include_once("common_lab_header.php");
Excerpt for Witch's Blood, Book 1: Bloodless by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

BLOODLESS

Witch’s Blood, Book 1

NEHA YAZMIN


Copyright 2018 Neha Yazmin

Smashwords Edition


* * *

This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes.


* * *

Books by Neha Yazmin


Paranormal Romance: Magical Bloodlines Universe

Poison Blood, Book 1: Revelation

Poison Blood, Book 2: Absolution

Poison Blood, Book 3: Prophecy

Poison Blood, Book 4: Apocalypse


Witch’s Blood, Book 1: Bloodless

Witch’s Blood, Book 2: Bloodshed

Witch’s Blood, Book 3: Bloodlust (Coming Soon)

~

Contemporary Romance:

Chasing Pavements (Soulmates Saga, Book 1)

Make You Feel My Love (Soulmates Saga, Book 2)

Someone Like You (Soulmates Saga, Book 3)


If I Say Yes (Love & Alternatives #1)

If I Say No (Love & Alternatives #2 ~ Coming Soon)


* * *

~ Dedication ~

This is for my Poison Blood series fans. Hope you enjoy it!


Sign up to my mailing list to stay up-to-date with new releases and special offers:

Click Here to Subscribe!


And follow me on:

Twitter

Goodreads

Instagram

Facebook

Website




Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

About the Author

Books by Neha Yazmin

Poison Blood Series Sneak Peek




Chapter 1


“YOU SAID I COULD CALL YOU IF I EVER NEEDED YOUR HELP.”

The voice of the caller isn’t one I’d normally recognise immediately, nor is her number familiar to my phone.

In the last seven months, I’ve given my number to several people and said, “Call me if you ever need my help” but not once did I ask for their number.

It wasn’t because I didn’t expect them to call, or because I was new to this solo witch thing and forgot that I’d need to have them in my digital Phone Book, but because I knew that I’d see them calling me the moment they decided to get in touch.

Just like I had a premonition of this caller giving me a ring.

“Hi, Jax. What’s up?” I answer cheerily.

Jax Gilmore is a 16-year-old witch from Mayfair, London. She’d learned some very important – and very deadly – information seven months ago, and I had to go wipe her memory of it.

It was my first solo mission.

“I need your help, Amber,” Jax replies in a tight voice. “To find a missing person.”

“Jen,” I assume.

Jen is Jax’s older and more powerful sister who hasn’t been seen since last November.

She’d used a transporter spell to escape a crisis situation but didn’t go home that night.

Or a week later.

That was around about the time that I’d gone to temper with Jax’s memory and she’d assumed I was there because of her missing sister.

After discreetly deleting the discriminating memories from her mind, I’d offered to help her find Jen.

“Have you tried a locator spell?” I’d asked.

“Duh!” the teen had replied, rolling her eyes. “It was the first thing I tried last night!”

I felt appalled and showed it. My magic stirred in my veins.

“Your sister’s been gone for over a week and you only tried a locator spell last night?” I shook my head.

“Hey!” Jax protested, offended. “She’s a grown adult–”

“Surely, if she’d left for a cruise, you’d know,” I snapped.

“I wouldn’t actually.” Jax scowled. “It’s not like she always tells me where she’s going! She went to work last Tuesday and didn’t come home. I thought she’d gone off on some work-related trip.”

Exasperated and realising that arguing with a naïve teenager wasn’t helping anyone find anything, I willed my magic to calm and asked Jax, “So what did the locator spell say?”

“See for yourself.”

Jax took me to Jen’s massive bedroom on the first floor of their Mayfair mansion. By massive bedroom, I mean the entire first floor was her bedroom, complete with window balcony, luxury en-suite, gigantic furniture and gorgeous sofas and chairs at one end of the large, airy space.

On the glass coffee table in the centre of the sitting area, there were two maps, each with a locator stone on them.

Taking a seat on one of the plush futons, I examined the map closest to me. It was a map of the UK; the locator stone was sitting on London.

The other piece of paper was a blown up map of the capital city. The stone’s position indicated that Jen was in Mayfair.

Upper Brook Street to be precise.

Jen and Jax’s street…

“She’s home?” I asked, perplexed. “She’s here?” Instinctively, I glanced around the room, as though I’d be able to see the other Gilmore girl.

Jax nodded.

“I’ve tried the locator spell loads of times,” she informed me. “Same thing each time.”

“Let me try,” I said eagerly, reaching for the locator stone.

“Be my guest, waste your time,” she crooned with a shrug.

I put the stone – it’s more like a grey-blue pebble, actually – on the edge of the map of London and cast the locator spell with Jen in mind.

The stone glided across the smooth paper, heading for Mayfair.

It stopped over Jax’s street.

“She’s home,” I sighed, eyeing the map anxiously.

“You think she’s been here the whole time?” Jax murmured her query. “But I haven’t seen or heard anything…”

I inhaled deeply and faced the young witch.

Maybe Jen didn’t use a transporter spell the day she went missing…

“Maybe she made herself invisible and used a cloaking spell so no one would be able to detect or track her,” I mumbled, unsure.

“And she doesn’t know how to reverse the spells!” Jax surmised.

“Or she doesn’t have enough power to do it.”

“I bet you could you do it!” Jax exclaimed excitedly.

“I could try…” I said hesitantly.

Inside, I knew I’d be able to make Jen visible in my sleep – after all, I’m the most powerful witch you’d ever come by – but I didn’t want Jax to know that, not after I’d spent the last few minutes removing dangerous secrets from her mind.

Including secrets about me…

“You’re the most powerful witch in the country, Amber. One of the most gifted in Europe.”

I didn’t argue with that – that’s been public knowledge for some time now.

Everything else about my power, I’d like to keep on the down low.

“I’ll do my best.” That wasn’t a lie. I planned to bring Jen back in a jiffy and act shocked by my own success, act like it was a fluke.

But for some reason, I couldn’t reverse the spells. My powers huffed and puffed, irked by the failure.

Jax has been trying to get her sister back ever since.

Jen was still nowhere to be found.

Now, the young witch says through the phone connection, “Jen’s a lost cause. And she’s not really missing–”

“So you’ve given up on her?” My voice is high, sharp. Semi-hostile.

If my brother Aiden became invisible, there’s no way I’d give up on getting him back.

Never.

He’s all the family I’ve got left.

Just like Jen is Jax’s only family.

“Of course I’m still trying to undo what she’s done,” Jax insists. “Everyday, in fact. But I’ve given up hope that I’ll see her again.” Her voice is low, subdued.

“Never give up hope, Jax.” After a few seconds of silence, I ask, “So who’s the missing person, then?”

“This girl that goes to my school–”

Your school?” I probe sceptically.

Jax doesn’t go to school – she dropped out before even sitting her GCSEs – and as far as I know, doesn’t have a job, either.

Jen used to work, but the organisation she served… well, let’s just say that it ceased operations last November.

The same time that Jen ‘vanished’.

If Jen wasn’t invisible, she and Jax wouldn’t need to work now, anyway. They have a trust fund that’ll provide for them, and for generations to come.

“This girl at my former school,” Jax rephrases. “Simone. Her older sister Imogen disappeared three days ago.”

I’m not surprised that she didn’t say, ‘My friend Simone’s older sister’. I don’t think Jax has too many friends, not with the smartass, rebellious attitude she has.

Add to that her snazzy home and the OTT riches, the lack of friends probably isn’t through lack of trying on her part.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out that Jax left school because she was being bullied.

“Missing for three days?” I say. “Her family can go to the police now. They’ll take it seriously if she’s been gone that long.”

“They did go to the police,” Jax tells me, exasperated. “They say she may have just gone off on her own. She’s over 21, an adult… Besides, the police won’t be able to find her, even if they tried.”

“Have a little faith–”

“You don’t get it,” she cuts me off, her tone annoyed. “Magic was involved. Dark magic.”

“I beg your pardon?” I’m not sure why my voice went almost hostile when I said that.

“Imogen was taken from her art studio,” Jax tells me, lowering her voice. “I sensed dark magic there. I think a dark witch has her.”

Dark witches are magical witches that do evil things.

There aren’t that many of them around, and they’re nowhere near powerful enough to do any real damage.

But the use of dark magic is a concern, especially if I’m to believe Jax’s suspicions about it being a tool in abducting a young woman.

“Why would a dark witch be interested in Imogen?” I wonder aloud.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you, already? She’s a witch.”




Chapter 2


IMOGEN, IMOGEN, IMOGEN… Hmm, rings a bell…

“Wait, not Imogen Hardy?” I gasp.

“Yeah,” Jax tells me, her voice a little faint. “You know her?”

“Not personally, but–”

I stop before divulging that the Hardys were a part of the organisation I worked for until it closed down at the end of last year.

Our mandate was to protect humans from supernatural threats.

The Hardys weren’t part of the inner circle, but they were loyal to us and under our protection.

As a result, hardly anyone within the supernatural community knows they’re witches.

I only know because I’d been tasked to contact the witches and tell them that our organisation had shut down.

So, I’m a bit taken aback that it’s Jax contacting me about Imogen’s disappearance and not the Hardys themselves.

“But what?” Jax enquires. “How do you know Imogen?”

“She was in the news,” I lie. “Years ago,” I add after a moment, realising that Imogen’s disappearance probably hasn’t been picked up by the media yet. “About some strange activities around her house. I can’t remember the exact details.”

“Right…” It doesn’t sound like I’ve convinced her.

I wish I was a better liar!

I really don’t want Jax to know the truth about the Hardys. From the moment I met Jax, there was just something about her I didn’t trust.

I don’t think she’s evil or anything, but because of her youth and fearlessness, it’s not safe to disclose sensitive information to her.

“Have you told Imogen’s parents? About the dark magic, I mean.”

A heavy sigh.

“They’re convinced that no one knows they’re witches and so the supernatural has nothing to do with Imogen’s disappearance.”

That explains why the Hardys didn’t contact me about their missing daughter.

“It’s only Simone that’s suspicious,” Jax adds.

And Simone probably doesn’t know how to get in touch with me.

“Simone got told off for telling me their secret,” Jax goes on. “But she didn’t know who else to turn to – her mum and dad think she’s being paranoid and I’m the only other witch she knows. Turns out, she knew what I was all along and she thought I knew about her, too.”

“Did you know Simone was a witch?”

“No. Guess Simone was better at keeping secrets than I was.”

“That’s hard to believe,” I say sarcastically.

“So, will you help us?”

“Of course.”


*


Walking into Imogen’s studio that afternoon, a prickling feeling climbs up my spine, making me shudder. The magic in my blood crackles, makes my skin tingle.

“I guess that’s what you meant about sensing dark magic,” I say to Jax.

She and Simone were waiting for me outside Imogen’s studio when I arrived.

Simone had a spare key to let us in. The girl’s tall and skinny like a size zero model, with straight brown hair.

She seems twice the height of her former schoolmate.

Jax had been average height and size when I first met her seven months ago, but over the course of this year, she’s lost weight and her features have hardened.

Therefore, her cool haircut seems to suit her better now. I’d coined it as pixie-punk when I first saw her:

One of her dark eyes is completely hidden behind the curtain of hair that sweeps diagonally across her forehead, the ends poking her cheekbones. The hair on the other half of her head is very short, as though she shaved it off not long ago.

But I’d forgotten how white her hair is.

Like it’s never seen colour.

It has seen colour, though: It used to be dark before she meddled with magic and forces that were too much for her and they ended up bleaching her hair a shocking white.

“You can feel it, too?” Jax asks me. “The dark magic?”

“Let’s just say, I’m not getting a good vibe from this place.”

Simone half-smiles at me.

“That’s what I said when I first came here after Imogen went missing,” she murmurs, her fair skin pale and ghostly from worry over her sister. “But Jacqueline can actually–”

“It’s Jax!” the other girl rebukes. “We’re not at school anymore.”

“Sorry,” Simone mumbles. “Jax actually felt the dark magic. Saw it.”

I abandon my inspection of the black-and-white photographs on the wall – Imogen’s work; bridges, trees, canals and a very sexy, handsome guy – and turn to Jax.

“You felt and saw dark magic?” I ask her, bewildered.

The girl nods reluctantly, like she doesn’t trust me with details about her abilities the same way I don’t trust her with mine.

“How does it feel and look like?” I press, my curiosity heightened.

Jax hesitates.

My forehead creases.

Eventually, she explains, “It’s like you’re really cold, freezing. Skin crawling with hate. Eyes straining to see through masses of dark shadows. It just feels sinister and evil.”

“Wow,” I gasp. “I don’t feel any of that.”

You’d think I would, with all the power and magic that lives within me.

“That’s because you don’t have the same gift as Jax,” Simone pipes up.

I’m about to question Jax further about her new gift but I catch the warning look she throws at Simone. It says, ‘Don’t say anymore’.

“What are you hiding, Jax?” I ask her in a strict tone.

“About what?” she asks innocently.

“You know what I mean!” I take a deep, calming breath. “If I’m going to help you find Imogen, the two of you need to be completely honest with me.”

“We are–” Jax protests but Simone cuts her off with, “Tell her, Jax.”

A curtain drapes over Jax’s face.

She won’t say a word.

“I know all about Jax’s gift,” I exclaim, putting on a superior edge to my tone and a smug expression on my face. Hoping to psych her into spilling.

It doesn’t work; she remains stubbornly silent.

“She’s like a seer in reverse,” I continue informatively. “She sees the past just like I see the future. All she needs to do is touch a person or an object, and she can see significant moments from their pasts.”

The tactile aspect isn’t necessary for me; I can see the futures of people I’ve yet to even meet.

Unfortunately, my gift of foresight is limited to people – I can’t see what the future has in store for non-humans.

And if a non-human becomes entangled in a human’s future, I can’t see their futures anymore.

“Well, then,” Jax says with a shrug, “there’s nothing to show-and-tell here. Come on Simone. Let’s leave the super-witch to it.”

She stalks towards the door, Simone following her slowly.

“Wait, Simone,” I call out. “I need to talk to you about your sister. About the last time you saw her. Jax will wait for you outside.”

A moody crease occupies Jax’s forehead now as her eyes narrow in my direction.

“I’ll be fine,” Simone assures her. “I want to help Amber as much as possible.”

“Of course you do.” Jax exits the studio, a scowl on her face.

“What was that about?” I wonder aloud.

Another half-smile from Simone.

“Before you arrived, she said you’re holding some cards close to your chest and that two can play that game…”

“Hmm.”

Yup, Jax has figured out that I lied to her about how I knew Imogen’s last name.

“But I can’t play that game,” Simone mumbles, “not when my sister’s life is in danger.”

“You really think some dark witch or wizard got her?”

She nods.

“But my parents don’t believe me.” She sighs. “Not even when Jax told them about her gift and what she detected when she first came to this studio.”

“She detected dark magic, nothing else.” I scan the photograph-clad room again. “Jax said on the phone that none of the objects in the room gave her any visions of what happened.”

“They wouldn’t though, would they?”

“Because nothing happened to the contents of the room. Nothing was disturbed.”

The objects in the studio wouldn’t be able to tell Jax what happened to the girl that worked here.

“The windows and the door were locked, weren’t they?”

Simone nods. “Imogen always keeps the door locked when she’s here.”

I recall what else Jax had told me earlier on the phone:

When she touched the windows and the door, she hadn’t seen anything or anyone suspicious. Looking at the windows now, it’s clear that no one would be able to fit through them.

Only Imogen had opened and locked the front door when she entered her studio on the day she went missing but she hadn’t opened it again to leave.

“Whoever got inside, didn’t use the door.”

“Jax thinks they used a transporter spell,” Simone murmurs. “But the police think she never came here, or left if she did come, because the door was locked.

“However much Jax wants to help, she can’t tell them how she knows Imogen came here the day she disappeared.”

“So, how come your parents don’t believe Jax about Imogen coming here and not leaving through the door?”

“They believe that,” she tells me, rolling her eyes at her parents. “They think Imogen transported out of here alone. Not with anyone evil. They think the world’s a safe place now, what with the–”

“I know,” I murmur. “But the world is never going to be a safe place. Not really.”

“My sister walked in here, Amber,” she sighs sadly, “but she didn’t walk out. Someone came and took her with magic. A dark witch or wizard.”

“Because Jax sensed dark magic. But she won’t explain how she can sense it…”

“She won’t explain it to you, but she told us.”

Simone flicks her gaze towards the shut studio door, biting her lip guiltily.

I nod at her encouragingly.

“If it’ll help find Imogen…” She takes a deep breath and says, “Jax’s gift of seeing the past is growing. She thinks it’s because she’s been practicing so much magic this year, to get her sister back. She can see if there’s been… magic in the air.”




Chapter 3


“SHE SEES SHADOWS,” SIMONE EXPLAINS, “AND FEELS COLD IF THE PLACE HAS SEEN DARK MAGIC RECENTLY.”

The young witch shivers as though she has Jax’s strange gift, too.

Well, it’s not unheard of for certain witches to be able to sense the traces that magic leaves behind, the residual energy of spells and hexes.

It’s just not something that comes naturally to me.

It’s probably because my special gift – the ability to see the future – is to do with what might happen in the future, not what’s already been in the past.

Jax, in a way, is the opposite of me.

Her speciality is the past.

“I believe you, Simone.” I feel that she needs to hear this from an adult, since her parents are sceptical about her suspicions.

Then again, I’m 19 – I’ll be 20 in September; that’s just three months away – and probably not someone Simone sees as a grown-up.

But I am the oldest witch here.

And the most experienced.

“I believe Jax, too,” I continue. “Dark magic got to Imogen. Was it a witch or wizard? I won’t make up my mind about that before I get more info.”

“But what else could it be?” The question is posed by Jax, barging back into our midst. “Dark magic–”

“Isn’t solely accessible to witches and wizards,” I blurt out.

“You mean… like demons?” Simone whispers, her lips growing white from fear.

Fear for her sister.

I shake my head at myself.

I shouldn’t have scared her like that.

But now she’s looking at me, as is Jax, with a million questions in her frightened eyes.

I open my mouth but Jax gets in there first.

“Of course she doesn’t mean demons, Simone.” The white-haired witch walks over to her ex-classmate and puts an arm around her shoulders, taking on the role of the adult. “Demons haven’t roamed this earth in centuries.”

“Exactly,” I say brightly. “Right now, I wanna search for more clues here and then–”

“There’s no point trying a locator spell to find Imogen,” Jax says, incorrectly assuming that’s what I was going to say. “The four of us have tried loads of times and–”

“Nothing. I get it,” I sigh.

Whoever has Imogen is using protective enchantments to keep her family from pinning down her location.

Unless, she’s already dead…


*


Several minutes later, I still haven’t found anything that gives us any indication as to what might have happened here three days ago.

I’m not a detective, and I definitely haven’t read many crime novels, but intuition tells me that it’s now time to throw the spotlight on the victim.

There might not be any clues about the witch-napper here, but Simone can tell me plenty about her sister.

“Simone,” I begin hesitantly, as we leave the studio and she locks it behind her. “What was it that made you suspect Imogen’s disappearance was connected to her being a–” I stop before saying the word witch. “Being what she is?”

“A photographer?” Simone asks, confused.

“Let’s go back to my place,” Jax suggests before I can respond. “We can talk there. Simone’s house is nearer, but her parents won’t be too pleased that she’s reached out to another… private detective.”


*


Jax’s place is a 20-minute walk from Imogen’s studio.

It’s a bright, warm June afternoon and I bask in it. Still not used to being out in the daylight.

Only six months ago, daylight hours were reserved for sleeping, resting after a night of hunting.

In my pale-yellow, sleeveless cotton dress and flat sandals, I soak up all the vitamin D.

Though the first half of the month was cool, and luckily dry, it’s getting warmer now. We might have a nice, hot summer after all.

Although, now that I’ve said it, it’s probably going to go all wet and grey any minute now!

London weather, ladies and gentlemen.

The girls are in T-shirts branded with cool phrases, leggings and trainers.

They’re better prepared than I am if the weather turns sour.

As we walk, we don’t discuss the case – the case? Look at me, going all detective! – and make small-talk instead.

“So when did you dye your hair, Amber?” Jax asks, giving me a once-over.

I probably look very different to the last time she saw me. I’d been in my mum’s clothes; her black-leather biker jacket, one of her dresses – which was way too baggy for me, so I had a leather belt at the waist – and leggings and boots.

And my hair was blonde.

“January,” I tell her.

“Was that your New Year’s resolution? The makeover, I mean?”

“Sorta.”

I’m making a fresh start this year, so I decided to reinvent myself.

Turn myself into a normal 19-year-old girl, one that can blend into the crowd.

A girl that can wield incredible magic, but doesn’t need to cast a single spell anymore.

Because that part of my life is over.

My services are no longer required…

I sigh inwardly.

“So why did you go for black?” Jax doesn’t seem impressed with my choice of hair colour.

“It’s not all black,” Simone points out. “There’s a nice pinkish-red tint to it in the sun. I like it, Amber. It looks good on you.”

Jax coughs; it sounds like she says “suck up!” under her breath.

I pretend not to hear it.

“So what colour was your hair before?” Simone asks conversationally.

“Blonde.” I hesitate before confessing, “I dyed it black first, and didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. It seemed at odds with my blue eyes.

“Then I went over it with a pinkish-reddish-mahogany. That only shows up when the light hits it…”

“I guess it’s just Jamie Yorkk that can pull-off the raven-black-hair-with-tropical-ocean-blue-eyes-look,” Jax murmurs smugly.

I ask, “Who’s Jamie Yorkk?” at the same time that Simone asks, “I didn’t know you liked Jamie Yorkk, Jax!”

“I don’t!” Jax insists. “I just thought of him because of his black hair and blue eyes.”

She shrugs, a little too nonchalantly.

“Ooh, is Jamie a boy from school?” I tease Jax. “Does liddle Jacqueline have a liddle crush?” I say as though I’m talking to a baby or a toddler.

The teens gape at me.

Jax doesn’t even scold me for using her full name.

“What?” I ask, confused.

“Haven’t you heard of Jamie Yorkk, the singer?” Jax asks as though I’ve said I haven’t heard of Michael Jackson.

I refrain from admitting that Mr. Jackson is one of the few musicians I’ve actually heard of.

“I didn’t grow up with a lot of TV or radio,” I tell them. “Whenever we had access to a television, Aiden – my brother – only wanted to watch the news and documentaries. Neither of us is all that interested in TV; that’s why we don’t have one.”

The girls’ eyes widen.

Sympathy draws their lips downwards. Like I’m missing out on life.

“You have an internet phone though, right?” Simone asks and I nod. “That’s alright then.” She means it.

The youth of today, ladies and gentlemen.

I chuckle.

“Anyway, I’ve been too busy studying for pre-GCSE exams this year. I’m hoping to study GCSE Maths, Science and English at College from September. Without those, I can’t study for A-Levels. Without A-Levels, I can’t get into Uni.”

“So, you’re no different to a drop-out like me.” Jax smirks.

I ignore her.

“You see, Simone. I was home-schooled, so to speak. I have a basic education, but no academic qualifications. And you need those in the outside world. Now, that I have to live in it.”

I’m the only one that detects the disappointment in my tone.

Truth is, I miss my old life.

Miss being a protector of humanity.

Fighting the forces of evil.

I don’t miss the danger that comes with it, but in a way, maybe I do.

It’s all I ever knew.

No wonder I agreed to come to Jax and Simone’s aid without hesitation.

Why I didn’t refer them to the newly-formed Witch’s Council who’d typically investigate missing witches.

No, I can’t settle for the quiet life.

I love being a witch, using magic to save the day.

It’s what I was born to do.

My destiny.




Chapter 4


JAX LETS US INTO HER HOUSE.

Simone offers to e-mail me Jamie Yorkk’s debut album, which came out at the end of last year, in MP3 format.

I smile, trying to look eager.

The thing is, I don’t have time to listen to music, what with the studying and revision.

We sit on the leather sofas in the massive lounge and my tone becomes serious as I begin my questioning.

“Simone, what made you think Imogen was taken?”

She takes a deep breath. Lets it out slowly.

“I know there’s a huge age gap between me and my sister, but we’re really close,” she begins in a quiet voice.

“It’s not that big a gap,” I assure her. “My brother Aiden is 5 years older than me.”

“Imogen and I, we can tell when something isn’t quite right with us. And recently, Imogen’s been… troubled.”

“How so?”

Simone sighs. “I can’t give you any specifics, but I just knew. There was something different about her eyes. Her smile.”

“What brought this on, do you know?”

She glances at Jax, who nods at her in encouragement.

“Her boyfriend,” Simone mumbles, eyes dropping to her lap.

“Ah,” I say with a nod.

“It’s not what you think,” Simone protests. “She started changing ever since she met him, but she couldn’t be more besotted with him if she tried.

“As far as she knew, he was the best thing to have happened to her. ‘He makes me so happy,’ she’d keep telling me.”

“What was she like with your parents?” I ask.

“They’d been fighting,” she admits, looking down at her fidgeting fingers on her lap. “Nothing major, just arguments. Lots of them.”

“Did your parents disapprove of her boyfriend?”

“Oh no,” she assures me, shaking her head vigorously. “They never met him. Mum and dad just didn’t like her staying out so late with him, spending all her time with him. Sometimes, she’d stay over at his place…”

“But she was over 21–”

“She turned 21 in February.”

“Still, she’s old enough to have a serious relationship…”

“That wasn’t the issue,” she insists. “It’s just that they also noticed how she’d changed, and it made them just as uneasy as it made me.

“Now they’re blaming themselves, saying that she was simply growing up, becoming a woman, and they pushed her away by trying to… restrain her.”

“They agree with the police!” I realise. “Your parents think she ran away because they were too hard on her.”

“They thought she was with her boyfriend,” Jax informs me. It’s the first time she’s spoken since we got here. “But she isn’t with him. The police searched his place and everything.”

I turn to Simone.

“So why did you reach out to Jax?”

“I wanted to try a few different spells to find out what could have happened, or send a message to Imogen.

“Then Jax told me about her gift, of seeing the past, and I took her to Imogen’s studio...”

“What makes you suspect Imogen’s boyfriend is involved in her disappearance?”

“He’s the key to all this,” Jax states. “I just need to get my hands on him and I’ll know.”

“But we can’t go see him by ourselves,” Simone whispers. “In case he is what we think he is.”

So they want me as their bodyguard.

Jax isn’t great at offensive and defensive magic; Simone’s probably the same.

“And what is it that you think he is?” I ask them both.

The young girls look at each other, nod.

Simone says, “I saw him just once. In person, that is. I didn’t get a good vibe from him. Call it witch’s intuition.”

“I think he’s working for a dark witch,” Jax adds. “I don’t think he’s the one that has Imogen now. He was just the delivery boy.”

“What makes you so sure he’s working for someone else? That it’s a dark witch behind all this?”

“Two reasons,” Jax replies. “Firstly, whoever’s behind this won’t get their hands dirty. They’ll get a minion, a follower, to do the kidnapping.

“Secondly, Imogen is a witch. And dark wizards aren’t interested in witches; they can’t take their power. Only another witch can.”

I suck in a ragged breath.

“You think someone’s after Imogen’s powers?” I ask, startled.

And a little horrified by the notion.

That’s one of the ultimate crimes in Witch Law – robbing a witch of her magic.

The teens nod, though; Jax confidently, Simone sadly.

“But that’s just… barbaric,” I exclaim loudly.

It’s murder.

I can’t say that in front of Simone, but I doubt she’s unaware of the three-day ritual that rips a witch’s power from her and transfers it to another.

The spell is complete when the sacrificed witch dies.

“That’s why we need to find her before midnight tonight,” Jax says urgently.

Midnight tonight.

Imogen was taken on Sunday.

If the ritual began midnight Sunday, then midnight tonight marks the third midnight of the spell – the midnight on which the spell commences doesn’t count.

Tonight might be Imogen’s final midnight

Unintentionally, I find myself jumping to my feet, raising my voice.

“Why didn’t you contact me – or the Witch’s Council – sooner?”

Jax, towards whom my question is directed, bolts upright, too.

“Simone only contacted me late last night once the police did their thing,” she tells me through her teeth. “And you can’t blame her; she had no idea what–”

“Sorry, both of you.” I hold up my hands in a peacemaking gesture.

As I sit back down, Simone says, “As for the Witch’s Council… mum and dad don’t want to involve them; they don’t quite trust them yet.”

Yes, I had a feeling it would take time for the witch community to warm to the new governing body…

“Besides,” Simone goes on, “my parents don’t think Imogen was kidnapped.”

After several moments’ pondering, I inhale deeply and look Simone in the eye.

“We have to assume the worst here.” Unlike the police and Imogen’s parents who’re assuming the best, that Imogen’s just taken off to get some space. “And since Imogen’s boyfriend is the only shady character here, we have to assume he’s up to his neck in this. We have to go see him.”

“Finally!” Jax moans, rolling her eyes. “Can we go now? Midnight is only a few hours away…”

“Will he be home now?” I enquire; its 5pm. “I mean, doesn’t he work?”

“He’s a student,” Simone replies. “Well, he was one – he did his final exams the same time as Imogen did. Last month.”

“So, he’s 21?”

Hmm, I was picturing an older guy…

“He looks older, though,” Jax chips in.

Before I can ask Jax how she knows what this guy looks like at all, Simone says, “He acts like he’s older, too. Imogen used to say he’s really mature and cultured.”

She shrugs.

“Did they go to the same Uni?” I ask.

“No. They met at an exhibition. He was one of the models in the photographs on show. Apparently, he has a lot of photographer friends and models for them all the time…”

“Wait. Is this the guy in Imogen’s photos in her studio?”

Simone seems surprised by my question.

“Didn’t we tell you that already?” Jax looks sheepish.

So, the extremely handsome guy in the photos in Imogen’s studio is the prime suspect?

I should’ve guessed.

“Well, if he’s recently finished Uni, he probably isn’t working at the moment. Let’s go see if he’s home.”

We get to our feet.

“All of us?” Simone asks uncertainly.

“You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”

“Oh, I do,” she says eagerly. “I was just expecting you to say that it’s not safe for us, and the only reason you’ll let Jax come with you is because of her gift.”

“It’s not safe,” I tell them both. “But I’ll be able to protect you.” My voice is almost smug. “Besides, he’s more likely to talk to me, if you’re with us, Simone.”

As Jax locks her front door behind us, I ask Simone what her sister’s boyfriend is called.

“Callum,” she answers. “Callum Dent.”



Chapter 5


CALLUM DENT LIVES IN A ONE-BEDROOM FLAT THAT’S LESS THAN A 5-MINUTE WALK FROM KING’S CROSS STATION.

Naturally, we take the train there.

I use a simple illusion spell to ensure that the ground floor security and reception staff won’t see us sneak past them and make our way up to the third floor to Callum’s apartment.

As I’m about to ring the doorbell, Jax puts a restraining hand on my shoulder.

Index finger pressed against her lips – the classic “shush” gesture – Jax puts her hand on the door handle, aiming to see its recent history.

Her shoulders sag in disappointment when she drops her hand.

She got zilch from the handle.

Superfluously, she whispers, “Imogen’s never touched this door. Or so it would seem.”

Whenever Imogen came here, she must’ve come with Callum – never by herself – and he must’ve opened the door for her.

Proper gentleman.

I press the doorbell. We can hear the jingling resonate through the flat.

That’s all we hear. No footsteps approaching the door. No TV. No music.

Just silence.

I ring the bell again, and again.

Finally, and just as Jax starts suggesting that I use an unlock spell to break in, we hear the words, “Coming, coming,” and the sound of heavy footsteps approaching the front door.

That same voice says, “Yes, what is it?” as the door is unlocked from the inside. The tone isn’t rude or hostile, just posh and curious.

Then the door opens, and Callum stands there, eyebrows arched at me.

I swallow hard, mouth suddenly dry, as my eyes take him in bit-by-bit.

Blonde hair down to his shoulders, clumped together here and there and slightly wavy.

High, beautifully sculpted, cheekbones.

Thin, straight nose.

Chiselled chin.

Full red lips and green eyes, the only things on his face that aren’t straight lines.

His eyes are big and round and framed with thick, long lashes.

God, his lower lashes are almost as long as the ones on top…

I know he’s just waiting for me to state my business, but it feels like his eyes – green like emeralds – are grinding a hole into me.

It’s rendered me speechless.

Even if I could speak, I don’t think I can remember what I want to say…

“Can I help you?” he asks and thankfully I’m startled out of my frozen state.

Startled because his voice, with no obstructing barrier in the way, seems to slice right through me.

It’s so smooth, so self-assured.

I drop my eyes from his face and regret it instantly.

He’s shirtless!

His toned muscles look hard, all dips and smooth lines, a complete cliché.

And completely hot.

At that unexpected admission, my gaze drops lower.

I cringe. I was better off staring dumbly at his face.

Now I see that he’s wearing a pair of black skinny jeans over his legs – surprisingly thin considering his upper body – and although the fly is done, the button of his jeans isn’t.

He must’ve thrown his trousers on, zipped it up and not bothered to button-up before rushing to open the door.

Whatever he was doing, he was doing it naked.

Maybe he has a girl in there

For some reason, my heart gives a sad, disappointed squeeze at that.

Sad and disappointed for Imogen, right? Not for me.

Why should it bother me in the slightest if he has a girl in there?

Why indeed…

“Hi Callum,” Simone says from behind me.

Callum shifts his gaze to her, a small crease between his eyes, as though he hadn’t seen her or Jax yet.

“I’m Simone; Imogen’s sister.”

He nods, saying, “Simone, yes. What’s going on?” He looks from Jax to me. “Who are your friends?”

“This is Jax Gilmore,” Simone begins and my brain comes to life as I realise she’ll be introducing me next. “And that’s–”

“I’m Amber Adams,” I intercept.

I can feel Jax and Simone’s eyes on my back, and picture the confused looks on their faces.

“We were hoping to talk to you about Imogen. If you have a minute?” I add, gulping.

Looking me up-and-down, and then appraising Jax’s face, he nods.

“Of course.” He opens the door wide and steps aside. “Please, come in and make yourself comfortable,” he tells us, gesturing at the large sofas in the lounge that we’ve stepped into, “while I go and make myself more… presentable.”

He walks towards the other end of the room, where a small hallway leads to his bedroom, most likely.

“What was that about?” Jax hisses at me as she sets to work on touching everything she can get her hands on. Sofa, coffee table, the photographs on the wall. I know she’s referring to the surname I gave Callum.

“Later,” I whisper in her ear, a step behind her as she rushes to the kitchen and dining area at the other end of the open-plan lounge.

I make a mental note to tell her how Aiden and I have dropped the Atkins surname for security reasons. We can’t be associated with our old identities.

It’s mainly for me, though. Aiden doesn’t want me – a powerful witch – to be tracked down so easily.

I can imagine what Jax’s response will be: “Well, you were really creative coming up with Adams.”

My father and grandfather were both called Adam – so both of them were Adams – and since we were discarding the name of our ancestors, we held on to what we could of our heritage.

And Adams became our new surname.

“So,” Callum says from the hallway and the two of us jump on the spot. “Any news on Imogen?”

Jax and I rush towards the sofas, where Simone’s sitting. We’re still on our feet when he enters the lounge, a baggy black shirt hanging loosely from his wide shoulders.

He doesn’t look suspicious that we haven’t been sitting and waiting patiently for him to return.

Which in itself is very suspicious.

It’s like he was expecting us to snoop around in his absence.

And why would an innocent man anticipate such a thing, unless he thought he was a suspect?

That leads to the question of why an innocent man would assume he’s under suspicion.

Then again, if he had anything to hide, he wouldn’t leave us alone, would he?

Oh, I don’t know.

“We haven’t heard from her,” Simone tells him quietly. “Has she been in touch with you?” Her query is innocent enough, hopeful even.

Yet, a cold mask seems to slip onto his face at her question.

His eyes darken. Like actually change from one shade of green to another.

As though I imagined it, as though it never actually happened, a second later, his face is relaxed, open, and his eyes are the same emerald ones like before.

He sits on the couch opposite ours, leans forward, arms on his lap, palms facing us.

It’s clear he’s trying to make us think he’s being honest when he says, “Sadly, no.”

“She didn’t call or text or e-mail?” Simone presses.

He shakes his head. “Sorry, Sim. I haven’t–”

“Don’t call me Sim,” she blurts out, almost rudely. “Only Imogen calls me that.”

“And you call her Im,” he says sympathetically. “I know; she told me. Sorry, I didn’t think it’d upset you.”

“S’okay,” Simone mumbles, eyes shiny.

“Is that all you wanted to ask? You could’ve just called – I gave your parents my number… I could’ve come to see you. You didn’t have to skip school and come–”

“I’m on study leave, so it’s no problem.” Simone sounds her normal quiet self again. “Actually, Amber’s trying to help us find Imogen and she has a few questions for you.”

He turns his keen gaze on me.

“Okay, fire away,” he says with a soft smile. His full lips twitch when he sees me swallow in response to his prompt of, “Amber?” His voice sounds like a song, a lullaby.

It reverberates through me, twisting my insides.

Oh, get a grip!

This is no time to go all weak-kneed and breathless.

It’s time to go into detective mode.



Chapter 6


HANDS SHAKING, I TAKE OUT A LITTLE NOTEBOOK AND PEN FROM MY BAG, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I’VE SEEN MOST DETECTIVES DO WHEN THEY TAKE STATEMENTS.

In films.

I’ve never actually met a policeman in my life.

I try not to look at Callum as I flip to an empty page of my book and jot down today’s date. The date I first saw him.

So silly

“I’m sorry, I’m sure you’ve already answered these questions for the police,” I mumble as I force my eyes to look at him.

He’s staring intently at me, a slightly amused look on his face.

He knows, says my brain. He knows what he’s doing to me

He can see my hand tremble above the notebook, my breath coming irregularly.

So can the girls…

They can see how nervous I am.

Luckily – or rather, hopefully – Simone and Jax will put it down to anxiety over speaking to a potential killer of witches.

No one knows that I’m nervous because I’m in the presence of the first guy I’ve ever been attracted to.

No one except maybe the guy himself.

Which is like the worst thing ever!

Callum’s mouth stretches into a grin now, almost as though he can hear my thoughts.

“Not at all,” he says in his posh English accent. “I’m happy to answer your questions.”

I gulp.

His tone is so presumptuous, his expression full of anticipation.

It makes me even more uneasy.

“When was the last time you saw Imogen?” My voice volume fluctuated embarrassingly throughout that sentence.

“Saturday night,” he tells me, straightening up in his seat. “We hung out here all evening before she decided to go home. That was around 9.30.

“I drove her to her parents’ house – we arrived at their doorstep around 10pm – and that was the last I saw or heard from her.”

His answer seems well-rehearsed but I think it’s because he went through this with the cops and I’m sure they pressed him for exact times and details, and so he’s saving me time by providing it all from the get-go.

“You didn’t call or text her on Sunday?” I ask as I jot down his answers in my book.

Just to keep up appearances.

I don’t think I’ll be forgetting this conversation for a long time…

Callum shakes his head no and says, “She said she’d be working in her studio all day, so I didn’t want to disturb her.”

I nod as Jax suddenly blurts out, “And what were you doing all Sunday?”

He turns to Jax as though he only just realised there were other people besides me and him in the room.

“I was home all day,” he tells her. Then to me: “Trying to catch up on all the sleep I didn’t get in the last three years. What with all the studying and partying and making the most of student life. You know how it is…”

He said the last part like he knew that I don’t know how it is.

I will know how it is, soon. Student life…

I just nod at him and scribble on the page.

“And on Monday and yesterday?” I probe. “She didn’t get in touch, or you her?”

“No,” he answers, voice soft. “That’s not the kind of relationship we have…”

“What kind of relationship do you have?” asks Jax.

Thank god she said that.

I didn’t ask that question because I wasn’t confident I’d be able to keep my voice from trembling if I did.

And yet, Callum looks only at me as he replies to Jax’s query.

“Imogen isn’t the clingy type,” he tells me, almost sounding proud. “And neither am I. We don’t live in each other’s pockets or keep tabs on each other all the time.

“We trust each other and we’re secure in our relationship. She texts me if she wants to meet up and I do the same with her. Sometimes, Imogen just turns up on my doorstep if she wants to see me…”

I’d been trying to ignore it from the moment he touched on the kind of relationship he has – not had, has – with Imogen, but I can’t refrain from acknowledging that he’s talking about his girlfriend in the present tense.

Like he doesn’t think anything bad has happened to her.

Which is a good thing – maybe he really had nothing to do with her disappearance? – but also a bad thing – if he’s innocent then we have no other leads to explore…

“So, there was nothing strange about not hearing from Imogen for a couple of days in a row?” I murmur, eyes on the notebook.

“No. It was only when the police came around yesterday that I realised she was…”

I lift my head to look at him – his voice had sounded rather worried and sad as he trailed off – but he’s staring out the windows now.

Thinking of Imogen?

“Callum,” I say to drag his attention back to me.

I feel a thrill at saying his name out loud and I swear he feels it too – a thrill at hearing me say his name – because his head whips around to me so fast it’s almost a blur.

But of course I imagined that – just like I imagined the green of his eyes growing darker earlier.

Humans can’t move that fast.

Their eyes don’t change colour.

And Callum Dent is very much human.

I can tell from the slight reddening of his cheeks, the vein twitching at his temple. His breath catching in his throat as our eyes meet and fix and bore into each other’s…

I suck in a breath and forget how to loose it.

My, those emerald-green eyes are so deep and eternal, so bright and penetrating…

They’re looking right into me, into my soul.

“Amber…”

It was just a whisper, but my heart thumped so hard at the way he said my name.

Like I was someone very familiar to him.

Close to him.

Important.

My lips part slightly and air rushes out.

I was holding my breath from the moment our eyes locked, remember?

Now, I start breathing erratically, my eyes still holding Callum’s gaze.

Or is he holding mine?

“Amber!”

The spell breaks.

I turn to my left to Jax, the wrecker of the moment I’d shared with Callum.

Yes, she’s livid.

And has every right to be.

She brought me here so we could interrogate and investigate Callum, not for me to swoon over him.

And so blatantly.

I don’t dare turn to my other side to face Simone.

She’s probably twice as irritated with me…

God, what’s wrong with me?

I mouth the word sorry to the white-haired witch and turn to face Callum.

“I just have a few more questions…”

He nods for me to go ahead.

The expression on his face is unreadable now.

It’s almost blank.

Good.

That helps me force my questions out of my mouth.

They come out in a rush, nonetheless.

“Did you notice anything different or strange about Imogen in the last few weeks? Anything out of character or amiss? Did she mention anyone new in her life? Anyone bothering her, following her, or even someone she was getting closer to? Anything at all?”

He takes a few moments to think it through.

Then he glances briefly at Simone before facing me once more.

“No,” he answers eventually, “nothing strange at all.”

I sigh, disappointed.

“Is there anything else you can think of that might…” I hesitate, unsure how to finish that question. “That might shed light on why Imogen hasn’t been home since Sunday?”

“I honestly can’t.”

I nod and drop my pen and notebook in my bag.

“Thanks for your time,” I mumble as I get to my feet.

Jax and Simone copy me.

Callum is last to rise and he says, “I wish I could help more.”

“Well, if you think of anything – anything at all – do let me know. And the police, of course.”

He nods in agreement.

There’s nothing left to do but to leave his flat.

My heart thumps painfully at that.

What I’d do to spend a few more moments with him…

I hate myself for feeling like this, because I don’t want more time with him to help my search for Imogen.

No.

I want more time with him because I…

I want him.

Shaking my head at myself, I follow the other witches as they make for the front door.

That’s when Callum says my name again.

I spin to face him, heart racing.

“How can I get in touch with you?” he asks in a casual tone.

It’s anything but casual to me!

He wants to be able to keep in touch with me?

To call or text?

Me?

Does he want me, too?

“If I think of something that might help find Imogen?”

“Oh.”

I bet I look just as deflated as I feel.

Lucky for me, Jax and Simone are standing behind me and can’t see how crestfallen I am, can’t see my face losing colour as soon as it probably found some…

“Sorry,” I mumble, “my number is 0798–”

“Hang on,” he interrupts before digging into his jeans pocket to retrieve his phone. “Go on…”

And I recite my number as he keys it into his phone.

Stupidly and humiliatingly, though out of habit, I tack on, “Call me if you ever need my help.”

I groan at myself.

Behind me, Jax or Simone, most likely Jax, makes an exasperated noise.

And Callum, surprisingly, chuckles.

What he’s thinking is loud and clear:

As if I’d ever need your help!

That’s fine, I find myself thinking as I leave his flat. Call me anyway.



Chapter 7


EXHAUSTED, I TURN MY KEY IN THE LOCK OF MY FRONT DOOR AT 11PM.

It’s been a long night and it’ll get even longer.

I don’t think I’ll be getting any sleep tonight.

Neither will Simone or Jax.

Jax and I had to bid goodnight to Simone at around 8pm; her parents had called and insisted that she return home as soon as possible.

Of course, she wanted to continue searching the streets for her sister with us for as long as we could, but at the same time, she was wise enough to know that she shouldn’t worry her parents by staying out so late.

They had enough on their plates with one daughter missing.

Jax and I continued to doggedly walk down all the surrounding streets of the Hardy house and Imogen’s studio, moving further and further out, hoping that someone would say they’d seen the missing witch. Seen something.

Unfortunately, none of the pedestrians that we stopped on the street had seen the girl in the photo that we shoved in their faces.

Then there was Jax, insisting every 5 minutes that we’d be able to cover more ground faster if we split up.

She was right of course, but I didn’t feel comfortable letting a 16-year-old roam the streets of London on her own, even though it didn’t get dark until really late.

If there is something sinister behind Imogen’s disappearance then Jax and Simone need my protection when investigating it.

With a tired, heavy sigh, I plop down on my bed and drop my keys on my bedside drawer, absentmindedly flipping close the A-Z that’s lying on it. Half of the book of maps was folded all the way back, so only one page was facing up.

When had I taken that out of the drawer?

I shove the A-Z back in the top drawer of the bedside cabinet, where the last occupier of my rented apartment had left it.

As I stretch out on my bed, a wave of guilt and anguish breaks through me.

Should I still be out there, looking for Imogen?

Yes, it was my idea to call it a night – much to Jax’s protests and annoyance – and it’s true that searching random streets and bars and pubs is useless when we have no leads about Imogen’s whereabouts, but did I give up too soon? I walked home instead of using a transporter spell, eyes scanning my surroundings, just to prolong the searching time, but was it long enough?

My body answers: I find myself jumping to my feet, ready to get back out into the night.

I bend down to reach for my keys and jump again.

My phone.

It’s ringing from inside my bag, which I’d dropped on the floor by the front door.

Probably just Aiden checking in.

No one else would call this late.

Retrieving my phone, I swing my bag over my shoulder and reach for the front doorknob.

When I look at the screen of my phone, I pause, the door half open.

Unknown number.

Not Aiden, then…

“Hello,” I answer tentatively.

I close the door for now.

“Amber?”

My heart does a flip.

Callum

“Hello, Amber?”

Swallowing, I just about manage a “I’m here” in a rough voice.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” I copy.

My brain tells me I need to follow-up with something else, but it can’t think what.

Callum. Callum just called me!

After a short silence, he asks, “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No, no,” I assure him. “I was up.”

“Good,” he approves. “I mean, I’m glad I’m not disturbing you.”

“Not at all. So, err, how are you?”

I stifle a groan.

How are you? Really?

I only saw him a few hours ago!

And he’s been on my mind ever since.

Even as I worried about Imogen and frantically combed through the streets of London for any clue about her location, half of my thoughts were occupied by Callum Dent.

Everything green made me think of those startling green eyes.

“I’m not bad,” he murmurs. “I was hoping to talk to you, actually…”

About what? About what?

What I say is, “Okay…”

“Yes. It’s about Imogen.”

“Imogen,” I repeat for no reason.

Then my brain clears up and I grasp what he’s getting at. My questions come out in a rush:

“Has she been in touch? Did you remember something that might help find her? Do you know where she could be?”

“No,” he answers and my stomach feels hollow with disappointment and broken hope. “Nothing new. Something I should’ve told you earlier, but… I couldn’t mention this in front of Simone…”

“I see.”

Something sensitive perhaps?

Something that might hurt Simone to know about?

“Okay, go on,” I prompt when he remains quiet.

“Not over the phone,” he murmurs.

My thoughts spill out of my mouth in a hurry:

“What? Why? What is it?”

“Amber, can we meet?”

“Meet?” I squeak.

Ugh, why did I squeak?

I shake my head at myself.

“I’m in Soho right now,” he informs me. “Will that be too far for you?”

“You want to meet now?” I ask, bewildered.


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-44 show above.)