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Stormcrossed Magic

Stormcrossed Magic: White Haven Witches #10

Hoping there aren’t typos, because it has been edited. Enjoy xx

Chapter One

Alex Bonneville leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, enjoying the caress of warm air on his bare skin.

He could hear the sound of the waves breaking on the beach, and the odd scurry of night creatures around him, but it was otherwise quiet and still in the walled garden behind the house he shared with Avery. It was as if the huge storm that had battered the coast the night before had never happened. When he opened his eyes again, he found Avery watching him from across the garden table, her red hair appearing golden in the flickering candlelight, her face etched with concern.

“Stop worrying,” he instructed her. “I’m fine.”

“I can’t help it. You haven’t had a vision in weeks, and last night… Well, your shout terrified me.”

“Sorry.” He leaned forward and took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “I’m sure it was just the storm. All that electrical energy must have invaded my dreams.”

“Liar.” She pointed at the silver bowl filled with water that was placed on the table in front of him. “That proves it.”

“A precaution. Just like the cards.” He nodded to her pack of tarot cards.

“I always read them, you know that. Especially on a night like tonight.”

He smiled at her. “Liar.”

Avery laughed and pulled her hand away, picked up the cards, and started to shuffle them. “Tell me what you saw again.”

He took a moment to recall the vivid imagery that had invaded his sleep. Avery was right. He hadn’t had a vision for months, but last night something had broken through his carefully prepared defences, shredding his equilibrium. “I heard screaming. Actually, more like a wail. Bloodcurdling, horrific. But it sounded…” he paused, uncertain if what he felt was correct. “Lonely. Distraught, perhaps. I was lost in a wood and I was running. Branches caught my hair and scratched my face.” He ran his hands across his cheeks, as if he would actually feel scratched skin. He’d even inspected his face in the mirror that morning as it had felt so real, but of course all he saw was his tan and usual stubble. “Something was chasing me, and I couldn’t run fast enough. And then I saw huge eyes—red, bloodshot…” He shuddered at the recollection. “It was a jumble after that. Darkness, branches, eyes, the scream. But what was worse was how I felt. I was just so depressed. I felt like I had nothing to live for. It was horrible. I think it was that feeling that woke me up more than anything. The need to escape feeling so awful.”

Avery nodded and placed the cards in front of Alex. “Split the deck.”

He did as she asked. “You’re doing my reading?”

“It was your vision.” She started the place the cards out, her deft, practiced hands moving swiftly. “We’ll try and find what caused it.”

“This was how I found you last year, remember?” Alex smiled at the memory of when he had pushed through the gate into this garden and found Avery reading the cards under a full moon. She hadn’t been that pleased to see him, but he’d been captivated by her, and was determined to prove her beliefs about him were wrong.

“How could I forget? You were cocky and annoying.” She shot him a cheeky smile. “But you looked hot. Bastard.” He laughed, throwing his head back, but before he could respond, she added, “Now start scrying, bad boy.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He took a few deep breaths, bent his head above the bowl of water, and stared into its depths. He focussed on what he wanted to know. Who had screamed and chased him? And where had he been?

It didn’t take long for the cool, clear water to start swirling and darken, and suddenly it was as if he’d plunged head-first into a dream. He could smell damp earth, rich with detritus and leaf mould, the peppery scent of blossoms, and then the stench of death and decay. He reeled, barely feeling the coarse wooden surface of the table gripped beneath his fingers. It was so dark he couldn’t see anything around him, but he felt smothered by the close proximity of the forest again—sharp branches, and something scratching his feet. And then a scream shattered the silence and his control. He lurched forward as the feeling of loss stabbed him like a blade.

Alex took a deep breath, struggling to regain his composure, and forced himself to look around again. He needed a landmark. Anything. As he stumbled forward, a dark pit opened beneath his feet and he fell, the scream echoing around him.

The shock was so great, he jerked backward, slamming into the chair’s back as he gasped for breath. With relief he saw the candle flame flickering in front of him, and incense smoke snaking between him and Avery.

“It’s okay, Alex,” she murmured gently. “You’re back in the garden. Are you okay?”

He exhaled. “I’m fine. Wow. That was too real. I normally hover over my scrying visions, but that one sucked me right in.”

“Anything new?”

“A pit. I fell in it, but otherwise, the same. Branches, the feeling of being trapped and chased. The scream.” His heartbeat was slowing and he took a few more deep breaths before noticing that Avery’s Celtic cross was complete. “What can you see?”

Now it was her turn to sigh. “A crisis, loss, desperation. Swords are everywhere, as is The Tower. A powerful woman lies behind it all, The Empress, and I sense a cycle that has been played out before is once again repeating.”

“A cycle?”

“The past is manifesting in the present, Alex, and it brings death.”

***

Avery lifted the hair from the back of her neck to allow the fan-cooled air to play across her skin, and turning her back to the shop, uttered a spell that would bring the temperature down a little more. Within a few moments, she felt its effects and sighed with relief.  

“Thank the Gods,” Dan murmured. Her friend and shop assistant reached for a leaflet on the counter to use as a fan. “That was you, wasn’t it?”

She nodded. “I love the heat, but yes, this is a bit too warm for my liking. I thought Saturday night’s thunderstorm would break the heatwave, but it hasn’t made the slightest difference.”

“Man, that was huge! It woke me up. Shook the whole building.”

“It woke us up, too,” she said, wondering how much to share with Dan. However, she hated lying to her friends, and they always offered her invaluable advice. “It wasn’t just the storm, though. Alex had a terrible vision and woke up shouting,” Avery confessed. “It scared the shit out of me, and combined with the lightning and the thunder, I couldn’t work out what the hell was happening.”

“A vision?” Dan knew what that meant. Alex usually kept them under control, but they could be devastating when he had them. “Is he okay?”

“Shaken, but fine.” Avery was trying to make light of it, but Dan saw through it.

“Avery!” He frowned, staring at her accusingly. “We’ve been here all morning, and you only think to share that now?”

It was mid-morning on a Monday in late July in White Haven, the morning after Avery and Alex had sat in the garden at midnight reading the cards and scrying, and two days after the storm that had rattled the coast. Cornwall was three days into a massive heatwave, and the heat and the storm were all anyone could talk about that morning. Customers had reported fallen trees, damaged roofs, and campers had been battered in their tents and caravans. Now, however, it was as if it had never happened—other than the destruction that had been left. The sky was bright blue and cloudless.

Avery and Dan were both behind the counter at Happenstance Books, wilting on the stools while they kept on eye on the customers who were also affected by the heat. They moved sluggishly around the shop, pausing every now and then in front of strategically placed fans. The entrance door was wedged open, but seeing as there was hardly any breeze, it was virtually pointless.

Avery leaned against the shelves behind them and lowered her voice. “Sorry. I wasn’t sure what to say. ‘How was your weekend? Oh, yes. Alex had a vision of doom and gloom again.’”

“That bad?”

“I’m afraid so. I read the cards last night—his cards. He scryed and had a really strong response.” She sighed, recalling his expression as he emerged from his vision state. He looked appalled. Scared. “The cards showed me a powerful woman emerging from the past. A return. Or even a homecoming. I think it’s a repeated cycle.”

“That doesn’t sound good. As if something is unresolved, perhaps?”

“Maybe. I sense conflict, loss. Nothing specific.” She decided not to mention her belief that she also saw death in the cards. She might have been wrong, after all. “Don’t worry. We’ll monitor it. It might turn out to be nothing. Let’s talk about the crazy weather again.”

Dan grunted, pursing his lips. “A safe English subject. But don’t think for one second that I won’t come back to this issue, Avery Hamilton.” He gestured to the window and the deep blue sky visible above the street. “According to the news, this weather will last at least a few more days. I might be dead by then.”

“Idiot. It’s good for sales.” The beaches were packed with tourists and books were flying off the shelves as customers settled under umbrellas to rest and read. “It will be lovely if it lasts for the Lughnasadh celebrations.”

“Maybe. At least there’s no parade this time.” Dan laughed. “I think they’d overheat in their costumes.”

“True. But the heat will bring the crowds, which means Stan will be happy.” White Haven’s Lughnasadh celebrations were only a few days away, and although there was no parade through the town this time, as usual there would be a bonfire on the beach, and fire-filled braziers would line the streets, along with a handful of performers.

“We don’t need any more crowds!” Dan pointed at the presently crowded street. “I’ve never seen White Haven so busy. It’s freaky.”

He was right, Avery reflected as she watched the groups of families and friends meander in and out of shops. “That’s Ghost OPS’s fault.”

“I saw Ben on the news again last night. They’re getting a lot of publicity lately. I knew posting those videos of the ghostly giants on their website was insanity.”

“That is what their website is for!” Avery pointed out, quickly changing the subject as a customer brought a couple of books to their counter. With a cheerful smile and polite chat, she completed the sale and waved her through the door. “And to be honest, all it’s doing is adding to the White Haven mystique. It just means that more of Cornwall is affected now, too, and that’s great for everyone.”

Dan scratched his head, perplexed. “I suppose so. Cornwall needs the cash the visitors bring, but the roads are jam-packed.”

“Can’t have one without the other, unfortunately. And besides, the visitors love it. It must be working well for Rupert’s business, too.”

White Haven Occult Tours had increased the numbers of groups over the past few weeks with the arrival of the summer holidays, and now most days, especially evenings, Rupert and his wife, Charlotte, were seen escorting their patrons along White Haven’s streets.

“And how’s it going with your group now?” Dan asked, emphasis on the word ‘group,’ and she knew he meant the Cornwall Coven.

“To be honest, I haven’t heard anything from anyone for a week or so. I think we’re all just glad to return to some sort of normalcy. Besides, we’ll catch up next week for Lughnasadh at Rasmus’s. We’re all keen to move on after the solstice celebrations.” She didn’t need to elaborate. Dan knew exactly what she meant after Maria, Zane, and Lowen’s deaths from a few weeks before. “And,” she forced a smile at Dan, “I am enjoying normal life, with no weird occurrences.”

“Yeah, yeah. Apart from Alex’s vision and your ominous card reading.”

“Oh, shut up! We changed the subject.”

“It’s hard to forget, Avery! I was hoping for an uneventful summer.”

“So was I. I didn’t even want to read the cards last night.” After the horrible betrayal in the Cornwall Coven, Avery wanted to live in ignorant bliss. “Of course, I had to, and I’ll read them again later.” She changed the subject again. “Oh, Sally is back!”

Sally, the bookshop’s manager and Avery’s oldest friend, arrived at the counter looking flushed as she placed their iced coffees and cakes on the counter. “Bloody hell, it’s barely eleven, and it’s boiling. I’m not sure how iced those coffees will be anymore.”

Dan was already lifting his to his lips. “It’s the caffeine and sugar I need.”

Sally rolled her eyes. “Some things never change.”

“No, they don’t. Avery,” he nodded at her over his cup, “had a doom-laden tarot reading, and Alex has had a harrowing vision. She’s intending to read the cards again, but is clearly putting it off!”

Avery’s lipped narrowed. “Tattle-tale! It might just be the heat.”

Sally’s eyes widened with worry. “Oh, no. And I’ve been enjoying the peace and quiet, too.”

“Honestly, Sally, I’m sure it’s nothing.”

“How’s Alex?”

“He seems fine. It was a shock to have a vision, but he dealt with it. He’s at work now.” He was at The Wayward Son, the pub he owned, and would have already opened up for the day.

Sally thrust her cup at her, along with one of the cakes she had bought. “Don’t put it off, Avery. Go and read the cards again.”

Knowing they were both right, but resenting them for it, Avery glared. “Fair enough. But it’s just the heat, and probably the after-effects of the storm.”

They didn’t answer, instead just looking at her knowingly, and she felt their eyes on her back as she left the shop and entered the stuffy back room. She opened windows as she progressed upstairs to her attic that doubled as her spell room. It was even hotter than the rest of the house, and she repeated her spell to lower the temperature.

At least it was blissfully quiet. The street sounds were muffled so high up, and she felt a calm steal over her. Once again, she questioned her reading. Was she imagining things? Had the weather affected Alex, and actually nothing was out of the ordinary?

Avery looked out of the rear dormer windows at the view of White Haven and the tumble of roofs heading down to the sea. The colour of the sky matched the sparkling blue of the sea, and it all melted together, becoming a milky white hue where they met at the horizon. But she was procrastinating. She sat at the worn wooden table and pushed the grimoires away, as well as bundles of herbs and candles, to make space for her tarot cards. She opened the box they were stored in, eyeing them warily before picking them up. Immediately, she felt a tingle of anticipation, as if they guarded secrets within.  

The scent of incense wrapped around her, and she closed her eyes. Already the feeling was intensifying, and she couldn’t put it off any longer. She started to shuffle the cards.

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