Ghast Me Gently (Wicked Good Witches Book 4)

CHAPTER ONE

 

Charlie Howard reached down, extending his hand to his brother. “Sorry.” He helped Michael off the floor.

“Don't be.” He let out an irritated wince. “I should have been able to block that spell.”

Their mentor, the Vampire William Wakefield, had wasted no time after announcing he wanted to further their training in magical combat; which began by transforming the basement of the Howard Mansion into a practice room. Mats lined the floor and walls, to soften falls and take the brunt of misdirected spells. After two days of training separately, William now had them dueling each other.

Charlie glanced up the stairs, his weary stare catching the eye of both Michael and William.

“Perhaps we should take a break,” suggested William. “It’s nearing lunchtime. Although, one must be able to perform in combat no matter what concerns are tossing around the mind.”

Charlie nodded. “You’re right, William. I didn’t sleep last night and I just…” He let out a frustrated groan for the umpteenth time in three days. “I just don’t get it!
Something
has to have happened! Melinda’s been holed up in her room since the whole mermaid/bloodsucker shit went down. What the hell happened?”

Michael wore the same look on his face as Charlie. He was worried too, and he had the added
fun
of his empathic abilities zoning in on his brother’s distress, amplifying his own. “We obviously missed something,” he managed.

Something neither of them could figure out, and Melinda wasn’t talking.

They had already had this same discussion numerous times and the answer had not changed.

“I can’t believe this is happening again,” continued Michael. “Melinda was doing so well and
boom
, locked in her bedroom again. And there’s such an array of emotions spewing out of her right now, I can’t even be close to her room, never mind figure out what’s wrong. It’s bad enough being around you,” he aimed at his brother.

“We have to get her out of her room,” Charlie spoke decidedly. “Even if I have to drag her out of there. When was the last time she even ate?”

“Yesterday afternoon,” replied William. “I brought up a tray and remained until she had eaten.” The only thing he had been able to ascertain is that it had nothing to do with what had transpired between the two of them. At least, she had promised this was true. He wasn’t sure he believed her.

But she wasn’t talking to him either. She seemed to want to, but whenever he tried to get her to talk she froze up. It hurt to see her like this. In obvious pain, but over what, no one was sure. He hoped it really didn’t have anything to do with him. Or her dreams. He didn’t want to think about her dreams of them together, and let out an involuntary shudder.

Charlie turned to Michael. “And Emily says she has no idea either?”

Michael shook his head, his mind blank as to what else to say.

“It must have been a prophetic dream.” Charlie had already suggested this numerous times, simply because he could draw no other conclusion.

“She insisted she did not have a vision,” William reminded. “I asked her again this morning. But she refused to say more.” He paused as if wanting to say something else but held his tongue.

“What?” coaxed Charlie.

“She had been crying. She tried to hide it, but the signs were obvious.”

“What on earth upset her like this?” Michael slammed his fist into the matted wall.

“The question is how long do we let it go on? How do we find out what happened?” Charlie looked at Michael and William for their input.

Michael just shrugged his shoulders, out of ideas.

William stared past Charlie at a blank space on the wall, sifting through memory after memory for something he might have missed. His body was still as stone until quite suddenly he dashed up the stairs towards the kitchen, stating, “I will try again.”

He had been so focused on the
them
part of the equation, he’d forgotten about the
other
them… Melinda and the young man she had been dating in secret. Perhaps it was this that had upset her… and if it was, it meant this man had hurt her in some manner. A snarl threatened to wretch out of William’s throat. The man and his motorcycle wouldn’t survive another day if he’d hurt Melinda in any fashion.

Charlie and Michael followed him up the stairs and into the kitchen. They threw together some sandwiches and hadn’t gotten more than a few bites in when the Mack line rang- the direct phone line from the sheriff of The Demon Isle to the phone in the Howard’s kitchen.

If she was calling the Howards, it meant she needed their help. Something neither was eager to do seeing as their sister, Melinda, was refusing to come out of her bedroom, and refusing to explain why.

“You wanna get it or shall I?” droned Michael.

Charlie grabbed the line, his voice deflated. “Hiya, Mack.”

“Charlie?” a shaky voice questioned.

“Um, yes. This is Charlie Howard. Who is this?”

“Sorry, it’s me, Eva. Jordan,” she clarified, as if Charlie would not remember her. “I’m with Sheriff Briggs, she told me to pick up this line and you’d answer.”

“Oh. Hi, Eva. Sorry. It’s just that no one but Ma… Sheriff Briggs, ever calls us on this line. What’s up?”

“It’s my dad, Charlie. He’s missing.”

“Missing?” repeated Charlie. Both Michael and William perked up as he spoke.

“Yes. I haven’t seen him since yesterday morning and I’m getting really worried. It’s not like him to just disappear. Mack’s putting out an APB for him now, but, well, I think he might have gotten himself into some
you-know-what
kind of trouble…” she trailed off, her voice uncertain.

Charlie understood that Eva meant possible supernatural trouble; the sort of trouble that he and his siblings, as witches, often dealt with as protectors of The Demon Isle.

“Okay, um, you stay put. We’ll meet you at the sheriff’s office as fast as we can.” Eva did not answer. “Okay?”

“Sorry. Yeah, I’ll be here.”

“Okay, I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

“Charlie…” she caught him before hanging up.

“Yeah.”

“Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it.”

“Don’t worry, Eva. Whatever’s happened, we’ll find him.” He hung up before she could reply, looking into the faces of Michael and William.

William, of course, already knew what had happened thanks to his keen vampire hearing, so Charlie spoke directly to Michael.

“Eva Jordan’s father is missing. Possible supernatural cause.”

“Oh. Wow. Well, we’d better get moving.” He got up to get ready.

“What about Melinda?” Charlie eyed Michael and William.

“I have her lunch prepared. I will explain that we are leaving, and catch up with you,” advised William.

Michael grabbed his cell. “I’ll phone Emily, and have her stop in and check up on Sis, after her shift at the bookstore. She’s done in a couple of hours.”

“Okay, let’s get moving,” said Charlie. “I’m heading to the sheriff’s office. Michael, why don’t you drive the jeep and meet me there, I have a feeling we’re going to need it.”

Michael nodded, simultaneously grabbing the jeep keys and dialing Emily’s phone number, as Charlie darted out the front door, down the stone steps and onto the cobblestone street.

William took hold of the food tray and headed upstairs to Melinda’s bedroom.

Michael held his phone to his ear while checking the jeep’s supplies, in case they were out for an extended period of time.

“Hello there my handsome Howard,” Emily giggled into the line as she answered his call. “Miss me?”

“Well hello to you too, my beautiful bookstore manager.” He tried to sound playful, but she heard the strained undertones. “And yes. Missing you like crazy. Especially missing that fuzzy little…” He heard a coughing sound, followed by a click, and stopped.

“Sorry. I had to get you off speakerphone. You know me. Trying to work and talk at the same time.”

He chuckled, picturing the pink in her cheeks.

“How’s Melinda this morning?” she asked him.

“God, Em. She’s… the same. Still locked in her room. I was hoping you wouldn’t mind stopping in after work and looking in on her.”

“You guys headed somewhere?”

“Yeah. Got a call on the Mack line. Got a job to do and we’re not sure how long we’ll be away.”

“I can check in on her. I don’t mind, Michael. She’s like my sister. Maybe she’ll finally open up about what’s got her locked up there.”

“I hope you’re right, Em. We’re going nuts trying to figure out what the hell happened.”

“I’ll give it my best.” Emily had a sneaking suspicion that Melinda’s woes were of the guy problem variety. But her friend had told her about Riley in confidence. After three days though, she was starting to worry that keeping her friend’s secret might have been a mistake. “So what’s the job?” she asked Michael.

“Actually, Eva Jordan’s father is missing, and she fears it might be for a supernatural reason.”

“Oh dear,” responded Emily. “I hope he’s okay. Poor man. Poor Eva.”

“Yeah, I could tell by Charlie’s reaction that Eva’s pretty worried.” He darted back into the kitchen, opening a cupboard lined with vials. He gently pushed the vials around until he’d located the ones he was looking for.

Emily heard the clinking of the glass. “Gathering potions?”

“You know me so well.” He got back out to the jeep and opened the dashboard. A tray popped out with perfectly shaped holders for the glass vials. An invention they had installed just the day before as part of their new security measures. It was a much more secure method to travel with, and store, potions. After discovering that a potion had taken their mother’s life, it had been a priority to make using them safer.

He slipped them inside and closed the dash, got himself belted into the jeep. “Guess I gotta run, Em.” He let out a long breath.

“You okay, Michael? You sound tired.”

“Me, tired? I can’t imagine what would be keeping me up at night.”

“Hm. Someone did tell me they caught you hooking up with some southern gal…”

He let out a laugh. “I can’t wait to see you.”

“Me too. But maybe tonight… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe we should try to get a few hours of actual sleep.”

“Ugh. It’s sad, but I think you’re right. How about I sneak into your bed just after dark…”

“Why would you have to sneak? My father doesn’t care.”

“I just thought it sounded more fun.”

“That’s true. Okay, so you sneak into my bed…”

“And we snuggle up. I’ll wrap my arms around you, we can watch a movie… actually watch the movie. And I stay over, and we sleep.”

“You mean you would stay all night?”

“Yeah. If that’s okay.” There was a slight pause. “Is that okay?”

She sighed. “Can you sneak into my bed now?”

“You have no idea how badly I’d love to hide under your sheets and wait for you to pull back the covers…”

“That doesn’t sound like sleep happening
at all
,” she teased. “I really would love it if you spent an entire night, Michael. I can’t imagine anything better than waking up with you.”

Michael was already thinking about how they’d work out living together in his mind. She’d want to stay with her father. He preferred to stay in the mansion, only because it was easier with the job he had to do. He guessed they’d just have to spend a few nights at her place, and a few at his.

“You got quiet,” she noted.

“Sorry. I was picturing some way to wake up next to you, every morning.”

“You were?”

“Yeah. I know it’s fast. And yet it feels like it’s taken forever. I just want you, Em. All of you. All the time. I can’t get enough.”

“Dang it, Michael Howard. If you were standing here right now…”

“You’d what?” He heard a ding.

“Customer just came into the store. Sorry… you’ll have to take a rain check.”

“That is a true shame. But I gotta run too, Em. Love you.”

“Love you, too. Be careful out there,” she ordered him. “I’ll check in on Melinda before I sneak home and crawl into bed. I’ll be waiting for you.”

“Naked?”

She cleared her throat. “It’s a sleep night, remember?”

Michael groaned. Sleep night was sounding less and less fun with each passing minute. 

“Something tells me sleep night just got canceled.”

“How about we make it a very early night,” Michael countered.

“I might be talked into that. But I’ll need a little one on one coaxing.”

“Damn it! Now I’ve got the wickedest craving for a peach.” He heard a customer holler out a question in the background.

“Sorry, Michael. I really do have to go now. Customer needs help.”

“Yeah, I gotta meet Charlie. Bye, Em.” He disconnected and sped out of the driveway towards the sheriff’s office.

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