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Witches of east end, p.1
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       Witches of East End, p.1

           Melissa de la Cruz
 
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Witches of East End


  For My Family

  Contents

  Epigraph 1

  Epigraph 2

  Prologue - The Town at the Edge of Nowhere

  Memorial Day Hearts Desire

  Chapter One - Cat Scratch Fever

  Chapter Two - Country Mouse

  Chapter Three - Home Fires

  Chapter Four - Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

  Chapter Five - Sister Talk

  Chapter Six - A Knot in Her Belly

  Chapter Seven - A New Boy

  Chapter Eight - Gift Horse

  Chapter Nine - Love the One You’re With

  Chapter Ten - Witch Business

  Chapter Eleven - The Sunshine of Her Life

  Chapter Twelve - Library Fines

  Chapter Thirteen - Aftershocks

  Chapter Fourteen - Friends with Benefits

  Chapter Fifteen - A Certain Wild Magic

  Chapter Sixteen - Friend or Fraud

  Chapter Seventeen - Midsummer Night’s Dream

  Chapter Eighteen - The Patron Saint of Lost Causes

  Danger Brewing

  Chapter Nineteen - Rhinemaiden

  Chapter Twenty - Darkness Visible

  Chapter Twenty-One - The Only Way to Avoid Temptation . . .

  Chapter Twenty-Two - The Long Road Home

  Chapter Twenty-Three - Missing

  Chapter Twenty-Four - Angel of Death

  Chapter Twenty-Five - Finger-Pointing

  Chapter Twenty-Six - The Worm Turns

  Chapter Twenty-Seven - Heart Sick

  Chapter Twenty-Eight - The Hidden Door

  Chapter Twenty-Nine - Husbands and Wives

  Chapter Thirty - The First Stone

  Chapter Thirty-One - Marooned

  Chapter Thirty-Two - Thief in the Night

  Chapter Thirty-Three - Safe House

  Chapter Thirty-Four - The Vampires of Manhattan

  Chapter Thirty-Five - The Covenant of the Dead

  Chapter Thirty-Six - Family Secrets

  Chapter Thirty-Seven - The Salem Trials

  The Gods Must be Crazy

  Chapter Thirty-Eight - A Good Offense Is a Good Defense

  Chapter Thirty-Nine - The Brief Wonderful Life of Tyler Alvarez

  Chapter Forty - Twenty Questions

  Chapter Forty-One - The Poisoned Tree

  Chapter Forty-Two - Götterdämmerung

  Chapter Forty-Three - The Curse of Freya and Balder

  Chapter Forty-Four - The Labyrinth

  Chapter Forty-Five - Trickster’s Queen

  Chapter Forty-Six - The Judgment of the Council

  Chapter Forty-Seven - Law and Order

  Epilogue

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Copyright

  EPIGRAPH 1:

  “When shall we three meet again,

  In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

  When the hurlyburly’s done,

  When the battle’s lost and won. . . .”

  —Shakespeare, Macbeth

  EPIGRAPH 2:

  “It is possible that some Waelcyrgean

  chose to abandon Valhalla and settle

  in various parts of the country,

  where they began a new existence

  as witches.”

  —from Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were

  by Michael Page and Robert Ingpen

  prologue

  The Town at

  the Edge of Nowhere

  North Hampton did not exist on any map, which made locating the small, insular community on the very edge of the Atlantic coast something of a conundrum to outsiders, who were known to wander in by chance only to find it impossible to return; so that the place, with its remarkably empty silver-sand beaches, rolling green fields, and imposing, rambling farmhouses, became more of a half-remembered dream than a memory. Like Brigadoon, it was shrouded in fog and rarely came into view. Perpetually damp, even during its brilliant summers, its denizens were a tight-knit, clubby group of families who had been there for generations. In North Hampton, unlike the rest of Long Island, there were still potato farmers and deep-sea fishermen who made a living from their harvests.

  Salty sea breezes blew sweetly over the rippling blue waters, the shoals were heavy with clam and scallop, and the rickety restaurants served up the local specialties of porgies, blowfish, and clam chowder made with tomatoes, never milk. The modern age had made almost no impression on the pleasant surroundings; there were no ugly strip malls or any indication of twenty-first-century corporate enterprise to ruin the picturesque landscape.

  Across from the township was Gardiners Island, now abandoned and left to ruin. Longer than anyone could remember, the manor house, Fair Haven, had been empty and unoccupied, a relic in the gloaming. Owned by the same family for hundreds of years, no one had seen hide or hair of the Gardiners for decades. Rumors circulated that the once-illustrious clan could no longer afford its upkeep or that the line had withered and died with its last and final heir. Yet Fair Haven and its land remained untouched and had never been sold.

  It was the house that time forgot, the eaves below its peaked roof filled with leaves, the paint chipped and the columns cracked as it sunk slowly toward dilapidation. The island’s boat docks rotted and sagged. Ospreys made their homes on the unadulterated beaches. The forests around the house grew thick and dense.

  Then one night in the early winter, there was a sickening crunch, a terrible noise, as if the world were ripping open; the wind howled and the ocean raged. Bill and Maura Thatcher, married caretakers from a neighboring estate, were walking their dogs along the North Hampton shore when they heard an awful sound from across the water.

  “What was that?” Bill asked, trying to calm the dogs.

  “It sounded like it came from there,” Maura said, pointing to Gardiners Island. They stared at Fair Haven, where a light had appeared in the manor’s northernmost window.

  “Look at that, Mo,” Bill said. “I didn’t know the house had been rented.”

  “New owners, maybe?” Maura asked. Fair Haven looked the same as it always did: its windows like half-lidded eyes, its shabby doorway sagging like a frowning old man.

  Maura took the dogs by the grass but Bill continued to stare, scratching his beard. Then quick as a blink, the light went out and the house was dark again. But now there was someone in the fog, and they were no longer alone. The dogs barked sharply at the steadily approaching figure, and the old groundskeeper realized his heart was pounding in his chest, while his wife looked terrified.

  A woman appeared out of the mist. She was tall and intimidating, wearing a bright red bandanna over her hair and a tan raincoat belted tightly around her waist. Her eyes were gray as the dusk.

  “Miss Joanna!” Bill said. “We didn’t see you there.”

  Maura nodded. “Sorry to disturb you, ma’am.”

  “Best you run along now, both of you, there’s nothing to see here,” she said, her voice as cold as the deep waters of the Atlantic.

  Bill felt a chill up his spine and Maura shivered. They had agreed there was something different about their neighbors, something otherworldly and hard to pin down, but until this evening they had never been afraid of the Beauchamps. They were afraid now. Bill whistled for the dogs and reached for Maura’s hand, and they walked quickly in the opposite direction.

  Across the shore, one by one, more lights were turned on in succession until Fair Haven was ablaze. It shone like a beacon, a signal in the darkness. Bill turned to look back one more time, but Joanna Beauchamp had already disappeared, leaving no sign of footprints in the sand or any indication that she had ever been there.

  chapter one

  Cat Scratch Fever


  Freya Beauchamp swirled the champagne in her glass so that the bubbles at the top of the lip burst one by one until there were none left. This was supposed to be the happiest day of her life—or at the very least, one of the happiest—but all she felt was agitated.

  This was a problem, because whenever Freya became anxious things happened—like a waiter suddenly tripping on the Aubusson rug and plastering the front of Constance Bigelow’s dress with hors d’oeuvres. Or the normally lugubrious dog’s incessant barking and howling drowning out the violin quartet. Or the hundred-year-old Bordeaux unearthed from the Gardiner family cellar tasting like Three Buck Chuck—sour and cheap.

  “What’s the matter?” her older sister, Ingrid, asked, coming up by Freya’s elbow. With her rigid modeling-school posture and prim, impeccable clothes, Ingrid did not rattle easily, but she looked uncharacteristically nervous that evening and picked at a lock of hair that had escaped her tight bun. She took a sip from her wineglass and grimaced. “This wine has a witch’s curse all over it,” she whispered, as she placed it on a nearby table.

  “It’s not me! I swear!” Freya protested. It was the truth, sort of. She couldn’t help it if her magic was accidentally seeping out, but she had done nothing to encourage it. She knew the consequences and would never risk something so important. Freya could feel Ingrid attempting to probe through the underlayer, to peer into her future for an answer to her present distress, but it was a useless exercise. Freya knew how to keep her lifeline protected. The last thing she needed was an older sister who could predict the consequences of her impulsive actions.

  “Are you sure you don’t want to talk?” Ingrid asked gently. “I mean, everything’s happened so fast, after all.”

  For a moment Freya considered spilling all, but decided against it. It was too difficult to explain. And even if dark portents were in the air—the dog’s howling, the “accidents,” the smell of burnt flowers inexplicably filling the room—nothing was going to happen. She loved Bran. She truly did. It wasn’t a lie, not at all like one of those lies she told herself all the time, like This is the last drink of the evening, or I’m not going to set the bitch’s house on fire. Her love for Bran was something she felt in the core of her bones; there was something about him that felt exactly like home, like sinking into a down comforter into sleep: safe and secure.

  No. She couldn’t tell Ingrid what was bothering her. Not this time. The two of them were close. They were not only sisters and occasional rivals but the best of friends. Yet Ingrid would not understand. Ingrid would be appalled, and Freya did not need her older sister’s reproach right now. “Go away, Ingrid, you’re scaring away my new friends,” she said, as she accepted the insincere congratulations from another cadre of female well-wishers.

  The women had come to celebrate the engagement, but mostly they were there to gawk, and to judge and to titter. All the eligible ladies of North Hampton, who not too long ago had harbored not-so-subtle dreams of becoming Mrs. Gardiner themselves. They had all come to the grand, refurbished mansion to pay grudging homage to the woman who had won the prize, the woman who had snatched it away before the game had even begun, before some of the contestants were aware that the starting pistol had been shot.

  When had Bran Gardiner moved into town? Not so long ago and yet already everyone in North Hampton knew who he was; the handsome philanthropist was the subject of rumor and gossip at horse shows, preservation society gatherings, and weekend regattas that were the staples of country life. The history of the Gardiner family was all everyone talked about, how the family had disappeared many years ago, although no one was sure exactly when. No one knew where they had gone or what happened to them in the interim, only that they were back now, their fortune more impressive than ever.

  Freya didn’t need to be able to read minds to know what the North Hampton hens were thinking. Of course the minute Bran Gardiner arrived in town he would choose to marry a teenage barmaid. He seemed different, but he’s just like the whole lot of them. Men. Thinking with their little heads as usual. What on earth does he see in her other than the obvious? Bartender, Freya wanted to correct them. Barmaid was a serving wench with heaving bosoms carrying tankards of beer to peasants seated at rickety wooden tables. She worked at the North Inn, and their gourmet brew came only in pints and had hints of prune, vanilla, and oak from the Spanish casks in which it was stored, thank you very much.

  She was indeed all of nineteen (although the driver’s license that allowed her to pour drinks said she was twenty-two). She was possessed of an arresting, effervescent beauty rare in a time when emaciated mannequins were the zenith of female pulchritude. Freya did not look like she was starving, or could use a good meal; on the contrary, Freya looked like she got everything in the world she ever wanted, and then some. She looked, for lack of a better word, ripe. Sex seemed to ooze from every pore, to slither from every inch of her glorious curves. Small and petite, she had unruly strawberry blond hair the exact shade of a golden peach, cheekbones that models would kill for, a tiny little nose, large, catlike green eyes that slanted just a little at the tip, the smallest waist made for wearing the tightest corsets, and, yes, breasts. No one would ever forget her breasts—in fact, they were all the male population looked at when they looked at Freya.

  Her face might well be unrecognizable to them, but not so the twins, as Freya liked to call them—they were not too big, they did not display that heavy voluptuousness that droll ex-boyfriends called “fun bags,” which sounded to Freya too much like “fat bags”; no, hers were exquisite: perfectly round with a natural lift and a creamy lusciousness. She never wore a bra either. Which, come to think of it, was what had gotten her into trouble in the first place.

  She had met Bran at the Museum Benefit. The fund-raiser for the local art institution was a springtime tradition. Freya had made quite an entrance. When she arrived, there was a problem with a strap on her dress, it had snapped—ping!—just like that, and the sudden exposure had caused her to trip on her heels—and right into the arms of the nearest seersucker-wearing gentleman. Bran had gotten what amounted to a free show, and on their first meeting, had copped a feel—accidentally, of course, but still. It happened. She had fallen—literally—out of her dress and into his arms. On cue, he had fallen in love. What man could resist?

  It was Bran’s acute embarrassment that had endeared him to her immediately. He had turned as red as the chrysanthemum on his lapel. “Oh god, sorry. Are you all right . . . do you need a . . . ?” And then he was just silent and staring, and it was then that Freya realized the entire front part of her spaghetti-strap dress had fallen almost to her waist, and was in danger of slipping off entirely—which was another problem, as Freya also did not wear any underwear.

  “Let me—” And then he tried to step away but still keep her covered, which is when the hand-on-boob happened, as he had tried to pull up the slippery fabric, but instead his warm hand rested on her pale skin. “Oh god . . .” he gasped. Jesus, Freya thought, you’d think he’d never even gotten to first base with the way he was acting! And quick as a wink—because really, this whole experience just seemed to torture the poor guy—Freya’s dress was back in its rightful place, safety pin procured, cleavage appropriately covered (if barely—nudity seemed a natural progression given the deep cut of the neckline), and Freya said, in that natural, off-the-cuff way of hers, “I’m Freya. And you are . . . ?”

  Branford Lyon Gardiner, of Fair Haven and Gardiners Island. A deep-pocketed and generous philanthropist, he had made the largest contribution to the museum that summer, and his name was prominently featured on the program. Freya had lived in North Hampton long enough to understand that the Gardiners were special even among the old and wealthy families in this very northern and easternmost part of Long Island, which wasn’t Long Island at all (definitely not Long-guy-land, provenance of big hair and bigger malls and more New Jersey than New York), but a place of another dimension entirely.

  This little hamle
t teetering at the edge of the sea was not only the last bastion of the old guard, it was a throwback to a different time, a bygone era. It might have all the accoutrements of a classic East End enclave, with its immaculate golf clubs and boxy hedgerows, but it was more than a summer playground, as most of its townsfolk lived in town year-round. Its charming tree-lined streets were dotted with mom-and-pop grocery stores, its Fourth of July parade featured wagon-pulled firetrucks, and its neighbors were far from strangers, they were friends who came to visit and sip tea on the veranda. And if there was something just a bit odd about North Hampton—if, for instance, Route 27, which connected the moneyed villages along the coast, did not appear to have an exit into town, or if no one outside of the place had ever heard of it (“North Hampton? Surely you mean East Hampton, no?”)—no one seemed to mind or notice very much. Residents were used to the back country roads, and the fewer tourists to clog the beaches the better.

 
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