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Witches’ Craft (PAPERBACK)

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PAPERBACK. Book 6 of the Vampires and Wine paranormal cozy mystery series.

Welcome home to Mugwort Manor, where things aren't always as they seem . . .
Pepper Jasper finally discovers what happened with her parents. But with another murder at the Manor, and someone close to home spying on the Jaspers, danger lurks around every corner.
Can Pepper solve the murder and thwart a near-death experience?
Or has her luck run out?  

PAPERBACK paranormal cozy mystery 

 Paperback 206 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.59 x 8 inches (127 x 15.1 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781925674866
 Publication date  November 27, 2018
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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CHAPTER 1

The off-leash dog beach was all but deserted. A man with five Dalmatians had passed us earlier, and now there was just a thin man running with a red Kelpie. I usually loved walking along the off-leash dog beach at Lighthouse Bay, but today, my senses were on full alert.
The sky had been bright and sunny that morning. Now, the static electricity in the air was tangible, signalling a brewing storm. Coastal storms could come with no warning, and I assumed that was why the beach had been abandoned.
There had been several news reports lately of people being struck by lightning on beaches in Sydney and Newcastle. In fact, I had always avoided going to the beach when a thunderstorm was approaching, but now I had no choice. Nothing was going to keep me away from seeing my parents again, not after five years.
The sand was hot under my feet. I automatically took a step to my left onto the sand left damp by the ebbing tide, deftly avoiding a small jellyfish as I did so. The blue jellyfish in these parts could inflict a nasty sting.
I tried not to stare at the approaching figures in case we were being watched. I looked out to sea and forced my attention on a ship on the horizon. There was only so long I could stare at that, so I turned my attention to the helicopter overhead, the local helicopter that daily looked for sharks so it could warn the swimmers. Only the other day, the beach had been closed due to shark sightings.
I rubbed my forehead and tried to force myself to concentrate. Lucas had said to act normal, but how was that even possible?
I had not seen my parents in five years. They had gone missing—so I’d been informed—while on sabbatical in Kyrgyzstan and the Australian government had officially pronounced them missing. It had only been recently I had found out that they did it to keep me safe.
I still had trouble understanding the politics between the Council and The Other. All I had managed to grasp so far was that the Council was peaceable, whereas The Other wanted to wipe out Shifters. Still, I couldn’t help wondering if things weren’t so black-and-white.
A friend of my parents, Beckett Maxwell, had told me there was an attempt on my mother’s life and that was what had prompted her to leave. Beckett was murdered within minutes of telling me that. While my mother was missing, no one else could be voted onto the Council. Membership was hereditary—I knew that much. I was next in line. If someone managed to murder my mother, then I would have a seat on the Council. After the attempt on my mother’s life, she had gone into hiding to protect me.
I looked up. It didn’t seem that my parents were much closer. I let out a sigh and sensed Lucas tense beside me.
Beckett Maxwell had been about to tell me something about my parents just before a man working for The Other murdered him. What had he been about to tell me? I assumed I would soon find out. If my parents had come back to Australia, I would surely be able to meet with them again. My only contact could not be this walk on the beach.
That made me wonder why we were having this meeting. I would certainly ask Lucas about it later.
The sound of the waves was interrupted by the seagulls screeching overhead and the sound of the helicopter as it moved closer on one of its circuits. People didn’t usually swim at the off-leash dog beach because there were no flags, and there were signs warning of dangerous rips. The other end of the dog beach was actually a swimming beach. I had never gone to the swimming beach, given that I was something of an introvert and not exactly a people person.
A brisk wind came up, moving the sand sharply across my bare legs. I bent down to rub my legs, but the wind passed quickly.
I was almost upon my parents now. What would I do? What would they do?
Lucas touched my elbow briefly, and dug his fingers into my arm ever so slightly. I figured that was a warning. Perhaps we were being watched. I certainly hoped not. In fact, I doubted it, because my mother would be in serious danger if anyone knew she was there. Still, I supposed Lucas didn’t want to take any chances.
I realised that, if anything, Lucas and I were probably the ones being watched, so we could not do anything to draw attention to my parents. I nodded slightly, drawing a puzzled look from Lucas.
My parents were closer now. I did not know whether or not to stare at them. I wondered if someone had a telescope trained on my face, but then I figured that would be impossible, given the angle.
I stepped over some shells and some pretty polished stones scattered across the wet sand in front of my feet. I had always wanted to take some for the cottage, but remembered someone once saying no one should take things from the sea. I didn’t know if that was true, but I hadn’t been game to risk it.
My parents were close now. Lucas edged me up onto the beach a little so my parents would pass on the water side. I did my best to calm my breathing and pretend I was passing any other couple walking on the beach. I figured we would stop and chat, and wondered how to make it look natural. I never stopped to chat to strangers on the beach unless they had dogs.
I wondered how this was all going to play out but figured Lucas had it under control. I would have to trust him to know what to do. After all, I had only discovered I was a vampire a short time ago, and I assumed he had known he was one for years.
My parents were close. I locked eyes with my mother and then my father. I could see my mother biting her lip. She looked as though she might cry. I wondered again whether I should say, “Nice day. Do you think it will rain?” or something banal like that, but I figured I would follow Lucas’s lead.
They were close now, so close I could almost reach out and touch them. I realised how much they had changed in five years—or was it simply a disguise?
They both had different hairstyles. My father’s normally curly hair was now cut short, and my mother’s former short, red hair was now long and chestnut brown.
I feared we would walk past them without saying anything, when suddenly my father tripped. It seemed to happen in slow motion, but as he was in mid air, it struck me this was a ruse, a way for us to go to him.
Lucas and I hurried over to him. I saw him slip something into Lucas’s hands. Lucas helped him to his feet. My father dusted himself down. “Thank you for that,” he said with a forced chuckle. His face was strained.
I realised it was all something to be played out under the assumption people were watching. I desperately wanted to hug them both, but I knew that would put them in grave danger. In fact, that was all that stopped me.
They smiled and walked away.
I stood, rooted to the spot, but Lucas whispered urgently at me, “Pepper.” He took my arm and gently steered me in the other direction.
I walked slowly with him away from my parents, the dark clouds in the sky mirroring my mood.

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