Wicked Good Witches Chapter One
Content Warning: For Readers Over 18
Melinda Howard poured a potion into a small glass vial. She used a funnel, not trusting her unsteady fingers. It was her first time making this particular potion and if the results were anything less than perfect, the consequences would be fatal to the vampire standing in her kitchen.
He was across the room. A good fifteen feet away, but she’d have sworn he was hovering just inches behind her, watching her every move. Movements that suddenly became heavy and awkward. A sudden self-awareness creeping across her skin she’d never worried about before. At least not in front of the vampire.
Darn it all! She chastised herself silently. Keep it together, you’re almost done.
She exhaled, letting out a surge of hot breath, shuddering as an electrified pulse fired down her spine at the thought of him watching her. The pulse had the effect of pulling her skin too tight and made her fidget as if her body wasn’t the right size and shape it should be.
Her heart quickened, her fingers quivering as she removed the funnel, the vial nearly filled. Just one final step to complete the potion. She shoved her chin-length chestnut bangs behind her ear, grabbing an already filled dropper and added the contents within to the vial.
The mixture sizzled, a small plume of steam erupting from the vial before the clear liquid inside turned to deep red. Melinda smiled, relieved by the outcome. She let the buildup of nervousness escape with her next breath, corked the vial, turned, and tossed it to the vampire.
It went high, threatening to fly over his head and crash into a wall. He deftly jumped into the air, caught it, and landed without a sound.
“Good catch, William,” Melinda said, winking playfully.
The vampire threw Melinda a stern smirk before drinking the contents of the vial.
“Like you’d miss,” she added, rolling her eyes at him. She averted her gaze, unable to linger in his for long.
“I never miss,” William replied matter-of-factly. The vampire straightened his black pullover, the dark color only further accentuating the paleness of his neck and face.
“Did it work?” Melinda asked, venturing a fleeting look in his direction.
“It tastes correct.” He paused, savoring the warm sensation the potion gave him as it forced its way through his veins like the blood that no longer willingly pumped its way through his body. “I do believe you did perfect, Melinda. Well done.”
She curtsied, nodding in appreciation to her one vampire audience, hurriedly turning away again to avoid making eye contact.
His gaze narrowed in a questioning manner. “Are you okay this morning?”
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. He noticed. I so suck at acting. “Um, yes,” she answered too hesitantly. She cleared her throat. “I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“You seem on edge.”
On edge? Really? You have no idea, her thoughts exclaimed loudly. She wished she could tell him the truth- that her edginess was completely his fault.
Melinda had dreamt about William the night before. A dream that while in the middle of, painted her the image of a goddess adored by a vampire. But once awakened from, left her restless with skin far too tight, achy, and needy. And now, normal daily actions she’d never given a second thought to turned clunky and awkward, sitting at the forefront of her thoughts while in William’s presence.
Was he watching her, right now? What did she look like through his eyes?
She’d had a crush on him for years, but she’d never dreamt of him, not like this. Not like these last few weeks. She’d awakened to a pleasant sting trailing across her skin, where cool fingers had traced the curves of her back, where lips had caressed her, tasted her. Where fangs had... her hand involuntarily slid up to her neck, a heated stammering of her heart causing her to catch her breath. She might as well have been living out the dream right here in the kitchen for goodness’ sake!
“There it is again,” the vampire noted, disrupting her lust-filled memory. “I’ve never heard your heart flutter like that before. Are you ill?” He stepped closer, concerned.
Stupid super vampire hearing! Melinda held her breath for a second, blood racing to keep up with her stammering heart. “I’m fine. Promise. I was just nervous about making the potion, and was recalling my dream from last night.” This was a partial truth. There had been a second dream. A much less pleasant dream, one she had shared with him. Her skin flushed and gaze lowered.
“Very well,” he conceded with a narrow stare. She was holding back on him, something she never did until recently. What had changed? What was she hiding? Why did she not feel at ease enough to confide in him, as always?
Melinda refused eye contact, keeping herself busy and her gaze downward. And if she chewed her bottom lip any harder she might draw blood. She shivered, though it was a warm summer day. That flutter returned, blood rushing through her veins in an attempt to keep up with her erratically beating heart. It got stronger the longer his eyes lingered on her movements.
What was she hiding from him?
He cast his gaze across the room looking at nothing in particular, focusing on the pulse of her blood, a sound he was familiar with. This flutter though. It was… different. Strangely enticing. Although he could not ascertain why. Somehow, each flutter called out to him, almost reaching out across the room to him, jolting him with electric sparks of… of what? And why did it matter?
Because all things Melinda Howard mattered. That’s why. And if she was ill, he needed to know. His ears tuned into her heart, his eyes closing, his mind sinking into each beat. Each pulse of blood.
Unconsciously, he licked his fangs.
What would she taste like?
He sucked in, eyes opening in disgust. A scowl engraving on his face.
This reaction displeased him immensely. It was not normal, appropriate, or acceptable behavior. Not for him.
It was too bad he needed to have a blood-empty stomach before drinking the potion. He’d have to wait thirty minutes before partaking of his typical breakfast of warmed, week-old animal blood. It hardly sounded appetizing compared to the lovely blood-filled creature standing just out of reach.
“William,” he barely heard Melinda call out. “Would you put this away for me? I can’t reach.” She outstretched her arm, holding a jar filled with herbs. She lifted her head when he did not reply, the jar slipping through fingers suddenly unable to maintain their grip.
William caught the jar with ease and spun around to put it away, too late to hide his mistake. He might have controlled his fangs and kept his distance, but his eyes had turned a ravenous black. Normally, being around humans was tolerable. He’d had hundreds of years of practice. This morning, however, was particularly difficult. Melinda’s blood had always smelled appealing. But this morning it was practically calling out to him. “Drink me. I’m yours.”
His hungry black eyes were something Melinda had witnessed before. She didn’t understand why it startled her so badly this time. Perhaps it was that she’d never been alone with him before when it had happened. She’d never had super sexed up dreams about him before, either.
Embarrassed by her reaction, she grabbed a few potion supplies and busied herself putting them away. She took a glance and noticed William’s typical emerald greens had replaced the greedy black.
God, I love his eyes. At forever thirty-one, the vampire’s smooth boyish face could not hide the old soul staring back at her. She let out an exasperated breath, wishing to forget every detail of all her William dreams. They would never come true anyway.
William was a vampire. She was a human. A witch, but still human. And William had a strict no-dating-humans policy.
As she cleaned up the potion-making mess, a young man entered the kitchen, at the same time running his gel covered hands through his spiky hair. He quickly regretted that choice thinking instead he needed to plug his nose. “Potion time again,” he realized, rinsing his fingers off in the sink.
“Good morning, Michael,” said the vampire to the young man, who was Melinda’s twenty-three-year-old brother. “The taste is as loathsome as the smell.” William made a face that said, be glad you’re not the one drinking it.
Michael was about to reply when a voice startled them from the hallway, behind them. “Good thing the potion’s worth the price, then.”
“Charlie!” Melinda raced past Michael and jumped into her eldest brother’s flannel covered arms.
Charlie twirled his sister in a circle, hugging her fiercely. He was not just older than she and Michael, but much larger, too. A broad shouldered, rugged man of twenty-six.
“God, you reek!” she choked out sarcastically. “More so than the potion, and that’s not an easy feat!”
“That’s what happens when you take a three day fishing trip,” Charlie said, letting her slide back down to the floor. “I had to come home before the full moon.” His words really meaning, if it wasn’t rising soon, I’d still be gone.
“Yeah, of course you would. It’s just nice to have you back in the house again.”
“Which just proves my point that you’re still not getting out enough, Sis.”
“Don’t start with me again about that. I’m getting out plenty. Remember that date I went on, like, a month ago...” her voice trailed off at the end, as she recalled the date had actually been over two months previous.
“My point exactly.” Charlie poked her side, affectionately.
Melinda had tried to forget that last date. It ended badly. Not that it had started all that great. But she’d given in and slept with the guy; he proceeded to finish, call her something along the lines of adorable and got dressed. She was pretty sure when he said adorable, he meant chubby. Which she wasn’t. Or maybe he’d meant, you gave it a good try. An A, for effort.
And yeah, she’d eaten too much during their date, but that was mostly because he never shut the hell up and gave her a chance to speak. So yes, her pooch was a little bigger than it might have been normally. But it was the way he’d spoken his goodbye, which happened just minutes after they’d finished. Like he’d done her some charitable favor by sleeping with her.
She’d left that part out when telling her brothers how the date went. The guy was a Jerkwad. Sex with the Jerkwad was empty. Meaningless. A complete waste of time. It hadn’t been satisfying in the least. But he’d gotten what he wanted. And she guessed, technically speaking, so did she. There was no longer the title virgin dangling over her head. Something that seemed important at the time, now, after her first time, not so much.
Of course, if her brothers or William had found out how badly things went, they’d probably have killed the guy. Or at the very least, injured him severely.
Charlie grabbed a mug of coffee and nodded toward his brother Michael, who refused to return the gesture. Charlie had hoped to avoid another argument so soon after arriving home.
As it turned out, Michael didn’t feel like arguing either. “Meeting Emily for coffee,” he explained, promptly leaving.
Charlie shook his head, disappointed.
“Give him time,” the vampire advised kindly.
“Why does he have to be so damn stubborn?”
Melinda snorted. “Um, gee. Maybe because he’s a Howard.”
“Exactly. He is a Howard, and like it or not we have a responsibility to uphold.”
“Michael gets that, Charlie,” Melinda cut him off before his rant continued. “He’s just not as accepting of his fate as we are,” she added dramatically. “He sort of has a point though. I mean, why should he be forced to spend his life protecting the Isle, just because he’s a Howard?”
“We don’t get to make that choice, Melinda.” Charlie stated it with finality. He glanced at the vampire, searching for approval, but William’s face showed no sign of his true feelings on the matter. Charlie had not thought it possible, but the vampire appeared distracted. When William didn’t answer he changed the subject.
“Thanks for making the potion for me, Sis. I left for my trip so fast I completely forgot about it.”
“No worries. You’ve had a lot on your mind. Besides, I’d do just about anything for My William.” She decided the best way to move past last night’s dream was to treat William as she always did.
The vampire breathed out testily. “Melinda, you must stop calling me that. It is not right. Not only am I nearly four-hundred-years-old, but until quite recently I was your legal guardian. Must I keep reminding you of this?”
“William,” she retorted innocently. “I’m twenty-one and you’re the only man I can flirt with in this testosterone filled house. Besides, you make it so easy. Have you looked at yourself lately? That’s right, you can’t. So I must take it upon myself to remind you how handsome a vampire you are.”
Yes, she thought. Ridiculously handsome. No, he was beyond handsome now, especially after last night. He’d gone straight from handsome vampire she had a crush on to forbidden fanged hotty in a matter of a single dream. She tapped her fingers on the counter as if this movement would somehow drown out the racing heartbeats thudding against her chest.
Apparently, forgetting about the dream was not going to be easy. And admitting how desperately she wanted the dream to be real, and knowing it could never happen, left her balancing on a precarious edge of never-going-to-have-this-itch-satisfied-ness.
And the truth was, William did have a reflection. But it wasn’t one his own eyes could see. A side effect of the potion he’d just downed. It made looking into glass, difficult. Things had a fuzzy appearance. One bad side effect that was worth the freedom the potion gave him.
William noted the change in her heart rhythms again but ignored it, tossing Charlie a look that pleaded for his agreement in the matter of her affections.
“Maybe, Melinda, you would be better off saving your attention for someone your own age,” Charlie said, backing up the vampire. “And not to bring it back up again, but perhaps if you got out of the house more often…”
“Charlie, you’ve scared off all the guys I’ve dated!” Except for Jerkwad, which she’d done herself apparently, by just being her. And there had only been two other guys she’d dated before him. Three whole guys, twenty-one years old. So beyond pathetic. Melinda tensed. She had chosen Jerkwad, to give herself to. She was never going to forgive herself for that choice. But she hadn’t wanted to carry the label virgin anymore. How stupid that label seemed now. She still felt like a virgin. At least she hadn’t told Jerkwad, not that the fact redeemed her decision at all.
She pictured seeing Jerkwad’s face if she’d told him he was her first. Ugh. Thank God I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut. If not my legs.
She put her stubborn gaze back on. “Charlie, between you, Michael, and William, drilling my dates with questions no normal human would comprehend, it’s no wonder they never call back for second dates.” She lashed out, preferring to believe it was them and not her, driving her dates away. But how could it not be her? She just wasn’t dating material. Or perhaps the other two had just wanted what she’d given Jerkwad, and when she didn’t put out…
But she’d blame it on her brothers, just the same.
Charlie patted her shoulder. “I’m just looking out for you, Kiddo.”
“Well, you can’t have it both ways,” she argued hotly. “If I leave the house and start dating more, you have to accept the guys I go out with. No more scaring them away.”
“Okay. You’re right. Why don’t you go out now? I can clean up this mess.”
Melinda shook her head, a hesitant tingle creeping into her gut, dousing the heat that the William dream had collected there. Talking about leaving was easy, but actually leaving the house was a much scarier thought. And going out with another guy she didn’t know well… disaster waiting to happen.
“I made the mess, I’ll clean it up. Besides, it’s sort of a badge of honor, first time making the potion for My William and all. I just hope I got it right.”
Charlie threw her a look that said, you’re making excuses, but let it slide as William dramatically rushed to the front kitchen window. He tore off his pullover revealing his chiseled hairless chest and flung open the curtains, the bright morning sunlight flooding the room, exposing him to potentially fatal rays.
Both Melinda and Charlie stood wide-eyed, waiting to smell smoke, or see flames erupt. Instead, William’s mouth turned into the slightest of smiles.
“You nearly gave me a heart attack!” Melinda shouted. “What if the potion hadn’t worked?”
“There is only one way to find out if the potion did work.”
“But you could have tested it on a finger, not your entire body!” she protested.
“I have complete faith in you, Melinda.” William pulled his shirt back over his head.
She made a face, knowing he was just trying to prove a point, by agreeing with Charlie. She was a bright, beautiful, and talented young woman who needed to find a life outside of the Howard Mansion. But they were the only ones who had such thoughts. A life outside the mansion was unpredictable, and too often laced with trouble. And only made Melinda wish she was safely locked in her bedroom. A hot bath, a glass of wine, and endless daydreaming was all she needed.
And dang it! William had just been standing in the kitchen, shirtless. And she’d been too stunned by his attempt at burning himself that she hadn’t even enjoyed his magnificently chiseled perfection. She shivered at the thought of his cold skin pressing against her own. The heat started pooling again.
Why did William have to be an off limit vampire?
Physically, he was the epitome of perfection, at least in her eyes. Tall. On the thin side but not wiry. A first glance wouldn’t tell you instantly that he was stronger than any human man. That awareness came from the confidence he exuded in every movement he made. The draw of his gaze, the pull of his smile, the very manner in which he carried himself just strutting down the sidewalk. All things, which depending on his mood, either blanketed you in complete security, or emitted predatory threats that warned, I wouldn’t walk down any dark alleys alone, if I were you.
More than all that, Melinda knew him. Trusted him. Hell, he was her best friend. Her confidant. Why couldn’t real life be as easy as her dream life? Or as steamy…
Melinda kept up her stubborn front. “You haven’t tested the potion completely, William. It’s the other function that’s the really tricky part.”
“I will be out taking a stroll if you need me,” the vampire responded tersely.
Melinda spoke quite seriously as he departed. “If anyone suddenly realizes you’re a vampire that has lived in this town for over a hundred years and hasn’t aged, come home at once and I’ll try again.”
Getting the potion just right was usually Charlie’s job as he was the most practiced at making potions out of the three siblings. But after a heated argument with his brother, Michael, he had abruptly left for a fishing trip and had forgotten to make William’s masking potion. They always kept an emergency vial of it, just in case, but Melinda had wanted to try her hand at making it instead.
As long as made correctly, and taken every three months, the masking potion allowed William not only to walk in the daylight, but allowed him to live freely, leading an almost normal life.
The potion kept people in the town from realizing he did not age. They just knew him as William Wakefield, longtime friend to the Howard family; one of The Demon Isles’ founding families.
In addition, four years previously, William had temporarily, and unexpectedly, become guardian of the three siblings after their parents had mysteriously disappeared during a hunting trip into White Pines National Park. A place frequented by many tourists on the Isle. Not that the siblings needed a guardian seeing as Charlie was twenty-two at the time. But they had needed William, and he had been their parent’s longest and most trusted friend.
Some locals believed that their parents had befallen some terrible accident, the type usually associated with careless tourists who refused to heed repeated warnings. Like how one misstep on the rocky cliffs might send you plunging to your death, or how fast you could find yourself in trouble when the tide came in and suddenly you’re stuck on the one rock that’s just barely sticking out of the water, or worse, in a cave that now has no exit.
However, a handful of longtime locals were aware of the truth: that hunting meant their parents were searching for The Demon Isle’s magical power source. A source that to this day, had yet to be located; even by the many generations of Howards to have come and gone from the Isle. All the siblings were certain of, is that the search had claimed the lives of their parents, just as it had claimed the lives of numerous Howard Witches before them.
But it was this very power source that the Howard siblings also defended, often putting their own lives on the line to protect. It was what their family had always done: protect the source from being discovered and falling into the wrong hands.
Of equal importance were the incessant attempts by various supernatural beings that came to the Isle in hopes of drawing on that power, or overthrowing the Howards and claiming the Isle for themselves, therefore putting the locals and the tourists in constant danger.
Dangers that newer locals opted to ignore or pass off as strange, but somehow explainable, events. Many, of course, had no problem exploiting the Isle’s mystical draw, now making it a top vacation spot for fans of the supernatural and paranormal. This only complicated the lives of the siblings as these fans often got more trouble than they bargained for.
Charlie offered again to help clean up the kitchen.
“I can handle it,” Melinda said. “You should get unpacked, maybe take a shower.” She wrinkled her nose at his fishy stench.
“I should have been here to help you.” His voice held guilt as he grabbed half-filled vials and dried herbs, returning them to their cupboards. Melinda didn’t argue, she enjoyed her brother’s company.
“For your knowledge,” she explained after a bit, “I did get out while you were away. I went on a patrol with William.”
“That’s not getting out,” her brother argued.
“We patrol at night. And patrolling is work.”
“Yes, but there’s sometimes still people around.”
“Work is not a life, Melinda. You need friends. You need to get out and have fun. What about the friends you used to go to school with?” Charlie asked. “That guy you went out with a few months ago?”
Jerkwad, or guy before Jerkwad. “They’ve all moved away, gone to college,” she claimed quickly. “And what’s wrong with hanging out with my brothers? Or William? And there’s Emily.”
Charlie snorted. “When she comes to the house to see Michael. I don’t want to push you, Melinda, but like you said earlier, you’re twenty-one. You should be out on the beach, partying, going on dates, and getting into trouble.” He thought about that for a minute. “Okay, make that partying lightly but you get what I mean.”
“I’m trying, Charlie.”
“I know, Kiddo.” He saw the uneasiness in her eyes. “Just keep taking little steps and even though we give you a hard time, screw us! Go have some fun.”
“Yeah, okay. Fun. It’s my top priority,” she forced, with fake enthusiasm.
Charlie didn’t push it further. Afraid if he did, the only place he’d find his sister is locked in her bedroom.