To Wrangle A Witch (Southern Sanctuary Book 3), страница 1
To Wrangle a Witch
Southern Sanctuary – Book Three
Copyright©2014. All rights reserved by the author. Do not copy or re-distribute.
This is a work of fiction.
Front cover design; Fiona Jayde
For Chris, thanking you for all the years of friendship, support and love. The world is a better place because you’re in it. I’m totally riding on your coat-tails into Heaven.
Locke Valhalla’s dark blue gaze moved constantly over the crowd searching out the threat.
“It’s a mistake the three of us standing together like this,” Locke muttered under his breath so only his two brothers, Erik and Fen, could hear. “Too obvious a target.”
His brothers murmured their agreement but remained steadfastly by his side. There was safety in numbers after all.
“Is that..?” Erik flinched for a moment and then relaxed. “No, it’s okay.”
“We shouldn’t have come.” Fen ground out between clenched teeth. “Being out in the open like this… it’s freaking me out.”
“We’re all freaked out.” Locke grimaced, brushing away a smear of sand that clung to his perfectly pressed cotton trousers. Goddess he loathed casual wear, give him an Italian three piece suit to relax in any day of week. “We need to present a united front. We can’t afford to show any weakness.”
“You’re the eldest.” Fen eyed Locke with sudden keen interest. “You should be willing to take one for the team.”
Locke shuddered at the thought of the dire consequences of such an action. The endless screaming. The accompanying unidentifiable nose-hair searing smells. The torturous never ending sleepless nights. The inevitable mysterious stains, smears and streaks. It was enough to give him nightmares, who would volunteer for that reality? “I swear by the Goddess if you two give me up I will make your lives a living hell.”
The air around Erik and Fen thickened threateningly for a moment as the truth of Locke’s promise sank into their bones.
“Okay chill.” Erik held up a pacifying hand.
“Just thought I’d float the idea.” Fen looked unrepentant. “We need to come up with a plan and soon. In the last month I’ve had to change my locks twice, she keeps getting in somehow.”
“Well at least you can sleep at the station if you want.” Erik groused, referring to Fen’s job as a fireman. “Some of us don’t have that luxury. Last week I woke up, walked into my kitchen and there she was … and she wasn’t alone.”
All three brothers shuddered in unison.
“Worse, I was buck assed naked.”
“How did you get away?” Locke queried, horrified by the thought of his own immaculate and perfectly maintained fortress of peace and solitude being invaded in such a fashion.
“I climbed out the bathroom window.”
“We have trouble.” Fen interrupted. “Twelve o’clock.”
Goddess what fresh horror?
He loved her. Goddess help him he really did, but his mother was driving him and his brothers stark raving mad. For the last five months she had been waging a dogged campaign. Popping up ‘oh so casually’ in any number of places he and his brothers frequented, invariably with some bewildered – worse, sometimes eager - potential mother of her grandchildren in tow, for them to meet.
Here he was, thirty-eight years of age, a respected, nay, feared lawyer of international repute. A great white shark swimming in the ocean known as corporate law. And still... still his mother and her fierce desire for grandchildren scared the living shit out of him.
And the person responsible for creating this perfect storm of a nightmare – opening his mother’s eyes to see that her three sons were just as capable, if not more so, of providing her with the grandchildren she hoped, dreamed and yearned for – was sauntering towards him across the sand, all seven foot three freaking inches of him, flanked by several of his men, all of whom served the Goddess Maat as her Elite Warriors. All tall, ridiculously fit, deadly and worst of all, they weren’t just Maat’s muscle, they were quick-witted intelligent men with free will.
Narrowing his eyes as the wall of muscle closed in on him Locke refused to flinch, let alone blink to give any indication he was intimidated. “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” He couldn’t help himself, when he felt threatened he tended to get snarky.
Two of the men flanking Vaughn, the twins - he couldn’t remember their names - both laughed out loud.
“He’s funny Vaughn...”
“You never said he was funny.” The tawny haired one finished his golden haired brother’s sentence.
Yeah not freaky at all.
Locke turned his head to say something snide to his brothers under his breath and halted, the cowardly bastards had slunk away, leaving him to face the ‘Knights who say Ni’ on his own.
“Locke.” Vaughn smiled at him.
“Vaughn.” He kept his tone bland, uninterested, though internally loud strident alarm bells were ringing.
“I’m sure you remember my colleagues… Dash and Flynn.” Vaughn pointed towards the twins. “And Rafferty and Nate.” He gestured to the two men standing on his right, one with auburn hair, the other with sandy coloured hair and amber eyes sparkling with amusement.
Locke held his hands up. “Just take the money okay… leave the women and children alone.”
Once more the twins, Dash and Flynn, laughed.
“Don’t encourage him.” Vaughn instructed, his soft tone directly at odds with his dark golden eyes full of serious intent.
Locke crossed his arms. “Where’s Gi…” The word Gigantore froze on his lips as Vaughn’s whole body visibly tensed. “Hadleigh.” He quickly substituted. “Where’s Hadleigh?”
“We’ve talked about name calling.” Vaughn chided softly.
Locke wanted to roll his eyes. His baby sister was six foot six in height, like she needed defending. His head still rang in memory at the number of times as an infant she’d nailed him with a rattle to the skull. Then there were the dreaded toddler years when she’d graduated to plastic cutlery. To this day he wore his hair long at the front to cover the scars on his forehead.
He loved his sister, he really did. Even if she was their father’s favourite. Had been from the moment the squirming infant with the tufts of red hair had gummed down on Gunther’s fingers minutes after being born and managed to draw blood, much to their father’s delight.
With pupils that flashed forked lightning, long red hair and muscles stacked on muscles their father was the son of Odin, a warrior of Valhalla and one gruff bastard. Yet he’d taken one look at the squirming new arrival with the big grey eyes and blood smeared mouth, shouldered his three sons out the way and declared to his wife Lucy. “Now this is a warrior of Valhalla.”
Locke had been as jealous as hell growing up at the attention Gunther had paid Hadleigh. They were always together; training, sparring, fighting, running, jumping, duelling and wrestling. Not that Gunther ignored his sons exactly; he taught them all to defend themselves, to fight. But he recognised that none of them had the spark, the desire, the thirst or the fire to be a warrior that his daughter so obviously did.
So the teasing of Hadleigh had started early, sparked initially by jealousy, providing a reason for the three brothers to bond. Entering his teenage years Locke had come to be secretly grateful to Hadleigh for following in their father’s footsteps. If not for her, he, as first born, might have been required to step up. He shuddered at the thought, the never ending rigorous training, the injuries, the gore… the ugly practical clothes.
By that late stage though t
Then Vaughn came along and ruined everything, leaping to Hadleigh’s defence, manipulating their mother, winning over their father for Goddess sake. And whilst Locke might appreciate the irony, it didn’t mean he approved of Vaughn’s tactics, diverting their mother’s attention to her three sons instead of where it had been nicely focused for years, on Hadleigh. You’d think now Vaughn and Hadleigh were married that their mother would shift her attention back to ‘a sure thing’. But his mother had gob smacked them all by leaving Hadleigh alone to enjoy ‘the honeymoon’ stage of her new marriage. Instead she’d redoubled her efforts to find mates for her sons, so they could be just as ‘happy and content’ as their sister.
It was kind of darkly ironic that these days he used Hadleigh’s presence as a shield against Vaughn. “I haven’t seen Hadleigh… if that’s who you’re looking for.”
“No, you’re the one we wanted to talk to,” Vaughn confirmed. “We need your help.”
“Whatever it is, categorically, unequivocally - No!”
“There’s a life at stake.” Vaughn’s tone was still soft but now held an edge of steel.
“Hadleigh?” Locke leapt to the logical conclusion; why else would Vaughn be requesting his help unless his sister’s life was in danger.
“No not Hadleigh. A friend… a good friend to the team is in trouble.”
“And the seven warriors of Maat can’t deal with the situation themselves?” Locke was unconvinced. These men had been around for over a hundred years seeking out chaos and injustice, righting wrongs and being generally kick-ass. And here they were asking for his help?
“We need someone with your unique skillset.” Nate spoke up.
“Sharp dresser?” Locke queried wryly.
“Lawyer.” Rafe responded flatly.
“That and your unique… powers.” Vaughn added.
Locke’s attention shot to his brother-in-law. “What do you know of my magic?”
“Enough to know that you’re our best, possibly our only hope of rescuing Serena.”
Locke’s gut tightened, he was being set up, he was sure of it. “I’m sorry that your friend is in trouble but my schedule is pretty jammed packed at the moment. Maybe if you made an appointment with my office.”
“We’re under a time constraint.” Vaughn’s jaw was clenching and unclenching. “It’s taken us almost six months to find her. They could move her at any time. We need someone to go in and get her ASAFP.”
“And that someone would be me?” Locke was beyond dubious and bordering on thinking this all might be some elaborate practical joke.
“I’m prepared to negotiate.” Vaughn growled out in low tones.
“There’s not enough money in the world.”
“I was talking about your mother.”
Locke hesitated. Perhaps this wasn’t a joke after all, but still why would he do this man any favours? Vaughn might be family now but surely that didn’t make his problems any concern of Locke’s. “I don’t need your help to manage my mother thank you very much.”
There went that bargaining chip. Vaughn had no cards left to play.
“What about your father then? How impressed would he be to hear that a woman’s life hangs in the balance and one of his sons is failing to step up to help?”
“You… low… bastard.” Locke glared daggers.
“Just a very desperate one.” Vaughn acknowledged, seemingly with real regret in his eyes.
Locke huffed out a harsh breath. “When do you want to do this?”
“Now!” Rafe urged.
“After the wedding.” Vaughn countermanded.
“There’s a wedding?” Dash looked around confused.
“You really thought this was just a beach party?” Vaughn shook his head in wonder at his men. How could they be so oblivious?
“Who’s getting married?” Flynn frowned.
“Duh!” It was Locke who rolled his eyes. “Anyone with half a brain can see that your man Drum is marrying my cousin Nell.”
Somewhere in Vaughn a small ball of red hot tension began to dissipate. Maybe sending Locke Valhalla in to rescue Serena wasn’t going to be a complete disaster after all.
Serena Chastain, former reality TV star, Earth Witch and current resident of a high security nut house was dying.
It was a slow incremental death. Every day she grew just that little bit weaker.
The warden masquerading as the head doctor who ran the facility was stumped by her gradual but seemingly unstoppable decline. The sadistic twinkle in his eyes when he came to stand at her door to watch her through the tiny observation window had gradually shifted from an unhealthy anticipation to a look of concern. She wasn’t naive enough to think the concern was in anyway directed towards her. No, Doctor Kenton was worried about his own precious hide.
She doubted he realised the two individuals who’d arranged for her incarceration were Sek and Mot, the sons of Apep, the ancient God of Chaos. But Kenton was smart and astute; he would have recognised the fanaticism and bone deep crazy that lurked in the eyes of the two men wearing Texas state police officer uniforms. Kenton knew she was being kept here in secret. That there was something different… special about her. Yet a devious man like Kenton didn’t ask tough questions when a helpless woman was dropped into his lap.
With his perverted proclivities Kenton had waited only two nights after her arrival before sneaking into her room to run his cold, clammy hands, eagerly over her body. Delighting in the fact that strapped to the bed she could only issue mumbled protests through a haze of heavy drugs.
It had taken practically all the dregs of magic she had left to zap the bastard. And she hadn’t been gentle or even given a warning shot. She knew that if she didn’t scare Kenton off the very first time he’d be back, maybe not the next night but soon, and then she’d be too weak to defend herself at all.
So she’d balled up the last of her earth magic and sent a current of natural energy, sort of like electricity, and targeted it right between Kenton’s legs.
Five months later the memory of that defiant act still made her smile, resulting in a fine sheen of sweat breaking out across her forehead, even smiling these days was an effort. Small mercy for the first time in ages her head was clear, not that it did her much good with her body so weak. Kenton was barking up the wrong tree if he thought ceasing her meds would halt or reverse her physical decline.
It wasn’t just the tiny windowless room killing her. Even if she had access to natural light that would have only slowed her decline minimally. It was the lack of earth, rich in life and plant matter that fed her very soul with its energy that was at the root cause of her sad current physical state.
Sek and Mot had quickly realised after her first escape attempt, the one in which she’d accidently killed their brother Bal, that any access to flora or the earth fed her magic. That’s why they’d placed her in this facility. Bolting her away in this hellhole in the middle of a barren desert, hundreds of miles between her and what she needed. They thought to punish her for all eternity for their brother’s death, despite the fact they desperately needed her blood… a witch’s blood, for the ceremony to bring their father, the God of Chaos, back from the dead.
Had they already found another witch to take part in their ritual? Or had they discovered that witches were more elusive than rainbows? What would they do when they discovered she’d died? Escaping their plans for eternal punishment?
She wouldn’t want to be in Kenton’s shoes. Upon her death the perverted doctor would want to get rid of her body with all possible haste and nothing destroyed evidence better than cremation, effectively denying Sek and Mot the last ditch opportunity of using her blood. Did it make he
Overhead the air conditioner switched on, a soft breeze of metallic air filling the room laced with the barest traces of life giving sustenance for her. If she wasn’t so weak she’d laugh at the idea that a patch of mold growing in the ventilation system and a forgotten african violet one ward over would be her champions.
Their familiar scents, distant and elusive, barely enough to tickle her well deep need to be filled with the bounty of Mother Nature’s earth, yet just enough to keep her clinging to this mortal world. Though she imagined even remote prison mental facilities were required by law to clean their ventilation systems occasionally. Once the mold was gone she’d soon follow. It had the makings of a bad country song written by a biology student.
With no access to natural light Serena had learnt to use her other senses to monitor the passing of time. The air switching on was the first sign of a new day starting. The second was the muted screams of some of the other ‘guests’ on her ward being fed - in some cases forcibly - their meds. Followed soon after by the smell of burnt porridge and stale cold coffee as a breakfast tray was slid through the slot at the base of her door.
Serena’s restraints had long ago been removed when the staff realised she’d grown too weak to resist. Turning her head slightly on the bed she looked over at the tray with disgust. Any moment now the orderly on duty would appear to pick it up and go through the motions of attempting to spoon feed her.
There were three orderlies who rotated on the morning shift, all of a similar build and disposition. As wide as they were tall, not dumb exactly but not smart enough to deviate from Kenton’s instructions or question why the patient in room 16C was unregistered.
Their uniform of white pants and snug t-shirts gave them that universal hospital employee look until one noted their belts. Then the illusion that this was a care facility faded fast. For each one had a stun prod, retractable baton, handcuffs and a holstered handgun. They never spoke to her except to give her cursory instructions, turn over, open your mouth, drink this. Not that Serena particularly wished them to be chatty but it would have been nice to have news of the outside world, to know that it still existed.