Read an Excerpt
One morning early in November, my best friend and business partner, Tori Andrews, handed me a wrapped package when I came downstairs from my apartment over the store. We have coffee together every day and discuss business, like what variety of beans we needed to order for the espresso bar.
That morning, we had a lot more to talk about than the merits of Hawaiian Arabica versus Brazilian. Her parents, Gemma and Scrap Andrews, just ended their 35-year marriage. The conclusion of the legal proceedings marked the beginning of a kind of migration from our childhood home, Cotterville, North Carolina to Briar Hollow.
Tori’s mom, Gemma, and my folks, Jeff and Kelly Hamilton, bought two buildings on our town square — Gemma across the corner from George and Irma’s grocery store and my parents two doors past Chase McGregor’s cobbler shop.
Throughout the summer, in the months just after I took over the store from Aunt Fiona, I dated Chase, but we faced hurdles worthy of the Complicated Relationship Hall of Fame.
You see, I’m a witch — we all are, except Tori and Gemma use their abilities to study alchemy. Chase and his father, Festus, are werecats and the sworn guardians of our hereditary line, the Daughters of Knasgowa. However, witch and werecat magic aren’t compatible when it comes to what they insist on referring to as “mating.” The feeling against such unions is so strong; it amounts to a taboo among their kind.
Unfortunately, the McGregors seem to like the strong women my family routinely produces — they like us a lot. Festus still carries a torch for my mother, and I think he was sweet on my grandmother, Kathleen Ryan.
Werecats live much longer than humans, which you can either see as a chance for more experiences and adventures or a ticket to greater heartbreak. The more I talk with Festus, I think both are true.
Am I human? That’s an idea I struggled with in the beginning. I didn’t know about my magic until I was almost 30 years old. I didn’t know that there are beings called the Fae who primarily occupy another dimension known as the Otherworld or that sandwiched between that place and the human realm is a no man’s land labeled simply the “In Between.”
Once, hundreds of years ago, humans accepted magic as just another part of nature. The Fae had great affection for humans and interacted with them routinely. But then a new idea began to sweep across the face of the world, the Christian religion.
As the power of the organized Church grew, humans drove magic into the shadows. Witch hunters hanged the accused, pressed them under massive stones to extract confessions, broke their fingers with thumb screws, and in some instances burned their victims alive.
The horrible truth is that the vast majority of those who died weren’t witches at all, a tragedy that caused tremendous pain for the real witches. One reason the Fae go to such lengths to keep their world and their affairs hidden from human view is because they’ve seen the horrors of human hysteria.
Coming into my magic, I struggled with the idea that I might be something evil. Here’s a simple but difficult fact; different doesn’t always mean evil. I am Fae. If I spend most of my time here in the human realm, I’ll live a fairly conventional span of years. But the more my powers grow, and the more time I spend in the Otherworld, the longer I’m going to be around.
At first, my powers scared me. I found the affairs of the Fae reality complicated and confusing. Now I’d describe myself as curious and excited. Let me try to explain.
I dated this guy in high school who loved to take pictures of bugs. Like most teenage girls — and even though I would describe myself as a tomboy — I drew the line at creepy crawlies. Not Jimmy.
“You don’t have to touch them, Jinx,” he said. “Just look at my pictures. These are the eyes of a butterfly, and see that long, curly tube? That’s called a proboscis. It works like a straw. The butterfly uses that tube to drink nectar.”
Jimmy showed me spider’s faces and the veins in the wings of dragonflies. He made me see that underneath rocks or on the bottom side of leaves or way back in the dusty corners of attics, there are alternate worlds. To the fly caught in the spider’s web, the monster coming toward it looks just as big as Godzilla up there on the movie screen.
With the lens of his camera, Jimmy changed my perspective on what I saw going on around me and what I didn’t. That’s how I feel about being Fae. I’ve been given a different lens to see a part of life most people don’t know about and couldn’t handle if they did. For me, that knowledge carries extra responsibilities.
Magic, like all life on this planet, sprang from the natural order, but that includes a system of checks and balances. If you’ve ever heard of Newton’s Third Law, you’ll have some idea what I’m trying to describe. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Where there is light, there is also dark.