Spell or High Water, страница 1
Spell or Highwater
A Collection of Paranormal Cozy Shorts
Spell or Highwater is a multi-author bundle, Copyright © 2018 by Regina Welling.
All individual titles copyrighted by the individual authors. Published January 2018 by Regina Welling.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
The Purloined Pelt
The Cat of New Orleans
Santa Monica Sorcery
A Touch of Lace
ReGina Welling and Erin Lynn
Vacation from Murder
Witch at Sea
It’s Always Night at the Bottom of the Sea
A Tail of Merdur
The Cat Burglar
The Scientist Takes the Bait
The Tide Dance
The Purloined Pelt
It’s summer at the Enchanted Coast resort for paranormals, but all is not sunshine and smiles when a selkie’s pelt is stolen from the tiki bar. Destiny Maganti, water witch and cocktail waitress extraordinaire must help him find it, or else he’s bound to land, separated from his wife and family forever.
"Hey Destiny—is this martini order right? It says extra anchovy juice." Bob, the new Bigfoot bartender, stared back and forth between me and the order slip, doing his best to keep the cringe off his heavy features.
"Yup," I said as I plucked dirty glasses from a table beside the bar and brushed sand from the chairs. "And throw a whole anchovy in there, please."
Bob sighed and shook his head as he turned to make the drink. After working at the Enchanted Coast—a paranormal beach resort—for more than a year, I was used to odd drink orders, but Bob had only been there for a couple months, so he was still acclimating.
I leaned across the bar and whispered, "It's for a selkie." Selkies were folks who were seals in the water, but could shed their skins and be humans on land. All they had to do to transform back to seals was slip into their skins and return to the water. Easy peasy.
I finished busing the table, then turned to the serving platform. I arranged the drinks on my tray, then headed back into the heat to deliver tropical deliciousness in a glass to my vacationing guests.
A group of mermaids were having a girls’ weekend and had spent most of their time at our salt-chlorinated pool drinking, giggling, and enjoying themselves in general. I stepped down onto the tanning ledge built around the deep end, relishing the coolness of the ankle-deep water as I balanced my tray and waded to the canopied corner of the pool.
The girls were lounging in the shade and flipping through the pages of last month's edition of Aqua-Vogue, their jewel-toned tails glittering beneath the surface of the water.
"What do you think of this top, Des?" Kadi, a gorgeous blonde with a blue tail asked me, pointing to a string-bikini top displayed in the magazine.
I glanced at it as I handed her a Bahama Mama. "It's not bad. The orange would set off your tail, but from a distance, the silhouettes of the palm trees might look a little hands copping a feel. Wonder why they only put one on each side?"
Beth, a brunette with an emerald tail, rolled her eyes. "I told you so." She turned to me and traded me her empty glass for a full one. "They said I was just being a gutter—brain."
Lifting a shoulder, I grinned. "That may be, but I agree."
Kadi snorted as she pulled the pineapple wedge off her glass and ate it. "You both have dirty minds, but there's no way I could wear it now. That's all I'd think about every time I put it on."
"Yeah," Beth said with a wry glance toward her friend's ample cleavage, "and it's all anyone else would think of when they saw you wearing it, too."
I finished handing out the drinks and collecting the empty glasses, then waded back toward the patio where Julius was waiting for his anchovy martini. He and his wife, Angie, had been coming to the resort since it opened and were regulars. They popped in once a month or so.
"Here you go, Jules," I said, handing him his drink.
He took a sip and groaned. "Man, that's good. New bartender?"
"Yeah," I said. "Great guy named Bob. He and his family moved here from Washington State a few months ago."
He turned in his chair to glance toward the bar, then lifted his glass and smiled when he caught Bob's eye.
"Finally, somebody who knows how to make a decent martini. I'll go introduce myself when I'm ready for the next one."
I turned the umbrella on his table so that it blocked the sun from his eyes. "He'll appreciate that. Just watch out for the jokes; he's got some zingers. Where's Angie?"
"She's spending time with her mother," he said, propping his feet on an empty chair and flipping his sunglasses up on his head. "I offered to throw myself on the harpoon and go with her, but she let me off the hook. She'll be here later in the week."
"Awesome. I can't wait to see her," I said as a group of witches came around the corner of the tiki from the path that led to the resort. "I'll check back in with you in a few."
I greeted the witches and took their orders, then turned back to the bar to put them in. Every single one of them ordered a different frozen drink, half of which were layered with different flavors and came with special instructions. They were gonna be one of those tables.
Tempest, my fox familiar, was lying in front of a fan behind the bar. She wasn't big on people, so she spent most of her time back there with Bob. Of course, he spoiled her by slipping her food and making sure she had her own private fan, so I couldn't blame her.
She hopped up onto the bar when I came to get my drinks. "What's up? You're irritated." It wasn't a question; she knew me inside out and we had a link, so I wasn't worried that I looked as annoyed as I felt.
"Nothing," I said, shaking my head. "Just, the witches at that table are throwing off some serious mean-girl vibes and are high maintenance, to boot. I already wanna choke them."
Standing up on her hind legs to get a better look, she did her version of a whistle. "Yeah, that's a whole lot of trouble in one little space.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “Don't give any of them actual warts."
I snorted. "Like I'd do that."
She raised a brow. "Wouldn't you, though?"
Tipping one corner of my mouth up into a half-smile, I said, "Not while I'm on duty."
I understood the whole the customer's always right thing. I just didn't happen to believe it. I did my level best and then some to provide a great experience, but some people were impossible to please. I had a feeling that was about to define my afternoon.
Bob had the drinks made in what seemed like record time, but that was probably just because I dreaded dealing with them again. I double-checked each one because I didn't feel like having him remake one because the strawberry daiquiri was layered on top of the mango daiquiri instead of the other way around.
As I handed the drinks out, the brunette who seemed to be the ringleader slid her over-sized Ray-Bans down her nose and peered at something behind me. "Who is that delicious hunk of man sitting by himself?"
I glanced in the direction she indicated to see Julius kicked back in his chair, feet up, enjoying the sun on his face.
"That's somebody you don't want to mess with," I said. "His wife will rip your face off and feed you to the sharks."
That wasn't an exaggeration. Angie was a sweetheart, as nearly all selkies were, but when it came to Julius, she didn't play. Plus, I felt a little protective of him myself; he was affable and easy-going and I didn't want his day disrupted by some trashy witch looking for a vacation fling.
"Pht," she said, waving me off. "I don't see a wife or a ring, and we all know what that means. He doesn't look particularly taken to me."
I ran my tongue over my teeth and bit my lip to keep from saying what was really on my mind.
"Anyway," she said, never taking her eyes off Julius, "we have massages in an hour, so cash us out now, just in case."
She handed me her credit card, and I headed back to the bar area to run it, hoping she left the poor man in peace. When I returned, though, I was irritated to see that she'd slithered from her table to his, pulling a chair around so that she was practically on top of him.
Julius shoved up from his relaxed position, and it wasn't hard to read the I'm flattered, but no thank you expression on his face as he said something to her. Good for him. She didn't look willing to take no for an answer, so I made a big deal of interrupting to hand her the card and wait for her signature. Julius used the window to get up and move to the bar, taking his drink and his skin with him.
She scowled at me and put a big fat zero in the tip area. Too bad for her, I'd already added it since there were six in her party. I gave her a big, fake smile and told her to have a nice day. Her return glare wished me no such thing. I sighed, happy to have thwarted the home-wrecking hag.
A group of vampire surfers made their way up from the beach, laughing and shoving each other, and I left her and her cronies to their own nasty devices.
We made a variety of drinks that catered to the vampire portion of our undead community, including a fabulous—or so I was told—sangria made from Cabern-A, a specialty blood wine that was a favorite among that crowd. They ordered another round of those, frozen, and put in a food order.
Over the next half hour, the place filled up. It was busy for a weekday. The resort was in its third year, and because the founders had wanted it to be a place affordable to most families, the prices were decent. It was a great strategic move because what they lost in price, they made up for in volume.
It didn't hurt that we were right on the Gulf of Mexico, either. In fact, the tiki was built oceanside. As a water witch who liked to work outside, make good money, and live out of the magical closet, I'd found the perfect job.
After all, I'd have to deal with hateful witches in any job. At least in this one, I could be a real witch, too.
A few minutes later, the tiki's new manager, Cassiel, finally came out of his office. Surly and gruff, all I'd learned about him in the two weeks he'd been there was that he seemed mad at the world. I also knew he was a disgraced angel, but only because of his soot-colored wings. He never talked about himself or made an effort to get to know any of us. As a matter of fact, he rarely said anything at all.
"Hey, Cassiel," I said, plunking my tray onto the server's deck at the bar. "How's it going?"
He just shrugged and curled his lip as he slid onto a bar stool. "Just another day in paradise."
The derision in his voice made me cringe, and it set my hackles on end a little, too. The resort wasn't just my job. It was my home, and I couldn't help but take it as a personal dig every time he said something like that.
"You know, if you'd just give us a chance, you may be surprised at how close to paradise it really is."
He snorted. "And what would you know about paradise?"
I pulled a deep breath in through my nose and exhaled through my mouth. The guy was proving to be a real tool. "I don't know what your deal is or how you ended up here, but life's what you make of it. If you want to be miserable, then you're gonna be."
Bob set my drinks next to my tray and slid an amber drink in a rocks glass toward Cassiel. I raised a brow as he snatched it off the bar and stomped back into his office.
"What is it with that guy?" I asked as I loaded the cocktails onto my tray.
Bob shrugged. "I don't know. I invited him to go with us tomorrow, and he just turned his nose up at me and looked like I'd asked him to clean out the unicorn rest area."
Bob's wife, Jolene, had planned a picnic for the following day. There was a great spot about a mile down the beach where the resort had installed some pavilions and barbecue pits. There were some games like horseshoes and corn hole, and of course, there was the beach.
It was a quiet place to just relax away from the glitz and glamour of the main resort area, and we were going to spend the day there with their kids. Being from Tennessee, Jolene made some killer fried chicken, which was enough to draw Tempest's interest too.
I finished garnishing the glasses and lifted the tray to my shoulder. "His loss, then. I've tried to draw him in too, but he's just bitter. It's obvious he doesn't want to be here, so I don't know why he stays."
"Maybe he has no choice," Bob said before I could walk away. "Maybe this is his penance for whatever he did to earn those gray wings."
I'd never thought about it and had no idea how the whole angel thing worked, but it sort of made sense that if you got the boot, you may have to do some time along with it. Maybe he was here to learn a specific lesson or something. I wasn't even sure what his particular area of expertise was supposed to be. I knew for a fact he wasn't the angel of overindulgence or arrogance because he was an ace at those; his wings would have been pearly white.
While we'd been talking, a drop-dead gorgeous woman strode off the path and onto the patio, her dark eyes fierce despite the incongruous beach bag dangling from her arm and the floppy straw hat shading her face. A lightening tattoo zigzagged down her well-muscled upper arm, explaining the terrifying expression on her face. She was a valkyrie.
I guessed it was tough to relax when you spent most of your time determining the outcome of battles and the fates of men. I sure hoped a generous paid vacation was included in her benefits package.
She took a seat at the bar and plopped the beach bag onto the stool beside her. As I cruised by on my way to the patio to deliver the drinks, she said, "I couldn't help but overhear what you said. Cassiel was the angel of temperance."
You could have knocked me over with a feather. "You gotta be kidding me."
"Nope," she said. "And your furry friend is correct, in a way. He's here as punishment and to learn a lesson."
I couldn't help myself—as a good Southern woman, I couldn't just leave a chunk of ... information like that on the table without at least asking. "What lesson? And can he get back to work if he learns it?"
Her lips turned up into a small smile. "That's not for me to say. Suffice it to say, he has all the tools he needs to set himself to rights—and yes, it's possible he could redeem himself—but he's going to have to learn some humility before anything."
I huffed a breath through my nose as I took a step forward. "If that's the case, he better buy some sunscreen and settle in, then. I'm pretty sure humility isn't in his vocabulary. Excuse me though, while I deliver these."
She motioned me away and I chewed on the new information. So the great Cassiel was in the angel's version of timeout. That explained a lot. Like most spoiled, entitled kids, he was stewing over it rather than manning up and owning it so he could move on.
The flip side to what I'd told the valkyrie was that we were stuck with him, too. Awesome. Well, as my grandmother always said, every dog has a few fleas, so I guess the resort couldn't have
I flitted through the patio and pool areas, keeping an eye on the water bar—a floating deck area with underwater stools that extended several yards into the ocean—in case any merfolk or other water people decided to stop in. We had some regulars that held annual passes, but most of them had kids and were busy through the week.
It remained empty, but a lone selkie was striding toward the tiki from the beach, the cool breeze drying the water from his body as it whispered across the water and up the coast. The crashing waves behind him made the perfect backdrop; selkies were beautiful people. Combine his form and the beach view behind him and you had a vision any artist would have loved to take a crack at.
Selkies were known to be kind, amorous people, but as he got closer, I couldn't help but notice that his expression wasn't so loving. He looked downright murderous as he stepped from the sand to the patio and stalked toward the bar. Bob might have been seven feet tall and able to crush a coconut with his bare hands, but he didn't have magic per se, and that was one unhappy selkie. I decided to keep an eye on him until I knew he wasn’t there for trouble.
He didn't say anything, but stalked toward Julius and flung himself onto the stool beside him. The two exchanged some words, and Julius gave the guy a patient smile and clapped him on the back. The other guy just kept glowering; whatever Julius had said didn't help the matter any.
Kadi was calling to me from the pool, so I pivoted in that direction, casting a final glance toward the bar. Julius seemed to have it under control, so I turned my attention back to work.