Black Hat, White Witch (Black Hat Bureau #1) - Hailey Edwards
As I backed into the shop with a smoothie balanced on my latest bookish obsession, a romance between an owl shifter and a mouse shifter, I was greeted with screams and curses. Not literal curses. These days, I surrounded myself with human women who would clutch their pearls to learn I considered them a part of my makeshift coven. The uncomplicated circle of friendship satisfied the gnawing ache for community bred into all witches, allowing my power to slumber where it couldn’t hurt anyone.
Where I couldn’t hurt anyone.
“Rue.” Arden gripped my shoulders then marched me to the counter. “You ruined my cobwebs.”
“I heard what you did there.” I coughed up a wad of her artificial cotton decor. “What is all this?”
Stretchy cobwebs. Rubber spiders. Ceramic skulls. Foam tombstones.
“Halloween.” Camber escorted a life-size plastic skeleton to the door. “It’s a few days away.”
“I forgot.” As if any witch worth her salt didn’t shiver at the thinning of the veil between worlds on that night. “I also forgot approving this expense.”
They were both in college, happily living off ramen, with no extra pennies to rub together.
The tab for this decorating spree was definitely ending up on my desk. Probably with a thud.
Holiday spirit wasn’t topping my to-do list. Heck, it wasn’t even on my to-do list.
With the shop approaching its five-month anniversary, I was more concerned with keeping the lights on.
“All the other shops on Main Street are decked out for the ghost walk. We need to look spooky to lure in new customers.” Arden returned to futzing with her cobwebs, careful to lock the door first this time. She could unlock it after the way was clear to avoid strangling any potential customers. “We need refreshments too. Mayor Tate expects us to man a table on the sidewalk.”
Mayor Tate and her expectations could kiss my full moon, considering the cost of rent downtown.
The better I fit in, the longer I could stay, and I didn’t just mean in this prime location.
“I have that wonky folding table left over from the grand opening.” I bought it for twelve bucks at a thrift store. “Email me your Pinterest links—” we all knew they had compiled a list for this ambush, “—and I’ll pick up the ingredients.” I also scored a two-dollar glass punchbowl with matching ladle on the same bargain hunting trip. “I’ll make lime sherbet punch too. Or should that be slime sherbet punch?”
The girls routinely flooded my DMs with recipe requests for the long nights when I did my best to stress bake away my insomnia. Mostly food trending on social media. The number of snacks I sent home with them explained why they were cool with living off ramen. Because, really, they weren’t. They were living off me.
And I didn’t mind one bit. I might be cheap, but I was doing okay. I could afford to indulge them.
The urge to mentor, provide, and assist the young was carved into my bones. These girls fulfilled a need in me, one usually satisfied by training novice witches, and I had to keep investing in these girls, in this community, to scratch that itch.
“That’s the spirit.” Camber patted me on the head. “And, yes, the pun was intended.”
“Downtown has its traditions,” Arden agreed. “We need to cater to them to hold our spot.”
Our spot because these girls had worked for me the last four years, ever since I arrived in Samford, Alabama.
The old location of Hollis Apothecary was in my kitchen. This was a definite step up from selling online, though we still offered shipping through the website. Whether I could afford brick and mortar long term was a different kettle of fish, but I had saved up enough for a year at our current swanky location.
Our dream had seven months until its expiration date unless a miracle occurred between now and then.
“Oh.” Arden gusted a dreamy sigh. “Hell-o.”
“I didn’t pay extra for a glass storefront so you could stalk hot guys as they walk past.” I polished off my breakfast smoothie then tossed it in the trash. The romance, I took to my office for later. When I returned, Arden hadn’t budged. “Have you no shame?”
“Let me check.” She patted her pockets. “Nope.” Then pressed her nose to the glass. “I’m fresh out.”
“I wanna see.” Camber set down a bucket of spiders and joined Arden at the window. “Holy Mother.”
Their breath fogged the glass, obscuring my view of this perfect specimen of manhood.
Given their ages, he was probably late teens or early