Starting a new job is tough…especially when your boss thinks nothing of interrupting your wedding.
After a year of battling ghosts and demons, white witch Jade Calhoun is finally marrying the man of her dreams. Or is she? Minutes before Jade and Kane say I do, the High Angel arrives with a job for the newly appointed shadow walkers. Another witch’s life is on the line and it’s up to Jade and Kane to save her.
With a black magic user intent on destroying one of Jade’s friends, more demons on the loose, and a hard to find incubus, can the almost newlyweds save the witch and get their own happy ending?
Foreboding wasn’t the emotion a girl wanted to experience minutes before she was supposed to walk down the aisle. Yet that exact emotion was streaming off Lailah, my soul guardian. I tucked the skirt of my silver wedding dress up and walked to her side with all the nonchalance I could muster. “What’s wrong?” I whispered.
“Huh?” She glanced up from her smart phone, startled.
Mom eyed us from across the bedroom. We were upstairs in the master suite, finishing the final touches before my wedding started at Summer House, the southern Louisiana home Kane had given me as a wedding present. Located in the small town of Cypress Settlement, it had been in his family for years and was where his grandparents had been married. Pasting a smile on, I waved at her, pretending nothing was wrong. The expression on her face softened and she went back to putting the final touches on her makeup.
“You’re giving off a vibe that would make dogs whine,” I said.
Lailah tucked a lock of honey-blond hair behind her ear, exasperation now clinging to her as she forced a smile. “I’m just doing my job. Nothing to worry about.”
I could feel her trying to summon joy and excitement to mask whatever was causing her such turmoil. But she couldn’t hide her emotions from me, an empath. “Don’t try that with me,” I scolded gently. “Something’s going on. Is it Kane? He’s here, right?” I’d been perfectly fine five minutes ago, ready to commit myself to the man who’d been by my side through all the crazy that had happened in the last year. Now nausea rolled through my stomach. What if he’d decided I was too much trouble? That life would be better spent with a normal woman? Not a witch-slash-empath with angel blood.
“Of course he is,” she said, her eyes wide with surprise. “Why wouldn’t he be?”
I took a deep breath and clutched my hand to my chest. “Sorry. Just a momentary bride freak-out.”
She laughed, and more of the turmoil slipped from her. “I think we can let you slide this time. Don’t worry. Everything is fine. Promise.”
“Famous last words.”
The door crashed open with a bang, rattling the small cluster of framed photographs hanging on the wall. “Jade,” Kane’s mother gushed as she fingered the half dozen strands of Mardi Gras beads hung around her neck. That wouldn’t have bothered me if one of them hadn’t sported flashing penises. On any other day I would have laughed, but on my wedding day I didn’t appreciate it, and I had to bite back a scowl. “You look amazing, darling.”
She wore a bright red, low-cut, form-fitting silk dress that was several inches too short for a woman in her sixties. Her lipstick, the shade a perfect match, was smeared slightly on one side as if she’d been making out with someone moments before. What was this? A frat party?
“Thank you, Shelia.” I took another step toward Lailah, hoping I could avoid another of the inevitable bone-crushing hugs she’d bestowed on me five times already today. No such luck. She barreled into me, the strong scent of rum wafting from her.
Lailah gave me a sympathetic smile. “I’ll go check and see how close we are to starting.”
I glared at her over Shelia’s shoulder and mouthed, Traitor.
“Shelia!” Pyper said as she strolled past Lailah into the bedroom, wearing a sleek woman’s-fit tux. “Kane was just looking for you. It’s time to seat the mothers.” She paused and eyed my future mother-in-law. “Have you been outside flashing for beads again?”
Shelia grinned and touched one of the plastic penises. “It’s Mardi Gras. What else was I supposed to do while I waited for this shindig to start?”
Pyper laughed, but when she saw my face, she covered with a cough. “Maybe it’s better to wait until after the ceremony to partake in the parades.”
“I’m here now, aren’t I?” Shelia pulled off a strand of white beads with three miniature beer bottles attached. In the process, her dress slipped open, and Pyper and I were treated to a peek at her braless chest. I closed my eyes momentarily and prayed for patience. Kane had told me his mother was a little…interesting. “I didn’t miss anything,” Shelia continued. “Anyway, I was out there to get beads for Jade. She can’t have her wedding Mardi Gras weekend and not wear beads.” She moved forward with the beads outstretched as if she were going to settle the strand over my head.
“Whoa.” I held my hands up. “I’ve already got beads on.” I touched the intricate glass-bead flower necklace I’d made specifically for the wedding. All of my bridesmaids had something similar. I’d given Pyper a strand of roundels that matched the cuff links I’d made for Kane.
“And it’s beautiful,” Shelia said. “But those have nothing to do with Mardi Gras.” She laughed. “Come on, Jade. Loosen up a little.”
I stood frozen as she forced the tacky beads over my head.
“Perfect! Now we’re ready to start.” She flashed a sauced grin and sashayed out of the room, her hips swaying hard enough I was surprised she didn’t throw her back out.
“Holy shit,” Pyper said, smoothing back her jet-black hair. “She’s worse than Kane said she was.”
“Jade!” my mother called as she hurried over. “What are you wearing?”
“A gift from Hurricane Shelia.” I started to sink down onto an ottoman, but Mom wrapped her hands around my arms to stop me.
“Oh, no. You’re going to wrinkle your dress.” Mom marched me over to the door. “Wait here. Your father will be up in a minute to get you.”
“Okay.” At this point, all I cared about was seeing Kane.
Mom eyed me one more time, sneered at the beads and then ripped them off me, nearly poking one of my eyes out with a mini beer bottle.
“Ouch!” I cried.
“Sorry, sweetie, but think of the pictures.” She took off down the hall, her heels clattering against the old wooden floors.
Pyper put a hand on my arm. Her silent mirth rushed into me, and my mood brightened instantly. She shook her head. “Family. They’re both crazy.”
I laughed as her humor washed away all the apprehension that had built up over the last few minutes. “I’m pretty sure Shelia gets the crown.”
“True.” Pyper picked up the beads Mom had thrown on the ground and pulled them over her head.
I gave her a horrified look. “Pictures. Remember?”
“Oh, Jade,” she mimicked in Shelia’s voice. “Loosen up. It’s a party.”
“Hey!” Kat said as she strode into the room. “Where are my beads?”
“No one said anything about Mardi Gras beads,” Lailah said as she followed her in.
“There are no beads. No one but Shelia is wearing beads.” I turned to Pyper. “Take those tacky things off right this moment before I spell you into submission.”
“Geesh,” she said and did as I asked. “No need to be a bridezilla.” Winking, she dropped them on the dresser. “Maybe if you wear them during the reception, that will appease Shelia.”
“After the ceremony is done and the pictures are taken, anyone can wear them, but don’t look at me. I’m not wearing that strand. I’m more of a wine girl. Unless we’re talking about Guinness.” I made a face. “I don’t do Bud.”
“Snob.” Pyper stuck her tongue out, and we all giggled.
“True,” I said. “Admission is the first step to recovery.”
“I hate to break up the girl fest, Jade, but it’s time.” Lailah held her hands out. “Form a circle and we can start the spell.”
Everyone sobered and we did as we were told.
“Nothing is going to interfere with this wedding,” Lailah continued. “Not if I have anything to say about it.”
The spell was my wedding present from my guardian angel. Since I seemed to have a penchant for attracting trouble, my one wish was that Kane and I would have a peaceful ceremony and reception. And with my history, we weren’t taking any chances.
The four of us stood in a circle, our hands clasped, as Lailah chanted, “Four to one and one to four, combine our strengths forevermore.”
A tingle sparked from her fingers to mine, ran through me, and transferred to Kat’s fingers in my other hand. She let out a small gasp and tightened her grip.
“From north to south and east to west, we bind our hearts over this house. Over our friends. Over this day. No one uninvited shall trespass over this land. Let the day be full of love, laughter, and joy. From one to four and four to one, let our will be done.”
We all parroted the last line, “Let our will be done.”
The spark zapped our fingers one more time. Then a complete peacefulness settled over my nerves, and my heart filled with all the love radiating from my friends.
“It’s perfect,” I said to Lailah.
She shrugged, pretending nonchalance, but even if I couldn’t feel the happiness and slight pride clinging just below her surface, I wouldn’t have believed she didn’t care. I knew her better than that. Lailah held her emotions close to the vest, and the only reason I could sense them was because we used to have a psychic connection. That was gone now, but her emotions still came through loud and clear.
I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a tight hug. “Thank you.”
When we pulled apart, she grinned. “You’re very welcome. Now let’s get you married.”
A knock followed by Lucien’s voice filtered through the door. “Jade? It’s time.”
“That’s my cue.” Pyper gave me a kiss on the cheek. “See ya in a few minutes.”
Lucien, the second in command of the New Orleans coven, dressed in a black suit and silver tie, was waiting to escort Pyper to Kane’s side.
“You ready, gorgeous?” he asked her, but before she could answer, his gaze shifted to take in Kat. His expression turned to one of longing and quickly morphed into guilt. I wanted to say something, anything, to ease his suffering, but what could I say? Sorry you’re in love with my best friend and if you use any magic around her it could kill her? No. He certainly didn’t need a reminder. Not after she’d almost died last month. He was torn up enough.
“You look very handsome,” Kat said and ran her hand over one of his lapels.
His smile turned tortured. Kat knew he had feelings for her. The feeling was mutual, and she was none too pleased that he was keeping his distance.
“Save me a dance,” she continued in a voice so seductive it made me blush.
I made a face at Pyper.
Her eyes widened, and she gave me a short nod indicating she was on it. “Okay then. Lucien, let’s get going before Kane sends someone else up to find me.” Slipping her arm through his, Pyper dragged Lucien down the hall, not giving him a chance to answer.
Kat sighed. “One day he’ll get over his fears.”
“Kat, honey,” I said. “He’s only trying to protect you. And honestly, I’m glad. After what happened—”
She held up her hand. “That’s enough. We’ve already been through this. He’s not performing magic right now, and as long as he isn’t, there’s no danger to me.”
“He’s a witch. Sometimes magic occurs without us even trying.”
“Jade’s right,” Lailah agreed. “Witches are unpredictable under the best circumstances—”
“All right!” Kat cried and held both hands up in surrender. “I hear you. Now let’s drop this. We have a wedding to get on with.” She smiled at me, a true and genuine gesture that warred with the sadness radiating from her heart.
“Oh, Kat,” I said and wrapped an arm around her. “It will all work out. You’ll see.” I said the words but had no idea how we’d get rid of Lucien’s curse. My mentor Bea, Lailah, and I had been trying to find anything that would reverse it for weeks. No such luck.
“Stop.” She pulled away from me and gave me her don’t-mess-with-me look. “Wedding.” She cocked her ear. “Hear that?”
The first notes of the wedding music floated up the grand staircase.
She grinned, tears swimming in her hazel eyes as I leaned in for a hug. “Love you,” she said.
“Love you, too. Now stop blubbering before you make me lose it.”
She sniffed and then took off to meet one of the groomsmen at the top of the stairs. Lailah squeezed my hand and followed her.
I took one last minute to check my hair and makeup before grabbing my simple white rose bouquet and walking out into the hall.
“Hi, baby,” my father said. Well, my stepfather, Marc. He was the man who’d raised me until my mother had forced him to go away. My biological father Drake was here somewhere, but we didn’t have a relationship outside of my involvement in the angel world—more specifically, my job as a shadow walker that I was supposed to start as soon as Kane and I got back from our honeymoon.
We weren’t close. We didn’t even like each other much. Still, I was glad Drake had decided to come. He was my father, after all.
“What’s wrong?” Marc asked.
“Huh?” I slipped my arm through his. “Nothing.”
“That’s not true. I can feel the apprehension strumming through you.”
“You can?” I turned to him, unfocusing so I could see his aura. “You’re not an intuitive. Your aura is blue. No outline of purple anywhere.”
He chuckled. “I don’t need to be an empath to know what’s going on with you, Jade. I helped raise you, remember? I can tell your moods just by looking at your face most times.”
I took in a sharp breath. “I look unsettled?”
“No. Not really. You look gorgeous, but there’s this tiny wrinkle right here.” He ran his index finger lightly over my forehead. “It only shows up when something’s troubling you. And right now there’s a faint worry line.”
I rubbed my forehead, trying to smooth the skin.
“Gonna tell me what it is?” he asked.
I leaned into him slightly, liking that I finally had a father figure to rely on. He was tall and lean with a little gray in his blond hair. “I don’t know, really. Lailah was worried about something, and I can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right and it’s going to ruin my day.”
He ran a light hand down my bare arm. “With all the crazy crap you both have been through the last year, it’s natural to be apprehensive on the big day. But try not to worry. Everything’s fine. And you have that spell the four of you just wielded. I bet this is all nerves.”
“I sure hope so.”
“It is,” he said. “Trust me.”
Marc guided me down the hall and stopped a few feet before we came into view at the top of the grand staircase. “This is it. Ready?”
My heart seemed ready to explode. Our day was finally here despite the ghosts, the demon attacks, and the fact I’d almost died when my soul had been split. Kane had stayed by my side the entire time, and I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him.
The music changed to the traditional wedding march, and tears sprang to my eyes as we appeared at the top of the stairs. A low murmur ran through the crowd below, but the only things I saw were Kane’s love-filled eyes gazing up at me.
I floated down those stairs, all the foreboding forgotten. The love of the room pressed in on me and filled my heart to almost bursting.
When the minister asked “Who gives this bride?” both Mom and Marc answered. I hadn’t been expecting that. In rehearsal we’d practiced Marc saying it, but I appreciated Mom speaking up as well. It finally felt as if I had a real family. Dysfunctional, yes, but one that cared about one another unconditionally. That was fine with me.
Kane, his expression full of admiration, held his hand out to me. Marc completed the transfer by placing my hand in Kane’s. His fingers immediately tightened over mine and my knees went weak with the sheer emotion radiating from him. It was the most perfect moment of my life.
The minister said a prayer, followed by an earth blessing. Kane grinned at me and ever so slightly jabbed his head in his mother’s direction. I almost laughed, knowing she was probably losing her mind over the earth blessing. She’d already told me no less than five times how out of place it was in the ceremony. But I was a witch. And there couldn’t be a wedding without an earth blessing.
After clearing his throat, the minister continued with our Christian Pagan wedding. “If anyone here knows any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
A loud boom rippled through the ballroom, followed by a brilliant flash of white light. A collective gasp rose from our friends, and Kane instantly stepped in front of me, shielding me from whatever was to come.
I knew it was instinct, so instead of getting irritated, I just stepped out from behind him to find my real father and his consort Chessandra, the high angel, standing center stage between us and our guests. Anger coiled up from the depths of my soul. What the hell were they doing, and why were they dressed in their gold-embroidered council robes?
Before I could say anything, the high angel waved a hand, casting the entire room in a blue light, and said, “Jade Calhoun and Kane Rouquette, you are hereby summoned to the shadow world immediately.”
“What? Now?” I cried. “We’re getting married.”
Chessandra leveled an unfeeling stare at us. “Change of plans.”