COMING AUGUST 2022
LOVE OF MY MIDLIFE
Sweet Mountain Witches
Paranormal Women's Fiction Cozy Mystery
A loud rumble of thunder ripped me from my dreams. My pulse thrummed in my ears as I blinked and glanced about the darkened bedroom that Gideon and I shared in our cozy mountain cottage. I waited for several quiet moments, watching for lightning, and listening for more thunder. When nothing happened, I started to wonder if I’d imagined it.
We didn’t typically get thunderstorms in the late autumn or winter months when our precipitation was mostly snow, which was what the weather report had predicted for the day. Maybe in my sleep-induced state, I’d mistakenly assumed the noise was thunder.
I calmed my breathing and guessed one of the cats had knocked something over, instead. The shadows in our bedroom all seemed familiar, and I couldn’t spot anything that looked out of place. All was good. For a few seconds, anyway.
Unfortunately, my thoughts couldn’t be happy with that explanation, and I started to wonder if we had an intruder in the house. Or something worse. Our home was carefully warded, but that wasn’t a one hundred percent guarantee.
I was about to nudge Gideon to see if he could sense anything, but a brilliant flash of light illuminated the room. A window-rattling boom of thunder followed close behind. Mystery solved.
A second later, it sunk in what was really happening, and my heart stopped. I’d experienced thundersnow only once in my lifetime when I’d been a small child, but I remembered my mother’s excitement and her insistence that we collect the enchanted snow.
I immediately jumped from the bed, knowing the event could be over any moment. With my heart beating full force now, I raced to the living room closet for my winter coat, not bothering to turn on any lights until I reached the kitchen for fear of waking Gideon or my kitties.
I shrugged into my coat, grabbed a large metal bowl from a kitchen cupboard, and nearly toppled over from excitement as I stuffed my bare feet into snow boots that rested by the back door.
With a quick flip of my fingers, I turned the lock, yanked open the door, and stepped into a world of heavy snowflakes that danced wildly around me. I hurried to the edge of our patio and thrust my hands holding the large bowl outward where more snowflakes were falling. Each flake was precious and powerful. I didn’t care if I seemed greedy. I wanted as many as possible.
With my flurry of activity in the past, a silence so reverent that I could feel it in my soul encircled me, and I filled my lungs with crystal air. The mountain wonderland scene was mystical. Magical. Surreal in its beauty.
The energy sizzling in the air kept me warm enough that I didn’t complain when a winter breeze whipped beneath my nightgown and wrapped its icy fingers around my legs.
I opened all my senses so that I could absorb and inhale as much of the incredible energy as possible. The snow caught light from the kitchen window and sparkled like a million diamonds floating in the air and scattered around my feet. It was as though I’d been transported into a strange and dreamlike place, and I released a small gasp of delight at this extraordinarily rare gift from the Goddess.
Another flash of lightning bounced off the white snow in blinding force, and the loud boom of thunder ricocheted to my very core. “Yes,” I whispered as the elements collided.
I might not know everything about the craft, but I knew for certain a witch was considered incredibly blessed if she could catch the special snow as it fell. Storing melted thundersnow would enhance my magic because of its powerful ability to give strength.
As I stood beneath the falling snow, my thoughts drifted to the idea of performing a spell in the midst of a thundersnow storm. Wouldn’t that enhance its strength even more? Instead of using a few drops of water, I’d have the power of everything around me.
My theory seemed solid, and I knew exactly which spell I wanted to cast. I’d been waiting for the new moon’s energy to give Gideon and me a new beginning after a recently tumultuous point in our relationship, but this power trumped that one by a long shot.
I set the metal bowl on the snow-covered lawn so that it could continue collecting the precious flakes. Then I scraped my fingers along the bottom of the bowl, gathering some of the snow into a tiny ball. The energy running through me and the warmth of my skin quickly melted it, so I rubbed the enchanted water over my hands and patted it on my cheeks to absorb more of its essence.
Then I stretched my arms to the side, closed my eyes, and turned my face skyward.
“Thank you, dear Goddess, for your blessings from above. Please allow this snow to repair Gideon’s and my love. May passion always burn within our hearts, and never again let us part. Let this spell not turn on me. Let harm come to none, so mote it be.”
Brilliant lightning shot from the clouds, and the immediate crash of thunder left me shaking. I clutched my hands over my pounding heart and forced frigid air into my lungs. “Blessed be,” I whispered. “That was intense.”
I stood as the snow fell softly, reveling in the power that sizzled inside me. The incredible moment was one I’d never forget.
Unfortunately, the patio light turned on and shattered my trance-like state. I heard the door open behind me and turned to see Gideon standing in the doorway, wearing only his boxer briefs, looking at me with a stunned expression. He started to speak, but he ultimately closed his mouth and shook his head.
Before I could say anything, he hustled across the frigid patio toward me, his bare skin exposed to the potent elements. He wrapped me in his embrace and tugged me toward the door. “Beautiful, powerful witch of mine, please come inside with me. It’s freezing out here.”
I was still too overwhelmed by the spell that I’d cast to resist. Not to mention, every second I might have argued with him would mean he’d endure the extreme conditions longer.
Once inside, he took my hands and blew his breath to warm them. “How long were you out there?”
I released an awestruck chuckle. “I have no idea. Not too long, I think.”
The black in his irises flickered as he looked at me with disbelief. “Your fingers are icicles.”
I dropped my gaze to them. “They are? I don’t feel it. If anything, you should be the one shivering. Why didn’t you at least put on shoes or a coat?”
Once again, he tried to speak and failed. He cupped my chin with his hand, and the warmth from him seeped into my skin. He stared into my eyes for a long moment, his gaze stunningly serious. “Unlike witches, demons are less susceptible to changes in temperature.” He swallowed. “That was some spell, my lovely.”
Joy burst inside me and sparked a shiver that covered me with goosebumps. “That was literally the most powerful spell I’ve ever done.”
“That may be the most powerful spell I’ve experienced.”
My goosebumps turned into goose-hills. “You watched?”
A sexy smile curved his lips. “Not with my eyes.” He touched his chest. “But in here.”
I smiled, gratified that my spell had found its way home. “Good. I did one for us.”
He nodded and a serious look returned to his face. “I wanted to talk to you about that. About us.”
My pulse slowed to a thick thud. I watched tiny black flames flicker in his eyes and begged my mind not to jump to the worst conclusions. “What is it?”
He traced my bottom lip with his finger. “Go get dressed in something warm, and I’ll start breakfast. We can talk then.”
Two weeks had passed since Gideon had returned to my life. Our life. On the surface, things had seemed normal. We still laughed and loved. But something churned inside him and left me uneasy.
He’d promised me and our kitties that he’d never leave again. He was a man of his word, and I believed him. But still…I returned to the kitchen fully dressed and ready for work since I’d need to leave before too long. The delicious smell of bacon had been calling to me for several minutes, and I was more than ready to sink my teeth into it.
I reached the entrance to the cozy kitchen of our mountain cottage and paused at the adorable sight in front of me. My beautiful gray familiar Freya sat on one kitchen chair, and Old Gray, our aging kitty, occupied another. At some point, Gideon had donned a long-sleeved Henley and jeans, and he now stood between our babies, talking sweetly while he took turns giving them each tiny pieces of bacon.
As I stood watching my small family, my heart overflowed with happiness. I had to believe our love, enhanced by a crazy powerful spell, would be enough to always keep us together. I softly snorted. “Spoiling them again?”
Old Gray startled and jumped off the chair, ducking beneath it. Gideon and Freya both shifted their gazes to me, obviously not surprised by my presence.
Gideon gave them each one more piece and then cleared his throat. “Looks like we’ve been busted.”
I laughed and strode to the table, scooping Freya up for a quick snuggle before I set her on the floor. I lifted my gaze to Gideon and smoothed a strand of his hair that had been charmingly rumpled by sleep. “Something smells really good.”
He leaned toward me and sniffed my hair before kissing my head. “Do you mean you?”
I managed to smile at his teasing words, though my recently frazzled emotions kept me from fully enjoying his compliment. I couldn’t stop questioning if I’d heard an ominous tone in his voice when he’d said he wanted to talk to me. or if I’d imagined it. Either way, I poured a cup of coffee, sat at the table…and waited.
Gideon filled plates for both of us. The second he set mine in front of me, my mouth watered. I lifted my fork and gazed at it longingly, hoping I’d be able to enjoy it. Just in case things went south after we started talking, I quickly stuffed several bites of omelet into my mouth.
He sat next to me and chuckled. “Hungry?”
I shrugged, not quite meeting his gaze. “Powerful magic takes its toll.”
His half-chuckle echoed through the quiet kitchen. “I understand that well enough.”
After a few more bites, I dared a glance. “Are you going to tell me what you wanted to talk about?”
He locked gazes with me, and I noticed the black flickers in his eyes had returned. They only did that when he was in a heightened emotional state. Unable to hold his gaze any longer without showing my fear or awkwardness, I lifted my mug for a sip.
Gideon grasped my free hand and squeezed. “I want to get married.”
I forced the swallow of warm coffee down my throat to keep from choking, and I cleared my throat. “Well, we are engaged.”
His eyes grew blacker. “Now.”
I blinked. “Now? As in right now?”
He gave me a serious nod and then exhaled. “As soon as possible, then.”
I studied him, wondering what thoughts stirred behind his dark eyes. “Is there a reason for the rush? A few weeks ago, you were sure we shouldn’t be together.”
He shook his head as though he was severely disappointed in himself. “That was a mistake.”
He paused for a long moment as though quietly contemplating his next words. When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet, his tone grim. “I fight demons every day, Daisy, and they’re loud and demanding. They won’t win, but it’s wearisome.”
I widened my eyes in concern. “Every day? Because of me? Where are they?”
He shook his head. “Not demons like me.” He fisted his hand and pounded his chest. “In here. Please understand. I never meant to fall in love. Never wanted to marry. In fact, I’ve always been fine with what I was born into. The perks balance the negative aspects most times.”
He paused for a shuddering breath before he continued. “That was up until my sister went mad trying to rid herself of the demon inside her.”
The somberness of our conversation sank over me like a soggy woolen blanket, the weight of it dimming my energy. “But that’s not possible, is it? You can’t divide the two sides of you, can you?”
The midnight look that entered his eyes frightened me. He reached out and placed his hand over mine. “Is that something you’d like me to attempt?”
I gasped and drew my hand away. “Of course not. I love you as you are. Don’t ever question that again.”
He nodded solemnly. “I can’t say it’s not possible to separate them, but I don’t know of anyone who’s ever successfully attained it.”
I shook my head repeatedly. “Don’t even try. I only asked because I feared how it had affected your sister.”
Overwhelming sadness flowed from him. “It was a nightmare. She’d married a human and together they’d had a child.”
“Your nephew,” I said quietly.
He sighed. “Yes. Lucas. For him, he could choose to accept the demon part of himself or not, and his mother wanted him to stay human. Her husband was, and she desired to be as well, to have her family live normal human lives. But the harder she tried to rid herself of that part of her, the more it shredded her soul and mind into unrecognizable pieces. Her husband killed her in an act of mercy, and Lucas was left without either of his parents.”
His words hurt my heart, but I was relieved that he was finally filling in the blanks for me. “I’m so sorry, Gideon. I can’t imagine what Lucas and you went through.”
He repeatedly drew his thumb along the curve of his jaw, the pain from his experience still evident on his features. “It was a nightmare for me, but even more so for Lucas. He was only a kid, incapable of understanding. As he grew older and learned what had happened, he loathed everything demon, including me. I did my best to support him, but it wasn’t easy. I hope he knows that I’ve always loved him, though.”
I couldn’t help but absorb his agony, and I blinked back tears. “How awful. For both of you. All of you.”
He closed his eyes for a brief moment. “There came a point in time where I realized that owning the demon inside him would help Lucas be stronger and allow him to better handle his feelings. I encouraged it, but it took him a long time to get there.”
“Is he fully a demon now?”
Gideon shook his head. “No, but he knows that side of him is helpful. Time will tell how much of it he accepts.”
I reached out and took one of Gideon’s hands in mine. “You know, life has a way of sorting itself out.”
He snorted and looked away. “I wish it would sort me out. I never intended to fall in love, Daisy. In fact, I was quite happy being a bachelor. I should have guessed that the fates would intervene at some point and show me who was in control.”
I gave him a sad smile, knowing that loving me was a double-edged sword for him. “I hope the good far outweighs the bad.”
He slipped his hand behind my head and pulled me forward for a kiss. “A million times over. The only thing I couldn’t bear is if my status tortured you.”
Things slowly began to make sense. “Which you thought it was. Didn’t you?”
The despondent expression on his face told me I was right. He used his fist to knock on his chest again. “I need to tame this beast.”
I wanted more than anything to help him do exactly that. “You believe our marriage will help?”
He gave me a decisive nod. “It will settle things in my head so that my mind doesn’t keep feeding my heart irrational ideas.”
He tilted his head, studying me, his eyes now a deep shade of indigo instead of pitch black. “Remember when I proposed, and we were going to have Antonio perform the bonding ceremony to see if you were part demon?”
I nodded. “But we figured out that I wasn’t before he could make time for the ritual.”
Gideon gave me a wistful smile. “I knew you weren’t, but I wanted to ease your mind.”
A quick smile jumped to my lips. “And marry me.”
He grinned. “Yes, Daisy. I want to marry you. But, back to the bonding ceremony. As I said before, when we marry, it will attach my soul to yours forevermore. It may not work the same for you, as it will for me. Demons can choose to return to separate lives if they lose their love, but that bond is never broken.”
I slowly nodded. “I see. So, once we’re married, your emotional demons will understand that fighting you is pointless.”
His eyes lightened with hope. “Yes. I think then my heart and soul will be at peace.”
A wall of uncertainty broke inside me, and for the first time in a while, I knew everything would be okay between us. “Then let’s do it. It’s going to take me some time to make the arrangements. I need a dress and other things, but I’ll hurry.”
He leaned over and claimed my lips in a long, possessive kiss. “You never fail to delight me. I’m so happy you agree. Of course, I’ll help wherever I can. For now, though, we should eat breakfast, before our food gets cold.”
I chuckled as I straightened in my seat. “It’s probably too late for that. Eggs cool fast. Lucky for us, I know a spell that can fix it.”
He grinned. “Perfect.”
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