Authors: Elizabeth A Reeves
Tags: #Fantasy, #Fantasy Series, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Witches
How (Not) to Play With Magic
A Cindy Eller Snack
Elizabeth A Reeves
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity between actual persons living and dead is purely coincidental. Any use of locales, establishments, or events are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth A Reeves
All rights reserved.
Annette Janton—this one is for you.
I have the best editor in the whole world who understands that I have stories, but no structure, in my brain. Thank you, Peg Lewis!
“Cindy.” The whisper came from the middle of my best dream—the one where I was holding hands with a man I had not magically turned into a toad by kissing him. We were eating ice cream and talking about bacon.
It was a really good dream.
“Go away,” I muttered. “I’m sleeping.”
“Cindy,” the voice was more insistent.
“She’s drooling.” A second voice giggled. “What do you think she’s dreaming about?”
“We could check,” the first one answered.
I shot up in my bed. “Oh, no you don’t!” I glared at the two shapes standing by my bed, my fifteen-year-old twin sisters. “What are you doing here?” I glanced at my clock and felt my glower intensify. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”
“Yes, Mother,” the two girls chorused.
“If my kids end up like you,” I muttered, “I am never having any.”
“Probably a good idea.” I thought it was Starrie who said that.
“They’d be half toad anyway,” Rainey pointed out, perching next to me on my bed. “Do you have anything to eat?”
“Not in my room!” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “Come on, I’ll make something in the kitchen for you. Try not to wake up my roommates, OK? I don’t need to be answering any awkward questions about how you got here.” I paused. “Portal?”
Rainey, I was pretty sure it was her, shook her dark head. “Transportation spell.”
I opened my mouth to tell them how dangerous and irresponsible that was, then closed it again. It wasn’t like they were actually going to listen to me.
Plus, being called ‘mother’ once in a night was more than enough for me.
I watched them warily from beneath my eyebrows as I made them each a quick brownie sundae. I’d been messing with a new recipe at the bakery and these were my best ones yet.
They were a real matched pair, identical in a way that only magical twins could be. Both had luxurious manes of ebony-black hair, cut bluntly across their foreheads, and silvery gray eyes. They sported matching nose rings and overly-innocent expressions.
They must be up to something really bad this time.
Rainey and Starrie Skye were two of my five half-sisters. My mother had a habit of going through husbands like tissues, which meant that only the twins had the same father. Mother was currently on husband number eleven.
I quickly whipped up some cream, sugar, and vanilla and sprinkled the whole thing with chocolate shavings. The girls dug into their treat with gusto. As they were both over five seven and willow wand skinny; I wasn’t too worried about them packing on midnight pounds.
“Spill,” I said, leaning against the counter to stare at them. “I know you’re up to something.”
Identical shoulders shrugged innocently simultaneously.
I narrowed my eyes at them. “I wasn’t born yesterday. You better not have dragged me out of bed just because you love my brownies.”
They exchanged a long look.
Starrie tossed back her hair and pouted her lips. “We didn’t do anything.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“We didn’t… mean to do anything?” Rainey offered in a small voice.
That was better.
I waited patiently as they decided how to tell me.
“We really need your help,” Rainey said.
“Yeah,” Starrie agreed. “We did something really bad this time.”
“How bad?” I demanded.
“Really bad,” they said together.
“Please,” Rainey said, looking down at her sundae with no appetite. “Don’t let her send us to CROW!”
I blinked at them. This had to be bad, then. CROW was the Center for the Reformation of Witches. Only the worst magical delinquents were sent there.
“I can’t promise,” I said slowly, snagging a chocolate curl from Starrie’s sundae, “until you tell me what it is you did that was so bad.”
“Um,” Starrie said. “OK, I guess we trust you.”
“I guess,” Rainey echoed.
“Thanks,” I said dryly. I looked at them pointedly. I was tired! I had to get ready for my job at the bakery in one hour, and I really didn’t want to have to pry this out of the mutual grasps of my littlest sisters.
“Um,” Starrie repeated.
They glanced at each other and mumbled something.
“What?” I demanded.
“We accidentally turned Alex into a dog,” they repeated in unison.
I dug into the freezer to keep myself from blowing up at my sisters. My roommate, Jessi, had come home with a new brand of ice cream. It was labeled ‘SweetDreams’. I really hoped it lived up to its name, because what I was facing right now was a total nightmare.
I yanked the top off of the pint and grabbed a spoon, still avoiding the panicked expressions of my sisters.
“Let me get this straight,” I said around my first mouthful of ice cream. It was really good—some kind of chocolate mango concoction that really hit the spot. I swallowed my mouthful and focused my glare at the twins. “You were messing around with magic that you have no business performing at your age, and ‘accidentally’ turned our stepfather—latest stepfather—into a dog?”
“He’s a border collie,” Starrie said helpfully.
“He makes a really awesome dog,” Rainey added. “Better than he was as a stepfather.”
I rubbed my head as I felt the beginnings of a headache that had nothing to do with brain freeze.
“You are not going to keep Mom’s latest husband,” I muttered, “as a pet!”
The twins looked crestfallen.
“How could this happen?” I demanded. “What were you trying to do?”
“Well,” Starrie said reluctantly, “you know how Alex is always barking at us.”
“Giving orders as if he was our real dad,” Rainey added sullenly.
I dove into another bite of ice cream to keep myself from reminding them that their real dad was in magical lockdown for ‘Loki level’ infractions. My mother had bitten off more than even she could handle with that husband.
Not that anyone would ever suggest to my mother that there was anything she couldn’t handle.
“All we wanted to do,” Starrie whined, “is make him really bark—like a dog—whenever he started ordering us around.”
I pinned her with a look. I was pretty sure that this had all been Starrie’s idea. Rainey, as usual, had just gotten dragged along in the carnage.
Not that the idea wasn’t completely hilarious and spot on. I had to eat more ice cream to keep my lips from twitching.
I also had a hunch that the orders my latest stepfather had been given were probably along the lines of, ‘go clean your rooms!’ and didn’t really deserve the kind of punishment the twins had dished out.
“Where is he now?” I demanded.
“Outside,” the girls chorused.
Alex Sanders, my stepfather, really made a great dog, I decided.
He sat patiently on the doorstep of the house my roommates and I rented together. When I opened the door, he thumped his tail on the ground in a friendly way.
I would have scratched his ears if it hadn’t been so weird. He was my stepfather, after all.
Alex made a pretty border collie, with a bright expression in his dark brown eyes with a framing black and white coat.
As a man, Alex wasn’t much of anything. He was, for lack of a better word, dull.
“Are you sure we can’t keep him?” Starrie pleaded.
“Mom won’t let us have a dog,” Rainey added, “but maybe she’d let us keep this one.”
I sighed. “Girls,” I reminded them. “Alex isn’t a real dog! He’s a person! You can’t just go around turning people into animals because you like animals more than you like people!”
I saw Starrie mutter something about me always changing men into toads, but my glare quelled even her… temporarily.
Starrie and Rainey had been born with some pretty powerful magic—and it all seemed to relate to animals in some way. We had despaired of Starrie ever learning to talk like a human, because she’d been born knowing how to talk to any animal in the world.
“Alex,” I told my furry stepfather. “I’m sorry that this happened. I promise that the twins.” I shot my sisters a dirty look. “And I will work as hard as we can to bring you back to normal.”
The dog let out a whine. I glanced towards Rainey and Starrie. I didn’t speak dog.
“He needs to go to the bathroom,” Starrie sniggered.
That gave me a pause. I couldn’t exactly tell my stepfather to go mark a tree, could I? That didn’t seem right. It was bad enough that he was in dog form without degrading him further.