MAGIC & MAYHEM SERIES
“If you say or do anything that keeps my ass in the magic pokey, I will zap you bald and give you a cold sore that makes you look like you were born with three lips.”
I tried to snatch the scissors from my cell mate’s hand, but I might as well have been trying to catch a greased cat.
“Look at my hair,” she hissed, holding up her bangs. “They’re touching my nose—my fucking nose, Zelda. I can’t be seen like this when I get out. I swear I’ll just do it a little.”
“Sandy,” I started.
“It’s Sassy,” she hissed as I backed up incase she felt the need to puctuate her correction with a left hook.
You can pick your friends, your nose and your bust size but you can’t pick you cell mate in the big house…
“Right. Sorry. Sassy, you have never done anything just a little. What happened the last time you cut your own bangs? Your rap sheet indicates bang cutting is somewhat unhealthy for you.”
She winced and mumbled her shame into her collarbone. “That was years ago. Nobody died and that town was a dump to start with.”
“Fine,” I shrugged. “Cut your bangs. What do I care if you look like a dorkus? We’re out of here in an hour. After today we’ll never see each other again anyway.”
“You know what Miss High and Mighty?” she shouted, brandishing the shears entirely too close to my head for comfort. “You’re in here for murder.”
That stopped me dead in my pursuit of saving her from herself. What the hell did I care? Let her cut her bangs up to her hairline and suffer the humiliation of looking five. Maybe I wasn’t completely innocent here, but I was no murderer. It was a fucking accident.
“You listen to me Susie, I didn’t murder anyone,” I snapped.
“Whatever.” She was giving me a migraine. Swoozie’s selective memory was messing with my need to protect her ass. “Oh my Goddess,” I yelled. “I didn’t sleep with Baba Yaga’s boyfriend—you did.”
“First of all, we didn’t sleep. And how in the hell was I supposed to know Mr. Sexy Pants was her boyfriend?”
“Um, well, let me see…did the fact that he was wearing a Property of Baba Yaga t-shirt not ring any fucking bells?”
I was so done. I’d been stuck in a cell with Sassy the Destructive Witch for nine months—sawing my own head off with a butter knife had become a plausible option. I was beyond ready to get the hell out.
“Well, it’s not like the Council put you in here just to keep me company. You ran over your own familiar. On purpose,” she accused.
I watched in horror as she combed her bangs forward in preparation for blast off and willed myself not to give a rat’s ass.
“I did not run over that mangy bastard cat on purpose. The little shit stepped under my wheel.”
“Three times?” she inquired politely.
We glared at each other until we were both biting back grins so hard it hurt. As much as I didn’t like her I was grateful to have a roomie. It would have sucked to serve time alone. And coming up with different female names that started with the letter S had helped pass the time.
“I really need a mirror to do this right,” Sassy muttered. She mimed the cutting action by lining up her fingers up on her hair before she commenced.
I walked to the iron bars of our cell and refused to watch. Our tiny living quarters were barren of all modern conveniences, especially those we could perform magic with, like mirrors. We were locked up in Salem, Massachusetts in a hotel from the early 1900s that had been converted to a jail for witches. Our home away from home was cell block D, designated for witches who abused their magic as easily as they changed their underwear.
From the outside the decrepit building was glamoured to look like a charming bed and breakfast complete with climbing ivy and flowers growing out of every conceivable nook and cranny. Inside it was cold and ugly with barren brick walls covered with Goddess knew what kind of slime. It was warded heavily with magic, keeping all mortals and responsible magic-makers away. At the moment the lovely Sassy and I were the only two inhabitants in the charming hell-hole. Well, us and the humor-free staff of older than dirt witches and warlocks.
I dropped onto my cot and ran my hands through my mass of uncontrollable auburn curls which looked horrid with the orange prison wear. I puckered my full—and sadly lipstick-free lips as I tried to image myself in the latest Prada. The first damn thing I was going to do when I got out was burn the jumpsuit and buy out Neiman’s.
“Fine. We’re both here because we messed up, but I still think nine months was harsh for killing a revolting cat and screwing an idiot,” I muttered as the ugly reality of my outfit mocked me.
I held my breath and then blew it out as Sassy put the scissors down and changed her mind.
“I can’t do this right now. I really need a mirror.”
It was the most sane thing she’d uttered in nine months.
“In an hour you’ll have one unless you do something stupid,” I told her and then froze.
Without warning the magic level ramped up drastically and the stench of centuries-old voodoo drifted to my nose. Sassy latched onto me for purchase and shuddered with terror.
“Do you smell it?” I whispered. I knew her grip would leave marks, but right now that was the least of my problems.
“I do,” she murmured back.
“Old lady crouch.”
“What?” Her eyes grew wide and she bit down on her lip. Hard. “If you make me laugh, I’ll smite your sorry ass when we get out. What the hell is old lady crouch?”
My own grin threatened to split my face. My fear of incarceration was clearly outweighed by my need to make crazy Sassy laugh again. “You know—the smell when you go to the bathroom at the country club…powdery old lady crouch.”
“Oh my hell, Zelda.” She guffawed and lovingly punched me so hard I knew it would leave a bruise. “I won’t be able to let that one go.”
“Only a lobotomy can erase it.” I was proud of myself.
“Well, well, well,” a nasally voice cooed from beyond the bars of our cell. “If it isn’t the pretty-pretty problem children.”
Baba Yaga had to be at least three hundred if she was a day, but witches aged slowly—so she really only looked thirty-fiveish. The more powerful the witch, the slower said witch aged. Baba was powerful, beautiful and had appalling taste in clothes. Dressed right out of the movie Flash Dance complete with the ripped sweatshirt, leggings and headband. It was all I could do not to alert the fashion police.
She was surrounded by the rest of her spooky posse, an angry bunch of warlocks who were clearly annoyed to be in attendance.
“Baba Yaga,” Sassy said as respectfully as she could without making eye contact.
“Your Crouchness,” I muttered and received a quick elbow to the gut from my cellmate.
Baba Yaga leaned against the cell bars, and her torn at the shoulder sweatshirt dripped over her creamy shoulder. “Zelda and Sassy, you have served your term. Upon release you will have limited magic.”
I gasped and Sassy paled. WTF? We’d done our time. Limited magic? What did that mean?
“Fuck,” I stuttered.
“But…um…Ms. Yaga, that’s not fair,” Sassy added more eloquently than I had. “We paid our dues. I had to withstand Zelda’s company for nine months. I belive that is cruel and unusual punishment.”
“Oh my hell,” I shouted. “You have got to be kidding me. I fantasized chewing glass, swallowing it and then super gluing my ears shut so I would have to listen to anymore play by plays of Full House episodes.”
“Full House is brilliant and Bob Saget is hot,” she grumbled as her face turned red.
“Enough,” Baba Yaga hissed as she waved a freshly painted nail at us in admonishment. “You two are on probation, and during that probation you will be strictly forbidden to see each other until you have completed your tasks.”
“Not a problem. I don’t want to lay eyes on Sujata ever again,” I said.
“It’s Sassy,” she ground out. “And what in the Goddess’ name do you mean by tasks?”
Baba Yaga smiled—it was not a nice smile.
“Tasks. Selfless tasks. And before you two get all uppity with that ‘I can’t believe you’re being so harsh’ drivel, keep in mind that this is a light sentence. Most of the Council wanted you imbeciles stripped of your magic permanently.”
That was news. What on earth had I done that would merit that? I conjured up fun things. Sure, they were things I used to my advantage, like shoes and sunny vacations with fruity drinks, sporting festive umbrellas in them, served to me on a tropical beach by guys with fine asses…but it wasn’t like I took anything from anyone in the process.
“I’m not real clear here,” I said warily.
“Oh, I can help with that,” Baba Yaga offered kindly. “You, Zelda—how many pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes do you own?”
I mentally counted in my head—kind of. “Um…three?”
Baba Yaga frowned and bright green sparks flew around her head. “Seventy-five and you paid for none of them. Not to mention your wardrobe and cars and the embarrassingly expensive vacations you have taken for free.”
When her eyes narrowed dangerously, I swallowed my retort. Plus, I had eighty pairs…
“And you, Sassy, you’ve used your magic to seduce men and have incurred millions in damages from your temper tantrums. Six buildings and a town. Not to mention your indiscretion with my former lover. If I hadn’t already been done with him, you’d be in solitary confinment for eternity. Can you not see how I had to fight for you?” she demanded, her beautiful eyes fiery.
“Well, when you put it that way…” I mumbled.
“There is no other way to put it,” she snapped as her mystical lynch mob nodded like the bobble-headed freaks that they were. “Zelda, you have used your magic for self-serving purposes and Sassy, you have a temper that when combined with your magic could be deadly. We are White Witches. We use magic to heal and to make Mother Earth a better place, not to walk the runway and take down cities.”
“So what do we have to do?” Sassy asked with a tremor in her voice. She was freaked.
Baba Yaga winked and my stomach dropped to my toes. “There are two envelopes with your tasks in them. You will not share the contents with each other. If you do, you will render yourselves powerless. Forever. You have till midnight on All Hallows Eve to complete your assignments and then you will come under review with the Council.”
“And if we are unable to fulfill our duty?” I asked, wanting to get all the facts upfront.
“You will become mortal.”
Shit. My stomch dropped to my toes and I debated between hurling and getting on my knees and begging for mercy. Neither would have done a bit of good…There was no way in hell I could make it in this world as a mortal—I didn’t even know how to use a microwave.
And on that alarming and potentially life ending note, Baba Yaga and her entourage disappeared in a cloud of old lady crouch smoke.
“Well, that’s fucking craptastic,” I said as I warily sniffed my envelope—the one that had appeared out of thin air and landed right between my fingertips.
“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Sassy replied as she examined hers.
She tossed her envelope on her cot as though she were afraid to touch it and turned her back on it. I simply shoved mine in the pocket of my heinous orange jumpsuit.
“So that’s it? We just do whatever the contents of the envelope tell us to do?” Sassy whined. “Okay, so we’re a little self-absorbed, but I do use my magic to heal. Remember when I kind of accidentally punched the guard in the face? I totally healed his nose.”
I laughed and rolled my eyes. “He was bleeding all over your one and only pokey jumpsuit.”
“Immaterial. I healed him didn’t I?” she insisted.
“And then I zapped your skanky jumpsuit clean,” I added, not to be outdone by her list of somewhat dubious selfless acts. “However, I get the feeling that’s not the kind of healing magic Baba Yasshole means.” I sat down on my own cot, still stunned by our sentence from the Council.
“You know what? Screw Baba Ganoush!” Sassy grunted as she grabbed her envelope and waved it in the air. I sighed and put my hand on her arm to prevent her from doing any damage to her task.
“Yomamma. It’s Baba Yomamma, Sassy. And seriously—what choice do we have at this point except to do what she says? You don’t want to stay in here, do you? I say we yank up our big girl panties and get this shit done. Deal?”
I stunned myself and Sassy with my responsible reasoning ability.
She made a face but nodded. “Baba Wha-Wha said we couldn’t share the contents of our envelopes. There’s no way in hell we can open these together and not share.”
“Correct. Baba Yosuckmybutt is hateful.”
“You want to get turned into a mortal?”
I shuddered. “Fuck no. So now what?” I asked as I played with the offending envelope in my pocket.
“See you on the flip side?” Sassy held up her fist for a bump.
I bumped. “Probably not. While it’s been nice in the way a root canal or a canker sore is nice I think it’s time for us to part ways.”
Sassy grinned and shrugged and I answered with my own.
“So we walk out of here on three?” she asked.
“Yes, we do.”
We both took a deep breath. “One, two, three…”
The door of our cell popped open the moment we approached it, clanging and creaking. We exchanged one last smile before Sassy hung a left and headed down the winding cement path that led to freedom. She made her way down the dimly lit hallway until she was nothing but a small, curvy dot on the horizon.
I clutched the envelope in my pocket with determination and sucked in a huge breath.
And then I hung a right.
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Released from the magic pokey and paroled with limited power is enough to make any witch grumpy. However, if you throw in a recently resurrected cat, a lime-green Kia and a sexy egotistical werewolf, it’s enough to make a gal fly off the edge.
Not to mention a mission…with no freaking directions.
So here I sit in Asscrack, West Virginia trying to figure out how to complete my mysterious mission before All Hallows Eve when I’ll get turned into a mortal. The animals in the area are convinced I’m the Shifter Whisperer (whatever the hell that is) and the hotter-than- asphalt-in-August werewolf thinks I’m his mate. Now apparently I’m slated to save a bunch of hairy freaks of nature?
If they think I’m the right witch for the job, they’ve swallowed some bad brew.
Author’s Note About Previous Version
This following is a note about story changes and updates for those readers who read the original version of this story in the 12 Shades of Midnight anthology.
Switching Hour was originally part of the 12 Shades of Midnight anthology which was available for a limited time in 2015. The original story I wrote has since been adapted as necessary for inclusion in the Magic and Mahem series. This copy—the one containing this note—is a highly revised and extended version. You as a reader will notice many changes from the original, which was intentionally crafted to fit anthology guidelines.
The most noticeable of changes is in characters. In the anthology version, Chapter 1 was originally co-written with my good buddy, Dakota Cassidy, as part of a fun and fabu experiment. In the anthology, Switching Hour (by me) and Witched at Birth (by Dakota) include the same, or nearly the same, beginning. At the end of that original Chapter One our characters went separate ways—an intentional creative decision we made together—and our stories went their separate ways too. After the anthology was removed from publication, Dakota and I both released our stories on their own. We each made as many changes as we felt necessary to make them work in their new individual series. The biggest change I made was in creating a brand new best friend character for my heroine, Zelda. The new character has a different name (Sassy), a different storyline, and will return in later series books because that is what best friends do.
If you are a Dakota fan, as well as one of mine, you may notice our Chapter One remains similar even in our newly released versions. Now you know why, Pookies. Enjoy!
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