Looking for a unique urban fantasy? Here’s a glimpse of the (unedited) first chapter of Smoke and Hellfire, which is coming out soon.
Bea would be pissed if she knew I was writing this.
I wouldn’t even mind because that would mean she was here. But I’ll probably never see her again—no one will—and that’s not fair. She doesn’t deserve what happened. People should know all the good things she’s done, so I’m writing this, and I hope someday she reads it and threatens to set my house plants on fire unless I delete it.
I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Maggie Greenfield. This is about Bea, so I’m not that important, but you’ll need to know a little about me, right? I’m twenty-eight years old and a freelance web designer. My three favorite things are cats, the smell of old books, and anything hazelnut flavored. I’ve got dirty blond hair that’s so curly I have to keep it short or it gets completely unmanageable, and I’m about five foot six, bony, and freckled. I’m also a witch.
If that last part bothers you, maybe just stop reading now, okay? There’s only more supernatural stuff coming.
I met Bea in July three years ago. My friend Silvia had passed away two days earlier, and I was on my way to her house with a casserole for her family. Don’t ask me why a casserole. I had to do something, and I remembered that’s what everyone had done when my nana had died. Grandma Gail and I had needed to rearrange all the dishes in the fridge five times before they’d fit.
I parked in their driveway and got out. The house was one-story and tan, built maybe twenty years earlier. Half the houses in the neighborhood were the same style, but it stood out because of the yard, which would put a botanical garden to shame. Red hibiscus bloomed in bushes near the windows, and shrubs of Mexican heather lined the walkway to the front door. Crape myrtle and magnolia trees provided shade near a butterfly garden of starflower and other pink blossoms, and a hanging basket of lantana dangled beside the entryway. Silvia had spent so much time and care on the yard. I felt an ache at the thought of it getting overgrown with her gone.
I rang the doorbell and only had to wait about thirty seconds before Silvia’s son opened the door.
Reader, I’m going to call him Joel, which you should know isn’t his real name, but I’m using pseudonyms for Silvia and her family to protect their privacy. He’s in his late thirties, too old for me—or at least that’s what I tell myself. With short brown hair and a wide, usually smiling face, he looks like the lead on a made-for-TV rom-com.
But on that day three years ago, his face was haggard, with patchy stubble covering his cheeks and chin.
“Oh,” he said. “Maggie.”
“Hi.” I stood there in silence for several long seconds, feeling even more awkward than usual. Then I thrust out the dish. “I brought a casserole.”
His face softened as he took it, and he attempted a smile. “Thanks. You want to come in?”
I stepped inside and jerked to a halt.
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