Shortly after Chloe Bartlett returns to her hometown, her family’s greatest secret is revealed—she and her sisters are witches. While the town is still reeling from the news, Chloe’s high school rival is attacked, and another young girl is placed under the infamous Sleeping Beauty Curse. Suspicious eyes soon turn to Chloe, and the whole town believes she is guilty.
As Chloe investigates the attacks, with a little help from the handsome but irritating Professor Mike Fellowes, she discovers that there may be a deeper and deadlier plan afoot—one that’s focused on her.
Can Chloe unravel the mystery in time? Or will she fall prey to the malevolent figure lurking in the shadows?
A Maryland Witch is now out! Read Chapter One below…
“Good afternoon, miss. Can you tell me what this symbol is?”
I looked up into a pair of dark eyes. The eyes were matched by equally dark hair, and both hair and eyes belonged to a handsome man—he would have been extremely handsome if not for the look on his face.
He seemed skeptical—and challenging—as if he’d caught me at something.
I looked down at the piece of paper the man had placed on the desk. It showed a symbol drawn in black ink—it looked like an uppercase L intersected by another, upside down uppercase L:
I drew in my breath sharply.
“No,” I said. “I have no idea what that is.”
The man raised one mocking eyebrow. “Isn’t this the library?”
I glanced around me, as if to reassure myself. Between the man’s good looks and the shock of seeing the symbol, I was momentarily disoriented. But the study tables were full of our regulars, and our books sat on our slightly dusty shelves in quiet repose like they usually did.
We were indeed in a library.
“Yes, this is the Crabtree Bay Public Library,” I said a little unsteadily.
“Oh,” the man said. “I thought the library was supposed to be a repository of knowledge. And I thought librarians were supposed to be smart.”
“Well, we don’t know everything,” I said, feeling myself bristle. “And just because you’ve doodled a mark on a piece of paper doesn’t mean I can tell you what it is.”
The man persisted. “Aren’t you Chloe Bartlett?”
“Yes,” I said. Despite the man’s sneering tone, hearing him say my name made a little tingle run through me. “Yes, I am.”
“And you’re still saying you don’t know what this is?”
The man tapped on the piece of paper, and I glanced down at it.
“No,” I said firmly.
“You’re lying,” he said.
And he was right—I was. I just couldn’t help it. The symbol was secret—and sacred. It wasn’t the sort of thing you discussed with strangers, and I hadn’t expected to see it. Denying that I knew about it was instinctive—I was just protecting my family.
“Let me explain myself, Miss Bartlett,” the man said. He drew himself up to his full height, which was considerable—he wasn’t short. “I am Mike Fellowes.”
“Who?” I said.
The man looked disappointed. “Mike Fellowes. Professor Michael Fellowes of Henrietta College. Surely you’re heard of me?”
“You’re a professor?” I said, startled. “You don’t look much older than I am. And I’m twenty-three. And besides, you’re too—”
I stopped myself quickly. I’d been going to say “too handsome,” but there was no way I was going to admit to something like that now.
I looked at the man before me, who still seemed to be struggling with the idea that I didn’t know who he was.
“Oh, I get it,” I said suddenly. “You’re a TA, and you’re trying to make yourself seem important.”
I winced a little on the inside as I said the words—I hadn’t meant to sound quite so sharp. But then again, I was still reeling from the sight of the symbol, which he kept waving around.
“A teaching assistant?” Mike said. “Me? I’ll have you know that I’m twenty-seven years old and a full professor.”
“Congratulations,” I said. I meant that sincerely, but somehow it came out sounding a little sarcastic.
“And do you know what I’m professor of?” Mike said.
“No,” I replied. “I thought we’d established that I’d never heard of you.”
Mike’s mouth hung open.
After a moment, he recovered himself. “I’m the new Professor of English and Folklore Studies. I’ve published several folklore books—all of which are available at Fogerty’s Bookstore downtown.”
“Well, they’re not available here,” I said.
Mike scoffed. “And you would know?”
“Yes, of course,” I said. “I know my library. There are no books by a Professor Mike Fellowes in the folklore section. It’s Dewey Decimal number three hundred ninety-eight right behind you. Check it out if you don’t believe me.”
Mike glanced around at the shelves I’d indicated.
As he did so, I noticed that several of our patrons were frowning at the two of us—our discussion had grown a little loud.
Mike turned back to me. “That’s not the point.”
“What is the point?” I asked. “And please keep your voice down. People are trying to read in here.”
“The point is,” Mike said, “that you believe you’re a witch. Deny that!”
He said the words in a loud, ringing voice and then crossed his arms across his chest.
“Shhh!” Mrs. Ludlow hissed. She was one of our regulars, and she was glaring at the two of us over the top of her glasses.
For my part, I was too stunned to say anything.
Nobody knew I was a witch.
That was a secret we had guarded for three hundred years.
Everyone in the library was looking at us now.
I found that I was having trouble breathing.
Mike went on. “You also have two sisters—Alberta and Rafaela Bartlett. And they’re also harboring the delusion that they’re witches. Is that not right?”
I looked around at all the eyes that were staring at us.
This isn’t happening, I said to myself.
Just then, I caught sight of a swift movement nearby.
I turned and saw a familiar figure rounding the corner of the stacks in the graphic novel section. It was Joe Osgood—tanned and muscular, with long, light brown hair that was streaked with gold. He had a bit of a crush on me, and he was often to be found lingering near the comic books and pretending to read them, while actually peering around the corner to look at me. Most days, Joe’s presence was a little irritating, but today it seemed as if it could actually be a good thing.
“You haven’t answered any of my questions,” Mike said, still speaking loudly. “Do you or don’t you believe you’re a witch?”
“Dude, back off!” Joe said. Suddenly, he was at the circulation desk, and he was wedging himself in between Mike and the desk.
Mike was blocked from my sight for a moment, and then he took a step back. I could see he was startled.
“Did you just call Chloe a witch?” Joe asked.
Mike folded his arms once again. “Actually, that’s what I’m here to ascertain. But so far she hasn’t said a word.”
His eyes darted to me. “So I’m going to take her silence as confirmation.”
Joe blinked at Mike. “Look, I have no idea what you just said. But nobody comes in here and calls Chloe a witch. She’s my girl—I mean, she’s my friend. She’s a girl who’s my friend. And nobody can talk about her that way.”
“So you’re the boyfriend, are you?” Mike smirked. “It figures. You’re both good-looking and empty-headed.”
“Wait,” I said, startled once again. “Did you just say I was good-looking?”
Mike threw me a scornful look. “Of course that’s what you’d hear. I rest my case.”
“What case?” I said.
“Shhh!” Mrs. Ludlow said.
“What I’m trying to demonstrate here is this,” Mike said. “You’re a bubbleheaded girl who believes she has magic powers, and I’m here to debunk this for the nonsense it is.”
“Dude,” Joe said, “I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Mike stabbed a finger in my direction. “She believes she’s a witch. And her sisters believe they’re witches, too. It’s absurd, and it’s got to stop.”
Joe’s expression grew stormy. “I told you not to call her a witch.”
Mike waved the scrap of paper with the symbol in Joe’s face. “It’s what she calls herself. Just ask her.”
I was back to finding it hard to breathe again. Every time I saw that symbol, I felt a fluttering in my stomach.
“You know what?” Joe said. “I’m going to call you Professor Mike.”
“That’s good,” Mike said. “Because that’s my name.”
“Yeah?” Joe said. “Well, that’s what I’m going to call you. Professor Mike, Professor Mike! Hey, everybody, we’ve got an egghead here. Say hello to Professor Mike!”
“Well, you know what I’m going to call you?” Mike asked.
“I’m going to call you ignorant.”
Joe’s face suddenly went brick red. “What did you call me?”
“Ignorant.” Mike repeated the word, but he looked a little nervous.
“Are you calling me stupid?” Joe asked. Somehow his face had gone even redder.
If there was one thing Joe hated, it was being called stupid.
I hurried around the circulation desk and stepped in between the two of them.
“Okay, guys,” I said. “Let’s simmer down now. Nobody here is ignorant or a witch, and please let’s try to remember that we’re in a library. No shouting or fighting in here.”
Mike ignored me. “Being ignorant doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It means you lack knowledge. And you know nothing about what’s going on here. You haven’t seen my research—you are entirely ignorant in this situation.”
Joe seemed to swell up. “Did you just call me ignorant again?”
I grabbed Joe by the arm and pulled him back a few steps.
I found myself wishing—not for the first time—that the library had some security. If things got really rowdy in here, there wasn’t anybody else to take care of the situation but me. I was working alone today.
“Yes, I did call you ignorant,” Mike said. “But you’re not alone. Society as a whole is ignorant. This town is ignorant.”
I kept hold of Joe and looked over at Mike. “You know, you’re really not helping.”
“But this town isn’t the problem,” Mike said, clearly warming to his subject. “There are pockets of ignorance everywhere. Pockets of superstition everywhere. And intend to expose them. I’m going to expose everything. I will reveal all!”
Joe grimaced in disgust. “Dude, I don’t think you should be talking about exposing yourself. That’s just not right.”
“I’m not talking about exposing myself,” Mike said. “I’m talking about exposing the ignorance and superstition in this town. When you live in a place where the librarian believes herself to be a witch, you’ve got a problem.”
Despite my best efforts to hold him back, Joe took a threatening step toward Mike. “Where did you hear that anyway?”
“Yes, where did you hear that?” I asked. “And how did you find that symbol?”
Mike smiled smugly. “That’s easy enough to answer. I’ve been receiving emails from a man named Charles Tyndall. He spells out everything about you and your sisters—if you’ll forgive the pun. I did a little digging, and it turns out he’s right. I found corroboration for all of it—every last detail.”
“Charles Tyndall?” I said.
“You’ve heard of him.”
“I’m not surprised,” Mike said. “In his emails, Mr. Tyndall did indicate that he was rather a prominent citizen.”
“When did you get these emails?” I asked. “Was it a long time ago?”
“No,” Mike said. He stopped to consider the question, and for the first time he didn’t look angry or smug—he just looked thoughtful. “Well, I suppose it depends on what you mean by a long time. I received the last email about a month ago. I’ve been researching his claims ever since.”
The smug look returned as he continued. “As it so happens, I’m a very quick researcher. I was able to substantiate many of his claims about your family’s peculiar superstitions in very little time. I doubt many other scholars could have completed the work as swiftly as I did. I’m both quick and accurate.”
“And yet you miss the bigger picture,” I murmured.
Mike frowned. “And what does that mean?”
“It means that couldn’t have received emails from Charles Tyndall a month ago.”
“And why is that?”
I took a deep breath. “Because Charles Tyndall died about ten years ago.”
Mike looked at me in surprise. “What?”
“It’s easy enough to check,” I said quietly. “You won’t need any great research skills to find out.”
Mike stared at me. “You’re saying I received emails from a dead man?”
Joe snickered. “You got punked. The emails are fake. Chloe’s no witch and neither are her sisters.”
“You’re saying the emails aren’t real?” Mike said. “You’re saying my research was based on a prank?”
“It looks like it,” I said.
Mike’s face went as red as Joe’s had earlier.
“I don’t believe it,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter who sent the emails. Even if it wasn’t Charles Tyndall, it was probably from someone who wanted to remain anonymous. And my research is still good—the facts still stand. And I’m going to prove that you and your sisters believe you’re witches and that you’re at the center of a conspiracy of ignorance to keep this town mired in superstition.”
“So,” I said. “You’re going to prove that my sisters and I think we’re witches.”
“And then you’re going to prove that even though we believe we’re witches, it’s not actually true.”
“In that case, you could save yourself the trouble and just skip to the end. Just tell everyone it’s not true. Or better yet, don’t bother.”
“You’re impossible,” Mike said. “But I’m going to get to the bottom of this. I’m going to bring your crazy beliefs out into the open.”
He stormed out of the library and slammed the front door behind him.
Mrs. Ludlow was still glaring at me over the top of her glasses.
“Shhh!” she hissed.
Thanks very much for reading! A Maryland Witch is now available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.