Wednesday, 4 June 2014

"Half Past the Witching Hour" (Paranormal Personnel Saga #3) - teaser

Apology for any errors, this is unedited version. 

Chapter one 

No one could get into my apartment; how is this even possible? 

 After the series of life threatening events that turned my world upside down I was back to my usual routine. I stopped worrying about fiery onsets of my magical powers that kept happening to me, I had a new boyfriend, and was finally over my enigmatic ex. I believed that my life was getting back on track and I was in control again. I met Quentin during an art exhibition in the local gallery. I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on around me that day and I walked in to him, nearly making an absolute fool of myself and falling down on my arse. Fortunately for me, he caught me before I hit the floor, saving me from another public humiliation.
It was only a month or so since we’d been seeing each other, but I felt good. I stopped walking like a zombie and pretended that I never had any mental breakdown. It was a slow progress, but I made it. It took me a long six months to show my face in public again.
Yeah, I was stupid enough to fall in love with a guy who was emotionally unavailable, and I was even stupider to let him smash my heart with a hammer. I didn’t understand why I was such a masochist. I should have figured out right from the beginning that Nathaniel wasn’t planning to commit. I tried to understand why he’d put me through this nightmare, but I could’t find a sliver lining, even months after the breakup. 
‘What would you like to do tonight?’ Quentin asked, folding the paper together that he’d been reading for the past five minutes. I looked at him and smiled, thinking that at least I could plan a bright future with him. He cared about me. 
That half vampire, that pretentious cocky bastard ripped my heart out of my chest and ate it raw for dinner. He turned me into an emotional wreck and I hated him for that, but now we were done and none of that mattered. 
 Someday you’ll get over him, I thought. 
Right now I didn’t want to think about Nathaniel, because I had Quentin and he was crazy about me. 
‘Should we watch a movie?’ I asked. 
‘Yes, a movie it is then—action packed thriller or romantic comedy?’ 
‘Hate romances, let’s go for a thriller,’ I said, laughing. 
Quentin was full-blooded giant, originally from South Africa. He moved to the UK a couple of years ago. He was an art dealer and he’d always wanted to be settled in a country with a rich history where he could find enough treasures for his collection. He arrived at the gallery in search of a rare painting that just came on the market, and somehow we clicked straightaway. When it came to Quentin, I didn’t have to worry about any games or expectations. He asked me out the next day. He didn’t hide the fact that he was into me. When I was around him, my magic stayed calm, and I felt like I could trust someone again. Quentin was a decent guy who wanted to settle down. We were both on the same page. 
‘Cinema it is then. I’ll book the table in our usual restaurant,’ he said and got up to make the phone call. He was tall, over six foot seven, which was a typical characteristic for giants. He had soft brown hair and incredible deep ocean-blue eyes, exactly like mine. Although we had completely different lifestyles, we were in the process of making this work for both of us. Quentin travelled a lot, since he tried to get to most auctions in London. He often had to attend old school parties as well as the auctions, where we both had a chance to interact with interesting and famous paranormals. I was slowly walking away from the gloom.
 Nathaniel was in the past and Quentin had no idea that we had dated. He knew bits and bobs from my life and he didn’t push me to reveal more. It was easier this way, to avoid conversation about the past. 
 I went to the kitchen to clean up the mess from lunch while Quentin was sorting our reservation. He was a regular guest in my apartment now. His own house was located on the other side of London and he understood that it was easier for me to get to work from Croydon rather than Watford. 
 I started putting all the plates from lunch into the dishwasher. My job had been hectic this week and I’d been working constantly since Christmas break, so I always had piles of dishes everywhere. The exhaustion was slowly taking over, but Quentin was planning a surprise holiday for both of us. I was looking forward to that. 
Just then my excess magic rose, and there was a buzz of energy around me as I reached for a plate. I felt dizzy for a moment. Sweat gathered on my forehead and back. Slow pulsations started moving through my stomach. My breath became heavier. I looked at my hands and felt like I was falling and falling until my vision went black. 


I brushed the hair away from my face and blinked a few times, looking at the ceiling. It was dark outside and I didn’t remember going to bed that early. There was a metallic taste in my mouth and the air was heavy, thick, and thrumming with power that seemed foreign to me. Memories from the night before began piling up in front of my eyes fast. My back hurt and my bed seemed harder than it was normally. 
I got up and I  realised that I wasn’t in my own bed but on the cold kitchen floor, still dressed in the same clothes from last night. The usual annoying pulsation in my body wasn’t there anymore, the excess magic was gone, and I felt like I had a really long uncomfortable nap. When I noticed a body next to me I screamed, quickly realising that it was Quentin, who lay unconscious and pale by the cooker. I could smell the stirring magic that hovered around him, but my own energy was silent. 
‘Quentin, hey honey, wake up,’ I said, trying to shake him. I checked his pulse, panicking and shivering. I sighed with relief when I discovered that he was still alive. I didn’t remember what I was doing a moment before I passed out, and I didn’t like the absence of my constantly swirling power. My mind was completely blank. Fear crept over me, clouding all my senses. I looked around my kitchen for any signs of struggle, but everything was as I left it last night. Nothing was missing or seemed out of order. But panic hurled through me when I glanced at the watch. It was four o’clock in the morning, which meant that I lost eight hours of my life. 
Quentin was unresponsive, so I dialled Dad’s number and then I called for an ambulance. 
I sat down on the floor, thinking intensely about everything I had done before I went to the kitchen. Some of my plates were in the dishwasher, and I remembered thinking about the cinema. We were planning to go out for a dinner. Minutes passed, but I couldn’t the fill eight-hour gap in my mind with any memories. 
I stayed in the same position until I heard the ambulance outside. My father arrived first, straight after him was the Paranormal Elf service. Dad looked utterly composed but focused when he walked through the door. My father works for Paranormal Unit. He deals with all the supernatural cases, so he was in the office when I called, and I was glad that I didn’t have to drag him out of bed that early in the morning. 
‘Julia, what the hell happened here?’ he demanded, scanning the scene with his elf eyes, which flicked with alertness. I sensed his bad mood, so I judged that this wasn’t going to be easy. 
‘I have no idea. I remember standing in the kitchen putting plates away and the next thing I know, I’m on the floor and Quentin is lying next to me. He looks like he was charmed. He has a pulse, but he isn’t waking up.’  
A tall healer witch was already examining Quentin with her magic wand. For about two minutes no one said anything as she ran her hands over his stomach, muttering words to herself.
‘He was hit with a strong spell. We have to take him to the hospital,’ she announced, looking around, then resting her eyes at me. 
No one could get into my apartment; how is this even possible? 
‘Quentin? Who is that giant, Julia, and what is he doing here?’ asked Dad. His mood  shifted into irritation. I hadn’t told him yet that I started dating, so this whole situation was more than awkward. 
 I had planned to introduce Quentin to Mum and Dad officially in the next couple of weeks during Sunday dinner. Now I had to come up with reasonable explanation quickly, in front of all these strangers that were looking at me, waiting for an answer. My love life was messed up, so I understood my Dad’s frustration. 
‘We have been dating for a few weeks now. His name is Quentin, as you know,’ I mumbled, ditching up the lies. 
‘A giant? For Christ sakes, Julia, I thought that you would stick to our breed after you dated that vampire.’ 
The healer and some of Dad’s subordinates were looking when Dad said these words that plunged an icebreaker straight through my heart. Grief came back, washing over me again, but somehow I managed to keep up my unmoved expression. In the past few months I’d made progress, but within a moment Dad dug up all the warmth out of my heart and threw it into my face. That was classy. 
‘My love life isn’t important right now. I lost eight hours of my life and Quentin is unconscious and I have no idea what’s happened.’
Dad scratched his head and exhaled sharply glancing around my place, like he thought the answer was somewhere in my apartment. 
‘Someone must have sneaked in here and used magic, unless that giant attacked you and you’re covering for him,’ he suggested, narrowing his eyes as if to say after my history with men I was desperate enough to do anything for attention. 
‘No, Dad, he didn’t attack me,’ I said, through gritted teeth. ‘No one could have come in here. This just doesn’t make any sense.’ 
 I couldn’t believe that Dad could have been so judgmental, but I let that comment go, for now. 
When I was emotional, my magic normally whipped through me, prickling my skin, tensing my muscles. Right then I felt empty, like I just had the most intensive training session with Grandma or a mind-blowing orgasm (which was impossible, because Nathaniel wasn’t in my life anymore). ‘There is no time for speculation. We need to get to the hospital with Quentin. He might be seriously hurt.’ 
‘Stop worrying about your ‘boyfriend,’ he looks fine to me. I’ll get Dannika to check for some clues around here here,’ Dad muttered, hovering over my apartment, probably searching for the faint scent of magic. 
I bit my lips, feeling restless. There was no sign of anyone breaking in, and there was no sign of magic, although Dad was adamant about checking every room. The explanation was in my memory, but that was lost for now.
My stomach was in knots when we arrived at the ER. I knew that Dad wanted to ask a million questions about Quentin, but I couldn’t talk to him about this when Quentin was still unconscious. We’d just started dating and now he was spellbound without any reasonable explanation. Dad took off once we arrived. He took a call and then muttered that he had another case. Secretly I was relieved. He obviously didn’t think that Quentin was seriously hurt.   
 I managed to get some information about Quentin’s condition when I reached the paranormal ward. I had no idea who else I should call. I knew that Quentin didn’t have any family in London, but I couldn’t be sure. 
‘Mr. Van Rooyen had been spellbound with very specific magic. He should wake up in an hour or so, but he won’t recover all his abilities straight away,’ explained the short fairy healer. I blinked rapidly trying to digest what she said. 
‘I’m sorry, but I don’t think that I understand.’ 
‘Most giants have incredible physical power, but Mr. Van Rooyen has lost some of that. It seemed as something or someone took some of that strength away,’ explained the healer. I paced around him, wondering if this whole situation could get any more complicated. 
From what the healer was telling me, I could have assumed that someone or something broke to my apartment, knocked me out, and spellbound Quentin. 
‘He will recover, and his abilities might come back, but it’s difficult to say when. We will monitor him until he wakes up,’ added the healer. I thanked her and went back to Quentin’s room. Maybe Dad would find out what exactly happened, but I couldn’t count on his fair judgment. I was more confused than anything. Waking up on the kitchen floor, empty, drained of my own power, well, this surely wasn’t a good portent of creating a future together. 
A few hours after he woke up, Quentin wasn’t too concerned about the loss of his abilities, but he was anxious to get back to his business. The healers refused to discharge him, so in the end he asked me to check on his pet Gomez. The animal had been alone in the house since yesterday and needed to be fed. I wasn’t too keen on this idea, but I agreed for Quentin’s sake.
 I had a strange feeling in my gut that my own magic had something to do with this mess. But the theory that I could hurt myself sounded absurd. I automatically thought about Jasper. He was still convinced that we were destined to be together. Maybe he wanted to see me, so he sneaked in and charmed Quentin and me in a rage of jealousy. Since I’d gotten involved with a wizard who killed people for fun, then a Dhampir who could have anything that he wanted, I had to consider every possibility. Strange and unexplained things kept happening to me and that list was getting longer. 
After I left hospital I had to get to the other side of London to take care of the most sexist and rude raccoon that I ever met. My day was just getting better and better. 
 I really know how to set the standards, don’t I? 
 By the time I got to Watford it was nearly seven in the morning and I had to be at work in two hours. Quentin lived in one of those two-story town houses in a decent area. The distance between my work and his home wasn’t the only reason that I didn’t want to stay in his apartment. My boyfriend (whom I considered being in a committed relationship) had a pet. And it wasn’t just a normal pet. Gomez was a talking raccoon. Quentin had rescued him from a witch who wanted to slash his throat. She’d charmed Gomez, so he could talk, but then she was planning to use him for some kind of magical experiment.

‘Hey, sexy arse, what are you doing here? Where is Quini?’ 


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  2. Just found this series this week and have enjoyed the first 3 books. Looking forward to reading the next installment.