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The Enchantlings Series Volume 2
The last thing Hope Hallows wants is to become the latest headline. Living in a town that likes secrets, she prefers to keep hers hidden. Avoiding a nosy reporter’s questions about her ability to infuse euphoria or despair with a single touch, and those who crave this bliss, is nothing new. But having her brother’s annoying girlfriend, Berta, go missing is—especially when it makes Hope suspect number one.
As a triplet, her resemblance to her beloved dead sister causes her family to grieve even more, and her escalating supernatural skills makes Griffith, her half-human-half-Oppressor boyfriend, wary. He wants to put his unsavory past behind him—this could include Hope—since her abilities remind him of the Underworld.
In her desperate search to find Berta, she stumbles across a tunnel. Phantom voices within whisper that evil has been waiting for a new leader—and isn't she lucky, they've chosen Hope.
Page Count: 304
Word Count: 82195
“Who the hell is that?” My comment went unnoticed by the regular bar patrons engrossed in a hockey game on the old box-style television at Last Call. Luckily, we’d just opened for the day. The customers after dark sought more than cheap tequila and bad choices.
I leaned closer to the smoke-stained windowpane. The dude stepping out of the expensive car was a mortal, but even mortals often harbored cruel intentions. Evil doesn’t discriminate. There’s a little bit of a monster in everyone, except I was the only mostly mortal freak in this town of misfits that could identify the true monsters.
Men with smooth hands that were foreign to manual labor didn’t stop here. They sped by on the rough, unpaved roads of what most referred to as the creepy, little town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh—as if pursued by the devil—which wasn’t far from the truth. Unless they wanted something, and usually it was from me.
Everything about this guy didn’t sit well with me, even though I couldn’t place what filled me with instant dislike. Nor did I understand my newest ability, of foretelling, enough to question my prickly response. Sometimes I just knew. Problem was, I didn’t know what I knew, or if it was relevant, but gaining my trust wasn’t an easy task.
On the outside I looked like an ordinary woman, but both mortals and monsters lusted after my ability to give or take away hope and happiness. There were lots of good and bad people in the world, but not many who could control the balance. When Hecate, the Goddess of the Underworld, attempted to kill me because I refused to join her ranks, it changed me, and not necessarily for the better.
Well, at least no black fog accompanied the newbie. No feelings of hopelessness and despair leaked from a heartless soul intending to invade my thoughts. So he wasn’t an Oppressor seeking to nourish itself on the optimism of others—or to cloud that desire with booze.
Alcohol worked its own magic in providing a false sense of happiness, or to at least temper the urge to extract someone else’s. Some Oppressors couldn’t quite pass as humans this close to their breeding grounds. There were usually a lot here, since this appeared to be one of the hubs of hell. Others might blend in as your surly next-door neighbor.
This stranger in a suit fit in our town like a square peg in a round hole. Why was he coming to this bar? Once I arrived and discovered my long-lost family, I knew I belonged. This guy didn’t. I stepped away from the window to retreat behind the bar. Perhaps I could reduce my rising tension with routine tasks.
The glass nearly slipped from my slick palm when the animal masks jangled on the door as he entered. His polished shoes echoed and stirred the dust on the wood floor. I choked down my worries with the stagnant air, as I considered and then rejected asking Berta to wait on him. With no justifiable reason to explain my strange reaction, she’d think I was overreacting. Besides, out of the two of us, I was better equipped to deal with him if necessary. Berta was just too nice.
The cagey stranger was wise enough to avoid making eye contact with Andy and Ritchie, the regular bar patrons. After losing interest in the newbie, they returned their attention to the corner mounted television.
My grip tightened on the glass as I took a deep breath. I brushed away the lock of hair hanging in my face to sneak a peek to where he hunched over the counter. My stomach churned. Nothing about his mild appearance validated my apprehension. Wrinkles from an extended car ride lined the pressed suit sagging on his thin frame. Product caked in his professionally styled hair gleamed in the weak lighting fixtures.
“Is there a cost to read my palm?” His nasally voice quivered with excitement.
My racing heart slowed. The inquisitive stranger just raised his poor decision to stop here to a potentially fatal mistake. His comment implied that he already realized this wasn’t your ordinary bar, and that I wasn’t your ordinary bartender. There might be a lot of secrets in this town, but they were our secrets and we liked to keep it that way. I replaced the beer mug under the counter and turned to face him, except the stranger wasn’t talking to me.
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