Reg Rawlins and her friends.
A self-professed con artist practicing as a contact to the dead, a drop-dead gorgeous warlock, and a psychic cat—what could go wrong?
Fall under Reg's spell today.
Release date: August 20, 2021
Publisher: pd workman
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Reg looked with dismay at the broken eggshells and dried egg white and yolk that covered her door and doorstep. Who would egg her cottage? Teenagers? Someone who didn’t like a psychic reading she had given them? Maybe it was a mistake, meant for one of her neighbors rather than her. It wasn’t like she was involved in urban warfare with someone in the neighborhood; she couldn’t imagine why she had been singled out for the honor.
Sarah returned from the big house with a bucket of soap and water and a scrub brush. She shook her head, lips pressed together grimly. “This is reprehensible,” she said. “Vandalism. Who in Black Sands would do something like this?”
“I don’t know. I can’t understand it. Maybe it was a mistake,” Reg floated the theory to see what Sarah thought of it.
Sarah scowled. “It was a mistake, all right. And you can bet that if I catch whoever did it, they’re going to know how big a mistake it was.”
“I meant… maybe it was meant for someone else. Not me.”
“I don’t know. I just know that it’s here now, and it needs to be cleaned up.”
“I’ll do it.” Reg tried to take the cleaning supplies from Sarah. “It’s my door. You don’t need to do that.”
“It’s your rental. It’s my cottage. It’s my responsibility as the property owner to keep it in good condition.”
“Yes, but this isn’t your fault.”
“It isn’t yours either.” Sarah wet her scrub brush and started in on the door. Reg stood there, feeling helpless and guilty. She wished that Sarah would use magic to clean the egg off instead of manual labor. She didn’t like the old woman having to do a job like that. Whatever Sarah said, Reg knew that the fault lay with her, and she should be the one to do the work to clean it up.
“Why don’t you pick up the eggshells?” Sarah suggested.
“Okay. I can do that.” Reg went back into the cottage to get a garbage bag. Starlight looked up from the patch of sunshine he was lounging in and made an inquiring sound.
“Someone threw eggs at the house,” Reg told the tuxedo cat. “I can’t believe it. I don’t know why anyone would do that.”
He cocked his head at an angle, looking puzzled. Reg tried to figure out how to explain it to him. Rather than using words, she opened her feelings to him. He sat up abruptly and looked toward the door. Reg nodded and sighed. She got the garbage bag and went back outside to help with the cleanup.
She painstakingly picked up all the eggshells she could find on the ground and doorstep. There was something on a large flat rock in the side garden, and she stopped to look at it.
Sarah put down her equipment and walked over to Reg, arching and rubbing her back. She looked down at the rock, where Reg had found several melted candles and markings, including a roughly painted figure that looked like a woman with a bird’s body. Sarah picked up the candles one at a time and put them into Reg’s garbage bag. She examined the markings and looked back at Reg.
“What does it mean?” Reg asked.
Sarah pointed to the bird woman. “It’s a siren.”
“A siren?” Reg puzzled over it. “But it’s a bird. I thought that sirens were… more like mermaids.”
“They are often represented in early art as birds.” Sarah shrugged. “Clearly, actual sirens cannot fly. It’s metaphorical. Maybe because of their song. But they are not mermaids either. While they operate in the sea, they can’t live and breathe underwater.”
Reg stared down at the picture, trying to understand what it all meant. “So… does that mean that someone knows… about me? That my mother was part siren?” Reg couldn’t bring herself to say that she herself was part siren or had siren instincts or powers. She was still trying to work that all out herself. But of course, that was what she meant.
Sarah nodded her agreement. “Someone knows about your heritage. And that is why you were targeted. These candles and that representation… and the other symbols… it is a spell of protection.”
“Against sirens. Yes. And the eggs… well, I guess their meaning is clear.” Sarah shook her head. “Witches are peaceful. They live in harmony with nature and their communities.” She looked back at Reg’s door. “They don’t engage in this kind of… hate.”
But obviously, they had. They hadn’t been satisfied with a spell to protect themselves from sirens; they had to take it further. They had to make a personal gesture against her too. To make sure Reg knew that they did not appreciate her presence in Black Sands.
“Should I… what should I do?”
Sarah raised her eyebrows in query.
“I mean… should I… is there something I can do? Should I just ignore it? Should I try to find out who did it and tell them to knock it off, or I’ll turn them in to the cops or their coven? Should I… leave?”
“You can’t leave,” Sarah protested immediately. “No, that wouldn’t be right. You can’t let them force you out. Just ignore it; I’m sure that once people have vented their worry, it will die down. They’ll see that nothing has changed, realize that you’re not hunting here and not a danger to them.”
Reg swallowed and nodded. She didn’t like to think about how close she had come to doing harm due to her siren instincts being inadvertently triggered. The people in Black Sands were right to be worried. But she wasn’t going to give in to those instincts. Corvin said that the more she resisted them, the easier it would become. And considering his own predatory nature, he probably had a pretty good idea what he was talking about.
It took time to get everything cleaned up, and when Reg and Sarah finished and everything looked the way it should, Reg felt pride in their accomplishment. They had erased the mark against her name. She felt energized, as if the cleaning had been a catharsis. Getting rid of all the bad and starting fresh and clean. It felt good. Sarah too was smiling.
“There you go. All taken care of. That wasn’t so bad after all, was it? Probably needed a good spring cleaning anyway.”
Reg nodded. “Yeah. It feels… welcoming,” she said, looking at the front door of her cottage.
“Yes, it does. Well, now we don’t have to worry any more about that. How does your schedule look?”
Reg walked back into the cottage to look at her datebook on the kitchen island. Sarah probably had a better idea than she did how everything looked. She seemed to find more clients for Reg than she found for herself, and kept everything neatly organized.
She flipped through the next few days. “Pretty light. But that’s okay. I could use a break. Things have been kind of crazy lately.”
Sarah nodded. “Yes, things always seem to pick up around this time of year. May as well take your break while you can get it. And,” she lowered her voice, even though there wasn’t anyone else around to overhear them, “it isn’t like you desperately need the money. You have what you need, even if you do go through a dry spell.”
“It’s not a dry spell. It’s just… a break. I need it,” Reg insisted.
“Okay. Yes, of course. Everyone needs time for rest and recovery.”
Reg closed the book so that she wouldn’t have to look at the mostly blank pages. Sarah was right. She was the only one who knew about the small chest of gems Reg had received from the fairies to compensate her for her services. It wouldn’t do to tell other people about it and make herself a target. If she was the only one who knew about her wealth, she didn’t have to worry about burglars breaking in to steal from her.
Even if she didn’t have anyone else coming to her for readings or seances, she could live off of the gems.
“I’m just going to kick back and relax for a while,” Reg told Sarah. She’d gotten up earlier than usual when Sarah had discovered the mess on the door. She would probably have a nap to catch up on the missed sleep. And to build up her strength after everything else that had happened recently.
“All right, dear. I’ll see you later, then.” Sarah bent down to pet Starlight, and then let herself out of the cottage.
* * *
Reg decided to go to The Crystal Bowl for supper. She didn’t want the food Sarah had left in the fridge and she didn’t want to order in. And she didn’t cook much.
To be honest, she never cooked.
And she wasn’t about to start. But The Crystal Bowl had been her go-to restaurant since that first day she had moved into Black Sands and had met Sarah there. Pleasant atmosphere, good food, plenty of other practitioners around who saw nothing strange about the psychic with her red hair in box braids and flamboyant fortune teller clothing. There were plenty of cloaks and capes and other odd fashions in evidence at The Crystal Bowl. Reg didn’t stand out even with her eccentricities.
She sat down in a booth, not wanting to chat at the bar. She waved at Bill the barman and nodded to a few other people she knew casually.
Their reactions were a bit off from what they usually were. People looked puzzled by her wave instead of responding with a smile and wave of their own. They turned away from her and whispered together. Talking about Reg? She didn’t like the feeling that everyone was watching her, waiting for her to do something.
A waiter approached Reg’s table. He looked at her, then looked around for assistance from the other wait staff or his manager. No one stepped forward to help him or give him any instructions. It wasn’t like he was new; he knew how to take an order. He frowned, then walked up to Reg’s table.
“Uh… how are you today, Miss Rawlins?”
“Reg.” She shrugged. “I’m fine. What’s going on here? You look like you’re waiting for a bomb to go off.”
“Well…” He again looked around for help, and still no one else stepped forward to assist. “It’s just that… we were wondering if you wouldn’t be happier going somewhere else.”
“Somewhere else?” Reg repeated blankly.
“Yes… maybe a different restaurant… or staying home tonight. Ordering in.”
“No. I came here because this is where I want to eat.” Reg looked at her hands, half expecting to see that she was changing color or into some other creature. What was wrong with Elliot? He’d never acted that way around her before. He was usually casual and pleasant, good-humored, exchanging jokes with her or telling her stories about everyone else’s problems. “Why would I want to leave?”
“It’s just… we don’t serve your kind here.”
“My kind? I’ve eaten here a hundred times before. What are you talking about? I’m a paying customer. You’re not going to turn away paying customers!”
He looked increasingly uncomfortable. “That was before. When nobody knew about… you know.”
“When nobody knew what?” Reg demanded. But, of course, she was already putting it together. The worried looks, the mention of “her kind.” She’d been turned away from restaurants plenty of times in the past. Back then, “your kind” had meant a person they deemed homeless or unable to pay. But that wasn’t the case in Black Sands.
“Miss Rawlins,” he said in a low voice, ducking his head down and looking around as if he were afraid other people were going to hear her making a scene. She hadn’t raised her voice. But she certainly could, if he were doing what she thought he was. “I’m sorry. It’s nothing personal. The Crystal Bowl is for human practitioners of magic and the supernatural arts. We don’t serve… other types here.”
“You’ve always served me before and I’ve always paid my bill and never caused any trouble. So why is it a problem now? Nothing has changed. I’m still going to enjoy the meal and pay you afterward. If you’re looking for a bigger tip…” She shrugged. “I’ll do what I can. But I don’t see why there should be any problem.”
“I know… but it’s policy. We can’t have people in here… hunting. We can’t take the chance of putting our other patrons at risk.”
“That’s crap. You let Corvin Hunter eat here, and you know he’s a predator. You let Norma Jean eat here when she was in town, and her bloodline is more pure than mine. I’ve seen all kinds in here in the months that I’ve lived in Black Sands.”
“I’ve been asked to pass the message on to you,” Elliot said, raising his hands palms-out in a defensive gesture. “Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m really sorry.”
“You think I’m just going to start… attacking people? Really?”
“No.” He looked down at his feet. “No, I know that…”
“You can go back and tell your manager that I’m not leaving. He or she can come out here and talk to my face. What are they doing sending a kid in here to try to get rid of me, anyway?”
Elliot looked relieved at this. He wasn’t going to end up being Reg’s next victim. “I’ll go get you someone, Miss Rawlins.”
He disappeared into the back hallway. Reg shook her head. He hadn’t even served her a drink. If they were going to try to kick her out, couldn’t they at least give her a drink first?
It was a few minutes before anyone came to see her. Obviously, they hadn’t been hanging out in the back room just waiting for Elliot to fetch them.
Eventually, a woman came out. Reg had seen her around before, but didn’t know her well. Mona, a petite, dark-haired woman with a crisp white shirt and little black tie. Usually, there was a man who was in charge. Similar in coloring to Mona, but tall and thin. Maybe her brother.
Did they send a woman out to take care of Reg because they were afraid she might attack a man? She hadn’t attacked Elliot.
She hadn’t ever attacked anyone in The Crystal Bowl. It was silly to think that she was going to start now.
Mona gave Reg a determined smile. “I’m sorry for the trouble, Miss Rawlins. But you must be able to see the position we are in. We are responsible for the safety of our patrons. And someone like you… who could possibly be a danger… well, we really can’t risk it.”
“I’ve never hurt anyone. I’ve eaten here a hundred times before. I’ve never caused you any trouble.”
Though she did remember a series of glasses breaking. But that hadn’t been her fault. It wasn’t something she could control. She grimaced and thought it best not to mention that small point.
“I understand that,” Mona agreed. “But then, we didn’t know about your… nature. And now that it has been revealed, and you have been… hunting in Black Sands…” Mona shook her head. “You can see how it is, can’t you?”
“I didn’t hunt here,” Reg indicated the interior of the restaurant. “And I’ve never hurt anyone. That’s ridiculous. I’m not going to hurt anyone here. I’m obviously not here to hunt. Except maybe a fish burger!” Reg laughed, hoping that Mona would join in with an obliging chuckle.
But she didn’t.
“Just take my order,” Reg urged. “I’m not sitting close to anyone. I’m not having anyone over to join me. I’m just going to sit here by myself and enjoy a meal. I’m not trying to… lure anyone to their death.”
Mona shook her head and cleared her throat. “The liability is too high. If something happened to someone here… if it became known that we knowingly let a predatory creature into the restaurant… insurance doesn’t cover that kind of risk.”
Creature insurance? Was there any kind of rider a person could buy for that? It seemed like they could protect themselves from any kind of risk lately. Though there had been Vivian. She hadn’t been able to get any kind of insurance after all the accidents that had happened to her. She had been too high a risk.
“How about a drink and you get me something to go?” Reg suggested, trying to come up with a compromise. She didn’t want to go home empty-handed. She didn’t want to leave and try to find another restaurant that would accept her patronage. She was hungry and just wanted a meal. Like every other time she had come to The Crystal Bowl.
Mona paused, apparently considering the merits of this suggestion. It would get Reg out of her restaurant. But she would still be getting Reg’s trade.
But evidently, Mona decided after due consideration that even just a drink was too big of a risk. She shook her head again. “I’m sorry, but you really are going to have to go.”
“I’d like to talk to the owner,” Reg blustered, hoping that Mona wasn’t the owner of the restaurant and there was still another level to appeal to.
Mona shook her head. “The buck stops here, I’m afraid. Don’t make me call the police to have you removed.”
“Oh, come on! What are you going to tell the police? That you think I’m a predator who is going to eat your other customers?”
The police in Black Sands were of the non-magical sort. There were a few around, like Detective Marta Jessup, who knew about magic or came from magical families, or even had some minor powers themselves. But those who were “in” on the secrets of Black Sands did not bring it up. If Mona called in the police, she would have to come up with some much more mundane excuse for not wanting Reg there.
“I will tell them that you were making a disruption. Or that you’ve passed bad checks or counterfeit cash here before. There are lots of reasons I can give.”
“But it’s a lie. You don’t have any evidence that I did any of those things.”
“They don’t ask for proof. There isn’t any big investigation into why I want someone removed from the restaurant. They’ll just take me at my word.”
That didn’t seem particularly fair. But Reg had been kicked out of enough shops and restaurants in the past to know that the police wouldn’t be on her side. They would just escort her out. And if she gave them any trouble, they would arrest her and throw her in the tank for the night.
“You won’t even give me a drink?” Reg wheedled again. “Does it look like I’m here hunting?”
She remembered when she and Corvin had seen a siren and a mermaid hunting down at the marina. It had been obvious what they had been up to. They had been ensorcelling a sailor. It had been clear. The same as when Norma Jean had been trying to lure Corvin. She got close to him, touched him, smiled, and flirted with him until he was utterly lost, with no way for him to return. Luckily, Norma Jean had not been able to close the deal or something had interrupted her from her plans. Corvin said the bloodlines were weak; a young or inexperienced siren might not have the instincts to take her prey down to the water or otherwise dispose of him. Like an animal raised in captivity that didn’t know how to kill. Or if it could kill, didn’t know what to do with its prey.
Mona looked pointedly at her watch. “I think we’ve wasted enough time on this. If you aren’t out of here in five minutes, I will be calling the police. We are not serving you, even one drink, so please leave.”
Reg stood up abruptly, her anger flaring. There were a couple of pops and the sound of falling glass as a couple of glasses exploded in the bar area. Mona stepped quickly back from Reg, her face pale. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and held it up for Reg to see. One last warning that she would call the cops.
And Reg didn’t want any involvement with the police. Nothing that would raise her profile in their eyes or make them want to run background on her. There was too much to be found about what had happened in the past. She had no desire to go back to Tennessee or Maine or any of the other states where she had operated under various names.
She liked Florida, and Black Sands in particular.
Reg sighed in exasperation. “I’m not doing anything to hurt you,” she snapped, irritated at Mona acting like she was a violent criminal. She couldn’t do anything about the exploding glasses.
Reg headed to the door, struggling to control her breathing to convince herself that there was nothing to be angry about. So they didn’t want her there at The Crystal Bowl. There were plenty of other restaurants that would accept her patronage.
As she reached the double front doors of The Crystal Bowl, she felt an unexpected rush of warmth and a magnetic pull toward them.
Reg knew what that meant.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...