Ax to Grind

The Witches Of Enchanted Bay:  Ax To Grind

Amelia Morgan

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meg Walton couldn’t believe this was happening again.  For the second time in as many months, murder had struck in her once-sleepy hometown of Enchanted Bay.  As a proud local, she couldn’t help but feel shaken over the sudden spike in violent crime in her town.  Part of her was still in shock that something so awful could happen here.  The other part of her had much deeper concerns.  Even more, no matter what she did, she couldn’t seem to shelve them. 

She wasn’t the only one. The news made the locals feverish with anxiety.  Everyone seemed to be on edge.  It didn’t help that the killer was still on the loose.  One person had already lost their life.  Who was to say the murderer wouldn’t strike again?

While most of the residents just had a general sense of unease, the trauma struck particular close to home for Meg.  She’d have to mull over the sudden crumbling of her hometown’s idyllic image later.  Right now, she had a murder to tackle.

This one was personal.  As horrifying as it was to think of, one of her good friends had the finger of suspicion pointed at her.  Meg couldn’t believe that one of her dearest friends, someone she’d known for over twenty years, could be capable of something as heinous as committing murder.  In Meg’s mind, this all must just be one big mistake.  Unfortunately, no matter what she said, she couldn’t convince the police of that.

Suddenly, Meg found herself completely torn.  She had done an amazing job of cracking the last murder case herself, but had planned on sitting this one out.  After all, that’s what the police were for.  With the boys in blue wrongfully suspecting Meg’s friend of the crime, Meg didn’t see any other choice but to become embroiled in this investigation.  She couldn’t take the chance of her friend ending up in jail. 

Unfortunately, there was only one way to prove her friend’s innocence, and that was to find the real killer herself.  At the same time, she’d have to approach this case with extreme caution.  Things could get hairy in a hurry.  It was times like this when being a witch really came in handy. 

 

Chapter One

One Day Earlier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“That has to feel good,” Connor Smith said. 

Things couldn’t have been going better for Meg and her boyfriend.  What a relief it was for her to be able to say that, especially since it wasn’t always the case.  Up until a few months ago, the opposite was actually true.  She had a hard luck history with men, but hopefully, those days were finally behind her.

Recently, it seemed like a smile was never far from her face.  After spending so many years toiling in romantic obscurity with lackluster boyfriends, she appreciated having Connor in her life more than ever.  She’d waited ten years for him to return to town, but now that he was back, they appeared to be making up for lost time. 

In the two months since Connor had come home, they had spent as much time as they could together.  They went out three or four times a week and had grown quite close.  With each subsequent date, Meg felt like he was the man she’d waited her whole life to find.  

That night was no different.  Connor drove Meg back to her place after dinner and a show.  They had such a good time that as they stood on Meg’s doorstep, neither was eager to say goodnight. 

Meg nodded.  “So true.  Being with you feels amazing.”

“I was actually talking about your friend getting the lead in the show, but yeah, being with you is just fantastic,” Connor explained. 

Meg smiled.  She could easily get caught up in his gaze, but that would bring the conversation to a standstill.  She decided to follow up on his original point.  “Liz has been waiting for this break for years, and now it’s finally here.”

Meg and Connor had gone to a musical called “Enchanted Nights.”  Not only was it the longest-running show in Enchanted Bay, but it celebrated the town’s origins.  There was more.  Meg’s good friend, Liz Donnelly, had finally gotten the bump up to the lead role after being an understudy to Jocelyn Adams for five years.  This was the big break Liz had been waiting her whole life for.  She ended up doing a stellar job with the role.

Liz’s long wait for her dream to come true was something very familiar to Meg, considering it took a decade for Meg and Connor to reconnect. 

“That reminds me of someone else I know,” Connor hinted.

Meg corrected him.  “We weren’t waiting a couple of years.  It was ten.”

“All that matters is that it was worth the wait in the end,” Connor said. 

Meg teased him.  “Yeah, things aren’t half bad between us.”

Connor shook his head.  “There she is, Meg Walton, master of the understatement.”

She revised her statement. “All right, so it turned out pretty well for us.”

“Don’t be too generous with your praise.”

“How’s this for being generous?  I’m crazy about you.”

He smiled.  “That’s more like it.”

Meg found herself getting caught up gazing at him once again.  Her mind began to race as her heart started nearly beating out of her chest.  She decided to switch gears before her knees went too weak.   

“The funny thing about Liz’s situation is that she had just started worrying that maybe her big break would never come.  Then, just like that, things turned on a dime for her.”

“Isn’t that the way it always is?  Life seems to enjoy stretching us to the breaking point before finally giving us a break.”

“Tell me about it.  Thankfully, we have all gotten the breaks we’ve been waiting for.”

“It’s no surprise Liz got the lead in the show.  She put in a very good performance.”

“It’s nice to hear you say that.  I was worried you were going to fall asleep halfway through the show,” she joked. 

“Nah.  That’s what the ballet was invented for,” he cracked. 

She laughed.  “Still, I’m surprised I was able to drag you to this.  I know going to a musical probably wasn’t your first choice.”

On date night, they generally tried to do something they both enjoyed.  Tonight was the exception.  Meg didn’t want to miss Liz’s first performance as the lead in the show.  Surprisingly, Connor was a good sport about being dragged to the musical. 

“Going to a musical isn’t my second choice either, but I had a great time tonight,” he revealed. 

“Does that mean there will be more musicals in our dating future?”

He squinted.  “Not likely.”

She chuckled.  “Just checking.”

“I didn’t have a good time because of the show itself, but rather because I spent the night with you.  We could have done almost anything and had a good time,” he explained. 

“Does that mean I should schedule a pair of manicures for our next date?”

“Don’t push it.  I said almost anything.”

“Fair enough.  I just wanted to know where the boundaries were.”

“Now you know,” he insisted.

“Well, thanks again for coming tonight,” Meg said. 

“Of course.  I love going out with you.”

She smiled. 

He continued.  “That being said, how about tomorrow we stick to dinner and a movie?”

“Deal.”

Unfortunately, they had reached her doorstep.  They both knew what that meant.  Goodnight probably should have been the next word out of their mouths.  By the looks of it, neither was interested in saying that. 

The chemistry between them was off the charts.  Even on a cold, fall day, they generated plenty of heat just being together.  Connor gazed deep into Meg’s eyes. 

“Before I go, there’s something more I wanted to do,” he said.

“What’s that?”

He leaned in and kissed her.  Not just some peck on the lips, but a full-blown, tongue kiss that took her breath away.  He tasted so good that Meg didn’t want the kiss to ever end.  Unfortunately, it did. 

As he pulled back, Meg couldn’t keep the smile from her face. 

“Sorry.  I just couldn’t help myself,” he said. 

“Trust me, you never have to apologize for a kiss that delicious,” she replied. 

He smiled.  “The fact is, I could kiss you all night.”

“You’ll have to save the rest of your kisses for tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait,” he said.   

She smiled.  “Neither can I.”

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meg went from saying goodbye to an enamored boyfriend, to getting the stare down from a grumpy cat.

“You have some explaining to do,” Penelope the talking cat said. 

To most people, the idea of a talking cat would seem pretty loony, but not to a witch like Meg.  Besides, Penelope wasn’t just any talking cat.  Before Meg’s grandmother passed away, Meg and her mom cast a spell that transferred Penelope’s soul into the body of a kitten.  Now Meg owned the world’s only wise-cracking cat.  It turned out Penelope had nine lives and plenty of sass to spare.  One thing she didn’t have was the ability to hold her tongue. 

Meg looked around her place and thought she knew what Penelope was bent out of shape about.  The place was a little bit on the messy side.  For a cat that obsessively groomed herself, the idea of living in slob central held no interest for her. 

In Meg’s defense, between managing the family’s donut shop and going out with Connor, both her time and her desire to clean up was nearly non-existent.  That was about to change.  No one wanted to be shamed by their cat. 

Meg tried to pre-emptively keep Penelope from sassing her any further.  

“I know.  I’m sorry.  I forgot to clean.  I’ll do that now,” Meg insisted. 

Being a witch had a number of advantages.  At that moment, none was more apparent than her ability to cast a quick cleaning spell.  No wonder Penelope looked so judgy.  It took Meg only a few seconds to cast the spell, yet she hadn’t thought to do so for over a week.  She remedied the situation immediately. 

Once the spell had been cast, Meg’s broom, dust pan, and vacuum cleaner started working their magic, twirling up in the air and dancing across the room.  They moved across the floor effortlessly, tidying up the place up while the dishes washed themselves.  Sparkles flew across the plates as they landed back in the cabinet, completely clean.  While Meg’s house started cleaning itself, Penelope rained on her parade. 

“I wasn’t talking about cleaning up, although this place was becoming pig sty adjacent,” Penelope explained. 

Meg took a seat on the couch while the vacuum and broom worked its way around her. 

“Then what’s the problem?  Are you sore because I missed Detective Danger night?” Meg wondered.

Usually, watching the latest TV episode of Detective Danger was appointment viewing for Meg and her grandma.  It also acted as bonding time, with a little competitive mix thrown in, as they each tried to guess the killer first.

The more dates Meg and Connor went on, the more it seemed like the TV nights with her grandma were a thing of the past. 

“It’s not that, either,” Penelope replied. 

Meg crinkled her nose.  “Then what is it?”

“This is some serious business.  You’ve been remiss in your pet parenting duties.”

Meg still didn’t have the foggiest idea what her grandma was talking about.  “Would you mind clueing me in?”

“We’ve been out of wet food for two days.”

Meg chuckled.  “Oh, that.  You were acting like the sky was falling.”

“The sky is falling.”

“Grandma, now is not the time for exaggeration.  I leave more dry food out than you could eat in a week.”

Penelope scoffed.  “Dry food?  I’d rather cough off a hairball than eat that.”

Meg shook her head and laughed at her grandma’s ranting. 

“This is no laughing matter.  Have you ever eaten dry cat food?”

“No, thankfully,” Meg replied. 

“It’s like broccoli, only worse.”

“What’s worse than broccoli?”

“Eggplant, for one.  Although tofu is pretty awful, too.”  Penelope shook her head.  “That’s not the point.”

“What is the point?”

“What does a cat have to do to get some wet food around here?  I’d give one of my nine lives for some tuna.”

“You know, I always thought it was ironic that cats hate water, yet love seafood.”

“Meg, now is not the time to ponder the mysteries of the universe.  It’s time to fill my gullet, ASAP.”

“All right, don’t tie your tail up in a knot.  You want some tuna?  I’ll give you a meal you won’t forget.”

Meg closed her eyes, then whispered under her breath. 

Penelope looked on with wistful longing.  “I miss having the world at the snap of a finger.”

The upside of being a cat was Penelope had nine lives.  The downside was that she could no longer cast spells.  That’s why she was happy to have Meg around. 

When Meg opened her eyes, a pan of tuna casserole emerged on the table, with a special treat on top. 

Penelope’s eyes opened wide.  “Is this what I think it is?”

Meg hadn’t just cast any spell this time.  She’d made Penelope’s whole week.

“Tuna casserole with a catnip garnish,” Meg revealed. 

Penelope purred out of control.  “I could die and go to cat heaven.”

“Well, what are you waiting for?  Eat it while it’s hot.”

Penelope rubbed her head against Meg’s leg as a thank you, then dove into the casserole. 

“So good,” Penelope said.

“Are we even now?”

“Are you kidding?  I’m so happy; I might even let you sleep in until six-thirty tomorrow.”

Meg laughed.  Six-thirty was hardly her idea of sleeping in.  Still, it was better than being woken up at cat o’clock, Penelope’s favorite wake up time, which the rest of the world referred to as 4:30 a.m.  Meg hated the idea of getting out of bed before the sun rose. 

“Are you happy enough not to throw up on the carpet tomorrow?” Meg joked.

“I can’t make any promises.  If you’re lucky, maybe I’ll throw up on the tile…maybe.

As Penelope returned to chowing down, Meg’s stomach began to rumble a little.  Even though she had eaten dinner earlier, she still had plenty of room for dessert.  Like brownies, for example.  Mmm, double fudge brownies. 

One thing she didn’t have was motivation.  It was one of those lazy nights.  She didn’t even want to leave the couch, no less lift a finger to make a tray of brownies.  To be fair, she did own one of the plushiest couches this side of a cloud.  As a witch, it turned out she could have her brownies, and be a couch potato too. 

Meg whipped up another spell.  The cabinet doors opened and all the bowls and utensils to make brownies came flying out.  They twirled in the air as chocolate, eggs and flour all poured into the bowl.  Fairy dust swirled around and the oven door opened and the delicious smell of baking chocolate filled the air.  Before she knew it, she was watching the latest episode of Detective Danger with a happy cat purring by her side while a tray of brownies baked themselves.  Heaven.

At that moment, Meg couldn’t have been happier.  Unfortunately, all good things came to an end eventually.  Little did Meg know life was about to throw her for a serious loop. 

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