This is the last sample before Magick and Murder's release on Friday.
Standing in canned fruits and vegetables aisle at the IGA, Kaley checked her list again and made a face. “Now where the heck is the cranberry sauce?”
“End cap.” River Martin pointed to the other end of the aisle. “All the canned pumpkin is down there, too.”
It was kind of weird shopping with him like they were a couple. Which they weren’t. At least, not officially though Donny and Mandy Jenkins teased her about it. Kaley consulted the list. “Then, we need green beans, fried onions, and mushrooms.”
“Whole, cut, or French-style?” he asked.
“Whole. Six cans.” She grabbed two canisters of the crunchy fried onions.
“Pieces or slices?”
“Slices. 2 small cans or one large.”
River paused with the large can in his hand. “What do these go in?”
“The green bean casserole, silly.”
He frowned. “No one I know puts mushrooms in green bean casserole.”
“They use cream of mushroom soup, don’t they?”
“Your people dance around mushrooms. That’s the reason they’re called fairy circles.” She waved her hand nonchalantly.
He shook his head and made a face at her. “That’s so racist.”
She cocked her head. “How?”
“Do you make jokes about Donny Fryer peeing on hydrants? Do you make cracks about Carmen Alonzo driving a taco truck?”
“Oh.” Kaley winced. “I didn’t think about it that way. I’m really sorry.”
“Not to mention fairy is right up there with the n-word.” River made a slashing motion with his hand. “That’s a good way to find yourself at the pointy end of a sword.”
“The pointy end of a sword?” She grinned.
Red flooded his face and ears, which were decidedly round like his Normal mom’s were.
“You know what I mean,” he said.
“Do tell.” She giggled.
River ignored her comment and tugged on the basket end of their shopping cart. “What’s next on the list?”
“Nice try in changing the subject.” But she consulted her list. “We also need raisins for the mincemeat pie.”
River made a face. “Mincemeat?”
Kaley rolled her eyes as they walked to the end of the aisle where the dried fruit was. “Dad loves it, and Mom made a point of asking Grandma Wilson for the recipe before she passed away. Personally, I’m not a big fan of meaty and sweetie in the same dish.”
“So no pineapple with your ham?” He grabbed a bag of the store-brand raisins.
“That’s the one exception,” she muttered.
Her phone buzzed, and she pulled it out of her jeans pocket. A sick feeling ran through her as she read Kirsten’s message. A ton of curse words ran through her mind. She whirled around, examining each face. Where would the next threat come from?
“Hey.” River grabbed her arm. “What happened?”
She couldn’t say a word past the lump of fear in her throat. She’d never been afraid of people in her hometown.
Not before today.
River gently cupped her right hand and raised it so he could see her phone screen. His eyes narrowed, and his lips thinned.
“Let’s get your mom’s groceries,” he said softly. “That’ll be one thing off her mind. And Grandma and I will definitely be at your house on Thursday.”
Kaley swallowed hard and nodded. “She’s bringing the sweet potatoes, right?”
He grinned. “With lots of marshmallow fluff.”
“Fluff? No mini-marshmallows?”
“Trust me, you like this better. More marshmallow to potato flavor.”
“All right.” She nodded again.
River released her hand, and she found herself missing his touch. She shoved her phone back in her jeans pocket and snatched up Mom’s list to cover her discomfiture. “Let’s grab the cranberry sauce and pumpkin before heading to the dairy section.”
They raced as quickly as they could around the other shoppers and collected the remainder of Mom’s grocery list. Except when they reached the check-out lanes, other shoppers stared at her. However, it wasn’t the usual friendly faces of people recognizing one of the senior cheerleaders from her letterman jacket.
The elderly woman in line in front of Kaley gave her an odd look before she crossed herself. Now, what was that all about? Kaley frowned It wasn’t like she was wearing pentacles, and there was no way the woman could know about her steel triquetra key chain. The elderly woman slammed the divider down after her items and glared at Kaley as if daring her to move it.
She swallowed her unease. They just needed to get the groceries rung up and paid for so they could get the heck out of the grocery store. She and River unloaded items of the cart onto the conveyor belt.
Thankfully, they were in Shannon Murphy’s lane. Shannon had been Kaley and Kirsten’s babysitter when they were little. Her husband passed away shortly after he retired, she started working at the grocery store, more to do something than to supplement her savings.
“Hey, kiddo!” Shannon’s wide smile helped ease the tension in Kaley’s shoulders. “Your mom gotcha doing the Thanksgiving shopping, huh?”
“Yeah, she’s doing things up big since she’s afraid Kirsten and I will never come home for a holiday again.” Kaley grabbed her stack of reusable bags and started sacking groceries.
“And your friend?” Shannon said coyly.
“River, this is our friend Shannon.” Kaley chuckled at her former babysitter’s antics. “River is Cissy Martin’s grandson.”
“I’d heard Heather and her boy had moved back here. Nice to meet you River.” Shannon nodded to him.
“Ma’am.” He moved to the end of the line and started putting the cold items into the insulated bag.
Goddess, what now? She steeled herself before she turned to face Mrs. Ryder. “Yes, ma’am?”
“Your mother is just as dangerous as you are!” Mrs. Ryder shrieked as she waved her phone in Kaley’s face.
“What?” Kaley couldn’t make out anything on the video playing on the phone with Mrs. Ryder’s jerky motions.
River inserted himself in front of Mrs. Ryder and grabbed her wrist in mid-swing. “Watch what you’re doing.”
“Let me go,” she spat.
“Then quit trying to hit Kaley,” he bit back.
“What’s going on here?” The store manager Mr. Bickle strode toward Shannon’s aisle, a distraught expression on his face.
“Why are allowing those people to shop in your store?” Mrs. Ryder screeched.
“What people?” Mr. Bickle looked thoroughly confused.
“That bitch put a hex on my daughter!” Mrs. Ryder pointed at Kaley.
“Your daughter tried to hit me, and I ducked,” Kaley protested. “It’s not my fault she’s a clumsy cow and screwed up her knee.”
“Ladies, please.” Mr. Bickle looked like he was about to cry behind his wire rims.
“Of course, you get it straight from your mother!” Mrs. Ryder shook her fist at Kaley.
Shannon waddled from behind her register. “Do we need to call the police, or are you going to leave quietly?”
“You’re going let that little bitch stay?” Mrs. Ryder’s shock that someone took Kaley’s side was mirrored by a few other people. Everyone else simply appeared disgusted.
Shannon crossed her arms and glared at Mrs. Ryder. “That little girl ain’t the one causing a scene in public. You are. Now, once again, do I need to call the police?”
Realizing Shannon was the proverbial immoveable object, Mrs. Ryder turned to Mr. Bickle. “Are you going to let your employee insult me like that?”
The manager seemed to find his backbone. He straightened and glared at Mrs. Ryder. “The only one tossing out insults and creating a disturbance is you.”
“I’m going to report you to the owner,” Mrs. Ryder said.
Shannon pointed overhead. “Make sure you tell him about the security video capturing your performance when you call him. Oh, wait. Isn’t Ron Schneider your ex-husband?”
Mrs. Ryder blinked rapidly, shocked by the turnaround in circumstances. More than half of the crowd watching the drama tittered. Seeing no allies, she pivoted and marched out of the grocery store.
Shannon waddled back to her register. Kaley tried to breathe normally as she slipped Mom’s debit card into the reader. It took a couple of tries to get the PIN right. She could feel all the eyes on her. Finally, the device beeped, and she pulled out the card.
River had bagged the rest of the groceries and loaded them into the cart.
Shannon handed Kaley the receipt and gave her a reassuring smile. “You tell your mom and dad hello for me.”
“I will.” Kaley waved. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“You too, darling.”
Kaley and River headed for the exit. She sagged when she saw Mrs. Ryder still in the parking lot. Amelia’s mom was speaking with a man Kaley didn’t recognize.
He was a few inches taller than Mrs. Rider. He wore a leather jacket and jeans. His dark hair was just long enough not to be a buzz cut, but too short to be a crew cut. But the most prominent feature was a jagged scar down his cheek. The pair looked toward Kaley and River with ugly expressions on their faces.
Kaley and River quickly loaded their bags into the back of his blue PT Cruiser. Mrs. Ryder and the gentleman with her were still staring at them.
“Take a selfie,” River whispered.
He wrapped an arm around her waist and held her so their backs were to Mrs. Ryder and the stranger. Her body immediately warmed at his touch, but she did as he asked and took a picture of the two of them.
“Can you do a close-up of the guy with Mrs. Ryder?” River whispered.
Kirsten swallowed and changed the settings. River nodded when he saw the resulting photo. “Send a copy to me.”
“In case anything happens to your phone. Get in the car,” River whispered. “I’ll take care of the cart.”
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Kaley whispered back.
“Who? Me?” River shot her a devilish grin.
That expression sent a shiver through her. No wonder Olivia Burke looked at him like a prime Angus steak. Kaley could see why River’s mom had fallen under his dad’s spell. She nodded and climbed into his car.
It never failed to amaze her how clean the interior of his Cruiser was compared to the cars of all the other guys in school. And it always smelled like cedar and baklava inside though he didn’t have an air freshener anywhere. She had checked.
Fae magick jabbed Kaley’s psyche, and despite the need to raise a ward, she concentrated to keep her own power from reacting to the alien sensation. River opened the driver side door and slid into the Cruiser. A self-satisfied smirk tilted his mouth.
She crossed her arms. “What did you do?”
“Nothing that’ll harm anyone.”
“What. Did. You. Do.”
“You’re not the only one who has talent with air.” He grinned and backed out of their parking space.
As they drove past Mrs. Ryder, Kaley could see the tires on her Cadillac. Especially the flat front left tire.
While she didn’t blame River, that was going to come back to bite them in the ass. Especially with the Humanity Now protesters in town.