Chapter 08 sneak preview of my current work-in-progress:
Luca – Book 1 of the Demon Born Series (paranormal romance).
Pre-edit version. May change before publication.
I stumbled across a fun fact this week. (I wasn’t wasting time. This is all vital story research. Honest!) Anyway, did you know that a baby spider is called a SPIDERLING?
I mean, who could ever be scared of a spiderling, and especially one that looks like this:
Water-droplet hats are so in style this season!
So next time you come across a spider, don’t think ‘creepy-crawly’, think ‘spiderling’ and watch the ‘eww, gross’ factor melt away.
Enjoy the next chapter of ‘Luca’ 🙂
At quarter past five on a Saturday evening, the setting sun still shone bright, and the village streets bustled with people enjoying their weekend. But Belle pedalled her bicycle like a fury past it all, her entire being hell-bent on just getting back home.
After yesterday’s scrying ball incident, the uneasy feeling lurking inside her had throbbed all night and into the next day like a warning pain. Luckily, work had been eventless with no gnarly toffs visiting Sweet Blooms and no plants going wild. But she’d spent the day battling a feeling of growing dread, and by home time, she’d been ready to scream the place down.
It hadn’t helped that Aunt Dee had spent last night at Lilah’s house and then hadn’t bothered to answer her phone all day. It was so unlike her. Belle scowled into the autumn breeze as it whipped at her green jacket and flowery white dress. Aunt Dee had a hell of a lot of explaining to do.
She raced past a corner and soon breathed a sigh of relief on spotting Lilah’s little blue car parked outside Honeysuckle Cottage.
Good, her aunt was finally home.
But relief was short-lived, and her stomach plunged in trepidation as she wheeled up outside the gate. Lilah was sitting—waiting—on the porch step outside the cottage’s locked front door.
She jumped up on seeing Belle and rushed over. “Oh, love. Thank God you’re home. I’ve been beside myself with worry.”
“Lilah, where’s Aunt Dee?” Belle dumped the bicycle by the gate and hurried to her.
“Ooh, I told her not to go. And then… and then I couldn’t reach her. I didn’t know what to do.” Lilah wrung her hands in agony.
Belle sized up the situation. Whatever was going on, she wasn’t about to get head or tail out of Lilah in this state. She caught hold of the older woman’s elbow. “Come inside,” she soothed. “You need to sit down, have some hot tea, and tell me.”
And within minutes she had Lilah seated at the dining-room table, cradling a mug of sugary tea, and munching into feel-good butter biscuits.
“I didn’t come to see you at the shop,” Lilah said between mouthfuls. “What would the people working with you think if they heard these things? They’re all magicless, aren’t they? I didn’t want to risk it.”
Belle sat down beside her. “Good decision. Now, where’s Aunt Dee?”
“Well, she should have been back by now, or at least she should have called me. I’ve been calling her phone, but she’s not answering.”
Belle just avoided rolling her eyes in exasperation. “Lilah… start at the beginning. Where did Aunt Dee go?”
“Fairfall. That’s the place.” Lilah gave a satisfied nod and munched into another biscuit. “That red light we picked up yesterday, it came from Fairfall.”
Belle frowned. “Never heard of it. Where is this place?”
“That’s the funny thing, love. I’d never heard of it either, even though it’s only forty minutes from here. Apparently, it’s a town right next to a huge forest. Dee went there this morning.” Lilah took a quick gulp of tea. “I thought she’d be back by now.”
Belle groaned. “What on earth did she think she’d find at this ‘Fairfall’?”
“Her soulmate of course.”
“Oh, we were looking for yours yesterday,” Lilah said airily. “But the signal was that strong whenever Dee got near the scrying ball that I thought it might actually be hers.”
“And she just upped and headed there on her own? Oh, good grief.” Belle shook her head in disbelief. “It could be a serial killer waiting for her, or a chainsaw murderer, or… or a psycho with a penchant for eating women’s hearts.”
Lilah’s eyes widened. “Ooh, I thought that too after she left. Should we go to the police?”
“And tell them what? ‘Hello, my aunt went chasing after her soulmate this morning and hasn’t returned.’ They won’t take me very seriously, will they?”
“When you put it like that… And they probably won’t get off their backsides unless she’s been missing for a day or two at least.”
“I’m not leaving it that long,” Belle muttered. “God! If only she’d answer her phone.”
“How about magic, love?” Lilah regarded her hopefully. “Could you reach her through the plants?”
Belle shook her head. “I can connect with the plants if I concentrate, but I can’t get them to do much for me. They’re out of my control.”
“Oh.” Lilah looked crestfallen. “I tried scrying for her, but all I saw this time was forest. It’s as if that town never existed.”
Worry had Belle jumping to her feet and grabbing her jacket. “Tell me exactly where this place is.”
“You’re going there?”
“Yes. I’m going to bring Aunt Dee back. Safe.”
With a relieved nod, Lilah told her everything she knew about Fairfall. No sooner had she finished, and Belle was already out the front door. There was no way she was leaving Aunt Dee stranded alone in some godforsaken town, soulmate or no.
* * *
Luca stalked silently into the downstairs reception room. For a room he hadn’t entered in years, it sure was getting a lot of traffic these past two days with a rash of unwanted visitors.
Hanson stood by the red-gold armchairs, staggeringly oblivious to the fact that his alpha had just walked in. The curly-haired witch facing him wasn’t any better. She seemed to have eyes and ears only for Hanson.
“Show me your hand,” she said to him.
And like an obedient puppy, Hanson held out his hand for her.
Luca crossed his arms and lingered by the door, intrigued by this new side to his second in command. What the hell had this witch done to Hanson? And what was she up to now? Reading his fortune?
But she gleefully caught hold of Hanson’s hand and covered it with her own, and her many bangles clinked back beneath the sleeve of her pink jacket in the process. “Nice and strong,” she crooned, stroking Hanson’s palm. “I bet you like gardening.”
“Ah… um…” Hanson looked like he’d lost the ability to form words. “Yes… yes, I do. In fact, I… um… enjoy it very much. Very much indeed.”
“I knew it!” The witch shot him a flirty glance. “I can’t resist a man who knows how to handle his spades and trowels.”
If Hanson turned any redder, they’d need to call the fire brigade. Luca’s patience expired, and loudly clearing his throat, he stepped forward.
“Sir!” Hanson dropped the witch’s hand like she was contaminated.
The witch looked Luca up and down, and uncertainty crossed her pretty but middle-aged features. “Oh my,” she murmured.
“She’s what the hag stone brought?” Luca asked Hanson with a glower for the witch. Sure he was desperate to get his hands on his soulmate for ‘reasons’, but no one had warned him that said soulmate would be a woman old enough to be his mother.
“Sir, I do believe some wires have crossed somewhere,” Hanson mumbled.
“Diana Meed.” The witch held out her hand for Luca to shake. “But call me Dee.”
Luca looked at her hand, ignored it, and leaned forward to scent the air around her. “Nothing,” he growled. “I feel nothing from you.” Bitter disappointment filled him. Wasn’t this soulmate thing supposed to be about lust? Shouldn’t he be raging to tear off her clothes and take her right now? But he couldn’t rustle up an inch of interest in the woman before him. And to crown it all, she was a mere witch, mid-level power at best, and she was supposed to be soulmate to a lycan lord.
Dee frowned at him. “Well, that’s all very nice, but let’s start with some basic courtesy, shall we?” And she waggled her still outstretched hand.
He growled low but grasped her hand in a firm hold before immediately letting go.
“My…” she said. “You’re strong… in every sense. Definitely werewolf. But I’m getting something else too. Can’t quite say what though.”
“Daemon,” Hanson murmured helpfully. “He’s lycan, so half-daemon, half-wolf.”
Luca glared at him for speaking out of turn. Bloody hell, it was as if the witch had bedazzled Hanson’s mind.
But Dee grinned like she’d discovered a treasure. “I really shouldn’t be surprised. I’d expected nothing less for her.”
Luca’s eyes narrowed. “Her?”
“My niece, Belle. You’re her soulmate, you know.”
“Am I? Then why isn’t your niece here?”
“She’s rather hard to persuade. But it’s my fault for not finding you sooner. I mean, I’m a love witch. Finding people’s soulmates is what I do. But for the life of me, I couldn’t pinpoint you until now even though you were so close to Whimple. I couldn’t even find…” She turned to Hanson with a sad look.
“It’s the daemon wards.” Hanson seemed compelled to explain. “They seal Fairfall from the human world outside. It wasn’t your fault.”
“This Belle of yours…” Luca said, steering the conversation back on point. “Will she come looking for you?”
Dee smiled fondly. “You’re keen to meet her. But of course, that’s as it should be.”
“I’m just interested in her heart.”
“But that’s so wonderful. The two of you will make such a perfect couple.”
Luca suppressed a roar of frustration. “How can you bring her here?” he bit out.
“I could always call her.” Dee whipped out a mobile phone from her jacket pocket.
Hanson shook his head. “Won’t work anywhere in Fairfall, I’m afraid.”
“Oh? Then I better go fetch her,” Dee said.
“No. You stay here.” Luca turned to Hanson. “No one who enters leaves. Not until…”
“Will she come looking for you?” Luca asked Dee again.
“Well, yes. I suppose she will.”
“Good.” He nodded at Hanson. “Lock her up for now.”
“The dungeon, sir?” Hanson asked incredulously.
“Where else do you keep trespassers? My bedroom?”
Hanson blazed red again. “Certainly not!” And catching hold of Dee’s arm, he hurried her from the room.
Luca watched them go, but Dee was already a forgotten concern. His mind was now on her niece. Belle. Her name itself was enticing. What would she look like? And would he know her when he saw her? A part of him hungered with a sudden craving he’d never experienced before. And burning with anticipation, he waited.
To be continued next week…