Extended Teaser: Shadow Witch Rising

I promised my lovely readers over on Facebook that once we hit 300 likes on the page, I’d share an extended teaser from the first Copper Falls book, Shadow Witch Rising. Well, we’re over 300 now (thank you!!) so, as promised, here is your teaser. Enjoy!

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After a few hours of sorting through dusty, grimy boxes, mostly filled with old clothes and other useless crap, Sophie was ready to head back downstairs and declare defeat. Why did people hold on to stuff like this? What good was an entire box of plastic dishes, or boxes and boxes of paperbacks, which had been chewed mercilessly by mice? Books should be read, should adorn a room so you can look at them and remember the amazing places they took you. They should’t be boxed up and stuffed in an attic, left to rot.

She had to grin as she looked though them. Someone, it looked like in the seventies or eighties, had been a big paperback romance reader. The covers, complete with bodice-ripping heroes holding their prizes, made her roll her eyes. Not in a bad way, though. She remembered the same books in her grandmother’s bedside table. She’d gotten her love of books from Nana, and she knew that those stories were a part of what she was now.

She set the books down, shaking her head.

She got back to work. If there were answers to be found about Calder and his curse, she’d find them. She had to.

After another few hours, she had about half of the attic sorted through. She had a few boxes of things she could use, mostly kitchen and gardening equipment, along with some decorative things that had caught her eye. She had a pile of clothing to donate, several boxes of paperbacks (that hadn’t yet been chewed by mice) and other miscellaneous stuff to donate. She’d already tossed several garbage bags outside. She’d have to drive them to the dump later.

Sophie carried the “donate” boxes out to the front porch and stacked them along one side. She reminded herself to call Purple Heart to come and pick them up. She went out back and did the evening chores in the dark, feeding and watering the animals, giving the goats their second milking  of the day.

As she did, she thought. A name. A date. Something. She didn’t know anything about her family other than Edie and her family’s almost non-existent magic. If Calder had been looking into the curse enough to know (supposedly) that it was her ancestor, then he must have names or dates or something to base that on.

Sophie finished up, washed up a little, then headed out the front door and across the street. Calder was pretty much where he’d been earlier that day, hunched over the car.

She walked up to him and leaned against the side of the car, watched him for a few minutes. He didn’t acknowledge her, and she tried not to let that irritate her.

“Can you tell me anything about the curse? What does it do, exactly? Which of my ancestors did it? Anything you know would be helpful, since I know absolutely nothing,” she said softly.

Calder kept his eyes on the engine. After a few more minutes of tightening things and fiddling around, he stood up and started wiping his hands. “What have you been doing all evening? I knocked on your door twice trying to talk to you.”

“I was in the attic. There’s so much stuff up there, going back who knows how long. I’m hoping I can find something up there that will help me figure this out. But I figured if I can find out what you know, that will give me a head start. And maybe I’ll know what I’m looking for when I find it.”

He nodded and headed toward his front porch. He settled his huge frame on one of the steps, and she sat beside him.

“It happened nearly two hundred years ago,” he began. “My ancestor, Luc, was involved with your ancestor, Migisi.”

She watched him. “What kind of name is that?”

“Ojibwa, we think,” he said.

Sophie pulled the small notebook out of her jeans pocket, wrote the names down. “I was always told there was some Native American in my line, but no one knew much,” she said as she wrote. “Did she live in my house?”

“She at least lived on the land. We’re not sure if she was the one who first lived in the house or whether it was her decendents.”

“Okay.”

“So they were involved, and from what I understand, she was completely in love with him. But Luc had a wandering eye, and she caught him with another woman. She was heartbroken. And pissed off.”

“Rightfully so,” Sophie said, raising her eyebrow.

“You’ll get no argument from me on that.”

Sophie laughed a little.

“Anyway. The story goes that when he went to her to apologize, she had a curse waiting, and she did the spell, and that was that. She moved on. Married another man and had children. Luc spent the rest of his life cursed, mated, and the next generation was born. Cursed, just as he had been.”

“Can you tell me more about the curse?”

Sophie watched as he looked down at his hands. “Our line are shifters. You already know that.”

Sophie watched him. “What do you shift into?”

“Bear.”

“A bear?” she asked.

He nodded.

“Are you the bear my friends smelled around my house?”

“Yeah.”

“So you were spying on me?”

“I was making it clear that was my territory.”

“Why?”

“To keep others away,” he said.

“Is there something I need to be worried about?”

He looked up, met her eyes. Her heart stopped at the intensity in his gaze. “No. Nothing’s going to happen to you.”

“Except for you taking everything I own if I can’t figure this out.”

“I’m desperate, Sophie. It’s getting worse, and it’s only the last few generations that stopped being stupid about the curse and actually started researching how to break it. Started tracing her line. And what we kept finding was that for the most part, you’re powerless. Until you. I was prepared to make the move down to Detroit, but this is so much better. You came here for a reason, and it’s clear you need this place.”

“Lucky you,” Sophie muttered.

“For what it’s worth, I don’t make a habit of bullying women.”

“Congratulations,” she said icily.

He took a breath, and she shook her head in irritation. One bright spot in the situation was that she had a couple more months in her house. Of course, that would probably be it, because her chance of breaking a curse as powerful as this one was probably less than zero. “The shifter part isn’t the curse, though,” she finally said, determined to at least try to figure it out.

He shook his head. “We were born shifters. And, until we hit puberty, we can shift into our animal without any problems. After that point, shifting becomes a punishment of its own. When we take our animal form, we become more beast than man. You have friends who shift. You know that even though they have the senses, reflexes, and instincts of their animals, their thought processes remain human.”

Sophie nodded, watching him. Why did he have to be so good-looking? It was hard to hate him when he looked at her with that intense, serious gaze, when she could still see the boy she’d been so enamored with.

“Okay. Well, with the men in my family, we start losing that humanity. At first, it’s just…” he paused, shook his head.

“Calder. I need to understand. Okay?”

“At first, it’s like your beast starts taking control when you’re in that form. It does things you’d never do, out of its mind, and all you can do is watch. You’re still in there, but you’re powerless to do anything other than wait it out. At first, it’s really only a problem on full moon nights. The rest of the time, we hold it together, and it’s almost normal. Full moons are a nightmare.” He paused. “And its not that our beast is evil. It’s just desperate. The real thing with the curse is that it makes you just endlessly dissatisfied. There is no such thing as enough food, enough water, enough violence, enough…” he trailed off, and she caught his eyes sweeping over her body before he looked away. She felt a blush rise to her face. “Never enough,” he continued. “We want it all, all the time, and getting it never satisfies. It’s like having an itch that never stops, and slowly but surely, it drives you mad. And the more insane you get, the less of your humanity you can remember, until, even in your human form, when you can remember to take it, you’re like an animal.”

She was watching him, and the concern, the empathy in her eyes made it hard for him to breathe. Her scent surrounded him, and the warmth radiating from her body made him want to touch her so badly he burned with it. He forced his mind back.

“My father hasn’t shifted back to his human form in over six monhts. He is likely lost to us. The best any of us can do is keep him contained, so he doesn’t hurt anyone. My younger brother cares for him, but it’s not easy on him. We agreed that I would be the one to… convince you to help us. And I can feel the curse strengthening in me as well.”

“And your brother?”she asked him.

He shook his head. “It only affects the oldest male in each family. And we’ve tried ending it that way. Tried not getting anyone pregnant, or killing off the eldest son before the curse begins… it either jumps to a younger siblling or to a male cousin. She wasn’t messing around when she made that curse.”

She was quiet for several moments. “Your dad and brother. Do they live around here?” she asked, and the tremor of fear in her voice grated at him.

“No. They live in they middle of one of the larger state forests. Almost entirely isolated.”

She nodded, and he watched her. She seemed to be thinking.

“So, the hunger. That’s the real part of the curse. Right?”

He nodded. “That seems to be it. That we would never be satisfied. That the constant dissatisaction eventually drives us mad.”

She was watching him. Jesus she smelled good. His bear, his beast, practicaly rumbled in ecstasy at her scent. So warm beside him, her curvy body warming his, her thigh almost touching his.

It was hard to breathe.

“And you say you’re starting to feel the effects of the curse?” she asked softly.

He nodded.”I still mostly have control of my beast.”

“Mostly,” she repeated, and her fear scented the air, made his beast raise its head in interest.

“It’s bad around the full moon,” he said. And he knew, already, that this next full moon would be absolute torture. There was something he suddenly wanted more than just about anything else, and it would make his beast even crazier. “The equinox is hell. That’s why I put that deadline in there. This is the first year I’ve started losing control, and I know from watching my dad that the equinox is a nightmare. Fall and spring,” he added.

“Why?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I think it has to do with the bear part of what we are. Fall, a bear would be preparing to hibernate. He’d be stuffing himself with food and getting sleepier. And spring,” he forced his thoughts away from that.

“What’s with spring?”

“That’s mating season,” he answered, trying to keep his voice flat.

“Oh,” she said. She looked away from him, tapped her pen against the small notebook she’d been jotting things down in.

“So, Migisi. Do you know anything else about her?”

He shook his head. “The only reason we know her name at all is because there’s this story that Luc ended his life in front of his own son, and he screamed “is this what you wanted, Migisi?” right before he jumped off one of the outcroppings on Brock Mountain.”

“Is that how it usually ends?” she asked quietly, and the compassion in her eyes made him hate himself even more.

“Sometimes,” he answered. “And sometimes, we go beyond the point where we even have enough sense to know we should end it. My father is there now. Even if he wanted to end his life, he’s too out of control to even attempt it. It’s like he’s hardly in there at all anymore.”

“It seems like she went kind of overboard on the curse thing,” she said. “Is it possible there’s more to it than that?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s possible. All I know is what’s been passed down over the years. We lost track of her line for a while. Your place sat empty for decades in the early 1900s, I guess. And then we found Edie, which led us to you. Edie didn’t know anything about anything. She knew you all have some magic, but she also knew that it was pretty much nonexistent in her.”

“My mom had no magic at all,” Sophie said. “I didn’t know anything about witchcraft in my family until I felt the first bit of power in me when I was a teenager. I asked my parents, and they told me it was nonsense. And then we moved away from here. I think they thought that would end it.”

He watched her, felt the almost irresistible urge to try to comfort her. It wasn’t the words, necessarily. It was something behind them, some sense that she’d been through more than her share of bad.

He couldn’t afford to worry about her feelings now.

He looked across the road, at her little cottage. “Have you found anything up there?” he asked, gesturing toward the small window in the attic.

She shook her head. “Not yet. But at least maybe I’ll know it when I see it. If there’s something up there that can help, I’ll find it. And now I have names to work with. What was Luc’s last name?”

“Same as mine. Turcotte,” he answered, watched her write it down. “Sophie,” he said, unable to take his eyes off of her and hating himself all over again.

“What?” she raised her gaze to his, and heat shot through him at just the meeting of their eyes.

He almost said it. Almost apologized for the mess he’d made of her life, for the way he’d strong-armed her into helping him.

“If you find anything out, let me know,” he said, aware of the short, gruff tone of his voice.

He watched as she withdrew into herself again. There was still that compassion in her eyes, but it was like watching a door close, watching her pull away from him.

What did he expect?

“I will. And I should get back to work,” she said, standing up.

He stood up, too, walked with her down his driveway.

“You don’t have to come with me. It’s not like I’m going to get lost or anything.”

He smiled a little. “I know. ”

* * *

There we go! I should also have a cover reveal for you pretty soon. I am so excited to share this story with you!

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