Witching for Joy – Deanna Chase

“DO you think a jury would acquit me if I murdered her?” Joy Lansing whispered to her makeup artist. “I’d vote innocent,” Sam Catts said as she scowled in Prissy Penderton’s direction. “If she asks you about Troy Bixby one more time, I’ll—” “Joy,” Prissy drawled in the sickeningly sweet voice she used when she was pretending that she and Joy were friends. “Yes, Prissy?” Joy said, eyeing the other woman from across the makeup tent. Joy’s long blond hair had already been styled into an elegant twist, and her makeup artist was working on her face for the next scene in the indie film she’d been cast in recently. Joy’s life had taken a dramatic turn after photos of her had been used in a national marketing campaign for a classic perfume line aimed at mature women. Troy Bixby, her… friend? Potential boyfriend? She wasn’t sure what they were, but Troy had asked her to pose for him and the next thing she knew, her face was plastered all over the internet and in the pages of every women’s magazine known to man. The attention had been flattering and also pretty overwhelming. But when she got a call asking her to audition for a family drama that was being filmed in Premonition Pointe, that’s when her lifelong dream of being an actress had come true. Joy was part of a multigenerational cast. Her character was the mother to a twenty-five-year-old and the daughter to a woman in her late sixties. All three of them come together when the granddaughter is dealing with an abusive husband through a contentious divorce and custody battle. The script had moved Joy to tears, and she was full of pride to be a part of the project. Unfortunately, Prissy Penderton landed the lead, playing Joy’s daughter. The woman had just hit stardom with a breakout role a few months before, and she’d turned out to be insufferable with her demands and entitlement.

Joy stayed out of her way whenever possible. It seemed as if her luck had run out. “I heard Troy’s coming to town this weekend. You did talk to him about my cocktail party, didn’t you?” Prissy asked. Joy gritted her teeth. Prissy had been begging her to bring Troy to her cocktail party ever since the news broke that he was scheduled to be in Premonition Pointe that weekend for a gallery show. Too bad Joy had learned the news from a gossip rag and not the man himself. But the last thing she was going to do was tell the starlet that it had been more than three weeks since she’d talked to Troy. She forced a tight smile. “No, the subject hasn’t come up.

” “Jooooy,” she whined. “I need Troy to be there or else the male-to-female ratio will be off. I’m counting on you.” “He’s a busy man,” Joy said with a shrug. “I’ll mention it when I talk to him.” If she talked to him. The entire world thought they were dating, thanks to a throwaway comment he’d made during an interview recently. The reporter had asked him about the gorgeous new face of Elegance, and he’d called Joy his muse. When the reporter pressed about their relationship, he’d been noncommittal, but the article had described him as having ‘a sexy half-smile and a glint in his eye.’ The tabloids had run with it, calling them the hottest new “it” couple.

The entire thing was making Joy question her own sanity. Because the truth was that she and Troy had spent one amazing week together heating up his sheets. During that week, he’d photographed her for the Elegance perfume campaign. Then he’d left for Europe, where he was working on his next project. He’d said he wanted to get back together when he was back in town, and while they’d sort of kept in touch, they mostly talked about his project and her new acting job. Neither of them had talked about what the future might bring when he returned home. And according to the Premonition Perspective, the local gossip rag, he was due back in town in just a few days. Too bad he hadn’t given her a heads-up. “Just make sure you’re both there Saturday night,” Prissy insisted. “Get your hair and makeup done and dress as if you’re walking the red carpet.

Maybe even get some blue contacts to brighten up your eyes. Undoubtedly, the press will be there. You don’t want the first photos of you after your perfume campaign to make it look like Troy’s photos were heavily manipulated, do you?” Joy scowled at the younger actress’s back as Prissy retreated from the tent. Blue contacts? Her eyes were already sky blue. The younger woman was clearly enjoying pushing Joy’s buttons. When she was gone, Joy looked up at her makeup artist. “She really is a bitch, right?” “Definitely,” Sam said, nodding her head. “Bitch in heat, actually. I swear, if Troy does show up at her house, she’s probably going to first scratch your eyes out and then pee on him.” Shaking her head, Joy let out a humorless chuckle.

“She’s barking up the wrong tree. He didn’t even tell me he’s coming to town.” Sam raised her eyebrows. “Is he ghosting on you?” “No. We’re not even dating.” Joy sighed. “The media made something out of nothing. We’ve been in touch over the past few months, but we’re not anything other than friends.” Could she even call a hookup a friend? She didn’t know. Dating was a foreign concept to her.

Troy had been the first and only man she’d been with after her husband called it quits on their marriage. Joy hadn’t been expecting anything from Troy. Why would she? It wasn’t as if she was going to jump right into a relationship with a man she barely knew after a marriage that had lasted nearly three decades. “Well then, why not just send him a text that Prissy wants him to show up at her cocktail party, and then either wash your hands of it or show up at her party looking like a million bucks and let them both eat their hearts out.” Joy glanced up at her with narrowed eyes. “And how am I going to do that?” A slow smile claimed Sam’s lips. “You let me worry about that.” “What do you have up your sleeve?” Joy asked. She shrugged one shoulder. “Let’s just say that I’ve got a connection to a high-profile stylist.

” “Hey, Mom,” Prissy called as she walked back into the tent carrying a mug. Joy tried not to scowl. Her own children were right about the same age as the starlet, and she was in no way offended by the term, but it was the way Prissy said it, as if Joy’s age were something to be embarrassed about, that just got under her skin. “I brought you a coffee,” Prissy said, handing Joy the mug. “Figured you could use a pick me up since it’s my fault we worked so late last night.” Blinking at her, Joy wrapped her hands around the mug, stunned. Joy was tired. Prissy had experienced a rare off night the previous evening, and she’d caused the cast and crew to endure over fifty takes of the scene they were shooting. She’d been flat and kept forgetting her lines. The fact that she was humble enough to bring Joy coffee as a peace offering caught her off guard.

It wasn’t what she’d come to expect from Prissy. “Thank you. This was very kind of you.” Prissy smiled at her, did an exaggerated curtsy, and said, “That’s because I am kind.” She winked and as she left the tent again, she called over her shoulder, “Enjoy.” “That was… really weird,” Sam said. Joy had to agree. She tipped the mug to her lips and took a sip. When the rich coffee, flavored with just the right amount of creamer, hit her tongue, she nearly let out a moan of pleasure. It was exactly the way she liked it, and she decided right then and there that maybe she was being too hard on Prissy.

If the woman had paid enough attention to know how Joy took her coffee, she couldn’t be that bad, could she? Joy took another long sip and let out a sigh. “Damn, this is good.” “Yeah? The evil princess finally did something nice for a change?” Sam asked, applying bronzer to highlight Joy’s cheekbones. “Maybe she’s turning over a new leaf,” Joy said as she settled back into the chair to enjoy the rest of the coffee while Sam worked her magic. “AND… CUT!” the director called. “That’s it for today. Good job, team.” Prissy walked across the set and stopped right in front of Joy, her eyes searching Joy’s face. “It’s fine,” Joy said, sharply, still feeling the sting of the slap Prissy had landed in the last scene. Her cheekbone ached, but she wasn’t going to give the younger actress the satisfaction of knowing she’d actually hurt her.

“I’m sure you are.” Prissy narrowed her eyes and added, “You should really spend some time at that spa. Your eyes are puffy, and your complexion is a little uneven. A facial would probably do you a world of good.” Joy clenched her fists and blew out a breath, willing herself to not lash out and give the other actress a taste of her own medicine. She’d never slapped anyone in her life, but if Prissy didn’t get the hell out of her face, Joy was going to unleash her frustration. How was it possible for a person to be so hot and cold? Earlier the woman had been thoughtful enough to bring her coffee, and now she was being a total bitch for reasons Joy didn’t understand. “Did you need anything else?” She shrugged one shoulder. “Just wanted to let you know you might also want to do something about that zit on your chin.” Prissy smiled sweetly and then turned and trotted off to the car waiting for her.

Joy brought her hand to her chin, immediately felt the bump of the newly formed pimple, and groaned. Why had she been cursed with the most sensitive skin and the brattiest costar on the planet? “Come with me,” a rich, sultry voice said from behind her. The frustration coiling in Joy’s gut disappeared at the sound of Carly Preston’s voice. The woman was only a few years older than Joy but still had been cast to play her mother in the film. Joy wasn’t unhappy about that. Carly was a renowned actress who’d won every award Hollywood offered and still managed to be the most gracious person Joy had ever met. “Where are we headed?” “My trailer. I have something that will clear that problem right up.” She smiled and slipped her arm through Joy’s. “You mean you have something that will fix Prissy’s personality?” Joy asked with a gasp, grinning at the gorgeous older woman.

Her hair was dyed a beautiful shade of honey blond, and she had skin so radiant that it glowed. Carly let out a throaty laugh and her bright eyes danced with humor. “Now that really would be a miracle.” She gave Joy a wry smile. “That one will have to learn the hard way that being a pill won’t get her what she wants.” She winked, and a moment later she invited Joy into her trailer. “Give me a second. I have a salve I get from a healer that will clear up that blemish overnight.” When Carly disappeared into the bedroom area, Joy moved to sit in one of the leather chairs but stopped when her eye caught on a cluster of framed photographs lined up on a pullout table. A tingle formed in Joy’s gut and radiated to her fingers.

Her feet seemed to move on their own as if she were drawn to the photos, and before she knew it, she had one of them in her hands as she stared down at a pretty young woman who had the exact same eyes as Carly Preston. Joy thought the woman looked to be in her late twenties and that the picture hadn’t been taken that long ago. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and was holding a smartphone in one hand, and her eyes were dancing with amusement as she blew a kiss at the camera. It was a happy photo, but as Joy stared at it, unease clenched at her gut and her vision swam. Suddenly the picture morphed into a black-and-white scene of the woman kicking and screaming as someone dragged her from her house and into a black SUV. Fear washed over Joy, and she let out a cry of horror as the photo slipped out of her hand, crashing to the floor. “Joy?” Carly asked, rushing over to her, concern in her tone. “Are you okay?” Joy was shaking as she picked up the frame and held it up for Carly to see. “Is she…” Joy swallowed hard. “Did she make it home?” Carly stared at Joy, confused.

“What do you mean, make it home?” “She… um, I had a vision. I saw her—” A phone rang, cutting Joy off. Carly held a hand up and smiled as she answered. “Hey Dee. What’s up?” Carly’s smiled vanished immediately, and worry blazed in her green eyes. “What do you mean she’s gone?” Joy paced, knowing in her gut that the phone call was somehow about the woman in the photo. After Carly asked a few questions and assured whoever was on the other end of the line that she’d be there as fast as she could, she hung up and turned to Joy. “I think you need to tell me everything you saw in that vision.” She pointed to the pretty blonde in the photo. “That’s my niece Harlow, and she’s just gone missing.

.

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