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In Magc Series

Courage In Magic

Her magical gift led her to him…
But his dark past could tear them apart.

Psychologist Rowena Williams is hearing voices. Until recently, she was spellbound, but now she can no longer deny that she has a magical gift for communicating with the dead. Or that the voices she hears are because she won’t let go of the past.

Reclusive writer Connor Davis is captivated by the beautiful woman who turns up on his doorstep. As intriguing as he finds her, he has no intention of digging up the ghosts of his own painful past that she claims are so important.

But now with a magical box capable of immense evil destined to end up in the wrong hands, only Rowena and Connor’s combined magic can stop it from happening.

Together, they must face the demons haunting them and have the courage to believe they are stronger as one. Otherwise, untold evil will be released into the world with the power to destroy their past, present, and any hopes for their future… 

** Courage In Magic is book four in the In Magic Series. Each book has its own Happily Ever After. ** 

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Sneak Peak...

Chapter One

“Stop!” Rowena yelled to the voice in her head. She pressed her palms into her forehead, as if she could push the voice out. “Stop! It’s too much; let me think!”

            The words and visions in her mind disappeared. She let out a long breath and conjured a glass of wine, taking a seat in the large armchair in her living room. The huge gulp did little to wash away the bitter taste of anxiety coating her tongue. Lifting the glass to her lips again, she took only a small sip. Trying to ground herself, she concentrated on savoring the light, fruity flavors of the pinot grigio—her favorite wine.

             She’d consumed too many glasses of the beverage lately to try and dull the voices in her mind and the hallucinations. If she wasn’t careful, she could easily drown herself in wine until even it wasn’t enough.

             As a psychologist, she knew the signs and symptoms of a mental disorder. Although no one was immune, she didn’t think it would ever happen to her. At least, she’d hoped it wouldn’t.

             She looked around her apartment, seeing her favorite things—items she’d collected over the years. Framed pictures covered the walls, and books and other cherished items lined the two enormous bookcases flanking the end wall. There were candles and crystals, and several packs of beautiful tarot cards. Perhaps strange things for a psychologist to collect, but she loved the look of them and the symbolism behind them, whether they were real or not.

            Her collection soothed something inside her as she continued to visually scan each item. She took another sip of her wine and felt a calm finally settle over her.

            Only a year ago, she’d been spellbound and hadn’t known people with magic even existed. Then her world, and that of her three cousins, had been upended in the worst possible way.

            The hallucinations had started a couple of months after the spellbinding that had locked her magic away for twenty years had been broken. They were subtle at first—just fleeting blurry images, like a memory—and as her magic grew more powerful and the more she perfected it, so did the hallucinations. Then the voices started.

            They weren’t really clear at first—a word here, a word there—but nothing that made any sense. She’d gone to a doctor and had every test under the sun to rule out nervous system problems, such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and brain tumors. That left a whole host of mental health disorders as probable causes.

            She’d seen a psychiatrist, but her symptoms didn’t present as a mental disorder, and her psychiatrist finally told her she needed to lower her stress levels. Now she knew how her own patients felt when she told them that—frustrated.

            Putting her empty wine glass on the coffee table, she conjured a small charcuterie board. She’d been as giddy as a teenage girl on a first date with the high school quarterback when she’d figured out she could conjure one.

            Chewing a piece of cheese, she thought back to the last hour. She’d rushed up two flights to Morgana’s apartment when she’d heard something was wrong, only to discover Morgana wasn’t actually Morgana. She was her cousin Molly, who they thought had been buried over twenty years ago. They hadn’t known Morgana’s true identity because she’d been disguised by a spell.

            The relief that Molly was still alive was more than she could put into words and yet with the relief came so many questions. Her two brothers, Mirek and Taren, as well as her cousin Dylan, had been killed in the same fire thought to have killed Morgana. Her dad and uncles had also died in that fire. If Molly had been spellbound, could Dylan be as well? Even though a small amount of hope bloomed inside her, she was afraid to feed it

            Mirek and Taren were dead—she knew that in her heart, although she couldn’t have said how. It was likely connected to all the hallucinations she’d been having and the strange words popping into her mind.

            She reached forward and picked up another piece of cheese, sandwiching it between two crackers, when something fell off a shelf. Placing her snack back on the board, she got up and walked over to the book that had fallen to the ground.

            Kneeling on the soft carpet beside the book, she pulled it up on to her knees and lovingly ran her hand over the cover. It was a photo album her mother made of her and her brothers—the last one she made before she died.

            She put her fingers under the cover to lift it when the book was pulled out of her hands. A gasp tore through her throat but before she could do anything, the book slammed down on the carpet, with a soft whooshing noise. The album’s stiff pages flipped open one after the other until reaching the book’s final page. There was only one picture on the page—a large eight-by ten-inch portrait of her brother Mirer. It’d been taken when he was ten, just before he died. She and Taren had each sat for a similar photo. She’d been eight and Taren six. She ran her fingers along her brother’s image, his thick blond hair mussed, like he’d run his fingers through it. She remembered her mother hustling them all off to a photo studio and her brothers grumbling because they weren’t allowed to get dirty.

           She chuckled as she remembered—so bittersweet. She was the only one left of her immediate family. Her father and brothers had died in the fire that took the lives of seven members of her family… well… six, since Molly was actually alive.

          Her mother died a few years later, and it wasn’t until the previous year that Rowena discovered it was because her mother had spellbound her and her cousins.

          Sounds burst into her mind, like static on a TV channel without a signal. The album slid off her knees as she slammed her palms against the sides of her head. “No! I don’t understand!” she yelled into the silence.

          Images swam in front of her vision. This time, they were more clear than they’d ever been. She saw Mirek on his bike, Mirek kicking a soccer ball in their old backyard, and Mirek swimming at the lake. But it was as if she was seeing the scenes through someone else’s eyes, like they were someone’s personal memories.

            Alive.

            The word was spoken into her thoughts as more images of Mirek popped into her mind, like someone slowly flipping through an album. These images were like the others—someone’s memories. It wasn’t until she saw the third image of Mirek that her hands trembled. He was sitting on a couch, but he looked like he was in his late teens. But that was impossible. Mirek died when he was ten.

 

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            It would be a good death. Connor Davis’s fingers flew across the keyboard as he wrote the gruesome details of the poor man’s demise. Connor used the heavy metal music pouring through the stereo speakers at an unsafe decibel to fire his creativity. He could see the man in his mind’s eye as the poison took hold and consumed his character from the inside out—a quick but painful death. One best suited for an enemy. Oscar Ford, his series’ detective, would have his work cut out for him with this one, just the way Connor liked it.

            When he finished writing the chapter, he glanced at the time on his computer. It had been a productive morning. After hitting save, he pushed back from his desk, the sound of the chair’s wheels on the floor drowned out by his music, his phone’s vibration caught his attention. He let out a groan and pushed his magic out the tips of his fingers, turning  the music off and accepting the call. His dad’s picture had lit up on his screen, eliciting a curve of his lips. He enjoyed hearing from very few people in his life, but his dad was one of them.

           “Hey, Dad.”

            “Morning. Are you in the middle of writing?”

            “No, I wouldn’t have answered the phone if I was. It’s perfect timing; I’m just taking a break.”

            “Good. I thought I’d come up and visit you. “It’s been a while.”

            Connor stiffened and flopped back in his chair. “What’s wrong?”

            His father blew out a breath. “That obvious, huh? I’ve lost my touch.”

            If his father had meant for him to laugh, he’d failed. “You were here last week, and you know you’re always welcome, but you said you’d come back at the end of the month. What’s changed?”

            When Connor had first moved up to the family lake house almost at eighteen, he’d expected to receive bad news at every turn. He’d been in such a dark place, he couldn’t see a way out. Any phone call prompted a worry that the call was being made to deliver more bad news. It had taken him years, but he’d slowly been able to answer a phone call without thinking something horrible had happened—or mostly.

            This wasn’t one of those times. He knew every nuance of his father’s voice. Had even imitated it in his characters.

            “No one has died, son.”

            Connor blew out a breath as he relaxed his shoulders, a habit he knew was an exact replica of one he’d picked up from his father. “Okay. When are you coming?”

            “I’m not sure exactly, but in a couple of days. I’ll let you know when I know. But in the meantime, make sure your protection on the house is secure.”

            “So… no one died, but it’s still bad?” Connor felt his old friend anxiety rear its ugly head as the beginnings of a headache loomed.

           “No…I’m probably making more out of this than I should. It’s nothing new.”

            That was like his father and he suspected that his dad was downplaying whatever had happened. Connor’s headache took a firm hold as the realization of his father’s words sunk in. “It’s Drew.”

           “Yes. It’s not so important that I need to go into it over the phone; just make sure your spells are in place.”

           “I will. I love you, Dad.”

           “I love you, too, son. I’ll text you when I’m coming.”

            They said their goodbyes and Connor pressed the end button before shoving the device in his back pocket. He needed to get outside to clear his head.

            He looked over at Doyle, who was doing his usual impression of a couch potato.

“Ready for a walk?”

            His seventy-pound greyhound bounded off the cushions and came over to him, nudging Connor’s hand. He gave the dog a hearty rub and grabbed his leash from the hook on the wall. Sometimes he’d let Doyle run free, but because of the phone call Connor didn’t have the patience to wait around for Doyle to frolic in the water. He needed to move. A restless energy overcame him whenever he had to think about the past. Mentions of Drew could throw him into the past in a heartbeat. Maybe he’d been right to think that phone calls brought bad news.

            They went out the back door and through the gate, heading toward the lake. Doyle did his business and then came into a heel position by Connor’s side as they headed along the well-worn path around the lake.

            Connor took off at a fast clip to burn off some of the restless energy that had settled over him with his dad’s call. At the two-mile mark on the trail, he stopped and conjured a bowl of water for Doyle and put it down in the middle of the path. He conjured a bottle for himself and downed it in a few gulps. If he got dehydrated, a headache would set in for days and he wouldn’t be able to write.

            When Doyle finished, Connor disappeared both his water bottle and Doyle’s bowl, then set off at a much more leisurely pace.

            The beautiful area had soothed him more times than he could count in the almost twenty years since he’d permanently moved up to the family property. He looked out over the lake to the trees on the other side and soaked in the calm. It had taken him almost that entire first year to appreciate what lay in front of him. He’d wallowed in his grief for so long that it had almost consumed him.

           It was his novels, writing about death and grief and solving the mysteries he created in his head, that had helped him finally come to accept his past and move on. Well… if he was honest with himself, he hadn’t really moved on; he’d just come to accept things the way that they were.

           The passing years had made life easier by making the memories not as fresh, and now there were entire days where the past didn’t consume him. His dad and his uncles and aunt had moved on, or as much as anyone could from the loss they’d endured. And now no one brought up the past around him anymore, unless it was to relive good memories.

           The mention of Drew was not one of those good memories. The man’s name brought a flood of grief with it. Connor tried to shake the thought off, and when he reached the three-mile fork in the path, Doyle turned around and started walking toward home.

           Connor chuckled to himself. He was obviously predictable if his dog knew when to turn around. He and Doyle had been a team for three years now, when his father had given him Doyle as a present. Connor’s last dog had died a year before that. It had almost been more than he could handle, even though in dog years, Conan had lived a good, long life.

           Conan’s death had reawakened his grief and he’d settled into a depression he didn’t think he’d ever get out of. He thought he’d come to terms with his mistake from years ago; he would never forgive himself, but he had accepted it. Or so he told himself. His dad had given him a year to grieve and then one day showed up with a wiggly, gangly looking greyhound puppy, his ears flapping over, with the biggest brown eyes.

           Between writing and training Doyle, Connor had slowly pulled himself back out of his despair. Years ago, before he’d graduated from high school, his dad had forced him to see a counselor, but now he chose to walk out his troubles. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enough.

           He wondered how many miles he’d have to walk to deal with whatever his dad was going to tell him about Drew. Connor hadn’t seen his former best friend in over twenty years because seeing him had brought back too many memories. And several months ago Drew’s true nature was revealed, so that was likely what his dad wanted to talk about.

         Just like always, the walk back to his house always seemed shorter than the walk out. The fresh air and the time with Doyle had been a good break, but not enough to calm all his thoughts.

          After removing Doyle’s leash, Connor waved his hand toward the sliding glass doors off the deck to open them so Doyle could get to his water bowl. Connor pushed his too-long bangs out of his eyes and sunk down on the cushioned wooden swing he kept for when his aunt Stella visited. She’d sit out here for hours.

          Connor couldn’t understand why his aunt and uncle, but especially his aunt, didn’t hate him for what he’d done. He’d never had the courage to ask her why, and when he’d been in his deepest grief, she would sit beside him on the swing, their thighs pressed against each other, and drink their coffee in silence. She was the one who gave him his first cup of coffee and taught him how to make it the non-magic way.

         Over the years, it had had become their thing—strongly brewed coffee and soaking up nature on the deck swing. Maybe that’s exactly what he needed today, and maybe it would help prepare him for whatever news his dad was going to bring.

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