When we pulled in our own driveway, and I clicked my fingers so that all the lights in my yellow Victorian house turned on, spilling into the darkness, I had to swallow a lump of happiness. At heart, I was a homebody. Before I mated with Raven, I rarely left Muddy River. I loved my house, my witches’ school across the street from it, and my huge yard with multiple gardens.
Raven reached across the car seat to squeeze my hand. He’d fallen in love with our home, too. When we opened the back hatch, Claws leapt to the ground and raced for his stalking grounds along the Ohio River. Ebony started after him, but Derek called him back.
We motioned Nyte and Cazzandra, parking beside our SUV, into the house, but Derek, Prim, and Winifred started to his car.
“I’m ready to see home, too,” Derek said. “And we’ll help Winifred find a room and settle in with us.”
She had plenty of rooms to choose from in his castle. Prim linked an arm through the girl’s. “Get ready. When I first moved in with Derek, it took me a while to get used to how big his house is.”
We waved them off before pushing the front door wide and stepping inside. Home. I breathed in the familiarity. “Let me show you to a room,” I told Nyte and Cazzandra. “And you can make yourselves comfortable.”
Raven stalked straight to the kitchen, his favorite room in the house. He dug in the freezer and brought out cinnamon rolls to thaw for the morning. I loved to bake, and he loved to eat whatever I made. It’s a good thing magic burns so much energy. Then he poured two glasses of wine and set them on the long, wooden work table for Cazzandra and me. He followed that with beer for him and Nyte.
“I’m taking my drink to the front porch,” he said. “I’ve missed sitting in the rockers out there.”
I was tired but took my glass to carry upstairs to the attic. “If I don’t look at my spell books now, I’ll fizzle and won’t get to them until morning. You three enjoy yourselves and relax. I’ll come down later after I’ve found something.”
If I found something. Sweet Hecate, I sure hoped I could.
I climbed the stairs to my workroom on the third floor with its slanted ceilings and wooden floors. Magic hummed around me and I put my wine glass on the big square table in the center of the room. It was big enough that members of my coven could join me here to mix herb pouches together. A bounty of dried herbs hung from the rafters.
I walked to the bookshelves that held my dozens of spell books, all of them warded and protected. I bent to examine the oldest ones and pulled a few to carry to the table. Carefully, I flipped through their yellowed pages. In the third book, I found an antidote potion to protect against Gorgon snakebites. I took out my own Grimoire and wrote it down. As I did, the recipe and spell became mine. When I needed it, I’d have it. Better yet, I had all the ingredients to make it. Tomorrow morning, I’d ask Raven to fill my cauldron with water and light a fire under it while Cazzandra and I mixed the brew. We’d make enough for every person in Muddy River to drink. We’d make extra, too. Potions never went bad.
Rubbing my eyes and fighting fatigue, I put that book away to replace it with another one. An hour later, I heard footsteps approaching, and Raven carried up another glass of wine for me.
“How’s it going?”
“I can protect us against the Gorgon’s snakes,” I said. “We can mix a potion tomorrow.”
He nodded. “You ready to call it a night?”
I glanced at the book. “Let me look at a few more. If I don’t have any luck, we’ll have to think of something else.”
He came to rub the back of neck and bent to kiss the top of my head. “You’re a good witch, Hester Wand.”
I smiled at him, and he turned to leave me to my work. Twenty minutes later, I found what I was looking for. I almost passed it by until the words sank deeper into my psyche. A spell for a shield that didn’t just reflect attacks. It made the invisible shield you formed act like a mirror. Excitement surged through me. If the Gorgon sisters looked at the shields, their magic would not only bounce back to them, they’d see their own reflections. Maybe we could turn them to stone. At the very least, when they looked at us, it wouldn’t affect us.
I wrote that spell in my Grimoire, too. Tomorrow, I fully intended to teach it to every witch who lived in Muddy River, if they chose to come to learn it. Relief made my shoulders sag. We had two lines of defense against the Gorgons.
When I left the attic and headed downstairs, I thought I’d find everyone asleep, but I should have known better. Raven was waiting up for me. What did I do before I found this man? Tears misted my eyes and I blinked them away.
He grinned at me. “You must have found something. That frightened look has left your eyes.”
I told him about the spell, and he smiled. “Good. You’ve done all you can do. Now, it’s time for bed.”
I didn’t argue. We climbed to our room on the second floor and Claws padded to curl on the floor at the end of the bed. Raven flung the curtains back so that the waxing moon painted us with its beams, and when our heads hit the pillow, we were asleep.