At home that night, we settled on the front porch, drank wine, and ate chocolate cake. Not healthy, but deeply satisfying, and we needed it after the battle. I was too wired to read, so when we went inside, we cuddled on the couch to watch TV. I hadn’t cuddled with anyone for a long time, and it made the world look better. Raven chuckled at what I chose, but my idea of something to calm myself was The Great, British Baking Show. He teased me, but when the contestants had to make layered sponge cakes with fruit fillings, the man was enthralled.
We went to bed later than usual and were so tired, we spooned together and fell straight to sleep. Over breakfast the next morning, Raven asked, “What are you in the mood to do today?”
I rested my elbows on the table. “After the rain Cadman brought, my garden’s filling with weeds. I’d like to spend a few hours getting it in shape, cutting back herbs, that kind of thing. I might even bake a few things ahead this afternoon to put in the freezer.”
Raven frowned. “I’ve dug through your freezer. I didn’t find any coffee cakes or desserts.”
“That’s because I store them in the chest freezer in the basement.”
His eyes lit up. “That’s where you hide your goodies?”
“There aren’t many in there right now. I’m running low.”
“Then I say we bake this afternoon. Do you ever make sponge cakes?”
I shouldn’t have let him watch The Great British Baking Show. “All kinds of them.”
“Do you have favorite recipes I can look through?”
Sweet Hecate! He’d probably pick all the tricky ones. But I went to the pantry and brought back a file with all of my favorites inside. “What are you going to do while I garden?”
He made a face. “I’ll drive into town and catch up on things in my office. I have lots of messages on my machine. Everyday business has been neglected lately. Then tomorrow, we can start visiting the girls on Simon Vision’s list again.”
It sounded like a solid plan to me. “Since we’re having a low-key day, I’m going to text my coven and ask if anyone wants to come over tonight to think of things we might sell to mortals at the new market when it’s ready.”
“What time would they come?”
“Seven. That way, we’ll be finished with supper.”
He smiled. I never realized meals were so important to demons. “I’ll go to Derek’s bar after we eat. I’m curious how people felt about our battle with Blood.”
“You’ll get an earful there. His bar is almost like an Irish pub—a local watering hole. People go there to connect.”
He stood and Claws raised his head to see if I were going, too. When I stayed to putter a little more in the kitchen, Claws went to the back door. The ocelot looked pretty happy, having a day to run and roam.
Raven came to give me a quick kiss before leaving. “I’ll be home as soon as I can to help you bake. I found three recipes that looked good to me.”
I smiled, watching him go. Then I changed into my old jeans with grass stains on the knees, a V-necked T-shirt, and my flip-flops and went to the garden. It was amazing how many weeds grew with rain and heat. I yanked them out, making my way from one row to the next. Occasionally, I glanced up to see Claws prowling the river bank or racing across the side yard. Then I’d get to work again. Three hours later, I’d whipped the garden into shape. Before lunch, I carted a basket out to pick green beans, tomatoes, and more zucchini than I’d ever use.
I was starting to fry bacon for BLTs when Raven pulled into the driveway. He sniffed the air on his way to the kitchen and grinned. “I’m just in time.”
I put a pitcher of lemonade on the table, and we made small talk about the day while we ate. He pitched in, cleaning the kitchen, and soon we were making a jelly roll to fill with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.
“This won’t freeze,” I told him.
But that only made him happier. “Then we’ll have to eat it before it goes bad.”
Next, we mixed up batters for cupcakes—easy to freeze. By the time we’d finished, it was time to start supper, so that we could eat before my coven came at seven.
Raven poured wine while I dished-up, and we talked about Muddy River while we sat across from each other. He looked thoughtful. “I never realized how many malcontents had settled here. And it’s not like witches hated shifters and shifters hated vampires. That wasn’t the problem. It was more about the haves and the have nots.”
I frowned. “Blood and Jorah were rich. Their house practically screamed how wealthy they were.”
He shook his head. “Not money. Power. Blood and his followers resented how much power you and your coven have.”
“But Blood was a full-blooded vampire. He could have grown stronger if he tried.”
“But he didn’t try. He wanted what you and your witches and Derek have without having to work for it.”
I shrugged. “That was his own fault. I’d hate to see what Blood would have done with more power, though. I think he’d have turned into a tyrant.”
“You’re probably right.” He pushed away his empty plate, then stood to go rinse it. We made a quick job of tidying up, and then with another kiss, he headed to the door. “Someday, I’d like to stay and get to know your coven better, but not on craft night.”
I laughed at him and walked him to the door. He didn’t strike me as a man who’d like crafts of any kind. “Have fun in town.”
“That depends on whether the good citizens of Muddy River think I did the right thing or not, but Derek will be there to smooth things over.”
I dropped into a rocker on the front porch and waited for my witches to arrive. As I expected, Flame, Chloe, and Luna were the only ones who came. The rest of my witches had more than enough business to keep them busy.
Flame lived up to her name. Driving a canary-yellow sports car, her long red hair fell halfway down her back, and her green eyes sparkled. “The rumor is Raven wants to build a market where mortals are welcome to mix with supernaturals. Is that true?”
I nodded, standing to lead them inside and to the kitchen. “Let’s grab two bottles of wine to carry up to the attic workroom. His idea is to leave our familiars at home and blend with them, not calling attention to our magic.”
Chloe cocked her head to one side. “That’s not what his friend, Drago, does in Kentucky, is it?”
They grabbed the bottles and glasses, and I carried a tray of crackers and cheeses up the stairs. “No, Drago’s town makes no secret of who and what they are, and they haven’t had any problems so far. I like being more anonymous than that.”
Luna nodded, and strands of her smooth platinum hair slipped out of her ponytail. Her hair was as fine as silk, and she constantly complained about it, but her husband—half vampire—loved the touch of it. “Most of us came here to avoid mortals.”
“That’s why Raven wants the market a half hour’s drive from town with no roads leading here.”
“I like the idea,” Chloe said. “Catalogues and online advertising are great, but I think if people could actually see and touch my tapestries, I’d sell more.”
Her tapestries looked like the ancient wall hangings in drafty castles. And if a person paid to commission one, she wove it to show the life journey the horoscope predicted for them at their birth—the ups and downs of their lives. They might not understand what the colors and shapes meant, but they’d sense what the tapestry was telling them.
I poured myself a glass of wine and turned to Flame. “If people saw and smelled your candles and soaps, I think you’d have more sells, too.” Her soaps cleared every complexion, and her candles could heal hurt feelings and depression.
Luna fixed herself five crackers with cheese on top and popped one into her mouth. “Catalogues don’t really do justice to my moon murals either.”
I had to agree. It was hard to tell that the moon actually moved across the night sky of her mural, waxing and waning in accordance to the moon outside. If a person watched the stars and how their colors changed, they were warned about any storms that would soon batter their lives.
“Cordelia wanted to come tonight, too,” Luna said, “but her five-year-old is on a tee-ball team and has practice. Her husband’s taking their older kid to Boy Scouts.”
I smiled. “Kids come first. I understand that. Did she have anything particular in mind for the market?”
“She said to ask you about mood rings. Hers wouldn’t change to show the mood of the wearer. They’d change to show the moods of the people they’re dealing with.”
I blinked. “I think that’s a great idea. We can see auras, but most mortals can’t. If a person was smiling to your face, but your ring turned brown or black, you’d know he either didn’t like you or wasn’t happy with you.”
“That’s what she thought.” Luna poured herself more wine. She was model-thin but ate more than any of us.
Chloe motioned toward the fabric weavings I’d spread on the table. “What are those?”
“Protection spells. We can’t cast wards for mortals, but if we chant spells while we weave the fabrics together, no enemies can pass them. I thought we could sell them as serenity weavings that will make their homes feel safe.”
“Do they take long to make?” Flame’s husband was half-Fae—a sculptor who worked with both stone and metal. They had two children, three and seven, who kept them both busy.
“I made six in an afternoon.”
Flame frowned. “I only see five.”
I smiled. “Raven took one for his office.”
Snorting, Luna reached for another cracker. “Like he needs protection. The man can fry anyone who gets in his way.”
“He’d rather not battle anyone in his office,” I explained.
“That makes sense.” Chloe glanced at her watch. “Do we each have time to make one now, so you can teach us?”
When the others nodded, we got busy. I opened my spell book and we sang the chants as we worked. An hour later, four more hangings joined the others.
Chloe frowned. “How were you thinking of selling these? Should we each make our own for our booth? Or are you going to have a booth that we all share?”
“I thought we’d each do our own. It will be easier to keep track of who earned what that way.”
Happy with that, the girls packed up to leave. Before starting down the steps, Flame gave a coy smile. “Someday, you need to invite us over to meet your hunky demon. Maybe we could have a potluck.”
“He’d like that,” I said. “He’s curious about us.”
Luna laughed. “And we’re curious about him. Are demons really as good . . .”
Chloe cut her off. “That’s none of our business. I can’t believe you asked.”
All I did was grin. “Even better,” I told them.
Laughing, we headed to the front door and I waved them off.
Half an hour later, Raven pulled in the drive and came inside to sit on the couch with me. Claws followed him, walking to the Oriental rug under the coffee table and flopping down. My familiar had worn himself out. Raven pulled me onto his lap to wrap his arms around me.
I squirmed to see his face. “You look happy.”
“The dads in the bar bought me drinks tonight. They approved of banishing the people who’d caused trouble. They all liked Darwin and his family.”
“You’d better be careful,” I warned him. “Or you’re going to be downright popular.”
He chuckled. “I doubt that, but at least people don’t cringe when I walk in a room now.”
I rubbed his cheek. “I get excited.”
“Is that so?” He picked me up to carry upstairs. “I’m feeling pretty excited myself. Let’s do something about that.”
Claws yawned and closed his eyes. Romance didn’t interest him. An hour later, we called him upstairs, and we settled for the night.