Authors: Amelia Bishop
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No part of this e-book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form by any means without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical reviews, or any other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real events, places, or characters is completely coincidental.
There was a steady thumping somewhere, loud enough to cut through Dagger’s peaceful dream. He cracked his eyelids open, knowing it was earlier than he wanted it to be. A glance at the clock on his bedside table told him his instinct was correct- eight thirty. What kind of whack-job chops wood, or pounds nails, or whatever the hell that noise was at eight thirty on a Saturday morning? Dagger laid in the warmth of his blankets for another half hour, but he couldn’t get back to sleep with those thuds echoing through his bedroom. It was definitely coming from outside, probably someone had moved in to the old cottage next door. It would most likely mean a new coven member, as well, and Dagger hoped it would be someone he could tolerate as a neighbor.
The last occupant of the old beachfront cottage was Calvin Riley, an elderly witch with some skills at water manipulation, whom Dagger had been very fond of. Five years had passed since Calvin had died in his sleep, and Dagger had been glad no one else had moved right in. It was a little sad to think of anyone besides Calvin working in the cottage’s old gardens, or sitting on the creaky front porch in the evenings.
Dagger sighed and pulled himself out of bed, dragging a hand over his tired eyes and rubbing the sleep away. He should never have stayed up so late last night. He’d accomplished nothing, anyway, besides a cryptic phone conversation with his mother and a tenth viewing of ‘Gladiator’.
Looking out his bedroom window provided him a glimpse of the new neighbors. A good looking couple, probably about his age, early thirties he’d guess. The woman was short and curvy, and wore a long flowing flower-print skirt and a tunic with rune symbols printed on the back. Dagger rolled his eyes at her stereotypical ‘witchy’ clothes. Definitely new coven members as well, then. The man was bent over the old porch, replacing boards, it looked like. He was more difficult to see, but his jeans-clad legs looked strong and muscular as he stretched back to grab another two by four and began hammering again. A large moving van was parked along the side of the house, and Dagger wondered when they’d rolled in, and why he hadn’t noticed the van there last night.
After half a pot of coffee and a bowl of cold cereal, the pounding was still echoing through Dagger’s house. He clicked off the television and reluctantly trudged into his bedroom to get dressed. Introducing himself to his new neighbors and offering his help with their renovations was the
thing to do, even though it was the last thing he
to do on a beautiful Saturday in August. But Dagger had been living in this tiny three-house ‘neighborhood’ at the end of the old cliff-road completely alone since the day he’d gone to check on Calvin and found him dead in his bed. The only other house down here besides his and Calvin’s old cottage was a decrepit bungalow that was not fit for habitation by anything other than the pack of squirrels which had claimed it. It wouldn’t hurt to get to know his new companions.
As Dagger walked up the gravel path towards his new neighbors, he heard them talking softly. “Cal, I just think you should do another reading, double check. That won’t hurt anything. Just do it for me, please? Goddess, I hope you’re wrong about this one.”
“Just double check, okay?”
Dagger cleared his throat, embarrassed to have overheard their conversation. “
, hello! I’m Dagger,” He gestured towards his house, “your next door neighbor. Welcome to our little ’hood.”
Oh, Hi! Did the hammering bother you? I thought we should wait a little, but Cal said it was too big of a job to wait until after noon to start, and we really can’t do much moving in until this porch is fit for walking on. Oh!
, I’m Betony, and this is my brother, Calderon.
, did you say? What a nice name! Have you lived here long? Its so pretty here, this view is really great!”
Dagger smiled at the verbal onslaught. “Yes, I’ve been here my whole life. My parents moved away ten years ago, went to the Caribbean. So I’ve had the house to myself since then. The hammering was fine, I don’t blame your brother. Actually, I came to see if you might need a hand? I’d be glad to help out.”
“That is so nice of you! I don’t know….
?” Betony turned towards her brother, who was still crouched over a board, struggling to wrench out a bent nail from a rotten plank of decking. He freed the nail and the timber came loose as well, rattling loudly against the porch floor as it slid from his grip. He brushed his hands on the front of his pants and turned towards them, standing up straight as he did so.
The moment Dagger saw his face he froze, mouth hanging slightly open in shameless admiration. The man was
. It struck Dagger that every man he had dated in his life had been a poor imitation of Calderon. His hair was black, shiny and straight, falling almost to his shoulders in a style that might have seemed feminine if it had not been for the extremely masculine face it framed. His shoulders were broad and the thin cotton t-shirt he wore stretched over a lean but muscular chest. His faded jeans hugged his thighs enough to clearly show the strength there as well.
Dagger brought his eyes back up to Calderon’s face to find a small smile playing on his lips and his hazel eyes sparkling. Shaking himself, Dagger closed his mouth and stuttered an apology for his wanton appraisal, but Calderon just smiled and reached out a strong, if dirty, hand in greeting. Dagger shook it and returned the smile, feeling more than a little embarrassed.
“So, how about I help you with this porch?”
“If you’re sure it’s not too much trouble.”
Dagger smiled again, bending down to pick up the board that Calderon had dropped. “Not at all, just tell me what to do.”
Betony was watching them with a huge grin on her face, but neither man had spared her a glance. She chuckled a little to herself and picked her way across the half-finished porch, darting inside to finish her cleaning. The two men were soon hammering away, and once in a while she heard her brother’s deep voice telling Dagger how to proceed with the repairs. She smiled to herself as she wiped the shelves and cabinets down with lavender and mint scented water.
Calderon had told her he’d find a man here who would change things for him, who would steer the rest of his life. It made Betony uncomfortable, the whole idea being a little too close to a fated-mate type of thing for her taste. But Cal was a seer, and he rarely misinterpreted signs. If he said they were here for a man he needed, she believed him. It seemed to Betony that their neighbor, Dagger, was most definitely this man. Her brother was handsome, but she’d never seen anyone look at him quite the way Dagger just had. The thought pleased her- Cal deserved to be happy.
Betony was less pleased with the prospect of her own ‘partner’, whom Cal had also foreseen. She had already met the man, and was not impressed. He had stirred something in her, for sure, but she couldn’t ignore the internal warnings he also set off. Worse, she had agreed to meet with him again tomorrow evening, against her better judgment. Betony sighed, dipping her sponge into the graying water and moving on to the next cabinet. She had promised Calderon she would get to know the man he’d pointed out to her, and so she would. But getting to know him and dating him were two very different things, a fact she would be sure to remind them both of tomorrow.
Calderon handed over another board, and steadied it while Dagger nailed it down. A few more and the porch would be done. Cal had caught Dagger staring at him a few times, although he’d pretended not to notice. The thought that his handsome neighbor found him attractive made Calderon’s heart race and the skin on his neck flush. He was also slightly disconcerted to realize he could foresee nothing when it came to this man. Mostly, his ability to read signs and symbols allowed him to know what a person would do, how they would act, at least in the most general sense. But aside from knowing Dagger was meant to be in his life, he found it impossible to determine what might happen next between them. And without that information, he felt paralyzed. He hated to admit how much he relied on his gift.
“Hey, looks like that’s it! This porch hasn’t looked this good in twenty years, I’d bet.”
Calderon nodded at Dagger’s comment and looked around. It was clearly not a new porch, but it looked sturdy and clean, and would serve well for many years. The job had gone a lot faster once Dagger had shown up, a development he hadn’t seen coming. Cal sighed, looking over his new neighbor, and most likely his soon-to-be lover. He was different from the men Cal usually chose, slimmer, more lanky. Calderon had mostly picked more muscled, alpha-types. Dagger was strong, but slender, and easily as tall as Cal. His hair was brown, short, and his skin was tanned bronze, evidence of many days in the sun. His warm brown eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled, and his manner was easy and relaxed. If Cal had to guess, he’d say that Dagger was most likely a surfer, just by the way he moved.
“Thanks for your help, Dagger. This went a lot faster with you here. I’m sorry I can’t offer you a drink, we don’t have anything moved in yet.”
“Hey, that’s all right. I’ll go grab a few beers from my place! You think your sister wants one?”
“Yeah, probably. Thanks!”
Dagger jogged across the street and returned a few moments later, carrying three bottles of beer and an opener. He opened one and passed it to Calderon, then walked towards the open door, peeking inside to find Betony unpacking dishes and placing them into an open cabinet. “Hey, Betony? Want a beer? We’re all done out here.”
“Oh! Thanks, Dagger! That went quickly. Yeah, a beer sounds great, but could you leave it right here? I want to finish up a few more boxes before I take a break.”
“Sure, here you go!” Dagger left the open bottle on the counter and went back outside to join Calderon on the steps. They sat in silence for a few moments, Dagger watching Cal as he drank. Finally Cal felt he had to say something. Dagger’s knee was brushing against his in an open flirtation, and his sidelong looks were pretty obvious. Cal definitely felt the same attraction, but he just wasn’t the type to flirt. Even with all Dagger’s cues he felt a little nervous saying anything. If he hadn’t been sure that Dagger was meant to be in his life he probably would have waited him out, letting the flirting go on until Dagger made a move. He opened his mouth to say something, but Dagger beat him to it.
“So, what made you move here?”
Calderon took a deep breath to explain. “Well, I’m a seer,
, and all the signs pointed to here, this coven, this neighborhood, and even this house. I knew I’d meet someone here who was…
for me to know. A partner, I guess. When I saw you, I knew you were that person. So I guess I’m here for you.”
“Oh. I see.” He was quiet for a few minutes, considering. “You covered it well, when we met. I felt like I was the one gawking at you, not like you were seeing anything interesting in me.”
Calderon laughed, “I saw you last night. Your front window drapes were open, and I could see in, saw you walking around, talking on the phone. I guess I had the same look on my face then that you gave me today. I thought you were really hot.” He felt his face grow warm, and he had to look down. What had come over him? Cal never talked like that!
“Yeah? Well, okay then, that makes me feel better.” Dagger was smiling now, looking at Cal and noticing his obvious discomfort. “Don’t be embarrassed,” he said as he bumped his shoulders against Cal’s, “You already know I think