Sweet Sinclair: Masters of the Castle Book Five by Maren Smith (Author of #1 Erotic Romance bestseller “Kaylee’s Keeper”)
Since a competing sweets shop opened its doors, things have not gone well for Sinclair’s candy shop, Maybe’s Candy. Business was slowing, her finances were dropping and no matter what she did she just can’t think of any way to get her business back on top. Even the one highlight of her week – that moment when handsome Parker Johnson, a man she’d been flirting with for over a year, came to buy his usual bag of caramels – even that wasn’t much of a treat. How could it be when Sinclair already knew something was wrong with him? She couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was – was he married, gay, a homicidal maniac? – but a guy didn’t show this much interest in a girl and then not ask her out, at least not without a good reason. And Parker most definitely had not asked her out.
Then an unexpected ray of good luck: From out of the blue, she’s offered a job. All she has to do is cater a candy party – one day, 900 people, and her store would be financially set all the way through summer. The only catch? The venue is a place called the Castle, a fantasy BDSM resort inhabited by some of the hottest Masters she has ever met. And one of them just happens to be Parker, the same man she’s been drooling over for the last year.
What a coincidence! Or is it? Sinclair always knew there was something wrong with him. What she didn’t know, was how he could make WRONG feel so wonderfully RIGHT?
“Master My Love: Decadence L.A. Book One” by Maddie Taylor
When a mysterious invitation to a new BDSM club arrives in Valerie Thornton’s mailbox, she sees it as a fateful intervention. She has long suppressed her desire for a strong man who can nurture her inner-most desires and bring the submissive inside her to life. Now widowed with an empty nest, she’s alone, unfulfilled and wondering what she’s been missing.
Walking into the most exclusive club in LA all alone, Valerie almost loses her nerve, but the testosterone-filled atmosphere is pure temptation. Each dominant man she sees is sexier and more handsome than the last. When she meets intimidating Eric Dupree, the Master Dom takes her breath away. He seems perfect for her and Val knows he could bring her secret fantasies to life. She’s ready to throw herself at his feet, but refrains. How could he possibly be interested in a forty-year-old BDSM novice like herself?
As managing partner and Rossi CFO, Eric should be thrilled. Club Decadence LA is successful, and Rossi is growing by leaps and bounds. But as he approaches middle age, he finds that he needs more than his career and bachelor lifestyle can give him. In walks Valerie Thornton, an innocent to his world. What has brought her to his club, of all places, and why can’t he get her out of his mind? ________________________________________
“Love Hurts” by Dinah McLeod
Karen Donahue is intimidating, but she has to be. The youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, her job is stress personified. She’s used to being in charge, and if she doesn’t always like it, well, it’s part of the job. And if she’s a little bit of a brat, it’s just because she works so hard.
An excuse that is not good enough for Brandon Fuller.
After Karen’s car breaks down, he comes to the rescue, only to be chewed out by the fiery, hot-tempered brat. He informs her that he won’t fix her car unless she accepts a spanking for her behavior, and having broken her phone during her last tantrum, she has little choice but to accept. What she’s not prepared for is how much she’ll enjoy discovering the pleasure that often accompanies pain.
“Love Potion #9.1” by Robin Smith
Harper Hicks is a bona fide witch who has brewed up a bona fide love potion for sale to the normal and not-so-normal customers at her bookstore. After all, who doesn’t want a little extra heat around Valentine’s Day? And this one is guaranteed to make fantasies come true. What could possibly go wrong?
“Lovely Little Liar” by Patty Devlin
Charlie gives the cop who pulls her over for speeding and reckless driving the performance of a lifetime, telling him that her mother is in the hospital on the edge of death.
Trooper Vin Loveanu wants nothing more than to pull her out of the vehicle and comfort her, but has to settle for sending flowers to the hospital, only to find out that the mother is not a patient. Further investigation turns up an obituary for Charlene’s mother from four years before!
Charlie’s lies, abominable driving and strong family ties continue to bring the two together. She can’t run away far enough or fast enough, and maybe – just maybe – she should be running to Vin, not away, even if it means a trip over his knee – or more than one.
Sweet Sinclair by Maren Smith
Maybe Sinclair Adleton stood behind the glass display counter, making notes in her business ledger. The sun was shining through the storefront windows, making the candy jars that lined them sparkle, and casting a rainbow array of color back across the floor where it refracted through the rock candy.
The fudge display was fully stocked, as were the three-tiered shelves of regular and sugar-free chocolates. Warring scents of cinnamon and saltwater taffy competed for mouthwatering attention with every indrawn breath, and everywhere one looked, all that could be seen within Maybe’s Candy was row after row of M&Ms and malt balls, Red Hots and candy corn, licorice and Blow Pops and taffy and even nostalgic goodies like candy cigarettes, Fizzies and Mallow Bars.
They occupied every surface and space, filled the glass jars and wooden barrels?shelf after shelf, row after row, from one wall to the other and from the front of the store all the way to the back. Her shop wasn’t the biggest store of its kind, but Sinclair was proud to boast that it still packed well over 800 varieties of candy into this crowded 1200 square foot space, and every single item within the display case was made fresh by her own hands. Unfortunately, the only thing Maybe’s wasn’t packed full of was customers.
Maybe’s Candy had been Sinclair’s dream ever since she was a kid. She had saved for this, worked for it?delivering papers since she was twelve and flipping burgers from the day she turned sixteen. She had worked throughout high school. She had worked throughout college. When the ideal retail space had opened up (as if by magic right there on Main Street, not half a block from the freeway onramp), Sinclair had jumped at the chance to lease it. But at the very last minute, that lease had fallen through and the only other available storefront in her price range was this one, three miles off the high-traffic part of town, in an older more dilapidated area. Still, she’d taken it, and three weeks after Maybe’s Candy opened its front doors, that ideal retail space she’d originally wanted opened its doors as well?Casey’s Sinful Desserts, run by none other than Casey Silverton, her dormitory roommate all through their last year at college.
At one time her best friend, Casey had been the one who had wanted to be an office manager but who had instead listened quite attentively every time Sinclair talked about her dream. Until Sinful Desserts opened up, she hadn’t known just how much Casey liked her ideas. Apparently, it was just enough to steal them.
So now here they both were, each with a candy store of her own and both in a town of less than fifteen thousand people. Granger literally was not big enough for the two of them, and since their friendship was likely never to recover from Casey’s betrayal, the war of the candies began.
Sinclair fired the first shot. She added nickel and penny candies for little kids with only small amounts of money to spend and liqueur-filled chocolate bottles for adults. Casey added ice cream to her store and all summer long did a thriving business with shakes and old-fashioned malts.
Sinclair offered Bogo prices?buy one, get one free?on all candy throughout her store for Halloween. Casey set up a Trunk-or-Treat in her parking lot and although she didn’t discount her candies, she still had a hell of a lot of customers on the big night.
For Christmas, Sinclair decorated Maybe’s Candy to the nines, invested pennies she really didn’t have in top-notch advertising and brought in every kind of Christmas candy imaginable: Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate bark foil-wrapped bells, Santa pops and Pez dispensers, and Twenny Christmas Tree Swirl Pops, to name just a few. She sold completely out of every liqueur-filled chocolate bottle she could get her hands on, and on the other side of town, Casey brought in a real Santa and sold out of damn near everything she had.
It wasn’t fair. This was her dream, not Casey’s, and now?running out of money and ideas?unless she did something truly spectacular for this coming Valentine’s Day, she was going to lose everything.
But what, what could she possibly do that Casey couldn’t counter? Staring at her daily ledger, Sinclair tapped her eraser against the blank page and tried her best to start feeling a little less depressed and a little more creative. She could do this. She had to, because otherwise Maybe’s Candy would not survive another year without a serious financial pick-me-up. Sinclair sighed, rubbing at her forehead, but no good ideas were forthcoming.
A flash of reflected sunlight rolled across the surface of the store windows as a silver sports car eased to a stop right outside her store. She knew that car; her heart fumbled a beat. He was back?Parker, that good-looking man who’d made her small shop his weekly habit, every Monday just like clockwork, for almost a year now. Practically from the moment she’d opened her doors.
There was something about that man that just drew her. He was kind, funny, smart, and when he leaned against the counter to flirt while she rang up his standard one-pound bag of caramels, the way he’d look at her never failed to make her feel as if she were the only piece of candy in the place that he had any interest at all in sampling.
It was really too bad there was something wrong with him.
Her hand went to her hair before Sinclair could stop herself. She quickly checked her reflection in the glass of the display case and was rubbing her suddenly sweaty palms over the curve of her jeans-clad hips when he pushed open the door. She could tell by his grin that her primping had not gone unnoticed.
“Good morning, handsome,” she said with a grin.
“Oh, you’re beautiful and you know it,” he replied, letting the door swing gently shut behind him. “You could have sugar on your nose and chocolate in your hair, it wouldn’t make any difference. You’d still be beautiful.”
“Some might say you’re biased,” she teased, a flush of warmth tickling up through her stomach as he strolled up to the counter. His shoulders were broad, his waist narrow, and his sandy brown hair just long enough in the bangs to brush boyishly over to one side. The right. He was a right-hand brusher, and Lord, but the way he filled out a pair of jeans was downright criminal. Fortunately for him, she was a confectioner and not a cop.
“So, how’s sales?” he asked, propping his arms on top of the glass.
“Well, uh?” She tried not to wince, and when that failed, to laugh it off. “You’re customer number three today.”
“Ouch.” He cringed for her. “Well, school’s not quite out yet. I’m sure you’ll get a rush once the kids start running wild.”
She hoped so too, but that hadn’t been the trend so far this week. Sinclair had cheaper candy, homemade pieces that were to-die-for delicious, and a much greater variety, but Casey’s shop was situated almost a mile closer to the schools. That right there put Maybe’s Candy at an incredible disadvantage.
Wanting to keep Parker’s visit light, she turned the conversation away from her financial problems to something safer. “What can I get you?”
His grin broadened. “What can you always get me, sweetness?”
“Caramels,” they said together. She laughed. “Do you have a preference?”
“Nope. You pick. If it comes from your hand, it’ll taste sweeter anyway.”
“Flatterer.” She could so easily have fallen in love with him, but that something that was wrong?whatever it was?always got between them. She wished she could put her finger on whatever it was. Married, maybe? She never saw even the faintest shadow of a ring on his finger, but why else would he keep coming back week after week, flirting and flattering and coming right up the verbal cusp of asking her out, only to stop short. She just couldn’t figure it out!
Bag in hand, Sinclair began to pick and choose a variety of tasty caramel treats from the displays she’d hand-created behind the counter. Then she ventured out onto the floor to pick from the barrels and other shelves. After all this time, she knew his order pretty much by heart. He always got one pound and she always made sure he got a nice selection.
“You look good this week,” he said, following her from a safe distance, although she could tell he was taking great pains to look as if he were just browsing.
“Thanks.” Her face flushed. “So do you.”
He grinned, trailing along behind her as she rotated through her stock, picking through the salted, the whips and the nougats, and now and then, stole peeks right back at him. This little ritual had become a familiar dance for them. For the last year, they’d been do-si-doeing around one another, pulled in on both sides by this mutual attraction Sinclair knew for a fact she wasn’t imagining. And yet, in all this time, they’d never dated, or gone for coffee, or exchanged phone numbers. She couldn’t count how often she’d caught him looking on her with longing, and yet, he always stopped before he became something other than a customer in her store. And because he kept coming up short, she did too. He just didn’t strike her as the shy sort. Something had to be wrong, either with her or with him.
Maybe it wasn’t him. Maybe it was her. Maybe women just plain didn’t float his boat. That old adage must be true: all the really good guys were either married or gay.
“Have you thought about moving your store?” Parker suddenly asked.
“Uh,” Sinclair said, trying to pretend she was engrossed in the monumental decision between soft caramels and hard candies. “Unfortunately, this is the only available retail space in my price range. It’s okay. Things’ll pick up around Valentine’s. I’m hoping I can come up with something really good to help advertise my presence.”
“Like half price shipping to anywhere in the world from now through Valentine’s and free shipping to anyone in the military?”
Sinclair dropped the caramels she’d been picking through and swung around to look at him. “Ooo! That’s a great idea!”
“Yeah.” Wincing all over again, Parker scratched one eyebrow. “Casey’s is advertising that on a banner outside their store. I read it on the way over.”
“Well? crap.” Tsking, Sinclair went back to picking through the candies and tried not to let it show just how crushed she felt right then. “It’s still a good idea, I guess.” Even if it did come from the enemy.
“You’ll come up with something better,” Parker assured her.
“I’ve been trying.” She jostled the weight of the caramels, judging it to be a little over a pound. She didn’t put anything back though. She just twisted the bag off, walked back around the counter and charged him the regular price. “I’ll be honest, though. Nothing’s coming to mind.”
“Maybe you’re trying too hard.”
“Maybe you should start acquainting yourself with the caramels at Casey’s.”
“Sorry. I’m a one candy shop at a time kind of guy.”
“Aw.” She grinned again, feeling instantly better. “You mean you aren’t even a little bit tempted by a piece of hot toffee on the side?”
“Temptation is the spice of life,” he acknowledged, reaching for the bag when she offered it over the display counter. His fingers brushed hers, just a little too deliberately to be accidental. “But while I am a big believer in temptation, Casey can keep her caramels. I’m more than happy with my current purveyor. As long as your doors stay open, I’ll keep coming back.”
“Aw, thanks.” All those gorgeous looks and a real sweetheart nature to boot. If only he wanted her enough to risk asking her out. If only she could get over her mother’s ‘Ladies do not?’ lectures so she could ask him. “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere. I’m too stubborn. I’ve just got to think a little harder, that’s all. I’m sure to come up with something to blow Casey’s shop right out of the competitive waters.”
Leaning up against the counter once more, Parker started to open his mouth, and in that moment, Sinclair was struck by the inexplicable certainty that this was it. He was going to ask her, maybe even say something as corny as, “If we put our heads together?like, say, over dinner?we might come up with something faster.”
Her chest seized. It was the strangest, breathless feeling. And it was premature because, in the next half second, she saw his face gradually change. It was a look she knew very well; she had seen it cross his face many times by now. His grey eyes shuttered and his mouth closed. He tried to smile and then took a slow step back from the counter.
Sinclair made herself smile too, but it felt brittle. “See you next week?” she asked, too brightly.
He visibly deflated before shuttering himself behind another masking smile. “Yeah. Next week.” He nodded, knocked twice on the glass countertop, and turned and walked out of the store.
It was an awful feeling of loss, having to watch him go. He glanced back at her one time before letting himself into his car. Shaking his head at himself, he drove away, leaving Sinclair to wonder for the hundredth time what kept going wrong between them.
* * * * *
“What the hell is wrong with me?” Parker exploded. At least he didn’t do it right in front of her store where Sinclair would see it. No, he managed to keep himself calm, cool and collected for two full blocks before suffering his mini meltdown at a red light in front of the local pizza parlor. “God!” He barely resisted banging his head against the steering wheel. “You’re beautiful!” he told the unresponsive stop light. “Gorgeous! I want you! I love you!” Wilting, Parker groaned and rubbed his face with both hands. “I’d wear your ass for a hat from now until the day I died, if you’d just let me.”
The back passenger door swung open and six large pizza boxes were unceremoniously dumped onto the seat behind him. A second later, that door slammed shut and the front passenger door tugged opened. Long dark hair tied back into a neat ponytail, Sam dropped down to sit beside him. “I seriously recommend you save the ‘I love you’ and the ass-wearing until at least the second date. Women get funny about things like that.”
Wilting all over again, Parker bowed his head. “There’s not going to be a second date,” he muttered. “There’s not even going to be a first one.” With his friend and the pizzas they’d come for both safely in the car, he pulled back out into traffic. “I can’t ask her.”
“Sure you can. It’s easy. It starts with ‘hey, gorgeous’ and ends with ‘wanna go for coffee?’ ”
Parker shook his head. “I can’t, Sam.”
“You’re just out of practice.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
Sam glanced at him. “What then?”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know I’ve never seen her at the Castle,” Parker shot back, growing more irritated with himself by the second. “I guarantee, if she had any inclination towards the kind of stuff we do, she would not have lived in this town for this long without at least one trip to the Castle.”
Grunting, Sam acknowledged the truth of his logic with a nod.
“Vanilla relationships don’t work,” Parker said, more to himself than to Sam. “I’ve failed at every one I’ve tried. One of us would have to change. Either I’d have to try and play it straight with her, or she’d have to be submissive for me.” He shook his head again. “It won’t work. I’d make her miserable. It’s better just not to start.”
“If you really believed that, you wouldn’t have spent the last year torturing yourself with weekly trips to see her. Seriously, how much have you spent on caramels? You don’t even like candy.” Sam picked up the bag of caramels from where Parker had dumped it between the two front seats.
“The Littles and the nursery kids love them.” Snatching the bag back, Parker tossed the caramels in the back next to the pizzas.
“If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were getting in touch with your masochistic side.”
“I don’t have a masochistic side.”
“After flirting for a year with a woman you refuse to ask out even just to coffee.” Sam smirked. “Yeah, tell me another one, Pinocchio. The girls are going to love your growing nose tonight.”
They drove out of town in silence. Less than five miles away from the turn off to the Castle, for some inexplicable reason, Parker said, “She’s going to lose her store. So I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. She won’t be a temptation for that much longer.”
Sam turned his head toward the window, softly musing, “That’s too bad.”
Parker looked at him. “What the hell does that mean?”
“What did I say?”
“It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it. You had a tone. Leave her alone, Sam.”
“What?” Sam spread his hands, laughing. “Did I say I was going to do anything at all?”
“You didn’t have to say anything. I know you. Everybody at the Castle knows you. I don’t need any interference in this, so just leave it alone.”
“Hmm,” Sam mulled that over a moment before shrugging with both eyebrows. “Okay.”
“I mean it, Sam.”
“I didn’t muck things up when you were chasing after Hannah,” Parker warned. “Butt out.”
“I said okay.” Sam chuckled, holding up both hands. He turned his head to look back out the window, watching as the tallest turrets of the Castle began to appear through the trees in the distance. “I promise,” he grinned, “I’m not going to ask her anything at all.”
* * * * *
The handmade candies were wrapped and put away, the kitchen was cleaned, and the floors were mopped. The till had been reconciled, and it was exactly two minutes to closing time when the phone on the wall behind the display counter rang. It had been a long day and Sinclair was both frustrated and tired. For a moment, she actually contemplated not answering it. If she hadn’t, the entire course of her life would have turned out much, much different.
Love Potion #9.1 by Robin Smith
Harper Hickes swept into the parking lot of 1800 Plaza, a non-descriptive name that perfectly non-described the shops and offices that occupied it. Most of the buildings were empty still, with weathered FOR LEASE banners flapping in the chill February wind. Of those in business, there was a wholesale hot tub and spa outlet store, a specialty kitchen accessories shop that sold things like whimsical aprons and cookie jars shaped like walruses, the office of a tax attorney with the unfortunate name of Simon Broke and a heavy equipment rental place (they used to rent those freaky flailing inflatable tube people too, but as a result of a stiff breeze a few years back, some litigious old lady had been, as she put it in the suit, “unspeakably assaulted” so now it was just cranes and cherry-pickers). Oh and Hedgewick’s, of course, where Harper both worked and lived, home also to Verity Hedgewick’s Grand Book of Spells.
Harper was a witch, the last twig on the Hedgewick family tree, where being a witch used to go without saying, but in this enlightened modern age, Harper was the only one left of her generation who could get a broom off the ground. Yes, the Hedgewicks had always been witches, but the Hickeses? Schoolteachers and nurses and fast food fry dippers. Practically normals. Half her cousins didn’t even believe in magic.
Harper parked and made a dash for the door through light eddies of snow, holding a haphazard mess of papers over her head as a kind of umbrella. The bell over the door rang out as she came in from the cold and her voice rang out with it, cheerfully unrepentant. “I’m back!”
“Oh, were you gone?” drawled Damien, not looking up from his book. “I hadn’t noticed.”
Born a scant six months before The Omen would give his parents the world’s worst case of baby name buyer’s remorse, Damien Kaine was Harper’s partner and it was thanks to his business sense and accounting skills that the store was turning a profit even here, in the No Man’s Land of 1800 Plaza. More than that, he was her best friend, something she thought she’d outgrown along with high school until she had it again with him. And if they did some hanging out now and then (okay, every Friday), so what? Friends could hang out and go to movies and occasionally even feel their heart leap whenever another friend smiled that certain way or got that devilish glint in his friendly dark eyes or even pulled a friend close at midnight to start the new year off right with a kiss.
Just friends. It was better this way. Well, maybe not better, but less complicated. Even if it wasn’t for the whole business angle or the witch/normal dynamic or the usual risk of ruining a perfect friendship by trying (and failing) to fall in love too, there was the rest of it. The rest of her. The secret submissive Harper. What would happen when they got to the bedroom and she had to expose… that part of herself? Oh, he might give it a go, but he’d laugh first and treat the whole thing like a joke. Or worse, think ‘submissive’ meant ‘slave’. The last guy Harper had dated kept trying to get her to say she was a filthy little slut who needed a spanking and when she finally complained, had said, “Look, it’s your sick game. I’m just trying to play along!”
She shouldn’t have to be a filthy little anything to get a spanking. A man could be loving and still be dominant, couldn’t he? And a woman could be strong and independent and still submit, just like she could be sexy without being a slut. And in a perfect world, that woman could just walk up to that man and say, “I really like you and I want to try to be with you and also, please spank me,” without fear. But this was not a perfect world and that was her best friend sitting there behind the counter, not to mention her business partner. That man was a man she would have to face for days and weeks and months and maybe even years after she said the word ‘spanking’ and saw his surprise/disbelief/disgust/amusement.
And why was she torturing herself like this? Why, when it was such a great day?
“You look weird,” Damien remarked now, frowning at her.
“I missed you, too,” Harper replied, trying on a smile for size. It almost fit. “And I missed all of you! Hi, guys! Hello, Mrs. Emerson! Aunt Agatha! So good to see you!”
The loose collection of people on the coffee side of the store hailed her in waves. The two or three other customers browsing the shelves seemed startled by this unexpected familiarity, but smiled as people will when they perceive themselves caught up as part of a group. Harper tossed out hellos as she shrugged and stomped free of her outer winter layer and threw everything into the Tea Room, which was really just a wide space between the stairs up to her apartment and the bathroom, a space just big enough for the little table and two chairs where she did card readings on request. There was a cupboard under the stairs where she could have hung up her coat and let her boots dry, but Damien had turned it into The Cupboard Under the Stairs?a big hit with kids and parents?and it wouldn’t do to have snow melting all over little Harry’s miserable bed.
“I have the most exciting news,” Harper bubbled, hopping up on the counter beside the cash register.
Damien eyed her bare feet with a distinct lack of excitement. “Do tell.”
“Not yet. Wow, it’s almost seven! Why are we still open?”
“Hint, hint, folks,” Damien remarked and customers obediently began to make their way either toward the counter or the door.
Although Hedgewick’s was ostensibly a bookstore, there were only a few hundred titles, all along the central theme of hedgewitchery and almost evenly split between reference books, popular neo-paganism titles and children’s books. Harper kept a catalogue of the ‘specialty’ stock, but few customers knew to ask for it and that was how she liked it. Harper didn’t mind having normals in the shop?wiccans with their candles and crystals paid the lease, after all?but there were limits to how far she’d go to humor them. Real magic was best left to real witches and it was just as simple as that. There was only one spellbook in the store and that would be the one Harper kept in a cabinet behind safety glass, under lock and key, but open so that the first marvelous page could be clearly read by those able to decipher the faded, spidery scrawl.
“This being Veritie Hedgewick’s own Book, a Grand Book of Spylls, containing the Antient and Moderyn Practice of the Art & fhewing the wondrous Effects that may be performed by a Knowledge of the Natural and Celestial properties of Herbs, Metals and Stones. Also containing Alchymy. Also those Chants, Charms and Constellatory practices by which might be brought out magical Power inherent in the Soul through a great variety of rare Experiment. Also a number of Treatises on the Nature of the Elements, Stars, Planets, Suns and Omens and Signs of manie forts. Also in which the fecret mysteries are explained regarding Spirits and Figures, either good or evil, with manie names being writ for purposes of conjuration. Also recipes for Potions, Pottage and Poultices as well as manie Brews, Salves and foothing Balms. Also containing a collection by Goody Veritie of most Excellent Cookerye by virtue of the fact that this booke came bound with fo manie everlasting pages.”
There were two hundred sixteen separate spells bound up in those ‘manie everlasting pages’ and every one of them, the real deal. Of course, most of them were of questionable merit in this day and age. Not a lot of people looking to cure melancholy hens or bring forth a bounteous reap of barley in ye fields anymore. But there were still one or two little gems hidden among all the folksy anachronisms and Harper had not only found such a gem, but had finally put a prize-winning polish on it and she could hardly wait to tell someone.
Restlessly, Harper chatted with the regulars while Damien rang up sales: a selection of incense and a pentacle nose ring for the sorta-goth teen girl, a set of altar candles for Mrs. Emerson, a very nice Bastet statuette for Amelia MacGuire’s collection, a fairy coloring book and toy wand for Mrs. Fern’s granddaughter, Aunt Agatha’s monthly supply of herbs and essential oils (which the old bird could have easily ordered online herself, but witches of Aunt Agatha’s generation retained a lofty disdain for ‘gadgetry’ of that sort) and a stack of books for a nervous-looking stranger with titles like Sexual Alchemy and The Illustrated Guide to Tantric Massage. After the last of them was out the door (Aunt Agatha toddled off into the cupboard under the stairs and disappeared with a flash of light and a whump of collapsing air), Harper hopped down to lock it and flip the welcome frog from Open to Closed.
“Big news?” Damien prompted, moving over to