As the only earning daughter in a large family of poor misfit witches, Izzy Bennet needs to focus on her career…not love.
When a hot and mysterious warlock, Fitz Darcy, arrives in town, sparks fly––but they’re the wrong kind of flame.
The new man in town spends half his time bad-mouthing the Bennets, and the other half messing with her sister’s love life. So why can’t she get Fitz out of her mind?
Even though her sister’s boyfriend runs off leaving her heartbroken, and Izzy is sure it’s all Fitz’s doing, he still holds the favor of their small social circle. Surely, not everyone in town can be that delusional?
But when her younger sister gets too free-handed with a love potion, she is forced to rely on Fitz’s resources to save the foolish young witch from total ruin.
And though Izzy still hates Fitz, sooner or later she’ll have to decide what’s more important: her pride or the welfare of her family and a love full of magic?
PRIDE AND PARANORMAL, the first novel in the Souls and Shadows series by USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Blake.
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About the Book
Pride and Paranormal
by Adrienne Blake
Souls and Shadows
City Owl Press
June 1, 2021
PRIDE AND PARANORMAL
A Souls and Shadows Novel
© 2021 Adrienne Blake
THE FLAMING CAULDRON
The parking space was too tiny. There was no way my poor little Beetle was going to squeeze into the one solitary spot in front of the pub, but this was an emergency and there was no other spot in sight. My best friend, Charlotte Lucas, never went out drinking in the middle of the week. She was far too busy with her work. So I was more than surprised when I got the call asking me to meet her at The Cauldron.
My family lived in a quiet little valley in Misty Cedars, Pennsylvania, surrounded by mountains. It was the kind of out of the way place easily missed in a blink. I glanced furtively up and down the street. No one was watching, so I pulled out my wand.
“Minorem ad quietiora,” I said, pointing at the two cars flanking either side of the parking space.
A shot of green light pulsed from the tip of it, circling both. They wobbled, just a little, like they’d been hit by a strong gust of wind, but in less than five seconds, they were suddenly each about a half foot shorter, opening up the space. I backed into the now wider spot, and after turning off the engine, I wound down the window and sat perfectly still. A parking violation was hardly a major offense, but if a Hag appeared out of the shadows, they could still cart me off to Bitterhold for the night. Unnecessary magic in a public area was an arrestable offense. How would I ever explain that one to Mom and Dad?
Climbing out of the car, I glanced around me. Sensing all was clear, I hurried inside.
Charlotte was sitting at a high table, checking her phone when I saw her. The Flaming Cauldron was a dark basement drinking hole, with slate flooring and a magically illuminated bar that always reminded me of the aurora borealis. The magic was mostly cosmetic—there wasn’t any obvious source of electricity, but there was just enough light to see and be seen.
A young warlock worked the bar—there were usually two on duty. The other was a vamp. I had no clue where she was tonight.
“Hey, Benny. No Sue tonight?”
Benny was a good-looking warlock who had his life history tattooed all over his body. More than once he’d asked me to check out some of the more personal tats, and with a show of feigned reluctance, I’d always managed to turn him down.
“Hey, Iz. Nah, she’s not here. Anemia. Again.” He worked while he talked and was busy stashing dirty glasses into a dishwasher under the bar. “Luckily, we’re not too busy. What can I get you, babes?”
We’d known each other long enough I wasn’t offended by the babes. “I’ll take an Angry Orchard,” I said. “And whatever Charlotte ordered.”
“I’ll bring it over,” he said.
I turned and strolled past the handful of tables currently occupied by a group of young werewolves to join Charlotte. A small light illuminated the center of our table, resembling a white orchid. The small flower was suspended in the air, emitting a warm, incandescent light that became dimmer and brighter as was needed.
“You found a spot then?” Charlotte took a sip of her drink and looked over my shoulder toward the entrance. “I had to park halfway up the street.”
“I, um, improvised.”
Charlotte’s eyes opened wide in disbelief. “You didn’t. You know you’re lucky you didn’t get caught. This place has been crawling with Hags lately. If they catch you using ley line magic in broad daylight where anyone can see it…”
I slid into the seat beside her. “Don’t worry, I was careful. I checked everywhere at least a dozen times before I used my wand. I promise, no one saw me.”
“For someone who works in the legal profession, you sure like to live dangerously.”
The bar went silent, and Charlotte, who had a better view of the place from her seat, shot me a pointed look. Curious, I turned to see two Hags making their way over to the bar. Years of unfiltered ley line magic had taken its toll on their skin, which was leathery and covered in warts. Wisps of hair protruded from the top of their heads and out of their ears. Their features drooped so pitifully it was hard to tell their sex. They were bereft of any kind of shape, and only their height hinted at what they once might have been. My heart stopped. Had they been watching after all? Had they come for me?
In a shadowy corner of the bar, a hooded figure sat perfectly still, hunched over a half-full beer glass. Whoever it was, they were the only person not following the Hags as they made their way toward Benny. When the Hags were just a few feet away, the individual jumped from its barstool and sprang up on the counter, running along the length of it. Glasses smashed, and plates of food went flying as they made for the emergency exit on the other side of the bar. A bolt of white light flashed overhead; its tip wrapped around the neck of the escapee, who went down with a violent crash. Their hood down, Charlotte and I stared aghast as a female goblin writhed against her restraints but to no use. The more she fought, the tighter the restraints held her.
When the Hags reached her, with a click of their gnarled fingers, the goblin rose from the ground, hovering in midair, her hands still grappling with the rope. The first Hag turned to leave, and as she left, the goblin floated through the air behind her. The second surveyed the bar area, and with a similar click of their hand, chairs were uprighted and broken glasses mended, until everything was put back to how it had been before. The Hag bowed to Benny and then followed her companion and captive to the exit. The door closed behind them, and only then did anyone dare breathe. Everyone began chattering at once, and order was restored.
“You know, that could have been you.” Charlotte picked up her glass and stared at it thoughtfully.
I buried my private fears and laughed. “Oh, come on, they’d hardly do that for a parking violation.”
Charlotte shook her head. “You never know. And in any case, have you looked closely at those Hags? They weren’t born like that—unfiltered magic did that to them. It’ll happen to you, too, if you’re not careful.”
I laughed out loud. “Oh, Charlotte, really. You know I do mostly earth magic. The plants pay the price, not me. In any case, I hardly ever use the ley lines. They’re strictly for emergency use only.”
“Like getting a parking place? Look, just be careful. You don’t want to get old before your time.”
“What did she do, the goblin?” I asked, wanting to deflect the subject from me.
“No clue. Probably dealing in illegal love potions. There’s been a lot of it about, I heard, and the Hags are clamping down.”
I nodded. “That would do it.”
Charlotte shook her head indulgently, reminding me of Mom. “Did you eat already?”
I was glad of the change of subject. I’d had enough talk of Hags for one night. “Yes, you?”
“I had a little something before I left.” She looked me up and down appraisingly. “You know, I love what you did to your hair. Did you braid it yourself?”
I automatically reached for the intricate braids I’d conjured the night before, and I ran my fingers over them, checking to make sure everything was just as it should be and that the magic still held. Four longer braids fell forward over my shoulders down to my boobs and I checked the ends. I considered it was probably not a good idea to mention I’d used ley line magic rather than fussing with them myself. My sensible friend would have had a fit. “Um, yes, yes, I did. You like it?”
“I do,” Charlotte said. “You’re so lucky. You have perfect bone structure. You look good no matter how you wear your hair. And I wish I could wear mascara too.”
“I don’t see why you can’t,” I said.
“My mom says it makes me look like a fierce raccoon.”
We both laughed at the familiar joke. It was true, though. Charlotte and I couldn’t look more different. I had an athletic build, with dark-auburn hair and clear skin my sisters would die for. Not that I was the best at taking care of it, because I liked to goth it up—with purple lipstick and heavy on the kohl around the eyes. My magically-knitted leotard-style dress had a V-neck, exposing just enough boobage to tease, with long leaves of black forming the skirt, which stopped just above my knees. I hated shoes, preferring to run wild without them at home, but here I wore a pair of open-toed sandals, showing off my black nail polish and ankle tattoo of a hummingbird. Half the time, people took me for a vamp. Easy mistake.
In contrast, Charlotte was slim, but her figure was otherwise unremarkable. Today she wore a simple, off-the-shelf dress adorned with an equally neutral scarf, high heels, and a matching purse. Her blond hair was cut into a short bob, and her pale face was devoid of any makeup. It bugged her to no end, but the fact was she had sensitive skin and could only get away with a few products. We’d tried a few spells to ease her condition, but so far, no luck.
Benny arrived at our table with our drinks in hand. “Do you want to run a tab?”
Benny grinned at the wink I gave him and shot me one of his own before returning to the bar.
“So what’s the big to-do?” I asked Charlotte once the cute warlock left.
“You’ll never guess who I had dinner with last night.”
“Charlie Van Buren!” Charlotte seemed so excited I thought she might launch from her seat.
“The matchmaking guy?”
“Yes, him. It looks like Dark Coven is let at last. My dad arranged the lease, and we had him over for dinner last night. Hell, Iz, he’s so gorgeous—much better than in the magazines, and he has such nice eyes. Not to mention, he’s single. He was telling us all about it, all about Wendy and the big breakup.” Charlotte shuddered and covered her eyes for a moment, embarrassed. “God, you know I think I drooled all the way from Mom’s appetizer right through to dessert. He probably thinks I’m a total idiot.”
I laughed. “I somehow doubt that.”
Charlotte grinned. “But it’s true. Anyway, I managed to sneak a picture of him on my phone while he was talking to Dad in the kitchen. Wanna see him?” She picked up her cell and began swiping.
Truth was, I was dying to see him, but I wasn’t going to tell her that. Charlie Van Buren was all anyone talked about these days: the self-made warlock who’d made a fortune with his supernatural dating app, Magical Moments. I hadn’t tried it myself, though if my mother was to be believed, it would solve all my man troubles. Apparently, it never failed—users got a love match every time.
“Yeah, I believe you.” Charlotte smiled at me sideways, knowing me better. Of course I was as curious as everyone else about the new tenant of Dark Coven. “Ah, here he is.” She turned her phone to me. “What do you think?”
Hmm. Charlie Van Buren was certainly hot. I could see why everyone was swooning. He had sandy-brown hair with just enough natural wave to be appealing but not overly fussy. And he was tall. Charlotte’s kitchen had a high ceiling, and he was way up there in mortal danger from the pendant lighting.
“Nice,” I said. “So he’s only leasing Dark Coven—he didn’t want to buy it?”
“It’s up in the air, I think,” Charlotte explained. “I think he just wanted something easy while he sorted things out with his ex.”
“Lucky for the neighborhood.”
Charlotte’s eyes glazed over as she stared off into space. Who could blame her? The population of warlocks in Misty Cedars had thinned out over time. The east side was too suburban for most young warlocks, and since most of us were third-generation or less, we had little money. And the Hags prohibited conjuring any—unless you fancied a solitary cell in Bitterhold. It was the price we paid for sharing an economy with nonmagical beings, who my generation affectionately referred to as numpies.
“You’re lucky. At least your dad is in a position to meet new people as they come and go. Once in a blue moon, Dad invites someone over from his university, but they’re mostly old farts he knew when he worked there. All book nerds and bibliophiles. He definitely doesn’t know anyone as hot as this Charlie guy.”
I amused myself by running my hand around the orchid light, checking the redness of my fingers as the light illuminated my skin.
“Oh my God!” Charlotte’s sudden outburst almost made me spit out my cider.
“Christ, what is it?” I followed her horrified gaze over to the door, thinking maybe the Hags had come back for me after all.
A group of young people had just entered the bar and were looking around, checking the place out. I recognized Charlie Van Buren at once but had no clue about the other four people with him. One thing I knew for certain: they were all magical. Their pulsating auras said witches and warlocks as clearly as if it were stamped on their foreheads.
Charlie’s ready smile and eager expression made it clear he was out to have a good time, although I couldn’t say as much for his four companions. Charlie traveled with two men and two women, all looked around his general age, and all were dressed impeccably well. They looked a little ostentatious in this spit-and-sawdust basement bar, and from the sneers on their faces, they knew it.
One in particular caught my eye. Charlie was tall, but his companion was even taller, and I would have been totally into him if it weren’t for the permanent scowl glued to his face. Still, that wouldn’t matter one bit if he were nice, because the wizard was hot—like smoldering hot. My keen gaze feasted on his broad shoulders, tanned complexion, and strong but manicured hands. I hoped to Gaia that scowl was only temporary.
Charlie headed straight for the bar as his friends surveyed the place.
“I heard this place was supposed to be happening,” said the more sophisticated of the two women.
“Clearly we were misinformed,” the tallest man said. He had a deep, commanding voice that made my skin tingle in the best possible way. I could hear him from our table in the corner and watched as he surveyed the place, like a lord overseeing his minions.
One of the werewolves walked by. The taller woman pulled the shorter one close and stuck her nose in the air, as if some nasty smell had irritated her. I always liked the musky werewolf aroma myself, but this lady had issues, and from the stiff gait of the others, I figured none of them liked the place. Not my type of crowd at all.
“We could go back to Charlie’s place,” the shortest man suggested. “At least there’s free liquor there.”
At that moment, the taller woman managed to catch my eye. I smiled, seeing no reason not to, but my smile was not returned.
“Too late now,” said the taller man with the scowl. “Charlie already ordered the drinks. We’re going to have to stay for one at least.” It was his turn to stare directly at me. “You’re going to have to put up with the local riffraff for one round.”
I could feel the color rise within me. Riffraff indeed. “Anyone would think their poop didn’t stink.”
Charlotte laughed. “Or if it does, it smells of roses.”
I snorted into my drink.
“This place does somewhat remind me of one of my late father’s stables,” the shorter woman said.
“Yes, or the pigsty. I’m definitely getting eau de swine.” The other girl giggled.
“You’re not wrong. The resemblance is remarkable.” As he said this, the tall man glanced directly at me. I would have said something smart to Charlotte; however, I was so taken aback that for the moment I was struck dumb.
“Did he just say that? Did he just call us pigs?” Charlotte leaned into me, and her acknowledgement brought me to my senses.
“Just me, I think. Or maybe not. They’re probably think they’re being amusing. Stupid asses. Thank Gaia we don’t have to talk to them.”
Resigned to their fate, the group at the door moved over to the bar as Charlie handed back their drinks. They talked among themselves for a while but were now too far away for me to catch what they were saying.
Charlie glanced over at our table. Seeing Charlotte, he grinned warmly.
“Shit,” I said in horror. “They’re heading this way.”
Charlotte kicked me under the table as, indeed, the group of five moved in our direction. Charlie was the first to arrive on the scene.
“Well, hello!” he said, his tone friendly as he leaned in to hug my friend. “I didn’t realize you would be here tonight, or I’d have invited you along. This is a great place. I’m so glad you recommended it last night.”
Charlotte’s grin betrayed her delight. “I’m glad you found it. I honestly didn’t think you’d be coming so soon.”
“Ah, well,” Charlie continued, “I have the urban family with me, checking out my new digs. I had to take them out somewhere, or they’d be driving me up the wall. They’d all just hang around and do nothing, given the chance.”
Charlie and Charlotte chuckled, but I could clearly see his friends weren’t impressed. Judging by their faces, one would think they’d all just trod in pig shit. I thought that kind of fitting under the circumstances. I fixed my gaze on Charlotte and tried to pretend the others weren’t there.
“Everyone,” Charlie said, “this is my new friend, Charlotte. Her dad is Bill Lucas, the man who runs the local real estate office and who fixed me up with Dark Coven.”
His companions all nodded at once.
“Nice to meet you all,” Charlotte said. “This is my friend, Izzy. Izzy Bennet.”
I managed a polite enough smile, although I didn’t feel it. I was surprised Charlotte could be so nonchalant under the circumstances, but then I supposed they hadn’t just called her a pig. Satisfied, Charlie continued, “These are my sisters, Caroline and Louisa, Louisa’s husband, old Hursty, and my best friend in the world, Fitz Darcy.”
“Fitz? Is that German?” I asked with more politeness than I felt.
“I was born in Maine, but my mother was Pennsylvania Dutch,” he replied in a clipped tone.
I spotted an intricately carved silver skull ring on his finger, which looked expensive, curious about its meaning. I also had a funny feeling I’d seen one like it before, but right now I just couldn’t remember where.
“Have you lived here long?” Fitz asked.
“My whole life.”
“I see,” he said. “And it’s the best place to be, you think?”
“Yeah, why not?” I said. “In fact, we love it down here. The Cauldron’s the best paranormal hangout in the county. They have the best bands, the best people, in fact, the best of everything in my opinion.”
“I suppose it rather depends on what you’re used to,” Caroline said. “I guess it’s, um, what would you call it, Louisa?”
Louisa was the shorter of the two women. She glanced around the bar, taking it all in. “It’s very, err, rustic, maybe?”
“And happening,” I continued. “It might not be the most sophisticated place in the world, but it has a great atmosphere when there’s a bigger crowd, and the people you meet here are great.”
“I’m sure they are,” Caroline said. She’d finished her drink quickly and looked anxious for the others to do the same. Her friends were at least taking their time, and I smiled on the inside.
“Did Charlotte say your last name was Bennet?” Charlie asked. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“Yes. Yes, it is. Why?”
“I believe I may have bumped into your dad earlier this evening.”
“You did?” I stared at Charlie with more than my usual curiosity. “Are you sure it was my dad?”
“Yes, I think so. He’s a retired professor, no?”
“Why, yes, he is. How did you meet him?”
“I saw him at the bank, just as it was closing. We have the same financial advisor, and he introduced us. Nice man, your father. He seems to know a lot.”
I laughed despite myself. “I suppose he does, but then he was a literary professor at Yule.”
“That’s so cool,” Charlie said. “I sort of ran into him at the bank. He mentioned he had five daughters—are they all as pretty as you?”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that, and when I was done, I noticed Fitz staring at me intently. I had no idea what the man was thinking and, quite frankly, cared even less. “Shit no, my sisters are much prettier. I’m the ugly one.” I half expected some kind of reaction from Fitz, but he didn’t respond at all.
“You’re a witch, right?” Fitz asked. “Only…”
He was looking at my clothes. “Yeah, totally a witch. Not a vamp. I’m just into goth. I get that a lot.”
“We’re all witches and warlocks, and proud of it,” Caroline said, her tone sharp. “I never see the need to display anything other than what I am.”
“So am I,” I said. “It’s just a fashion thing.”
“And it suits you,” Fitz said. “I meant no offense.”
Under the table, Caroline pulled on Charlie’s shirt.
“Um, well, I guess we’d better be off then,” Charlie said. “Lots of places to go and visit before the night is done. I’m running down the list you gave me, Charlotte. Can I buy you both a drink before we head off?”
“Err, no, it’s okay,” I said, not wanting the others to think we were sponges.
“Thanks for the offer, though,” Charlotte added. “Maybe some other time?”
I glanced at Charlotte, realizing she had the hots for him. She probably wanted to get him all on his own, so he’d have the chance to molest her with his magical dating app. Fair enough.
“Right then, well, I suppose I’ll be seeing you all soon.”
They deposited their half-full glasses on the table in front of them, and I sighed with relief as, at last, they made to leave.
Charlotte still looked starry-eyed, as if they’d done us a great favor by noticing us at all. But I couldn’t share her good feelings, I was still too upset by that great brute of a man and the pig comment he’d made the second he’d walked in the door. I smiled to myself. Like he was anything to talk about. Twit.
I was quiet as they left the bar, organizing my thoughts and thinking about everything they’d just said to us, especially that Fitz. The second they were gone, I turned in my seat, and for the rest of the night, we did nothing but talk about the town’s newest arrivals.
Charlotte, who was a darling, couldn’t stop singing their praises, whereas I, part witch, and clearly part demon, couldn’t stop laughing at their nonsense. On the upside, the two of us had nothing but praise for Charlie. He wasn’t just smart, he was nice. But Charlotte and I had mixed views on his friends, and though she tried to persuade me to see the good in each of them, all I could think about was the snarky comments they’d made and was well on the road to disliking them.