She’s the great-great granddaughter of witch-killer Dorothy Gale. He’s the uncrowned king of all Right-Thinking Witches and Warlocks of the Twenty-first Century. How can they overcome their bizarre history to work together and prevent an all-out battle between common humans and genus-magicus folk?
Three nights before Halloween, Thea Gale storms home after another date from hell. She discovers her seriously wounded black cat bleeding on her front porch. Her vet, she learns, is unexpectedly closed for emergency repairs. She browbeats the horny date into taking her to the only 24/7 vet she can find. Is he for real?
Every genus magicus child grows up memorizing the names of Torquemada, Judge William Stoughton, and Dorothy Gale. When Thea shows up in her four-inch red sequined heels, Dr. Magnus Rogon immediately launches a charm assault—aided only slightly by magic.
Strange happenings at the cat hospital fuel Thea’s suspicions. Dr. Rogon’s unorthodox treatment add to her distrust. But she’s so grateful for Toto’s amazing recovery, she succumbs to Dr. Wonderful’s blatant flirting.
Instinct warns Magnus Thea is trouble. She refuses to admit he practices magic. She questions he’s a warlock. She denies her shoes give her big magic. Finally, she insists he’s mistaken about common humans attacking witches and warlocks’ revered black cats.
With or without her consent, Magnus wants her magic shoes. And if they fall in bed as they track the cat sadist, where’s the problem?
Thea wants her life to return to dull. The sizzling chemistry between them and her growing acceptance of her own mysterious powers increase her resistance to his charisma.
Overriding their longing to bridge the chasm between their two worlds, they must stop the cat killers first and make magic later.
Civilized countries everywhere should ban dating.
Especially dating during a full moon.
Especially dating three nights before Halloween when your date—named Kansas City’s hottest young lawyer—morphs into a clone of Dracula on the drive home in his hot, hot, hot new Porsche.
Head aching from my astute hindsight, I rammed the key into my front door lock and banged my head into the plastic Halloween bat. Its shriek shattered the late-night hush.
Sterling Oliver Bobee the Fourth, my date from hell, took full advantage of my flinch. He grabbed me around the waist, slammed me against his chest, and danced me backward into the one-eyed pirate swinging from a porch beam. (Bats and pirates…two of my sister’s decorating ideas for trick-or-treaters).
“Down, Four.” I twisted away, smiling at my small ego-jab, Four. He’d requested with lawyerly gravity that I call him Hot Legal Eagle. Riiight. When lawyers enter Heaven.READ MORE
Clueless to my “you-are-history” signals all evening, he still paid no attention. He pulled me closer. “You read my mind, Thea. My tongue down your throat.”
“Yuuuk.” I shoved his paw off me and slashed at fake cobwebs, warning, “I swear I’ll deck you.”
He surprised me and released my waist but snatched my wrist. “What is this? Mood swing number ten? Eleven? Fifty since we left the restaurant?”
“Another potential dream-date gone sour,” I muttered between clenched teeth. But absolutely my last date with Sterling Oliver Bobee the Fourth no matter what. Ironing my underwear held more appeal. Even when I’m eighty living alone with twenty cats.
“Seriously? After I dropped three hundred bucks on dinner.” He scowled like the carved pumpkin in my living room window. He narrowed his eyes—a lawyerly technique I figured he practiced for hours in front of a mirror. “What is it with redheads?”
A hint of wood smoke lingered in the night air. I exhaled. “Did you notice my shoes?”
He glanced down. “Red shoes? So?”
“These are special.” Sequins, I’d found, sparkle even when dates don’t.
“Not as special as you.” He leaned closer and his shoulder grazed my breasts.
I jumped back. The man was dense as wood. Tempted to nail him to the spot with one of my four-inch hypodermic-needle heels, I yelled, “Get off my porch.”
“C’mon, Thea. It was an accident. I’m sorry.” He bent lower, peering at my feet.
In that blip of silence, I heard a familiar sound. My heart stuttered. I pushed Four. Hard. Knocking him off balance into a sickly green reproduction of Frankenstein’s monster.
Four’s arms flailed. He smacked a swaying skeleton. Her bony plastic fingers whacked his perfect jaw. He yelped, “What the hell?”
“Shhhh.” I cocked my ear toward the potato vine strung with rows of miniature ghost-lights. “Shut. Up.”
“Like hell.” He lunged at me.
The meow came again. I ducked his clumsy assault and dropped to my knees. “Toto?”
“Toto?” Four made no effort to soften his disgust.
My heart banged my ribs. “You’re in my light.”
“It’s a full moon.” Despite his petulance, he moved and jangled the skeleton again.
Fighting tears, I pulled apart the limbs of the potato vine. “Baaaby.”
“Sweetheart.” My throat closed. My six-year-old tom was part of my family—right up there with my mother, sister, and five-year-old nephew.
“Meowww.” Toto didn’t lift his head as I tore back more branches.
Dark shiny blood had pooled around his belly. My head swam.
Don’t panic. He’s okay. He’s okay. Don’t. Panic.
Four whistled. “Jesus.”
“It’s okay, Toto.” Swallowing bile, I crouched and extended my hand. “I’m here, Baby.”
His eyes were glassy, his sides heaved. My calves screamed from squatting in four-inch heels, but I edged closer to my wounded cat. “I won’t hurt you, Baby.”
“Think a ghoul got him?” Four’s breath burned my neck and laughter rode his tone.
“Call my vet, dammit.” I fought the urge to whack Four and rattled off the phone number.
He pulled out his cell phone, punched some keys, nodded, and reported in a monotone, “Closed for repairs.”
“Try again. No, call the operator. Tell her this is an emergency.”
“An emergency?” His lawyerly mouth twisted. “I’ll never get an operator.”
“Now! I locked Toto inside before we left. He’s badly hurt. E—mer—gen—cy.”
Halloween can bring out the worst in some people—even in my quiet Kansas City subdivision of high mortgages, higher-paid professionals, more babies than teenagers, and more neighbors who keep their dogs on leashes than who flout the leash law.
“Did a dog do this, Toto?” My twenty-two pounds of black fur flinched when I stroked his head. I listened with half an ear as Four took too much time with the operator.
“Tell her you’re a lawyer.” Impatience clipped each syllable.
The black tom on the ground had shared my life long before Four, the two-legged interloper who came along two dates ago. Hostility toward Toto, Bunky, and Jessica, specifically—and all cats in general—outweighed Four’s money, blond good looks, and otherwise easy-going personality.
“Thea?” He loomed over me. “The operator confirms the emergency repairs.”
“Does the message give an alternate vet?” How could my vet be closed without notifying me?
Four shrugged. “’Fraid not.”
“But …” My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Where was the nearest twenty-four-hour animal hospital? I knew ninety percent of the vets in the metro area, but I was so scared I couldn’t think. I should know. I did know—if I could just think.
Toto mewed and my brain cleared. I barked at Four to Google Veterinarians.
“’S okay, Toto.” I studied the phone’s small screen.
Somewhere, far back in my mind, I realized how upset I was. Illogically, ridiculously, the ad I was staring at glowed an eye-popping orange. A black-bordered box surrounded the three- dimensional words. A CAT’S BEST FRIEND flashed like Harry-Potter owlgrams.
“Whatta ya think?” Four leaned over my shoulder. His apparent oblivion to the mini- billboard ad reinforced my hunch. I’d teetered out onto the cusp of hysteria.
“A Cat’s Best Friend,” I read, confused. I’d never heard of the place. “On Wornall. We can be there in four minutes.”
“We?” Four bleated as I gritted my teeth and lifted Toto’s limp body out of the blood.
Toto, who hadn’t moved since I’d found him, raised his head without opening his eyes.
“We.” I started down the front steps with my injured cat cuddled against my chest.
“But-but I just got the Porsche detailed this morning.” His whine sounded childish instead of legal beaglish.
Warm, sticky blood seeped through my silk blouse. “Your point being?”
“My point being—” He joined me at the car. “I don’t even have two hundred miles on it yet. What if—”
“What if I kill you and drive your damned Porsche to the vet’s myself? Ya think they’ll detail it before they bury you in it?”
“All right, all right,” he whined. He opened my door. “You don’t have to be so bitchy.”
“And you don’t have to be so-so—damned car guy.” Catching my bottom lip between my teeth, I eased into the bucket seat designed for midgets. Despite my caution and indrawn breath, I jarred Toto. He moaned. My insides twisted into a tight, searing knot.
“Jesus. How much is he bleeding?” Four slid behind the wheel. He survived murder on the spot because I needed him to drive.
Which he did. Fast. Avoiding potholes and small talk. Too worried about blood on his precious leather seats. I blinked back tears. No crying.
Neither of us spoke. The pumpkin-colored full moon disappeared behind silver clouds. A block south of Seventy-Fifth, I squinted at a single-story wooden building. The place needed paint and a higher-wattage light over the front door. An illegible sign dangled from a rusty chain.
“Nine-oh-Nine and a Half,” I recited from memory.
“Shouldn’t have much of a wait.” Four’s sarcasm thickened as we stopped about two feet from the shadowy entrance at three minutes before midnight.
“Don’t come in.” I released the lock. “Or open the door.”
In the dim light from the dash, Four could pass for a Renaissance angel. “You sure?”
“Positive.” Holding my feline companion close, I swung my feet onto the cracked blacktop, hauled my butt out of the seat, and caught my bottom lip between my teeth. Please don’t let me turn my ankle.
At six-one in my four-inch heels, I still couldn’t reach the after-hours bell. It hung at least a foot above my head. How did people with hurt animals manage? Did they set their carriers down and then stand on them to reach the damn bell? Did they carry pogo-sticks for their visits?
My thin shoe sole offered zero protection, but I kicked the door anyway. Toto cried. I apologized. In the next breath, I swore. Why didn’t someone answer the freaking door?
My arms trembled. Terrified I’d drop my bundle of fur, I planted another well-aimed kick. With less restraint this time. The steel-clad door, unlike the decrepit wooden siding on the rest of the building, appeared new. Where the hell was a doorknob?
The trembling in my arms spread to my chest. Toto had stopped mewing. I knew I wasn’t thinking straight, but I kicked the door with all the force I could summon.
A loud creak preceded the unfamiliar, smoky smell that hit my nose. On the top step, I froze.
“Do you have an appointment?” a voice intoned beyond the cracked door.
I flinched and felt and goosebumps explode along my shaking arms. “I have an emergency. My—”
“You’re not a regular patient.” Frost set in.
“N-no. No,” I stammered. “My vet’s—”
“They’re very good.” The speaker—male or female? — talked over me in a tone now dripping ice cubes. “We recommend returning to the vet who knows you. He has your records.”
Wanting to scream, I said in a quiet but lethal tone, “I can’t reach my vet by phone.”
“I’m sure that was a temporary problem.”
“Maybe, but I’m here and this is an emergency.” I shivered, fascinated for some illogical reason by the silver circle my breath formed, and aware Toto’s heaving chest had steadied.
“I’ll gladly call. Let them know you’re on the way.”
“Hellloo? What is wrong with you?” The rage building in my head snapped. “I can use my cell phone. But why should I? I’m on your doorstep.”
My voice rose to a crescendo and then I let loose with a fire-alarm shriek.
“Stop that.” Ole Iceberg ordered.
A quick exhale through gritted teeth. “If you don’t let me in right now, I’ll screech till the cops show up. After that, I’ll call a TV producer I know at WDAF and—”
“And what?” The door swung wider.
Amazing how the threat of bad TV publicity overshadows logic every time.
“I’ll forget making that call if I see the doctor right now.” Ridiculously, Toto opened his eyes. Ridiculously, their glassiness had disappeared. I shook my head—confused and disbelieving.
“Doctor’s busy.” No sign of Ole Iceberg through the thick, indigo mist rolling over the threshold.
“Not too busy to see an emergency, I’m sure.” I stared down at Toto and felt my eyes bug out like a cartoon character totally dumbfounded. Toto’s eyes reflected no signs of pain. I shuffled over the threshold into the dark. Visions of too-dumb-to-live heroines flashed behind my eyelids.
Had these people seen every horror flick ever made? The smell of overripe oranges assaulted my nose. My stomach rolled. What if this place was a front? Everyone knew about black market organ dealers. White sex-slave traders worked every city. Toto dragged his scratchy tongue across my thumb. The jitter in my nerves slowed and my brain shifted out of high melodrama.
“Is there a problem, Mother?” A voice throbbing with the soothing intensity of an oboe came from deeper in the gloom.
Toto’s whole body instantly relaxed, and he swiveled his head toward the voice.
“Damn right there’s a problem.” My mind spun. Toto was obviously better. Maybe out of danger. Should I leave? Take him to a normal ER? Had Four stuck around? I turned my head.
Beyond the open door, the indigo haze now enveloped the Porsche. My heart missed a beat. Fighting the urge to run, unsure I was imagining Toto’s purrs, I stopped. “Toto—”
A hiss gave me fifth and sixth thoughts about my intelligence, not to mention safety.
“Toto?” Ole Iceburg repeated as if stunned. Or did she sound pissed?
Toto?” The oboe pulsed and Toto swished his tail.
A kind of purple melancholy, like I sometimes feel at dusk after a string of dateless Saturday nights, tugged at me. Mentally, I shook off the feeling and shouted, “Toto. The dog.” Exasperation coated my voice as the fog around Four’s car thickened. “In The Wizard of Oz.”
Another hiss. Mother said, “We treat cats.”
“We’re clear on that. Now how about some light? Don’t you pay your electricity bill?” I so did not care if they did or not, I just needed to say something snarky so they couldn’t hear Toto’s purrs over my teeth clacking.
The oboe chuckled and my hair almost self-combusted. Heat from my scalp spiraled down to my face and then shot lower, searing my stomach. Before the flame dropped even lower, I squeezed my legs together. I’m losing my mind.
Oboe said, “We find low lighting soothes cats when they’re brought in hurt and scared.”
“That’s original.” Sarcasm aside, the lack of light unnerved me. That velvety whisper, on the other hand, soothed my frayed nerve endings.
Or maybe Toto’s steady, even purrs reassured me.
“Cats are nocturnal creatures,” Oboe said.
“So I’ve heard.” I clenched my jaw. Come out, come out, wherever you are. Dammit, I wanted this guy out in front of me.
“Low light works wonders calming nocturnals.” Each syllable hummed in my ears.
“Uh-huh.” He was either repeating himself or I was having a small mental breakdown, but I nodded. My arms screamed from holding my calm nocturnal. “Low light makes sense—as long as you can see what you’re doing during your exam.”
Mother cackled and the skin on my arms shriveled. Something—an arc of blue light, like a match—flared. I caught an outline of two figures dressed in black. Had these two dressed for Halloween? The smell of sulphur wafted through the air. A muscle twitched under my left eye. Were they dangerous? Or just run-of-the-mill nuts?
My legs wobbled, but Toto now breathed without obvious distress. Blood no longer streamed from his belly. How desperate was I to have him treated by a strange, unknown vet?
The pinpoint of light went out.
Mother said, not pleasantly, but less aggressively, “Give Toto to Doctor—”
“I go in with Toto.” Too bad if I sounded suspicious, but this was non-negotiable. “He doesn’t do well in new places.”
“We have procedures.” A pale, heart-shaped face came into sharp focus.
Mouth dry, I shook my head. Hallucinating. I was hallucinating. I stared into the dark. Against all reason, my brain registered—with perfect clarity—a woman’s pointed chin, yellow eyes, and fly-away ebony hair.
Get a grip, Thea.
“Dr. Rogon always examines patients alone,” Mother insisted, her lips a slash of blood-red.
“Muth-uuur.” A warning note deepened the oboe.
“What’s your point?” I croaked, panic closing my throat.
Orange flames shot from her eyes and bored into my aching head.
You are delusional. Reason grappled for a toehold.
“Your agitation, m’dear, could actually harm the cat.” The woman possessed the interpersonal skills of a cobra.
Hey, FYI, my great-great grandmother took down a real witch. I stifled a gasp, but rationalized the snotty way Mother said m’dear resurrected the dark piece of my family history. No way I’d let this Halloween witch win. I purred, “I’d probably harm you first.”
Her jaw dropped. Then, arms across her chest, she drew herself up, up, up till her head bumped the ceiling. “Do you know whom you’re threatening?”
Darkness surrounded me, yet I could see her head smack the ceiling. Certain I required CPR, I said, “We’re wasting time.”
She bared barracuda-teeth. The vet held out his arms and Toto crawled into them like they were best buds. “It’s all right, Mother. We’ll make an exception this time for Miz—”
“Gale. Thea Gale.” My chest ached from the effort to speak without stuttering.
My heart was now pounding in my ears so loudly I could barely focus. Dr. Rogon touched my elbow. Stunned by a jolt of electricity under my skin, I ignored what sounded like a body hitting the floor. Frankly, I was too worried about my own body hitting the floor if he touched me again.
What is wrong with me? A hormonal attack for sure, but I had to take care of Toto.
Shadows hid the vet’s face as he led me into a yawning black hole redolent with the smell of sandalwood. Mental snapshots strobed. Him and me cavorting in a fragrant, dark forest. Light-headed, I blinked. Neon fireworks splintered the darkness.
Pheromone overload. I pinched the bridge of my nose. My over-reaction to the sandalwood-scented darkness explained imagining I saw Mother’s ascent to the ceiling. This whole setup bordered on weird, but except for my aching feet, I was fine. I sighed with relief.
“Are you all right, Mother?”
“Just ducky, Magnus. Why shouldn’t I be fine?”
It was one of those questions for which there is no right answer. In no mood for a litany of wrong responses, I snapped, “Toto and I don’t care why you two are sniping at each other. Just do it later. After you examine him.”
“Certainly, Miz Gale.” He laid Toto on a fluffy towel covering a metal table.
I gulped. My name sounded like a sonata on his lips.
“If it helps,” he crooned, patting my hand, “I’m positive Toto will be fine.”
“Honestly?” The door snicked shut, plunging us into total darkness.
“Trust me, he’s already better.”
“But how?” In a sandalwood haze, I gaped as frame after frame of him and me on a bed of pine needles unwound on my mental TV. I blurted, “How’d you shut the door?”
The blip of silence felt awkward, as if I’d asked if he wore jockeys or boxers or slept naked. He hesitated before saying, “Uhhh…a button under the table. It comes in handy.”
For what? My ears rang. “You’re positive about Toto?”
“Positive, Miz Gale.” The clink of metal on metal scraped my nerves.
“What-what’s that noise?” I whispered.
“Just sterilizing my instruments.”
In the dark? Dry-mouthed, I pinched the back of my hand. I brushed Toto every night before bed. My efforts paid off in thick, inky fur. At that moment, his reddish highlights shimmered as if through a microscope. My insides dropped.
“Another minute,” Dr. Rogon said, also clearly visible in the darkness.
“Take all the time you ...” I stared at a tall hunk with buzzed black hair and chiseled jaw. Muscles rippled in his chest. But it was his large, elegant hands and long fingers I found fascinating. Pianist? Former college basketball player? He bent over a pile of instruments.
Broad back to me, he opened and closed metal-topped containers. “Almost ready.”
“I-I-I can’t tell you how grateful I am for treating Toto so late.”
“You could throw your arms around my neck. Hugs are always appropriate.” His response took away my breath. When he faced me, I imprinted his rugged features, tanned skin, and smoldering, gold-flecked eyes. The color of fine whiskey, their intensity caught me off guard.
My pulse hammered in my ears. “Since I don’t see well in the dark, I’d probably end up hugging your knees.”
“Could be fun.” He shot me a feline smile and rounded the table in a pale, white light circling his head.
“Are you…flirting?” Hot coals and ice cubes tripped down my spine at the same time, knocking out my question about the light’s origin.
“I’m distracting you.” His playful smile lent a teasing note to his words.
“It’s working.” Let me at his knees. He looked like Prince William’s dark twin.
“This won’t take long, I promise.” He pushed a chair under me. The intimacy in his voice made me feel as if we’d found a little cave and crawled inside.
“Okay.” Unbidden, the white edge of desire uncurled in the pit of my stomach, steamrollered my diminishing anxiety about Toto, and filled me with a sense of lightness.
The vet made a waving motion over Toto and recited, in his lilting oboe-voice, a Latin-sounding phrase I didn’t understand.
I hugged my waist. “Can you tell what happened?”
“I’d say a close encounter with a possum.”
“A possum?” My heart fluttered. Imaginary romps in a cave faded. “Possums have rabies, don’t they?”
“This one didn’t.”
His arrogance astonished me. “How can you know that?”
He missed a beat before saying, “Experience. Raccoons carry rabies, possums rarely do. My patients’ companions have complete trust in me.”
He faded into the blackness. His reputation challenged? His ego wounded? A blown electrical fuse?
After an inhale, I spoke in a neutral tone. “Maybe I’d trust you, too—if I could see better.”
“No one’s ever complained. Have a few minutes more of patience.”
My mouth opened in protest. Instead of words, babel. The smoky undernotes of his aftershave wrapped me in an eerie sense of sleep talking. Time didn’t stop, but it crept. Tension seeped out of me. I sighed.
“Here he is. Good as new.” Dr. Rogon came into focus and laid Toto in my arms.
Tears streamed down my cheeks. I kissed Toto’s head, but he moved it from side to side, following his hero. Gratitude snuffed out a twinge of jealousy. Able to see despite the dark, I turned my big guy over and examined his belly. He purred like he always does after a massage.
“You’re wonderful.” I walked next to miracle worker into the reception area, so giddy I almost missed the indigo mist swirling around us.
Teeth bared, Toto growled. No one usurped him.
From a parallel universe, the wonderful Dr. Rogon said, “You’ve got a great cat there.”
“Thanks. You are wonderful,” I repeated, aware the encroaching mist blotted out the dim light behind the front desk. I shivered. My certainty that darkness had shrouded the exam room wavered.
With no sign of Mother, I stuck out my hand. Dr. Rogon offered no handshake. No finger squeeze. No pat on the wrist.
Face stinging, I dropped my hand and lifted my chin. “I’ll get my purse from the car.”
“We’ll bill you.” Stiff, like his tongue was cutting the inside of his mouth.
Twice as stiff, I said, “I prefer paying as I go.”
Pressing Toto closer to my chest, I stumbled forward, found the doorknob and threw open the heavy door.
Fresh air swept away the fog. I stared into the deserted parking lot.
My heart dropped. I squeaked, “Where’s Four?”COLLAPSE
Skipperdo, Amazon wrote:
Took a bit of time to understand what was going on as really no explanation was forthcoming. However once it clicked it began to make more sense, although some questions were never answered.
She had received a pair of shoes on every birthday from her father, even after his death. The latest pair made her feel terrific and that's why she wore them on her date. A disastrous date that ended with her finding one of her cats injured.
What happens when she finally finds a vet to take him to? Why are cats being injured? Why is the vet so mysterious? What happens when she clicks her heels? Magic, succession, jealously and love are woven into a read that you takes some getting into but should make a good series. Good characters but a bit more explanation about them would have been good.
I particularly liked the humor in this book. The character interaction just had me laughing out loud several times. The plot and characters themselves are also very well written. The only thing I didn't like was the ending. . . it wasn't a cliffhanger, but it also was...different. I hesitate to say more because I don't want to ruin it for others. It definitely does lead you to wonder what happens next. Overall, definitely worth the read.