Many Blessings, page 1
Coffeeshop Coven 1
Mandaline Royce swore off love. She’s happy working for her best friend, Julie, at her New Age shop, Many Blessings. Then her life’s turned upside down by Julie’s tragic death. Julie leaves her everything, including the shop and her dog, but the gaping hole in Mandaline’s heart isn’t one she’s sure will ever heal.
Ellis Fargo and Bradley Sawyer are as close as brothers. Ellis feels his life’s mission is caring for Brad, a veteran who suffered debilitating injuries. Brad insists their house is haunted. Ellis doesn’t believe in ghosts and thinks the trouble is Brad’s injured brain. He humors Brad by having Mandaline check the house for supernatural issues.
Ellis doesn’t understand the sudden, scorching attraction he has for Mandaline, but he can’t settle for anyone who won’t also put Brad first. Brad thinks Mandaline would be the perfect woman…for them both. Can they help each other heal and turn their various emotional wounds into Many Blessings?
Genre: Contemporary, Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Paranormal
Length: 112,288 words
Coffeeshop Coven 1
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Everlasting
Copyright © 2013 by Tymber Dalton
E-book ISBN: 978-1-62242-934-9
First E-book Publication: May 2013
Cover design by Les Byerley
All art and logo copyright © 2013 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Siren Publishing, Inc.
Letter to Readers
If you have purchased this copy of Many Blessings by Tymber Dalton from BookStrand.com or its official distributors, thank you. Also, thank you for not sharing your copy of this book.
Regarding E-book Piracy
This book is copyrighted intellectual property. No other individual or group has resale rights, auction rights, membership rights, sharing rights, or any kind of rights to sell or to give away a copy of this book.
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To all my friends and loved ones, on both two feet and four, who’ve moved on to the Summerland. Namaste.
Characters are funny things. We authors often talk about the “voices” and how we can’t control them. I envy the “plotters” who can perfectly script how and where a book is going. I’m a pantster, which means I’m frequently at the mercy of my characters. The “voices.”
Having explained all of that, if you want to read the backstory of what happened at the Corey house and the events that led up to, and overlap, where the prologue of this tale begins, please pick up my book Out of the Darkness from Siren-BookStrand. (Matt and Sami also appear in Red Tide.) I wrote Out of the Darkness several years back, and it was an EPIC winner in 2010. But not too long ago, I had several characters pop into existence and insist there was more of a story to tell. It’s not necessary to read that book first to enjoy this one, but you will have a far deeper understanding of the other side of the events leading up to the series if you do.
This is book one in my Coffeeshop Coven series. It centers around the New Age store, Many Blessings, and the people who…eh, haunt it on a regular basis.
Also, there is an official prequel to the Coffeeshop Coven, It’s a Sweet Life. It’s also not necessary to read that book before reading this one, but Libbie and her guys demanded their own story, so I thought I’d add them to the series so they would shut up and quit distracting me.
The town of Brooksville, Florida, really exists, as does the Croom Motorcycle Area of the Withlacoochee State Park. The mining pits and gravestone in the park also exist, although I’ve taken literary license with the history, the house, and other landmarks. I used to live inside the park, on five of the ten acres the Coreys resided upon. While my descriptions of the park don’t match the current details (the main road is now paved, among others) anyone familiar with the park for a number of years might find themselves traveling down memory lane.
Coffeeshop Coven 1
Copyright © 2013
Mandaline Royce frowned as she stared at the image the Weather Channel displayed. On the screen, a large, pre-hurricane-season blob inexorably chugged its way toward the west Florida coast late that Wednesday afternoon. It would likely be named Tropical Storm Adelle within the next twenty-four hours.
“What the frak is going on with the weather?” Mandaline asked. “Doesn’t Nature know it’s not even June first yet? It’s way too early for a tropical storm.”
“You’re just bound and determined to manifest that dang thing right over us, aren’t you?” Julie playfully teased from the front windows. Both Mandaline’s friend and employer, she was currently emptying the displays of merchandise.
Mandaline twirled a long, brown lock of hair around her finger. “And you’re not? You’re clearing out the front displays.”
“That’s prudence. So is rolling down the storm shutters.” She turned and pointed to Mandaline. “Look, it’s nearly three. I seriously doubt we’re going to have any more customers in here today the way the weather’s looking. Get your butt home, pack, and get yourself and Damien back here ASAP.”
“Damien is a better name for that evil pussy,” Julie joked as she pulled her wild, curly red hair into a ponytail and twisted an elastic band around it. “Doesn’t matter. You two are staying here with me during the storm and not in that ratty trailer.”
Mandaline picked up the remote and changed the cable channel to a light jazz music station. “It’s not going to be that bad. Tha
Julie filled her arms with merchandise she pulled from the window displays and carried it over to the counter. “Bullshit.” She put the stuff down. “I need you here so I don’t have to worry about your safety. This building’s old, but it’s sturdy. I’m going to be over at the Coreys’ house tomorrow in Croom for most of the day anyway. I’d feel better with you here.”
Mandaline shivered. “I reeeeally wish you’d cancel that. Do it next week once the weather clears. And take someone with you. Like Sachi and her skeet gun.”
Julie’s expression softened. “They need me. I have to help. You know I can’t turn my back on them.”
“That house is bad juju, girlfriend.” Mandaline shivered again and rubbed her hands up and down her arms in a futile attempt to soothe the gooseflesh rippling them. “They should burn it down to the foundation, salt the ground, and deed it over to the state to make it part of the park.”
“Things can’t be evil. Energy can be dark, yes. But things can be cleansed of dark energy. You know that as well as I do.” She brightly smiled. “Besides, I really like Sami Corey. She’s a sweet woman. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of her in here once she gets through everything…”
Mandaline didn’t miss the way Julie’s voice faltered, the way her smile faded. Mandaline quickly rounded the counter and put her hands on Julie’s shoulders. “What is it? What’d you see?”
“Nothing.” Julie shook her head and pasted a fake smile on her face that didn’t fool Mandaline in the least. “The weather’s getting to me, that’s all. You know I hate these storm systems.”
Mandaline searched Julie’s eyes. “You saw something. Don’t lie to a witch, girlfriend.”
“Yeah, I saw your ass being blown away if you don’t spend tomorrow here.” From the force of Julie’s smile, Mandaline knew her friend wouldn’t reveal what she saw. “You lose power during a little sunshower. Your power will be out for days even if the trailer doesn’t fly away to Oz with you and Damien in it. Take that large cooler I’ve got in the back and unload your freezer and fridge into it. Bring it all here. We can put everything in the fridge in the break room.”
“Your power will probably go out, too.”
“Ah, but remember, I’ve got that backup generator now. And the propane tank for it is slap full, so we’ll be fine. I had them come top it off yesterday.” She headed back to the front windows for another armload. “Go on. Seriously. Chop-chop, kiddo.”
Mandaline sighed as she watched Julie. Her friend had seen something, had one of her uncannily accurate visions. Mandaline suspected something related to that damn Croom house.
She also knew her stubborn friend wouldn’t say what until she was ready. “Fine. I’ll go pack.”
* * * *
Julie waited until Mandaline left to flip the sign to Closed on the front door and sit down at her desk, where the shakes finally hit her. Persnickety, her shaggy little terrier mix, jumped up into her lap and whined.
Julie felt the tears in her eyes and brushed them away with the back of her hand. “I have to,” she whispered to the dog. “I have to help them. If I don’t help them, they’ll die. All three of them, tomorrow. George Simpson is coming through strong and using the storm’s energy to grow stronger. They have a chance if I go help.”
The little dog’s brown eyes stared up at her as if in agreement.
Julie hugged him close and breathed in the warmth from his body. “The future isn’t written until it’s the past,” she whispered into his fur. “I have to help them. May the Goddess help me write them a better past than what I saw.”
Still, she couldn’t shake the image that had invaded her mind. Of a woman, Evelyn Simpson, tied to her bed and being raped by her husband, George Simpson.
A vision of an event that had happened nearly a hundred years earlier.
An unrecorded, unreported crime, but one that Julie knew to the depths of her soul had occurred in that house exactly as she’d seen it.
Something that occurred before George murdered Evelyn and their children. A mystery that had lingered in the county’s history.
Something that could happen again if she didn’t stop it and rid George Simpson’s dark energy from that house—and from Sami’s husband, Steven Corey—for good.
* * * *
A little after nine fifteen Thursday morning, Julie finished loading all her equipment in her kiwi green Honda Element.
“At least let me come with,” Mandaline begged as she watched. “Don’t go out there alone.”
Julie picked up Pers and hugged him tightly to her before kissing the top of his head. “No, I need you here.” She handed the trembling dog to her. “He hates storms.”
“He’ll live. I—”
Julie held up her hands. “Please, I know what I’m doing.” She hugged Mandaline, the little dog sandwiched between them. “I love you, sister. Take care of things for me. Promise?”
Every instinct in Mandaline’s body screamed how wrong this was, what a bad idea it was. But all she could do was nod. “Okay,” she whispered. “I promise. I love you, too, sister.”
Julie kissed her cheek before stepping back. She cupped the dog’s head in her palms and kissed his nose. “And take care of Pers for me. He’s my baby.”
“I will. I promise.”
“Everything’s going to be fine,” Julie assured her. “I’ll be back later tonight. Then we can crack open a bottle of wine and chillax. Matt Barry and Sami Corey are sweethearts. You’re really going to like them.”
“It’s not them I’m worried about, from what you’ve told me.”
“I haven’t met Steve in person yet. From what Sami’s said, he’s a troubled man, but he has a good heart. What kind of person would I be to turn my back and spit in the face of the Goddess and the good fortune She’s given me all these years? That house is my history, too.”
“You can’t save your great-grandfather, or your grandaunt,” Mandaline quietly said. “They went on to the Summerland a long, long time ago. That’s not your burden to bear.”
“No, I can’t. But if I help them today, maybe I can keep someone else’s ancestors from taking the journey too soon.”
With one final hug and kiss for Mandaline, and one final hug and kiss for Pers, she climbed into her Element and drove off with a wave.
Mandaline closed her eyes and turned her face up to the overcast skies. Astarte, Hecate, Nokomis, Cerridwen, Nodens, please protect her and bring her safely home. So mote it be.
With a shiver in the growing breeze, she returned inside and bolted the back door behind her.
* * * *
Julie waited until the first red light she hit to pull the large, bulky, sealed manila envelope from her purse and tuck it in the space between her front seats where it would be easily visible. On it she’d written Mandaline’s name and cell phone number, along with the store’s name, address, and phone number.
If her visions were wrong and she didn’t need what she’d prepared, no one need be any wiser. She could tear up the forms and documents she’d had witnessed and notarized late yesterday at her bank across the square while Mandaline had gone home to pick up her things from the trailer.
If her visions were right…
She sighed and prayed to the Goddess they weren’t, that the future remained unwritten.
* * * *
Julie had told Mandaline to keep the store closed, but to feel free to answer the phone if she wanted. Julie had already called the other employees and gave them a paid day off because of the storm. And Julie had called the clients scheduled for readings that day and cancelled them as well. As the morning crept on, Mandaline kept one eye on the Weather Channel and their nonstop coverage of the tropical event, and one eye on the clock.
She tried to keep herself busy. Pers followed her around the store, never more than a few feet from her as Mandaline dusted, rearranged displays that did
That still didn’t settle her.
She went upstairs to the apartment where, the evening before, Julie had her dump all her things in the corner of the living room. She pulled out the box with her personal candles. When Mandaline had packed, she’d hurriedly scooped everything off her altar into boxes, and grabbed her herbs and other ceremonial items, along with pictures, photo albums, her Tarot decks, and a few books.
She’d only packed a few changes of clothes. She didn’t care about them. Only the things she couldn’t replace came with.
She rummaged through her things until she found everything she needed. Downstairs, with her cat curled on the end of a couch in the front of the store and Pers sitting at her feet, she lit several candles and some incense, cast a circle, and called the quarters. With her eyes closed and her hands upraised, working from her heart she poured her prayers out to bring Julie home safely.
Lightning flashed, immediately followed by a loud boom that made her and both animals jump. The lights flickered briefly but didn’t go out.
“Thank you!” She smiled, taking it as a good sign from the Universe. She closed her ritual, opened the circle, and set out to keep herself distracted.
If it wasn’t for the growing wind, she’d change clothes and go outside and dance in the rain. Her chosen alignment was water, even though she did most of her rituals with candles.
TYMBER DALTON SERIES:
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