Black Hat, White Witch (Black Hat Bureau #1) - Hailey Edwards Page 0,1

twenties. I owned older T-shirts. That I bought new.

“Crap on a cracker.” Arden stumbled back, bumping into Camber. “He’s coming this way.”

“The way you two were gawking at him,” I said with a snort, “I can’t imagine why.”

Poor guy probably thought they were trying to get his attention, maybe to hand out free samples.

“Everyone.” Arden smoothed the white blouse that topped her smart black trousers. “Act natural.”

Chuckling as they jostled for the prime spot nearest the door, I sat on the floor behind the counter.

“I’m going to inventory the dried flowers,” I announced as I got comfy. “Practice safe sales, ladies.”

Neither laughed at my joke, but I doubt they heard me over their racing hearts.

The frantic ba-bump, ba-bump set my fingers twitching, but I made fists until I got it under control.

Usually, I blocked it out, but the louder their hearts beat, the harder my stomach clenched with hunger.

I’m a white witch. I’m a white witch. I’m a white witch.

A metallic rattle brought my head up, but I couldn’t see the entryway over the counter.

“What in the…?” Arden groaned as if the world was ending. “I forgot to unlock the door.”

Metal clicked, and the door jiggled, but the lock was bad about jamming.

Getting that fixed really was topping my to-do list.

“Get out of the way.” Camber’s low heels clicked on the linoleum. “Let me do it.”

Winter rosebuds.


Focus on that.

Not their rising panic Mr. Perfect would give up on them and leave before one or both got his number.

Winter rosebuds.

They kept disappearing from under the register. I trusted Arden and Camber, but I would have to check the security feed, see if I could figure out who, or what, was helping themselves to that specific item.

Glass rattled when the knob smacked the pane beside it, and I crossed my fingers neither one cracked.

“Hello,” the girls chorused. “Welcome to Hollis Apothecary.”

“The sign says you’re open,” a silky voice spilled into the store. “I’m not interrupting your break, am I?”

A hard thud shook my ribs, and all of a sudden, the only heart I heard was my own.

Ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum.

Murmuring a soft spell under my breath, I forced my pulse to slow and match Camber’s less frantic beat.

“Interrupt me anytime.” Arden hiccupped with nerves. “I’m Arden.”

“I’m Camber,” her best friend cut in. “You didn’t interrupt our break.”

“I was decorating—” Arden hiccupped again, “—for Halloween, you know? I was working in the entryway and forgot to unlock the door after I finished. I’m so sorry for any inconvenience.”

A midnight chuckle caressed my ears as he humored the girls. “Does Rue Hollis work here?”

“She’s our boss.” Camber took over the awkward exchange. “Let me get her for you.”

“We have a new line of hand lotions.” Hiccup, hiccup, hiccup. “Would you like a sample?”

Poor Arden fumbled her sales pitch while Camber, who could usually be counted on to rescue her from a bout of anxiety, rounded the counter and cut her eyes at me.

“Who is he,” I mouthed. “Get his name.”

“I forgot to ask,” she called out, all smiles. “Who should I tell her is here?”

“Asa.” His footsteps thumped closer, until I smelled the sweet-burning smoke of rich tobacco and almost tasted the bite of ripe green apples. “Montenegro.”

The blood drained from my face in a dizzying rush, and I shook my head once.

“Be right back.” She strode into the office, waited to the count of ten, then returned. “She took an early lunch.” She held up a note I wrote earlier in the week. “I’m so sorry, sir. I didn’t hear her leave. She must have gone out the back.”

“Can you give her my card and have her call me at her earliest convenience?”

“Of course.” She resumed her post beside me. “I’ll pass it on as soon as she gets back.”

“I’ll be in town for twenty-four hours,” he murmured. “Can you tell her that too?”

“Sure.” Camber dialed up her sincerity five degrees. “I’ll do that.”

His footsteps receded, and I took my first easy breath since I heard his voice.

“Rue,” he whispered for my ears alone. “You can’t run forever.”

The door opened, triggering a chorus of ghostly moans Arden must have rigged, then shut behind him.

Only after Camber gave me the all clear did I draw my legs into my chest and rest my face on my knees.

Slender arms encircled me as Arden knelt beside me. “Who was that guy?”

“The boyfriend?” Camber sat across from us and rested her hand on my thigh. “He found you?”

Of all the lies I told when I moved here, I