Friday, August 12, 2011

Hard at Work

Hope y'all are enjoying the last free days of summer!  Speaking of which, here's a sneak peek at Seasons of Magick: Summer!

Chapter 1

Jamal Washington watched the crowd milling in front of the Wong's restaurant across the street. Most of the kids he recognized from the neighborhood or high school. Most of them were trouble only when teachers and parents weren’t looking. Most of them were friends of Mark Li’s.

He looked over his shoulder. “We should call the cops, Rain.”

At the ancient wood counter, Rain Bean looked up from her paperwork. Her eyes narrowed when she caught sight of the mob. “What’s going on over there?”

Jamal blinked in surprise. The owner of Morrigan’s Cauldron was usually plugged into the Greenwich Village gossip network. “You didn’t hear?”

She turned her sharp gaze on him.

He shrugged. “Shan’s ex-boyfriend Mark hung himself last night.”

A silver eyebrow arched. “Really?”

He didn’t say anything. No reason to since Rain’s freaky ESP probably already knew he was involved. Sort of.

Her silver eyebrows knitted a frown. “Did you tie the knot on the rope?”

His eyes widened. “Shit, no!”

A wicked smile lit her face. “Then quit feeling guilty. Mark Li was a bully and a—”

Someone banged on the delivery door of the store. Rain inclined her head toward the back. “Go let Shan in.” She resumed staring at the crowd.

A thread of unease wiggled its way up his spine. It wasn’t that Rain knew things. He’d learned from the time he could walk that he couldn’t get away with anything around her. No, it was the anger sparking in Rain’s eyes. It took a lot to piss off the old woman.

Shan had begged him not to tell anyone about what Mark did to her. And he hadn’t. At least, not to anyone who didn’t already know. He had the sinking feeling Rain had just pulled the truth from his brain.

Jamal jogged to the back door and yanked it open. A gust of hot air boiled into the already stifling storage room. Shan stood there, shivering despite the late July temperatures. He squelched the urge to wrap his arm around her.

She gave him a tentative smile. “I was supposed to work today. My grandmother called while I was still on the bus and said to come here instead.”

He waved her in, not trusting his tongue. Damn, she looked fine despite the red rimming her amber eyes.

Anger seeped through his blood at the sight of her puffy skin and forced words into his mouth. “Please tell me you’re not crying for that asshat.”

She shook her head. The motion sent her high ponytail swinging. Glossy, black hair he wanted to run his fingers through.

Her throat bobbed. “Mark’s parents called mine. They said some awful things. Said it was my fault.”

God, how he wanted to hug her. Sooth away her pain. She was too beautiful, too sweet for this kind of shit. “It’s not.”

She jumped at the sharpness in his voice.

More rage poured through his nerves. The bastard had definitely done a number on Shan. “Look, you did the right thing breaking up with him. I still think you should have pressed charges.”

She glanced around, obviously checking for the older members of the staff. “He left a message on my voice mail last night. He said he’d get us both. What did you do, Jamal?” Her voice was little more than a hoarse whisper.

He suppressed a snort of disgust. Like the asshat could do anything if he were lying in the city morgue. “Nothing that I shouldn’t have done a long time ago.” Just the memory of Li standing over Shan in the band room drew a circle of rage around his heart.

But he wasn’t stupid enough to land his own butt in jail. Of course, his growth spurt the last year of high school helped. Mark wasn’t such a cocky little fucker when someone towered a good six inches over the bastard.

The look in her eyes became suspicious.

He raised his hands. “I swear, Shan. I didn’t touch him. All I did was tell him to leave you alone.”

The wary expression on her face didn’t go away, but she didn’t press things between them. “What’s going on at the restaurant?”

Again, he shrugged. “Just some of Mark’s toadies trying to cause trouble.”

Shan pushed past him and marched toward the storefront.

Jamal followed, admiring the swing of her hips under her shorts. Pink looked good on her. Always had. Ever since kindergarten.

When they entered the showroom, Rain stood before the huge plate window, peering past the gold lettering that spelled out the name of her store. Her lips moved, but she didn’t say anything.

Anticipation raced along his nerves. He know that look on Rain's face, had seen the same look on his mom's. He didn’t have to wait long. Across the street, the joints on the fire hydrant at the corner cracked. The teens gathered in front of the restaurant stared at it. He imagined the groan of metal on metal freaked them out as much as the bolts on the hydrant twisting without help. Then water exploded from the fixture.

The high-pressure spray nailed Bill Mailer in the face. He stumbled back and tripped over his girlfriend. They both toppled to the concrete sidewalk. The blast of water followed, dousing the rest of the group. Kids scrambled out of the way, but water arched from the top of the hydrant. Shouts and cries filled the street as they tried to evade the steady gush.

Jamal snickered. Served them right for trying to intimidate the Wongs, and Shan in particular. His humor died when he realized where the gush from the hydrant guided the group. They made a beeline for Morrigan's Cauldron. “Rain?”

The water from the hydrant faltered, then sputtered to a stop. Rain blinked. She turned and smiled. “It’ll be all right.”

While he respected the old woman’s peculiar abilities, they were outnumbered. The last thing he wanted was to see these idiots trash her store. He leaned close to Shan and tried to ignore the sweet scent of jasmine in her hair. “Got your cell?”

She nodded in response to his whisper, but her attention remained on the crowd as they crossed the street.

“Get in the back and call 9-1-1.”

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