*Lucifer has created his own version of the love boat, which means no one is safe. Not even a witch.
My crazy witch of a grandma placed a spell on my locket.
A love spell.
I don’t think so. Which means I’ll have to find my cursed necklace and nullify the magic. But first, I apparently have to go on a cruise with Grandma.
She’s booked a berth on some fancy boat with others like us. You know, the special folk—as in horns, magic, and a bit of fur. No sooner do I park my broom and find my sea-legs when the locket turns up on board—thankfully, not in the possession of the annoying shapeshifter.
Oz is hot, but he’s not my type. Neither is the pirate whom the locket tries to hook me up with. Or the sea monster who gets it next and tries to drown me.
Busy avoiding potential suitors, I find myself hoping the locket will end up in the one place it doesn’t belong: in the grasp of the lion who makes me purr.
Jane: But officer, it was justified…
“Have you seen my locket?” I asked as I scrounged through the many layers of crap on my dresser. And by crap, I mean my hoarding of every knickknack I’d ever collected in my life.
The chipped black and white porcelain kitten my mom had given me when she announced I could not have a real one because she was allergic. The broken jewelry box—gifted by my dad—that no longer played music no matter how hard you cranked the brass knob, the ballerina atop the lid, her tutu ragged. The outside of it appeared no better, with peeling stickers from my youth including some truly ancient scratch and sniff. The inside wasn’t any more impressive, holding a plastic ring that had come out of a vending machine, a necklace with my birthstone, and a few sets of discreet studs for my ears.READ MORE
A modest collection for me. Unlike Grandma, who had a dresser taller than she was—which wasn’t saying much, given that she didn’t quite make five feet—to store her goodies. She had a penchant for dangly earrings to match the holidays. A good number of them blinked with lights, and I could always hear her coming when she wore the ones that played Carol of the Bells.
Good thing I loved the crazy old witch. And I loved the damned locket I couldn’t find. It should have been on top of the pile. I’d only removed it that morning to take a shower, but then I’d forgotten to put it back on because I was running late. Finding a way to bun my hair without looking as if I’d slept with my finger in a socket proved challenging, and I blamed Petra. The damned house fairy probably stole my brush again. I really hoped that it wasn’t for the hair on another voodoo doll. Last time, the backlash of Petra’s spell almost got me kicked out of school.
And what did Petra do when I came home ranting about the essay I had to write about dancing in class? She giggled.
The house fairy always tittered. Which was probably why I didn’t kill her.
“Where are you?” I muttered aloud. Not the strangest thing, considering many objects replied back. It was a matter of asking them properly. Oh, and being a witch.
The locket wasn’t in my room, and Petra knew better than to touch it. I’d spelled it, and she’d not liked the result the last time it zinged her—she’d hidden in her birdhouse until her breasts re-inflated.
“Grandma!” The word held a dose of warning. Because there was only one person who would dare invade my personal space.
“Calm yourself, child. I borrowed it,” Grandma replied with no need to holler. She used a spell to project her voice into the room.
It should be noted that her reply filled me with anxiety. Because when Grandma appropriated things, they didn’t always come back. Just ask Great-Aunt Maisy. Grandma had borrowed her fiancé to move some furniture, then eloped with Gerald rather than return him.
Centuries later, the sisters still weren’t speaking, which meant I’d never met Maisy.
Just like I’d never met Grandpa Gerald. I’d just heard all the stories, especially the one about where he died. He’d gotten crushed by a mountain when a certain dragon woke up and smashed its way out. Never wake a dragon, was inscribed on Grandpa’s tomb.
I’m sure mundanes—humans without magic—would claim that my family wasn’t entirely normal. Yet I was determined to be different than the witches in my family line. I would be the one who wore clothes that matched. Who had a job and paid into a retirement plan. Who took regular vacations to normal places like Mexico and Spain rather than the fifth circle in Hell, or the Elven realm, where the disdain on their faces reminded you why you never visited.
Exiting my room, I didn’t have to go far in our cozy house to find my grandmother. There was limited space to hide in the tiny home. Enough for Grandma and me. When I was young, we’d often come for extended visits. Well, I did, at any rate. My parents didn’t usually spend the night. Daddy couldn’t stand to sleep on land.
He also couldn’t stand the cutesy gingerbread-trimmed cottage. He said it emasculated him to be seen anywhere near it. I understood his point. With its pastel green shutters, pale yellow siding, pink window frames, and baby blue front door, it did resemble that of the witch who liked to lure children. I’d given up on having Grandma empty the front lawn of its ornaments. I didn’t think a gnome statue existed that we didn’t own—and that included the vulgar ones.
Grandma was in the kitchen at the stove, her tiny, round figure swathed in a frilly apron over a pastel pink tracksuit. Her white hair was a mess of wild curls, and she hummed as she stirred a large cauldron, the smell wafting from it divine—which meant nothing. It could be a hardwood floor cleaner for all I knew. Smart people never tasted from the cooking pot of a witch.
“Why did you borrow my locket?” I asked, peeking over the edge.
“I needed it for a spell.”
“What?” I tried not to yell at my grandma. She was old. You weren’t supposed to yell at old people because they were wise. Which, in Grandma’s case, I had my doubts about.
“And they say I’m hard of hearing.” Grandma cackled, something she did quite well, given that she was a few centuries old. “I needed it so I could use it as the focal point of a spell. I am delighted to say it worked. Which is why you can’t find it.”
I sighed, a better move than grabbing hold of the old lady and shaking her. It wasn’t her fault she’d finally gone senile. She’d lived a long time. Still spoke of the Salem Witch Trials as “those upstart girls getting what they deserved.”
“Grandma, you know that locket is the only thing I have left of Mom and Dad.” They’d been taken from me a few years ago. A tragic accident. Although I didn’t know how someone intentionally sinking my dad’s ship could be an accident. After all, someone had hit the button that fired the missile. Then again, it was bound to happen eventually. My dad, an old-school pirate, quite enjoyed taking his ship out and reliving the good old days, flying the jolly roger, firing off a few cannons, boarding ships, and demanding treasure. Then doing unmentionable things to his wench—also known as my mother.
If I ignored the scarring from my parents’ lusty habits, then I could admit that I missed sailing with Dad. Missed him dragging me out of school for months on end so I could enjoy a proper education at sea—and in the various ports. I knew swear words that would make a sailor blush. My knot-tying skills were without compare. And I could navigate by the stars.
Useful if I ever sailed. Which I didn’t anymore. Last time I had been on a ship was a few years ago, visiting my undead parents. Since they had drowned, they now permanently lived at the bottom of the sea. With my job, it had been a while since I’d visited them. But we did talk on the phone. We’d tried a video call only once via a mini-sub equipped with a camera. I’d required months of therapy after. I still couldn’t look at a starfish without flashbacks.
“Don’t be cross, Jane. You’ll get wrinkles.”
“I’m trying to figure out why you took my locket.”
“Because of what it symbolizes, of course.” Grandma clasped her hands. “With its built-in propensity, it made the magic that much easier to set.”
A fearful tightening in my stomach had me saying, “What kind of spell did you cast?” The last time Grandma had done a helpful thing for me—whipping up a batch of brownies for the bake sale at school—I’d ended up being called Mary Jane for my entire junior year. Grandma told the principal and the police that she’d had no idea the mint in the garden was actually marijuana.
False, of course. Grandma loved a doobie with her after-dinner coffee. Just like the school didn’t argue with the profit we made from the sale of said treats. All of which disappeared, leading to no evidence and, therefore, no charges.
The nickname had stuck for the rest of my high school career, to my vast annoyance. When I finally hit puberty—late, as most witches do—and came into my own powers? The acne that plagued my taunters just before prom was justified revenge.
“Oh, don’t make a big stink about it, Janey. It’s just a little love spell.”
I ogled her, speechless for a moment. A rarity I can assure you. “Just a love spell? For who?”
“Who do you think?” Grandma grinned at me with all the chubby-cheeked, jovial evil she was capable of.
“Me!” I squeaked. “Why on Hell and Earth would you do that?”
“You’re getting old, Jane.”
“I just turned thirty. That’s hardly ancient.” Especially for a witch.
“Fine, then I’m getting old. I need a grandbaby to spoil.”
I swirled a finger at my chest. “Hello, standing right here.”
“Will you put on a diaper and let me spoon feed you?”
“Depends whether it’s your famous pudding or not.” I wasn’t completely joking. Grandma’s pudding was only made in times of great joy. She’d not felt joyful for a while. Probably my fault for not giving her a grandkid.
“It’s time you found someone. I won’t be around forever.”
That caused me to squint at her. “You’re not sick.“ Declared more than questioned.
“No. But it’s time I moved on. This body can’t get much older.” She held out her hands, the spiderwebbed veins on them pronounced.
“You can’t leave me.” I didn’t really have anyone else in my life. My parents, while not completely dead, might as well be. Our visits had to be short, given they couldn’t live out of the sea for long, and I preferred to not drown. Staying alive was still high on my list of priorities.
“Oh, Jane. You don’t need me. You already take care of this house by yourself, in spite of me.”
True. I did the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry. Petra made out like a fairy bandit with what I paid her. She was the envy of her friends with her multi-story birdhouse that was actually a fancy, suspended dollhouse. Every piece of furniture inside was handcrafted.
“Who will teach me magic?” I arched a brow.
“You already know more than enough. And it’s not like I won’t visit.”
“I don’t want you to go.” Grandma might drive me bonkers, but I enjoyed having her around.
“I know you don’t, which is why I cast that love spell. So you won’t be alone.”
The groan I uttered proved epic on the scale of annoyance. “I don’t need a man. They’re too much work.” The ones I met just didn’t appeal. The humans lacked the strength to impress me, and the warlocks were just dicks who literally spent way too much time looking for spells to be even bigger assholes.
“You only say that because you haven’t met the right one. You need to get out more.”
“I go out.”
“To work.” Grandma used the truth. It sliced.
My stellar defense: “I went to the movies last week.”
Grandma demolished it with one word. “Alone.”
“Nothing wrong with that.”
“Except I want more for you than to be a spinster with cats.”
“I won’t get a cat then.” Easy solution.
“You need someone in your life. And I’m going to help you find them. Don’t worry. I’ve cast that spell before with great success.”
“Your cousin Flora, for one.”
I blinked at Grandma. “Is that why she’s mated to four demons?” No one understood how she kept all her hunks satisfied. “I do not want a man, let alone four.”
“The spell gives you what you need.”
Perhaps I’d find the locket in the drawer with the replacement batteries. “What if I need to get laid?”
“Really, Jane. That kind of talk is for whores. We are ladies.”
Who danced naked under the moon during Samhain and the winter solstice. Though we mustn’t forget the spring equinox and, of course, May Day. Nude dancing was a family rite of passage.
“Did you run this madcap idea by Mom and Dad?”
“As a matter of fact, smarty pantaloons, I did. They even helped with it.”
“My parents are in cahoots to get me hitched?” Could my annoyance get any worse?
“Your mother says it’s past time you allowed yourself to be kidnapped.”
“Abducting a woman and ravaging her is now considered a felony.” Despite the fact that my mother romanticized it at every turn.
Grandma waved her hand. “Bah. Rules are for the mundanes.”
“I’m surprised Daddy is on board with this.” As his precious little girl, he used to glower at any boy who even looked at me. Which, at the age of five, led to many tears.
Since his undeath, he wasn’t around anymore to pull forth a cutlass and threaten to make the boys I dated walk the plank. At times, I missed that.
“Your father agreed because he knows better than to argue with your mother.”
Who knew a blood-thirsty pirate would have a weakness? Kind of cute…in a gagging way.
“So, where is my locket now?”
“Off doing its job.” Grandma waved a hand as she gave me the vaguest answer possible.
It killed me to lose the pendant. I loved the antique heart-shaped metal piece. When you opened it, a picture of my mom and dad was nestled inside. But knowing it now held a trap, I’d have to do my best to avoid it.
“I’m not going to fall in love just because you cast a spell.” I didn’t care how good of a witch Grandma was. She wasn’t the only one with power.
“You’re so adorable when you defy me.” Being shorter than me by almost a foot didn’t stop Grandma from grabbing my cheeks and pinching them.
“Ow! Stop that. I’m a grown woman!” I could screech all I wanted, she still treated me like a kid.
“You will always be my chubby-wubby Janey,” she cooed.
“You know, there’s a place you can send senile old witches,” I threatened and then forgave her when she ladled out a bowl of yummy stew.
Sipping at it, I unabashedly groaned at the salty tang with a hint of red wine, oregano, and meat that melted in my mouth. Now distracted, I barely paid her any mind as she babbled.
“…we set sail in the morning.”
My spoon paused halfway to my mouth. “Excuse me? I think I misunderstood. What sale are we going to? And what are we buying?”
“Sail, as in on a boat. A big one.” Grandma stretched her arms wide, which—given her diminutive stature—wasn’t really impressive. “You and I are going on a cruise.”COLLAPSE