Sparkle Witch – Helen Harper

‘Have you seen my scarf?’ I asked, managing to distract myself by gazing lasciviously at Winter’s rock-hard body. ‘It’s cold out.’ ‘No. And stop changing the subject.’ ‘It’s a very snuggly scarf. And I look really cute when I wear it.’ ‘You look really cute whatever you wear. But you’re still changing the subject.’ His voice grew more insistent, with a touch of an imperious I’m-the-Ipsissimus-and-I-know-what’s-best-for-you tone sneaking through. ‘I think it would be a good idea for you to get involved.’ In return I put on what I was sure was my best if-only-I-had-the-time expression and sighed deeply. ‘I’d love to but I’ve got Grenville sniping constantly at me for not moving faster and releasing more spirits. And some of those ghosts have been trapped here for decades. Centuries even. I’m concerned for their well-being.

’ Grenville hovered behind Winter and frowned at me. ‘Ridiculous girl! Did you not hear me say we were ahead of schedule and that you should take a break for the holiday season?’ ‘Where is Grenville?’ Winter enquired. ‘I can talk to him. I might not be able to hear him but he’ll be able to hear me. He has to understand that relations with the living are as important as relations with the dead. I know he has different priorities but it’s not as if the ghosts are going anywhere.’ That was exactly what I kept saying. Instead, however, I reached up and wrapped my arms round Winter’s neck, pressing myself close to him and inhaling the deep scent of his skin. ‘I know what kind of relations I’d like,’ I purred. For a moment he relaxed against me, one hand moving tantalizingly down my spine while his other brushed away an errant lock of frizzy hair from my cheek.

He let out a small growl and bent his lips to my ear. ‘Nice try, Ivy. But if you were that busy right now you wouldn’t have spent all morning opening both our advent calendars and eating all the chocolate.’ Darn it. I thought I’d done a good job of closing each little door to make it look like the calendars were untouched. I pretended not to hear him and let my fingers trail down his chest until they were close enough to slip inside his waistband. I was rewarded with a groan. ‘For goodness’ sake!’ Grenville yelled. ‘How many times a day do you have to be intimate with this man? You’re like a pair of rutting rabbits.’ I murmured a response without thinking, the squirming delight in the pit of my stomach momentarily quashing my common sense.

‘Sex is excellent exercise.’ Winter immediately pulled back. ‘He’s here.’ I scratched my neck and made a show of looking around. ‘Who?’ He rolled his eyes in exasperation. ‘You know who. I’ve said before that we are not here to provide voyeuristic entertainment for a bunch of ghosts.’ Folding his arms across his broad chest, he gave me the look. The one that suggested he was fully aware of exactly what I was up to. Then, unable to help himself, he quirked an amused eyebrow.

‘It’s just as well. I have lots of work to do and I told Maidmont you’d meet him to discuss the arrangements.’ I pouted. ‘You just want me to dress up in a silly costume.’ Winter’s eyes gleamed and I knew he was thinking of the sexy witch ensemble I’d put on especially for him at Halloween. ‘I like seeing you in silly costumes.’ ‘It can’t be any sillier than what you usually wear,’ Grenville huffed. I glared at the ghost. ‘I am not the best person for this job. Not for miles.

Besides, I’ve not seen Brutus for days. I was going to search for him and make sure he’s alright.’ ‘The cat will be fine. Go talk to Maidmont and,’ Winter paused and allowed himself a slow, lazy smile, ‘we can finish this later.’ ‘But Grenville…’ Winter cleared his throat and addressed the air. ‘Grenville, as the current Ipsissimus of the Hallowed Order for Magical Enlightenment, I am seconding Ivy for another job. She will return to her normal duties later.’ Both he and Grenville smirked at me. They weren’t genetically related in any way but sometimes I could swear they shared the exact same DNA. I threw up my hands and gave in.

I wasn’t going to win. Besides, how hard could helping out at Santa’s grotto be? Piece. Of. Christmas. Cake. *** There were many benefits to being the one and only squeeze of the Ipsissimus. Every witch, regardless of their Level or place in the Order hierarchy, was keen to help me out and I’d managed to engage many of them in regular errand running. It was for the good of all, I reasoned. I was happy because I wasn’t working up a sweat; Winter was happy because I had more time and energy to spend with him; the witches were happy because Winter was happy. It was win-win-win.

Of course, it did mean that I had to spend a great deal of my day being polite to people and saying hello. I wasn’t even halfway to the Order’s library where Maidmont and the grotto were located and I’d already been stopped half a dozen times. I thought I was safe when the path ahead was finally clear of red robes and the library building itself was in sight. Then, a young nervous voice called out from behind me. ‘Miss Ipsissimus! I’d really like to ask you about your thoughts on the workings of lavender versus mugwort in the workings of an effective weather spell.’ Don’t ask me about herblore. Never ask me about herblore. I paused and turned. ‘Ivy.’ The latest in a long line of young Neophytes blinked at me, dark hair framing a very earnest face.

‘Huh? I didn’t think ivy would work. Do I need to dry it first?’ ‘My name is Ivy. Not Miss Ipsissimus.’ In fact, try saying Miss Ipsissimus three times in a row. It’s beyond daft. Repeating my name aloud had become a familiar refrain. Most witches still struggled with the fact that I didn’t possess a proper Order title – Global Phantom Solutions and Assurance Strategist didn’t have much of a ring to it. I’d suggested on several occasions that it be shortened to Assurance Strategist. Or even just Ass. Sadly, it hadn’t yet taken.

But at least I enjoyed the facial expressions on the many humourless Order-driven witches I suggested it to. ‘Sorry.’ The Neophyte blushed and looked down. I glared. ‘Don’t apologise. We’ve never spoken before and you didn’t know what to call me. Instead of saying sorry, say something along the lines of, “Well, that’s so much better than wrapping my mouth around Miss Ipsissimus.” Or tell me that if I’d spoken in a full sentence then you’d have understood and I should learn the proper rules of grammar. Don’t say sorry for trying to do the right thing.’ The Neophyte stared at me.

I tapped my foot in response and raised my eyebrows. She coughed. ‘Uh, you’re very curmudgeonly to make such a big deal out of a name.’ She coughed again and blushed some more. I nodded approvingly. ‘Well done.’ I turned round and started walking again. This was a technique I was perfecting: flummox witches to the point where they’d forgotten why they wanted to talk to me in the first place and I could escape the conversation much faster. Unfortunately I’d clearly not perfected it. ‘So,’ she called out again, ‘Ivy, should I use lavender or mugwort?’ I had to give her brownie points for not giving up.

Stopping once more, I yielded to the question. Sometimes you had to know when to give in – I suppose Winter had taught me that. ‘What exactly are you trying to do? Weather covers a wide spectrum of possibilities. Do you want a sunbeam for your familiar to bask in? Or do you want to prevent a hurricane from happening? There’s quite a big difference.’ ‘I’m putting up the Christmas tree in the main courtyard. We thought that some real snow would really add to the overall effect.’ ‘Sure,’ I said sarcastically. ‘Wet, cold snow which will turn to sludge in hours is an excellent idea.’ I stared hard at her again. Fortunately this time she got the message and tilted up her chin in defiance.

‘Well, I think that snow will add to seasonal feel. A bit of snow makes everyone feel more Christmassy. Plus … plus … it’ll look pretty,’ she finished in a rush. Breaking down hierarchical barriers one witch at a time. I beamed at her. ‘Good. I still hate snow,’ I added, ‘but good. You’re learning to argue.’ I tapped my mouth and thought about it. ‘You probably want to use a combination of smoked pennyroyal with a pinch of yarrow root.

I’m no expert in herblore, however. You might end up with nothing more than a snowflake or as much as an avalanche. I’d strongly suggest getting the help of a Second Level witch before you begin.’ ‘Can’t you help?’ I smiled. ‘I’m not a Second Level witch. I’m not even a First Level witch.’ This time she looked me directly in the eyes. ‘Yes, but everyone knows how talented you are.’ ‘Not at herblore. Honestly, you can do better.

’ She opened her mouth to argue. In the space of one little chat, I’d apparently created a monster. I held up my palms. ‘Look,’ I said, ‘what’s your name?’ ‘Abigail.’ ‘Abigail, the most important thing you can learn is how to get others to do your dirty work for you. The second most important thing is to learn your own limitations and act accordingly.’ I patted her on the shoulder. ‘Find a Second Level witch and we’ll all be making snowmen in no time.’ For the first time, she smiled. ‘Thank you, Miss Ip— Ivy.

’ ‘You’re welcome.’ And with that, I tripped off to meet Maidmont.

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