It has been a little while since we had a Feline Friday post, and since Magic the Cat, Queen of the Universe, was kind enough to pose this morning, I offer you this one to cheer up your day.
Happy Eclipse Day!
23 hours ago
The adventures of a Witch who writes nonfiction and fiction. Author of 9 books from Llewellyn, including Everyday Witchcraft (2015) and The Baba Yaga, Broken Rider, and Veiled Magic series from Berkley Romance
Chapter OneI blame the cat.Yes, as a Witch and a psychic I might have been expected to foresee an impending disaster of this magnitude, but I challenge anyone to listen to her inner voice while simultaneously answering the phone and watching a three-month-old kitten systematically and adorably shred the last clean nightgown in the house.Loki’s striped face peered through holes in what had been expensive Italian lace, a quizzical expression adorning his not-so-innocent face. That’s what I get for naming a cat after the Norse god of mischief. Although ignoring the laundry for weeks while rushing to meet a book deadline hadn’t helped either.As I answered the insistent ringing I tried to grab what remained of the garment from the furry angel of destruction, but missed him as he sped down the hallway, trailing a foam of white cloth and lace in his wake. So you could say that I was probably not at my best when I answered the phone that night.For everything that came afterward, I blame the cat.As I reached for the phone, I noticed the time on the clock sitting next to it—midnight on the dot. Under my breath, I added whoever had chosen to call me at this benighted hour to the imprecations I’d aimed at the cat.“Hello, this is Deirdre,” I said breathlessly, struggling to keep my voice as polite as I could. “Do you know what time it is?”“Not exactly,” answered an unfamiliar gruff voice. “Rather late, I suppose.”“It’s midnight,” I said. “And, yes, I’d consider that late.” I felt around with one hand on the nightstand for my glasses. “Who is this, anyway?” My heart slowed slightly from the stuttering gallop that always kicks in with the sound of a late-night call, and my brain switched gears from “oh, goddess, who’s dead?” to “whoever is calling me better have a damned good reason.”“I beg your pardon, Ms. Connelly,” the voice continued in formal tones, “I had not realized that the hour was so late. This is Stewart Tyler. I hope I did not awaken you.”I gave up trying to find my glasses and stared at the ceiling instead. Stewart Tyler, consistently fourth or fifth on the “10 richest men in the United States” list, successful entrepreneur, noted eccentric, often referred to as “the python of Wall Street” for his ability to hang on to a deal—on the other end of my phone line? Somehow I just didn’t see it.“I’m awake,” I said a little brusquely. Would anyone who called this late really expect perky and cheerful? “Who are you really, and how did you get this number?”The man cleared his throat. I had a sudden intuitive flash that whoever was on the other end of the phone was not used to being questioned.“I do understand your irritation, Ms. Connelly, as well as your doubt. But I really am Stewart Tyler, and as you are still awake, I would appreciate it if you could give me a moment of your time. That is, if you are not on the verge of retiring for the evening.”I rolled my eyes. Who in Hades talked like that? Retiring for the evening? Seriously? I glared at the phone. “I am, actually. On the verge. And you still haven’t explained how you got this number. It’s unlisted,” I said evenly, “So that people I don’t know can’t call me up in the middle of the night.”“I have my sources.” There was a hint of amusement in the dry voice. Well, duh, Deirdre, I thought to myself. If my caller really was who he said he was, getting one Witch’s unlisted number was likely to be considerably less difficult than, say, making that third or fourth billion.I glanced down at the phone. Blurry letters spelled out TYLER ENT, which I assumed was short for Tyler Enterprises. No doubt I would have noticed it myself, if I hadn’t been distracted by the late hour and the demented kitten. What do you know; apparently eccentric billionaires did call me. I shook my head in bewilderment. This night was just getting stranger and stranger.“Still at work, Mr. Tyler?”“Yes, I’m afraid I keep long hours. Hence the late night call. I apologize again. But I assure you, the matter is important, and quite urgent.”I sighed. What the heck. Besides, now I was curious.“So what exactly can I do for you, Mr. Tyler?” Wait for it… my inner voice said. I ignored it. The only problem with being a psychic is that you never know when to take that little voice in your head seriously. As it turned out, this would have been a good time. What can I say? Even without my glasses, I have 20/20 hindsight.He cleared his throat again, sounding a bit self-conscious. “I saw you on The Morning Show last week.”I stifled a snicker and wondered which was more ridiculous—the idea of me being on The Morning Show (my publisher made me do it, I swear, but the truth is it was a blast) or the concept of Stewart Tyler watching daytime television.“And what did you think of the show?” I teased, still bemused by talking to the Stewart Tyler.He ignored my flip comment and continued as if I hadn’t spoken, in what felt like habitual efficiency mixed with a dash of arrogance.“I need you to do a spell for me.”“Oh,” I said. And to myself: one of those. I prepared to say something soothing before I hung up. As the author of more than a dozen best-selling books on Witchcraft, having people ask me to work magic for them was an occupational hazard. Evidently, even the rich weren’t immune to believing that Witchcraft could somehow magically solve all their problems. Go figure.“Here, in New York City,” he added. “Next Friday night.”Oh, for the Goddess’s sake. This guy probably had more problems than any ten Witches could possibly solve, no matter how much money he had. I might have felt more charitable if I hadn’t spent the better part of the morning dealing with a woman who swore she wanted a love spell to save her marriage, then turned out to have her eye on her daughter’s gym teacher instead. Sometimes it just didn’t pay to be nice.“Look,” I said, knotting the edge of the comforter in one clenched fist, “I don’t know what it is you think I can do for you, but whatever it is, I assure you, I can’t. Or won’t. Whatever. I don’t do love spells. I don’t do curses on rival businessmen or predict which stocks will go up. Nothing like that. Just simple white magic, like spells for healing. Or prosperity, but clearly you don’t need me for that. I’m sorry, but whatever it is you want, you’ve got the wrong woman.”I couldn’t believe I was getting ready to hang up on the fourth richest man in the country. Or fifth, whichever it was this week. “I think that you should seek non-magical solutions to whatever your problem is. Goodnight and good luck.”“Wait!” the gruff voice shouted. “Just hear me out, please. There really are no non-magical alternatives for what I need, I assure you. And there is nothing untoward involved. No curses. But you really are the one I need, Ms. Connelly. There is no other who will do.”I took a deep breath. One of the aspects of Witchcraft most folks didn’t understand was that with power came responsibility. I couldn’t turn away from someone who really needed me, no matter how inconvenient the hour. And while I thought it unlikely, I supposed it was just possible that Stewart Tyler did have a crisis that only I could solve. Sure."All right," I said, "I’m listening. This had better be good."Silence. I could almost visualize the wheels turning as he tried to figure out the best way to get me to do what he wanted."Robert Daniel Addison," he said."Excuse me?” My heart skipped a beat. "Did you say ‘Robert Daniel Addison’?"I could almost feel Stewart Tyler’s satisfied smile. I didn’t need to see him to know he was sure he’d captured my interest."Er, what makes you mention him?” I asked guardedly, feeling the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I’d had a thing for the actor for years, since his first television show had premiered. It was sort of an open secret—the women in my coven teased me about it periodically—but somehow I ended up spilling it on The Morning Show. Me and my big mouth.“I gather you have an interest in Mr. Addison,” Tyler said smoothly, no hint of mockery marring his persuasive tones. “I can arrange for you to meet him for a private dinner, should you agree to come to New York at the end of the week to help me with this small task.” A short pause: the split second that comes between the fisherman realizing his fish is nibbling on the bait and the swift jerk that sets the hook. Or maybe, a cobra hypnotizing a mouse. “And, of course, I would be happy to compensate you monetarily as well. New York is only an hour or two by plane from where you are; I would be happy to send my private jet for you. ”Shaking my head didn’t clear it. I considered smacking myself a couple of times with the phone just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, but settled instead for asking the obvious—if somewhat surreal—question. “And what exactly would you expect of me in return for this, um, gift?”"Your magical expertise," he said. "I realize this is an unorthodox request and your time is valuable, and I am willing to pay for both your time and your specialized knowledge. I would do the same for any other professional."I took a minute to think. Some impish spirit leaned over my shoulder and whispered softly in my ear, “When are you going to get another chance to meet Robert Daniel Addison?” My inner voice countered with another loud, “Uh, oh,” but even to my strange internal senses it sounded like a pitifully subdued last-ditch attempt to stop me from leaping from a bridge as I was already poised over the edge.“This spell you want me to do for you, it isn’t anything that could harm anyone?” There were limits, after all, to what I was willing to do, dream guy or no dream guy.Tyler hastened to reassure me. “Not at all, Ms. Connelly.” His voice was as velvety as dark chocolate, now that he was getting his own way. “A small matter of solving a mystical puzzle, you might say. The work of an hour or less. I am certain it will seem quite insignificant to you, compared to the magical tasks you usually do.”As I said yes, I think I heard the gods laughing at me.
What could be worse than having your sexy actor boyfriend phone to cancel your long-awaited weekend together? Having to call on the mystical power you swore you’d never use again and praying to the goddess that it will help him save a mysteriously failing wetlands.
Deirdre would do anything for Rob. And she’d do anything for Mother Nature, since she’s a Wiccan. But maybe they’re both asking more than she can give. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to find out.
The story of the Star Stone continues…