Excerpt: Hunting Witch Hazel

Excerpt: Hunting Witch Hazel

Book 1: The Lynch Brothers

Prologue

The Bridge Enchantment Spell

 Only my twin would want a happiness enchantment placed on Hayvenwood University’s scariest bridge for her birthday. I set the vials down on the stone wall of the Pont d’Amour and turned toward my sister, Romi. “I can’t believe this is what you want. You sure you’re okay with getting your present two months early?”

Between the possibility of destroying the bridge and overly nosy neighbors returning from summer vacation, it was just too risky to do the spell once school started. Luckily, classes didn’t begin until next week and this place was practically a ghost town. Romi swung her legs over the edge of the bridge and stared at the completely black sky.

Magic during a full moon was too dangerous, despite the stories. I preferred to use a new moon. Especially for spells I barely had enough power to cast.

“Definitely. Don’t you think it’s romantic to make the legend true? ‘Que les âmes perdues contemplant ce pont fassent leur vœu, à ce moment là seulement le chemin vers l’amour véritable s’ouvrira à eux.’ All of the feels!”

I raised my eyebrow at her. “Romi. Do I look like I speak French? I barely speak Spanish after taking it all four years of high school.”

She huffed on an exaggerated eye roll. “‘When lost souls look upon the bridge and make a wish, they will find their true path to love.’”

I made a gagging sound. “Barf. That’s so gross.”

“How do you not know the legend?”

“How do you think I’m a romantic person?”

“Live a little, Zee! I can’t do magic anymore. All I’ve got left is haunting French classes.” She waved her hand at me and sighed. She was remarkably solid tonight, for a ghost. “It’s fun to watch you. Vicarious living and all that.”

I set my battery-powered lantern on the cobblestone wall and pulled a copper bowl from my bag. It took all my effort not to roll my eyes. Again.

The chances of this spell working were the same as me winning a car on The Price is Right, but I’d go through the motions for my sister. After all, it was our twenty-first birthday this year, and tragically, she couldn’t drink. “Well, happy early birthday.” I smiled.

Her smile practically split her face in half as she kicked her feet. “Stop stalling.”

“You’re sure?” I triple checked as I opened my journal to the spell.

“Hazel Evanora. When have I ever been unsure about what I want? What else can you possibly give me? While I’d love jewelry…” She shrugged one shoulder. “Can’t really wear it.”

We still weren’t sure what made her more solid some nights than others. It was probably something as simple as the weather or the moon cycle. But whenever she was too translucent, I panicked she’d just disappear and never come back. I cleared my throat of the sadness trying to clog it, poured the elixirs into the bowl, and began the spell.

“Here where darkness lies, let there be light. Bring to all hearts joy instead of fright. Let two lonely souls join as one. Let love reign, warm as the summer sun.” I tilted the bowl to swirl the ingredients together and set it down. Then I picked up my purple candle and waved my hand to light the wick. I touched the flame to the liquid, which instantly burst into green and blue fire.

“Eliminate pain. Bring peace and love instead of shame. Fates, I make this request out of love, for love. In honor of Rosemary Evanora’s twenty-first birthday.”

I tilted the candle to the side and allowed the wax to drip down, then held the candle in the pile of wax until it cooled enough to hold itself upright. With practiced hands, I dipped the feather of an adult raven into the now-smoking bowl and sprinkled the mixture up and down the bridge.

Once I finished the methodical process, I poured the remaining liquid along both entranceways. With a bow, I raised the bowl and feather above my head. “Fates, we thank you for bestowing your attention upon us.”

I looked over at Romi, who was clapping her hands and giggling. “Thank you, favorite sister in the whole wide world!”

I laughed. “Only sister.” Putting the bowl and feather inside my bag, I nodded toward the candle. “Make a wish.”

She flashed me a smile and turned her body so she was cross-legged before the candle. “Together, on the count of three. One…two…three.”

We blew the candle out. The spell was set.

 

Chapter 1

Two months later

Grayson

 

The thing about being so goddamn good-looking was that everyone expected me to be a giant prick and I really hated disappointing people. I didn’t have middle-child syndrome, undiagnosed narcissism, or some overinflated ego cultivated by my late mother. I just knew my strengths.

My strengths were my good looks, my charm, and my ability to destroy witches. Since retiring from witch hunting, I’d been focusing on my looks and charm. Just because I was good at killing supernatural creatures, or Others, didn’t mean I ever wanted to do it again.

I wasn’t good at one thing: dealing with women who had no interest in me. Especially when their interest in me was vital. Especially when it was Hazel Evanora, the most powerful pure witch still alive.

It was super fucking hard to find a witch as strong as an Evanora who hadn’t dabbled even a little in dark magic. I could always tell; dark magic stained the soul. There was no way to use that kind of evil and not get a scar.

But no matter how many times I borrowed Hazel’s business law notes, cornered her in the library, or tried to pump my roommate Frank for info, I found myself stuck in the same spot I’d been before school started—unsure of how to finish the mission, and terrified I wouldn’t.

I’d thought I’d gotten lucky when the “roommate wanted” ad on Roasted’s bulletin board led me to the condo I now shared with Hazel’s coworker and friend, Frank, who just happened to be an Other. But the werewolf’s lips remained sealed about his little witch friend, so I was back to square one while being forced to live with three dudes.

And I was running out of time.

I pinched the bridge of my nose. Things were not going well. It was four in the morning and a text message from my older brother, Loren, had woken me from a restless sleep.

Finished job. Be there in 24 hours.

I stared at the phone that had received only one call in two years—a ransom on my baby brother’s life. Well, Fenton wasn’t really a baby anymore at twenty-one. But I kept picturing his golden curls matted with blood and his blue eyes swollen shut. I rolled out of bed and paced my room.

After three weeks I’d failed to get any closer to my goal of obtaining the ransom: Hazel Evanora’s power. Oh, I knew why I was failing; I was trying to keep her alive. Loren wouldn’t take as much care. He was the only active hunter in the family, and this was just another mission to check off the list.

My mother would turn over in her early grave if she knew I’d thrown down my weapons and walked away from my brothers without so much as a wave. The three of us had been so close growing up, only a year apart in age.

Whenever I thought of my brothers, I no longer remembered all the times we went fishing together or slept under the stars in our sprawling backyard. Instead, I was cut open by images of my father, gutted in the woods, and my mother dying from an aneurysm five years before. I’d packed up my life, jumped in my truck, and picked up a new cell phone because I refused to spend the rest of my life remembering everything I left behind whenever I recited those ten digits. But I still couldn’t bring myself to shut off my old phone.

Two years without Loren’s sarcasm. Two years without Fenton’s laugh. Two years since we’d found Dad dead. Two years since I’d walked away from them and hunting and my life in northern Maine.

But fate was an asshole. Because here I was again in some shitty, freezing, small-ass town, staring at a text from Loren, feeling guilty that I was just as worried about killing a witch as saving Fenton.

I flopped back on my bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to come to grips with the fact I needed to get Hazel’s power before Loren showed up. It was non-negotiable.

Not that my hesitation even mattered since Hazel barely acknowledged my existence. She didn’t bat an eyelash at my flirty comments or requests for tutoring. Despite Frank’s warnings to stay away from her, I couldn’t. I went out of my way to talk to her, to see her.

When Frank found out why I was really here, I was a dead man. I was smart enough to know I’d better make sure my affairs were in order. That still didn’t stop me from trying to figure out how to woo a woman who wanted shit to do with me.

To steal a witch’s power, you needed to do one of three things. Making her trust you to the point where she let her guard down, usually after sex, was the first choice, and the quickest. The physical intimacy was an easy in, and I could suck her power out of her while she slept.

The second option was stealing her power during a time of crisis. This usually required the strength of more than one hunter, especially if the witch was a fighter, which Hazel most definitely was.

The third way was the most difficult but the least harmful. I needed to convince her to give up or sell her power. No injuries, no broken hearts, no dead bodies.

I plucked a battered wooden box off my nightstand. It looked innocuous enough with its plain design and brass latch. I flicked the pin holding the top shut.

Open. Close. Open. Close.

The box fit so easily in my backpack, and yet it was a torturous, evil thing. I felt the weight of it pressing against me with every shift of my bag. I’d finally stopped carrying it to class two weeks ago when I swore it was getting heavier and heavier.

This enchanted box, nicknamed Pandora’s box, was made to gather and restrain up to three witches’ or wizards’ powers at any time.

Or one life.

With a sigh, I pushed the box away and ran my fingers through my hair with a growl. I missed my beach house on the West Coast. I missed the twenty-four-hour pizza delivery and badass taco carts. I missed my entertainment system, poker night with the boys, and bikini-clad bodies.

But because some asshole decided to mess with my family, here I was, trying to do the one thing I’d said I would never do again.

Destroy a witch.

I sat up and stretched, then made my way to the shower. It was time to play dirty. And one must look damn sexy to play dirty.