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Haunted on Bourbon Street/Witches of Bourbon Street
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Jade Calhoun was never fond of her empath abilities. Now she’s discovered she has another gift she’d rather not unwrap—magic. But when her mentor, Bea, becomes gravely ill and insists Jade’s the only one who can help, she’s forced to embrace her witchy side.
It’s too bad she spent a decade shunning the magical community and never learned to harness her powers. Because time’s run out. A trapped spirit has revealed a clue to Jade’s long-lost mother. The resident angel has gone rogue and disappeared with Jade’s boyfriend, Kane. And if that wasn’t enough, her ex appears to be possessed.
To save any of them, Jade will need to find a way to control her inner white witch—without succumbing to black magic. Otherwise, she’ll lose everything…including her soul.
I sat cross-legged in Bea’s cheery, yellow living room, trying not to scowl. White witch, my ass. After two hours of trying to manipulate my so-called power, I was ready to tell Bea and her nephew, Ian, exactly what they could do with their magic lessons.
Only, I couldn’t.
While battling with an evil spirit three months ago, Bea’s energy had been compromised, and she’d never recovered. For some ungodly reason she was convinced I was a witch and the answer for a cure.
I took in the dark circles rimming her eyes and her pale, waxy skin. The vibrant southern lady I’d come to admire had been replaced by a tired shell of an elderly woman destined for a retirement village.
All my irritation vanished. I had to do something. Anything.
Determined to get it right this time, I held one hand out to Bea and the other to Ian. Sweat trickled the length of my nose. It clung to the tip before landing silently on the patchwork area rug. For the hundredth time that day, I opened my senses, trying to harness Ian’s energy and hold it in my awareness long enough to transfer it to Bea. Ian’s anxious anticipation pressed against my skin, making me flinch.
“Focus, Jade,” Bea said. “Remember what I said about compartmentalizing.”
Stop focusing on what Ian is feeling, and focus on his essence.
When I’d given her a blank look, she’d gone on to explain: The essence of an individual is made up of both their soul and spirit. Spirit is basically life energy, while the soul is what gives a person the ability to feel compassion, love, and all the things that make one human.
Okay. Essence. I could do that. I’d done it before, only I’d thought of it as emotional energy. Somewhere in the corner of my mind, I closed the door on my empath ability. The three of us sat there holding sweaty hands as I tried to mentally connect with Ian. As usual, nothing happened. All right. Time for a new tactic. Instead of trying to get into his head, I concentrated on his heart. Slowly, the threads of Ian’s inner light started to tickle my senses. I imagined a siphon attached to a glass beaker and focused on capturing the essence Bea needed to be strong again. A swirly mist started to fill my beaker.
Success! After weeks of instruction, I’d finally grasped the technique Bea insisted I had the skill to master. Elation caused me to redouble my efforts.
With a full container of mist, I turned my attention to Bea, intent on sending her nephew’s strong energy into her being. Instantly, my imaginary beaker exploded. Ian’s hard-won healing essence evaporated into nothing.
“Damn it,” I growled.
“Negativity won’t help anything, dear.” Bea slumped back against her sunflower print loveseat.
Argh! I yelled in my head and looked at Ian helplessly.
He wiped his face with a cloth handkerchief and stood. “I’m getting some more tea. Anyone else?”
“Please.” I pulled my shirt away from my body and leaned toward the oscillating fan to my left.
Ian studied his aunt. “Bea? Tea or water?”
“No, thank you. I’m fine.” She rose gracefully to her feet then settled into the loveseat under a ray of sunshine. She tilted her face, warming it in the light. With each passing day, her ability to stay warm diminished, and despite the stifling heat, she wore black slacks and a long-sleeved shirt, topped with a cardigan sweater.
Just looking at her raised my internal temperature ten degrees. I stood. “I’ll be outside. I need a break.”
“I’ll meet you out there,” Ian said from the kitchen.
With effort, I managed to not slam the French door behind me as I escaped to the screened-in patio. The overhead fans rotated full force, showering me with a steady stream of much-needed air. I sat directly beneath one and stared out onto the perfectly manicured lawn, edged with a vibrant bed of hibiscus plants. What else would one expect from a carriage home in the Garden District of New Orleans?
While it was still beautiful, I missed the variety of colorful annuals that had long since given up in the summer heat. I’d offered to help Bea with the fall garden, but she’d waved me off, saying I had better things to do with my time.
Like figure out how to energy meld. After banishing Roy—an evil spirit who used to haunt the club in my building—Bea had never fully recovered, leaving her cold and weak. When her doctor didn’t find anything wrong, he’d prescribed a vitamin regimen. It wasn’t helping, though Bea had said all along she knew it wouldn’t. Her essence had been zapped, and there were only two ways to restore it: time or the help of another witch. But not just any witch. Apparently it took a white witch. Something both Bea and Lailah—her shop assistant—insisted I was. I didn’t agree. I’m an empath, someone who can read others’ emotions, not a witch. Or at least not a powerful one, judging by my lack of ability to transfer Ian’s energy to Bea.
The door squeaked and Ian’s frustration reached me before he did. “It’s not working.” He handed me a tall glass of sweet tea and sat down opposite me, stretching out his long, gangly legs.
“I told you not to get your hopes up.” I took a long sip and didn’t make eye contact.
“If you had a better attitude, it would help.”
My head snapped up. I opened my mouth, ready to let him know exactly what I thought of his opinion, but closed it. The fatigue etched around his pale blue eyes gave him a hollowed-out, almost ghostly appearance. If he hadn’t been so worried about his aunt, it would have been funny, considering his obsession with ghost hunting.
I breathed deeply, trying to release some of my bottled-up frustration. “I’m trying.”
“Shit. Sorry. I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. I only meant positive energy flows more freely and all that crap.” He brushed back his sweat-dampened, sandy blond hair.
I laughed. “All that crap?”
He shrugged, giving me the first real smile I’d seen on him in days. I searched for a resemblance of the man I’d met three months earlier, after a ghost scare in my apartment. That day he’d been all smiles, easygoing, and dressed in all black, looking very much like a pro skateboarder. Today he wore khaki shorts and a pinstriped, button-down, short-sleeved cotton shirt. Only the Converse shoes remained from his previous persona.
“What’s with the makeover? I thought T-shirts and jeans were all you owned,” I teased.
He glanced down at his shirt, looking pained. “I’m a little behind on laundry. Plus, with the heat in there, this is a little cooler.”
Sobering, I leaned in. “She’s getting worse, isn’t she?” It seemed each time I saw her, Bea got a little paler and a little thinner. If I couldn’t master the energy meld soon and transfer some healthy energy to her…I didn’t want to finish the thought.
Ian nodded. “I’ve been noticing her decline for the last few weeks. But I don’t understand it. Enough time has gone by that she should be getting better.”
I bit my lip. “Maybe it’s her age. Older folks don’t bounce back as easily.”
“She’s not that old. In her sixties, I think. She makes sure none of us know what year she was really born in.”
I smiled at that. Bea owned a new age shop in the French Quarter. From the outside it often embodied everything you’d expect a tourist shop to be. But one foot inside from someone with knowledge of the craft, and you knew she was one powerful witch. With that kind of skill, Bea could be eighty and no one would be the wiser. In fact, I’d guessed she was in her fifties. “Either way, with how strong she was, this doesn’t make sense.”
Ian rubbed his temples. When he dropped his hands, he looked me dead in the eye. “Ready to try again?”
No. My shirt was practically soaked through. I had plans with my boyfriend, Kane, in a few hours, and I’d promised to call my aunt Gwen before I went out. I pushed my chair back and grabbed my empty glass. “Let’s do it.”
Ian held the door for me. I set my shoulders and walked willingly back into the sauna that used to be Bea’s living room. After a stop in the guest bathroom to splash my face with cool water, I took my place on the area rug.
Bea slid to the edge of her seat and, with shaking arms, carefully lowered herself to the floor. The small effort left her winded.
I took her hand and peered into her eyes. “Tell me again why I can’t just transfer some of my own energy?” In the past, I’d been successful in replenishing both my own strength and the strength of others by tapping what I used to think of as emotional energy. I’d thought it was just part of my gift. But when Bea had explained the energy meld she was trying to teach me, she’d said I wasn’t transferring emotions at all. I was taking and receiving pieces of the inner essence we all possessed.
“Remember how weak you were the last time you loaned your strength to someone? Didn’t you tell me you’d drained yourself to the point you’d become bedridden?”
“But I can give you just a little, to at least help you feel a bit better?”
“No.” Her voice was full of conviction. “You don’t have control yet, and that’s why you exhaust yourself. Use Ian. You’ll learn something and you’ll both recover fast.” She held her hand out to her nephew and gave him a pointed look.
Joining our circle, he shot me a look that implied I’d better get to work.
With their hands in mine, I once again concentrated on Ian. His familiar essence flowed easier this time, and before I could devise a new way to capture it, the weight of it settled into my bones. I sat straight up as my nerve endings tingled, overflowing with the urge to move. It was too much. The energy meld had worked, only I’d accidentally absorbed it instead of transferring it to Bea.
“Release it now!” Bea commanded.
My head snapped in her direction. Rigid and ready to jump out of my own skin, I stared her down. She met my gaze, and suddenly my back arched as Ian’s essence was pulled from me.
Ian’s hand went slack in my death grip, but I couldn’t move my fingers to release him. I sat frozen, locked in Bea’s gaze until every last tingle faded to numbness. My body slumped forward. I sat there half-lying on the floor until Ian’s strong arms lifted me back into a sitting position.
“You okay?” he asked.
I lifted my weak head, giving him a small nod.
He cradled my head on his shoulder and whispered, “Look.”
Bea stood over us, her cardigan sweater shed, fanning herself with a book. “When did it get so warm in here?”
I smiled. “It’s about time you noticed.”
A low chuckle vibrated in Ian’s throat.
“Can you turn the temperature down now? Some of us don’t prefer a slow roast,” I teased. Though, for once, I wasn’t sweating. My hands and feet were still numb, and the rest of my body had started to tremble.
Ian’s arm tightened around me. “Don’t worry. Bea has a special vitamin that will pick you right back up.”
“It kick-starts your inner strength.”
Right. I’d never heard of this so-called miracle pill. “Is it altered?”
He laughed. “It’s spelled, if that’s what you mean. Bea keeps them around for emergencies.”
I pushed myself away from his embrace. “No, thanks. I’ll recover on my own.”
Ian sat back and crossed his arms. “This again? You just did a spell. You’ve been trying to master it for how many days—no, weeks, now? And yet you won’t take a pill that will have you feeling right in no time because a witch enhanced it? I hate to tell you this, Jade, but you’re a witch, too. A white one. A very powerful one and, to be honest, you can’t afford to be drained.”
“Don’t sass the girl. She just cured your aunt.” Bea handed me a tall glass of sweet tea and pointed the fan at Ian.
“Thank you.” I gulped down three-quarters of the liquid before coming up for air.
Bea’s smile turned to a grin. “No point trying to force a pill down her throat when tea will work just as well.”
I tilted my head in confusion then frowned as my nerve endings started to come back to life, reviving my extremities. My body started to hum, much in the way it did after a good workout at the gym. “Bea! Tell me you did not just drug me without my knowledge.”
“Heavens, no. I wouldn’t do that. I did crush up an enhanced vitamin, though. You needed it after that impressive display of energy work.”
Her satisfied smile made me want to scream. But as I took in her rosy cheeks and the glint that had been missing from her eyes, I softened and shook my head. “You know I don’t like to be manipulated.”
“Who does?” Bea called as she headed toward the back door. “I had to do something after you botched the essence transfer.”
“Botched? What do you mean? Looks like it worked to me. You’re upright, looking better than you have since the exorcism.”
“Yes, botched.” She opened the back door. “I’m not saying it didn’t work. In fact, I’d say it worked better than anyone expected it to. But I also told you not to transfer any of your essence. Too bad you don’t take direction well. Don’t worry—we can work on that.” The French door shut with a soft click.
I glanced at Ian. “I didn’t mean to. It just happened.”
He patted my hand as if I were a five-year-old then got up and headed for the kitchen.
“I didn’t do it on purpose,” I called.
Ian poked his head back into the living room. “I know. This is why you need to study.”
I clamped my mouth shut and glared.
“That’s what I thought you’d say.” He disappeared again, leaving me alone with my jaw clenched and arms folded tightly against my chest.
“A thank-you would have been nice,” I said to no one.