Magic by moonlight, p.1

Magic by Moonlight, page 1

 

Magic by Moonlight
 


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Magic by Moonlight


  Originally Titled Musketeer By Moonlight

  Copyright 1997 by Margaret Benson

  Smashwords Edition Copyright 2011by Maggie Shayne

  http://www.MaggieShayne.com

  E-book and Cover Formatted by Jessica Lewis

  http://authorslifesaver.com

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Epilogue

  Miranda’s Viking

  Also Available on Smashwords:

  SHAYNE’S SUPERNATURALS is a collection of novels and novellas that took romance into unknown realms before “paranormal romance” was even a genre. Experience breathless passion, heart-stopping thrills, and the truest magic of all, the magic of love, with NY Times bestselling, RITA® Award winning author Maggie Shayne.

  Chapter One

  It was Halloween, and she was a prisoner in her own office. Hell, what made her think she could get the goods on an organized crime boss, anyway? She was getting a swollen head. Believing her own press. M. C. Hammer, big-city private eye. Right. The truth was that she couldn’t remember a time when she’d felt more like plain old Mary Catherine Hammersmith, small-town girl.

  She paced the office, pausing to glance through the smeared window at the street below. No colors down there. It was as if Newark had gone black-and-white and shades of gray—as dismal as the sky above it. The wind blew bits of paper and clouds of dirt over the pavement. The dark sedan was still parked out there. If M. C. tried to leave, its driver would follow. If she went to the safe deposit box where she’d stashed the tape, he’d get her when she came out. If she went home... she shivered. The thought of that dark stairway up to her lonely apartment was not appealing. They could grab her there just as easily. She wasn’t even sure it was safe to get into her car. One twist of the key might make a hell of a noise and litter the streets with bits of a certain lady detective she’d grown kind of fond of.

  Hell.

  The phone rang. She snatched it up. “M. C. Hammer Investigations.”

  “Ms. Hammer?”

  “This is her secretary.” She said it automatically. Made her sound bigger than she was. Besides, the woman on the other end could be anyone. One of the bad guys, maybe.

  “I need to speak to Ms. Hammer,” the woman said. “I’m in trouble; I need help.”

  “Join the club.”

  “Excuse me?”

  She calmed her voice. “Sorry. Ms. Hammer’s out of town indefinitely. Look, try Ace Investigations over on Fourth and Main. They’re good—they’ll help you out.”

  The caller rung off without saying good-bye. M. C. felt bad. They always called, and they always needed help. Up to now, she’d been pretty good at providing it. She’d earned a reputation in the city. They called her a tough cookie, the working woman’s hero, that sort of thing.

  Right about now, she thought she could use a hero of her own. But she’d been too busy playing hero to bother looking for one. She’d never expected to face a situation she couldn’t handle. She was facing one now, one she’d stumbled into unintentionally. She was only supposed to get the goods on Guido de Rocci’s illicit affairs, so his wife could get a decent divorce settlement out of him. Instead she’d wound up with a tape of a phone call ordering a gangland hit, one that left no doubt who was in charge. Guido himself. And stupidly, she’d told the wife. Sylvia de Rocci went soft, and ratted her out to Guido. Seemed she got all mushy inside to learn her hubby wasn’t cheating on her after all. No, he was just running the mob and killing people. What a sweetheart. So now Syl and Guido were a pair of happy lovebirds, and Mary Catherine was a sitting duck with a half dozen hit men standing between her and the tape.

  She could call the cops—but her phone was probably bugged, and she’d be dead before they ever got here. Besides, everyone knew the mob had a few cops in its pocket. How could she be sure the cops who showed up wouldn’t be on de Roccis payroll?

  She wandered to the window again. A bus pulled up at the stop, right in front of the entrance to Sal’s Bar downstairs. People got off. People got on. An idea took form.

  The slug in the sedan was watching her front entrance, and her car. But no one could see what she did inside the office. She could take the stairs down to her own front door, but instead of going out, slip through that side door that led from the entry hall into Sal’s place. Maybe slide out the bar’s entrance instead of her own private one, and onto the next bus before anyone was the wiser.

  “Sounds like a plan to me,” she muttered. She did a quick scan of the closet. It often came in handy to have a change of clothes or two at the office. Quickly, she shed the skirt and heels she’d worn this morning and replaced them with jeans and sneakers. A leather jacket instead of the tailored blazer. A baseball cap to hide the telltale riot of dark curls she fondly referred to as a black rat’s nest. A pair of John Lennonish sunglasses.

  Glancing in the mirror, she thought she could pass for a guy. A scrawny guy, but a guy. The purse would give her away though. She emptied it, filling her pockets with the essentials, including her .38 special. Great. This was it then. There would be another bus shortly. They were in and out at this stop all day. Usually drove her nuts. Not today, though.

  She took her time, moved slowly into the hall, saw no one, took the inside stairs down to the landing, and tapped on the door that led into the bar. No one ever used it, and it was locked as usual. But Sal opened it in a second, and she sauntered in like she belonged there as he gaped at her. When Sal gaped his double chin turned triple.

  “Is that you, Mary Ca—”

  She stomped on his foot and he shut up. “I’m not here,” she told him. “You never saw me. I mean it, Sal.”

  Sal’s silver eyebrows bunched up and he wiped his hands on his bulging white apron. “You in trouble, kid?”

  “You could call it that.”

  “What can I do?”

  “Gimme a stiff drink, and pretend you don’t know me from Adam.”

  He shook his head, but nodded toward a vacant stool and reached for a shot glass. As he poured, he muttered, “One good man is all you need.”

  “So you keep telling me.” She took the stool and then the drink, sipped it as she eyed the patrons in search of goons.

  “If you had yourself a husband you wouldn’t be in this mess.”

  “How do you figure that?” No goons in sight. She turned back to Sal, downed the whiskey, and set the glass on the hardwood.

  “You’d be home takin’ care of him, instead of out playing cop-for-hire.”

  “Woman’s place is in the kitchen, right, Sal?”

  “Worked for a hundred years, kid.”

  “Well, not for me. I’ve never needed a man around cluttering things up, and I don’t plan to start now. Never met one worth the trouble anyway.” She heard the squeal of air brakes and twisted her head. “That’s my bus. Gotta go.”

  “Where to?”

  She worked up a grin for him, though her heart was in her throat. “I could tell you, Sal, but then I’d have to kill you. Later.” And she hopped off the stool and hurried to the bar’s
front entrance. The bus blocked her from the view of the goon across the street, and she joined a handful of others waiting to climb aboard. But she didn’t breathe again until she was in her seat, and headed out of town.

  *

  The bus was headed to Hoboken, but since she didn’t know a soul there, she got off at the terminal and caught one heading in the other direction. There was really only one place for her to go now. Her parents’ place in Princeton was out of the question. First place those thugs would check. Nope, there was little choice. She had to go to Aunt Kate’s house of horrors. That’s what she’d called it as a kid. A gothic mausoleum way out in the sticks. They’d never track her there. Aunt Kate was an outcast, black sheep of the family. Mostly because she refused to go Christian, and kept up the traditions of the best-forgotten branch of the Hammersmith clan. Witchcraft, to put a name to it. She had an old spell book that had been in the family for more generations than anyone could count. Mary Catherine had seen it once. Dusty and faded, with a padded cloth cover that was threadbare with age.

  Briefly she wondered if one of Aunt Kate’s spells could help her out of this mess. But then she chased the silly thought away. All that she needed was time and clear thinking. A way to get to that tape, and get it safely to the cops without getting her head blown off. She wouldn’t be safe until she did. Even if she turned it over to Guido, he’d figure she knew too much to risk letting her live. She knew the way thugs like him thought.

  Aunt Kate’s then. She shivered at the thought. It was All Hallows eve, and she’d be spending it in that spook-house sideshow. She shook away the chill that danced up her nape, and tried to relax on the long bus ride to Craven Falls in upstate New York.

  *

  “Hello, Aunt Kate.”

  Kate Hammersmith stood inside the arched, stained glass door and blinked slowly. She wore a long black dress with shiny moons and stars all over it. Homemade. Probably sewn together with spider webs, Mary Catherine thought glumly. Her hair was long and still dark, cut to frame her face. It made her look far younger than she was. She wore a necklace with a hunk of quartz on the end that must have weighed five pounds, minimum. “You could poke your eye out with that thing,” Mary Catherine observed, just for something to say.

  “You sound like your mother. What are you doing here, M. C?”

  “Aren’t you even going to invite me in?”

  Kate lifted one brow, then stepped aside and let Mary Catherine in. The place hadn’t changed much. Muted lighting, nothing glaring or bright. Antique furniture. M. C. was no expert on guessing what period this stuff was from, but everything seemed to have clawed feet and satin. The place reeked of incense and the hot waxy aroma of recently snuffed candles.

  “Well?” Kate asked, leaning back and crossing her arms over her chest.

  M. C. licked her lips. “Well. I need a place to stay for a few days.”

  Kate’s eyes narrowed and she suddenly looked way less irritated at the unannounced visit. “Are you in some kind of danger?”

  “Nothing I can’t handle. I just need to hang out until things cool down.”

  “Left in a hurry, did you?” Kate eyed her when she lifted her brows. “No luggage,” she explained.

  M. C. shrugged. “You look like you were on your way out. I didn’t mean to mess up your... er ... plans.” It was Halloween. Probably crazy Kate’s biggest night of the year.

  Kate tilted her head. “Samhain is important, dear, but not as important as your safety. I’ll stay—”

  “No way, Aunt Kate. I’m fine. Honest. Not a soul in the world knows I’m here. You go on. I’ll curl up on the couch and watch some TV. Maybe thumb through that old book of yours and look for spells to turn bad guys into toads. You, uh...still have it, don’t you?” As she said it her gaze strayed to the table in the corner where the dusty tome lay open.

  Kate touched her shoulder, drawing her gaze back again. “The grimoire is not a toy, Mary Catherine. The spells are powerful, particularly tonight. An amateur could cause a complete disaster by making some simple mistake—particularly if she were a neophyte with as much Pagan blood in her as you have.”

  A little tingle danced up Mary Catherine’s spine, but she only smiled at her aunt. “I was just kidding. Don’t have a cow, okay?”

  Kate studied her, her eyes probing, then shook her head, making her dangling earrings—all six pairs—jangle like bells. “If you want a spell of protection, darling, just ask. I’ll take care of it for you.”

  “You know I don’t believe in that stuff,” M. C. said, her gaze straying to the book again.

  Aunt Kate sighed. “You’re sure you’ll be okay alone?”

  “Sure. You go on. I’ll be fine. Really.”

  Looking worried, Aunt Kate nodded and turned toward the door.

  “Hey,” M. C. called. “Aren’t you forgetting your broom?”

  Kate glared, but when M. C. sent her a wink, she smiled instead, waved good night, and left her alone.

  M. C. wandered the living room, flicked on the TV, searched the channels. An old black-and-white version of The Three Musketeers was playing, and she watched that for a while, but her gaze kept straying back to the dusty book on the table. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to just peek?

  No. She’d promised Aunt Kate.

  Glancing back at the screen, she shook her head in disgust. How could any man hope to hold his own in a fight with those silly ruffles hanging from his sleeves? And those hats! For crying out loud, were they supposed to look heroic with puffy plumes jutting out of their hats? She decided the Musketeers must have all been closet drag queens, and further judged she’d far rather have her .38 in hand during a crisis than one of those fragile-looking swords that seemed like they’d break in a strong wind.

  Despite the ridiculousness of the film, though, she felt her heart twist a little when D’Artagnan leapt between his lady fair and the evil villain, vowing to protect her with his life.

  Too bad heroes like that weren’t around these days. She wouldn’t even mind the stupid hat.

  The book called to her again, and this time Mary Catherine got up and wandered over to it. She reached out to touch it, drew her hand away, then reached out again and gently flipped some pages. And she paused when she read, “Spell of Protection.” The thing looked pretty simple. You were supposed to be in a spot where the light of the moon fell on you, during its first quarter. Light a white candle. Envision the protection in whatever way worked for you—a bubble of white light or a strong stone wall around your body were given as examples. Then, keeping that thought in mind, you just repeated the invocation written on the page.

  Hmm.

  Mary Catherine glanced sideways at the tall window, and saw a thin beam of moonlight peeking between the heavy velvet curtains. Hmm. She meandered over there and opened the curtains, and sure enough the moonlight flooded the room. It wasn’t a quarter moon. But wouldn’t a full moon be even better?

  If you believed in any of this nonsense to begin with, which she did not.

  She casually walked back to the table, where the moonlight spilled brightly over her and the book. Two candles sat there, one on either side of her aunt’s precious old grimoire. One was pink and one was red. No white ones in sight. But a candle was a candle, right? And a long wooden match was laid there just begging to be lit. What the hell.

  She struck the match and lit it, touching its flame to both candles because, hey, two candles were better than one.

  She grinned. This was kind of a fun way to spend Halloween.

  Okay, next steps: envision protection, and say the chant. She tried to imagine a bubble of white light surrounding her, and then tried picturing a bulletproof wall. But her mind kept straying back to that scene in the movie, where the Musketeer had vowed to protect his lady with his life. Cornball bunch of crap.

  She read the words on the page, and heard the clock singing backup to her chant by striking midnight.

  Without warning, something exploded and a ball of smoke e
nveloped her. Coughing, she waved it away, and suddenly she had the distinct feeling that she wasn’t alone in the room anymore.

  Chapter Two

  Alexandre sat up and rubbed his head, eyes closed tightly. He wasn’t certain what had happened. He’d been in the midst of a minor skirmish, setting to rights an insult to the king of France, when he’d heard a lady calling to him from afar. Fair damsels in need of aid were nothing new to Alexandre. He was sworn to protect the king, of course, but there were plenty of Musketeers available to the king at all times. Alexandre often got sidetracked protecting ladies in distress. He didn’t mind the task at all, especially considering the delicious ways the fair maids often expressed their gratitude. He must have been clubbed on the head while distracted by the odd cadence of this particular lady’s voice.

  At any rate, he heard nothing of his enemies now, and imagined they’d fled, as his opponents often did before he’d finished with them. Clutching his rapier in one hand and righting his chapeau with the other, he got to his feet and peered through the odd smoke that surrounded him.

  And then he went still and blinked in shock. He was no longer in the Provençal village where he’d faced off against the three ruffians only moments ago. He was inside a chateau, and staring into the very wide and frightened eyes of a beautiful—if oddly dressed—young woman.

  He gave his head a shake and looked again. She was still there. Frightened as if she were looking at a ghost. Her eyes gleamed like dark sapphires in the moonlight, and her hair was a delightful mass of raven curls he imagined would feel like silk twined round his fingers. Never mind the odd clothing, or the odd feeling in his head. A beautiful woman like this one certainly took precedence over such trivial worries.

  “Bonjour, mademoiselle,” he whispered, quickly removing his chapeau with a flourish and bowing deeply. Sheathing his sword, he gripped her small hand and drew it to his lips. Ah, warm salty skin, and a telltale tremble. She liked him already.

 
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