Authors: Kristen Painter
WOOS THE WITCH
Nocturne Falls, Book Four
Welcome to Nocturne Falls, the town that celebrates Halloween 365 days a year. The tourists think it’s all a show: the vampires, the werewolves, the witches, the occasional gargoyle flying through the sky. But the supernaturals populating the town know better.
Living in Nocturne Falls means being yourself. Fangs, fur, and all.
Pandora Williams is Nocturne Falls’ most successful real estate agent. And least successful witch. Her magic never has the intended outcome, but she’s learned to live with that. Mostly. Yes, it sucks, but what can she do? Then a hot new neighbor shows up and suddenly her magic works. Very cool, but very suspect. Especially since he’s a total non-believer.
Cole Van Zant likes practicality and absolutes. Things he can see and touch. So not magic. But when his teenage daughter insists she’s a witch—and they’re now living in a town that celebrates Halloween every day—he needs help. Of the witchy variety. Thankfully, his sexy neighbor buys into all that hocus pocus.
Enlisting her help seems like a great idea until spending time together reveals a supernatural surprise about who Cole really is. A secret even he didn’t know. Could Pandora and Cole really be meant for one another or is their attraction too much to believe?
THE PROFESSOR WOOS THE WITCH:
Nocturne Falls, Book Four
Copyright © 2015 Kristen Painter
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from the author.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
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Dedicated to all my readers
with endless thanks for being so awesome and keeping me going.
Cole Van Zant’s running shoes pounded the well-maintained sidewalks of his Nocturne Falls neighborhood. Restoring the house he’d just inherited usually gave him plenty of exercise, but tonight, after the blowout with Kaley, he’d needed to run. And think. Things had changed so much so fast.
This was the first September in many years that he wasn’t standing in front of a classroom full of freshmen explaining the intricacies of higher math. Teaching math in some form had been Cole’s life until he’d taken a sabbatical from East State University, but if he was going to restore this house to its maximum resale potential, taking a year off was the only way to do it.
And really, the sale of the house would yield more money than he could ever hope to make teaching for the next few years.
The money that had come with the inheritance of the house was making everything possible, including the temporary move to Nocturne Falls. He’d known he had family in Georgia, but until he’d gotten the news that Ulysses Pilcher, his great-uncle on his mother’s side, had passed and left Cole everything (everything meaning a three-story Victorian-style mansion and a nice chunk of change) Cole hadn’t known this crazy town existed.
The downside was that the chunk of change from the inheritance was probably going to get eaten up making the house saleable.
The upside was that selling the house should net him a decent-size nest egg that’d grow into a huge nest egg for Kaley’s college fund and his retirement years. And seeing as how working construction had been his summer job for more years than he’d been teaching, he could do most of the repairs and restoration himself.
He took the next left, intent on making a wide square around the neighborhood.
Kaley hadn’t wanted to leave North Carolina to come to Georgia, and frankly, Cole hadn’t wanted to bring her with him. He’d already talked to his dad about Kaley staying with him until Cole finished the house, but then she’d Googled the town of Nocturne Falls. After that, her attitude had done a one-eighty, and she’d pitched a bloody fit until he’d agreed to let her come.
He understood that a town where Halloween was celebrated every day must seem like a fun way to live to a kid of thirteen.
He’d explained that moving meant leaving her friends and going to a new school for a year, but she hadn’t cared. Instead, she’d clung to the fact that it was the perfect town for a witch-in-training like herself.
Which was what had started the current and ongoing round of arguments. Cole had stopped trying to explain to his daughter that there were no such things as witches. Sure, there were Wiccans, but
the kinds of witches she was talking about, the kind she saw in movies and on TV, the ones who waved their hands and wiggled their noses and made magic happen. Those did not exist.
Kaley insisted. Cole rebutted her. And so on and so on.
He blamed Lila for that particular issue.
. Just thinking her name made his vision go red around the edges. She was reason enough for a man to never want to be involved with a woman again. Cole concentrated on breathing out when his left foot struck the ground, a technique he’d read about that was supposed to prevent cramping up, and tried to keep his stride easy despite the charge of anger in his system.
Lila hadn’t been in Kaley’s life in a meaningful way for a long time. A once-a-month phone call and the rare, maybe yearly visit didn’t constitute active parenting. But then, Lila wasn’t legally Kaley’s parent anymore. Lila and Cole had been divorced since Kaley was nine, which was when he’d gotten full custody too.
For Lila to just out of the blue drop the kid a letter when she turned thirteen and announce,
You’re a witch now!
—that was so…Lila.
Sweat trickled down his back. It was one thing for Lila to live under the crazy delusion that she was a master of all things hocus-pocus (which she wasn’t), but to make Kaley think it was somehow her birthright? To tell the kid she’d so casually left behind that any day now Kaley should be coming into her powers was just cruel. Especially when she hadn’t bothered to be in Kaley’s life with any kind of consistency for the last six years.
Cole swore between measured breaths. Maybe his ex-wife
a witch. Once upon a time, she’d certainly charmed him into thinking she was sweet and wonderful. That hadn’t lasted long, though. He’d stayed for Kaley.
The same moody, eye-rolling teen who was currently not speaking to him.
He turned the corner and headed home, slowing down to cool off. The house loomed ahead as twilight fell. Even in this light, the paint looked sad through the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the once impressive property. One more thing to add to his list of jobs.
He jogged through the open gate, past the dumpster in the driveway, already half-f with junk from the house, up the steps of the front porch and stopped for a stretch. He’d check in with Kaley, take a hot shower, heat up some leftovers for dinner and then hit the sack. Tomorrow he hoped to tackle the final cleanout of the first floor. Then maybe he could get started on demolishing the kitchen. It would mean they’d have to rely on takeout for a bit, but Kaley had yet to complain about pizza.
Actually, until Lila’s letter, Kaley had never been much of a complainer. Of course, she was just now hitting the dreaded teen years, so maybe that was all about to change. He sighed and went inside. “Kaley? Sweetheart? I’m back.”
No response. Not that he really expected one. She was probably in her room, earbuds firmly tucked in, tablet on her lap and open to yet another online witch wannabe forum. He sprinted up the steps and knocked at her door. It swung open.
He stuck his head in. “Kaley, I—” She wasn’t in her room.
He walked into his room at the end of the hall and looked out the rear windows into the thicket that was the backyard. Not there either, that he could see. Maybe she was on the back porch. Downstairs he went. Back porch was empty.
A small thread of alarm unraveled in his brain. She had to be in the house. He opened the basement door. A wave of mustiness rose up to greet him. He wrinkled his nose. It was dark and damp and packed to the rafters with boxes of whatever his great-uncle had decided had value. No way she was down there. Not in the dark. “Kaley?”
He got the answer he’d been expecting. Silence.
He ran up the steps and checked all the rooms on the second floor. She was probably taking a shower. But the shower wasn’t running. And she wasn’t in any of the other rooms, which were as filled with stuff as the basement.
That left the attic. It was a big space. The whole third floor. They’d been up there once when they’d first arrived. It had junk in it too, but not nearly as much as the other floors, and unlike in the rest of the house, the junk up there was organized. Also slightly creepy. They’d found a box of animal bones on a shelf next to rows and rows of old glass jars, some empty, some not.
He took a breath. For a girl who fancied herself a witch-in-training, that would probably be the perfect place to retreat from her less-than-understanding father. He snorted softly and went up the last flight of steps.
But his search came to an end when he opened the attic door. The light was off. He highly doubted Kaley would be up here in the dark. He flipped the switch, and the bare overhead bulbs flickered on. The attic was empty.
Kaley was gone.
Pandora Williams dropped her purse and her briefcase on the table by the front door, kicked her shoes off, grabbed her chubby cat, Pumpkin, and headed for the bedroom to change. She gave Pumpkin’s pudgy belly a squeeze. “How was your day, sweetums? A lot more relaxed than mine, I’m guessing.”
She plopped the purring cat onto the bed and opened a drawer to retrieve her at-home clothes: gym shorts and a tank top. She had stacks of each because they were the best way she knew to stay comfy and beat the Georgia heat, which lingered, even in September.
She shucked her pantsuit and changed with a satisfied sigh. It had been a
day. Busy, which was good, always good, but she was beat. Two closings, a brand new listing and a showing. Being Nocturne Falls’ most popular real estate agent had its perks, but kept her moving too. She grabbed the first ponytail elastic she saw and knotted her hair on top of her head. Being a witch? That just gave her a little edge. She understood her supernatural customers much better than any human realtor could.