By Jill Barnett. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locations is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
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By Jill Barnett. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locations is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. We at BelleBooks enjoy hearing from readers.
You can contact us at the address above or at BelleBooks BelleBooks. There was magic in the air, yet few could see it. Lightning splintered the midnight sky, and thunder bellowed. Rain poured down from the heavens, and the sea crashed against the huge granite rocks of the coast, splattering white sea-foam up the sharp cliff on which Duart Castle stood.
For five hundred of its six hundred years, the castle had been the stronghold of the clan MacLean and host to their cousins, the clan MacQuarrie. But the Battle of Culloden Moor had changed all that. On that dark, dank moor some sixty-seven years earlier, Scot stubbornness had caused many a clan to lose its holdings. The MacLeans had lost their stronghold to the Sassenach—Englishmen who cared not a whit for the braw, bold power of the place.
The castle stood empty now, dark and abandoned. The skies bellowed and crackled, and the seas roared. To mere mortals it was only another storm, but to those who knew, to those of the ancient faith, it was more than just the heavens and the earth battling.
An ancient forefather of the current MacQuarrie had been summoned to the fete of the Spring Equinox in what is now the south of England. There, on a wide plain, stood a massive stone temple where the witches and warlocks met to demonstrate their powers.
On that special spring it had been decreed that the MacQuarrie warlock would have the cherished honor of making those most precious springtime flowers—the roses —bloom. Other witches and warlocks had already walked into the center of the temple and used their magic to bring life back to a winter-dead earth. Wallflower bushes, buttercups, and dandelions spread a frosting of bright yellow across the fresh green that had magically sprouted.
Soon the barren branches of birch trees were dripping with silvery spring leaves and tall elegant alders burst anew. The scent of jasmine, primrose, marigold, and lavender filled the cool morning air, and suddenly it was spring.
Birds and insects swarmed through the air and perched in the trees, and the melody of the lark, the hum of the bees and call of doves brought music to the land that had for too many cold, dreary months been silent. The crowd parted as he made his way to the center of the stone temple.
The room was silent, so silent one could have heard a blink, as each and every witch and warlock waited for that special moment. The MacQuarrie stood there for a long moment of quiet concentration. Slowly, he raised his hands toward the massive ceiling and with a snap of his fingers, let loose his magic. Instead an enormous explosion, the like of which no one had ever seen, blew the temple walls and roof into the sky.
When the dust settled and the air cleared and the witches and warlocks picked themselves up off the ground, the temple was no more. Nothing stood except a few circles of stone arches.
Modern mortals look in awe at the ruins they call Stonehenge, but mention the name Stonehenge to the witches of the world and to this very day they shake their heads in dismay and mutter about the shame of the MacQuarries.
And it came to pass that in the year of our Lord there were only two witches left in all of Scotland—a MacLean and, of all things, a MacQuarrie. So on this brash night as the storm battered the shore of the isle of Mull, as it rained on the crumbling ruins of a once-proud castle perched upon that jagged stone headland, as the mortals on that tiny island cowered by their fires and listened to the heavens wail, the MacLean and the MacQuarrie made magic.
Joyous Fiona MacQuarrie bent down to pick up the scattering of books on the tower room floor. Ten golden bracelets jangled like sleigh bells down her wrists and echoed in the tense silence of the room. She picked up another book, to the accompaniment of those same tinkling bracelets, but as they settled on her wrists she could hear a new sound—a distinct, agitated tapping.
Joy peeked under her outstretched arm and winced. With a defeated sigh she quietly returned the books to their ancient oak shelf and plopped onto a wobbly wooden stool after pulling it closer to the trestle table that stood in the center of the tower room.
She rested a small chin in her hand and waited for her aunt to reach a hundred—at least she hoped it would be only a hundred. A slick cat with fur as white as fresh Highland snow leapt onto the table and wound itself around and through the three time-tarnished brass candlesticks whose tapers bathed the battered oak table in flickering golden light.
As the cat meandered along the table, its tail cast strange shadows across the nicked tabletop. That was her problem. She was a witch with a wandering mind. She glanced at her own familiar, Beelzebub, an ermine weasel whose coat was currently winter white except for wee spots of black on his tail and paws.
The snowy fur covered a massive potbelly that made him look more like a plump rabbit than a sleek, almost feline weasel. He was at that moment, as at most moments, sound asleep. Owls were too wise to ally themselves with someone as inept as Joy. And toads, well, they took one look at her, croaked, and hopped away. Plump, old Beezle wheezed in his sleep. Joy watched his black-tipped paws twitch and reminded herself that at least she had a familiar, even if he was only a weasel.
As if sensing her thoughts, he cracked open one lazy, brown eye and peered at her as if calmly waiting for the next disaster. She reached out to scratch his plush belly and promptly knocked over a pot of cold rose hip tea. Gabriel hissed and sprang out of the path of the spilled tea. Beezle seldom moved at all. The tea pooled like the tide around him. He waddled over to a dry spot and plopped back down with a soft thud, then rolled over, paws in the air, plump white and pink belly up, and stared at the ceiling.
Joy wondered if animals could count. Beezle opened his mouth and let out a loud wheeze, then a snore. Whatever am I to do with you? That love made the situation even worse for Joy. She absently drew one finger through the dust on the table, then looked at her aunt and mentor. Can one word truly make such a difference? Every single word is of the utmost importance. An incantation must be exact. Part of the power comes from the voice.
The MacLean took a deep breath and clasped her hands behind her. The rest takes practice. She paced around the circular room, her strong voice echoing off the stone walls like bagpipes in the Highlands. With the suddenness of a wink, she stopped and looked down at Joy. Now pay attention. Watch me. Joy caught her breath. Standing as she was, tall and golden with the midnight sky as a backdrop through the tower window, her aunt looked like a goddess.
Her long straight hair, which hung in a gleaming satin drape past her hips to the backs of her knees, was the color of hammered gold. Her skin was as flawless as pure cream and appeared ageless in the muted glow of the candlelight. A breath of cold Scottish wind whistled through the tower room, making the candle flames flicker.
The sharp smell of hot tallow mingled with the scent of midnight rain and the brine of the roiling seas that rode the whisper of wind through the room. Shadows danced a jagged jig up the granite walls, and the sound of waves crashing against the sharp coastal rocks below echoed upward, blending with the mournful call of gulls that roosted in the tower eaves.
Then, with the suddenness of a lightning flash, all was still Magic quaked through the air—a live, animated thing, powerful, controlled, swarming toward the wall where heavy old leather-bound books stood on an oaken shelf.
A huge brown book, cracked and tattered, slowly, inch by smooth inch, slid off the shelf, turned in midair, then floated to the MacLean.
It hovered near her, waiting, until she slowly lowered one arm. The book followed her movement, lighting on the table as if it were a feather instead of a three-thousand-page volume. One must simply concentrate. Her aunt replaced the book on its shelf and turned to Joy.
Now you try it. With pure Scots stubbornness in her dark green eyes, Joy took a deep breath, closed those eyes, and with all the drama a twenty-one-year-old witch could muster, she flung her hands up into the air. Her bracelets flew across the tower room like soaring gulls. At the first clatter of metal hitting stone, she winced, then eased open one green eye. She remembered the way her aunt had made the magic only minutes before.
She threw her shoulders back and raised her determined chin, sending a thick cascade of wild and wavy mink-brown hair tumbling down to sway near the backs of her thighs. She opened her eyes and reached up higher. Taking one deep, cleansing breath for luck, she commanded, Come! Joy spread her fingers wide, bit her lip, and slowly pulled her hands back toward her, mentally picturing the book drifting toward her, then hovering in the air.
She opened her eyes, determined to move that book, then snapped her fingers for good measure. The book flew past her as if carried on a whirlwind; then the next book and the next book, then another and another, sucked from the shelf with the pulling strength of the sea tide.
With a horrendous crack, the bookshelf ripped from the stone walls.
My first ever Romantic Historical. I work in a bookstore and everyone was talking about this book. I am so glad that I listened! This was such a hit at the time that her publisher went back and reprinted her back titles. We need more like this! Utterly adorable and fun!
Bewitching (Regency Magic Book 1)
Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book.