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The bare witch project, p.1
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       The Bare Witch Project, p.1

           Celeste Hall
 
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The Bare Witch Project


  The Bare Witch Project

  Book #1 in the Kitty Coven Series

  By Celeste Hall

  The Bare Witch Project

  Book #1 in the Kitty Coven Series

  Copyright © 2014 by Celeste Hall

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Please purchase only authorized editions.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Acknowledgement

  This series is dedicated to my amazing “Katie-Cat”. Ever since she was a little girl, she was always bringing home stray felines. Despite being scratched, bitten, peed on, and a mild case of ringworm, she has never met a cat that she hasn’t liked. If anyone deserves to find happily ever after in the arms of a handsome werecat, it’s her!

  Also by Celeste Hall

  ~ Seduction Series ~

  A paranormal erotic romance series, best read in the following order…

  Ethan

  Kye

  Rico

  Gavin

  All The Queen’s Men

  The Brothers Sin – Coming Soon!

  ~ Kitty Coven Series ~

  A new adult romance series, best read in the following order…

  Something Wicca This Way Comes

  The Bare Witch Project

  Love’s a Witch

  A Yowling Yuletide

  Cheaper By The Coven – Coming Soon!

  ~ Standalone novels and novellas ~

  Fealty

  Lady Silence

  Prison of Dreams

  Simple Musings

  His Pale Prisoner

  Error: Please Try Again

  Secret Admirer

  ~ Short stories and Anthologies ~

  The Inventor’s Throne

  A Touch of Irish

  Their First Time (A collection of just the first love scene from several of her other books)

  The Pied Piper

  The Seven Ravens (Once Upon an Apocalypse anthology, via Chaosium Inc.)

  The Girl Who Cried Wolf (Once upon a Ménage anthology, via Ravenous Romance)

  Beware of Wolves

  Chapter One

  “Are you sure you don’t want to come with us, Morgan? There’s going to be booze and boys enough for even this little slut to drown in.” Rachel made a face at Heidi.

  Rachel was usually reserved, but tonight she looked sexy in a flattering little black dress and heels. A three inch tall pointy black hat was clipped into her short brown hair at a jaunty angle, symbolizing that she was actually supposed to be a witch. In reality she would have been better suited in an angel costume.

  Intelligent and kind, with an even temperament that often designated her as the peace maker between them, Rachel was the angel on Morgan’s shoulder. She was always there for her friends when they needed good advice or a sympathetic ear.

  Heidi, on the other hand, was the wild child. If Rachel was an angel, Heidi was the devil on the opposite arm. She was always getting into mischief and dragging her friends along with her. She wasn’t really and truly wicked, but she just couldn’t seem to help being a bit impish and her outfit tonight perfectly highlighted her personality.

  She was wearing a skin tight white tank top that wasn’t nearly thick enough to be worn without a bra, yet her nipples were seductively outlined and obviously unrestrained.

  Black suspenders held up a plaid skirt that was so short she would almost certainly be showing off all of her assets if she made the mistake of bending over, which Morgan was certain she would, and as often as possible.

  Her long chestnut red hair was pulled up into twin ponytails, and she wore tall “hooker” heels over white stockings that rose clear to her thighs to complete the naughty school girl outfit.

  Standing between them, Morgan was the proverbial wet blanket in her ratty old sweatpants and oversized t-shirt. Her dishwater blonde hair wasn’t brushed and she wasn’t wearing a speck of makeup. And it wasn’t a costume.

  Halloween was exactly one week away and tonight there was a costume party at their favorite nightclub. It really sounded like a lot of fun and under normal circumstances Morgan might have gone, but she just couldn’t bring herself to attend this year.

  It was three years ago - to the day - that her grandmother had passed away and left her a relative orphan at twenty-one. Ever since that night Halloween had lost its charm for her. Now, after the recent horror show that was her break up with Craig, she wasn’t even up for pretending.

  “You girls go on without me. Really, I’ll be fine.”

  It was a lie, of course. She was finding it harder and harder to be alone lately, and night times were the worst. Her grandmother’s big old Victorian house made all sorts of spooky noises in the dark.

  When she was a child, she’d never been afraid of the dark because she’d known that her grandmother was always there, just in the other room, ready to banish anything from bad dreams to imaginary monsters under the bed.

  “Are you doing the bare witch project tonight?” Heidi asked with a grin, coining a description that made Morgan wince. “Because I am totally down with getting naked and doing some witchy rituals together. I think it would be fun.”

  The three of them had been close friends ever since high school. In fact, it was the ever present support from Heidi and Rachel that had gotten her through all those post-Craig nightmares. But she really wasn’t sure if she could handle having a naked Heidi bouncing around the room when the whole purpose of the ritual was to find a little peace and happiness again.

  “I think I might be more of a solitary practitioner,” Morgan admitted and then rushed on when she saw Heidi gearing up for a protest. “Maybe we can get together for a séance on Halloween or something.”

  “Can’t you just put the ritual off until tomorrow night? I mean really. You’ve never done anything witchy before, so why start tonight? All that old stuff you found in the attic will still be there after the party.”

  Morgan sighed. It wouldn’t matter how she explained it to her, Heidi would have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to stay at home alone when they could be out having fun with their friends.

  “I promise to call you if I change my mind. But I won’t. I really need a little me time tonight. I have some demons that I need to face and if I go with you I’ll have to feel guilty for another whole year.”

  “Okay, that actually sounds kind of serious,” Rachel frowned. “Do you want us to stay with you? We don’t have to go out tonight.”

  Heidi’s expression looked torn between her desire to stay faithful to a friend in trouble and her need to get out, get drunk, and get laid, on one of her very few days off from working as the lead consultant for a stuffy financial company. But her loyalty won in the end.

  “Rachel’s right, maybe we should stay here with you.”

  “Absolutely not,” Morgan growled. “Get out of here, both of you. It’s a costume party, go find yourself a half-naked Thor or Tarzan and have some fun.”

  “Is this because of Craig?” Rachel asked in a deeply concerned tone. Trust her to make the leap from simply needing time alone to believing that her friend might be having some major crisis. “You did the right thing, Morgan. What happened wasn’t your fault. You can’t let him ruin the rest of your life. You deserve to be happy.”

  Heidi’s expression completely changed t
he moment Craig’s name was mentioned. Morgan’s ex-boyfriend had been more than just an abusive jerk. He was also an unstable drug dealer that had suffered a chemically induced psychotic break one night while Heidi was visiting.

  In a fit of rage, he’d taken both girls hostage for over seventy-two hours, while Rachel had worked with the police to help save her friends.

  Feisty Heidi hadn’t taken well to captivity and her fighting spirit won her some severe injuries during those long three days. With multiple broken bones that had gone untreated for too long, she’d required several subsequent surgeries and still felt an ache in those areas whenever the weather changed.

  Morgan quickly shook her head.

  “No, I swear it has nothing to do with him. I really just want a little me time, okay?”

  It took a bit more persuasion, but she finally managed to shepherd the conversation back to the front door.

  “Go have some fun and don’t worry about me.”

  She was just opening the door to let her friends out, when a large black cat abruptly raced between their legs, skidded across the stone tile floor and then bolted up the stairs.

  “Oh my god!” Heidi yelped, “What was that?”

  “Look out!” Rachel shouted, slamming the door shut again just in time to block the entrance of a nasty looking brown dog. It continued to bark and snarl on the other side, lunging in a small circle from the narrow decorative window, down to the bottom of the steps, and then back up to where its prey had escaped.

  “Where did that monster come from?” Heidi gasped, shrinking back away from the door and the vicious sounding canine. “Do your neighbor’s have a dog?”

  “I don’t think so,” Morgan frowned. “I’ve never seen it before. Do you think I should call animal control? Did you see anyone out there that he might belong to?”

  Rachel shook her head.

  “I just saw those fangs coming straight at me and shut the door. I wasn’t looking for the idiot who let that beast off his leash. I think we should definitely call the police. He could be rabid or something. I bet he would have killed that poor cat if we hadn’t opened the door.”

  “Ugh,” Morgan frowned, glancing towards the stairs. “I hope it’s not a stray. I’ve always been a little nervous around cats. It’s the way they look at you, like they’re planning something evil.”

  Her friends knew it was more than just a case of nerves. They’d often seen her give a wide berth to cats they’d encountered throughout the years. But they were kind enough to give her some slack on the subject.

  “Cats aren’t evil,” Rachel gently assured. “We had dozens of cats on the farm where I grew up. They’re a lot like people, actually. Some of them can be a little standoffish if they don’t know you. Others are so friendly they’ll be in your lap every chance they get.”

  That didn’t exactly soothe Morgan’s nerves. She was imagining trying to coax a hissing, spitting and clawing feline out from under her bed before she could sleep tonight. The last place she wanted to find it was in her lap.

  The truth was, she’d been afraid of cats ever since she was a little girl and a scrawny stray tabby had clawed her when she tried to pet it. She was unfortunate enough to develop cat scratch fever from the encounter and was terribly sick and miserable for over a month. It had left a lasting impression.

  Due to the nasty canine on the porch, Heidi and Rachel were forced to sneak out the back door and creep around the side of the house to their car, while Morgan waited near the front window for the dog catcher.

  She hated to admit it, but she was almost glad the dog had distracted her friends. It wasn’t that she didn’t love spending time with them. But she was already feeling a little silly for her desire to practice what Heidi kept referring to as witchy business.

  She’d never done anything even remotely religious before. Mostly because her parents were atheists and her grandmother had felt that Morgan should chose her own path without any pressure from any side. The older woman had never practiced her craft when her granddaughter was around and it wasn’t until she’d passed away that Morgan had found the altar and ritual tools hidden in the attic.

  The discovery had spurred her to learn more about her grandmother’s beliefs, some of which she’d talked to Rachel and Heidi about, but most of which she’d kept to herself. It made her feel close to her grandmother, to be learning about the things that the woman had once cared for.

  Morgan didn’t know if she believed everything that she’d read about witchcraft at the library, but she’d liked what she’d found in the collection of notebooks and diaries that her grandmother had kept.

  Tonight she planned to complete one of the rituals that she’d found in her grandmother’s Book of Shadows, a personal journal of the older woman’s experiences in the craft. But first she’d have to figure out what to do with the unwelcome creature hiding upstairs.

  After animal control left with dog, Morgan went looking for the cat and discovered that it was exactly in the worst place possible. Emerald green eyes stared out at her from under her bed as she tried to remember what Rachel had told her about felines.

  By the brunette’s account, not all cats were nasty tempered strays, but how was she supposed to know the difference?

  Morgan glanced at the clock. It was almost eight and she had a lot of preparations to make before her ritual. If she couldn’t get the cat out quickly, she would either miss out on one of her few nights alone or she’d have to complete the spell with an unwelcome furry audience. Neither sounded like a good option.

  “Um, are you a friendly kitty?”

  The cat simply blinked.

  “The dog is gone, you can come out now.”

  When the creature remained firmly entrenched in its hiding place, Morgan straightened and scrubbed a hand over her eyes.

  “What am I going to do with you?”

  From under the bed she heard a deep gravelly meow, almost as if the feline were answering her. Was she imagining it, or had she heard a touch of suspicion in its voice?

  Rachel had told her they were just like people. Well, if she was a cat, and had just been chased into a strange place by a vicious dog, she probably wouldn’t be too keen on exposing herself either.

  “Alright, you can stay for few minutes while you collect yourself. I need to get some things together for tonight. When you’re ready, we’ll figure out how to get you out of the house nicely. Okay?”

  The cat offered another rumbling meow as Morgan turned to go.

  For the past several months she’d been buying all the necessary ingredients for her witchy little project and hiding them where she’d hoped they wouldn’t be accidently discovered by any unsuspecting visitors.

  Heidi and Rachel were dear friends, but they knew how Morgan felt about religion. As far as she was concerned, there was no perfect faith that had followed mankind from the moment they stepped out of the primordial ooze. No single god that could be traced back to stone carvings on ancient cave walls.

  New religions were constantly sprouting up all over the world and old religions could be debunked using modern science and technology. The purest form of worship that Morgan could find was the simple faith that her grandmother had kept. It was the belief that there was a great power and energy in all things, from the simplest speck of a molecule, to the earth itself, and even to the vast stars and the heavens beyond.

  She’d believed that a person could tap into this power by quieting their soul and channeling that energy through special tools to focus and direct it. Her journals were full of carefully constructed rituals, charms, spells and incantations designed to help with any number of problems that life might throw at her feet. And Morgan was certain that they had worked, she’d never met anyone as happy and as blessed as her grandmother.

  Now Morgan wanted to welcome that same peace into her own life. She’d been reading as much as she could from the old diaries, but she might have chosen a slightly more advanced spell for her first atte
mpt. She’d read that it could take years to build up her control enough to successfully cast some of the more complicated magic, but this was something she really needed, so she was willing to take that risk.

  It took several trips to collect all of the carefully stowed boxes and bags hidden around the house and deposit them onto her bedroom floor. She wanted to hold the ritual here, in the bedroom, because she planned to perform it in the natural state that her grandmother referred to as Skyclad. It pretty much entailed cleansing herself of all dead or low energy sources, like clothing.

  If Heidi and Rachel decided to stop back by to check in on her later, Morgan preferred they didn’t find her sitting naked in a circle of candles chanting words out of her grandmother’s Book of Shadows. She was almost certain they would be concerned that her isolation here had finally pushed her over the edge.

  As she set down the last of her supplies, she crouched to peek under the bed once more. The big cat was still hiding there, like a panther, staring back at her with those eerily luminescent eyes.

  “Hey there big guy, is there any chance of you coming out before I go take a bath? I’d rather not have a confrontation with you while my lady bits are all exposed and vulnerable.”

  A deep guttural susurration echoed up from under the bed, making her freeze like a deer caught in the headlights. What in the heck was that sound? It was a low gravelly vibration that seeped right into her bones.

  Her eyes widened in shock as she realized that the sound was actually coming from the cat. It was purring. If you could call that low echoing rumble a purr. Maybe if there were a lion under the bed instead of a frighteningly large housecat.

  While she knew that a purring cat was supposed to symbolize a happy cat, the sound was less than comforting to a borderline felinophobic. Morgan cautiously and slowly backed away from the bed.

  “Good kitty…oh jeez, who am I kidding?” Feeling a little resentful about the intrusion, she nearly ran for the master bathroom.

  The cat appeared to be friendly enough, but she would feel safer once it was gone. At least it didn’t look at all interested in coming out of its hiding place, so she could relax a little in the bath before deciding whether to move her supplies to the guest room and away from the furry interloper.

  She’d purchased scented candles just for tonight, and even had some of her grandmother’s powered herbs and bath oil that were labeled for ritual cleansing and relaxation.

  She turned on the tub faucet and then stripped out of her sweats and t-shirt, looking at herself in the large gilded Victorian mirror that hung above the sink as she did. There were puffy bags under her eyes from lack of sleep and she was thinner than she’d been in a long time. Still, her breasts were generously full and her hips had a pretty curve to them.

  If this ritual were successful, maybe she’d find the energy to start walking in the mornings again. She’d always enjoyed exploring the woods out behind the mansion with her grandmother. The older woman had loved to share her knowledge of the herbs and plants of the forest.

  She tossed her bra and panties into the pile of clothing on the floor before picking up the little vials of herbs she’d selected just for this purpose. Opening her grandmother’s Book of Shadows, she read the chant while sprinkling a pinch from each of the vials into the tub. She then did the same with the homemade bath oil.

  It felt a little odd to someone that had never cast a spell before, more like seasoning a giant stew pot than performing a ritual, but she tried to stay focused on the greater purpose. She needed to cleanse her body, her mind, and her spirit of the fear that she’d kept bottled up for the past six months.

  Allowing the herbs and oil to brew in the tub, she began lighting the scented candles. Within moments the entire room was filled with the luxuriously rich blend of herbs and candle smoke.

  Turning off the harsh electric lights plunged the room into a candlelit sanctuary, and she sighed in pleasure as she finally sank down into the hot, sweetly scented water of her very first ritual cleansing bath.

  If it did nothing else, this would certainly help to remove some of the tension she’d been carrying between her shoulder blades and in the base of her neck.

  Careful not to smudge the page, Morgan read the ritual words again from her grandmother’s book, no longer needing to look at them as she finished the third verse of the rhyme. Then she laid back to soak and let the tension of the day melt away.

  She wasn’t sure how long she’d lain there, eyes closed and mind drifting back through happy memories of childhood, but the water was starting to get cool as suddenly felt a tickly tugging sensation at the back of her subconscious, as if someone was watching her. She opened her eyes, but there was only the shadowy dance of candlelight flickering over the walls and reflecting back from the mirrors.

  Then one of the darker shadows moved out of sync and Morgan nearly screamed. It took her a moment before she realized that she wasn’t caught in some horror slasher film. The creature staring at her from the edge of the open doorway wasn’t a demon looking to steal her soul. At least, she didn’t think it was.

  The enormous black cat was crouched comfortably in the door way, swishing its tail in a relaxed, almost sleepy manner. How long had it been sitting there watching her? She shivered to consider the possibilities.

  The good news was that it was out from under the bed. The bad news was that it might feel threatened and attack her if she made any sudden moves, like jumping out of the tub and scrambling for an escape out the nearest window.

  She might have still considered the window plan, if she wasn’t on the second floor. And if there wasn’t a full briar patch of rose bushes growing underneath, making for a very uncomfortable landing when in the nude.

  She was trapped and her cell phone was sitting on the bedside table, so there was little chance of calling for help.

  Hoping to make herself look as nonthreatening as possible, Morgan sank in the tub until just her eyes were visible over the edge. Maybe the cat would just leave?

  After several long minutes it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen, at least not before the water turned to ice around her and she was suffering from hypothermia.

  There was something completely unnerving about the way it watched her, much as she imagined a lion might watch a particularly tasty looking mouse. Those green elliptical slashed eyes almost glowed with evil intelligence.

  “Could you please not look as if you’d like to eat me?” Her voice was a nervous squeak.

  The cat blinked, rose up and walked silently out of the bathroom.

  Morgan quickly stood up and grabbed for a nearby towel. It wasn’t an indestructible shield, but it gave her some comfort to have the warm terry cloth between her sensitive skin and the sharp talons of her unwelcome house guest.

  She would have to pull together her tattered courage and chase the little beast out of her bedroom before it decided to head back under her bed.

  With one towel wrapped securely about her body and a second towel providing a limp weapon with which to drive the creature out, Morgan stepped from the bathroom to face her nemesis. But the cat was nowhere to be found. She searched under the bed, in the closet, in every dark corner and shadow, without success. It must have continued straight out of the bedroom and into the main part of the house.

  “Thank god!”

  Morgan quickly closed her bedroom door and leaned back against it with a heavy sigh. Now that that the cat was no longer an immediate threat, she could feel a bit more compassion for his situation. Let the poor thing enjoy a night away from stray dogs and the unpredictable fall weather, she’d call Rachel in the morning to come remove him.

  The important thing right now, was to focus on what she wanted to achieve with her spell. Everything that she’d been reading warned that her frame of mind was crucial during ritual ceremonies. She needed to visualize the energy entering through her body, flowing through the tool, and issuing forth to achieve her goal.

  She
d chosen different candles for this part of the rite. These were gold and pink, colors that represented strength, love and joy. She hoped they would bring back all of the good emotions that had been drained out of her life by Craig and his crew of nasty associates.

  Using the techniques and chants that her grandmother had outlined in her book, she cast a magic circle and then seated herself near the altar at its center. The ingredients for her spell were laid out carefully before her, including a small velvet bag, which she’d purchased online.

  Each of the dried herbs and symbolic elements had special words that must be spoken as she placed them into the bag. Last she added a small crystal which was supposed to amplify the magic created by this special blend of earth, air, water, fire and spirit.

  She pricked her finger and spilt three tiny drops of her own blood onto the crystal so it would resonate with her unique energy signature and then sealed the bag. She would need to keep it under her pillow now, so the positively charged energy could fill her every night and hopefully make a positive change in her life.

  With the bag clutched tightly in her hands, she pressed it between her breasts and held it near her heart as she meditated on what she hoped to achieve. Silently praying for relief from the fear, for peace, for happiness, for safety and security.

  For true love.

  Morgan gave a little gasp and nearly opened her eyes as the final words whispered through her thoughts. She certainly hadn’t any intention of dating again, at least not anytime soon.

  Giving herself a mental shake, she properly ended the ritual and closed her circle, before placing the little spell bag on the bed near her pillow. She wanted to have faith in the talisman, but she still found herself struggling to believe in anything greater than the humble mortal condition.

  Magical support or not, she feared that she was facing another long and sleepless night. With a sigh she went down the stairs to rustle up her favorite sleep aids, a bottle of wine and a steamy romance novel. The wine would help her relax and the book would hopefully give her subconscious something pleasant to carry into dreamland.

  Several hours later she was halfway through a very sensual love scene, when a soft creaking sound made her look up. The bedroom door was partially open and she could see a tall, naked man standing in the shadows beyond.

  He was sinfully well built, all lean hard muscles sliding sensuously beneath smooth brown skin. He had strong broad shoulders and powerful arms. A chiseled chest and washboard abs narrowed into lean hips and a perfectly sculpted butt and thighs.

  His hair was a sleek glossy black that feathered down to highlight sharp cheekbones and emerald green eyes that almost glowed with a fiery intensity. He was absolutely the most gorgeous naked man she’d ever met, and almost exactly how she’d been imagining the hero in her novel.

  That magic talisman was working in ways she truly hadn’t expected. This was undoubtedly the best dream she’d ever had. It was so realistic she almost thought she could smell the warm earthy scent of him as he pushed the door open a little further and stepped into her room.

  He was deadly graceful, like a predatory cat, as he crossed the floor towards her.

  “I thought you’d be sleeping.” His voice was a low rumbling purr as he took in her bare legs and curvy body. Only a thin cotton tank top and panties prevented him from fully appreciating her figure.

  “I must have been waiting for you,” she suggested with a bravado that she never would have shown outside of dreams and fantasies.

  His green eyes cut towards the almost empty bottle of wine before he slowly began to smile. It was a seductive curl of his lips that made her heart race and her body hum with excitement.

  “Alright, my pretty little witch, it’s time for sleep,” he murmured, stepping to the side of the bed and taking the book out of her hands.

  He folded over one of the pages to mark her place and set it on the bed table before helping her pull back the covers and slide inside.

  She immediately scooted over to make room for him and he joined her after only a moment’s hesitation. Yet when she started to turn towards him, he caught her hips and turned her so that her back was pressed up against his bare chest.

  “You’ve had too much to drink, beautiful. I’ll just hold you tonight, while you sleep.”

  Morgan wanted more than to be simply held, but he was right. Her thoughts were already fuzzy with sleep and it felt so warm and safe in his arms. Within moments the fantasy was fading and she was deep in a dreamless sleep.

 
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