After the Summerland (The Witches of Spring Hill Book 1)

After the Summerland
The Witches of Spring Hill
Book 1
Patricia Proctor
Dedication

To my husband, Brad.
Thank you for believing in me
and encouraging me to follow my dreams.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Sixteen years ago…

The ten-acre property sits
on a large hill in an otherwise flat landscape, making it the highest point in Spring
Hill, North Carolina. Most of the property is made up of dense woods, other
than at the top, where the house sits surrounded by a small yard and a large
garden. On foggy days, the house disappears completely from view, but when the
sun shines, the windows gleam so bright that if the ocean were nearby, sailors
would think it was a lighthouse, welcoming them home, or perhaps warning them
away.

Although the house can
be seen from any point in Spring Hill, most people don’t venture near the
property and only a few souls have actually made it up to the front door. Some people
won’t go near the property because of the stories of the land being haunted, but
others avoid it because of the witches who live in the house.

Many people assume the
women inherited the old house, but no one remembers when the three women moved to
town. It just seems as if they’ve always been there and only a few locals from
this generation of town folk actually know the truth. The women were actually
born and raised in the house, though they never come to town, never have visitors,
and as far as anyone can tell, they
never
leave the property. They keep to themselves and most everyone in town leaves
them be.

Isabelle, Cora, and
Abigail Scott are happy to be left alone. They grow their own fruits, herbs, and
vegetables and what they can’t grow themselves, they trade for with the local
grocer. The exchanges are never made in person. Instead, all arrangements are made
with the lawyer in town who also takes care of all of their monetary needs,
including paying property taxes and utility bills. The sisters are quite happy
with their existence, safe and secure in their home and gardens living a quiet,
peaceful life with the protection of spells to keep unwanted people away.

Steve Thompson, who
works in his dad’s grocery store, is one of the few who are invited onto the
property. He rides his bike to the edge of town and up the hill once a month to
collect the herbs, fruits, vegetables, and baked goods to sell at the grocery
store. In exchange, he leaves a basket of groceries with an envelope containing
whatever money is left from the sale of the sisters’ goods the previous month.

Some folks in town won’t
buy or eat anything baked or grown by “3 Sisters” because of the talk about the
women being witches. Most people don’t care about these rumors though, and wait
in line for the arrival of 3 Sisters goods on delivery day. The vegetables are
large and tasty; the fruit sweet and succulent, even out of season; and the
pies, cakes, cookies, and muffins melt in your mouth.

Then there are the herbs… some women believe that preparing a meal with the herbs grown from 3
Sisters gardens can make a man fall in love. This happened to old Martha Cooper,
who
no one thought would ever meet a man, let alone
get married, so when it finally happened to her others took notice and began
waiting in line.

It has to be said that
the vegetables
are
crisper; the fruit
much
more succulent; the herbs make
any
dish more flavorful; and the bread,
cookies, pies, and muffins
are
better
than any other in town, including the local bakery. Nothing brought down from
the hill is ever thrown away or not eaten.

Since most people in
town craved 3 Sisters homemade goods, everyone chalked up any odd happenings as
the work of three eccentric old women. It was easier for everyone to go about
their own business and pretend everything was normal rather than stir up
trouble in the small town. That is, until Steve arrived at the house one mild spring morning, only to find the basket of groceries that he left the month before still sitting on the doorstep, untouched.

Chapter 2

Liam Alexander, Chief
of Police, leans back in his chair, thankful for the quiet. He looks up at the
old tile in the corner of the ceiling that still needs replacing. Oh well, he
thinks, that’s a worry for another day. With Margo, his dispatcher, out sick,
the station is quieter than usual. Not that the woman talks a lot, but when she
is in, there’s always some noise or chatter that keeps Liam from accomplishing anything,
which was why he often found himself working across the street at the diner or from
the comfort of his own home.

Not that there is a whole
lot of work to do, with the general lack of crime in this sleepy town. Of
course, Liam takes the credit for that, but the truth is that everyone knowing
everyone ensures that any petty crimes or grievances are handled amongst
neighbors and friends rather than brought to the attention of the local police
department. It suits Liam just fine, especially on a mild spring day when the
office is so quiet he can hear the kids out riding their bikes.

Just as he stands up
for a refill on his coffee, the front door swings in so abruptly that he almost drops
his mug and instinctively reaches for his weapon. Bursting in through the door is
Steve Thompson, huffing and puffing so hard Liam is sure the kid is going to
start hyperventilating and pass out right in front of him.

“Chief! Chief! I went…” Steve says breathlessly. Liam stops him and hands him a cup of water from
the drinking fountain. “Slow down, Steve. Take a drink of water. Whatever
you’ve got to say can wait until you catch your breath.” Steve swallows the
water in one gulp and crumples the paper cup, frustrated that he has to wait
even one more second to report what he found.

Finally he stops panting
long enough to say, “Chief! The groceries! They didn’t bring in the groceries!
They sat out in the rain and they didn’t leave a basket for me to bring back
down.” Liam just nods along while Steve tries again to explain. With even less
patience he says, “I rode my bike to the Scotts’ to deliver the groceries for my
dad, but when I got there the basket that I left last month was still at the
side door. They never brought it in — for a whole month! And they didn’t leave
a basket for me to take down either! Something must’ve happened! Do you think
they’re dead?”

“Steve…” Liam
says, with a calmness he doesn’t feel. “I’m sure they’re fine. Now you get
right back to the store and explain to your dad what happened. You let him know
that I’m on my way to check things out and I’ll stop by later. Oh, and Steve, I
trust that you will keep this to yourself…” Steve nods before backing out
the door. Liam shakes his head and wonders how long he has before the whole
town knows what happened.

Liam suspects that
things probably are
not
fine and
somewhere in his head he even supposes he was expecting something like this to
happen sooner or later. It had been far too quiet for too long and those women were
getting on in age. Having lived here his whole life, and with his dad and grandfather
being chief of police before him, he knows most of the town’s untold history.
He also knows that his family is connected to the Scotts, although he doesn’t
know how connected and whenever it comes up in conversation, his father or
grandfather changes the subject.

His father did tell him
that his great grandfather, Aldo Alexander, lived in the old Scott house many,
many years ago under strange circumstances. No more was said and whenever Liam pressed
him about it, he was told that all of his questions would be answered when the
time was right. In the meantime, he learned it was better to keep the peace in his
family, rather than to keep asking questions that he never
actually got answers to anyway.

Liam calls his deputy
in to cover for him while he goes up to check on the Scotts. When he pulls out of
the police station, he smiles and waves at everyone he sees. He can only hope
that Steve went right to the store and didn’t stop to tell anyone
what he found. The last thing he needs is people in town to start gossiping
or panicking. There will be a lot of unhappy people when Steve arrives back to
the store without the basket from 3 Sisters. Hell, Liam thinks,
I’ll
be unhappy if I don’t get my
blueberry pie fix this week.

On the outskirts of
town, Liam starts the climb up the Scotts’ driveway. He looks around surprised
at not only how dense the woods are, but also how green everything is up here,
especially compared to the rest of the town. Most of the town’s trees are deciduous,
so in early spring most are still pretty bare other than a few buds here and there.
On the Scotts’ property, clusters of beech and oak trees stand in their full
foliage next to pines and evergreens, making this property a lush oasis. Thousands of flowers are in bloom and while most are wild, some
have obviously been planted to accent the various natural rock formations
around the property. The trees, flowers, and rocks blend seamlessly together
creating a landscape that any gardener would covet.

Approaching the top of
the driveway, Liam can just barely see into the backyard, but he notices the herb
and vegetable gardens that should be dormant, or just being planted, have
already started producing fruits and vegetables. The trees hang heavy with
fruit, and Liam thinks to himself that whatever magic these women are using,
and it
has
to be magic, it is definitely
working.

He steps out of the jeep
and immediately inhales the fresh, clean air. It’s got to be all these trees,
he thinks to himself as he looks around the property. Looking back at the house,
he sees the covered basket sitting next to the side door, just as Steve
described. The recent rain soaked the basket completely and the contents inside
will have to be discarded. Rather than looking inside the basket or moving it,
he leaves it for now and considers the best way to move forward.

As he is deciding
whether to knock at the side door or take a quick walk around the house, he sees
movement out of the corner of his eye coming from the walkway leading up to the
front door. Removing his firearm from the holster, he leans against the side of
the house and listens closely for any other sounds.

He hears the rustling of
dried leaves, which grows fainter as soft footsteps move further away from him
and up toward the front door. A large planter blocks his view of the walkway,
making it impossible to peer around the corner. The only way to get a clear
view is to stick his face around the corner, putting it in the direct line of whoever
or whatever is ahead waiting for him. His police instincts kick in as he evaluates
his surroundings, deciding on the best approach.

Coming up the driveway
he noticed that the house has a large wrap-around porch that allows access to the
front door from both the front and side yard. Gaining access to the porch from
the driveway, where he now stands, would require going around this blind corner
and past a wall of shrubs large enough to hide someone, putting him in
unnecessary danger. Yet, if he walks around to the back of the house he will alert
anyone inside as to his presence, which could be just as dangerous. He decides to
face the threat head on, rather than be ambushed from behind.

Knowing it’s a risk, Liam
cautiously approaches the walkway from the driveway, listening for the telltale
sounds of someone’s presence. A rustling in the bushes directly to his right
startles him and he quickly swings toward the noise with his gun drawn.

With quiet authority,
he says, “This is Chief Alexander, of the Spring Hill Police Department. I’m
asking you to slowly come out from behind the bushes with…” Before he can
finish, a black and white blur bursts from behind the hedges causing Liam to
point his gun with his finger on the trigger.

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